Tuesday, January 30, 2007


We're just back from Lauren's speech evaluation for articulation and intelligibility. It was a long evaluation for a tired little girl with a cold, to say nothing of her mother. Over 2 hours. The speech therapist evaluating Lauren was a really nice woman who also has a (grown) daughter named Lauren Elizabeth. I think that helped us.

As expected, Lauren wasn't much of a chatterbox when we got there. She was shy (and not just a little bit cranky, having fallen asleep in the car on the drive over. Poor kid.) But the various toys in the room caught her attention and then acted as a catalyst for some initial conversation. I had to sign a few forms and chatted with the evaluator about my concerns about Lauren. Then when Lauren started opening up some the evaluator would take notes - lots of notes - about what she was hearing Lauren say. And what she understood her to say vs. what stumped her. Most stuff stumped her. It was very hard for her to understand Lauren and often she would look to me for interpretation. I wasn't sure whether to be happy about this (better chances for qualifying!) or sad (Lauren really IS hard to understand).

When it came time to perform the official "test" Lauren sat on my lap. She was shown various pictures and asked to tell the evaluator what they were. What she saw. Describe stuff. Pictures such as a house with a tree next to it. "What's that? A tree? Good. Tell me what color it is. Would you say it's tall or short? Do you like trees?" etc. There were pictures of animals and everyday objects. Things a 3 year old child should be able to identify. A picture of a child yawning while standing next to a bed, for example. "What's happening in this picture? What do you do to get ready for bed?" Closed-ended questions mixed with open-ended questions. When it came to the picture of a watch the evaluator had Lauren repeat the word many times. And each time she said it slightly differently.

Lauren is not consistent with her speech.

She has some strange vowel sounds, she makes sound substitutions (common) and has varying stresses (emphasis on different syllables than you'd expect). She's a head-scratcher.

When the evaluator left the room to score the test we hung out and played with a stuffed Barney. The lady came back miffed that Lauren passed the test because she felt that Lauren isn't as "good" in person as she reflects on paper. Who knew? My daughter is the weird kid who does BETTER on tests than in real life. Isn't is more common to hear of the kid who excels in all areas but freezes up on tests? Not Lauren. So the evaluator borrowed parts of a different test in hopes of Lauren doing worse. And she did, but not bad enough. So another speech therapist was brought in to listen to Lauren.

She was confounded by Lauren as well. She agreed that Lauren's case is pretty complex. It's not motor-based since apparently kids who have motor delays/troubles drop off bigger chunks of words than she does. They think her problem is phonetic-based. They tossed around a bunch of terms I was unfamiliar with (dipthong? Sounds like a new form of undergarment to me but apparently has something to do with vowels. Hmmmm....) The 2nd evaluator agreed that Lauren would benefit from therapy despite not reflecting it on her tests. You really do need to listen to her speak, free-form, to understand the challenge. Or not understand her, in this case. It has to do with sentances, I guess. When asked to say a single word, she can do it well-enough. But when you put a string of semi-ok words together, it all sounds bad. The not-horrible individual words compound and become unintelligible together.

So they're going to recommend she receive services for speech. Yay! This is what I was hoping for. Getting her qualified for services from the county/state instead of having to go the private route and paying out of pocket. Which is expensive and would be hard for us to do. We would, of course, but it would pinch an already tight budget. So getting help for her this way is a much better option for us. The next step is to have a meeting to lay out a plan of action for her treatment. Normally, I'm told, the kids are asked to not attend this meeting. But in Lauren's case, my daughter who's interesting speech had two trained speech therapists slightly mystified and scratching their heads, they told me to bring her along so the person in charge of setting up the plan for her can actually hear her first-hand, not read about her from a sterile report.

Lauren is not a stereotypical kid when it comes to her speech. She's sort of all over the map. Some words she says clearly one time, then garbled the next. She changes her pronounciation as she goes. She's not clearly presenting with one issue, but a mixture of stuff. I'm confident that with some professional help she'll be speaking clearly by the time she's 4. I'm just so glad we're getting help for her because I felt so impotent in trying to help her myself.

We're now wading into the deep end of the speech therapy pool. Sink or swim time.


