Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's go out with a bang, shall we?

As we stare 2009 in the face, I realize that I don't think I told you about my near-death experience in 2008. Not that it was *really* near-death ... that's for dramatic purposes, of course. Except that ... well ... it was actually near death.

And all because I'm a klutz.

It happened on the trip to Alaska I took with my mother in September. We took the same cruise, with the same port stops, as Blaine and I had taken the year before. Since he and I had such a wonderful, magnificent, and I mean, "Holy Cow, can you believe the scenery?!?!?" experience during our float plane excursion in Ketchikan, I booked the same trip for my mom and me this year. Same pilot, same plane, same brief moment of air-sicknesses when she dipped right over that last mountain pass heading back into the cruise ship area .... but I digress.

This excursion includes a float plane trip over the Misty Fjords and around the mountains near Ketchikan, viewing glaciers, waterfalls, sea lions, eagles, and even two bears' butts last year! (Hey, what can I say? Apparently our plane scared them and they were running for the woods.) Then, the pilot lands on a lake (which is really the ocean inside the mountains but I don't understand all that geography crap) and you get to get out and walk around for about half an hour, marveling at the scenery and taking photos.

Last year we stopped at a lake in the mountains and it was breathtaking. When I mentioned to the pilot this year that I had taken the same excursion with her last year, she asked me to describe the lake as best I could so she would be sure to stop somewhere different this time. The lake we stopped at this year was smaller, with not as much "shoreline" to walk on. There was a small waterfall running right down the side of the mountain near us, feeding into the ocean at our feet, and much of the "bank" was slippery, uneven rock. Plus, for whatever reason, the mosquitoes were freaking ginormous and some kind of mutant vampire mosquitoes (yes, still thinking about Edward) because they were relentless ... constantly swarming our faces near the water. Gah!

Up where the waterfall came down to the bottom of the mountain there was a small ice-cave-sort-of-thing that I wandered over to explore. Michele, the pilot, my mom and the other passengers were standing near the water. One passenger had dropped his glasses in the lake and the pilot was digging them out with a net, then she brought out a topographical map of the area (yawn) PLUS the mosquitoes were vicious ... so I moseyed over to look at this neat ice structure.

It was really cool looking, no pun intended, and quite a bit bigger than it appears in this photo. I decided to get a little bit closer and really see it for myself.

Then I decided to get a LOT of bit closer. It was very neat to watch the waterfall inside, plus, even better, the mosquitoes wouldn't come that far because the temperature was so much lower inside the cave-part. I stood and watched the water for a few moments, then decided to get as close as I could.

This was the "point" at the front of the cave. Inside, it was probably fifteen or twenty feet high .... definitely neat to explore, but I'm the world's biggest weenie and I got cold, so I headed back down to the lake to see what my mom and the others were doing.

As I walked over to the group, I was treading lightly over the rocks near the water, balancing myself very, very, very, very carefully.

Um .......... apparently not carefully enough, because sure enough, I slipped and fell right on my ass. Just like one of those banana peel moments in a cartoon. My arms pinwheeled to the sides, and my feet flew out in front of me and I landed -- hard -- on a rock with my butt. To add insult to injury, like I wasn't embarrassed enough, my camera, which was slung around my neck, flew up and hit me right on the nose -- hard.

So I jumped up quickly because a) how embarrassing! and b) omg my new camera! and everyone looked over at me with exclamations of concern. I was trying to laugh it off because ha-ha! What a klutz I am! and of course I'm ok!

When not ten seconds later, the ice cave I had JUST BEEN STANDING INSIDE collapsed.

The crack was like gunfire, the ground under our feet shook, and everyone in our group jumped, even the pilot. The rumbling lasted for several seconds afterwards, reminding me of what an earthquake must feel like. Granted, a teeny-tiny-mini earthquake, but still .... pretty cool. Michele, a 20-year bush pilot in Alaska, immediately started telling our group how rare it was to experience something like that close up, and that our timing was incredibly lucky. I blurt out with, "As long as you all understand that was NOT my fault for falling on the ground right before hand --- I didn't CAUSE that collapse with the force of my rear hitting the ground!"

And everyone laughed, and oh, aren't we having a grand time in Alaska .....

Then my mom, visibly shaken, said something along the lines of how I was *just* in there and how lucky it was I had walked away. At which point the pilot sort of freaks out and says, "You went UP IN THERE??? Are you KIDDING??? Don't you know how DANGEROUS that is???" and then talked about how terrible she felt that she didn't see me walk away while she was digging that guy's glasses out of the lake or she would NEVER have let me walk that far up there, and oh my GOSH, I could have been KILLED, and blah blah.

And I laughed and assured everyone that I was fine ..... but it wasn't until later, when I really thought about what had happened, that I was forced to admit that it was damn lucky I wasn't standing under all that ice when it fell.

While I would like nothing more than to think the pilot and other passengers in the plane would have rushed heroically to dig me out of the pile ..... well, it *was* a little scary to think about, nonetheless.

This is the view as our plane was taking off again:

Yeah ......... should have taken my chances with the mutant mosquitoes.

And here's wishing you and yours a very safe 2009 ---- just one tip ---- don't go exploring in any ice caves in Ketchikan, Alaska.

I would still wear a poodle perm, that's why

I took Kendrie to the orthodontist today (Hello, Phase I! Goodbye, money!) A mom came in with her two teenage daughters and sat down next to us. I noticed the older sister first, simply because she was in the chair next to Kendrie. She was cute, well-dressed, and had to-die-for hair. Long, sleek, shiny, straight. Either she has a very close relationship with a flat-iron, or she is genetically blessed.

Then I noticed her bangs. They were less than an inch long and stuck straight out - literally - from her hairline. The rest of her hair was so long and well-tended that my first thought, honestly, was that some naughty little brother must have gone after her with scissors in her sleep. I mean, no WAY was that NOT an accident!

Then I glanced at the younger sister and her bangs were the same way.

So either this was some kind of weird DNA hair mutation, or bizarrely short bangs, at a 90 degree angle to one's face, is all the rage for 2009.

Anyone care to enlighten me? I've been trying to grow my bangs OUT for the past year ... don't tell me it's time to chop them again!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Young Adult

Rita, let me assure you I was not offended in the LEAST by your observation … in fact, I thought it was funny. And completely accurate! I was actually thrilled to realize how much I enjoy young adult, as it opens up a whole new world for me at the library. I’m sure I’ll be sinking my teeth (Ha-ha, get it?! Another Twilight joke!) into many more YA books in the coming months and like you, am just glad to be reading.

Kathleen in GA, the rule in our house (normally, unless I’m being lazier than usual) is you have to read the book *before* you can see the movie. Without a doubt, knowing that Twilight was coming out in movie form was incentive for Brayden to stick with such a long book. It was actually the Harry Potter series that made me create that rule for my kids …. No WAY can they fit everything from a 500 page book into a two hour movie, and this rule makes me happy and hopeful that my kids won’t miss as much as they might if they were to go straight to the movie (probably because I’m a meanie-face-bossy-pants, but oh well.)

Tammy in OH, there are lots of things about this series that I admire. ::warning – spoiler alert – spoiler alert:: I read online (although I have no idea if this is true) that the author is Mormon, and I do see some of that spilling over into the book. None of the teen characters drink or smoke, except for one brief scene where the grown men are having a beer while watching a football game, I believe. The language is not exceptionally bad (or maybe it is, and because I’m a potty mouth myself I just didn’t notice …. But I really don’t think so.) It is very, very clear that the characters in this book (parents, siblings, and friends, not just the two central love figures) care deeply about one another and want to protect each other. Loyalty is key. Bella is very concerned throughout about not hurting her parents with her actions, which I also admire. (Not to say she doesn’t wind up doing it anyway, but at least it gives her pause most of the time.) Selflessness and sacrifice are central themes. The two main characters *do* wait until they’re married before they have sex, and in addition, Bella, the heroine, was still a virgin when she met Edward at the age of 17, something I was glad to read the author make note of. I think the first two books portray a very accurate perception of obsessive teen behavior, or “love”, if you will. I think the author spot-on nailed the longing and the wanting and the fanatical infatuation that can happen. (Ahhhhh, happy memories of my high-school sweetheart …..) But, I also think those feelings and emotions won’t make much sense to my eleven year old. Dear Lord, at least I hope they don’t! I also think the “longing” and “wanting” is much more detailed in book three, which is why I will make Brayden wait awhile before moving on past book two. And like others have said, the sci-fi element of book four was not as enjoyable to me, and definitely beyond the concept of what my eleven year old can grasp, understand, and enjoy. So for now, Twilight and New Moon will be as far as she can go.

Cate, I had every intention of making Brayden send you a thank you e-mail, and I’m embarrassed it hasn’t happened yet. She loves her t-shirt more than you can know … thank you!

Thanks also to those of you who’ve put your favorite YA books in the comment section. Ya’ll should know I’m a total book hound who is always looking for a suggestion. Or two or eight or ninety. Since a few of you asked about my recent reads, I thought I would share the list. For some odd reason, many of them are sci-fi, even though that’s not the genre I usually choose. I think because it’s what my kids have been reading for school, it’s where I gravitated as well. And, in a don’t-knock-it-until-you-try-it mode, I’ve discovered books I enjoyed thoroughly, that I probably wouldn’t have taken notice of, otherwise.

YA books I’ve read lately and enjoyed:

The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Haddix. Read the first one on Kellen’s recommendation, he and I both read them all, but not together. I am REALLY looking forward to starting her next series, Found.

Uglies, Pretties, and Specials by Scott Westerfeld. Read the first one because Brayden was reading it, went on to finish the trilogy on my own. However, I only recently discovered there is another book, the Extras, so I guess I need to track it down as well.

