Friday, December 21, 2012

Since It Does Not Appear the World Is Ending, I Guess I Will Blog

Ah today. The first day of Christmas break. The Winter Solstice. The Mayan apocalypse. Or for me, day number one billion and three of being trapped at home while contractors work on the bathroom. You'd forgotten that was even going on, didn't you? It has been an odyssey but that is for another day...

Not wanting my day to be completely wasted, I made some beef stew this morning. As with all food waste, I dumped the trimmed fat off into the woods behind the house. Then the birds came. I looked out the back window and saw several of these circling:

Turkey vultures. They were about the size of a medium to large dog. And with them came several hawks and a flock of crows. It appeared if the apocalypse was coming for us, it was flying in.

One hawk stayed around longer and was under siege by several of the crows. They would swoop down on him and peck him in the head.

It was like Wild Kingdom I'm telling you. 

So you can see how interesting our day has been.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cross at Your Peril

So if I weren't sure I would meet with defeat from the outset, I would completely go to war with the school district over crossing guards. We need to get rid of these ladies.

Stop, stop STOP already with the "But what about the children?" I am telling you, these ladies at my son's elementary school are making it decidedly more unsafe for everyone involved. Or at least increasing buffoonery. Let's look at today for examples.

At morning drop off, things were going swimmingly. Driving away, I thought, "My, this is the smoothest drop off and departure I've had in ages." Then I saw the crossing guard, who was just arriving and had been unable to f*ck up the morning traffic flow. I would add that zero children perished in her absence. Really, there are only about three people free range enough to let their kids cross the street alone anyway, and I drive so that leaves two. I think the parents of the walkers and the driving parents can agree not to kill anyone, just like at all other hours of the freaking day.

Except, of course, for pick up. Today, seeing as I had a hair appointment, I parked in a different spot than normal and had to encounter the other crossing guard. There were no pedestrians in sight and she was waving cars through the four-way stop. Without making them stop. Maybe y'all feel differently, but crossing guards are there to ensure the safe passage of our little darlings not to re-write the rules of traffic during their afternoon reign. Personally, I think changing the laws of the road increases the chance of a bad outcome exponentially. 

But knowing the reception my suggestion to ban the crossing guard would receive with the powers that be would receive, I'll just complain to you fine folks.

Rant concluded.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Government Gone Wild

Governmental over-reach is one of my very favorite topics and I can go on, ad nauseam, about it for longer than anyone really wants. (But if you're interested, just let me know!) This morning, I read an article online describing state action that was just too far and cried out for my reaction.

Cat fight pits government against Hemingway museum

Apparently, some busy body complained to the state of Florida regarding the care of the 50-60 cats who occupy the Hemingway House, a museum in Key West. I'm not really sure what they were on about. Having visited a few years back, those were some happy looking cats. They all were well fed and had their run of the property.

Ok, not everyone loved them.

Additionally, "Court documents note that the museum has always kept, fed, and provided weekly veterinary care for the Hemingway cats, and spayed or neutered most of them 'to prevent population beyond the historical norm of 50-60 cats.' "

So we have cats, (privately) well cared for, roaming free and in no danger. As far as we could tell, they also had all the rubbing they wanted from eager tourists.

We'd better get the state involved.

For the time being, the state of Florida has prevailed and the museum will be required cage the animals at night. That's right. Happy cats who pose no danger to Key West will now have to spend their nights locked up and countless hours (and dollars) will have to be spent tracking the felines down each night. Hemingway House will also have to be altered to provide "additional elevated resting surfaces." Not only will this change the physical nature of a historical landmark, creating even more expenses for the museum, but it is wholly unnecessary. Let me tell you, those cats had no trouble finding places to rest.

In these days of budget deficits, state and federal, maybe we should save the taxpayers some money and leave these sweet, six-toed cats (and their owners) alone.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Tacky Reigns Supreme

Ah the Sweater Party. The idea of dressing up in unflattering sweaters as a premise for a get together borders on the ridiculous BUT when you have a group of friends with the creativity and enthusiasm we do, it somehow totally works. Due to all sorts of scheduling issues, we ended up on a Wednesday but the tacky spirit was not dampened one bit. 

Co-hostesses. Ann has on a skirt made of sweaters. Genius I tell you!
Mine is just run of the mill unflattering.

