Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just Me?

Does anybody "get" that stupid Wendy's commercial with all the tree-kicking people, and the doofus in the "Wendy" wig? If I'm not eating Wendy's, I'm a tree-kicker? Maybe I'm just old. If you are young, and this commercial is funny, please let me know. I'm off to get some kasha and have a nap.

My issues with the current Burger King ad campaign inovolving "the King" would just open up a whooooole 'nother can of worms, and...well, my nap, you know. Must go.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Enchantment: Broken

fairytale

This photo illustrates the kind of day I was having with my daughter Saturday. She was all make-believe and swishy skirts and thoughtfulness, and I was along for the ride. That night before bed, we were reading.

Bella: "That word is AMAZING." (We were reading "Spiderman" comics)

Me: "Sure is. Wow, you are really recognizing a lot of words--you're getting closer and closer to knowing how to read all by yourself, huh?"

Bella: "Sure am." (Gee, wonder where she gets that?) "Do you know that I am going to be five years old in October? And that after that, I'll be six, and then seven, and then eight, then nine, then TEN?" (Ten is how old her cousin Grayson is now, and however old he is, is to her, the ultimate goal, and where she stops counting.)

Me: "Yes, I know."

Bella: "I am growing up."

Me: "Yes, you are, and it makes me sad, a little, because I want you to stay just like this, and never grow up."

Bella: "I know, me too, but I am growing up all the time."

Me: "Yes, you are. I just wish you didn't have to."

Bella: "Well, I do. And after I am grown up, you will be dead."

Me: (*blink, blink*) "Well, I hope not for a LONG time!"

Bella: "Oh, yes. For a long time."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Bella: "That I am going to be a grownup for a long time, and you are going to be dead for a long time."

Me: "Well, let's see how Spiderman escapes from The Living Brain, OK?"

*poof* Spell broken. My daughter, master of the reality check. I'd better get it into gear and get some stuff done.

She refused to kiss the frog, despite his promises.
Ribbit.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Yet Another "Mommy-War" Media Stab...DEFLECTED! HA!

Take that, "Today" show.

Well, let me set this up for you a little. Just recently, Isabel Kallman, the founder, CEO, and heart of Alpha+Mom, began (finally!) her own blog on her site, titled "Minding my Business." It looks very promising, so far covering topics as diverse as the genius invention that is the Knork, to the way corporations advertise and market to children and their mothers, and I've really been enjoying it.

Today's post at MMB is about Isabel's appearance on "The Today Show" this morning. She opened the floor for comments on the segment, and since I commented my guts out over there, I'm just going to regurgitate it here, and encourage everyone to visit Isabel's site, and check out the video of the "Today" segment, and see if you're getting as irritated with Meredith Vieira as I am.

I was rather disappointed in the way the piece was framed (beginning with this iVillage-sponsored post on this NON-TOPIC), and I'm staring to feel some serious frustration directed at Vieira--even though she may not have much editorial control over what stories get produced, she sure pushes the same old buttons, again and again. Also, HATED the taped piece that preceded the live interview, because it seemed it was only there to set up the stereotypes for the verbal sparring match they hoped would follow. The "alpha" moms appeared cold and career-driven, in sterile indoor settings, surrounded by technology and seeming to give their children only partial attention--while the "beta" moms were shown all earth-mothery and warm and nurturing, in outdoor, lush, green environments or cozy living areas concentrating ALL their attention on their children...all they were lacking was soft focus and cartoon bluebirds.

Isabel said, "Overall, I was incredibly pleased that the conversation did not [degenerate] to an argument about whose style of parenting is best."

This was not from lack of trying on Meredith's part. When Isabel gave one particularly eloquent, and I thought definitive answer indicating that there is no "versus" in this equation, M.V. came right back, before Isabel really even finished speaking, with, "BUT, Rene, don't you feel that there's a backlash against ["alpha" moms]..." Made me INSANE.

