Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fruits, Nuts and Dates (or lack thereof)

I surprised my friend Melissa last summer (and myself) by saying this to her:
...and that's why the phone message I might have left you may or may not have been intentionally vague.
Once her laughter subsided, Melissa told me that they should slap that right on my tombstone since I practically defined my personality (if not my very existence) by using those words sequenced just so.

Due to that conversation and a couple others, I decided that maybe I should take the word "straightforward" off my dating profile. Who do I think I'm kidding? Half the time
I can't even figure out my point.

I've changed my response on the perfect first date question from, "Is this a trick question?" to:
Is this a trick question? Just in case: the perfect first date includes alcohol. I don't see any reason (recovering alcoholics and teetotalers notwithstanding) that either person should have to endure undue anxiety.

I can see the potential suitors lining up even as I type! "Here's a gal who knows how to self medicate in a socially acceptable manner! She's the one for me by golly!" Yep.

I almost want to change the "I am looking for" section (which gives options like a date, marriage, a long term relationship, etc.) to include "activity partner." I mentioned to Ms.Q that my friends would most likely be deliriously happy if I quit trying to drag them to see live music and instead found an "activity partner."

They'd probably be equally as happy if I found someone to eat outside with me now and then. I'm sure my friends are tired of explaining to me each and every time we eat somewhere with outdoor tables that they don't actually like to sweat. I have to admit I don't see what the big deal is about sweating. It's not like getting a tattoo; it comes off in the shower. Sweat seems like a small price to pay for getting to be outside, but what do I know.

In any case, I'm not adding "activity partner" to my list of requests at the moment (Edited to add: especially after being informed via the comment section that the term could have other connotations!!). I doubt I have it in me to distinguish between guys who would answer "yes" if I wanted to go rollerblading and guys who want to date. It seems like an unnecessary hassle and too much emotional upheaval to make the distinction.

Then again, it might offer an easy out, as in "Would you like to not enjoy this activity with me again sometime?"

***Pictures and Stuff***

Who needs an "activity partner" when you have kids, anyway? I don't know whether it's just the venue or what, but both times we've seen Michael Fracasso, (who's awesome by the way, if you like acoustic/folk type stuff) people were determined to throw money at my boy. This time Christi gave him two dollars for eating three limes in one minute:


Here's a picture for Roger. It's the middle of the day with almost no traffic, so you can't tell that the tractor is meandering along one of the larger boulevards in Houston. It's sort of a crooked shot, because I was trying to drive and roll down the window and operate the camera all at the same time, but the clouds still look neat:


And last but not least, this one is for Frogger:




Thursday, September 27, 2007

Be Mine!

This child is obviously mine: "I know EXACTLY what I'm going to get you for Hannukah! Except...I just forgot."

This child looks an awfully lot like his dad:

But this conversation proves he is also so very obviously mine (or at least takes after me in the dislike of the phone department):

Me: "Can someone get the phone?
Can someone get the phone please?
Jared? Jared! Get the phone!
You got it?"
Jared: I GOT IT!
Me: "Who was it?"
Jared: (doesn't respond)
Me: "Did you
ANSWER it?
Jared: "No."
These people are not strictly mine, but are still quite obviously closely related to me.
My brother David: "You want to go up the stairs!?!?"
My nephew Rex: "Uh huh."
David: "In your rollerblades?"
Rex: "Yeah."
David: "Really?"
Rex: "Uh huh."
David: "Well, you know, I didn't bring bandaids, so you'll just have to bleed all over your clothes."
Rex: "Okay."


Rex, Me, David

I find myself saying this just a little too often:

You guys have GOT to flush the toilet! How do you expect the cats to have any fresh water?!?!?!?!
In my defense, the cats actually prefer the toilet water.

And speaking of words I find coming out of my mouth, I shout this out fairly regularly as my kids or preschool kids whiz past on various wheeled forms of transportation (rollerblades, tricycles):


STAY IN CONTROL PLEASE!
Do you suppose that works when they get to be teenagers?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

If You Hear Your Phone not Ringing

I finally signed up for an internet dating service. That would be the dating service which presumably features local men, as opposed my "starter dating site" which exclusively featured men from the actual soil of the country of Turkey.

It's still sort of a niche site I guess you could say, as evidenced by the fact that I already knew or at least had met two out of the first three people who stalked me. Still, I figure pretty soon I should try being the stalker instead of the stalk-ee.

I'm pretty sure my answers to the canned questions read: "emotional train wreck waiting for a dangerous intersection" but what the heck...I can only be who I am.

