Thursday, August 31, 2006

She Got Me Again

Channelling my father, once more, Isabella knocked me out yet again. There is just NO place that she could have picked this up except through some subconscious memory of Zane. That's all I can figure.

She fell down, cried for just the briefest seconds, then came running into our bedroom and announced loudly, "HEY! I busted my lip!"

First of all, that phrase, in a Southern accent, is just funny. "Bustin'" anything just sounds funny, when you say it out loud. Secondly, hearing it coming out of such a wee tot is kind of hysterical. And since she hadn't heard that phrase from US, both Alex and I, in unison, asked her, "Busted your lip, huh? Where'd you get that?"

Have you guessed it already, her immediate answer?

Imagine the sassiest voice you EVER heard on an almost-four-year-old, coming out of a positively smirking mouth, as she replied, "I got it at the 'busted my lip' store!"

Seriously. Who IS this kid?Smirky McSmartypants, at your service.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On the Relativity of Pain, and Bunnies and Ponies and Very Good Mothers

No, not the pain inflicted upon you by your relatives. That's a WHOLE other post. But the relativity and subjectivity of physical pain, and how truly remarkable and mystifying our brains are in their capability of and proclivity for interpreting it in such an astonishing myriad of ways. You'd think that a thing like pain would be objective...but my opinion, at least, is that you'd be wrong to think so.

I've written about pain before. Probably, some of you are thinking, ad nauseum. I've written about pain medication, pain evaluation and pain management. Heck, I've even coerced a friend into writing about pain charts, with hilarious results (yeah, I know--that seems wrong, pain and hilarity). You'd think I'd have said everything there is to say about the quality, duration, frequency and intensity of my pain, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Well, turns out I haven't. Because the events of yesterday and today have put me onto a whole new way of thinking about this. Well, it's new to me, but probably not to lots and lots of other people who spend a good deal more time than I do engaged in actual cognitive exercises as opposed to, say...browsing YouTube and obsessing about COUPONS COUPONS I MUST HAVE MORE COUPONS!

Hey--remember that short story by D. H. Lawrence, "The Rocking Horse Winner?" The one where the house constantly "whispered," "There must be more money! There must be more money!"? Remember that? (I'm tempted here to just end by saying, "That was awesome," like in those old Chris Farley sketches from SNL, but I won't.) That's what it's like in my house right now, but it's about coupons, circulars, rebates, and spending ledgers. If Bella starts rocking furiously on her rocking horse for hours on end so that I get more coupons, I swear I will stop IMMEDIATELY.

Well, anyway...um, that there, that just happened above? That's what it's like to try and speak to me lately, when I'm taking the good drugs. So, sorry, but I've always wanted my blog to be "conversational," and if you don't believe that this is what conversation with me is like these days, then just ask my husband. The alternative, during the not-sufficiently-medicated periods, is either a sullen silence and a fetal position, or voluminous, frequent, and TOTALLY rational requests of my spouse, such as, "Honey? Sweetie? I don't mean to be mean or anything but COULD YOU PLEASE STOP BREATHING SO CLOSE TO ME BECAUSE I THINK THAT WHEN YOU EXHALE IT MOVES THE HAIRS IN YOUR NOSE TOO MUCH AND THAT IT IS THAT SOUND, YOUR NOSE HAIRS MOVING, THAT MAKES MY TEETH HURT!?!" Yeah. I'm fun right now. But on the good painkillers? Can't. Stop. The. Talking. Or the racing mind and sudden derailments of my trains of thought. (Imagine Captain Kirk voice): Having--sudden--empathy--for husband's--hypomanic--phases... musn't--let him--find out...

Back onto the main track, now; it started yesterday. Alex was finally able to get back to work (yaaay, Lamictal and your super-slow titration to therapeutic levels...I guess), and I REALLY wanted to be there, too (I have wanted to, badly, for a long time, but yesterday seemed somehow like a show of support for my husband, too, so I just wanted to MAKE IT HAPPEN), so I tanked up, big-time, on painkillers, then some anti-nauseal meds to help keep the painkillers down, and of course some Lomotil for the extreme intestinal upset that heavy painkillers can cause. I topped all that off with the anti-anxiety med prescribed by my surgeon for the time between now and the operation (there will possibly be more on the fantastic, gibbering, poop-slinging irrationality of my mind in any period of time pending surgery, in a future post, but not now, and you're welcome), and I WENT TO WORK WITH MY HUSBAND.

Yaaay, me! Whatever. I was a zombie--total "Shaun of the Dead" wasteoid until about 2:00 P.M., when I produced for my employer nearly an hour's worth of SOLIDLY intermittent and slightly slurred phone-answering. Then it was time to go and get Bella from preschool. I picked her up, gauged the time, and since I felt pretty good, went on ahead to the grocery store to finish up with the last few items needed to complete the total OWNING of this week's circular/coupon manipulation, finishing up an hour later, exhausted but victorious, with a grocery receipt reflecting a FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT SAVINGS on my total grocery bill. OHHHH, yeahhhhh. (Note to Self: When Bella insists that she is "big enough to walk in the store" instead of riding in the cart--DO NOT COMPLY. The cart is your friend. The shopping-cart-seat is a crucial ISABELLA CONTAINMENT DEVICE, and without it your in-store time will be at least DOUBLED, as you look for light chunk tuna in water and she runs circles in the aisle around you, grabbing cans of artichoke hearts and black-eyed peas and asking, "IS THIS TUNA?" at 192 decibles. Please remember this, Self. PLEASE.)

And that was when the "good" part of my day began to end. By the time we got home, I more or less collapsed into my bed and didn't much move again until today. And every time I did (move, that is), IT HURT MY WHOLE BODY. I mean, everything from head to feet to uterus to joints to possible mysterious internal surgical adhesions to the very skin of my teeth. It hurt to MOVE. Like, rolling over in bed. I was just beaten.

But this morning? This morning was something out of a nightmare. Once I had managed to gain a standing postion, I was literally unable to move. There was no move I could make with my feet that would not result in bone-shearing pain. But, you know, stuff had to be done, and Bella can be difficult in the mornings if not handled just right. She's like one of those exotic, temperamental zoo animals (probably a small, big-eyed monkey of some sort, with a prehensile tail), and I'm Jack Hannah. Who, as we all know, always screws something up when he brings the critters onto the Letterman show. But I did manage to get the little darling dressed, fed, and coiffed, and loaded up in the carseat in Daddy's truck, before I took a fistful of meds and fell back into bed. I have a vague recollection of screaming some serial numbers off our downstairs freezer into the phone at Alex for the purpose of scheduling some repair work on the unit, but I could have dreamed that. You'll have to ask him.

The next thing I remember was the telephone repairman ringing the doorbell sometime between noon and 1:00. He did fix our phone, yaaay. So, by about an hour later, I had begun to feel human again (yaay, pharmaceuticals!), and phoned to tell Alex that I thought I would be able pick Bella up from preschool. This is good, because the span of time between her getting out of school and him getting off work is two hours, and that would have been more loud, frenetic preschooler-delivered entertainment than the customers or employees at the office would likely have appreciated.

