Yes Virginia, There Is a Halloween

So I know I kind of left it on a cliffhanger last time- the question on everyone's mind (and by "everyone's" I mean only me of course) was will she or won't she?  When we last left our heroes, ZB was refusing to wear the hat of her Halloween costume.  We'd been trying to get her to wear it for the entire month of October to no avail.  I wasn't sure what we were going to do if she balked on the big day.  It was quite the nail biter.

But! I am happy to report that on Halloween morning ZB got up and let me put her costume on her, hat and all, like it was no big deal.  Was it because she knew that it was finally the right day to wear a costume?  Was it because it was cold and she was glad to have a hat on her head?  Did she see that vein throbbing on Mommy's forehead and decide to cut her a break?  Who knows what goes through a toddler's mind?

Anyway.  I officially present...two scary and ferocious monsters!
And one of the ferocious monsters is blowing you a kiss.

ZB's costume was available commercially where all fine baby Halloween costumes are sold.  Last year Mom made her lion costume for her, but she (meaning Mom) is having back problems and can't sit at her sewing machine for any length of time, so no free sewing labor for us this year. (Boo!)  So I ran through all the costumes at Babies R Us and Walmart and Target and anywhere else that was like, "we sell overpriced poorly made polyester costumes that your child will wear exactly once!"  And this one caught my eye because it was just so gosh darn cute.  And made halfway decently.  And not obscenely overpriced.  So I was all, "Monsters it is!"

I mean seriously.  Have you ever seen anything cuter in your life?

The only problem was that the hat was a teeny bit big and the "teeth" kept slipping over her eyes.  Surprisingly (and hysterically), ZB's instinct is just to take off running blindly when this happens.  

My costume was a little harder.  Can you believe that they don't make adult monster costumes?  (Actually, that's a lie.  They do.  I found a couple on a website that sells fantasy lingerie.  For all your monster fetish needs, I suppose.  But it isn't really the kind of monster outfit that you can wear to take your child trick or treating.)  So I improvised.  Really improvised.  First of all, it's hard to find purple fur around here.  And if you do, it's something like $18/yard.  Which is crazy.  So I used a blanket instead.  I'm serious.  In the teen bedding section of Walmart, they have all these assorted furry pillows and throws and whatnot.  And they are much cheaper than $18/yard (I think $14 for two or so yards worth...and lined!), so I bought a purple throw and cut it up.  Instant monster fur.  

Secondly, I'm kind of self-taught when it comes to sewing.  My skill level is somewhere around "hem a pillow case".  I couldn't read a pattern if my life depended on it.  So I made up my own.  The skirt is based on a wrap-around skirt that I had in my closet, the leg warmers are just material that I wrapped around my legs, sewed the seams together and put elastic band at the top.  And the hat was me literally laying my head down on the material and tracing around it with a pencil for the size.  I'd sew some parts together, eyeball it, and go, yeah, those sides look mostly even.  Plus, monster fur is very forgiving.  It's so fuzzy you can't see the seams anyway, so no one has to know about that zig-zaggy spot where the sewing machine got away from me a little.  
Standing together, we are monsters.  Alone, I look like a giant purple bath mat with horns.

So those are our Halloween costumes for this year.  I think they turned out well considering that they were almost not to be.  Hopefully she'll remember how much fun she had this year and not fight me so much about it next year.  A Mommy can dream anyway.

Trick or Treat!

A Headstrong Toddler: Scarier than Freddie AND Chucky

Edited to add: This was actually supposed to post the day before Halloween but didn't due to "issues" with the dancing video on the previous post, which gummed up the timing on these other posts.  So...pretend Halloween hasn't happened yet.  

I love Halloween.  Love it, love it, love it.  I love thinking of costume ideas, and making costumes, and wearing costumes, and seeing other people in costumes.  (And yes, eating candy, if you're going to twist my arm about it.)

I mean, look at the following evidence:

And then ZB came along, and that just doubled the costume fun.  (Sadly, Tony has never been one for dressing up.  Even when we were first dating and he was still trying to impress me, he balked at the whole couples costume idea.  Sigh.)  But ZB wasn't old enough to protest, so she became my costume muse.

For example, last year:

I mean, you can't be a lion tamer without a little lion, can you?  But Internets, this year the best part about Halloween is in DANGER!  And not fake being-chased-through-a-haunted-house-by-a-guy-with-a-chainsaw-with-no-chain danger, but real danger!  Because ya'll, this year ZB does not want to wear her costume.


Seems that now that she is a toddler, she's got this crazy idea to "exert her independence" and that includes refusing to wear her little costume hat.  Seriously.  I've been "practicing" with her for the last month to wear her hat, and she just says "No! No! No!" and pulls it off.  Don't get me wrong, she thinks it is hysterical when Mommy wears it, or Daddy wears it, or CC wears it, but when it goes on her head, she wants nothing to do with it.

I am very concerned!  The costume doesn't really make sense without her hat, and if her costume doesn't make sense, then my costume doesn't make sense.  (And I spent a lot of time making my costume by hand.  Many a night I slaved over my sewing machine, and I don't really even know how to sew!)  So I'm not sure what to do.  If she balks tomorrow, then my plan B is to put her back into her wedding outfit and call her a princess.  But I'm really really hoping that Plan A (Wear the stupid hat!) works.

Does anyone know any good bribes that work on toddlers?

She Could Have Danced All Night

So...yeah.  I'm know it's been a few weeks since I've been on, and my excuse is that we have all been very very busy doing such awesome things that I haven't had the slightest free moment in which to write about them on the ol' blog here.  (And this is the part where, having just expressed your displeasure at my absence, you sigh and decide to forgive me and then rub your hands together in anticipation of reading all this awesome stuff.)  Except that, having completely set your expectations to ridiculously high levels, I have just blanked on everything that has happened to us in the last few weeks.

Wait! Wait! I just remembered something!

Last weekend Tony's sister Mary got married!  Originally Mary wanted ZB to be a flower girl or something, but the church has some kind of rule about no flower girls under five (or something like that...I can't really remember the specifics) so Mary asked if ZB could help me and Tony carry the sacraments down the aisle for the mass part.  And we said sure, that would be lots of fun, she'd love that, and Mom and I immediately went out and bought her the cutest little dress.  It has a silver top, puffy white tulle and sparkles and rhinestones, so you know it was a complete hit with the under 3' crowd.  ZB was so excited when she put it on that she kept spinning around and patting it and lifting the skirt part over her head.  (If that doesn't say yes to the dress, then I don't know what does.)  Then I found a kind of similar top (similar in that it was also silver, not that it had tulle or sparkles or rhinestones) and Tony a new sports coat, and off we went down to Charlotte where the wedding was being held.