Don't you just love it when you get on a roll and get a million things done?? That happened to me this weekend. Love it! Mr. Chick was out of town attending the internment services for his grandfather at Arlington National Cemetary (full burial honors - impressive!) and I was home for 4 full days with the kids. And yet, despite my single-parent status, I managed to:

a) Finish grouting the tile floor in the kitchen. Several hours of work on my knees.

b) Prep and paint (2 coats) the kitchen and back hallway. I went with a rich sage green color and it looks totally great! Sort of a bold color that completely changes the look of and updates the kitchen. Now I don't hate my cabinets anymore. Painting the kitchen involved very tall ladders to reach the high points of the vaulted areas, climbing all over the counters like a monkey to reach the parts above the cabinets, and cutting in like a beeotch around all the various beams where they hit the upper walls and all along the cabinets. Pictures to follow soon because damn! It looks good.

c) Hang
a curtain panel in my bedroom. Been wanting to do this since moving in. There is no door from the bedroom into the closet/bathroom area so every morning when Mr. Chick gets up and heads for the shower the lights, while not shining directly into my eyes, lighten up the room enough to be annoying. So a light-blocking curtain to go across the entryway has been on my list, but I didn't want to buy the supplies until I knew what we would ultimately be doing in that room decor-wise (I pretty much hate what we have in our bedroom - needs a complete make-over STAT. I'm still using the dresser I had as a child for chrissakes! Call Trading Spaces or something, please!) I don't know why, but I totally forgot that I already HAD a black wrought-iron rod with finials, a single navy blue tab-top panel from 2 houses ago, and even a tie-back holder thingie. I completely spaced it until I remembered it in a dream I had. Bizarre, I know, but it all came back to me in my sleep and I awoke with a brainstorm and had that bad boy installed before breakfast. MUCH better. And I'll just change the panel to something that matches what we end up doing in that room when the time comes. In, like, 5 years.

d) Squeezed in a great workout - ran hills, people! (granted, hills on a treadmill aren't quite the same as actually going out and running real hills, but give a girl credit where credit is due)

e) Did the big Costco run

f) washed the car (ok, *I* didn't wash the car, opting to take it through a car wash (found a free coupon - weee!) but still - the car is clean and it happened on my watch.)

I think that's most of it. I'm a wee bit tired. Mr. Chick is home and it's nice to have him back. I don't like sleeping alone. Today is Lauren's 2nd speech evaluation for articulation. She just missed qualifying for early-intervention (under 3) so we're back again now that she's 3. It took months to get this appointment. We'll see how it goes. She's actually made some progress lately and is showing improvement, so I'm guessing we'll just miss qualifying again. We might end up having to go the private speech therapist route. Wish us luck!

Hope you have a productive day! They're great when they happen.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Man Touching

Ha! Provocative title, yes? As I do most mornings I was skimming the newspaper and came across a story about the delicate ritual of Man Touching. Not in a porno kind of way, no - in a "how a guy greets another guy" kind of way. Apparently this is a well-honed ritual with many layers of complexity. Who knew?

It seems that the manner in which men greet each other speaks volumes. Take note of this, ladies, the next time you are with a guy and run into someone he knows. At the outset there is the head-nod. Whether the guy nods in an upward motion means something different than if they nod downward. Something about familiarity and sending a guy-signal of potentially being open to a conversation. A down nod is just a mere acknowledgement whereas an up nod is more of an unspoken greeting.

When things move on to the touching part, there are several different styles of handshakes. There is the traditional Ward Cleaver Shake, which is formal and professional, and can be used with people you don't know. The firmer the better (this goes for ladies, too. I can't STAND shaking a woman's hand and having her handshake be all weak and soft. Not a shake at all, more like grasping a limp noodle. And who likes that?)

Another alternative is the Fist Bump.
This is an informal greeting which can also be used with people you don't know too well or if you're rushed for time. Think Howie Mandel.

The 70's Soul Shake is trickier. The author of the article points out that white guys aren't really allowed to do it. This shake is apparently restricted to black guys who are friends. Now you know.

The Fist Pound is a derivative of the High Five, only with vertical fists. This greeting, it seems, is used between guys who know each other a bit better than Fist Bumpers. But it's fraught with danger because there can be some confusion in the early execution of this shake. The other guys fist comes out and you're left to wonder, momentarily, whether it's the Pound or the Bump. And then you wonder whose fist goes up first and all the Male Dominance implications therein. Tricky.

Beyond handshakes you begin to dip your toe into full-on Man Touching: hugs. There are two, as described in this article: the Pull Half-Hug is seen frequently amng men who are pretty close friends. The guy will pull his counterpart in for a half-hug shoulder bump with the option of the two-pat on your friend's back, only to retreat quickly before things get out of hand. Apparently, two firm pats are required to convey that aren't attracted to your counterpart. Watch guys do this- they all seem to know about the two-pat rule. It's spooky.

