Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Testing, One, Two... Three

Homeschoolers in West Virginia have several end-of-the-year options when it comes to showing the BOE what they've done all year. The two biggies are Portfolio Evaluation, and Standardized Testing.
Portfolio Evaluation is where the parents save up samples of the child's work over the course of a school year, jotting down what they taught and/ or what the child learned, the trips they went on, the projects they worked on, and the activities they participated in. Done properly, the Portfolio gives the child, the parent, the evaluator, and the BOE a very good picture of how the child is progressing in his or her education.
Testing is one day a year where the child spends hours in a room with a No.2 pencil, filling in the bubbles. The tests cannot determine what all the child knows; they can only determine what the child does not know, or perhaps how well the child tests in the first place. But every homeschooling parent who claims that the test results have no impact on them whatsoever is lying. No matter how smart you think the kid is, if the kid comes back in the 97th percentile in everything, and you're going to high-five them, along with your spouse. If the kid comes back in the 9th percentile in everything, you are going to lie in bed that night wondering where you went wrong, and then you will abruptly turn to your spouse and remind them of the summer all they did was smoke weed, and accuse them of contributing tainted DNA.

While portfolio option is great, testing can be an "easy out" for busy parents who cannot go around saving every scrap of paper their child doodles on. If... if the child tests well enough. If the scores are high enough, you're in the clear. But god forbid your kid had a rough day, and you'd better start scrambling to come up with a portfolio for them.

This year, three of our kids are testing. The paper sent out to all testing homeschoolers states that children are supposed to get a good night's sleep, a good breakfast in the morning, and pack a lunch. They are also supposed to bring extra No.2 pencils, tissues for a runny nose, a book to read, and a self-addressed stamped envelope that the test scores will be mailed back to us in.

The plan was (What is a Plan, children? "A Plan is a list of things that are not going to get done." Very good, children.)

The plan was that the kids would go to bed around 10pm. We would get up at 7am, eat breakfast, pack the lunches, and leave the house at 9:15am, stopping to buy drinks and stamps along the way, and arrive at the testing center at 9:45am.

At 10pm, I told the kids it was bedtime, and they had to go to their rooms. At 10:10, 10:15, and 10:30, they all oozed back out into the kitchen under the guise of getting a drink, or because they wanted a snack. My job was to steer them back into their rooms with the warning that they were going to be extra sleepy at 7am. At 11pm, I went to bed, and listened to all kinds of racket over my head upstairs.
"Go to BED!!" I'd bellow, and they'd quiet down for a few minutes before getting wound up again.
I came upstairs around midnight, and Paige was getting into the fridge.
"What are you doing up? You have testing in the morning!"

"I'm hungry!"

"You can have a fantastic breakfast in the morning. Go to bed now."
At 1am, I burst into Tess and Harrison's room to inform them of the time, and that their shrieking was not appreciated. I may have been shrieking, myself, when I discussed it with them.
I shut off their light, and slammed their door, and tried to go to sleep.
At 2am, I heard "kitchen noises", the fridge closing, the water in the kitchen sink running, and the silverware drawer jangling. It appeared Paige was making her lunch the night before. This time, I did not get up.
At 7am, the alarms were going off and people were getting dressed and ready to go. Every fifteen minutes, I shouted the time left until we had to leave. At 8:45am, half an hour before we were supposed to leave, all the kids were showered, dressed, and ready to go.
At 9am, I was begging them to eat some kind of breakfast; all refused. Some people can't eat first thing, so I understood and backed-off on that.
At 9:10, Sadie remembered the envelopes and began addressing them, one for each kid.
At 9:15am, our official departure time, Sadie brought out ten No.2 pencils that needed sharpening.
I was starting to worry because we still had two stops to make on our way to the testing facility. As I was trying to usher children to the van at 9:20am, Paige came upstairs and began opening up a bread wrapper.

"What are you doing? The time for breakfast is over! We have to leave- now! Not even now, five minutes ago!"

She mumbled something that I couldn't understand (that's her trademark, cursing family members under her breath, so when the person says "What?" she replies with a sing-song "Nothing!"), and so whatever Paige mumbled, it ended with the sound "-itch", which I took to be a name she uses frequently toward her mother and sisters. I had had enough, so I slapped her hard on her shoulder and told her so. I told her to get in the van.
She announced that she wasn't going to testing, now, and ran downstairs to her room.
I turned around to find Sadie laying out bread to make a sandwich.
"What are you doing?!"

