Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Train

On The Level

Just a little extended family story...

A good friend and her mother would get a live tree every year. Every year the argument would begin over the straightness of the tree. It would almost come to blows and my mom or myself would often have to go around the corner to their house to assist in the straightening of the tree and the smoothing over of the arguments.

Fast forward many years. We all have families and our own tree traditions now. My mother said she was at a loss over what to get our friend as a Christmas gift. I suggested she get her a level for the Christmas tree. She found a small one that can adorn the tree as an ornament.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Prices Paid

I woke this morning listening to sound bites from the most recent debate of Chief Executive hopefuls. Most of the talk blended into a painful reminder, along with the light on over the dresser, that it was time to get the day started. What finally shot my eyes open and started my a.m grumble was hearing the esteemed Senator from Illinois say "no toys from China for my kids this Christmas."

Thanks. Thanks for that. I just love when I have it pointed out to me what a bad mom I am. On a national broadcast, for all the world to hear, that I am going to soon be called up in front of the Superior Mothers Tribunal and dressed down for my consumer misdeeds.

"You bought a toy made in China, DIDN'T YOU?"

Yep, you caught me. I'm guilty. GUILTY! But, tell me this, Superior Mothers of the World, where exactly can I get that red metal diecast LIghtning McQueen race car that fits perfectly in my two year old's chubby hand? That very souped-up red racer that brings full-throttle joy to his entire being when he says "CARRRRRRRRR!" as he finds it wedge in the cushions of the couch after a painful two-day separation? It's the very toy that was on sale for 30% off at the nearby BigBoxORama made by a reputable company of the U.S. of A... that happens to have all their products manufactured in China. Tell me where I can buy a made-in-Thermopolis version of this same toy and I'll do it.

What? No such creature? So, what should America Consumer Mom do, as she's being hit with over 3000 advertisements a day? Avoid the purchase entirely so that there is no chance of any toxic substance possibly coming in contact with my child? I guess we can all rest easy knowing that our homes on our American soil are without any risk of toxic exposure...just don't look under your kitchen sink and certainly don't walk down the aisle at the BigBoxORama to find all the iterations of bottled cleaning products with the warning "Harmful If Swallowed" printed on every side of the bottle. For the sins of buying a toddler-handful of Lightening McQueen, I go through monster bags of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, trying to wash away my sinful consumerism with the dollops of homemade raspberry jam and peanut butter on my countertops and battleship lineoleum from the 1950s. Don't tell me what toxins have been in that flooring. I just don't want to know.

I heard a powerful sermon this last Sunday in church from a retired minister that touched on these very topics of our small place in this very large, throbbing and suffering world. The recalls of potentially hazardous toys in this country miss most of the big picture. Eighty percent of toys made today for the US market are made in China. Wrap your mind around those numbers and then ask yourself "what about those making the toys?" What toxicity and dangers are those individuals, doing their best to make a yuan to feed their family, exposed to each and every day? I know that if tomorrow the American appetite for cheap, Chinese-made toys and products sold from Main Street to BigBoxORama dried up, other products for other markets would go into production overseas. We are all just cogs in the big, consumer-culture machine, no doubt, and I'm as culpable as the next over-stressed mom being pushed to her limits, driving the station wagon full of yowling toddlers who can't find their favorite car or BubbleHead Barbie.

Just thinking about this cycle has thoroughly depressed me and makes the Christmas spirit difficult to grasp. It's been a tough day due to the horrible dog that lives at my house. Problems with that animal that are beyond my control erupted into a full-blown, angst-inducing crisis. I screamed at him, I exiled him to the Siberia of our back yard. I shopped online for bark collars. I contemplated dogicide. I really wanted to do other shopping, shopping for me and only me, just to make a bad situation go away. Something stopped me. Retail therapy wasn't going to help and I knew it. I think a lot of that kind of therapeutic consumerism occurs this time a year, as we try to make up for a year of hurt feelings, inattentiveness, and general malaise by purchasing things we can or can't afford without a smidgen of thought of the item's origin or where the gift might wind up. Is that singing whatzit really going to repair or bolster that flagging relationship? Will the biggest whozit on the shelf equal a well-behaved fill-in-the-blank? Does it really need to wind up at the Powell Landfill before the next yard sale season? What horrible industrial accident or toxic exposure happened during its construction in Micronesia? Who really paid for its bargain basement price tag?

Really, I'm not trying to discourage support of a local economy during the holiday season. I'm just encouraging thinking. Think where your dollar is best spent. Think about the usefulness of what you are giving. Think about how long the life of the item will be and who will really have the joy from it. Enjoy advertising as entertainment. Need more encouragement? Go watch The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard at and gain from the experience. Unfortunately, there is no single simple thing to do, because the problems facing our wide world just isn't simple. But everyone can make a difference and the bigger the action, the bigger the difference. By powering down, wasting less, talking to everyone about these issues, making your voice heard, detoxing the body, homes and the economy, plugging into the community, parking that car and walking, changing the paradigm of "more stuff is better!", and recycling... from the trash to elected officials that don't see the forests because all the trees have been cut down, and by buying green, fair, local, used and less. The little changes will begin to build into the big changes that are needed.

The disappointments of today will certainly improve for me as the holidays approach. I'll just be concentrating on knowing what is really important and what chaff can fall away. I'll write that note to say hello to someone I care about instead of feeling a panic to send something off that might never be taken from the shelf once it's placed there after it's opened on Christmas morning. I'll mend that funky sweater one more time before it goes to the discard heap. I'll accept my out of style shoes and install another florescent light bulb. I'll do my best not to murder the dog. And, I'll probably give the toddler that most intriguing and promising toy of all... an empty cardboard box.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Little Back And Forth

A little spam situation has cropped up in my small world. My name, written correctly with accurate email attached, has been used in a Nigerian-style lotto spamscam. I've had a few nasty emails in reply, but this one brought out the smarty-pants in me. Thanks to a fellow up North for the concise explanation that went into the exchange that went something... well exactly... like this...