The sisters Shumate were three-peat winners for some of the best outfits there. Each and every year I wonder how they will top themselves but they always manage to do just that, and in grand style.

We feted at my house this year and the girls were excited to help out. They both found sweaters themselves in my deep closet o' Christmas and distributed voting ballots and took pictures as guests arrived. They were a little tired today but had a blast being with all the big girls. Eion, much like his father, chose to hide.

Here are the highlights....

While not a sweater, I loved Kate's vintage dress, 
direct from her high school days. 

Margaret Ann was among the several "light up" attendees. 
Extra points because she had to plug in, and did so throughout the night.

Seeking refuge in the family room. The kitchen was deafening.

While she had the option of borrowing one of my sweaters, Lee went creative. 
I found at least four of those ornaments around the house this morning.

Love the multiple reindeer antlers. 
And that red skirt is an honest to goodness tree skirt.

Vintage to the extreme. They wore these, together, in 1992.

I had friend remark that her husband had assured her she looked tacky but clearly, this party was beyond the normal levels. We were so proud. As I am tiring of simply rotating my girth-enhancing finery, I have a plan for next year. I have to keep it under wraps and, just maybe, give those three-peaters a run for their money!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

That's Some Kind of Society We've Cooked Up

In the whole it's-all-out-in-the-open-about-Santa time in our lives, Tim and I were talking about how odd many of these cultural traditions were if you stood back and looked at them objectively. I'll let you enjoy Tim's [paraphrased] rant:

"Really, what the hell is wrong with our culture anyway? It seems a large part of parenting and childhood centers around creating an elaborate series of pranks we play on the children that they remember so fondly that they can't wait to grow up and perpetrate the same hoaxes on their kids. Think about it. One more silly than the next. Let's take Santa.

Not Maggie's best year.

We tell our kids, and center large parts of a holiday around, a fat man who lives in the North Pole, which even young children know is inhospitable. Then that same man has nothing better to do than make toys all year, the culmination of which is him flying around in a sled with magical airborne reindeer so he can climb down your chimney to leave you presents. 

There is massive time and effort put into perpetuating this lie, with the outcome that for years children do not at all equate the hard work and sacrifice that might have occurred in order for their parents to shower them with gifts.

But Santa is only slightly more ridiculous than the Easter Bunny.

Too young to fight the hoax.

A rabbit, who becomes life-size when you see him at the mall or the Country Club, hops around and delivers baskets of candy. Again, no motivation here. That rabbit just thought a holy holiday needed some sugar. Delivered by a bunny.

The Tooth Fairy is a distant third in terms of insanity but still pretty darn crazy. The idea that anyone wants to give you money for your old teeth should be suspect right off the bat."

The man has a point. But my parade of pictures with fat men in red suits and large bunnies serves as testimony to my complicity in the lie. I'm expecting my kids will do the same someday. (Well, maybe not Eion. He likes to be oppositional.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And With That, We Have Moved Into the Post-Santa Years

So the other day, I realized how very silly it was for me to keep all the Christmas loot "hidden" in my closet. None of the kids are Santa believers anymore and they all know that is where the gear is tucked away. Hence, we had the following conversation.

Me: Since none of you believe in Santa anyway, can I just put the gifts under the tree so I don't have to do it Christmas Eve?
Maggie: Sure! That way we can look at them all and guess what is inside.
Me: Not to spoil it, but I did shop based on your lists. When did you all stop believing in Santa anyway.
Morrigan: It was that year [two years ago] when all the tags had the same writing.
Maggie: Oh, oh then the next year Mom tried to fool us with the printed labels from Santa.
[Much laughter at my expense here.]
Eion: I never believed.

The genie, it appears, is out of the bottle.

Tim and I were quite surprised, seeing as the fat man has been outed, that all the kids were very enthusiastic about the Club's Santa brunch. But they do love a buffet and I am all for using up our minimum.

As we entered the Club, it occurred to me that we were entering the Zone of Believers. The last thing I wanted was for my kids to be responsible for dashing the Christmas hopes and dreams of a generation. They promised to keep the truth to themselves.

They did (as far as I know) and a good time was had by all. Eion was the only one who would sit on Santa's lap. Though many of the adults agreed, the girls were starting to get a wee bit to big for it. Just looks a little creepy. 

The only child willing to sit on Santa's lap.

