Sunday, August 31, 2008

Buncha Books rating system

I am working on issue #5 of Buncha Books for this week, but I have become sidetracked. You're probably not surprised by the fact that I am easily distracted. This time my distraction was the thought that a ratings system might be a nice thing to implement for my Buncha Books book review posts. So I went off on this tangent, but I think it was a productive one. Instead of stars, I will rate up to five picklebottoms. What the heck is a picklebottom, you are wondering. [See how I read your mind?] This, my friends, is a picklebottom:

I KNOW I'm not an artist. No need to point it out. Luckily I'll be using this image in a much smaller format. If you'd like to submit an image of a picklebottom for consideration, I will consider it, and probably gladly replace my image with yours. You will not receive any compensation other than my thanks and possibly credit in a post somewhere that you made the image for me. So you know, if my undying gratitude is enough for you...

Anyway, here is an explanation of the ratings:

One picklebottom will mean that the book was SO boring and/or bad (usually boring, see OCD tendency mentioned in two picklebottoms explanation below) that I couldn't even finish it, and thus could not possibly recommend it to you, EVEN if someone else (or EVERYONE else) considers it a classic. Examples could include The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. In all fairness to Stephen Crane, that is my 10th grade opinion, but I'm not willing to try to read the book again to see if my opinion has changed.

Two picklebottoms means that I was able to finish it, but it wasn't actually worth reading. Chances are that the only reason I finished it is that little OCD tendency I have that makes me HAVE TO FINISH any book I begin. Which should reinforce just how boring and/or bad those books are that only rate one picklebottom. Maybe I finished the book and thought, "Oh, that sucked. Why did I waste my time with that?" or I thought, "Meh. OK, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

Three picklebottoms means that not only was I able to finish it, it would make decent vacation reading or it was a fairly interesting read but wasn't particularly compelling. Books with this rating fall into a couple main categories. Either they are light, entertaining fluff that give equal or more attention to sexual tension and/or romantic involvements of the characters rather than to the actual plot, or they are more serious fare that is pretty good, but might lean slightly toward the boring side. While they typically wouldn't ever be mistaken for LITERATURE, I'm not too embarrassed to recommend them, though I may whisper the recommendation. Some examples of books that would get this rating are most of those written by Iris Johansen.

Four picklebottoms will probably be my most used rating. It covers most of what I read, because I have become pretty good at picking books that I like. Most of the novels by authors that I read regularly will get this rating. They might be light and entertaining, they may be darkly comedic, psychologically twisted, or focus on the inter-relationships of the characters. Basically, if I really enjoy the book and feel that others would really enjoy the book, it will receive four picklebottoms.

Five picklebottoms will be awarded to any book that I feel my life would have been wasted had I not read it before I died. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but these books are those that just blew me away. Books with storylines so unique as to be unlike anything I had read before, books that made me sad when they ended because I could have gone on reading them forever. Books that fascinated me or that contained language so eloquent as to be utterly captivating. Examples of books to which I would award five picklebottoms are Beach Music by Pat Conroy and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Some books may fall between ratings, in which case I will award them half-picklebottoms.

So if a book is light entertaining fluff, but I'm willing to give the recommendation in a loud and clear voice, it would receive three and a half picklebottoms. Now I realize that you may feel that some of the books I will award four picklebottoms might be light entertaining fluff, but if they involve murder, mayhem, mystery, courtroom drama, espionage, conspiracy theories, or anything that makes me wish I were a detective, private eye, CIA/NSA operative, vigilante, etc., they will get four picklebottoms from me, because these are MY reviews.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More miscellany

[This post was originally published on my old blog on 8/28/07, so any time references are in regards to that date.]

Once again, with nothing else to talk about, I will resort to posting about the most interesting person I know... me. :) You can find the first post I wrote about myself here. So, on to more stuff about me...

I like photography. I really enjoy B&W photography. I don't use a digital camera; I still don't believe that they take pictures as nice as a regular one. I do use my husband's digital camera sometimes, when I know I want to put the images online, since it's easier and less time-consuming than developing and scanning. And someday I will use one of those fancy digital SLRs (probably the digital version of what I use now). But for now I'll just stick with my Nikon N80. If I had known myself better when I was younger, I might have worked to become a photographer, but alas, life goes backwards, and you don't really know what you'd like to study in college until long after you've graduated. Of course, my favorite photo subjects are my kids. I don't have my own darkroom, but someday I plan to.

I can't grow fingernails. When I was a kid, I bit them. Now I don't bite them, and they do grow, but they're so wimpy that they break off immediately upon achieving any length whatsoever. Oh, well. The ones that don't immediately break off keep getting in the way anyway, so I end up cutting or biting them off out of frustration. I don't understand how those people with really long fingernails function. I mean, really, how does the woman in this picture tie her shoes or button her shirt? Besides which, I'm sorry lady, I'm sure they took forever to grow and you're very proud (of what exactly, I'm not sure), but YUCK!