The White Mountains by John Christopher. Read it because it was required reading for Kellen’s book club. Didn’t enjoy it *quite* as much as the others, but still a good read.

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen. Found it a little unbelievable that a 12-year old girl could fend for herself so successfully for so long, but it was a good read.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, and Notes from the Midnight Driver, both by Jordan Sonnenblick. Extremely enjoyable, and want another of his books, Zen and the Art of Faking It, next.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. I know, it looks silly, and it sort of is. But it’s funny! I also enjoyed DWK 2, Roderick Rules, but I think the Do-It-Yourself Wimpy Kid book 3 is nothing more than a pathetic marketing attempt to sell something to kids and make a profit. Don’t sell my kid what is essentially a bunch of blank notebook pages for the price of a hardback book. Oh, wait. You already did.

YA books I have read lately and didn’t enjoy:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Is it against the law for me to admit that? I know it’s considered a children’s classic, but, well, Kellen and I both were bored to tears. It was for a book report and in fact, about three quarters of the way through we bagged it and he read a Hank the Cowdog book instead. Yep, Hank the Cowdog. Now *there’s* a classic!

The Secret Prince by D. Anne Love. This is the abandoned book that led Brayden and I to read Twilight …. Totally uninteresting to both of us. In fact, this is exactly why I’ve never bothered with Lord of the Rings, because I assume it will be just like this. Prophecy. Quests. Magic swords. Yawn.

And there you have it. Everything young-adult I can think of off the top of my head that I’ve read the past two or three months.

I also recently read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. Shockingly, simply reading the book did not, in fact, give me financial peace. Do you think that’s because I charged it at Barnes and Noble?

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I recently re-read Stephanie Meyer's Twilight with Brayden for her second 9-weeks Science Fiction book report. You might remember. I certainly complained about the diorama loud enough.

On Friday, I re-read the second book of the series, New Moon.

Saturday, I began and finished Eclipse.

Today, I began and finished Breaking Dawn.

Let's review, shall we?

I have not made breakfast or lunch for the past three days, despite the fact my entire family is home on Christmas break.

I have not put away a single Christmas decoration.

I *have* made dinner all three nights, but haven't bothered to set the table and eat as a family because I have eaten off a plate on my lap, sitting on the sofa, reading.

I have a headache.

I have what is possibly the world's worst crick in my neck from looking down at my book(s) for three solid days.

I might very well be in love with Edward.

Or perhaps Jacob.

But I still don't feel as strongly for either of them as I feel for Jamie in The Outlander series.

Actually, only young Jamie. Jamie when he gets older, in the later books, doesn't do it as much for me.

I have enjoyed the past three days immensely.

Brayden, at least for now, will not be allowed past New Moon.

Thoughts? Opinions?

PS. To the person who noticed and commented that my "Currently Reading" section is usually straight from the Young Adult section at the library .... yeah .... I confess. I started reading the same books Brayden and Kellen were reading to help them with their book club, and then as their reading levels got higher I thought it might be the responsible thing to do. Then, I have to admit, I found out that I really enjoy young adult, and get a kick out of Brayden making suggestions to me based on what she is reading. How ironic that she just returned to me today one of the books I bought her for Christmas, Eleven by Lauren Myracle, and said, "Mom, I think you should read this first. It's really inappropriate." Hmmmm. I'll start it as soon as I finish the next book she recommended to me, Schooled by Gordon Korman. And lest any of you cluck your tongues at the voluntary "dumbing down" I'm doing by reading young adult books, let me point out that Twilight is technically on a 5th grade reading level. While I don't necessarily agree with that for content sake, who am I to argue with the classification of Scholastic Books? So head to the library and grab yourself some young adult books. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lost ... and Found!

I am both offended and indignant on Barley’s behalf that so many of you accused my sweet, precious, innocent baby of eating the fishing license. And insulted. And hurt. And resentful. And … and …

And … ok … if I’m being honest {sheepish}…………. It’s one of the first places we checked as well, the backyard. The license was made of that hard plastic, like a gift card, so we were pretty sure she couldn’t have actually EATEN it already (although you never know …..) but we thought we had a pretty good chance of finding it lying somewhere on the patio.

Alas, Barley had the last laugh when the fourth – yes, the FOURTH – dig through the trash finally surfaced the lost card. It had somehow gotten wedged in the corner of a white gift box that Kellen had ripped when opening, and the white envelope the card was in had been overlooked the previous three searches through the trash. Blaine didn’t mind the four digs through the two trash bags full of wrapping paper and tape and name tags and torn boxes …. It was the unfruitful search he made through the “real” trash, full of coffee grounds and remnants from that mornings hash brown and ham casserole that he didn’t enjoy. Having done my own time as an elementary school child, digging through the disgusting bins of garbage after lunch in the cafeteria, looking for my retainer, I told Blaine and his naturally-straight teeth that it was only fair.

Needless to say, it’s not the first year a gift has been lost. We’re just glad we found this one without the hassle of having to get it re-issued. And I’m pretty sure most of us have lost or thrown away a gift or two throughout the years that we don’t even realize …. The bounty that is Christmas morning chaos, when it looks like a mini-mall has thrown up in the living rooms of America, certainly lends itself to losing a gift and never even knowing. Or at least not until months and months later, when you find it in the cushions of the sofa, like several of you confessed.

And now we enter the next phase of the holidays, known as “Just how long will the new-toy-excitement last, and then what on earth are we going to do to keep these kids entertained for another week of vacation??”

Friday, December 26, 2008

Greatest Gift of the Season

Answer Is: “$225 lifetime fishing license direct from Santa!!”

Question Is: “What is the one gift we managed to lose in between opening stockings and cleaning up les than thirty minutes later, Alex?”

So, what was YOUR greatest gift of the season? Bonus points if you lost it before the morning was even over. And no, don’t suggest that we’ve thrown it away accidentally. We’ve dug through the trash THREE DAMN TIMES. I swear, the thing grew legs and walked away.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Miracle

I felt privileged last night to attend the “Carols and Candlelight” Christmas Eve service at our church.

I felt joyful during the singing of the carols.

I felt grace listening to the beautiful singing of others.

I felt blessed to live in a country where I can worship freely at the church of my choosing.

I felt cheerfulness listening to the performance of the hand bell choir.

I felt a sense of community, seeing so many friends and neighbors at the service.

I felt true happiness, attending this service with my mother, my husband, and my children by my side.

I felt a sense of awe, watching all two thousand candles being lit in the darkened sanctuary.

I felt humbled by the sacrifices made by Christ on my behalf.

I felt grateful. Period.

::moment of reverent silence::

I felt curiosity, wondering if I’m the only person there who has to remind myself each year not to say “shit” out loud if the candle burns down and drips wax on my finger.

And then, near the end of the powerful service, I felt touched by the real meaning of Christmas. I listened to my son sing along during the final carol and realized that despite his voice, he was allowed to participate in honors choir. That, my friends, is the true miracle of the season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Annual Boring Christmas Letter

So, I was going back through my previous Christmas letters, trying to remember what tiresome, dull parts of our life I write about each year, when I realized by looking at the dates that this letter, our 2008 edition, would be the eleventh one written in a row … meaning I’ve already rambled on endlessly about our family for the previous ten years. In a nutshell:

1998 (First letter!) – Brayden’s adoption is finalized and Kellen is born. Life is great.
1999 – Kendrie is born. Life is great.
2000 – 2002 – Changed about a bazillion diapers; moved twice; life is still great.
20003 – 2007 – Cancer sucks.

And now, 2008, can you guess what the prevailing theme of our letter is once more? Can ya? Huh? Huh? Can ya? Yep, cancer still sucks.

If you already know, I won’t bore you to tears with the whole story … if you don’t already know, then why the heck don’t we keep in better touch, huh? Blaine’s cancer came back late this summer … six weeks of radiation …. Feels crappy ….. won’t know until next spring if treatment worked …. Chronic pain management …. Feels as if reconstruction will never be complete …. end of story.

So! Moving on!

The kids are all doing great and have settled in happily to our OKC lives, although believe it or not, they still talk about how much they miss Georgia. And their friends there. And how the playground at their old school was SO much better than the playground at their new school. You know, important things like that.

Brayden started middle school this year (6th grade, age 11) which pretty much left me a sobbing ball on the floor the first day. OK, not really, but I have to admit that NOT walking her into the school the first day was sort of painful. And weird for a control freak like me. She is enjoying life, played soccer (for probably the last time, seeing as how her age group no longer provides snacks) and sings in several honors choruses. She is obsessed with Webkinz (to the point of madness … mine, not hers) and can argue paint off walls, but since she’s the only child we have who gets herself out of bed and dressed in the morning without direct supervision, we’ll let those other parts slide. Overall, she brings us great joy (when she’s not driving us crazy with the begging to go buy more Webkinz.)

Kellen is becoming less and less of a boy every day (5th grade, age 10) and more and more of a young man, which quite frankly I’m not real happy about. He’s almost as tall as I am, although weight-wise, should legally still be in a carseat. Does that tell you we haven’t quite reached the “eating you out of house and home” phase yet? He is on a year-round competitive soccer team and loves it, currently playing a version of indoor soccer called “futsal”, although for now he says that next year he’ll play football instead. He competed in his first triathlon this fall, he’s in the gifted program at school, and has also taken piano lessons for the past eleven months. To my pleasure (and surprise, if we’re being honest) he loves it and shows no sign of quitting anytime soon. Mainly, he loves playing outside, doing any kind of sports, getting dirty, and finding ways to avoid getting a haircut. He also can pout like nobody’s business, and is mastering the art of muttering under his breath, but since he’s the only one of our kids who actually keeps his bedroom clean, we’ll let those parts slide, too.

