Friday, September 29, 2006

Inside Look

An intimate look into the family routine.

So yesterday morning the girls and I are all snuggled up in my bed, mostly asleep, but at that point where you can sort of hear what's going on around you. (Yeah, we're like cats that way.) I hear the 2-year-old sit up next to me, so I open my eyes. There's a naked husband standing over me, wearing his towel like a kilt.

I close my eyes. It is just way too early for this.

Sia looks up at her dad and says, "Where's you hair?"

I open my eyes again. She's right. He's bald. Funny, he wasn't bald last night. In fact, he was downright shaggy by Marine Corps standards.

"You're bald," I say.

"Yeah." I'd better close those eyes for another minute.

I reach my hand up. Bizarro Dad obligingly lowers his head so I can feel the baldness. Alas! Nubs!

"You're all nubby."

"Yeah. I only used the clippers this time. I'm all out of razors."

"Aw man."

"Where's you hair?"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What happens when you play Pass the Buck

You know what sucks? When the neighborhood kids can't walk to school (or even to their bus stop) on the sidewalk, because the sidewalk is completely covered in overgrowth from the vacant lot it sits in front of. Instead, they have to walk IN THE STREET (even the ditch and roadside are overgrown with vegetation) on what can be a very busy street, with plenty of 18-wheelers and wanna-be-streetracers driving by.

You know what else sucks? That this vacant lot is owned by a church (that's right, an organization which is supposed to be in service of the needs of the people), which won't send anyone down to clean up the land, nor will they sell the land at a reasonable price (which is stupid, since they owe more than $ 19,000 in county backtaxes on property that is valued at $27,000), nor will they provide a telephone number for anyone to reach them about either land purchase or 9-foot-tall grass.
You know what sucks worse? The city helpline says that the owners are technically responsible for the yard, and the ditch in front of the sidewalk, but not necessarily the sidewalk. I read the city codes, which say the city is responsible for the sidewalk (or rather, "structures as required for the infrastructure of the city"). But the city won't mow around the sidewalk. And they won't make the owners of a vacant lot responsible for the sidewalk, because there's no one living on the land. And while in theory, they are "contacting the property owners," the reality is that after two years of complaints from nearby residents, the property owners are still either not being reached at all or intentionally not responding. So, basically, nobody is responsible for the sidewalk.

Know what sucks even more than that? That said vacant lot is so large (it's actually 3 lots together, dominating an entire corner of the block) and the trees and brush are so dense that theives, rapists, drug-users, and murderers can feel very safe hanging out in there without getting caught, since 1) they know they won't be seen, and 2) there are not enough cops patroling the already crime-happy neighborhood. (I won't even get into the rise in the poisonous Copperhead Snake population.)

Know what sucks most of all? When that vacant area is around the corner from your child's school, AND only two lots down from your own home, AND directly across the street from your elderly grandparents.

We've got our pistol and shotgun ready for whatever crackhead wanders out of the little forest and onto our property. But that's not enough to protect the first-graders trying to walk to school in the morning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More awesome gifts...

I realized today that I have in fact been ignoring the gift-shopping needs of good folks in various other countries, and so I submit for your consideration the following unique gift ideas from (and for) around the globe. Or at least Canada and the UK.

Ye Olde Roadster Bicycles
Available in the UK from the India Rubber Company, these old-fashioned bikes are newly made, complete with chrome handlebars, heavy duty leather saddles (Dude! A saddle seat!), and fully enclosed chain guards. Priced at 135 pounds plus P&P. Models for both ladies and gents. Spare parts also available. Wicker basket not included.

Bagpipes
Are you rich and/or bored? Feeling in the mood to take up a new instrument? Want a way to annoy some people while delighting others at the EXACT SAME TIME? Why not purchase your very own set of bagpipes from The Bagpipe Store? Also available: the Practice Chanter (which, according to the website, is the best thing to happen to bagpipes, ever!), carrying case, reeds, and yes, even the whole outfit. Best of all, there is a handy price converter; you can view your purchasing options in British Pounds, Euros, US dollars, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Icelandic kronur, Indian rupees, and much much more! (It should be noted that all purchases will be CHARGED in UK pounds; your credit card will convert your currency at the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of purchase.)

