Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Not All Babies Are Cute

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There is a general rule that if something is a 'baby' it is cute. Baby walruses? Darling. Baby bison? I want to pinch their hairy little cheeks. Even baby alligators have those cute little snappy jaws that make me go awwwww.

There are some exceptions. I happen to live among them.

Noooo, I don't mean my own young. I'm referring to the pestilence known as the scorpion.

I live in a beautiful former commercial orange grove. Besides being able to reap obscene amounts of citrus during the season, we also have a plethora of vermin known as the bark scorpion.

I have a general rule that I don't just kill things to dispose of them. If I find a non-poisonous spider in my house, I carry it outside. Longtime readers will remember my run in with the swarm (yes I remember) of bees in my kitchen. I have a strong leaning toward the sanctity of life.

Not so with the scorpion. Scorpions must die. Thus far scorpion sightings have been met with screams, stomps, blowtorches (they have their own unique, slightly sweet aroma as they incinerate) and rubber mallets. We hold regular family outings in the yard shining our industrial strength black light and bearing a lit blowtorch.

The first time I saw baby scorpions I was scarred for life. Who would think that baby scorpions ride on the back of their mother until they reach a certain age. Imagine, if it's possible, a large scorpion writhing with swarming tiny scorpions - it is "ICK" defined.

Usually we don't get scorpions in our home. I have a service that is supposed to prevent any access by these evil insects, arachnids or whatever species they belong to. Unfortunately, they are wily little yucknids. Coming out of the kitchen last night, there stood a large scorpion, tail curled, just daring me to walk barefoot in its direction.

Being the example of reason, I scream at all the kids to get shoes on, to hand me a weapon, to call their dad who wasn't home from work yet. Gaining composure, I don gloves, safety goggles and rubber boots and then I stomp on the bugger. Repeatedly. With way too much pleasure in the crunching, gut squishing dispatch.

I give the "All Clear" signal to the kids, who, while they are laughing at me, are profoundly grateful I saved them from imminent danger.

Later, strolling across my bathroom I notice a little fleck of dirt. Since I am not the best housekeeper this isn't entirely out of place, but as I reach to pick it up, I realize not a second too soon, that it is a BABY scorpion. In my house. In my inner sanctum. The violation is acute. My reaction swift. Grabbing a shampoo bottle and yelling a ninja yell, I squish the youngin' with everything I've got. Then I grab a shoe and squish it some more. Then I grab a paper towel and squish it again. It couldn't have been flatter.

Take that you trespassing vermin of pain.

I turn back to see the kids who have gathered because I was yelling, staring, wide eyed and not a little freaked out.

There's a price for safety I remind them. It's a good thing you are all cute.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The saga of orthodontia continues. Yesterday Unnamed Child #3's braces came apart. Even though I myself had 3 years of braces and have three children all wired up I have no idea how these things work. The report came in from kid 3 that wires were sticking out so I figured I had to do something.

Taking them in to the orthodontist we walked in to a deserted office. Two employees sat behind the desk waiting for emergencies to come in. We were ushered back to the operatory immediately and placed in a chair. Cool. I like good service, no waiting and attentive personal attention.

As the young, childless, naive technician started assessing the situation she started explaining what she was going to do. STOOOOOP I mentally pleaded with her. As an experienced parent, I know two things. One, you don't lie to kids. Two, you NEVER give them information about what you are going to do.

Unnamed Child #1 still brags about a tetnus shot she received from a firefighter who chatted with her about her dog and his dog when WHAM!!! the shot was given before she knew what happened. She said that it hurt but her brain didn't have any time to catch up with what was happening until it was all over. Given the option I would vote for that firefighter for President.

So as technician yammers on Unnamed Child #3 starts to go into meltdown. Not a little meltdown. Hyperventilating, dripping tears, kicking of feet, wailing. Stuff I thought was over after we turned five. I restrain said child and start to try and reason. Duh.

Minutes tick by, feeling more like hours. No end was in sight to this ridiculous outburst. I grab the kid by the arms, drag them though the office looking for a private place to "reason", with said kid.

Newfangled offices are not built with enclosed rooms. Every place I looked was a half wall, had a giant open window hole, and all kinds of nonsensical architecture. Finally, I found a normal office and dragged the kid in. Sitting them down I read the riot act. Actually I didn't have to read it, I have the Riot Act memorized. It's somewhat like the Intolerable Acts from the 1700's. Full of hyperbole and linguistic flourish but mostly imposing unreasonable penalty on innocent colonists.