I rarely wear make-up. And when I do, it's minimal. Just blush and mascara. It's not because I think I have a natural beauty that I want to let shine through. Ha! It's because when it comes to make-up, I don't have the slightest clue how to do it. That, and I'm too lazy to learn or, if I did know, to take the time out of my day to apply it.

I LOATHE uncomfortable clothing. I would spend my life in jeans and T-shirts if that were acceptable. I wear jeans to church, even on Easter. I don't fall for those "dressing up is a way to show respect for God" arguments. I think showing up is what matters. When a special event occurs, I call someone and ask just how casual I can go. And invariably, I am the most under-dressed. But, if you read my last post about me, you know this - I don't care. :) By the way - SO NOT ME in the picture. I wish!

I have an extremely hard time starting things. I'm a terrible procrastinator. Even with easy things that will only take a few minutes. Once I do manage to start, however, I MUST FINISH NOW. To the detriment of other things. If a project has begun, I am compelled to work on it 24/7 until it is completed. Can you say obsessive-compulsive?

I once stepped over the piddly little barrier they have around things at Sea World and let the hyacinth macaw step onto my arm (I had a couple macaws at the time, so knew about how to handle them). People were feeding it and stuff, so hey, why not? The Sea World people came running out to chastise me. Hey, they shouldn't leave them just OUT like that, you know?

And that's enough for now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


[This post was originally published on my old blog on 7/17/07, so all time references are in regards to that date.]

I don't really have a topic today, so I thought I'd just throw out some miscellaneous info about myself. Since I am SOOOOOO interesting. First of all, a crappy picture of moi. It was next to impossible to find a picture of me, since in my family, I'm the one who takes all the pictures. So this is from a day last spring at my daughter's pre-school. I was sitting on the floor looking up, which is SUCH a lovely angle, don't you think?

I am not getting gray hair! Yay! I am, however, getting white hair. Which I like better than gray, so I'm fine with it. Plus, since I'm a redhead, I'll be like 80 before anyone will notice it. I only have about 5 of them so far (but I can't see the back of my head, so there may be more). No, I will not color my hair. I will let it go white naturally.

I am apathetic. Pretty much completely and totally. Except when it comes to my kids. I may get riled up about something for a short period of time, but then it invariably burns itself out and I go on about my business. Not a great quality, I know, but hey, I don't care. ;)

I LOVE to read, and always have a book going. I'm anal about it, though, and I don't like to read more than one novel at a time. I have to finish one before I pick up another. This is because I have read so much that I often get plot lines and characters mixed up, even when I'm only reading one, so reading more than one at a time puts too much stress on me to keep everything separate. My most often read and enjoyed genres include mysteries, psychological thrillers, legal thrillers and southern fiction. Currently I am reading "Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)" by Orson Scott Card for the "Something About Me" reading challenge, which is science fiction, a genre I usually avoid, but I am enjoying the book so far, and may read the rest of this particular series. Which leads me to...

I am not a joiner. Though I went out on a limb and did the reading challenge, I generally do not join things. No Gymboree, no "Mommy and me" things, no book groups, no nothing. I am a loner. I am not all that social. The few friends I have basically had to keep at me and at me until I finally gave in and did something with them. But those few friends are great ones, and I'm glad they harassed me until I gave in. :)

I love going to the movies, and I thoroughly enjoy going alone. It's been about 10 years since I've been able to do that, but it's one of the things I am most looking forward to doing in my old age. Not to say I don't enjoy going with other people - I do, but I like going alone just as much. (I'm also one of those people who will go to a nice restaurant alone and read a book while I eat.) I like most genres except horror and slasher flicks. Scary, I'm okay with, like "The Ring," but I don't usually see those either until they come out on DVD or are shown on TV. Favorite movie ever? I'm not sure. Loved "The Princess Bride" way back when, haven't seen it in a while. All the "Pirates of the Caribbean" were great, I thought. So maybe I go for swashbuckling and humorous, I don't know. What I do know is that the worst movie ever is "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover." We're talking major suckage there.

So that's enough for now. Can't give you everything at once. Got to hold something back for the next time I'm stuck for a topic.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kawasaki - the disease, not the motorcycle

[This post was originally published about a year ago on my old blog. I have edited for name changes and time passage.]

When someone says the word "Kawasaki," I'll bet you think of the motorcycle. I did too, until May, 2001. This is a long story. I never wrote it all down before, though it is something I have wanted to do. Now that I have this platform with whatever audience stops by, I thought I'd go ahead with it. For those of you that stick it out through the entire story, thanks. For those of you that don't want to plow through the whole thing, there is a rare disease called Kawasaki Disease that mainly affects children between the ages of 1 and 5 and is the main cause of acquired heart disease in children in the US. It's a rare and devastating illness, the first symptoms of which are a high persistent fever, not unlike a typical virus. If you have children, you may want to familiarize yourself with this illness.