Isabel said, "Rather it focused on that ultimately what is important is to do what is best for your family."

I would have to say that 90% of that "focus" came from ISABEL, and I thank her for staying on-message so articulately.

Isabel said, "I think that is really a testament to how well the segment was produced. I think credit should be given, when credit is due."

Which is why I'm giving it to Isabel Kallman, instead of the segment's PRODUCERS, who I really, very strongly, feel were trying like all get-out to create another tempest in a teapot by pitting mothers against each other, yet AGAIN. (Honestly, is this all they can come up with for discussions on parenting?) But she denied them the cheap sensationalism they craved by refusing to take the bait, and I can't applaud her enough. Thank you, Isabel.

As to the question posed in Isabel's post, "What is an "alpha" mom?", by the "Today" show's standards, I could not be further from their definition of what an "alpha" mom is. (Let me just interrupt myself here to give you an example of the "scientific" criteria that Meredith Vieira pulled out SO proudly to illustrate how we moms are defining ourselves, according to an inane iVillage poll: You are an "Alpha mom" if "your kid's socks always match." You are a "Slacker mom"--don'tcha just LOVE that term?--if you answer "who needs matching socks?" You are "Both" if "your kid's socks may not always match, but at least they pass the sniff test." SERIOUSLY. I am not making this drivel up.) But I'm here to tell you, I identify strongly with what I find at Alpha+Mom on a regular basis, applaud the bloggers they've chosen to feature, and enjoy and appreciate what they've created and are nurturing, and hope to be a part of the community and continue to benefit from it for as long as they'll continue providing this springboard for thought and discussion.

Still waiting for that hot media debate over various types of FATHERING, and "this" Dad versus "that" Dad. Got a feeling I'll be waiting a while.

Now get over to Isabel's place and leave her some feedback. Please?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We're Not Divorced, But I'm Definitely Choosing the Destination of the Next Weekend Getaway

As I type this, my husband lies beside me in bed, shivering, snoring, mildly convulsing, and quite possibly dying. OK, that last part is not terribly likely, but you can't tell it by the way he acts when he's conscious. And while I feel sorry for him, because I love him and hate to see him suffer, a tiny part of me feels like he had it coming, first of all for dragging us into the Arkansas jungle primeval on an otherwise pleasant Saturday, to be feasted upon by all manner of malicious flora and fauna, then for being foolhardy enough to wear SHORTS on this trip, and also simply for not having the kickin' awesome poison-ivy-defying gene that I inherited from my mother. Sucks to be a mere mortal in the poison-ivy-susceptibility department.

Here's how it went down: Three weeks before Father's Day, Alex asks if we can go fishing, AGAIN, on Father's Day weekend. Well, sure--I mean, it's Father's Day, right? And he's got this spot in mind. This amazing, awesome, secret spot where the brown trout are MONSTERS and the hybrid bass eat those for bait. Oh, it will be incredible, he says, his eyes lighting up like a slightly feverish child's on Christmas Eve. I am instructed in the important differences between playing and reeling in the trout and bass I know, compared to the leviathans we'll be pulling in at the spot. He "briefs" me on how there will be a little bit of a hike through some woods, and a "kind of steep" climb down a cliffside to get to The Land of Mythical Fishing. Special purchases must be made, such as giant live bait in the form of minnows larger than my koi and huge angry-looking crawdads, braided high-tensile fishing line (that won't break under the weight of the monster fish), and mountain-climbing rope. In hindsight, it's that last item that really should have tipped me off, but, you know, I do love him, and occasionally, that is blinding.

A week later, he's getting anxious about the trip, because it's getting hotter every day, and he's afraid if we wait until Father's Day weekend, it will be too hot for the giant fish, who apparently will all have by this time retired to their summer homes in Colorado, where the river we're to be fishing from begins. Could we please go THIS weekend? Do you mean instead of, or in addition to next weekend, I ask, and am assured that it's INSTEAD. Well, sure. Why not? There are a million things I'd like to get done, but see above, the loving of the husband.