Oh ya'll, the whole wedding was lovely.  The bride was lovely, the groom was lovely, the church was lovely, we were was all just lovely.  The only thing that was slightly unlovely was that when it came time to do our part, instead of holding Daddy's hand and walking down the aisle to show off her pretty dress, ZB suddenly decided to go boneless and refused to stand on her own two feet.  And since people kind of frown on you just dragging your toddler behind you like a sack of dirty laundry, I ended up carrying the gifts, and Tony carried ZB, and her little dress was all scrunched under his arm and no one could really see how adorable it was.  (Which we all know is why everyone came.  Not to see the bride or groom or anything, but to see ZB's sparkles and tulle. Am I right?)

Notice how Mary was a good girl and walked down the aisle with her Daddy, so everyone was able to see her pretty dress.
Of course, ZB overcame her shyness as soon as the wedding was over, because then we were headed to the reception, and there's nothing that that girl loves more than a PARRRR-TAAY!  There's just something about her when the music gets started.  Her toes start tapping and all of a sudden she is off like a shot, headed towards the dance floor to get her groove thing on.  And trust me, she totally stole the show too.  At one point I looked up and everyone else had formed a circle around her on the dance floor and clapped as she got down with her sweet toddler dance moves (read: jumping, random arm waving and spinning).  She is a dancing queen.  And who knew that size five black patent leather Stride Rites were such great boogie woogie dancing shoes?

She enjoyed getting down and funky so much that we had to physically carry her off of the dance floor when it was time for the Bride/Father and Groom/Mother dances.  She was really miffed about it too.  She honestly could not understand why the bride and groom didn't want to share their special moment on the dance floor with her.  Luckily, we were able to temporarily distract her with some wedding cake so that she'd be all sugared up and ready to go again when they called for group dance time.

So that was our weekend.  Aunt Mary and Uncle Brett got married.  We discovered that the high ceilings in the church make great echoes when you yell really loud in the middle of the ceremony, (and also that being whisked out and into the cry room off the lobby is much more fun than trying to sit still in a pew with Mommy and Daddy).  And we learned that when there's a party going on, little girls can completely forgo sleep.  All they need is a dance floor and a good beat, and they can dance all night.

Edited to add:  Sorry for the delay in posting this.  For some reason, blogger refused to load my video.  It would load part of it and then freeze, causing great weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I FINALLY compressed it enough to load, but it took sweet forever and a large chunk of my hair.  All that is to say, enjoy the video.

Edited again:  Okay, apparently the video didn't load after all.  Another large chunk of my hair is now gone.  However, the video loaded just fine on facebook, so if we are facebook friends feel free to watch it there.  Meanwhile, I will continue to insult Blogger's mother for refusing to upload a simple video. 

Gettin' Our Bounce On

Last week Groupon had a deal for 4 passes to a place not far from us called Bounce USA.  It's basically a warehouse full of moon bounces and other inflatable games, and since ZB likes those kinds of things, I said yes please to the groupon and today we went for the first of our bouncy house adventures.  I call the following Dark Side of the Moon Bounce: A Bouncy Adventure in Picture Form

This is the special toddler area...age 2 and under only.  Not even adults allowed.   Tiny tyranny at its best. 

It has a ball pit!  We love ball pits!
Look Mom!  Ball pit angels!  (Seriously, it was a good 30 minutes of ball pit! Ball pit! Ball pit!)
I was finally able to drag ZB away from the ball pit and into a bouncy house.   She's a great bouncer...
except for times like this.  Face plant!

There's a toddler slide.  We very carefully climb to the top...
Eye of the tiger, baby.  Eye of the tiger.
Ready! Set! Go!
Back to the ball pit! Did I mention that we love the ball pit?
(So much so that I think I'm going to have to break down and put the at-home version on our Christmas list.  My poor living room will never be the same).  
Once we mastered the toddler slide, we took on the giant slide together!  Here's Mommy and ZB at the veeeeeeeery tippy top!

Action shot!

Zb was all, "Oh my gosh that totally blew my mind!  My whole short life flashed before my eyes!  
It was awesome but I never want to do that again".

Quick bouncy time-out to ride this rockin' (literally) Harley.

There was an inflatable batter's box where the ball floated on top of a jet of air.  ZB thought this was magic.

And finally, ZB's favorite part of the whole trip.  Inflatable bouncy houses and ball pits are fun, but nothing beats pushing a button and watching the water shoot out of the water fountain!

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

ZB and I have been playing a game to help her learn the names of body parts.  I've been pointing out our mouths, noses, cheeks, eyes and hair.  This time ZB wants to name them.

ZB starts by jabbing her finger at my nose.
Me: Good girl! That IS Mommy's nose!  You are so smart!
ZB grins and claps for herself. Then she sees grabs some of my hair.
Me: That's right! Mommy has hair! You are really good at this game!
ZB laughs. She is thrilled with her own brilliance.  She watches me blink a couple of times and decides to go for the trifecta.  She points to my eye...

Well, you can't win them all, I guess.

Say Cheese!

Is anyone else shocked that we're already halfway through September?  This year is going so so fast! We're already thinking of Halloween outfits and Christmas presents and Thanksgiving travel schedules and all of that.  But before we get all hung up on that major year-endy stuff, here's more of a micro look at what we've been up to this week:

We had ZB's 18 month check-up with the doctor yesterday.  I am just shocked, SHOCKED I SAY that she's already 18 months old. That's a year and a half!  She's such a big girl now!  It just blows my mind.  

(And makes me feel old.  And like I should be sniffling over her baby booties and singing Sunrise, Sunset.)

Anyway, how it went depends on your point of view.  ZB has come to recognize it as the place where the bad people in white coats give her shots, so she screamed bloody murder whenever anyone walked into the examination room with us.  Poor Nurse Lisa has been attending her since she was 10 days old and only wanted to get her temperature (under the arm no less!), but ZB would have none of it.  The doctor even took his coat off so she wouldn't associate it with getting a shot (which she didn't even get this time), but she was not fooled.  She screamed The. Entire. Time.  The good news is that ZB is as healthy as an extremely loud screaming horse, although her weight is only at the 8th percentile (19.8lbs), so the doctor wants us back in 3 months just to check to make sure that it doesn't drop any lower.  (This has been a thing for us since she was born.  She just has a really high metabolism and has trouble adding weight no matter how much she eats).  But her height is pretty average for her age (2' 8"!), and the rest of her development is normal, so I'm not really worried.  She's just skinny like her mama was when she was her age (although sadly, not so much now).

