Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Claire, Stop Spreading Rumors!

Claire and Scott love, love, love to draw on our driveway with sidewalk chalk. Claire isn't much of an artist; she prefers prose. Several times now she's proudly shown me what she's written and I see this:


Whoa there!!! Seriously, where does she get this stuff? I do not, repeat, DO NOT have any announcements to make, so if you come by our house and see something about a baby scrawled in giant chalk lettering on our driveway, don't get any ideas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Resume Needs a Laugh Track - Part I

My dad has told me stories all of my life about the myriad jobs he had before graduating college. A true mark of the sheer quantity of jobs is that I even remember finding out about a new one I hadn't heard of before when I was a late teen.

Apparently I aspire to emulate my father's employment cornucopia because M makes fun of my own employment history. We've been married almost six years and he only just recently heard about one of these. I'll admit I have some random ones. So feel free to laugh at the sheer diversity too if you find it amusing:

AVOCADOMONGER - As a young child, I used to sell avocados on street corners. My family lived for a little while in an avocado orchard in the San Diego area and our lot had 14 producing trees. We got so many we didn't know what to do with them. My family would pick the avocados and then we'd take them to get inspected and certified (at least we started doing this after a policeman stopped and told us we had to). Then we'd set up with our family's Suburban on some street corner and my mom would sit with the car and my little sister while I held a sign that said "AVACADOS 4/$1" Those things sold like hotcakes. My parents started savings accounts for my sister and I and let us deposit the proceeds.

KID WRANGLING - Of course, I babysat when I was between 12 and 16. Not very noteworthy.

GLORIFIED BUSBOY - When I was 16, I got a job as a "floor server" but at a buffet restaurant. This basically amounted to busing tables. No one knew whether or not to tip a restaurant worker that is helpful, but doesn't actually bring you your food. I don't know either. Do you know? I hated it, but I had followed a boy there, and after working together all summer, we ended up dating. So I suppose in that respect the job was successful.

PSEUDO-JAPANESE TUTOR - The summer after I graduated high school, I was lazy. All I did was take an extremely part time job tutoring 2 little kids. They were half-Japanese so my vague knowledge of Japanese culture and pronunciation were a big hit. The little boy's name was Ryoske, so I think I was one of about 4 white people he knew (including his father) that actually pronounced his name right. We worked on arithmetic and reading comprehension and I got paid the way you get paid when you tutor kids who attend a very exclusive private school.

PSEUDO-JAPANESE TRANSLATOR - The first two summers in college I worked as an office assistant and technical manual translator/editor at my dad's company. I ran technical manuals about Post-Exposure Bake systems for computer chip mask manufacturing that were written in Japanese through translation software. Then I fixed the resulting gobbledygook Japlish, translated some of the stuff the software couldn't handle, and fixed the formatting. Man, I was a MSWord whiz. While doing this, I also answered the phones, sorted mail, etc.

MATHOPHILIAC - The summer after my sophomore year of college, I reduced my hours at my dad's company so that I could tutor advanced math on the side. I was a flier posting fiend. I reaped the benefits of parents where I lived pushing their kids too hard in school and got great pay. It almost didn't seem fair to take their money like that. I got over it. The only problem was that I forgot to take down the fliers and my parent's house got calls from people looking for a tutor for almost a year after I left and went back to school in the fall.

APPLICATIONS ENGINEER INTERN/SUMMER OF THE ROOMMATE HELL - This is the one and only time I actually had a job that matched my college degree. I got paid pretty well to live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon and have fun all summer. I was researching the effects of focused ion beam spot quality on hard drive head cross-section milling quality and trying to come up with a reliable metric. On the side, I had bizarre adventures with roommates and even spent one weekend technically living out of my car. But that's a post in and of itself... not today.

DEMOTED OFFICE ASSISTANT - I worked a little at my dad's company again the summer I was engaged. It was the semester after my senior year of college, but I still had one semester of classes before I graduated. I worked a little less than full time but for much better pay because I was so experienced. I couldn't work full time because I was too busy having fun planning my wedding! I did basically all the office assistant stuff I had done before, but without all the cool translating/editing stuff.

. . .

I am SO not done. I'm just going to have to break up this post into several installments to make it manageable for you and me both. We'll use my marriage date as an arbitrary break point for me to rest these typin' fingers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Couple of Crazies That I Love

My parents are currently roaming the wilds of Alaska.
Just the two of them.
On motorcycles.