On Nov 18, 2007, at 4:35 PM, E---- M----- wrote:

Try again bi*%h with this stupid scam. F@%K YOU!

E---- M-----
E---- M----- Advertising & Design Associates

Of course, I had to reply...

My name was appropriated by some scammer. I hope you can tie down you spam guard a bit better so you don't have to resort to profanity and the anger you obviously can't keep in check.

Don't reply to spam... it only validates your email address for the next spammer. I'm sure your clients appreciate your flowery language in your p.r. work.

Do your best to get your brain around this information:

Spam malware doesn't send e-mail addresses back to the original spam author - there's no need, as the malware has an e-mail engine built right into it. The point of the malware is to hijack the victim's computer and then send out spam e-mails to the addresses in that user's address book, and/or access a remote list of addresses to pick from. To mask the infected computer, the malware will not use the e-mail address of the person's computer that is actually infected - the malware will select a random name from the address book and use that as "from". With a hijacking of a person's computer to do the dirty work, ie theft of services, the spammer is not directly exposed.

The random, real person/not-spambot at the receiving end of your good wishes,

Justine L------
P.S. God bless!

Okay, I know the "God bless!" was a little over the top, but it's been a long weekend and I'm a wee bit cranky. Then again, maybe it was worth the wince to ratchet it up a tad.

To his credit, Mr. Potty Mouth-Name Calling Advertising Professional wrote back...
My sincere apologies. I get no less than twenty to thirty scams a day and I sick and tired of them! I have tried all types of spam guards to no avail. I feel that people who resort to stealing from othere who work hard to earn their money do not deserve language any better than that which I used in my reply. Thanks to your email I will no longer reply to the scammers. Once again, I apologize for the language used, it was not intended for your eyes. Thanks for the spam malware info.

E---- M-----
E---- M----- Advertising & Design Associates[/quote]

So, dear readers, I ask you this... Am I a good witch or a bad witch? Think he'll give me a freelance gig doing some ad copy? Should I send him a Christmas card? Discuss.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Difference Of A Year

What a difference a year makes. As I took Chuckles' picture this morning after a kitchen haircut, I found a picture taken exactly a year ago today.

In the kitchen.

I guess we spend a lot of our time in the kitchen...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This is my daughter...

...that is outside right now, playing "Fighting-Peter-Pan-Hide-and-Go-Seek" with two of the little boys from the neighborhood. I keep looking outside and seeing her standing over the boys, like Boudica in her fury. I can only imagine what the rules, if any, might be.

Earlier, she was sitting on the front step with the older of the boys, playing dolls. It was very sweet and reassuring to me to see that. This little fellow is mildly autistic and my daughter had been unkind to him earlier today as we walked home from school. As she was walking, holding hands with a friend who I was watching this afternoon, she spun around and said to him "Why are you following me?" in an horribly snotty voice.

I spun around and busted her hard. "You apologize to C.C. RIGHT NOW! Tell him you are sorry and thank him for walking home with you!" She did, promptly. All this occurred in front of her friend, who's a much bigger girl than mine, though the same age. I hope, probably a foolish hope, that such behavior isn't the only product of starting school.

But, all must be forgiven and something must have been learned by today's episodes for as the sun is setting, she's out playing Peter or Wendy or Hook (not sure who she is channeling at the moment).

Do you think it's hard to play such a game... in pink metallic high heels?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Autumn Fluctuation

Okay, we have officially entered the time of year in Wyoming where anything might happen weather-wise.

A few days ago it was in the 90s and I was running the air conditioner in the kitchen.

Yesterday, it was drizzly and I put the glass insert into the storm door that has the cat hatch. Too nippy to have the screen-only over night.

As soon as I went to bed last night I had two lard-ass cats sleeping on my legs, snuggling with all their might. The old cat was snuggled in with Chuckes.

This morning I had to run the furnace because it was 36 degrees. The kids were up just after 6 complaining that they were cold. Hot chocolate all around.

The sun is out now, the air is crisp, the sky is periwinkle, there is a nice breeze and I'm going to go pick some apples. We may see a high of 74 by the time school lets out.

Ahhhhh, AUTUMN. Those tomatoes in the back yard better get a move on, as should the pumpkins

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Twenty Years On In 4.5 Minutes To A B-52s Soundtrack

I won't be able to attend the twentieth reunion of my graduating high school class from that little town, at the Sierra Nevada foothills, surrounded by citrus groves, in the hot hot San Joaquin Valley... from where I originate in Central California.

I'm sending this along, just as an update-slash-explanation about where I evaporated to after graduation. I didn't go into my history of education, employment, romance, foreign countries visited, marriage, infertility, business operations, medical operations, respiratory arrest, children, time-wastes, books read and unread, political and social affiliations, movies memorized and other less than ideal cocktail-hour conversations. I'll just have to save all that for the tell-all book.

So do I appear as self-involved as I feel after putting this little life-log together?

WAIT, don't answer that...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Did Princess Di Ever Paint Her House?

Everyone, at least everyone that I talk with, is busy. Really busy. Driving about, picking up Junior or Princess, mowing the yard and forgetting to turn on the sprinklers, bailing the dog out of canine jail for squirrelicide, and trying to squeeze as much as possible into the daylight hours before collapsing in a heap. Okay, not everyone is doing those particular things but now you know what I’ve been doing recently. With summer truly here, along come the visitors – usually from out of state to this exotic remote area of Wyoming. For the first time in a few years, I won’t be traveling with my family to my point of origin in the Central Valley of California but will be hosting friends from both the Eastern and Western seaboards for their taste of the Wyoming wildlands. As an American, and a transplanted Californian in Wyoming, I feel I have a concept, somewhat, of the vastness of this chunk of North America that I call home. My friends? Not so much. I am not embellishing when I tell on some of my friends who thought they could drive from Los Angeles or Paso Robles or Half Moon Bay and that they would arrive in Wyoming by dinnertime of that same day. That misconception of where exactly to find Wyoming is not exclusive to the far Westerners. A friend in North Carolina wanted to road trip from New York to Wyoming for a brief vacation before retuning to graduate school. A pow wow with Google maps had her finding the cheapest tickets she could from Salt Lake City for her visit in August. By now, she’s been braced for the full day of driving she’ll have before she experiences the Big Horn Basin on her path to Yellowstone and the onslaught of new friend-frantic toddlers.

