Monday, December 31, 2012

Musings on the past year & 2013

It seems that everyone has a "Top 10 List for 2012".  Since I prefer to not follow the crowd, this post will not contain any lists (unless midway through I change my mind, which I do reserve the right to do) about this past year or the one we are about to enter.  Rather, I'd like to take a moment to just remember a few of the more poignant moments from my own life and/or the events that changed our world.

Politically, 2012 was a huge disappointment.  It is amazing to me that we have all the information we do about President Obama and his plan for the USA, be in an on-going economic downturn, constant war and STILL have people so brainwashed and full of entitlement that he would be re-elected.  Part of the problem was the fear of the GOP to really tell the people the truth about what this country needs in order to avoid the massive problems that are coming as well as avoiding telling the truth about who Obama really is - out of fear of being labeled "racist" or whatever.  When Romney picked Ryan as his running-mate, I was overjoyed and filled with hope that finally the GOP would get the truth about Conservatism out to the people, but as the campaign went on, once again I was disappointed by the lack of chutzpah the party with which I most associate demonstrated.  Until we elect leaders who have true backbones and who are willing to cut spending and limit entitlements (quit handing out taxpayer money like candy to corporations and lazy people), we will never see our country return to the path of prosperity and greatness that it once was on.

Along with politics goes the two failed proposed Amendments to the Minnesota Constitution - Voter ID and the Marriage Between One Man and One Woman.  The first I fully supported and am still somewhat shocked that it didn't pass as it seems to me to be common sense.  The second one, I was on the fence.  Unfortunately, the way our system works forced me to have to choose since leaving the little circle empty equated a "no" vote (I think that one should have the option to not vote; how hard is it to make three tallies - "Yes", "No", "Chose not to Vote"?).  I personally lean Libertarian in my views and believe that the government needs to just stay the heck out of everyone's personal life - the smaller the government the better.  I also think that if someone wants to make a contract with another person (which really is what a "Marriage License" does) and form a "civil union" that it shouldn't matter what sex they are.  Then, if they want to "marry", let the free market decide: if a church believes that same-sex marriage is within their tenants, then they can perform the ceremony.  If not, the couple can go to a church that will perform the ceremony.  There ya go. Done. Enough with the fighting over this issue.  Make all people have civil unions and be done with it.  (Seriously, with the economic problems the USA is facing, does any of this REALLY matter? If America goes down the toilet, who really is going to care who is shacking up with whom?)  As a person who has gone through a divorce, I think that if same-sex couples want all the "rights" heterosexual couples "enjoy" (yeah, especially the marriage penalty on taxes), then by all means, let them also enjoy the flip-side and find out how much fun it is to have to employ lawyers when they realize that "love of their life" really isn't "the one."  (I had a fun Twitter debate one time with some gay activists who insisted that they wanted "the Right to Marry" so they could call their "partner" their "husband." To which I replied "Who's stopping you from calling him whatever you want?" Freedom of Speech is still our First Amendment, I believe.)

The day prior to the election, I decided to forgo any last ditch effort to get out the vote - honestly, if people have not figured out by the day before the election their choice in candidates, I don't want them voting.  (Sometimes I think it would be smart if we could have each person take a "current events" quiz prior to voting just to make sure they actually know for whom they are voting and for which issues that person stands. There could be some pop culture questions tossed in to make it easier for those who pay little attention to politics, too, and to make it harder for those of us who really could care less about which celebrity got fat or pregnant or divorced or is back in rehab.)  I'm not advocating returning to poll taxes or anything like that, but requiring the electorate to at least be a little informed might help change things for the better.  However, considering that my great state (cough cough) can't even pass an amendment asking that each voter have a valid ID to vote (seriously, Minnesota? How is it disenfranchising to require someone to show ID at the polls when you can't even buy beer or cash a check or get on a plane or get into an Obama rally without valid ID?), I'm pretty sure that my Poll Current Events Quiz Amendment wouldn't pass either.

Personally, during 2012 I think I gained and lost and re-gained the same 20 pounds about three times; experienced having all four children in school all day for the first time in September; spent half the year as a 90% single-parent since Hubs worked out of town 5-6 days a week; fought with SwimGirl enough to age about 15 years; watched I don't know how many hockey games and swim meets; sat for hours waiting for kids to get out of the locker room after practices, meets and games; went through the college-selection process with SwimGirl (yay me, I get to do that three more times! ugh.); watched SwimGirl attend Prom; watched Tbone finally skate for his High School team; watched Sparkles sing a solo in public ("The Star Spangled Banner" at a JV hockey team - she rocked it); put my baby Buttercup on the bus for her first day of First grade and watched as SwimGirl drove off on her first day of her last year of High School; and many, many other events that are two numerous to count.  

I realized that I want to work and earn money, but that an office job is probably out of the question because I'm not sure I could play the office political game (and therefore, not be quickly fired).  I also discovered that one needs to make sure that one does all the research possible and gather all the pertinent information regarding an issue when one embarks on organizing a fundraising project/event for that issue/person or else be forced to back out when all the information becomes known, and when one is honest about the "whys" of the resigning from said project/event, that sending an email isn't the way to go (and sometimes, being "too honest" may also not be smart, either) even when one works hard to phrase the "whys" in such a way as to not hurt or offend anyone, the written word can always be misconstrued by the other party. (Who then may or may not distribute above-mentioned email to all his/her associates while accusing one of malicious intent causing great distress all around.)  I also realized that my writing talents are put to better use attempting to entertain anyone willing to read my blog.

