Wednesday, August 27, 2008

AWOL

Call it what you will, but I'm taking a few days off. A mini-blogging vacation. A brief leave of absence. A day of personal time.

Actually, about four or five days worth.

I'll be back Monday, hopefully feeling witty and inspiring and profound.

Or hell, I'd settle for even just having something to say.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I am even more out of touch than I realized

One of the many, many, many cool things about middle school, of course, is getting a locker. It's almost as cool as the fact they have vending machines in the school, except for the fact students aren't allowed to use them without teachers permission. The vending machines ... not the lockers. Getting a locker is even cooler this year, because last year at the middle school, sixth graders didn't get lockers. The fact that they get them this year is surprising, and awesome, unless you are my seventh grade nephew, who swears it's the most unfair thing on the planet and *he* had to lug all his crap around last year and why shouldn't this years' sixth graders have to as well???? See, the "I had to walk six miles uphill in both directions to school in the snow with no shoes on" type mentality starts early around here.

Anyway, enough of that.

Brayden was very excited about getting a locker, until she found out they were only half-lockers. And she would have to share with another student. And her locker is located on the bottom, so she practically has to sit on the floor to open it. And when she actually *did* sit on the floor to open it, a dust bunny the size of Kansas flew out at her head, along with some scrap paper and last year's locker recipient's school photo. Did nobody clean these lockers the entire summer? Or since the school was originally built???

Anyway, enough of that.

The promise of wet wipes and some locker accessories made up for the crummy location and dusty condition, and so far, she hasn't been assigned anyone to share it with ... so it's actually big enough to hold her solitary binder. So I thought she would still be happy, until the first day she stormed up to me after school and informed me that "Her locker is JANKED!"

And I said, "You mean dirty?"

And she said, "No, I mean it's JANKED! The lock doesn't work!"

So the first thing I did was walk her back to her locker and show her the correct way to open a lock. Spinnnnnnnn to the right, then back around once to the left, then just a liiiiiiitle back around to the right. Ta-da!!! Lock opens!! (Seriously, hello, bosses of the school? Maybe next year on the first day of school you should consider a remedial class in "locker opening" because I was one of three parents standing there having to teach our kids how to open their "Janked" lockers after school today. Obviously this is not a skill these kids are just born with.)

The next thing I did was inform Brayden that there is no such word as "Janked". To which she promptly replied, "Oh yes there is" and I came back with the snappy retort, "Oh no there's not!"

When I got home I googled the word. Although Brayden is in fact correct, and "Jank" is a word with many meanings, one of which is "messed up" or "not right", do you know what the very first definition listed on Urban Dictionary is?

"To be brutally raped by a 400 lb wild gorilla"

What the heck does that even MEAN??????

Clearly, Brayden is getting a first-rate education in middle school --- specifically, language arts, don't you think?

************************************
Remind me to tell you the story sometime about how my senior year of high school I was completely obsessed with the Soloflex guy, and had dozens of bumper stickers and ads and photos of him and his amazing upper body slapped all over the inside of my locker, so that every day when I opened my locker between classes I pretty much just stood there and drooled over the pecs on that guy. And how on the last day of school, as all the seniors were getting excited for graduation that night, I got called to the office and told I wouldn't receive a diploma until all those stickers were removed. And so on the afternoon of the last day of school, while everyone else was doing whatever it is semi-nostalgic seniors DO, I spent my quality time with a straight-edge razor, cleaning out my locker. Man, that sucked.

In fact, had I had the stellar vocabulary at that time that Brayden has now, I'm pretty sure I would have said the whole thing was "Janked."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Out with a whimper

So, my final photography class was last Tuesday. It was phenomenal, it was amazing, it was .......... ok, shoot, I have no idea how it was. I didn't even get to go.

Brayden's new soccer team had a mandatory parent/player meeting, and Puke Boy over there sure couldn't manage it. So I left Kellen and Kendrie home with him, comatose in the bed (him, not them) which was a big mistake because when my phone rang half-way through the parents' meeting, it was Kendrie on the other end, hyperventilating with panic because the alarm system had gone off and she and Kellen panicked. Come to find out, *they* forgot to turn it off when putting Barley out, but she was convinced that bad guys were breaking down the doors to steal her away, and practically screaming at me in hysteria to GETHOMENOWWEDONTKNOWWHATTODO amid cries of WHATSWRONGWITHTHEALARM punctuated by SOMEONEISGOINGTOGETME and where was Blaine? Sleeping through the entire thing. Ahhhhhhh, there's some responsible parenting. God bless Phenergan.

So I skipped my final class to attend the meeting, and skipped part of the meeting to stand in the hall and talk Kendrie down off the ledge. And what wound up happening? Well, Kellen and Kendrie calmed down and were able to turn off the alarm themselves .... Brayden discovered that this soccer team, although billed as "co-ed", was actually ten boy and only two girls, and she promptly decided not to play.** And me? Missed my final photography class for absolutely nothing. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The class was supposed to be a final photo critique and lecture on "What makes a prize-winning photo?" Personally, I don't need my photos to be prize-worthy; I'd just like a shot or two where my kids' skin tones aren't green or gray and I somehow manage NOT to get a trash can in the background, or blur everyone into having two heads.

Since my instructor couldn't critique my photos (on account of me not having them there, of course) I'll let all of you do it for me.

The lesson was over light, both natural (available) and artificial. We had a list of photos to take in different light situations, so he could see how well we could manipulate both our cameras, and our surroundings. I think these might have been my crappiest photos of the entire class, so maybe in hindsight, Blaine getting the flu was a blessing. (Just don't tell him I said that.)


The criterion for this photo was Indoors, Daytime, Natural Light. As everyone knows, that means taking advantage of light coming through a window. I've always heard that north-facing windows have the best light, and this is the ONLY north facing window in our entire house, unless I have one of the kids sit in the kitchen sink. But I didn't think it was a great photo. Overexposed on the side near the window and underexposed on the other side. In hindsight, a white sheet of poster board or something to reflect the light from the other side might have helped.



I thought the photo might look better if I converted it to black & white .... but, meh. Still not anything that would take your breath away, or even be deemed worthy of framing.



The criterion for this photo was Outdoors, Nighttime, no flash, available light only. Obviously, to take an outdoor photo at night with no flash means you must have a lighted subject, and must shoot in aperture priority mode. I used the local church because I think the stained glass windows are pretty at night, but even standing completely still, I couldn't avoid the blur. To get a better shot of this either I need to use a tripod, or to quit drinking so much. My vote is to buy a better tripod.



Criterion: Photo indoors, nighttime, with flash. Pretty much any snapshot would do, but we had to take the exact same photo with no flash, so I needed to get light into the image. I did this by pretending it was a birthday photo, with lit candles on the cake. This photo revealed a few things to me: I don't know if it's possible to get any kind of fabulous picture, shooting indoors with flash. I think a "decent snapshot" is about the best I can hope for ... which I what I consider this photo to be. It also told me I have no business baking a fake birthday cake and trying to be artsy-fartsy and making a two-layer cake because I don't know how to level the cake and this one almost fell over plus I didn't have enough icing to cover the whole thing so in actuality? This cake was a disaster. And, either Blaine or I one need to start smoking so we actually have a lighter in this house. I had to hold one of the birthday candles upside down over a burner on the stove to light it. That's pathetic.