The Full Man Hug is reserved for only the closest of friends and relatives. Guys are instructed to make their intentions known early by spreading their arms wide so you're not left hanging. Also? Guys are implored to make it obvious as to which side their head is going toward or tragic things may happen, like face touching.

This article was humorous and light and informative. But it got me thinking about the different ways people communicate, especially men and women. We all know women are more expressive, blah blah blah. But think for a moment about how you greet or say good-bye to your friends. Your family. People you just met. Are you a hugger? Do you touch in any way? Do you shake hands? What forms of Touching are you most comfortable with?

I find that I'm not a hugger by default. I don't hug everyone (I think my aunts scarred me by hugging me whenever they saw me, which wasn't often, and it just felt very strange and uncomfortable to be expected to hug and kiss someone I barely knew). It's sort of reserved for my inner circle, and can depend a lot on the circumstances. But I also find that I appreciate it when someone initiates a hug with me. And, I'm more likely to hug in a good-bye situation than a greeting. For example, if a bunch of my friends are getting together, I usually don't hug because then I'd feel like I should hug everyone present - to be fair, I guess. But if I'm just getting together with one friend, then I'm more likely to hug them. Is that strange? I hug in a greeting if I'm reconnecting with someone I don't often see - like a friend who lives in another state and seeing each other is intentional and a big deal. Then I hug. It must have something to do with travelling a distance, because I don't routinely hug my sisters when I see them, but I find I DO hug my one sister who lives in another state. I don't see her as often so therefore I feel it appropriate to hug her. This doesn't seem to be making much logical sense....

And just like with a handshake (make it FIRM, for the love of all that is holy!), a wussy hug can feel very forced and faked whereas a tighter hug feels more genuine. Also, do you hug with one arm or two? With friends, I'm more of a one-arm hugger. It's more casual. You can still front-hug someone with one arm - it's not necessarily a side hug, although it could be. But to make the hug more serious, I use two arms. Like when I hug Mr. Chick good-bye in the mornings. I wrap both arms around him and give him a squeeze.

So how do YOU touch? (platonically people, please!) Are you a hugger? Are you a shaker? Do you abhor social touching of any kind? Do you greet with kisses? Have you noticed the men in your life demonstrate any of the Man Touching options discussed above? Do women have the same sort of social code when it comes to social touching? I might need some education - enlighten me.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before, but Mr. Chick and some friends have a partnership which owns a couple of rental homes. They've had them for 5-6 yrs. Recently the tenants in both houses vacated and the guys have been putting in a ton of hours working on the houses to get them cleaned up and ready to re-rent. Nearly every weekend, and some weekday nights, have seen Mr. Chick over at one of the houses working (hence the delay in finishing our own kitchen floor - sigh) for a couple of months. The reason all this work is necessary? Because the tenants in one of the houses LIVED LIKE PIGS.

These people lived in this house for several years. They seemed like good tenants: paid rent on time, didn't call with trivial complaints, etc. We had no reason to be concerned or to request entry into the house. Silly us. Apparently, these people have little regard for other people's property. The house was wrecked. Completely trashed. I've seen foul frat houses after a campus-wide party look better than this place. After a few years, you'd expect some wear and tear, but this? was Out.Of.Control. We had to pull up and scrap all the carpeting in the entire house. All of it. It was more than just a few stains, which you'd expect. It was more like someone barfed red jello and never bothered to clean it up. And black spots of I-don't-know-what. Probably mildew, since most of the closets had mold and mildew growing in them (I KNOW - ewww!). They broke a window - not just cracked it, but full-on broke it and never repaired it, or called us to repair it. No telling how long they lived with a big hole in one of the windows. We think one of the reasons for all the mold and mildew was the fact that there was a leak that they never bothered to address, either. Just let it go. The wall was wet and bulging, apparently. It ruined the drywall of an entire wall and other areas, too. It's not like they would have been responsible for fixing the leak - that's what a landlord is for! But no - better to just ignore it, cause waayyy more damage, and then leave without a word about it. The guys had to fix the walls in the downstairs bathroom, too, and ended up having to replace the bathtub completely due to damage. They also had to replace the carpeting throughout (4 bdrms, split-entry home of over 2000 sq.ft.) and put in laminate in the downstairs family room, re-paint every single wall, do loads of landscaping including fixing a big section of the fence. At first, they felt slimy just being in the house it was so bad. Now? It looks really good. Of course, they've documented everything.

