Saturday, November 9, 2013

Applying Myself

Since I'm at my kids' school all the time anyway, I decided to apply to be a substitute teacher.  Getting paid to do what I was already doing was a genius idea, so, obviously, not mine.  I have the occasional brilliant idea, but they are never ever finance-related.  I like making friends, making jokes, and making cookies, but making money has always been pretty far down my to-do list.  Also, making to-do lists is pretty far down my to-do list.

But I'm by no means anti-income.  So when this opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it.  (Jumped at it?  Jumped all over it?  Wait, which preposition goes there?  Am I even qualified to teach?)

Initially, there was a lot of paperwork to prepare.  An extensive application, reference forms, a list of additional references, and the references addendum.  Basically, all of you should have received a phone call from Wake County Public Schools wherein they asked you to vouch for me.

I also needed an official copy of my college transcripts.  For the first time ever.  I've had to give proof of my degree before for one other job I had like ten years ago, but honestly, I could have fooled those people with a home calligraphy kit and some decent card stock.  But this was sealed transcripts!  And it was so fulfilling to have someone other than my parents see that A+ I got in World Lit. that I may apply for more transcript-required jobs just to show off.

After I was approved, which had to be related to my stellar performance in Western Civ. circa 1996, I received another large stack of papers to fill out.  So I went at it again, with my best I-could-be-a-school-teacher handwriting, only I had my husband fill out the W4s (W2s?) whatever those tax thingies are, and my direct deposit forms.  He knows our routing number, I don't even know what a routing number is; it's easier.  Anyway, he handled that task chicken scratch style and I was worried he was job-blocking me, but alas they hired me despite his poor penmanship.

Next I had to get a physical and a TB test.  First of all, I thought TB had been eradicated back around the time FDR was in office.  Isn't it one of the myriad of shots they gave me as an infant?  Like here's how you don't get measles and let's top you off with a TB vaccine.  Regardless, they screened me for tuberculosis.  And the blood draw and TB test happen to fall the day after I had my endoscopy, so one arm was a little tender from having an IV.  No problem, use the other one to draw vial after vial of blood and then dig a needle under the skin of my inner forearm.  (If my brother is reading this, he just fainted.  He can't even hear the words blood or needle without blacking out.  It helps to level the playing field of toughness between us because I could draw my own blood if I needed to.)

Then my doctor said, "While you're here, you should get the flu shot."  Now, I like needles as much as the next girl, but playing human pin cushion for a day isn't really my thing.  Yet, I didn't want to go back a different day, so "Okay."

She sent the nurse back in with another syringe and the nurse asked, "Which arm do you want it in?"

Ummm... "Yours?"  She laughed and jabbed it in my left shoulder.

I passed the physical and TB test with flying colors.  But there was one last hoop to jump through.  Substitute Teacher Orientation.  As with any "orientation", there were those of us there who came to get the information we needed and get out, and others who wanted to ask about every conceivable, and inconceivable, scenario and try to turn what could have been a three hour presentation into a three week hostage situation.  (You have been in classes or meetings with these people, I'm sure.  They have a story about everything and it seems like they've been planted there by enemy agencies to make sure nothing gets accomplished.)

I survived.  I'm an official substitute, and I worked exactly two days before going on vacation.  But in all fairness, this Disney trip has been 36 years in the making and I only decided to start substitute teaching a couple of months ago.

Tune in next time to see if I successfully smuggled a manatee out of Sea World.  It's gotta be easier than becoming a substitute.

Monday, October 28, 2013

There's Always Tuesday

Mondays are rough anyway, so why not have an endoscopy, right?  Especially if you are sick and tired of your esophagus revolting against everything you even think about eating.

An endoscopy, for those of you that don't travel in gastrointestinal health circles, is an INVASIVE procedure where someone runs a scope down your throat to look around in there, and, if they feel so inclined, scrape off some samples with a weapon of their choosing.  The scope is smaller than a hunting scope on a rifle, but still big enough that they have to knock you out to do it.

Anesthesia is a fun trip, assuming you come back from it.  One minute I was staring at a room full of people in scrubs and hooked to a bunch of machines, and the next someone was waking me up in a totally different location with nary a nose cannula in sight.  Where am I?  How did I get here?  When did I get here?  Where's the nice man with the drugs?

Once I got my wits about me, my first real question was "What did you find?"  Obviously, I wanted the answer to be nothing, for them to say I'm healthy as a horse with the silky mane of one too.  But because this procedure cost us hundreds of dollars, I did sort of want them to find something.  Something that warranted the expense.  Like maybe if they had found Jimmy Hoffa down there, it would have all been worth it.

They didn't find Hoffa, or gold, or anything worth the tools they sent down.  What they saw was a very angry and irritated looking stomach and esophagus.  I don't know what my stomach has to be irritated about, I'm the one who can't eat Mexican food or chocolate!

