Thursday, March 30, 2006

Confessions of a Recovering Neatnik, con't

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but Shame is the ugly step-sister that kicked my ass to get the house clean. Er. CleanER.

Because I was finally able to admit that I am not able to keep up with the mess any longer, I called a couple of cleaning services to get an estimate. They gave me an estimate over the phone, and one of them wanted to come to the house to get a look-see before giving me a firm price.

When we lived in Virginia, I used to clean the house before the housekeeping service arrived. Every time, Thomas would forbid me to do it and every time I would ignore him. Of course, it always started out as just moving the clutter so they could get to the surfaces. Then I'd see that the cat had spit up on the floor or that there was a small spot on the counter. Which was inevitably followed by the dust making itself visible and the stairs needing a little touch up.

But with two kids, it's a little more difficult to get any of that done. So when Jim arrived for the inspection, the breakfast dishes were still in the sink. The dishwasher was open and only half-emptied. The dog-sofa cushions were still pushed up from where Argus burrows under at night. And Hannah can take a perfectly spotless house and in only 20 minutes make it look as if there were 10 toddlers having a smack down that spilled over from the playroom.

After a quick tour of the house and a pop-quiz on the cleaning products I use for certain areas (I got a C!), I thought I heard the faint cha-ching! of a cash register and I looked deep into Jim's eyes and saw dollar signs. After giving me a price for the first two visits, he asked--again--if I only wanted twice a month. I said "I know it's pretty bad, but really, it's not usually THIS bad!" His eyes slid away as he assured me that he had seen worse.

A sane person's response might have been to hire him on the spot. After all, he was going to send a team of four to tackle the first two cleanings and then two people every time after that. And it would only take 2-3 hours. Well, actually, maybe it would be safer to say 3-4 hours. My response? I've spent the last three nights going room to room, dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping, rearranging furniture and decluttering. Because if someone is going to be coming to my house twice a month for the foreseeable future, it's going to be clean, dammit!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ALERT: More political musings ahead!

If you prefer to skip, this is your warning!

I suppose it's relatively easy for me to oppose the war in Iraq. I have no first-hand governing or military experience. I try to get my information from multiple sources, but of course it's all second-hand and put through filters that both sides say they don't use. And as much as I still believe we had no business being in Iraq in the first place, I would not want to be in the shoes of the person/s responsible for deciding what the hell we do now.

Do we stay or go? If we stay, do we keep the same level of troops as we have now? Leave only a shell? Or send in more to crush the insurgency? Is this a beast that simply grows two more heads for every one cut off? Will Iraq remain as one country, or divide three ways?

And here in the US, we have one side saying we have to stay because otherwise the sacrifices made by so many would have been in vain. This is a circular argument that, to me, makes no sense. But then neither does the opposing argument. We can't really leave now, can we? We invaded and blew the lid off these festering tensions. Don't we now have an obligation to the people who were promised a democracy, an end to the long nightmare of Sadaam?

So who is going to stop the killing? It's not like this is a Shiite army against a Sunni army. They're killing children. The women. The elderly. And some in unspeakable ways. It's all well and good to say the Iraqi people need to come together for the sake of their country, but there are thousands of years of religious, cultural and psychological differences on one side of the scale and on the other, a country whose current form is not yet 100 years old.

What would the General do? General Powell, that is. Anyone think he might want his old job back? Probably not, but really, WWtGD? And the medal that "we" give to Rumsfeld, how big is that going to be?

UPDATE 4/3/06: Saw this great mark twain quote today: "It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them."

The Unblinking Eye

Well I got it partly right. Argus WAS asleep on the bed. But instead of waking up with Hannah snuggled up against me, I woke to the undiapered south end of an toddler staring me in the face. And by "in the face" I mean about three inches away. I had been up late with Charlotte, so it took a couple of minutes to process this information and make the proper identification.

I'll back up for context: Hannah came downstairs about two hours after I got Charlotte back to sleep. Trying to stall for time, I told her that of course she could have a tea party on the bed. And I promptly went back to sleep, forgetting to tell her to go use the potty first. Naturally, she peed in her diaper. I mumbled something about her getting one from the diaper bag and a short time later was brought speedily to full consciousness when I realized that no, this was not her staring at me. Not with her eyes, anyway.

After explaining that Mommy was not angry, but that I would prefer that she not wake me up this way again, Hannah told me that she hadn't found a diaper but did find the wipes and just wanted me to see that her bunda was clean. And would I get up now. What do you say to that? "Oh! Um, great! Good work. Sooo . . . What would you like for breakfast?" There was no way I was going back to sleep after that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shhhh, don't speak

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Thomas and the girls. What they may not know, mostly because I didn't quite realize it myself, is how much I enjoy it when they aren't here. Well, technically, Hannah and Charlotte are here but sleeping. Thomas is away on business. In Las Vegas, poor guy!