So on the appointed day, we load up our supplies, including the good camera for the photographing of our trophies (which will surely be so large that we'll have to release them), and head upriver. We do have to make an additional stop for more bait, and once again, I might have missed an important omen at the bait shop (by the way--why does a SKULL require an EYEPATCH? Does he have lazy-eyesocket?).
With more gigantic bait in hand, we depart the baitshop, and make for the spot. Or at least the departure point for the spot. We're carrying forty-leven things, it seems like. I have the rods and reels, and the camera in its giant, super-padded case, about which I complain frequently, being convinced that it was originally designed to transport plutonium, and is indeed overkill for carrying a camera. (I don't feel that way any more, and you'll see why soon enough.) Alex walks ahead of me into the woods, and--I believe I mentioned earlier that he was wearing shorts--in the woods--in Arkansas--in June--I soon notice that he's stopping every few feet, putting his stuff down, and slapping/swiping/flicking things off himself, particularly his legs. Oh, great, I think. Ticks. Arkansas ticks. The kind that leap onto any warm-blooded animal within 40 feet. At this point, I'm not feeling horribly threatened, because shorts, and white socks on Alex, while I have worn dark jeans and doused them, and the rest of myself, in insect repellent (though I will realize too late that, having not purchased the insect repellent myself, it is not one of the formulas with DEET, so I might as well be dipped in blackstrap molasses).
In about a hundred more feet, ticks are all over me. I'm blowing them off my arms, plucking them from my neck before they can bite, and imagining them all throughout my hair. I can not WAIT to get out of these woods and onto the rocky riverbank (what a fool I was to hold out that hope for relief). We reach the stopping point, and Alex instructs me to wait while he scopes out the best route of descent to the spot. I can't even see the river, but I can hear it. He disappears, and I get out the camera and take a few shots of the dam far away in the distance, congratulating myself for bringing the BIG lens for the camera. After a while, and a few dozen more tick removals, I'm ready to move, and begin to look for Alex. What I found, I think, should have sent me screaming back through the woods to wait in the car with the motor running, the AC pumping, and the XM Radio blasting until my husband came to his senses, but once again, I was hamstrung by the stupid love. I was here, he was there.
You can barely see him, and I had a 300mm zoom lens! He's there, in the center of the picture, facing left, in the white ballcap (tick beacon). I still don't know how he got down there, but he was looking for the best way for ME to get down. He picked a spot for me to begin my descent, and once I'd set foot over the edge of the precipice and slid ten or twelve feet against my will, he informed me that I should have started down backward. This day late/dollar short advice went over WELL, as there was no way I could turn around at this point without bouncing and rolling all the way down into the river...although I did miss a prime opportunity at yelling, "Aaaaas yoooooou wiiiiiiiish!" before I died from the impact. So I basically slid painfully and far too rapidly down a near-straight incline, through dirt, shale, and what I knew was poison ivy, before finally fetching up on the unforgiving black rock at the bottom, occasionally encountering one of these guys, who, having fallen out of Alex's bait bucket on his way down, was ready to do some damage to the next thing it saw...that being me. Yes, there was screaming. Shut up, until it happens to you.
And here is where I make the only two concessions I am willing to make about this day. One, the spot was beautiful.
Two, the Plutonium-worthy camera case totally earned its keep by making the bounce/slide down the cliff with me and keeping my camera completely safe and intact.
So now that we were both down at the water's edge (so to speak--the water being still many many feet below us as we perched on the rocky cliff), Alex began fishing, while I alternated between taking pictures and peeling layers of solid tickdom off my person and clothing. He caught and released several regular-sized brownies and rainbows, but while the monster fish were not in evidence, the monster ticks WERE. Also, the humidity was somewhere in the neighborhood of 189%, so the sweat was pouring, and in that process attracting MORE ticks. And then, this crazy Stephen King-John Carpenter FOG rolled in, and imbued the ticks with super-powers, making them into supernatural heat-seeking, bloodsucking, MISSILES, and suddenly they were everywhere, and we (I) decided it was time to flee. For our LIVES.
I almost wish I had some sort of visual evidence of our escape. Almost. Because it was either heroic and death-defying, or tragic and hilarious. Either way, probably downright entertaining. I had decided to cross the river at the shallowest point, and let Alex drive around to get me, because I'd tried to get just a few feet up the incline, and it simply wasn't happening. I'd seen some young men fly-fishing in the water, right in the middle, so I knew that the deepest point was walkable, and the current was fairly still. In the meantime, Alex had somehow (probably due to his actually HAVING some upper-body strength) managed to haul himself up the cliffside, clutching onto anything that would provide purchase and dragging himself through the underbrush...both of these items being, generally speaking, poison ivy. Yeah, it'll poison you, but it's good for climbing!