The doctor did take some soil samples on the way down, just like NASA does every time we visit the moon.  He won't know if my stomach can sustain lifeforms for a couple of weeks, but in the meantime he gave me a prescription to help with my symptoms.  And the nurses gave me a pamphlet on what not to eat.  It includes everything I've already eliminated plus TUMS fruit smoothies.  Apparently TUMS (a.k.a. extra calcium) can create more acid in your stomach.  Guess what I've been self-medicating with for weeks?  Reason #256 of why you can't get a medical degree from a cracker jack box.

Another nurse mentioned that stress can make my situation worse.  In my opinion, stress can make any situation worse.  But mine in particular, I guess.  She didn't have a prescription for that, but I do.  I've contacted my insurance company and suggested they send me on a Caribbean vacation with Jim Gaffigan.  I know, I know, you're thinking, Heather, you want Jim Gaffigan to be your companion on an island getaway?  Have you not seen Channing Tatum?  But here's the thing, laughter is the antidote for stress and Jim Gaffigan is the funniest person I can think of.  I'd be stress free with a fully-functioning esophagus by the end of the week.  (Even meeting Channing Tatum would only stress me out more.  I'd be checking to make sure I didn't have any food on my teeth every five seconds and holding my stomach in until it touched my back.  No thank you!)

So, I'm "recuperating" now.  It involves lying around in the new fuzzy socks my mommy bought me for my procedure, eating mashed potatoes she made me for dinner again tonight, and holding a small memorial service for the Halloween candy I won't be eating this year.

I feel okay, but not great.  My throat feels like someone shoved a rusty pipe down it and I'm not allowed to take the edge off with Sprite or Ginger Ale, which stresses me out, which creates more acid in my stomach, which is lighting my sore throat on fire, which is why, United Healthcare, I need a vacation with Jim Gaffigan!

yours truly,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rain Balloons

I can't remember exactly when this rainbow loom fad came to my attention, just that several months ago these stretchy bracelets started showing up on my girls' arms.  They looked like a nicely woven mess of those colored rubber bands I used on my braces back in the 80s.  I don't think those were getting much mileage on braces anymore, what with the invention of Invisalign and good common sense, so I assume whoever was storing those sold them to patient zero of this infectious loom disease.

I don't succumb to fads usually.  I never once bought silly bandz, nor did I let my kids buy them.  Yet, we ended up with dozens.  Because my mom and most of my friends/friends' kids get into these kinds of things.  And, by the way, where are all of these must-have silly bandz now?  Wouldn't be caught dead in them?  (cough, cough...told ya so.)  I actually feel sorry for the silly bandz now, because they remind me of the salsa on the table after the queso arrives.  (Rainbow loom bracelets are the queso in that analogy, in case you didn't follow.  But, let the record show, I think queso is amazing and rainbow loom bracelets are silly.)

It might be more than I don't succumb to fads, I might be fad resistant.  Last year all the boys my son's age had to have Nike Elite socks.  And Brainy begged and he pleaded and he felt insecure about his regular tall black Nike socks, but those Elite socks are like fifteen bucks a pair and they just go on your smelly feet, so no.  And women have been wearing scarves around their necks as accessories for years now and I've yet to buy one.  I have a warm gray scarf I wear with my winter coat when it's freezing outside, but my neck doesn't stay cold year round, so I go without most days.  I don't know if I haven't gotten into those because I'm fad resistant or because I don't want to have to learn how to tie one properly.  I learned how to tie my shoes when I was four, shouldn't that be enough?

My girls are seven so of course they think they need American Girl dolls.  Correction, my girls are seven and they think they have American Girl dolls.  (Shhh!!  They are affordable Target alternatives.  And if you take care of their hair, no one can tell the difference without a blood test anyway.)

But this comeback of the loom is a surprising one.  Weren't looms popular hundreds of years ago, like pre-Industrial Revolution?  Is our economy in such bad shape that we're training child laborers to operate looms again.  Is this where we're headed when the bubble finally bursts?  Is a return to steam engines and blacksmiths far behind?  Will the whole country start to look like Colonial Williamsburg again?

For now I'm just going to keep my kids in school, working with iPads and Smart boards, gambling that I don't need to teach them to grind their own flour.  Whereas, apparently, the rest of you have already pulled yours from school to work in rainbow loom sweatshops all day.  How else can you explain some of these girls that have rainbow loom bracelets up to their elbows on both sides and hanging around their necks like to-go nooses?  I had a fourth grade girl sitting next to me in reading group this week who seriously had so many rainbow loom bracelets that I thought if she took it just a little further, she could have full body armor and therefore be able to repel spears if and when Native Americans throw them at her.

I also have to point out that this isn't just a trend with girls.  My son has had boys over here to play ball with him and they have to remove their "bracelets" before they go out for a catch.  Stretch and Reckless may always hold their lack of a loom against me, but my son will thank me someday.

And, finally, I will admit that with every fad I avoid, and I don't avoid them all, but with the ones I do, I run the risk of becoming out-dated.  I risk being that mom wearing the fuchsia, purple and white windbreaker to the mall with her kids in 2013, even though she bought it at the mall when she was a kid in 1983.  (Note, I don't have any clothes that are more than six years old because that's when I lost sixty pounds.)