A friend called today, knowing that Thomas would be gone. She wanted to come over after the girls went to bed, just to hang out. I, um, freaked. Not out loud, but in my head I was panicking, trying to come up with a good reason to say no. Of course, I could have just said no, but she is a little fragile sometimes. And while I do like to spend time with her, I also wanted time all to myself. Why?

Well, sometimes I actually just want to clean. Really. And sometimes I have a book I want to finish (what used to take a couple of days can now take a couple of weeks or more). And sometimes, right at this moment, for example, I just want to be with my own thoughts, sipping a glass of wine and listening to . . . nothing. No TV. No yelling. No radio. No talking. No laughing. No cute cute baby gurgling. Just the soft hum of the refrigerator, and the occasional whimpering of a dog chasing squirrels in his sleep.

It's the gentle, quiet end of a good day. The toys have been put away. The dishes are done. The trash is out (including at least 10 pounds of random clutter). The girls are sleeping quietly. At times like this, I almost don't want to go to bed, just so I can hang on to the sense of peace. Of course, another reason is that I don't sleep well when Thomas isn't here. But I know that I will wake up with Hannah snuggled up next to me and Argus asleep on the other side of the bed, hoping that I don't notice that he's there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Confessions of a Recovering Neatnik

Before we had kids, I was a bit of a clean freak. It wasn't an obsession, but usually we just had to deal with clutter--the little piles that were moved from place to place when we had guests.

The newspaper was read on the day it was delivered and then added to the recycling bin. Books were on the bookshelves. Dog hair was vacuumed from the furniture that Argus wasn't supposed to be sleeping on. Clothes were (usually) put away. Floors were visible. Sofa cushions could be found on TOP of the sofa. Counters weren't sticky. And I'm pretty sure that the mirrors had never been licked before. You probably see where I'm going with this.

It has taken me almost four years, but my standards have been, shall we say, relaxed a bit. There is still a loose system of toy storage, but just last week I heard someone who sounded a lot like me tell Hannah that, as long as I could see the floor, I didn't care where she put the toys.

The biggest mistake I ever made with her was to say "That's ok, peanut, Mommy will clean up the toys." Sadly, she has a leak-proof memory and parrots it back to me on a regular basis.

"Hannah, Daddy will be home soon. It's time to clean up the playroom."

(two minutes later)
"Hannah? Did you hear me?"

(five more minutes)
"Hannah, where are you?!"

(I'd insert ticking, but digital clocks don't)
"HANNAH! PLEASE clean up your toys. Mommy will help."

"That's ok, Mommy. You do it."
(I'm guessing that she is getting increasingly frustrated at my inability to grasp this simple fact.)

Sometimes I think she tricks me into putting her toys into time out so that there are fewer to clean up later. Once she looked right at me, hit Argus and then handed me the toy with the request that I put it in time out. She and the toy went to their separate time outs. The toy is still there.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Are We On the Map Yet?

Where were we? Ah, that's right:

George Mason University is in Faifax, Virginia.
Twenty minutes from Washington, DC. More specifically:

Almost 600 miles from Lansing, MI

About 267 miles from Chapel Hill, NC

Just about 400 miles from Storrs, CT

And just one short week away from Indianapolis.

Now where the hell is my sweatshirt?!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

March Madness

They call it March Madness because ordinarily sane people, even those who don't normally follow college sports, go batshit. Especially when their who-are-they and where-are-they alma mater makes the Elite 8. BooYah! Betcha know where we are NOW, punk! What? You don't? Oh, no no. Sorry. In Virginia. Fairfax. In Northern Virginia. Do you know where Washington, DC is? Ok, GMU is west of there. No, on the Virginia side.

Sigh. ok. We'll go over it after the game.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Gland Problem

We have a dog named Argus. Argus has a little gland problem. More specifically, his anal glands. He's been to the vet several times to have them emptied, and he's been on antibiotics twice because one of the glands was abscessed. I know, yuk.

Did I mention that Argus is a Great Dane? While this probably makes it easier, it by no means makes it a more attractive proposition to take care of that particular little problem myself. Which is what the vet offered. Um, sorry, but it's just not worth saving the $20 to poke around in my dog's butt, hoping I get it right. And I'm pretty sure he wouldn't like it much, either. Hannah poked him in the butt with a flute once and it didn't go over well.

"Hannah, what happened?! Why did Argus growl at you?"

"I poked him in the bunda. With the flute."

"IN the bunda? Or ON the bunda?"

"In his bunda."

'WHY would you do that??"

"I was just trying to be friendly. But he didn't like it."

Hannah went in to timeout. Argus, his patience sorely tried, hid in the yard. I tried to hide the fact that I was laughing. The flute went in the trash.

