Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reeling him in

I don't know if he's going through a mid-life crisis or what, but lately, Hershey the dog has been completely oblivious to an attempt to control his behavior. He's decided that HE is the boss and who are you, woman, to be bossing around the likes of me, a dog of great manliness and masculine machismo? Well, in spite of the part where his gonads were surgically removed before he could have a chance to woo numerous lady dogs.

Hershey and Wimzie often go for walks in our neighborhood at the end of their leashes, led most often by my husband, who can handle them both together, or by me, who can only deal with one of them at a time, plus carry the pooper scooper without, you know, accidentally letting it brush against my pants. Eeww. But in the late afternoons, it's always been easier just to let them go out to the yard, off-leash, to do their business while I walk around in the grass with them, or just stand on the front walk if the grass is wet or covered with snow.

This has always worked well up until now. Recently, Hershey has decided that he wants to go bounding up to people passing by on the sidewalk, a behavior that I deplore. Some of the passersby are people who live in our neighborhood, or the lawyers whose firms are housed in some of the big, 18th century demi-mansions that proudly line the next street over, so they're not rendering insensible with fear when he bounces up to them, tongue lolling happily. They know him and patiently give him a pat on the back while I apologize fulsomely. Thank heaven he's never been a jumper, but still. Still.

Some people who walk by don't live in our neighborhood and might not necessarily want some strange dog trotting over and sniffing and begging for a pat on the head. Monday, this came true in a particularly awful way that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

I took the dogs out at around 6:00 in the afternoon because that's generally a time when there are few people out on foot. The lawyers have come back from the court house, the little theater two doors down has not yet opened for rehearsals (they're doing "The Music Man" in November), the school bus has long since dropped off its load of kids and the mail carriers are finished with their day's deliveries. That is a time that I can count on.

Except for Monday.

On Monday, I was standing on the front walk and Hershey was across the yard standing under our tree. He heard voices that were too far away for me to hear, but I saw his ears perk up and his tail go up and he began prancing across the yard in his friendliest way, past the side of the house where I couldn't see him.

"Hershey!" I called, annoyed. "Hershey, get back here right now!"

He ignored me, of course. So I started walking across the yard after him, rather slowly because my handicapped knee does not permit swift movement on bumpy surfaces. By the time I got to the side of the house, the people that Hershey had welcomed had drawn abreast of the house. It was a group of college students from the nearby university. They were patting him rather warily and he was loving it.

"I am so sorry," I said. "He's really very friendly....I apologize. Really. Hershey!"

Hershey had gone up to one young man in the group, a man with the smooth, ebony skin that indicates an African emigrant, probably a foreign exchange student, I figured. He was very handsome with his strong features and high cheekbones; it was an elegant and eternal face, slightly incongrous in a university sweatshirt and a ski cap with a pom-pom on top.

That young man was trembling visibly. "I am scared of dog!" he quavered in the overly-precise English of someone unaccustomed to colloquial speech. "I am vurry scared of dog!"

Of course Hershey was attracted to him like steel to a magnet. The young man pushed his hands at Hershey as I got close enough to grab Hershey's collar. But Hershey, the little jerk, slipped away from me and went behind the African student. This caused the young man to turn around, obviously afraid that Hershey was going to go for a rear assault.

"I am scared! I am scared!" he said, eyes wide with fright. The other students, about six in number, gathered around him, speaking soothingly. They called him something that sounded like Owumba.

"It's okay," said one girl, squatting down to pat Hershey's back (I was highly tempted to kick him to the moon, myself). "See, Owumba, he's a friendly dog."

"Yes, friendly," I chattered. "Very friendly dog!" I looked at the student and my heart smote me -- he had tears standing in his eyes. I patted him awkwardly on the arm. "I'm so sorry you were frightened, terribly sorry." The girl who had been petting Hershey took hold of his collar and transferred him to me.

The African student looked at me, eyes wide and indignant. The guy walking beside him said gently, "It's okay. Come on, look, she's got the dog."

They all walked on and crossed at the corner. None of them looked back. But I stood there holding Hershey, just covered with guilt. Holding tight to his collar, I frogmarched him across the front yard. He did not appreciate this treatment and threw himself around like a python, writhing and twisting and yelling for the police. Thank goodness Hershey doesn't speak English.

