Monday, June 30, 2008

Wolverine Fawcett-van Beethoven has left the building, but my hair still has multiple personality disorder

In the ongoing attempts to grow out my hair, I headed to the hair salon today. The Wolverine Fawcett-van Beethoven was getting way out of control. My bangs were long enough to get tangled in my lower eyelashes (really irritating, to say the least), the crown was just flopping around in a "no mousse or wax or spray gel will move me" sort of bird's nest, and the bottoms were winging out all crazy. Even more worrying, the back seems to've grown at a faster rate than the sides and front, and was beginning to look suspiciously mullet-esque. Egads! I may be from Jersey, but I will *not* walk around with a mullet, or even a faux-mullet. So, off to the salon I went, clutching the latest batch of "oh I'd love my hair to look like this" pictures I'd printed off the 'net and with half a mind to just chop it all off again. The thing is, it's getting soooo close to being out of the heinous, growing-out stage that I wanted to stay strong and not cave in to the chop-it-all-off-again impulse.

I didn't cave in, as it turns out. My willpower was strong, along with some help from the stylist, who was quite encouraging and proclaimed that my hair could be as long as her between chin-length and shoulder-length bob by October, especially if I take Vitamin D supplements, which make hair grow, dontcha know. I'll get right on that... Anyhow, she told me she'd bring the back up a bit so that it lost the appearance of a faux-mullet and would "clean up" the rest and trim my bangs. Sounded like a plan, so off we went.

Now, being as ridiculously nearsighted as I am, I couldn't see a thing as she was cutting my hair, since I had to remove my specs and had them safely secured under the cape. It felt like she was cutting a lot, and I could see bits of hair falling past my face and into my lap. She blitzed through a styling monologue as she squirted and sprayed various products into my hair, including "root booster" and "volumizer" (my blood pressure spiked at that, 'cause dagnabit, I don't NEED any extra volume, hello, I was trying to exorcise Wolverine Fawcett van-Beethoven after all!) and different "styling spritzes" as she aimed a hair dryer set to "jet engine" at my skull. She kept repeating "and then you just finger dry it and make it piece-y" as she worked, and, being unable to see anything and going by feel as I was, I just nodded along.

When she pronounced me finished, I whipped out my glasses and stuck them back on. True enough, W F-van B was gone. Alas, my hair now seemed like it was trying to be Rue McClanahan, circa the Golden Girls. EEEK!

I had a feeling that once I got home and washed all the root booster, styling spritzers and that godforsaken volumizer out, it would not be nearly so bad. Stylists always seem to want to go ka-razy with my hair, no matter the length. It's like I'm one of those giant Barbie make-up heads come to life in their chair or something. Usually I can de-overstyle it with a wash or comb-through, so I wasn't too concerned. Out in the car, I tried to bring it down a bit on top and de-piece it a bit, and when I got home, I hopped in the shower.
(The picture above actually was post-me-messing with it in the car and pre-shampooing, for proper chronological identification.)

I'd just finished combing my now de-producted hair when the kiddo needed my assistance. I headed off with a wet head and it was mostly dry all of its own accord, with nary a styling aid, when I made it back upstairs to see what I could do. Imagine my shock when I realized that my hair was no longer channeling Blanche Devereaux, but instead had morphed into this:

Anton Chigurh? Dorothy Hamill on a particularly bad hair day? A wannabe member of Beatlemania? Buster Brown? Hmmmm. The stylist did say that my hair was close to "being able to style into a bob" so perhaps this is what she meant.

I wet it down and started anew, with a few styling aids and the dryer. It seems that this:

is what my hair wants to do right now. A modified Carol Brady (I can't manage to photograph the back of my head on my own, but I've got the Carol Brady flippy-curl up thing going on pretty solidly) but definitely better than the Wolverine Fawcett-van Beethoven or the Anton Chigurh. I think.

Stay tuned for continuing lengths of the saga, friendos............................

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I am, and have always been, a bookworm. Back in the days of more unfettered discretionary income, I loved nothing more than browsing the shelves at the bookstore, and I vastly preferred to spend said discretionary income at B&N instead of on, say, clothes, shoes or handbags. (What's wrong with me? Books instead of shoes? What kind of female am I? I know, I know, I'm a big word nerd, what can I say?)

Once I stopped working to be home with the kiddo, there was no more such thing as "unfettered discretionary income" so I dug out my sadly neglected library card and became a library junkie once more. I got my first library card when I was in kindergarten, which was a banner day in my childhood. I'm such a bookworm that I actually made a deal with our elementary school librarian to allow me to check out MORE than the maximum number of books allowed to students per 2 week period; I'd fill my backpack with as many books as it could hold and devour them in short order, always returning them on time - they didn't have a chance to become overdue when I was through with them and on to the next pile of books.

As a kid, I read through entire sections of the library, semi-systematically working my way through the Dewey Decimal System. The 900s were my favorite through elementary and middle school. I adored reading biographies of anyone and everyone. There was this series in our elementary school library of biographies of famous Americans, and inside the front and back cover were these illustrations of various milestones in the featured person's life, in chronological order. I'd memorize those pages and then mark my progress as I reached each part of the book that matched one of those illustrations. It never bothered me to know what was coming before I got there - I've always been a fan of spoilers, I guess! They never really spoil the experience for me. The 300s were good, too, as were the 700s.

In my later years, I've stuck mainly to fiction. I read a lot of chick lit, historical fiction, mystery and suspense, and whatever one might consider Stephen King these days - not quite horror anymore, is it? (I may've mentioned this before, but in case I haven't: No book has ever scared me more than Stephen King's It. I read it the year it came out, borrowed in hardcover from a friend, and was convinced for weeks afterward that I'd hear voices coming up out of the sink in my bathroom, which was at the very back of the house. So, as a teenage girl, I gladly gave up the use of my very own bathroom in favor of the heavier traveled bathroom in the front of the house that was shared by both of my sisters or my parents' master bath. Eventually I convinced myself it was safe to go back into my own bathroom alone, but even to this day, I wouldn't be surprised to hear something sinister burbling up through those back pipes...) I do read some nonfiction, too, if a subject or title catches my eye. I generally check out fewer books now than I did as a child, reading an average of just four to six in a two week period. Something about having a kid in the house seems to eat up many of the hours I once spent buried in a book...

I also developed a bit of an obsession with reading reference books as a kid. From the dictionary to the encyclopedias, I was endlessly fascinated with learning new things. (This has likely contributed to my sometimes awe-inspiring ability to answer trivia game questions, not to mention going on Jeopardy. Of course, having an insanely sharp long-term memory helps in this regard as well.) This obsession hasn't waned in my older age, either. When I was studying for my Jeopardy appearance, I gleefully purchased the latest edition of the World Almanac, and I've been known to drive Hubby crazy by reading the atlas during long car trips. As it turns out, he isn't nearly as excited as I am to learn the highest elevation of a particular state or that state's motto or largest lake... Most recently, I've been driving him nuts with our newly acquired
Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I've had to give up keeping it on my nightstand for bedtime reading for fear of being kicked out to the guest room. Humph.

I love to discover new authors. Well, not new as in brand new, but new to me. My most recent discovery is Kristin Hannah. I came across one of her books on the new release shelf, checked it out and read it in a matter of a few hours. I felt that thrill I always do when I turned to the page listing other works by the same author and realized she's written several other books. I've been bingeing on her books for over a month now, and have worked my way through her catalog. She's not quite "chick lit" but isn't heavy reading either. I think I've cried at least once reading every one of her books. She's like Danielle Steel used to be back in the 80s (um, that is meant as a compliment - I used to love Danielle Steel back before her plots became entirely predictable and the characters were always the same). I've also recently discovered Jodi Picoult (I know, she's written a zillion books, but somehow I never read her until this past fall) and I've been catching up on the backlog of other authors I've read in the past, like Tami Hoag, Jonathan Kellerman and Catherine Coulter as well.

Once I "discover" a new-to-me author, I stay with them, making a point of reading their latest book as soon as it comes out. Well, as soon as it comes out and my turn comes up on the library hold request list - it took me over two months before my number was up for Jennifer Weiner's Certain Girls. I fear I will be old and gray before I get my turn with Jeff Alexander's new book, A TV Guide to Life. It's times like these, when I'm impatiently checking the library's website several times a day to check the status of my place on the holds list as it much-too-slowly creeps towards #1, that I long for the days of unfettered discretionary income... I can just see it now, though: "Sorry, kiddo, there won't be any college for you. You see, Mommy is a book junkie and spent what was supposed to go into your 529 plan on books........" I am planning to return to the world of Working Outside the Home
in the fall when the kiddo starts kindergarten (unless Ed McMahon drops by with an oversized check full of zeroes, and I hear he's been having some financial issues of his own lately...), so perhaps then I'll feel more comfortable with spending money on new books instead of spending patience at the library waiting for a hold to come in for me.