Looking forward to 2013, I am resigned to the fact that Minnesota has a Democrat-controlled government and the US still has Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Boehner still in office.  I am not happy with the status quo, but I am at a loss as to how to change it.  So, I've decided to go with brilliant advice given by the phenomenal Christine Caine: "Stop trying to change someone else's mind & work on your own. It's not what someone else thinks about you that limits you it is what you think!"  I've spent much of 2012 desperately trying to change other people's minds/beliefs about various issues with little to no effect, leaving me feeling like I'm banging my head against a brick wall (which, really? If I want to experience that feeling, all I have to do is start up on pretty much any topic with SwimGirl and let the headache begin).  So, for 2013, I am going to work on becoming a better parent, a better friend and a kinder, gentler, classier person who understands how to make people feel comfortable and happy and in so doing, makes others want to spend time with me. (How's that for platitudes?) 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Storm Draco (Malfoy)

UPDATE: After sitting around IN HIS CAR (they had to leave the hotel at 11am and had no where to go) waiting to be told where to go, finally at about 3pm, the company for which hubs works told the guys they were going to go to Rockford, IL.  After seeing that Rockford had all of 9K people out of power, hubs said "No way" and came home.  He was thankful he chose to do so since he found out that the crews who did go to Rockford, drove all the way down there and then turned around and came back because there was no work for them to do.

We are keeping abreast of the outages caused by the latest winter storm, but since there is a hockey tournament going on this week, I don't believe hubs would be very happy to go work storm and miss hockey. Sometimes, his priorities are a little skewed. But, since Tbone is playing in above-mentioned tournament, I believe that his heart is in the right place this time.

Winter Storm Draco (now we're naming winter storms? Really people? Is this so that we can hype them up more? Like people won't pay attention to blizzard warnings but if you NAME the blizzard people will wake up and say "Oh really? A named blizzard? We'd better prepare!" If it doesn't work for hurricanes - think "Sandy" or "Irene" - how well will it work for blizzards?!) is gearing up to wreck havoc like the Harry Potter-an Malfoy after which it's named, spreading snow from the Rockies to New England just in time for the Christmas travel season.  Technically, where I live, we're only supposed to get about an inch of snow overnight and into tomorrow, with some high winds kicked in to make the air feel at least ten degrees colder than it really is just for fun.  However, to the south and then east of us, they're expecting anywhere between six to twelve inches of snow mixed with rain, ice and more high winds, possibly the perfect combination for power outages to occur over several states.  Since Winter Storm Draco Malfoy is looking to be as ugly as its namesake, hubs has been put on "stand-by," which means that he and other High Voltage Linemen get to hang out in a hotel, far away from home, and wait to see what this nasty storm is going to bring.  This is the truly boring part of his job: seemingly endless hours spent sitting in a hotel room, only broken up by the random excursion out to find an open restaurant for something to eat.  Once the storm has passed through, they'll be told where (if there's a need) they'll be heading to restore power.

Generally, we're pretty excited about storms.  Not only does he get a chance to do something at which he is tremendously skilled and enjoys, that is, building power lines after they've been knocked down due to bad weather, he also likes being a part of the process of giving people who have lived without power for a time their electricity back.  But it also means a lot of overtime, so there's a financial incentive to chase storms as well as the "helping others" aspect of his job.  (Don't get him started on how linemen are the most powerful people in the country - that is a {mainly one-sided} conversation that can go on for hours.)  But Winter Storm Draco is seriously worrisome due to the timing: we're five days away from Christmas.

Hubs has missed at least the last three Independence Day celebrations due to storms that pop up the week before the 4th of July.  Because of Hurricane Sandy, we thought he'd miss Thanksgiving, but he came home the weekend prior, just in time to help me put up our Griswoldesque Christmas lights and enjoy the butter-laden turkey and other treats I prepared for the day.  He's missed birthdays, the first day of school, Valentine's day, swim meets and hockey games either because he was working out of town and couldn't come home or because of random storms that pop up at just the right time for him to miss those special days or events.  But, until (possibly) this year, he's always been home for Christmas.

He called me late this afternoon, after I had spent the day making crack-corn and rosettes (my house smells like a bad version of a White Castle burger joint right now due to the oil required for the rosettes - yummy) for the kids' teachers' and coaches' gifts, to let me know that he was being put on stand-by.  Since he's been working about 100 miles (one way) from home lately, and had no extra clothes (or extra long underwear or his boot dryer) with him, I offered to drive his needed supplies to him.  Thankfully, he said he could meet me halfway, which was a wonderful thing since Sparkles and Buttercup had to make the trip with me and almost four hours straight in the car would have been a little much for both of them.  So, after stuffing his always-packed "storm luggage" with extra long underwear and a brand new pack of thermal socks and grabbing a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie full of caramel-covered Old Dutch Puffcorn ("crack corn" - once you start, you can't stop) for him, I loaded everything and the girlies into Izzy the Isuzu and drove the 60 or so curving through fields and forests miles to meet him ( on the way, we saw two live deer on the side of the road and a small herd of reindeer, too).  He was happy for the suitcase and to see us before he had to head back South to wait to see what Draco is going to bring, but he was also quite concerned that if the storm goes all evil like Draco Malfoy that he'll miss out on his favorite part of Christmas: watching the kids open their presents from Santa on Christmas morning and stuffing their stockings with goodies while they sleep on Christmas Eve.  (I know I won't possibly be able to do it as quietly as he does, so this could also mean that this Christmas the girls will finally figure out that Santa doesn't actually do all that.)  As we talked about this possibility, we also discussed the flip-side: that if there are people who are without power, he gets to show the ultimate Christmas spirit and give them the best Christmas present ever by restoring their electricity, especially during a time when the temperatures will be seriously cold and they'll need heat, not to mention the power to run all their Christmas lights (you know, priorities).