"Shut up, you big baby," I hissed at him. I tugged him up onto the front porch and let go of his collar, and darned if that idiot didn't try to scoot around me and dive off the porch. I blocked him and said, "YOU ARE A BAD, BAD DOG" in a voice that must have held such a promise of mayhem, Hershey turned around and went into the house, where Meelyn was holding the door open for us, her eyes nearly as wide as that student's.

"What happened?" she asked.

"It's a long story, but let me start telling it by saying that tomorrow, we are going to PetSmart and buying one of those long bicycle-type dog ropes and I am never going outside with Hershey again unless it he is at one end of it and I am on the other."

I have spoken.

He'll find out who the boss is.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Signs that the apocalypse is upon us

Anyone reading this blog who knows me IRL, as we say on the internet -- "in real life" for those of you who still don't know what LOL and BRB mean, and if you don't, IDK what's wrong with you -- knows how I feel about those American Girl dolls.

You know those dolls? Those eighteen-inch, pop-eyed vinyl creatures that sell for $95 each?

Yeah. Those dolls.

The American Girl website describes itself like this on the Google directory: "American Girl is a premiere lifestyle brand that offers a variety of age-appropriate, high-quality dolls, books, clothing, and accessories." Is it just me, or does that make a little vomit come up in your mouth? A premiere lifestyle brand? What does that even mean? I have my suspicions, the first and foremost of them being that any purveyor of pop-eyed dollies that sells them for $95 each and then describes itself as a "premiere lifestyle brand" is catering to an elitist snobbery that can sometimes awaken in people's hearts over their children: "Observe me and how I love my children more than you love yours! Because my child has a $1200 stroller/an exclusive prep school/a toy box stuffed with $95 dolls."

Once upon a time at a luncheon, a mother said to me (obviously not knowing me very well), "I just think the only way you can have a truly quality upbringing for your child is to avoid all cheap toys and go for those ones that are exceptional. And if those toys are the ones that are the most expensive..." She broke off here to emit a tinkling little laugh. "Well, we all know what's appropriate."

I hesitated, torn between the desire to lie and tell her that Meelyn and Aisling's favorite toy was a gun I bought from a guy working out of the back of a van who promised me that the piece was "clean" and my eagerness for this mother to perceive me as APPROPRIATE, even as I sat there with my elbows on the table, cleaning my teeth with a fish fork.

Anyway, back to the dolls.

When the girls were small, I told them quite frankly that those American Girl dolls were the most hideous things I'd ever seen, I mean, check out the EYES on those things and do you really want that staring at you across the room at night? , and if they wanted one, they were going to have to apply to Poppy and Nanny because it goes against everything Mommy believes about the simplicity of childhood to spend $95 on a doll. Dolls who have pajamas that cost $24. I don't think I've ever spent $24 on pajamas for myself, let alone for a doll. I am obviously not appropriate, quality or exceptional in any way.

But neither is the American Girl, LLC. Do you know what those rascals have done now? Let me tell you: They have created a homeless American Girl doll. Yes. Homeless. You can read about this doll, Gwen Thompson, here, on her wiki at the American Girl website, but for those of you who don't want to click over, I'll tell you that Gwen's dad deserted the family and then her mother lost her job, necessitating a move into the family car.

Gwen, complete with her cheerful storybook that's sure to gladden the hearts of all the little mommies who read it, sells for $95. Ninety-five dollars for a plastic doll, when there are so many real-life American families out there who could use that money to buy a week's worth of groceries to keep their souls connected to their bodies, families who are living in the new tent cities that are springing up around the nation as the recession grinds down on us all.

Ain't that a kick in the shorts? I'm pleased to say that the main reports are that the sales for this doll are very slow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Bad

After months of viewing, the four of us watched the very last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer yesterday evening. Yep, all seven seasons. Through the formation of the Scooby Gang
to Buffy and Angel, to Buffy running Angel through the heart with a hackin' big sword; to Angel coming back and getting his own series, to the blandness of the Riley years ("Hello, White Bread," Spike sneered at him once) to Spike falling in love with Buffy, and Buffy falling in love with Spike, only to watch him immolating in the morning sun as he saved the world from The First....