As the spouse and not an actual partner in the ownership of these houses, I've stayed out of it (all the wives have). It's been up to the guys to fix this place up, and that's been fine. I've helped where I could, like arranging for the window to be repaired, for example. But yesterday Mr. Chick asked me to come to the house with him to help clean the kitchen. Let me tell you, I about upchucked at how NASTY the kitchen was (and that was after a quick once-over one of the guys gave it). Seriously, who lives like that?? The first thing I tackled? The light that hangs in the dining area. I don't think it had been cleaned or wiped down in all the years these people lived there. Cobwebs, filth and muck coated every possible surface. Thank goodness I wore gloves is all I can say. It took some powerful degreaser cleanser to cut through everything and bring it back to clean. People actually ate food right under this nastiness. Yuck. I then tackled the cupboards and cabinets. I'm not perfect - I get crumbs in my kitchen drawers and such, too. It's normal. But the level of ickiness present in these cupboards completely squicked me out. Dried chunks of unknown origin stuck to the cabinets. Major splatters, obviously, that weren't really cleaned up. The underside of the upper cabinets had dried drips YOU COULD SEE JUST LOOKING STRAIGHT ON. Who doesn't wipe that off when it happens if you can see liquid drips on the bottom of your cabinet doors?? These people, that's who. And drips of something on the inside of the front of the drawers. How do you not notice that?? And the stickiest muck ever coating the cabinets they must have stored their food in. The cabinets they kept spices in? Shudder. It boggled me. It took me HOURS to clean this kitchen, and believe me, this is not a big kitchen. I scrubbed every surface, and it took some hard scrubbing. I understand not deep-cleaning your kitchen often - I don't. The top of my refridgerator can sport an embarrassing amount of dust. But I would never put clean silverware in a drawer that is sticky and has a big buildup of crumbs and food matter all over the bottom and in the corners. But I guess if you're willing to eat under a lamp with years of grime on it, you're willing to take your chances with other kitchen filth.

The worst part? A FAMILY lived here. Our official tenant was a guy and his wife. Then their adult child and that persons' spouse and child (I think the kids lived there, too) moved in. This family then framed in a door at the bottom of the stairs to block off the downstairs from the upstairs for greater privacy. They did this - major renovation, framing in a door - without permission. They lived in the house HARD. The only bright spot? No pets. It goes without saying that they're not getting their deposit back, and the guys are actually going after them for the additional damage their deposit didn't cover. Take note, all you renters out there: your deposit is not the cap of damages you might be responsible for. It's just that: a deposit. If you cause more damage than your deposit covers you can be on the hook for the additional amount. Don't be careless!

What I think is ironic is that the tenants we had in the other house was a group of young guys fresh out of college. The type of renters you might be leary about because of their age and propensity for big drunken parties that might cause lots of damage to a house. But these guys left the place quite decent. They didn't damage anything beyond expected wear and tear. Some painting, perhaps a bit of new carpeting to replace the rooms that have the most need, and a bathroom update because, well, it's time. NOTHING like what has been required to bring the other place back up to snuff.

I'm still really grossed out by seeing first-hand how some people live. It's like they just don't care about their surroundings and personal environment. And care even less when it's owned by someone else. I don't want to bash all renters - not at all. Most of us have been renters at some point in our lives, and most of us were ideal renters. I think it goes to personal character: I treated all the apartments and houses I've rented with care as if it were my own. I cleaned the shit out them when I left. I wanted to make sure there was nothing they could say I did wrong and deny me any of my deposit. I wanted good references. I have respect whereas clearly not everyone does. I don't understand simply not caring. It doesn't compute.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Idol Disappointment

American Idol is back - Season 6. Has anyone else been watching these past 2 nights? The auditions? Normally, in past seasons, I've enjoyed this part. The bad singing, the strange people that come out of the woodwork. But this time? This season it feels..... I don't know..... deragatory or something. Mean-spirited, maybe. Like they went out of their way to trot out the saddest sacks and then overtly make fun of them. It felt so wrong.

The lowest moment for me came near the end of last nights' episode and those two guys who made friends with each other. One was, um, unusual looking - Ken? Was that his name? And the other was a big guy. They made an odd pair, for sure, but the way they ran that sequence about them - the way it was edited - really seemed to make fun of those guys. And then Simon's comment about Ken's (let's call him Ken - I can't remember if that's his name and it's making me crazy!) big eyes that make him look like a monkey or bush baby. I think he said bush baby. How snarky! It's one thing to think it - it's quite another to voice that sort of criticism right to a persons face. There were more constructive ways to tell him he didn't have the right look. And has anyone else noticed that with the worst of the bunch - pretty much most of the people who's auditions we were shown - there isn't a lot of music critique'ing going on? Beyond telling them that music isn't their strong suit and how awful they are, I mean. And why aren't we shown people who were pretty good, but not quite good enough to make the cut? And then telling them how they can improve? Offer suggestions on what would make them sound/present better. I don't know - give us SOMETHING other than bashing.