I finally, out of sheer desperation and powered by Tears of Rage, found the strength to climb up just far enough so that I could reach the mountain-climbing rope Alex tossed down, to tie onto the camera case, which had become like my baby ("Leave me! Save my Alpha-100!"), so he could haul it up to safety. At this point, I still had every intention of swimming for the opposite shore. While Alex and I were debating this (I have every confidence in my swimming ability, and absolutely NO delusions about my prowess at something like, oh, CLIMBING, and knew perfectly well which one was more likely to leave my child motherless should I attempt it), the far-away klaxon sounded at the dam, which meant that they were just about to open up the generators. I'd have made it about halfway across the river before that water caught up with me and showed me exactly where the monster trout were. DANGIT. So now it was climb or die, because the water was also going to rise above where I was standing.

Alex lowered the rope again, as I screamed at him to please, for the love of God, dally it on something so that I wouldn't pull him over the edge and kill us both. I clawed and scrambled my way up through the same poison ivy and rocks that Alex had just traversed, but with the help of a strong man and a strong rope--if either of those elements had been missing, there is no way I'd have made it to the top (of course, take one of those out of the equation, and I'd never have been down there in the first place anyway). I surfaced, and lay on the blessedly flat ground sobbing and heaving and trying to catch my breath, and NOT speaking, for fear of the flames that might shoot out of my mouth. Once I could stand, I just sobbed, "I want to go HOME," took my camera (baby), and stormed out of those woods as fast as I could (which was, in retrospect, probably not all that fast), with Alex right behind me, saying either, "I'm sorry," or "I love you," every few feet. I think he was afraid that my head was going to split open and release a demon at any moment, which would tear off his skin and eat it while he watched. He wasn't far wrong, there.

When we finally made it back to the truck, we got to spend a really fun half-hour de-ticking each other. The whimsy! The romance! And we'd get one trip around the body de-ticked, and they'd already have multiplied so that we had to start over! Alex was able to take his shirt off and leave it behind, but all I could lose were my socks, shoes, and bra. We were throwing ticks out the windows all the way home, literally every minute or so. Is that even the best part? NO! The best part, and the reason that the world should be thankful that the Millers do not live next door to them or in any suburban setting, is that once we arrived home, we shucked every stitch of our clothing in the driveway and left our tick-infested wardrobe in a heap, then proceeded into the house naked and fighting for the shower. I won. The rest of the evening was spent in a tick-induced paranoia, because we could feel them all the time, whether they were there or not...but they usually were. I actually engaged a friend in helping me to research what kind of neurological damage I would do to myself were I to apply the dogs' Frontline Plus to the back of my OWN neck. I'm not kidding.

The worst of it for me was that first three days, because I've always reacted badly to even mild tick-bites (and thankfully, mild ones were all I had, although I stopped counting at FIFTY). I ran a low-grade fever, and could only stay sane by basically staying sedated. Benadryl inside and out, and more hydrocortisone cream than you could shake a stick at, plus jewelweed soap (if you ever get poison ivy, I'll whomp you up a batch).