So, I'm asking you, if you are affected by power outages caused by Winter Storm Draco Malfoy, before you go all Dick Cheney and start screaming after 12 hours of no electricity how slowly the power companies are restoring power (like the Easterners did after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy), please remember that while you don't have power, at least you (more than likely) have your family with you, unlike the linemen who are out in the cold and the wind, working as hard and as quickly as possible to get your electricity restored (and if you could also remember that they also have families who wish you had your electricity so their well-loved linemen could be home enjoying Christmas with them, that'd be an added bonus) so they can get home to their own families for the Holidays.

I'm praying that Winter Storm Draco is just a regular ol' blizzard that dumps some snow and blows said snow around without knocking anyone's power out this Christmas.

It's the End of the World As We Know It...Or Not?

According to the Mayans, our world is supposed to end on 12/21/12.  Many "experts" have debunked this theory in many different ways.  My personal favorite "expert debunking" is the one that points out that the Mayans didn't take into account Leap Years.  It makes sense to me that their calendar would be off from our's since we use the Leap Year system and they, having not had access to the Roman (that's the one we use, right? Suddenly, I'm not sure...) calendar as we have, did not.  I am bummed that I missed out on the levitating that we are (were?) supposed to do on 12/21/12 - if it already happened, I must have slept right through it and that is just plain sad because I really would like to know what it feels like to float freely above my bed.

My other favorite theory about the Mayans is my own (who would have guessed, right?): I think that what really happened is the guy who was banging away on those stone tablets either just got sick of it and decided to be done or he keeled over and died where he was and no one else wanted the job.  Combined with the idea that the Mayans couldn't conceive of the world lasting longer than 2012 and no one else wanting the job, they just decided to make it end on 12/21/12.  To me this is the most plausible (if unresearched) explanation of the Mayan calendar ending on Friday.

If one looks at the Biblical prophecies regarding the End of Times and then looks at the world's current events, it is hard to argue that we may not be going into the time of the Apocalypse - the wars, the famines, the unrest in the Middle East, the hurricanes, almost daily earthquakes, Barack Obama in the White House, etc. (maybe some of you don't believe he's the anti-Christ, but the jury is still out on that with some) - all seem to fall in line with the Biblical Prophecies regarding the end times.  While I believe completely in the Bible, my inner voice always seems to repeat "No one but God knows the time of the end" whenever I hear a lot of people (or even just one or two who manage to get press by "predicting" the end) start making a lot of noise about it being the END TIMES.  Not saying that one shouldn't always be viligant in keeping an eye on world events and one's heart close to God, but it has always struck me as a little ridiculous to worry about the (dah dah dah!) END OF TIMES.  Here's why:  It could be my last day on earth TODAY.  I could be making a batch of "crack corn" (Old Dutch Puff Corn covered in a cup of melted REAL butter mixed with brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses - my own addition along with cinnamon and ground cloves - and baked; absolutely addictive and yummy) and drinking my favorite Dunkin' Donuts coffee and my heart, upon realizing that I am going to being ingesting many cups of butter between now and the end of year, could just give out, making today my very own apocalypse.

My point here isn't to be heretical or blasphemous, but rather to say this:  No matter what the Mayans say or any of the others attempting to predict the exact time of the world's end, we all need to live every day like it could be our last day.  And, for those of us who are Christians, in living every day like it is our last, it is very important to make sure that we are also keeping our faith in God and staying close to him.  Because even if those who study the Apocalyptic Prophecies are correct and we actually are going into the Time of Trouble before the End, what do we really have to fear?  If God is with us, what do we have to fear?  That doesn't mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us and we'll be living in some sort of bubble of protection that keeps us from all pain and sadness as long as we're "good enough." Because if that were the case, none of us could ever be "good enough." There is evil and sickness of the mind afflicting our world, and because there is evil, bad things will happen.  But we cannot allow those events and actions of others, no matter how bad they may be, affect our faith in God.  We cannot understand the whole picture because we cannot see the whole picture as he can, nor can we understand the whys of most events. But we can allow events like what happened last week at Sandy Hook elementary remind us that our own time spent with our own kids is short and precious and no matter how much our hearts are breaking, our God's heart is breaking for his children, too.

If somehow the Mayans figured out God's time and Friday is the end of the world as we know it, I really hope that I don't sleep through the levitating in my bed part.  That just sounds like fun.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Tragedy

I almost had a panic attack this morning. It isn't that unusual, truthfully, since we're almost always running late and getting the four kids out the door can be crazy, especially combined with a dose of talk radio - all those factors can make me feel the need to curl up and rock myself like the little monkeys on the videos shown in Psychology 101.  Today's feeling was different.  Today I found myself hugging my kids closer and for longer and giving them more kisses and telling them "I love you," as I sent them out the door. Especially Buttercup.  Buttercup is 6 years old. Buttercup is the same age and in the same grade of the little ones killed on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I spent Friday morning at my daughters' elementary school.  A group of parents had volunteered to prep mountains of fleece for the four third grade classes to make into blankets for some homeless shelters in St. Paul. What I had expected to take about an hour ended up taking three as we evened out edges and cut the "ties" into yards and yards of fleece.  Conversations between strangers, brought together by our kids, ranged from the silly to the deep - like conversations often do when a large group of women are tossed in together on a project.  It was a lighthearted morning with lots of laughter ending with the fleece ready for the little third graders' fingers today.  My knees are still sore from kneeling on the floor to trim the edges of numerous would-be blankets.  I chatted with the office admin  for a bit after we were finished.  She's been part of our elementary school as long as I can remember - SwimGirl started there in 2nd grade and is graduating this year, so we've had at least one child at the school for ten years now - and is probably one of the best elementary school admins I've ever known.  The school principal was also in and out - popping into our conference-room-turned-workroom to check in and chatting with parents as they moved through the office.  The school is warm, inviting and staffed by absolutely wonderful teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators; we've loved our years at "our school."