My husband and I used to joke that Powell might actually be the center of the universe; we’d calculated that for most of the destinations we wanted to go, we would have to drive or fly about 1300 miles. At a least a couple of sunsets to get where we needed or wanted to be. I was absolutely SHOCKED when I went to my old pal Google Earth to see that from my doorstep to my mother’s it was merely 800 miles. As the crow flies. But, I can’t fly like the proverbial crow so by car it would take about...1300 miles to drive the kids to Grandma’s house and her swimming pool and what used to be the center of my pre-Wyoming universe. Distance and travel is easily taken for granted now, with a couple hundred miles drive to the nearest zoo easily accomplished in one day. Of course, today's easy travel isn't at all what I expected it to be by this point in my life. When I was 8, I was absolutely sure that by the time I was nearing 40 I would be zipping around the country, and probably nearby countries, with the ease of the Jetson family. I am still profoundly disappointed this isn't so and I don't have my lightning-quick rocket car. I accept that I won't be zipping over to the Bahamas for dinner tonight., but I'm certainly not happy about it. And, I'll probably never have a dog named Astro.

All this talk of mileage and impending travelers brought me to thinking about Princess Diana. These thoughts have been easily encouraged by the the British government's inquiry still not being finalized, the fantastic movie The Queen about the time of her death and its impact on the British Royal Family, and a concert scheduled for July 1st by her now adult sons. My thought patterns don’t always take the most direct route like the aforementioned crow or rocket car. It’s been nearly 10 years since Diana Spencer’s short life ended after a very short trip from the Paris Ritz to the scene of that horrible car accident. She’d led a whirlwind life, had a not-too-good marriage, bucked tradition and found herself in a horrible scenario that brought all the previous triumphs and tragedies to a stop. She appeared, to a young wife like myself, as though she was reassembling herself into an independent woman with a future as a serious activist, putting her full notoriety to work for some worthwhile and world-altering charities. She wasn’t showing up on a reality television show in an effort to mortify her former in-laws but was getting world leaders to see the possibility of a world without landmines, AIDS patients having enough resources to live on and possibly survive their illness and homes for those without them. These were the thoughts I was having about her and her situation last week as I was lying on the porch over my front step, painting and repairing some damage just under the roofline. I’d gotten out all the tools I thought I would need; a gallon of paint and primer, the aluminum extension ladder and a foam hop scotch game of my daughter’s, since I couldn’t find the kneepads that I know are somewhere in the netherworld that is my garage. Up the ladder I went, having to lie on my back to paint a small, weatherworn area under the eaves. A neighbor drove by and was on the verge of razzing me, when I assured him, at the top of my lungs, that I would NOT be doing this on anyone else’s house. I was so close to being finished when I heard the first loud crack of thunder. An ominous and fast moving Wyoming cloudburst moved over the top of me. I did manage to get that little bit of work finished before I was toasted like a marshmallow, first by sun and then by lightning, but I had to put off the remainder of the house painting for another couple of days. The next time I was up the ladder I got to thinking about Princess Diana again. Did she ever paint her own house? Granted, her home at Kensington Palace was a bit more to maintain than my 760 square feet, but maybe she did get a wild hair now and again to crack open a gallon of exterior latex and trim out the palace fascia. In reality, she probably hired folks that hired folks that hired folks to do that particular job.

My head of muddled thoughts continued as I kept painting in preparation for the summer’s houseguests; shopping lists for the market, plans for activities to keep the toddler and almost-kindergartener busy during the lengthy summer, who is due to the vet for their shots and whether I can get the dog neutered...again. But, for some reason, my mind kept rolling back to Diana and all the things she probably never did for herself. Being the mother of the future king and the ex-wife of the other future king would certainly put a crimp in one’s heading to the hardware for a sanding block and a tub of the new magenta colored spackle. Now, that spackle is something that goes to the heart of any princess. It goes on MAGENTA! It’s almost like frosting the house. All the fun is over when it dries and turns white, but for a brief time I felt like Hansel and Gretel would show up and I could say “little mouse, little mouse... who is nibbling on my house” from up atop my extended ladder. (Thankfully I, being me and not a princess of world reknown, was able to do my little bit of home improvement without having a coterie of paparrazi on Vespas revving their engines. Maybe not having rocket cars available is a good thing.) Maybe all these thoughts of what the princess didn’t get to do cuts to the quick of the fascination with celebrity; knowing that Diana, Princess of Wales, probably never painted her own home made what I was doing seem oh-so-exotic. Who needs yachts and billionaire boyfriends and the drudgery of wealth when I have my little frosted house on the corner, under the fluffy crabapple tree? Nope, I sure don’t need the wealth or the unhappiness that seems to accompany it. I’ll stick with my backyard garden raspberry patch, the kids' chalk drawings on the freshly painted walls, and the beauty of the summertime Wyoming sunsets. I will do my best to be generous in sharing all of this fun I plan on having with our friends as we explore Yellowstone and the Basin in the coming weeks. I’ll keep the bug spray and the sunscreen at the ready and hope that the good works Diana did in the final days of her life brought her comfort and happiness. I hope the upcoming concert in London enriches her charities even more to continue their valuable work. I'm sure her worries wouldn’t have been lessened by opening a can of paint but I know mine has by a combination of Ponderosa Tan and Pre-Mix white for the trim.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beartooths & Roosevelt Chuckwagon

