Saturday, September 26, 2009

Braces, braces, everywhere

Today I took the younger two to the dentist.

I wrote a note for each of their schools and put them in fluorescent orange envelopes, reminding each kid that the envelope needed to be turned in that morning and reinforcing the time by thorough cross examination.

Rocky turned in his pass first thing. The office gave him a pass stating what time, and the secretary actually backed it up by five minutes so he would have extra time to get his things, but Rocky waited for his last period teacher to somehow, by teacher superpowers I guess, to discern not only that Rocky needed to leave, but the actual time. Finally, he told his teacher, "I have to leave." He did not show her the pass. She said, "Well, go make sure." So he did.

Meanwhile, I showed up ten minutes early for Rocky. The school secretary and I made our customary wager about what part of this process Rocky would mess up. The five-minutes-before time came and went. She and I nodded knowingly at each other. The real pickup time came and went. I laughed, as she thought he would get this part. Finally Rocky came down the hall, five minutes past his pickup time and looked into the office at me. "Should I go get my stuff?" he asked.

I blinked at him, dumbfounded. "Oh," he said, and left. Five minutes after that, he was at the office, personal belongings hanging off various parts of his body. I said to the secretary, "Do you suppose he'll get it by the end of the year?"

"Nah." I rolled my eyes and fussed at Rocky, as the high school students had by then been dismissed and we had to participate in the back driveway demolition derby on the way to get Nita.

I liked the dentist--he got it that I bought dental floss which got used up but was most likely used to make parachute strings for army guys. Not everyone understands that--they seem to think that my mom superpowers can control the inventory around here.

If only.

Anyway, Rocky went in first. The dentist came out and announced that Rocky needed braces. "I was afraid of that," I said.

Then Nita went in. The dentist came out and said, "I think you're going to need a family plan." Not only that, but even though Nita is three years younger, she needs "early intervention," which means all three kids are going to be in braces at the same time. Kiki thought this was great--misery loves company and all that, you know.

Goody. Three kids with attentional issues and increased dental care. I may join the army guy in throwing myself out of a plane.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

4:40 a.m.

It is in the wee hours of the morning. I went to bed at eleven but could not unwind, and then when I dozed off, EG was awakened by Rocky playing with a light in his room. Once we reassured Rocky that we would definitely get him up earlier in the morning as he apparently is getting too much sleep, Penny started panting.

Penny has a delicate digestive system, and she does not work well with it. About three or four times a year, her proclivity for eating plastic bags, paper, rocks, and various other detritus causes her to become sleepless. Not to mention that the rest of us become sleepless as well. So she woke me up in the time of night in which it is difficult to discern if it is early or late, and I have been up since. After listening to her pant for an hour, I got up and sat with her in the living room. I put her back in her crate and crawled back into bed. Nice try. She started panting and whining. I got her out again, and sat with her some more, and put her back once she seemed better. Not happening. Realizing sleep was over for me (did it ever even get started?), I finally took her outside, where she got tangled around the cleanout for the septic system and tracked and tried to eat some bug, which was not what we needed. So I brought her in, tied her to my kitchen chair after she tried chasing the cat around the house and making Nash bark and tried killing the moths which were at the window and, incidentally, on the outside of the screen, which now has holes from her nails, of course.

And here I sit. I have a full day of work, an orthodontist appointment, a drum lesson, a girl scout meeting, two loads of laundry, and supper to cook, and I have had two hours sleep at the most.

But I also sit here and listen to the crickets and enjoy the breeze coming in the window, and look at the back of Penny's red head, her ears fuzzy and puppy-like, alert on the creatures of the night, and I realize that maybe sleep is over-rated.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Whole lotta nothin'

I finished the term at school this week, the house needs just a light cleaning, and I am trying to relax today for the first time in weeks.

EG said the other night, "You and I are type A personalities, but not really."

So does that mean I am an A minus? A B plus? I don't get it. I am high drive, but I do like to shut down at times. I need to shut down at times.

I could be painting the bathroom. Maybe later this week.

I could be scrubbing and sealing the kitchen floor. I think I'll save that for Thursday, when no one is home.