I still think of Kendrie as “my baby”, although at age 9 (3rd grade) she informs me every day that that’s NOT the case at all. At least until it storms and she wants to sleep in bed with us … then she’s perfectly happy to exploit the baby-angle all day long. She is also taking piano lessons with Kellen and enjoying it, although she’s much sneakier about not doing her piano homework. She continues to play soccer, joined chess club, and is still in the gifted program at school, but to hear her describe it, a perfect day would consist of never getting off the sofa, watching continuous episodes of “Suite Life” on the TV and having a bottomless box of Cheese Nips by her side. But since she’s cute, funny, and “my baby”, we let those things slide as well.

I notice that letter after letter after letter, my life stays pretty much the same. I love staying home with the kids (except for the days when their non-stop arguing and bickering takes over and I seriously contemplate running away and joining the circus.) I love their school(s) because there are plenty of opportunities for parents to get plugged in. I make copies for teachers, help with popcorn days, serve as PTO secretary, and organize the monthly skate night fundraiser …. Even better, I’ve met lots of great moms (and some dads, too!) and feel like slowly but surely I’m finding my niche here. I got to scrapbook with my girlfriends twice this year (TX and AR) but missed our “big” annual autumn get-together (did I mention the suckage that is cancer?) One of the highlights of my year was getting to go on an Alaskan cruise with my mom and an alumni group of her high-school friends. They were great about including me, and she and I had a wonderful time. Other than that, I’ve pretty much been on the taxi-driver-school-volunteer hamster wheel that comprises the life of a stay-at-home mom. But I’m not complaining … better this than a “real” job that I wouldn’t enjoy near as much!

We also added to our family this year with the purchase of “Barley”, a golden retriever who is now six months old and shows a real talent for sneaking chocolate chip cookies off the kitchen counter. She also has an annoying tendency to grab something (anything!) she’s not supposed to have, then running and hiding under our bed to eat whatever it might be (food, paper, used Kleenex out of the trashcan, she’s not real picky.) The good thing is I don’t think she’ll fit under there for too much longer …. Luckily she’s cute in the meantime.

And Blaine, in all honesty, is plugging along. (PS Cancer sucks.)

I hope you and yours have had a wonderful year. Thanks so much to our friends who took the time and made the effort to visit us here during this past year, or let us visit them. It’s strange – we’re “home”, yet we still miss our friends from other places, but many of them have moved on as well. It’s odd to feel homesick for friends who live in completely different places now. (Does that even make sense???) Regardless, just trust that if you’re getting this letter and you’re away, we miss you. If you’re getting this letter and you’re local, we’re so happy we’re friends, and we wish all of you a joyful holiday season! Merry Christmas!!

PS. Special thanks to my good friend Lisa of LD Images for designing our card this year! (and last year, now that I think about it ... hmmmm ... maybe I need to offer to pay her at some point!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Much better

My sister's family was hit by a random stomach virus last week that felled all of them but one, with lots of throwing up during the final week of school before the holiday break. My comment to her, sympathy oozing from my very pores, was "keep your rotten germy cooties to yourself" ...

And when I woke up Thursday morning with a sore throat, all I could think was, "At least I'm not throwing up".

And when I woke up Friday morning with a worse sore throat and a cough, all I could thnk was "At least I'm not throwing up".

And when I woke up Saturday with a worse cough, and a general feeling of being "off", all I could think was, "At least I'm not throwing up".

When I woke up in the middle of the night Saturday night, with a very upset stomach (tmi, anyone?) all I could think was, "At least I'm not throwing up".

And the past forty-ish hours have been spent moving from sofa to bed, and bed to sofa, in a state of general malaise, complete with stomach cramps, aching joints, sensitive skin, a screaming headache, and a 101 degree fever. In the impeccable timing that is my life, Christmas is in three days and I still have shopping and baking left to do. My kids haven't purchased their gifts for one another, and I was *supposed* to baby-sit all day today for a friend who works.

But you know what? At least I wasn't throwing up.

And obviously I'm starting to feel recovered because I managed to find the strength tonight to yell at my kids for fighting.

Yep, much better.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Unsolicited CD Review of the Day

I know what a CD is. My question is, what is the difference between a "record" and an "album"? Does anyone know? When the music people give out the "Record of the Year", "Song of the Year" and "Album of the Year" awards, what the heck is the difference??? Can anyone explain it to me?

But that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing to tell you, because no-one asked but I'm going to give you my opinion anyway ..... go get a copy of P!nk's "Funhouse". Buy it, download it, steal it, I really don't care.

Wait, yes I do. Don't steal it.

I have been a P!nk (and since when is she P!nk? I thought she was just Pink. It's like Prince turning into that little unpronouncable hieroglyphic ... what's with the exclamation point?) fan for years and own several of her cd's.

Funhouse is my favorite. Hands-down, and that's saying something. Every single song on this cd is sing-along-able. Except one, but I won't mention it, because I don't want to skew anyone's opinion ahead of time. Unless it's to skew you to download it. Because seriously, it's worth it.

You won't be sorry.

And if you already have it, I'd love to hear what you think.

I'm positive it will win Record Song Album of the Year. At least it will if my vote counts or anything.

Oh, wait. I don't vote. But still --- go get it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The holiday spirit must be buried in the fruitcake

Every year, I do that thing. You know, that *thing* that all parents do, about how this year we’re going to instill in our kids the true meaning of Christmas and make them appreciate what they have and raise their awareness of those less fortunate, and blah blah, why, hello there, road to Hell, there are all my good intentions, paving you!

I did take an angel off the angel tree at church a few weeks ago, planning to talk to my children about other children who do without during the holiday season, and making this a true family project. Then, well, I was at Target the next day by myself and the exact thing the angel tree child had requested was there, so I just bought it. And then that night I figured I should go ahead and wrap the gift since the wrapping stuff was already out, but the kids were in bed, so none of them helped. Then the next Sunday everyone overslept but Blaine, so he just took the gift to church by himself. So …. Yeah. Pretty much not a thing learned by my kids there.

I just found out late last week that they actually have a similar angel tree project at my kids’ elementary school, for families who have students there, who are struggling. The parents fill out forms, which go to various civic organizations for food donations, plus other families in the school and community can “adopt” families if they’d like. I’m sure for sensitivity issues it’s not loudly broadcast and I didn’t even realize the school did it, but once I found out, I decided *this* would be my opportunity to help my kids help others.

I approached our guidance counselor who is in charge of the project and requested a family with three children, close in age to my own three. The closest we could come was a family with three daughters … and actually, their ages weren’t really that close. Once I discovered, however, that the “givers” are anonymous but the “receivers” are not, at that point I was more concerned that my kids NOT know who these children were. Even though in a million, trillion, bazillion years I would NEVER tell my kids who the family is, I didn’t want another child in their class showing up in clothes we had purchased, or talking about a toy or game we selected. Odds are small, I know, but still. Better safe than sorry. So I picked a family with a 6-yr old girl, a 9 yr old girl, and a 12 yr old girl, who my own kids have very little chance of encountering. And then I told my kids the whole project WAS anonymous, so they still have no idea.

I explained to them what we were doing, and took them to Wal-mart, driving home the point that these kids are in “your very own school, whose families maybe don’t have a ton of money. You shouldn’t only think of ‘inner-city’ when you think about people who are struggling … sometimes it can be your neighbors, or even the kid sitting next to you in class.”

Which prompted all three of my kids to ask, IS it a kid that sits next to me in class???” which made me even more grateful that I had the good sense to tell my kids it was anonymous and I had no idea who the kids were.

So anyway, we show up to Wal-mart, head to the toy section, and I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Pretty good that *this* time, for once, I’m actually following through with my intention of helping another family, and teaching my own children compassion at the same time. Yep, raising strong, empathetic, caring children, and feeling pretty smug about it, if I do say so myself.

This was pretty much how the next twenty minutes went:

Kristie: OK, we’re going to do this in age order. Brayden, you will pick out something for the 12-yr old. Kellen, you’ve got the 9-yr old and Kendrie, you’ll do the 6-yr old.

Brayden: But *I* want to do the six-yr old.

Kendrie: I don’t want Brayden’s 12 yr old, I don’t know what they like.

Kellen: I’ll trade you the 9-yr old. I don’t really want to do this anyway.

Brayden: I don’t want the 9-yr old; I want the 6-yr old.

Kristie: No. Stop that. We’re doing it in age order and that’s that.

Brayden {eye rolling}: Fine. Like I have any idea what to get a 12-yr old girl.

Kristie: Brayden, honey, you’re an 11-yr old girl, how much different could it be? Just find something YOU would like and I’m sure it will be great.

Kendrie: Here’s what I want to get the six-year old … a Disco Dancing Wubzy. I’m done!

Kristie: Kendrie, honey, you can’t get that. Its forty dollars and I can’t afford to spend that much on each of the three kids, plus I want to get the family a gift card to go eat out.

Kendrie: But this is a cool gift.

Kristie: I know it’s a cool gift, but forty times three is really more than I can afford. Look for something around fifteen or twenty, ok?

Kellen: Here, I’m done. {hands me a nerf gun.}

Kristie: Kellen, I seriously doubt a 9-yr old girl wants a nerf gun.

Kellen: She might be a tomboy. How about a football?

Brayden: I need to go to the restroom.

Kristie: You’ll have to wait; it’s all the way up at the front of the store. Kellen, chances are she’s *not* a tomboy and she’d rather have a Barbie or something. Go look on the doll aisle.

Brayden: {rolling eyes} I really have to go! I can go to the front of the store by myself.

Kellen: {rolling eyes} fine.

Kendrie: Can we get the girl a bike?

Kristie: Over my dead body you're going to the front of the store by yourself. No, we can’t buy her a bike, she probably already has a bike. We need to get something smaller. Something I can fit in a gift bag.

