Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A New Addition

I have now officially survived my first full week in almost 20 years without having a dog in the house and like I predicted it would, it pretty much sucked. Although I spent a lot of time complaining about poop, shedding, selective hearing, barf and pee, I really miss my dog. Even though he spent most of the time sleeping and toward the end, never even got out of his bed to welcome me home, I knew by the way he glanced at me out the corner of his half-open eye that he was happy to see me.

Within hours after returning from the vet without Cosmo, we started contemplating the next dog and, more specifically, when we should acquire said dog. I, of course, made a list of reasons as to why the next dog should join our family later rather than sooner:
  1. We needed time to grieve, mourn, be angry, be depressed and finally, accept the fact that Cosmo was gone. Having a new puppy might result in us skipping the depression stage.
  2. I'm taking Zach to a national tennis tournament in Arizona at the end of October, and even though Doug is staying home, he wasn't planning on staying home with a new puppy to take care of.
  3. The only thing harder than house training a dog during a Minnesota winter is training a dog to play the piano while simultaneously barking to the tune of "Girl From Ipanema."
  4. I want to experience the luxury of welcoming green grass without first having to pick up a Winter's worth of dog shit in the backyard.
  5. Our schedule in the Spring, because of tennis, is best described as "chaos."
  6. We aren't home during the day very much in the Summer, so having a new puppy just to leave him home alone all day when it's nice outside would be mean.
  7. I just donated most of our dog stuff to the humane society.
  8. It would be great to be able to take at least one vacation without having to worry about our dog-sitter's schedule.
  9. Being able to mow the lawn without having to pick up dog poop first would be, well...a first.
  10. Puppies are a lot of work.
After reviewing the list, we came to the conclusion that the best time to get a new puppy would probably be next August. Our hectic summer schedule would be done, the kids would have a few weeks to hang out with the dog before school started and I would be able to take advantage of having a couple months of house training-friendly nice weather.

So I guess that explains why, on Monday, I drove two hours one-way, spent time in one of the stinkiest, noisiest, most cluttered houses I've ever seen, and am now introducing the newest member of our family: Danger, a 13-week old Schnoodle.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Literary Cleaning

Although my need to clean could often be categorized as obsessive, anal, or sometimes even OCD freakish oh my fucking hell Jody can you just leave the candy wrapper on the table for four seconds without spazzing out, there are some things that I do not do on a regular basis:
  1. Wash windows. There are people with really big ladders and really cool squeegees that do a much better job in a shorter amount of time for not that much money. And besides, within minutes after I get the windows washed, it either A) rains, or B) a bird with really good aim flies by and, well, you can probably figure out the rest.
  2. Move heavy furniture just so that I can vacuum six pieces of fuzz from underneath. Now, if a kid were to spill an entire box of Nerds underneath a dresser and the vacuuming was rewarded with the satisfying sound of thwack thhhckckc thwick, well, in that case I would voluntarily be moving heavy furniture.
  3. Clean behind the refrigerator every month because that seems insane.
  4. Shampoo the carpet three times a year. Instead, we take our shoes off, don't smoke, and refrain from spilling giant plates of sauce-based foods in the family room.
  5. Dust each and every book on the bookshelves.
According to statistics, not only does the average adult read only four books a year but in addition, one in four adults reads zero books. And if you're wondering where our family falls in this statistic, the average would be around 25, since Doug manages to get through at least 50 books a year and I manage to find the plot lines and identify the antagonist in exactly zero. And because Doug isn't a guy that goes to the library and just recently switched over to e-readers, we have a lot of books. Like, multiple shelves of books. And yes, these shelves are confined to one room that isn't in a high-traffic area, but nonetheless, they still get dusty.

Since we have recently become a petless household (except for Zoe's goldfish, but it doesn't shed), I have been on a mission to eradicate every corner and crevice of this house of all dust, lint and traces of dog hair. So I figured since I'm spending so much time with dust rags, cans of Pledge and Swiffer cloths, I might as well tackle the bookshelves while I'm already sneezing.

Luckily for me, Real Simple included a short article in it's September issue called "A Big Bookcase: Decluttered and Dusted in 15 Minutes or Less" and I thought holy shit! Really? A big bookcase dusted in 15 minutes? Or less? That's fantastic! These must be some amazing tips! Turns out, the article should have been located in the fiction section, subsection humor.

Minute 1: Put on an apron with pockets and lay an old sheet around the base of the bookcase.

I do not own an apron, let alone an apron with pockets. Besides, I thought I was going to be cleaning a bookshelf, not baking a cake. And because of my need to get rid of things I do not use (example: old sheets), I do not own an old sheet.

Minute 2: Scan your books. If you see any you've been meaning to get rid of, toss them in a pile for donation.

Upon scanning, I notice that there are several books that I wouldn't mind getting rid of, if I also wanted a certain someone named Doug to have grounds for divorce. But I also came across an organization book and temporarily got distracted.

Minute 3: Load your apron pockets with a few Swiffer sheets and a dozen silica-gel packets. Use an extendable duster and swipe the top of the shelf.