They left at the beginning of July and, after having battery trouble over the Fourth of July weekend up in Seattle (and therefore extending their trip another week), they made it up to Alaska recently. They'll be gone for a total of about six weeks.

I just got a postcard from them today. Of two grizzly bears.

Seriously? Are they trying to heighten my concern? Way to rub it in, Mom and Dad.

They can do whatever they want. More power to 'em. In fact, I love that they're having so much fun now that they're empty nesters. In fact, I look forward to all the fun things M and I will do someday. But maybe in places with better cell phone coverage.

Because if something bad happens, they better die and not just become paraplegics. Otherwise, guess who will have to take care of them?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Unhappy Meals

A few Saturdays ago we went for lunch as a family at McDonald's. This is a real sore spot for me because I grew up being taught that McDonald's was the fast food chain of the devil. Okay, maybe not quite... but almost.

Before I had kids I had only had a McDonald's hamburger once. It was when I was about ten and my aunt took a bunch of us kids there as part of my cousin's birthday festivities. Then in high school, some of my friends would go there often for lunch. I wasn't the one driving and I always brought my lunch, so I didn't have a lot of say in where we went. But I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to flaunt my upperclassman status by not leaving campus for lunch! I was cheap and typically teenage girlish in that I didn't want to eat big greasy hunks of meat, so I got a lot of dollar hot fudge sundaes. Because the saturated fats aren't as bad for you when they come covered in chocolate, right???

Since I've had kids, I've only had an entire McDonald's hamburger once. (I do not count repeated attempts at taking one bite of M's burger to try and figure out what all the fuss is.) The one time was when we were on a road trip with my in-laws and they stopped for the bathroom at McDonald's. While there, my mother-in-law picked up several burgers and passed them out. So apparently I'm on the "McDonald's burger about once every decade" plan. Look out Mickey Dee's, I'm due for another burger sometime in 2010. However, that doesn't mean I haven't BEEN to McDonald's fairly often.

You see, McDonald's has those "Playplaces." They must be some sort of elaborate mind-control system or psychological conditioning technique so that children will grow up inexplicably drawn to greasy burgers and hot tub sized soft drinks. Except I'm kidding of course. I know a lot of people out there have watched the highly unscientific Super Size Me "documentary" that jumps to various conclusions and therefore actually created a sort of religion out of hating McDonald's and how it's making America obese. I have a secret for you. Actually, Americans are making America obese by stuffing their cake holes with too much junk! I for one believe in grown-ups taking responsibility for their actions. Almost like they are capable of making legally binding contracts and other sundries. So the crap about McDonald's actually maliciously targeting the "kiddo sector" with their artery-clogging fare? Yah, not McDonald's fault. Whose fault? Still the grown ups.

Anyway, I digress. The Playplaces. They make my kids love McDonald's. I know it's the Playplaces because my kids only eat about three french fries before they claim they are done and want to go play. Obviously they're not that excited about the food. Left to my own fast food whims, my kids wouldn't even know to love McDonald's Playplaces because they would have never seen one. But we have friends. Friends we actually like to spend time with. And we live in Texas, where it's too hot in the summer to actually spend more than 0.00023 seconds outside at lunchtime and where there is a high probability of torrential rain pretty much any time of year. So what do friends ask us to go do on rainy and/or blisteringly hot days? Go to lunch at McDonald's.

I can't say no. All the other moms will think I'm so lame and granola or something. I don't want to offend them by telling them I think their choice is white trash and is symbolic of everything that is wrong with America. I also don't want to spend money buying lunch. And really, the extra $9.58 is what matters most to me, forget the crumbling of our society. But I can't say no. I'll tell myself it's a cultural experience, even if it's not exactly a culture where I want to be a regular. I tell myself to relax and live a little (or die a little, depending on whether you take a social or nutritional perspective...). I tell myself that I don't want to be the overly-snobby mom who doesn't let her kids have any fun or fit in. And we go.

And then we go the next time. And the next time. And pretty soon my kids love it and ask for it anytime we decide to go out for lunch. Then one day you wake up and realize you've become what you swore you'd never be: a mom who takes her kids to McDonald's.

On the other hand, if the kids like it, what's the big deal, right? It's somewhere we can all go as a family without spending too much money and we all have a nice time. Wrong, wrong, wrong! You see, McDonald's has a capacity to disappoint at levels which I never dreamed possible. I always want the problem to have been an isolated incident. But time and time again, McDonald's pulls out all the stops to really make me question my decision to come there. I'm starting to realize I need to let it go the way of other retail establishments that consistently make a poor showing.