Western Outlaw Hard Hats
Want to comply with your local construction safety regulations but still show off your own particular style? Look no further than the good people at customhardhats.com! Western style available for $28.95 in black, tan, or grey, and there are more styles available, including Patriotic Canadian and Patriotic Mexican ($21.95 each). The company is American but they ship worldwide! Please pay attention to the description of each hat to make sure it meets your particular safety code needs.

Say Cheeeeeeese!
Know what Americans think of when we think of Europe? Battles and castles. Unless we're hungry, in which case we think of wine, chocolate and cheese! Grana D'Oro in Reggio Emilia, Italy, offers what I hope is very fine "Red Cow" Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and butter. They certainly do seem particular about the "process" of cheesemaking (if you'll pardon the lame joke there). Personally, I think the best macaroni and cheese is made with some parmesan mixed in, but that's just me and my American palate. This website is in English and Italian (naturally), and prices are given in Euros. You cannot order directly from the website, but there is contact information given to place your order. Enjoy the best dairy Italy has to offer!

Happy shopping, folks! I'll keep you posted with more interesting gifts as the Holiday Season (and, in our family's case, Absurd Number of Birthdays season) approaches.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Holiday Shopping

In search of the perfect gift for Christmas/Chanukkah/Festivus? Here are some interesting toys for girls and boys (and adults whose toys just got bigger over time). Have fun, and remember to spend your money wisely!

Pedal Cars
This company offers wagons, bikes, sleds, and oh yeah, GIANT PEDAL CARS! You must see it to believe it. Shipping is FREE if you opt for standard ground service.

Play Wonder Kitchen Play Set
Available at Target.com for $79.99 (local store prices may vary). My kids saw this at the store, and after 20 minutes they had to be dragged away. The construction is sturdy wood, and looks to be long-lasting. The best thing about the Play Wonder series is that the accessories are realistic miniatures of the real thing. The mixing bowls and pans are metal. The whisk is real. The toy food is pre-cut, so that your child can use his little toy knife (child safe!) to slice the food. Also available from Play Wonder: blender, toaster, and coffee maker. Most accessories sold separately.

Junie B. Jones paperback books
My six-year-old niece has been asking for these for Christmas. I've not read them myself, but I'm told there aren't actually any pictures, just incredibly funny stories told from the perspective of an almost-six-year-old. There are at least four box sets of these books, and they're pretty inexpensive on amazon.com. Enjoy them with your child this holiday!

Home Depot Gift Center
For the craftsperson in your family, HomeDepot.com offers a Gift Center page to help you find just the right present. Products are sorted by hobby, price, and recipient. There are even some cooking gadgets and gifts for kids. Of course, you can always go to the Home Depot main index to search for more specific products, like skill saws and riding lawn mowers. Drop in and have a look!

Conair Foot Spa
Bed Bath and Beyond has a similar Gift Search, and they certainly have a wide range of gift items. Number 2 on my BBB list is this Conair Body Benefits Pedicure Massaging Foot Spa, $39.99. Because seriously, after less than two hours with my Cub Scouts, I am ready for a foot soak and a can of ginger ale. (Incidentally, number one on my BBB list is this potato ricer. In case any of you were wondering. *wink*)

Cars DVD (Widescreen)
If you or the kids or all of you loved this movie, or are willing to love it, buy this NOW! Preorder for $15.87 at amazon.com. Official release date is November 7, 2006. Fullscreen also available for the same price. Seriously, this is awesome. Pixar keeps on amazing me. Get it now while it's still cheap!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Can you keep a secret?

I do love PostSecret, but as I've explained before, I don't necessarily feel I should mail all my burdens to that poor man in Germantown. So here's my secret:

I told you I ate the last of those McDonald's Breakfast Burritos that were in the fridge because I knew you were pissed off that nobody was eating them.