I will also admit that for the first two or three months the girls were talking about these bracelets, I thought they were saying Rain Balloon bracelets, not Rainbow Loom bracelets.  I'm not sure there's a difference or if it matters; I'm not even sure they weren't saying Rain Balloon.  But I have started calling them by the right name, just in time for the next big thing to come along.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This Will Sound Trivial...

Last spring, one of my friends posted on Facebook that she and her husband had just gotten their kids in bed and were about to challenge each other in Trivial Pursuit.  That's the kind of post that immediately snags my attention...What?  Trivial Pursuit, you say?  I love that game!  I haven't played in years.  (I'm not saying the posts of cats saying funny things don't get my attention, they do.  I mean, who doesn't like a sarcastic feline?)

The next time I saw them (my friends not the witty kitties) at church, I pleaded with them to come over for a couples Trivial Pursuit challenge versus me and The Voice of Reason.  It took about six months to make that happen, thanks to my perpetually busy schedule and chronically forgetful mind.  But we finally got together this past Sunday night.

Let me just say that I expected to win.  Unless I'm competing against my brother in something, I always expect to win.  It took me the better part of a decade to finally walk away with a Trivial Pursuit victory over my big brother, ditto the nightly Jeopardy match-ups we held in our living room.  But that's just the point, I grew up playing these games relentlessly.  We didn't have a lot of other things to waste our time on.  We had a TV with two channels, but unless sports, Jeopardy or The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, or Night Court was on, the TV was useless.  (And okay, I'm not gonna lie; I watched ALF.)

And we didn't have video games until pretty late in our childhood, and, to continue in a spirit of honesty, Duck Hunt and Mario Bros. were my brother's, not mine, so I technically never had video games.  And I think I'm the smarter for it.  I've been playing Jeopardy against my son this year and he knows next to nothing about Russian literature, world capitals, or potpourri, and I can only assume it's because he plays too much Madden on the Xbox.  (Though my husband thinks it's because Brainy is only nine.)

Back to Sunday night, when I lost Trivial Pursuit!  Well, actually my husband and I both lost.  But I feel my loss the most.  We were playing against a well-educated couple, so I knew it would be a tough fight.  And I'm not sure if we lost because we're intellectually inferior or because we make bad joint decisions (see also the comforter we had on our bed from 1999-2003).

More than once my husband and I would have the answer narrowed down to two choices, the right one and its doppelganger.  But every time, we went with the doppelganger and it was wrong.  The other couple beat us with six pies to our five.  Ultimately, I've decided that The Voice of Reason and I don't know enough about Fran Tarkenton or mixed drinks.

I do, however, know way too much about the cast of Cheers and can usually match an author to a book title with both hands tied behind my back.  But alas it wasn't enough.  Even though, and here is the victory within the loss, I got the science question right!  (I know, it surprised me too.)  I mean, that's the whole reason I married my husband, I needed someone to answer the science and technology related questions.  But on Sunday, the science question was, "Anthracite and lignite are forms of what fossil fuel?"

The first thing I said was, "I don't know what a fossil fuel is, honey, so you'll have to answer this one."  He was thinking silently and I piped up again, "This might sound stupid, but is coal a fossil fuel, because those two words make me think of coal."  Which makes me think of that great movie, October Sky, from when Jake Gyllenhaal was younger, he's one of my favorite actors, oh wait, doesn't he have a movie out right now, I need to see that.  My husband interrupted my derailed train of thought with, "Coal is a fossil fuel, and that actually sounds like a really good answer."  So, I looked at the other couple across the table and said, "Coal."

"That is correct."  Woo-hoo!!  Both of my fists shot up in the air victoriously.  Of course the game wasn't over, so that was silly.  Meanwhile, I'm gonna have to find another use for my husband now that I don't need him to answer the science questions for me.  I guess I can just let him continue to pay all of the bills and provide for our family.  That's better than nothing.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

When In The Course of Human Events....

I meant to sit down and write a blog yesterday, when the kids finally tracked back in to school.  I meant to do a lot of productive things yesterday.  I started off in high gear with an hour at the gym as soon as I dropped them off.  Where I followed thirty minutes of cardio with a half an hour of what I consider my Navy Seal training, crunches, rows, overhead presses, tricep dips, and pull-ups.  Okay, assisted pull-ups.  Honestly, I may never complete my Navy Seal training because I always need assistance on pull-ups.  And because I have to hold my nose when I go under water.

Anyway, after I came home and showered, I ran exactly two of the six errands I planned to run before making my home sparkling clean.  My errands derailed because I had to stop at the house for a sandwich.  I made one, and since the kids aren't home, I obviously ate it sitting in a bean bag chair in front of the TV, which the kids think isn't allowed, but the rules are a lot looser when Mommy's home alone.