This was the picture that perplexed me the most. Criterion: Indoors, Nighttime, No flash (available light only). Every year I take a photo just like this one of my kids with the candles lit on their birthday cake, and the lights in the room turned off. I love the glow it puts on their faces, and I have done this picture successfully at least a dozen times over the years. So why, all of a sudden, do I have this halo thing going on? The light from the candles is reflecting back up in Brayden's face .... hmmmm. My guess is one of two things: either the candles are too close together on my beautiful, wonderfully decorated piece of crap two-layer cake, instead of spread out like they normally are on a 13x9 cake. Or, there's some funky new adjustment I need to make on my new camera that I'm not aware of, and until I figure it out, my kids are doomed to a life of having reflective candle glow on their faces.

And since I didn't get to ask the instructor about it, I'll ask you, Peoples of the Internets: what on earth did I do wrong???


**For the record, our rule is once you start playing a sport, you are not allowed to quit until the season is over. Responsibility, dependability, obligation to team, blah blah. But since this season hadn't even BEGUN, Blaine and I agreed that she could quit if she wanted, especially since none of us expected a co-ed team to be so lopsided. And I got a full refund from the league, which was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothing

Occasionally I will plan ideas for this blog ahead of time .... deep, profound thoughts about the universe and my place in it.

Most times, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants and write about the mundane, bizarre, random things that happen during the course of a day ... pretty much *as* they happen.

For the last 48 hours, I've been waiting for inspiration to strike. For something humorous, or scandalous, or the least bit interesting, to happen, so I could share it with all of you.

As of right now? I've got nothing.

I woke up this morning, tried to take my kids on a bike ride, pouted because no-one would go with me, praised the dog for going potty outside, did three loads of laundry, took a nap, took a shower, then went to a Sunday School party this evening.

Nothing earth-shattering, as you can see.

So ...........

Hmmm ...............

::looking around:: ................

::crickets chirping:: ....................

What's new with you?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why I'm not smart enough to be a housewife

So, when we bought this house, the oven/stove came with it. It's this ginormous monstrosity, with six gas burners, a griddle, and double-oven, with a range hood as big as a Buick attached to the wall above. While I certainly have images of me being all Paula-Deen-ish, and whipping up nine-course gourmet meals for my family .... the truth is .... well, I *do* use it. I actually use it a lot, because I like to cook, but I'm no Paula Deen. Or Rachel Ray. Or whoever else from HGTV floats your boat.

Another difference I noticed on this oven, from my last oven, is that because it is gas, there is no digital display or timer letting me know when the oven has finished pre-heating. Not that it's a big deal, really. I just sort of assume it takes about ten minutes to pre-heat an oven. Or I could use my brother-in-laws rule of thumb, which is to turn on the oven, immediately stick in whatever you're cooking, and just add five minute to the total bake time. No-one in his family had died from food poisoning yet, so it must work. But I was a little surprised that a jumbo-mongo-cooking-machine like we inherited didn't even have a display to tell me when it was ready to go.

We moved into this house last November --- last week I noticed there is a light on the front of the oven next to the word "Heating" ... and apparently, the light is on when the oven is pre-heating, and when the light goes off, that means the oven has reached the temperature you need.

Huh. Well, what do you know?

I started to do a post about how I'm not smart enough to work my oven, but figured really, do I want to brag to the Internet about what a moron I am?? (Well, more than I've bragged already?) So I just let it go.

But this week, with Blaine home sick, that means I've been doing his share of the household chores as well. Again, not a big deal, except for our agreement that I cook, he cleans up. I cannot STAND doing dishes or cleaning the kitchen after dinner each night. I'm happy to plan the meals, buy the food, and cook the meals .... but I despise cleaning up afterwards. Thankfully, Blaine doesn't mind cleaning the kitchen, so that's been our arrangement our entire marriage.

The first night he was sick I loaded the dishwasher and ran it. The next evening, Kendrie unloaded the dishwasher (thank goodness school has started up again and so have our chore charts!) and I noticed as she was putting away the glasses that several of them didn't look clean. Then I noticed the pan I had used to brown hamburger meat was DEFINITELY not clean. I *knew* I had run the dishwasher, and filled the soap dispenser up to the brim. What on earth???

I started hollering at Blaine from the kitchen, "What is wrong with this stupid dishwasher??? None of our dishes are clean!" And Blaine, who was lying on the bathroom floor in his "just shoot me and put me out of my misery" fetal position, wondered what terrible thing he must have done in a former life to wind up with a wife so unsympathetic that not only did she not bring him Sprite, not only was she resentful that he was staying home the next day and ruining her first-day-of-school-peace and quiet, but a wife who manages to rant and rave about having to clean the kitchen because he was too sick to do so himself.

This morning, I got ready to re-load the dishwasher. I noticed the soap dispenser was stuck closed, and once again the a-ha lightbulb went on over my head. "Blaine ...." I yelled, still not appreciating his nauseous position on the sofa, "Hey, I figured out what was wrong with the dishwasher and why none of the dishes were clean. Apparently the soap dispenser jammed or something and it didn't open."

And there was a pause from the living room, and then I heard his weak, sick little voice reply .... "The soap dispenser in that dishwasher isn't supposed to open. You're supposed to leave it open every cycle."

Oh.

Well.

Now it makes sense.

So, do you think before long he will realize that sick or no, he needs to get up off the sofa and help out around here before I bring the house down around our heads with my ineptitude???

Faces

Picture Kendrie’s face: “Mom! Barley just bit a hole in my brand new school shirt!”

Picture Barley’s face: “You can’t even be mad at me because I’m so cute!”

Picture Mom’s face: “Not right now you’re not. And yes I am.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

Mom: "OK, you kids realize that since Dad is still .... um .... "indisposed" .... (ie, puking his heels up) that we're going to have to fake these pictures again later with him in them, right?"

Brayden: "What do you mean? There's only one first day of school."

Mom: "I know, but we always take pictures of you guys with Dad on the first day of school, so we'll have to re-do them."

Kellen: "How can we re-do the first day of school?"

Mom: "Well, it won't actually BE the first day of school again. We'll just put the same clothes on again, maybe this weekend, and PRETEND it's the first day of school so we can take the pictures."

Kendrie: "That's ok, Mom, you can just photo-scrap him in."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reason #4192 that I’m going straight to Hell in a hand-basket. And what is a hand-basket, anyway?

I love my children more than the grains of sand on the beach, and more than the droplets of water in the ocean. They are my sun, and my moon. I can’t imagine my life without them, and I am thankful every day that they’ve come into my life and fulfilled me as both a parent, and as a person.

They are driving me crazy. School starts tomorrow --- it won’t come quickly enough.

But that’s not why I’m going to Hell. I don’t think I’m that out of the ordinary for admitting that I’m glad school is starting up again. I imagine many of the parents … specifically moms … specifically, STAY AT HOME moms will be doing the Happy Dance in the school parking lot tomorrow morning right along with me.

I feel bad for families with dual-working parents in the summer, especially when the kids are too old for day care, but not old enough to stay by themselves. Lots of families we know have the hassle of trying to figure out what to do to keep their kids happy and busy and safe and entertained in the summer when neither parent is home during the day.

I also feel sorry for stay-at-home moms during the summer --- oh, wait, that would be **ME**. We love our kids, we really do. Personally, my kids and I have had a great summer --- lots of playing and swimming and hanging out and relaxing and getting to stay up extra late. Lots of spending quality time together --- laughing and going to Sonic and having sleepovers and spending time at the lake and making wonderful memories together.