One morning my 4-month-old daughter, Jo, woke up with a high fever (104.5 F). It was the Wednesday before Mother's Day, May 9, 2001. Tylenol would lower the fever, but 4 hours later it would come raging back. I took her to the doctor. The doctor that I usually see didn't have an open appointment, so I saw the doctor at the practice that I didn't like - the one who had told me that my 2-month-old (the same child, who obviously had chicken pox) didn't have chicken pox because... get this reason from a medical professional... she was too young to get chicken pox. Anyway, he sent us home with the diagnosis of a virus that would probably last around 5 days, keep using Tylenol for fever, push fluids, blah, blah, blah. Two days later, she wasn't eating and there was a HUGE swollen lymph node on the right side of her neck. So back to the doctor, and this time I got the one I liked. By that afternoon we were admitted into the children's hospital. And the nightmare began, because no one knew what was wrong.

IV antibiotics were begun immediately, because at the outset, some sort of infection was the doctors' best guess. But the antibiotics had no effect whatsoever. Specialists of every kind came to see us and tests of all kinds were run. The main doctor in charge of our case kept asking me if I had noticed redness in the whites of her eyes, which confused the hell out of me. It was the midnight spinal tap that finally did me in. We walked down the hall to the room where they do it, and the nurse said to me, "You don't want to be in there while they do this," and the doctor said, "It's better if you wait outside. We'll bring her right back to you." So I started walking back down the hall to the room, barely holding myself together. A nurse came up to me and put her arm around me while I walked, which pushed me completely over the edge, and I sobbed my way back to the room. (People being nice to me in tough situations always makes me cry, why is that?) She sat with me on the side of the little makeshift bed that the chair turns into until they brought Jo back to me. I had my head in my hands the entire time, and to this day I have no idea which nurse it was or what she looked like or if I ever saw her again during our stay. The spinal fluid was clear. The good news - not meningitis.

If you have never been in a situation where you don't know what is wrong and the experts can't seem to tell you either, let me assure you, there is no hell like it, especially when the one affected is your child. And our experts were some of the best. We were lucky enough to live near Philadelphia, so we had CHOP docs. You can't get much better than that. Yet they seemed flummoxed. Jo continued to deteriorate daily, and we honestly thought she was going to die.

As an aside, while all of this was happening, people were calling constantly for updates. I had not left the hospital since Jo was admitted, and just had my husband bring me clothes and toiletries. He stayed home with our oldest child, who was in school, while also moving his business out of a building that was being renovated. Flowers were sent, cards were sent, etc., but by far the nicest, most thoughtful and useful gift I received was from one of my sister-in-laws. She gave me her calling card number and said to use it for all the outgoing calls I would be making from the hospital room. At the time, my husband and I didn't have a calling card, and I wasn't about to leave the hospital to get one, so this was wonderful. I mainly used it to call her. When there were no more visitors for the day, and the floor was quiet, and the only lights were from the nurses' station in the hallway and the television, that's when I'd start to feel like I was going to lose it. So every night around 11:00, I'd call her. She'd talk to me for hours, never making me feel like I was imposing on her time, even though she had four kids and was going to have to get them up in the morning and off to school. We were on the phone every night until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. She knew I needed the distraction, and she provided it. She told me stories of when she used to teach really disturbed high school aged kids, and some of those stories were truly horrifying. She made me laugh (not at the school stories, other things) despite what was happening. She was my lifeline, and I'll always be grateful for it.

Finally, on Monday morning, the doctor came in and said she thought they had a diagnosis. It might be Kawasaki Disease. It was such a relief having a name to put to it, even if it was just a possibility. And Jo had woken up with red eyes! I said to the doctor, "The whites of her eyes are red. Why did you keep asking me about that?" She said it was another symptom of the disease. The other doctors on the team (yes, an entire team of various specialists had been created to try to determine what was wrong with my child) wanted to wait another day before beginning treatment to be sure (this is a disease that can only be diagnosed by the appearance of a myriad of symptoms, all of which were not observable in Jo as yet), but she felt this was the correct diagnosis, in any case the treatment wouldn't hurt Jo, the treatment should be begun ASAP if the diagnosis is correct and the treatment takes 12 hours or so to prepare. It was up to my husband and me to make the call.