Again, no apron pockets to load and what the hell do they mean "Minute 3?" I was supposed to be able to scan a big bookcase worth of books in one minute? It took me closer to 28 minutes but at least I got some great ideas about organizing a pantry. Oh, and the silica-gel packets -- are they talking about those little paper packets that are printed "DO NOT EAT" that come in shoe boxes that I throw away within seconds of taking the shoes out of the box? This article is getting weirder by the word.

Minutes 4 to 5. Use a hair dryer to blow dust off the tops and spines of books, working your way from the top to the bottom of the bookcase.

This seems like a really great idea, but where do they think all that dust is going to end up? I'll tell you where: 50% of it ended up coming to rest on the wood blinds, which are even less fun to clean than the bookshelf, and the other 50% ended up lodged in my nostrils.

Minutes 6 to 9: Pull books halfway out, four or five at a time, and dust behind the books with a Swiffer sheet.

Realistically, this would happen during minutes 38 to 57, but at this point who's keeping track.

Minutes 10 to 12: Push books all the way back and use a Swiffer sheet to clean the area in front.

OK, even though I don't dust the entire bookshelf every week, I do manage to dust the area in front of the books every few days without hating the chore. But now there's so much crap in the air from their moronic hairdryer suggestion that my eyes are watering heavily and I can't stop sneezing. Now I hate this chore.

Minute 13: Wipe the frame of the bookcase with a Swiffer sheet or duster.

I'm now using the Swiffer sheet to blow my nose.

Minute 14: Reposition books a couple of inches from the edge of each shelf. Toss a few silica-gel packets behind each row.

I'm finally done sneezing and am seriously contemplating opening a beer. But first I think I'll go shoe shopping in order to acquire a few silica-gel packets.

Minute 15: Roll up the sheet and shake the dust from it outdoors. Now peruse your pristine library and find the right title to read next.

While this sounds really tempting, I think I'll skip the whole "let's fling more dust in the air so it can enter my sinus passages" and continue with my streak of zero books a year. And while I'm sure that Doug will manage to find something to read, he probably won't be pulling it off the shelves of the newly clean bookcase. Because he already downloaded the book to either his iPad or Kindle, where the books are neatly organized on digital, dust-free shelves.

Friday, September 24, 2010

General Discomfort

We've all seen them -- those kids that seem to be completely oblivious to what they're wearing. They never take the time to acknowledge mismatched socks, scratchy fabrics, denim that gouges into their hip bones or a coat that is just a little too tight through the back. They happily go through their days with the backs of their necks rubbed raw by an offending tag or wearing a long sleeve shirt on an 80 degree day. And even though I can't tell you the names of these kids, I can tell you one thing about them: none of them are named Zoe.

Throughout my daughter's entire six years of existence, I have been put through a wide range of wardrobe drama. There was one winter when an insanity switch went off in her head and, for some bizarre reason, she refused to wear a coat in the car. Yes, we live in Minnesota so yes, it does tend to get a little chilly in January. Usually, these sub-zero temperatures are tolerable when a person wears a thing called a coat, even when said coat isn't always zipped up. Zoe, however, was more than happy to accept feeling a little chilled over wearing something so ridiculous as a coat. And fortunately for her, she never actually froze to death because I managed to generate enough heat for both of us every time we got to the car and I had to hastily take her coat off, strap her into her car seat, wave my arms around in exasperation and then throw the coat at her head.

Then there was the now famous Sock Phase. She wouldn't wear any socks that didn't have the grippy writing on the bottom, and they couldn't be too thick, but for crying out loud those are too thin! And why are these so long? No, I need to be able to fold them over three times, these only fold twice. No, I don't want those because they're too pink. No, no and (sigh) just, no. These are kind of itchy, and these make the floors feel too slippery. These keep falling off, these leave lines in my legs. What this all came down to was me buying size 2-3 yr. white triple-roll socks at the Gap. In bulk. And then one day, right after I had stocked the sock drawer with a fresh batch, she decided she was done wearing socks with the grippy bottom. Because they were too sticky.

In addition to the coats and the socks, I've also endured shirt issues, a refusal to wear denim, demands that all tags be cut out of everything worn on the top half of the body and, after showing a genuine fear of wearing a perfectly harmless 100% cotton A-line dress, there was that one time she went to grandma's house in nothing but her underwear.

For some reason, though, since her sixth birthday there isn't anything she won't wear. Skinny jeans with embellished pockets? Hand 'em over! A ribbed, fitted top with long sleeves? Love it! A dress? Look at me spin around! Suddenly, just like that, getting my daughter dressed in the morning is stress-free. Enjoyable, even.

And, of course, just when Joy steps in, Drama comes along and insists on bringing along his asshole friend, Reality.

Since school has started, I've had to listen to her complain about how she can feel her sock seam every time she puts her shoes on in the morning. Apparently, after spending a summer in nothing but flip-flops and sandals, we are back to having sock issues. Usually, though, if she holds the sock with the seam aligned just so and after I make a couple attempts at putting the shoe on and sigh really loud, she shrugs her shoulders and gives me a look that says "well if that's the best you can do then I guess I'll just deal with it."