Kellen: Can I buy my girl a ripstick?

Kristie: You guys, come on. Bikes and ripsticks are like seventy dollars each. You need to be looking for cheaper stuff, not more expensive.

Kellen: Well then, can I get *me* a ripstick? I have enough allowance money saved up.

Kristie: Kellen, you already HAVE a ripstick. We are here to pick out something for these girls.

Brayden: I have no idea what to pick and I just want to go to the bathroom.

Kendrie: Here, this is a cool medical kit. Pick this.

Kristie: Honey, you’re right, that is a cool medical kit. But see on the side? See how it says for ages two and up? I think it might be a little baby-ish for a six year old. Brayden, for goodness sake, stop hopping around the aisle. Can’t you hold it for five minutes?

Kendrie: I’m not buying for the six-year old. I’m buying for the nine-year old. Kellen and me switched.

Kristie: What? I said no switching.

Brayden: That’s not fair, if they get to switch then I get to switch!

Kristie: Nobody is switching.

Kellen: Do you think she would want a skateboard?

Kendrie: There’s nothing here I want to get them.

Brayden: Look how cute this stuffed animal is ... remind me to put it on *my* Christmas list when we get home.

Kellen: What about some army men?

Brayden: Can we go to a store where they sell Webkinz?

Kellen: If we act good can we get candy? I want Extreme Airheads.

Kendrie: There’s nothing here. This is too hard.

Brayden: I have no idea what this girl wants.

Kellen: You pick something, since you keep saying no to everything I choose.

Kendrie: You keep saying no to mine, too.

Brayden: Are there more toys anywhere else? Should we maybe go to clothes?

Kendrie: Did you guys see the Disco Dancing Wubzy? It was awesome.

Kristie: Oh for the love of Pete just pick out some toys or I’m going to do it my damn self!

Brayden: Well I wish you would. Then at least I could go to the bathroom.

Kristie {deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth}: Ok, listen to me. I’m guessing chances are really good that these three kids won’t get a ton of toys for Christmas. In fact, there is always the possibility that this will be their *only* present under the tree. So I want you to think about that. Think about the fact some kids don’t get to come to Wal-Mart and wander up and down the toy aisle and pick something out. Or about the fact that if those kids *do* come to Wal-mart with their parents, they don’t get to stop and get an icee on the way here like you just did. Or buy candy in the check-out lanes. Have a little compassion …. I want you to really stop and think about what to buy, and pick out something you think these girls will like.

Kellen: Mom, that makes me feel terrible.

Kristie: I know, son. Me, too.

Kellen: A life without Airheads? I can’t even imagine.

And at that point, I was forced to admit that Operation Holiday Empathy was a Big. Fat. Failure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I couldn't have survived the ark.

So, in between the cookie-stealing, and pancake stealing, and plate breaking, and pizza stealing, and envelope eating, the trash-pilfering, and bed wetting, et. al., Barley was definitely not my favorite pet this week. In fact, the phrase, "I hate animals" may or may night have come out of my mouth.

So imagine my delight and surprise when Blaine came inside the other night to tell me, "There is poop hanging off Blackie's butt and there are little rice-looking things stuck in it. I'm pretty sure the cat was worms."


He's not even *OUR* cat! We inherited him with the house. Of course, the first month or so that we lived here we sort of ignored him, assuming he belonged to a neighbor. Well, Blaine and I ignored him, and he did a pretty good job of ignoring us. But the kids have loved him from day one. Once we realized that no, he was actually living under our shed and most likely digging for food in trash cans, we began to feel bad for the thing. So we let him sleep in our garage. And we started feeding him. On a regular basis. And he gained so much weight so fast that we thought it was a girl cat, and she might be pregnant. Thank heavens we were wrong. Then we even cut a doggie-door (kitty-door?) in our garage door, so I guess at that point we accepted that the cat was here to stay. But do not forget that he was still not *OUR* cat.

And so, we weren't compelled to take it to vet until the suspected worm episode this week. I know, it's negligent of us, but it's the truth.

Because like I've mentioned in the past, I just wasn't feeling the love. Food? Shelter? Letting my kids play with it? Fine, ok. But he was NOT coming inside and he was NOT going to be listed on my annual Christmas letter as a family member and we were NOT taking him to the vet and claiming responsibility.

Until now. What with the rice-things, which we still assumed were worms. (sigh) (and gross.)

So I bought a pet carrier, and the kids and I took him to the vet today after school.

He needed vaccinations.

He needed flea medicine.

He has dry skin.

He has hookworm.

He has heartworm, which apparently is rare in a cat, so aren't we the lucky ones?

In fact, the vet said he's only seen three cases of actual active heartworm in a cat since the test became available. Well, good. I always like to be special.

So now in addition to the flea lotion-stuff we're supposed to put on him once a month, he suggested a combo-flea-heartworm lotion. Because, and I quote, "This won't get rid of the heartworm, but it will keep any new ones from developing. Cats with heartworm can suffer coughing, vomiting, and a sudden death syndrome. The life expectancy of heartworm is three to five years, so we recommend keeping new ones from developing."

And really, I started to feel a little guilty. Blackie only has three to five years to live? I mean, sure, I don't particularly love him like one of my own, but he *is* a pretty good-natured cat. No hissing, no spitting, no clawing. He lets us pet him, he lets the kids carry him all over the place, he even rubs up against my legs in the garage sometimes, especially if he's hungry. And Brayden, gosh, she loves him enough for all of us.

Three to five years? That's actually a little bit sad.

So I asked, "Will the three to five years the cat has left be healthy ones, other than the heartworm?"

And the vet replied, "Wait. What? No, the HEARTWORMS will live three to five years, then they'll be gone. That cat will probably live another ten or fifteen years."

And the children cheered, and I breathed a sigh of relief. All is not doomed, and we can proudly and lovingly nurse Blackie back to health and claim him as one of our family, and live happily ever after, yippee!

Then the vet handed me a bill for $245.90. The week before Christmas.

I friggin' hate animals.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not so much anymore

You remember I posted a week or so ago about once upon a time there was a cute, cute, cute widdle doggy named Barley, who was tall enough to stand on her hind legs and reach the kitchen counter, and once there she ate seventeen chocolate chip cookies? And how once we realized she would be ok (because she then promptly proceeded to throw up all seventeen cookies on my bed) that we had to admit that despite her mischevious ways, she was really all about the cuteness? Do you remember that?

Well, fast forward to Saturday morning. One of my nephews had spent the night and being the dutiful aunt and mother that I am (snort) I got up and made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I always make a triple batch so we have some to freeze and re-heat on school mornings ................. this time, not only did Barley stand up on the counter in order to eat some of the chocolate chip pancakes, but she somehow knocked one of my ceramic plates onto the ceramic floor and CRASH!!! Plate shards everywhere. Hmmmm. That really wasn't so cute.

Now, fast forward to last night. I had taken Brayden to an afternoon matinee of Twilight, and ate my weight in Milk Duds, so didn't feel like cooking. Actually, what I felt like doing was barfing. Definitely not cooking. So I stopped by Papa Murphys on the way home ...... put the pizzas on the counter after they were done cooking so everyone could help themselves ..... (you see where this is going, don't you?) Freaking dog ate HALF A CHEESE PIZZA before we realized what had happened. I swear, we really do feed her, and I swear even more that one of these days I will clue in and start pushing the food to the back of the counter. Or maybe on top of the refrigerator, since that might be the one place left on earth she can't reach. The cuteness? Not so much anymore.

Neither of our other dogs, both of whom were taller than Barely is now and could have easily reached the kitchen counter, ever did. I'm just not accustomed to having my dinner snatched right out from under us like that. Begging? Accustomed to. Digging stuff out of trashcans? Accustomed to. Eating the crotch out of dirty underwear??? TOTALLY accustomed to. But we've never had food taken right off the counter.

But still, even despite those things, despite the fact the cuteness was wearing thin, I still was not as angry with her as I was at 11:30 last night, when I blearily and wearily climbed in bed, relieved to have finished paying bills, and licking all the Christmas envelopes and thinking of the busy day ahead, only to discover that at some point during the evening, Barley had apparently jumped up and urinated all over my side of the bed. Through the comforter, through both sheets, through the mattress protector, and left a big wet puddle on the mattress.

It was, in all honesty, the first time in the four months that we've had her that I regretted getting her at all. And in fact, I might have said something along those lines to Blaine, raising my voice and flailing my arms about wildly. Well, or as wildly as you can flail your arms when you're stripping the (#*$&#*(& sheets off the #($*#&(*& bed. And then I started talking about how this was total passive-agressive behavior on her part, in retaliation for the scolding she got from me after the pizza. Notice whose side of the bed she pee'd on???

I know. It was irrational and grumpy and rude. But in my defense, I was tired, and perhaps suffering from Milk Dud poisoning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The boy who wouldn't stop popping

I mentioned a few weeks (months?) ago that at one point in our past, Kellen was almost diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. I'm not sure I mentioned it at the time it was happening ..... I've slept since then and am not sure of a lot of things. Like why I thought those Sally-Jesse-Raphael red-rimmed glasses I wore in the 80's were attractive ..... but I digress.

I got several private e-mails asking about this, and so I thought I would share the story with all of you now in the hopes it might help someone else who could possibly be going through the same thing with their child. Not because I'm a doctor (I don't even play one on TV!) or because I have anything profound to say, but because at the end of the day, if you're facing a problem or worry or concern, it's nice to know you have company.

Kellen's "issues" began near the end of second grade, although I would be hard pressed to say exactly when. It was simply like one day we looked up and realized he had developed a series of tics .... Blaine and I looked at one another, scratched our heads, and asked ourselves, "Just how long has he been doing that, and why haven't we noticed???"