Por ejemplo:

Am I the only one in the world that hates Happy Meal toys? They are worse than useless because my kids end up attached to them without ever actually playing with them. I mean, the toys usually break or don't actually do anything or, amazingly enough, manage to do both. When we went the other day, we got this one:

It has two buttons on the back that make the wings have "karate chop action." Sounds cool, right? Except for the fact that apparently "karate chop action" is actually "barely perceptible wiggling." Also, the legs are contorted in a weird configuration that makes them both hard to hold and impossible to stand the toy up on. The Flickr picture above must have been taken by someone because they were so proud they managed to balance the thing on it's legs, they had to prove it to the world before a mouse farted down the block and the thing fell back down.

So why, you ask, did we get the Happy Meal toys if we hate them so much? Well, for one thing, there isn't really a menu at McDonald's. Sure there's a listing of selected items. The "meals," the dollar menu, and a couple other things. You're left to guess what else they offer, in what other sizes, and at what price. Apparently if you don't frequent McDonald's enough to have the menu memorized and/or if you actually care how much money you spend and/or if you want something off-the-wall like a burger without fries, then they don't want you there. It's actually often impossible to find the food items my kids want listed on the menu except as part of a Happy Meal. It's also very difficult to figure out, but I suspect that you can actually save money by purchasing a Happy Meal. They offer smaller sizes that can only be obtained in conjunction with a Happy Meal. And it's not like my kids are going to eat more than three bites anyway.

Despite these challenges, we wanted to avoid Happy Meals just on principle. We wanted to do the unthinkable apparently: Order our kids food without getting a Happy Meal. We really, really tried. Apparently it is just not allowed. When you ask for a cheeseburger and chicken nuggets, they see that you have children with you and jump to the conclusion that you're ordering the cheeseburger Happy Meal and the chicken nuggets Happy Meal. I mean, when you order a burger at most places, they usually have the decency to check if you want the "meal" or just the sandwich. But I have children, so it was a forgone conclusion that I wanted crappy toys with which to fill up my house. We also ordered an Asian salad, some bigger burger that M wanted (like I remember or care what), 2 waters, 2 small drinks, 1 large fries, and 2 small fries. Now I suppose that two adults might want 2 waters AND 2 small drinks. And some adults might want 1 large fries and 2 small fries between the two of them (although it seems like we would have just ordered, say, 2 large fries instead). I think it was pretty obvious that 2 of the drinks and 2 of the fries were for our CHILDREN. I would have thought these other items we ordered made it clearer still that we did not actually use the words "happy" or "meal" at any time during the ordering process. In the end we got two Happy Meals (which come with drinks and fries), 4 more beverages, 3 more fries, a totally different burger than the one M ordered, and an Asian salad with vinaigrette dressing. So for the record, the only things we ordered that they didn't screw up were 2 waters and an order of large fries. We had a lot of fun getting the extra fries and drinks refunded (it was easier than trying to get it through their thick skulls that we didn't want the confounded Happy Meals), convincing them to swap M's wrong burger out for the right one, and asking for Asian dressing to go with my Asian salad. At which point the children were entirely bored with the idea of actually eating anything and were ready to go play. Does this stuff only happen to me???

Somehow it seems fitting that many Wal-Marts have a McDonald's inside...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Know the Suspense Was Killing You

The answer to the fireworks multiple choice question was "E." Basically everyone got it right.

The "schmoe" fireworks.

But I'd like to point out that several of those could have been right. I didn't think to get my camera out and start trying to take photos until my next door neighbors were almost done. Plus Scott and Claire both wanted to hide inside because it was so loud. Even my ears were kinda hurting. Way worse than shooting a .22 with no ear plugs. So I didn't really get to spend much time outside trying to get a good photo, but there were several instances of multiple ones in the air at once.

And speaking of reader participation, the poll about the kitchen cabinet hardware hasn't really amounted to much, has it? I mean, I know I'm fabulous and everything I do is art and all, but I still would have thought I'd have a few dissenters. Apparently all of you are angling to be my own personal flock of yes men.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is Stainless Steel a Color?