I called my husband at work and had him look up and print everything he could find about Kawasaki Disease. While I waited for the information, I called my mother, who had decided to come up from SC to help out with my oldest while I stayed in the hospital. At the time, she worked for a cardiologist, and when she told him she had to take some time off because her grandbaby might have Kawasaki Disease, his response was, "Oh, shit." Not the news you want to hear from someone in the know. Shortly thereafter, my husband called back with info about the disease. I found out that no cause was known. It may be genetic, environmental, viral or some combination. There was no definitive way to test for it, only the appearance of several symptoms could be used to diagnose. It was so rare that some pediatricians had never even heard of it. Kids would get it, recover, and then die from heart attack, because the disease itself isn't what kills, it's the aneurysms in the coronary arteries the disease leaves behind. It's most common in Asians, most common in boys and most common between the ages of 1 and 5. My little white baby girl was the rarest of the rare. But everything fit. I was convinced, my husband was convinced. I called the doctor in and told her we wanted to begin treatment immediately.

That night, the intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was begun. High-dose aspirin therapy was also begun. By morning, Jo was improving, so the "wait and see" part began. My mother arrived. I was ensconced in hospital life. Time of day, weather, etc. was all irrelevant. I took showers in a room down the hall, while a nurse babysat. Yes, babysat. There was a new nurse on the floor and she would come stay in the room with Jo so I could get a shower. She was a really sweet girl, and somehow I found out that she loved YooHoo (the chocolate drink, for anyone who is wondering), which is all that I really remember about her now. Anyway, by Wednesday, Jo was still not completely better. The result of the treatment is usually immediate, and when it's not, the treatment sometimes has to be repeated. So since the first treatment had resulted in obvious improvement, it was decided that the diagnosis had been correct and the decision was made to repeat the treatment.

Once the second treatment was complete, Jo continued to improve. Since the outcome of this ordeal now looked positive, I took a picture (see left) for Jo to look at when she was older. At some point around the 7th or 8th day, I left my mother with Jo and actually left the hospital to try to find a gift for the staff, mainly the nurses. They had been wonderful, and I wanted them to know they were appreciated. I finally ended up at a fancy little Italian bakery, where I walked in and asked for a tray of cookies. The lady behind the counter said that trays had to be ordered in advance and she didn't have anything extra today. I said okay and was turning to leave, when she saw the hospital bracelet (which the hospital makes the parent wear as well, for security reasons) on my arm and asked me about it. I told her the story and she ripped the order slip off a big tray of cookies and sold it to me, saying she would redo the tray for the folks who ordered it, because they weren't expected in to pick it up for several hours. The nurses were thrilled with the cookies.

We were able to leave the hospital after a 10-day stay, once Jo's eating had returned to normal. I cleaned out the room that Jo and I had lived in for 10 days, wrote a note to the staff thanking them for all they had done and left it with a small picture of Jo, to whom the nurses had really taken a liking, along with a 6-pack of YooHoo for the nurse who babysat for me, and took my now healthy and alive child back home.

Jo had to be on high-dose aspirin therapy for a while and low-dose aspirin therapy for many months after, because the disease causes an extremely high blood platelet count, which can cause clots that can break free and result in death. The high platelet count is a lingering effect and can take quite a long time to return to normal. Now besides the worry over Reye Syndrome if a child gets the flu or something while on the aspirin therapy, I had the added problem of getting aspirin tablets into an infant. I searched for liquid children's aspirin to no avail, so I had to continue what had been done in the hospital (which I'm proud to say that I came up with, not that it took a rocket scientist, when a nurse came in with aspirin tablets and couldn't figure out how to get a 4-month-old to take them). So three times a day for many months, I crushed aspirin into a little bit of water, and used a syringe to give it to her.

Now seven years later, Jo is a happy and healthy little girl. When this first happened, we thought that Jo would have to be followed by a cardiologist for the rest of her life, but I'm happy to report that last year we had our last cardiologist appointment. The doctor told us that the new medical wisdom was that the risk of cardiac problems for children who had never shown cardiac involvement within a few years of the disease was no different than if they had never had the disease. I have to admit to a very difficult time believing this, and I have had moments of panic on one or two occasions when Jo said that her chest hurt (turned out to be from falling or bumping into something). The doctor did say to call if Jo ever complained of chest pain, which gives further credence to my reluctance to believe her heart is just as strong and healthy as those of my other kids. But we were and are lucky. Some parents lose their children because it is either not diagnosed correctly or not diagnosed in time. Some kids are left with aneurysms that dictate their lives - no sports, no excitement, no amusement park rides, etc. Jo plays soccer, is a red-belt in Tae Kwon Do and wants to run cross country when she's older. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the treatment needs to be begun within 5 days of the onset of the fever to avoid cardiac involvement. We got in just under the wire.

For more information, family stories and resources, please visit the Kawasaki Disease Foundation website.

Also, check out this website by a teen who had KD.

Photo credits: Got the motorcycle picture here. The calling card picture cam from the Sam's Club website.