And lots of arguing and bickering and whining and demanding. Lots of them insisting they are bored, then turning up their noses when I suggest activities. Lots of fighting over the computer. The biggest change for me is having them with me 24/7, when I’m used to them being in school. And I’ll admit that I’m more than ready for them to go back to school so I can have just a few hours a day to myself. Not that I’m going to be lying around eating bon-bons, or spending all day at the mall, or doing nothing but reading blogs ….. but simply to get the laundry done without having to make anyone lunch, or pay bills without being asked to referee an argument, or spend an hour of uninterrupted time on the computer, or even two minutes uninterrupted time in the bathroom. And to know it’s no longer my job to keep them happy and busy and safe and entertained every single minute of every single day.

So there. I said it out loud. “I am excited for my kids to start school tomorrow so I can go to Target by myself. So I can spend the day without the television turned to the Disney channel. So I can go out to eat in a grown-up restaurant for lunch. So I can spend a few hours with only myself for company … no tattling, no fussing, no fighting. SO I CAN POTTY IN PEACE.”
There. I admitted it, so sue me. But that’s not why I’m going to Hell.

I’m going to Hell because Blaine woke up yesterday morning with a head cold. Which mutated down his throat and turned into a stomach virus. Which caused him to wake up this morning puking his guts out, and to spend the entire day today lying on the bathroom floor with a pillow and blanket. When we left to go to the Meet and Greet your teacher this afternoon he had made it to the sofa. When we returned, he was back on the bathroom floor.

And when he called his doctor to try and get something for nausea, they told him they couldn’t get him in until tomorrow afternoon. And he said he understood, and would stay home until then.

So, the reason I’m going to Hell is because instead of rushing to his aid, with damp cloths and tepid Sprite and warm blankets and saltine crackers and lots and lots of sympathy, all I could think was, “You mean I’ve been waiting twelve damn weeks for a few measly hours of peace and quiet and you’re telling me you’re planning on staying HOME tomorrow????? Are you kidding me? You need to get better! Go to work! I want the house to myself tomorrow!!”

Empathy.

It’s what’s for dinner.

In Hell.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Don’t I Just Tattoo “DumbAss” Across My Forehead and Be Done With It??

So, Thursday night I was driving Kellen to his soccer practice and as we rounded the corner to the playing field, he pointed to a boy playing goalie and said, “That’s Omar. He’s a new boy on my team.”

Ok, let’s back up. When my kids went to school in Georgia, a large number of their classmates were black. Or Negro. Or African-American, or whatever is deemed “correct” these days. In Kindergarten, Brayden received an Barbie invitation to a birthday party for a classmate whose family we didn’t know. I was going to Target to buy a Barbie doll for the little girl when it occurred to me that there was a good chance this little girl might prefer a darker-skinned Barbie. So I called Brayden into the room and asked her, “Hey, is Monica black?” not realizing how literal children can take our comments. Brayden looked at me like I had grown another head and said, “Uh, no, she’s brown.” And so to this day, that’s what Blaine and the kids and I call brown people …. Brown. It’s not intended to be anything more than an identifier, just like my kids call people with blonde hair “Blondies”, or like they might identify a child by their height or freckles or if they wear glasses. No malice, no intent … just, “That’s Omar. He’s the new brown boy on my team.” Matter of fact, and end of discussion.

Kellen ran off to practice, and a gentleman with a heavy Spanish accent (which I later found out was Venezuelan) walked up to me a few minutes later and asked a question about the fields. While I’m not on a first-name basis with all the other parents yet, I do recognize most of them, and I knew I had never seen this gentleman before. Because I’m nosy as all get out friendly and inquisitive, I simply introduced myself and asked, “Are you Omar’s dad?” to which he paused, and then replied yes. It was obvious he was not Omar’s biological father. So I assumed he must be a step-dad. Doesn’t matter, really, I’m just curious about people like that.

I said, “Oh, Kellen told me they had a new boy named Omar on the team and that he’s a really good player …. He was so excited to have him try out.” And this dad and I started talking, and he was incredibly nice, and funny, and friendly. And I was thoroughly enjoying our conversation.

He asked me which boy was my son, and I pointed to Kellen and said, “Right there, the boy in the red shorts ….” And at exactly that moment, Kellen tripped over a blade of grass, with no-one anywhere near him, and fell flat on his face. And I burst out laughing and said, “The highly coordinated one who doesn’t understand gravity.” And he laughed too, in a kind way.

Then another gentleman, this guy a total whitey-tighty like me, walked up and introduced himself. And he was just as funny and friendly and nice as the first guy. And they were talking about “their” house and “their” business, and it took just a nano-second for the A-ha! light bulb to go on over my head.

I’ll admit, I was very curious about them. I mean, how do a Venezuelan guy and a white guy wind up as life partners in Oklahoma with a brown son named Omar? I mean, who *wouldn’t* be curious??

But more than that, I was acutely aware that I didn’t want to say anything stupid or offensive. I have no problem with gay people (Remember? Spent much of my twenties dancing in the local gay bars) and it goes without saying that I’m pro-adoption. So while I would have loved to have heard their story, I was determined not to give any indication that anything was out of the norm, or say or do anything to make them uncomfortable.

As the practice wore on, they were talking about how nervous their son was about the tryouts. So I started watching, and even though I know next to nothing about soccer, even I could tell the boy was very good. So I made several helpful comments about how well he was doing ….. “Oh, look, Omar just scored a goal!” … and “How long has Omar played soccer?” …. And “Omar seems like a really great defender!” Etc. And because I genuinely liked them and wanted to be friendly, I asked even more stuff, “Where does Omar go to school?” and “What other hobbies does Omar have?” I don’t know, maybe I was just so glad to have another newbie-parent there besides myself that I was pathetic in my attempts to be social, but it really did come from the heart.

At the end of the practice, the team manager came up and said to the dads, “Congratulations, we’re not sure if it will be the A team or B team, but the coach wants to offer Lamar a spot.” And the dads smiled and said thanks.

And I sat there a second and said, “Wait. Who? Lamar? Who’s Lamar?”

And the first dad said, “That’s our son …. Lamar.”

And I was all embarrassed and awkward, “Lamar? Lamar???? And I’ve been calling him OMAR this whole time??? Why didn’t either of you correct me???”
And they sort of smiled at one another, and then said to me, “You were being so nice, we didn’t have the heart.”

So basically, I sat there for an hour and a half, determined not to make them uncomfortable, or say anything stupid, but called their son by the wrong name the entire time. About a bazillion times. Clearly, I’m a moron.

But I’m totally blaming Kellen for this one --- I’m telling you, he SAID Omar!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Things that make you go hmmmmmm

Remember I told you that all three kids had friends over at some point earler this week? Well, those friends converged on Monday and I took the three of them, along with my own three, to the local amusement park. On a day it was raining and only 75 degrees. Because I'm a glutton for punishment like that. We're counting down the days until school starts next week, so I figured one final day of fun was due, plus by golly, I'm going to wring every penny out of those season passes that I can.

This amusement park is fairly typical, with rides and food and souvenir shops. It also has a few small arcade areas, similar to a fair or carnival, where you can knock down milk bottles or toss rings around goldfish bowls or throw a basketball or whatever ---- to win cheap, cheesy crap.

I don't normally let my kids do any of the games because we have plenty of cheap, cheesy crap in our house already, and I think money is better spent on pizza and dippin dots and pretzels and cotton candy and JUNK FOOD . But, one of their friends had brought money and wanted to play a few games, so we headed off to the midway area.

As I was standing back, watching Kellen's friend spend $12 in an attempt to win a $2 cape, I noticed two slightly-older boys at a booth where the "prizes" were 16 x 20 poster prints. They had each won, and were walking away with their pictures tucked firmly under their arms.

