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12/27/07
Roomba 1; Cat Hair 0

I GOT A ROOMBA FOR CHRISTMAS! And let me tell you, it is sooooo cool! Better than I thought it would be! I have more fun watching that thing race around the room. I got the Roomba Discovery, which had the best reviews for effectively sucking up cat hair. It comes with all its cute little roomba accessories, like a little docking station, and its little remote control, and its little virtual walls. As soon as I got it, I pulled it out to play with it. Sure enough, it zipped right around the living room, disappearing under the couch and dancing around in little twirly circles in the middle of the floor. The idea was that I was going to let it do the living room while I cleaned the kitchen, but the Roomba is so much fun to watch that I just ended up standing there watching it the whole time. I still need my upright vacuum to do the stairs since Roomba is scared of dropoffs, but I find it to be very effective for general room cleaning and especially for those hard to reach places like under the bed and the couch.

Roomba is a lot like having a toddler or a puppy. You have to Roomba-proof the room before you just let it fly. Pick up cat toys, raise electrical cords off the floor, shut doors to rooms you don't want it to go into. Once that's done however, Roomba just does its own thing, scooting around, following a pattern only it knows. So far, I've "vacuumed" the living room twice with it, and the bedroom once. It hasn't gotten stuck in the corner yet, or trapped under anything, or eaten anything it wasn't supposed to. It's been perfectly behaved the whole time. It did stop and beep at me to change its diaper dust bin once it got full (OH MY GOODNESS YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MUCH CAT HAIR!) but other than that, its been fine on its own. It actually does a better job around the bed posts than I did with the upright, since it shimmies around them several times (kinda like the way kids run around and around trees) before changing its mind and heading off in some other direction. I didn't think that the random zig-zag and circling patterns would get the whole room, but it did. Best of all, it goes back to the docking station when it gets tired and plugs itself in for a nap. Can't beat that.

The boys were always horribly freaked out whenever the upright vac came out, but the Roomba is quiet enough and small enough that they don't pay it any attention. Both cats made a point of ignoring it from the safety of the bed while it zipped around below.

True, I've only had it for two days, but the Discovery seems to have addressed all the complaints about previous models, so cleaning power, maneuverability, and battery life has all been improved. Plus, it's just too cute! It really seems to have a cheerful personality for such a little robot, and it has picked up enough cat hair to knit a cat hair sweater for every member of my extended family. (Hmmm. Christmas present idea for next year?) I have a feeling that the Roomba and I will be playing together daily. I'll have it do a different room each day (plus the living room every other day), so that no matter where you are, you'll have that just vacuumed feeling.

Take that cat hair! Mwu-ha-ha-ha-ha!

12/26/07 Who Needs Sugarplums With All This Food?

Welcome back! Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I got to spend some quality time with the family (which is actually a good thing with my family), and Santa was very good to me. We had a very fancy Christmas eve dinner, with shrimp cocktails (since Tony doesn't eat shrimp, Mom and Dad sliced chicken tenders and set them around the edge of a glass with honey mustard inside), and a roast, and salad, and baked potatoes, with Christmas cookies for dessert. Then we went to Christmas Eve Mass, and back home to wait for Santa while visions of sugarplums chocolate-covered pretzels danced in our heads. And ohhhh, Santa did not disappoint! I got birdhouses and calendars and robot vacuums and jewelry and hiking stuff and gift cards galore! I must have been very very good this year. Then we had Christmas lunch, which consisted of Christmas ham, and Christmas mashed potatoes, and Christmas turkey and Christmas stuffing and Christmas broccoli casserole, and Christmas brownies, and Christmas rum cake, and Christmas chocolate pecan pie. (And I was stuffed like a Christmas goose after eating all of that).

Today we're going to hit the after Christmas sales at the mall (Steph's idea. She likes shopping. I'm just along for the ride), and pedicures (yay!) and then back to my house for a tasty meal of Italian beef sandwiches and a spades tournament. (Now THAT's a good Christmas...Much better than riding through the snow in a one horse open sleigh in my opinion).

Here's hoping that you and yours had an equally good Christmas, and that now you're relaxed and well fed and playing with all your new toys. I'll see you back here in the next few days!

12/21/07
Because You're Not Working Anyway...

Well, once again my bloggy buddies have saved me from eternal pop culture ignorance. BigMama mentioned I can has cheezeburger? the other day, and I had no clue what she was talking about. Then I saw this slideshow article on Slate about it, and I knew I had to check it out. Do the slate article or read the About Us history first...it'll make more sense that way.

It's the Friday before Christmas...if you're at home, take a minute to flip through the pictures and captions, and even make your own. If you're at work, feel free to do the same thing, because hey, it's the Friday before Christmas, and everyone knows you're not really working now anyway.

Just be sure to use the bathroom first, because laughing so hard that you wet your pants would be embarrassing.

monorail cat
moar funny pictures

12/20/07
It's Basketball Time in Tennessee

Tony called me up yesterday and told me that he had been offered tickets to the UT vs whoever basketball game, and did I want to go? I'm not a huge basketball fan, but I did want to see Thompson-Boling Arena after the remodel, and it's not like I had anything better to do, so I said sure, sounds like fun.

Oh, and did I mention that the regular owner of our newly adopted tickets just happened to be a certain Senator Lamar Alexander? Yes, since Senator Alexander and I are such good pals (and by pals I mean that I occasionally drive down his highway) he gave us (well, indirectly, and through about 8 other people who couldn't attend a ballgame on a weeknight and therefore kept passing them along) two courtside (row 2 anyway) tickets RIGHT BEHIND the UT bench. It was super snazzy. I took lots of pictures just for you, oh loyal blog fans.
Here's the view of the game from my seat. Yeah, those guys are taller than they look on tv. And louder. And smellier. At one point I leaned over to Tony and was like, "Whoa! I just got a whiff of smelly sweat sock!" and he was like, "Those are the players. They're sweaty". Ya'll, I was so close to the game, I COULD SMELL THE PLAYERS!

Speaking of tall and smelly, it turns out that UNC Asheville player Kenny George, at a unimaginable 7' 7", is difficult to guard, especially if you're a measly 6' 10". King Kong's George's job was to stand next to the basket and block our shots. Despite that, we still managed to pull out a pretty nice win.

The seats are also right in front of the cheerleaders. I always thought that I couldn't understand what the cheerleaders were saying because I was too far away. It turns out that the cheers are muffled even when you're close enough to touch the megaphones. (Unless of course the cheer really is saying "pickled beets!" *Clap! Clap!* "Pickled Beets!")

Here's where my buddy Bruce and I gave the team some pointers. Bruce said something about blocking a back door, and I yelled "Bruce! Bruce! Look this way! Over here Bruce!" My coaching skills are legendary.
Here I am madly snapping pictures while these guys ignore me and try to have a semi-normal conversation 5 feet away just hanging out with some of my player pals. We're cool like that.

As for the actual game, I couldn't really tell ya. They ran up the court, they ran down the court, they ran back up the court again. Ohhh, but to see it up close and personal? That makes all that running a lot more exciting.

Anytime you need someone to take your tickets to the game off your hands, Senator, you just let me know.

12/19/07
Good Thing They Weren't Doing Random Office Drug Testing Today

We had a little team Christmas party here at work, and my boss brought in a really good dip. We stood around the table for the majority of the day, eating chips and dip and remarking about just how delicious this dip was and trying to guess what was in it that made it so addictive that we just couldn't walk away.

Later, someone asked the boss how to make the dip.

"It's easy", he replied, "It's got sour cream, mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons of dill, some Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, parsley...and a bit of hash".


"What? Hash? Did you say hash?"

"Yes. A bit of hash. Then you just mix it all together and-"

"Hash? The dip that was so addictive that we couldn't stop eating it has a "bit of hash" in it?"

"What? No, not a bit of hash! I said, Mrs. DASH! It has two teaspoons of MRS. DASH! The spices?"

Oh. Well. That explains why we all had the munchies.


In case the addictive dip sounds like something you're interested in, I've put the real recipe below. Notice no hash.

2/3 mayo
2/3 sour cream
2 tbsp pars. flakes
2 tbsp dill
2 tbsp minced onion
2 tsp Mrs. Dash
2 drops Tabasco
2 tsp Worsc. sauce

12/18/07
Wanted: Dead or Alive

Last night I discovered that apparently, I am a fugitive of the law (or as Boss Hog would say, "A fug-it-tave of tha laaaaaawh"). I know this is a shock for everyone, being that I always came across as a law abiding citizen with a healthy respect for the rules. (Trust me, it was a shock for me too).

Last night, I received a letter in the mail from the Knoxville Traffic Police, who have accused me of running a red light on one December 3rd at precisely 4:07pm.

WHAT?!? I'm Innocent, I tell ya. Innocent!

Of course, I immediately questioned the validity of such a ridiculous accusation, but the police (perhaps expecting this kind of response) also thoughtfully included damning evidence of my apparent lawlessness in the form of three pictures of the crime in progress.

The first photo is my car before approaching the red light; the second is my car passing under the red light, and the third is a close-up photo of my license plate as I blatantly drove away.

Uh. Well...hmmm. That complicates my defense somewhat.

I SWEAR I have no recollection of this red light. I remember the area...I was coming back to work from a trip to the dentist, which is the only time I ever pass through this part of town. But I don't remember the red light. Or the red light cameras, for that matter. My only defense is that according to the citation, the light changed 0.49 seconds before I passed it. HALF a second! I couldn't have stopped in time if I tried. I was already all the way through the intersection by the time the light had been red for one second. Give me a break here!

Tony LOVES that this happened. Most husbands would be angry. Not Tony. He's just giddy that I got caught running a red light. Now he can taunt me with it. This totally made his day. "Bad Goose!", he admonishes sternly. "Don't make me take away your car keys!" (Like he could). It only makes it worse that he has a perfect driving record (another thing he likes to remind me of frequently). He can't even stop laughing long enough to lecture me.