He had been a hair-twirler since birth (still does it -- he's ten -- I KNOW) so I think we just weren't paying much attention when he picked up what we assumed were a few more habits. But these were a little more distracting ...... opening his mouth quickly, as if trying to pop his jaw, jutting his jaw forward, and wiping his mouth. The interesting thing about the way he wiped his mouth was that he did it EXACTLY LIKE my dad used to do it. Take your two fingers and put them in a "V" for victory. Then turn them toward your face, and use those two fingers to wipe each side of your mouth. Kellen has the exact same hands as my dad did, the same fingers and fingernails, and honestly, it was uncanny to watch him perform the exact same behavior as my father .... except Kellen did it about ten bazillion times more each day.

As summer progressed, we noticed these behaviors more and more. Whether he was actually *doing* them more, or we were simply more observant, I'm not sure. But it was bad enough that when my mom came to visit at the end of that summer, she noticed and mentioned it to us. It was also much worse when he was under pressure of any kind, like on the soccer field. When school started, I asked his teacher if it was distracting to the other kids. She said no, no-one had complained, but that she had noticed it as well.

Naturally, I did what any self-respecting parent would do --- diagnosed him myself via the Internet. Because hello, who even needs medical school when Dr. Google is right there with all the information one could possibly need???

Of course my research of "tics" led to "Tourettes" which led to the certainty that even though the percentage is miniscually small, without a doubt Kellen would be in the teeny tiny fraction of the Tourettes population with uncontrollable vocal outbursts and violent jerking behavior which would eventually lead to alternative school and extreme sedative pharmacology. {No, I don't know why Brayden does well in drama, do you??}

I took him to see his pediatrician, who sent us to a neurologist. He explained to us that the tics were involuntary and could not be purposefully stopped for any length of time. He said it was like a sneeze ... maybe you could keep it from happening briefly, but if it's going to happen, it's going to happen, and sometimes trying to fight it can make it worse.

He said the first thing we needed to do was rule out any sort of head trauma, seizure activity, and/or epilepsy. Then, assuming those factors were negative, he assured me that a great number of children actually go through a "tic-ing" phase in their lives, and most outgrow it without any interference. Only after the tics have been in duration for one year, without stopping or if perhaps they are getting worse, would it be classified as "Tourettes". If at any point they became disruptive, there were medications that we could try, but that he recommended doing nothing (besides ignoring them, that is) unless it was disrupting Kellen's daily life.

To that end he scheduled Kellen for a sleep-deprivation study. What that means is we had to keep Kellen up all night, then take him to the sleep lab at the hospital the next morning. Let me just tell you that although most young kids *think* they want to stay up all night, in reality, it is very difficult to keep an 8-yr old awake for that long.

Once we arrived at the hospital and got checked in, they took him to a sleep-room and put all kinds of electrodes on his head to measure his brain activity, let him lie down and go to sleep, then proceeded to flash all kinds of blinding strobe lights in his face while he slept. (Hey! Just like a TSO concert!!)

I sat in a chair next to the bed and watched him sleep during the test, and thought about what it might mean to have a child with Tourettes. By this point I had researched more, and knew it wasn't the end of the world ... that in fact, many kids sniff, blink, clear their throat, and cough their way through adolescence. But truthfully, I didn't want to have to deal with any of it. I had just gotten one kid through cancer treatment, and I had a real good pity party for myself right there in my chair, thinking about how this might make life difficult for Kellen.

That afternoon, I went to the gym to walk on the treadmill. (I know, it was during one of my brief, crazy 'exercise' stages .....) Now remember, *I* had been up all night as well. Above the treadmills were televisions, and they were all set to CNN .... to the rapidly breaking news story about Charles Roberts and the Amish schoolhouse murders. I had gotten so upset watching the news story (and on a treadmill, with the screens right in front of your face, you are a pretty captive audience) that I left the gym. On the way home, my girlfriend Kim called to ask what I was doing. I told her I had been up all night, taken Kellen for a sleep study because the doctors thought he might have epilepsy .... and promptly burst into tears. (See? See what no sleep does to me??)

Poor Kim, bless her heart, she had no idea any of that was going on. Then I blubbered for a while about those defenseless kids in that school and really, sort of had a mini-nervous breakdown right there in my car. Luckily, Kim stuck with me until the end of the story, and was able to tell me about some friends of hers whose daughter had been diagnosed with tics, who outgrew them after a year or so. Just hearing that .... just knowing that yes, some kids really do outgrow them without any problems, was exactly what I needed to hear. (So Kim, I don't know if I ever thanked you for pulling me away from the edge that day, but I really appreciated your level head amidst my personal crisis!)

Luckily, all of Kellen's tests came back negative. So the doctor said we wait, and we watch. And although I'm embarrassed to admit it, there were a few times during the next few months when I would look over at him, jerking and popping and opening and closing his mouth, and snap, "Can't you just STOP IT?!?!?" (not a proud moment, I know.) But for the most part, we ignored it.

It went on for a little over a year, total. But it never got markedly worse (again, except for when he played soccer ....) and after a while, the frequency slowed down. Then slowed some more. Until all of a sudden one day I looked up and realized ... "hey I can't remember the last time I saw Kellen doing any of his tics." And I asked Blaine, and he said he couldn't remember either. And then my mom came for another visit and said she didn't notice near as much either.

And then one day they were just gone. (Except for the hair-twirling .... STILL DOES IT!) We never used any kind of medication or therapy .... just waited it out, hoping it would go away on its own, like they assured us it most likely would ... and it did. End of story.

So while I speak with no authority whatsoever, I share our story in the hopes it might encourage someone else .... someone who simply hasn't reached the end of it yet. Because chances are good it will go away. And if it doesn't, it only took me one sleep deprived night to remember there are certainly much worse things in the world than a little throat-clearing and jaw popping. And if it's worse than that, well, thank goodness there are doctors in the world who know more about it than me and are willing to help.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And you thought I was exaggerating

I know I caught some flack earlier this month when I posted about cashiers and how much I dislike hearing negative stuff about their personal lives, or how much they hate their job, or how THANK GOODNESS they’ve only got another hour to work, like I’m totally inconveniencing them by showing up, or whatever. But I swear, yesterday’s conversation took the cake:

Cashier: Hi, how are you today?

Me: I’m good, thanks, how are you?

Cashier: Not great, really, I’ve had better days.

Me: Oh. Ummmm, well, at least today is Friday, hopefully that helps. (And I swear to you at this point I was remembering the people who commented that I needed to work harder to be pleasant, so I promise I was really trying to be friendly and cheerful and Happy McSunshine.)

Cashier: It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, that won’t help. I was engaged yesterday; today I’m not.

Me, slightly baffled: Oh. I’m sorry.

Cashier: Yeah, my boyfriend just came over last night, dropped off his key, TOOK my ring, and I haven’t heard from him since.

Me, even more baffled about why she would be sharing this with me: I’m, ummmm, really sorry.

Cashier: Not a word … nothing! Didn’t even tell me why he did it! What is this, like the second grade, where you can just break up without explaining????!!

Me: I’m ….. sorry?

Cashier: Whatever! Like I care anyway????!!

Me: crickets chirping

Cashier: You know, I’m not the kind of person who gets bummed out by stuff like this.

Me: total silence, slightly frightened look on my face.

Cashier: It’s not that big a deal. Whatever.

Me: Good heavens, can I have my change before you flip out and shoot up the joint????

OK, so I didn’t really say that last part. But I swear, every other part of the conversation happened verbatim.

You think I could make this stuff up if I tried?!?!?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sharing the love

Go here.

Dad Gone Mad.

Read the Dec 11th post.

Awesome idea.

Share the love.

Over and out. I have commenting to do.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final Chance ....

Remember --- Tomorrow is the final day for making a donation via Marey's site to help two families this holiday season. All proceeds from her online raffle are going directly to Austin's family and Ivan's family, to help them through the difficult time of their respective transplants this holiday season.

The raffle items that have been donated are way-cool .... (I've got my eye on those handmade cards!) and any dollar amount gets you entered to win. The drawing will be tomorrow night so go over there RIGHTNOWWHATAREYOUWAITINGFOR and make a donation.

Marey's motto: Pennies make dollars; dollars pay bills.

She's not asking for $500 or $100 or even $50 .... simply if everyone who has visited her site this month would donate one single dollar, she would be well on her way to giving each family one thousand dollars to help with bills ....

So please consider skipping tomorrow's latte or frappe or mochiatto or whatever the heck is it you coffee drinkers drink .... take a ham sandwich to work and donate the cost of your Friday lunch tomorrow .... shoot, I'll even skip my Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic and donate myself ... ok??

Thanks! And Marey thanks you too, on behalf of Austin and Ivan and their families.


Matchbox red truck and van to depict parking lot scene before reading the instructions from the teacher that the diorama *must* represent the most climactic scene in the book, thereby rendering our parking lot scene worthless: $6

Dowel rods for ballet bar: $2

Mini hooks to hold up ballet bar: $1

Mirror to purposely break and place all over walls and floor of diorama: $1

Wooden blocks to paint to look like a tv and vcr: $3

Super glue to hold the whole stupid thing together: $4

Scrapbook paper, marker, scissors, images off the internet and cardboard: Free

Quality mother-daughter bonding time: Priceless.

Until I realized, after the fact, that the school will probably take one look at the razor-sharp glass shards all over her diorama from the fake broken ballet mirror and declare they are weapons and will expel her under their zero tolerance policy --- Not quite as priceless.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Blaine and I went to see his oncologist yesterday as a follow-up, now that his thirty-two sessions of radiation are over. It will be six-eight weeks before the side effects of radiation begin to wear off, and another six to eight weeks before they can get a good scan(s) near the tumor region(s) and see if the radiation was successful. In the meantime, he’s still having a slight problem with fatigue. And a bigger problem with pain management. And that pesky eye infection has returned. And it appears his implants are also infected.