Maybe it's just me, but this time around it really did seem that the producers/editors went out of their way to take advantage of people and be downright hurtful. Granted, lots of people show up to audition, knowing they suck, just to be outlandish and make a statement of some kind. Perhaps their whole goal is to just be part of this parade of the worst. But some of them? Some of them truly wanted this and gave it their best shot. To be so cruelly crushed and then have the judges laugh about them behind their backs is just mean. I think Paula is just as bad as Simon in that department. She comes across as nicer to your face, but once they leave (through the RIGHT door - gah! Wouldn't it seem that putting up a sign telling people which door is unlocked would have made things easier???) she was just as bad as he was laughing about the people. Doesn't she realize they're likely going to SEE this and SEE what she did??

I think it's sad that this is what passes for entertainment. Shame on you, American Idol. You can do better.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snow Day #2

Here in the Portland area we woke up yesterday to a big surprise: SNOW! Forecasters completely missed the boat on this one - no one knew this was coming (dumbasses) and everyone enjoyed a rare day off. Schools were closed, traffic was so bad that most people ended up just staying home. Mr. Chick attempted to go in, but only got a few blocks before running into stalled cars and blockages preventing anyone from going anywhere, and turned around to come back home.

It seems that since the weather people didn't expect any accumulation, public transportation was caught unprepared going into the morning commute. We don't use salt on the roads here in the NW, choosing to sand the roads instead. Only the sanders weren't put out on the streets until it was too late, and then couldn't even REACH some of the main freeways, etc. because too many cars, trucks and busses slid all over the on-ramps and such, blocking passage. It was a complete mess. It took people HOURS to get an
ywhere only to have to head back home because where they were going ended up being closed.

But for those of us with nowhere to go, it was a great day! 3-4 inches of dry powder all over the streets? That just BEGS for sleds, snowball fights, and the building of snowmen. Our street has a very gentle slope to it, starting right at our driveway. Our house/yard seemed to be the collection point for the people near us to push their kids down the hill. It was a fun morning. Of course, we don't often get snow all the way down here on the valley floor. We don't live at any real elevation, so it's a big deal when it happens. And since it's such a rarity, the kids are ill-equipped for appropriate snow clothes. We aren't the only ones, it seems. MOST of the kids who were out sledding were wearing sweatpants, not snowpants. Coats and hats and mittens, sure. But very few had snowsuits or other water-proof attire. I had Nicholas and Lauren layered up with fleece pants, and that seemed to work out ok for the hour or two they were outside. Nicholas doesn't even have a heavy parka and we had to layer him up with two fleece coats. And boots? We're big into rain boots in these parts, not snow boots. So a few layers of socks were necessary. It was amazing the kids could even walk with all that clothing on. As expected, Lauren outlasted Nicholas, being the tougher of the two when it comes to things such as personal (dis)comfort. She doesn't mind the cold and the occasional sting of snow meeting bare flesh. Nicholas, however, is more sensitive and likes his creature comforts and went inside much earlier than his sister.

Later, after warming up
for a few hours, our family went back outside for a snow walk and ended up at the park nearby. Giant fields of snow beckoned us, and the kids knew immediately what to do: flop down and make snow angels! People were out and having a great time all around us. One group made two gigantic snowmen - taller than any human. That was cool. Other groups of roving teenagers were sledding down hills strewn with jumps and other bone-breaking obstacles. We even saw an abandoned wooden (?) bar with a snow ramp built in front of it, perfect for a fearless teen to strap on their snowboard and try to slide along that bar. Crazy. No wonder it was abandoned - I just hope they didn't get hurt. And speaking of dumbasses, count me as one of the biggest. You see, I actually own snowpants. And they were very accessible to me before leaving on this walk. But foolishly, I opted to just keep my regular jeans on instead, thinking we were just going for a WALK. I should have known better. Mr. Chick is very playful and he wasted no time in making sure I was as covered in snow as I could possibly be. Shaking the snow off tree branches as I walked under, pelting me with snowballs, and tackling me in the drifts. It was fun, if I'm being honest, but oh my cold, freezing legs!! Those jeans were quite wet, quite quickly. It's my own fault for not putting on my snowpants, and Mr. Chick was letting me know. I did my best to retaliate, but to no avail. He won. Next time I swear revenge!