That's not true of everyone, however. A teacher at my school heard from a friend that people can fake a personality for up to 90 days. After 90 days apparently one's true colors can't help but show. Inventing and maintaining a personality even for 90 days sounds like too much hassle for me though. I figure I'm better off with my neurosis laid right out on the table.

I thought I should have been able to expand on some of the questions where the only option was to check boxes. For instance, I checked off some music types, but there were so many categories missing from that list. And why is there no distinction between liking Delta Blues and Chicago Blues? Ok, so I happen to like both, but do they give me any option of stating that I prefer Delta Blues? No! And yet you're supposed to write an entire essay on your personality. I don't even HAVE a personality!

There's a section on pets, but the only options were cat, dog, fish, etc. Unless someone has severe allergies, does this really need to be a screening question? It happens that I have two cats mostly 'cause they're low maintenance and I can only care for a certain number of living creatures at a time, having already killed off 3/4 of my houseplants.

I just left that question unanswered. Because do I really need to get into whether the untimely deaths of my houseplants were the result of neglect or suicide before a first date?

Food is another category where none of the check boxes seem to apply. Or all of the check boxes apply.
I love food! I just don't particularly care from which continent, country, ethnicity, race, culture or subculture the recipe originated.

There was a question about past relationships. I didn't put down that I am incredibly attracted to intense personalities who require more emotional energy than I actually possess. Instead I filled it out this way:
Is there really an answer to this question that doesn't involve a cliché? My past relationships were fun! At least until they weren't fun anymore...My past relationships are the basis for much of my current neuroses...KIDDING! !!!!!!!! Is there a graceful way out of this one? How about: I was married for 12 years and now I'm not. Does that work?!?!?!
It asks for political orientation. Although I'm pretty sure I recognized the orientations that don't apply to me, I wasn't sure I could pick out which one might be an appropriate label. And since "pinko commie scum" wasn't an option, I went ahead and left that one blank too.

Next was ideal relationship. After muddling through my last post, that seemed easy enough to figure out:
My ideal relationship is with someone who calls a lot, but not often enough to be stalker material.
By my reckoning, that should be about once a day. But, of course, I shouldn't have to actually answer the phone!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Super Cool Dating Lessons

The dating world can be a tough travel destination and has been for me for the past...well, we'll call it month and a half. But what the heck, I've learned a whole new method of communication 2 skru up: txt msg!

If you're in the market for a new method of being rejected, I highly recommend texting. It's every bit as instant as a phone call, but you don't get interrupted as long as you don't have a lot to say.

Along with texting, I also learned some great new phrases. Whether or not any of them actually apply to my most recent go round is up for debate, but here they are regardless:

Each time I describe some heartache or another, my brother claims to hold up an imaginary sign reading, "Dump him!" Recently he discovered new lettering:
"DTMFA" or Dump the Mother F* Already
I'm not a big fan of acronyms, but this one in particular, to quote Mary Poppins, "helps the medicine go down".

Here are two from my good friend Ms.Q. She's not sure if she wrote this first one or assimilated it. Let's just call it hers:
Some people have dealt with their shit and some people smell of it.
Other people blog about potty training, but that's beside the point.

I don't think of people as trash and neither does Ms.Q. I like to think of people as having inherent worth despite their circumstances, occupations or much else for that matter. I've enjoyed the friendship of two people convicted of manslaughter, and both of them have been every bit as kind and compassionate as the average teacher or soccer mom, for whatever that's worth. Still, this saying Ms.Q. learned from a friend made me smile:
Kick him to the curb...just kick him to the curb! Move on. You've got better things to do than think about the trash on the side of the road.
I saw this saying on a dating blog. I'm not sure about the second half of each sentence. But I could perhaps buy the first half of each, in as much as I ever believe sweeping generalizations about humans:
Men look for sex and find love.
Women look for love and find sex.
This is not a saying I learned, but it seemed funny at the time. In general I'm against rigid gender roles, but for reasons which could be a post all it's own, I truly believe the male should do all the calling. I think I may have been engaged before I initiated a phone call to my ex-husband. I found myself defending my position without explaining it:
"It's NOT a 'policy'"
"It is. It's your policy not to call men."
"No it's not! It's not a policy!"
"It is. It's a policy."
"It's not a policy! It's a
defense mechanism!"
Let's call spade a spade for cryin' out loud! Then again, spade calling didn't actually work out so well for me this time.

This was a saying Jeff learned from a friend that seems to sum up quite a bit:
It isn't about finding a sane partner. It's about finding one whose crazy matches your own.
Which, y'know is great for me because I tend not to pay too much attention to the fine line that distinguishes "normal" from "boring".