Through the continued screams and wails I threatened to take away all social interaction, extracurricular activities, even the six-year away driver's license opportunity. No response. My blood was boiling, the hysteria was not abating and while there weren't a lot of people in the office, it still felt very public.

Finally, there was a break in the screaming and I was able to successfully bribe the kid to just try and open up their mouth. Reclined in the chair, the kid couldn't pry their hands away from covering their mouth. Through renewed sobs and wails about the possibility of pain I reached my limit. Running my hands through the now tantrum-sweaty hair I pulled back the head while holding the lower jaw in a grip of steel. The kid was so shocked that all they could do was sputter.

Once the wires were all restrung and the bands replaced the kid was given a sticker and set free into the waiting room. I needed a Xantac, or a Xanax - whichever one calms people down.

The technician says to me "That was amazing. You should be a child psychologist." I promise. That's really what she said.

I choked on my own spit and said "Did you just watch the same thing I did?"

"Oh yes, you were amazing. Normally that would have taken way longer."

I suppose she has seen it all, and usually the fearful tantrum does not take place in a deserted office, but really? It was a parenting disaster. I threatened to pry the kid's braces off with my car keys and make them repay the money already invested. The kid knew this was not an idle threat. This was no nurturing moment, empowering the kid to believe in the power of their own self control.

I have not fully expressed my gratitude for the power of bribery payment. Ten minutes later, pulling away from the Sonic drive through the kid was completely blissful sucking down a vanilla shake. Trauma forgotten.

If only I had the same capacity.

Athletic Prowess

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My kids are amazing athletes. They can duck and dodge just about anything I throw at them. It makes for a series of disappointing attempts at wrangling them on my part.

This year two are playing soccer and one is swimming. The problem with both of these sports is the spectators have to sit outside in the sun during daylight hours in Arizona. As previously chronicled, I have spectator issues. I have not been ejected from the field...yet, but hubby has given me the stink eye and restrained me on more than one occasion. This year, soccer parents have to initial six times and sign a one page pledge regarding their behavior. This may have been instituted because of my problems watching my kids play basketball.

This week while watching Unnamed Child #3's soccer game I could feel the veins in my neck bulging as the entire team swarmed the ball leaving the field unprotected and the opposing team free to score. Again, and again, and.... again. It's not so much the score that bugs me, it's the poor play. I was relatively calm ushering said child off the field at the first water break. It was two in the afternoon and anyone that is willing to play their assigned game at that time in Arizona deserves high praise.

That was until the same kid was talking over the coach telling their teammates to play their own positions. Yeah. Real strategist.

So, I restrain myself, keep calm and more importantly, keep quiet. Giving the kid two thumbs up as they return to the field only to play another quarter unconstrained by the conventions of the game. Running like there was a magnet in the ball, my kid stole it from other teammates and ran about 45 miles in the first quarter rarely gracing their own position.

At the half, hubby has a death grip on my arm reminding me to stay quiet, stay supportive. Reminding me to hydrate the kid silently - which I do.

Thankfully, the slaughter, I mean the game, ends and we get to pack up our belongings and return home.

So imagine my joy when during Unnamed Child #2's game I see them with their back to the ball talking to players on the other team. AAAUUUGGGGHHHH. Help me out here. Is this for their enjoyment or mine?

My kid is wandering the field with their hand out in front of them in a fist - like they've caught a bug. Talking to the other team and showing them the contents of the fist. With the ball in play, in the middle of the game.

I have bitten through my tongue at this point and just look at the ground as I overhear other parents saying "Who is that number 56?" "What are they doing?" I mutter "I think it's Pat. Isn't that kids' name Pat?"

Now the kid is talking to the ref, who nods and returns to the game, actively in progress. Still holding the fist out the kid is yammering up a storm. What the heck??? About 30 seconds go by and the ref blows the whistle, stopping play and grabbing my kid.

Can you get 'carded' for unauthorized bug capture?

The ref has the kid by the neck and is ushering them off the field toward the coach. Oh man. I don't know whether to meet the kid or run away. Poor Pat, who knows where the mother is?