This morning I woke up and felt that there was a gaping hole in my life. Anya's gone. The Slayer power has been passed on and on to all the Potentials and they're all off to Cleveland to close the Hellmouth there with Giles and Willow and Spike (eyepatch! *sob!*) and Dawn and Faith. But surely that Hellmouth is already closed, because it's been, like, six years. So what is Buffy doing now? Did she ever finish college? Is she married to some non-vampire guy, the SAHM to four little karate-kicking kidlets? Do you think she'd respond to a request from her many fans to STAKE EDWARD AND BELLA CULLEN RIGHT THROUGH THE HEART?!?!

In the picture, Buffy's in the foreground, Angel's the one in the background, and the rest, from left to right, are Giles, Spike, Dawn, Willow, Xander and Anya.

Inside the quiet of my mind

Our downstairs rooms are arranged in a rectangley sort of formation: foyer and living room in front, kitchen and dining room behind them, respectively, with the downstairs bathroom and the laundry room behind them.

So right now I'm sitting in the dining room, where my desk is, kind of in a L-shape with the kitchen and living room. In the living room, Johann Nepomuk Hummel's ( there's a name for you. Were his parents purposely trying to inflict damage, or was it a family name?) "Das Zauberglockchen/Groteschi/Ballo Generale" is trumpeting away on the DVR's classical channel, while Meelyn's MP3 player is pulsating with the sound of Michelle Branch's "Everything" out in the kitchen and I am stuck between the two and my brain is kind of reeling, like if I suddenly walked in on Billy Idol making out with Beverly Sills on the couch.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grocery hellllllllp

I've mentioned before that there are three grocery store that lie equidistant from my house:

1. A Kroger with a pharmacy that has the best prices and a drive-thru window, but also has a clientele that could scare the bejabers out of you. This is the place where a lady tried to force me to buy boiled ham two years ago.

2. A Marsh that is semi-posh and SMALL so that you don't have to walk four miles to pick up a gallon of milk.

3. Another Kroger that is very posh (coffee bar, sushi bar, schmancy soup-and-salad bar), but where I can't find the cannelloni beans.

Anyway, I was at the Scary Kroger yesterday and had a whole new experience. In that store, I saw not one, but two people -- two separate people, in different aisles, pushing different carts -- who both had crack teeth. Now, it isn't all that unusual to see someone with crack teeth (also known as Meth Mouth) in that store, but it is a banner day of the fearsome variety when you see two people with their teeth whittled down to greyish brown stumps. Yikes.

I was at Marsh this morning and saw an elderly lady at the checkout wearing Sperry Topsiders with a dainty gold filigree ankle bracelet. I looked at her speculatively and wondered, "Former tart who's devoted her retirement to surf and sail?"

RECIPE: Poured-crust Homemade Pizza

Like many nights, Friday night has turned into Family Night at our house. It used to be Date Night, but times are lean and we just can't afford to go out to dinner ourselves and bring home whatever food the girls would like to eat plus a DVD from Blockbuster for them. These days, we rely on old standbys like homemade pizza and episodes of Top Chef and Survivor from the DVR.

My mom found this homemade pizza recipe somewhere, but couldn't remember if it was an online recipe or one she'd found in a magazine. Wherever it came from -- heaven, maybe? -- it is definitely a keeper and produces a really yummy homemade pizza with an absolute minimum of fuss and effort, i.e. you don't have to be a former employee of one of those hand-tossed-dough pizza parlors to produce something delicious.

And fast! Did I mention that this recipe is fast? This is a fabulous recipe for a busy mom or dad, and so simple that even a kid can even stir it up.



1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon rosemary, optional

pizza sauce/barbecue sauce/salsa or desired sauce topping
desired pizza toppings, limited only by your imagination


Heat oven to 425 degrees. Generously oil a 12" cast iron skillet (or a 9"x13" casserole dish). If using a cast iron skillet, allow it to heat up inside the oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, garlic powder, pepper (and rosemary, if desired) and stir together. Add the milk and stir; add the beaten eggs and whisk well. When the oven/skillet have heated, remove the skillet from the oven and pour the crust ingredients into it; return the skillet to the oven and bake the crust for fifteen minutes. If using a casserole dish, pour the crust into the dish and place in oven, baking for fifteen minutes.