And can everyone please give my precious daughter a round of applause for the fact that, after RUNNING to me and flinging her arms around me with an enthusiastic "MOMMY!" upon my arrival at the preschool, her VERY first question to me was, "Do you feel much better, Mommy?" God, I love that kid. I assured her that I did, indeed, feel MUCH better, especially after seeing her. We briefly stopped by the office to see Mom and Alex, then headed home, making a stop at the feed store. There was then this whole ponies-escaping-into-the-woods fiasco that I don't even want to get into (stop that "hallelujah"-ing, ingrates), but I got 'em all fed while Alex captured the fugituves, and then collapsed a little more. I had a short burst of energy tonight, mostly out of guilt that Alex was working heroically down in the basement, and I got a good deal of housework done, and I know I'll be paying for that in the morning.

So I think I have figured out the pattern, anyway: It's either BRIEF bursts of effort, with frequent rests in between, OR it's a day of work followed by at least a day of recovery. Both methods require lots of medicine, and more medicine to counteract the other medicine, and a finely-tuned sense of careful timing concerning when to take which meds in relation to which tasks you are facing. It kinda sucks.

Which leads me to my mental machinations...I began to ask myself, "Is it--the pain--is it REALLY worse now than it was before? Before my "good surgery" and the blessed relief that followed? Because I had kind of been thinking, lately, "WOW, this is just way out of line. This is worse than ever it was, and I am surely going to die because there MUST be an endometrial tumor working its way through some vital organ or other in an attempt to kill me before September 29th." (the date of my surgery, which is WAY to far away) I have felt like this pain was unprecedented. I cannot count the times I have said to my husband or my mother (the rest of you may now thank your lucky stars for having been spared), "I just can't go on like this for another MONTH. I CAN'T." But then I thought some more, and I realized that I was way off base with this idea. THIS pain, it is NOT worse than what I experienced before. So why have I thought it was? Well, I think I figured this out. If you're still with me, this is where you find out either how smart I am, or how totally self-absorbed. Probably the latter.

In the days before my surgery in New Orleans, I had a great deal of pre-surgical diagnostic work done. There was much amazement expressed among the doctors, nurses, and technicians, along the lines of, "Hey, c'mere; "y'all gotta SEE this mess to believe it!" and "Can you believe she's still ALIVE?" that makes patients feel sooooo comfortable. My surgeon (the main one--there were THREE) told me flat-out that if I hadn't had that exact surgery when I did, I'd have been "DEAD BY CHRISTMAS." That's really a phrase you don't ever want to hear about yourself, even when said tragedy has been averted. Because once you've heard that, you will ever-after be wondering what silent and deadly thing could be going on in your body RIGHT THIS MINUTE that could cause you to be DEAD BY CHRISTMAS. Or whenever...it could just as well be DEAD BY ARBOR DAY, I suppose, but DEAD BY CHRISTMAS has a uniquely ghoulish feel to it, don't you think? There everyone will be, trying to celebrate their holiday, which you will be ruining, what with your deadness. Pass the cranberry sauce.

In the days following my surgery, while I stayed in the hospital (and there were 14 of those days), nurses who knew the details of my case and my surgery (and/or had been present during said surgery, all 6 hours of it), several of them, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups, would approach me as I lay in my lovely hospital bed and say, "Can I ask you a question?" Me being me, I always said, "Sure." I mean, what have I got to hide from people who have seen me poop on myself multiple times and then cleaned it, and me, up, with never a complaint? They knew that Alex had brought me down to New Orleans early, so that we could visit some of my favorite places and eat some great food and hear some great music and just basically fill up my senses with beauty before the potential death-walk that is, in my mind, ANY surgical procedure. The question that followed was unerringly some variation of: "Seriously--HOW WERE YOU WALKING AROUND WITH ALL THAT CRAP IN THERE, TWISTING YOUR GUTS INTO KNOTS AND GLUING YOUR ORGANS TOGETHER, NOT TO MENTION THE TUMOR FROM HELL THAT WAS SLICING YOUR BOWEL IN HALF AND THE DOUBLE HERNIA THAT WOULD HAVE BROUGHT A LINEBACKER TO HIS KNEES?"

My answer to them then, and my realization anew at this time, is that back then, that was just my LIFE, pain and all. I had no idea that there was any real relief possible. I mean, I'd already had multiple endometriosis surgeries, even lost an ovary to it, and had gotten precious little to zero relief from my pain, so I was kind of trying not to believe the miracle stories of blessed recovery I'd been reading and hearing from the patients of the amazingly talented and compassionate Dr. Andrew Cook. That way I'd not be as disappointed, you know? I didn't believe there was any relief in sight, having been told by countless doctors that this WAS my life, and "here's the number of an acupuncturist you could try," and "maybe you could take some Motrin every day," or "see a psychiatrist, since this is so often just in womens' minds," and finally, when I could no longer work, but still managed most other things, "here's a prescription for some demerol and phenergan. It's all we can do for women like you." I think that when misery is all you know, you just internalize it and, for better or worse, cope. Somehow. Looking back, I think I did a heckuva job, Brownie, for a LOT of years.

But now? Well, now, you see, I've seen the Promised Land; I've been to Beulah Land. The land of NO PAIN. Which, unless you've suffered chronic pain, you've never been anywhere so phenomenal in your life as The Land Of The Total Absence Of Pain. Recovering from those extensive surgeries? That felt GOOD compared to what had come before. In that regard, I look forward to this upcoming awful operation like a just-bathed dog looks forward to that first big shake-off. I know, in my heart, that THE RELIEF, OH THE RELIEF will be blessedly wonderful, and that I will have my life back, and even though my little girl asks me repeatedly, "...and THEN you will have another baby?" no matter how many times I try to explain just what they're taking away from me to make me "well," that I will most likely feel good for the rest of my life. It's almost frightening, letting go of the Devil You Know, however evil he is.

And that is why, I think, my current pain levels are overwhelming me. Because I've been over the fence, and I know how great it can be. I'm like one of those rabbits from "Watership Down"...if you took it away from that nirvana-like hilltop warren they finally created for themselves in the end, and plunked it back down in the original, militia-run community. It was bearable before because it was all they knew, but to go back, well, that would be torture.

Once, when I was very young, five or so, and very horse-crazy (still not cured of that), I had the opportunity to ride a real live pony. Unfortunately, the pony was one of those poor souls who are attached to walking machines and made to go around in endless circles all day for countless small (and not-so-small) riders. The thrill of being in motion on a real, live, warm, furry, pony-and-leather-smelling divine creature controlled most of the actual ride, but my ride was the last go-round of the morning, and I watched, fascinated, as they untacked the ponies for their lunch-break. I was sickened and horrified to see a large, round, red wound, what I now know to be a saddle-sore, on the withers of the very pony I'd been riding, once they pulled off his saddle and blanket. I asked if they would take that pony off the walker now, because he was hurt, and was told, "No, he'll be fine." I knew a lie when I heard one, even then, and I began crying as the attendant rubbed a thick yellow salve on the gall, and the pony heaved what seemed a big, world-weary sigh.