Yeah, laugh it up, big boy. The fates will avenge me for all your snickering. It's only a matter of time before you're arrested for running over a Grandma in a parking lot or something.

For all you people out in Internet land who are now convinced that I'm a horrible driver and should be locked up for being a danger to society, let me just say that I NEVER (until now) run red lights. I applauded the city for installing those red light cameras and making the streets safer. And despite my new $50 forced donation to the Red Light Photo Enforcement Program, I still feel that way.

And I'll gladly pay another $50 if someone can arrange a picture of Tony running a red light too.

12/17/07
Christmas Tour of Homes

It’s BooMama’s Bloggy Christmas Tour of Homes Day! This is my first Tour of Homes, so I’m excited. I just hope everyone else isn’t all Martha Stewart Living with their decorations, because some of mine are more in line with A Charlie Brown Christmas. But where are my manners? Please come in!

Welcome to my humble home! This is the front porch, which I have lovingly plastered with red bows and garland. Normally, I have blue icicle lights all along the front of the house, but this year’s weather hasn’t really cooperated with the whole scooting-along-the-roof-on-my-belly-while-dragging-a-strand-of-lights thing, so they aren’t up this year. Instead, we have the garland with white lights along the railing, and in the corner (you can’t see it in the picture) is a small lighted Christmas tree. (What’s with the white cardboard taped to my house, you ask? Well, home tour or not, I didn’t think it would be prudent to show my address numbers, since internet stalkers are getting crazy smart these days. Only I couldn’t figure out how to blur the numbers out with photoshop, and even if I could, those same crazy smart internet stalkers might just be able to un-photoshop it, so I went the ghetto route with the cardboard and the tape. Ha! Outsmarted you again, internet stalkers!)


For you non-internet stalkers, please feel free to come on inside. Wipe your feet!


Here’s our Christmas tree! It’s a tradition for us to go pick out a live tree each year. We always get the Douglas fir, because it’s Tony’s favorite (and I love the smell). Our ornaments are a hodge-podge collection from our lives, from my Baby’s First Christmas and the teddy bear shapes that used to hang on my crib mobile, to the ornaments we picked out each year as kids, to the University of Tennessee balls, to our first Christmas together. It’s a sentimental journey to hang each one on the tree, and it will be fun to continue to add to them each upcoming year.


Here’s our stocking all hung on the chimney with care! I actually have mine and Tony’s turned around backwards because they have our real names on it, but I left Mason and Dixon’s facing the right way so that you could see the marvelous job I did with the glitter pen.



Here’s a full shot of the entertainment center so that you can see the nativity scene up on top. Not many people know this, but the alternate Hebrew translation for Bethlehem comes out to "above the DVD player". (Plus, it keeps them out of reach of inquiring kitty paws. Mason would think nothing of swiping the baby Jesus if he knew he was up there). My mother-in-law gave us this nativity scene the first year Tony and I were married, and I really like it.



Here’s another collection I like. It’s my little Christmas village! The tree doesn’t really go with the village…but it was my great-grandmother’s, so I thought it would be the perfect centerpiece. I only have a few pieces now, but I hope to get more when they’re all 90% off in the after Christmas sale.


What? You’ve never heard of Christmas fish before? I’m shocked. Fish looooove Christmas. I had some of those snowflake window decals, so I stuck them on the fish tank so that they could be festive too. And of course, they have their own stocking!


Merry Christmas from the fish!

BooMama wanted us to post recipes as refreshments for our Tour of Homes guests, but we don’t really cook all that much here. We do have a tradition of getting one of those Christmas popcorn tins with the three types of popcorn, so you’re welcome to share that (you have to fight Tony for it though).

So there you go. Our decorations, all up and ready for Christmas. We certainly enjoyed you visiting. Ya'll come on back anytime, ya hear?

12/16/07
A Bloggy Christmas Tour

BooMama is hosting a Bloggy Christmas Tour of Homes tomorrow! (See? I’ve got the little clicky button linkie thing right there on the right!) The idea is that you take pictures of your home all gussied up for Christmas, and post them on your blog. Then you link over to BooMama’s blog, where she has a list of everybody else that is participating, and you can see how people all over decorated for Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/whatever. She hosts these little things every now and then, like Bloggy Carnivals and whatnot, and I usually only find out about them two weeks after they’ve happened, BUT THIS TIME I actually paid attention to the buttons on her sidebar, so I’m all in the know. (It didn’t hurt that she’s had the button posted since October 25th either). Anyway, I spent most of today taking pictures of my little decorations, to be all ready for the Christmas Tour of Homes tomorrow. Feel free to jump on board and participate, and come back tomorrow to see the decorations!

12/13/07
Sunsphere

We had the zoo Christmas party last night. (Yes I know, we do not technically work at the zoo. We went as guests). It was actually pretty cool. They had it in the Sunsphere, which looks AWESOME since its remodel. If they'd let me live up there, I'd be hauling furniture up in a heartbeat. You have a 360 degree view of downtown, and across the river, and UT, and the old city. All the lights of the city were twinkling, and the rooftop trees were lit up, and the whole city just looked magical. If you get a chance, see the Sunsphere. After years of neglect, it has made a comeback. I still can't get over the view.

Oh, and the party was nice too. Zoo people are crazy, so you never know what's going to happen, but I think a good time was had by all.

12/11/07
Angels

Every year, my team at work buys for a few angels off of the angel tree. We started off just doing one each year, but we kept buying so much that we increased it to two angels, and then three angels. This year, we have three siblings who need a little help for Christmas. We have a 4 year old girl who likes Bratz things and coloring books, an 8 year old boy who likes sports and to draw, and a 14 year old boy who only requested art supplies. They also all need coats and clothes and stuff. It was the art supplies and coloring books that really got to me though, since that's the kind of stuff that I liked as a kid.

I don't know the first thing about kids. (As a matter of fact, I had to ask the cashier at the store if 4 year olds could read before deciding on whether or not to get the Giant Activity Book for the little girl). I generally don't like shopping. But I DO like shopping for little kids. Don't ask me why. I guess because I remember all the joy I got out of opening my art supplies on Christmas morning. So I went shopping last night. For the little girl, I bought markers, crayons, colored pencils, sparkle stickers, a fairy coloring book, and (my coup de grace) a Bratz coloring book all about a "shopping adventure". (Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but these Bratz girls seem to be horribly shallow and fatally materialistic. Not to mention the poster children for lip injections gone horribly awry. But if the little girl likes them, then who am I to argue?) For the younger boy, I also bought colored pencils and markers, felt color-your-own stickers, Pirates of the Caribbean school pencils, and a canister of foam sea creature stickers (I don't know if he's too old for stickers, but I thought they were cool). I had to watch my budget on the little kids...it would be too easy to buy up the entire store for them. But the oldest boy posed the biggest temptation. I figured that he was old enough for serious art supplies, so he got real artist colored pencils for shading, a case of oil pastels, graphite and charcoal pencils, a gum eraser and pencil sharpener, and a sketch pad. I wanted to do a watercolor kit and a learn-to-draw book too, but it would have seriously exceeded my budget. (As it was, I went $4 over, but that's not toooo bad, and I-I mean HE, really really wants those oil pastels).

If you don't already do the angel tree, I highly recommend it. You'd be amazed at what fun things you can pick up at the dollar store, and buying toys for a child really makes the season exciting. I won't get to meet these kids. I'll never get to watch them open their presents. But it's enough for me to know that they'll enjoy what I found for them...almost as much as I enjoyed finding it.


PS- If you're worried that I bypassed the coats and clothes for coloring books and stickers, don't be. These kids won't freeze. The rest of the team is handling clothes and hats and gloves and coats. I just asked to be in charge of fun stuff, because no kid wants JUST clothes for Christmas, no matter how much they need them.

12/10/07
Papers, Poo and Parties Too!

You were beginning to wonder if I'd ever make it back, weren't you? Honestly, I was too. But I have emerged from the murky marketing paper muck, victorious, and clutching my shiny new A. But on to other things...

1. We had my company Christmas party Friday night. All of you who know Tony know just how much he loves parties. Especially parties where he only has a passing acquaintance with other guests. Nevertheless, I am a mean, horrible wife, so I RSVP'ed that we would be attending. (Tony was hoping that I would forget that, but alas, he was out of luck). It was a semi-formal shin-dig so I wore my bridesmaid top from the Seester's wedding with a black velvet skirt. I asked Tony to wear khakis and a sweater. He informed me that he does not like to wear sweaters. (Mark that off of your Tony gift idea list). Apparently, they are warm and soft and fuzzy, and who in their right mind would like that? Anyway. Tony went with a shirt and tie, but seconds before we left the house, he decided that the tie was choking him, so he ended up being stuck with a sweater after all. (And he looked very handsome, even if it was warm and soft and fuzzy). The party was at the Hilton, and we I had a lovely time (Tony said it was tolerable). The food was good, the company was good, the atmosphere was good. We stayed for exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes, which may be a new Christmas party record.

2. For those of you who are following the edge-of-your-seat drama of The Young and the Poo-less, Dixon has been proscribed Cisapride, which causes muscle contractions in the tummy area which (in theory) moves used food through the appropriate tunnels. The good news is that we had poo two days in a row. The bad news is that it's been two days since we last had a deposit. WILL the cat ever be regular again? WILL eating the Christmas tree give him the increased fiber he's looking for? HAVE you ever seen someone so obsessed about cat poo? Tune in next time for the answers to these and other shocking questions on -Buh-Buuh-BUUUUUM! The Young...and the Poo-less!

3. Oh come on! You need a three? I just gave you a fun party antidote AND a witty take on cat poo! I only put number three because you can't have a list with fewer than three items. Go back and read the Christmas party and cat poo thing again. I'll have something new for you tomorrow.