These boys were maybe ... I don't know .... twelve or thirteen?

The first boy had some kind of Rambo-type picture of Sylvester Stallone. The photo showed Sly, bandana around his head, sweat and blood dripping off of him, his face scrunched in some vicious kind of sneer, and him holding an automatic weapon, pointed directly at the face of the viewer. Almost like an "Uncle Sam needs you!" image, but with an Uzi pointed in MY direction.

Boy #2 had a simple black poster, with the Playboy bunny image printed on it. No girl, no nudity, just the international icon with bunny ears and bustier, known the world over as a symbol for .... um .... bunny-ness, for lack of a better word.

I'm not sure which poster I found less appropriate for a twelve-year old boy's room.

And my belief that my money is better spent on rock candy was affirmed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Questions, which I really love, because it keeps me from having to come up with a "real" post

Liz in Sumner asks: One more question: I'm a clueless, pacific northwesterner(sorry, but not my fault - I was born here), and someday when my son is out of school, I'd like to leave the state and live elsewhere. All we ever hear about the midwest up here is TORNADOS!!! Do you guys down there all have storm cellars or basements or something for when those storms hit? Because they SURE look scarey! And, how are the bugs? We're (relatively!!) bug-less up here......in other words, nobody uses Orkin on a regular basis.....

Liz, this question hits particularly close to home because as I type this, I have an eight-year old asleep in my bed, as she has been every single night for the past four months, due to her obsessively paranoid fear of tornadoes (which trickles down to an obsessively paranoid fear of thunder, lightning, rain, and even dark clouds in the sky--- which, quite frankly, is exhausting. And makes me hate the makers of The Wizard of Oz for putting ideas in her head.) Like I’ve tried explaining to Kendrie, I lived in Oklahoma for the first twenty-one years of my life, and have never seen a tornado, or been anywhere near a tornado. The closest I’ve ever come to a tornado, ironically, was when we lived in Georgia and a small one touched down a few miles from our house. Although I was out running errands at the time and didn't even know it until the next day. And one time we came home on vacation and were at my sister's house when one touched down a few miles away. Some people here do have storm cellars (my sister does, and at that party, we had about fifty-eleventeen people crammed in there, which was actually a hoot) but the majority do not. Yes, storm season here can be scary, and nothing *quite* gives you an adrenaline surge like hearing the tornado sirens go off. But thanks to Doppler radar, the meteorologists here can tell you exactly where a tornado has touched down, the route it is traveling, the path it is taking, and when, within a minute, it *might* be in your area. That’s not to say it’s not scary, because it can be. But I equate it to the earthquakes in California, or the hurricanes on the coast. Just pay attention, know what to do in the event of an emergency, and use common sense. Now, if someone could help me get that message through to my daughter, and get her back in her own bed, I would be most grateful.

As far as bugs, they’re no worse here than anywhere. Although we do have a weird roly-poly infestation in this house ever since we moved here and I’m about sick of it. The first two or three I picked up and threw away were cute .... the next seven billion were not.


Cindi asks: I do have one more question though...do you ever read other blogs? Leave comments? I don't know how you'd have time, unless your request for 36 hour days was approved. And if it was, let me know what to do to get it approved. They keep turning mine down.

Cindi, yep, I love reading other blogs. I lurk way more than I ever comment, but do comment at least occasionally because I know how fun they are to recieve. I check out new blogs on pretty much a daily basis, including the links people leave here. As far as those I read regularly, you can see the list in my sidebar. Although, I should probably update that list. There are a few there that I no longer read, and a few others I should add. And really, I should add the Caringbridge sites that I still check. But, I confess to being impatient with other bloggers who don’t update on a regular basis. If I check back daily, and several days or a week goes by without an update …. And that happens often enough …. I typically quit checking. Um, fair-weather friend, anyone?


Donna asks: Are you getting the full-blown Photoshop or just Elements? I can't afford the big one, but Elements seems to have more stuff than I could ever learn to use.

Donna, a copy of Elements came with my original Rebel camera, and I was pretty content with it for quite a while. A little cropping, zooming, and contrast work was about all I did. Then, I … um … “borrowed” a copy of Photoshop 7.0 from a friend, and starting getting a little more adventurous with my work. I was juuuuuuuuust entering the wonderful world of actions a few weeks ago, and my “borrowed” copy died. So now I’m back to using Elements, and trying to work up the nerve to spend the money on my own version of Photoshop. I don’t think, however, that I’ll get the full-out version with all the bells and whistles. Too much money, too much of a learning curve, too much stuff I’ll never use.


Abbie from IA wants to know: But I am curious...did Nicholas fly out by himself or did his parents come too?

Abbie, we were lucky and the entire family got to visit! Unfortunately, thanks to airplane mechanical glitches and weather trouble, they spent more time (literally) in the airport in Atlanta and the airport in OKC than they spent actually visiting us. I’m pretty sure it won’t go down as the smoothest travel they’ve ever made. But we were happy to have them and hope they’ll come back soon. After Nicholas left, Kendrie brought me a picture she had drawn and colored, titled “My favorite place in the world! Gagia house” with a picture of our home in Georgia. Broke my heart a little bit, truly.


Nancy from Ontario asks: is barley the family dog, or, the hunting dog? whichever one she is she is absolutely beautiful. have tons of fun.

Nancy, she’s both. Although for now she’s “the dog that better quit nipping at us before things get really ugly.” Seriously … does anyone have any suggestions for teaching kids to train a dog? She does well with Blaine and I because when she tries to bite us (playfully, yes, but those sharp little puppy teeth hurt!) he and I know to grab her mouth and forcefully say no, at which point she stops. The kids start squealing, and running from her, and she thinks they’re playing, and she gets even more excited and jumps and bites some more. If we try to intervene and pop her on the butt, the kids get upset with us “because we’re hurting her!” But then they cry because *she’s* hurting *them*. So far, Kendrie has a bruise on her thigh where Barley got skin, and she actually drew blood on the back on Brayden’s neck yesterday. So I think in addition to training the puppy, Blaine and I need to work on training the kids, also. But thank you, she is cute. When she’s not peeing on the carpet.


Mama Bear says: I'm saving up to buy my first digital SLR, having only recently given up my Minolta Maxxum (which was the greatest film SLR I've ever used). Still sitting on that Nikon-Cannon fence trying to decide which way to go. Any reason why your professor prefers Nikon?

I think for the same reason most people prefer one over the other … it’s what they started with, it’s what they know, and it’s what they’re most comfortable with. Obviously, they’re both really good cameras … how many times have you heard someone say, “I just hate my Canon!” ?? Or, “This Nikon is a piece of crap!” ? Relatively never, because bottom line, they’re both good cameras. They both have neat features, and they both can capture high quality images. But after you choose and buy one, and begin to accumulate the lenses and accessories that are interchangeable, I think it would take a pretty strong incentive to get someone to change. I’m just not sure why “some” people can’t acknowledge they are both good cameras, or why they feel they must be critical of whatever brand it is they DON’T have. So if you ask me, I’m going to tell you to buy a Canon because I love mine and it makes me happy. But I’ll also be the first to tell you I have plenty of friends that use Nikon (or Olympus or Sony) who are perfectly happy as well.

Dear Twenty-Four at Heart, thanks for the invitation to come by your site and take part in your contest .... I love contests! Unfortunately, Blogger informed me when I clicked on your link that your profile is set to private, so I'm afraid I couldn't do it. Which made me sad, because I'm all about the give-aways. Unless you're giving away $50 worth of massages, or pedicures. Then I think I'll just bow out gracefully.


