Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Gift That Keeps On... Waiting

What is it with the new trend of not opening presents?! I understand when we're at kid parties held at a remote location that it's easier not to do it, especially when you've dropped $300 so Little Jane and fifteen of her closest friends can give their parents migraines at Chuck E. Cheese. I get that. However, I have a problem with the following:

1. Recently, we were at a home birthday party, with about ten kids, all of whom were 5-6 years old, and presents were placed on a table and left there, unwrapped. I have never been to a party at someone's house where the gifts were left for later.

2. This morning, I visited a friend at the hospital with her new baby, who is absolutely gorgeous because of a) good genes and b) c-section delivery. I brought a gift for her, one for the baby, and one small thing for each of her two other girls, both of whom I actually know and see on a daily basis. I didn't expect her to open the girls' gifts, so I placed them on the floor near her bag, but I put the presents for her and the baby on the bed. She didn't open them. They sat there awkwardly for about fifteen minutes, and then she placed the bags on the floor next to her bed, where they stayed until I left 45 minutes later.


I have adjusted to not having gifts I have brought to kid events opened, even though I dislike paying money to bring a gift to a child I barely know and then never hearing so much as a thank-you afterwards. I, myself, have left gifts unopened at event parties, although I always make sure to have my child thank the person at the time, and then we thank them again the next time we see them, mentioning the gift and how much they liked it. Even at that, I'm still uncomfortable with it. Giving a gift is a personal thing, and receiving a gift should be personal as well. I feel that we are removing the personal from so much of our daily life with technology, and now even things that should be intimate are not. I guess that's another reason why I'm more OK with kids not opening gifts, since kid-to-kid gifts are typically not of a personal nature. However, I would not like it if I bought something for my niece or nephew and they didn't open it, because I love them and pick out things for them that I think they will love.

I suppose in that way gift giving is a selfish thing, because it also gives me pleasure to give, and to see the happiness in someone's face when I've gotten it right. I pride myself in giving good gifts, and I put a lot of thought into things I give to other people. When a gift is left unopened, the recipient is ungraciously denying me that pleasure.

I was particularly shocked this morning that my friend didn't open her 'congratulations' gift. She is not a person that I would expect bad manners from, and is in fact typically very sensitive and concerned about other's feelings, so I'm not offended because I know she didn't mean to disappoint me or be rude. But, since she obviously didn't mean to be rude, that means that it was a casual thing, which in turn makes me wonder if this is some new common thing in society now that I have missed out on. It must have been assumed that I would be OK with her opening it later on. Are we so removed from each other now that we can't even accept gifts comfortably? It makes me sad to think that.

Have any of you either given and gotten no 'opening', or gotten and not opened? If you don't open, why?

Monday, April 28, 2008



Since we settled on the new house, things have been flying. Most of them have been dirt.

This new house of ours is the filthiest thing I have ever had the misfortune to clean. I can't imagine how these people actually lived here and didn't get sick! I know it was a single guy, and his kids half the time, and it's been empty for the past six months or so, but STILL. We're talking scary, crusted, sticky, cat-haired grime here. From the looks of it, they must have really liked soda, because that's the only thing that can get that sticky and bead all over the place like that, and it's all over the pantry, kitchen, and dining room. What did they do, have shake-n-pop parties with the cans?! I'm not kidding; it's everywhere. The fridge was full of it, and after six months of sitting, was nearly impossible to get off. Even more gross, the cabinet doors are so filthy I had to resort to scraping the edges of the doors with my fingernail after scrubbing with a windex-soaked paper towel (Windex cleans marvelously, but it removes paint, so don't use it unless you're planning to paint, which we are). Great Green Globs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts are all over the bottoms of the cabinet doors, and somewhere along the line they mated with the cat, because I would swear that there are entire kittens stuck to the base cabinet doors. UGH.

Interestingly, I met the ex-wife of the seller, Judy, yesterday afternoon. She wasn't what I expected at all; tall, thin, kind of crunchy, and very sporty looking. She was talking to a neighbor, and when I went out to introduce myself to the people standing outside talking to my kids, it turned out that one of them was her. She was very friendly, and I liked her. Also, she solved the mystery of the gross grey kitchen for me! On the kitchen wall there was a framed piece of what had looked like wallpaper that had grey and pink flowers on it; we had assumed that it was a piece of paper that had been original to the house and that over the years people had kept it as a piece of history. It turns out that it was actually a piece of flooring from her grandfather's house in Czechloslovakia! So, she asked if she could take it, and then laughed when I was so enthusiastic for it to go (that was before I knew why she wanted it). At least it's not their fault they had bad taste - it was apparently inherited.

I also met Judy's new husband, and I heard at our settlement on Friday that she has other little kids, so I'm thinking that she's the one who initiated the divorce, since she's married and he's not. For it to have been that nasty, something had to have happened. I'll keep you posted as I hear the goods.

DH is, unfortunately, sick. It started yesterday with a little wooziness, and progressed on to being a fever and bad headache. He came home and laid down, and has been pretty much in bed ever since. I do feel bad for him, because it's obvious that he's actually sick this time (as opposed to other times he's laid around whining). However, this leaves me to clean and paint the new house, tidy this one so it can be packed, and do everything in between. One small stroke of luck was that I was able to leave Patrick here playing video games and watching TV with DH laying on the couch while I went and did more work on the other house. I've put two coats on the cabinets so far, and it's going to take yet another to completely cover that awful, rotted-meat grey and putrid pink. Blecch.

In other news, some local firefighters came last night and picked up one of our old couches, our huge TV cabinet, and our old TV, so the living room is very big looking! DH set up the new flat-screen in the living room this afternoon in a fit of feeling-better-ness, and it's pretty darn cool! I'm psyched to break out The Matrix and watch it on the big screen!!!!!! That is, when I find the time to sit down. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Homeless No More

We did it!!!! We actually closed on the house!!!!