Speaking of skinny, I ordered the cutest little toddler "belt" off of esty.  I don't know if you know about these (or if you're even in a position to care), but if you ever find that you have a need to hold little tiny pants on a little tiny body without interfering with diaper changes, may I highly recommend this: 
 It's an elastic "belt" that goes only around the back of the pants so that you don't have to mess with unbuckling it for diapers or potty training.  You snap it around the three back belt loops on the pants and you're good to go.  Since ZB has size 18 month legs and size 12 month waist, this is going to be a HUGE help in getting her pants to fit.  

In completely unrelated news that has nothing whatsoever to do with toddlers and the trials and tribulations of keeping their pants up around their little waists, I've recently discovered pic-a-pix puzzles and I'm totally addicted.  (I know, it's quite a jump.  Stay with me here).  The pic-a-pix.  Does anyone else play?  They're little logic puzzles that make pictures when you solve them.  Last night I was solving puzzles until after midnight.  Right now I'm doing the 20x20 puzzles, but I'm hoping that I can work my way up to the 100x60.  They're harder, but the pictures are better. (Like way better.  The 20x20 ones look like the pixilated mess you saw on the original Nintendo games.  You know, the ones where you were the colorful boxy blob trying to defeat the other colorful boxy blob while it hurled colorful boxy blobs at you?  It's a lot like that.  But still fun). If you haven't played, I totally recommend.  

In another completely unrelated stream-of-consciousness jump, I'm cooking a new slow cooker recipe tonight.  It's called pernil pork and it's supposed to be a Puerto Rican dish.  I can't tell you how it tastes yet, but I've been sitting here smelling it cook all day and it smells DIVINE.  It has cumin and oregano and chili powder and garlic in it, and the whole place smells like garlic and spices.  (Garlic and spices in a good way, not in a "whoa! Your breath smells like you ate a lot of garlic and spices!" way).  I'm pairing it with some decidedly un-Pueto Rican parmesan mashed red potatoes, but I don't care because I like parmesan red potatoes, and we're all about mixing international flavors anyway.  (And if you believe that then I have a bridge to sell you, because our idea of international cuisine around here is frozen french fries and pizza rolls).  BUT! Tonight we shall be dining on real international dinner, and I shall let you know how it turns out tomorrow.

Oh by the way, and speaking of recipes, if anyone has recipes for cheesy stuff, I'm in need of some.  See, Tony's work had a some cheese samples in the test kitchen, but they had to get rid of it because they are doing some construction and they were all, "We have to get rid of this perfectly good cheese to make more space" and Tony was all, "I like cheese" and they were like, "Great! Here you go!"  Only their definition of cheese samples and my definition of cheese sample vary slightly in scale, which is how I ended up with a fridge full of 11lbs of various fromage.  Yes, 11lbs.  Maybe 12.  I'm not totally sure.  I do know that we have a couple pounds each of pepperjack, Parmesan, smoked Gouda and feta.  So now I'm looking for dishes that call for cheese.  Preferably the more cheese the better.  (And also maybe some people to volunteer to eat all these cheese dishes, because if we try to eat all of this ourselves, we are going to explode.)

And then ZB won't have any need to wear her pretty new toddler belt, will she?

ZB's Flag

So here it is, September 11th.  

ZB has been learning about the flag in her Mother's Day Out class.  She did this during craft time.  While I suspect that she had a little help gluing on the stripes, the stars are all her doing.  I ask you, have you ever seen such masterful sticker work?  The slightly mangled yet shiny gold stars say so much about the juxtaposition of triumph and struggle in our lives.  Her use of space is refreshingly unexpected.  In short, I'm pretty sure she's brilliant!

Now All We Need Is 500 Gallons of Salsa...

Welcome back, Internets!  I trust everyone is having a good week after getting a three-day weekend?  Ours hasn't really been a bad week, but it has definitely been out of the ordinary.

First off, the gym was open on Monday, and they're getting ready to re-open the new and improved group exercise room (with new floor and painted trim and such!), so I went in to do a little helping out.  I washed the dust from the flooring off of the walls and cleaned the mirrors and helped move equipment back in for the exercise classes to use on Tuesday.  And as a thank you, the gym bought me lunch.  So yes, I went to the gym to clean and eat a turkey bacon club, but not to work out.  It felt a little bit like opposite day, but who am I to turn down a free lunch?

Then yesterday, Mom called and asked if ZB and I could do a little grocery shopping for her.  See, her church prepares grocery bags full of goodies for all the students who are part of the college ministry, and they were shooting to fill 1000 grocery bags.  And Mom was helping to organize them.  So yesterday she calls me up and says, "Hey, can you go pick up some groceries for the college students and bring them to the church?" and I was like "Sure! What do you need me to get?"  And she was like, "50 bags of chips, 50 boxes of assorted cheese and peanut-butter crackers and as many cases of Cup of Soup as you can fit into your car".  And I was like, "Hahaha! No really." And she was like, "Really".  

Which is how I found myself pushing two carts through completely loaded with nothing but bags of chips and the other filled with 50 boxes of crackers and 20 cases (that's 240 cups!) of Instant Cup O Soup.  (One woman passed me while I was tossing bags of chips into the cart by the handful and with a totally straight face she quipped, "Salt craving, eh?" And I was like "Yeah, but my doctor can't figure out why my sodium levels are so high").  It was really wild.  ZB, however, thought the entire enterprise was the greatest fun.  I let her down out of the cart (there wasn't room for her in there anyway) to help me pull chips and crackers off of the bottom row.  Her job was to pull peanut butter crackers off and stack them in the floor, and then I would take her stacks, count the boxes and put them in the cart.  She was very helpful, (which is what every one and a half year old wants to be).  The only problem was that she didn't want to stop.  She pulled stuff off the bottom row of every aisle we passed.  "Floor cleaner? College students need that!  Marshmallows! Check!  Navy beans?  Cat food?  Size 4 Huggies Overnight Diapers?  Check! Check! Check!  

I was hoping that when I got to the checkout I could just go, "50 bags of chips, 20 cases of soup and 50 boxes of crackers" and be done with it, but alas.  Apparently it is Walmart protocol that you have to pull everything out of the buggy and have it scanned by the cashier.  EVERYTHING.  So 50 bags of chips came out of the cart, went beep! 50 times as they were scanned, and then 50 bags right back into the buggy (I declined the 50 plastic bags to bag them).  Then the same with the soup, and then again with the crackers.  And it's a good thing that I'm being reimbursed for this, because if Tony saw a $300 grocery bill for chips, crackers and soup, he'd have a stroke.  (Well, he might be okay with all of the chips, but the rest...)