And now, my question-comment section is empty once again. Which means I've got to think up something "real" and interesting and funny to type about. (sigh)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Too bad you can't really SHOOT someone with your camera

So, last night's photography class was over lighting, both natural and artificial. The teacher wanted to demonstrate how a fill flash could help with photos taken outside in harsh daylight, and help soften the glare of shadows. So we all grabbed our cameras and schlepped outside the school, ready to buddy-up and practice taking pictures of one another in both shade and backlit conditions.

My partner was a girl in the class that I don't know ... of course, I don't know *any* of the people in the class, so that's not really saying anything. As we headed to a sunny patch of the parking lot to take pictures of one another, she pointed to my stomach and asked when I was due.

Now, I know I've alluded to the fact I've been dieting this summer, and while no one is confusing me for an anorexic or anything, I *have* managed to lose fifteen pounds since school let out. In fact, I was wearing a pair of jeans last night that I haven't been able to squeeze into in quite a while, and at the risk of sounding vain, thought I was looking better than I had in a long time. So for her to not only insinuate that I'm fat enough to be pregnant, but actually ask me out loud "when was I due" was a bit of a blow to my self-esteem, to be sure.

I tilted my head to the side and simply said, "Pardon?" .... at which point she realized her error and began backtracking ... "Um, are you .... I mean, you're not .... are you pregnant?" I simply replied, "No, just fat." And we took our photos without speaking much to one another after that .... the awkward silence punctuated by the clicking of our lenses.

The teacher, upon returning to the classroom, remarked what trouble I seem to have had properly using the fill flash, or was my external flash low on batteries??? as the shadows on my partner's face were very harsh, and not softened at all, and made her look much older than she really is.

Hmmmm. Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This hurts you more than it hurts me ....

It's never a good sign when the conversation with your eight-year old starts out like this:

8-yr old: "Mom, I'm not saying you're not smart. Just that doing it my way makes more sense."

It's even worse when you realize she's right.

Tough Love

Without being the least bit sarcastic, we have long called Brayden “our little bag lady” due to her pack-rat tendencies. Since she was big enough to walk, she has always – ALWAYS – dragged around a purse. Or backpack. Or gym bag. Or pillow case. Or lunch box. Or paper sack. Or whatever else she could find to carry her “treasures” in. When she was younger she would sleep with her bags, and often carry more than one at a time. I even did a scrapbook layout about it. It was cute, and we laughed ….. and then as she got older, it got a little bit annoying.

Still, to this day, we're always waiting on her to gather her stuff, and she schleps all her crap around in purses or bags. In a pinch, she’ll even use a plastic Target sack … or whatever she needs to fit all her junk in. Totally unnecessary junk, I might add. This years 4th of July parade? She carried twenty (no exaggeration) stuffed animals with her. Why? Can anyone tell me??? Her book-bag from school is crammed so full of un-needed school supplies and extra books and graded papers --that she refuses to throw away -- that she can barely lift it. When we get in the car, for a ten-minute ride, she’ll bring two or three library books, a doll, a stuffed animal or two, a pen and paper, and a tie-a-knot blanket project, or bracelet making kit, or whatever, INSISTING that she NEEDS all of it. Also as she’s gotten older, the items in her purses have gotten more valuable. Now she has an ipod and a Nintendo DS that she insists on taking everywhere.

You’ve probably guessed where this story is going --- about two weeks ago, she lost one of her purses. Couldn’t remember *exactly* where the last place she had it was, but could remember pretty much everything that was in it: her Nintendo, all her Nintendo games, cash, all the tags and id codes for her Webkinz, and jewelry that her grandmother had given her. When I asked her why she was even carrying that stuff around, instead of leaving it in her bedroom where it belonged, she couldn’t really say. Just that you never know when or where you might NEED it. And now it was lost, and she was devastated. And somehow it was all my fault, although I’m still not really sure how.

Blaine and I did everything we could think of to help her remember where she might have lost it. We searched the house and the van high and low. We checked grandma's house. We mentally back-tracked our steps the past two weeks, and called every restaurant we had eaten at. Brayden was very upset that it hadn’t been turned in to the lost and found anywhere …. I asked her, “Brayden, if you found a purse with no personal identification, with cash and a Nintendo in it, do you really think most people are going to turn it in to lost and found? And even if they did, what was to stop a restaurant or store employee from taking it??”

She was very upset, to say the least. And I’ll admit, I felt bad for her. The Nintendo DS and games she had purchased with her own money and a Christmas gift card. The cash was hers, and the jewelry was obviously personal. And as annoyed as I was with her, and as much as I wanted to say a big ole’ “I told you so!” for all the times I had told her not to carry all her stuff around, that she was going to lose it eventually ….. I still hated to see her without. Anytime Kellen and Kendrie would race one another on their DS’s this past week, I felt sad about the look on Brayden’s face.

And yeah, I’ll admit, I was tempted to go buy her another one. She was so genuinely distressed, and no parent wants their kid to be unhappy or do without. But Blaine and I knew replacing the stuff she had lost wasn’t the answer, nor was that the lesson we wanted her to learn. So as much as I hated it, I told her she was going to have to save up the money to buy her own replacement. Oh, the drama and tears that ensued …..

Saturday night, Kendrie had a friend spend the night. Yesterday, Kellen had a friend over to play, and last night, Brayden has a friend spending the night. You can about imagine the state of the girls’ bedroom upstairs. As I was helping set up the extra mattress on the floor and getting blankets for our guest, Brayden made some comment about the room was so messy she couldn’t even sleep in it and wanted to pick up some. Now, you have to realize she’s one of the biggest slobs on the planet, so she was TOTALLY only trying to get Kellen and Kendrie in trouble, by clearly pointing out to me how the room had been trashed. I told her if she wanted to pick up that would be fine, and if not, I’d make everyone do it in the morning. Then I came downstairs and (shocker!) got on the computer.

I few minutes later I heard a shriek, and someone running down the stairs. Brayden bust into my office, holding a cardboard box, and announced to me in a jubilant voice, “Mom, I found my stuff!!” Apparently she had put the purse, along with another purse, a necklace, a tin full of pencils, more costume jewelry, and a journal, into a cardboard box and put it in the corner of her room, where it had promptly been covered up by her dolls. When she was cleaning up tonight she straightened the dolls and discovered the box. To say she was overjoyed would be an understatement. **WHY** all that stuff was in a cardboard box in the corner is still not clear to me, but it's pretty par for the course for her. I was just thrilled that she finally found it.

I gave her a big hug and told her how happy I was for her. Then I tried to turn it into an educational moment with comments like, “This has been a good lesson to all of us about putting things where they belong, right?” and “Now that you know how it feels to lose something, I’m sure you’ll be more careful in the future.” And Brayden agreed, and exuded relief and glee, and smiled happily, and kittens and rainbows and blahblahblah, all was right with the world again.

So then I said, “In a weird way, we can even be grateful to Kendrie for messing up your side of the room since otherwise you wouldn’t have found it.”

And she looked me square in the eye and replied with, “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

First tournament

Kellen's new soccer team played in their first tournament this weekend. And in some kind of miracle, the weather cooperated for three of the four games, with temps *only* in the low 90's and overcast skies. The fourth game, well, we pretty much all melted on the sidelines, one kid got a bloody nose he was so hot (I didn't even know that was possible) and the poor head referee got overheated and just wandered off the field in a daze. We all thought he had called for a break that none of us heard ... only to watch him stumble to the water tent and basically collapse. When the game was over and we got back in our van, the inside thermostat was at 106 .... needless to say I perspired just a wee bit that afternoon, and I wasn't even running. I have NO idea how the kids did it.