12/6/07
Sorry...Finals And All That

What? You haven't seen a post in a few days? You're having Quirky withdrawal? I hear ya, sister. Unfortunately, it's finals time, and I've got two papers due tomorrow and a third due next week. Plus, you know, actually taking those annoying final exams. So...yeah. It's not that I don't have things to write about...I can't wait to tell you about the new angels we picked off of the angel tree. But alas, these pesky papers are each 20% of my final grade, so I can't really blow them off. If it makes you feel better, I don't have my tree, or Christmas decorations, or Christmas cards, or even the new flooring finished in the kitchen, so you aren't the only ones who are suffering from neglect.



In the mean time, I'm going to do something that I don't normally do. I'm going to repost something from last year, just so you aren't completely Quirk-less during your time of need. Shockingly, it pretty much sums up this year too, so don't feel like you've missed much.

Originally posted on 12/4/06.

I'm waaaay behind in my Christmas festivities this year. Normally, the house is decorated, the presents are purchased, and the Christmas cards are going out by the first weekend in December. True, we were out of town on Tony's-Official-Start-Of-Christmas-Decorating weekend, but still... This time between December 1st and December 25th flies by. So far, I have the outside lights up, but not burning due to a shortage of extension cords. (The final cord was purchased yesterday but I haven't had time to climb back up on the roof). So our house remains dark, even as the rest of the neighborhood shines in Griswold-like fashion. The Christmas shopping is partially complete, with all on-line purchases made and shipping out of their respective warehouses as we speak, but the items that require actually going to a store and physically buying them has yet to be done. I just can't seem to drag myself to the store and fight all those other cheerful holiday shoppers. We have no Christmas tree yet. We were going to go yesterday when we got back into town, but it was cold and dark, and we were tired. Tonight is out because I've got study group (who decided that it would be a good idea for the semester to end right before Christmas!?!). Hopefully tomorrow night after work we can swing by Lowes and pick out our annual Douglas fir. Then some lights and ornaments, and Dixon can begin his own annual tradition of homemade cat-barf wreathes. (This year, if the tree looks tasty, I'm going to buy a toy train to go around the bottom. Here's hoping that the movement scares him off). Most of the inside decorations are up, with the exception of some garland that I haven't decided where to put yet, and the snowflake window stickies that I put on the mirrors and fish tank. Every year, the collection of weird Christmas decorations seems to multiply while up in the attic. All of a sudden, we have truly weird decorations that someone probably gave us, but I have no intention of putting up. I need to have a Christmas themed garage sale before it all overtakes the attic. Haven't even started on the Christmas cards, which need to go out ASAP. We do those photo cards every year of the family (us and the cats), and the picture taking alone usually takes an evening. We average about 30 pictures of no-goes (Tony's eyes are closed, I'm making a funny face, Mason is trying to escape, the camera fell off the makeshift tripod of books and magazines, Dixon ducked his head, I didn't beat the auto-timer, Mason is fighting like mad to escape, the camera fell over again, the timer took so long that I was getting up to check on it when it flashed, Mason is a whirlwind of claws in an attempt to escape, the batteries in the camera ran out, Tony is trying to stop the bleeding from the claw marks, the camera memory is full, Dixon is eating the tree, I have one eye closed, and Mason has escaped). Surprisingly, the winning picture is usually the first one we take. Here's to Christmas though! The lights, the smells, the parties, the presents, the carols, the Christmas cards, the cat barf. I love it all. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

12/4/07
These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

Only 21 days until Christmas! Are you stressed out yet? Yeah, me neither.

Actually, I love Christmas time. I love this whole month leading up to Christmas. I love my Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD in my car, I love all the roof-top Christmas trees downtown, I love the way my mantle looks with the stockings all hung in a row. And even though I have three papers and a final to do this week, and Dixon is having a colonoscopy that costs more than the national debt, and now my home computer has a virus that can only be fixed with a complete and total reformat, I refuse to let that (or the resulting eye twitch and hair loss) get me down during one of the best times of the year. If you can ignore the hustle and bustle and resist the urge to totally stress out over Christmas to-do lists, you realize that there's magic in the air. A spirit of Christmas, if you will. And to help myself you keep that Christmas joy, I've listed a few of my favorite things about this time of year:

1.The way the lights twinkle on the tree when the rest of the room is dark.
2. Watching the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, because I've been watching it for 26 years now, so it's a tradition. (I love it when he puts antlers on the dog!)
3. Arranging the nativity scene just so (because Baby Jesus enjoys symmetry)
4. Baking sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles
5. Christmas parties with sausage balls and homemade candy.
6. Coming home from work in the evening to see the house all lit up in Christmas lights, thanks to that snazzy automatic timer.
7. That cinnamon potpourri that I only use during the holidays
8. The reindeer door mat with the goofy reindeer smile.
9. The ceramic Christmas tree that was my great-grandmother's.
10. My little light up Christmas village.
11. Free shipping for most online purchases
12. The blue angel on top of the tree.
13. Christmas songs on the radio (although Bing Crosby's I'll be home for Christmas makes me bawl like a baby every time it comes on).
14. Getting Christmas cards in the mail.
15. Finding that perfect present for someone.
16. Matching wrapping paper (always blue, to match the angel and the ornaments).
17. Christmas parades right in front of my office window
18. Candy canes
19. Family getting together.
20. Christmas Mass
21. The days off from work!

You'll notice that I listed 21 things, which is one thing to enjoy for every day up til Christmas. (Yeah, I'm just snazzy like that). The list, however, is in no way exhausted, so I'm interested in what you all out there in Bloggerland love most about the Christmas season (or Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, or Festivus, etc). Go ahead. Don't be shy. Big or little, what's something you like about this time of year?

12/3/07
Sigh

False alarm on the Tuesday poo announcement. I mean, there was poo, but that was the only time. Over the weekend, Dixon was so stopped up that he started vomiting every time he tried to eat anything. We took him to the ER vet last night because it had been 5 days since he'd gone to the bathroom. (The ER vet gave him a shot to stop the vomiting, but that was about it). Today, Dixon is back at his regular vet for yet another enema. Now they're saying words like "exploratory surgery" and "neurological issues" and "X-ray intestines every 15 minutes for changes in movement". Bless his poor little kitty heart. On the positive side (if there is one), we've gotten really good at giving pills. It used to be a real fight, but now we're all resigned to the fact that the pill has to be swallowed, so we might as well get on with it.

The current poo cost, if you're keeping track, sits at $750. This latest round of tests will push us over the $1000 mark. (And to think that I was griping about $250). Tony and I always go on a nice trip somewhere in lieu of Christmas presents to each other. This year, we're buying cat poo. What can you do though? Dixon is family.

Barbados will still be there next year.

11/29/07
Disapproving Rabbits

Antique Mommy mentioned Disapproving Rabbits the other day, and since I am a simpleton with no notion of what's hip now (as evidenced by my continued use of the word "hip"), I had no clue what she was talking about. So I clicked on the link, and sure enough, there were disapproving rabbits everywhere. (Who knew that they were so dour?) If you haven't seen them, I highly recommend it. I also recommend the original Disapproving Rabbits page (which apparently before they got famous enough to warrant their own website). Definitely good for a chuckle.

11/27/07
Breaking News

Ladies and Gentlemen, WE HAVE POO!
If you've been following along at home, (and really, who wouldn't be?) you know that we've been battling Dixon's anti-poo policy for about three weeks now. Well, let me just tell you that last night, all of our efforts (plus a horse-sized dose of laxative) resulted in a successful poo! I've never been so excited to see poo in my life.

I know all this poo talk seems a little gross trivial, but chronic constipation can cause major problems in cats (or anybody for that matter), eventually requiring major surgery. The fact that he went on his own again is a huge deal. Now, let's just hope that he's back to doing it on a regular basis...

11/26/07
Thanksgiving

Welcome back everyone. Or, if you stayed home over the holidays, then welcome me back, because this year was Thanksgiving with Tony's family, which meant that I got to participate in all the travel insanity to a little place called O'Hare airport. Along with everyone else in the known universe. And maybe some of the unknown universe, cause that grown woman shuffling through the airport in Elmo slippers? Yeah.

Actually, it wasn't that bad (the travel, not the slippers. The slippers really were that bad). It was probably only 95% of the known universe, so the lines did occasionally move (but only when I would set my bag down to dig for something, at which point the line would suddenly surge forward, leaving me scrambling to retrieve my personal belongings from all around me. You know how it goes).

The plan was to fly into O'Hare, take the subway to Union Station, and then take the Amtrak to Tony's grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. Very "planes, trains and automobiles" of us. The plane part worked out. It actually landed a little early. We caught the subway okay (and for free due to a ticket machine glitch!), and were high-fiving ourselves on our transportation suave. Unfortunately, we ran out of luck there because we unwittingly climbed onto the subway train of a granny driver. (It may have been grandpa-driver also...I didn't actually get to see him/her). Either way, the subway that is supposed to go 55 miles per hour really only went about 15. Not so good when you're on a tight schedule to catch another train. We missed our Amtrak, so we got back on the subway going in the other direction and headed back to O'Hare where we caught...a bus! (We ran the full gamut of possible transportation, but nothing could stop us from our turkey/stuffing/mashed potato destiny!)

Speaking of, we need to take a moment to pay homage to Tony's Grandma and the fabulous food she makes, because it really is just that good. I love her. I've started heavily campaigning to get her to move down to Knoxville with us. She makes the BEST! SUGAR! COOKIES! EVER! If I can get her sugar cookies in the same meal as Aunt Missy's broccoli casserole and Aunt Suzie's "My Favorite Cake" and Granny's mashed potatoes, I think that it might just be the answer to world peace.