When I got home, I received a text message from SwimGirl telling me about the shooting at Sandy Hook. Instead of turning on FoxNews, I went to my laptop and checked the news online.  My heart hurt and tears filled my eyes as I read the news.  The question going through my head continually was "Why? How could anyone kill little babies like this?" which I know was the question being asked by us all.  Then the news broke about the ages of the children and I realized that they were Buttercup's age, causing the tears to flow again.  I looked at our Christmas tree and thought about how there were children who wouldn't be opening their gifts, so lovingly wrapped and placed under the tree by their parents, on Christmas morning.  My heart broke for the parents and siblings of the lost children.  Then I started thinking about the terror of the surviving children - how will they ever go back to school without fear?  Will they ever face a night where there are no nightmares to invade their slumber?  Will they forever be looking at people, wondering if that person or that person or the one standing over there is actually someone bad who wants to kill them?  How will they heal?

So, as I was sending my little girls to the bus, I caught myself clinging to them more tightly and having trouble letting them go.  I found myself almost not sending them to school today.  I know the school staff have regular emergency drills (I've participated in them as a volunteer) and procedures in place in the case of something horrible happening.  Logically, I know these things.  But my heart is another story. My heart tells me "This is a place where my kids should be safe.  But they're not safe.  Those parents thought their kids were safe at school and look what happened." So I clung to my kids a little more than usual this morning, regretting the days when I couldn't wait to see them all out the door and the house to be quiet for a few hours again.  I can't imagine the heavy quiet at the homes of the victims of Friday's tragedy.  I can't imagine a home where the anticipation of chaos isn't always hanging in the air until the chaos of my four wonderful kids invades my house.

My heart hurts for the parents and families of those poor children and the adults who died trying to protecting them.  My prayers are with them.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Swim Meet Rules of Etiquette

MNHockeyMama's Swim Meet Rules of Etiquette

1. Never ever block other parents' view of the pool.  If you cannot find a seat, then please, at the very minimum, kneel down or sit on the steps in order to remove your fat butt from obstructing the view of the pool.  (If you choose to stand in front of me and block my view, you can be sure that you will be told to sit down. Arguing with me and swearing at me will only serve to make you look more foolish. Most swim parents are pretty laid back and as Minnesotans, are more likely to whisper with one another about their irritation with you. Not me. I am a hockeymama at heart and have no problem telling you "SIT DOWN.")
2. When the sign states: "No Parents Allowed on the Pool Deck," that is exactly what it means.  No coach wants a helicopter parent hovering near little Billy, making sure that he knows to put on his goggles before he steps up on the block. 
3. Saving seats: STOP IT. The meet is four hours long. Your child will swim maybe about five minutes of those four hours. Find a seat, watch your child swim and leave. There are places to hang out at every swim meet outside of the pool area.  It is not necessary for you to watch every event of every meet just because you are worried you will lose your "prime" seat in the bleachers.  If you choose to put a blanket, jacket or other personal items on a five foot section of the bleachers in case you do leave or your "friends/kids/parents" finally choose to show up, don't expect other people to respect that "reserved area" and not push blankets/jackets/personal items aside when they need a place to sit for the few minutes they are in the pool area to watch their own children.
4. Swearing at all, but especially at someone kindly (loudly) telling you to sit down, is absolutely forbidden.
5. Memorizing your child's best times is encouraged. Memorizing the best times of all the kids in his/her age group is creepy.
6. Cheering for your child and/or their relay team is also encouraged. Cheering, screaming and loudly proclaiming that your child's relay team just "Obliterated the record for ___________ event for 9-10 year olds" is also creepy.
7. Talking with other parents about swimming and other topics is encouraged. Talking loudly to other parents or on your cell phone about surgical procedures, bodily functions, gossip about other parents, etc. is wrong and shouldn't happen.
8. Getting antisocial toward other parents when they discuss topics with which you disagree should be discussed, i.e. politics/religion, and insisting on horning in on their discussion to voice your disapproval will cause you to be ostracized from the other team parents and therefore is discouraged.
9. Talking loudly during the start is forbidden. Respect the swimmers need for quiet so they can actually hear the start.
10. Talking smack about the other swimmers on your child's relay because they didn't perform as well as you think they should have is very wrong and therefore, forbidden.
11. Encouraging friendly competition between swimmers on the same team to get them to do their best is good. Asking other parents how their child swam ______ event only so that you can "one up them" by bragging about your child's massive time drop is rude.
12. Encouraging your child to cheer on teammates is strongly recommended. Condoning your child telling their teammate "good job" when he/she knows his/her teammate didn't come near a best time in ________ event, so that he/she can be smug about his/her own performance is in poor taste and is strictly forbidden.
13. There are no "Refs" in swimming, only "Officials." Yelling at the Official for disqualifying your child is never okay.
14. Do not show up to a 6am warm-up dressed like you just came off the pages of Vogue. Comfortable clothes are acceptable and encouraged. (Pajama pants are strongly encouraged.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Want a Wife

When the snow was falling on Sunday, it was beautiful and serene (other than the four times we had to shovel, that is).  With a fire burning merrily away in the fireplace, football blaring on the TV, the newspaper in my lap and the kids off at the sledding hill, I was reminded why I love Minnesota.