While crust is baking, assemble desired ingredients. In the pizza world, they usually go on in this order: sauce, thin layer of cheese, toppings, thicker layer of cheese.

When crust comes out of oven, top the pizza according the above directions. Carefully return the assembled pizza to the oven and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until cheese on top begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven and allow to rest away from heat for five minutes or so -- if you try to immediately cut and serve the pizza, it will fall to pieces.

Serves 4-5

Here are some combinations that we've tried/ones we'd like to try:

Deluxe: Pizza sauce, mozzarella, cooked Italian sausage, pepperoni, chopped green pepper, onion, mushrooms, black olives

Hawaiian: Barbecue sauce, mozzarella, pre-cooked ham chunks, pineapple tidbits, chopped green onion (I always add just a few sliced black olives for garnish, because it looks pretty, more than about the taste)

Chicken Barbecue: Barbecue sauce, mozzarella, grilled chicken strips, chopped sweet onion

Taco Pizza: Thick salsa, pepper jack/cheddar blend, seasoned ground beef, chopped green onion, black olives, diced tomato - top with shredded lettuce after removing from oven.

Double-Cheese Chicken Florentine: Pizza sauce, mozzarella, approximately 1 cup of washed and pressed-dry spinach leaves, grilled chicken, chopped onion and mushrooms, top with slices of provolone

Saturday, September 12, 2009


One of my favorite love songs, forevah and for all time, is "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings. Circa 1973, one of the best things I love about this celebration-of-marital-bliss video is knowing that they had three kids at home, Heather, who would have been eleven that year, Mary, 4, and Stella, 2. (James wasn't born until 1977.) Other than that, and the beautiful song, I'm confused by the wafting smoke. Is that dry ice or marijuana? Because Linda's acting a little dippy. And wo-wo-wo-wo? That may have been the ganj talkin'. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Under the influence

Aisling and I are winding down with our colds -- she is completely recovered, and I'm all done but the coughing, which is what I do when I get sick. I cough. I cough until my children threaten to petition the court for emancipation to some non-coughing household; until a decree nisi shows up in the hand of a process server on my porch. I cough until the dogs hide under the beds and until the neighbors call the police.

So I felt very happy when I found the remainder of a bottle of benzonatate left over from my bout of pneumonia late last spring. Benzonatate is a cough medicine in pill form - it looks like a teeny-tiny little Vitamin E capsule. I have the 200mg dosage, which the emergency room doctor prescribed three times a day. And I have to say, this stuff ROCKS on coughs. It does something like numbing your throat, taking away the "itchy" feeling, that relentless tickle that can send me (and my mom, I got this from her; we could be state fair coughing champions) into spasms of coughing that can result in unpleasant episodes of bladder weakness. I'm just saying. That's why, at the top of my daily chore list, the first item is always


Anyway. About the benzonatate. There's a little sticker on the side of my bottle that says, "May cause drowsiness. Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medication. Do not operate heavy machinery." And you know what? They REALLY MEAN IT. I took my second pill of the day about five hours ago and I am in no condition to drive a car. To be honest, I am in no condition to be operating this computer. You should see all the typing mistakes I've had to correct! If you could read that last sentence the way I originally typed it, it would look like this.

Ypi shoyud see akk the typimb mostakes Iv'e' had tp cprrecy!

Here's what I'm thinking (oh my gosh I just typed an L instead of a colon FOUR TIMES just then): (aha, I finally got the bugger):

If a cough medicine works, but it hammers you to the extent that when you go out to the kitchen and try to make dinner and find yourself inspecting individual dried bread crumbs in the stuffing mix to see if they sparkle, maybe the manufacturers need to bring it down a notch or fifty. Or maybe I'd be better off with the 100mg prescription. Because, wow. WOW. I have been utterly worthless today. I haven't been coughing, but I have been really, really high. And drowsy. And all of this without the pleasant euphoria bestowed upon me by my dentist. Wait. That came out wrong. The euphoria was bestowed by the prescription for Vicodin that my dentist gave me after he took out my lower wisdom teeth. I really, really loved that pleasant euphoria.