"I'm packing a lunch, like it says."

"WHAATT? What have you been doing all morning? We have to leave!"

Sadie took the bread slices and threw them on the floor, and then took the sliced turkey and threw it on the floor, and stormed out to the van.
Now, I was the bad mother.
At least, that's how it would look to all the other moms and kids when I dropped my kids off late at testing with no lunches or snacks, no drinks (we wouldn't have time to stop, now) and, you know, I just couldn't bear to have them looking at me that way today.
I have an Nth Degree Blackbelt (
decided) in fucking up, but I'll be damned if I was going down in flames today. (More on that later. Probably not.)
So I quickly made a PB&J for Paige, and tossed it in a soft-sided lunchbox, along with some grapes. Then I retrieved the bread and turkey off the dirty, post-birthday-party floor and made a sandwich for Sadie from them.
I brought the lunches out to the van, now full of kids, and Sadie drove us to the convenience store where she ran in and bought three bottles of water, and we stopped so Arden could rush in and buy three stamps.
In the van, Paige explained she
hadn't called me a bitch, but had said she was "making a sandwich".
Nice recovery.
Maybe next time she'll speak so people can understand her.
We arrived at the testing facility at 9:59am, and the test begins at 10am.

If you think getting to Testing is stressful, you should see Portfolio Day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Party On (Harrison's Video Game Party)

Harrison as Mario.

The decorations were... absent. I did not decorate for this party. I had vision of huge Space Invaders coming down the walls, and life-size Tetris blocks setting around, but in the end, I skipped all that and focused on the costumes and cake.
Which I bought from the store.
Yes, I bought a cake from the store.
Within five minutes of ordering the cake, the messages began pouring in from concerned friends.
"You bought a cake?"
"You're getting a store bought cake?"
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Is there anything wrong?"
"I feel like I don't know you anymore!"
"Who stole you and replaced you with a bad clone?"
I had called the store and asked if I could order a plain, rectangular cake, colored black.
Cake Lady: "We can't do that."

Me: "Yes, you can. I can, so I know you can."

CL: "It won't work. The icing will be too runny."

Me: "So spray-paint it."

CL: "It will take too much to turn the white frosting black."

Me: "So, start with chocolate frosting, and paint it black."

CL: "We can't do that."

Me: "Why not?"

CL: "We... just can't."

I could almost hear the unspoken, "So there!" floating between us.
In the end, I picked up the cake, and it was perfect.
It faded over the day to a dusty gray-ish blue; a great color for the Pac Man board.

I used blue twizzlers, mentos, gummi-cherries, finger jello for the ghosties, and made the pacman out of fondant I tinted yellow.

Cooking Mama and Ayane

Wolverine and DDR's Alice

I was having so much fun at the party that I completely forgot to take more pictures.
If you have some you'd like to share, please email them to me, and I'll put them up!

We had the Wii, the Xbox, and Playstation 2 available for our guests. The weather was warm, so people could go outside.
Some guests were even able to curl up in quiet corners and read the Brotherhood.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


cracked (krākt)
1. Broken so that fissures appear on the surface: a cracked mirror.
2. Mentally deranged; crazy.

Yesterday was a crazy day.
I woke up at 9:36am, and was supposed to leave at 9:45am to have the kids at a tour of the local Pepperoni Roll Bakery at 10am.
We couldn't make it out of the house in ten minutes if the house was on
Even after quickly ushering the children (half-dressed and unfed) into the van, we still arrived at 10:30am. The tour was just wrapping up, so we were given our own private tour by Pepperoni Roll Bakery manager Jamie.
At the end of the tour, each kid was given a pepperoni roll. Score! (Breakfast? Check!)

After our pepperoni roll adventure, we raced to the Songbird Learning Center to help with the pies. Our group had sold 222 pies for a fund-raiser, and they were scheduled to arrive at noon, and would need unloaded and sorted into piles.
We arrived at the Learning Center at 11:15am. The delivery van arrived at 11:30am, half an hour early!
We unloaded, checked, rechecked the pies, and began sorting them.
Then Maggie arrived (whew!) and it went much faster.