I was no less grotesquely sensitive then than I am now--probably was even more so--and I was upset and crying over this for a good part of the day. As I sobbed to my mother about how cruel, how unfair, this life was for "my" poor pony, my young mother searched for whatever words she could to console me, and what she finally found did act as at least something of a balm on my heart that day--it didn't make it RIGHT, but it was better than nothing, and it certainly applies to my current situation. (Being the world-wise horsewoman that I now am, I now know that she was almost certainly wrong, but she, my severely horse-phobic mother, didn't know that, and she was TRYING.) What she said was, "That life may be all that pony has ever known. I would imagine that those ponies are born at the stable, raised there, and trained there to work. They might not have ever known the joy of running and playing, free, in the grass under the sunshine, so perhaps, if they don't know what they are missing, then they aren't really too unhappy." (And my mother did SO talk to me like that. Ask ANYONE. She treated me like a little person with a brain, a heart, and a soul. And she gave more of herself to my groping, reaching, grasping little psyche than any child could rightfully ask, and did so with grace and a seemingly endless supply of energy.)

And so it is with me now. I'm a bunny, I'm a pony, I'm a crazy woman with a stupid disease that is hopefully on its way out the door by virtue of me sacrificing a good part of my own body in order to usher it out. So: I'm declaring a moratorium on the whining that "it huuuuuurts!" and promising to try and shut up about how verrrrry long thirty days is. I realize that there are people with life sentences of pain, to whom my thirty days would seem a miracle, and people who don't have thirty days of life left, and would take them, if they could, with ANY amount of pain, and how very ungrateful I've been about my own situation lately. I wonder how many opportunities I may have missed to help someone else, because I was so mired in self-pity. It ends today, and I will be praying for sustenance in this effort, so I know that sustenance will be given. If you're inclined to join in, please do so. It helps, whether I know you're doing it or not.

And I wonder, I really do, now that I've made this conscious decision and prayed on it, if my marvelous brain (that's not arrogance; I think ALL brains are marvelous, and capable of feats that are tantamount to MAGIC) will work it out for me so that the next month becomes suddenly more psychologically bearable. I kind of think it will. My brain, at least, has always been pretty good to me (NO, Brain, I'm not going to bring up Algebra. I thought we had agreed back in the late 80's, sometime, NEVER TO SPEAK OF THAT AGAIN), even if my hormones haven't.

OK, go. I know you all probably need a breath of fresh air, a Xanax, or a stiff drink after all of THAT self-indulgent foolishness. So git. Belinda's Duke's Book Contest winners' photos will be posted here either Saturday or Sunday. I will post every photo I get, so if you missed out but have a great shot, go ahead and send it...it'll be a great weekend thang. And if your photo is one of the first NINE, you need to send me your mailing address. That is all. I'll be back tomorrow, if you can still stand me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

STOP THE PRESSES

Actually, stop sending photos, re: previous post. I've got my nine winners already. You people get up early! I just logged on to make sure my inbox wasn't being flooded, and it is! So I am illegally and very very quickly posting this from work to say CONTEST OVER. And now I have to go again. Later, 'taters. Belinda signing off.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Roll That Beautiful Bean Footage

First, let me present grocery receipt #2 in my quest for ever-greater coupon-driven savings:What was it last time? A mere 36% or something like that? I am getting better, you see! The reason that the numbers don't seem to add up to 51% is that they apparently figure the percentage saved before they figure your taxes. SO--the landmark on this trip was getting more groceries that I DIDN'T pay for than groceries that I DID pay for. And that, I think, is what it's all about. I'm shooting for the 60th percentiles next time. And still struggling with that Walgreen's thing.

And even though we are TOTALLY stocked up on groceries for weeks now, I may have to make a special trip for some Bush's Beans. Because Bella is particularly fond of those little single-serving cans of the barbecue baked beans (and will not allow you to heat them up prior to serving, which I find bizarre), and because I'm trying to segue into the main event of this post, which is to introduce my special guest, Duke, the Bush's Beans mascot, and best friend of Jay Bush, who just happens to have a new book out. Allow me to clarify: that's Duke who has a new book out, not Jay. If you're not familiar with Duke, click on his image to get a little audio memory-jog. By buying a copy of Duke's book, Duke's Tails: Duke Finds a Home, ($3.95 plus 2 proofs of purchase of Bush's products, shipping included), you will not only get a cute little story of a dog and his person finding each other and ultimately saving each other, but you will be helping Bush's to raise up to $50,000 for the American Humane Association. This charity is unique, in that its mission is to improve the welfare of animals and children. Their mission statement, taken from the AHA website:
The mission of the American Humane Association, as a network of individuals and organizations, is to prevent cruelty, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children and animals and to assure that their interests and well-being are fully, effectively, and humanely guaranteed by an aware and caring society.

American Humane envisions a nation where no child or animal will ever be a victim of willful abuse or neglect. As a recognized leader in professional education, training and advocacy, research and evaluation, American Humane joins with other similarly missioned individuals and organizations to make this vision a reality.
I like the look of this organization. Although they do appear to support PAWS legislation, which I do not, the bulk of their efforts are very impressive and beneficial, both on the behalf of children and animals, and through many innovative programs that put children and animals together. So it is in this spirit of "kids and dogs" that I have a special gift for my readers.

When Justin Sikora, a Senior Account Executive from Edelman, Bush's public relations firm, sent me a very nice email telling me about the charity effort, and offering to send me 10 copies of Duke's new book to pass around to my friends as I saw fit, I naturally thought of you, Internets. Now, Bush's has already been running all manner of contests and giveaways surrounding this promotion, and what I would like to do, of course, is absolutely independent of Bush's Best and Edelman's and every other darn person in the world, because that's how I roll.

Bella and I have reviewed the book thoroughly, and while she insisted that "dogs do not wear clothes" (Duke sports a bandana throughout the book), and there is a scary silo accident that, having grown up around grain silos, would have totally creeped me out had not Jay Bush been depicted as smiling even as he was buried up to his shoulders in spilled beans (hee--"spilled beans"), we found it to be a sweet story, and it did elicit a number of "awwwws" from Bella.

So what I would like to do is pass on the free copies I've been given to the first 9 people who email me a picture featuring 1.) A KID, and 2.) A DOG. It's that simple. Any kid or multiple kids, and any dog or multiple dogs, as long as both kid(s) and dog(s) appear in the same picture. And by "dog," I mean, of course, a canine of any age, any gender, any breed or mix thereof. By "kid," I mean a human being of the young, small, sticky variety. The books are paperback, and not thick, so should be very cheap to ship. I may ask you for the shipping cost, but if it's negligible, I won't.

I'll let you know who the winners are as soon as I have the first nine photos in my inbox at ninjapoodles@gmail.com, and I'll post the photos here.

Obligatory disclaimer: I have no financial interest in, and have not been, nor will I be, compensated in any way by Bush's or Edelman or any other entity for any endorsement I may give to this book. I'm doing a little free viral marketing because 1.) I was asked nicely, and 2.) It's for charity, and 3.) I'm just so darn sweet. I'm not receiving so much as a free bean for my efforts, and was in fact not even asked to post anything on this blog by anyone, just in case anyone at the BlogHer Advertising Network is wondering!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Walgreen's Rebate Program Users

PLEASE email me if you use this. We spend such an incredible amount of money per month on prescriptions, and apparently you CAN apply your Walgreen's rebates that you put on gift cards toward your prescriptions. But I have been over and over their website, and the "program" just isn't clear enough for me. I swear, there seems to be Algebra involved.