Right up to the last minute, it was looking a little dicey. Our appointment was supposed to be at 10am, but of course we got there and there was no paperwork from our lender. None. The lender swore to our broker over the phone on Tuesday that they would be ready at 3pm on Thursday, on 'her personal word of honor'. Well, I guess she's a crack dealer, because she was surely smoking something potent if she honestly thought that THAT was going to happen, and even more so if she thought we were really going to believe her. So, while we weren't surprised that the papers weren't there, it was totally inconvenient and annoying, because I had had to reschedule our appointment with Moving Company #3 to noon because our closing had been supposed to be at 10am, which was when they were supposed to be coming. I did the call of shame and changed it back. Sigh.

Luckily, the mover not only came, but did his quote calculations on the spot, meaning that we had the third quote in time for the county to review it and make a decision in time to meet next week's check cutting deadline, meaning that we can still move next weekend. It actually turned out that we handed the quote to the county guy at the closing, he approved it on the spot, and we were able to call the movers back this afternoon and firm up plans with them. I am SO GLAD that's over.

Two hours later, all of the papers still weren't there, but we started anyway. Then we realized, surprise, the county guy, Joe, wasn't there to hand over the county's portion of the closing costs, and he hadn't left a check! We called and called and finally got ahold of him, only to hear that he hadn't gotten what HE was supposed to get, either.

Of course, the entire time, the seller and his rabid realtor were sitting there, staring at us. Even worse, our kids were both there, because today was a professional day for the teachers (something I think all financial employees could use, at this point - a class on professionalism!). Worse still, the seller's kids were there - the kids whose house was being sold in front of them because their parents couldn't keep it together. Luckily, they were older, maybe 11 and 13, and didn't seem upset about it at all. Still, I felt really bad seeing them, and having them see our kids, and know that our kids were going to be sleeping in their rooms. Ugh.

Finally, all the paperwork showed up, and we finished after TWO HOURS. I'm telling you, there's little that's more awkward than being trapped in a room with a seller for that amount of time, especially when it's your paperwork that's holding up the works. But, it's over. We have the keys. It's our house. We can go in it whenever we want! We will be packed on Friday, and moved on Monday and possibly also on Tuesday, depending on what they can finish in one day. They said they'll move our bedroom stuff first, so we can sleep and whatnot, and then extras afterwards.

After we finished, we celebrated by going to a local Amish market and buying an octagonal picnic table that seats up to eight, and a small kitchen island that seats a person at each end. I love getting stuff there. You always know it's well made, and if something goes wrong, the people who actually made it are right there to help. They're even delivering it for free, for heaven's sake. Oh, AND we lucked out in a HUGE way, because they were having an anniversary sale, where you pop a balloon and there's a sale percentage written on it - we got 20% off the island! Yahoo!!! When it comes in a couple of weeks I'll take a photo and post it.

I am both elated and exhausted. I almost dissolved into tears a few times this afternoon, I think because I've been trying so hard to hold it all together, and it's been getting harder and harder as the stress has mounted. It barely feels real that I never have to deal with that nutty realtor again, or those awful subcontractors, or get dissed by another moving company. I think it may set in tomorrow, when we go over to start working on cleaning and prepping to paint.

Anyway, here she is - our new house:

The back yard actually goes all the way to the next house that you see - it's split by the garage, which will allow us to segregate the dogs when we want to. In a few weeks, the non-fenced portion will have a picket fence around it, and there will be a large gate across the driveway that will connect the pickets to the stone wall. It's four finished stories, with two sleeping porches on the back and a wraparound on the front. We're thrilled. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How To Know When It's Time To Go

When I came home from getting Patrick from prek today, there were two suspicious-looking stakes in the driveway, right next to the house, where you wouldn't necessarily see them. From a distance, they look like this:

Upon closer inspection, however, they looked more like this:

That's right - proposed curb, and proposed sidewalk. To give you a little perspective on the change that this makes to our soon-to-be-previous neighborhood, this is the view of my neighbor's house from my front porch:

Since the road curves outwards, our house is set further out, too, so the stakes are back more on our place, but you get the idea.

I know that the house isn't ours anymore, but we still live here!!! Maybe they could wait to mark our houses for doom until we're all gone, for heaven's sake!

Well, anyway, I was pretty depressed until I got inside and saw my dog, Baci, doing what must be his new-and-improved backyard guard dog bit:

I might as well hang a sign on the door saying, 'C'mon in!!! TV's in the back, jewelry's upstairs!!!' What a doof!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hokey Pokey, County Style

When last you left your hapless suburbanites, we were in the throes of realty uproar, caught between warring factions, if you will. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow being, as we know, the knowledge that we would be closing on our new home on the morrow.

And did that happen, you ask?

Yea and verily... no.

Of course, not. If you really thought there was a prayer in hell of that happening, you've been reading the Wrong fairy tale, my friend.

However, today has been much funnier than yesterday, in a weird way. For instance, Freak Realtor Flo has had a massive personality overhaul after being set straight by the actual county administrator regarding who is actually in charge of the situation (hint: it's not her). She was duly informed that we would get this house whether they foreclosed or not, and that there's no way the bank is letting the seller out of a loan that has almost been taken care of by allowing him to write it off, so she should stop with the screaming and get on with the acting like a realtor of someone who is desperate to sell their house. Oh, to have seen the look on her face!!!! With the amount of makeup that woman wears, I can only imagine the earthquake-like shift as her foundation cracked into shifting tectonic plates. Seriously, the only other person I've ever seen wear that much eyeliner was Liberace. I don't know why some women choose to try and hide their age by piling on ever-thickening globs of liquid foundation, but please, God, let me not be one of them!

Flo called me this morning to cancel our appointment for the final walk-through of the new house, which was supposed to be this morning before settlement. Ironically, guess who beeped in looking for a donation during her call? If you guessed 'State Department of Transportation', get yourself a brownie!!! Can you imagine?!?! Sure, tear down our neighborhood, and hell, take this donation to help you do it!!!! Holy shiite! I've never even heard of them doing fundraising, for heaven's sake. That HAD to be some kind of divine practical joke.

In a grand show of commitment, the underwriter that messed up the appraisal yesterday has finally decided to commit to the loan - or rather, to the cancellation of it. They are 100% behind... the idiot with the outdated software. No, no, they don't care that he valued it at below foreclosure prices, and also below the three other appraisals that have been done lately. They've picked their man, and they're sticking with him. Commitment is important, you know. (If this keeps up, I'M going to be the one committed, however.)(Currently, we have another loan venue, so we should still be able to close in a few days, unless the entire FHA collapses, which at this rate I'm not ruling out.)