I lied.

I fed them to the dog because they were so nasty.

She didn't want them, either.

I'm sorry I lied to you.

Caution: Coffee is hot!

Remember that story about the lady who sued McDonald's because of the hot coffee spilled on her lap? Admit it, you made cracks about it too. I think it would be good if you read this. Bet you won't make fun anymore.

Funny how quickly our perspectives can change.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Those Bible stories...

Today, Cowboy has an excellent post about Rehoboam, a king of Israel whose story appears in the old Testament.

Not to be outdone, I submit to you one of MY favorite Old Testament stories. It's found in Judges, chapter 4, and then again (in song form) in chapter 5. It is the story of Sisera, a Canaanite captain who oppressed the Israelites for 20 years; Deborah, a prophetess; Barak, an Israelite captain; and Jael, a tent-dwelling woman whose husband chose to live way out in the boonies (or at least that's what it seems like to me).

In this period of time, the Israelites were under the rule of a Canaanite king and his captain, who, as I said, was a pretty bad dude, with his 900 chariots of iron and all. After two decades of this, the Israelites were very "From the depths we cry to you, o Lord." Finally they went to their prophetess Deborah, who sat under a palm tree, and asked her for judgement. (Seriously, how cool is THAT job? Sit under a tree and wait for people to come ask for judgement/advice from God. And she was married, too! Talk about an excuse not to get the dishes done...)

Anyhoo, Deborah sends for Barak. It's odd, but she seems to be reminding him that God has already told him what to do, which is to take 10,000 men from two specific tribes and go to Mt. Tabor. There the Lord would help him defeat Sisera's army at the river Kishon.

Barak's response is not at all manly, I'm sorry to say. He tells Deborah that he will only go if Deborah goes with him. On the one hand, yeah, he wants the blessing of the prophetess, or a lucky rabbit's foot, or however it is he saw her, but on the other hand, CHICKEN!

Deborah informs him that she will surely go (aww, she's being nice) but that their journey/war campaign will not be for Barak's honor, "for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Heh.

Barak and Deborah and 10,000 men make the trip up Mt. Tabor. Sisera's response after learning of this is the same one you might have if you were outnumbered by more than 10 to 1, which is to hightail it out of there. He and his men run all the way to, you guessed it, Kishon River. Deborah sends Barak down after them, so away the Israelite army goes. In her poem (chapter 5), Deborah says the stars in heaven fought against Sisera (a severe thunderstorm?), the River Kishon swept them away, and the horsehoofs were broken. Sisera is then so "discomfited" (by which we mean panicked), as is all his army, that he jumps right off his stupid chariot and runs away on foot, deserting his men, who all die at the hands of the Israelite army. Yeah, that's right, ALL of them.

Sisera keeps running, probably a good 30 miles toward Kedesh, until he reaches the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, and seeks sanctuary there, knowing that there is a peace between his king and Heber. I can't tell you the actual tone of their conversation, but we can guess that Sisera is looking extremely pathetic here. Jael is all, "Come to my tent, baby, I've got butter." Sisera is very "Gimme some water, tuts, and if anyone comes by, there's nobody here, got it?" Jael gives him milk (and butter?) and a blanket and waits for him to go to sleep.

Then Jael does to most awesome thing ever recorded in the Old Testament (or the most gruesome, depending on your disposition), which is to grab a tent stake and hammer, then creep up on Sisera and pound that stake through his temples all the way to the ground.

Barak, when he finally catches up to Sisera's location (however long that took), finds Jael waiting for him. "Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest." That's all she says. Barak walks in to find Sisera's head nailed to the floor. And by the way, how long did it take Barak to find Sisera? Did he catch up to him the same day Sisera stopped for a glass of milk? Was it the next day? That's a pretty mountainous part of the world; even if Jael's tent was located on a plain near Kedesh, there are certainly plenty of hills and other elevations between Mt. Tabor and that place. It would surely have been simple for a trained man to avoid detection for a while at least. With this in mind, I suspect that Jael might very well have had Sisera nailed to her bedroom floor for several days before Barak even showed up. Excuse me, but ew.