But other than that, he’s doing yippy-skippy-great!

I sat in the room, watching Blaine's doctor examine him, with his gentle hands and pleasant demeanor, and listened to him talk and ask questions, in his soothing, sexy British accent, and looked into his dark, dark eyes …..

Do you think it’s grossly inappropriate that I appear to have a slight crush on my husband’s oncologist?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We love Weird Al. Platonically, of course.

The other night, when I drove Kellen and his friend to the concert, he asked me to play the Weird Al parody “The Ebay Song” on my ipod (through the car speakers). Again and again and again. After about the fourth time, his friend turned to him and said, “Wow, you really like that song, don’t you?” And Kellen replied, “Yes, it’s my favorite song ever. I love it so much I’m going to have it played at my wedding.”

And all I could do was sit back and wonder about what kind of future daughter in law would even allow that ….. one who wears a wedding dress from Wal-Mart and carries a wine cooler in a beer cozy down the aisle instead of flowers and serves pigs in a blanket and pork rinds at the reception?

On second thought, that sounds like my kind of wedding.

PS. You guys are GENIUS! It never occurred to me that I could simply glue little faces on cardboard cut-outs for the diorama. And someone suggested diorama-ing the parking lot scene, so pretty much all I’ll have to buy is two matchbox cars, and put some gray paper down on the bottom of the box …. Thank goodness. I had visions of me wasting an entire day driving to every hobby store in town looking for stupid miniature vampire dolls.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What, really, is the purpose?

I am a voracious reader, and support whole-heartedly anything that gets my kids to read. All three of them enjoy reading, but not as obsessively as *I* do …. That’s ok, at least they’re not opposed to it. In fact, they even ask me to take them to the library sometimes …a fact which thrills me to no end. So let me be the first to say I have no problem with required book reports in school. In fact, I think they’re great, especially if they get my kids to branch out and read a book they might otherwise not even peek at. (Hello, Geronimo Stilton, anyone???)

When the “Twilight” movie came out, Brayden began the same begging that every girl under the age of 18 in this country was doing, to be taken to the movie. The rule at our house (normally, unless I’m feeling really lazy …. {see: City of Ember during Thanksgiving break}) is that you have to read the book before you can see the movie. Since Brayden’s book report this quarter had to be in the “fantasy” genre, the timing was actually perfect to have her read Twilight, with the promise of going to the movie afterward. Well, we slogged our way through half of “The Secret Prince” before giving up because neither one of us was enjoying it, so that was a waste of two weeks … and because of that we’ve sort of been speed-reading through the Edward-Bella adventure, but that’s ok. I had already read the book and wanted to read this one with her for the report, so it’s actually evolved into some quality mother-daughter bonding time. Plus, it’s facilitated some helpful chats about obsessive behavior, the reality of life, and how it’s not cute for a normal, healthy teenage girl to be so unbelievably uncoordinated and all damsel-in-distress-y. (Seriously. Am I the only one on the planet who is tired of her falling down and swooning and stumbling … what on earth is WRONG with that girl’s equilibrium? My nickname in high school was “KLUTZ”, for pete’s sake, and I still didn’t have as many accidents as this chick …. But I digress.)

So, ok. Let’s just clarify: Reading = good. Book reports = also good.

But can anyone tell me, what on earth is the purpose of assigning a diorama in addition to the book report?? You know, those little recreations of a specific moment in the book, made with teeny tiny plastic people and miniature things, placed in some kind of box that’s been covered with craft paper. First of all, what’s the point? It’s not going to help my child understand the book any better, and it’s no proof that she’s actually read the book. It’s not going to ENHANCE her enjoyment of the book in any way, and let’s be honest, it’s going to be down-right difficult for me to find little doll-size versions of vampires that I can fit in a stupid shoe box.

And yeah, I said it: that *I* can find. Because you know darn good and well that *I’m* going to be the one who has to go out and buy the miniature items to go in the diorama, and *I’m* going to be the one who helps her plan the stupid thing, and *I’m* going to be the one who secretly re-glues everything after she goes to bed so the pieces don’t fall over the next day when Brayden carries it to school.

And it’s not because I’m a hyper-involved parent who micro-manages my kids’ school work. It’s because we don’t have vampire “diorama” stuff just laying around the house, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask her to make something – for a grade – and then turn her loose with no help or instruction. Make no mistake, the teacher asked for the diorama, but it’s parents everywhere who get stuck “helping” with this kind of project. Maybe it's our fault for choosing this book, but I can't help but think anything in the "fantasy" genre is going to be difficult.

So, ok. Now that I’ve vented, anyone know where I can find miniature versions of Edward and Bella?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Like being on a campaign trail

You know how campaigns have those people that stump the trails before the actual candidates, doing their very best to drum up support from the public? And you think, wow, those people must really, truly, from the bottom of the hearts, sincerely believe in these candidates ... in their philosophies and ideas and attempts??

Yeah, that's sort of what I'm doing today, throwing my full support behind somebody ELSE and THEIR ideas, because it's something I really, truly believe in.

I have been online-friends for over five years now with Marey, mom to Ali. I met Marey on my online leukemia parents support group, and our friendship continued even after both our daughters finished their respective treatments.

One of the (many!) things I admire most about Marey is the genuine, non-stop effort she makes --- has always made --- to pay it forward and help other families affected by childhood cancer. Light the Night, Team in Training, Relay for Life, and backbreaking fundraiser work .... plus three children, plus a husband, plus twenty-odd kindergartners ... honestly, I think maybe some parts of her are bionic. Yes, this is the same Marey with the Santa Clause plate fame .... and she's back this year, with another fundraiser, designed to help two families also affected by pediatric cancer.

I'll direct you to Marey's site for the full scoop, but the gist of it is this: She is raising funds this holiday season for two very special families, and all of US can help make it happen without a lot of time or effort on anyone's part.

Marey is hosting an online raffle and it would be FABULOUS if you would all purchase a virtual ticket or two or fifty. She is accepting donations of raffle prizes to be given away, and also accepting donations to purchase your chance of winning any of the wonderful things that have been donated so far. All you have to do to be put in the drawing is make any kind of donation, which will go directly to the two families she is helping this year .... in return, you'll not only be put in the drawing for some wonderful things, you'll also have the satisfaction of knowing you helped two families, who could use a hand in their pediatric cancer fights, especially now during the holidays.

Many of the items that have been donated to Marey's raffle are handmade and you can check them out at her site. Since I'm about as crafty as Martha Stewart on crack, my donation item isn't handmade, but it is something I'm happy to offer up.

A genuine, authentic, like-new Coach purse.

Now, please note that it's not new, or new with tags, but it is in extremely-gently used condition. In other words, LIKE NEW. It was given to me by a dear friend who works at Coach, who was appalled to find out I didn't own a Coach purse. In fact, the night we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant, and she found out I'd never bought a purse anywhere nicer than Target, she almost choked on her lasagna. And then she promptly went home and cleaned out her closet --- because (are you ready for this?) she had TOO MANY COACH PURSES!! And she really, truly wanted me to have one, because that's the kind of good hearted person she is. So she gave me two, and I'm paying it forward by donating one to Marey's fundraiser raffle.

For your chance to win this Coach purse, or any of the prizes, all you have to do is go to Marey's site and make a donation. Remember, her motto is "Pennies make dollars, and dollars pay bills." I know times are tight for everyone ..... but surely we can all spare just a little bit to help two families in need.

Here are more details .... and thanks in advance for helping Marey with such a great cause.


'Tis the Season to help those less fortunate than here's my plea....before I add the photos of things I have left to sell....(because I am flat out recovering from sleep deprivation, conferences and tomorrow's Pilgrim and Indian Feast.....(and have no time to take and post photos of those items...) I am asking for items for our fundraiser instead.

Here's what Postcard Cindy and I are doing...

We are seeking donations of things...if you make, sew, create or have purchased things....something you will donate to our fundraiser drawing. Email me a photo and I will post a photos of all the donated items...then we will start taking monetary donations...ANY SIZE donation....and then on Dec. 10th we will draw for prizes....anyone who makes a donation will have their name entered in the drawing and have a chance to WIN! 100% of the money goes to two families who have children in transplant for relapsed leukemia.


*Email me a photo of what you can donate.

*I post the photo on my blog.

*We ask for online monetary donations or donations by snail mail.

*Dec. 10th we draw names from those who have made donations.

*I send you the winner's address and you mail the item to the winner.

*You are blessed with a great feeling of helping 2 families who in a most difficult situation of trying to save their childrens' lives. Austin who is about to receive transplant Dec. 5 at Duke


Ivan, a 17 year old boy with 5 siblings. His bone marrow transplant from his younger brother was on Nov. 5, 2008 and he is doing well right now. He will most likely remain hospitalized throughout the holidays.

Email me at

if you would like to help.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Stupid .... uh .... me.

You know how you sometimes get a nuturing urge, and want to do kind things for your children? (yeah, doesn't happen much around here, either ... but every now and then ....) so while they're at school you break open one of those break-apart cookie packages and whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies?

And because your feeling of love and warmth extends to your husband, as you're walking out the door to pick the kids up from school, you let him know that there are warm chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter, and he should help himself.

And then you return from the school, and glance over at the cookies, only to realize Holy Cow! Your husband ate a ton of cookies ... so many cookies, you hardly have enough for the damn kids! So you count, and realize there are only seven cookies left. Seven out of twenty-four.

Stupid husband.

So you walk into the living room, scowl on your face, and ask your husband the oh-so-innocent question .... "why the hell did you eat all the cookies???"