Our friends Peat, Zoe, Henry and Ella came to town last week for an adventure in Yellowstone. These photos came from the drive over Beartooth Pass to Roosevelt Country in Yellowstone National Park and a chuckwagon dinner. Mmmmm, steak.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Karmic Fireworks

Our goofy, homebody orange tabby, Dinger, went missing sometime during the night on Tuesday, June 26. He wasn't gone very long before I knew something had gone afoul. His buddy, Mack, was yowling at the back door about midnight and wouldn't come in the cat hatch. I opened the door in the dark, scolded Mack for being in p.i.t.a and assumed Dinger was on his heels. Mack climbed directly into our bed and pretty much didn't leave it for a couple of days. The old cat, Pink, also climbed into the bed and hung on tight. Hardly any food was touched in the cat silo and no Dinger. I called, checked the usual hidey-holes and did my best not to panic. Later, on Wednesday morning, I happened upon an injured dog outside our back fence. I called the public safety officer about the dog and my missing cat. I had pictures printed up by that afternoon:

I kept Scott updated via instant messenger and walked with the kids hollering "here....kitty, KITty, KITTY KITTY" up the alleys and streets on the way to swim lessons. No sign of him. We drove around in the car, doing the same thing. I kept telling the kids that we had to help Dinger, that it was getting awfully hot and he needed to be home.

By the second day I had another, better picture ready. I had had a message from a woman at the medical clinic saying "I saw the picture of your cat but there wasn't a description." Huh? How 'bout orange-furry-cat? errrrrrrrr.....

Scott picked up prints at the evil Big-BOX and made some color copies that I took anywhere and everywhere that was high traffic; the hardware store, the coffee shop, the video store, the lumber yard, the farm and ranch supply, the local vets. I emailed anyone that lived in the vicinity and told the recipients to pass the word along. I went to the animal shelter and saw 18... EIGHTEEEN... adult beautiful cats but the Dinger wasn't one of them. The days were getting hotter, progressively, and I was doing my best not to be the fatalist that I am to my DNA. I continued to search, noticing that each time we got in the car Chuckles would say "Ding...HELP!"

Our good friends arrived from California on Saturday and the clock was ticking. We had reservations for Yellowstone beginning on Tuesday and another worry, beyond Dinger trapped somewhere dehydrating to death, was that he might come home injured and I wouldn't be here to get him to the vet.

On Sunday the 1st we headed over to a big lake at the base of the Big Horn Mountains for a fireworks display. Big booms, awfully windy, a large crowd and a goofy soundtrack including Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive. Maybe that was a bit of a message and, because I was tired, I was missing the point. On the drive back in town in a long stream of cars, I spotted a Corgi/Corgi mix standing on the yellow line in the center of the busy two lane highway. We immediately flipped around and headed back for it. We turned around again without seeing it. Almost in the exact spot was that bat-eared black dog hugging the yellow line with cars zipping past. Again we pulled over, I hopped out and called to it. It came right over to the driver's side and Scott boosted it in. It jumped right into the back seat with the kids, gave Augusta a big gooey kiss and faced forward. I pulled it into my lap and got a tongue bath. We got back on the road and headed for the town of Lovell's police department. We first found the Fire Department, which had sponsored the night's fireworks display, got directions and headed for the P.D. A very nice officer took the story, didn't recognize the dog, which sat attentively in my arms, and told us to call in a few days to check on it. Scott asked how long the dog had, in custody, since we will be leaving town Tuesday for the park. That plucky little dog didn't survive a string of full-sized cars just to be euthanized due to not being claimed. The officer told me to call tomorrow. I will definitely be calling tomorrow to check on the Psychopoodle's new playmate, the Crazedcorgi. In the meantime, our friends were driving through unfamiliar territory and I'd called their phone and left a couple voicemails with directions back to our house and news of the side trip to the police department. I got a call back telling me they'd missed the turn off, gotten a little lost, but still managed to beat us home. When they got here they saw an orange tabby dart into the cat door.

I'd not allowed myself to cry but when I heard of the Dinger sighting, a big gooey tear smeared up my glasses. The odds of another orange tabby showing up and heading in the house were slim, but I did my best to not get my hopes up. When we got home the Psychopoodle was pitching a fit in the front yard and cats were darting, but it was certainly the tubby Dinger diving for the recesses of our bed.

Scott said, as I sat in the backyard giving Dinger and his worried housemates some freshly picked cat nip, "I don't go for a lot of this spiritual stuff, but our finding that dog must have had something to do with Dinger's return." Who'd have ever thought that dog and cat karma might be intertwined. Not me. At least not until Sunday night.

I've blathered on long enough that now Dinger is bored with the story and just gave me one of these:

Think he's probably ready to sleep this bender off?

Thanks to all the positive thoughts that helped send this wayward feline home.

He appears healthy, though a wee bit sketchy. I wish he could tell what he's been up to...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Reading Rut

I'm stuck. I've found myself in a reading rut and I'm not sure what to do about it. Yes, I know I should just grab a book and get going, but I am without direction. I began John Grisham's A Painted House because it was here. A couple chapters into it, I laid it down and went outside to paint my house. I don't think that was the author's point.

I've been trudging through Son of A Witch for months now. Months. It's almost like when I read John Irving's A Widow For One Year and it took me a bloody year to read it. And I paid retail for it. Double drat. I really enjoy Mr. Irving's books, but not for that length of time.

Looking at the table next to my bed, I have a Don DeLillo, a thick chunk of a book called Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman, Simplicity's Simply the Best Sewing Book and Olivia and the Missing Toy. I also have Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I see Dumbledore's hand and Harry's glasses in the book jacket illustration and I sit here longing for the last installent of the Rowling epic. It all just comes down to me sitting here, twiddling my thumbs as I await young Mr. Potter on his final adventures.

I guess I should grow up and read something deep and life-altering.

OR I should just wait for July.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Turning Five

This took place while I was still sleeping, so Big Daddy related this story when I woke...