Speaking of the kiddo, she is completely turning into Bookworm, the Next Generation. Shortly after her fifth birthday last month, we went to the public library, where she marched up to the librarian and requested her very own card. She'd been counting down for over a year now, asking me each time we visited the library if she could get her own card yet, so she knew that as soon as she was five, she could have her own card. Now she does, in a green, leather pouch that she carried around for days (I also have the keytag version of her card on my keychain, just in case that card ever gets lost amidst the stuff in her room), and she's already checked out several books and even placed her first hold request (for a Disney Princess story collection, of course). I couldn't be more proud! Hubby and I are both thrilled that she has already developed a fierce passion for books, even if she's at the beginning stages of actually reading on her own yet.

So, tell me - what are your favorite genres? Who are your favorite authors? I'm always looking for tips and suggestions! Please leave a comment and share!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PS on the tire situation

So, it turns out it was a nail in the rear left tire. All patched and good as new, woo!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Oh, erm, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind

After yesterday's low tire pressure warning light situation, I woke up this morning understandably concerned. I just popped downstairs into the garage to see if any of the minivan's tires had gone obviously flat and then came back up to inform Hubby, who was getting ready for work, that while there was no definite flat, both rear tires looked lower than they had (to my admittedly inexpert eye) last night. His response threw me a bit. He said "Well, I don't think that you actually have two or three flat tires, so what's the problem? If one goes flat, you've got a spare..."

It was then that it hit me: Hubby was thinking I'd change the tire myself should it go completely flat.

Oh, erm, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind. You see, theoretically, I can change a tire. They made us change a tire unassisted in Driver's Ed. (The piece o' crap Chevy Chevette that was the official Driver's Ed vehicle was no doubt made that much safer by having each of its tires repeatedly taken off and put back on by a bunch of teenagers...) However, I took Driver's Ed back in the summer of 1988, so it has literally been twenty years since that particular lesson entered my brain. In the subsequent period of time, I've changed a tire exactly once, and that was a mere 10 months after the Driver's Ed lesson. So, I would be extremely rusty on the finer points of tire changing, to put it delicately, and probably wind up sitting on the side of whatever road the tire died upon, poring over the manual and freaking out. There is a great chance that me changing a tire would be similar to Ralphie in A Christmas Story - the "eff dash dash dash" word could very likely be uttered...

Not good, considering that the kiddo would definitely be in the car with me at that point.

Now, I have witnessed the tire being changed on the minivan - I had a bad flat at work one day, in the winter, in a parking lot full of slush, mud and ice. That day, I implored a couple of the guys in my department to change it for me, which they ever-so-graciously did. I had no problem taking them out to lunch as a thank-you, and I felt terrible about the whole "being on the ground in the slush, mud and ice" part so I stayed outside and tried to help as best I could without, you know, actually helping. I like to think that I provided help with moral support and cheerleading...

Here's the thing, though: while I probably could manage to get the tire changed, I know that I wouldn't feel comfortable or safe driving around after I'd done so. That is the biggest thing. I'd be more inclined to try it if I were going to be the only passenger, but I wouldn't want to risk having the kiddo in a vehicle with my handiwork between her and the road. Yes, I have visions of the tire suddenly flying off and the van careening into a tractor trailer loaded with highly flammable liquids or gases, or off the road, over the bank and into the canal (or something equally horrific), quite possibly including a movie-special-effects-worthy fireball that Hubby might be able to see from his office building across town...

So, I 'fessed up on this count to Hubby. He seemed rather disappointed in my wimpiness - I guess he's thought all these years he was married to a woman who can change a tire. (And like I said, technically, that is true, or was, anyhow...) I guess he figured that having my coworkers change the tire for me that time was more an act of chivalry on their part than simply me being a wimpy girl. With a furrowed brow, he asked me what I intend to do today, then, just not go out?

Yep. That's exactly my plan. I intend to not drive anywhere until he is done with work, at which point I'll take the van over to the dealership and he will pick us up. The professional mechanic type folks will then ascertain which tire(s?) has an issue and fix the problem, along with doing the oil change and inspection (the van is due for both) and we can pick it up, all safe with four solid tires, tomorrow.

I think perhaps today the kiddo and I will have jammy day, or at least jammy morning. It will be relaxing to spend the day at home, where I know the only thing exploding will be a water balloon, and not a tire on the expressway at 60mph.

(By the by, we do not have AAA. If we did, this entire post would be a moot point...)

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Warning: I feel a long-n-rambling post coming on here...

This has been quite a week here in the Smith house. It kicked off on Sunday with the arrival of Grandma and Grandpa from the motherland (aka New Jersey). The kiddo was especially excited about this because Grandpa was going to go fishing with her in the pond behind our property. She sat on the back deck for most of the afternoon, practicing casting with her new Dora fishing pole (which was a birthday present and had yet to be used) interspersed with impatient, repeated questioning as to G&G's whereabouts ("Are they still in Pennsylvania? They're in New York now? We're in New York so they should be at our HOUSE now, Mommy!") and then persistent requests to call them (oh the joy of the ubiquitous cell phone) to see how far along they were. Now, as the kiddo well knows by now, it is a six hour drive from our house to theirs, if you're driving reasonably close to the speed limit. My dad? He makes Mario Andretti look like a turtle. (Um, sorry, I'm wholly unfamiliar with NASCAR and therefore do not know any more current drivers. I could call my 4 year old nephew and/or his father, who are NASCAR fans, or I could google NASCAR and come up with someone better to illustrate my example, but I'm feeling lazy and therefore will just blather on about how I don't know any race car driver other than Mario. He's a classic at least, right?) Dad can usually make the trip up here in less than five hours, but even that wasn't fast enough for the kiddo. She had him out in the back yard looking for worms for bait within approximately three seconds of their car pulling into our driveway. I'm pleased to report that the fishing expedition was a rousing success - the kiddo caught her first fish ever on her very first cast! It was a sunfish (I'm pretty sure sunnies are the only fish in there, this pond isn't exactly a sport-fisher's paradise) and it was almost bigger than my father's palm. The kiddo was so thrilled it didn't even matter that the sunny was no larger than her (admittedly big, fat) goldfish, Swimmy. Grandpa duly unhooked him, we admired him and then Grandpa tossed him back into the murk. I'm pretty sure that the kiddo then proceeded to catch that same sunfish at least twice more over the next hour, along with one sunfish that Grandpa said was ready to lay her eggs (no idea how he deduced that as I was busy trying to wipe goose poop off the bottom of my flip-flop) and one that both Grandpa and the kiddo swore was MUCH larger than the first (second, and third) sunfish. Like two inches bigger. Woo! Now the kiddo has majorly caught the fishing bug, so I envision many a future weekend afternoon spent digging up various corners of the back yard in search of worms and then waving to Daddy and the kiddo as they stand down by the pond. (I haven't obtained a fishing license yet this year, so technically I cannot help the kiddo fish, but Daddy has his already, so he's good to go.)

So, that was Sunday. Monday morning, Grandpa left and the kiddo had her second-to-last day of preschool. I had to help set up and then clean up the teacher-staff appreciation lunch that we were throwing that day, so Grandma, who was along for the ride, got drafted to help with that. She mostly helped by keeping the kiddo occupied and out of my hair so I could attend to the setting up and the cleaning up as needed, which was very awesome. She also rummaged around in the school's kitchen and came up with various bowls and utensils that hadn't occurred to me that we'd need for the lunch. From what I hear, the lunch was a success and the teachers and staff enjoyed it, which is very, very good to hear. They all worked so hard this year and did such a phenomenal job that I wanted to be sure this luncheon was a nice treat for everyone involved in the classrooms. I also had a licensed massage therapist come and do chair massages for anyone who wanted one, but more on her later...

Monday afternoon was the kiddo's first gymnastics class. Well, not actually her very first - we tried gymnastics classes once before when the kiddo had just turned three. That time was a raging, flaming disaster. She made it - and by "made it" I mean "was physically present in the gym" and not much more in terms of actual gymnastics study - through two classes that time around and I pulled her from the class. That was mere weeks before she was evaluated and we learned about SPD. In retrospect, don't know what the hey I was thinking signing her up for gymnastics back then. Actually, I do know what I was thinking. We'd done Gymboree for a long time and the kiddo loved all the climbing on things and physical, gym-type activity, so gymnastics seemed a logical progression. Unfortunately, it was too much for our sensory seeker to handle, as she got way overstimulated and couldn't control herself - she literally couldn't sit still, much less listen to or follow any instructions.