Finally, the last and best example. I have been going back and forth with my least favorite relocation subcontractor, Pat, about moving companies. I gave her two quotes, one from Allied and one from Fleet, and legally that's all she needs. Today, she emailed me saying that she needs another quote because the one from Fleet is unacceptable because it's too low, and she knows it will cost a lot more than that. Huh? So, she suggested another company, who I called and scheduled an appointment with, and they'll be out to presumably screw me over on Friday to have a look at my stuff and write a quote. After a few minutes, I emailed Pat back, and said that isn't that the purpose of getting two quotes, to use one and reject the other? Also, if you read the fine print, the one that she thought was too cheap to be true was actually twice as expensive, because they hadn't added insurance costs into their bottom line; they made a note as to how much to add per thousand dollars of value. Far be it from me to suggest that she actually READ the contracts she's supposed to review. The woman emailed me back, no lie, and said that that's why they had rejected them - they're too expensive.

Taa Daa!!!! Your government at work, ladies and gentlemen! Now we know it is in fact possible to be both too expensive AND too cheap at the same time!!!!

I stopped arguing with her at that point because I realized that obviously she has a five year old, and he's writing her emails. I am, in fact, tempted to let Patrick start writing all MY emails to her, and everyone else too for that matter, since maybe like would work with like.

Thank you, and goodnight!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bring on the French Hens!

I am SOOOOO done with this housing experience. Seriously.

First thing this morning, I got a call from one of the moving companies that is supposed to be putting in a quote for our move. This woman, Debby, started off by calling me Christine, which isn't my name at all, and when I corrected her, proceeded to be upset because she'd been trying to get ahold of me for a few days, but my daughter kept hanging up on her. Now, that didn't sound like Josie, since she finally pretty much has the phone thing down, so I made a non-committal noise and waited for her to continue. She then said, 'what can I do for you?', like she had no idea who I was! Turns out, she had called me by accident, and it took her all that time to figure it out! Then, she stammered and stuttered when I spelled it out for her who I was and asked why she hadn't submitted her quote yet. Then she started in again with wanting to know what other companies I had talked to, who I'd spoken with, and what they had quoted me! How unprofessional can you get?!

Oh, I was about to find out.

Then it was DH, saying he'd just gotten off of the phone with our lender, and - surprise - there's a problem. It's not a problem with us personally, thankfully, but still, we're probably not going to be settling on the new house tomorrow. It seems that the lender thought that the appraisal on the house, which merely came in at what our loan is for, was too high, so they decided to get their own appraisal done, and it came in $30k lower. This is so retarded, I can't even begin to tell you. Oh, wait - I can! First of all, this is the FORECLOSURE PRICE agreed to by the seller's bank. It's rock-bottom, people, as in, I feel a little guilty paying so nothing for this house. Second, the guy the financial backers got to do it was a pencil-pusher who didn't even look at the house, but rather went off of some computer simulation program to come up with a perceived value. That's about as stupid as they come, really. Fourth, when the value was so hugely different, no one told our mortgage broker until Today, the day before we close, because they were all too busy pushing their little pencils up the pencil-pusher chain. No one thought to question why the values were so different. Fifth, it turns out that the idiot not only didn't look at the house at all, but he used the WRONG PROGRAM that had old information!!!! So, to sum up, the bank used a guy who had no idea what he was valuing come up with a loan value using an obsolete program. And we wonder why the financial markets are screwed?!

The third call was, of course, from Flo, the Shrill Realtor Freak who represents the seller. She decided that it would be a good idea to track me down, as she put it, to freak out on me about the closing probably not happening tomorrow, and threaten me that if the closing didn't happen as planned, her seller was going to yank the house off the market and let it foreclose. Now, I'm not sure what she thought I was going to say to all this, but what she got definitely wasn't what she wanted to hear, because I told her that regardless of what happened, that we would get the house anyway, because if it goes into foreclosure, we'll buy it that way (which is true, because the county will seize it and sell it to us, we checked on that at the beginning of all this mess), but that we had been trying to save him from being foreclosed on. Oohh, she was PISSED! She tried giving me more crap, including saying that he had been trying to save the house for us by making extra payments past what he should have had to make (which is crap, since our contractual closure date was today) but I interrupted her and asked her if there was something she needed, since there was obviously nothing I could do about appraisals, and she wanted me to give her our lender's cell phone number! Um, no. She already has his regular number, fine, but last I knew she had used it to call him and try to talk him into giving us a bridge loan we didn't ask for to get us into the house before our settlement date!

Now, even though this was an entirely inappropriate phone call for her to have made, and I should have brushed it off, because this guy would be an idiot to walk away from a sale over a day-late settlement and there's no way his bank would allow it, it was still incredibly stressful and obnoxious. I consoled myself by looking online at other houses. I feel like I'm cheating on my probably-new-house, but it did make me feel better knowing that there are a few other houses out there I'd like.

Call #4 was from our lender a little while ago. Turns out Freaky Realtor gave our lender's phone number to HER CLIENT and told him to call himself!!!!!! Now, I would swear that that was probably against some professional realtor code, wouldn't you? I can see how Seller might not have been able to resist calling once he had the information, since I'm pretty sure Freaky Realtor Flo probably has him spun up six ways to Tuesday about all this, but for her to give it to him is. just. obnoxious.

To wrap it all up in a nice little bow for you, that's three canceled movers, two screwy county contractors, one nutty realtor, and a freakin' partridge in a pear tree!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: Belong To Me, by Marisa de los Santos

Last night I did something I haven't done in a long, long time - I stayed up until 1am reading because I couldn't put the book down!!!! OK, so maybe it also had something to do with the small amount of Mountain Dew I drank, but still. I promise, tomorrow I will get back to the usual moaning about my daily life, but in the meantime, I have one more review.