Not so much now.  It isn't the cold or the endless gray sky days.  It is the fact that as soon as the snow comes, it becomes impossible to keep my floors clean.  Even if I insist that everyone walking into the house take off their shoes before getting past the foyer, the floors still are covered in nasty dirt brought in by my dogs and/or husband (or, admittedly, me sometimes) who don't have the capacity to be trained to wipe their feet or choose to walk wearing giant, snow covered boots directly into my kitchen in order to refresh a mug of coffee.  I've tried covering the bare floors with numerous rugs or putting slippers near the door to entice new behavior, but those measures always fail.  My floors are only clean for about five minutes after they've been swept and mopped in the winter months.  Add the dirty floors to my family's penchant for leaving whatever is in their hands on any available surface and you have a recipe for absolute chaos in a charming Tudor-style suburban home.  (Add to that the "hidden" candy wrappers constantly discovered behind the couch when a garbage is two feet from said couch and there's a recipe for a parent's head to explode.)

It's not that we're inherently dirty people.  Generally speaking, the kids are decently dressed in mostly clean, neat clothes.  They're bathed (or bath themselves) on a regular basis (although in the summer a dip in the pool sometimes substitutes for a bath), their hair is brushed, their teeth are clean (the little ones are required to give me a "breath test" if I think they haven't properly brushed) and usually, their clothes pretty much match. (Although I did let Buttercup leave the house yesterday in a rosy-red sweater paired with a hot pink leopard print skort and black and white leopard print leggings; I figured that I couldn't wear that outfit, but at six? Who's going to complain?) But we have a problem with clutter.  The usual clutter that accumulates in any family: school papers, newspapers, random mail, receipts, toys, electronics, knick-knacks, etc., seems to cover much too much of the available space in our home.  (If I really want to scare myself, I watch "Hoarders" and freak out with the fear that eventually we'll be carving pathways from the bathroom to the living room and eating on our beds because we can't find the dining room table or kitchen island.)

When I visit my friends' homes, jealousy flows through me as I gaze in awe at their well-ordered rooms.  The craziest thing I ever saw in one friend's home was when she and her husband decided to buy a bunch of ammo and it was stacked on her dining room table.  This wouldn't be an unusual sight at my BFF from Up North's home: they're hunters and her husband is a taxidermist.  But in one of the "best" neighborhoods in my city, in a very beautiful expensive home, encountering a dining room table loaded with ammo was pretty surprising (and very entertaining!).  Another friend of mine has a house that looks like it could be a model home, it's so clean and beautiful.  She has two kids and a husband (who works from home) and other than the dozens of family photographs hanging on the walls, you wouldn't know that a family lived there.  I'm totally jealous by the motivation it takes to keep one's house in such cleanliness.  (For all the spotless beauty of both these homes, they are by no means cold in any way - always cozy, warm and welcoming are my friends and their homes.)

I have the desire to have a spotless, orderly home.  I regularly dream of a home where I'm not freaking out if someone calls to tell me they're stopping by in a few minutes and worrying that I'll die of embarrassment when they arrive and see the state my house is in.  However, I don't seem to have the attention span to do what it takes to get the house spotless or to keep it that way.  That actually is a big part of the problem: I can get the house clean (especially if I have some empty totes in which to shove all the crap covering the counters), but I can't seem to get it to stay that way.  This I blame on my family's inability to put anything back where it belongs or to actually get their shoes into the boot box in the foyer (or to hang up their coats or put their backpacks someplace other than in the middle of the hall or to wipe up the eyeliner shavings from the foyer bathroom's counter...).  Considering that I am the one home alone most of the day, though, it probably isn't fair that I put the blame all on them.  And supposedly, since I am home all day, it is my job to clean up the house and keep it nice along with doing the finances and making sure that everyone has what they need every day.  That's what being a "Home Executive" is, right? And if I didn't have the option of being a home executive, then I would have a job and STILL be dealing with every one else's crap when I got home from the job.

In order to combat the disorder of my house, I make lists of all the "projects" I need to complete so that I can have the joy of marking each one off the list.  The problem is, making the list usually overwhelms me, so by the time I finish the list I'm already feeling defeated and discouraged.  The current list is as follows:

1. Clean the floors.
2. Clean off the kitchen counters, get rid of the newspapers and other random papers.
3. Clean - ok, CLEAN EVERYTHING. (That actually takes up a big a chunk of the list.)
4. Sort and toss the crap in the multitude of bins in the house, beginning with the ones in master bedroom.
5. Clean out and organize the "sun porch" (which is what it would be if it didn't end up being a place where everything without a real home gets tossed).
6. Dust all surfaces and wash windows and patio doors.
7. Bathrooms=disgusting. Git r dun.
8. Buttercup's bedroom, painted in September, still hasn't been put completely back together and organized. Get that done.
9. File all "keeper" paperwork.  Clean out "office-area" bookshelf, replace bookshelf with one that has shelves that aren't constantly threatening to dump contents onto floor.
10. Clean out three (yes, THREE!) junk drawers and one misc. cupboard in kitchen.
11. Finish putting up inside Christmas decorations (no, the stockings cannot just stay on chaise lounge in front of the tree).
12. Declutter Declutter Declutter.
13. Organize and find home for all crafting supplies.
14. Finish Christmas craft gifts (time is counting down).
15. Design and order Christmas cards.
16. Send Senior Portrait into Yearbook company so SwimGirl is not excluded from her Senior Year Yearbook.  (This also includes scanning in SwimGirl's baby picture and getting her to send me her 60 word quote. Hard to do when she isn't currently allowed on the computer.)
17. Clean the floors. (Again.)
18. When list is completed, start all over again.