Now, is there one of those cute blog awards for quoting Mary Poppins and using Mother F* in the same paragraph? Oh wait...you probably have to be willing to spell it out to win that award.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hop Aboard the Potty Train

I have to thank my son, age two and calling himself "Um" at the time, for the title to this post. I was listing his friends, attempting to invoke a little peer pressure, "Jay's potty trained and Amy's potty trained, and Sam is potty trained...". To which he answered, "Um wants to be on the potty train!"

And so he did board, one month before his third birthday. Not because he had a ticket, but because I ran out of diapers the night before Thanksgiving. There was just no way on earth I was going to enter a store the day before Thanksgiving for a child who could already change his own diapers. I'd like to say it was some kind of awesome parenting on my part that I can count his total "accidents" on one hand, but I'm pretty sure it was more of a fluke.

In any case, between my own two kids and five years of teaching preschool, I figure I can technically claim to have been potty training children for seven (albeit nonconsecutive) years. I've noticed a few things and occasionally give out advice, including the following:

The biggest and most typical problem parents face is power struggle. If and when kids figure out that you have a vested emotional interest in one of the few areas of their lives they can control, you're in
big trouble. Nothing delays potty training like a child noticing their bodily functions are a constant topic of conversation. If you feel anger or find the topic taking up more than its fair share of your gray matter, it's time to take a step back and try again in a few weeks or a month. It's their poop and children WILL win if they decide to dig in those heels.

Pull-ups: more expensive yet less convenient than diapers. I can almost guarantee that your child's preschool teacher wishes your family would skip this step. The toddlers and preschoolers are evidentially not watching enough Pull Ups commercials to realize that fancy expensive diapers are supposed to make them feel like big kids. The preschool teachers treat them just like diapers, except that if a child poops, teachers are likely to have to remove their pants, shoes, and socks instead of just a diaper.

When to switch to underwear: when your child has some control and you have some patience. Most parents know the physical signs of readiness on the part of the child. The only thing I want to add is that it is just as necessary for the adults to be emotionally ready. Make friends with the washing machine first and foremost and try saying "Oops! We'll have to wash that!" with as little rancor as possible a few times before you even begin.

When to switch to underwear at preschool: After your child has been successful for a week or two at home, he or she is ready to come to preschool sporting underwear. Children are successful sooner in their comfort zone, so it makes the most sense to start at home.

Sitting or standing? If you're the one who has to clean the toilet...well, let's just say I know a women who asks not only her boys but also her husband to sit. At my preschool we have child sized toilets not to mention janitors, so it really and truly makes no difference. At home you might want to consider whether your child is tall enough to stand and how stable he feels if he does stand on a stool.

Fear: I have a child afraid of the potty almost every year. There's the precarious position, the scary sound, the water which looks much deeper to a child who may not be able to swim. I've had a parent ask me every year if I think their child is afraid because he or she has been traumatized or is suffering somehow. To me chances seem slim. The potty can just be a scary place. Try offering to flush after your child has left the bathroom.
Bribery: This is supposed to be a no-no, but y'know, sometimes it works. Smaller bribes seem to work on occasion, but the more successful bribes usually go something like, "You'll get a huge kitchen set for Christmas if you poop in the potty." It's winds up escalating what is probably already a power struggle, but if you have the means and your kids aren't that stubborn, maybe it's for you.
With just a small change in semantics, bribery can turn to the Premack principle, otherwise known as "grandma's rule", a perfectly acceptable form of parenting. This is the ole' "As soon as ______ happens, _______ will happen."

Bribery: If you clean up your toys, I'll take you to the park.
Premack principle: As soon as you're done picking up your toys, we can go to the park!

Bribery: If you poop on the potty, I'll give you a cookie.
Premack principle: After you sit on the potty, you can have a cookie."
See how the Premack principle assumes that mission will be accomplished while the bribery sort of has an element of begging? Done with the consistency and without negative emotion, the Premack principle can be a friend in more areas than just toileting, as opposed to bribery which will always feel like bribery.

Note that "You can't go to the park unless you pick up your toys!" or "You can't have a cookie unless you poop on the potty!" turns the situation away from presumed compliance and back toward coerciveness.

One family who had been involved in a power struggle of rediculous proportions had their problem solved when summer came around.
I'm not sure if dad presented this using the Premack principle or if it was more of a natural consequences type thing. After months of struggle, Joey was potty trained seemingly overnight when told that the local pool did not let children swim in diapers.