The point of this little story being that Argus, while a very patient and gentle dog, is understandably protective of his butt. He outweighs me by 15 pounds (25 if you go by the weight on my drivers license). So I think I'm going to leave this one to the professionals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pretty is as Pretty Does

That's what I've been trying to teach Hannah, anyway. She is very often told that she is pretty. She thinks she is pretty. She's wrong--she is beautiful, but I keep trying to slip in the idea that it is more important to be a good person (pretty doesn't last, after all). So when I found her in front of the mirror again yesterday (partly our fault--there are too many in this house!), I asked why she was looking at herself, what she saw. The conversation went something like this:

"Because I'm pretty."

"That's right--you are. But what is more important than being pretty?"

(Tilt of the head, pause for effect:)


"OK. And what's more important than being beautiful?"

(Nanosecond pause:)


Clearly I'm doing something wrong.

Passing the Buck. Again

Going into Iraq, we were told that it would be an in and out--six months. Maybe a year. No more than a few billion dollars. Three years, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars later, GWB tells us that it will be "future presidents" who decides when the US will leave Iraq--notice the use of the plural. But the American people are not to worry because we ARE winning the war. We just have to trust him on that. Who knew that Paul Wolfowitz was floating a trial policy for the administration when he said that Iraq was no longer his problem?

Colin Powell once said about Iraq, "you break it, you buy it." Everyone but the little Mary Sunshines skipping through their fantasy land can see that it's broken. But we aren't changing course because that would mean admitting someone effed up. They're still killing us, but now they're killing each other, too. So our kids will be mopping it up as well as paying for it for years to come. Which means we might want to think about better compensation for the military. We might also want to find ways to make it a more attractive career option for the future. After all, why should Halliburton get all the money?

So a couple of suggestions:

1) Eliminate the federal income tax for all active-duty military personnel. After all, we pay them with tax money and ask them to put their lives on the line every day. This should NOT apply to any member of Congress, the federal judiciary or the administration. Especially not members of Congress, since they already have a lovely three day work week.

2) Offer the ability to assign GI Bill benefits to a family member after a pre-determined number of years of service or immediately, in the case of death or catastrophic injury.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Just a thought

I don't know if I believe in Heaven and Hell, but I'd bet they're both run by small children.

Go Patriots!

Nope--not another political rant. Just still in shock that George Mason, my alma mater, knocked off both Michigan State AND UNC. Half of last year's final four! Wow. I hope my new sweatshirt gets here by Friday!

It Was Never About Being Right

People who know I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning are now acting as though they're waiting for an "I told you so." Still missing the point, guys. This was never about me playing (to use a pet phrase of GWB) a game of "gotcha." It was rooted in my belief that the administration had not done enough to avert the war, had not exhausted all diplomatic options, did not give credence to the UN inspectors, and decided to disregard international opinion. No, we didn't go in completely alone, but compared to the numbers of US boots on the ground, it was pretty much a US effort. And NO I am not slighting their assistance--just don't think these countries should have had to risk their soldiers, either.

The sacrifices made by so many families, the lives lost and the thousands of wounded deserve so much more than an "I told you so."

And now it seems that every day I read about another conservatives backing away from Bush and his Iraq policy just as fast as his poll numbers fall. Of course, it's much easier to abandon the ship when it's already sinking and the legislation pushed through by the Republican-controlled Congress have already had the effect of shoving overboard women, children and seniors. After all, no one is going to call you a traitor now, right?

I'm not holding my breath for an apology from those (some were friends and/or family) who insinuated, and in some instances stated flat out, that I was a coward, unpatriotic, unAmerican. Fortunately, the word "traitor" only touched me as part of the broad brush tactic employed so well by the administration and its mouthpiece (aka FOX News) to shut us up and make us look like extremists on the fringes of society.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Really? Bubble gum?

Charlotte has been sick all weekend. Congestion, fever, cough, sneezing, green walrus tusks. The works. Which makes me wonder: With all of the money that Tylenol rakes in, why can't they team up with Jelly Belly or ANYONE who knows what bubble gum and cherry really taste like? They say it's Bubble Gum flavored. But I think it's time for them to admit that their tasters are whiskey drinking, 90 year old, pack-a-day-ers. "Yep, yep. That's it. That's just how I remember it."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

At Least There Were No Cavities

I don't remember my first trip to the dentist, but I won't forget Hannah's any time soon.

It started off well, if you ignore the "I don't want to go to the dentist! I don't want to go the dentist . . . " that drowned out any attempt at conversation on the way there. She brought flowers for the receptionist--plucked from the yard on the way to the car and only a little wilted. The waiting area had a large fish tank, two arcade-style games and a toy box, so there was plenty to distract her while we waited. She was fine until we got to the "scream room," separated from the other dental chairs by a glassed wall and a door. She even liked the magic chair--"Look Mommy, it goes up and down and back and . . . nooooooooo!" That's when the hygenist realized that maybe Hannah hadn't been relaxed enough after all.