I need to weed the flower bed one last time.

I need to order textbooks for next term.

I need to sweep the basement floor.

But right now, I need to sit and do nothing for a bit. My brain is full.

Monday, September 14, 2009


After my brother-in-law and my mother died within seven weeks of each other, and only one person from church so much as acknowledged the losses, including the priests, we decided the church was too big for what our family needed and started shopping. One thing we all agreed about was that there should be energy and something for the kids to keep them involved.

The first church we attended, we walked in the door and past the ushers and greeters, who were greeting one another and ignoring us. Then we committed the major faux pas of sitting in someone else's pew, making the seating off for the entire middle section. Of course we got the "now who are those people" stare. Me, being the person I am, smiled and greeted the stare-ers, but they simply turned away. No one so much as spoke to us except one lady who said, "Come back." Fat chance of that. When you are a racially diverse family, you tend to be a bit over-sensitive of not being made to feel welcome, and at Our Lady of Stepford, that did not happen.

Then we got online and started looking, and EG made some calls. He found a church in the Next Big City which had a strong teen program, a strong youth ministry, and an active music program. We went to Mass, and the two music ministers greeted us enthusiastically and chatted with us after church. We got follow up emails, too. Plus, during the Mass, the young man who got up to read was about 18, stinking cute, with dark hair and eyes and long eyelashes, and wearing a blazer and khakis. Something for Kiki, too. She couldn't tell us about the homily, but she sure could recite the reading.

So we decided to attend this church, at least for a while. Last night, we went to the teen Mass with the kids, and Nita was thrilled: the rock band had a drummer. Rocky was interested: the rock band had electric guitars. I was pleased, as the young people were singing and even dancing enthusiastically, truly celebrating the Mass. But Kiki was the most delighted--guess who was active in this service, wearing his blazer and khakis. My mom-dar went off, as he appears to be truly a nice young man, but I refrained from mentioning that, as I know that mom approval is the total kiss of death despite the hordes of teen girls who apparently agreed with me, judging by their preening behaviors when he sat down. At eucharist, he held the wine right in front of our seats. Kiki kept her head bowed demurely, although I doubt she was deep in spiritual reflection.

After Mass, I looked at Kiki. "Don't say a word, Mom," she said. I didn't, except to mention that I noticed that she had partaken of the wine this week and that I was surprised she didn't loop around the pews for a second pass. And this morning, when I was researching chalices for more ammunition with which to tease her, I stumbled across this quote by St. Chrysostum, ""The table was not of silver, the chalice was not of gold in which Christ gave His blood to His disciples to drink, and yet everything there was precious and truly fit to inspire awe."

I guess I wouldn't dare.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


My neighbor has decided that fencing her back yard will prevent people from stealing their things.

This is after her son left his bike out in the side yard for three days and three nights and it got stolen. Part of the time, it was laying in the ditch out by the road. Let's face it--you might as well have put a sign on it that said, "Take me."

Of course my kids were questioned by the police, as they are black, and my neighbor knows about black people. Yes, I didn't see them with a strange bike, as I pointed out, but maybe they hid it in the woods; besides, we all want to believe our children, so maybe they said their friend gave it to them. First, no one knows better than I do that kids lie (for some of mine, it is when their mouths are moving), and second, I would question immediately why there was a strange bike here, and third, my kids don't go in the woods without supervision; besides, ever since the marijuana got planted back there, their father the ex-miltary guerilla travels through regularly to make sure everything is on the up and up, and although he, too, is a minority, he did not secrete the bike back there either. Not to mention that not even my impulse challenged kids would take a bike from the neighbor's yard fifty feet away and think the original owners wouldn't notice. DUH.

Hey, instead of spending your hard earned cash and time to install a fence so you don't get robbed by one of those minorities who are encroaching on your safe little life, I have a revolutionary and money-saving idea: put your stuff away at night.