The novel I was glued to is called 'Belong To Me', by Marisa de los Santos. If any of you have read Tom Perotta's 'Little Children', this has somewhat of a similar feel in that there are a few different plot lines going on with a group of neighbors that intermingle into a single glob by the end, but (thankfully) minus the pedophile. The main-est main character is named Cornelia, who is a married woman who has left NYC with her husband looking for suburban bliss. She ends up in a stepford-esque neighborhood, which is ruled by catty queen bee Piper, whose life is of course not at all as perfect as she broadcasts, befriends an oddly secretive waitress named Lake and her genius son, Dev, who have also just moved to the area after Dev is tormented at his old school, and tries to integrate into the vapidly complex neighborhood social scene. The story is told using the alternating-chapter method, rotating between the three women and Dev (this method seems to be becoming more and more popular recently). The women's chapters were the best; Dev's story for the larger part I could have lived without, since while his existence is important to the story, his actual daily experiences are not quite so much. The novel stumbled a bit towards the end, which seemed both rushed and a little too convenient, but the rest of the novel made it so worth the read. The characters themselves were honest creations, without the typical contrived personality disorders/quirks, and as their lives intertwined, the relationships they forged seemed completely natural and like those anyone else could have. I think that was the most endearing part of the book, the fact that the bulk of this tale could be taking place next door. All of the characters, despite their flaws, were also likable, and each grew and was changed by events that transpired.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Various Stuffs

We sold our house yesterday to the county. Currently, we have no home (which my husband reminded me also means no mortgage!), although we are still allowed to live here until we move on May 3rd. We will be buying the new house on Tuesday, which is when the real fun can begin, since the place is filthy after the guy living in it alone for awhile and then being empty for a long time, and also it seriously needs some paint. The kitchen is painted GREY, for chrissakes. That, my friends, is the color of rotted meat. Ugh.

Josie's trauma is over. Yesterday her teacher pulled her, Guy, and Kwami into a room and asked them for The Truth. Shockingly, Kwami 'fessed up that he had a)lied about Josie spitting in the first place and b)lied to his dad about her spitting on purpose a second time, on him. Josie and Guy were then free to go, and she doesn't know what happened to Kwami from then on, but whatever it was, she said he spent the rest of the day with his head on his desk - not because he'd been told to, but because of whatever his punishment was going to be. Phew! I had really wanted to believe my little Pea, but with everything else that had been happening that we hadn't known about, I did have my doubts that *something* had happened. We decided not to punish her for hiding her previous school punishment, since the emotional trauma was enough.

I have been reading a lot lately, and not saying anything about any of the books!!! So, here's a rundown:

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen:
Eeh. I couldn't get into it, and stopped somewhere around page 60. It wasn't that well written, and while what the guy was doing was great, the presentation was terrible. A lot of people have liked this book, though, so make your own call.

Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, by Susan Warren:
This I liked. It follows the Southern New England Pumpkin Grower's Association, and mainly the Wallace family, through the 2006 season. Since I like to garden, it appealed to me, but also it was just fun to read about people taking part in such a niche competition. As a child, I went to many fairs in the New England area, and saw the 1000lb pumpkins that I have tried to describe to my kids. It wasn't a page-turner, by any imagination, except at the very end, when you find out who the world record holder was going to be, and who would win all the awards. The Wallace family was an interesting bunch, and it was kind of like following the progress of a neighbor that you liked a lot. This one is definitely for the NPR crowd.

Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson:
I actually enjoyed this novel more than the rest of the Anne of Green Gables series, which I have been reading to Josie over the past several months. Wilson isn't the original author of the series, of course (L.M. Montgomery is), but her style was very true to the Gables books, and she did a wonderful job of tying this prequel into the rest of the series using little mentions of this person or that cat that were just asides in the original books. She begins writing with the pregnancy of Anne's mother, and while basically everything that follows is despair (the death of her parents, the bouncing from home to wretched home and finally the orphanage), there is an undeniable strand of hope that continues through the whole thing. The only problem, really, is that Anne has relationships with several adults throughout the years, who in real life would have adopted her at any point rather than have her go to another awful home, but since Wilson is bound by the existence of the original series, she can't allow that to happen; to be more realistic, these relationships should have been less familial. Also important to note: this is not a young children's book. It deals with alcoholism, parental death, abuse and poverty. I was able to read it aloud to Josie because I edited some as I read, but I would not have wanted her to read it on her own.

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days, by Judith Viorst:
Remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Well, he's an adult now, with three kids. Judith Viorst, who wrote the original series using her son as a model, has written another book about her son's family coming to live with them for ninety days while their home is remodeled. Viorst is in her seventies now, and believe me, it shows. While her book is entertaining and interesting in a reality-show kind of way, man, does that woman have irrational expectations of what will occur while having three young kids in the house!!! While I did enjoy the book, I have to say that Viorst is a giant stick in the mud whose house I would not want to have to visit with my kids!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Josie Grossie

My daughter, seed of my loins, progeny of my DNA, did something so nasty yesterday that it requires a new word, like Grosstastic, or Stinkowatt, or...


She is, potentially, a spitter.


Well, maybe she is and maybe she isn't. According to her, she isn't, but it's hard to be sure. When she arrived home from school crying, she told me that her friend, Guy, had stuck his tongue out at her, so she stuck hers back out at him, and then one of the other kids in the class, Kwami, started yelling that she'd spit at Guy, and then other kids took it up as well, and Kwami ran back into the classroom (they were in the hallway getting their backpacks for the end of the day) to tattle on whatever she did or didn't do. The teacher, Ms. Burns, told the class that they would sort it out tomorrow, but that she wanted the truth or no one would have recess for the rest of the year. There were about ten kids saying Josie did spit at Guy, but both Guy and Josie swear that she didn't. Kwami was in Josie's class last year, as well, and we had a problem with his laying on her desk, cheating off of her, and hitting, so he's not exactly a reputable kid, but still.

This probably would have all blown over, and I never would have known, had the following not happened. Apparently, on the way out of the door, Josie was trying to explain to Kwami that she did 'ptthhh', not 'pa-tuey', and (accidentally, she claims) got some spit on his face. She says that she apologized, but that he told her he was going to tell his dad, who was waiting to pick her up, and sure enough, he did, and his dad called the school all upset about it.