So, this morning about 6, I heard little feet get up, run to the bathroom (light on…1…2…3…light off), then out to the living room.

I dragged myself out of bed to try to head off trouble. I found Augusta curled up in a ball under a blanket, sniffing a little, and when I sat down next to her the sobbing started up for real.

"What is it? Did you have a bad dream?"

*sniff* "I didn't turn five."


*looks cross* "I didn't turn five in the middle of the night."

"Sure you did. Yes, you're my five-year-old girl now."

*more sobs*

Finally, she got up off the couch and backed up to the wall where we tick off how tall she is. I thought, "ah," and got a pencil to make the mark.

"Stand up very straight. Look straight ahead. Heels against the wall."

*Dad makes mark, doesn't cheat*

"See? You're this much taller than you were before."


1/4 inch and all is well.

Happy Birthday, little girl!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Beyond the Bink

Chuckles is well into his third year. 27 months to be exact. He is interested, maybe even fascinated by the toilet. He feeds himself. He opens the refrigerator door to do his own meal planning. He walks the Psychopoodle. He cuddles cats. Telling him to do "big boy" things is a great motivator. He wants to be a big boy. He, on occassion, wears a size 2 T pair of trousers.

But, still, we have the comfort of the pacifier lingering. He can drag a barstool to the drawer where Nini is stashed. He unearths them from the couch cushions. He rescues them from under his bed. He squeals with delight when he finds one awaiting him, fur-encrusted, in his car seat.

This is a job for Google. Research is always my friend; Dr. Green, Dr. Spock, Swedish Hospital in Seattle. All had their suggestions, insights. Not one really offered a step-by-step approach. One suggested a dip in pickle juice. Big Daddy was in favor of that. Didn't know Big Daddy was serious when he'd offer the Fouryearold a slug of pickle juice for breakfast. I've gotta keep an eye on Big Daddy.

Chuckles does have some cuteness going with his Nini, though. I tell him, when we're about to leave the house to go to the market that he'll have to put his Nini in his pocket. His pocket is the front of his shirt. He's become very adept at stuffing the bink down the neck of his shirt. The Nini issue may take care of itself because his shirt is rarely tucked into his trousers.

The only bit of information I can gather from the multitude of web sites (Today's Toddler? Is there also a Yesterday's Toddler?) is that when it's time for the bink to go, Chuckles will chuck it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Afternoon In The Park

It was a nice enough day today, so I decided to take the children and the Psychopoodle to the park. I went to the park across town, "across the tracks", in a very working class (aren't we all?) part of town that has a large grassy park with a very modern and fun playground. I've been there with the family many times before, but not on a Sunday afternoon. I wasn't there ten minutes, tossing the ball for the dog, when I got into a yelling match with a 10 year old.

"F*%#! YOU!" he screams at one of the younger, smaller children. I told him to stop using bad language around my children or go home if he couldn't control himself. Speak appropriately around these young children, not just mine.

He was quiet for a minute and then started showing off for some little girls that were up with him on the slide platform. He proceeded to tell me he didn't have to leave, he could say anything he wanted. There was no law... etc. I told him that was not so and he could go home and take the argument up with his parents.

Then, little sister I assume, chimed in. Seconded the "law" argument. I said, simply, that there were small children here and if they couldn't be respectful of EVERYONE there, then they couldn't stay. Both began arguing with me, a total stranger. A total stranger that might be substitute teaching in their school soon. I was the only adult supervising a play area that clearly states, on its playground equipment, "Adult Supervision Required". I asked him if he spoke that way at school and he said yes. I should have screamed, a la Carol Kane in the Princess Bride "LIAR!"
With every response he gave, the little jerk fluttered his eyelashes. It was the weirdest thing and I almost broke into laughter when I realized it. I was getting that shakey/warble-y inside feeling, the feeling I get when I just want to scream uncontrollably and my voice sounds like I'm hollering while on a bumpy road. I knew it was a waste of any effort on these children for the preservation of my own.

In conclusion, as I called Augusta to me from the equipment, and gathered up an about-to-scream Chuckles, I said "come on, let's go find another park where NICE children play. The children here are not nice, use bad language and are disrespectful to others." I left out that I hoped they enjoyed their futures of incarceration and drug addiction but would reflect happily on the time they spent intimidating small children in their neighborhood park, mouthing off to people they don't know.

I drove away, as the little creep was showing off some more for his harem, Chuckles sobbing and me reassuring him that we'd go to another park. Augusta and Chuckles played well with each other and I stewed. I was tempted to head home and call our police dispatcher. Intimidation is intimidation. No law protects that child's foul mouth over the discomfort of others. I told Scott what happened and he said that neither of us are good at reasoning with older children. I told him I wasn't reasoning. I was commanding. Demanding, maybe. Regardless, all those children were told, by me, that they were not nice children because of the behavior of a couple. I do feel for the teachers of these children, who go to the school I used to aide at, but strangely I feel no sympathy for their parents. None. They are not my children to raise but I will certainly protect my children from their influence.

I will return to that park. Should our paths cross, I will demand names. I should have today.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Precedent For A Psychopoodle

In going through family pictures, I'm running across a number similarities with my life today.

I appears there was an earlier version of the Psychopoodle.

This is Pierre, a purebred minature poodle that my dad was given, back in November 1968. A kennel in Fresno had taken him back after finding him left by his owners all day, locked in their apartment's bathroom. I recall my dad being astounded that people would pay that kind of money for a purebred dog and do that. He was never a well-adjusted dog. He was never neutered, never bred and pissed on as much as he could. The name Pierre should have been changed. PeeEverywhere. But, he was devoted to my dad and was never dressed up as a poodle. He looked like a starved black sheep most of his life. He was about the same weight and height as the current Psychopoodle. He lived to be 18 and died in my dad's arms of old age, after a lifetime of hoarding my dad's socks and boxer shorts under my parents' bed.

