Monday, December 29, 2008

Where you WON'T find me shopping at the mall . . .

Chris and the kids and I hit the mall tonight to make our Christmas returns. We actually didn't have that much to do, so it went fairly quickly. We had parked down on the end by J. C. Penney - - I don't often get past the bookstore at that end of the mall, so it is always a surprise to me when I pass the Native American store and see that it is still in business. I am always completely amazed that it stays open. It is a rather large store, encompassing two regular size rental spaces. In addition, that end of the mall has the least amount of foot traffic, I have yet to see anyone else in there other the person working, and besides that, the stuff that they sell is completely hideous. (OK - admittedly, I am not a big fan of the "Southwest" decorating scheme, but this stuff is hardly the stuff of actual artists. It is more "Southwest kitch" rather than "Southwest art.") This store is full of poorly crafted paintings of howling wolves and tired cowboys, cheap feathered things glued together to make "dreamcatchers," low quality pottery and scratchy wool blankets -- more than likely all made in a sweatshop in Mexico or China, rather than the southwest United States.
Obviously someone is shopping there because it has been in business for a few years now -- though I have no idea how. A money laundering operation perhaps? That is truly the only plausible explanation that I can come up with as to why that place has managed to stay afloat. Seriously - - how can they manage to pay rent AND their employees AND purchase merchandise and still turn a profit? Who is shopping there???

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This holiday season has been a particularly fun one. Aleita, at age four, has reached the age where she really understands the true meaning of Christmas is biblical, and not just about Santa and presents. That is not to say that she is willing to forgo the presents, mind you - - not by a long shot. At age four, she has also firmly embraced the idea of Santa Claus. She and Maggie also both really love Christmas carols, and most anything associated with holiday cheer in general.

This year is also a little bittersweet because I think it is probably the last year that Maggie is going to hang onto the idea of Santa Claus. She is eight years old, and she has relayed to us that kids at school have told her that he isn't real. Her logical response to the naysayers has always been that there is no way that her mom and dad could buy all the stuff that Santa leaves for them. Despite this confidence in Santa's deep pockets, I can see that she is starting to have some lingering doubts about the whole thing through questions she asks and looks she gives.

Her conviction to Santa is far stronger than her doubts this year - - as we were heading home from my parents' house tonight, she and Aleita were about ready to burst with excitement because they wanted to get home and get to bed so Santa could come. Maggie even commented that her stomach hurt a little bit because she was so excited about the thought of Santa coming. It is almost hard to remember what it was like to be that age - - do you recall hardly being able to go to sleep because you were so incredibly excited? Remember waking your parents up at 5AM to go see what Santa had left? I love that both of my kids have that bit of magic in their lives. However, I imagine that 2008 will mark the end of Maggie's belief in the big guy in the red suit with the flying reindeer.

It is at times like this when I realize just how fast she is growing up. You never notice the changes in your own kids day to day because you are there with them all the time. But, there are certain moments in their lives though when you look at them, and it's like, did we get here? When did you get so big? How did this happen? It seems like yesterday that we were bringing her home from the hospital on a bitterly cold November night...and yet, here we are, eight quick years later, almost ready to give up on Santa.

I'm so proud of the beautiful young lady that she is becoming, yet want to her to be my little girl just a little while longer. I love that she is becoming more responsible and able to do so many more things without my help, yet I dread the day when she will no longer need my help at all. I have heard people say that the older you get, the faster time seems to go. I am finding more and more just how true that is.
From Christmas past:
Maggie (age 3) & Dempsey (age 5) - taken in 2003

Maggie (age 4) & Aleita (9 months) - taken in 2004

Sunday, December 21, 2008


A few weeks ago, I was browsing in the Barbie aisle at Wal-Mart, looking for Christmas ideas for Maggie. I guess I shouldn't be surprised for what Mattel comes up with for Barbie to do these days - - but I have to admit, that even I was a little taken aback. More about that in a minute . . .for those of you who are out of the "Barbie loop," you may not realize that Barbie has been quite busy since her creation in the 1950s. Originally, Barbie was conceived as a fashion model, but it didn't take long for her to start getting jobs - - as a babysitter, nurse, and teacher. It took her until the mid-1970s to shatter the glass ceiling, when she finally became a doctor.