At first I was watching the news while eating my plain turkey and cheese on wheat, but it was depressing me.  The news and the sandwich.  My acid reflux prevents more exciting food, but not more exciting television, so I switched to Netflix and started a new season of Burn Notice.  (The irony there was completely unintentional.)  I got really into season four because there's a new guy, another ex-spy, so now things are like twice as exciting, and before I knew it I had binge-watched three full episodes and it was time to get the kids.  So no blog.  And no cleaning.  And, three hours out of my day that would be hard explain if my husband wanted any kind of account of my time.  Luckily, you can learn a lot about fabricating stories on that show.  Almost as much as you can learn about blowing things up.  Don't worry, my story covered for the mess in the bonus room and I didn't have to blow it up to destroy evidence of my laziness.

It's laughable how few items I checked off my to do list yesterday, but I'm prone to grandiose visions of excellence and limited follow through.  Like during this last track out with the kids.  We were going to be off for three and a half weeks and I had designs on doing all of these engaging educational activities with them.  But then they were so easily engaged in the TV and Xbox, leaving me time for napping and reading, that I pulled nary a flashcard out during the whole break.  And while I also didn't get around to working on Reckless' handwriting, I suspect the muscles in her thumbs and fingers got way stronger playing the new Nintendo DS she got for her birthday.  So if she ever has a mind to make straight letters, she'll certainly have the digital strength.

But at the end of track out, I think I redeemed myself as a "good" parent.  To combat all of the video game and TV time, I took them to Monticello.  (Home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, for those of you who also spent more of your childhood watching television than you did reading.)  I'm pretty sure that big educational outing canceled out our previous laziness the way a Diet Coke cancels out a double cheeseburger and fries.

As part of the 40 book challenge that Brainy is doing this year in school, he has to read two biographies or autobiographies.  He, of course, wanted them to both be about pro-athletes, and he's already read a few of those anyway, but I suggested forced him to choose something on a world leader.  One of the first ones that caught my eye at the library was on Thomas Jefferson so I grabbed and it tossed to him saying, "Here, read this one then I'll take you to his house."  Unfortunately, I wasn't be able to get him into Hakeem Olajuwon's house even though he finished that book last month.

I went to Monticello on a field trip in seventh grade and I remember enjoying it, so I figured I might as well take the kids and make sure they're still giving T.J. props for writing the Declaration of Independence and whatnot.  Side note: the best way to get your kids excited about the founding fathers and American history is to let them watch National Treasure, 1 & 2, with Nicholas Cage.  Well, starring Nicholas Cage, not watching with him.  He's an okay actor, but I don't think I'd let him babysit my children.

Anyway, my son read the book on Jefferson and I read a lot of it myself, to brush up on my historical facts.  Stretch, who is a total bookworm, wanted to read a few chapters with me.  And she was really paying attention and asking smart questions.  About the book.  When we got there though and we were standing outside Monticello, she looked up at it all wide-eyed and said, "Is he going to be here?"

I knew, immediately, who she meant, but part of me was still hoping..."He who?"

Then she looked at me like I was stupid.  "Thomas Jefferson."  Obviously.

"Honey, he died like 200 years ago."

She started nodding her head, like oh yeah, of course, but still double-checked with, "So, no?"  I guess hundreds of years is a hard concept when you're seven.

But he was buried there and we saw his tombstone.  Can that count as her seeing Thomas Jefferson?  It was a big tombstone.  We also looked at all the smaller ones we could see too.  And I remarked on different things, like names and people being buried there recently, to my mom.  Oh yeah, another side note, if you go on field trip with your kids, you should always take your mom, so there's someone else to hold bags and pass out snacks and stuff.  And my mom had never been to Monticello, despite having lived in Virginia her entire life.  I won't tell you how many years that is because she'd never help me take the kids anywhere ever again.  She has studied the architecture of every mall in the state, but it was her first time at a President's house.

Sorry, way off track...the cemetery, talking tombstones, and then Reckless pipes up and says, very scholarly, "Oh, here's a man that died in world war eleven."  My mom and I laughed and laughed about that, then explained roman numerals and how there have only been two world wars.  Then we laughed and laughed some more.

The weather was beautiful and the kids were having such a good time and learning so much that we stayed all day.  The house tour is only forty-five minutes, but there are grounds tours and a tour about slavery, which is an awful thing to have to explain to your kids.  Brainy understood it and found it horrible.  The girls, the ones who expected to run into Jefferson that day, didn't quite follow on that tour, and that's okay, they still had fun.

They also have an interactive kids' discovery center now, which is new.  So we the kids were able to write with Jefferson's side by side polygraph pens and lay in a replica of his bed and play with clocks and stuff.  It was cool.  Not as cool as Nana buying them feather pens and their own copy of the Declaration of Independence and other assorted memorabilia though.  Which is another good reason to bring your mother along, in case your kids start asking for stuff that costs money.

So, I didn't bake creative things with the kids and post intimidating pictures of said things on Pinterest and I didn't teach anyone a foreign language or even make them comb their hair every day of track out, but I did teach them about the birth of our nation and get them another step closer to winning the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, so take that Super Moms!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scary Smart!