I wish I had thought to take a picture of the grocery carts, but I had my hands full with a squirming ZB who now wanted to throw all the chips OUT of the cart and play again!  I did take a picture of the stuff once I got it into the back of my SUV because you could literally swim though that much food if you had a mind to, and to be honest, the thought of all those chips still blows me away.  Of course, that was nothing compared to getting it over to the church and seeing 1000 grocery bags full of chips and cookies and granola bars and peanut butter and ramen noodles (oh the Ramen!  Cases and cases and cases of freeze-dried noodles piled up to the ceiling!)  Those college students are going to eat like kings! Sodium-filled, stroke-waiting-to-happen kings!  Still, it's a good ministry, and the college students always appreciate it, and it was fun being able to help them out.  

(Lest you think that we are destroying the local college student population by filling them with fatty, salt-laden snacks, know that there are healthy foods in the bags too.  My part of the list just happened to be the tasty salty section, hence what you see here.  Next year, if I happen to get the apples and All Bran part of the list, I'll be sure to show that on here also).  

Edited to add: Well I was all impressed with my 50 bags of chips until ZB and I went back over today to help and witnessed a Ford Fusion packed with 200 bags of chips.  Now THAT was something to be seen.  There was just one little bubble of space for the driver and the rest was filled with chips.  This is going to drive the chip manufacturers forecasting programs wild.

Crock Pot Lasagna

Hey. So I'm doing this thing where I'm trying to cook "real" food more and rely less on nuking a frozen pizza pocket in the microwave for meals.  But because I hate hate hate to cook, my sole saving grace is the crock pot.  Toss some stuff in and leave it alone for a few hours.  Then magically pull out beautiful homemade food that wows Tony and entices a certain picky little girl to eat.  That is my kind of cooking, my friend.  So I picked up a couple of crock pot recipe books from the library, and I try a new one out every week.  And because I am a thoughtful and polite hostess, I am willing to share some of my crock pot adventures with you.  (It's like those dinner and movie shows where they tell you how to cook a dish and then you get to watch a movie while it cooks!  Only with blog entries instead of movies!  But still, kinda the same thing!  Kinda!)

Anyway, I tried this one last night, and it was pretty and easy and tasty.  Toss together a salad and some garlic bread and you are guaranteed to impress your friends and family with your awesome Julia Child-like ways.

Crock Pot Lasagna!

(Note: This recipe makes enough for two to four people, or in my case, two people, a picky toddler, and enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow.)

1 pound (16 ounces) ground beef
1/2 cup diced white onion (Note: I used a teaspoon of onion powder instead...seemed to work just as well).
1 teaspoon minced garlic (Next time I'll use more garlic.  It was okay like this,  but we like lots and lots of garlic in this house.  Up to you on how much you like it and if you're expecting any romance later).
1 (24 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup water
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 whole egg
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
6 uncooked lasagna noodles (Be sure and get the no boil kind.  Apparently there's a boil kind and a straight to oven/crock pot kind.  Who knew, right?)

1) In a large skillet brown beef and onion. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Drain. (Mine took longer than one minute.  I guess just brown until it's brown).
2) Add spaghetti sauce and water and simmer for about 5 minutes. 
3) Mix ricotta, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan, egg and parsley in separate bowl. 
4) Pour 1 cup of spaghetti meat sauce into a 4 to 6 quart sized slow cooker. Place half of the noodles and half of the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce. Cover with 2 cups meat sauce. Top with remaining noodles (If the noodles don't fit exactly break them to fit) and cheese mixture and meat sauce. 
5) Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until noodles are soft.  (Mine was ready in 4.  5 hours may give you soggy noodles)
6) Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Recover with the lid to melt the cheese and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

Note: Do not overcook and don't try to speed up the process by cooking it on high. Works best with a 4 to 6 quart size slow cooker.

Ooooooh Yummy!

Cheesy noodley meaty deliciousness! 

Toughest critic says "More please!"

This is the Reason Why They Don't Let Cats Up in Space

I'm frantically cleaning the house because Stanley Steamer is scheduled to come by this afternoon to clean the stain off of the new mattress.  (And yes, I clean for cleaners.  A regular run of the mill mess if fine for my family.  We can be rolling around in dust three inches thick, but to have the possibility of some pimply-faced high school kid making minimum wage with a scrub brush and a hose come in to clean my mattress and be all like, "When's the last time this lady dusted?" is just flat out unacceptable.  I mean, I have standards here.)

(I should mention that I have no idea what Stanley Steamer people make.  They are probably handsomely compensated for their time and stain fighting expertise.  The minimum wage thing was just a guess.  I could probably look it up, but at this point I've spent more time going on and on about it than the whole thing warrants.)

Anyway, the whole reason why Stanley Steamer is coming is because we bought a new mattress a few months ago.  And because new mattress warranties are voided by any kind of stain whatsoever, we bought the super-duper money-back guaranteed waterproof mattress pad protector.  It has a 10 year warranty!  It has space age polymers!  It will protect your mattress through the Apocalypse!  So we bought one.  

And then we unleashed the cats.  

Here's something you should know about the cats.  Cats have hairballs.  Five times the cats equals five times the hairballs.  And on top of that, Dixon has a nervous stomach, which means that if ANYTHING unexpectedly changes in his environment (we go on vacation, we change laundry detergent, the full moon corresponds with the third Monday in a month ending in R), he will pull a Linda Blair all over your bed/floor/nicely folded pile of clean laundry in seconds flat.  So we asked the mattress sales guy if this mattress pad protector was up to that challenge, and he was like, "Oh absolutely!  Money back guarantee!  Did you see the part about the space age polymers?"

And to be fair, the mattress pad protector did manage to protect the first 9 times that a random cat (cough Dixon! cough!) barfed on the bed, but I'm afraid that time number 10 just did it in.  Even space age polymers can't handle that rigorous of a barf, wash, repeat cycle.  So now there's a cat barf stain on the mattress.  We called the pad protector people, and they were shocked! SHOCKED I say! that their space age polymers were bested by cat barf.  And I was all, "Yeah, that's the precise reason that Dixon flunked out of the space program...incompatible with polymers." (Which I thought was pretty funny, but it just seemed to confuse the mattress pad people, so I let it drop).  Meanwhile, what are we supposed to do about this stain on our new mattress?  In the end, the mattress pad people offered to send us a new mattress pad protector (now with more polymers!) and pay to have people come out and remove the stain from the mattress.  Which is why I am frantically cleaning the house in expectation of Stanley Steamer coming to pay us a call sometime between noon and 5pm today.  Of  course, the sound of the vacuums and cleaners and whatnot will scare Dixon enough that he will barf on the bed again, so it's all a vicious cycle.  Those space age polymers better be out of this world.