Of course you want to ask your pediatrician if things seem to have gone awry, but generally the more relaxed you are about potty training, the better it will go. So to speak. Good luck!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back to the silliness

I've managed to accidentally see a couple forgettable movies this year which I could probably count on one hand if I could just remember what they were. But last weekend my brother David recommended that I watch a movie on purpose.

We were discussing the infinite gory details of my week which had been one of those in which enough little things go wrong to make any one of them seem like a big deal, otherwise known as "being pecked to death by chickens". Concerned for my emotional health, David asked, "What are you going to do this weekend?" I thought resting to get rid of my cold a reasonable goal.

"On Saturday I'm going to mope. Sunday I'll teach Sunday school and then eat dinner at Aunt Lynne's." My brother in his infinite wisdom decided that an entire day devoted to moping might be a bit much.

"I could watch TV..." I volunteered. "Watching TV indiscriminately can be really depressing." He recommended that I rent a movie. "It will lend direction to your moping."

I doubted Blockbuster would carry either of the movies I've been wanting to see:
You See Me Laughing or Be Here to Love Me. There was a third possibility too, a probably obscure documentary on Texas singer songwriters, the name of which I couldn't remember.

David emailed me to say that I had been correct on the unavailability of my preferred movies. In reality, a documentary probably offers less in the way of escape than fiction anyway, and perhaps especially a documentary about a manic depressive alcoholic musician.

Instead my brother recommended
Secretary, which he described as "a great and weirdly romantic movie about a woman recently released from a mental hospital after treatment for self-mutilating tendencies and her new job as secretary for a successful attorney with a tendency toward angry disapproval." He's pretty sure he took that description from Netflix, but not surprisingly I don't have Netflix, so the verdict is still sort of out on that point.

I headed to Blockbuster: "Where do I find Secretary?" "The drama section." "Drama?!?! I'm not sure I actually need any more drama..." Shortly after I arrived home my friend Laurie came over and we started the movie. I explained that I always took my brother's advice in as much as I am able, but that I was wary this time, because the movie sounded depressing. "Oh no!" Laurie explained, "I like depressing movies. They make my life seem more normal!"

Obviously this is not a kid friendly movie. Even if you HAVE been looking for just the opportunity to discuss self mutilation and/or submission to men with your kids, this is probably not the discussion starter you're looking for. Unless of course your plan is actually to promote self mutilation, because for the main character in this movie self mutilation seems to serve a purpose, albeit a sort of disturbing one.

I learned a lot from this movie, or more to the point from discussing this movie with Laurie. This is what happens when you spend just over half your adult life married: you find out from a friend that the characters in disturbing movies are almost sort of semi-normal. You also find out that all kinds of other things that sound totally off the wall are almost sort of semi-semi normal, but that's beside the point.

All in all, I think both David and Laurie were right. It ends up being a decent sort of escape, because although neither character in the movie really has any positive personality traits, they end up "happily ever after" despite or even because of their particular bundle of issues. It's the type of movie that ends with "See? The both of them are a couple of freaks and yet they're happy within their lunacy or perhaps even because of it. I look like incredibly sane and positively well adjusted compared to them. I had no idea I was solid as a rock!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just the date (the calendar date that is)

I was all set to press publish the normal laughing at life's absurdities last night when I found midnight had passed me by unnoticed. I'm sort of torn between not posting at all today which fits in well with my "no crying on this blog" attitude and my inability to keep quiet. I figure the best compromise might be to keep it short (also a near impossibility for me).

To that end I'm only going with only my most poignant memory of 9/11. I was teaching first grade (six and seven year
olds) in public school at the time. On the actual day our instructions had been not to breath a word of what was happening to the children. There's a balance, I think, between what my daughter's school did (turned on the news for the six year olds to watch) and stonewalling the obvious hysteria, but I've promised brevity...

The following morning we were allowed to discuss what had happened during class time, the assumption being that their parents had already had their shot at providing comfort and explanations as they saw fit. The children didn't have many questions. In fact, only one hand went up. "Was it on
purpose?" I will never forget their collective gasp at my answer- the sound of an entire classroom of children having their hopes dashed at once.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Need some overpriced crap?

Need any overpriced crap? Because my kids, like children the nation over, are selling it for school. If you happen to be related to my children, you're supposed to feel obligated to nod yes and dig into your wallet.

If you have kids in public school or are related to children in public school, perhaps you're already the proud owner of 7,432 square feet of reversible wrapping paper. Or maybe you merely have magazine subscriptions that don't run out until the year 2126.

Private schools don't escape either. I've already sent home two fund raisers with my preschoolers and the school year has barely begun.