So today is Snow Day #2. Schools are still closed, but today the road conditions are better. Mr. Chick is back to work, but we're still enjoying another day off, home-bound. We're planning on heading over to the neighbors for hot chocolate and letting the kids watch a movie together. All this time at home is at least good for one thing other than catching up on the laundry: it's giving me time to work on my newest knitting project. A sweater for my friends' daughter who is turning 1 next month: Fun!

The picture on the left is of how it will look when it's finished. The star on the right is the front of the sweater I've knitted, my first attempt at intarsia with that star. The red/blue stripes is the beginning of a sleeve. Ignore the random pink smudgy spot in the middle - something is happening with the camera that makes that mark and we can't fix it (yet).

I'm off to stockpile some snowballs and plan a sneak attack on Mr. Chick when he comes home tonight. He SOOO has it coming!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Refridgerator Overhaul

As most of you may know, we've been putting in a new floor in our kitchen and back hallway. We're pretty much done in the kitchen (just a bit more grouting and then installing the new molding. Of course, I still might re-paint the kitchen, but I'm curiously drawing a blank on what color to go with. I'm not normally this indecisive, but for the life of me I can't figure out what would look good. Totally open to suggestions from all you talented home decorators out there. Give a girl a hand, will ya?) but still have the hallway to do. During this process we had to take the refridgerator out of it's cozy nook and temporarily put it in the hallway we're tackling next, since it's right off the kitchen. The fridge fit perfectly in the hallway as if it were meant to go there, and it's been happily ensconced and blocking that hallway from use for the past month. Until today.

Today we finally decided to put the fridge back in it's rightful place and open up the hallway again so we can finish what we started: the floor (of course, the grout we've chosen is no longer available and in stock and we're going to be short, but I'm not going to think about it or my head will literally explode.) When we moved it into the hallway, the boys did it. I was not involved. They took the contents out, moved
the fridge, and put everything back in. Totally and completely wrong and sloppy, but again, at least *I* didn't have to do it. And so it went until today when we moved it back. This time, I was involved and got to see the horror that is the inside of my refridgerator.

Cleaning out the fridge is a job I don't think to do often enough, it appears. I mean, does anyone enjoy that chore?? My mother usually does this for me. Usually before the birth of a baby and during each move. Seriously. That's the reason right there to either have more kids or pull up stakes and move: to have my mother clean out my fridge. Because nothing says you're ready for the baby quite like a sparkling refrid
gerator. You know, because the kid won't be eating anything from that refridgerator for months, but arriving in the world with it clean will somehow make the early months more tolerable and help the child forgive me for whatever traumas it will suffer from having me as it's mother. IT'S OK THAT YOU'VE SCARRED ME BY DENYING ME THE JOY THAT IS LEAPSTER BECAUSE AT LEAST THE FRIDGE WAS CLEAN FOR THE FIRST WEEKS OF MY LIFE. THANKS MOM.

The fridge is a place for endless assortments of condiments, in my case they've taken up permanent residence in the door of my refridgerator. Some are used regularly, but others? not so much. And yet they ALL have a way of making icky, sticky, gooey messes on the bottoms of those shelves in the door. Ewww! I don't notice how bad it is until most of them are
removed from said door and then I feel a shiver of repulsion snake up my spine. Also? The shelf where we keep the milk. WHY does it get so crusty with god-knows-what? We have the kind of refridgerator shelves that are clear glass and can be pulled out like a drawer. Not the rack variety. Which is nice - sort of. I mean, they do contain spills and all, but at the same time, they collect the gunk, too. And for some reason, plastic jugs of milk are gigantic gunk generators. We go through milk like you can't imagine and jugs of it are slid in and out of that shelf multiple times a day. So a nasty build-up of white crust forms over time. There is simply no way to keep with this.

And how, exactly, can the shelves appear relatively clean (no major spills, etc.) and yet a dried pool of mystery liquid forms on the very bottom of the fridge, under the drawers for prod
uce? I guess I've turned a blind eye to this area of my refridgerator as well. Not to mention the freezer - my god! Mystery food now covered in white frost occupied the entire back of my freezer. I should be charging rent. And crumbs. IN MY FREEZER. Only bigger than normal crumbs because they've got a furry frosty coating. Nice.

So today, as Mr. Chick and I took everything out of the fridge in order to move it back into place, I noticed just how bad the state of affairs were inside the icebox (that's what my
gramma always called the fridge: the icebox). And since I'm not expecting another baby, and we're not moving, my mother is not available to clean up this mess for me. I alone must do it.