When he replies, with a surprised look on his face, "I didn't eat any cookies" .... it will take you just a second for the truth to sink in.

Stupid dog.

Ate SEVENTEEN COOKIES off the kitchen counter! And yes, even though she's barely six months old, she is big enough to stand on her hind legs and eat anything you have stashed up there. Good thing to keep in mind for the future.

And maybe, just maybe, there is a little part of you that thinks she is still a cute dog, cookie-snatching tendencies and all ... I mean, look at that widdle face, she's such a cutie widdle doggie with her cute widdle puppy {chocolate chip} breath ....

Until she hops on your bed and yakks all over your bedspread.

Stupid dog.

Excuse me, I have three loads of bedding to take care of.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I was going to post today about how I'm honestly not sure which store I love more: Office Depot, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Garden Ridge Pottery, all of which I spent time in today, single-handedly revitalizing our nation's economy, and the happy feeling I got as I made each of my purchases.

Then I realized that was boring.

So then I was going to post about the feeling of utter contentment I got today as I ordered my Diet Dr. Pepper from Sonic, and as I drove away, the sun was shining warmly into my car and Josh Groban's Ave Maria was playing in my stereo and a sense of total well-being flooded through me ... and then my stomach started growling and I remember that I skipped breakfast, which pretty much ruined the mood.

But I realized that was boring, too.

So then I was going to post about the TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE (!!!) that occurred when I ordered my favorite sandwich from my favorite sandwich shop for lunch (ham and cheese on white, plain, dry, with swiss instead of provolone and an extra slice of swiss, please) only to be told that they are "phasing out the Swiss". What??? Phasing out swiss cheese??? It's a sandwich shop, for pete's sake, how ridiculous is that? Why don't they just phase out bread while they're at it? Or meat?!?!?!

When it occurred to me that was even more boring than the others.

So basically, I got nothing.

Have a nice day.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lazy Thing Number Two

Updated to add my own observations about tonight's concert:

1. It is a damn miracle they haven't induced an epileptic seizure in any of the audience members with those blinding strobe lights.

2. Dude, seriously. Next year I will take sunglasses. I was squinting like Gilbert Gottfried every time those things started flashing.

3. When you're sitting that close to the side-stage, the fire is realllllllllllllly hot. In fact, I think my right eyebrow might be singed.

4. There is nothing cooler than taking two 10-yr olds who think "This totally rocks, man!" which therefore, makes me totally rockin' by association.

5. I have decided what I want to be when I grow up: a singer for TSO. Those girls are young, beautiful, have rock-star hair that they flip all over the stage, and can sing like nobody's business. Unfortunately for me, I am old, chubby, and can't carry a tune in a bucket. But I do have the hair ... so that's a start.

6. If #5 doesn't work, then my back-up plan is to make Kellen continue taking piano lessons until the day he can take over for Derek Wieland, then I can get in to all the concerts for free. I'd pin my hopes on Kendrie, but she says "loud concerts are scary" ... which pretty much rules out any hope of TSO.

7. I'm sorry, what did you say? My ears are ringing ......


Can you guess what I'm doing tonight? Hmmm? Can ya? Can ya, hmmmm?

Yep, my very most favoritest holiday tradition, the annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. Blaine is not feeling good enough to go, so I'm taking Kellen and a friend of his, and bursting thier little eardrums exposing them to the experience that is a TSO concert at an early age. I can't stinking wait.

And, although blatant plagerizing is almost as bad as posting a link, or repeating myself .... dudes, seriously, I cannot sum up the TSO experience any better than Crystal did last year at Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper. (See link in my sidebar to read all her great stuff.)

I laughed until I pretty much wet myself when I read this on her blog last year and linked to her then. Crystal, because she is both smart AND pretty AND funny AND nice, gave me permission to post it again this year because seriously ... she is DEAD SPOT ON with her rendition of the evening and I can't WAIT to see it and hear it again for myself this year.

So tomorrow, if you see me wandering around town in a daze and call my name and I don't answer, it's because I made the parental sacrifice and gave my son the earplugs and quite frankly, SPEAK UP SONNY I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!

In the meantime, thanks to Crystal for letting me use this again.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra last night. I have been wanting to see them for years, but their tickets are fairly expensive and we've just never had the extra money at Christmas.

This year, Chris bought them months ago and surprised me for my birthday. Gold star for him, because, seriously, DUDE.

Here are some of my observations:

1. There was enough hair, collectively, on that stage to keep Locks Of Love overwhelmed for a year.

2. This woman is not human. And nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.

3. This guy busted out with the Charlie Brown theme and then somehow segued into Chopin and I wet myself.

4. Tommy Farese sang some song, I don't even remember what it was but it was incredible. And then his Hair went crazy and ate the bass player.

5. It doesn't matter if you like rock, blues, classical or the sound of tiny leprechauns singing dirty limericks, you will find something to love about this show.


7. My husband was the one that screamed, "FREE BIRD!!", during a lull in the guitar solo. He cracks himself up.

8. The Hair got depressed after it ate one of the backup singers and sat quietly in the corner, weeping, before security hauled it away.


10. The lady next to me was drunk and smelly. I forgave her that because the narrator told me I had to be nice, being this was a Christmas show and all. When she elbowed me for the twentieth time, I leaned over and whispered, "My husband? He ate one of those huge chili-dogs with extra onions, so I apologize beforehand if you lose an eyebrow or anything." She leaned the other way. God bless us, every one.

11. It is well worth every penny. This show left me awestruck, and they did it for three hours. I don't think I've ever done anything for three hours.

12. Open flames, big hair and lots of hair product = some day, something really bad is going to happen and I hope they have a fire truck waiting outside. That's all I'm going to say about that.

13. They broke into, "Proud Mary", and geriatrics everywhere went ballistic. No one broke a hip and it was a beautiful thing.

14. Do you know they had a headline the day Ike turner died and it said, "Ike Beats Tina Turner To Death"? I mean, seriously? Who let THAT one slip?

I had one thing going through my mind through the entire show...but...


Merry Christmas. Keep your hair under control.


So, the first thing I do for Thanksgiving is recycle an old journal entry, and now the second thing I'm going to do is simply post a link. I'd like to blame it on turkey-and-dressing poisoning, causing my brain to atrophy and my creative juices to dry up, but truth be told, I'm just lazy.

Amy, a reader of this blog, recently posted the 100th entry on her own blog titled the "ABC's of Thanksgiving" ..... since I was too lazy to post my own list of thankfulness, she asked me to give her a shout out here, and I figured that would be WAY easier than coming up with something original. :)

So here you go.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Repeating Myself

If you've been following along on this blog, or even on Kendrie's Caringbridge site from the earlier days, you probably suspected this journal entry was coming. For those of you who have never read it before, I'm simply re-posting a Caringbridge journal entry that I originally typed on Thanksgiving of 2003. It had been approximately six weeks since Kendrie had been diagnosed with leukemia, and this post was really the first time that I felt I "connected" with people. While I don't think it's Pulitzer Prize material or anything necessarily worthy of repeating for literary sake, it *does* serve as a very good reminder to me that most of the time nowadays, I need to pull my head out of my ass and remember when I really *did* have something to feel upset about.

Thanks for letting me repeat it again ....

Friday, November 28, 2003 0:21 AM CST

First of all, I have to say how much we appreciate those of you who check on this web site and take the time to sign the guestbook. Several of you, and some who have e-mailed me privately, have made the comment you are glad to see me (try to!) put a humorous spin on things, and that you’re glad to know we’re coping so well. To be honest, I have no idea if we’re coping well at all. I just make it a point to do my crying and worrying and stressing in private, and put on a happy face, USUALLY, in public. But today, in this journal entry, I’m going to be a little more honest about things and the way I am really feeling. I’m not sure what has brought about this pathetic moment of self-introspection, but feel the need to get some things off my chest. If you don’t want to hear it, exit now, it won’t hurt my feelings. I promise to kick myself in the butt and be back to normal tomorrow. (No, I will not be taking volunteers for the chance to kick me, so all of you just put your hands down now. No, no, do NOT form a line!)

I think it’s the whole Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Something I’ve found pretty easy to do most years, and took for granted pretty much every year up until now. Sure, I know a little bit about worrying about the health of family members. Who doesn’t? My dad has muscular dystrophy. My mother-in-law is on dialysis for renal failure. My husband had two major surgeries to get rid of a cancerous tumor six months ago, and had a nice chunk of the inside of his head removed at the same time --- reconstruction still a work in progress. So I thought I was a veteran at worrying, but always managed to give thanks irregardless. WRONG. Nothing prepares you for the fear and worry when your child is ill. More than ill. Ill with a disease that, even in this day and age, still claims innocent victims. And now you want me to give thanks????? So here’s the lame analogy I came up with:

Imagine every year for Thanksgiving that you and your family go to a wonderful all-you-can-eat buffet. The food is always great and you look forward to getting the same delicious meal, year after year. So this year, you give your standard order to the waitress: an appetizer of “love”, a “caring” salad, the side dishes, “thoughtfulness” “compassion” and “laughter” and a big, juicy entrée of “good health and happiness for everyone”. The waitress brings you everything you asked for but the entrée. Instead, in front of you on the table, she places a big, fat crap sandwich. And the conversation goes a little something like this:

You: “excuse me, I didn’t order this crap sandwich”

Waitress: “house special. You got it without asking”

You: “but I don’t want a crap sandwich. I want good health and happiness for everyone.”

Waitress: “well, you got a crap sandwich.”

You (getting upset) “well take it back and give me what I asked for instead!”