Getting into why or how we have decided that it's a great idea for our five year olds to sell garbage to their relatives and neighbors to help finance their education is probably a stretch for this relatively carefree blog, so I figured I'd just settle for making fun of some of the items my son is currently selling:

As if the shoes weren't ugly enough, now you can have a mini crock that is "perfect for holding your cell phone"...because just setting it directly on the table would assault the senses and all.

For the record, I fully appreciate the practicality and durability of crocs. They make excellent camp shoes. I just don't happen to want one for my coffee table.

Here's a mug for $9 and two plastic magnets for $8. These are worth it, I'm sure.

I'm not actually a big Disney person, but even if I were, I'd have to be a serious collector to buy this $20 timer:


Since I'll need to buy something, it might be this thing. It would go nicely in my purse with the all purpose tool, would replace my lost allen wrenches and it's probably only double what it would cost at Academy:

Here's an inspirational notepad. For a mere $7.50 you can have some 4 inch square pieces of paper, jot a note or two and then deposit them directly into the trash alongside the rest of the stuff in the catalog. Or you could just skip the middle step:



*****

Didn't I promise I still had plenty of bar bathroom pictures left over from summer? This is my coteacher and one of my best friends in the bathroom at Sliders. Unbeknownst to me she'd been waiting to make an appearance on my blog for awhile now. The bathroom at Sliders is pretty clean, and like the rest of Sliders, well lit. Perhaps a little too well lit in the bar itself, but you can never have enough lighting in a bathroom:



Sliders main selling point, though, is not necessarily the bathroom but the fact that it's a great place for dogs to drink while they look out the window forlornly:


*****

On other dog related topics, lunch room conversations today focused on what foreign objects whose dog had eaten and pooped out, up to and including socks, pantyhose, and a fleece blanket.

Generally speaking I can chew, swallow, digest, and even manage to enjoy my lunch during all types of poop, blood, vomit and other biological discussions, but this one for some reason seemed a little unappetizing.

I'm continually telling my son he needs to toughen up a little and not let one little comment ruin an entire meal. He should really sit in on a preschool teacher lunch sometime.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sorry burglars, you missed your chance!


So it turns out that you’re not actually supposed to notify the burglars and stalkers until AFTER you return from a trip, so says my friend Debbie. Perhaps I’m also not supposed to mention that we’re back and that I’ve scrubbed all the camping off me. It was tough to get the camping off in the shower, sandwiched such as it was between two thick layers of road trip.

Camping was SO FUN!!!! And by fun, I mean that our tent didn’t leak too very badly and nothing happened that necessitated an emergency room visit.

This, of course, was due to our constant collective vigilance and superior parenting skills, such as when Roger called out, “Samira! Go tell the boys to stop throwing rocks at each other!” Rocks are irresistible to children. I think it was the year before last when the boys invented a game where one of them threw a basketball in the air and the others threw rocks at it.

The reason this game did not gain the popularity necessary to overtake well established professional sports and gain a spot on weekend television is because basketballs are bouncy. Things like rocks bounce right off and occasionally scratch the cornea of the rock thrower. Other than that, it’s a delightfully entertaining game, which after careful consideration and an eye patch, the adults decided to ban. Meaning that this year the boys were forced to take the more direct route of just throwing the rocks directly at each other.

We have a fresh influx of bugs every year. One year we were overrun by fire ants, the next it was bees. Cassie claims there was an infestation of centipedes one trip, although I apparently blocked this from memory. This year brought crickets, cleverly disguised as giant bouncing roaches.

A truly impressive display of thunderstorms turned our three hour drive to the campsite into six after which we began setting up our tents in the pitch black, save for one little lantern which I conveniently ran over with the car after deciding the headlights would do a more thorough job. I'd like to put in a plug for Coleman products, because my lantern still served its purpose even after the telltale crunching noise.

I used to take lots of pictures each trip but never get them developed. This year I streamlined the process even further: I brought the camera but didn’t take any pictures. Next year I might just save that three inches of space in the car. We could certainly use the elbow room.

These pictures from 2004 seem just as good as any. The first one is has me about to go off the rope swing. The other two are of the kids:




I am forever grateful to the Nounous and the Greens for letting us tag along every year, the Langleys and the Cormiers and the families that couldn't make it this time.

Without them we’d never get to go camping, because basically I have no clue what I’m doing and own very little camping equipment. And
though I’d never let that stop me, it would hardly be worth it without them. Besides which we’d live on cold cuts and cereal.

THANKS GUYS!

Camping (with you) is THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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