I'm also realizing more and more that although this might be a "B" team, and the parents are indeed pretty laid-back, I'm definitely going to have to take the time to learn some of the ins and outs of soccer. The other parents were yelling encouraging things like, "Great diagonal!" and "Set up the cross!" and "Offsides!" while I sat in my chair and thought, "ooooh, I like the angle-y line on their new socks ... pretty!"

I also discovered this weekend that no matter the tips and techniques you might be learning in photography class .... no matter the nice, new camera you just purchased .... no matter how much you might *want* to take pictures of your son and his team mates, if it's an evening game, and the sun has gone down, and the stadium lights at your end of the field aren't working, well, your pictures are probably going to be lousy.




See? No amount of shutter speed in the world can overcome dismal lighting conditions like this.



Or, maybe it can, and I just haven't learned that trick in class yet. But in the meantime? My pictures? Laughable.



So you wait until the next day, when the team in playing in daylight, and you can get much better photos.



Maybe even some that make you laugh.


They won two of their first three games and made it into the semi-finals, where they were beat 5-2. Considering the semi-final team they played against had been together since they were six years old, and our team has only been together about a month, we all thought it was a pretty respectable finish. Best of all, Kellen had fun.

In the meantime, does anyone have a "Soccer for Dummies" book I can borrow?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How we almost killed our dog the first week we had her

Besides her penchant for using my bedroom carpet as her own personal bathroom area, Barley seems to be settling in pretty well here. I'm a little worried she's never going to learn to walk considering the kids fight over who gets to carry her, 99 percent of the day, so her legs are rarely used.

The biting and nipping are quickly losing their charm, but on the plus side, she's already mastered the command to sit. Obviously, she's brilliant. (Must come from my side of the family.)

But Blaine and I both noticed the past few days that she acted as though she didn't feel well. And every time we would take her outside to use the restroom, or play, she was eating an inordinate amount of grass.

First we thought it might be that she was having trouble simply getting accustomed to dry dog food ... then I worried she might have been Neutro-intolerant. She was happy, and playful ... but then one of us would take her outside, she'd eat a bunch of grass, and ralph a few minutes later. Usually as soon as we brought her back in the house. Lovely.

The kids even asked, "Are puppies supposed to throw up this much? Because Fosters and Lager sure didn't!"

This morning, Blaine came back inside and informed us he knew why she had been acting weird, and eating so much grass. Apparently the vomiting episode this morning finally dislodged what had been bothering her --- a large mass of shiny silver fabric. Almost .... disco-y, Blaine said. What on earth had she eaten???

We couldn't figure it out for quite a while. None of the kids have any clothes like that, nor are any of my bath towels or bath rugs (her favorite items to chew) silver. We looked around, and looked around, and finally Brayden figured it out.

Barley sleeps at the bottom of the stairs. That's also where she stays if we are going out and she'll be home alone. We put up baby gates to keep her from climbing the stairs or going into the rest of the house ..... and to make sure she wasn't too lonely, the kids put a giant stuffed dog in the space .... with a ginormous shiny silver fabric bow around its neck. Or at least there *used* to be a ginormous shiny silver fabric bow around its neck. The only thing around its neck now is the knot, because that's the only part Barley didn't eat.

So, apparently we're out of the running for "Pet Owners of the Year" after only one week. Hmmmm, wonder what's next? Leaving rat poison out for her to nibble on? Accidentally putting bleach in her water? Or worse, leaving her alone with Blackie, who hisses at her every time the two of them encounter one another.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Photo Critique

Well, following a post where I show you how vapid and shallow my life is, by confessing the extreme level of excitement and happiness that a new camera brings me .... I figure now is as good a time as any to show you my photos from our second assignment in class (all taken with "the old" camera, I should add.)

The goal for this week was to become more comfortable with the manual settings on our cameras. Since many of us (me, me, me!) primarily use our cameras in the 'auto-everything' mode, the instructor wanted us to learn how to properly select shutter speed, and properly select aperture, and when it might be necessary or beneficial to use either one of those modes, as opposed to letting the camera set everything itself. (Wow, that was a really long run-on sentence, wasn't it?)

For the first half of the assignment, we met at a local park on Saturday morning and discussed shutter speed and a technique called "panning". The goal of panning is to capture a moving object in the frame, and have that object be in focus, but have everything else be blurred, to "show" the action that is happening. You accomplish this, hopefully, by pre-focusing on one place, then “following” the action with your camera, moving your body in the same direction as the action, and then releasing the shutter at the pre-focused spot at exactly the right second.

Here is a good example (in my opinion, anyway) of panning that I pulled off the internet:



Here, on the other hand, are the images I took as our instructor drove back and forth in his car, and where I prove I might very well be the world’s worst panner --- ever:






Determined not to give up, by golly, I *WILL* conquer panning, I begged my nephew to let me practice on him while he rode a bike back and forth. It took about forty tries (thanks, Dalton!) but I finally got one that I think is ….. not terrible:



Then, we were to capture the same image, panning at a faster shutter speed, showing a sort of “freeze” of the action. So even though the car is moving at about 20 mph, it looks static in the photo. None of us in the class had any trouble with this:



Then, we were to switch from shutter mode to aperture mode, and take photos in the flower gardens of the local park. The goal was to capture close depth of field images, where the items in the foreground are focused but everything else has a nice blur to it, and also to capture the same image with a long depth of field, meaning everything in the picture is in focus.

Pretty much everyone in the class was successful with this, also. This is my favorite picture of the short depth of field:




But to be honest, I thought the pictures I took at the wall of the Memorial Site last week were a better example of this, even though I didn’t do it on purpose then, and the camera had selected the aperture that day. Maybe this is a lesson that sometimes, the camera really does know what’s best??? I hate admitting that a small plastic box is smarter than I am, but I'm starting to wonder .....







And for the second half of the assignment, we were to take pictures wherever, whenever, with an eye for composition and lighting. The teacher is very gentle in his critiques, to say the least, but it is helpful to hear what he thinks about why a picture works or why it doesn’t.



He liked the picture of Barley I took and said it was good use of the rule of thirds. Again, I just think she’s cute. Except when she’s pooping in my bedroom, which seems to be her favorite place to go. (sigh)



He wasn’t that impressed with this photo of Kellen. Personally, I think the color is a bit off and wonder if doing some sort of saturation work in Photoshop might be helpful.



While he said the composition of this photo was nice (local park) he said the lighting was too harsh; too many bright spots and shadows. He suggested taking it on an overcast day because the lighting would probably be softer and less glare-y. Is glare-y a word? Because I totally know what I mean.



Even though this picture of my nephew Landon wake-boarding from last weekend wasn’t so much a controlled, contrived shot, as it was a random, lucky click of the shutter at exactly the right moment, the instructor liked it. Said the ski rope leads the eye nicely to the subject, and was a good use of shutter speed. Um ….. ok. I just thought it was funny.



His favorite of all mine from this week was this shot of a windmill. I changed nothing about it, not cropping, not zooming, not the color or the brightness or anything. Just a straight, out of the camera shot. To be honest, I sort of like it, too.


And now, of course, it’s time to start playing with my new camera.