Some old stuff

I've been meaning to do another Buncha Books post, because the number of books I've read and not reviewed is becoming overwhelming. Doing one of those posts after so much time has passed takes a while (I really should review as I go and set up a once-a-month Buncha Books issue thing.), so I've decided to transfer a couple more posts from my old blog here over the next few days. One is a post that was really difficult for me to write, as it is about a time when one of my children faced a potentially deadly disease. Since the illness is rare, I think it's important to get information out there when possible, so I have decided to re-post it despite it's lack of entertainment value. I will also, when I am done with my Buncha Books post, be adding a link in the sidebar to the Kawasaki Disease Foundation's website like I had up at my old blog. The other posts I'll transfer to fill out the time haven't yet been decided upon, but they'll probably involve some of the random info about me (because it is OH SO INTERESTING) and a fun meme or two.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 8 and a celebrity look-alike

Day 8 of my health kick, and now that the cookies are all gone, I must refuse to make more and start eating better. If I'm going to kill myself with this exercise, I should actually make it possible to drop some weight by changing my diet as well. So I'll try to start that today. Willpower, feel free to show up at any time, now.

I did move on to Level 2 of the 30-Day Shred, otherwise known as the "Oh, you thought your ass was kicked BEFORE" level. I'm still having trouble lifting my bottle of water to my mouth. Even the kick-ass girl of the two assistants Jillian Michaels has cheated. You know there's one girl back there that does things a little easier for beginners and the other girl who does the kick-ass version? Yeah, I SAW HER CHEAT.

Anyway, there are several exercises done in the plank position, which is a freaking KILLER. I am now afraid to even WATCH Level 3. I think I'll do 2 weeks of Level 2 and then take a peek at 3 to decide whether to move on or not.

I was watching a show called "The Cleaner" and saw a kid on there who looked just like Joaquin Phoenix. His name is Shiloh Fernandez and here he is:

Here's Joaquin:

Maybe it's the moody look, but when Shiloh walked onto the TV screen, my first thought was, "Wow he looks like a young Joaquin Phoenix." What do you think?

Friday, August 22, 2008

A glimpse of control amid the chaos

Jo, Beth and I made these AMAZING cookies yesterday:

Though it appears that they are cooling right on my counter, which would be okay, since it was CLEAN, they are actually cooling on wax paper. But I am not here to convince you of the sanitation level of my counter-tops. No, I am here as a public service to YOU and anyone for whom you will ever again bake a cookie. So as I was saying, we made cookies. Basically, we did the same as we did here, but instead of using chocolate chips, we used dark chocolate M&Ms and Heath toffee bits. Also, I think I have found the perfect amount of pudding mix to add - to a double recipe add one of the big boxes of pudding mix. It's a 6-serving box rather than a 4-serving. I have to say that I think these are the best cookies I've EVER HAD. Ever. Ever. In my life. And I've been around a while. And in that while I've eaten more cookies than most people eat in a lifetime. Really. So I know what I'm talking about.

Moving on...

A few days ago, Amy was setting up bowling pins all in a row. If one would get knocked down, she would say, "Uh oh, pin," and pick it back up and put it in it's rightful place. I thought this was pretty funny:


At my house, the playroom gets completely and utterly DESTROYED on a daily basis. Furniture covers pulled off the furniture and thrown on the floor or heaped back up on said furniture, crumbs all over the carpet, toys scattered everywhere, puzzles dissembled and scattered, etc. By the time Amy goes in for her nap, it is total chaos and you can't even walk through the room. So every most afternoons at nap time, I try to get in there and straighten up a bit before it gets ripped apart again later. Lately, I've been finding some odd order amid the chaos:

Hmmm... Thoughts?

Next, a random picture. Just a head's up for Kellogg's: Calibrate your Eggo machine, dude.

[30 Day Shred update: Day 5: Although I have not lost an ounce (I attribute this to the lack of change in my diet; I will try to do better, though making cookies was OBVIOUSLY not a good idea.), my ass is no longer being served up on a silver platter. Rather, *I* am starting to kick some ass. I think that I will continue on Level 1 for the weekend and move on to Level 2 on Monday.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paper plate parenting

Last night I saw a commercial for paper plates; I can't remember which company (Dixie? Chinet?). I've seen it a few times and it always cracks me up because it seems to me so passive-aggressive, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a passive-aggressive commercial before. Anyway, it reminded me of this post over at All & Sundry yesterday, which I thought was pretty funny. Have you guys seen it? The commercial, I mean. A mother is feeding her kids dinner on (OH MY GOSH, HOW UN-GREEN OF HER) paper plates and says something like, "I'm PROUD to feed my kids on [insert brand name here] paper plates, since it saves time that I can spend with my kids." As if, "I DARE you over-the-top green people to attack me for my paper plate usage, because doing so would also be attacking me for being a good mother, and HA HA, THAT'S a no-no!" It makes me laugh every time.