A couple nights ago, she went directly from school to the club because her brothers had a tennis lesson. (I know what you're thinking: A) what nights do my boys not have a tennis lesson and B) how many times have I typed the words "...brothers had a tennis lesson," right!?) While there, she was running around with a friend playing tag, climbing on some chairs and also made about a dozen trips to the water fountain. Toward the end of the hour, she complained that there was a bump in her shoe that was bugging her. I told her to just live with it for a little bit longer because we're going home soon and I'm sure it's just your sock. And besides, I really didn't feel like going through the whole shoe off/fix sock/shoe on/shoe off/shoe on ordeal. She said no, this feels different and I need my shoe off now. Like, now. Not later. NOW! I said fine, let's see what the problem is and as she took off her shoes and I had my "see I told you so, I knew it was just your sock" speech all cued up and ready to roll off the end of my tongue, this is what came out of her shoes:

On the bright side, at least I don't have to start buying triple-roll socks at the Gap again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Almost exactly fifteen years ago, I was pregnant. And while some people will always remember this pregnancy ending in a miscarriage, I will always think of that pregnancy resulting in our dog, Cosmo. After all, the dog was as much my husband's doing as the pregnancy was.

You see, immediately after I returned home after spending a day in the hospital undergoing a D and C, my big brothers appeared at our house. My first thought was oh, that's really nice of them to come over and hang out with their little sister while I'm an emotional wreck, but I wonder if they realize that I'm not in the mood to make any food? And then Doug said oh good, they're here, and I thought what do you mean good, they're here? You knew they were coming over? And then a little white dog started running around our house, which made me happy but sort of pissed off our "I'm-already-king-of-the-canine-part-of-this-family" beagle, and I said "Awww, he's so cute! Can I keep him? I mean, ha ha. Can you imagine having a second dog? Just kidding. But HOLY SHIT LOOK AT HOW CUTE HE IS!"

That's when Doug said, well yeah, that's kind of the point, I got us another dog. He knew that my brothers' neighbor bred rat terriers and that he had a litter ready for new homes, and he knew that we had both been anticipating an addition to our lives, so he arranged for my brothers to pick a dog out for me and deliver it on one of the most emotional, heartbreaking days I've ever experienced.

And fifteen years later, because of this dog, I just experienced another one of those sad, emotional, heartbreaking days.

Cosmo's health has been gradually declining over the last six months. Diminishing eyesight, hearing loss, disorientation, fatigue, a tendency to trip on things and the increasing I'll-poop-where-I-want-to-attitude left us with no doubt that he was, in fact, getting old. The dog-age experts -- or whatever it is that they call themselves -- say that a dog is the equivalent of a human senior citizen at the age of seven. So in Cosmo's case, he was more like a centenarian and I don't know many guys that age that are still out chasing squirrels and able to make it to the bathroom all the time, every time.

Early Monday morning I opened the door to our mud room, where he sleeps, and was immediately hit with the smell of poop, mixed with pee, with a slight top note of dog barf. I quickly surveyed the body fluid bonanza and that's when I saw Cosmo having what appeared to be a small seizure. He was covered in poop, sort of half-standing, half-sitting on a clean corner of the rug, swaying from side to side and drooling. This was not good.

I quickly cleaned up the mess and lit a candle, tried to comfort the ailing dog and started thinking about how I was going to tell the kids that today was the day that they were going to have to say one last goodbye to the dog before they left for school, and hey don't forget your backpack! And then I started to cry.

While the boys ate breakfast in silence, I gave Cosmo a bath so that he didn't have to go to the vet smelling like an old man that just pooped his pants, holding him the whole time so that he didn't fall over in the sink. After his bath, he laid down on a clean blanket and shook while the boys sat by him and said their good-byes. And I cried some more.

I am grateful for the fact that Doug took the morning off to come to the vet with me. I am grateful for the fact that we were both in agreement as to what needed to be done and the excruciating decision that needed to be made. What I'm not grateful for, though, is having a veterinarian that dared to place a shred of doubt into our heads while we stood there with our drooling, delirious, unable-to-stand dog.

Seriously! Our kids, especially Charlie, were emotional wrecks, the dog was obviously suffering, and we were trying to be responsible pet owners by making sure that the four-legged member of the family didn't suffer any more or any longer than absolutely necessary. And here was the vet, looking into our teary eyes and suggesting that, after charging us a couple hundred bucks for the office visit and sending us out the door with our geriatric dog and some drugs, we could medicate him into a pain-free haze, have the kids watch him drool, fall down and poop on himself for a couple more days and then, when his condition didn't improve, we could say goodbye. Again.

In the end, Doug and I held Cosmo's head while he slipped away and, although that day sucked more than any other Monday morning ever has, we didn't, and we never will, have doubts about the decision we made.

But I miss my dog.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dreaded Phone Call

Someone flipped the switch on the summer temperatures, the apple orchards are open for business, and I just voluntarily filled out a volunteer form for the elementary school (Yes, I checked the box next to "I am not a registered child abuser," but no, I did not check the box next to "I want to be a worker bee"). Individually, none of these things is very significant, but when combined together, it makes me extremely grateful for one thing: Zoe is not in kindergarten anymore, which means that I won't be volunteering for apple cooking day.