Sort of a funny story, actually, about how I wound up buying it, when “new camera” is so far down on my priority list as to be invisible. In class a few weeks ago we were talking about camera parts and accessories, and the instructor (the first instructor, who is no longer teaching the class) told us about lens extenders. A lens extender is a device you can put on the end of your lens to double the amount of magnification (or something technical like that, my ears start to bleed whenever people are talking that far above my head about mechanical-y stuff) and zoom in more closely on objects that are far away. This year, specifically, I noticed I was having trouble taking pictures at the soccer fields because as the kids get older, the fields get larger, and my 75-300 mm telephoto lens just wasn’t powerful enough. So when I heard about the extender, I thought it sounded like a perfect solution for me.

I asked the next instructor what he thought about them, and he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Said you lose aperture and light because of the extra lens (again, something technical, blahblahblah) but that since they’re not that expensive, it might not hurt to try.

So I went to our local camera store with the intent of buying an extender lens. The salesman asked what I was going to use it for, and I explained about the soccer fields and that I was having trouble getting close enough to get good shots of the kids on the other end of the field. He asked me about the kind of camera I currently use --- a Canon Digital Rebel EOS. I’ve had it almost five years, and while it was top of the line when I bought it … well, now? It’s pretty much a dinosaur. Like computers, and anything technical, I guess, it seems cameras are outdated about five minutes after you buy them. So while I luuuuurve my camera, and wasn’t looking to upgrade, even I had to confess that the 6 mp it contained, that seemed SO cutting edge when I purchased it, was inadequate now.

It made me smile, because the sales guy said to me, “Look, I realize I work on commission and this might sounds like I’m only trying to make a sale. But based on what you’ve explained to me, and what it is I *think* you’re wanting to get out of your camera, I don’t think an extender is the way to go. You’ll lose a lot of the light you need for action shots, and at 600 mm telephoto, you’ll probably need to use a tripod, which doesn’t seem conducive to action photography. To be honest, I think you would be better off with a new camera body. But I promise, I’m not just trying to make a sale.”

Really, how can you NOT admire honesty like that?

So he let me hold the Canon Digital Rebel XSi, and all I could think was, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me drop this and break it because I would hate to have to pay for it and not even get to take it home!” The advantage for me to stick with Canon is that I could buy just the camera body and use my old lenses, since Canon lenses are interchangeable. I’m sure my new instructor, who is a bona-fide Nikon guy, will be horrified to know I stuck with Canon. But, I was perfectly happy with my OLD Canon, so why switch? Nikon v. Canon. It’s sort of like the Chevy v. Ford debate. A few hard-core devotees on either side sit around slinging mud, and the rest of us (or at least me) sit back and believe they are both good cameras. So for me, it just made sense to stick to what I know and like.

The actual camera is pretty much the same, just updated and upgraded. It’s 12 mp, so while the kids on the other end of the soccer field will still be pretty far away, I’ll be able to crop and zoom now without losing the image or going grainy. There will definitely be a learning curve, but I’m hopeful since it’s still Canon that I’ll pick up on it fairly quickly.

And, um. It’s pretty. So there.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New

I bought a new camera today.

It is quite possible I might burst from happiness.

Hear ye, Hear ye!

Ok, anyone living within one hundred miles of OKC, I have an announcement for you: we are no longer friends. Because *chances are* you saw me around town today .... and everyone knows that FRIENDS don't let FRIENDS walk around town with a ginormous ranch dressing stain on their boob.

So until I can trust you to be honest with me, or trust myself to eat lunch without being such a total slob, I don't think we can be friends.

That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Quiet Place

Despite claiming “we have been moving around the country with the Air Force for twenty years”, Blaine and I were actually stationed here at home, in OKC, for three of those years. We lived far from the base, and I rarely even went there …. I never used the commissary, or shopped at the BX, or any of that “military” stuff. Except for the fact Blaine got up and put on a uniform each day before going to work, I sort of forgot he was even in the military. It was just us, living back at home, near family and friends. It was pretty much awesome.

I worked then, too (imagine that!) as an insurance secretary at a family practice office. It was a good job, and I liked it. The office was located not too far from our house, also far from the base. I think people don’t always realize that Oklahoma City is actually a big city, space-wise …. spread far and wide. If you live on the northwest side of town, or in any of the suburbs on the northwest side of town ….. it’s a long stinking way to the southeast suburb-side of town, where the base is. Close to a forty minute drive, much of it ON the highway. (If you don’t believe me, let anyone who makes the commute every day show you their gas bill lately!!) And of course, downtown would be pretty much smack in the middle.

The doctor’s office, like I said, was about as far northwest as you could get at the time. It was a stand-alone building, located behind a strip mall that had a grocery store in it. In between the back of the grocery store and our building was a narrow alley where the 18-wheelers would back up to make their deliveries to the grocery store.

(Trust me, I really am going somewhere with this story.)

One morning, I was sitting in my private corner office, spacious cubicle, desk in the room I shared with several other women, and we heard, and felt, a sort of “boom” in our building. I looked at Nina, the girl who was sitting next to me, and she looked at me, and I started laughing. “My gosh,” I said, “I think one of those 18-wheelers just hit our building.” And she laughed and made some comment about truckers who drink that early in the morning shouldn’t drive.

A few minutes later, our phones started ringing.

Oh, in case I haven’t mentioned the date …… it was April 19, 1995.

Considering we were miles and miles from downtown and still felt the blast from the Murrah bombing, I can only imagine how much worse things must have gotten, the closer people got to the blast site. My mom worked a few blocks away and honestly thought a plane had crashed into their building. A girlfriend of mine worked across the street from the Murrah building with one building in between. She was running late for work that morning and was in her car in the parking lot when the bomb went off. The windows of every car in the parking lot exploded around her, but hers did not. She can only guess that perhaps the vibration of her still-running engine absorbed the blast. Regardless, she was only a few days away from starting her maternity leave, so she put her car in reverse, drove home, and never went back.

One of my co-workers lost a sister, and one of my school friends lost an uncle. Several of the patients at our family practice clinic were survivors, and we treated a few of them for minor injuries sustained, but nothing grave.

And that, really, was as close as I got. Not that I wasn’t impacted --- my gosh, I can’t imagine anyone who lived anywhere near Oklahoma City who wasn’t impacted by what happened, and by the rescue efforts that took place in the days afterwards. The human interest stories that came out it, and the stories of heroism and bravery, and sadness and loss …. personally, the memory of exactly where I was when the bomb went off is as vivid to me as the moment I heard Princess Diana had died in a car accident …. Or heard about the Challenger explosion …. Or (if I really want to date myself) the moment I heard President Reagan had been shot (eighth grade pre-algebra class, if you must know.)

Although I will never forgot those terrible days, and the stories of death and loss and faith and hope and miracles that came out of that time, and how I sat in front of the television, crying at the images of everyone killed ….. I guess my point is that I didn’t suffer any loss personally. Pretty much everyone knows someone who knows someone who was affected or involved in one way or the other …. Pretty much everybody can come up with a connection to the incident, whether it be a person who was “supposed” to be in the building that day, or a friend who had been downtown the day before, or a person who has a co-worker who has an aunt whose uncle’s brother’s best friends’ wife’s babysitter had been driving down that very street earlier that morning!!! ---- but none of those stories involved me personally, and I never wanted to be a hanger-on. You know who I’m talking about? Those people who seem to get off on finding a connection for themselves, no matter how small, to some crisis. Those people bug me. Which is perhaps why I had never made it a point to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial on any of my visits home in the following years. I had *heard* about the Memorial Site, and certainly had it on my list of “places to visit now that I’m back home”. I just hadn’t made it a priority yet, because I didn’t feel like the tragedy had affected me personally.