Number 18 defines the real problem: keeping a house clean with four kids, two dogs and a non-inside-an-office working husband is a gross example of the guy who got stuck pushing the boulder up the hill in Greek Mythology: the house can be cleaned, sparkling and beautiful, all clutter stowed or tossed away, the floors shiny and dog-hair free, the bathrooms sanitary and smelling of lavender, but it only lasts about a day.  Then we're back to the same old behavior that puts us into the house of chaotic mess.  Frankly, I get BORED with doing the same thing day after day, cleaning and cooking and driving them to and fro.  Am I grateful to be able to stay home and maybe work on writing? Absolutely.  But seriously, is it too much to ask to have them put their darn shoes in the boot box and hang up their coats and not drop candy wrappers behind the couch? Is it too much to ask the man to take off his flipping boots already before he stomps across my kitchen floor?

After several years of "just" being a home executive, I'm more understanding of the housewives in the '50s who turned to Valium and speed to get through their days.  At least nowadays, I'm not also required to wear a dress and pearls while I vacuum the floor for the 80th time that week.  (If I met my husband at the door with a kiss and was wearing something other than my cozy fleece pants, he'd wonder where I'd been that day or where I was planning on going later.)  Now, instead of Valium, we have Facebook, Words with Friends and Angry Birds to numb our brains and RockStar and Red Bull to get us moving out of the video-gaming induced haze.

I have to believe that I am not the only woman (or stay at home dad) that feels this way.  When people talk about "Angry Housewives" they usually seem to be referring to the women who go off and cheat on their husbands for lack of something better to do or as revenge for whatever slight they're feeling at that moment.  In my honest opinion, that's exactly the dumbest thing any woman could do: Why on earth would you want to add one more person to the list of people who already are asking for everything from you in the first place? Good grief, I have trouble keeping one man and four kids happy as it is.  Why would I add another man to that group?  If anything, I want A WIFE. Not like "Sister Wives" (although, seriously? Other than having to get over the whole jealousy "I-am-going-to-freak-out-on-you-if-you-touch-my-husband" thing, how bad would it be to be able to say "No, honey, not tonight. Go ask one of the sister wives..."?) where there was sharing of one man going on, but someone who actually enjoys cleaning and cooking and driving duties and could do those things so I could write all day.  I guess that is also called a "Housekeeper" and/or "Nanny", isn't it?  Unless we win the lottery, that'll not be happening anytime soon.

Off to clean the floors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random Thoughts

12.5 inches of snow fell on my house over the weekend. It's great that we'll have a white Christmas. Hopefully we'll get a January thaw on the 2nd and all the snow will melt.

Receiving one of my kid's grades recently made me realize how strongly I feel about failure. Basically, I believe that failure isn't an option. I believe that so strongly that I won't even start something if I feel like there's a chance that I might fail in my attempt to succeed.  (This is good in some ways but has also caused me to miss out on trying something new because my fear of failure is so bad.) Unfortunately for my daughter, she's having to come to the same understanding the hard way.  Nothing like having to crack down on a kid the last Christmas she'll be home before she starts college next year.  The frustration I'm feeling as parent is unbelievable. The saddest part is that she doesn't seem to get that she's the one with the power here: follow my plan and privileges will come back; fight it and suffer the extended consequences.  Sometimes having to be a good parent really stinks. (I'm naturally a forgiving person; I prefer to get whatever issue is there out in the open, talk about it - sometimes really loudly - and let it go. Or just sort of forget about it.  So having to follow through on consequences for an extended period of time is really hard.  Especially when my child looks at me with her big brown eyes full of tears.  However, the tears will be forgotten when she opens her mouth and says something totally irresponsible and out-of-line.  That's what's helping me continue with her consequences. Still hard to do, though.)

How is it possible to lose a book in my own house? Oh hey, there it is. Right next to me. Good grief.

Made a double batch of rosettes today. The oil got to the smoking point. Now my house smells like a giant fish fry. I'm not sure if it is a good or bad sign that I didn't set off the smoke alarms.  The rosettes, however, ROCK.

15 days left til Christmas.  Even with our house Griswolded out and the tree (the prettiest tree ever, btw, even though it has a slight case of scoliosis and seems to be doing a peepee dance) is up and decorated and all the white crappy snow on the ground, it doesn't seem like it is really Christmas time yet.  Maybe I need to get more face time with the Hallmark channel movies?

Speaking of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies: I watched one with Tbone over the weekend.  He was scoffing at it at first.  Then he got into it. He was amazed by my powers of prediction - I was telling him what was going to happen (hadn't seen the movie before, I swear!) and he was shocked when I was right.  I then had to explain to him that the Hallmark movies basically follow a formula that begins with two people meeting, falling in love, having their love tested in some way, then ultimately getting married, usually about 2 weeks after they meet and usually on Christmas Day.  Even with all that, he still liked the movie.  I love it that my 16 year old son is still sweet and innocent enough to not have become jaded and cynical yet.  Which can't be said about all kids his age.  For example, I perused my daughter's friends' Twitter posts the other day and discovered that the boy with whom she was supposed to go to the last dance is a very sick-minded individual.  (The fact that her grades caused her to be grounded and unable to attend the dance with the disgusting boy was one little glimmer of happiness for my husband and I in what is a very unhappy situation.  Now if the attraction wears off during her time of groundation, life will be very good.) It does make me wonder what is going on with my daughter's head that would cause her to be attracted to this boy, too.

What would cause kids to think that using the n-word or the c-word in their tweets is acceptable behavior? Is it possible that they don't understand that unless their account is protected that ANYONE can read their tweets? Honestly, I don't get it.  I'm waiting for his next tweet to be Anthony Wiener-esque. Why would anyone believe that their 140 character thoughts on masturbation is something the whole world should see?  It is a sad commentary on what has become acceptable in our society.