After a few decades though, Mattel began to recognize that they had better keep up with the times if they wanted to milk the Barbie cash cow for all she was worth. Those smart toy makers have transformed Barbie dolls into various Disney princesses, DC Comic Superheroes, Spice Girls, and more recently, assorted members of the cast of High School Musical. Barbie has also had a variety of careers, ranging widely from astronaut to paleontologist to veterinarian to McDonald's employee to US President -- heck, she has even been a Nascar driver! When it comes to careers, you name it, and Barbie has probably done it.

Yes - apparently Barbie even does Nascar. . .
Getting back to my surprise in the Wal-Mart toy aisle - - I was browsing through the different types of Barbies when I came across one that really didn't scream "Christmas cheer" to me. It actually just kind of screamed. I stopped dead in my tracks to take a look - - among the lovely pink Barbie packages, was one that was somewhat startling to behold. Whoever thought that Alfred Hitchcock and Barbie would be used together in the same sentence?

Thank goodness! Just in time for the holidays! Exactly what every little girl wants for Christmas . . . . Barbie as Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS!
Yes, nothing says "Christmas cheer" like Barbie having her eyes gouged out by crows. Ha, ha Barbie - - even Ken can't save you now! You shouldn't have bitched so much about being a Nascar driver - - nobody likes a whiner! Merry Christmas - love, Mattel!

(Needless to say, that won't be waiting under the Christmas tree for Maggie this year.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Is it just my husband, or do all men hate IKEA?

A few weeks ago, I was up Chicago-way, and decided to stop in a browse for a bit at the Bolingbrook IKEA (I know that Schaumburg is bigger, but I was closer to Bolingbrook.) I think that most of the furniture from IKEA is kind of janky, but I do like looking at all their assorted what-not – I believe they refer to it as the “Marketplace.” Regardless, for some reason, shlepping through bargain priced aprons, lamps, picture frames, tables cloths, glasses, spatulas, and other assorted home paraphernalia apparently brings me some odd sort of happiness. I also like looking at their slightly-freaky Swedish cartoony kids’ toys for some reason. It is easy for me to while away a few hours just complacently meandering through a whole bunch of stuff that I never knew I wanted but now somehow feel the compulsion to purchase.

My husband refers to IKEA as “IKEA-Hell.” If given the choice between just about anything else and IKEA, he would choose the anything else. He simply can not understand how I can spend two hours slowly browsing around a large two-story warehouse, and then simply purchase a set of hand towels and rug and call it good. After about fifteen minutes in the place, his patience is exhausted.

His solution to this problem is now to simply refuse to visit IKEA with me. If we are together and I insist on going, he will drop me off, and then set a time to pick me up later. I think he usually hits a nearby bookstore while I shop, but who knows – he may be somewhere walking on hot coals or swallowing glass – both of which I am sure he would prefer to leisurely following me through IKEA. This method of IKEA visits works out better for the both of us.

As I said though, I was there a few weeks ago and saw the couple that Chris and I used to be in IKEA. A young woman was in the section of glassware where I was, meticulously looking through various wineglasses. The young man with her looked tired and pissed off. He finally said to her, “Amy – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD – Can we go already?!!?” She looked around, somewhat embarrassed, and then said to me, “I’ll bet your husband doesn’t act like this, does he?”

I smiled at her slightly, but honestly replied, “You’re doing better than me actually – my husband won’t come with me to IKEA anymore.” Her husband smirked at her while she gave me that tight-lipped grin that basically said, “thanks a whole helluva lot.”

Upon my return home, I relayed this story to my husband who found deep satisfaction in knowing that he isn’t the only man who loathes a visit to IKEA.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Something happened to me yesterday that I had heard about before, but it was one of those things that I thought only happened to other people. I guess I thought I was one of the lucky ones - - that I was simply untouchable. Alas, I was wrong - - so very wrong.

I heard those words yesterday that I thought I would never have to hear - - “I’m sorry – there’s nothing more we can do.”

And just like that – it was gone. In fact, they were all gone. All my phone numbers, that is. On Sunday, as I went to shut my phone off before church (lest I become a Sunday morning ringer,) my phone pitifully gave me the message, “NO SIM CARD.”

The phone had just been working the night before, so I couldn’t imagine what the trouble could be. I turned it off and back on (also known as the “magic fix.”) In this case, it wasn’t. I took the battery off and removed the sim card, then put it all back together and turned the phone on once more. Still, it stubbornly declared, “NO SIM CARD.”