So, anyhow, if you understand, and better yet, are manipulating the heck out of this rebate/gift card system, PLEASE email me. mailto:ninjapoodles@gmail.com. Thanks!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Overheard Video-Rental Decision Conversation

Person 1: "Hey, you know what I haven't seen in a long time?"

Person 2: "What?"

P1: "A Streetcar Named Desire. Man, Marlon Brando was so great in that."

P2: "Yeah...we could get a bunch of those Tennessee Ernie Williams movies, make a night of it."

P1: (cracking up) "You mean, watching filmed versions of great plays, or whompin' up a mess of biscuits?"

P2: "Wha--???" (realization dawning, laughing and turning red) "OH, crap. You know what I meant. Tennessee Williams! Glass Menagerie! Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! The Night of the Iguana!"

P1: "Nope, too late, you said it. You just combined the greatest Southern playwright of all time with the guy who used to sell Martha White flour during commericals on Hee-Haw" (ed.: I think it was actually the 'Grand Ole Opry' show), "into one great, mutant entertainer. I'm running this one into the ground."

P2: "Please don't tell anyone I said that."

P1: "I'm so sorry, but I'm gonna."

ed.: As it turns out, this was maybe not such an embarrassing gaffe after all, judging by photographic evidence:Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Ernie Ford

I mean, really--they both had a penchant for bowties, hair pomade and mustaches...if not for Williams' intense, brooding air and Ford's sincere, crooked good ol' boy smile, they might be long-lost...well, cousins or something.

The good news is, that because of that conversation, Alex and I wound up renting "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which we hadn't seen in a couple of years, at least, and Great Jumping Cats, is that ever a great film. I mean, it's almost the straight (no pun intended--and even though it was altered and censored, much to Williams' displeasure, to downplay the suggested homosexual tendencies of Brick, Newman's character, that aspect seems to come through pretty clearly to me in the dialogue that WAS left in the film) play, with much of the dialogue as it was written by T.W., and the raw material is pretty much unparalleled. But Paul Newman and Liz Taylor...oh, boy. SO pretty, both of them. If you haven't seen it in a while--OR--horror of horrors, NEVER--do yourself a solid and run and get it, Netflix it, whatever, immediately. Really. "Goodness gracious, it's pea-pickin' good, y'all!" (Apologies to all non-Southerners for THAT bizarre reference.)
And yet another reason that I love having Alex with whom to live and share things like this:

At about the mid-point of the film, at a particular point when the whip-smart, 90-mile-an-hour dialogue is just filling your brain with super-impressed appreciation, as if you're looking at a beautiful painting or hearing breathtaking music, we both begin speaking at exactly the same time. Now, you'll have to imagine these sentences tumbling from our respective mouths simultaneously, but here is what was was said, by each of us:

Belinda: "One of the main things I love about Tennessee Williams' writing, is that there is not one unneccessary word spoken, EVER."

Alex:
"This dialogue is fantastic, isn't it? I mean, there is nothing superfluous in it. Nothing!"

And then we just stared at each other for the barest of instances, squeezed hands, and kept watching our movie. It wasn't one of those, "JINX! You owe me a Coke!" situations (though we often express the same thoughts, we hardly ever use identical vocabulary), but it was one of those little things that warms the cockles of my heart about this man I wound up with through Divine arrangement. Besides having a sense of humor, God also wants you to ultimately be happy a good bit of the time, I think.

One more, and then I'll shut up. But I kind of owe him after griping about his driving-me-psychotic kitchen (lack of) skilz. We had to stop by Walgreen's today, because I had a beef with them over $5.45 that they owed me for some generic Nyquil equivalent that was on sale in their circular for $.99 each, but for which they charged me $3.49 plus tax each when I bought them on Tuesday. And since now I am this crazed, coupon-mad, circular-scrutinizing FREAK, I could not help but notice that aside from some Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner that they had on sale AND I had coupons for, that they had their crack--um, Cadbury chocolate on sale. Like, big-time. As in, the 4.5 oz. bars were already 2/$3, and THEN they had a coupon for half off again, so each bar was like $.75. YE-AHHH, Baby! Have I mentioned my hormonal fluxes of late? Anyway, there was a limit of six, so I came back to the car where Alex and Bella were waiting, with my $5.45 triumphantly clutched in my fist, PLUS the shampoo and conditioner that promises to make my hair glisten and shine like, umm...fruit? Yeah, I'm not sure how that works, either. AND THE BIG SCORE, my assortment of six big ol' heavy Cadbury bars: Caramellos, Roasted Almond, Dairy Milk, and Classic Dark. Heaven, I tell you. The smugness aura around me must have been stifling.

And then? And then, my previously coupon-phobic husband (seriously, in the past, I have sent him into stores with a list AND coupons, and found the coupons later, because, apparently, there were OTHER MEN WATCHING when he checked out and they might have revoked his man-card on the spot if he'd pulled out a $2-off razor blades coupon at checkout) looked at me, with pure love shining out of his eyes and a heavenly glow all around him, and said, "Limit 6 per customer? So, I can just go in now, and get you 6 more? They have the circulars with the coupons in the store, right?"

I swear, at that point, the ethereal light beaming from all around him was so intense that I had to look away momentarily, like in those Bible stories in which angels appear unto mortals. Besides, I didn't want him to see the tears of joy, lest he'd think I was MAKING A BIG DEAL OF THIS IN MY MIND, which of course I wasn't. *ahem*

So, yeah. I got to watch "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and put up a month's supply of quality chocolate both in the same day. I feel like the luckiest est est est est woman an an an an an in the world orld orld orld orld orld. (Oh, great, now I want to see "Pride of the Yankees" again.)

Now, if someone could please remove the figurative claw (although really, at this point, from the feel of it, it could be a literal claw) from my uterus? I'd be in pretty high cotton.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yes, You Can Help Stir, OK?

You know how, when you have a certain person wanting so badly to do something in the kitchen, like cooking, or cleaning (to "help you", you know), and they're really big enough to handle the basic mechanics of the project, with supervision, but you know that they will also make a terrible mess and not do things just right, and you try as hard as you can to let them have free rein with their creativity, and keep the criticism at a minimum so as not to damage their fragile egos or discourage them from trying again? Yeah? Well, I had an extremely frustrating experience with that very situation just last night. I REALLY tried to use restraint, and in many cases I WAS able to keep quiet, but the longer it went on, the thinner my patience was stretched.


Yes, Baby, it does look like it's done. You need to strain it in the colander and rinse it with water.

No--Not that colander, that one's too small; see how much food you have, and how small this is? It just won't fit; here, I'll get the big one...

Yes, the colander was just used, so it does need to be washed first. Go ahead. WAIT--WHAT--that's BATHROOM TILE cleaner! Don't wash dishes with that! Here, let me do it...