I threw out a ton of stuff. I like to think I stay pretty current with the contents of the fridge, but
clearly I was mistaken. I discovered we had 2 bottles of pizza sauce, both partially empty. And a random, lost, outdated yogurt tucked way in the back. And an onion that had escaped the confines of the produce drawer and made a rash attempt of escaping into the area behind the drawers. Uh-huh, this stumped me, too. Foolish onion. I tossed at least 4 bags of opened frozen vegetables of dubious age. Some duplicates. Were those frozen peas for consumption, or for using as a cold compress?? Who can tell? I also had to get rid of more than a few ziplocs of perfectly yummy sausages because they decided to go to the dark side and traded flavor for frostbite. That's a bummer.

But now?? Now my refridgerator and freezer are standing tall. They sparkle, inside and out (yes, I even cleaned the top of the fridge. The top, people! How many of you can claim a clean and shiny top of your fridge, huh? I CAN.) There is nothing out of place, and nothing outdated. I would have sworn there was nothing outdated in there before - I'm usually pretty good about staying on top of that sort of thing, leftovers and expiration dates - but I would have been wrong. I don't check the deep, dark recesses often enough and stuff got shoved to the back. The produce drawers are free of debris - no more sprinkling of broccoli florets and bit of onion collecting in the corners. Even the humidity for each drawer is properly set now. Fruits and vegetables are separated! Apparently, fruits and vegetables require different humidity settings (who knew?), so no more mingling! Co-ed dorms for produce no more!

My mother would be so proud.

Now, if I could just get a handle on the outside of the fridge I'd be in business. In the old days (B.C. - Before Children), the front of my fridge was free of all clutter. We had a single clip on the side to hold things like checks to be deposited, or tickets to a show, or other such important items we didn't trust to the counters. But the front? Totally barren. The way it sh
ould be. But now? Now I battle the Fridge Clutter constantly, thanks to such things as the Leap Frog magnetic alphabet phonics thingy, and the Mother Of All Calendars my mother gave me, and other various magnetic things that seem to find their way onto the front of my fridge. It's exasperating. Cluttered counters and cluttered fridge fronts make the entire kitchen seem, well, cluttered. And I HATE clutter. And I'm finding there is really no good way to make the magnetic shutes toys for marbles seems less cluttered. Or those damnable letters (if I never hear that song, "A says "ah", and A says "aay", every letter makes a sound, A says "Ah!" again it'll be too soon). And I'm discovering that the Mother Of All Calendars that is magnetic and fills the ENTIRE SPACE OF THE FREEZER DOOR really is useful after all. So I must learn to embrace the Fridge Clutter.

Love me, love my (clean today, filthy tomorrow) fridge.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back and Healing

Well, after some drama, all 4 of us flew to Michigan last week to be there for Mr. Chick's grandmother and ultimately attend the memorial service for his grandfather. We were there for 5 nights (thank GOD for hotels with indoor swimming pools!). We all sort of hung around the house, wanting to DO something, but having nothing in particular to do. That's the way it is with death and grieving, I suppose. You want to help in some way, but really, just your presence is help enough. Although Mr. Chick and I did prepare a really great homemade dinner for everyone one night - roast beef with cheesy scalloped potatoes (from scratch, thankyouverymuch - 2 batches) and steamed carrots with a mustard/brown sugar glaze, and a big green tossed salad. Peeling and slicing and cooking all those potatoes helped me fill one afternoon, at least. And they were delicious, if I do say so myself.

Various relatives trickled in for the memorial, most of whom I've met before at family reunions. All very nice people. They came from all over: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, Montana. The US was well-represented.
Some drove, some flew commecially (like we did), and some flew in their own private planes. But they all got there one way or another. And while it was great to see them, it was stressful on the widow because she wasn't sure what they might be expecting. Did they expect dinner? When would they be arriving? Would they go straight to the hotel, or come to the house? Calming these sorts of fears and anxieties seemed to take up a large chunk of time. We were always brewing fresh coffee, it seemed.

At the memorial service itself, the church was packed full. LOTS of people came from all over to pay their respects. It was very nice to see. That was one of the points that worried Mr. Chick's grandmother: would people come? Did we schedule it inconveniently? Those fears were put to rest: people most assuredly came. In spades.