Finally, conversations between my children that I recently overheard:

Buttercup (6): "Tbone, was that your stomach?"
Tbone (16): "Nope."
Buttercup: "Huh. Must have been mine."
Sparkles (8): "Yep, she gets gassy sometimes."

Sparkles: "Today I tooted and it smelled just like Daddy's toots!"
Buttercup: "I know because you made me smell them."
Sparkles: "Didn't they smell just like Daddy's?"
Buttercup: "Nope. They were worse."
Sparkles: "They smelled great!"

(I have an idea now of what my kids will be posting someday when they have Twitter.  Why are bodily functions funny anyway?)

Friday, December 7, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is a Pink Daisy Red Ryder

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid..." ~ A Christmas Story

On a recent visit to Walmart (I love Walmart.  Where else can you get a new car battery, razors for the swimmer, bananas, toilet paper and craft supplies all in the same store?) I discovered my Christmas Wish:
A pink Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun.  Anything pink generally catches my eye, but a pink Daisy Red Ryder? Oh man, that stopped me in my tracks.  At first, I thought about it for 8 year old Sparkles, but quickly realized putting a weapon, even a BB gun, into Sparkle's hands was a recipe for disaster, exceeded only by the idea of putting weapons into Sparkle's, Buttercup's AND TBone's hands - we'd have an all out war in our backyard where someone would have their eye shot out in about 30 seconds.  But, to pass on such a glorious item as a PINK(!) Daisy Red Ryder seemed almost as crazy as giving it to one of my wild monster children.

I stood in the middle of the aisle, gazing longingly at the powder pink gun, imagining myself ripping into the present (wrapped lovingly by me in the wee hours of Christmas Eve), finally revealing the BEST. CHRISTMAS. GIFT. EVER.  My revere went something like this:

Kids: What'd Santa bring you mom?  Let us see!
Me: It's a PINK Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun!  I'm so excited!
Kids: Wow! You are so lucky! Better watch out: You'll shoot your eye out, kid! (A Christmas Story is a family favorite any time of the year.)
Me: I'm going to take it outside RIGHT NOW! Maybe there's a squirrel that needs shooting? (PETA: don't come after me, I'm not that good of a shot, and those squirrels are fast. Just ask the hyper Huxley and geriatric Bella dogs.)
Donning my Grandpa's old down-filled coat (a puffy jacket he owned before they were even cool!), my old Ugg boots over my hot-pink camo fleece pajama bottoms and tossing my pink plaid "Elmer Fudd" hat on my head, I troop out the door, my pink Daisy Red Ryder in my hand.  Plopping down on the bench on our front step, I lovingly caress it's pretty pinkness as the next-door neighbor steps outside to fix a dangling Christmas light.  I smile and wave the pretty pink gun at her.
Me: Look what Santa brought me for Christmas! Isn't it lovely!  What, wait, where are you going? 
My neighbor dashes back into the house.
Me: It's not that cold out here. I wonder what's wrong with her? Her California blood must still be too thin for 25 degree temps.
I happily sit for a few more minutes, my unloaded gun in my lap, enjoying the early Christmas morning, when suddenly, a city police car slowly drives past my house and then backs up and pulls into my driveway.
Me (Grinning like a fool): I wonder if it's one of our cop friends, stopping by to wish me a Merry Christmas and admire my new pink Daisy Red Ryder?
Police Officer: Morning, Ma'am.
Me: Merry Christmas, Officer! (Fortunately, I hadn't delved into my Christmas morning bloody Mary causing me to call him "Occifer" instead...)
Police Officer: What's that in your hand? We had a report of someone brandishing a firearm in this neighborhood. Is it loaded?
Me (holding up my new pink Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, causing the officer to duck): This is my Christmas present.  Isn't it lovely?
Police Officer: Yes ma'am, it's nice.  You didn't happen to wave it at anyone this morning, did you? Such as a neighbor? (Nods his head in the direction of my neighbor's house where a slight movement of their drapes reveals that they're intently watching the exchange.)
Me: Oh no sir. I wouldn't brandish my new BB GUN at anyone.  I was simply enjoying the morning. It's not even loaded.
Police Officer: We were told that there was a person brandishing a large gun in this neighborhood, making threats to her neighbors.  Are you sure that wasn't you? I might have to charge you with "terroristic threats."
Me (snorting back a laugh): Sir, you do realize that the people in that house who are currently cowering behind their curtains while watching you and I chat are the same people who were afraid that birdshot would suddenly be able to travel over a mile and go through their 6 foot wooden privacy fence and kill them, right?  I assure you, I have not brandished my "weapon" at them in any way.  The wife came outside as I was sitting here with my Christmas present, that isn't even loaded with the BBs it requires, at which point, I waved "Hello" and wished her a Merry Christmas.  I can only assume that she dashed back into her house and called you with the speed of Santa's seven reindeer.
Police Officer (smiling): Ok, I just had to check.  Be careful with that thing: You'll shoot your eye out...

(The only thing better than my neighbor freaking out over an unloaded BB gun would be reading about it in my local paper's "Police Report" section the next week.)

Update: Hubby heard me talking about the PINK Daisy Red Ryder and took it upon himself to buy FIVE of them for Christmas.  Not five pink guns, 3 pink and 2 regular brown fake wood.  His idea was that three kids, himself & I all needed these cool guns for when we go up north to our friends' cabin.  I convinced him that 5 of these guns were not necessary and took them, the BBs and targets he also purchased back to Walmart yesterday.  My fear of the neighbors calling the police when Sparkles is spotted wielding a pink BB gun over-rode the entertainment caused by the looks on their faces when they realized we had given her and Buttercup each weapons.  (Even though Hubby said he'd hide the guns except for when we went up north, knowing that these are the same children who kept disappearing to friends' homes 6-7 blocks away no matter what the consequences - until Hubby took the front wheels off all the bikes - gives me faith that they'd probably find the guns' hidey-spot and if they didn't succeed in shooting out their own eyes I doubt the neighbors' kid would be safe.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Fail a Job Interview

Have you ever been slogging through a week from hell and suddenly realize "OMG, it's Thursday?"  That would be be me this week.  It's probably because of the fact that the kids didn't have school on Monday that I'm all discombobulated and confused about what day we're on today.  That type of thing always throws me off.