OK, that's enough rinsing, and you don't have to bang it on the bottom of the sink...and--oh, dear, you've got food in the side of the sink with no disposal. I'll have to clean that out of there...SWEETIE! Didn't you just hear me? Don't run the water in that side of the sink, you're washing food down the drain, and it will clog up! I have to clean that out of there...

Darling, do you see all this sauce and food slopped all over the stove burners? You need to be careful with the cooktop, and please clean up a mess like that as soon as possible. That will be 10 times harder to clean up tomorrow. Like...see over here? This bowl that you had ketchup in yesterday? That you just set beside the sink to congeal? That's going to have to be soaked and scraped now, whereas yesterday it could have just been rinsed out. Clean as you go, just easier, that's all...

Do you see that smoke, hon? That's from cooking everything on "high." It not only doesn't cook well, but it fills the house with smoke and scorches food to the bottom of the pan. I moved it to the other burner for you...

OK, here's another example of leaving things to clean "later;" see where this cough medicine has dripped down the front of the cabinets? Now the stain will have to be cleaned, but if you'd wiped it with a paper towel when it happened, it'd be allllll gone!

Sweetheart, does trash belong stacked in the sink? Who do you think is going to have to pick that wet, soggy, gross mess out of there when it's time to do the dishes?

What's in the middle of this stack, a half-full bowl of salad? And, again, on the NON-disposal side of the sink? Honey, this is really getting frustrating. It just makes SO much more work for ME when you do things like this!

Is this stain here from where you put pizza directly on the counter last night? I--I can't--I just have to--you have to GET OUT OF HERE, NOW. Just go, and let me clean this up. MOMMY. IS. TIRED.


Yeah, I got a little harsh, I admit it. But seriously, what do you DO in these situations? I mean, you want to teach them the RIGHT way to do things, but you don't want to crush their spirits and discourage them from any further attempts at domesticity. But at the same time, if they're ultimately creating three TIMES the work for you in the long run, and you're exhausted as it is, can you really afford their "help?"

Honestly, I'm looking for advice. What IS the best way to nourish the real "helper" in your husband, without making needless work for yourself?

What, you thought I was talking about Bella? Please. She marinated chicken for me tonight, and cleaned up afterward.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm Good Like That

Sometimes I just give the good material to Alex, on a silver platter. Material with chimpanzees. DANGIT, I'm a good wife.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Favorite Canadork And More


O Canada! In A Box!
Originally uploaded by ninjapoodles.
Click image to go to flickr set.





How do I love her? I can't even count the ways. But I find it remarkable that someone who I know is having not-such-an-easy-time-of-things herself right now, always, ALWAYS, finds it in her heart to reach out to others.

Whether it's a well-timed IM session or phone call, during which, lately, I invariably whine and gripe and moan and cry (VERY uplifting for someone dealing with her own depression, Belinda--way to go!), or a well-timed surprise package full of Canadian goodness, she just never, EVER fails to make me feel SO much better. That's a skill, folks, and the blogger-hating that's going around right now...all I have to say to you people participating in that, is that you are seriously missing out on the beauty of community and love that is just here for the asking.

Dumbbutts.

And it doesn't end there for me right now. Weeks ago, I got a beautiful "Get Well" card from a dear, dear friend from my "we all had our babies in the same month" email list, that for some reason got buried in a stack of mail but then touched me so much that I cried when I finally found and read it. This is the same friend who organized, among the wonderful women of that wonderful group, a gift to my church's building fund in my father's name when he died, because that was a driving cause of his.

A couple of weeks ago, I was just kind of randomly blathering about the dress code at Bella's new preschool, and how most of her clothes were not going to be appropriate (dresses have to fall to the knee or below, etc.), and seemingly without even thinking about it, Carmen sent "a screaming mass of adorable dresses" our way! Wow!

Erin S. and Ian sent us the first-ever dog-show prizes won by Ryder, the show pup they bought from us. I cried. (This is becoming less and less unusual.)

Both Erin and Mr. Fab mailed hard copies of the "Floridian" section of the St. Petersburg Times that contains my "Barnyard" post that they printed.

And just tonight, as I poked around looking at backlinks, I found two that just made me so happy, I couldn't stop laughing, smiling, and then getting all choked up, but in a good way. First Lauren, who NEVER answers comments on her Epistolary Blog, honored me with my VERY OWN EPISTLE which addressed some burning questions I'd left in her comments. This made my day in a way I can't even describe, and I laughed and laughed, and even let her address me as "Belinda Arkansas." And then I discovered, upon seeing a couple dozen links coming from Miss Zoot, that Margalit had guest-posted on that site, about me. Wow.

And there has been more, over the last few days, but I've just become overwhelmed. Thank you, everyone. Embrace this wonderful community that we have created, and enjoy the support that it has to offer. Don't WASTE your time on sites that you don't ADORE. Life is too short. I will never understand why anyone would waste a single minute reading, much less taking time to complain about, a site that they don't appreciate. I REALLY DON'T. If you're one of the people doing this, stop it. (Although I seriously doubt that any of my readers are among this odd crowd.) Read things that edify you, that support you, that embolden you, that empower you, that please you, that touch you. If something's really great, let that writer know. Otherwise...why bother? Really? There is just so much love and friendship here.

Don't be a dumbbutt.

Coupon Redux: Wal-Mart

Like I don't have enough Wal-Mart related anxiety, I did go through with my promise to test out couponing at the retail giant. And let me just request, ahead of time, please, no hating on me because I go to Wal-Mart. Because I do. Go to Wal-Mart. You know what else we have in town? A Walgreen's and a couple of large chain grocery stores, and a couple of independent pharmacies where you can buy a tube of Chap-Stick for $10.95. Plus, this is Arkansas,
home of Wal-Mart and the Walton family, so it's kind of ubiquitous. So back off already; I'd like to maintain my blog's troll-free status. Click image for a legible version.

I'll do this backward, and give you my conclusion first, and then explain myself: I consider my Wal-Mart couponing experience a success, and I think with practice and timing it could come pretty close to my grocery percentages (although, I have recently
hit 51% savings on groceries).
At first blush, it doesn't seem as impressive, but there are several mitigating factors involved. I saved a total of 28% off of my Wal-Mart purchases, and here are my excuses for the percent saved not being higher:

In the first place, the things you opt to buy at Wal-Mart (or Target, or K-Mart, or whatever you have in your area), instead of at the grocery store, are expensive things, and you choose a big-box store because these items are generally cheaper than they are at the grocery store. You know, stuff like laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, paper towels, deodorant, shampoo, makeup, pantyhose, razorblades, pet food...you get my drift.

Another reason I chose to take my coupons for these items to Wal-Mart, besides the base price of the items in question being lower (and even if they weren't, Wal-Mart will honor ANY competitor's sales circular), is that the grocery stores here will only "double" coupons up to 60 cents' face value. The more expensive items have higher-value coupons, so it doesn't pay, so to speak, to use them at the grocery store, if you're only going to get face-value for them anyway.