Ooh, I've always wanted to do a poll, so here we go. I want your input. You see, I'm not terribly fond of my kitchen. The blood red wall color (Unappetizing thought, huh? Plus red's supposed to make you hungry and my weight and I do NOT need that!) and the orangey stain on the cabinets doesn't not play nicely with the gray blue counter tops. I'm going to repaint soon. Don't try to change my mind. I already have the paint. I know a lot of people like a red kitchen, but it's SO not me. First of all, it's very country kitcheny. (I will suppress my gagging sounds...) Second of all, it doesn't flow well with my "colors." When M and I were getting married, people would ask us what our kitchen colors were:

G: White. (I'd patiently explain this even though it should have been obvious looking at our registry. We didn't forget to add anything with color. We wanted everything in white.)
Color Demanding Gift Giver: But that's not a color.
G: Okay, then stainless steel and chrome.
CDGG: Yah, um, that's still not really a color...
G: Does light wood count?
CDGG: Well, Not really.
G: Black? Gray? Well, sheesh. I suppose if you MUST have a color, then blue. Is that good enough for ya? Huh, huh?

Except in reality I was not that hostile out loud. I don't think... They were giving me a gift after all.

So anyway, the point of all this is that I think putting some hardware on my kitchen cabinets would do wonders. You know, some handles so I can actually open the darn things. I would love something uber modern, but I know I should forbear. I insist on something silverish colored to help tie in the counters and my eventual wall color. In the end I want something that can look modern in the right setting, but if we ever have to sell the house, I want a fairly neutral look. I don't want to alienate all those red kitchen loving potential buyers out there. Plus I don't want to look at them in 5 years and say, "That is so turn of the century..." So it sounds like what I'm saying is, they should be really boring. Hmm...

So what do you think of this?

Is it modern without being trendy? Is it traditional enough to appeal to most people? Please vote in the sidebar and feel free to pontificate in the comments.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Snapshot

Scott sat "eating" lunch for two hours today. If I tried to get him down, he would get upset and tell me he was still eating. If I tried to give him more food, he would get upset. If I even looked at him wrong, he would start crying. Then Claire would yell at him and he would begin bawling. My best guess is that I accidentally served crazy juice with breakfast this morning. Claire mildly scraped her foot on a Tonka truck and cried for 30 minutes, following me around and ensuring that her forced cry was always perfectly positioned directly in my ear. Then she announced she was STILL hungry. I gave her carrot sticks. Scott insisted he wanted one too. He took a bite, chewed it all up, and then started crying. Again. I went over to ask what was wrong. He told me, "I don't like it." I didn't know it was still in his mouth, so while I tried to figure out which of the myriad food items in front of him he was referring to since he says this phrase CONSTANTLY these days, he grabbed my hand, picked it up, and held it up toward his face. And then he spit his masticated carrot into my open palm. As I stood there with carrot mush in my hand, Claire demonstrated impeccable timing and asked if she could have a popsicle. Showing much restraint, I merely replied with a gentle no. Then she pointed out that she still remembered when she lost her balloon yesterday. I see what she's getting at. Yesterday we left a birthday party with a big pink balloon. When we stopped at the grocery store on the way home, it conspired with the brewing Texas thunderstorm to escape the minivan. I tried running after it, bolting across the parking lot in the wind and rain. (I definitely didn't feel foolish, oh no!) I consoled Claire with a popsicle when we got home yesterday because she was was devastated about the runaway balloon. But that was yesterday, when the wound was fresh. That trick won't work again today. Nice try, Claire.

Well, I gotta go. Claire's crying about her foot again. I need these kids to go upstairs for nap time and "quiet time" so I can eat my left-over Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cheesecake. Oh yah, and I suppose I should wash the carrot mush out of the sink...

Monday, July 7, 2008

God Bless the U.S. of... Texas

It was a good Fourth of July weekend. Any long weekend that starts with a date DURING THE DAYTIME just can't go wrong, right?

M had Thursday off so we went and saw Wall-E. It was easy to find a babysitter for the middle of the day on a Thursday and the theater wasn't crowded. We enjoyed the movie a lot and deemed it acceptable for munchkin viewing, which means we can go as a whole family when it gets to the dollar theater. (But definitely not before that. Money doesn't grow on trees ya know...) The kids have never been to a movie theater before and we have to go before theaters go the way of the dinosaur. I mean, pretty soon we'll probably just watch movies when they come out on some holographic screen that projects directly onto our eyeballs or whatever. I don't know. Sounds painful, but then again, so are earbuds.