Alex, on the other hand, was bitten savagely on the legs, possibly because he just HAD TO WEAR SHORTS AND WHITE SOCKS TO TICKSYLVANIA, resulting in some lesions which, a week later, have the appearance of...something bad.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? Maybe. Lyme Disease? Possibly. Bloodwork was performed for both today, and he has already been started on a round of doxycycline just in case, since we won't have the results for two more days. He's also had a dose of Benadryl and a sleeping pill, so I'm not expecting him to wake up for a while. Which is good, because he mostly moans and asks me to rub unguents into his leprosy.

And what of all that poison ivy, you ask? Well, like I said, we fairly well rolled and dragged ourselves through the stuff, but Alex got the worst of it, partly because he made his way up the cliff using arm-power without benefit of a rope, and partly due to my inherited near-immunity to the oils of the poison ivy plant. I didn't escape unscathed, though. I'm not bullet-proof against the stuff, it just takes more than casual contact for me to be affected. And since my arms were pretty well dragged through the oily leaves, I have a couple of blisters to show for it, this being the worst, on my left forearm:
Meanwhile, Alex looks like he has a form of flesh-eating virus. We're hoping he doesn't lose the arm.
Cue massive outpouring of sympathy...now. :-(

And yes, I realize that I switched narrative tenses in the middle of this story. I do that a lot, sometimes even back and forth again. This is why I'm not a novelist.

More photos here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can't...Stop...Laughing

Poodle loldogz

If YOU'RE not laughing, please go rent the movie "The Princess Bride," STAT.

Photo and dogs are my sister's, caption by Alex.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

While We're Waiting For Me To Post Something Meaningful...

Let's revive the old "I DARE YOU!" group on flickr, and post a new challenge. During the several months that I have ignored that group, there have been many good suggestions from members for new challenges. You might remember the refrigerator challenge, the pantry challenge, and the dinner-at-hand challenge.

Well, we're getting out of the kitchen, and indeed out of the house now, thanks to our lovely hostess at Breadcrumbs in the Butter, and the new challenge, at her request, is.....SHOW US THE INSIDE OF YOUR CAR! Just run outside and take a snapshot of whatever vehicle YOU personally drive the most, WITHOUT cleaning it up first. Make notes to label random stuff that might be in there. At least two pictures would be nice, but add as many angles as you like, even the exterior if desired. One must be from the vantage point of the driver's side, looking in, and then the rest can be back seat, hatchback, cargo area, whatever you like. If you'd like to take several from different spots, feel free.

Post your photos to the I DARE YOU! flickr group (you will have to join first--it's painless), and starting now, we'll run separate "threads" for each separate challenge. Please post your pics to the I DARE YOU! pool, AND to the INSIDE Your RIDE thread within the pool.

OK...ready, set...GO! No "staging!" (And if you don't have a flickr account, just post the challenge photos to your blog, and leave a comment here with a link to where your pics can be found.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nope, Don't Want No Trouble

Just a little while ago, Alex was pestering Bella as only Daddies can pester little daughters--teasing her, chasing and picking her up, acting like a "monster" so she'd squeal and run, etc. All of a sudden, having apparently had enough, my 4-year-old daughter whipped around on him, and with an impishly gleeful look on her face, shouted, "YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?"

And then she tackled him.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I Have No Idea What This Post Is Going To Be About

But I do know that if I don't just start typing something, this entire effort is going to wither up a die, so off we go!

My whole life has seemed tied up in horses and dogs of late, and it's left me drained of emotional energy for much else, including writing about all of it. The upshot of it is that moving to this larger house on smaller acreage is forcing me to let go of several animals, and I haven't been happy about it. When we had 10 acres of gorgeous Tifton 44 Bermuda grass, and a 5-stall barn, a handful of horses just wasn't a problem. Over here on Goat Mountain (no, it's not REALLY called that, but the description fits, and I include this disclaimer because there really IS a "Goat Mountain" near here), however...ugh. Horses do not thrive here without a lot of help.