But we are two years older and wiser now, and the kiddo has almost two years of OT and PT under her belt now as well, so when she asked - begged, really - to try gymnastics (after spending countless minutes transfixed in the doorway of the gym on our way to or from the pool for swimming lessons, watching the gymnastics practice in progress with a passionate longing in her eyes), I agreed. With some modicum of caution - I didn't buy her the leotard I was fondling at Target (yet) and instead sent her in shorts and a tank top to the first class. Well, I'm so happy to say that she was a champ! She listened to the instructors, sat mostly still (at the least, she didn't wiggle around any more than any of the other gajillion kids in her class) and consistently managed to wait her turn without cutting in front of any other kid. For a whole hour! Woo! She also made her best attempt to do each thing they were being taught - for an hour. Woo woo woo! And, if I may brag for a moment (though it's not just my bias; other moms sitting along the wall said so as well) the kiddo was the Best Somersaulter of the whole class. She could be the next Nadia Comaneci! (Okay, I just did that "classic" example on purpose, to go with Mario. I can totally be more current when it comes to gymnastics. Mary Lou Retton! No? Shoot. Um, Dominique Dawes! She was on the Olympic team in Atlanta... ooh Carly Patterson, I think she was from '04... There ya go, from this century! I can be current!)

Tuesday was the kiddo's last official day of preschool, which was followed by an afternoon at our local zoo. We hadn't been to the zoo since April, and there were a few new things open since our last visit. The most exciting of these was a frog exhibit (dude, I am totally serious: you must check out the Vietnamese Mossy Frog - way, way cool) and the new baboon exhibit. While those baboons can get quite x-rated (and a few did, though thankfully the kiddo's attention was elsewhere so no need for an uncomfortable, public Q&A session), there also were several juvenile baboons who were clowning around and being quite heeelarious. At one point, two of the younger baboons came right up to the kiddo and attempted to swipe her lion, Ectobert, right through the glass. (We generally are accompanied wherever we go by at least one member of the kiddo's stuffed animal menagerie - that's just how we roll. Ectobert also visited Disney World with us last November, though Terry the Triceratops was the one who got to visit Dinosaur World in Tampa and Joey the Giraffe went to the Lowry Park Zoo on that same trip.)

Wednesday was the kiddo's preschool graduation. It was a Very Big Deal, held in the decked-out-for-the-event auditorium and complete with a slide show (which elicited many an awwww), caps, gowns and a processional by the class to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance. The parents were worse than any swarm of paparazzi, but isn't what the event truly was about? It was positively lethally adorable from beginning to end, including the songs (complete with hand signs), the receiving of diplomas (though the kiddo was far more interested in the ice-cream cone shaped bottle of bubbles that was also in the bag) to the semi-unison bow at the end. This was followed by a reception featuring many delicious treats and therefore much sugar consumption (specifically in the form of heavily-frosted-in-neon-blue cupcakes - the kiddo has issues with highly processed foods and certain food dyes, so this was not good), which was followed by a rather hellacious afternoon of the kiddo being way out of whack and wired, falling asleep in the car which is highly unusual, and culminating in the week's darkest point when the kiddo got not one, not two, but three nasty, large splinters in her one foot from walking on the deck barefoot. (Hubby blames me squarely for the splinters, as we had learned back when the kiddo was a newly-walking babe not to let her be on the deck barefoot as splinters will ensue, but yesterday I didn't make her re-shoe after playing in the grass with some water balloons...) The three nasty splinters led to more than an hour and a half of serious freaking out during their attempted removal. It took a combination of Grandma, Mommy and then Daddy (who arrived home from work to the screams and squalls of the freak-out at about its one hour mark) to get the splinters out. I'm a bit surprised that emergency vehicles didn't come screeching up to the house, as we had all the windows open and she was howling loudly enough to make it sound like we were doing far more sinister things than attemped splinter removal. Thank goodness they eventually came out and the judicious application of many Curious George, Disney Princess and rainbow band-aids aided in calming and a return to peace and relative quiet.

Today, my mom treated me (and herself) to a massage at my favorite massage place on Earth, which coincidentally happens to be owned by a friend and former colleague of mine. Oh heck, it's my blog, I'm gonna plug it: Retreat House Massage and Wellness Center - if you're in town, check them out. Tell Joan that Heather sent you! After my hour on Joan's table was up, I was my usual post-massage limp noodle self. Deeeelightful, especially after the residual tension from Operation Splinter Extraction 2008. I am a total massage junkie, and if we ever became indecently wealthy, I would most definitely have massages as part of my regular weekly schedule. Weekly? Perhaps daily, even! Since we are nowhere near indecently wealthy now, I'm trying to train the kiddo to become a champion back scratcher, but so far, results are fair to middling at best...

Another potentially dark moment for the week - on our way home this afternoon (after depositing Grandma on a train back home), the low tire pressure light came on in the Sienna. I pulled over as soon as I could and inspected the tires for signs of an obvious flat. There weren't any, though I thought three of the four tires felt a bit squishy. It seemed safe enough that I continued home, where I left the van in the driveway for Hubby to inspect when he got home from work. He came to the same conclusion - it could be any one up to all three of four of the tires. His solution is to wait and see whether one starts looking noticeably flatter, at which point he'll replace it with the spare (which is a full-sized tire) and we can take the flat in for repair/replacement. Thank goodness for lifetime tire warranties! I'm not quite as psyched about this plan as Hubby seems to be, but the kiddo and I have no pressing plans for tomorrow so if we wind up stuck home with a flat (Mommy doesn't change minivan tires. Daddy has and will again soon, I suspect - that low tire pressure light has yet to be mistaken.) it isn't a big deal. I will not have the effects of my massage ruined by flat tire stress!! There is a lot of road construction going on around town, and we were driving through/by a lot of it, so who knows what I inadvertently picked up in my tire(s) while out and about today... Stay tuned!

Lastly, before I head downstairs to help rid the fridge of some of the array of leftovers we acquired over the past several days, I wanted to show off these:

Woo! Hummingbird! Captured on film! Er, not film, actually - um, captured in pixels? Okay, how about captured on camera! Yay! This particular hummingbird has been hanging around the feeder for the past week, and in between drinks, he (she?) hangs out on this one particular branch in the same tree. Could we have a hummingbird nest in our future? Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I wanna be a SITSta!

Okay, I just came across a new website site, featuring a super-cool contest: The Secret is in the Sauce, from a friend's blog.

Even more than I'd love to win the bouncy house, I really love the idea of readers and commenters for my blog! Narcissitic? Perhaps... Fun though - I spend a lot more time than I should surfing around the blogosphere and am forever clicking on links to new blogs on other bloggers' blogrolls. So, now I can be part of the fun? Exxxxcellent! I just need to figure out how to add their little icony-thing to my blog and I think I'm good to go!

Many more things to post about, but at the moment the kiddo is calling up from the back yard for more water balloons, so I must dash. Hopefully Grandma (who is visiting this week) is still mostly dry...................

Sunday, June 22, 2008


...but the livin' ain't easy, at least around here for the next few days. I celebrated the longest day of the year and the start of summer by taking the kiddo to her first ever pool party. It was a birthday party for a preschool friend of hers, and they have an above-ground pool in their back yard, so we were told to bring suits. Well, I wasn't overly keen on the idea of suiting up myself, but also wasn't sure how this would play out, as we've never, ever let the kiddo go swimming in any body of water without adult accompianament (usually Hubby, myself or a swim instructor). I brought her bubble (or floaty as she calls it) which turned out to be a good call. When the kids started clamoring for the pool, I asked the birthday boy's mom what the plan was. Basically it amounted to many adults standing around the tiny pool deck and/or around the sides of the pool while the kids (most of them wearing floatation devices and around the same swimming capability as the kiddo) swam. My heart was in my throat, being the overprotective mama I tend to be, and visions of things like delayed drowning or dry drowning flashed through my head as well. (Did I mention I'm neurotic as well as overprotective? I seriously need to stop watching all news TV and reading any other form of print or internet media. I am thisclose to turning into a later-year Howard Hughes or something.....) The kiddo did absolutely fine, and I eventually relaxed a teensy bit, though I stayed on the pool deck with my eye on her the entire time she was in the water.

The kiddo also played with a gun for the first time ever at the party. Yes, we are one of those adamantly anti-weapon households, and do not allow any type of toy that vaguely resembles a weapon, from guns to pirate swords to light sabers. We've never even allowed her a water pistol, and for the most part, she's stayed pretty innocent in the weapon-laden world in which we live today. Thanks to a few Disney films (Pocohontas is one that comes to mind), she has learned about what a gun or sword is, but she never plays any sort of pretend weapon-type games, which makes me happy. We were first to arrive at the party yesterday, and Emma's friend the birthday boy had just received some super-soaker water guns as a present from his grandparents earlier that morning and was eager to try them out. How could I say no? I kinda wanted to on the "no weapons" principle, but I caved. I had water pistols as a kid (Mom and Dad didn't allow any other weapon-type toys in our house but made an exception for the water pistols) and I know they're a lot of fun. I referred to them as "water squirters" which the kiddo picked up on and the way they were shaped is less reminiscent of an actual gun than the water pistols my sisters and I had as children. Of course, now she is clamoring for a water squirter of her very own (she also picked up on "super soaker" from some of the other kids) and I may cave in the next time we're at the store and get her a set.... It'd have to be a set so that I could squirt her back, of course!