(originally posted on October 19, 2009)

When I notice that the number on Caller ID is from the elementary school, I always hesitate to answer because it's most likely the Volunteer Coordinator catching me at a time when I don't have a credible excuse ready. Then I think, "What if one of the kids is really sick?" or "Maybe the school is on fire!" only to hear the VC say: "Hello Mrs. Adkins! I'm glad I caught you at home! We're looking for a couple mommies who want to come in and bake apple goodies with the kindergartners!" Shit.

"Um, I don't think I can make it that day. I see on my calendar that I have 'snort large amounts of cocaine' penciled in. I'm pretty sure I can't reschedule that." See what I mean by the lack of credible excuse thing?

"But, Mrs. Adkins. The kids are so excited about peeling their own apples and making apple crisp!"

"I was recently listed on the child abuse registry. Pretty sure I can't hang out with a bunch of kids that need a good spanking."

"Oh, but Mrs. Adkins! When you listed yourself as a child abuser, you checked the box next to 'willing to volunteer in messy classroom activities'! See you on Wednesday!"

So, two days later I'm in the hallway, watching a bunch of kids with no fine motor skills clutching a sharp peeler in one hand and an unwashed granny smith apple in the other. I stood behind them, mortified, wondering how many fingernails and skin shards were going to be sacrificed for this educational experience.

After retrieving more than a dozen hacked up apples out of the garbage can, and dispensing more than a few band-aids, the other volunteer and I decided to let each kid take two swipes at their apple, and then we would let them watch us do the peeling. I know, I know, they were supposed to be much more involved... measure the flour, understand how ingredients come together, and boy oh boy that cinnamon sure does smell good! However, after seeing the snot hanging out of so many nostrils and the grime under their fingernails, not to mention the fact that they were all making me resentful of the fact that I was missing cocaine day, I wanted to get the hell out of there. So peel, peel, watch, sniff the cinnamon, and now go back to the classroom.

I brought the apple/skin crisp home to bake it and noticed that some of the apple chunks had an odd tint. Some were purple, some orange and a couple were definitely blue. Turns out that while the kids were waiting for their turn, they were in the classroom coloring...with markers. Tells you how good those hand washing skills are.

The next morning I popped that sucker in the oven and informed the 11-year-old that unless he wanted to eat Crayola for breakfast and be known as a cannibal, he should probably resist the temptation to pick at the pan while it was cooling. And I've never been so happy about the fact that the kindergartner won't eat fruit that's been cooked. Or, as I discovered, colored on.

Zoe came home from school that day with a sheet of red paper that read: "Your child celebrated Fall today by making apple crisp! He/She learned about measuring ingredients, fractions, and working as a team." Yeah, sounds pretty accurate. And I'm glad they left out the part about the weird control freak mom that kept sniffling and wiping her nose.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zoe's Words of Wisdom

Some of my favorite moments as a parent happen when I'm out and about with Zoe, especially during those rare times that she's wearing a dress, has her hair in symmetrically placed pigtails and looks, well, sweet. And like a girl. Inevitably, though, a stranger will strike up a conversation with her, having already made the assumption that her temperament and vocabulary match her appearance, and that's when they discover that judging people based on their appearance is a very foolish thing to do.

Occasionally she'll break the ice with a poop joke, or a pee joke, or really go all out and tell a poop/pee/diarrhea joke. She never plays with dolls, has a hard time being stationary, loves saying "Holy crap!" and usually has a scab on her knee. She recently learned how to slide headfirst into bases while playing baseball and is finally able to hit a one-handed forehand. And she never hesitates to share all of this information, and more, with perfect strangers.

Luckily for me, she has never said things like "Mommy's needle marks are healing up quite nicely, don't you think?" or "I used to have a bruise here, and here, and another one over here that was shaped like a hand, but you can't see them right now." There's only been one, okay maybe four times, that she's taken the initiative to order for me at happy hour and, after making a few observations while watching me fill a few 3 oz. bottles, she no longer asks why I bring a big box of tampons to concerts and baseball games:
  • You're sure being careful. You probably don't want to spill, huh.
  • Wow, you're sure putting a lot in there.
  • So, if it's a treat how come I can't have some? I like treats.
  • Oh, it's that kind of treat.
  • Can I try? I'll be helpful. I promise I won't spill.
  • Why do you need so much?
  • Wow, you're sure good at that.
  • I could help you put it in that big glass later. Like a server!
  • Good job mom! You didn't spill at all!
The best things, though, come out of her mouth when I least expect them and, surprisingly enough, aren't even alcohol-related:
  • (while watching Shark Week) Sooo, why do they need a shark?
  • If I take out my eyeball, would it hurt?
  • You only get ill when you eat something very big. You'll be okay if it's sorta small. Like Smarties. Or a chicken.
  • Nothing is fun to do. I want to do something special. What? The park? No, I said something special.
  • Hey, how about if you put your foot over there and I'll run by and trip.
  • You'll never touch your head to the ceiling because eventually everyone stops growing, including you.
  • Well, you could grow out, but then you'll just want to spend all your time going to things like the State Fair and stuff.
  • Sometimes I get diarrhea, especially if I eat too much watermelon.
  • Why don't you want me to have caffeine? Cuz you want me to sleep?
  • I don't like to eat grass, so it's a good thing I'm not a wild animal.
  • I bet it would really hurt if I swallowed this fork.
  • This cereal gives me food from all the food groups: the grain group, the sugar group, and the, um, Life cereal group.
  • I don't like this pudding. It's too grimy.
  • Can I have that cheeseburger with just cheese and no burger?
  • What? You don't have any lemonade? Well, I guess I'll just have lemonade then.
  • What's Labor Day for? Am I supposed to be planting a tree or something?
  • Did you know I talk a lot? It seems like I'm talking all the time.
Yes, Zoe. I think I've noticed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Positive Reinforcement