Oh, it is just too hard to type. Too hard! I'm going to see if I can crawl up the stairs to my bed and sleep, non-coughingly, until morning.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In the throes

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how Aisling and I did some child care at a local church's Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) meeting and how one of the mothers brought in her thirteen month old son with radioactive mucus leaking out of his nose, accompanied by much sneezing and coughing and general malaise. I was not happy about this, especially since the mother, whom I, in my exasperation, pegged as a real dimwit, plunked her son down on the counter and said, "He woke up like this this morning and I just don't know what it's all about."

I doused myself and Aisli with hand sanitizer -- we smelled like eau de operating room for the rest of the day -- but it was to no avail. This morning, after a good three days' of cozy incubation of the cold virus, the two of us woke up with scratchy throats, runny noses, sneezing, and in my case, coughing hard enough to turn myself inside out and back again.

I'm dearly hoping that this little plague will be short lived so that I won't regret the twenty dollars I earned.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

RECIPE: Pasta Fazool (pasta e faglioli)

"If the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, that's amore," Dean Martin sang over the loudspeakers. Well, actually, it was just a recording that was being belted out over the Holy Rosary Italian Festival in downtown Indianapolis several summers ago. As soon as the opening notes sounded, an "Aaahhhhhh!" of pleasure went up from the crowd and we all sang along.

In the case of this recipe, it is love indeed. Because this is just the best soup. So hearty, so peasanty, so hot and nourishing and CHEAP TO PREPARE. And, well, easy. Easy is good. It's always good when something is delicious and simple and good for you too, so I think the soup kettle will definitely be simmering on the stove's back burner this winter, sending forth the pleasant aroma of nonna's cucina through the house, even though neither my husband nor I have a single solitary drop of Italian blood in us.

Pasta e faglioli, which obtained its Yankee pronunciation from the non-Italians of New York City (a little something I learned from the internet) and a simple translation is "pasta and beans." Authentic pasta e faglioli is made with chicken broth and cannellini beans, but you know how these things go: some authentic recipes use pancetta (an Italian type of bacon) and others use a tomato base, such as marinara sauce and I think your final result will probably depend on how much you like tomato-based soups and bacon. I am not, by the way, claiming this recipe, which is my own, to be authentic Italian anything. This is my version and I love it, but I can't pretend it was handed down in my family or anything because like I said above, no Italian blood here.

Serve this soup with a good, strong bread because there is broth that demands to be mopped out of the bowl.



1 can tomato juice
3 cups beef OR chicken broth (I prefer beef, but you do what you want)
3 carrots, scraped and cut into hearty chunks
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium to large zucchini, cut in chunks
2 cans of beans, cannellini if you're feeling it, but kidney beans will do if that's what you have available, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups ditalini

1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon basil
crushed red pepper to taste (I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon)

Parmesan cheese for dressing the soup bowls

1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil ("twice around the pan," as Rachael Ray says)


In a soup pot, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato juice, broth, carrots, celery, zucchini, beans and herbs. Bring to a boil and then lower heat until the soup is just simmering; cook until carrots can be pierced with a fork. Add the ditalini; turn up the heat and cook for seven minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish the top with a nice little pile of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir before eating. Serve with thick slices of garlic toast.

Here's Dean singing that song. He looks kind of lost without a cigarette or a martini, doesn't he?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The way of the pioneers

This being Labor Day Weekend, a good number of people will be heading out to the nation's campground for one last big hurrah around the campfire. Some of them are people I know and love and will never understand. Because, camping? Could there possibly be any activity more likely to kill your love of the great outdoors? And possibly get you eaten by a bear? Or even worse, sprayed by a skunk?

My personal feeling is that everyone should have to take one camping trip per lifetime so that they can experience the hellishness of it all and be sensible and view Nature through windows, as God intended. People have tried to argue with me about this, but I am impervious. Talk to my clean, uncallused hand that has not been scratched by the twigs I (reluctantly) gathered for the campfire or burned with sticky marshmallow residue. They try to tell me about "getting away from it all" or "breathing the fresh air" or "bonding with the family," but people who love camping are big liars who just want you to be as miserable as they are. Yes, I went there.