222 Pies

Coconut Cream Pie

Peach Raspberry Pie

After the pies were sorted, we sped back to Morgantown for the kids' afternoon classes. During the kids classes, I walked on the track and watched the pole vaulters.

As soon as the classes were over, I was driving back to the house to grab a quick shower and head back out to the Songbird Learning Center, for a board meeting.
At the board meeting, Bob used a purple pen to draw a hot, aggressive chicken on the agenda for Maggie, and wrote the word "Blog?" next to it, for me.
So, here ya go, Bob.

I never said it would make sense.

After the meeting, I headed back to Morgantown. It was a dark and rainy night. As I passed a semi, I heard what sounded like a gunshot. I was startled, but managed to keep it on the road. It turned out that a rock (?) was thrown up into my windshield, on the passenger side. Under the street lights, I saw that the windshield was cracked.

The crack, right after it happened

As I drove home, and hit little bumps along the way, it grew, spreading out like an enormous spider.

This morning

So while yesterday was an incredibly busy day, today will be staying home, waiting for the windshield guy to call me back, and getting ready for Harrison's birthday party tomorrow.

I just got off the phone with the windshield guy. He needed to set up a time and get directions.
In the 15 minutes I was on the phone with him, I learned: His age and the year he was born, where he was born and raised, how long he has been repairing/ replacing windshields, where and when he will vacation this year, and what kinds of toys he has in his garage.
I did not ask him a single question the entire time I was on the phone with him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

IT'S A SIGN- Updated

... That I wasn't meant to be a hacker.
We've all seen these funny hacked signs in the news...

Now, I never claimed to be Trinity,
the Trinity, who cracked the IRS d-base. But after seeing this article at ihacked.com, I felt fairly certain that I could pull this off.
Yes, I understand that tampering with these signs is a misdemeanor. I am just grown-up enough to research the punishments.
For example, if you’re caught tampering with road signs in Indiana, it could cost you $5,000 and up to a year in jail. In Texas, it will run you $500. You're in luck if you live in Illinois, where you’re charged only $250 for the prank.
But this is only if you're caught. And I had no intention of getting caught.

A Few Good Men
What I needed was a partner in crime. I needed a "white and nerdy" type, who would understand how to do this, and would be able to lie convincingly to get out of trouble if we were caught. My first choice was Ron, but he thought that as a government employee, it would look bad to be caught tampering with state property.
My next choice was Sadie and Joey. Being under 18, if they got busted, I could act like I had just caught them, myself, and begin loudly berating them in public.
"There you two are! What the hell do you think you're doing?! Get your asses in the car- I'll deal with you when we get home!"
Joey was completely on board, but Sadie wasn't interested in committing crime with her mother, so I was forced to keep looking.
There was another teen coming home for Spring Break, and he is by far the whitest, nerdiest guy I know. This kid is so wicked smart that he could probably reset the signs with his mind. But this kid is also all about being good and proper, and I knew he probably wouldn't help me out, so I didn't bother asking. He's now back at Olin, realizing his potential.
I still had a few other options. There is a trio of teens in the group (two guys and a girl) who are always up for some fun, and it doesn't always have to be legal. I sent the link to them and asked if they were up for the prank. Only the girl responded, so I had myself 1/3 of a posse. And since the girl's mother can definitely kick my ass, we would have to be very careful to not get caught. The other problem is that this girl lives forty minutes from me. She's in, but I needed someone closer, to do the first one.
There was one other option. I know a kid who's really smart, and his mother is a gadget freak. Since we weren't spray-painting the side of a building, or knocking off a Dairy Mart, she probably wouldn't get too angry to learn he was out hacking road signs. When I asked him, the Kid practically jizzed in his pants at the chance to commit victim-less crime.

Spies Like Us
The Kid picked the sign, and we checked it out, to see if it was locked. It wasn't locked.
We planned a night to hack it (he had pesky things like homework and chores to tend to). We also had a big decision to make- what would the new sign say? I wanted something upbeat, such as "MARRY ME, KATE!" that was sure to get everyone's attention, and may even get in the paper, but wouldn't make people angry. Well, not counting all the "Kates" in town. The Kid wanted a more personal message, something asking a girl that he liked out on a date. Finally, we decided we'd change it briefly to his message, take a photo of the sign and email it to his girl, and then change it to the message I wanted:
With that decided, we dressed all in black, packed flashlights, and headed out into the moonless night. With the theme to Mission Impossible playing in the background, we cracked opened the control panel for the sign. At this point, we were excited that the panel itself was lighted, making our flashlights unnecessary. There were even step-by-step directions on the inside of the case explaining how to change the message.