I got a scary new phone for my birthday.  It's a, uh, hang on, let me check the box...Samsung Galaxy s4.  It came in a fancy weighted box that reminded me of a jewelry box without the velvet.  It seemed like my husband should've been down on one knee when he gave it to me, but he didn't go for that.

I knew from the get go that my phone is capable of lots of cool and "smart" things that I'll never be able to understand or utilize because I'm feeble-minded technologically.  But my son has a full gaming system set up on there with more options than an arcade.  And when I was crying about my best friend, M, leaving for Texas soon, she downloaded Skype so we can see each other.  Actually, she installed Skype as we were between movies the other night and she said, "Here, now you just need to set up an account," and tried to pass it back.  I looked over at her like she had asked me to remove my own spleen with a penknife.  She changed her tune to, "Oh, right.  I'll set up an account for you.  What do you want your screen name to be?"

"Is Maverick taken?"  Nod.  "Goose?"  Another nod.  "I didn't really like Iceman.  Well, he was cute, but-"

"How about something with Heather in it?" she suggested.

"Okay.  I guess just plain Heather is taken, right?"  (I don't know why she hangs out with me.  I hope her new friends in Texas are smarter.)

Anyway, we got that set up.  My phone also has all my favorite songs on it and if I get lucky on any given day, I can find them.  But here's where the story gets scary...

My husband bought a Toyota Highlander earlier this year and I remember him rambling on about how it was sort of tricked out technology-wise.  (My words, because his might bore you.)  It has whatever bluetooth is (unrelated to the Highlander being blue, by the way) and USB ports and other thingies I can't remember.  My girl, M, said we could probably view pictures from my camera on the screen that is usually telling me where I'm going or who I'm listening to.  I don't know why I'd ever need to flip through a photo album while driving, so we haven't done that yet.

Actually, we're just now getting to the scary part.  Man, I'm long-winded.  I was on the phone with my brother yesterday, consulting him on grilling sliders for a fantasy football draft party I'm throwing tonight, and I walked out of the house and got into the Highlander to drive to Target.  As soon as I put the key in the ignition, my brother was talking to me through the Toyota's speakers instead of my phone.  I didn't tell the phone to do that, I didn't tell the truck to do that, I just got in.  My phone wasn't attached to anything in the Highlander.  Then, when I ended my phone call, the Highlander started playing the album I had last listened to on my phone, in the kitchen, the day before!  It picked up on the fourth track, where I left off, in the kitchen, the day before!

AND...when I'm texting, it knows what I'm going to say.  And I don't just mean it will offer to finish a word I've started, like I type fi and it offers finished or finally or first.  No, it will offer the next word based on what I've typed so far.  It knows what I'm going to say.  Not all the time, because I surprise even myself with what I say next sometimes, but it does it a lot!

How long until my phone and the Highlander decide they don't need me anymore and take over my house?  I'm worried they already talk about me behind my back.

We got a new washer and dryer this year, and they're too technologically advanced for me too.  Lots of shiny screens and buttons and stuff.  Also by Samsung.  I think if I'm nice to my phone, it can control my washer from the carpool line and command the dryer to fluff the clothes when I'm almost home from the grocery store.  But again, I'm becoming dispensable and superfluous.

Alfred Hitchcock had it all wrong, people.  It won't be the birds that come together to destroy humanity, it'll be our smart phones.  The Amish will get a big "I told you so" then.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Welcome To My Nightmare

Summertime is great for fresh fruit, swimming pools, ice cream, and bike riding, but it's the doldrums for TV programming.  (I should note that I haven't found a season ice cream isn't great for.)  But once the NBA finals are over, it's all downhill for primetime entertainment.  (Spellcheck was fine with 'summertime' but threw up a red flag for 'primetime'.... fickle little discriminator!)

Do actors making millions of dollars really need four months off?  My husband makes a fraction of that and he works year round.  I make exactly zero dollars an hour as a stay at home mom and can't even get four days off.  Yet, Jim Parsons, Zooey Deschanel, and the cast of Parenthood can't be bothered to make me laugh from May to September?  They leave me no choice but to pay outrageous sums of money to see the plethora of summer blockbusters at the theater.  (The Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock was hilarious by the way.  But if you have an allergy or even strong sensitivity to foul language it's not for you.  Believability of plot can't be a sticking point either.)  I also saw Monsters University with the kids last week, and it was pretty funny.  Not as funny as The Heat, but the characters have a much more kid-friendly vocabulary.  There was a part of Monsters U. that was actually kinda scary, but I couldn't let on that it was because I didn't want the kids freaking out, so I just gave a nervous chuckle and looked away.  For those that have seen it, I'm talking about the part in the 'human world' where they used that wind up dolly to scare the adults.  Mission accomplished.

But this blog isn't about my time at Regal Cinemas.  (All evidence to the contrary.)  This is about what boredom can drive me to on a regular weekday night.  When all of my library books are read and I've seen enough of the news to thoroughly depress me.  When I've counteracted said depression with aforementioned summertime ice cream.  And I start perusing Movies On Demand for options, where I am notorious for making bad choices.  Sort of like with guys I dated in high school.  This one's too stupid, that one's kinda pointless, gratuitous drugs and profanity, and others that turn out to be too scary for me.