Sharks, Playgroups, Pheromones and Stumps

Hello Internets, It's been a few weeks, so I thought I'd pop on and tell you what I've been up to here at the House of Quirk.

And the answer to that is not very much.

I spent most of the last two weeks watching the Olympics and most of this week watching Shark Week on Discovery. (I hear you out there. You're like, "Whoa, three straight weeks of nothing but watching tv? Is that even possible?" And normally I would say no, not for your average person. But it just so happens that I am a TV watching gold medalist, so I can marathon tv watch with less strain and tearing than your average recreational watcher).

But even I am tired of myself watching TV, because basically I spent the Olympics saying things like, "Wow, he's fast!" and "Look how high he can jump!" and "I'm tired of watching stupid swimming all the time!" to Shark Week, where I say things like "Wow, he's fast!" and "Look how high he can jump!" and "I'm tired of watching stupid swimming all the time!" Same tune, different channel. So in the spirit of non-tv related news, here's a meager offering of what else is going on in my life. And in list format no less! (Betcha didn't see that one coming!)

1. I have recently decided that ZB needs to interact more with kids of her own age. She is great with adults. The life of the party when it comes to adults, but she has no idea how to interact with other kids. It's like she considers herself a short adult, and what the heck is she supposed to say to this kid over here? They have nothing in common.  So I'm looking into Mother's Day Out programs so that she can have some supervised interaction with her fellow short ones. And since this is our first attempt at a daycare-related institution, I'm not sure how it's going to go for either of us. Anybody have any advice for us on making the transition smoother?

2. Speaking of new things, I'm trying something new with the cats that may prove interesting. Long time readers will know that due to Tony's crazy cat-lady tendencies and my inability to say no to a homeless kitten, we are the keepers of five Siamese cats. (Yes, five. Don't judge me). Anyway, with five cats in the house, you can imagine that there are some battles over who gets to be reining alpha cat. And while normally I don't mind a racing, hissing, madcap dash about the house at 2am, I draw the line at territorial marking, which Magellan has recently gotten into his tiny evil cat brain to try. Now, we've tried those cat pheromone diffusers before with some success, but they are basically limited to one room, and trying to outfit an entire house with them runs roughly the same out-of-pocket expense as trying to purchase a black-market kidney. So instead, I'm trying something new. Pheromone cat collars. Same great kitty pheromones, but now mobile! And at a cost of $8 a month as opposed to $20 for the diffuser refill. While it's only been a week and I don't want to jinx it, they seem to be working for us. No one is spraying or having passive-aggressive "accidents" outside of the litter box, and the number of all night cat fits has been reduced by about 95%. So yeah. If you have a nervous, stressed out or free-peeing kitty cat, I recommend the pheromone collar. It makes a difference.  (PS-They also have them for dogs, but I can't speak to their effectiveness for the canine persuasion.)

3. There isn't really a three.  I mean, I was going to tell you about how I'm trying to get rid of a tree stump in the front yard by drilling holes in it and pouring powdery stuff called STUMP OUT! on it, but STUMP OUT! takes 4 to 6 weeks to work and it's only been on my stump for a week, so I feel like telling you about it now would be a little premature.  Although I did get my big drill bit stuck in the stump while I was drilling, so that was kinda exciting, if by exciting you mean annoying.  (I don't know how it happened.  The bit went in, but then when I put it in reverse to pull it back out, nothing happened.  The motor goes "GRRRRRRR!" and smoke starts coming out of the back of my drill, but the bit doesn't move.  Stuck, stuck, stuck. So now I have a lovely powder-covered stump riddled with holes and holding my 5/8" drill bit hostage.  I'm hoping it becomes the latest rage in abstract lawn decor.)  I'm guessing that my drill bit will come out when the STUMP OUT! starts breaking down the wood fibers around it, but until then I'm just using it as a conversation piece with the neighbors.  I call it EXCALIBIT!

Okay, on that really bad joke, I'm outta here.  Sister-in-law Mary recorded a totally awesome video of ZB petting some goats at the petting zoo, so I'll try to get that up later this week because ZB is adorable and you deserve it after reading this far.  I just hope that her excitement over the goats in the video doesn't persuade Tony to try to bring one home.  I don't think they make goat pheromone collars.

Sympathetic Couch Twitching for the Gold

What? Oh hey, Internets! Glad you found me. It's been radio silence over here lately because last week we took ZB on vacation for her first trip to the beach. We had a blast and I'll tell you all about it but first I have to edit some video. (Yes, it will be a multi-media presentation since ZB LOVES sand and she LOVES the water and she's just too darn cute to be limited to still photos).

(But first I have to cut out the random shots of my feet and the sky and then quickly back to my feet).

(And the two minutes that I thought the camera was off so you get a close up shot of my right nostril while you hear me say riveting things like, "This sand gets everywhere!" and "Hold on. I think there's some sun screen on the lens".)

(Obviously this is Emmy winning material).

But all that is coming later.  Right now I'm completely glued to my tv set as I bob and weave my way though the uneven bars routines from the comfort of my couch.  Ya'll, I am a total Olympics junkie.  Biking, swimming, synchronised diving, fencing, judo, beach volleyball, men and women's gymnastics...I've watched them all.  And I feel like I've competed in them all since apparently I cannot sit still while the US is competing.  I duck my head, I wave my arms, I tuck my legs up in time with the athletes.  Tony actually left the living room and went upstairs last night because he said that my "help" with Gabbie's dismount from the beam almost knocked him off the couch.

And in case you are also tucking and rolling with me, I'd like to recap some of my couch Olympics favorite and/or interesting moments:

1.  I'm bawling like a baby over the girls gymnastics. And not just over the All-American Jordyn Weiber fiasco. Not about them winning gold anyway.  Not even just for the Americans.  Just in general.  Something about these tiny girls trying so hard just gets me every time. They train and they train and they train and they are so small and strong and young and...I could just scoop up every one of them and give them a big hug.  Not that NBC is helping any with their constant back stories about how they had to move across country without their families to train with coaches that could get them to the Olympics. Swimming? I'm fine. Synchronized diving? Not so much as a sniffle. But these 16 year old girls flying through the air doing flips and leaps? I'm sobbing like I'm the one who just won or lost the gold. I don't know why they get me like they do.  I'm a blubbery mess.