So, little did I know, Pierre has been reindognated into the current Psychopoodle. I just wonder if my mom was as annoyed by the first Psychopoodle as I am by the current Psychopoodle. I guess I may have to now call him Psychopoodle Junior.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


These sets of eyes seem to be taking it all in and on the verge of voicing their opinions.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Song For Daddy

Talking Heads At The Table

It's hard to stay awake after a long day, a pile of strawberries, noodles and a frankfurter. Chuckles tried his hardest, nonetheless.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Scuffed, Bruised, Chipped But Trying To Smile Through It All

This pictures of Chuckles encompasses about every sensation I'm having right now.

Scuffed. Chipped. Bruised. The waters rising, about to overwhelm. Still trying to smile through it all.

It's been a rough weekend. I've had the plumber here twice this weekend. Scott didn't get the job for which we were sure he was a lock. We spent yesterday completely discouraged. Today was a little more sunny, but then Chuckes took a header off the front step and scuffed his nose with a rock. I couldn't tell you which of the many head bonks resulted in his multi-layered forehead bruise. I locked the "tot lock" to the cupboard under the kitchen sink, which is leaking in three places, in that very damp cupboard. Augusta is recovering from a nasty ear infection, the first in her four-plus years. I was nearly too clueless to even take her to the doctor for her complaint of a "sore ear." And, now I have to call the plumber back because the toilet in the guest room is backed up.

I'm trying to smile. I really am. Through it all, my Chuckles can easily tell me a few things; the bruise will go away, the scuffed nose will heal up, the chipped tooth will eventually fall out and the waters will, someday, recede.

I just have to be bright enough to remember all that.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A New Dress

I do believe I am beginning to resemble the fuddy in Fuddy Duddy.

I'd been looking for dresses for the fouryearold. Just something simple, not overly out-of-season -- since we still have many moons of winter left before it is actually warm enough for a "spring" dress. Easy to wash, easy enough for her to put on since she enjoys dressing herself for preschool each day. And, most important to me, the overbearing mother-type, something that didn't make her look like a hoochie-mamma-in-training. Too tall an order, I guess.

I looked at our local stores. I looked online. The closest thing I found to what I had in my mind's eye was at Land's End, on clearance, but STILL over 20 smackers with shipping. I went to the fabric store, looked through their pattern books and NADA! I finally settled on a 99 cent pattern that I had to find and make sleeves for from an old nightgown pattern. Am I this out of touch with what is the current style and what my tastes for my little girl are? I just want her to be comfortable, I don't want to fret over broken zippers and lost buttons and have her look like a LITTLE GIRL and not ParisLohanSpearsOlsenWhatever. Granted, I'm as sloppy a dresser as can be imagined, but I've got a girly-girl on my hands, so I try my best to be accomodating.

So, out of old, unused fabric (FSM KNOWS when I actually bought it!) and the cheapest, modified dress pattern I made this frock with my underused sewing machines yesterday afternoon. Fortunately for me and my aching back, my little girl likes it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Return To Laundering

It's arrived and partially installed. At least installed enough for the maiden load of laundry.

Eventually it will be put in its permanent place and tucked in with a new cabinet to its left and space for a roommate gas dryer to its right. I am just happy to not have to haul baskets down basement steps across town.

It really is the little things in life that mean so much. That and the Energy Star rating and the 126 (on a scale from 113 to 680) kilowatt hours to run the new darling.

Say hello to Frigidaire Tumble Action. We'll call her Action for short.

"Dinger, Action. Action, Dinger."

Oh, here's something now that needs a good sudsing.

I Guess...

we're beginning to look alike.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Floral Fripperies

I've been working, answering phones, at a local florist in the lead-up to Valentine's. I've been congratulated on my ability to answer the phones, take the orders, be pleasant and do a fair amount of sales to those, mostly men, that want to send something nice, are willing to pay, and are somewhat clueless about what they want. I have not asked to "design" or pushed my way into anything, but in less than 12 hours I've detected a weird vibe- not from the owners but from the other employees.

Yesterday I heard "Justine, are you DESIGNING over there?" from one of employees.

"Nope, putting up cards." was my response.

Today, I was told SPECIFICALLY where to place the orders. I asked and had it confirmed that I was putting them in the right place. Less than four hours later I hear, "you have to put them in THIS BASKET, not the box that says Wednesday." Uh huh.

I've owned a business, a business that is in its 11th year and I can tell you that I wouldn't hire half of the nitwits working in this shop. It's too bad, because the owners are great and obviously too good to people.

I asked another part-timer, Kelly, if the local college had a floral design tech degree. "Nope, all taught on site. Nearest school is Denver or Seattle." Uh huh. A little knowledge is obviously a dangerous, snipe-making thing. As an aside, Kelly has a long-time, successful business here, a busy, busy life and only comes in to help in these very-rushed times of the year at the florist. She was very good to work with the last few days. I couldn't count how many arrangement she put together that looked stunning and were finished and in the cooler in no time at all. She knows a thing or two about production.

But, I'll walk away from this with some useful information. I won't ever be owning a flower shop. The next business I have won't include baby-making, part-time girlies that can't answer a phone or be pleasant or helpful to someone that is in to save their ass; fortunately these individuals have the jobs they do because it's not terribly likely they could do much else.

It makes me happy that I've made a few people --who don't know me or have seen my face -- laugh a bit when they were placing their order. One of the highlights was when the manager of the local cemetary called to order a dozen roses for his wife.

"Would you like an assortment or all red roses or another particular color?"

"Like I know? All I know about flowers is that I have to clean them up out here."

"Well, think of the lovely compost it will make." He just laughed at that.

I do like knowing, by these little experiences, that I'm not wired like most women around this little town. Things that make me laugh don't seem funny to most, I can make complete strangers laugh on the phone, and my life is not dependent on trimming flowers in a back room a few days a year and thinking I'm "so stressed!". Tra la la.

Here is what is really important to me on a certain Wednesday in February and every other day of the year.