They stood in line asking "Do we have to take a picture with Santa?" I told them no but they said they would do it anyway "just to make me happy." 

Picture taken under duress.

Eion went missing. We found him in the bar.

After lunch, the kids scattered and we went out on the patio to enjoy the unseasonably nice day. What seems like only minutes later, it was time to go and we were the last people leaving. Success.

Ned and Eion with the awesome pants.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Times They Are A Changin'

Actual phone call this week.

Morrigan: Mom, I need you to pick me up after book club at 5:15 and Igotaskedoutonadate.
Me: What? I didn't catch that.
Morrigan: I got asked out on a date.
Me: What did you say?
Morrigan: I said maybe. I need to interrogate him and you should meet his foster parents.
Me: Well I don't know that we have to meet his parents. What do you mean "interrogate?" 
Morrigan: I need to ask him about where he lives, what he likes and what he wants to do with his life.
Me: So Morrigan, as a veteran dater who found the love of my life and has been successfully married for 17 years, I have some advice for you. That is called small talk. It is what one does on dates.
Morrigan: Well I need to make sure I'm not wasting my time here. 
Me: Whatever dude.

Actual interaction this week:

[I enter the house and see Eion at the computer with a screen filled with code.]
Me: Eion, what are you doing?
Eion: I need to change this [Minecraft] mod to night but I don't know what value to put here.
Me: Well I have no idea how to write code so you are on your own.
Eion: Oh look. I made it work. Now I need to change some other things.

So in short, my baby is getting asked out on dates. By boys. And my son is a budding hacker. There are no words.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In Which Eastern Healing Meets Western Medicine And Everyone Is Better

[The latest issue of the South Roanoke Circle is out featuring my article. 
The website doesn't have the link up yet so the text of is below. 
Hope you like it.]

We’ve suspected (read: known) for quite some time that Eion B. was either ADD or ADHD. The signs were all there, and had been for a long while. That being said, I was vehemently and, surprising no one, vocally opposed to medication. He would outgrow it, I was quite sure. And even if he didn’t, why on earth would we drug a poor, defenseless child simply to make our lives easier? Yes, I knew, drugs were for the weak, the lazy and the unfortunate children of bad parents.

The inability to focus that came with ADD plagued Eion in school last year. Round about mid October, it became clear that he was struggling. He couldn’t read. He spent his recess walking laps because he misbehaved or was guilty of some other transgression. [Offenses of which I am sure he was justly convicted. You don’t even want to know about the calls I received from the TAG teacher.] He described himself as stupid and a troublemaker. My baby was falling through the cracks.

But being the resourceful (stubborn) Mom I am, that WAS NOT going to happen. So, in a move that baffled all who knew me, we pulled him out and became homeschoolers.

While he still had the attention span of a gnat, I was able to control his environment and the pace and flow of learning. We made progress. And I patted myself on the back for resisting the urge to simply turn to medication, the easy way out.

After a successful year of homeschool, we contemplated the future. We were able to keep him current with his contemporaries academically, but being isolated was making the social issues even more pronounced. He needed some socialization. So it was back to public school, repeating first grade, with the idea that the academics would be easy this time around, leaving him free to use his energy for everything else. Only it didn’t work out quite like that, and his inability to finish work in a timely manner persisted.

There was one difference in my approach this year. I was open to drugs.

At some point during The Great Homeschool Experiment, I ran into a friend at the gym and regaled her with tales of the morning’s frustrations and how I finally decided E was DONE for the day. She told me a story about her son and it changed our lives.

Her son was ADD too. He was older and they had not tried the medications available until he was in high school. She told me how happy he was and how he said it was easier to learn, to concentrate. How his life was better.

It was then that it dawned on me. I had always looked at ADD medications as something for my, for the adults’, benefit. I had never even once considered that they might make the child’s life easier.

So when things were derailing this fall, we said yes to drugs.

I still felt like a traitor as I dissolved that first dose in a glass, my heart leaping out of my chest thinking about the possible side effects. Would it work? Would he be the small percentage that went the opposite direction and became more hyper? Or worst of all, would he be that infinitesimal percentage that could suffer a fatal cardiac response to the medication? And if it went wrong, could I ever forgive myself?