Loudly, the ref yells out "Tooth got knocked out." All the mothers around me gasp, looking side to side for Pat's parent. Oh brother. Clearly I'm going to be up for Mother of the Year again. As I'm jogging out to Pat I holler "loose tooth or permanent tooth?" This will make a difference in my reaction. If it's a permanent tooth I will grab the kid in the firefighter carry and whisk them to the closest emergency dentist. Sad thing is if it was a loose tooth, I should have known about it. I'm pretty sure this kid doesn't have any loose teeth. They just got their braces on and I think that would have impacted the process. My brain starts to panic as I reach Pat who deposits their "really-loose-tooth-that-I-have-told-you-about-every-day-for-the-last-month-Mooom" in my outstretched hands.

As I turn back, with my new cargo, to the other waiting mothers, one of them starts to laugh uncontrollably. Another says sympathetically "At least it wasn't permanent."

Well, the tooth wasn't.

As Time Goes By

Friday, September 18, 2009

The first quiet moment I've found in the past week is actually one full of higher decibels than one would expect for quiet. Somehow my house is full of screaming teenagers. Music is blaring (sorry neighbors) a chorus of teenagers singing lyrics I'm getting all too familiar with drown out any rational thought that might form in my little brain.

In theory we planned to be parents who welcomed our kids friends. They would be more safe and secure under our discreet watchful eyes. That was sooo during the toddler years. It seemed like a good idea at the time - know where they are, who they're with and what they're doing. Such theories are for stupid people who don't want to sleep.

I would say I'm envious of hubby who was wise enough to be "away" during these festivities... but he's on a boy scout camp out. An extravaganza of burping, farting and fire punctuated by the one kid who throws up in your tent because he wouldn't stop eating licorice. I suppose I got the good part of the deal.

Interesting thing is I know these moments will fly by. These early teen years will be but a memory all too quickly. One day I'll wander the halls of my home trying to hear the echoes of these parties. Girls I mentored when they were twelve are now married with blogs and even children of their own. Time is flying by too quickly.

So while tonight I'll be up later than normal... sleeping well has less to do with the clock and more to do with a sense of security.

Unforgettable Gifts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've gotten a lot of gifts in my life. Some large, some small, some memorable, some forgettable. There are some gifts that stand out.

For a wedding gift we received a lamp sculpted in the shape of a Chinese field worker, complete with triangular hat shade. Even these many years later I can't figure out what the giver was thinking. Did they like us? Wish us well? I don't know in the symbolism of lamps what the Chinese worker stands for.

I've had some grand gifts, literally. Someone once overheard me playing the piano, and gave me a piano. I'm still floored by that gesture.

Some gifts have left me speechless, even overwhelmed.

I have a few 'favorite things' in my life. The list of these things is pretty underwhelming to someone else, but they mean a lot to me. Favorite foods, favorite color, favorite songs. One such "favorite" is a hymn that did not make the cut for the hymnbook we use today at church. I often listen to it over and over; It speaks to my soul.

This week Unnamed child #1 performed the song at church on the viola. Learning it was a gift for me. As I watched my beautiful baby play with maturity and grace this most beautiful of hymns I was overcome.

There is so much in this gift. Yes, the fact that the melody is my favorite means a lot. Even more than that was the powerful gift of the effort it took to master this piece. The hours, and the desire to choose this hymn out of the thousands to choose from. The fact that they wanted to give this to me.

It has made the hymn even more dear.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

There are gifts we remember, gifts we forget and gifts that fill a part of the soul. How blessed I am to receive gifts.

Social Injustice

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thank you everyone who noticed I was M.I.A. last week and asked after me. It was scheduled to be a busy week full of exercise, entertainment and education. Yes, probably in that order.

Early in the week I was invited to a celebration luncheon. One of my friends and neighbors is moving so other friends and neighbors (not me) organized a potluck luncheon to celebrate our friendship and express our sadness at seeing her go. It's such a lovely girl tradition. Surround the table with food everyone has lovingly prepared for the special occasion. Who hasn't enjoyed sampling the best culinary wares with some good conversation.

I of course, purchased my offering. Running in to the party late (I had a good excuse, I was in school), quickly unwrapping the bakery torte I had purchased. Muttering to myself that I should have unwrapped it in the car so people would think I was amazing. Realizing that no one would have believed it anyway, taking a deep breath and settling in with my full plate of food.