After playing around with the battery and sim card a few more times, I simply threw it in my purse and waited until I could get to the phone place on Monday. I was hoping there was something wrong with the phone itself. I had that nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that the sim card had shot craps, but didn’t want to say it out loud, much less think it, lest it become all too real.

As the young salesclerk took a moment to examine my phone, within a few minutes he heartlessly announced, “I think your sim card is bad – that’s easy to fix - -we’ll just replace it for you!”

“Try it again!” I begged, "I can't lose all my contacts!." He looked at me and sighed. “Don’t be mad if this doesn’t work,” he said. He tried it in a different phone, and indeed, it also did not recognize the sim card. I hung my head and sighed and finally allowed myself to admit that the sim card was dead.

Sensing my downtrodden demeanor, the salesguy nicely told me that normally a new sim card costs $20, but he would give it to me for free. I told him “thank you,” but any fool could tell that my heart wasn’t in it. He was trying to help me out, but all I could think of was myself - - -all my phone numbers - - gone.

I do have some of the phone numbers that were in my phone written down somewhere – but there is a good percentage that I don’t. I will be spending time over the next week working to restore my lost contacts.

Let this be a lesson to you – write those numbers down, my friend. You may think it will never happen to you, but I am living proof that cell phone tragedy can strike at any time.

Oh yeah - - and send me your phone numbers. I’ve got lots of work to do.

Monday, December 8, 2008


My job requires that I travel from time to time. Some people really hate to travel - - I don't mind it so much. I am never usually gone for more than two or three days at a stretch, and even then, it is only every few months. Some people will actually ask me, "who takes care of the kids while you're gone?" as if a father is completely incapable of running the household in my absence. Contrary to popular belief from 1956, Chris is more than able to carry on with life when I am gone for a few days (he does, however, insist that the kids' hair be braided before I leave so that all he has to do is oil it in the morning. I came home once after Aleita had swimming lessons and he actually did have to wash it. He had sent that child to school with a big ol' head full of some nappy hair....practically a Don King afro....she was not happy.) At any rate, other than hair-doin', is a very good dad and more than capable of feeding, bathing, clothing, homework-helping, and general kid-takin'-care-of when I am gone. I never worry about them because I know I am leaving them in very capable hands. Plus - it gives the girls a little bonding time with dear old dad.

Sure, I miss them - and Chris too - - when I travel. Do you feel a big BUT coming on? Look out . . here it comes!!! BUT, I don't always mind being gone, as long as if it isn't for too long. SHHHH!!! Don't tell anyone!!! Good mothers and wives aren't supposed to enjoy being apart from their beloved ones. Damn. There goes my mother-of-the-year award.

Actually, this isn't a big surprise to Chris. He knows that while I don't always enjoy being gone, every once in a while, it isn't exactly torture either. I am actually writing this blog from St. Charles, IL, where I have been staying at Pheasant Run Resort since Sunday evening. I have been doing my conference duty during the day - today I took a class to renew my principal's certificate for the year. However, of an evening, I have gone Christmas shopping and taken in a movie. I slept later than I normally get to during the week, got myself ready without having to dress anyone else or make anyone breakfast, and ate dinner in peaceful silence while reading my book. I helped no one with second grade math homework tonight, and I did not have to enforce punishment on a four year old who was a hellion again today at preschool (I hear there is another rock from Santa in her near future. . . but that is a story for another day. . . . )

Do I miss them? Of course! Am I enjoying a little time to myself? Uh...yeah. But - tomorrow after my sessions at the conference, I will head home. . .And I am very much looking forward to hugs and kisses all around from my loved ones. They will be glad to have me back home, and I will be glad to be there.

Traveling for work . . . .part of my job. . . have to do it. . . but not always a bad thing.