If you click on the photo, you can enlarge the receipt and see exactly what I bought (Hey! 14-cent bananas!), and the coupons that were redeemed. I've marked, with flickr notes, the only three items for which I did not have coupons: koi pond food (the fish gotta eat), Hanes socks for Bella, and a pack of gum. What can I say? I'm weak. Also, I had coupons for FREE Iams tartar-control dog treats (kind of like "Greenies") that my dogs love, but they were out of stock on the small size that the free coupons were for, and I was unable to resist buying the larger-size treats, for which I had $2-off coupons. At three packages, that was a $9 splurge that was not strictly neccessary. Again, weak. But I'm proud, once more, that we did not buy one thing that was not on our list (aside from my gum, but I'M ENTITLED TO SOMETHING, PEOPLE), and that we had coupons for all but THREE items purchased. Pretty good, I think.

I may try Walgreen's sometime this weekend, because they have a circular out containing some MEAN buy-one-get-one deals, and store coupons, AND they just come on out and invite you, in writing, to also bring along your manufacturer's coupons, to increase your savings! And they've got a cool-looking rebate program I have yet to investigate. Oh, and because Shash asked, I also posted a few pics of the 600-picture photo album I'm using to organize my coupons, in a special flickr set. And if you are interested in this, you are my geeky compadre.

I Am Relieved, I Am Nervous, I Am A Little Nauseated

The house, she is SOLD. But wait--NOW, people--NOW is the time you pray hard, for a good inspection and a nice, solid appraisal. Thank you. If it goes through as scheduled, and there are no problems, this will all be two weeks behind us by the time my scheduled surgery date rolls around.

I think I have to go do the relieved/apprehensive crying thing a little more, now, so catch you later tonight.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I Just Can't Seem To Work Up Any Pity...Wonder Why?


OR: All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait. OR: There IS A God, But It ISN'T L. Ron Hubbard. OR: I Just Can't Stand Tom Cruise Or His Face.

I've mentioned it before, my intense, um--let's just say "dislike," so that I don't actively froth at the mouth or burst a blood vessel somewhere--of Tom Cruise. And I have signed countless petitions and written letters to, among others, Paramount Pictures, swearing that they'd not have a cent of what meager funds I might earn until they sever ties with this ignorant cultist NUTBALL.

And hey, look! I did it! Paramount has dumped Cruise like a hot, insane, ugly little rock. DUMPED HIM. OK, maybe it wasn't ALL me. But like the little girl from the old Shake & Bake commercial, "I HELPED!"

Let us now celebrate with the rampant consumption of appropriately-prescribed psychiatric medications, viewing of the Scientology-themed episode of "South Park" (the one in which they can't coax Tom Cruise "Out of the Closet"), and write letters--I am SO not kidding--praising Paramount and Sumner Redstone for their decision.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Isn't It Good; Isn't He Fine?

Isn't it madness? So, if I told you that my husband and I stayed up all night--literally, all night--talking about his illness, my illness, both our treatment, but most of all HOW MUCH and WHY we LOVE EACH OTHER, would you believe me? And if you did, would you be sick?

Folks, I've never lied to you. Things have NOT been easy around Chez Ninja lately. I mean, like, for WEEKS ON END. There's me, what with my hurting and whining about the hurting and general uselessness, and then there's Alex, with his broken brain and the way-too-slow achieving of a therapeutic level of the new mood stabilizer that's been added to his cocktail, and his very-much-anger at...well, I seem to be the one who's available to represent the world. We are both way too...well, let's call it "touchy."

So anyway, blah, blah, blah, and last night we're talking. A lot. Because we don't seem to be sleeping with any sort of regularity, so why not? And my husband, to whom I've been married for closing in on 6 years, fills my ears with sweetness the likes of which would send Jen racing for her insulin. FOR HOURS.

I tried to match his pace with the spoken lovelies; I did. But World, on this occasion, I was completely and thoroughly bested. I won't go into huge detail; this was largely private conversation, after all (plus, if I spill it now, you won't have any reason to buy the BOOK, will you?), but I will say that we were somehow able, and easily, to speak peacefully and quietly about things OF WHICH WE HAD NEVER SPOKEN BEFORE. That in itself was amazing enough, but you know what else? Turns out, my husband? He LOVESES me. Like crazy.

I have two favorite declarations that I will share with you, unless he gets all embarrassed and makes me delete them, but my guess is that he's got the stones to be exposed as a sentimental romantic without suffering any machismo damage.

There was this unexpected bit of warm-fuzzy:

Alex: "I'm falling in love with you."

Me: "What--just NOW? We've been married for over five years; what the heck took you so long?"

Alex: "Belinda, I'm falling in love with you all the time."


Yeah. Smooth, right? You know you're smiling, unless your heart is cold and dead and black like a burnt-out star. But best of all was a heartfelt, sincere one-liner:

Alex, to Me: "You are my home."


AND, he watched, really WATCHED, the film adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic operetta "The Pirates of Penzance" with me. And he LIKED it, enough to even rewind and replay entire arias! AND he didn't care HOW many times I talked about how unbelievably hot Kevin Kline was as the Pirate King.
Me, I'm looking forward to one BUSTAH of an anniversary come December. And if anyone catches a lyrical reference in this post without Googling, you get to be my new best friend. For at least a week.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It Might Be Better To Stand On The Other Side Of The Mom, At Least For The Picture

Just a thought: If you're a U.S. Senator attending a fundraiser for a middle school that's been burned down, and a newspaper photographer shows up, and among the people present are a variety of parents and a scantily-clad adolescent girl....you might wanna position yourself squarely among the adults. I'm not making ANY suggestion of even the appearance of impropriety, because I'm sure there wasn't any, but in today's political climate... can you really afford to take any chances?

The event was a bake sale and carwash (which I'm sure accounts for the bikini). Were they trying to recreate the car-washing scene from "Cool Hand Luke" with characters based on "Lolita?"

I may have just outed myself as the biggest prude-Mom on the planet, but I'm really just kinda hoping that my daughter won't be making any downtown public appearances in bikini tops and low-rider shorts when she's just finished the eighth grade...especially if there are politicians and/or newspaper photographers around.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

GOBSMACKED

As ever, click images to enlarge. Yes, I know this is a larger home than I'm accustomed to. Yes, I know that it is CRAZY, AFRICA-HOT in Arkansas right now. And yes, I know that this is happening all over Arkansas--heck, many folks in North Little Rock, in central Arkansas, and Prescott, in South Arkansas, are near riot-ready, with some Prescott businesses being forced to close, hopefully temporarily, due to the inability to keep up with their $10,000+ bills for cooling costs. And this month's bill for us is only about a hundred dollars higher than last month's (and last month's shocked us PLENTY), so the mere thought of NEXT month's extortio--um, bill, scares the living wampus outta me.

OH! And let's not forget the simultaneously-due electric bill for the for-sale house...you know, the EMPTY house? That no one LIVES in? That only has night-lights on unless someone is actually there, working on the place?Yup, $700 worth of electricity, all due at the exact same time as Bella's monthly preschool tuition, the mortgage on our for-sale house, and quite a handful of other wonderful, inescapable things. There are a couple of people to whom I have made modest offers of assistance in dealing with some of their own hardships, and I hope those folks will understand waiting just a bit longer. I know that they will.