The reason I know THAT is because I called the school to try and get the straight poop from her teacher, who had just gotten off the phone with the dad. Unfortunately, I also got to hear about how Josie and Guy have been in trouble frequently lately in the lunchroom for being too loud, and have been supposed to sit apart from one another, but haven't, so they both had homework from the lunchladies to write 'I will follow rules' 25 times. According to Ms. Burns, this came home with an explanatory note. I never saw anything, meaning that Josie did it in her room at some point and hid the whole thing from me. Nothing was written in her homework assignment book about it, and no one called or emailed me that there was an ongoing problem. In fact, I spoke to one of the lunchladies on the phone yesterday about her lunch account being in need of money, and she didn't say anything to me then, either. I also got to hear about Josie's too-familiar behavior (aka, sassiness) with her teacher. Needless to say, I was NOT impressed.

I spoke to her teacher again later in the evening, and she said that it had blown up into a full-fledged Incident, with both Kwami's fathers calling (Kwami has an odd situation where he has been adopted, but his birth father is still around somehow) and freaking out, saying that she can't handle the classroom, and there have been issues all year, and they wanted the office involved, etc. She said that she got them all calmed down, and that one father hadn't been aware at all that Kwami is actually a significant discipline problem himself. She also said that she had spoken with Guy, who insisted that Josie hadn't spit at him at all, as well as to another student who backed up Josie and said that it was actually Kwami who had spit at Josie on the way out the door, and had been calling her names like 'loser' and 'stupid', so she spat back at him. Ms. Burns said that she believes the children, and the she no longer thinks at all that Josie meant to spit on anyone's body, regardless of whether she really did end up getting spit on someone or not. However, she had had to bring the vice principal into the situation, so all the children may have to go to the principal's office today.

I had a couple of long talks with Josie about choosing friends wisely, and how when she has to lie and cover things up, and gets in trouble all the time when she's with a certain person, that means that that person isn't a good friend for her to have. The little feeling she gets in her tummy of uneasiness and guilt is a good thing, and that's her conscience protecting her from doing things she knows are wrong. Also, I said that she should tell Guy that she can't hang out with him anymore, because of these reasons, but that she still is his friend, and when things change maybe they can play together again, because that will protect her and also show him that HE needs to change, as well. I explained that she needs to be patient with Kwami, who obviously has had a lot of family issues, and probably has a lot of anger, and his tattling is his need for attention and positive reinforcement (thank you for telling me, Kwami, you're such a help) showing itself. So, she doesn't have to play with him, or even like him, but she shouldn't hate him, because he's young and is having a hard time controlling his feelings. She understood that, and said that she didn't want to spend a lot of time with Guy after this mess, either.

This whole thing has shown me that we are quickly reaching the stage where Josie will be having her own problems that I will have to basically stand aside and watch her deal with. Gone are the days of her biggest problem being a tiff with her little friend, which I can solve with cookies and lemonade. So, I talked to her about how the decisions regarding who she hangs out with will always be with her, and it's important for her to become astute in those choices now before she's older and is faced with having to sever ties with friends who get involved with drugs and alcohol. If she's a follower and content to be dragged along into other people's problems now, it will be all the harder when she's older to cope with important decisions. I also told her that her lying, aside from being morally irresponsible and hurtful to me, made it impossible for me to help her at the school, because if I don't know what her actual behavior is, and what events have already transpired, there's no way I'll have enough credibility to walk in there and defend her by saying, my kid would never do that, you must be mistaken.

I know in the grand scheme of things, this is small trouble potatoes, but I'm not used to having her be in trouble at school, and am unsettled at all the things that have been going on there without my knowledge. Sigh. I guess they're really going to be teenagers someday, with real problems, then, huh? Gross.

Now DH and I are trying to decide what, if any, punishment we should mete out to her. She did hide things from us, which is wrong. Since I wasn't at the school, aside from telling her to keep her tongue in her face from now on, I'm not entirely comfortable with punishing her harshly for whatever happened there, especially if she is punished by the school. Also, I think sometimes emotional upset is its own punishment. But I don't think she should get away scott-free, either. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ahhhh... Grandparents

This past weekend, the kids' grandparents (DH's parents) came up to see us (they live about 90min away) and go to Patrick's soccer game and, later in the afternoon, Josie's piano recital. What great grandparents, right? Don't get too excited - they only came because they were already going to DH's sister's house, which is halfway between their house and ours, and so they 'figured they might as well come up here, too, since they were up here anyway'. Gee, thanks. Don't hurt yourselves or anything.

This has always been a bone of contention with me, and lately with DH's other sister as well. There is obvious favoritism for DH's older sister, Kate, and her kids, who were the first-born grandchildren. When the twins were young, Linda literally spent days at a time with them, and had them to the house for weeks during the summer. They have always dropped everything to do things with them, like take them to movies or whatnot. So, when Josie was born, we thought it would be the same with her, right?


Although we only lived about five minutes from their house until a year ago, not once did they call and ask to see the kids, or take them anywhere, or lord forbid, have them overnight. Even when Patrick was born, they only would keep Josie overnight once, and DH ended up going to get her first thing in the morning. Patrick has seen, if possible, even less interest. DH's other sister, Jen, thought we were nuts until she had her own kids, and the same thing happened.

Now, it's not that I expect miracles - after all, they are older now than when the twins were born, so it's completely understandable that they would want less activity in their lives. However, it's the lack of similar enthusiasm that's annoying. I guess it's the 'first grandchild' thing. I'm relieved that we now live farther away, because now that we don't see them as often, the kids are less likely to notice the difference. Like, being having them come to your special events because they were in the neighborhood seeing other people anyway. Yeah.

However, they still win the grandparent of the year award in one way - they haven't taught any swears to the kids.

Yesterday, I was playing a word game with the kids, called Banana Words, where you take 21 tiles and then make as many words as you can in crossword puzzle fashion (like a bunch of bananas, I guess). When the time was up, Josie announced that she had made seven words - no, for, go, run, even, cat, and damit. I almost fell over! She announced them just like that, blah blah blah, not even thinking she's written a Word. Here is the ensuing conversation:

Me: "Wait, what was that last one?"
Josie, surprised, "Damit. What?"
Patrick: "What's damit?" (and I'm thinking, Great! Now the 5yo has it, too!)
Me: "Where did you hear that word?"
Josie: "Nana said it a lot. It means darn, right?"