Last year, when Zoe was in kindergarten, having a couple hours of freedom each morning seemed like the ultimate luxury. I would hurriedly run errands, put groceries away and occasionally get a workout in without having to worry about the shortest member of the family getting bored, hungry, thirsty, angry, lost or having to pee, and I loved it. Now that she is in first grade, though, this means that, for the first time ever, all of my kids are in school full-time, and I can't stop smiling. And even though my days of solitude aren't as long as I thought they'd be -- the boys start and end their school day an hour and a half before Zoe's school -- life is good.

Now, after having a week to adjust to this newfound freedom, there are a couple things I've noticed:
  1. For the first time in fourteen years, I'm not responsible for getting lunch for anyone besides myself. Well, not responsible after I have made sure that whoever is planning on bringing home lunch on the day that a fish sandwich is on the school menu remembers to actually bring the lunch that I have made. Or making sure that there is money in the lunch accounts. And usually making a lunch for Doug. After all of that, I'm not responsible.
  2. Everyone, and I mean everyone, asks me "So what are you doing with all your free time?" and "When are you going back to work?"
  3. I've never in the past, and I never will, drink beer with the people that have the balls to ask me these questions.
  4. Being able to pee without someone talking to me through the door isn't as luxurious as I thought it would be.
  5. The volume on my stereo can be turned up pretty high.
  6. For a person that has spent the last few months having kids around them all the time, an hour of solitude is the equivalent of one month in therapy.
So now that I'm not spending my days being constantly pestered with questions or breaking up arguments or hearing pleas of "can I have a ride to ___?", I'm hoping that, when the kids walk in the door after school, I'm a more patient, empathetic and nurturing parent, ready to listen and offer up supportive, nonjudgmental words instead of the usual "what the hell were you thinking?"

As if on cue, I came across a list of phrases that could be used to praise and encourage a child. After all, every kid likes to hear how awesome they are but overworked, stressed out parents don't always know how to express themselves without rolling their eyes, throwing their hands in the air and/or yelling. Now I just need to figure out when to use them:

Scenario: Kid returns home and announces that they forgot a lunchbox at school.
Phrase: Hurray for you!

Scenario: It's 9:30pm, and kid realizes that four pages of homework aren't completed, because they were left at school.
Phrase: Outstanding performance!

Scenario: It's a relaxing Sunday night, until kid pulls a note out of their backpack that says "please send a can of frosting, three pieces of blue felt and a bag of gumdrops to school, by Monday morning."
Phrase: You're on top of it!

Scenario: On the way to piano lessons, kid realizes that they forgot to do three pages of theory.
Phrase: Hip, hip hooray!

Scenario: After walking in the door from tennis, kid puts everything away, except their water bottle, because it's still at the club.
Phrase: I'm glad you are my kid!

Scenario: Enjoying a couple hours of free time by playing Xbox, kid becomes so relaxed that they don't realize it when the phone rings/UPS man arrives/mom is talking to them.
Phrase: You're a real trooper!

Scenario: After being asked to take out the garbage, kid slowly gets up, goes to the bathroom, and promptly forgets to take out the garbage.
Phrase: I appreciate your help! Magnificent!

Scenario: Kid oversleeps after failing to turn on an alarm clock. Again.
Phrase: I'm impressed! Outstanding!

Scenario: On Friday afternoon, husband says "It's been a long week and we're both about to go insane. Let's go to the bar."
Phrase: Wow, you're smart! I like you!

I would have said "Hell yeah I'll go to the bar, even though it's a little too late because I'm already insane," but that phrase wasn't on the list.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Hanging in my upstairs hallway are three picture frames, one for each kid. Each frame is divided into nine sections, and under each section it says kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and on and on it goes until 8th grade. When I purchased these frames several years ago, I wondered why they didn't bother to include the last four years and instead, chose to stop at 8th grade. Now I know why.