What a mistake that was.

When our friends from Georgia were here visiting last week, I wanted to give them a bona-fide OKC tourist experience, so the Memorial Site was tops on our list. After all, it’s the top visitor attraction in the state, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Even better, I have a friend who works there personally, and she agreed to meet us downtown and show us around the site. Although there is a 30,000 sq foot museum, we agreed the kids might not understand or enjoy it (although “enjoy” is of course not the right word) as much as the adults, so we decided to just tour the outdoor site.

Wow.

Just wow.




Maybe it was actually seeing the one hundred sixty-eight chairs set up on the lawn where the building used to be; one chair for each of the victims --- large chairs for adults, small chairs for children. Maybe it was seeing the names inscribed on each of the chairs and knowing those people murdered were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, friends, co-workers, a rescue worker ---- including two women who were pregnant. I realize that as far as numbers go, it’s a lot smaller than the loss of 9/11. But can you really compare numbers, when death is this tragic and unnecessary?




Maybe it was getting to visit the memorial with our very own personal tour guide, who was able to tell us about the site, and the stories and meaning behind the monuments, and the stories behind some of the victims and survivors as well.




It was definitely amazing. The care that goes into this place is unbelievable. Although there is some evidence of maintenance work taking place, well, it’s simply proof that the people behind the scenes refuse to let anything get sloppy or be kept in less than perfect condition. The site is beautiful and pristine; grounds are mowed weekly, early in the morning before too many people are present (the outdoor memorial is open 24 hours a day) and the grass around the 168 chairs is trimmed by hand, with clippers, every week. It’s like Stacey said, “You don’t think we’re letting anyone near those chairs with a weed whacker, do you???”






The story of the Survivor Tree is heart-warming; its presence inspiring. The building that was next to the Murrah building is now the museum …. Its pockmarked walls and bent fire railing a stark reminder of the violence that took place that day. Every window that is black is a window that was blown out in the explosion …. Best I could tell, that was every window.

It’s a reverent place, and restful, but one of hope. At least I felt that way. The grounds are beautiful. Always with an eye out for potential backgrounds for photos, I asked Stacey if it would be inappropriate to bring a camera for a portrait sessions --- apparently I’m not the first person to think that, as she said they see lots of photographers on the grounds. They’ve even had weddings at the Survivor Tree.

While I am sure there are some families who might find it too painful to visit, I would hope most people can see for themselves the care and respect and dignity that is present.

And I would wish the people of New York City could have the same thing.

As soon as the kids are back in school and I have a free day, I’m going back. To tour the museum and to hear one of the first-person accounts that take place every Friday until Labor Day.

Because even though “it didn’t affect me personally”, just visiting the memorial affected me as a person. I’m only sorry it took me so long to discover what an inspiring place it is.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Shell-Shocked

"Um, what exactly has happened here???"



"Where exactly did my mother go? And my brothers and sisters? And *who* exactly are these little people who keep picking me up and carrying me around???"



"And what's up with that tall lady who keeps rushing me outside and making me potty in the grass? Oooh, look, new toys .... squeakers and tug of war ropes and nylabones and hey look! A big red bottle that squirts and says 'pet stain removal' on the side ... wonder if I can play with that, too?"

Friday, August 01, 2008

One of Thoooooooooose days

Today was one of those days. One of thooooooose days. Nothing tragic happened, nothing calamitous. No one was sick or abducted or injured in any sort of tragic spear-fishing accident or anything. Just one of those days where if I’m being honest, I admit that for me, being a stay-at-home mom during the summer is WAY more work than during the school year. Because the kids are actually …. You know ….. HERE all day. WITH ME. Demanding all sorts of insufferable demands like bread and water and attention. Greedy little bastards.

All day, with the not-so-noticeable-as-to-be-blatant-but-just-under-my-skin-enough-to-drive-me-crazy whining and arguing and QUESTIONING everything. Every. Single. Thing. Not listening to what I say, not doing what I ask, going in a million different directions with the “Mom, this” and “Mom, that” and “Mom, she (fill in the blank)” and “Mom it’s not fair he (fill in yet another freaking blank)”. My decisions are always questioned in the hopes they can get me to change my mind. I can never please all three of them, so no matter what decision I make –about ANYTHING – where to eat lunch or where to go swimming or what to watch on tv …. SOMEONE accuses me of letting the OTHER ONES always get their way. “Because I said so” doesn’t hold as much weight in this house as I think it should, let me put it that way. And you know what? It’s exhausting.

They are tired from having company here all week, plus Kellen had soccer practice four nights this week, and Kendrie had her first soccer practice as well. Temperatures have been well over a hundred this week, so if you think running in that kind of heat isn’t tiring, think again. Plus she had a sleepover last night at a friend’s house and told me they stayed up until 1am. Brayden, well, I’m not sure what her excuse is except its apparently her job to fill in the gaps if her brother and sister aren’t doing a good enough job driving me nuts on their own.

My melt-down came in Target today, which is sad, because it’s one of my favorite stores in the whole world. I hate to think there is a sign near the cash registers now of my face with a big circle and a slash through it. We were buying school supplies, a simple-enough task. I was reading from the school list and instructing each kid on what they needed to take off the shelf and put in the cart. Simple enough, right? Take it OFF the shelf, and put it IN the cart. How hard can it be? But after the delimma of the pencils, and the drama of the glue sticks, and the saga of the erasers --- for goodness' sake, they're stupid pink erasers just pick some who cares what they look like?!?!?!?! None of them could decide exactly which notebooks they wanted and then Kellen got mad when Kendrie picked the same one he had. Brayden needs a new bike so I told her we would look, but the one she picked out was two hundred dollars and when I said “no way, Josie” she got mad because “she never gets anything she wants!” Kendrie kept asking to go to the pet aisle, and Kellen was frustrated with me because they didn’t have the shoes he wanted in his size. I’m not quite sure how that was my fault exactly … I guess because I didn’t pull a size 6 OUT OF MY ASS.

When we finally walked up to the register I saw another mom I know and stopped to say hello. We were chatting for a moment and the kids were being a little rude, interrupting and asking for candy off the register, and telling me to please hurry up so we could go to Petsmart and buy stuff for Barley’s arrival tomorrow. I had turned my back to chat and without me noticing, they emptied my entire cart onto the belt, making trip after trip after trip from my cart to the register. *Maybe* they thought they were being helpful??? But I thought it was rude, like they were rushing me, and I was embarrassed when the cashier had to holler at me to point out an entire line of people were waiting on me to finish my conversation and pay.

I was seriously. Not happy. And didn't quite make it outside the store before telling the kids just what I thought of their behavior.

Earlier in the day we had gone to the library and the kids checked out several books about golden retrievers. One of them had a dvd in it about early dog training and dog care. And the kids were watching the video with Blaine, and arguing about who would get to hold Barley on the way home tomorrow, and who would get to walk her first, and who would help dad brush her each evening and clean her teeth every day. And mean words were tossed about as they tried in vain to establish a pecking order with regard to the dog.

And I stood in the kitchen, preparing dinner, and all I could think was, “What have we done? What unbelievable error in judgment have we made??? We can’t manage the three HUMAN pets we have now …. And we’re getting another one? A real one? ONE THAT EATS ITS OWN POOP?!?!?!?!

I fear we have made a tragic mistake.

Or perhaps I'm just not drinking enough.