2. Did you see where Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins won gold in the road cycling time trials?  I was feeding ZB breakfast at the time he was racing so I didn't get to watch/couch cycle with him, but I listened to it as I cleaned mashed banana up off the floor.  I'm glad he won.  I always root for the host nation if the US isn't in medal contention.  That goes double for Great Britain, since they always seem to come in 4th for everything. Plus I just like saying the name Bradley Wiggins.  It sounds so English, doesn't it?  Wiggins.  Like he's Paddington Bear's best friend or something.  

3. I read an article the other day that said that the organizers provide 100,000 condoms to the athletes in the Olympic village.  (Up from 70,000 at the Sydney games when they had to order another 20,000 when they ran out).  Apparently when you put 10,000 young, attractive, fantastically in shape and mostly unsupervised athletes under a lot of pressure together, they erm, find a way to get rid of that excess energy.  I guess some of that's to be expected, but 100,000?  That's a lot of excess energy.

4. So what the heck is going on between the sets for men's beach volleyball?  All these couples in swimsuits are waltzing around on the sand.  Like, literally waltzing.  I'm assuming it's some kind of weird halftime show?  Instead of cheerleaders or bands they have beach waltzing?  That cracks me up.  Those crazy Brits!

5. This doesn't have anything to do with this Olympics, but if you get a chance, read this article in the Atlantic about a gold medalist in the 1896 Olympics in Athens.  It's crazy how things have changed between then and now. 

6. Did you know that they used to have an Olympic swimming obstacle course race?  I'm not sure how they did it, (buoys? nets? underwater mines?) but I wish they still had it, because I think that would be awesome to watch.  I like to watch swimming, but sometimes it gets boring watching them just splash back and forth in their straight little lanes.  Let's put a ring of fire at the end that they have to jump through.  I'm thinking a cross between the 200 meter freestyle and that show Wipeout.  Get on that Olympic committee.

7.  Oh my goodness.  Did you see the Chinese synchronized diving?  Blew my mind.  How many hours and hours of training do you think that takes to be able to not only do a complex dive, but to do it exactly like someone else?  And the other teams get ready and go, "Okay on three.  One, two, three!"  The Chinese just stand on the end of the board and say one word, which I'm assuming is just "go".  And then they go.  Together.  Perfectly.  I kept jumping up and down and going, "Did you see that?!?  They even have identical water ripples!"  I tell you, these athletes blow my mind.  

I realize it's weird to stop on the number seven, but I can't think of any other Olympic moments right now.  If you have some, feel free to add them to the comments.  I'm sure there are some great ones that I've left out, but after staying up half the night to watch the Latvian underwater basket weaving team weave their reverse double-loop way to gold, my Olympic reflexes are a little fuzzy.

Hair Today, Gone...Well, Today

When the weather gets tough, the tough...chop off all their hair.  Well, maybe not the tough- they probably don't even sweat when it gets hot.  But the quirky do, so this Quirk went straight to the salon and went, "It's 100 degrees outside! Get it off my neck! Get it off! Get it off!" and hoo boy did they ever!

Jared, the most awesomely awesome stylist ever (and available at StudioVisage in Market Square for my fellow Knoxvegas peeps) was all, "Ohmigod honey, with your cheekbones you are just going to loooooove this haircut!"  (And before you think I'm stereotyping male hair stylists, know that that is exactly how Jared is and exactly what he said and I love him for it). And then he cut off all my hair. But in a good way.

It's the first time I've had bangs since I was six, and I have no idea what it will do if I let it air dry and go curly (although Jared assures me that it will look "just fahhhhhbulous" curly) but I like it. It's fun, it's kicky, and it's off my neck for the summer.

And now the big reveal:

(Oh but first, ignore the horrible photography.  It was one of those hold-the-camera-up-at-arms-length-and-click self portraits.  And I'm standing by the front door because that's where the natural light was and I have no makeup on and apparently I really need to get a better night's sleep because the dark under eye circles are like zombie apocalypse much? But you don't care about any of that because you're supposed to be admiring the hair anyway).

So yeah, the hair:

The side view.

The back view.  Notice no hair on the neck.

The front view.  Remember that you're ignoring the no makeup and looking at the hair.

So that's my hair (if anyone has made it this far because I know the topic of my hair is just RIVETING and all).  But if you are interested in a new look and if you have cheekbones like mine (at least, according to Jared) then you might want to look him up and let him have a go with your locks.  I promise you'll look faaahhhbulous!

(Just, you know, make sure you get a good night's sleep before you take the picture).

A Tasty Little Calorie-Free Pick Me Up

I know everyone and their brother has done a version of Call Me Maybe, but this is by far the best one I've seen. Ever. I've watched it about 20 times and I still can't stop laughing. So if you haven't already seen this (and even if you have), consider this your Friday pick-me-up.

 It's almost as good as having an actual cookie.


Because All Science Should Be Taught in Cartoon Form

Listen, no doubt you heard the news back on July 4th about the scientists at CERN discovering evidence of the Higgs-Boson particle.  (Or maybe you just saw the viral video clip of reporters asking people in Brooklyn what they thought Higgs-Boson was and them coming up with ridiculous answers like, "It sounds brown" or "That's a metal band, right?" or "A creepy European man who goes around flashing people?"  Sigh).  Of course, I'd like to claim that I know all about the Higgs-Boson because I am a brilliant genius who can discuss advanced theoretical physics around the dinner table, but the truth is I first heard about it on that show "The Big Bang Theory" (who says TV doesn't make you smart?).  Then I happened to come across it again while reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (if you haven't read it, you should.  It's funny and well-written and makes science easy to understand.  Or at least enough understanding to not look like a total idiot if some reporter asks you what you know about CERN's latest particle discovery).

Anyway, the physicists are all in a tizzy because they found something that may be the Higgs-Boson particle (which is really a tiny cosmic building block, also know as the "God particle" that indicates mass for everything else in the universe), and because I like to know what Sheldon and Leonard are talking about with their smarty-genius jokes, I was interested in just what all the hub-bub was about.  And after reading a couple of articles and being forcefully reminded that I am not, and will probably never be, a physicist, I finally found a link that I think does a pretty good job of explaining just what it is.  Or might be.  And to make sure that it's totally lay-person accessible, the lovely scientists made it a cartoon.(Because no doubt after watching the guy explain that it sounded like magic, "and by magic, I mean drugs", I'm sure they thought we needed it).
So here it is, because I thought it was neat and that you, brilliant Internets, might like it also.