After stuffing ourselves at Grandma's, we headed back to Tony's parent's house, where we all sat around in a turkey-induced coma. Well, I did anyway. Tony's mom and sister were up at the crack of dawn the next day, battling for door-buster deals, and we went out for Old Chicago pizza and a Peoria Rivermen vs Chicago Wolves minor league hockey game. For Saturday, we were back in Chicago, where we ate at Potbelly's, (most likely the best sandwich place in all of Chicagoland), a trip through the Field museum, a trolley ride around the city, and a brief trek to Nordstrom's.

All and all a fun trip, although it's good to be home again. This morning, I sprung the inmate (Dixon) from the clink (the Vet's boarding house) where he'd been doing a nickel (5 days) for his crime (refusing to poop). I'm not sure if he's seen the error of his ways or not, but he's sure happy to be home.

Thanks to Ashley for watching Mason and the fish, and doing general house-sitting while we were gone, and thanks to Aunt Missy for the fabulous broccoli casserole (the BEST part of the Thanksgiving meal) that was waiting for me in the fridge when we got home.

All things to be thankful for.

11/24/07
Your Loy-al-ty Means A Vic-tor-y So Fight! Vols! Fight!

OH. MY. GOODNESS. Have you ever seen a game like this? I'm really surprised that the suspense didn't cause more people to have coronaries right there in front of their TV screen.

The question now is, will LSU be all down and depressed because they lost their shot at the National Champs, or will they be fighting twice as hard because they have something to prove?

We'll find out next weekend in Atlanta.

11/21/07
The Poo Saga Continues

Oh ya'll, I'm not having the best of days today. Dixon went back to the vet yesterday and cost me another $200, which brings our grand non-pooing total to right around $600. That is some crazy expensive poop. Merry Christmas annoyingly-cheerful vet people. By contrast, all of my friends and family members will now be receiving half empty tubes of Laxatone and opened (but not eaten) cans of pumpkin for Christmas.

I can take the cost. It hurts my little frugal soul, but I can take it, because it's Dixon and he needs this. What I'm having a little more trouble with is getting up 2 and a half hours before I normally get up each morning in order to shove five (FIVE!) pills down a very uncooperative kitty's throat. I value my sleep. I need it. And I'm not a morning person on the best of occasions. But to hold the tornado of teeth and claws and fur and foamy Cujo drool while Tony tries unsuccessfully to pry open Dixon's little jaws and stuff a little pill down his little throat, only to have Dixon hack it back up again, slimy and disintegrating, onto the carpet? It's not my favorite way to start the morning.

Pilling the cat was bad enough, but today's straw that broke the camel's back was when I was leaving the house for work this morning and stepped in dog doo. With my good work shoes. And then got in my car. And spread it all over my floor mat before I realized what happened.

For the record, I do not own a dog. The offending party responsible for this poop belongs to a neighbor, who allows him to roam freely around the neighborhood, digging up people's flowers and peppering my lawn in little doggie land mines. I HATE this dog. I especially hate him now that I have to clean his poop off of my good work shoes and out of my car.

And no, the irony that I've just spent $600 and two weeks trying to get my animal to poop while Annoying Neighborhood Yappy Dog just left me a shoeful was not lost on me.

11/19/07
Dixon's Poo Problem

My kitty cat is sick. Poor little Dixon will be so embarrassed when he finds out that I'm sharing this with the internet world, but I'm his mother, so embarrassment is what I do. Plus, I'm hoping someone out there has gone through a similar situation, and can give me some advice. (Caution: if you're like Tony's family, and the mere mention of bodily functions -even in felines- sends you recoiling back in horror, then let this also serve as fair warning: we're talking about poo today).

Here's the thing: He's constipated. We noticed two weeks ago that Dixon was trying to go to the potty and...well, couldn't. Completely stopped up. So Tony made an appointment with a vet, and they gave him an enema. And as usually happens with enemas, Dixon's eyes got really big, and he rocketed around the room until he exploded. Several times. And we patted ourselves on the backs for being the good kitty parents that we are, and relieving Dixon's suffering, even if it did involve a hose up the rear. Unfortunately, Dixon immediately got stopped up again. So, two days later, we took him to another vet. (This had nothing to do with the enema...we've been shopping around for a good one, and that last guy, while effective, was also kind of a jerk). New vet was much more thorough. X-rays were taken, and sure enough, the kitty is chock-full of poo. Exams of his colon, pelvis, and erm...hind end were done in great agonizing detail. All normal. Blood work was done. Normal. Urine tests were done. Normal. Hormone, thyroid, and a billion other tests were all done. Normal, normal, normal. Basically, there is NO PHYSICAL REASON why Dixon doesn't poo. He just won't. (To be fair, I also tried this route when I was a child and decided that poo was over-rated and I just wouldn't do it anymore. My result was the same as Dixon's. So just in case this was a battle of kitty wills, I sat him down and explained that all things HAVE to poo, even if they don't want to). No dice.

Yes, we've tried laxative. It's a fabulous tube of stuff called Laxatone, and we have it in chicken AND tuna flavor. I'm told cats loooooove this stuff. Will devour it right out of the tube (much the same way I do with cookie dough). Not Dixon. He doesn't really care for the taste. We've been hiding it in his food to get him to eat it. That cat has enough laxatone in him to clean out an entire city, but still no poo.
The vet also gave us a high fiber, low calorie wet canned food. The thinking is that the high fiber plus the extra moisture in the food would help move things along. And, unlike laxatone, I'm told cats loooooove this stuff. Yeah, except for Dixon. He wants his crunchy dry food, not the wet mushy stuff. We've been suffering through his disapproving glares every time he sees the stuff in the food bowl. Plan B involves smearing it on his crunchy food like pate on crackers and feeding it to him one. crunchy. at. a. time. It gets very old.
We've also tried mineral spirits. It's colorless, tasteless and odorless, so cats loooooove this stuff. (Oh, if I had a quarter for every time I've heard that one...) As you probably guessed, Dixon does not care for it. It also gets mixed into the crunchy food, although this tends to make them mushy and unappealing. Even so, he's managed to eat enough that his insides should be slicker than a presidential candidate on election day (and equally full of poo), so this should be doing the trick. Sadly, nothing. (Have you ever seen the Scrubs musical episode where they sing "Everything comes down to poo"? It's my new theme song).
The vet also gave us some medicine, which is supposed to take care of any bowel inflammation that may be going on. It's in pill form, but the pill dissolves in water, so we figured we could just syringe the medicine water into Dixon's mouth (he doesn't do pills very well). Are you seeing a pattern here yet? Can you guess what happens next? Let's just say that Dixon is not a fan of the squirting of the medicine water into the mouth. We managed to get one squirt in. Dixon showed his displeasure by drooling and foaming at the mouth like Cujo. I'm serious! Drool blobs all over the floor and enough foam to put any rabid dog to shame. Then he ran upstairs to drool and foam under the bed where we couldn't reach him. Unfortunately, there was no pooing to go along with the drooling and foaming. Subsequently, the pill was mashed up and sprinkled in Dixon's food.
We've gotten a little desperate at this point. Dixon is on to the fact that we've slipped all matter of things into his food, so he's not eating very much anymore. He completely distrusts anything that Tony gives him, which means it's fallen to me to spoon feed Dixon. Even this has had dwindling success. We went out and purchased one of those kitty drinking fountains that vets swear will make cats want to drink more. We tried to exercise him vigorously, because according to Pet MD, that stimulates the 'ol bowels. I even gave him a bowl of warm milk, because hey, that works for me. No poo. Not even a teeny weenie bit.

Soooo. Tony's out purchasing a can of pumpkin now, since websites have suggested that it is a good source of fiber and (get this) cats loooooove it. I don't put any stock in anything that cats looooove, so any other ideas on how to unclog the kitty are more than welcome. Hey, we'll even take ideas that have unclogged dogs, humans, birds, turtles, and I-75. We have to find something soon, or else Dixon gets another friendly visit from Mr. Enema...And everybody knows that cats looooooove that.

11/16/07
Learning To Go With The Flow

Somebody asked me last night what I would do with my evenings once I graduated from school. Without being in class for 6 hours a week, the hours between 5pm and bedtime would suddenly be brimming with opportunity. Since I've still got another semester and mini-term to go, I can honestly say that I hadn't really thought about it. My head ran through several options, like "Get into a regular exercise program" or "Write the next great American novel" or "Volunteer for a good cause" or "Learn a second language".

My head thought all of that, but my mouth said:

Belly dancing.

Okay, so it might surprise you that the first thing I plan to do after getting my MBA is to become a belly dancer. Not professionally, mind you. Just for fun.

A couple of years ago, the gym I belonged to held a belly dancing class, and I thought it might be a good way to learn how to move with grace and control. (Ya'll aren't going to believe this, but sometimes I can be a little clumsy. I have a tendency to smash into walls and stuff. You're shocked, I know).

I signed on for a couple of months with the beginning belly dancing class. My instructor was a willowy woman with a 70's flower-child voice and belly dance garb. I'm pretty sure her name was Moonbeam. It was like I Dream of Genie meets magic mushrooms.

I watched the instructor talk about learning to isolate each muscle group, and control movement so that only the set of muscles that you were working on moved. (Belly dancing is a crazy good workout for your core muscles). She took us through a few simple steps and then turned on the music so that we could "flow" with it.

("Flowing" by the way, is not as easy as it looks. The idea is to move in a smooth, liquid-like manner. My instructor can move like she has no bones. I move like a bad version of Mr. Roboto).

I would have thought that after a lifetime of being together, my limbs and I would have come to a basic understanding. I would instruct them to move in a graceful, fluid manner, and they would do it.

Or not.

The dance teacher oozed across the floor with serpentine movements. I followed suit by staggering across the floor like a inebriated rhino.

To her credit, the teacher didn't laugh, but she didn't look thrilled either. She did manage to keep extolling misty encouragement though.

"Flow with the music. FEEL the music. Your arm is floating along with the sound. Flooooow-ing aloooooong. Floooooowing...Flow...no, it doesn't jerk, it flows. Flo-you know, maybe we should try something else".