Some of my friends who are camping this weekend are the parents of young children, and I have to say right now that I just cannot imagine. Just. Can't. Imagine. But really, is camping with older kids that much better? I mean, you don't have to worry about teenagers playing in the fire, but you do have to listen to them complain about the heat, the mosquitos, the lack of a cell phone signal and the dullness of the entertainment.

My friends with young children say that their young children don't sleep well in sleeping bags, but what they don't realize is that the kids won't sleep any better when they're older than they did when they were younger, because who can sleep in a sleeping bag? THERE'S a misnomer if there ever was one. Those things should be called Wide Awake, Sweating and Cursing the Name of Coleman Bags. Plus, the bags are on the ground, which is painfully hard and sometimes bone-chillingly damp, in spite of the fact that you 1) are roasting in the airless tent or camper; and 2) brought a waterproof ground cloth. And do not speak to me of air mattresses, which we all know are a trick of the devil to make you think you're going to spend the night in comfort, when we all know that they gradually deflate during the night, leaving your weary body resting on the bosom of Mother Nature. Which is made of granite.

Music seems to be part of the camping experience, and perhaps someone you're camping with will bring a guitar. Or better yet, someone at the next campsite will have one. They'll start out singing stuff like the greatest hits of the Eagles, America, Arlo Guthrie and James Taylor, but pretty soon, it will degenerate into Tennessee Ernie Ford, Willie Nelson and the patriotic standards of our United States. You will want to shoot the guitarist.

Don't get me started about the bathroom facilities. The last time I went camping, which was not nearly long enough ago because I still remember it and I don't even think a CRACK addiction could erase those memories from my mind, the girls and I went to the communal restroom, ladies on one side, gents on the other. We went there to shower. Meelyn, who was six years old at the time, said, "Mommy, there's a funny balloon in my shower." And then she stuck her hand under the divider between our stalls AND SHE WAS HOLDING A USED CONDOM. I died a little, right then.

Camping is a bad, bad thing to do, as evidenced by the fact that there's no privacy -- you can't even squeak out a little fart without half the campground yelling, "PEE YEW WHO DEALT THAT ONE?" -- so people have to go and have their sex up against the mildewed walls of the ladies' shower and leave their nasty condoms lying on the floor. Where tiny children will pick them up and cause their mothers to die from shock and gross-outedness and leave them as little orphans.

You might as well take the family to a truck stop for a weekend of family togetherness. At least you could all go into the restaurant part and sleep all scrunched up in a booth. Believe me, that is more comfortable than attempting what passes for sleep in a sleeping bag. But there is electricity. And air conditioning! And undoubtedly someone tossing a used condom out the window of a big rig somewhere there in the parking lot, but if you hurry straight to the restaurant from the car, no one in your family will probably see it and/or pick it up. Can you tell that I was personally offended and even, well, yes, I'm going to go there, SCARRED FOR LIFE by my camping experience? If my family wishes to bond with me, they're going to have to come inside, away from all that nature, in where all the thermostats set on 74 degrees and televisions and computers and curling irons and BEDS and TOILETS are.

If I'd wanted to be a pioneer, I would have arranged to have myself born in 1816.

You know, this is actually a reason why I know camping is wrong. Indiana, you see, became a state in 1816. It was considered the "wild west." Bears lived here, and other creatures who would get you if you didn't get them first. The people lived in log cabins with very few amenities. The women were old and stooped and grey and toothless and they were only, like, 26. The men all had hollow eyes and long beards stained with tobacco juice and they were often missing a limb from accidents with axes and they were 28. We don't know what any of these people would have looked like at 60 because they were all dead by then. And why? Because their lives were ONE GIANT PERMANENT CAMPING TRIP, that's why.

Oh, Laura Ingalls Wilder tried to convince all of us little girls that riding around the prairie in a covered wagon and never letting Jack ride and Ma slapping at the Indians with her sunbonnet and everyone getting lost in blizzards and burning up the furniture to stay warm was a bunch of fun, but she was a sadist and a liar. Pioneering was not fun and neither is its modern counterpart, camping. Progress was made so that the citizens of Indiana and all the other states wouldn't have to BE campers anymore. Now we have cities! Stores! Restaurants! And, for those inclined to travel, hotels! Or even the homes of friends and family members. WE DO NOT HAVE TO REGRESS, PEOPLE!