I should point out, in the interest of full disclosure, that I use paper plates. A lot of them. And not a name brand, just the store brand, which means that when we have something greasy like take-out pizza, we have to double them up. Please don't be horrified. After all, I recycle (except peanut butter jars, they're too much trouble to clean first) and I turn off the water when I brush my teeth. There were even a couple of years that I had a vegetable garden. Also, while I do spend A LOT of time with my kids (how could I not, since I'm ALWAYS here?), I also have been known to lock myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes or so to get away from them. Most importantly though, I don't give a flying rat's ass what you choose to do or not do in your environmental efforts (if any) or your parenting methods (assuming you're not abusive, of course). Or anything else where there may be opposing sides. I'm full-on the "whatever works" bandwagon. And what's working for me this morning is chocolate chip Eggo waffles. I will make up for it this afternoon by baking dark chocolate M&M and Heath bits cookies with Jo and Beth while Meg is at marching band camp and Amy is napping. Wait... not sure how that makes up for it, but just go along with me on that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sending the wrong message

I seem to be sending the wrong message with my last post. I am NOT UPSET IN THE LEAST. I was surprised at first and registered a brief moment of panicky concern, but then I realized that that reaction was uncalled for and that having a reader (if (s)he does become a regular) close by could be fun. Do none of you READ THROUGH TO THE END??? (By the way, kettle, you're black.) Note to self: make writing more interesting. People are drifting away in the middle.

How should I look at this?

Yesterday, I was visited here by someone who works (it was a company ISP, but that doesn't rule out living in the town as well) in the town WHERE I LIVE, which is NOT a huge town. Now, my first reaction was mini-freak out. Does this person know me? Will this person recognize my kids at the grocery store or the Target? Do we go to the same restaurants? Could this be one of my kids' friends' mothers? What is the potential anonymity compromise here? But then I thought, "so what?" I have no family here, and those are the only ones that I'm really wanting to keep unaware of this place. Not that there is anything INCRIMINATING, but just because I present more of a friends persona here than a family persona. There is the protecting my kids issue, of course, in that while I do post pictures of my kids, I do not give any specific location-identifiers such as a school name or mascot. Most likely this person is just another mom and is completely non-threatening. Whoever it is got here from Swistle rather than a search and appears to be gainfully employed at an insurance company with the word "Mutual" in it's name. So I'm going to assume everything's cool, especially since I know where he/she works. :) If you live in a relatively small town where, even if it's a big city suburb and is pretty built-up, lots of people know one another and it's not unusual to run into people you know on a regular basis, what would your reaction be if one day you checked your statistics and saw a visit from your town? Oh, and if you're looking at this and thinking, "I think she's talking about ME," email me. Maybe we can grab lunch sometime. That is, if you don't mind a toddler with unpredictable behavior tagging along.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts of an insomniac

Saturday night I couldn't sleep. I don't know if this happens to any of you, but right about ovulation time in my cycle, I get a few days of insomnia. (I used to also get a few days of severe, debilitating depression, but taking Prozac for those days each month that the depression hit fixed that, and it's been a couple years since I've experienced that.) When I can't sleep, it is ALWAYS because I can't shut off my head. It's probably that way for everyone, but I don't know because I am not in anyone else's head. We should all be grateful for that. My thought process Saturday night ended up with such a funny memory that I had to share: the memory of my most bizarre homework assignment EVER.

My PhD (which I quit before I did my dissertation) track required me to take a physiology course at the medical school. I was pregnant at the time, so I chose Reproductive Physiology. I was in the school of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Systems Science and Risk Assessment, and found myself in a class containing myself and about a dozen nurse-midwife students (all female). Interestingly, and somewhat scary for their patients perhaps, I received the highest grade in the class. But there was one assignment that stood out to me. Our professor was an ex-nun, in that she had once been a nun, but apparently decided that she'd rather get some than get nun (none). The parentheses are there for any of you who are slow on the uptake today and need it all LAID out for you. (Oh, stop your groaning, most of you know I'm really a 14-year-old boy in a woman's body.) Anyway, the first few classes were dedicated to the structure of and the process (yeah, I just made up the phrase " process", but it sounds good, no?). This was also when the whole "G.-.sp.ot, does it exist?" debate was going on. So one evening (it was a night class) as class was wrapping up, Professor Ex-nun said, "For your homework tonight, I want you to go home and locate your G.-sp.ot." Good thing she said that "go home" part first. "Any questions?" Um, YEAH:

A) Will this assignment be graded on technique or results?
B) Can we work with someone else on the assignment or is this intended to be a solo mission? And speaking of solo-missions, isn't that a no-no in nun circles?
C) Will we be discussing how we did on this assignment next class?

I didn't actually ASK any of these, but I SO wanted to. What was the most bizarre homework assignment YOU ever got?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 1, Revisited: My ass. Still kicked.