Apparently, I don't flow. I get bogged down in concrete and drown. That would have been discouraging, except that I was having a blast! I've never been so horribly bad at something, yet enjoy it so much. (Obviously, American Idol contestants labor under the same feeling).

For a few months there, I did my belly dancing class every week. In between classes, I practiced at home, and in supermarkets, and in the car on my way to work. (Trying to belly dance while strapped to a car seat hindered some of my movement, but I think it actually improved it aesthetically...something to try during the next class).

Sadly, just as I was moving from looking like someone having a seizure to someone just stumbling in after an all night bender, school started again, and it was on the same night as the dance class. So I had to choose between an MBA or being a Shikira backup dancer, and I hear Shikira's costumes have a tendency to chafe.

BUT! As soon as I finish my curriculum and they stamp Ed-u-ma-cated on my forehead, I'm shimmy-ing my way back into belly dancing classes...because no one "flows" like an inebriated Mr. Roboto with an MBA.

11/15/07
Don't Hate Me Because I'm American

There's an interesting article on Slate today about how other countries view Americans, and further, asks the question "What can we as Americans do to get other countries to like us?" (Sadly, it's no secret that the rest of the world thinks we're shallow and pushy and close-minded). The article goes on to say that through the Internet and Satellite TV, many countries can watch our movies and TV shows, but at the same time, they don't really understand real American culture. For example, South American students watch MTV's My Super Sweet 16 and think that every American teenager gets an expensive new car when they turn 16. (Ohhh, they only wish!)

The article suggests that other countries would like us more if they actually got to meet real live Americans in person. It cites stories of visitors being shocked to learn that we aren't all wildly wealthy and shameless partiers (well, outside of Hollywood anyway), we actually have a pretty strong family and work ethic, and most of the country has religious values. They're surprised that there are more than just blond Caucasians in America, and that we don't always agree with the official government stance on world policy. To fix our image, the article suggests that we should do more Peace Corps, foreign exchange students and Fulbright scholarships to get Americans out in the world, not only to see but to be seen.

I'm all for that. If I've learned anything from my business classes, it's that the World really is Flat, and it is a global marketplace. It's high time that Americans get back out and interact in it.

I'm also hoping that the proliferations of your genuine American run-of-the-mill blog, such as...oh, I don't know...this one, which focuses on the mundane day to day stuff, will help show international visitors (I know you're out there! I see your little dots on the map on the side bar!) that American life isn't quite so...bizarre. I eat, I sleep, I work, I hang out with my family. I'm not really as bad as my TV makes me look.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you're American, please please behave yourselves, because you're representing all of us. And if you're not American, don't judge us by our Paris Hiltons or Donald Trumps. We're not really all shallow know-it-alls obsessed with war...we just play one on tv.

11/14/07
More Insomnia-Induced Silliness

Tony doesn’t usually snore. Only every now and then, when he’s rolled into the exact position where his nose is in direct line with Jupiter’s second moon, or if he has a cold (which luckily is not that often). It’s one of those little blessings that God bestowed upon us when he put us together. “For it is written, Behold! There will be happiness and contentment in the house of Quirk, for this man will not make noises with his nose/throat while he sleeps, and this woman will not have to smother him with his own pillow”. Usually. Like I said, sometimes the planets align (does Jupiter have a second moon? I’m not sure now) and then Tony does a pretty good impression of a jet airplane taking off. I get to play the part of captive audience, because unlike Mr. Asleep-before-his-head-hit-the-pillow, it takes me about an hour or so to drift off each night. That gives me plenty of time to catalogue the snores. Lately though, I’ve noticed a change in the general snoring repertoire. Instead of jet airplane, Tony has recently switched to what I can only describe as “really excited elephant trumpeting noise”. You know that noise that elephants make? Yeah. Tony does a really good impression of that. Only, his trunk-trumpeting sounds really excited. And kinda breathless. Like, elephants having…relations. (Stay with me here. I’ve had a lot of time to lay here and think about this). If you were to turn on an episode of Wild Kingdom and then walk out of the room so that you could only hear the sound, then I would imagine that that thing that the elephants are busily doing right now sounds pretty close to what Tony’s new snore sounds like. Which really begs the question…just what exactly is going on in that boy’s sinus cavities? And how much would Wild Kingdom pay for permission to find out?

11/13/07
Rock On With My Bad Self!

Ya’ll, I just need to take a moment here to brag:

I had my really big marketing presentation tonight, and I must admit that I really rocked the Kasbah. I mean, nailed that sucker big time. Dr. Professor-man was totally impressed. It’s like, I was in the marketing presentation ZONE! I could say no wrong! My slides were organized and informative, my facts were detailed but not boring, and my voice didn’t even crack like a pre-teen boy’s! Dr. Professor-man had been blasting annihilating critiquing the presentations all night, so I was a little worried about what he’d say about mine. (Okay, I admit it…my financial analysis was a little weak, and anything beyond superficial questioning would have made it abundantly clear that rocks have a better grasp on my cash flow analysis, but in this case the ol’ “Fake it til you make it” worked out for me, because he didn’t question any of my random excel sheets. God bless you, Yahoo Finance!). True, I worked for two weeks on this presentation, and can tell you more random facts about Caterpillar and the Philippines Infrastructure than just about anybody, but to nail the presentation, flat out? Sw-eeeeeeeet! I took a victory lap or two around the classroom while Dr. Professor-man sang the praises of my MOST AWESOME use of blatantly-stolen-from-the-website photos to illustrate my points. Whooooo-hoooo!

Okay, I’m done. I just needed a moment to share my victory. I’m better now.

(This moment of modesty has been brought to you by the letter A, as in, my presentation is soooo getting an A!)

11/8/07
A Love Story

I'm reading the archives of Days to Come, and I just finished a 4 part series about how she met her husband. It's one of those stories that lets you see a little further into someone else's life, which makes even the most mundane events interesting. There wasn't anything shocking or amazing or funny about it. It's just one of those stories of finding The One.

When I was in college, I lived in one of the dorms residence halls on campus. (As they drilled into our heads over and over, dorms are made of bricks...residence halls are made of people). I was a Resident Assistant, (which is kind of like a floor monitor/rule enforcer/counselor for those of you who didn't have one). I've got enough stories about the adventures of college student joys and angst and drama to fill the next 25 seasons of "As the Residence Hall Turns", but I'll leave them for another post. This one is a love story.

I met Tony in the hall post office at the beginning of my Junior year. It was August the first time I saw him, with his mischievous grin and his pretty green eyes, and I thought "Wow he's cute! It'd be really fun to date him". I don't know why I thought that. It just popped into my head. (I think it was his glasses. For some reason, I've always been attracted to people with glasses. Something about poor vision really speaks to me). Anyway, I thought he was cute, and then I mentally smacked myself, because I already had a boyfriend...one that I'd been dating for about 2 years. So I shrugged the thought of those pretty green eyes and the glasses and the smile away.

My hall had over 1000 co-ed students living there, and the amount of mail that they received required a couple of student "mail sorters" and all of the RAs to take shifts manning the package desk. Tony was a mail sorter (although he referred to himself as the Post Master General), and I had two hours a week of package desk duty, so I knew who he was. I'd sit at the desk and get packages for the residents who came by to collect them, and he'd work in the back, sorting mail into individual mail slots for the students to pick up. We'd exchange pleasantries, but we didn't really talk. I'd work on homework, or talk to the people who came by for packages, and he'd sort envelopes. We probably would have continued on this way forever, except that two things happened. First, I broke up with my boyfriend in November. (I say I did, but it really was one of those mutual breakups. It was great from day to day, but when I was honest with myself, I knew there wasn't really a future for us. We were just too different, and going in different directions, and expecting different things out of life. It happens). The second important thing was that one of the male RAs graduated that December, and they asked Tony if he'd like to take his place. The halls had closed down for the Christmas holiday, but that hadn't stopped the mail from coming in, so there was about a month backlog of letters and packages that needed to be sorted into mail slots before the students came back from break. Since the RAs always come back a few days before the rest of the students, we were available for package sorting. The hall director had asked for a couple of volunteers to work in the post office. Tony volunteered because he knew the system from his days as "Post Master General". I volunteered because for some perverse reason, I just enjoy sorting mail.

To say that there was a backlog was an understatement. There was mail EVERYWHERE! Mountains of mail. We sorted mail and logged in packages and wrote out package pickup slips for 14 hours. Seriously. 14 hours! As introverts, we didn't really talk much in large groups, but we chattered away when it was just the two of us. (Okay, I chattered...he mostly listened and tossed out a comment every now and then). We had serious debates, and played 20 questions, and made up ridiculous what if scenarios, and I began to discover that he had more going for him than just his pretty green eyes. He had a sense of humor and a quick wit and intelligence, and that was more attractive than even the glasses. We discovered that we both like Chicago hockey. We found out that we had both refereed youth soccer. We were both cat people. We had the EXACT SAME BIRTHDAY. (I made him show me his driver's license to prove it, which also allowed me to see his middle name that he had refused to divulge earlier). You really get to know a person when you're stuck sorting mail with them for 14 hours, and I liked everything I found. It's like we just clicked. Right from the beginning. We decided that we were hungry, so we wandered down to the Strip to get some fast food. He'd never had Krystals before, so we stopped in there. (Because nothing says blossoming romance like the greasy aroma of tiny hamburgers). He had a lot of RA stuff to do to get ready for his residents, so I offered to show him the ropes. (In hindsight, I so think he played me. He just pretended to be lost so that I would offer to help. I told you that he was sharp). For the next few weeks, I showed him the laundry rooms, and how to fill out forms, and where to get the die cuts to make hall decorations for his floor, and he followed along, nodding his head at all my explanations and smirking to himself. (When we got engaged years later, someone asked what had first attracted us to each other. I lovingly described how he seemed to be so steady under pressure, and how nothing ruffled him, and how solid he was. He said he liked the way I walked).