PS- Lest you think I'm trying to show off how very smart I am, please know that spell check has just informed me that I cannot even spell the word "physicist".  Something tells me that the Nobel Peace Prize committee won't be contacting me any time soon for my amazing work in particle physics.  

No Baby Ducks Were Harmed in the Making of this Mattress

Well ladies and germs, I don't know how your weekend went, but ours rocked because Tony and I (and I guess the cats) are now FINALLY proud owners of a new mattress. And let me tell you, it is like sleeping on baby ducks walking on clouds with little cotton balls stuck on their heads.

(Which, in case you haven't done, is a good thing.)

(Well, I'm assuming it is.  Truth be told, I haven't really tested the whole baby-duck-on-a-cloud thing either, but I'm pretty sure it would be soft, so just go with it).


The new mattress is wonderful, and long overdue.  Our old mattress was a) 10 years old and b) not really suited to our sleeping styles and c) not the best quality in the first place since Tony only paid $200 for it.  (Seriously.  Tony bought it when he was just out of college and working in a tiny podunk town in the the middle of a bunch of corn fields.  And they only had one furniture store, which wasn't even a regional one like Sears or JCPenny; it was something like "Bubba's Furniture and Mini-Mart" because that's how small this town was.  And as you may expect, Bubba only carried something like 3 mattresses.  So Tony got a $200 queen-sized "Comfi-Sleep" extra firm mattress set and we've been sleeping on it for the past 10 years.  So trust me, it was time).

Actually, it was past time.  We technically started looking for a mattress off and on last year.  We'd flop down on a few, and I'd be like, "What do you think?" and he'd be like, "I can't tell a difference between any of these" and I'd be like, "Well this is a big purchase.  We need to be sure" and then we'd get fed up and go home and sleep on our not-so-comfy Comfi-sleep, which by this point was mostly just lumpy parts interspersed with random springs.  But a few months ago we both started waking up with our backs creaking and popping like the Tin Man sans oil can, so we stepped up the search a bit more:

Tony: Which one do you like?
Me: I dunno.  The second one we tried in the 4th store seemed okay.
Tony: Was that the memory foam or the latex one?
Me: I don't know. I think it was the one with titanium dura-coils.
Tony: Was that the plush, ultra plush or Euro plush?
Me: Is Euro-plush plushier than Ultra Plush?
Tony: I have no idea.

And so it goes.  One of us would lay on a mattress with a sales guy hovering uncomfortably next to us saying things like, "And there's 2 and a half inches of patented Super Plushie Dura Foam Gel Latex Cotton Padding in it!" while the other one would chase ZB around the store and keep her from destroying the place.  Then we'd switch.  When I was on the mattress I'd say things like, "Is it cooling?  I'm not buying a mattress that traps heat!" (because apparently I am a menopausal woman trapped in a 32 year old body, so I get hot at night).  Then Tony would get on the mattress and say, "Is it on sale? I'm not buying a mattress that isn't on sale!" (because apparently Scrooge McDuck is trapped inside his body).  And meanwhile ZB just wanted to jump from bed to bed (because jumping beans are trapped inside of her body), so I'm sure all the sales people just loved us.

But finally! FINALLY! We found a mattress that promised to be 12 times cooler than a regular foam mattress, and it was on sale, and it was soft, and it was actually a brand we had heard of before (no disrespect to Bubba's "Comfi-Sleep" brand), so chances are it would last a little longer.  (15 years longer according to the warranty!  Although we had to buy a special waterproof mattress protector also since apparently cat barf voids mattress warranties.  C'eat la vie).  And joy of joy, they happened to have one all ready to go in the local warehouse, so we bought it on Thursday night and it was delivered to us on Saturday morning, and all the cats are scared of it because it smells different but that's okay because hey! more room for us on the new bed!

And now when we wake up we feel rested, and our joints don't creak like doors in a haunted house, and I can't feel a single spring jabbing me in the back.  In fact, the only thing that takes some getting used to is that it's about 2 inches higher than our old mattress, so in the middle of the night when I get up to check on ZB, I fall an extra two inches to the floor, which scares my inner menopausal lady into thinking she might break a hip or something.  But other than that?  Pure, cotton-covered baby duck on a cloud bliss, baby!

(Trust me, that's good).

More American than Apple Pie, Stars and Stripes, and Freaky Robot Fire Dogs

Well hey there Internets!  I hope everyone had a wonderful July 4th yesterday!  Personally, we had an absolute blast!  Mom and Dad's neighborhood had a parade (and being on a golf course, everyone decorated their golf carts), and then a big cookout, band, demonstrations from the local fire and police K9 unit, and finally swimming in the neighborhood pool.  ZB loved loved LOVED every single second of it.  In fact, we only took her home after she was so exhausted that she fell asleep (although she managed to hold out for an hour and a half past her usual nap time) and when she woke up (three hours later) she was mad that she was at home instead of still at the party.  She is a little party animal, that one!

First, the parade.  Mom stayed up until 3am the night before in order to decorate the golf cart.  Ya'll, these people take this parade seriously.  There were 26 golf carts in the "Best Decorated Golf Cart" Competition, and you've never seen so many flags, streamers and balloons in your life.  Here's our cart:

And ours was one of the more subtle ones. 
On the cart: Mom, ZB, myself, two Yorkies, and one sweaty Uncle Sam
who was just forced to run up a big steep hill behind us.
Here we are in the parade.  That's my Dad in the giant Uncle Sam hat, hanging off the back.  He and Tony were originally supposed to walk behind the cart with the two dogs, but after the first big hill, the dogs rode on my lap, Dad spent most of the time hanging off the back, and Tony raced ahead to the cart in front of us who was handing out Popsicles to the people watching and snagged a couple for himself.  Still, we are quite the patriotic sight, no?

Tony and Dad, post golf cart chasing but still looking patriotic.

And me, having actually been smart enough to ride in the golf cart from the beginning.
(Hey, it was 97 degrees out...I'm no dummy).
Anyway, we all had a lot of fun waving and yelling to the people lining the streets, and ZB clapped and cheered because everyone else was and she loves it when people clap with her.  Sadly, we did not win Best Dressed Cart (there was actually a tie for first between the cart that recreated the Statue of Liberty on the back and the cart that transformed itself into a rocket, complete with smoke trails), but that is okay, because we actually did win both Best Dressed Kid and Best Dressed Pet!

Note the cuteness just oozing out
of her.
Here we have ZB sporting her lovely Hello Kitty Patriotic shirt, a custom-made white skirt with netting overlay and red, white and blue stars at the bottom.  She has accessorized this with her sparkly red shoes and red sparkle hair clip.  (Actually, Mom also made a hat for her to wear, but it was so hot that the poor kid's head was drenched in sweat every time we put it on her).  Now, I may be a little biased, but Internets, that kid stole the entire show.  She was so adorable and happy and excited about the whole thing that everyone who saw her loved her.  In fact, the local paper took her picture and put her on the front page!  Her cuteness is a force, people!  It is not to be denied!