Anyhow, that was the start to our weekend, and it just gets busier from here on out. My folks are arriving any minute now (and I really should be cleaning the upstairs bathroom or vacuuming instead of blogging.... oh, procrastination, you will one day be my downfall), and Mom is staying for the week. I'm in charge of the teacher/staff appreciation luncheon at the kiddo's preschool tomorrow and she starts gymnastics at the Y tomorrow afternoon. Tuesday is her last day of school and Wednesday is her preschool graduation. Hopefully by Friday I will be able to breathe again....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finch Finale

I hadn't noticed Mama bird on/near her nest in the past two days, which was highly unusual. When looking out the window closest to the basket, I'd been able to see not only Mama and Papa coming and going, but also the babies who were big enough to be seen above the edge of the nest. I was growing concerned that perhaps the babies had been abandoned, so I finally took the basket down to check on what was happening.

Oh no! Empty nest syndrome!

Hubby and I were concerned that the fledglings had met some grim end, but we googled house finches and learned that babies typically leave the nest between 12 and 19 days. So, it is quite possible that they simply flew away. We also read that the young finches tend to flock together and feed together, and there certainly was a crowd of finches at the feeder on the porch, so I'm going to keep stocking that feeder for the babies or any other finches that may drop by. I'm also leaving the nest in the basket for another week or so, just in case they return to it for a snooze or something. Apparently house finches will lay up to six separate clutches of eggs in brooding season, but they build new nests for each one, so Mama and Papa will not be back for another round in the petunia basket.

(By the by, while doing my best Grissom impression and searching the vicinity for evidence that some criminal end had befallen the baby birds, I did come across the corpse of the baby sparrow in a rather advanced state of decomp. Ew. I do much better with grisly findings when they're contained within the parameters of my TV set!)

So, it seems we're through with Finch Watch 2008. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for any other nesting situations in our yard - I would totally love to discover a hummingbird nest but the hummingbirds that frequent our feeder always seem to arrive from and depart to parts unknown beyond our back yard fence, so I'm not too confident that there are any hummingbird nests to be found. In the meantime, we've identified many species of birds that flock to our feeders (and who are now emptying all of the feeders in 24 hours or less) and have learned that we have brown-headed cowbirds, goldfinches and what I think was a towhee along with the birds I already could identify - robins, mourning doves (one of whom who had foiled my berry patch netting and was moseying around inside the patch the other day, grrr), red-winged blackbirds and one blue jay. The kiddo has been listening to the bird calls that came with the guidebook in her room, which is a bit disconcerting at times when all of a sudden you hear, say, a screech owl cry that sounds like it is inside the house... Better that, though, than to be listening to the CD in our car, which we did the other day. Nothing can make a short trip longer than 587 bird calls chirping away inside the van, let me tell you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eating like a bird?! Ha!

We've had bird feeders in our yard for several years now. We started with just one, and this year are up to three (not counting the occasional peanut butter-pine cone type feeder the kiddo makes and brings home from school), as well as a hummingbird feeder.

Let me tell you, that expression "S/he eats like a bird" is not exactly accurate, at least not around our house. We have been going through more birdseed than I could ever have imagined, and I don't even keep the feeders constantly full. Seriously, I just finished off a 25 lb bag of seed that Hubby bought last month. That's a lot of seed. We don't have squirrels or other non-bird type feeder raiders, by the way - in the 8.5 years we've lived here, I've never seen a single squirrel or chipmunk anywhere in the neighborhood. I think the lack of utility poles and the small number of trees has something to do with that...

We have a lot of different birds that frequent the backyard feeders, everything from itty-bitty sparrows up to big, fat mourning doves. (The mourning doves are extremely lazy - they will sit on the ground under the feeders and wait for a more enterprising bird to tip some seed out from above, then eat off the ground.) I've seen cardinals and goldfinches and we have blackbirds by the piefull. We also have loads of robins, and since I put up the third feeder on the front porch for the petunia basket family, we are positively lousy with finches, too.

As I was out refilling the feeders just now, I could hear bird calls picking up and getting more excited and loud. (Yes, I may be anthropomorphizing here, but I swear I'm not exaggerating.) It sounded for all the world like some birdfeeder scout was alerting the copse behind our property "She's finally refilled the feeders - chow time, y'all!" Sure enough, within five minutes of my returning indoors, the back yard is full of birds, in our two pear trees and all over the ground. Makes me extra-glad we covered the berry patch!

The hummingbird feeder is especially exciting to me. I never get tired of watching the hummingbirds come in for a drink of nectar (I make my own) and then dart away again over our fence. Some of them are smaller than large dragonflies and others are quite big. According to the hummingbird websites I've checked, we don't have many varieties in our neck of the woods, but I've seen a few that don't look like regulars for area every now and again. If we lived somewhere further south, where they get the more exotic varieties of hummingbirds, I might never leave my back yard or my window! I've been trying in vain to photograph the hummingbirds at the feeder for years now. If I had a fancier camera, like the one my dad has with the multiple shutter speeds and especially the crazy zoom lens (I'm pretty sure he could get a picture of our hummingbird feeder from an upstairs window from the farm in NJ), I would likely be more successful. Well, it's something to keep me busy, stalking the feeder with my base model camera at the ready.

Speaking of photographing birds, I finally managed to get a relatively clear shot of Mama Finch on her nest through the front window yesterday. The basket was swaying in the wind (we had some severe storms blow through and the wind was no gentle summer breeze!) so it isn't the sharpest photo, but I think you can see Mama clearly enough...

With said storms, I did take the baskets off the hooks for a bit so they wouldn't blow away during the worst of the wind. To my surprise, I realized I was wrong when I said there were only four babies in the nest - number five is there, albeit a lot smaller than his/her siblings! Woo! All five finches made it!

By the way, are these bird-related posts really boring? Am I driving readers away from my blog with the incessant bird chatter? Hmmm. I just find the whole thing kinda fascinating, as evidenced by my continued posting. Hopefully someone out there is as interested as I am in the topic...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Channeling my inner 5 year old (and not in a good way)

The kiddo decided that today was the day she was going to spill her beverage not once, but twice. First, it was a large cup of lemonade that went all over the living room carpet. This wound up requiring me to lug the cumbersome and heavy steam cleaner up the basement stairs and spend a good chunk of my afternoon cleaning the carpet, which included moving furniture and area rugs, vacuuming, spot cleaning and steam cleaning, then taking apart the steam cleaner to empty out the various chambers of their various liquids, reassembling it and lugging it back down to the basement. Needless to say, this was not on my list of things to do this afternoon and didn't leave me feeling like sunshine and roses.

So, when the kiddo, who'd promised tearfully that she'd be so much more careful and not spill her drink again as I knelt on the carpet sopping up the lemonade with paper towels, went ahead and spilled a mostly full cup of milk with Ovaltine in it at dinner, I lost it. I whipped around at the sound of the cup hitting the floor (thankfully this spill hit the linoleum and not anything carpeted or upholstered) and instantly, I was five again. Five in a really bad mood. I actually stamped my foot on the floor as I snapped "AGAIN? You spilled your drink AGAIN?!?" The kiddo's tears had started pretty much at the same time that her cup was arcing toward the floor, and she was obviously quite remorseful and extremely apologetic. Did I, the 36 year old who is known to be a klutz myself, calmly accept her apology, clean up the mess and move on? Nope, the foot stamping was just the beginning of my five year old-esque hissy fit. Opting for the dramatic route instead of the raising my voice and yelling route, I ordered the kiddo to stay in her chair (she was about to step down right into the Ovaltine lake beneath her) and with much sighing and rolling of eyes, I proceeded to mop it up. Oh, and I did some muttering under my breath, too, just for good measure. Things like "I canNOT beLIEVE that you spilled TWICE in one DAY. How MANY times do I have to REMIND you to be more CAREFUL? Do you need a baby sippy cup again? Aren't you a BIG girl?" All while she sat there, miserable and crying, forced to watch my entire tantrum.

Now, let's just run down the list of my oh-so-spectacular behaviors:
- foot stamping
- dramatic sighing/eye rolling
- muttering to myself
- ignoring the person who was speaking to me

Yep, all things that the kiddo does when SHE is upset with ME. Perfectly understandable, given that she is five. (And apparently didn't just develop all these techniques out of thin air - I hang my head in shame.) For me, however? Yeah, not too proud of the way I acted. I thought I'd left that obnoxious kid who honed her dramatics on her little sisters behind decades ago. Guess not.