Anyway, she, or rather her husband and his father and brother, ignored my sage advice and put up a six foot tall stockade fence, down the east side of their property about ten feet, with a little picket fence across the front (that should keep out any miscreants if they are under two feet tall and/or very dense) and down our side about fifty feet. Of course, she faced the ugly side toward us, and there is nothing we can do about it, as the township doesn't have zoning about ugly sides of fences. However, the township clerk did say, "Common courtesy would tell them to put the nice side toward you." Uh--whatever. I just pretend that it is OUR fence, which is why we are looking at the inside, although I would have installed it a whole lot better. I am, however, thinking about asking if we can paint the thing and then, instead of doing a nice, sedate white, putting up a huge, tasteful mural, a la East L. A., with the Virgin of Guadalupe and Che Guevara and lots of militant Latino stuff. Or maybe some Black Panther propaganda.

Anyway, back to the fence. For those of you who are NOT math challenged and think I AM, yes, the one side is ten feet and our side is fifty feet, which means that the two sides do not connect across the back. Geometry is not my strong suit, and even I got that this fence will do little to deter even the dumbest crook, including those who can't get over that picket part. I think the whole purpose (excuse) for the fence was to screen their house and lives from us, a fact which does not offend me at all, as the previous person who lived here was an eighty-something lady who rarely went outside, and never went into the back. We are noisy, messy, and obviously there even if there isn't a low rider with dingle balls parked in the driveway and rap music blaring from inside. Actually, we are not bad neighbors, but I guess by comparison we are a bit of a culture shock and hard to ignore. Anyway, since the deck on the back of the neighbor's house is raised, they can still see directly into our yard as they exit their house or have a barbecue or enjoy the evening light.

Which makes me wonder: Did this occur to them at all before they got started? Are they now thinking, "Oh, no. Why did we even bother" or is it more like "Now for phase two"? Are they going to put an auxiliary fence of corrugated fiberglass panels across the top like at some of those junkyards you see along the highway? And is their kid still leaving his bike in the front yard at night because it is even more difficult to put it away now that he has to go around the fence to get to the back? Maybe he could just sling it over that picket section.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Federal Unreserved

For the duration of my mother's illness, we have had a check cut from the trust each month; I then deposited that check into a bank account at US Bank, which is practically in our back yard but also has a branch in the grocery store where I shop in the City. I have several accounts at US Bank, including an account with my sister, mother, and me on it, which was used to pay Mom's nursing home bills, and a savings account with only my name on it. My parents had banked at US Bank, and the tellers and manager know my sister and me by sight. In fact, we got a sympathy card from the bank employees when my mom passed away.

EG and I have our joint accounts at FM Bank, which is down at the center of the township. He does all our banking there, as all my stuff is direct deposited. FM Bank has a branch in the City, too, in its own building across the street from the grocery store and US Bank.

Anyway, having errands to run, I drove over to the City and stopped to deposit two of the checks from the trust into the US Bank account. I turned into FM Bank, and pulled into the drive thru line. I stuck a pen under the flap of one of the envelopes to open it, pressing the envelope onto the steering wheel, and pushing down for leverage. HONK! I beeped the horn.

This startled me, and I jumped, whipping the pen up, and slinging the envelope with the check somewhere into the back of the van. Oops. I jumped out and ran around the back of the van to the other side of the car. Of course I hadn't unlocked the doors, so I continued around the front of the car, stuck my hand through the window, and unlocked the doors, continuing around the car for a second lap. I zipped open the sliding door, finally locating the envelope wedged into a cup holder (one of at least 62 in that van), finished my second lap, and hopped back into the driver's seat. After assembling my paperwork, I pulled up to the window. The teller greeted me warily.

"May I please have a deposit slip," I asked the teller. He told me to send the pneumatic tube carrier back, and I did so with no problems, eyeing the FM Bank posters of their mascot, which is inexplicably a stuffed moose, albeit a cute stuffed moose. I filled out the FM deposit slip with my US Bank account information, signed the back of the checks, and sent the whole thing back to the teller. Next to the drive thru was another poster of the moose, shot from behind, showing his stuffed moose backside with a little stuffed moose tail. "Furry back," it said. It took me a minute. Which was okay, as the teller was having difficulties.

He fussed around quite a bit longer. I wasn't too alarmed, as I generally have a hold on part of the deposit since it is made out to two people, but I am the only one who is depositing it. Tellers new to our transaction struggle with this. Finally, the teller said, "Do you have an account with us?"