Not to ruin the dramatic tension, but Eion lived. And thrived. The medication takes away all the hyper, allows him to focus in on things but does not, as I feared, leave him a drooling zombie, devoid of personality. His teachers say he is like a different child. (I assume in a good way.) But what I trusted the most was his response. He told me that the world was “less noisy” and that it was easier to make sentences.

At which point I had to take a deep breath, look in the mirror and say I was wrong. My sweet little boy had been battling demons, had carried this extra bourdon, because I had been too proud to try medicine. I had judged all those parents and I was wrong.

Score one for Western medicine.

During the year of homeschooling, I hurt my back. The funny thing was, it was not a dramatic incident or anything. It just started to hurt and never got better. So I rested, gave up tennis, running and weight lifting.

Rest didn’t work.

So I went to see my doctor, who referred me to physical therapy. PT was a godsend and restored me to mobility, and some occasional tennis. Over the summer, I continued all the exercises with unparalled commitment – I was the world’s model physical therapy patient. But still, the pain persisted. There were days when even getting out of bed brought me to tears and everything I wanted to do was out of reach.

I went back to the doctor and had x-rays, a MRI and several more appointments. In mid September, I was offered the choice of spinal steroid injections.

Being a complete sissy when it comes to needles (funny, as I am married to an ER doctor,) I hedged. I called my primary care physician to see what she thought. Between when I called her and when we spoke, I decided to go to a RAC yoga class. It was core strengthening, much like PT, so what could it hurt?

The class was both humbling  and exhilarating. Had you asked me a year prior, I would have told you there was no way in hell that I could become less flexible. Yet there I was, gingerly moving between poses, sometimes only moving an inch or two into a forward fold. But, a gigantic but, I walked out of that class feeling better that I had, literally, in months. That day, for the first time in forever, I was pain free.

The next day, still on a yoga high, I knew I could not wait until the next Sunday’s class. (And that 5:45 am class at the RAC was out.) So I went to Uttara, a yoga studio about which friends had raved but I had never visited. And I kept going back, as often as I could. I felt great, both physically and mentally. [You may not know this, but I am a wee bit high strung.] Those precious minutes of shavasana left me clear headed and at peace.

Not long after my yoga epiphany, the reports of meningitis from tainted steroid injections came out. All I could think was, I was one appointment away from (possibly) being infected myself. That could have been me. As I told the studio’s owner all this after a class that left me feeling particularly zen, she hugged me and said, “You came to the right place.”

Score one for Eastern healing.

I guess E and I are still a little broken. He needs his meds and I need my yoga classes. Without our crutches, we both revert back to less pleasant states. But we’re healing, be it on an Eastern or a Western path.


Getting Over (But Only in the Most Legal and No One is Getting Hurt Way)

As you may have surmised from my last post, I came to a decision regarding the photo hosting/paying for the blog. I was thisclose to just ponying up the $30 a year. It would have 25GBs of storage space which should take care of me for about the next fifty years. There was no joy in this decision but I didn't want to migrate to a new blog every few years and, sadly, Blogger turned out to be about the best deal out there. (Wordpress has a different price structure that, for me, would be a tiny bit cheaper but mix in the bother of moving and it wasn't worth it.)

Then I noticed a little line in the user agreement that stated any pictures 800x800 pixels or less were not included in the storage calculations. Ooh - we may be on to something here. I tested it out with the last post and the picture of my sometime vegetarian daughter and lo and behold, it worked! I think the quality is fine for online viewing and no costly upgrade required.

Problem solved, no one hurt and I am not out $30 a year.

And then there is Ebates. [I have to give full credit to Amy over at fraught for clueing me in to this one.] Here's how it works. You go to there site and create an account. Then anytime you are online shopping, go to ebates first and see if the retailer you are using participated. If they do, you click through from ebates' site, are redirected to the site at which you want to shop. Then, based on the agreement each site has, you get a percentage of your purchase back. IN CASH. It varies from 1-20% but whatever - it is money I wouldn't have had otherwise. [They send out checks a couple of times a year.]

Ebates also tends to have coupon codes handy for your shopping pleasure. I just started using this for my Christmas shopping and have already racked up $50, all on things I was going to buy anyway. Magic I tell you.

So click through here and give it a try.

In the interests of full disclosure, I do get a referral of like $5 if you sign up and use it. But honestly, I would have written about it anyway - I love getting over (when it is legal and no one gets hurt.) And I promise, you will thank me.