Thank you, Nana, for teaching my kids to swear.

So, I explained that there are adult clothes, adult TV shows, adult foods, and adult words, and that that's one of them (I know she spelled it wrong, but still). There are kid foods, kid clothes, kid shows, and kid words, which do not include adult words. They seemed satisfied with this, and the conversation stopped.

Jesus Christ, can't I even teach my own goddamn kids to fucking swear?! (Or, in kid language, holy cannoli, I'll teach my own poopyheaded kids to snarklefurg swear, thank you!)


Seriously, though. Jeeze.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Much My Soul?

I am in a quandry. We have decided to donate our large first-generation flat-screen TV (it's about seven years old and weighs literally 250lbs) and the monsterous entertainment center it's in (which I love and will be somewhat sad to see go) to charity because the new house is set up differently, and since our new living room has a fireplace and glass french doors on two walls leading to the dining room and foyer, wall space is at a premium. We are going to splurge and get ourselves an LCD flat screen that we will mount on the wall over the fireplace.

Here are my thoughts on the situation. Being an environmentally-minded person, which is more wasteful: having an energy-sucking TV, or getting rid of it (being wasteful) in favor of getting a new energy-star one, or keeping it and continuing to suck energy, and thus not condemning it to a landfill (although technically this one won't be going to a landfill because we're going to donate it, but still). I have the same thoughts about the newer lightbulbs - do I switch out the old ones, putting them in the landfill before they're dead, in favor of the new ones, which have mercury in them anyway (what happens if they break?! also, I can't have a thermometer, but I can have a house full of mercury bubbles?), or do I keep them until they're dead, thereby getting everything out of them that can be gotten, but waste electricity to do it? Just for the record, I have actually switched out almost all of our bulbs, but felt very guilty throwing all the others in the trash.

Here's another question. I like to try and get things locally when possible. However, LCD TVs are VERY expensive. Here's the kicker; the same TV I looked at in a local shop today is hundreds of dollars cheaper at Walmart (I looked it up on the internet). So, do I stick to my principles and get it at the local place, supporting the local economy and definitely getting better service, but paying dearly for it, or do I do the walk of shame into Walmart and get my cheap-o box lowered off the giant platform and onto my flatbed cart by Jim-Bob the Crane Operator?

Where do you all draw the line of enviro-socio do-gooderism? I am generally fine with shopping in the organic sections, buying the Amish milk in the returnable glass bottles from the local market, and getting gifts at local stores. This TV purchase, though... it's a lot of money...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

So Sorry to Have Bothered You...

What IS it with so-called service professionals?!?!?! I am seriously about to blow a gasket over here. Never mind not doing their jobs, common courtesy seems to have totally and completely gone out the window.

OK, so, now that it seems that we WILL actually be moving soon, I'm trying to get some movers. The county is supposed to be in charge of this, but after a week and a half of trying to get a response from them as to who we should contact to get quotes, we decided that we'd better take care of it ourselves, since not getting it taken care of will only result in our hearing, 'oh, gee, we didn't have time to cut the check, so we can't pay movers for at least another two weeks, sorry' on the day when we're supposed to move. I'll do it myself, thank you. Then, two days ago, one of the subcontractors actually had the nerve to send my DH an email saying that she was ready to make appointments with movers to do walk-thrus, so email her some dates to pick from. Since she had copied the actual county rep, Joe, on her email, I just copied him right back when I emailed her explaining that since neither she nor her coworkers had responded to three emails and two phone calls over the course of two weeks looking for assistance she was supposed to be providing, we had gone ahead and started looking for movers without her. Ha!

So, now I'm calling movers. Actually, initially I went to a website and filled out info, and have been harassed continually by various companies ever since. However, every time I talk to one and explain the situation (they must insure all our things to the full replacement value, which will be paid for by the govt, and they will be paid via check by the govt on our moving day in the amount they quote, and will have to bill for any additional amount of time they spend over what they quote initially), they act all interested and say they're emailing a quote... that never comes. Now, I understand that working with the government can be a hassle (BELIEVE ME, I understand), but why not just say up front that they're not into doing the work?! Why make me wait for a quote that's never going to come? Argh! I mean, it's not like the moving business is bustling these days, with the market being so slow, and this is going to be a big job for someone, since the govt is paying for us to have everything packed, too. Today I actually had a mover stand me up when they were supposed to be here giving me a quote. WTF?!

Where do all these Boobs come from?! I know I probably sound like an old fart, but if I tell someone I'm going to be somewhere, I'm There, and as long as I don't have the kids with me, I'm even usually on time. If I'm not coming, I call. If I'm not going to do whatever it is at all, I say so. It's not hard.

I have noticed this same kind of rudeness everywhere lately. It seems like anyone who deals with people on a regular basis can't manage even a smile anymore. The people who bug me the most are librarians and people who work in doctor's offices. Of all people in the working world, they should be kind, at least be able to be CIVIL to children, and (gasp) actually want to help you. People at the stores want to wait on me before the poor woman with three kids in front of me has time to even put her money away, and then in turn want me to fall through the floor as soon as they hand me my card back so they can get to the next person. (That is my hugest pet peeve, BTW.) One of my favorite things to do is piss those people off by politely waiting for whoever it is to gather their things, kids, and purse and head off before I move up to the counter. It totally drives them bonkers! Very passive aggressive, I know, but really, these days I have a LOT of frustration, so it's superfun to pass it on to someone else!!! :)

Any of you totally sick of XYZ doing PDQ, please share. I can't possibly be alone in finding that the people who are PAID to help me find me to be a total cramp in their cell-phone talking style.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

... Now With 1/4 Less Wisdom!

Today I finally bit the bullet and allowed a man to remove one of my wisdom teeth. I did manage not to bite the dentist, although it was close a few times.