Mr. Chick was asked to speak at the service. He spent some time drafting and refining a eulogoy for his grandfather. His words were beautiful and he did a wonderful job. He kept it short and sweet, but full of emotion. He shared a story about a plane he built one summer when he was out visiting his grandparents. He and his grandfather worked on it together for hours and hours. When it was finished, they took it out to the garage to start it up, but it wouldn't start. They couldn't get the thing running and flying. Then Mr. Chick had to return home and the plane never got off the ground, instead ended up in the basement (where it remains to this day - I saw it.) Mr. Chick went on to say that that plane represented his time with his grandfather, something he will always cherish. He said that he intends to build a plane with his son, someday, and think of his grandfather. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. Certainly not mine. The kids attended the service (I wasn't sure about this, but we didn't have a sitter and Mr. Chick's grandmother specifically wanted them there) and they both behaved angelically. I was really surprised at how well they did during the whole trip. Excellent behavior from them both. I was really proud of them.

Those were the good parts of the trip. The connection to family members and the sharing of memories of a special man that touched us all. There were some lowlights to the trip as well. The evidence of alcholism in my mother-in-law was a big downer and had a negative impact on us all. Apparently she drank quite a bit - alone in the garage where she hid her stash - during the week we were there. In binges, mostly, from what we could tell. Her twisted thinking and views about me was another (she didn't want me to come to Michigan and feels I "mistreat" her. Which is weird because I've never been anything but nice/cordial towards her, and haven't talked with her in months and haven't seen her in over 18 mos. since she nearly ruined Mr. Chick's graduation. Mr. Chick knows the truth - that she's crazy - but it's still hard to deal with. Mr. Chick's grandmother called me specifically to say SHE wanted ALL of us to come.) MIL kind of kept her distance from everyone, as far as I could tell, and it was probably for the best. At least she wasn't a mean or sloppy drunk.

Another downer was that both kids had colds when we left, and Mr. Chick got it while we were there. That sucked. Also, my period started. That's never fun, either, especially while travelling. We returned home to find Nicholas' fish had died, probably because we turned the heat off in the house while we were gone. Our neighbor was coming by the feed the fish, but it died anyway. Nicholas was SO SAD and cried and cried. We flushed Buzz 2 and made promises to get another fish today. Not a happy homecoming.

So today feels a little surreal. We're right back into the swing of things with Nicholas going to school this morning, Mr. Chick going to work, and Lauren starting a new session of gymnastics. I'm doing laundry and cooking, which except for that one big dinner, I haven't done in DAYS. It's like we never left. Only we did. It's bizarre. It's like we travelled to another world, put our lives on pause, and now we're back. We have nothing to show for our travels except a slightly hollow feeling. We didn't DO anything while we were gone. We spent the majority of the time at the house or sleeping at the hotel. We talked, somberly. We looked at pictures and visited with people we rarely see. It's like we checked out and time went by without us, and now we're back. Very strange and hard to describe.

Time will tell how Mr. Chick's grandmother fares in the aftermath. MIL is the last to leave sometime this week, probably. Everyone else has already gone. I suspect everything will hit her then. The deafening silence of being alone for the first time. She has a tight network of friends, many of whom are widows themselves, who will look after her. We'll be touching base more frequently to make sure she's OK. It's going to be hard, but there is no avoiding it, sadly. Hopefully we can convince her to come see us, now that she can travel again.

If death is such a normal part of life, why must it be so hard and sad??

Monday, January 01, 2007


Happy New Year - 2007. It's not starting off to hot for us, sadly. After a fun-filled evening with friends and kids running all over the place having the time of their lives, we came home this morning and got a phone call we knew was coming at some point, but dreaded anyway.

Mr. Chick's beloved grandfather died last night.

I don't have any details yet as things are still being processed and figured out. No date yet for services, but soon.

Mr. Chick's grandfather was a very special man. Very respected and distinguished. He served in the military during WWII and was a POW for nearly a year, I believe. He received a couple of Purple Hearts. He was gentle and kind and will be dearly missed. He was in his mid-80's when he died, married since the early 1940's to the same woman, Mr. Chick's grandmother. I'm thinking of her today - she just lost her life partner, the love of her life for the past 60+ years. I can't imagine what that must be like.

I've been told that Mr. Chick's grandfather has said that Mr. Chick is like the son he never had (he had two daughters). Mr. Chick deeply loved and respected his grandfather. This is very hard on him.

Depending on travel plans (Mr. Chick's grandfather lived in Michigan), I might be gone for a bit. Plus, we're just sad right now and I don't feel much like writing about silly, trivial, everyday type of stuff when this is so raw.

R.I.P. We love you.

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