Anyway, M and I went for a matinee at the local theater that also serves you food there in the movie theater. It's amazing what good pizza does for the movie theater experience. Hmmm, let's see. Artificial butter flavored popcorn that will probably give you cancer or artichoke hearts and pesto pizza? Good food is my second biggest motivator for watching movies at home. (The first is the flexibility to turn on subtitles, ask M to stop the movie and let me talk, and take potty breaks.) Why don't theaters here just let you bring in outside food? The ones where I grew up do and it's great. Most theaters don't offer diet caffeine-free sodas, so Mr. No Sugar No Caffeine M's options are water or nothing if they don't let him bring his own drink. Hmph.

The only snafu was that I ordered a chocolate shake during the movie and it never showed up. When I asked what happened, it turned out that they had accidentally given it to the couple next to us and the couple never said anything and just drank it. Seriously, what were they thinking? "Oh, I must have won the 213th customer award which means an unannounced free chocolate shake!" There are only two realistic options. Either they were dishonest enough to be glad they could steal someone else's chocolate shake, or they were so oblivious they didn't notice that the Coke they were drinking tasted really chocolately and creamy. Some people. Whatever, in the end they gave me my chocolate shake to go and all was well. I nursed my chocolately concoction during a quick run to the bank and the drive home and finished before we got home so I didn't have to share with the kids. Perfect.

To get in the spirit of things, Claire and I had a little pedicure session.

Because what could symbolize the freedom of our country more than patriotic toes? I think this is what our armed forces died for, right? I'm sure our founding fathers would be proud.

Then on Thursday night we set off our own modest set of fireworks. The kids had a lot of fun and our lawn enjoyed all the extra watering we gave it beforehand to reduce it's flammability.

You see, we don't technically live within the city limits. It's a long boring explanation so for the purposes of this discussion, all that matters is that the fuzz can't bust us for lightin' off fireworks at our house. M and I enjoyed being able to celebrate this great country of ours by legally using some mild explosives. I truly think it symbolizes how this country came to be and the day we stop trusting each other with fireworks is the day we might as well give the country back to King George. But that's a different heated discussion for a different day. Moving on. We did get a little surprise though. One of the fireworks we got turned out to be one that shot some showers of sparks about 30 feet in the air. The lady who sold the fireworks to M and Claire led them to believe it didn't "go very high." It was interesting to contemplate the fact that 30 feet apparently wasn't very high. M felt a little guilty, at least at first... Stay tuned.

"Hey, Cletus! Where'd ya put the motor for this thing?"

Because we're classy like that. In my mind's eye, the motor is in a bathtub. In reality, it's in the garage. I wanted to sell the electric lawnmower left by the previous owners on Craigslist. Who cares that the housing was a little stomped on by a 16 year old who accidentally mowed over the extension cord? What could possibly go wrong with an exposed electric motor??? In the end, I lost not only because of safety concerns, but also because M realized he had a free big electric motor on his hands. You never know when you might need one of those. Or so he says. So the old lawnmower was gutted and the chassis left to be thrown away. The kids noticed that what remained looked like a kid mower. And a new outdoor pastime was born. Seriously, the kids pushed that thing around the yard for HOURS this past weekend. It's a shame they weren't actually getting our yard work done for us... yet.

Then we went to a park where the city's big fireworks display was.

While we were waiting for the fireworks, there were sky divers. Almost as good as the fireworks if you ask my kids.

And now it's time for everyone's favorite game. Study the following pictures carefully (trying not to laugh at the squiggles caused by my apparent case of Parkinson's):

Now here's the game. Guess which one of these specimens of pyrotechnics occurred directly over my house. (Assume the photos are lettered A through L.) Leave your answers in the comments section. It's probably obvious, but I still think it's makes my point. When we got back from the park, our next door AND across the street neighbors were setting off their own fireworks. The kind with a mortar you had to load yourself. They went at least 50 feet in the air. They were so loud, the kids wanted to go inside. M didn't feel bad about our one silly one that went a measly 30 feet up anymore. This was our first 4th in a house and the first time we've ever lived somewhere where fireworks were legal. I don't know if it was the legality or the fact that we're in Texas, but the evening was a little crazy. The whole neighborhood was lit up with tons of fireworks. It got so that M and I had trouble figuring out which ones were "professional" and which ones were "schmoe" fireworks. It does seem like as much as we give Texans a hard time about all their "Texas pride," they sure are patriotic. Maybe it's that anyone who's that passionate about their state is bound to be pretty passionate about their country too. Or maybe they just have so much excess Texas love that it spills over onto America. Whatever, I just know it was great. Our neighborhood just felt so AMERICAN.