Monday was quite the day of ups and downs.  The weather totally sucked: cloudy gray sky spitting icy mist, not a glimpse of the sun all day, temperatures in the mid-40s; just an ugly day.  I was out and about that day, actually dressed up in the only pair of black pants that currently fit, a pretty pink sweater, my pearls and black butter-soft leather jacket.  Not my usual attire by any means (currently it is almost 11am and I am still in my hot pink/camo fleece pajama pants and slippers), but it seemed appropriate since I was going to my first job interview in years.  The job I for which I was interviewing was described as:

"Elderly Companion Care: services include light housekeeping, meal preparation, hygiene assistance, errands and shopping and companionship."

I was a little worried about what "Hygiene Assistance" meant, but upon further research, I decided that maybe it didn't include baths and help with other very personal hygienic assistance (a girl can hope, right?).  I was pretty excited when I received the call to go in for the interview, so when the time came, I spiffed myself up and headed out in the wintry weather, wearing the most awful boots known to mankind. (These boots made me realize that, yes, when my butt expands in size, so do my ankles, a phenomenon previously unknown to me.)  Upon arriving at the nondescript little office, I was given a stack of paperwork to fill out and promptly realized that I couldn't remember the name of the position for which I was applying, (thank God for good friends and their smart phones!) and was very thankful that I had brought along my updated resume` since without it, I'd probably still be there today, filling out the "previous employment" section of the application.  About thirty minutes later, after checking box after box relating to my "experience" working with the elderly, (honestly, people, are you sure I can't count raising four children as "experience"? How much different is it really dealing with a two-year-old or an elderly person's temper tantrum? Not much.) I was called back for my interview, which, in my mind, went something like this:

Prospective Employer: (looking at my resume`) Wow! You've been a busy girl.
Me: That's because I'm 39 years old and have had to change careers a few times. I'm experienced.
PE: I see that you've participated in the Breast Cancer 3 Day; how many times?
Me: Can't you read? It says right there: 2008/2010 - that'd be twice.
PE: I don't know much about it but I've heard it's hard.
Me: If you don't mind begging people for $2300 for the pleasure of walking 60 miles in three days in the middle of a Minnesota August and getting blisters on top of your blisters, sleeping in a pink tent and crying a lot, it's great.
(Fast-forward a little)
PE: So, these hours you have here, 9:30-3:00pm, Monday through Friday, are these the hours you are available to work or the hours you would like to work?
Me: Is there a difference?
PE: Well, we can't guarantee a set number of hours each week, but we do pay $11/hour, so...
Me: Those are the times in which I am available to work.  I need to be home in time to meet my little girls off the bus after school and be able to get my son from his hockey practices.
PE: We also require that you are available to work every other weekend.  Is that a problem?
Me: Do you see me available to work on the weekend days? On that form? Right there in your hand? That you made me fill out?
PE: No.
Me: So yes, that is a problem. My husband works out of town a lot. We have four children. When he's gone, I'm a single-parent.
PE: It's just that everybody would like to have Sat/Sun off now and then.
Me: So hire people who CAN work weekends whenever it is necessary. Because I can't.
PE: We don't always have work for you on the weekends, we just want you to be available to work every other weekend.
Me: So I'm supposed to "be on call" every other weekend because you may or may not have work for me to do? So I may or may not be able to go to my kids' sports activities or may or may not be able to spend time with my husband who may or may not be home that weekend?  Is that what you're saying?
PE: Well, yes.  Because every one wants to be able to be off on Sat/Sun sometimes....
(Fast Forward....)
PE: Ok, another question:  Sometimes you may be assigned to people who live vastly different lifestyles and have much different beliefs/values than you have.  How would you handle it if you were on assignment and your client expressed a belief that was different than the way you believe?
Me: Well, first of all, I would have them clarify their point of view.  Then I would break their opinion down point by point, citing recent articles/research, etc. that back up my opinion on the matter.  After verbally beating them until they were intellectually battered and bloody, if they still didn't see it my way, I would then verbally abuse them with clever and humorous name-calling and sarcasm until they cried.
PE: Ooookay...Do you have any questions?
Me: Would I be required to help with personal care? Like would I be required to give baths?  I have no experience and/or training in such activities.
PE: We will train you and certify you as a Home Health Aide.  So, yes, you will be able to give baths.
Me: Ok, thank you so much for your time. (Picks up coat, and goes SCREAMING OUT OF THE OFFICE: "No wiping butts! No baths! I don't even like seeing myself naked! Gaaaaah!")

Imagine my surprise that when the phone rang yesterday, the name of the company was on my caller ID.  I wasn't brave enough to answer the call nor have I called them back yet, either.

Onward and Upward my friends!

** I returned the company's call.  They were calling to ask me to complete a "mantle" (I'm really not sure what that is other than what we hang Christmas stockings on over the fireplace), so they could have me complete an Orientation next weekend.  Which brought up the fact that I can't (and WON'T) work weekends.  At which point their job offer was rescinded.  Oh well. No wrinkly bottoms for me to worry about (except my own) now. Alls well that ends well (heeheehee!).