If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question and answer honestly: Do these people look like they're having fun?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I think prostitution might be easier

Today, Aisling and I went to a local church that hosts our city's Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group. Our purpose was not to be part of the Bible study and conversation and yummy treats part of the program, since Aisling is no longer very preschooly, being somewhat taller than I am, but rather to provide care for the kidlets that belong to the moms.

Ah, the things we do for money.

Money, you see, figures in. Caregivers get paid seven dollars an hour for their babysitting services, and since each meeting is three hours long and since there are two meetings per month, that equals forty dollars of happiness that we wouldn't otherwise have had. Forty dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at nowadays, will buy my blood glucose testing strips for the month. Or a pair of shoes for a family member. Or maybe a very, very large bottle of prescription painkillers to lighten my mood. I'm just saying. And what I'm saying is that it's been a very long time since I had to be a babysitter for a bunch of kids ranging in age from seven down to thirteen months and it was really hard. *collapses into a quivering heap*

While I will be glad to receive my forty dollars, and while none of the kids there were the spawn of hell, they were a lot of work. Which is what made me wonder if prostitution would be easier. I hear it's better paid. And at least I'd be able to lie down. I'd have to fake some enthusiasm, but I had to do that at MOPS anyway, saying things like, "Oh, Evangeline, you are the BEST HAND WASHER I have ever seen!" and "Georgie, you are SUCH A GOOD BOY for giving that sand pail back to Lucinda!" and "You did A GREAT JOB at telling me you had to go potty, Trevor!"

It was just exhausting, all that smiley, bright-eyed cheerfulness. *collapses again, just thinking about it*

Plus, there was this: Some frikking GENIUS at this church decided to donate one of those big molded plastic beds that looks like a car, right? This is the extra-fancy bed, though, the one with the actual roof and everything. I think it's big enough to hold a twin-bed sized mattress. Well, instead of the mattress, this car-shaped bed has a plank in the bottom to make a floor. And the floor? Well, it holds about THREE MILLION little plastic balls, those kind of balls that are in the ball pits at outdoor McDonald's playgrounds.

Only guess what? This playground isn't outside. It's a playroom. And that car bed wasn't meant to hold all those little balls, it was meant to hold a mattress. And a sleeping child. So see if you can figure out what happens to all those balls when three or four little children climb in there to bounce around.

Have you figured it out? And I do mean what happens other than the children all pegging each other with gaily-colored plastic balls right in the face.

You're right! They all spill out all over the floor! And they make the biggest, most heart-wrenching mess you have ever seen and the person that donated that fun bit of business should be escorted out to the parking lot by grim-faced child care workers and shot.

Then we had this mom who brought in her thirteen-month old son, who came into my arms with green snot leaking down his face. "I don't know what that's all about," she said, the trollop. "He just woke up sneezing and with this runny nose." And she giggled and handed over her designery-looking diaper bag and I was tempted to grab it by the strap and bludgeon her with it.
The baby looked at me with bleary eyes and rubbed his nose, smearing toxic mucus across his chubby cheeks. He barely bleated as his mother, with a cheerful, "'Bye, pumpkin! You be a good boy!" left the room and went off to have a cozy three hours' chit-chat with her friends.

"You should be at home in your bed," I told him as he yawned fretfully. "At home, instead of giving your cold or your possible H1N1 virus to the rest of us here in the nursery." He indicated that he wished to be placed upon the floor, so I set him down and watched him tack an uneven course across the room, stopping along the way to pick up and lick about fifty different toys. Eww. I went to my handbag and got my little bottle of sanitizer out and used about half of it.

Aisling and I dealt with one wet pants accident and two wet diapers and the other helper in the room, a university student named Daisy, tried to boss me around by displaying her vast knowledge of early childhood psychology and I was all, like, yeah, someday you'll grow up and have kids of your own and then you can demonstrate your wisdom to me by getting up off your keister and pouring everyone another cup of apple juice instead of sitting there while I do it.