To add to annoyance, I woke this morning with a weird hot, throbbing spot on my back. I got up and sat in the massage chair-thingy I have. Then I went into the bathroom and I've been barfing ever since. 5 yaks in 4 hours, all over body aches, I AM SO HUNGRY, and little Chuckles coming into my room, saying "Muuum? Muum?" As I write this I'm up to 8 runs to the toilet between 7 am and 10 pm.

The person who'd questioned whether I was designing brought her fouryearold by the flower shop on Monday, after ,he'd started puking that morning. I called the owner at 7:15 Wednesday morning and told her what was going on. She said it long before I did. "That was rude bringing her boy in while he was sick." So, I spent Valentine's day in bed, mostly. I think this may be the longest I've been upright today. I just hope my kiddies don't get it.

I hope you had a nice Wednesday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Birthday Book

Observation Of A Fouryearold

Today I picked up Aunt Dorothy at the airport. Just before the drive home, I had to stop in at the bigboxstore and pick up some pictures. Aunt Dorothy waited with the children and dog in the car where she and the Fouryearold had a brief conversation. It began by talking about Aunt Dorothy's dog and where he was, where he lives. Dorothy explained that Booker lives with her at her home in California.

Then the big question was asked. "Aunt Dorothy, why do you live alone?"

"I don't live alone. I live with Booker."

"Is it because all the MENS are taken?"

What does this Fouryearold know that the rest of aren't aware of?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A LARGE Christmas Present

My mom taught herself to knit while in college in the Sixties (no, not THOSE Sixties, but the Iowa Teachers' College's vesion of them). She took a nearly 40-year hiatus from it, but is now back to the needles. She started up again after her husband died a year ago. My father, who died in 1983, did not want her to knit and he was quite vehement about it. My theory is that he was poked by a knitting needle as a small child on the homestead in North Dakota and never quite got over it. He was also greatly annoyed when one of the teachers at the high school where he taught for 25 years would knit during faculty meetings. Just more fodder there for my annoyed-by-knitting theory.

So, as my mom has fired back up on knitting, she's made some really adorable things. Beanies and mittens for my kids, a newborn hat for a San Francisco friend's little sweetpea, four preemie caps for a local set of quadruplets, a couple of vests and great sweaters for the littleFromWyomings. There goes the Fouryearold now wearing one of Grandma's creations...

Mom asked for suggestions for what to give SonInLawFromWyoming for Christmas. I suggested she knit him a cardigan since the one he bought during our belated honeymoon to Ireland ten years ago is quite pill-y and sad. A color was decided on and measurements were taken by me, a Home Economics degree-holder. I think that may have been a crucial mistake.

She began knitting in October. While she worked dilligently, she mentioned a couple of times how heavy the sweater was beginning to feel. We had some running around when we arrived in California for our holiday visit, looking for the right needles to finish the sleeves and cuffs, at the few local knitting supply establishments. It wasn't done by Christmas, but it was finished by the time we returned from our visit to Monterey for a couple of days in the New Year.

The big moment arrived to try it on.

My... that's LARGE. It was washed and dried but it STILL could be wrapped around his midsection like a bathrobe...Can certainly hide a small child in there...Maybe even a housecat or two.Hmmmmm.....

We laughed a lot about it all and a few pictures were taken. I shuffled around the house in it for a few evenings and it was very, very cozy. If we'd brought it on to Wyoming with us, it would have needed its own suitcase. Mom's pulled it all out and is about to begin again. It may be ready for someone's birthday, just shy of St. Patrick's Day.

Maybe, someday, I'll have the focus to learn to knit. I'll probably start small, though. I wouldn't want the cats to disappear in a sweater.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Snopes Is My Friend

Of course, I let the wrong things get my blood boiling.

I was having a tough day today when I found this in the inbox. From a friend. I certainly don't insist that all share my opinions and I do my best to give all who send me this kind of... I'll just say it... RANCID SEWAGE... a wide berth. But today I had to respond:

Boy oh Boy, I wish I had written this one..... Both of them for that matter. Read the whole thing. It heads the old nail right on top.... REAL HARD.
*signed by someone I know

AMEN to the Weather Bulletin as listed below. I received this from a friend of mine. I think we all know people in our lives we should pass this on to. I have.

She passed it on to me

From The Denver Post:
This text is from a county emergency manager out in the central part of Colorado* after the recent snowstorm.
Up here, in the Northern Plains, we just recovered from a Historic
event---may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.
George Bush did not come.
FEMA did nothing.
No one howled for the government.
No one blamed the government.
No one even uttered an expletive on TV.
Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.
Our Mayor did not blame Bush or anyone else.
Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else, either.
CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snowstorm. Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.
No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.
No one looted.
Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something.
Nobody expected the government to do anything.
No Larry King.
No Bill O'Reilly.
No Oprah.
No Chris Mathews.
No Geraldo Rivera.
No Shaun Penn.
No Barbara Streisand.
No Hollywood types to be found.

We just melted the snow for water. We sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars. The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny. Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snowbound families. Families took in the stranded people - total strangers. We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns. We put on extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die". We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades
votes for 'sittin at home' checks. Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves. "In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate." It does seem that way, at least to me. I hope this gets passed on.
Maybe SOME people will get the message. The world does Not owe YOU a living.
*originally tacked to a newspaper in North Dakota

This part is added by the sender, not credited to The Denver Post.

Now, can we move on to WELFARE and other government aid compensation? Don't you think if all baby manufacturing welfare recipients, recovering drug addicts and just plain losers who get unemployment and welfare were to follow these guidelines it might prevent such abuse of THE SYSTEM?;

1. Recipients are required to perform community service to pay BACK what they BORROW (both by means of performing community service and paying back a portion of their paychecks once they get a job).

2.) Recipients are required to wear a t-shirt, blouse or pants or some type of UNIFORM (easily recognized and identifiable clothing) like PRISONERS do that announces they are presently "receiving".(of course this clothing would be PROVIDED, but the cost recuperated from the recipient in some way.)