All we had to do was type in the User Name and Password. Passwords, we had. But we weren't prepared to give a User Name. We tried typing the password as the User Name, we tried other words and names, but we were hopelessly locked out.
Finally, my partner in crime got the brilliant idea to turn it off, and back on again, hoping to "reset" it. The message that came on-screen was
"Could not process the data due to a problem on the remote server. Assistance will arrive shortly."

That was our clue to leave.
We got in the van and were no sooner back on the road when not one, but two police cars, lights flashing, sirens screaming, drove past us going the opposite direction. Obviously they were not after us, but it was funny as hell. We drove around trying to find another one, but could not.
In the end, I took my partner in crime home, and went to the store for conditioner and cat food.
When I got home, I took a moment before getting out of the van to text my partner in crime a quick 'thank you' for a trying to help me.
That's when the floor of the van began vibrating. I turned on the dome light, and looked down.
Sure enough, my partner in crime had left his phone in my van.
Thankful he didn't leave it at the scene of the victim-less crime, I brought it inside with me. There was an alarm set on it that went off at some ungodly hour this morning, proving once again, Crime Doesn't Pay.

Update/ Follow-up
I received information privately that might help with the sign. My partner in crime arrived at the house to collect his phone, and while here hacked into my facebook page and impugned my character in my very own status. It was bad enough last night when he told me,
"You're fat, but you don't act fat, so it's okay."
I let it slide because I am still trying to figure out what "acting fat" is.
Does a person go around sitting on other people and squishing them?
Do they eat everything? Do they break furniture when they sit on it?
I gave him his phone and a ride home. Along the way, I fed him, as is my custom before killing them.
Sadie and I did a little shopping at Gamestop, and then went to McDonald's to harass the awkward teens that work there. I tried to order fries with the salt on the side, but the nice young man who took my order said he would throw them at me if I ordered that, so I ordered an apple pie and a milkshake.
This delightful teen clocked-out while I was still there, so we brought him along on our adventure. Even with the new information, I couldn't make it work.
Sadie said,
"C'mon. I can't be out too late; I have homework to do, and I'd like to get to bed early."

What teen would ever say this?
So we sent the awkward teen on his way, and Sadie drove us home.
It was a fun night of epic fail.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weston, We Have A Problem

Weston State Hospital photo by Arden Staubly

Every couple weeks, we grab our books, stuff our entire family into the van, plug our headphones into our ears, and drive an hour to visit my in-laws in Weston, WV.
First off, I have to say that my in-laws are wonderful people. They are kind, generous, supportive. All you women who have Satan for a mother-in-law?
That's not me.

Weston, though...

My husband grew up there, and has a lot of fond memories. By living there all his life, and then working summers as a mail carrier, he knew who lived in every house, on every street. So, as we drive through the streets of Weston, it's a nostalgic event, for him.
I, however, did not grow up in Weston, and so when I drive through the streets, all I see is a town that used-to-be:
My husband played tennis in high school. If you drive by the school, the tennis courts are crumbled and the nets are torn or absent.
Neighborhood grocery stores are all closed, furniture stores are boarded up, and what was once clothing stores are now pawn shops that sell Velvet Elvis.

There is a Farmer's Market, but I never see any cars in the parking lot; the Smoker Friendly lot is usually full, though.

After nearly twenty-two years, I just can't get excited about visiting that town.
A typical visit to the in-laws goes like this:
We arrive sometime after noon, on a Sunday.
We all sit in comfortable furniture in the spacious living room.
We catch up on what has happened over the past couple weeks.
I talk about the kids, and homeschooling, mostly.
My husband talks about projects he's working on around the house.
About the time this conversation is wrapping up, the kids drift off to go watch tv.
By an unspoken agreement, I am expected to stay.
Once the kids are off entertaining themselves, the fun begins. I call it the "Sassafras Conversation", named after a well-known road in Lewis County.
The conversation usually goes like this:
MIL: Do you remember Mr. Johnson? He goes to our church-

DH: Is he the one that taught at the junior high?

MIL: No, he lived in the green house next to Mrs. Smith. Didn't you used to cut her grass?