Soon we were laughing, listening to updates on children, occupations, lives - the stuff of good girl bonding. Sitting at the head of the table, because it was the only seat left and no self-respecting girl ever chooses to sit there on her own - I could see everyone very well. The scene was the consummate 'ladies lunching'.

I of course, had not eaten a big enough breakfast to sustain the crazy day I had. So, I was stuffing my face, and went back for seconds before anyone else had finished their firsts. Propriety would dictate that I at least be a little discreet about the volume I consume. Sadly, propriety and I are not friends.

Finishing my plate clean, I popped up, extended my farewells to the honoree and everyone else who noticed I was slipping out and raced off for the rest of my day. Basking in the glow of great people who I call friends is one of the joys of life.

Or so I thought.

A short time later I was chained to the bathroom, exploding, moaning, praying for death. Clearly someone had tried to kill me. I suspected someone would want to get rid of me one day, I just expected it would be a bit less painful. The two servings of tainted fare weren't feeling so appetizing as I lay on the bathroom floor whimpering with the dog licking my foot.

Now, if this had been the first time someone had tried to poison me at a potluck I would have been surprised. Now it was becoming old hat. Back when we lived in Texas we attended another 'going away party'. I 'm beginning to think that's code for "unhygenically prepared food". Hours after that party I ended up admitted to the hospital with violent salmonella poisoning.

To my knowledge I have never poisoned anyone with my cooking. It has been inedible for other reasons, but the general rules of food safety are not that hard to follow.

What the heck people? You don't leave the mayonnaise based salad in your car while you run errands in 110 degree weather and then SERVE it!!! I was laid out all week. While the dramatic parts of the expulsion subsided after about 12 hours, my body was very unhappy for the rest of the week.

Being connected to the underground neighborhood social network I start to hear things. Someone else was sick. The honoree of the luncheon was sick... four other people were sick. This thing was an epidemic. Then I hear something else... the hostess had a function about a month earlier where the results were the same. WHAT???

Quickly I dialed one of the attendees of the other functions... truly I don't know why people don't pay better attention to their caller ID since many of my phone calls are this random: "Hi, um, tell me about your sickness after your last party." With great hesitation, because again people acquainted with propriety don't talk of these things freely, she described the exact symptoms I had endured.

Now I'm no Einstein but I'm no dummy either. A few things I will take from this experience:
1. There are now restrictions on where I will eat, ever again.
2. Mexico is not the only place one need fear hydro contamination. While the likely culprit in this instance is the water, I will also NEVER trust potluck food.

and finally,
3. After much effort I have found a portable food irradiator which kills any bacteria up to 45 trillion imu (international microorganism unit*). Any food, beverage, handshake, lingering glance shared with me will now be irradiated providing me a social bubble of protection.

A girl must protect herself.

*It also stands for It's Made Up


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Of course the content of the speech was innocuous.

Such a fuss was made beforehand that it ensured there would be nothing but platitudes. No call to join the Obama Youth. No subtle attempts at indoctrination. It was no fun at all. It was a speech any card-carrying conservative could have delivered.

Listening to a recap, I realized I had actually dozed off for a little portion of the speech. Yikes, napping during a Presidential address? Please don't report me.

Again for the record, I was never against listening to the speech. I was against the proposed post speech activities. I was against the use of resources it took to produce the speech. It's my beef with all of government: STAY OUT OF WHERE YOU DON'T BELONG.

What's the purpose of a president using his time, staff, extended departments, local school resources and more all to deliver an innocuous speech? For most of the country it was the first day of school. "Hello, welcome to school. Don't drop out, try hard. This has been a message of PBS the Presidential Broadcasting Service." My kids all came home and said, "Gee mom, I need to totally reconfigure my education plan. Today the President of the United States told me to not drop out. So I'm staying in school!"

Truth of the matter is that innocuous is a waste of time. Look it up. Banal, bland, flat, inoffensive, insipid, safe, sapless, unobjectionable, unoffending, weak. If you intend on influencing an at risk youth you need to be anything but innocuous.

But this speech was never really about the kids, was it?

I Pledge to Barack Obama

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The school district called me this week. Apparently our illustrious president wants to address the nation's school children on the subject of staying in school. Staying on task, focusing on their goals. How nice.