On Friday, I executed the first day of my exercising and healthy eating plan, in that I got up a 5am and completed (barely) Level 1 of Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred DVD. You can read about that experience (if you haven't already) here. That was supposed to be Day 1, then Saturday would have been Day 2, Sunday Day 3, etc. Well, as Friday went on, I discovered that lowering myself to the toilet so I could pee was a bit painful for my thighs, as was walking DOWN stairs (I had to lean heavily on the wall). This led me to believe that perhaps I wouldn't be able to do the same workout on Saturday morning. I was oh so right.

I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning not without difficulty. I had muscles hurting that I didn't even know EXISTED. People talk about the core muscles. Well, Saturday morning, I could have pointed out EVERY SINGLE FREAKING ONE. The only parts of my body that I could move without discomfort were my fingers and toes (and I hope Jillian Michaels never reads this, because if she does, I'm sure she'll remedy THAT in her next DVD, since she likes to work both the BIG muscles and the SMALL muscles SIMULTANEOUSLY). On the bright side, it was that good, achy, I did something good for myself kind of hurt. On the not so bright side, it being a good hurt didn't change the fact that I was incapable of a real workout Saturday morning. I compromised with a little treadmill action. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday.

So today, although still a bit sore, I did the workout again, and I am starting over. TODAY is Day 1. Not last Friday. Today. And my ass is still kicked, though not nearly as badly. I think I'll be able to continue with day 2 tomorrow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 1: My ass. Seriously kicked.

When I finally bothered to amble out to the mailbox Wednesday night, I found my Amazon order containing Jillian Michael's box set of exercise DVDs and the 30-Day Shred. That was my cue that it was time for a health kick, time to eat better (or at least less) and get some exercise. Yesterday, I decided to watch the 30-Day Shred DVD to see what it involved before I actually started. It has three levels, and I had heard that they were pretty tough and that it wouldn't hurt to be in pretty decent shape before you even tried the DVD, so I figured I'd start with Level 1 and watched that. It consisted of a warm up, three 6-minute circuits that each contained 3 minutes of strength training, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abdominal work. Then a short cool down. A total of about 22 minutes. It didn't seem too bad. Ha HA! You know that old adage: "Looks can be deceiving."? Um, yeah. This morning I had my ass handed to me on a silver platter.

I got up at 5:00, threw on a sports bra, had a nice cup of coffee while I read a chapter of the book I'm currently reading, then moved furniture out of the way and turned on the DVD. Warm-up? Easy. Strength part of first circuit? No problem. Cardio? Not too bad, but starting to get winded by the end. Abs? OK. Second circuit. Strength? Tougher, but manageable. Cardio? Got winded earlier, but got through it by not doing the last two jumping jacks and gasping for breath instead. Abs? Tougher, since it's hard to tighten those abs when you're breathing like a pack mule that just ran a horse race. Third circuit. Strength? Once again, tough but manageable. Cardio? OH MY GOD, just kill me now. When did I get so out of shape? Can't. Breathe. Abs? Yeah. See: pack mule, horse race. I was so thankful when she got to the cool down, I could have kissed her, but I was too whipped to get up off the floor and walk over to the TV.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I suck, and other random things

I suck. That is because despite good intentions of mailing out the prizes from my last PiF contest (I'd link, but not only do I suck, I'm too lazy to bother with linking today) last week, I only just managed to mail them TODAY. So yeah. Sorry, all my winners, but I think we've established that I suck. Before we move on away from my suckage and my overall suckitude that I am sporting today, I just want to say that it's not just me. Other people suck too. As a matter of fact, other people suck MORE. For instance, asshole drivers who think the right shoulder of the road is a LANE. So that means EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO LIVES IN PENNSYLVANIA. They're such bad drivers that they need SIGNS next to their traffic lights that say, "Wait For Green." Seriously, here's a picture:

Now, come ON. When I first saw one of these signs, I thought, "Well, DUH." Then I thought, "Maybe they mean 'No Turn on Red,' but then why don't they use a 'No Turn on Red' sign?" So all I can figure is that PA drivers need a reminder to wait until the light is green before they go, as opposed to just randomly and indiscriminately driving into intersections. Now THAT'S bad driving.

Today I saw a big truck that said, "Batesville Casket Company." Did they not consider that the name "Norman Bates" could possibly be the first thing people thought of when they saw the company name? Am I the only one for whom that was the immediate thought?

I have SO MUCH CLUTTER. No, scratch that. My husband and kids have SO MUCH CLUTTER. Why am I always the one who has to do something about it? Today I am tackling the lowest level of our split-level (it would be called a basement if it weren't a split-level house, if anyone knows what the three levels of a split-level house are called, clue me in please).

I ordered a Jillian Michaels box set of DVDs AND her 30-Day Shred DVD. They should be here tomorrow. Between that and the hundred push-ups thing that I printed out, I should be SMOKIN' HOT by Thanksgiving, right? Though I suppose that would be contingent upon DOING them. I figured out that there are three things standing in the way of my having a killer bod: 1) lack of a personal chef, 2) lack of a personal trainer (and I would need a kick-ass one ala Jillian Michaels) and 3) lack of a nanny. Well, actually I guess that boils down to one thing: lack of sufficient funding.