Friday, December 5, 2008


This week, Aleita has chosen to be the hellion of rebellion at her school. Though for the most part, her behavior and attitude has greatly improved in the past few months, there are some days (or weeks, as is the case here) that she opts to push the boundaries with her teachers at her preschool, just to see how far she can go. She has had phone calls from both Chris and me that have brought her to tears at school, but yet she still can't seem to pull it together and act right for very long. We always follow through with punishment at home as well to let her know that we aren't happy with her actions. This week, she has spent every night in her room alone after school, been spanked, lost her toys and her favorite blanket and pajamas, and even had to dine on different food than we did a few nights (On Wednesday, Chris and Maggie had smoked sausage and tater tots - something she loves. She had a PB & J. A different night, Maggie and I had garlic bread with our tortellini, but she was not allowed any garlic bread -- one of her favorite foods. She was quite upset.) Apparently, all these deterrents to her bad behavior were in vain, as she even made a half-hearted escape attempt on Thursday afternoon. After a call from the school, I picked her up at 2PM and after a spank, I took her back to my office, where she promptly fell asleep on the floor under my desk.
However, nothing really seemed to drive home the point that she needed to reform her behavior until this morning. We apparently finally figured out something that will get her attention - - or actually, Santa Claus did. You see, we have an advent house that counts down the days until Christmas. Each day has a small box, and the kids are oh-so-excited to get up each morning and see what one of Santa's elves has left for them in that day's box. We had warned her that this may happen if she didn't change her ways, but she chose not to heed our warnings.

You see, this morning, Santa had his elves leave Aleita a rock in the advent house, while her sister got a package of fruit snacks. You can imagine how well that went over. Aleita stood in stunned disbelief for a moment when she opened the house. (Today was her turn to open the door.) She tried to give the rock to Maggie, who shook her head and said plainly, "that ain't mine - I've been good!" Aleita looked at Maggie hopefully and said, "we can split the fruit snacks, right?" I then informed Aleita that Santa must have seen how bad she was being this week and meant for her to have a rock. (Aleita has told us on many occasions that if you are bad, all you get from Santa is rocks and dirt.) After letting it sink in for a moment, she promptly burst into tears and ran to her room to throw away the rock.

Miraculously, her days was much improved. Now granted, I only worked a half day today and picked her up about 12:30PM, but her teachers said that her behavior was unbelievable good during the time she was there. They said she shared with them the story of the rock in the advent house, as well as the fact that she has been denied partaking of some of her favorites during mealtime, and that we had taken her blanket. (I explained that I took her favorite blanket and wasn't actually denying the child covers at night.)

Aleita is jazzed tonight about the fact that she had a good day and thinks that she has redeemed herself enough to Santa to earn something better in the house tomorrow than a rock or some dirt. I am betting she is right on this one.

We'll see what next week brings though. . . .
Just remember, Santa IS watching.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Both of our dogs love to ride in the car and to go new places. For the most part, they are even happy to go to the vet because even though they are usually there to get shots, at least they are getting to “go” somewhere - - and while they are there, they get to see new people, smell new smells, ride up and down on the scale, and get a treat from the vet when they are done. Perhaps more importantly though, in general, dogs just have an incredibly generous amount of blind trust that sometimes falsely assures them that you will never do anything that will make them unhappy – at least for too long.

It may take awhile for Dandy’s blind trust to rebuild. When I dropped Dandy off at the vet on Tuesday, he was happy, happy, happy. Little did he know that later that morning, he would undergo a surgery to ensure that there would be no “little Dandies” running around in the future. Yep – Dandy got neutered.

When I picked him up on Wednesday after work, he was happy to see me, to be sure. I am not sure whether he was genuinely happy just to see me, or if thought I would be the one to take pity on him and de-cone him. Like a lot of dogs, Lil’ Dandy decided to try to lick repeatedly at his incision sight, so they had to slap the Elizabethan collar on him. His greeting to me was more like, “Oh Mom! I’m so happy to see you! I missed ya, you bet! NOW GET THIS DAMN THING OFF ME!”

Poor, pitiful little boy. He made an awful racket in the hatch of the SUV as we made our way home. I refused to make eye contact with any of the people beside us in traffic because I know they had to be laughing at his pathetic self as he pressed his nose against the glass, seeming to furtively be begging someone . . .anyone. . .to throw open the hatch as soon as the car slowed down and free him from his coned imprisonment. He ran desperately from side to side of the car looking for anyone who might offer him assistance.

When we got home, I let Dempsey out the main door to go to the bathroom, but Chris let Dandy out through the garage since we were coming from there anyway. Dandy raced around the side of the house just about the time Dempsey was finding the right spot to relieve himself. Dandy, obviously a bit stir-crazy from having been at the vet for two days, went racing around the yard like his ass was on fire. At a glance, Dempsey didn’t recognize the crazed little fur-ball with the big plastic cone around his neck that was running around the yard at 110 mph and his fur went up and he began to growl at him. As soon as he saw Dempsey, Dandy tackled him and in his excitement, proceeded to repeatedly beat him about the head and body with his large plastic collar while Dempsey peed on a rose bush.