Well, this was a new one. "I have a joint account with my sister," I told him. He typed frantically for a few minutes. "And you want this in your checking account?" Yes. "What is your sister's name?" I told him. More typing. Then I elaborated, which totally confused him. "And my mother is on the account, but she is dead."

"She's not showing on the account," he said. "Only two people are on the account. You might have to bring her in and add her."

Now, that would be a trick. "She's dead," I repeated. He blinked at me.

Then he told me, "This number you put on the deposit slip isn't for any account at our bank."

Uh-oh. Light was slowly dawning. I looked again at the moose. "Oh. My. Gosh." I told him. "I AM AT THE WRONG BANK! That's my US Bank account number! Would you please send that all back, and I'll go over to the grocery store?" By now, all the tellers had stopped their transactions and were watching the show. I grabbed the tube with the paperwork, flustered, and drove off.

With the tube still in the car.

Noticing my goof, I drove around the building and back up to the window. Again everyone stopped and stared. I waved the plastic tube, placed it in the holder and tooled off, this time for good.

Next time, I'll go to the corner to do my banking. It is safer to stay in my own neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Murr Kitty

We adopted Pancho last year because we "needed" another cat, according to EG. I can see "needing" a root canal or "needing" a new transmission, but not "needing" a new cat. If you say "need", I think expensive and/or painful.

As a joke, EG had started calling Amber the So Elusive and Horribly Paranoid That People Think We Made Her Up, "Miss Kitty," kind of a takeoff on Gunsmoke, I guess. So, it followed logically (or at least as logically as things get around here) that Pancho became Mr. Kitty. The kids, of course, pronounced the Mr. phonetically, and he became known as Murr Kitty or Murr-Murr.

Mr. Kitty gets up with me each morning and accompanies me into the bathroom, where he aids in my waking up attempts by chomping on my big toes. If you have trouble rising in the morning, I do recommend this technique--nothing like sharp little canines covered with cat saliva to thrust one into reality in the darkness of a weekday.

Then he "murr"?s at us all until someone (EG) fills his bowl. I do not understand why Mr. Kitty doesn't take the more expedient route and bite EG's toes, but who am I to discern the finer workings of the feline brain. Upon dining, Mr. Kitty zooms hysterically around the house until Amber hisses at him and the dogs bark frantically, and then, having accomplished his work for the day (saliva on toes, check; get bowl filled, check; make sure Amber is awake, check; exercise, check; frustrate large stupid non-feline creatures, check, check, check), he will loudly state "Murr-OW," flick his tail at us, and vanish over the baby gate to the upstairs to sleep with the dust bunnies under Nita's bed until she gets home from school.

Periodically, we will do something different and throw off his routine. For example, Saturday mornings are a bit challenging for him, as EG will wake up earlier than I do on those days. Let me digress and add here that "earlier" is a relative term, as I get up at 5:45 on weekdays and sleep in to the decadent hour of 6:30 on Saturday. Anyway, Murr Kitty will forego the formalities on the weekend and focus on the important stuff: getting himself locked in the basement, where he can cry loudly and rattle the door and make all three dogs bark at once. This getting locked in the basement technique requires great precision, so he times his approach with impeccable finesse, sitting on one of the kitchen chairs under the table, behind the veil of the tablecloth, and waiting for one of the kids to go downstairs for bread, cereal, or something from the freezer. Then he launches himself off the chair and swoops into the stairwell. This is the dangerous part, as the girls like to slam the door if they are in a snit, so more than once Murr Kitty has had a close call with his tail.

While down there, he uses our auxiliary litter box, as it is cleaner than the one upstairs, and doing his thing there prevents anyone from grabbing him and hauling him back up. Generally, I will sweetly ask, "WHAT on EARTH is KEEPING you so long?" in a shrill tone of voice, and the kid who had the unfortunate job of retrieving whatever will announce, "Murr Kitty is down her, and he's going to the bathroom." Then I utter those magic words he is waiting for, "Just leave him down there and GET BACK UP HERE."