The tooth that has been discarded was my upper left one, aka Number Sixteen to those in the know. Dentists far and wide have been after me forever to get all four of them taken out. Why are my teeth in such demand, you ask? Are they made of gold? (No, but several of them are made of whatever fillings are made of, because having babies rotted my teeth, thank you very much, Stork.) The bottom two are hopelessly, if partially, impacted. They each have a flap of skin that covers the back half of them, like some kind of oral fig leaf. Or maybe like a tooth lunchbox, because they've apparently been saving tiny bits of whatevers for my entire life under those flaps, and now really, really need to be removed.

I have resisted having them taken for thirty-four years now (well, OK, maybe twenty is more like it, since they don't come in until you're a teenager, or something, right?) because it sounds like it will Hurt, and I'm not into that kind of thing. Why have something painfully jackhammered out of my head when it's not bothering me? That sounds like a bad trade to me. Kind of like childbirth - it causes a lot less grief when still inside me, and although it may eventually be better, the question remains as to whether the process is worth any eventual gain!

Anyway, like childbirth, the time has arrived where I have really no choice, so today I bravely took myself to the oral surgeon and was seated by my nice, tattooed male nurse in the comfy blue chair to await my doom (or at least the tooth's doom). He stuffed my mouth full of Poison Q-tips that burned my throat and tongue, but supposedly numbed my gums. Soon, a dentist, also male, wandered in, blathered away about something pricking, stuck a needle in my mouth, and electrocuted my face!!!!! I kid you not, I rose up out of that chair like the needle had gone into a totally different orifice!!! He had hit nerve jackpot, and injected the needle directly into my nerve, the one that travels up behind my eye. THAT, my friends, is Not Good.

Once that had subsided, the dentist had calmed down, and any danger of my having my cheek pierced had passed, I was left alone with the nurse to become Totally Numb. While I was sitting there contemplating the potential of accidentally swallowing one's own tongue, the nurse blurted out, 'was your face all red when you came in here?'

There's a comforting question. NO, I believe it wasn't, Einstein. He handed me a mirror, and I tell you, I looked like a circus freak. The left side of my face was ghost white except for the very outside of my face, which was bright red. I was undoubtedly going to asphyxiate and die from drug allergy. I started making my mental preparation to leave this world while wearing a drooly bib, and found odd humor in leaving the world as I had come into it.

There is little that is more discomfiting that being The Oddball in a doctor's office. The Nurse had never seen a reaction like that to the shot, which turned out to have epinefrine (I just know I butchered the spelling of that all to hell) in it, but the parade of nurses that came in to have a peek at the Freak told me that they had seen it a few times before, and it was just the shot constricting my blood vessels. Apparently, I wasn't going to die. Probably.

The dentist finally came back, looked at me, and mumbled some comment about it being nothing to worry about, and it would go away in an hour or so, and it wasn't an allergic reaction. He then wheeled over a table with Tools on it. Tools, as in, I'm gonna build a bookshelf, where are my tools. There was a little hammer thing, a plier thing, and a pick thing.

I have never had anything removed before, other than a plantar's wart on my foot when I was a teenager. Well, and I had two babies removed from my ass, but I suppose that's not quite the same thing. So, this having teeth yanked out was a new thing. I'm not exaggerating, either; that man YANKED my tooth out. I suppose there's no other way to do it, really, so I don't blame him, but it felt like.... well, like someone yanking part of my face out. It was the strangest, most disconcerting thing Ever. There was some hammering to loosen it, some picking at the gum, then in went the pliers, and about a minute later, out came my tooth. It made a weird sound, too, like the way styrofoam squeaks when you're trying to unpack a new radio that just Won't Come Out.

The weird (yet GOOD) thing was, it didn't hurt at all. Not one little bit. Afterwards, the nurse went through a whole litany of things I can't do, and I can't even imagine who WOULD do them. You'd have to be a real masochist, or a real MORON, to eat pretzels, chew gum, or use MOUTHWASH after having a tooth pulled (oh, the very thoughts of those things make my skin crawl!!!!). Good Lord, mouthwash!!!!!! Listerine hurts too much for use on a normal day, never mind with my newly constructed facial pothole! OW!!!!

In addition, I did get one little parting gift - a big fat script for Vicodin! Hooray!!!! I don't need it at the moment, since it still doesn't hurt at all, hours later, but boy oh boy, am I gonna cash in THAT baby! That's not something you throw away, my friends. What? A migraine, you say? Vicodin! Ooh, I broke my toe - here, Vicodin! Then my evil little self whispers, terrible summer day with the kids? Vicodin and Vodka tonic! No, I wouldn't really do that. Probably. But it does seem like a good thing to have around. I so rarely take anything for pain that when I do, it's like the clouds have parted and heaven has descended.

So, my first facial crisis is over. In the fall, once Patrick is safely in school, I will have the other three removed. Actually, it will probably be more like next February or something, when all the holidays are safely over and there's nothing to do but sit inside, anyway. At least I have this under my hat, and the next time since they're impacted I'll be knocked out all the way anyway. Hey, there's something to look forward to - a planned nap!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I love to make cakes. When I had kids, of course, I had to start making and decorating birthday cakes for them, usually two a year since we try to have separate parties for friends and family, just to keep the mayhem to manageable levels (otherwise, Mommy has to delve a little *too* deeply into The Drink).

I started out with the usual colorfully-frosted blobs, but once Josie got older and started having Interests, I branched out into the expected Barbie cake for her kid party, and for the family party, a much smaller Kellie cake.

Since that was actually recognizable, I started doing real estate

This year, for Patrick's birthday, I wanted to do something special, that he would remember. He's HUGE into Star Wars, because we have both the original and new series Lego video games and have played them so much that we've actually found all the special stuff and won so many coins that the game has stopped counting! Last year, I made him a Darth Vader cake, which I didn't take a picture of, because it was just hideous and, well, BLACK. Everyone's teeth were really, really nasty after eating it!