Once Dandy got inside the house, he found that the children were not to be his liberators either. In fact, they both laughed at him as well, eliciting no sympathy for him whatsoever. Actually, Aleita took one look at him and asked why he still had long hair and why he was wearing a lamp shade. It took a bit of inquiry to figure out that she had overheard me mentioning that I was going to get Dandy “snipped” and she thought I meant he was getting a hair cut at the groomer. The “lamp shade” further added to her confusion. He is supposed to wear the cone for the next week, but hopefully we will be able to take it off sooner.

Because I am a little sadistic, I took some pictures of him this morning. As you can imagine, he was not thrilled. If you think it is hard to get a 6 month old puppy to sit still for a picture, you should try doing it with one wearing a large plastic cone. Anyway, here is my pathetic little puppy:

Dandy, eating his breakfast (look! he has his own built in sneeze shield, like at a salad bar!)

Sad, sad, doggy

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Kellogg's currently makes a lower sugar version of Fruit Loops. I'm ready for the high-fiber version. I'm sick of Raisin Bran. Sometimes I miss the ignorance of youth and long for the days when I chose my cereal based on taste and not fiber content. Sigh. . .

Monday, December 1, 2008


We spent the afternoon yesterday putting up the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations in the house. However, I usually keep my outside Christmas decorations to a minimum. This year, I have a string of colored snowflake lights strung across the screened-in porch, and on the front of the house, between the two upstairs windows, is a large wreath. Fifteen minutes - - outside decorating done.

I know that there are some people that go to a whole lot more trouble to make sure that everyone knows that they are in the Christmas spirit. I do indeed admire those folks that literally spend hours putting together a tastefully decorated lights display for the outside of their home. Notice I mentioned the words “tastefully decorated.” I understand that though not everyone holds the same idea of what constitutes beautiful, it seems that when it comes to Christmas light decorating, there is simply no standard in place. To each his own, blah, blah, blah - - I get it. But since this IS my blog, I guess I can talk about my own standard of beauty, right?

I think that some people simply lack the sense that tells them when they have reached a good stopping place. At what point is one more light string just one too many? When does your home cease to become an attractive outdoor display of holiday cheer and instead become something that could be mistaken for a small town’s airport landing strip? When does someone decide that simply outlining the roof is no longer good enough, and instead, it is necessary to make stripes of lights on the roof? Do people who completely overdo it with lights and wooden lawn stuff and blow up Santas and such really think it looks good, or are they trying to be funny? At what point do the decorations cease to be attractive and become something that conjures up an image of Clark Griswold?

The thoughts that follow are not law - -they are just my thoughts. If you want to create a winter wonderland disaster in your yard, you go right ahead. Just don’t be mad when I drive by and laugh at it.

My thoughts on Christmas light displays:

1) Pick a color scheme and stick to it. If you want to use multi-colored lights or white lights or red lights or blue lights- - feel free. But don’t mix them.

2) Buy strings of lights and use them. Those blanket lights look terrible. Period.

3) Those light-up deer only look good if you are viewing them from a distance. If you have it placed fifteen feet from the road, it looks like a hunk of twisted metal with lights on it.

4) Having a nativity scene three feet away from an upside down Santa stuck in a chimney with his underwear showing is a little disturbing and causes me to question your sanity a little bit.

5) If you can only reach half-way up the tree to string the lights, then don’t. Just stringing the tree trunks looks ok - - but don’t do the branches if you can only reach up 6 feet on a 9 foot tree.

6) Ditto for a pine tree. If the tree is 8 feet tall, don’t string the bottom five feet with lights and leave the rest.

7) If the Christmas inflatable thing that you bought for your yard takes up approximately ¼ of your lawn and you are not able to pay the phone bill this month because of the cost of it, please consider doing without.

8) A wooden cut out depiction of a reindeer peeing on your tree? How charming.

9) I’m really serious about those blanket lights. You’re not fooling anyone with those ugly things.

10) If your home can seen from space, or if you have to pay your electric bill in installments come January, maybe you should seriously reconsider the amount of lights you put out for Christmas.

OK – I think that’s the end of my list. Anyone else out there have any?

Just a few examples of some "over the top" Christmas decorating - - after all, nothing says, "Welcome Baby Jesus" like lights that rival the Vegas strip . . . .