Every great once in a while, Mr. Kitty will decide he needs a day off, so we waste an inordinate amount of time looking for him, as we are afraid the dogs have gotten him or he is locked in the attic, another of his great pleasures. Of course, the dogs are then dysregulated and barking, we are all awake, and Amber has filled in and complained until the bowl is full, so he managed to get it all done while lying someplace secluded, squeezing his eyes shut in satisfaction, and undoubtedly pleased with his delegation abilities.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

One thing about having children is that you re-learn much of what you have forgotten in life.

For example, in the car yesterday I listened to a politically-slanted dissertation from EG to the kids about the origins of Labor Day. It lasted four and a half miles.

So, today, we are watching the re-enactment of the labor strikes and the U. S. Marshalls intervening while waiting for the pumpkin cake and brownies to finish baking.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bathing dogs

Today the kids played at the farmer's market. While there, I met a woman with a black lab who had a gorgeous coat. I asked how she did it, and she said he swam in the fish pond quite a bit.

I thought, "Oh, that could be messy." Little did I realize.

We came home to find that Harry had gotten the ten pound container of flour off the counter and opened it--on the sofa. He looked like a polar bear. The sofa looked like his iceberg.

I took off the slipcover and threw it in the washer, and EG scraped and washed the floor.

Then I bathed Harry. When the water hit him, he became kind of pasty, but I refrained from trying to stick things to him and scrubbed him with Dawn dish soap, and he eventually came clean. Then I bathed Nash outside. He hates baths, but he simply stands and whines when they happen to him.

Then I decided to bathe Penny. First thing, she saw a butterfly in the yard and lunged for it, dragging me with her. I tied her to the porch railing. Then the boys started barking at the female beagle behind us and took off running. Penny tried to follow, yanking the railing out of its fittings. I held on to the leash, and she dragged me, across the yard. I looked as if I was water skiing. Eventually discovering that she had some kind of ballast behind her and/or the blood flow to her head was cut off by her collar, she slowed down enough for me to wrangle her back to the area of the hose. I thoroughly wet her, and she shook all the water back on me. I wet her again. She started to shake, and I grabbed her shoulders, so she leaned on my thighs. When I jumped back, she shook again. Finally, standing on her leash, I managed to suds her up and rinse her. She saw a rock she wanted and lunged for it, making my feet spin in a circle and me to sit down on the wet driveway. I finally got her rinsed, adding only about four gallons to my own clothes and thoroughly flooding my shoes in the process, and tied her to my chair. She alerted to a bit of fluff in the air, and I sat down fast as she careened by, only to be dragged halfway up the driveway, a journey which was interrupted because she saw "her" rock again and detoured after it, attempting to swallow it once she got it. I pried it from her jaws. It was covered with dog slime, some of which remained in her mouth, and she wiped on my legs.

I tied her to the garage, thinking that there was little chance (but still some of a possibility) that she would take it halfway up the drive as well. One time we tied her to the conduit, and she tore that off the building, but I felt pretty sure that a two by four would hold her unless a big herd of cats, some shifty looking people, and the ice cream truck came all at once. Of course, in order to repair the railing, I had to take the whole thing off the porch and disassemble it, starting with putting WD 40 on all the rusted together parts. In the process of trying to pursuade the reluctant bolts, I pinched my finger with the pliers, giving myself a gigantic blood blister. I sent Nita for the first aid kit, which she decided to pursue through the house in her skates. I heard her fall five times in the kitchen, which averaged to once every two feet or so, on her way to the hall closet. Before I resorted to amputating my have a nice day finger with the pruning sheers, Dorothy Hammill swooped back up, dropping the first aid kit as she arrived, and spreading the contents across a ten foot by ten foot area of dish soap suds and dog hair. I picked up what I needed and tended to the wound as the talented Dorothy fell flat on her behind, reclined dramatically on the concrete, and announced that her leg was broken, but a pizza might be an incredibly fast cure.

Now the house smells like wet dog, the porch rail wobbles dramatically, my middle finger hurts like crazy, and Nita is walking like John Wayne.

I think I'll take them to the lake in the future.