Besides the fact that he is the least likely person in America to influence my children's commitment to school, way behind Sponge Bob and Bobby Flay, he may be slightly more influential than Michael Vick, and Tom DeLay, I try and remain open minded. Listening to the pre-recorded District message I learned a few other things that, well, let's just say, caught my attention.

I try and be fair-minded about these kinds of things. Problem is, as with many of the Federal activities in the last nine months, this speech is "Unprecedented." Yeah, I'm not such a big fan of that word. It's just a fancy way of saying "untested." Usually because the idiot who was here before you was smart enough not to try it out. But here we are, about to hear an unprecedented speech directed at kids while they're parents are at work. Hmmmm. The architecture design of the Titanic was unprecedented. The seven plagues upon Egypt were unprecedented. You know, this stuff usually doesn't turn out so well.

As you may remember from my run in with the Yodeler this summer, I am a conservative Libertarian. My preference is that the government protect our borders, fund highways and emergency personnel. Other than that I'm pretty happy if they stay out of my life. Every facet of it. My logic is they are the least efficent or effective entity in my world. I think for the most part we can all run our lives pretty well without their intrusion. I understand this would require giving up some "freebies" people are quite used to, but people, we have an economy poised to implode. I vote we get rid of the cable TV and the Hummer and scale it down a bit.

So the notion that my kids, all kids, will be participating in some sort of post speech discussion activity led by some of the most liberal people I know, kinda bugs me. The lesson plan has changed. Originally it was going to feature an interchange where the teacher invited each child to commit their support through a pledge to Barack Obama. What?

A couple of things. Since when did we decide to pledge to a leader?!? Term limits on presidents sort of make that one of the creepiest political ideas out there. I have always thought we had fought and died for an idea; for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For equality in opportunity not equality in outcome. Since when did we start pledging to our leaders? (Tell me that link isn't creepy)

One of my friends does not want her kid participating, so she signed a paper to have her child do the "Alternative Activity". Suddenly the kids starts sobbing. The "Alternate Activity" is a punitive three page paper on why you don't support Barack Obama. Broward County Florida school district will punish any student who does not participate in the watching of the speech. Give me a break. A huge test of the appropriateness of all of these ideas is change the name of the President. If this were President George W. Bush, would these schools apply the same penalties? And honestly, would they even be broadcasting the speech at all? Yeah, I don't think so either.

So, many of you are asking me what am I doing with my unnamed children?

First, I want to state as clearly as possible. This is an inappropriate use of time and resources both from the Executive branch to the Department of Education. Not one dollar of this boondoggle is going to translate into motivating children. Parents and teachers already do that marvellously. The kids that drop out are not the segment of the population that thinks "I'm gonna be president one day." And for argument's sake, the one kid that's out there on Tuesday that decides and becomes President because of the speech, heck I'll give 'em a ride to DC.

Second and more importantly, I am against nationally designed educational anything. For the most part schools have powerful, effective teachers. GET OUT OF THEIR WAY!!! Legislating education from the federal level invades on state's rights. Now, I'm not too concerned about the states getting their feelings hurt. What I am concerned about is the product of the model in place. No Child Left Behind, my butt. Last year I volunteered 4 days a week for up to 4 hours a day working with a segment of the population we have agreed to teach but fail to instruct effectively. Kids who can't read. Kids so left behind by their poor language skills, over crowded classrooms, and ability to speak but not read English. These kids are destined to drop out of high school, work in dead end jobs and hopefully stay out of jail.

The lesson plans put out by the Department of Education are a thinly veiled attempt at an indoctrination into the cult of Obama. I want my children to stand at attention with reverence for the office of the president. They do not need to join a thought culture celebrating the demonization of America, or calling for it's radical change. America's inception and what it has produced, offer the most liberty and freedom to any group of mankind. Are there inequalities. Yes. But I'd rather be poor in America than poor in Calcutta. Hands down.

So here's where I stand. My children will listen to the speech, as will I. I have written the Principal of their school and spoken to my children - I want to know and see any follow-up activities they are assigned, even ones in class.

I think it's important to listen to all of our Presidents. It's just as important to be allowed to analyze what they say withought the "thought police" looking over your shoulder.

Thought police, elementary school kids. How much more unAmerican can this get???