I believe in soul mates. There's a certain someone out there that just completes you, even when you aren't looking for them. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend when we met. I wasn't looking for Mr. Right, or The One, or any of that stuff. (If I had, I probably would have gotten all nervous and just screwed it up somehow). I was just looking for someone to talk to while sorting mail. I couldn't have told you that this was the guy I was going to marry as soon as I laid eyes on him, but I did appreciate that whenever we were together, I just felt comfortable being myself. We compliment each other's personality.

Tony considers our first date to be the minor-league hockey game that he took me to a few weeks later. I guess it was, since he technically asked me out and I accepted. But the truth is that by that time, he had already wormed his way through my defenses. You heard, "You had me at hello"? He had me at "pass the package log book". I couldn't have told you why, but I was hooked.

And I've been hooked ever since.

11/7/07
First Fire

We had our first fire of the season last night! I love a roaring fire. There's just something extra special about sitting next to the fireplace, listening to the fire crackle and pop, that really brings out my inner pyromaniac romantic. It also caused Tony to sing "Chestnuts roasting over an open fire" over and over again (and I don't mean the song...I just mean that one line...over and over). Of course, we didn't technically have a fireplace when we moved into our house, but since when would I let a little thing like that stop me?

It used to be that you could only have a fire if you had a chimney. Then you had to chop wood and haul logs and clean out ashes and check dampers and worry about birds and squirrels and fat men in red suits getting stuck inside and wreaking all kinds of havoc. Frankly, I'm waaaay too lazy to put up with all that. Then the gas and electric versions came along, but the smell of the gas always bothered me, and I just don't think the electric ones are very realistic. (If you have electric fireplace and you love it, I don't mean to insult it. I'm sure it's lovely. I just like actual fire in my fireplace. Different stokes).

Anyway, once you toss out wood burning and gas and electric, that tends to leave your fireplace options pretty slim. So I did a little research, and I found...gel fuel! I'd never heard of it before, but it seems that these fireplaces are designed to fit little pint-sized (not as in small, but as in the actual size of a pint) cans of alcohol jelly stuff that you can light on fire. (Think Sterno cans underneath buffet trays). They don't smell, they only release a little bit of water vapor, they're easy to start and stop, and there's no cleanup. Personally, we have Sunjel "with realistic wood crackle!". I vary between 1-3 cans at a time, depending on if I want a small fire or a roaring one. Just remove the paper wrapper from the can, pop the top off, and light the gel inside on fire. Each can burns for about 2.5 hours, but if you decide you'd rather cut it short, just pop the lid back on, and save the rest of your fuel for another day. When the can is empty, the fire goes out, and you toss the can in the recycler. The cans are hidden behind the genuine fake logs, so you never see them in the fireplace. The best part is that they require no venting, and they're portable, so you can have a fireplace in your bedroom, bathroom, living room, etc. (Just drag it from room to room if you want).

I bought mine online from this site, we love your home. I did the 2 Burn "build your own" kit, which is basically just the firebox, log rack, fake logs, and screen. They have mantles that you can buy along with them, but what fun is that? You can just as easily build your own. I did a corner fireplace with entertainment center on top. Because the fire doesn't put out much heat (roughly 9,000 BTU/h) it doesn't hurt my TV to be above it.

We bought a case of 48 cans of Sunjel, which has lasted us two years now. I think it comes out to roughly $2 a can, which is nothing compared to the natural gas it takes to run your gas fireplace, or buy and haul firewood.

Amazingly enough, Sunjel hasn't paid me for this glowing endorsement. They have no idea who I am. (But if you come across this, Sunjel people, give me a call...I'm open to becoming the official Sunjel spokeswoman for the right price). This is just one of those products that I found and liked, and thought other people might like too. You're very welcome.

Enjoy your crackling real fire. Now all you need to do is learn the rest of the "Chestnuts" song.

11/6/07
In Case You Need More Bloggy Goodness

I've stumbled across a fabulous new blog called Days to Come. She's friends with Antique Mommy and Big Mama, so it was only logical to make the leap to Days to Come. Like every other blogger in the whole entire world with the exception or yours truly and the Seester, she's a stay at home mom. (Why are Moms the best writers? Is it because they have fodder from all the funny things that kids do?) Anyway, Days to Come has 4 children, which she home schools. She also has fabulous tricks for stretching your dollars. I've been lurking on her site for about two weeks now, greedily reading all her archives. Trust me. She's a good read.

11/2/07
Music Meme

Whenever I'm reading other blogs and come across a meme that they've done, I make a note of it for those days that I can't think of anything else remotely interesting to write about...

And guess what today is.

So for your reading enjoyment, I bring you.....(drumroll)

The Music Meme!

The idea is to talk about 10 songs on your ipod/other brand mp3 playing device/burned CD/mix tape on cassette (just in case you're one of those people trapped in 1987 and haven't joined the age of digital music yet). If you have a blog, like a certain Seester I know, or a certain College Roommate I had, then upon seeing this meme, you are hereby officially "tagged" to do it on the next day that you find yourself with a nasty case of bloggers block. If you don't have a blog (because you're trapped in 1987 and haven't officially joined the digital age yet, or just because you don't like to write) then feel free to leave your 10 favorite songs in the comments section.

So here we go, in no particular order:

Hold On- KT Tunstall. I like this one because it's all upbeat and I'm on a real KT Tunstall kick right now. (I also have Black Horse and a Cherry Tree and Other Side of the World). I thought the intro had a kind of Indian sound to it, but the video shows her at a swing dance thing. Either way, good stuff, and a good dancing around the house while dusting song. (Not that I actually dust, but if I did, it'd be to this song).

99 Red Balloons- Nena. One of the best 80's songs OF ALL TIME, especially for a song about the annihilation of a city. I also like the German version (99 luft ballons) but I can't sing along as well in German.

Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae. I caught this one on the radio about 6 months back, and got hooked on it. Tony gets annoyed because I tend to sing it at the top of my lungs. (Why that annoys him, I don't know).

2 Princes- Spin Doctors. I like this one because it reminds me of when I was 12, which is how old I was when it came out. I've known all the words for like, 15 years now, and if you ever catch me totally jamming in my car, it's probably because this song came on. I especially like the part where it goes "be-do-be-deep, be-de-da-ba-doobe-doode-doobe-doobe-doobe". If you know the song, you know what I'm talking about. Feel free to sing along.

All these things that I've Done- The Killers. HUGE HUGE Killers fan. I have several of their songs. Tony actually even likes them, which is saying something, because he's usually more in the classic rock genre. Of course, I secretly reprogrammed all of the radio stations in his car to MY favorite stations instead, so maybe that paid off a little and he picked up some Killers. LOVE the part where is goes "I got soul but I'm not a solider". (I usually end of yelling that part at the top of my lungs, which by the way, is awkward when you're in the supermarket).

The Sweet Escape- Gwen Staffani. I'm not usually a Gwen Steffani fan, but like every other person in America who has been to a sporting event lately, I heard the song played over the loud speaker during a pitching change and the "wooooooooo-ooooo, WEEEEEEE-hooo" part got permanently imbedded in my skull. I figured why fight it?

Bette Davis Eyes- Kim Carnes. This is one of those songs that I'll love forever, even though Bette Davis had freaky scary eyes in real life. (I'm thinking hypothyroidism, but that's just my guess). And I like the hand clapping part because I'm easily entertained.

The Boxer- Carbon Leaf. Love me some Carbon Leaf, and this one is a particularly happy sounding song, even if it is about two people having a fight. I've just noticed that all these songs I've listed are really upbeat and dance-y. Wonder what that says about my personality? Hmmmm.

Missed the Boat-Modest Mouse. Here we go. Not a dancing song. And not really a happy song either, but certainly one you can sing along with.

Lightening Blue Eyes- The Secret Machines. I picked this one up about a year ago, maybe a year and a half. This is one of those that will stay with you all day, but you don't really mind because you enjoy singing it anyway.

Okay, so there's my 10 songs. Now when you see that crazy nut in the car next to you flailing and wailing and generally trying to dance while strapped to a seat, you'll still point and laugh, but at least now you'll know what songs I'm listening to.

10/31/07
Who IS that Masked (Wo)man?

Happy Halloween everybody!
This year I went as Zorro. (This is mostly due to the fact that I wanted an excuse to wear a cape).



Special thanks to Mom this year for helping me sew my Zorro shirt...and my Zorro cape...and my Zorro mask. I wouldn't haven been able to do this without her...especially the shirt. I bought this pattern from McCall's, and while I understand the basic idea of patterns, I haven't actually ever used one in the past. (My sewing is not bound by the constraints of patterns. I tend to be more freeform). But I'm embarrassed to admit that this pattern, full of secret symbols and confusing instructions that only people who actually really learned how to sew understand, was beyond me. Sad, I know, but the heroic Zorro was bested by the evil McCall's pattern. Luckily, the real Zorro had that mute partner/sidekick guy, and I've got Mom, who while far from mute, is an excellent seamstress. She gave up the majority of two weekends to help me with the shirt, and because she's a super Mom, she also did the cape and the mask. (It's kinda like when I was 7 and she did my costumes for me too).

My sword, in case you're wondering, is spray painted dowel rod, with the tip sharpened ala pencil sharpener. The handle is foam board and wrapped with Tony's black hockey tape (which he doesn't know I used, so don't tell him). Zorro was actually a fencing champion (seriously, I looked it up on Disney, where the original series aired), so it's important to go with a thin sword for authenticity. Yes, I broke down and bought the hat as is from Wal-Mart. I'm Zorro after all, not a milliner.
We have a costume party scheduled this afternoon. I'll let you know if anything exciting happens.