I am wrecked. Absolutely wrecked.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Trashy woman

Yesterday I wrote that I would "sleep really well tonight" because I was so worn out by our first day of school and I should have known better not to tempt fate or Mother Nature or the Sandman or whoever the being is who's dropping the ball on my nocturnal life.


Because about half an hour before we went to bed, my husband tried to ensure my night of restful sleep by telling me how much money we don't have. That conversation was the equivalent of chewing about a pound of coffee beans and washing them down with a Red Bull.

Then, when I finally fell asleep, I slept well. For three hours. At which point the garbage truck lumbered onto our quiet sleep and proceeded to do this:


Then it moved on to the next house and repeated the entire process, rrr-rrring, crashing, smashing and slamming. And to the next. And the next. And. The. Next. It sounded like enough garbage was being picked up to cover the entire square footage of, oh, I don't know, UTAH. Maybe Texas?

I did find out something interesting about the way sound travels: When the bedroom windows are open, every sound is magnified ten thousand times in direct correlation to how fervidly it will jar you into a state of jangling alertness. A squirrel farting gently in its treetop nest, then, will sound like nothing more clamorous than the opening of a two-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. But a garbage truck? It will sound nothing short of apocalyptic. As if the four horsemen were grazing their steeds on your lawn while they waited patiently for the truck's big arms to come down and grasp your bin in a death-grip.

By the time the garbage truck left the neighborhood, every nerve in my pumpkin-shaped body was zinging like the strings of a badly-played zither. I got shakily out of bed, noting in passing that the overnight temperature had plunged to about thirteen degrees, putting on my robe and picking up my library book with weary resignation.

Next week, I plan to SHUT THE WINDOWS on Tuesday night before we turn in, even if we have to marinate in our own sweat while we sleep. The garbage truck is too much for me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's the first day of school and I am going to....

...sleep really well tonight.

Boyoboy, I'd kind of forgotten, during this long, lazy summer, how consuming school days are, as in "eating little bites out of my flesh." Because suddenly? I not only have to do my regular household tasks, I also have to be available to teach certain subjects: I'm helping Aisling with Biology 1; the three of us do the girls' religion class together; I got the girls started on The Scarlet Letter, which we'll be reading and discussing together as part of their American Literature course.

This time yesterday, I was lolling on the front porch with my library book and my iced tea, idly wondering if I had the energy to get up and pop a little bit of popcorn as an afternoon snack.

This school day has gone fairly smoothly though, I have to admit. I think the three of us were ready to get back into our familiar routine, even though the girls stridently insist that "summer's lease [had] all too short a date (that's a little Sonnet XVIII reference there, so you'll all know how DEEPLY COMMITTED I am to the LEARNING PROCESS, because if you're not deeply committed to learning, how will you ever be able to produce stick-up-yer-butt quotes from Shakespeare at the drop of a quill? AND I used Roman numerals too, so please feel free to curtsy the next time you see me.)

Oh, it's been a longish kind of day. New routine with both girls in high school now....Aisling is all "rage, rage against the dying of the light" of middle school (whoooaaaa! Dylan Thomas reference I am ON with the whole English thing today) and is saying plaintively, "Whyyyyyy can't it be eaaaaaasier? I'm so tiiiiiiiiiired!" in a particularly piercing nasal whine that has used up the limited supply of patience I had stored for October's usage.

Meelyn has doggedly worked away, as is her wont, causing little trouble except to finally screech "SHUT UUUUUUP!!!" at Aisling who was warbling a dreadful song by some baggage named Taylor Swift that had a country twang to it. I can't abide country music, so I wasn't as hard on Meelyn as I probably should have been for her rudeness. There's something about a country twang that makes me want to fall unconscious to the floor.

At any rate, the day is nearly over. I started typing this at about 10:00 a.m. and it's now 8:04 p.m. Pork chops & stuffing casserole is simmering away in the oven, the Prince of Salesmen is on his way home, Meelyn is doing her chores and Aisling is in the shower either singing or crying, I can't tell which.

Everyone has heard of breakfast in bed. Is there any such thing as dinner in bed?

Here's my post from September 2, 2008 on the first day of school,when I was seriously thinking about destroying the Rosetta Stone software.