Well, that's what happened last night.  My movie choice turned out to be too scary for me.  I should mention that I have a small capacity for scary.  I can't watch Criminal Minds or American Horror Story or any movie that comes out in October.  A couple of older kids have come here trick or treating and their costumes have given me a bad case of the creeps.  But last night I saw "The Call".  It had Halle Berry and was about her job in the L.A. 911 center.  The synopsis mentioned a girl being kidnapped and talking to Halle from a car trunk.  That sounded more suspenseful than horrifying.  I can handle Harrison Ford-esque suspense style films.  I can handle car trunks.  (Note:  Harrison Ford isn't in The Call.)  And Halle Berry is an academy award winning actress known for drama movies; she'd never be in anything too scary.  WRONG!  There are way scarier things in that movie than a car trunk!!!

It was a pretty good movie, really, but just too much for my impressionable mind.

Heather + scary movie = Nightmares x 2

It was a rough night.  And my husband just loves it when I read or watch something scary and then wake him up in the middle of the night, swearing I've heard noises downstairs and forcing him to get up and go check it out.  Or when I start screaming, that's his favorite way to be awakened at two in the morning.

Tonight before bed I have promised to watch Strawberry Shortcake with the twins.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Timeless Words (And A Couple Misspelled Ones)

My son has been bringing home all of his books, folders, notebooks, and projects this week as he wraps up third grade.  One of the things his class did this year was write to and receive letters from pen pals.  Since that involved three of my favorite activities, reading, writing, and making new friends, I was super excited about it.  I peppered him with questions about it during the year, but all I got out of him was the kid's name.  Being a typical male, Brainy's frugal with his words unless he's describing a sporting event he has either participated in or witnessed.  Then he will literally give me a complete rundown of every assist, blocked shot, rebound (quick update on how many that is for him/his teammate/or Kevin Durant this season), touchdown, fake pass, rushing defense (and how big each kid was on the line), all the way down to how tired he personally was at the end of the game contrasted with how hard he kept hustling.  It can take him the better part of a day to recount an hour long game.  But I ask him what he and his pen pal write about and I get a shrug with "I don't know.  Nothing important.  Just school and stuff."

So I was delighted today that he brought home a couple of letters from his California pen pal Kailer.  When the kids were upstairs and I started working on dinner, I took the time to read them. They made me laugh so hard my side started hurting!  I have to share some of Kailer's correspondence with you.  For full effect, I won't correct any spelling or grammar or ridiculousness.  My thoughts are in italics.  From the initial letter:

Dear "Brainy's Real Name",  (I don't share my kids' names just in case some online predator tracked us down and tried to lure them to a kidnapper van by knowing their names and other facts about them.)

I some times play baseball in the spring.  What is your favorite sport?  Clearly Kailer doesn't waste time with formalities like hello or how are you.  I have a sibling named Kaden, he is really mean.  What do you do for fun?  Stuff I do for fun is, go out side, play on the computer and play video games.  Do you like music or art?

I was born April 20th, 2004 in Red Wood City, CAL.  This seems like information for the introduction paragraph.  When were you born? Nice smooth transitional follow-up question.  I played baseball in the spring.  Yeah, you mentioned that in the first sentence, but this drives home your point.  My favorite holiday is Thanks Giving.  What do you do at recess?  I've been accused of switching topics too fast before myself, but come on.  My husband could not be pen pals with this kid.  He'd be all "Wait, weren't we just talking about Thanksgiving?"  I'm eight years old.  How old are you?  I play baseball.  In the spring?  Do you play any sports?  Yes, in fact, he does.  Wanna hear every detail from every game he's ever played in?  How much time do you have?  Do you like this assignment?  I like this assignment.  What do you do on the week ends?  I mostly go to church, watch tv, because my brother is, edicted to tv, and play with, my friends.  I feel like Kailer went a little overboard with the commas there at the end.  Speaking of edicted.

From your pen pal,

My favorite paragraph from another letter:

Did your hand hurt when you wrote your letter?  Mine did.  What do you do at recess?  Do you like oranges?  I love oranges.

More good stuff:

The first week I'm out of school I'm going to can-con.  I know your thinking what the heck is can-con.  Yes, I am.  But Brainy is probably just wondering if it's almost time for recess.  Do you mean Comicon?  That's in California, right?  (can-con is a place in Mexico, with a Beach,  oohhh, Cancun) I'm staying in a fansiy hotel.  My parent are super ated.  Are yours?  I had NO IDEA what Kailer was trying to say there. I was pretty sure he was dissing his parents 'super aged?' and trying to get Brainy to do the same, but through further investigation, I think he might have been trying to say separated. 

Last paragraph, I promise:

I'm going to flordia with my mom on the third week.  I'm going with my cousins, grandparents, and aunt.  Don't you think I'm funny.  I'll tell you some jokes!  Nevermind.  My brother is edicted to tv.