To get the xrays, I had to sit in the chair with Hannah sitting on my lap, my legs wrapped around hers, my hands holding hers under the blanket (except when I had to help pry her jaws open). For the actual exam and cleaning, the reclined chair made it much easier for her to pound my shins with her heels. Note to self: Next time, take off the shoes. I keep thinking how lucky that it was just my shins that got banged up when it could have been a flying shoe through the camera or some other, equally expensive, piece of equipment.

When the exam was finally over, Hannah, tears still running down her face, said good-bye to the hygenist, adding, "I had SUCH a good time today!" She actually sounded like she meant it! And Charlotte, so patient at first and then increasingly traumatized by Hannah's screams, gets to go next week. At least she isn't tall enough yet to reach my shins.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Every day I wake up and have to face my addiction: the smell of a fresh newspaper on my dining room table. Thomas is my enabler, as he is one of those wonderful morning people who gets up, showers, makes the coffee, gets the paper--all usually before I even regain consciousness. And for this, I punish him with some combination of snarling at the paper, reading the outrageous bits to him, and laughing much too loudly at the comics. He must have been very happy to be in Austin today.

Yesterday, Senator Russ Feingold announced that he was going to propose censure of President Bush for the NSA spying. And today, for the first time in, gosh, HOURS, the Democrats showed that they do not have the guts to stand up for what they believe in. They're backing away from him. All hot air. All counting the polls. But what if the American people just want someone to stand up and say what they really think, the political consequences be damned? I mean, holy crap! If, as many legal scholars believe, the authorization of the NSA spying on Americans in America was illegal and nothing is going to be done about it, what will it take? Where do we draw the line? A few years ago it was at sex in the Oval Office. And now? Now, nothing. The Democrats are too chicken-hearted (I'm trying really hard not to swear in this blog, just in case my mother-in-law is reading it) and the Republicans are too cowed to say anything. It makes me want to shake someone and tell them to grow the $%^& up and do the job you were sent there to do. If you can't speak up for what is right instead of always searching for the perfect soundbite, then get out. Go home.

Yes, yes, there are also Republicans who have mentioned that this might be illegal, but hey, lets just change the law so it's not a problem anymore. Does ANYONE think for a second that a Democrat in the Oval Office would be getting this kind of pass? Would be getting away with even a quarter of what this administration has over the past five years?

Saturday, March 11, 2006


When you first meet someone, you may think that person is really attractive, or really smart, or funny, or talented, or whatever. And the more you get to know them, the more they open up to you, the more you may come to appreciate just how awful your judgement truly is. One day you wake up and realize that the sarcasm wasn't really sarcasm. Or that the bitchy comments weren't the result of a bad day and that no, the self-centeredness is not an act and is never going to go away.

Since you really can't efficiently speed date through most new relationships, I thought, just this once, I'd save you a little time right up front. So here goes:

I have been married for almost nine years to a lovely man, Thomas. We are the parents of two very funny, smart, beautiful daughters (I know everyone says that, but mine really are!) and a Great Dane. I grew up in Virginia and, except for the first three months of my life, never lived anywhere else until we moved to California in 2003.

I love hockey. I will read almost anything. Books I love will be read more than once. Libraries are great, but I don't like having to give my books back. I don't watch much TV and have gone for a year without watching at all.

I am a registered Independent. I detest George W Bush. I don't believe in the death penalty. I don't know if I believe in god, but I respect the right of people to believe in whatever god they choose. I don't respect people who profess Christianity when it's convenient but don't appear to have read even the Ten Commandments. I believe the Republican Party has been hijacked by the "religious right." I also believe that the Democratic Party needs to come up with a plan, an idea, anything. Show that it is more than just pro-choice. I am pro choice. I like John McCain. I don't think I'd vote for him, but I like him. I love the Daily Show. The yelling shows on cable news make me physically ill.

My favorite vacation was renting a boat on the Burgundy Canal in France. I don't speak French but I tried and I will defend them forever from "What rude people!"

Sometimes I snort when I laugh. One episode of The Family Guy made me laugh so hard we had to pause the show for half an hour until I could breathe again. TiVo!

I love that a three-year old child can be both the worst and best part of the day. When was the last time you got up at dawn, went full-tilt all day and then, at bedtime, cried (ok, screamed) because there was still so much fun stuff left to do? I forgot how fascinating ants were. I hate spiders but I can't kill them or any bug. I have to put them outside, unless they come near my girls; that's a violation of the treaty.

So now you know a little more about me, and maybe I do, too.