DH: No, I think Chris Maiocco did. I cut the grass for Mrs. Brown, over on Third Street.

MIL: Well, anyway, Mr. Johnson wasn't at church the past two weeks-

DH: I think I remember him! Did his brother have that auto body shop?

MIL: I'm not sure-

DH: I'm pretty sure he did... out on Sassafras.

Two guarantees:
No matter who or what, it always ends up out on Sassafras. Always.
And, we never get to find out what happened to poor Mr. Johnson. Ever.

All the while, the children bicker and fight and need parented.

Since I am not involved in the Sassafras Conversation, I get up and deal with the children.

After such stimulating conversation, my husband usually picks up the Sunday paper and reads it until he falls asleep in the chair.

Since I am not reading the paper, I get up and deal with the children.

And... since I am not napping... Well, I think we see where this is going.

At this point, he will likely insist that he does not fall asleep in the chair, and that I'm lying.

Around 6pm, it will be time to eat dinner
(the kids and I help my MIL make dinner and set the table).
At this point, DH wakes up from his nap, and eats the food.
After dinner, we go back into the living room for more
Sassafras Conversation.
I am expected to continue my role in sorting out the children's arguments.
Around 9pm, we start packing up to go home.
We get everyone back in the van, where we are all in a grumpy mood and often the kids fight all the way home.
I used to yell all the way home, too.
DH used to ask me what was wrong, and why I was snapping at him. When I explained I was resentful that he spends the visit reading the paper and napping in the chair, while I tend to the children, he would get angry and insist that he does not nap in the chair.
So I don't bring it up, anymore.

Now I just put in my headphones and seethe all along I-79.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hammer Time

We're having a Video Game Party for Harris.
Guests are invited to dress up as their favorite video game character, and a prize will be awarded for the best costume.

I admit the last time I played a video game, my 'character' was a silhouette of a tank and I could push a button to go into "invisible mode".
Things have changed, so I googled "Female Video Game Characters", and saw that there were not many characters I could identify with.

In a perfect world, I would be Laura Croft. However, it would not do anyone any good to see Laura Croft, Krispy Kreme edition, so I had to choose a different character.
I quickly discovered that most of the
female characters in video games look like porn stars- six feet tall, tiny waists, huge breasts, and legs up to here!
The ones that don't look like porn stars look like Furries.

So, I took a deep breath and googled "Fat Female Video Game Characters". (Admitting you have the problem is the first step to getting a costume.)
The first one to come up was Fat Princess. Not exactly what I was looking for!
Ever hopeful, I kept looking. Eventually, I came across a character named Sister "Hammer" Hannah, from Fable 2.

I (obviously) will need a huge hammer. A sword, and a wide, leather belt. I will need a head wrap, a gauntlet, some sort of pendant...
As for the rest of it, what am I looking at, here?
Shorts and boots? A modified version of a monk's cloak?
The good news is that if anyone disagrees with the authenticity of my costume, I can smack them with my ginormous hammer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bee Stings Are A Crappy Standard For "Painless"

How did it come about that bee stings mean "painless"?
When I ask someone if something (an injection, a procedure, a test, a needle biopsy, a piercing, etc.) will hurt, they say,
"Naw... it won't hurt. It will feel just like a bee sting."

Well, the last time I got stung by a bee, it hurt a lot.
The bee flew into the tiny space in between the arch of my foot and my sandal, mid-step. As it happened, I was already stepping down as I felt a furry buzzing, and it was too late to change course. I was stung immediately and my foot felt like it was on fire. Though I removed the stinger properly and soaked my foot in ice water mixed with baking soda, then applied meat tenderizer with vaseline, it hurt like mad and throbbed the rest of the day.

How can anyone say that experience is painless, or even nearly so?
And why do we allow them to hold up that kind of experience as a comparison for how something won't hurt?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

So You Want To Be A Homeschooling Dad

Or, rather, your stay-at-home wife has decided to homeschool the children, and expects you to go along with her decision.
Well, here are some things you need to know about how your life will be:

  • You will continue going to your job where you will work your ass off to buy the best car you can afford, but will never drive it. You will hand it to your wife and kids, where they will promptly destroy it. This video accurately describes the process. The only time you will actually get to drive this vehicle is when you are all going to your in-laws, or on a family vacation. When the car is too rundown or small (those homeschoolers breed like rabbits!) for your wife's taste, you will buy her another one, and what is now the old crappy car will become your own. Lucky you!
  • If you and your wife are fundie homeschoolers, you will continue to get up at 4am and pray as a family, right before the children have piano practice. However, if your wife is an unschooler, god help you. Your wife and children will stay up long into the night, reading and pursuing their various interests, living on Homeschooler Time (HT), forcing you to live in the same house, but in a different time zone. (A handy way of determining HT in your area is to count three time zones to the West, and you'll have it about right. For us, Pacific Time [PT] is a near approximation of HT). You will be heading to bed at 10 or 11pm, and they'll be just finishing dinner and getting warmed-up. I strongly suggest earplugs for those nights when you are trying to go to sleep with a hilarious game of Apples to Apples going on in the next room. And though you will make several announcements that the family needs to 'respect your sleep', they probably won't hear you because the youtube videos will be too loud. The good news is that when you get up at 6am, you will have the entire house blissfully to yourself, as no decent unschoolers worth their salt would be up before 9am. Enjoy this time and keep it sacred.
  • You think homeschooling happens at home? Silly man! It happens in three counties, four days a week. Don't worry- you won't have to do all that driving; your wife will prematurely age that new car by putting thousands of miles on it each week, driving the kids to all their homeschooling activities. Your job, when she complains about all the driving, is to tell her how much you appreciate the efforts she goes through to educate your children. And maybe schedule those oil changes a little more frequently.
  • Your children will begin randomly quoting Monty Python movies, Futurama episodes, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Your sons may become obsessed with dragons and begin making large, padded weapons from pvc pipe, foam, and duct tape. This is normal, and will pass as soon as they discover girls.
  • At some point, your wife will ask you to help with the homeschooling by teaching one of the subjects to the children. Warning! The only reason she's asking you to do this is because, a) the subject is very boring and difficult to teach, and/or b) the children whine and complain when she tries to teach it, and she's tired of their crap. If you really would enjoy teaching the children all about how an internal combustion engine works, go for it. Otherwise, suggest to your wife that she and the other homeschooler families get together and take apart someone's lawn mower. Even if it is your lawn mower they dismantle, it will still be less of a headache to replace it than to try to get the kids to sit quietly at the kitchen table, looking at diagrams.
  • Occasionally, even after the lawn mower activity, your wife will delegate you to attend a homeschooling event alone with the children. Unfortunately, the activity will never be something fun such as going out to a field in the middle of nowhere and blowing stuff up. Nope- you will soon find yourself putting on a shirt without a stain so you can sit through An Evening of Shakespeare. And it probably won't even be one of the good ones. Your job will be to keep a three-year-old entertained through five acts of Hamlet.
  • One or more of your favorite shirts will be lost in a freak tie-dying accident.
  • Even if you live in the city, the subject of owning goats or chickens will come up. My advice- save the money you'd spend on goats and chickens and buy another computer, or high-speed internet. Your wife and kids can always go visit the goats and chickens of the families who didn't take my advice.
  • Your wife will likely begin to drink more alcohol than usual. If she never drank before, she will now. This is normal, and the support group is already in place. Oh, she won't drink less, but she won't be drinking alone, either.
  • You will be forced to become friends with the other weird homeschoooler dads. At first, it will appear that you have nothing in common with these other dads, except that all your wives are insane. You will quickly form your own little club off in the corner as soon as you realize that none of your families respect your sleep, you all drive crappy old minivans to work, you all had to replace your lawn mower recently, and most of you are wearing at least one article of clothing that was lovingly made from duct tape, or crocheted or tie-dyed by whatever child is currently going through that stage, and you couldn't bring yourself to break their heart by not wearing it.
  • Your dining table will never see the light of day again. It will be covered in library books, science experiments, wilted home-picked floral arrangements, National Geographic, Newsweek, and Consumer Reports magazines, cd's, a sketchbook, a drying finger-painting, empty cereal boxes, a pringles can, and aluminum foil. Do not ever attempt to clear this table, lest you hear wails of, "I was saving that special!!" And... no, there really isn't a better place to store all these things. Get over it.

My dining table at this very moment.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Baby Fever

The past two days have been warm and sunny, after what feels like years of cold and misery.
Just last weekend, I spent a few minutes out in the biting cold, with the kind of wind that cuts right through you and makes your fingers work in slow motion. I came inside to a blissfully toasty and wind-free room and declared, "Global Warming, my ass!"