When I was a kid, I dreaded school picture day. The only pictures I truly like are from kindergarten (because my smile was genuine, and I smiled my ass off) and, even though my hair was ginormous, my senior year (because they were taken by an actual photographer that was paid large sums of money). Between those years, the pictures are nothing but a documentary of perms gone wrong, braces, zits and, most of all, self-conscious smiles. You see, it was around 2nd or 3rd grade that someone was kind enough to point out to me that when I smiled, my eyes slammed shut and ended up looking even slantier than they already were. What resulted from me hearing this comment was spending the next decade half-smiling for school pictures, intently focused on keeping my eyes open.

Zach, on the other hand, has never taken a bad school picture. Even in 2nd grade, when I got a call from the school nurse immediately after he had his picture taken and she was pretty sure that he was sick judging by his high fever, and even though he must have felt like crap while he was sitting on that little stool under the bright lights, he took a great picture.

And so far, even though she only has a pre-school picture and kindergarten under her belt, Zoe seems to be continuing down the same good picture path. But then, looking back through all of the pictures I've taken of her over the years, the girl has never taken a bad picture, so I don't think she'll have anything to worry about.

Charlie, on the other hand, has a spottier history. His kindergarten picture is like mine -- the classic tooth-filled grin with his eyes slammed shut. Then there was the year that the moron photographer made him say Scooby-Doo right as the flash went off. And then there was the year that, despite being reminded multiple times that he should wear something non-ugly because it was picture day, he went to school in a zip-up hooded sweatshirt. Fortunately, I don't have that one in an 8x10.

Because of the fact that our junior high requires all students to wear a photo ID tag while they're in school, pictures need to be taken at the very beginning of the year. Or, in the case of the 7th graders, the pictures were already taken at orientation before the school year even began. Charlie, surprisingly enough, not only asked me to help him, but actually wore the outfit that I suggested. I'm sure the pictures will be great.

Zach's picture was taken yesterday, and although the event was written on his calendar and he had a couple reminders from me, I'm pretty sure he forgot, because our morning went a little something like this:

ME: Don't forget to pack your tennis bag this morning, including clothes.

ZACH: Umm, I'll just wear tennis clothes to school so I don't hafta change.

ME: You shouldn't wear tennis clothes for your school pictures. That's what your tennis pictures are for.

ZACH: Oh, uh, yeah, well, huh.

ME: So don't forget to wear something non-hideous.

ZACH: Hhuuummmmmhhhgr.

ME: (20 minutes of silence later) It's 7:23. You need to get off the couch and get to the bus stop.

ZACH: No, it's only 7:22. I don't hafta go yet.

ME: (ssssssiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhhhh)

ZACH: Okay, now I'll go. Oh, is this outfit okay for pictures?

ME: Well, I can't really say that it isn't, because you don't have enough time to change. So I guess, sure, that outfit is great (even though it wasn't).

ZACH: No, these shorts are going to look bad. I should go change.

ME: Maybe you should have thought about this earlier, instead of while your brother is standing in the garage waiting to get on the bus that is on it's way. Just go.

ZACH: But I'm wearing a t-shirt! With a logo on it! I look dumb!


ZACH: Well? What should I do?

CHARLIE: Zach! I hear the bus! What are you doing?

ZACH: Thanks for your help, mom!

ME: Smile nice, dear! I'm sure they won't notice your shorts.

Considering the fact that he wore a shirt he hates and, because of the palate expander in his mouth working it's magic, he now has a gap between his front teeth which are also home to a new set of braces, I'm thinking that Zach's picture this year will be the equivalent of smiling too wide, saying Scooby-Doo, slamming his eyes shut and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, all at the same time.

But hey, at least that picture frame I have hanging upstairs stops at 8th grade. And no, I did not order an 8x10.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Scavenger Hunt, Part Dos

Some couples celebrate their wedding anniversary by showering each other with diamond encrusted gifts, jetting off to extravagant weekend getaways, eating dinner at expensive restaurants or maybe even renewing their vows in front of hundreds of friends and family members. Doug and I, on the other hand, chose to celebrate the anniversary of the day that I wore white satin by exposing our senses and digestive systems to the Minnesota State Fair, surrounded by 234,382 other people who thought that last Saturday was a perfect day to strap on a fanny pack, put on some walking shoes and, apparently, wear the most god awful, hideous, ridiculous looking outfit ever to be worn in public.

Since I recently created The Mean Mom's State Fair Scavenger Hunt, I decided to have even more fun during this kid-free trip to The Great MN Get-Together and rack up some points. But within minutes of walking through the gates and witnessing the cornucopia of checklist material, I realized that I would never be able to hold my list, a pen, a beer and a tray of reuben balls without dropping something. So I did what any responsible, mature, moral person would do -- I took pictures instead.

It's not everyday that you see a guy wearing higher heels than his lady friend. But then, it's not everyday that you see two adults wearing this much pleather. At least her bag adds a splash of color and her black jorts are stylish. If this was 1989.

Not only is this is a scooterin' couple, but I'm 99.9% positive that they were also scooterin' rookies because she almost took out three people within five seconds trying to figure out how to operate a piece of machinery designed for the physically challenged. She kept yelling "Wait up! Wait up dammit!" while popping the clutch, peeling out and repeatedly killing the electric engine.