If it weren't totally sketchy; I'd get my own eight year old pen pal just for laughs.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is Everyone Sleeping But Me?

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I've always been a champion sleeper.  I slept through the night at only a couple months old and I've yet to outgrow napping.  When I was younger, I could polish off twelve hours of sleep with less effort that it takes some people to finish seven.  And I've never met a moving vehicle I couldn't snooze in.

But for the last couple of years, as I've started wading into the murky waters of middle age, there have been nights when sleep eludes me.  Thanks to the random updating power of Facebook, I know I'm not alone.  Many of my peers have posted things like "1 a.m. and still wide awake! Don't know why.  So frustrating!"  Or, "Woke up at 3:30 and couldn't go back to sleep.  Will there be enough coffee to get me through the day?!"  (My friends are always worried if their coffee will come through for them in a jamb.  I don't drink coffee, so I know I'm on my own.)

And when I wrote "peers" above, I meant women.  You never see a dude post "I've tried everything and just can't fall asleep.  Guess I'll fold the laundry for my wife since I'm awake anyway."  As a matter of fact, if you see that post, get right with the Lord immediately because the end is surely nigh.

Women have a lot more trouble powering their brains down at night.  Probably because there's so much more voltage running through ours, and there are multiple processes to shut down.  It isn't even necessarily worrying that keeps us up.  Like last night, I was watching TV and got tired and droopy-eyed around 10:00.  I checked on the kids, brushed my teeth, and burrowed into bed.  Then my conscious started acting like a two year old!  You know how a toddler can come back out of the room like a dozen times after you put them to bed, with each excuse being more trivial than the one before?  My mind was doing that last night.

First it went through tomorrow's (today's) schedule.  Okay, so I'll get up and make breakfast for everyone and pack lunches and pick out clothes.  I'll drop the kids off at school then come back to the house and run three miles.  Then I'll have to shower real quick, no time to do my hair - as always, and drive over to the church for that meeting.  Then I'll come home and pick up the stuff for Stretch's end of the year party and head to that.  Oh, gotta remember to talk to her friend's mom about a playdate.  Then I'll have a couple of hours to put away dishes and vacuum, but I need to stop by the store and exchange those shorts first.  Hey, I wonder if there are any cute tops at Loft?

Then my mind pulls the classic toddler trick:  I'm thirsty!  After a cold drink, ideas start popping into my head for that meeting at church.  At first very applicable ones, like team building exercises and announcements we need to make for Sunday morning.  Then I start writing commercials in my head and casting friends' kids in them.  I begin to imagine we have some kind of special effects A/V genius on call at church who can make a very moving video montage that will get everyone giving more to the Backpack Buddies program.  Suddenly my imagination is borrowing from Michael Jackson and friends "We Are the World" video, circa 1985, to end world hunger.  CONSCIOUS, GET BACK IN YOUR ROOM AND GO TO SLEEP!

Things go on like this for a long time.  I start to worry I won't get enough sleep and to calm my worries, I look at the clock every forty-five seconds.  Oh no, it's almost midnight.  Oh no, it's 12:01!  Now I need a new plan for tomorrow.  Okay, I'll get up and make breakfast; the kids can just buy lunch.  I'll drop them off at school then take a quick nap before the meeting.  If I don't exercise, I can skip the shower and just put on a little make-up.

At like 2:00 in the morning, I decided I should take an Advil PM thinking surely it would help me sleep.  WARNING:  Do not take a sleep aid if you have to wake up in five hours!!  I was only semi-conscious when I got up and fed the kids.  Who knows what they wore to school today.  I wore pajamas when I was dropping them off, I do remember that.  I gambled big on Coke Zero to keep me awake during the important parts of the day and used the rest of my time to sleep it off.  Now I'm worried that I took too many cat naps today and I won't be able to fall asleep tonight.

Where oh where is the easy slumber of my youth?!  Has it gone the way of my elbow skin elasticity?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Day In Court

Several months ago, the girls figured out the connection between the Speed Limit signs and our speedometer, realizing those two numbers should match.  They have this annoying helpful way of making sure we don't go even a fraction over the limit.  Last Sunday, my husband was driving us home from church and Reckless caught him going 30 in our 25 neighborhood.  With much exasperation she said, "The speed limit is twenty-five, Dad!"  Like, how many times do I have to tell him that?  Stretch piped up that he was "breaking the law."  If my children's idea of a lawbreaker is their father then the real world is going to take their figurative lunch money every day, because my husband makes Honest Abe look like a hooligan.

But the one time the twins' speed monitoring would have come in handy, they fell down on the job.  Actually, they didn't even show up for work because they were at "kindergarten", or so they say.

It was January and I was coming back from a doctor's appointment.  There had been some numbing and injecting, so I took advantage of my ability to function somewhat normally and stopped at the grocery store on the way home.  Predicting I felt good enough that I'd probably be able to make dinner, I decided to round up ingredients to make something.  I walked into Harris Teeter with no list, no plan, and a growling stomach, so I left with 12 Greek yogurts (2 of each of my favorite flavors because they were on sale!), Smartfood white cheddar popcorn (because it says "Smartfood" and comes in a really elegant black bag that alludes to the promise of being healthy and happy), two new flavors of Wheat Thins I hadn't tried (enough said), and lunch meat.  I completely forgot I had stopped there for dinner ideas.  No one else in my family even likes Greek yogurt.