I should point out that Heber and his wife chose to cut themselves off from Heber's family and live far away, presumably on their own or with their own children and grandchildren. I wonder why Heber would do that? Maybe he didn't get along with his family, because he sided with the Canaanite king. Or maybe he knew his wife was crazy, and he wanted to keep her away from too many people. Who knows how many times he caught her with a tent stake? In any case, after this horrific event, Deborah and Barak sang songs of praise, calling Jael blessed above women in the tent.

Sadly, the Catholic church has not canonized Jael as the Patron Saint of Women in Tents, nor of tentmakers (that's Paul the Apostle), nail makers (St. Cloud), housewives (Saints Anne, Martha, Monica, and Zita) or mental illness (there are 17 saints for that one). Deborah is a saint, but apparently not of patronage in particular, not even of judges (that honor goes to three men, including Nicholas of Myra, who is also the patron saint of boot blacks).

What should we learn from all of this? Don't oppress people, because it will come back to bite you in the butt. Do not undervalue women. Beware of ladies who live in seclusion, be it in a tent or under a tree. And above all, when someone invites you in for butter, for the love of crap, say no!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

In-laws and out-laws are not opposites

Dear In-laws,

I do not care about your family drama. Stop involving us.

Little sis-in-law, I love you, but that does not mean you are allowed to be rude to me and give me attitude in my own house. Next time, your brother won't just hold your legs to keep you from running away, he'll SIT ON YOU.

Brother-in-law, move out. You were supposed to be here a week or two, then a month or two. That was back in May. You have a job now. Why you are giving your entire paycheck to child support is beyond me; my dad had to pay child support AND get his own place to live. You can do the same. Go get your own place, move your wife down here, and get custody of your son. Go be your own family and stop mooching off mine. And while you're still here mow the damn lawn, like we agreed, instead of leaving it to my nearly-50-year-old father who works 60 hours a week on the night shift.

Older sis-in-law, I have no complaints about you. Bring the nieces over more often; I want to hear your oldest play her clarinet. She can seriously practice on my back porch, and it won't bother anybody but Brother-in-law, who I want to leave anyway.

Mother-in-law, thank you for FINALLY trying to get a job. Please stop asking everyone for money and/or expensive gifts. We all have kids, too. And for heaven's sake, next time your daughter starts mouthing off, the least you can do is GET UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR.

Father-in-law, I know you're on your third wife and your...seventh baby, is it?...but you do have grandchildren, and it wouldn't kill you to call and ask about them now and then. That's all. We're not asking you for money or a place to stay or a car or anything like that. Just care about our kids. If you can't do that, you're not really a grandpa, are you? Then again, you weren't much of a father, so I'm not surprised. You just...you hurt my husband, and I don't know how to forgive you for that.

Bizarro Dad, get off your lazy butt and HELP ME. I keep asking you for help, and you keep ignoring me. Eventually I will reach my breaking point. You don't want that to happen.

Sincerely,
Sleepless Mama

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tatoes

Gina: What happened to your cake you cooking? Where's you cake?

Me: I didn't make a cake, baby. I made mashed potatoes.

Gina: Oh.

Me: Do you like mashed potatoes?

Gina: No.

Me: That's okay. Maybe I'll make you some potato patties later.

Gina: No! I don't like tato pa-patties!

Me: Potato patties?

Gina: I don't like tato pa-pattie-toes...tato... I don't like them!

Grandma's Potato Pattie Recipe:

mashed potatoes, rolled up into balls (cold potatoes work best)
1 egg
1/2 cup (or so) of milk
1-2 tbsp butter or oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter or oil in pan. Combine milk and egg in small bowl; beat well. Dip potato ball into egg batter, then drop into pan. Mash down ball with spatula while frying. Cook both sides until desired color (golden, light brown, etc) or stiffness. Season as desired and serve.