And just so that this is not a total bummer of a weekend post, I offer you a photographic helping of Southern culinary happiness: fried pickles!And more on flickr, naturally. Oh, OH! For those of you who might have wondered about the incidents which led up to the necessity of installing the Bella-Cam, it was mostly due to our waking up to scenes such as this one (staged on our kitchen floor):

Friday, August 18, 2006

First Week Of Pre-K: A Retrospective

You have never, ever, in your life, seen a child so completely and totally STOKED to begin any pursuit as Bella was to GO TO SCHOOL. She has talked about it non-stop for, literally, WEEKS.

On Monday morning, her first day, Alex and I crept quietly up the stairs to her room to wake her gently, at the unaccustomed early hour of 6:00 A.M. We eased open her door oh, so gently, and peeked in, to be immediately greeted by a bright-eyed, very nearly vibrating, Official Preschooler calling out, "Hi, Mommy and Daddy! Can I go to school now?"

It took us approximately 97 seconds to have her ready to head out the door, skirt at proper length, hair appropriately contained, ridiculously large backpack packed with the pre-directed essentials, and a rose for her new teacher. SHE WAS GIDDY. By the time we arrived at the school building, we could have convinced people she'd had a few double-espressos. She requested I accompany her in, but demanded last-minute Daddy-kisses before going in.Just the slightest hesitation at the door, in which she appeared to consider the ramifications of the weird, scholarly owl. (Who ever said owls were so smart, anyway? I bet they're just as dumb as your typical bird. I think it's that turning-the-head-around thing that intimidates the other birds into believing that owls have some kind of advantage.) And is that backpack BIG enough? "Full-size" backpacks were specifically required.We went in, met teachers, signed in, and were onward to the proper pre-start-of-school "holding area."It was upon arrival here that Isabella first wanted to know what in the world was WRONG with all these people, and mainly, WHY ALL THE CRYING? She sat politely, then began to look more and more worried at the collective weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth all around her.Fortunately, the director finally came to fetch her and take her to her classroom, and it was with a great, huge, ENORMOUS degree of separation anxiety that she bid her dear mother goodbye for the day. Observe:But at least, when I went to gather her again at the end of each day, and crept into her bare-minutes-post-nap group,Once she noticed me, I was always greeted enthusiastically with, "MOMMY! I missed you SO much!" and happy, happy hugs and kisses. More on flickr. So, here's how week one broke down:

Monday: Child reported having a great time, learning numbers, singing songs, eating lunch, etc..."What about nap-time? Didn't you take a nap?" Child reports not actually napping, but "closing my eyes tight--like this--and thinking about clouds." Double-checking with teachers reveals that Child was actually unconscious immediately upon assuming the prone position on her cot. Teachers also report that Child would not assume the part of "leader" in a choo-choo train game in which all the children put their hands on the shoulders of the children in front of them and formed a train that snaked all around the room...Child would ONLY accept "caboose" position in the kiddie-train, due to Child's strong aversion to having the grimy hands of other children touching, and possibly mussing, her outfit. Mother's guess is that the subjects in question were boys.

Tuesday: Child again reports swell time at school, again giving a nap report in direct conflict with that of the teachers. Child brings home note from administration instructing that, in future, Child should not come to school with puffy kitty stickers all over her legs (darned long dresses)--thanks, Erin! Yep, second day, already a note from the teacher.

Wednesday: Child is still happily attending school, talking cheerily about it, looking forward to it. Pick-up of Child today includes a report from the teacher that she had to have a time-out, due to being disruptive (Mother feigns supreme shock at this very notion) at nap-time, but that Child was only momentarily recalcitrant and then promptly apologetic concerning her misbehavior, and did in fact apologize again in Mother's presence on the way out the door. Third day, first time-out.

Thursday: Whole family felt bad, everyone played hookey, and we met Grandmommy Lynette, who drove all the way up from her home to meet us for lunch and bring Bella more clothes and goodies. Altogether a better way to spend a day, in my opinion, but darned if I'm going to poison my school-loving child with my bitterness.

Friday: Disaster strikes. We pick up Child, she clings to us like one of those poor motherless baby monkeys from those Harlow experiments in the 60's, who just had a stuffed doll instead of a live monkey-mommy, and declares upon getting into the car that, for all intents and purposes, she is DONE with school. FOREVER. Reports more naptime time-out trouble, and Daddy reports exchange with teachers involving a story of crying and the disturbing of other children because she "missed Mommy and Daddy" too much to go to sleep. Pretty much all we have heard all day today is how Child shall not be returning to school, because Child "hates school," and has decided to either a.) go to work with Mommy and Daddy every day OR b.) stay at home by herself all day and watch princess movies. I find it difficult to argue with her preferences.

ALSO: Included in today's sent-home material, is a letter of resignation from the preschool director, citing the reason that "...the time has come for me to change directions..." and that "This will be my last day."

Coincidence? We can only hope so.

OH! And additionally, we must report an abrupt, successful and total reformation in Bella's bedtime routine, which has been, at best, a Battle Royale for the last several weeks. Our secret? Well, besides the very regular school routine, we give the lion's share of the credit to Alex's installation of the genius closed-circuit Bella-Cam. BRILLIANT, I tell you. Gone are the nights of being awakened to the sounds of small feet thumping down the stairs, icemakers grinding, 2:00 A.M. sandwich preparation, and even, recently, the SCREAMINGLY entertaining attempted 75-minute microwaving of a Bertolli's Skillet Meal in the wee hours of the morning (this plot was fortunately caught in the early stages of its execution).

With the simple addition of this image, fed directly into our bedroom television (and yes, it has sound), all we need do is to call out a perfectly-timed, "You better GET that leg back into that bed!" Hee. Hear a funny noise? Pick up the remote and click over to the Bella Channel, see what's going on, and put a stop to it! Now, instead of fighting over bedtime for hours, our sweet child is asleep within minutes of going to bed--AT A REASONABLE HOUR. Spying on your toddler/preschooler. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dumps Like A Truck Truck Truck

On our way to pick up Bella from preschool yesterday, Alex and I were stopped at the stop sign at the end of our street, facing the Intersection of Death. As we watched for any opening in the traffic whizzing by in each direction, I was stricken by the sight of a veritable caravan of dump trucks (with a few other trucks and cars mixed in) coming up the hill from our left. Obviously, this line of traffic was travelling a little more slowly than the rest, being as dumptrucks are awfully heavy and not big on the zippy handling.

It escaped me for a moment that nowadays vehicles are being designed with daytime running lights as standard equipment, and what registered in my mind was that this lengthy queue of (mostly) dumptrucks coming sloooooowly up the hill toward us all had their lights on. Now, nobody puts two and two together quite like yours truly, so I, of course, asked my husband, "What is this, some kind of dump-truck funeral procession?"

Alex: "What?"

Me: "Well, there could have been some sort of terrible quarry accident."

Alex: *stares*

Me: "And, you know...maybe they're going to bury their own, with their own dumptrucks!"

Alex: "What are you TALKING about?"

Me: "All these dumptrucks! Going so slowly, all in a line, with their lights on! It looks like a dumptruck funeral procession!"