3.) Retailers and stores would prohibited from selling cigarettes, alcohol or junk food, OR be allowed to take credit cards or extend credit to recipients. (if caught in violation, retailers would pay a hefty fine.... thus keeping the AGENCY pot fat and happy)

4.) No extended credit would be allowed for cars or anything else that was not a necessity. If credit were NEEDED then it would be obtained through the AGENCY on AGENCY terms.

5.) Any welfare AGENCY recipient who OWNED property would first need to sign said property over to the AGENCY in the form of a revocable QUIT CLAIM (or recipient has to cough up a reliable Co-Signer for credit through the AGENCY) which is then made null and void once AID Services from AGENCY are repaid in FULL.

6.) Education for advancement and job placement is made available through the AGENCY - but community service MUST BE performed in return..... (PAID FOR IN SOME WAY)

7.) Both male and female recipients should be REQUIRED by the AGENCY to follow MANDATORY BIRTH CONTROL. If more than one illegitimate child has been born to any recipient and any abortion performed at the expense of the AGENCY then MANDATORY STERILIZATION should be a REQUIREMENT.
Checks and balances. The world does Not owe YOU a living.
(never has. never will. Got it?)

I couldn't help myself. I had to respond. Here is what I sent to her this afternoon. Think she'll pass it on?

And, fortunately for the Coloradans, they will not have mold eat their homes during 100+ degree days. Their homeowner's insurance will not cancel them over a snowstorm or refuse to pay after a lifetime of paying premiums. When the snow melts, the damage that might be there will be repaired by contractors that didn't flee the storm and would not return. They will still have jobs that were not washed, mold-infected or blown away. They will have been terribly inconvenienced. Don't doubt for a minute that if they are wealthy and their Rocky Mountain home was GONE or unlivable, they would be demanding the personal attention of George W. Bush. Most of the areas affected by the blizzard received disaster designation. As in New Orleans, a disaster of the proportions of Katrina -- if it were to happen in Denver -- the aftermath would still result in not nearly enough body bags, morgues, transportation, rescuers, shelters or emergency preparedness. Thankfully for Denver, all the bodies would freeze instead of fester in the heat. A frozen body can be identified. Try identifying a body that has been in a flooded house for a week, a month, or longer. Many of those that did die in Katrina's aftermath had stayed, protecting what homes and family they had. No one came for them, before or after the storm. That trumps any "work or die" attitude above sea level or a higher latitude. Imagine 100,000 people in Denver without vehicles. Where exactly would they go in freezing temperatures, anyway? Who would help get them out? The cattle on the plains are being treated better, with drops of feed from planes following the blizzards, than most of those individuals and families in the year-plus since Katrina. The middle class and poor of Louisiana and Mississippi would certainly take issue with Denver's superiority complex.

There is simply no comparison.

As for "welfare", I'll share a couple of things with you. Even when my husband was employed full-time in a "professional" job, my children qualified for Medicaid. We couldn't afford to cover them any other way. Do they need to have a special uniform for that? A large "P" stitched to their shirts for "Poor enough to qualify for state assistance"? They receive federally-funded WIC benefits for which I am grateful. My husband is on unemployment, still, as he struggles to find another job. He paid into that Unemployment Insurance fund for nearly 6 years. Should he have signed over my 1992 car? We currently have no health insurance. We can't get sick or injured. Period. If you want to see the face of the sinking middle class, I will send you a current picture of us. When I return to work, I will probably make enough to disqualify the children's health insurance coverage but will not be able to purchase coverage to replace it. Private insurance quotes are between $600 and $800 a month. I do not use drugs. I will never have more children. I have a bachelor's degree. I have seen what is required, in terms of paperwork, for someone to receive public assistance. It is a complete myth that it is easy to receive public assistance. Those on public assistance today are without any other means. Period. A choice has to be made. Do you want to see the poor or not? With the little state assistance there is, you will be seeing more of the poor on the streets. Visit the Montana Women's Shelter, or any other family shelter in any other American city and you will see the cross-section that is truly today's America. Imagine what the $100,000 per second being spent in Iraq could do for solving the poverty problems that plague this country, right now? And, this is a country with clean water. Most of the world is without that and has the joys of all the diseases that accompany unclean water.

This is still, with all its problems, the wealthiest country in the world. I think -- I know, it's holding onto its wealth because it has become fashionable to demonize, chastise, and marginalize the poor. The thing is, the poor now reach into what was the middle. Think of all the money spent in Iraq, that will continue to hemorrhage there and try to place the responsibility for that on the right individuals. You can count on one hand how many members of our administration are on duty, in harm's way, in Iraq. It's the poor and middle class fighting that war, their families at home trying not to sink under their own personal disaster. Fact is, we could all have a list of things printed on our shirts to detail our own individual hells. We are all teetering on the edge and no amount of blame and marginalizing will change that.

What the world does owe us is humanity. Peace. Understanding. No finger pointing. I am sorry, truly sorry, for what that person in Denver wrote, that their lives are so unhappy that their only joy can be in proclaiming their superiority. A person capable of critical thought would realize the vast differences between the two scenarios. Maybe the "County Emergency" alleged-professional should receive a transfer to St. Bernard Parish more than a year after THAT particular storm and see how he would manage. To think that that individual would write something so lacking in compassion is astounding.

Generalization is unacceptable today. Compassion is the only hope for any and all. This has been a wonderful writing and thinking exercise for me today. As down as I might become, as discouraged as I might get, I know there is always someone in a worse situation. But, I know they are not to blame for all the world's woes or my own. I won't get hauled into the finger pointing or the comparisons. One person's documentation of their own ignorance, especially when they are in public employ, will only teach that there is always someone better for their job. Maybe "Mr. Denver Emergency Services Guy" can go into the consultation business with former FEMA director Michael Brown. They can do a "helluva job" together. What does the world "owe" them?

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest. And, thank goodness for Snopes.