Waitress points to a sign that says “Absolutely NO substitutions”

You say adamantly: “there is positively no way I am going to be able to choke down this crap sandwich and I think it’s really unfair for you to expect me to”

And the waitress replies “hey, look. You’ve still got love, caring, thoughtfulness, compassion and laughter, so try to appreciate those. Oh, I almost forgot, here’s your condiment tray for the crap sandwich. You also get big overflowing bowls of fear, worry, anger, guilt and resentment. Bon Appetit!”

And so you’re looking around the restaurant, feeling really grumpy about your crap sandwich, and you realize that there are a lot more people with crap sandwiches than you ever thought possible. And from the looks on their faces, none of them ordered them, either. Then you see a couple of tables with really, really big, Dagwood-sized crap sandwiches and you summon the waitress again. “Excuse me, why are their crap sandwiches so big?” And she explains that those people are facing situations even worse than yours. Their kids haven’t responded well to treatment, have had cancer relapses, or worse yet, died. And you start to think maybe your crap sandwich isn’t so bad after all. Maybe you should keep your big mouth shut, choke it down, and be glad when it’s all gone and everyone is well again. And then, right then, your waitress reminds you of one last thing: “Management reserves the right to serve you another, bigger crap sandwich, anytime they want”

That’s a little how I feel right now at Thanksgiving, living in this surreal world of leukemia. I know there are other people who are having a rougher time of things than we are. I know Kendrie is responding well to her chemotherapy. She is in remission and God willing, will stay there. But I am having a very difficult time Giving Thanks for this crap sandwich, and I’m unbelievably resentful that there are more crap sandwiches being made in the kitchen even as I type this, and terrified more than you can possibly know that our family might be due another platter.

I resent that “in remission” doesn’t mean cured. It doesn’t mean anywhere near cured. It means cured for right now. Today. Kendrie could relapse tomorrow; next week; next month; ten years from now. When are we ever supposed to relax? When will this knot in my stomach go away? It’s the last worry on my mind at night and the first thought in my head when I awake each morning.

I resent that for the rest of her (my) life, every time she complains of an ache or a pain or runs a fever, I will fear that the cancer has returned. Prognosis is no where near as good for kids who have relapsed. Dear God, don’t let her relapse.

I resent that I can no longer brush her forehead or cheek without covertly checking for signs of a fever.

I resent that despite my best intentions, my other two kids are getting the short end. There are only so many hours in a day.

I resent that I am so tired, and then feel frustrated with Kendrie for being the source of that, then feel ashamed of my frustration.

I resent that I saw Kellen had bruises on his shins tonight and for a split second, all I could think was “Dear God, not two of them.” It does happen; two kids in one family. What family could endure that? The ones that have to, I guess.

And that’s my point --- to all of you who say, “I don’t know how you do it” or “I don’t think I could do it” Well, of course you could. Do we have any choice? We do it because to do otherwise would be to shortchange Kendrie, and all the kids with cancer, which simply isn’t an option. And I try to do it with a little bit of grace and humor and optimism because quite frankly, if I wrote too many journal entries like this, I would depress the shit out of everyone, myself included. In fact, I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this one, except maybe trying to explain that underneath the jokes and “looking on the bright side” is a terror so real that sometimes I lie in bed at night and can’t breathe. And I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. I’m trying to be honest. Leukemia kills children. Yes, the “cure” rate is 85% (For ALL, which is what Kendrie has. Other kinds have lower rates than that.) That means 15% still die up front, and the other 85% ONLY have to worry about a relapse for the rest of their life. I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach just typing all this, so maybe I should move on.

There are some things I am truly grateful for:

I am grateful that it looks like a CVS pharmacy exploded in my kitchen. That means there are drugs that can be used in an attempt to cure my child and beat leukemia.

I am grateful Kendrie has tolerated the treatment so well so far. I am grateful for remission.

I am grateful my husband has a good job with good insurance and that so far, finances are not one more worry to add into the rest of this.

I am grateful for the friends and family, both near and far, who have supported us so kindly, and who will read through this awful journal entry and love me anyway.

I am grateful that when Kendrie was diagnosed, my mother was able to drop everything to come to Georgia and be with us. I am grateful that my dad and my sister so willingly held down the fort in her absence.

I am grateful my husband had cancer this spring. Had he not, he wouldn’t have been placed on the “Do Not Deploy” list and he would have been in Sarejavo when Kendrie was diagnosed. As hard as that week was, I am grateful we were able to face it as a family.

I can’t come up with a reason to be grateful that Kendrie is going bald, but I’ll work on it.

I am grateful that my crap sandwich isn’t any bigger than it is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the other hand ....

I realize I offended several of you in the retail industry by my last post ..... but I unapologetically stand by my opinion. Cashiers who kvetch about their job, boss, work schedule or co-workers in front of customers are rude and unprofessional. (and did I mention I don't give a shit???)

Thank you to Jen for pointing out (since a few of you seemed to miss it) that I was ranting against bad cashiers who are under the (extremely misguided) impression that I have an interest in their personal life, or in how many more hours until they get off, or in how much they hate their job. Or their boss. Or their co-workers. Or the company they work for in general. And I have no clue how the comments got hi-jacked to a rant about welfare, but somebody missed my point completely.

Cashiers who are competent, knowledgeable, capable, and friendly are worth their weight in gold. And because I used to BE one, I will share with you a few thing from the other perspective .... bearing in mind that I was a retail cashier back in the olden days before scanners and upc codes, when we had to ring up the items (gasp!) by hand by punching numbers on a giant cash register, and calculate discounts and percentages in our heads (math!), and memorize each week's sales circular because the machines didn't automatically reduce prices (brain power!), and we not only bagged the groceries for the customers, and carried them out to their cars,** but also emptied the carts ourselves onto the conveyor belt, oh my aching back .... **ok, so technically, the cashiers rarely carried groceries out to the cars, that's why God invented "baggers", hello, dashing 21-yr old Blaine Escoe, so nice to meet you and yum that you got assigned to my lane that fateful night at work .... but I digress.

Tips and pointers from cashiers to clueless shoppers to make this holiday season (or hell, make any day of the year) go more smoothly in the retail world:

1. If you are not sure if something is on sale, ask before I finish ringing up a hundred other items. Don't ask me to dig back through your shit to find out what the sale price was. Ask up front, it will save us both a whole lot of time.

2. Don't try to pass me expired coupons on purpose (yes, again, back in the day before they were scanned and automatically denied as expired.) If I point out to you that one (or more) of your coupons is expired, believe me, it's embarrassing for me, too. Just take it back and let's move on.

3. For the love of Pete, don't wait until I've finished ringing up a two hundred dollar grocery order to get out your checkbook and start writing your check. (I suppose in this day and electronic age, I should amend that to "get out your debit card") Have that thing filled out except for the amount so we can move on and both get on with our lives.

4. I am a captive audience while I am ringing up your order. I realize that, and don't mind at all when you talk to me during this time about things. In fact, it relieves the monotony of my job. However, please understand that the more I participate in this conversation, the slower I will go. (I feel the need to mention AGAIN that this was back in the day when we rang items up by hand and couldn't stand, facing our customers the entire time.) Also, as a courtesy to the customers behind you, please be aware that when I am done ringing you up and you have paid, it is time to bid one another a fond farewell and move on.

5. Do not eat a banana while you are shopping and then hand me the peel and ask me to weigh it. Seriously? Are you kidding me??? Yes, this happened on more than one occasion ... same goes for people handing me an empty bunch of grapes and telling me you ate them while you shopped. First, how the hell am I supposed to charge you for something that is priced by weight? And secondly, GROSS .... did you WASH those things before you started chowing down?? On the other hand, eating a snack or drinking a Nestle Quick chocolate milk (ahem) while you're shopping and handing me the empty packaging with the reminder to charge you is fine.

I believe that most retailers simply want to sell their items in a (hopefully) clean store, at a fair price, and stand behind their merchandise. Cashiers should be representative of that.

I believe that most customers simply want to buy what they want to buy, in a (hopefully) clean store, at a fair price, from a supplier who stands behind their merchandise.

So to that end, let's make a deal.

As a customer, I promise not to badger the cashier for something that is clearly not his/her fault. I will not roll my eyes or make snotty comments for things that are out of the cashier's hands. I will not take my cruddy day out on the cashier who just happens to be standing there when it's time for me to check out.*** I will be prepared with my payment, and if I have questions, go directly to the source (ie, Customer Service) that is better equipped to handle inquires or problems or concerns. ***you guys know I would never do any of thost things, right? I might be sarcastic at times here on the blog, but with the exception of one completely incompetent Geek Squad employee a few years ago who basically trashed my home computer, I have pretty much never taken my anger or frustration out on an employee. Wellllllll, there was that JC Penny episode many years ago, but that was TOTALLY the cashier's fault and I'm not taking the blame for that one, either. But besides THOSE two times, I am the ideal customer.

As a (former) cashier, I promise to do my job to the best of my ability, without bringing one iota of my personal life, feelings, or comments to the customer. I will greet you courteously and promptly, and then I will set about doing my job. I might think you are the dumbest, most annoying customer on the planet, but I will remember to do my job professionally. I also promise to remember that I am representing my co-workers, boss, and the company I work for .... so even if some shit goes wrong that is totally, 100% NOT my fault, I will still apologize to the customer on behalf of my employer because it is the proper thing to do. Then I will go in the employee breakroom and draw your face with devil horns on the bathroom wall ----- but in public, I will remember to be a professional, because it's my job and I'm getting paid to do it.

Deal, pickle?

Besides the retail store (like a Wal-Mart, but not Wal-Mart) that I worked for in high school and college, I also did a brief retail stint at a Lerners when I was sixteen. I hated that job, and sucked at it. I barely knew how to dress myself, let alone offer shopping advice to other grown-up women. The final straw came the day they made me stand out front of the store, passing out credit card applications, with a "Ms. Lerner" sash across my chest like in the Miss America pageant. I gave my notice that day.