For what it is worth, I did calm down shortly thereafter and had a talk with the kiddo, in which I apologized for my behavior. She said that she is going to try really hard tomorrow not to spill anything. On my part, I'm going to try to behave like the adult in the situation, since theoretically, that's what I am. We'll see how we do.

I hate days like this. Bad Mommy. Sigh.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scheduling change

The kiddo has, since the age of not-quite-two and a half, gone to bed at 7pm. That's 7pm at the latest, mind you - some days she'll ask to go to bed earlier and if she's had a very busy day it isn't unusual for her to be in bed closer to 6:30. Two and a half, you see, was when she decided she was done with napping and gave up her regular afternoon nap for good over a two week period and much to Mommy's chagrin. Her bedtime didn't move much earlier at that point, she'd been going to bed around 7:30 with the nap, so it didn't seem like that big a deal. Since that dark, dark period when the afternoon nap went away, the kiddo has napped maybe 10 or 12 times total, counting her nap today, either because she's under the weather or if she's way off her schedule because we're traveling or something.

Now, as I've mentioned before, the kiddo has SPD. Because of this, routines are even more important for her than your average, non-SPD kid. Her evening routine for over a year now has consisted of an early bath (she's generally in the tub between 4:30 and 5:00), followed by dinner and then her bedtime routine (feed the fish, brush the teeth, potty, sensory diet, stories etc). All of that is done and her lights are out by 7pm at the latest 99% of the time.

While there are some advantages to having a kid who goes to bed on the early side, there are also disadvantages, as you might imagine. The problem is that keeping her up past her bedtime for any extended length throws her out of whack for a few days thereafter. She gets very "disregulated" to use SPD parlance, and it just isn't fair to her to disrupt her already irregular system by keeping her up, even if it is for something fun like 4th of July fireworks or a party or something. Consequently, we have had to say no over the years to any number of fun activities because they would keep her out past her bedtime. We missed two preschool events just in this last week, as a matter of fact - one was a pizza night at a pizzeria she loves and the other was a school picnic held after hours at the zoo. While she would have loved both events, they didn't start until well into her evening routine and would have meant she'd have been up for a good two plus hours beyond her bedtime, and the repercussions from that would have been hard on all of us but especially would've made her miserable, so we (with regret) skipped them both.

It was partially those two missed events that got me seriously considering the kiddo's bedtime, along with the fact that in recent months, she hasn't just rolled over and gone straight to sleep at lights out the way she used to, say, six months or a year ago. Recently, we can hear her talking, singing or reading stories (she has a flashlight in her bed) for at least a half hour after lights out, if not longer. Hubby and I talked about it this weekend and decided we'd try changing her schedule a bit and pushing her bedtime from 7ish to closer to 8ish. We have gone back to doing a post-dinner bath (which had been switched a while ago to a pre-dinner bath to increase cooperation and decrease some ugly meltdowns that were occurring mid-bath) so she's still eating dinner around the same time. Doing a later bath means slightly less time in the tub - with the earlier bath time she'd frequently stay in the bath for up to an hour, just playing - but not so much that she is missing out on the relaxing element of soaking in the water. So far, so good... she went down about 3 minutes ago and I can still hear her talking to her stuffed animals but she was definitely drowsy when I was singing her lullabies just now. The real test will be how much later, if any, she'll be getting up in the morning. While being up later in the evening will be good once kindergarten starts in the fall, if the bus schedule is the same as it was for the kids on our street this year, she will have less time in the mornings than she has had for getting ready, having breakfast and getting out the door. A half an hour less, to be exact, and for the kiddo, who really lollygags about and takes her own sweet time to eat breakfast, that is a major change. Once we see how the later bedtime shakes out in the morning, I'll start working on getting her up and at 'em in a more time-efficient manner, so that she is accustomed to being ready to go by the earlier time well in advance of school. I wish the bus schedule would be mailed out earlier than August, but I'd rather be prepared and then find out that she has extra time in the mornings than the other way around.

So, the first big schedule change in a long time has begun. Hopefully the kiddo stays on an even keel and adjusts without major trauma...

For those of you out there who read this and have kids, what time do your kids go to bed? How old were they when they gave up naps or are they still napping? I always feel like people's reaction when they hear the kiddo's bedtime is somewhere between quite surprised and absolutely shocked at how early 7pm is, so I'm wondering what a "typical" bedtime for a kindergartner is these days....?

Lazy Sunday

First of all, if this post's title made Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg's SNL digital short run through your head, welcome to my brain. (The Chronic what? Cles of Narnia!) I've loved that clip since its original airing...

We've had a lazy Sunday here this year for Father's Day. I asked Hubby what he wanted to do today and his (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) response was "Breakfast. Nap. Lunch. Nap. Watch golf. Eat dinner. Watch more golf. Sleep." Well, the only Smiths that napped today turned out to be the cat (as per usual) and the kiddo, which was unusual but she's running a fever today, due, I think, to the four booster shots she had late Friday afternoon (quadruple OUCH but at least we're done with vaccines now until middle school). At least I'm hoping that's all that is causing it - she is asymptomatic otherwise, and certainly perked up following the nap, lunch, a popsicle from the ice cream truck, a water balloon toss with Mommy while Daddy practiced putting in the back yard and relaxing inside in the AC.

Speaking of AC, the AC still isn't fixed in the Sienna. Yes, argh to the tenth degree. Apparently there was a second part they didn't expect would need replacing, but it does, and they didn't have that part on hand, so it's now been ordered and we have an appointment to bring the Sienna back in again on Friday. That means another week of driving the kiddo back and forth to preschool (about 20-25 minutes each way) without AC. The good news is that the weather isn't supposed to be so stinkin' hot this week. The bad news is that the forecast is calling for rain every day this week, so we may not be able to cruise around with the windows open as we have been. Let's hope that Friday does the trick and the van is fixed once and for all!!

So anyhow, back to our day today. The kiddo woke up at four this morning, but went back to bed with a little coaxing before getting up for real at six. I got up with her so Hubby could sleep in, which he did until about 7:30. (Sadly, that counts as sleeping late in this house. Pathetic - I recall when "sleeping late" meant not being awake before noon...) Hubby actually requested ties for Father's Day, and the kiddo and I duly obliged and got him three new ones for his collection. The kiddo has surprisingly good taste in tie selection, and Hubby has received more compliments on ties that were her choices than any other. I have to give myself a wee bit of credit in this department too, though, as the one who will gently influence her choices as well as having the final say in which get purchased. This mainly comes into play when the kiddo spots a novelty tie - any novelty tie - because she has a mad, crazy passion for them. She will beg and plead and insist that Daddy would LOVE that one - the day-glo baby blue one with the flamingos and palm trees, or the one with giant lipstick smooches like Rocky Horror meets the Mary Kay lady, basically the tackier and louder the tie is, the more she thinks Daddy MUST have it. This time around, I had to dissuade her from picking the blue tie with the pink shirted, green shorts-ed lady golfers teeing off all over it. "But Daddy LOVES golf, Mommy!" Yes, true enough, and yet that isn't a tie that Daddy would ever wear in public, so it remained on the rack for some other dad's neck. (If it had been cheaper, say $5 or so, I would've gotten it - in part as payback for the Grandma Mother's Day card he let the kiddo pick out for me - but it was only marked down to $13 so no dice.) I think the kiddo would've loved growing up in the heinous, preppy fashion era of the 80s. I recall some horrible clothing, covered with worse patterns than any novelty tie, that people wore intentionally and with a straight face. My former school headmaster had a few pairs of cords covered with things like lobsters and tennis rackets that he'd frequently wear, not to mention madras slacks and pastel sweaters, and no one batted an eye. The kiddo would've LOVED those pants, as well as the wrap-around skirt I had back in seventh grade that was covered in (I kid you not) frogs.

The only thing we actually accomplished today as far as any work goes was to put up the netting that will hopefully keep the birdies away from the berries in our berry patch. Last year the netting was quite successful, but it was a ginormous PITA of a project. I put it up and removed it by myself and swore that next year, I'd get Hubby to help. So, he did, and thank goodness. When I say "ginormous PITA" I am vastly understating. That netting, yeesh, it is clingy and folds back on itself and gets tangled and can't be spread out.... essentially it is not a job for one person. Between the two of us and a few muttered curse words (the kiddo was safely out of ear's reach in the house), we hung it up in a way that I hope will make it easier for us humans to access the berries while keeping the birds out, and not get all tangled in the branches and brambles, which happened last year. The raspberries, blueberries and blackberries all look really promising in terms of buds and fruit, and while it was a bumper crop for my strawberry plants, they once again were itty bitty - hardly more than the size of a large raisin - so I left them on the plants as they ripened for the birds to eat. Which they did, with nary a "thank you" beyond a liberal splashing of bird poop along the edge of the fence in the corner where the berry patch resides.