Since he loves the bad guys most of all, I decided to make something with Jabba the Hut as a theme this year. I knew I didn't want to make Jabba himself, because that would just be disgusting, so I settled on making his slave ship, the one from the third movie that Luke is almost forced to jump off of into the pit where the sand monster is. After making several layer cakes and cutting them to make layerable sections, frosting it, and using graham crackers, twizzlers and those new chocolate-covered candy bar sticks, I put some lego people on top, and this is what I ended up with:

Most recently, two weeks ago our church choir director turned 27, and I offered to make the cake for the surprise party we had for him. We always tease him about how much Coke he drinks, which is easily two cans during a 90min rehearsal, so I decided to make him a Coke-themed cake:

It's a little hard to see, but there are polar bears looking at the bottle, which is made out of trimmed circles of cake laying on their side and frosted together. It's covered with cookie sludge (Oreos mixed with chocolate sauce) and black sugar crystals. The wording says, 'I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony', from the old commercial, which I thought was apt for a music director.

Sometimes people tell me I should go into business, and I guess I wouldn't mind doing cakes for people I knew, but doing them for strangers would introduce a layer of pressure I'm not sure I'd want. What if they didn't like it? I'd either be upset, or mad. Either way, someone would probably end up with cake where the sun don't shine, and I'd end up needing someone to make ME a cake... with a file baked into it. :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Popsicle Forest

Welcome to the popsicle forest!!! It lives in my room, and is peopled by frail, skinny life forms that flop over without correct support...

OK, it's my burgeoning garden. These to the left here are giant sunflowers, the kind that will eventually be about twelve feet tall. You can't see them clearly in this photo, but also planted in these three trays (which do, in fact, live in our bedroom) are geraniums, various petunia varieties, nasturtium, and a few other lesser-known plants.

These beauties to the right here are veggies. Actually, they're currently a lot bigger than this, but I'm too lazy to heave my largesse upstairs to take another photo (I swear, these are the most well-documented plants ever grown! I may have more photos of these babies than some people do of their third- or fourth-born kids!), so here they are as they appeared about a week ago. From left to right, they are chocolate cherry corn (which will be dark ears with pink silk), decorative gourds, max pumpkins, and purple pole beans. The pumpkins are my favorites; one day I thought that the cat had been playing in the dirt, so naturally I was preparing to skin her alive, when I noticed upon closer inspection that in fact giant leaves had displaced literally *chunks* of dirt all in one night. At the moment, this is the best performing tray, with everything up. The beans are all about five inches tall, and same with the corn.

This is the last photo I will bore you with today (see, this must be what people without kids must feel like when cornered by the rest of us). Here we have, clockwise from top left, an entire tray of dwarf snapdragons, white sunflowers on sticks and candycane zinnias, larger snapdragons with variegated zinnias, and a fourth tray with cukes (the tallest ones), red, orange and chocolate sweet peppers, two kinds of watermelons, lettuce, and two kinds of tomatoes. Again, another older photo, but you can see the life in them anyway. The peppers just started showing their heads the other day, as I was despairing of ever seeing them at all.

Tonight on the kitchen table I have three varieties of morning glories (the Japanese Murasakihigezaki will be my favorite, if it comes up) and two Passiflora vines (when you look at this link, just above the passiflora photo there's a small image of a corkscrew vine that I will be soaking and then planting tomorrow).

I got all my seeds online, and all the veggie seeds are heirloom plants, meaning that they have been harvested from plants who in turn were harvested naturally from plants, in some cases all the way back to the 1800's. I did this for several reasons; one, because a lot of seeds today are genetically engineered to self-destruct after one season so you have to keep buying from The Man, and two, because they are tastier than the hybrids that are typically sold in stores today that have been carefully bred over the years to favor standard size and hardiness over flavor. Also, it makes me increasingly nervous that we are so reliant on only a few strains of plants; all it would take would be one or two serious viruses to wipe out a large amount of the vegetation we rely on in general society. Again, this steered me to the heirloom varieties.

I have been wanting to grow veggies for years, but what finally pushed me over the edge was Barbara Kingsolver's 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. Kingsolver is an amazing writer (The Poisonwood Bible, among many of hers, is one of my favorite books ever), and a few years ago she and her family made the commitment to live full-time on what had been their summer home in VA, and live off only food they grew themselves and whatever could be produced within a certain number of miles from their home. It's a very interesting read, with many recipes and ideas, and it 's what finally got me off my butt and growing. Even if you're not interested in growing your own stuff, it's still worth a perusal.

And that, ladies, is my diatribe for today!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ups and Downs

OK, since I last wrote:

The county finally made it out to our house, and presented a good offer for our house. It pays off our mortgage, and leaves enough over that we can put down some money on our new house. Phew! This morning I got an email from the county lawyer saying that our closing will be scheduled for the 18th, so two weeks from tomorrow. We're checking with our lender to make sure that we'll be able to settle on the new house at the same time, but I believe that things *should* be in order to do that.

This is a massive relief. Not only was I starting to get really, really discouraged, but the realtor for the seller was starting to say things like, the potential delay for the sale was going to make the seller lose the house to foreclosure, and it was basically our fault, so could we move in anyway and pay rent? Like we can pay two mortgages! What a nut! Anyone with a brain knows that a bank isn't going to choose foreclosure over a guaranteed sale, even if it happens a few days later than was originally planned. I think she's a lot more interested in her commission than her seller, frankly. Either way, her thinly-disguised guilt trips were getting on my nerves.

I wasn't expecting settlements to happen before the end of the month! We still may not move until the beginning of May, but that would give us time to get in there and clean, get some additional fencing for the back yard, take out a couple of small trees, etc.

The same day we signed the offer from the county, DH had a fender-bender on the way out of town on his way to work. He was actually taking a detour to look at the new house, and was waiting to turn left when the guy behind him plowed into his right rear side. They both pulled over, and the guy, who had his elderly mother in the car, was very nice and forthcoming with all his info, handing DH his insurance card and writing down his phone number. DH didn't write down his plate (I know, I know), since he had all this other info, and came home to call the insurance.

Too bad the guy gave him a made-up phone number and a canceled insurance policy.

Can you believe that? I mean, just when I think I have a grip on the fact that there are a lot of dishonest people in the world, boom! We were so amazed. That probably sounds naive, but really, who expects to be handed a canceled policy card? Good grief! Luckily, our insurance will pay for the repairs (other than our deductible, of course, ouch), but still! The only decent thing is that DH got a nice rental car, actually nicer than what he currently drives, that the insurance will also pay for. It's a Nissan Altima, silver, and is of course a lot cleaner than his usual car, too. :)