The only grass on this entire 5 acres is on our not-enormous lawn...which means that that's where the horses have been living. In our yard. Staring in our bedroom windows, and scaring the snot out of me when I open the door to go outside. We just had no other choice. Hay is nearly impossible to come by, and up until just a couple of weeks ago, there was not any to be had except for some pretty scraggly cow hay. What do you do when there's no grass and no hay? Well, you go to a "complete" feed, like Purina Horse Chow or Equine Senior, because it contains roughage (Equine Senior is actually a great complete feed suitable for horses of just about any age). Which is fine, except that now you're paying $.32/lb. for something that you have to feed 50-75 pounds of EVERY DAY, on top of grass hay that now costs $6/bale due to the shortage.

You can see where this is going. So I have been in the process of placing horses, and crying about it. No one has actually left yet, but two have new owners and one more is pending, and I'm hustling to haul equines to the vet this week for Coggins tests so that they can start leaving for their new digs. What we'll ultimately be left with is my Misha, who I will give up over my very dead body, and Bella's pony, Magic. I expect us to have Kate a while longer while we try to find just the right spot for her, because with her great beauty comes the bonus feature of being as wild as a jackrabbit, and it's gonna take a special home.

I also have about three more dogs than I should right now, mainly because I don't let go of them in a timely manner when they're pups. We have not historically actually let very many puppies go, and the whole prospect makes me kind of a nervous wreck. The upside is that keeping them for a year or more does allow me to have spays and microchipping performed (Have I ever sold a female puppy yet? No, I have not. Don't push it.) so that I don't have to stress about that.

Also, the silver puppy that we kept out of the 2006 litter, Betty, has just refused to grow enough, I'm afraid. So it may be that I'll have to find a pet home for her, as well, though I'm giving her as much time as possible to gain as much size as she can--she's only 7 months old now; she could still grow a little, right? Sure, right.

There was also a whole very emotional episode going on with a relocation, but I am very happy to report that that situation is happily resolving under the loving care of Julie in Chicago, who now has TWO Ninja Poodles under her roof instead of one. How much better does that make me feel? This much better:
I love you to bits, Jules.

Is there more to talk about? Oh, yeah. LOTS more. I have the best "Spring Bipolar Report" EVER to log, and I'm just immensely pleased and proud of Alex and relieved on his behalf that something seems to finally have clicked chemically and is working correctly, meds-wise, because that is a roller-coaster that no one wants to ride, and it is JUNE, people. JUNE, do you hear me? That means we got through MAY bump-free for the first time ever, not to mention March and April, which are generally no fun, either. Let's hear it.

I couldn't get my act together to go on my first real Flickr meetup, but we did manage to meet one really cool Flickrite for an afternoon of food and photography out in the middle of some cotton-fields.

Last weekend, I spent way too many brain-cells thinking up stupid captions to put on pictures of my pets. That's right, lolcats. And loldogs. And, heaven help me, lolhorses.

If this boggles your mind, you need to visit icanhascheezburger.com for a few minutes. Or maybe you should just save yourself, and run for your life while you have a chance.

I bought some shoes. I bought some art. I Twittered. I was nominated, not once, but twice, for a "Thinking Blogger" Award. STOP LAUGHING. My next post will be getting to that, though it's made that much more challenging since two of my would-be nominations for the award are the very people who nominated me. They feel pretty superior right now, those non-procrastinators who got around to it first. Most of you are probably reading this, thinking, "Gee, to qualify as a Thinking Blogger, wouldn't one have to, say, think? Or at the very least, BLOG?" Yeah. You'd think so, wouldn't you?

Shows what you know, n00b.