In nesting news, all the finch babies are hatched and the end number is four. I don't know if the last egg was a dud, but when I took pictures the other day, there was still an egg left to hatch, then the next time we checked, no egg and no baby. The four that have made it seem to be healthy and thriving - they're already big enough that we can see their little beaks pointing up over the edge of the nest when looking from the window. Very cool. Mama Finch finally discovered the bird feeder I'd placed on the corner of the porch, right near her nest, and has invited every other finch in the area to join her. I counted fifteen finches (all female) on the porch and in the bushes around the porch when I peeked out the window earlier today. Finchtastic!

So, hopefully everyone out there had an equally relaxing Sunday and to all the dads out there (including my own and my hubby) - HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Baby birdie and busted AC update

The presumptive sparrow baby is no longer in the nest, so I guess I was right on his status, sadly enough. (Special thanks to Mama Finch for disposing of the corpse someplace out of sight and not just kicking it to the floor of the porch for me to find.) There is a newly hatched baby finch alongside the one that hatched yesterday, so total nest count at this point is two baby finches and three eggs yet to hatch.

Also, the problem with the Sienna's AC seems to be actually related to the work they did on it the last time. Then, they'd said the problem was one of two things (or possibly both) and at their suggestion, we had them do the lesser of the two fixes and hoped that would take care of it. Since it was the larger, more complicated and expensive issue, they are going to credit the work they did last time towards this fix, which knocks a good bit off of the still-costly bill, but they think this will take care of it once and for all. (As it should since we've now replaced just about the entire AC system...) The bad news is that they don't have the part they need on hand so we'll have to do the complicated Drop Off the Van routine again either on Friday or Saturday. The mechanic did say that he thinks we should have a few more good, problem-free years at least left on the van, given the state of everything else in it and the shape it's in, now that the AC issue will be resolved. Hope he's right!!

Eggstra, Eggstra! Read all about it!

(Wow, the eggciting terms just keep on coming. Hee!)

First, the good news - another baby birdie has hatched in the nest! The new finch baby is a lot smaller than the presumptive sparrow, as one might expect given the difference in egg sizes.

Now, the bad news - it doesn't appear that the baby sparrow has survived. It looked quite still and as though it was not breathing when I took the baskets down as they were being blown almost perpendicular in yesterday's thunderstorms. (I continue to try to disturb the nest as little as possible, so I do not touch the actual nest and am going only on brief, visual observation here.) Mama finch is still tending to/sitting on the nest, so I don't think it is a case of abandonment. Hubby speculates that perhaps once the baby finch appeared, Mama figured out the first baby was not one of hers and stopped caring for it. Who knows? (Probably some ornithologist, but we're certainly not bird experts.) All I know is, I hope that I am wrong and the sparrow chick is still alive, but if it is dead, I hope Mama finch removes it from the nest and not just to the porch floor, as happened last year. (Ick.) So, that's two eggs down, four to go!

(Side note: it cooled down during the storm front yesterday, which enabled me to turn off the central air and open the windows to air out the house. Papa Finch was most displeased with his apparently new found awareness of our cat, who had immediately planted herself in an opened upstairs window - not the window nearest the petunia baskets, mind you. He perched on the roof about 3 feet away from where she was sunning herself and minding her own business and cheeped at her quite angrily. She looked at me with this "Huh?!? What did I do?" expression and after a few more minutes of him cheeping, she hopped down out of the windowsill and stalked off into the back of the house, away from Papa finch. After she left the window, he stopped cheeping and flew away.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

(egg) Breaking News!!!

I just took down the petunia baskets to water them, as they're quite droopy between the sun and the brisk, hot breeze, and look who decided to pop out:

This is the baby out of the presumptive sparrow egg, (as you can see) the five matching, smaller eggs are still intact. Mama Finch was super ticked at my disruption of her motherly duties - I watered as fast (yet carefully) as I could and rehung the basket while she cheeped and cheeped at me. She went back to the nest as soon as I'd closed the front door behind me. I'm guessing we'll have more babies in the next couple of days, as the egg that hatched today wasn't the first one laid. Woo-hoo! (Also, I haven't seen the sparrow hanging around in the past couple of days, either in the front near the nest or in the back yard, where this year's birdfeeder frequenters are eating us out of house and home, or at least out of gigantic bags of seed.)

In other nature and wildlife-related news, yesterday after church I was mowing the lawn when, in the back yard along the back of the kiddo's sandbox, I came across this:

It's about two feet long, and isn't a complete specimen. I skeeved Hubby out by picking it up with my bare hands and bringing it inside to show him and the kiddo. (The kiddo who promptly requested to bring it in to school today to show to her class, which she did with great excitement this morning.) Once it was safely contained in a gallon-sized baggie and my hands had been thoroughly washed, Hubby was more inclined to inspect the snake skin. Now, we've only ever seen garter snakes around our little piece o' property, and the largest of those that we've ever spotted was maybe a foot long. Neither of us believe this came from a garter snake, and I have no idea what kind of snake it belonged to before it was shed. Here's a close-up of the skin in case there are any herpetology enthusiasts out there who might be able to identify it.

I was thinking of taking it (with the kiddo) to the zoo and seeing if anyone there might know, but with the AC issue (as described in painful detail in my previous post) I didn't want to do any extra driving today. Let's hope that whatever type of snake it is, its diet consists primarily of many, many voles and that if so, s/he sticks around for the rest of the summer. It'd be awfully nice to be vole-free, especially without having to resort to placing boxes of rodent poison way under the deck (well out of any human or feline's reach) as we've had to do a few times in previous years when the vole infestation has been particularly prolific.

We're positively brimming with wildlife 'round here! Between the birdies, the snake, the toad I almost ran over with the mower, Bunny Foo-Foo (who has munched a good portion of this year's food garden, now replanted and surrounded by organic Keep-Bunny-Away granules), the vole community under the deck and the geese, ducks, herons, deer, muskrats and what appears to be a beaver family in the pond out behind our back yard, well, call up the ghost of Marlin Perkins and have him bring a camera crew on over!

Hot mess

As most people living in the northeast of the US are already aware, we're in the midst of a hot spell. I'm not sure how many days it takes of consecutive hot days to officially constitute a heat wave, but we've been above normal - way above normal - since late last week. Looking at the 10 day forecast on the Weather Channel's site, it doesn't look like we'll be back to more seasonably warm-but-not-roasting temperatures 'til early next week. That means several more days of "oh my goodness, have we moved to the face of the Sun?" type heat to get through.

And, yes it is a cliché, but it is true: it's not the heat, it's the humidity. I don't mind heat, so long as it's a dry heat. I've happily hung out outdoors in Vegas when it was over 110 in the shade. I'm talking Vegas in July and August, with nary a complaint. The humidity, though, that's the thing that I abhor - when you walk outside and the air touching your skin has the feeling of a large dog's tongue licking you, if that large dog had just run a marathon then drunk warm chocolate syrup. That is what makes air conditioning so delightful, no?

Unfortunately, this week's heat coincides with the AC in our minivan failing. This in and of itself is a bad thing, but it is compounded by the fact that this isn't the first time the AC has gone kaput. It isn't even the second time. No, this is the fourth time within a 13 month period that it's died on us. The first time was last May, when it was warm but not crazy hot. We took it in, had it repaired, paid the bill and thought that was that. When it conked out a little over a month later, we were in the midst of a six-hours-each-way road trip for a family wedding. It was significantly hotter that weekend and driving home especially was most unpleasant. We called the dealership from the road and made arrangements to have it re-fixed. We were a bit less thrilled with the bill the second time around, but we really thought that was that. Which it was, until May rolled around this year and it died for a third time. This time, Hubby called the dealership with a good deal of righteous indignation. We certainly didn't feel like forking over several hundred dollars for something they'd supposedly fixed twice already. Well, whaddya know - this time, the problem was in an entirely different part of the AC system, and a more expensive, extensive repair-required part to boot. Crapola. Several hours and over a grand later, the van was cool once again, until this past weekend, when the AC once more gave up the ghost.

Now, we have a Toyota. We love Toyotas. We've driven nothing but Toyotas since we bought a Tercel back when we were newlyweds. That Tercel lasted through 14 years of bad upstate NY and northern New England winters, driving from NY to Florida and back, driving between NY and NH through the mountains and mud season for over a year - it was a great car. We had the most minimal maintenance/repair expenses over its hard-driven 14 years and it was just ridiculously reliable. Our Tercel had close to 200,000 miles on it when we traded it in for a new Camry last summer. We also had a Corolla for a few years on a lease, that we turned in for the Sienna back in 2000. We've been hoping that the Sienna will last us another couple of years, which doesn't seem too far-fetched, and we certainly don't want a second car payment added into the budget. I don't think we've had two simultaneous car payments in ten years, back when gas was less than a buck a gallon. But then again, we're not keen on dropping a thousand dollars every other month to get the AC working again either.