10/26/07
Cannonball

So Tony and I were riding in the car the other day, and he had the classic rock station on. I was singing along quite happily to Van Halen's Cannonball song.

"Cannonball!" I howled, "Cannonba-aw-aw-aw-aw-all"
"It's not cannonball."
"What? Of course it's cannonball!"
"It's Panama"
"What?"
"Panama"
"Seriously?"
"Yes."
"Like the Panama Canal? That Panama?"
"Yes"
Moment while I digest that information.
"I liked 'cannonball' better"

Tony is the know-all end-all for movie/tv/music trivia, so if he says that it's Panama, then it probably is. (That didn't stop me from checking Wikipedia as soon as we got home though. One of these days, he'll be wrong about something. The odds are way in my favor now.)

The cannonball thing really did come at a bad time, as he had also just busted me for singing "Gimme the Beach Boys to fill my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock-n-roll..." a few days before. According to Tony, it's "Give me the BEAT, Boys". He says that Dobie Gray was talking to the other members of his band. (I maintain that he's IN the band...he should already know the beat. On the other hand, maybe he finds the music of the BEACH BOYS to be soothing. I think it's a totally valid arguement).

And I still like "Cannonball" better.

10/25/07
Why I Keep Finding Fur in the Keyboard

I realized that after posting a picture of Mason in the sink, I needed to also post a picture of Dixon so that everything will be 100% fair. As a mother of twins, I must take special care to represent both boys equally and not play favorites. So in the spirit of complete fairness, here is a picture of Dixon playing solitaire on the computer.

10/24/07
New Fangled Linky-Doos

Attention Quirky fans! I gots me some new fangled linky-doos over there on the green sidebar-o-fun. Guaranteed to make your Quirky experience more pleasant (as if you could get any better than it already is, right?) First, the previous posts section has been upgraded with a "Most Recent Posts" link, which will take you back to...well, the most recent posts. That way, if you're cruising down memory lane in May of last year, you can easily beam yourself back to the future by clicking on the Most Recent Posts and -poof!- through the wonder of the Internet, you'll be back to today's post. The science behind the magic is complicated, so trust me, it will just make archive navigation easier.

Secondly, I realize that there are occasionally some typos and/or spelling errors on these posts, and while I do my best to catch the little buggers beforehand, sometimes they still sneak through into the published content. Mom usually plays the part of spelling and grammar editor, and hopefully she'll continue to do so, but I wanted to start up a "Report typos link" just in case anyone else enjoys playing "spot the typo" too. Click the link, email the typo and what post it's in, and I'll go in and fix it. English teachers the world over will rejoice. (Take note that sometimes I employ artistic license, so things like the first sentence where I say "I gots me some new fangled linky-doos" was totally on purpose. You can still email it to me, and I'll appreciate you looking out for me, but I'm going to leave it like it is. Otherwise, go nuts). The typo link is down at the bottom of the green box, below the archives.

So pretty neat, yes?

10/23/07
Monkey Madness

Did you hear about how the mayor of New Delhi was killed on Sunday when he fell off of his balcony after being attacked by a roving pack of angry monkeys? The mayor was in his home when the monkeys attacked him. (Obviously the monkeys had no problems getting security clearance). I don't want to belittle this man's death, but if you had to guess how you were going to meet your maker, would being pushed off of a balcony by angry monkeys even make the top 20?

Apparently in New Delhi, as many as 10,000 monkeys (10,000!) roam through the city, getting into government buildings and temples and trying to steal food from people. (They also have the bad habits of ripping up important documents and leaving monkey poo in unfortunate places). The government can't kill the monkeys because they are sacred to Hindus on account of Hanuman, the monkey god. (Question: And can you punish the monkeys after they've killed someone, or are they still under religious immunity?) If not, you end up with an office full of monkeys, and there's nothing you can do about it. Can you imagine having to go to your boss and be like, "The monkeys beat me up and took my TPS report"?

Many people in India carry sticks to avoid just such attacks, bopping the monkeys on the head to scare them off. (Head bopping is apparently not a religious no-no). Primatologists also recommend using the "open-mouth threat", where you form an "O" with your mouth, lean forward and raise your eyebrows. (Ironically, this look is also useful when warding off door to door salesmen and co-workers who want you to purchase overpriced wrapping paper for their kid's fundraiser).

Say what you will about commuter traffic and office politics and insane customer demands. At least your co-workers aren't literally monkeys (only figuratively). And the next time you're having a bad day, just say to yourself, "Yes, things are lousy, but at least I wasn't attacked and pushed off of a balcony by a roving pack of angry monkeys". That tends to put things into prospective.

10/22/07
Race for the Cure

I did my annual Susan G Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday (or as I like to call it, "Leisurely Stroll for the Cure" since I'm not getting up in the pre-dawn hours to actually run). The weather was beautiful, even before the sun came up, which was a marked improvement over last year when the temperature hovered around the low 40's. This is my 5th year doing the race, so I have my own little tradition: Arrive really freaking early for team picture. Be grumpy. Eat annual Krispy Kreme doughnut. Get annual goody bag of freebie giveaways. Eat banana. Eat free bag of Sunchips. Drink free water. Possibly eat second doughnut. Make my way to the starting line for the race. Race. Come back for more water and to see if there are any doughnuts left.

This year, I varied the routine by replacing the second doughnut with a free pre-race chair massage. (Saves on calories AND works out the kinks!) I also did the 5K instead of the 1 mile fun run since I was feeling particularly sugar-powered. (Oh yes, doughnuts so count as an alternative form of fuel. A tasty one too!) This year's race had an estimated 11,000 people, so they staggered the groups doing the 5K. First the timed runners went, then the first wave of untimed runners/walkers. Then the second. It turns out that I was in the front row of the second wave, which is why you can see me clearly on this photo of the race from the News-Sentinel. (Not the Jazzercise picture, but the one with 50 million people running).

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2007/oct/21/race-cure-turnout-grand/

It's like where's waldo! Can you spot me? I'm in black pants with a black jacket tied around my waist. I'm looking down because my feet are actually running, and I'm saying "Feet! What's with the running?! You never run!"

The running happened out of self-defense. Apparently, the people behind me felt like running, so I had to run to get out of the way. I ran for a whole 30 yards before the course widened and the crazy insane real runners were able to pass me and I was able to stop. (I figure all that running took care of those doughnut calories and entitled me to eat another as soon as I finished my race).

Other than the first 30 yards, my Leisurely Stroll for the Cure went as planned. I popped in the ol' earphones for some race-inspired music (The Proclaimers I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) if you're curious) and settled into a brisk pace behind a team of people with T-shirts that exclaimed "Save the ta-tas!" on the back. (I also saw some with "The Rack Pack").

I did my 5K in roughly 50 minutes, got a little weepy over all the "In memory of" names, and successfully dispatched my second Krispy Kreme doughnut. All and all, not a bad morning.

And all for a good cause.

10/19/07
Why I Keep Finding Fur In The Sink

"I call the hot tub first!"
Mason tries the sink on for size.

10/18/07
OTH- Part Three...Costumes!

There's two things that make Halloween so much fun...costumes and candy. And since we're a week and a half away from Halloween, I think it's time that we discuss costume ideas. People always freak out when trying to find cute costume ideas. Don't worry! Dressing up is supposed to be fun! Let your inner child go free! The way I see it, you can go one of several directions:

1. The "I'm-dressed-up-but-not-really" costume: This is the package of cat/bunny ears on a headband and tail that you wear with your regular outfit. I don't really consider it a costume, but it's a good choice if you need to morph back into "regular" wear quickly, or if you're going somewhere where you aren't sure if you'll be the only one dressed up.
2. Pirates, fairies, witches, cowgirls, etc. These are the staple Halloween outfits. Every year, there are numerous pirates, fairies, witches, and cowgirls. They're popular because they're costumes, but they're traditional. If you want to dress up but not call too much attention to yourself, go with these. But if you're going to go through the trouble of getting a costume, why not push the envelope a little bit? Go crazy!
3. Sexy costumes. Heaven knows that you if you browse through any of those costume websites for women, 99% of them will be some kind of sexy outfit. Personally, I stay away from these because they don't fit into my dress code for work. Plus, dressing up as a French maid or sexy nurse seems a little trashy to me. (Of course, last year the local news guy mistook my costume for a French prostitute, so what do I know?) If you're going to a Halloween party and your lousy cheating ex is there and you want to make him suffer, then go for sophisticated sexy...otherwise, just try for cute. (To see last year's rant about the over-abundance of trashy costumes, click here).
4. Memorable/Funny costumes. If you want a memorable costume, you have to be creative. I think the whole point of Halloween is to be something unexpected, and you just can't do that with a store-bought costume. As a matter of fact, I'll come up with a few costume ideas throughout the year, and then I'll check all the stores to make sure that my idea hasn't been mass-produced. Of course nowadays, those online costume warehouses have thousands of costumes, so it gets harder and harder to be totally unique. My rule is, if your idea is in Wal-mart or on the first page of one of those Halloween websites, it's too popular, and the chances of you being one of five pirate wenches is just too great. And really, when you get right down to it, it's just more fun to make your own out of everyday stuff around the house. Not that you can't get anything from the store (I'm not saying that you have to make your own wig or manufacture your own wax vampire teeth...you'd put those little kids in China out of jobs!...I'm just saying that those complete ensembles that are hanging 20 deep in that Wal-mart aisle totally miss the point).