Apparently, even gimps get a hankerin' for mini donuts and cheese curds.

I realized after I chased this guy down and took this picture that I had been yelling "Holy shit you guys! It's a grown man wearing a Spider Man shirt! Check out the Spider Man shirt! On an adult! Hahahaha!" Fortunately, he never turned around and shot me with his webs.

This guy is blending in, thanks to his giant chameleon.

I'm not sure which is stranger: The guy voluntarily hauling a gorilla around on his back, or the girl wearing a shirt that is buttoned up the back. I'm thinking the shirt, but it's a close one.

There is so much happening in this picture that you can't see: A) The girl is swaying with intoxication, B) He has crazy eyes, C) They had just been fighting and screaming but realized that people could hear them so they brought it down to a conversation That. Goes. Like. This. Can. You. Under. Stand. Why. I'm. So. PISSED! But at least he has jeans that fit well. If you're the kind of person that just took a dump. In your pants.

Okay, so five minutes after the previous picture was snapped, the girl sat/collapsed down on the curb and started sobbing, and the guy, well, he was obviously really upset that she was crying because he spent the next few minutes texting while looking around with those crazy eyes. Something tells me they won't be celebrating a 17th anniversary.

This couple wins the Most Prepared To Be A Lazy Ass and Haul Free Shit Home From the Fair Award. The scooter built for two, the blue bin normally designed for camping trips and garage storage, the matching hats, the whole bungee cord system to keep the bin and Mildred from flying off the back and the insane level of thought and organization that went into the whole operation. Basically, if I were a psycho fair-goer and wasn't so focused on just drinking beer, this is probably what I'd look like. Except without the hat.

So here's the thing, when I put "Barf on the street" on the scavenger hunt list, I didn't mean that I actually wanted to see the person putting it there. In fact, I would be fine never being able to claim those points! I was unfortunate enough to find this girl standing in front of me in the bathroom line and I made sure to stay back, out of the splash zone.

This girl was also out of the splash zone, which is a good thing because can you imagine how unsightly barf spots would look on these lovely tube socks? And that mini skirt with the exposed slip hem, I gotta get me one of those.

Now is when I will apologize to a certain friend named Betsy because I'm about to steal one of her photo captions from the past: Custody Day Dad.

Stop wiping your sugar and grease covered fingers on my new Amish quilt! And unless I acquired you from a Grandstand vendor, get your ass out of my wagon!

This kid is going to rock and roll all night and party every day! Or, at least he'll rock and roll until about 10:00 and party every day until school starts and he has to go study spelling words.

At first I thought maybe Vince Neil was in town for the KISS concert, you know, supporting the rock 'n roll/heavy metal industry and catching up with old friends. And then this guy turned around and I realized it wasn't Vince Neil at all. In fact, the guy's name was probably Brandon or something.

What you can't see happening behind the free UCare tote bag is these two lovebirds holding hands. That's right, people! 250 lb woman with a 90 lb boyfriend! One point for me! Wait a second, only one point? Who made this stupid list and assigned one measly point to this amazing find?

Dammit! I forgot my boombox in the back of the El Camino! Rico, run on out to the Giraffe Lot and grab my boombox! And grab me a Chuckwagon sandwich from the Deli Express booth on your way back!

I think it's pretty neat how she matched her belt to her bag, and her muffin top to the decorative edging on her purple shoes. And I'm not sure about this, but I'm pretty sure those pants are painted on.

The quintessential Fairgoer. The braids, the pleather backpack, the nursing home green jacket paired together with the scrubs blue pants -- this is the fair-going look that thousands of people strive to achieve but can never quite accomplish.

I know it's hard to see, but if you look really close you can sort of see a line. And if you were able to look to the left of this picture, you would see that the line stretches one block up the street. And if you could see further into the picture, you would see that the line is five people wide and snakes through a building, and the people in the front of the line have been waiting for a couple hours. So now you're thinking, these people must be lining up for some spectacular shit, right?!

Wrong. They're lining up for this backpack. This piece of crap, is going to break in a matter of hours, sewn together by underpaid women in Uruguay, stiffer than the sole of a Birkenstock backpack.

It was kind of chilly when we were there so I was prepared to forfeit all bikini top, miniskirt and wife beater points. And then, for a few brief seconds, the wind died down, the crowd parted and five points appeared.

Seriously, you can never have too many pictures of kids on a leash. And this is worth bonus points, because her walker is wearing a fanny pack. Maybe she has some treats stashed in that fanny pack. For when, you know, the girl does a cool trick or something.

I think this guy was at the Fair for the KISS concert, but you can never be 100% sure. He might have just worn this outfit because it's really roomy, comfortable and extra colorful, thereby making it easier for his wife to spot him in a crowd. Oh what the hell am I saying...this guy doesn't have a wife.

I thought about standing in the crowd, raising my hand and quizzing the lady about cocktails ("Can I make margaritas? How about pina coladas? Does it whip up a good daiquiri?") but honestly the only reason I went near this live action infomercial is because it was on the way to the bathroom. And it was worth five points.