It was eleven-thirty in the morning at this point and I was driving home south on Capital Boulevard from Wake Forest, in no particular rush.  For those of you unfamiliar with this stretch of highway, it's a free flowing divided four lane at this point and further ahead it slows down and clogs up with traffic, lights, and more lanes when you get into Raleigh.  It was approaching the point where I got off Capital when I saw two sets of blue lights up ahead on the right shoulder of the road.  I assumed it was an accident and got over in the left lane.  I was gonna turn left soon anyway.  I could already taste my blueberry yogurt, visions of it started dancing in my head, and, wait, rearview mirror!  Uh, oh, my heart just stopped.

I kept driving because I don't like to park my minivan in the middle of a highway with oncoming  vehicles.  I figured I would pull into the Sheetz that I was about to pass by anyway.  Meanwhile, the original two police cars were still terrorizing motorists on the side of the road and now a fourth one was flashing its lights at a sedan two cars behind me.  So, here I am in the left turn lane, blinker sounding like a ticking time bomb, holding my breath, waiting for a green arrow to allow me to turn down the side street and pull over at Sheetz.  Well, apparently, I was a flight risk or too dangerous to be trusted, because the cop actually got out of his car and approached me at the light, pressing me for my driver's license.  "I was going to pull over at the gas station," I assured him.  Because, duh, if I was going to flee the scene of my violent crimes, I'd go ahead and turn left on red to get away.

"Just pull into that empty church parking lot when the light changes," he said, "But hand me your license now."  I gave the officer my license, even though I knew it was illegal to drive without a license and we both knew I was about to keep driving.  It had sting operation written all over it.

We pulled into the empty church lot and so did the sedan behind me and his police escort.  Our entrance startled some pants-around-my-middle-thigh-undies-on-full-display-hoodlums who were loitering on the edge of the parking lot, under this wooden canopy, rolling & sharing their own "cigarettes".  They stuffed their hands in their pockets, which were by their knees, and kept darting their eyes and milling around nervously until they realized it was the mom in the minivan the Po-Po was trying to take down.

The officer asked if I knew how fast I was going.  "No."  Luckily he didn't ask if I knew what the speed limit was because I might've guessed that wrong and he probably wouldn't have taken "That's my six year old's job" as an excuse.  He claimed I was going 68 in a 55.  I said, "Really, I don't think so.  It didn't seem that fast."

Next he asked if I was in a hurry.  "Maybe late for a lunch date?"  I think he was trying to help come up with an excuse, because he'd been standing there for long enough that I should've been launching some by now.  "No, just going home."  Can I get on with that now?

He sort of peered around in my van (making sure I wasn't smuggling heroin for the Columbians, of course) and then said, "I'm going to need your registration."  Okay?  Wonder what that looks like.  I've only been pulled over two other times in my life.  Once when I was twenty and going ninety-something in a seventy-five, coming back to Texas from Colorado, and there are no obstacles on those long Interstates in Kansas, so it's easy to get carried away.  The other time I was leaving the hospital with a very sick kid and the police are less forgiving than if you're on the way to the hospital with a very sick kid.  But I thought the registration was probably in the glove box though, so I found two official looking paper thingies in there and offered him both.  He took the one that wasn't my voter registration card and said, "It's this one."  Then he handed it back and said, "It's supposed to be signed.  I could write you another ticket for not signing it.  But just go ahead and sign it now."

That was the point I started getting irritated because A) why does he expect me to know something useless and pointless like that and B) why is that illegal and C) the numbing was wearing off and my neck hurt!  And isn't there a bank being robbed somewhere or, I don't know, some dope being sold - like thirty feet away from us!

He went back to his cruiser long enough to have lunch, while my truckload of yogurt was going bad in the van.  I mean, Greek yogurt is halfway to spoiled anyway.  And my stomach was really growling, but I figured getting out my bag of popcorn and having a snack wasn't going to help me get off.  The officer ended up giving me a ticket for going 9 over and suggested I go to court because with my clean record, I could probably walk out with just court costs and not have my insurance affected.   He made it all sound like no big deal, easy even.  It was all I could do not to point out that him leaving me alone and tearing up that ticket would be even easier.  But I was aware of my right to remain silent and for once in my life I exercised that right.

Over two months later, I had my day in court.  The judge thought the ticket was as ludicrous as I did and all but apologized for me having to drive down there to straighten it out.  Which was not easy, for the record, because downtown has lots of confusing one way streets and I had to find a parking garage and the courthouse and the right courtroom, and the security guards downstairs stole my tiny little blue sewing scissors my mom got me to keep in my purse and cut rogue strings off with.  Or break out of jail with, they're all-purpose, I guess.