Two years ago, I won first place in the company costume contest for my Carmen Miranda outfit. Last year, they didn't have a contest, so I figure that means that I retained my gold metal by default. This year, the contest is back, but I don't expect to win again. This year's costume will be more fun to wear, but I don't think it'll be prize winning. It's cute, but it can't beat some random guy dressed in drag, and there's always at least one. People! What is so funny about a guy wearing a dress? Why do they keep winning costume contests? There is no thought behind putting on a dress. There is no creativity! Why do guys in drag keep winning? When I was in elementary school, I came dressed as a tube of toothpaste. Toothpaste! Complete with a lampshade cap and a sheathe with Toothpaste spelled out down my front. But who won? The boy in who wore his sister's cheerleading uniform! Then, when I worked in Virginia, I came as a lightening bug, with a tap light stuck to my butt and homemade wings and antennae, but who won? The guy in drag! Again! (Yes, I am still bitter about it. You would be too. Do you know how hard it is to walk dressed as toothpaste?). The only reason I won with Carmen two years ago was because they were giving extra points for being homemade, and the drag queen guy had purchased his.

So I'm curious, dear Quirky reader(s), who are known for your wit and style and general brilliance, does anyone else dress up for Halloween? Is anyone else out there a "make your own costume" purist, or have we all fallen prey to the evil, overpriced costume superstores? Anyone want to share a favorite costume idea? (It can be yours, or someone else's you've seen). And can anyone explain the humor behind a guy in a dress and bad wig that makes him so popular? Share your secrets. You know how that comment thing down there works.

10/17/07
Scary Halloween Facts

A scary Halloween fact:

Did you know that a single fun size Twix bar, such as the ones that I bought on the pretense of giving to trick-or-treaters but instead greedily stashed away in my desk drawer at work, contain 4 grams of total fat (eek!), 10 grams of carbs (nooooo!), and 8 grams of sugar (shudder!). That's 22 grams of badness in one beloved little Twix!

But wait a minute! The entire cookie bar only weighs 16 grams! Even in my math-adverse head, 16 is less than 22.

You know what that means, don't you? That nutritional data on the back of the package is obviously wrong.
So feel free to eat your Twix with righteous impunity. They aren't really as bad for you as they say they are.

Another scary Halloween fact: nothing is too far of a stretch when rationalizing candy.

10/16/07
The All Bran Ad-vantage

Has anyone else seen that commercial for All Bran where the construction worker is talking about how regular he is now that he's taken the "All Bran Challenge"? While Mr. Regular is extolling the virtues of his new potty prowess, there's all this construction/bathroom related activity, such as a dump truck unloading a load of bricks, or barrels are rolling off the end of the truck right behind the guy's derriere. It seems that the commercial is creating quite a stir; so much so that Slate has done an Ad Report Card on it. Some people think it's funny. Some people think it's gross. I must admit, my first thought wasn't that it was funny or gross...my thought was that OSHA would be having a field day with how unsafe this construction site was. I mean, barrels rolling around and I-beams shooting through walls? Helloooo worker's comp! My second thought was, What kind of boring name is All Bran? It can be all bran without being called All Bran. Name it something like Healthy Flakes, or Tasty Flakes, or So-you've-been-constipated-for-three-days Flakes. All Bran? That's All Old People. And no one wants to eat old people food...not even old people. And especially not the 12 year old boys (and Tony) who are laughing at this commercial.

Read the Slate article and see the commercial here.

10/12/07
I'm Not Really a Chiropractor...I Just Play One on TV

I apologize for leaving you Quirk-less yesterday. I've twinged (a medical term) a muscle in my neck, which is incredibly painful and makes it difficult to do things like support the weight of my own head. I missed work yesterday (I NEVER miss work) because it hurt so much I couldn't move. On the plus side, I think all the extra rest allowed me to fight off the beginnings of the cold that I think I was catching. So...no cold, but immobilizing pain. Lucky me.

I manage to mess myself up like this a couple of times a year, so at least I have a battle plan: the TENS unit (aka, Baby Back Zapper). If you've ever been to a chiropractor, you know that one of their delicious little back fixing tricks is to hook you up to little sticky pads and shock your muscles back into submission. The TENS unit does the same thing, only on a brilliantly portable level. I highly highly highly recommend it for misbehaving back or neck muscles. I used to just borrow Dad's (since he also has a history of breaking himself) or Aunt Suzie's (suffers from chronic back pain), but I just decided to buy my own so that I can keep it close at hand for the next time I partially paralyze myself. (And it keeps the family from fighting over them if we have more than one back mishap at a time. You know that old adage, "The family that shocks itself with mild electrical pulses together..."). Yeah, that one.

Anyway, I'm doing much better today. I was able to slowly roll out of bed, and dress myself, and brush my teeth, which is a huge improvement over yesterday, when I was stuck laying on the floor for two hours. (The floor thing was my own fault. I had decided that laying in the floor might realign my head with my spine, but I didn't think about how I was going to get back up). Sitting up is incredibly painful, and requires me to hold my head in both hands to take the weight off of my neck. Unfortunately, this is a bit more complicated than I anticipated. Plus, I made the mistake of getting stuck right before the cats' scheduled dinner time, so both boys stood right next to me and yelled for their evening meal instead of doing the Lassie thing and running next door to alert the neighbors that I couldn't get back up. (Remember that commercial for the Medic Alert button where the old lady is laying in the floor yelling "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"? This incident was God punishing me for making fun of her). Anyway, I was just going to wait for Tony to come home and pick me up, but USDA showed up at the plant unexpectedly, so he stayed late for them. Sometimes a girl's just gotta take matters into her own hands. I ended up inching over to the end of the chaise and using it to support my head while I scooted back into a sitting position. The entire scooting operation took me about 45 minutes, but I managed to get back to an upright position about 5 minutes before Tony came home, which just goes to show that the fates enjoy laughing at my struggles.

But anyway, that was yesterday, and I feel much better today. Only somewhat moderately painful instead of just-kill-me-now painful. I've zapped myself enough to light up all my organs up like a small city, but I think it's worth it, because the neck is finally beginning to listen to reason.

God bless the Baby Back Zapper.

10/10/07
United Way

We're doing a campaign to raise money for United Way this week at Ye Ol Company. We do it every year, with a week's worth of crazy fundraising antics, including today's Putt-putt golf challenges and yesterday's incarcerations, where people were "arrested" and held in "jail" until their bail could be met by their co-workers. In addition to our money however, United Way is looking for volunteers to help with their various organizations. One that I always participate in is the Children's Center, a daycare that relies on United Way volunteers for special projects. We take a morning and go over to the Center to help them with anything that they need done. I like it because you can help the kids without actually having to interact with them. This year, we pressure-washed their toys on the playground, helped the children get ready for Picture Day, organized the toy closet, and put up fall decorations. I brought my ladder along and changed 36 fluorescent bulbs that had gone out in the various rooms. True, I have never actually changed a fluorescent bulb before, but it was either that or get little kids ready for their pictures, and fluorescent bulbs don't have snotty noses and spilled juice on their shirts. (So I chickened out. Sue me). It turns out that changing bulbs takes a little bit of finessing, but I have the magic touch. All I had to do was tap the new light, and it would suddenly come on. This is endlessly entertaining to small children, who have never seen lights or a person or a ladder before, because no matter how quietly I snuck into the room, 20 pairs of giant toddler eyes would swivel over and stare, open-mouthed, at what I was doing. Mostly, the kids watched silently while I balanced on my ladder, safely out of their snotty-fingered reach, with the exception of one little boy who was curious enough to wander over and block my escape route, effectively trapping me on the fourth step.

"Wha doin?"
"Who me? I'm changing this light bulb"
"Wha doin?"
"Er, I'm changing this LIGHT BULB. See? It's out."
"Wha doin?"
(Sigh). "Never mind. Where's your teacher? She'll tell you what I'm doing."
Five full seconds of silence while he digests this, then:
"Wha doin?"

Irritating child. Obviously the spawn of Barbara Walters. Luckily, it was time for his picture, so his teacher ushered him out of the room, and I was able to make my escape.

In another room, I was treated to the fantastic musical styling of a Mr. Wiggles, who was singing a catchy little song about making a fruit salad. The children knew all the words and even a little dance routine that went with the song. (I was impressed). Unfortunately, I do not know all the words or the corresponding dance, yet the tune continues to play in my head, forcing me to walk around mumbling "duh-de-duh-de-duh, Fruit salad!" I have been humming that fruit salad song for 48 hours now. You better hope I never find you in a dark alley, Mr. Wiggles.

It is my opinion that daycares run on extremely organized chaos. Everything they do is meticulously planned and scheduled and recorded, yet there's always children yelling, or running in every direction, or falling down, or crying, or needing to be changed, or whatever. I really do not understand how the teachers can keep up with it all. I'd have a blowgun and a case of tranquilizer darts on hand at all times. I did take a time out from light bulb changing to sneak into the baby room though. (I like them because they can't run off and get into trouble. You just sit them in that bouncy circular thing and they're happy just to jump up and down in place). I had a lovely conversation with Joshua, a 7 month old who hasn't quite figured out how to crawl yet. (What to do with these infernal legs!? They're always in the way!) Anyway, Joshua wasn't overly drooly or snotty or smelly, so we got along fine. We sat in the floor and discussed the ratio of red balls to blue balls in the rattle that he had, and whether or not the over-simulation from all that red would have lasting ramifications on his left-brain vs right-brain cognitive development. (Joshua says yes. I think there are too many other variables to be statistically conclusive. The baby teacher/watcher/changer person just rolled her eyes). At the end of our visit, just as I was leaving, Joshua's teacher said that she was very impressed that we got along so well, because Joshua is apparently at a stage where he's "Stranger Apprehensive". That basically means that he starts screaming whenever someone he doesn't know comes into the room. He didn't do that with me, however, and the teacher was surprised (especially after the red ball/blue ball discussion, when she decided that I was a complete nut job). I told her that Joshua must have recognized a kindred spirit, because I'm stranger apprehensive too.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun, we helped the Center get a lot of small jobs accomplished, the place is a lot brighter now due to all the new bulbs I put in, and I had another relatively positive baby-related encounter. I highly recommend volunteering if you have some extra time on your hands.

Just watch out for that Mr. Wiggles fellow and the kid who asks "Wha doin?".