Doug hates it when I phrase things like this, but -- who wears jeans like this and a shirt like that? (answer: she does). Who wouldn't notice that her waistband is cutting off the circulation to her lower extremities? (answer: this girl) Wouldn't it be uncomfortable to have your entire waistline lopping over your pants? (answer: probably) Who walks out in public dressed like this and thinks Damn I look hot? (answer: again, she does.)

Yes, I get it. You like people to look at you. You wake up in the morning looking like a normal person before you go to your part-time job at Staples or PetSmart, but after your shift is done, and after you spend hundreds of dollars and just a few hours in front of the mirror, voila! You get attention!

Mommy please? Can I please have my face painted like a mime? Then I could do that cool trick where I pretend like I'm trapped in a box, or that other cool trick where I pretend like I'm walking into the wind! Please? I LOVE mimes!

If this guy had a theme song, I predict that it would go something like this: "You've got a lot more, goin' for you at Hank. Hardware Hank."

Well, either that or "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog."

I am proud of this shot because instead of making things easy for myself by loitering around the Fair-Do booth where I would have a wide assortment of Do's to choose from, I waited for the tiara adorned wad of cotton candy to come to me.

Okay honey, I got the beer, the crap we bought in Heritage Square, the giant pig, and I got the -- oh crap! Where did we leave the kid?

Oh, there she is.

It's impressive that the appeal of KISS has managed to reach so many different people. The young and old, boys and girls, thin and, um, did I say young and old yet?

I really do like the camera on my iPhone. It somehow managed to capture the chemistry between these two and accentuated the sunlight as it plays off of their mullets.

Somebody get this boy a rental scooter!

When you're a parent, at what point do you look at the midway prize and think "there is no way in hell that thing is coming home with us." Is it A) When the carni is handing it to you, B) When your kid gets tired of hauling it around, or C) After the prize has been sitting in grease, dirt, spit, horse poop residue, spilled beer and decaying food?

Hold on kids, I just have to text mom and let her know that she is married to a moron.

Okay, so I keep forgetting...who was playing a concert at the Grandstand on Saturday night? Oh yeah, that's right. It was Garrison Keillor.

After seeing more pair in one evening than I ever wanted to see in a lifetime, there will be an addition to the Scavenger Hunt for next year: jeggings.

Hey, check out the Bump-it on the chick in the black shirt.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A New School Year

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think I'm ready for summer vacation to be over. The last few months have been great and, in addition to a couple vacations, we've all enjoyed some much needed time off from science projects, weekly piano lessons and alarms going off at 6:15. But now, after an especially easy August, I feel like it's time to return to reality, mainly because I'm pretty sure that if you were to peer into my kids' skulls, all you would find is something that resembles an overcooked bowl of oatmeal that has been sprinkled with the occasional bit of brain.

Before the backpacks go out the door tomorrow morning, though, I'd like to ask the schools for a few simple things that would make not only mine, but everyone else's lives a little bit easier.
  1. Please create family accounts for lunch money. Then I would only have to deposit money into one account instead of a separate account for each kid, and my kids could all use the same PIN. Currently, each kid has their own account, which means that they each have to memorize a different PIN (and, of course, the PIN changes when they change schools), and I get three separate emails notifying me when the balance drops below a certain amount and please deposit more funds immediately before your kid receives the Stamp of Shame on his hand and is only allowed to eat a cold cheese sandwich.
  2. About that PIN -- would it really be that hard to let a family choose what their pin number will be? I didn't think so.
  3. And about those lunches that I pay for -- please make them edible. And while I'm all for trying to broaden the kids' horizons and encouraging them to try new food, putting sliced beets and collard greens on an elementary school lunch menu seems a bit, well, moronic.
  4. We live .9 mile away from the front door of our elementary school, which means that I am responsible for getting my kid to and from school each day. The lady that lives an additional tenth of a mile away gets to put her kid(s) on a bus. Please adjust my property taxes accordingly.
  5. I know that science projects can be educational, but assigning 25 of them only manages to teach one thing: a hatred of science. Please keep the maximum number of projects to be completed within one school year to three. Four tops. Zero would be even better.
  6. Feel free to omit the three-week swimming unit from the junior high phy ed curriculum.
  7. Feel free to add a unit called "How to use deodorant" to the junior high health curriculum.
  8. Maybe this issue was specific to our school district, but next year I would appreciate it if the kids' junior high schedules could be posted sooner than two days before the first day of school, during Labor Day weekend.
  9. Instead of teachers waiting until the first day of school to tell the kids all about the additional, specific supplies they're going to need for each class, why can't they post them online ahead of time? Believe it or not, there are some families that don't thrive on the thrill of hunting for school supplies.
And one last request: The majority of the teachers I know are spectacular people that love watching kids learn, give selflessly, work whatever hours are necessary and genuinely care about their students. But to those teachers that are incapable of using common sense, never reply to emails, assign more homework than is necessary over the weekends "just because they can" and seem to derive pleasure from watching good students make mistakes, A) You will not receive a good Christmas gift from me, and B) Knock it off.