And now I have a trophy that reads "Best Kid 2012" to prove it.

Speaking of cuteness, may I also present the winners of this year's Best Dressed Pet!  Mom and Dad's Yorkies, Brutus and Brandi, are each sporting doggie T-shirts, reading "Patriotic to the Bone" and "I love the USA", respectively.  Brandi is also wearing red, white and blue stars in her hair.  But I think the kicker was the little tiny sequined Uncle Sam hat that Brutus was modeling.

Because is there anything more adorable than a tiny dog in a tiny top hat?  I think not. 
After the parade ZB hightailed it over to the local fire department's truck where the firemen immediately made her their chief (complete with hat and everything!).  They also had an animatronic talking Fire Dog named Sparky that kinda freaked me out (no doubt due to repressed childhood nightmares about our Teddy Ruxpin trying to kill us) but had ZB totally mesmerized.  The other kids would come up and look at it for a while, maybe talk to it or touch it and then move on, but for ZB, the world outside Sparky the Fire Dog ceased to exist.  She'd probably still be there, rooted to the same spot, had the fire department not eventually packed Sparky up and headed out for his next engagement.  (Let's just hope she forgets about him before Christmas.  Something tells me that Sparkies may be hard to come by for the private consumer). 
Mommy, can we have a freaky robot dog with a grating mechanical voice and weird blinky eyes please please please please PLEASE?!?

Finally, after stuffing ourselves with hot dogs and hamburgers and (I kid you not) 38 different types of baked beans, pasta salads, potato salads, chips, corn on the cob, watermelon, and enough cookies, brownies and cupcakes to put a diabetic into a coma just by looking at it, we decided to hit the pool.  And it's a good thing that ZB has such fun grandparents because by this point I was ready for a nap in the sunshine, but ZB was still going strong.  She splashed, she played, she climbed everyone's swim suit like she was a spider monkey.   The entire day was like ZB's personal version of heaven.  (Think about it: A parade, a trophy, a hot dog, a cupcake, a creepy talking robot dog and a pool.  Nothing else could compare.  It is a one year old dream come true). 

So yeah, I suppose you could say that we had a pretty great day.  It was good to see such a nice turnout for the parade and picnic, and it was a great way to honor not only our active service men and women, but also our veterans that were in the crowd.  Not to mention make it into ZB's top 5 favorite days of her life EVER.

America, we love you and salute you.

Father's Day and the Week We Almost Didn't Survive

Oh Internets.  Have I told you lately how awesomely awesome Tony is?  And not just because it's Father's Day and he's a great Daddy, because it is and he is, but that isn't the reason.  The reason is that he had an out of town work training seminar thing this week and ZB and I both have been battling summer colds and there's only so many days that you can be on 24 hour snot wiping patrol for someone who doesn't know how to blow her own nose and would rather DIE than let you anywhere near her with a tissue before you get all burned out and fed up and want to just throw in the snot-covered towel and be done with it.

You know the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder?  Personally, I always thought that was a bit of a stretch, but man is it true.  As he packed up his bag on Monday I was like, "No problemo.  We manage to make it through the day while he's at work.  How much harder can it be to do a few more hours until bedtime?"

How much harder indeed.

The thing is that Tony does a lot more than just work a full time job.  Apparently he also gets up and feeds the cats breakfast sometime between 4am and 6am, and cleans out litter boxes and picks up hairballs and takes out the garbage.  After work he comes home and plays in the floor with ZB while I steal a few precious minutes to myself, feeds her dinner and cleans up the kitchen after she tosses all of that dinner into the floor.  He mows the lawn, takes the recycling out to the curb and makes sure that the house is all locked up and secure before going to bed.  He does all this quietly and without making a big deal out of it, so I kinda figured it wasn't that hard.

Trust me.  It is hard.

While Tony was gone, the cats did not get breakfast at 6am.  They got breakfast at 9:15 when I finally realized that I had forgotten to feed them and that was why they were following me around like the Pied Piper of Purina.  I was very proud of myself for cleaning out the litter boxes on time...right up until I realized that I had forgotten to get the ones in the basement that Bella likes to use.  I almost coughed up my own hairball while trying to clean up the one they left me out on the porch.  (Do you have any idea how gross that is?!?  And how hard it is to pick something up while refusing to open your eyes?  And how much I'm gagging even now just thinking about it?)  I got the garbage can out to the curb in time for pickup, but not in time for me to empty the trash that was in the house into the outside can first.  ZB spent the first few days standing at the front door, waiting for him to come home and play with her.  I tried to wrestle in the floor with her like what he does, but after she accidentally poked me in the eye and boxed me in the ear within a three minute time frame, I called a halt to floor wrestling.  After she tossed all of her dinner on the floor the first night, neither one of us was really interested in cooking, so we distracted ourselves by eating at various fast food places.  (I know.  I'm feeding my child a McDonalds cheeseburger just so I don't have to pick things up off the floor.  There goes Mother of the Year).  Speaking of the floor, I relied on the less sanitary but equally effective cat cleanup system.  I didn't sweep, they ate all the food bits they wanted, and I figured it would tide them over for the next time I forgot to feed them.  Win Win...sorta.  The lawn I ignored completely.  There is just no way to mow and watch ZB at the same time.  And on the second night he was away, I locked up all the doors and windows and set the alarm before bed, only to realize the next morning that I had left my keys hanging in the front door knob all night.  (Good thing we live in a safe neighborhood).

But beyond all the things that he does, we just missed him.  I missed sharing my day with him and ZB missed being played with and talked to and kissed on the head.  We missed hearing about his day.  (Well, he called on the phone, but it wasn't the same).  The cats REALLY missed him, because evidently I am an unreliable provider. And I'd even go as far as to bet that McDonald's missed him because of the mess we left on their floor (and they don't even have cleanup cats).

You know, when that many people miss you, you must be doing something right.  Tony doesn't have a fancy job title or a big status symbol car or custom suits or a mansion to make him feel important.  But he does have us.  And we love him.  And need him.  Without him, we are just not complete.

So I'm going to make sure he knows that.  Not because it's Father's Day and that's what the Hallmark card had written in it, but because it is true and he's important to us.  Every day of the year.

And also that he's never allowed to go out of town without us again.  Ever.  Let's put that in a Hallmark card.