So, we are taking the van in on Wednesday to find out what's broken this time and how much it's going to cost us. With our luck, it will be a new problem so not something they'll graciously fix for free. The forecasted high for tomorrow is 85, with thunderstorms. That'll be one toasty drive to preschool. At least today, we could drive with the windows open. (Which, by the by, doesn't do the Wolverine Fawcett-Van Beethoven 'do any favors. "Windswept" isn't exactly the adjective one wants to add to "ginormous, Jersey hair" you know. It literally becomes one hot mess of hair. I could hairspray the heck out of my hair - I'm talking Sally Field in Steel Magnolias levels of helmet-head - and the wind pattern through the van with both windows rolled down would still kill it. Egad.) That would be one advantage if it does wind up being more cost-effective to replace the Sienna instead of repairing the AC again - the new models have back windows that roll down. That might come in handy some day...

So, hopefully the current AC issue is easily, quickly, cheaply and permanently resolved. If not, hopefully there are some really excellent deals to be had both on trading in an 8 year old Sienna with a bum AC system and buying a new Sienna with functioning AC...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Slip 'n Sliding away

It was hot here today. Really, really hot. Also really, really humid. These two factors combine to affect the Smith Chicks' hair in very different ways. When it is the least bit humid out, the kiddo's hair goes into these ringlet curls - the same curls I have actually paid hair stylists to put in for fancy updo styles, you know, those delicate, curly tendrils that frame one's face oh-so-romantically - and it is absolutely adorable on her. Me, on the other hand? All the humidity and heat do to my Wolverine van Beethoven (now slightly longer but still very, very layered and not nearly long enough to be out of the awkward stage) is make it even larger and more feathered. I guess it is now less Wolverine van Beethoven than Wolverine Fawcett, because it is trying like heck to feather itself all over my head.

Proof right here: (and kindly ignore the glistening and pink cheeks; it was hot and I'd just come in from the gym...)

Yes, you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you'll never take the Jersey out of her hair! I spent a good 20 minutes after my post-gym shower wielding spray gel, "texturizing" spray, anti-frizz goop and hairspray to get the volume to come down on top of my head. Also to get it to come in somewhat on the sides. A daunting task - it made me actually ponder buying a flat iron, but my forehead and ears remember all too well the burns left upon them back in the Scary Curling Iron days of my youth (when you'd fill the barrels with water, then push the end as you were curling so steam would come out, remember? Water + electricity + very close proximity to one's head = brilliant plan...) and so I think I'm going to tough it out a little longer. It can't stay this length forever, right?

So anyhow, it was hot today. The kiddo is mostly recovered from her pneumonia (we saw the doctor this afternoon, who said her lungs are sounding pretty good. Go Zithromax! Woot!) and was feeling antsy after spending most of the week in a very low-key, recovering-from-pneumonia manner. It seemed a fitting time, therefore, to break out one of her recently received birthday presents - a Slip 'n Slide. Now, when I was a kid, we never had a Slip 'n Slide. I didn't even have any friends who owned a Slip 'n Slide, so I never in my life have slipped 'n slid. It was always something that looked like sooooo much fun that I think a little piece of me always felt like my summers were never complete for not having had the Slip 'n Slide experience. Hubby reports the same, sad childhood tale of being utterly deprived of ever having played on a Slip 'n Slide, so the kiddo is the first member of our immediate family to be lucky enough to do so, and on one of her very own to boot! She was begging both of us to go with her, but the very scary warning printed right at the start of the plastic convinced any part of me that was still longing to try it, even just once, that I'm about 30 years too late (and several pounds too heavy) for that. Bummer.

Now, it seems from our (admittedly hazy) recollections from back in the day that the Slip 'n Slide engineering has greatly improved over the decades. What Hubby and I recall was little more than a long strip of plastic that those fortunate children who owned one would complain about tearing and getting punctured very easily. Now, it has a bumper-surrounded catching area at the end, as well as a row of pretty serious sprinklers down the side (which we didn't remember being a feature back in the 70s, but may've in fact been. Like I said, we were both deprived. I seem to remember it just being wet by the hose, but no arcing sprinkler action.)

While I was inside liberally slathering sunscreen on the kiddo, Hubby set up the Slip 'n Slide, angling it along the natural slope of our back yard and checking the underside area for sharp and/or pointy things. As our grass is presently in need of a trim, I think there was more cushioning than there otherwise might've been between the plastic and our hard, hard clay soil, so not a bad thing. Having it head downhill also helped improve the kiddo's sliding potential, of course. She couldn't wait to get sliding. Unfortunately, she really didn't want to attempt a running leap-belly flop combination (as we remember from the TV commercials of our youth), so she mostly just got a running start several yards back on the lawn, then continued running once she reached the plastic until she lost her footing and then slid the rest of the way on her behind/back. This was rather hilarious to watch (as evidenced by my giggling and inability to speak in a normal tone of voice from said giggling while trying out our new video camera) and didn't deter her from repeatedly doing the "run until she fell" maneuver, despite a few rather hard landings. I have a feeling she's going to have a sore behind in the morning...

The biggest downside to any water-related activity in our back yard is the lack of hot water capability. I suppose we could run the hose into the house through the window above the kitchen sink and hook it up to some warmer water courtesy of the kitchen tap, but we never have. Every pool, sprinkler and now Slip 'n Slide we've done has featured icy cold water straight from the outside faucet. This means that despite the great amounts of fun one is having and the incredible heat one may be outdoors in at the time, one's teeth eventually start chattering and one's Mean Mommy pulls the plug on the activity in favor of drying off and warming up. This is especially the case when one is recovering from pneumonia, so the Slip 'n Sliding was cut shorter than the kiddo may've liked. Good thing we're heading to the water park tomorrow, which is set to be another scorchingly hot and humid day!

(Oh, a quick petunia basket nest update: Mama Finch is still sitting on the nest, which still features 6 unhatched eggs, which as of this morning's plant watering were all standing on end. Do eggs turn upright as the baby is getting ready to hatch all on their own? Does the mama bird turn them? Will we have baby birdies soon? Stay tuned......)

(Oh, and a PPS - don't know if anyone noticed or not, but I'm not wearing my glasses in the picture above because I was wearing contacts today. Woo! Contacts! My "one month per eye" supply came in yesterday, and now I'm going to have to begin seriously exercising the restraint I promised myself I would in order to make that "one month" stretch out to three or four months, at least. It is too darn expensive to wear contacts every day at the price I have to pay for these. Though I will wear them tomorrow, since we're going to the amusement park......)

(Last PS for this post, I swear. I just spellchecked, as I somehow have a mental block on how to spell the word exercise - oh, the irony - and the spell check indicated that "scorchingly" is not a word. It gave me the option of "scorching" instead, which has me wondering - why isn't "scorchingly" a word? Is it a word and blogger spell check just doesn't get it? Hmmm.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Company social event

Hubby has been working for his present company since last September. Since he began working there, the company has had a few different events to which the spouses/partners of employees were invited. There is another such event this coming weekend, as Hubby reminded me this morning.

Now, I'm a very social person. I don't get stressed out by being in a large group or in a group of strangers. I'm outgoing and enjoy social situations. Usually. When it comes to Hubby's coworkers, though, I feel a bit more outside my comfort zone.

The first part of it is, I think, because I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past five years. That's five years in which I've honed my knock-knock jokes, unwittingly memorized the entire Wiggles canon, brushed up on all the Disney princesses and painstakingly learned the pros and cons of every playground in the county, but also five years in which I haven't regularly interacted in an adults-only setting. Combine that with issues like, while pre-Kiddo I used to see, on average, four movies a month in the theater, nowadays we're lucky to see four movies a year in the theater, and that nowadays I catch most of my news and current events either in brief snippets here and there while I'm getting ready for the day (we don't have the TV on while the kiddo is up, outside of her shows, which don't include CNN or Headline News or even the Today show) or via the 5:30am news, at which point I'm not entirely awake - what I'm trying to say is that I've sort of lost my grip on the larger world. Mostly, I'm okay with that. I do read the top stories on and try to keep up on pop culture via my beloved Entertainment Weekly, but I've been all right with having my world shrink dramatically to a point where the primary concern and focus is my immediate, little family. All right, that is, until I am in an adults-only social setting, where all of a sudden I feel a wee bit out of my element (unless the talk pertains to anything child-related, of course). Not even so much "out of my element" as just rusty with What Grown-Ups Talk About When Socializing Sans Children. That's what it is - rustiness. My Socializing Grown-Up mode is covered under a thick layer of dust, and that's kind of hard to shake, since that is no longer who I am - I'm not the same me I was before kids, you know? When I'm with a group of my peers, it isn't hard at all - I can chat with fellow parents (generally in a parenting-relative situation, like at preschool or a birthday party, playground or pediatrician's waiting room) and I'm utterly comfortable - there's no dust on Mommy Me. Just on Non-Mommy Me, that's the part that's rusty. So, part of it is that I want to make a good impression and be a supportive spouse, and I feel kind of awkward from having been out of the loop for so long now in that regard, unlike Hubby, who is out and about in the Regular World, talking to other adults every day.