ATTENTION DANIELLE-LEE: Honey, email me your address and pick your book from my Bookmooch inventory if you want your prize sometime in the next century. We've already determined that it takes me long enough when I DO have that info to get a prize on its way, and I would feel so much LESS SUCKY if I were able to send you yours. Do it for me, 'kay?

This is what I found when I went in to get Amy up from her nap yesterday:

Photo credit: Got it here.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I'm not a rabid Olympics watcher. In fact, last night was the first I tuned in at all. I flipped on the TV while I was getting ready for bed and for a short time I watched before going to bed. I saw some swimming. Women's freestyle and the men's relay to be specific. And wow. Just wow. That men's relay finish was un-freaking-believable! If you didn't see it you need to. I'm actually going to spend a moment seeing if I can find it on YouTube for you... [on-hold music]

OK. Here's the entire race, but since it doesn't seem to have been posted by anyone affiliated with either The Olympic Games or NBC, I'm not sure how long it will be up:

Amazing, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OUR children's utensils have more fun than YOUR children's utensils

What? Don't YOU keep a slide in your kitchen? No? Then how do you expect your forks to frolic?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Which ones should I enter?

First of all, an update to Friday's post: my husband loved his pictures. Secondly, I am heading to NYC today because Beth has two auditions. Her first one this morning is for a TV commercial for Claritin. Then she has another this afternoon for a print ad for Greendog Clothing. I had never heard of Greendog Clothing, because I either:

A) keep my head buried in the sand at all times,
B) went to the mall for the last time before I had children,
C) am hopelessly un-hip, OR
D) all of the above.

Guess which. *DING DING DING*

Anyway, my un-hip self did somehow manage to set up my cell phone on Twitter. I sent my FIRST EVER text message there. It said, "Test" and worked flawlessly after I screamed, yelled, stomped and seethed in frustration for about 30 minutes because I couldn't get lower case letters to come up. After threatening to flush him down the toilet, my phone came through with a little icon at the top of the screen that lets me know how his highness intends to present the words I type. I should tell you that I have the least technologically advanced cell phone currently in existence. It does nothing cool. It is a phone. Period. HOWEVER, on the plus side, I have not changed my cell phone plan since 2003, so I am still on the $29.99 a month plan. So there, all you fancy schmancy phone owners. On the minus side, I have NO IDEA what texting will cost me. I should look that up, but I'm pretty sure laziness will prevail on that issue. That is a long-winded way of saying MAYBE I will send a tweet or two while I'm walking the streets of NYC. I will not, however, RECEIVE any tweets on my phone due to my lack of knowledge of texting costs, but I will catch up on twitter when I get home later.


While you all wait with baited breath for my tweets, which I'm SURE will say things like, "Just ran into [insert big deal star here] and am headed to lunch with him/her," "Got cast as an extra in Law and Order because they were shooting in front of a building we walked past," or other exciting things, rather than things like, "On train to the city. Train sucks," "Train station stairways smell like urine," "Walking 14 blocks to next appt because am cab-hailing AMATEUR," or "Sweating like pig - it's freaking hot," I hope you will help me out below by giving me your thoughts.

I LOVE photography. I don't think I am particularly GOOD at it, but I love it. I am considering entering some of my vacation photos in a contest. There are several categories, but my photos only fall into two of them: scenic and people. I can enter a total of three images. Here are the ones I am considering:



So what do you think? If you could enter three of these, which three would you choose? I should tell you that the pictures will be judged only on color and content.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I really shouldn't be allowed out of the house

Today I had to run a few errands. I had uploaded our vacation pictures to Ritz to be printed (I'm old-fashioned that way - they're digital, but I NEED the physical prints), along with a couple 10x13 enlargements that I was planning to frame for my husband. Um, lets see if I can show you those... here they are:

My husband is very nostalgic about this vacation spot, so I thought framed enlargements would be a nice gift. They turned out really nice. I'll let you know later if he appreciated them.

Anyway, I also needed to stop by Barnes and Noble for a gift certificate for Meg's friend's birthday tomorrow. I came out with the gift certificate PLUS:

They're still in the bags, which is the odd background in the shots. The sad thing is that there are a couple that I MAY HAVE read before, but I just can't remember anything about them. I can't help it; the bargain tables SUCK ME IN every time. Hardcovers for less than the price of a paperback. How could I possibly resist? Yes, I am a book junkie.

Raise your glasses...

... to Caroline and Brett. Today is (or will be depending on the time of the ceremony) their first day of marriage. May they be as happy 50 years from now as they are today.

... to myself and Mr. Picklebottom, who were married on the same date 10 years ago. I'd say more, but I don't want to jinx it.