Alex: "They have to go slow because that's about all the speed they can muster on these steep hills, and those are their daytime running lights. *snorts derisively*

Me: "Yeah, well, my take was funnier. Heh. 'Dumptruck Funeral.' Heh. I know comedy."

*pause*

Me: "Well, except that somebody would have to be dead."

Alex: "That would make it a tragedy."

Me: (grasping at straws of self-respect and preservation of intellect) "No, that would be black humor."

Alex: "Comedie Noir."

And yes, I could tell from the smugness in his voice that he was using the French spelling in his head. Which, in real life, he probably doesn't even know.

OKAY--how about THIS? The funeral was for an actual dumptruck! An anthropomorphized dumptruck? Like, a Tonka? I mean, they all gotta go wheels-up sometime, right? Oh, come ON! That's Gary LARSON funny! Oh, shut up. You know you're gonna laugh as soon as I'm not looking.

And Because I Have OCD AND Insomnia...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Which We Eat Breakfast: Truly Gripping Material

This is not quite one of those "Day In The Life" posts, but it does cover the best part of a recent morning, and it does probably break many of the rules in Mighty Girl's new book, "No One Cares What You Had For Lunch."

A few things fell fortuitously into place last Friday morning: First, it was Bella's last day of "freedom" before beginning her attendance at the No Pantsuits Preschool. Alex was (and is still, if you happen to be one of our "prayer warriors"--and if you're not, feel free to join in) having significant trouble adjusting to his new meds and unable to make it in to work, what with his concentration span being just about long enough to occasionally finish a sentence. On my part, well, since I tank up in a pretty big way on painkillers, birth control pills, Lomotil, and Xanax just before bed, there are a couple of hours in the early morning that are just about my favorite time to be alive, before the routine badness kicks in for the day. Finally, we needed to go to the feed store for provisions, and also to make the now-infamous trip to the grocery store. We needed food, the horses needed food, and (prepare for embarrassing admission) even the dogs needed food, because, since I've been feeling really bad, I have not been up to preparing their wonderful fresh, raw meals--nor even making a batch or two of Satin Balls--and have been feeding them--*gasp*--Eukanuba Premium.

(ASIDE TO THE POODLES: I'm sorry guys; I promise, once I'm well, you'll be back to your good, healthy diet again. Until then, please just eat your doggie equivalent of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese , Ramen Noodles, Twinkies and McDonald's Happy Meals, and I'll try to toss in the occasional hunk of raw beef and/or chicken and some broccoli. Hang in there; it won't be much longer.)

So it was that we were out early enough on that Friday morning that we had the opportunity to eat breakfast out--an unusual treat for us, especially since restaurants offering breakfast around here are rare as hen's teeth. I had, through my perusings of local newspapers, while trolling for grocery coupons, come upon an advertisement of an establishment of which I'd not previously been aware, though it had apparently been right under our noses, just down the road from the feed store and the meat market, and across the street from the Post Office in Cabot. The only other option for breakfast was Waffle House, which kinda makes me wanna hurl, but is acceptable to Alex, so I phoned "Jane's" restaurant and asked them one question: "Are you guys a better choice for breakfast than Waffle House?" The lady who answered the phone was barely able to stop laughing long enough to choke out an "OH, HEAVENS, YES!" so off we went, to the venerable "Jane's Kitchen."Now, I don't know how city folks choose the best restaurants on short notice, say, if you haven't had time to consult Zagat's or the Michelin Guide, or to ask anyone who's been there, and there's no official "rating" or critic's review hanging in the window. You might think that we'd be satisfied with a hearty on-site endorsement such as this:But no, that alone just won't do it. In the South, in matters of roadside diners, barbecue joints, cafes, burger stands, dairy bars, breakfast places, and any dining establishment using one or more of the words "kitchen", "country," "homemade," "home-cooking," "fresh," or "pie," the true test is this: The Parking-Lot Pickup Count. Witness the pickup percentage in the parking lot at Jane's Kitchen upon our arrival:These are your builders, your contractors, your farmers, your roofers, your manual laborers...hard-working men (and women--you'd better believe it!) who need a good, inexpensive, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast to get them through the morning until lunchtime. And to keep them coming back, the food had better be tasty, and the service had better be sharp. Consistently.

The interior was immediately familiar and comforting. Nothing fancy, but it was clean, and I'd seen it a hundred times before.We'd been seated and had our orders taken within about 4 minutes, and even Antsy-Pantsy Bella was happily sipping her milk and making nonstop conversation with anyone who would listen.Despite never in her life having been to a restaurant for breakfast, she ordered without our assistance or prompting, and knew exactly what she wanted: One pancake, one scrambled egg, and sausage, which I knew she would not eat--and she didn't. It didn't take too long for food to arrive, but it was just long enough a wait that we (and all the other Jane's Kitchen patrons and staff) were treated to a bit of "flatware percussion," totally free of charge.But then, Hooray! Breakfast was there! For the Princess, a pancake the size of her head, which made her VERY happy!And since I was caught photographing HER breakfast, I was made to document ours, as well, which, really, is pretty embarrassing. For Dad, that's a Western omelet, bacon, biscuits and gravy...and a Coke. We're pretty sure that's Jermain Taylor's (Notice the awesome t-shirt? Jealous of it?) pre-fight training breakfast.And Mommy did not do any better, really, with her bacon & cheese omelet, hash browns, wheat toast...and also a Coke. Eeep. But really, how often do I even get to eat breakfast, much less a cooked one, much less one that someone else cooked? Not very darned often, is how often.As we were finishing up, about 20 members of the local high school football team came in, and Alex informed me that they had probably just begun their "two-a-days" and had come by post-practice, and were filling up on serious teenage-boy-with-hollow-leg rations before heading home to sleep until time for the day's afternoon practice. Typical orders--for ONE person--were along these lines: "Biscuits and gravy, double order of bacon, pancakes, and sausage." Do you have any idea what I would give for the metabolism of a teenage boy? DO YOU?!? What impressed me about these young "jocks," however, was not their appetites, but rather their manners, which were impeccable. Although totally unattended by any adult presence, their voices were quiet, their tables stayed neat and clean, and every conversational exchange with restaurant staff was peppered liberally with "yes, ma'ams" and "no, ma'ams", and "thank you, ma'ams". They were freshly showered, fresh-faced, and appeared, to my nearly forty-year-old self, to be approximately 12 years old, each and every one of them.

I promise that the next post will not be about what I had for lunch on Saturday.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Truly, It Is Listed.

After all the empty promises, the many procrastinations, the MONTHS of double mortgage payments that I will be in therapy over for years to come; our house, she is finally, really, truly listed. Please, especially if you are in central Arkansas, and in the market--go. Check her out. She's rather cute, priced right, and in a heck of a sweet spot. And I hear that the sellers, they are the salt of the earth. Good People. You can't go wrong.

(Note to mothers: scroll through and enlarge the pictures, and sob along with me at the darling "carousel room" that was my sweet baby daughter's very first room ever in her whole life, and that we're just leaving behind like cold, callous, unfeeling CLODS!! *SOB!* And then realize that in a few hours, I'll be taking that BABY to PRESCHOOL for the first time! **SOB!!**)