That is part of the stress I feel facing a social event with Hubby's coworkers. More specifically, however, I'm a bit stressed because of the Peppercorn Incident. (cue horror movie music here please) It happened back on my birthday this past December. My birthday, which happened to be the same date as Hubby's company's holiday party. It was a swank affair, held at a gorgeously decorated country club (ironically, a country club where I once job coached an individual for my pre-Mommy life working in supported employment - I know where each of the tables, chairs and tablecloths we were sitting around is stored down in the bowels of the building...). There was great food, an open bar, music. Hubby and I were dressed up and looking good, heck, I even had make-up and earrings and heels on that night, woo! The party was crowded, and we made it through the cocktail hour without problem, but then I was almost done in by the Peppercorn of Death during dinner. They were carving beef tenderloin for one of the entrees, and if I'm given the choice, I'm gonna go beef just about every time, especially given that we rarely have beef in any variety other than "ground" at home. I was given what turned out to be the very end of one of the tenderloins, and we sat down and started to eat, just the two of us at a table for four. (There wasn't assigned seating and we couldn't find seats at any of the larger tables of eight. This turned out to be not such a bad thing, in light of what happened next...) So, I'm enjoying the delish tenderloin and then I bit into my very last bite, which is the very end of the very end piece, and I bit down on something crunchy. My first thought was it was a bit of gristle or something, but it turned out to be a peppercorn (from the peppercorn-encrusted tenderloin, dontcha know) but not just a little flake of peppercorn, oh no. It was a whole peppercorn sent straight from Satan to torment unsuspecting birthday girls. I bit into it and my mouth was immediately on fire, so what did I do? Not the inelegant thing of spitting it out, no, not this classy broad. Instead, I tried to swallow it as quickly as possible, whereupon it cackled evilly a la Vincent Price in Thriller and attached itself firmly to the back of my throat, behind my uvula. It had sharp, piercing spikes with which it embedded itself, and it had no intentions of going any further. It wasn't obstructing my airway or anything, so I could breathe - sort of - it was just stuck there, sending tendrils of fire up into my sinuses and down my throat. (I should point out here that I never, ever eat anything spicy. Hubby has taste-tested for me for the past 16 years, and if he isn't available, I err on the side of caution and don't eat it. Seriously - to give you an example, Taco Bell's mild sauce is waaay too hot for me. My stomach just can't take spicy food, so I avoid it like the plague. An ordinary, spicy-foods-eating person probably wouldn't have found this peppercorn particularly strong, but for me, it was like a habanero chili pepper.) Water didn't do anything to dislodge it, and I didn't feel like I could really swallow (Hubby was suggesting trying to wash it down with some of my mashed potatoes), so I excused myself to the ladies' room to try and cough it up.

I am telling you, all of Hubby's coworkers must now think I am the world's least successful bulimic, because it took three separate trips to the bathroom, where I sequestered myself in a stall trying to hack that Peppercorn of Death up, before I finally did. Tres elegant, non? Once I'd finally, finally dislodged the damn thing, I was fine and hurried back to rejoin Hubby as quickly as I could. Adding insult to injury, I failed to check myself closely enough in the mirror post-coughing-and-hacking in my haste to get back out to where I'd left Hubby languishing alone at our table, and didn't realize that all my eye-watering, coughing, sweating shenanigans in the ladies' room had left me a bit of a mess. In an attempt to make up for the time lost where Hubby was left spouseless and alone, I went into super-social mode for the remainder of the evening, never realizing that my mascara had run into raccoon-like smears under my eyes, my lipstick was mostly gone, and I was sweaty and red-faced to boot. I can only guess that the folks we chatted with from that point on must've thought I was seriously drunk, which is all the more unfortunate as I rarely drink alcohol at all and was as sober as could be. (I've only ever been drunk to the point of being tipsy, and that was back in my not-very-wild-n-crazy college days. I'm so not a par-tay! kind of girl.) I was, to put it plainly, a hot mess, a fact I did not realize until we arrived home at the oh-so-not-partying-heartily hour of 11:00pm. (Which, sadly, is now late enough of an evening for us that we both needed naps the next day. Back in college, we wouldn't be heading out for the evening until close to 11:00, nowadays we are usually sound asleep by 10...)

So, I have a bit of stress now that I am going to be seeing these same people again on Saturday, plus the fact that the event is being held at our local amusement park, which has a water park and it is supposed to be in the 90s, so the kiddo will want to go in the water park. You see where I'm going with this? Yep, a public bathing suit situation, with people I'd otherwise be trying to impress - eeeeek!

All in all, though, I'm not going to worry too much and just enjoy myself on Saturday. I mean, I can't undo what happened with the Peppercorn of Death at the holiday party, and I doubt many (any?) of the other party goers have given it or me much thought since then. Hopefully I will be able to be adequately witty and charming and avoid something like choking on a hot dog or barfing from motion sickness on the Spinning Teacups or having a Boobs-a-Blazin' incident with my bathing suit on a water slide............ To quote one of my sister's favorite expressions, it is what it is and I can only try to be fantabulous from here on out. Right?

Germies update

So, the cough, fever and Niagara Falls Nostrils that the kiddo has right now? Turns out, it's pneumonia. !!! We learned this after a visit to the pediatrician followed by a visit to the hospital for a chest x-ray, followed by a trip to the pharmacy for some groovy, kick-ass antibiotic. Unfortunately, those three stops took us well over five hours when all was said and done, which was plenty of time for the kiddo's morning ibuprofen dose to wear off and for her fever to spike anew, causing her to become one cranky, miserable kid. I almost lost it at the pharmacy when we arrived to find that the prescription had not yet been filled, nor even sent to them, and then spent twenty minutes on hold with my doctor's office without a single, live person picking up to find out where exactly the prescription was... Thankfully while I was draining my cell phone battery listening to "Your call is important to us. We appreciate your patience. Please remain on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received" the prescription was eventually faxed over and then filled. Whew. Neither of us particularly ever want to see any waiting room bench again anytime soon, that's for sure! But, now that she's had her first dose o' azithromycin and another dose of ibuprofen, she's perked right back up again.

Pneumonia. For crying out loud. What's next, bubonic plague? Yeesh!!!

As the petunia basket turns...

Okay, I spent a lot of time yesterday afternoon stalking and trying to get a picture of Mama bird, and I am now certain that the sparrow I caught at the bird feeder is not the bird that is sitting on the nest.

Unfortunately, this is the best shot I could get of Mama on the nest. I had to take it from inside the house with the window closed, because if I do anything else, even just try to photograph her through the open window, she flies away and gets really irked - cheeping and cheeping from what she deems a safe distance. Apparently Mama bird isn't yet ready for her close-up...

If I had CSI or Law & Order technology, I could put that shot into some computer program and with a few keystrokes, be able to "enhance" it to the point where we could see every detail of her smallest feather and probably even do a DNA analysis, but I am a mere mortal with a not-terribly-fancy digital camera and not-very-advanced PhotoShop skills. I also tried to catch a shot of Mama bird after she had flown away and landed on the neighbor's roof:

Based on these two pictures and the fact that Papa bird defintely resembles the house finch picture I found online, I'm feeling pretty sure that (a) the Mama and Papa are both house finches - though that one, larger egg doesn't appear to be (see Nora's comments in the post below, and thanks Nora for your sleuthing!) and (b) at this point, the house finches are still in control of the nest. I have noticed sparrows in the general area, and given last year's similar egg configuration in the nest, I'm guessing that the bad end to the baby birdies last year was due to the sparrow ultimately taking over the nest. Evil sparrow.

We're not going anywhere today as the kiddo has brewed up her first batch of 5 year old germies (nasty, wet cough, Niagara Falls nostrils and most worryingly, a fever of almost 103 this morning) unless we head over to the pediatrician for a "listen to the lungs" check, and it is pouring rain out, so I'm guessing Mama bird will stick close to the nest. I am going to try to get a better picture of her, and if I do, I'll post it. Also, if the weather worsens, I'll have to take down the baskets (so they don't blow over) and if I do, I'll take a picture of any egg-hatching developments. I didn't take the basket down yesterday as I'm trying to disturb it as little as possible. Stay tuned for further chapters of As the Petunia Basket Turns...........