But with the temps in the 70's the past two days, it has triggered a different season inside my body and mind:
Baby Fever.
It's this time of year that babies are cute again, and I find myself wondering how I could sneak $300 out of the grocery money to buy donor sperm.
Puppies, kittens, chicks, goats, guinea pigs, baby rabbits...
Even the
seed catalogs start to get to me. I begin frantically designing, sketching and plotting flowerbeds, gardens, fruit tree orchards, and berry patches.

I suppose there is a reason I am hard-wired to behave like this every spring. I imagine in our hunter-gatherer-agricultural past, I would have been admired for my enthusiasm to reproduce, to nurture, to plant, and to grow anything and everything this time of year.
But in my modern world, I am not admired for my inability to put down the graphing paper.
No one is impressed by the number of hours I can spend lurking on Petfinder.
Ron gets nervous when I create errands that have me driving anywhere near River Road, which is where the Canine Adoption Center is located.

Much like an addiction, I was required to quit cold-turkey. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. (But then, I have quit this addiction hundreds of times)
After an adjustment period, I found myself walking into The Exotic Jungle just to prove that I could do it.
Then I found myself inventing excuses for going into Petco- "My sister's dogs like a treat they only sell there..." or "My daughter needs bedding for her rats... I think."
Before I knew it, I was checking out 'forbidden' websites late at night and trolling the Bulletin Board's 'give away' section.
Even after all that, I thought I could handle it, until I went to walmart and was accosted by the Free Kitten Guy.

You've all seen this guy. He's a pusher, and he's slick. He is sometimes disguised as a woman, or a pack of adorable kids, and can be found standing next to a large cardboard box with a hand-written sign that reads "Free Kittens" (or puppies, or piglets, hamsters, or tadpoles).
One look at him, and I knew I was in trouble.
I ran to my van, and locked the doors.
"I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Think of your family and how much they mean to you and all the promises you made, and how disappointed they'd be if you went back on your word."

I finally got my breathing under control. And then I began looking around in the van for a box or container that would be suitable for taking home half a dozen (or so) kittens. Fortunately, the only things in my van were a bunch of playground balls and scooters.
But I can't go back there again. I'm not strong enough to say no.

Well, I can probably go back
now... I'm sure they are all gone by now, anyway.... Sweetie, can you fetch me the cat carrier from the garage? Tess, would you like to run to walmart with me?

Oh, I've got it bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lemonades Girl Scout Cookies

I bought Girl Scout cookies from Maggie, who lives in Clarksburg.
I bought two boxes of Samoas, and a box of Thin Mints, and a box of Dulce de Leche.
My mother also bought Girl Scout cookies from someone in Morgantown.
She called me a few days ago and said, "If you know anyone selling Girl scout cookies, get me some more of these Lemonades. They are amazing!"

The next time I was at my mom's house, I saw the Lemonades box on her table, and it reminded me to order some from Maggie.

Maggie delivered my cookies to me today, and mentioned she had extras.
"Awesome! My mom needs some boxes of the Lemonades."

"Lemonades? We don't have anything like that."

"Yeah, they are lemon, and my mom already bought some..."

"Nope. Look." and Maggie showed me the entire order form, and true to her word, there were no Lemonades on it.

Another mom looked at me and said, "Hmmm... You are crazy."

I started to think I had indeed lost my mind. So I pulled out my trusty laptop, and googled "Girl Scout Cookies Lemonades".
And then I found this: Lemonades Cookie Review, where a guy eats half of one and feeds the other half to his dog.

Taking all of this information into account, I have no choice but to assume that I79 is some kind of passageway - a 'thinny'- into a parallel universe, where many things are similar, but enough things are slightly different to tip me off to the fact.

We saw this before, in The Wastelands. We knew Roland and his Ka-Tet traveled through the world of The Stand not just by the "Captain Trips" virus information, but because of the graffiti ("Beware the Walkin' Dude," etc.) and the name of Abigail Freemantle ("Mother Abigail"), but because some of the makes and models of the cars were completely off.

My best guess is that it happens somewhere near the Goshen Road exit.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday and Wednesday Cast at the Track

I walk every Monday and Wednesday. After a while, you see the same folks over and over and get to know them by sight. Here are the ones who showed up tonight:

I'm Kicking My Own Ass Guy- When he runs, he makes a thwap-thwap sound; the first 'thwap' is his shoe hitting the lane, and the second 'thwap' is the sound of his other foot smacking himself in the butt, at the same time. Over and over, he kicks his own butt with every step.
"Hey! You run like an eleven year old on a playground!"

Two Running Old Guys- As they lap me, I catch snippets of their conversation, "...in a money market account?"... "... set up a tax shelter"... "go over the annual form..."
One wears sweats, the other one wears really short running shorts made out of parachute material and nothing underneath. You can totally see old-man junk as he runs by. As his parts are swinging wildly, hanging on for dear life, I can almost hear them crying out, "We could use a little support down here!"

Steel Goddess- Abs of steel, buns of steel... lean, toned, tanned. Nothing jiggles as she burns up the track. She runs by and all conversation comes to an immediate halt as everyone stops and stares, to resume only once she has turned the corner. She is poetry in motion. I don't know art, but I know what I like.

Stretch Armstrong- You are stretching your arms when I arrive at 5pm. As I walk past you for the next hour and a half, you stretch your torso, your hamstrings, your inner thighs, your back. But you never do anything. You never walk or run or row. You only stretch. For over a month, I've never seen you move.

She's Faking It- She takes off her coat and walks over to the bench and reads a book or talks on her cell phone. An hour and a half later, she begins walking, right before you arrive. She stops when she sees you. You say, "Did you have a nice walk?", and she says, "Oh, yeah. Whew! I'm done for the day."

Baywatch Runner- Full breasts bounce heavily with every step. The thin t-shirt clings to sweating skin like the cellophane wrapper on a snack cake. Nothing is left to the imagination.
Too bad you are a guy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Turning "21-Again" has Never Been this Much Fun

Ron drove me and (a moment of silence for Mary Ellen's decision to bail...) Beth, Erica, Janine, Maggie and Melinda to Pittsburgh.
We were six months of the MILF Calender all in one van.
We had packed enough alcohol to supply a frat party, and enough chocolate to stock a Red Tent, and enough savory snacks to host a superbowl party.

After checking into the hotel (two adjoining suites- please note in the above photos there are two tv's for each side!) and setting up the bar, we got busy mixing drinks and sitting around laughing.
Ron stayed sober while the rest of us ... did not.

Then it was time to go out to dinner, and when we entered the restaurant, we were told it would be over an hour until we could get a table, so we decided to go next door to Sing Sing an hour early.
We were all getting carded ("Awww!") and Melinda had left her purse and ID in the hotel. The bouncers seriously were not going to let her in!
She kept saying, "I'm 40! I have three kids! I have to tell you, though, I'm having mixed emotions about this moment."
Ron was ready to drive her back to the hotel when the bouncer heard my plea ("C'mon! It's my birthday party!") and stamped her hand. It was a pity stamp.
And we were in.

We ordered food, and drinks (and drinks, and drinks, "Another round of Blue Kamikazes!") and enjoyed the show.
Matt performed the song "Piano Man"

to the tune of "Gangsta's Paradise". (yeah, you better click the link... it's pretty funny)

Someone in the crowd requested the song "Bust A Move". Matt and the guys didn't know it, so during the break, they printed out the chords and lyrics and gave it a shot. They brought the wait-staff up to help them out, and create a distraction. If you look closely, you can see him reading the lyrics.

No, behind the girl with the mike.

Ron and the girls raised enough money to get me called up on stage and properly humiliated. I was forced to do a naughty version of the Hokey-Pokey, and then rewarded with not one, but two "front bumper stickers"!

(embarrassing video coming soon)

SingSing's slogan is "Shut Up and Sing!", and boy, can they get the crowd singing!
There were three songs that I did not know the words to, but the biggest surprise of the evening came when the whole place sang "Friends in Low Places" (twice!), and both Janine and Erica said they'd never heard that song! Even brothphobic Jonathan- who despises country music- could probably get through the chorus of that one!
Hmmm... Only thing I can figure is it must not have gotten much play on NPR.

After the show, we went back to the room (sorry, no naked men for Maggie), and drank more and ate brownies, and other snacks.
Ron fell asleep early. Melinda and Beth hung as long as they could, but they were no match for the Big Dogs, who stayed up past 4:30am.