Sunday, December 30, 2007

We Put The "Fun" in "Dysfunction"

Ah, my family. If they were any odder, "Cops" would camp out on our lawns.

JF, Offspring, and I traveled for the last few days to CityOfMyBirth to see my grandmother, father, and uncle. My grandmother, who is 88, is looking better than the last time I saw her. She is looking visibly older, but for Pete's sake, she's 88! The last time we visited, she'd had a heart attack not too long before, and had fallen, breaking her leg and damaging her hip. At the time, she was feeling very fragile, and was depressed with her medical state. This trip, she was much more her feisty self, and spent a lot of the time sniping back and forth with my father. (Just as an aside, can I add here that I *love* seeing my father be on the receiving end of that conflict? I'm used to having all the invective and barbed comments flying in my direction, and it's refreshing to see that he gets smacked down by his own mother every once in a while.)

My father tooled us around town, taking Offspring and JF to ride go-karts and play Laser Tag. He would have taken us to the Zoo, but their hours at this time of the year are very short, and we didn't want to have to rush, rush, rush. Plus, the weather was grey, with the chance of dropping lots of rain at a moment's notice.

Some things I learned about other members of my family over this holiday season:

*That cousin of mine that got married back in October -- three months ago? Already in marriage counseling. Yeah, that was my reaction, too. Apparently, their counselor said that they're the "smartest couple she'd ever seen" because they were getting help early. No -- if they were the smartest couple she'd ever seen, they would not have needed her services.

*Another cousin of mine missed the Thanksgiving part of the holiday because he was in jail. He and his (now ex-) wife were splitting, and she had a restraining order out on hi, which he violated. Therefore, he was a guest of the county for a while.

*My father couldn't let the holiday season go by without making at least one disparaging comment on my weight, though my mother actually managed to say encouraging things this year, rather than hurtful ones!

Other happenings:

*I made little gift bags for all of my coworkers, and passed them out the day we got out for the holidays. Inside was a hand-decorated glass ornament, and a decorated bag of candies. Most everyone oohed and ahhed over them, and I was told several times that I was "sickening", and that my crafting habits are "scary" and even "unholy."

*Juggling Freak's chemical burn is nastily red still, and is being very slow to heal. We finally doctored him with some ointment and gauze pads, and at least he can now walk around without his hand permanently on his hip, or without his side adhering to his shirt, necessitating opening the wound every time he takes off his shirt.

*I have to go back to school on Wednesday, and I really don't want to. Having all this time off makes me lazy. Well, lazier than normal. I just want to hole up in the warm bed and read all my new books! Or, go into my craft room, and play with all my new stuff!

*I totally suck as a pen pal/online friend these days. CCW felt sorry for me because we could never get my cookie swap idea off the ground, so she made me this nice big box of delicious goodies, and while I made her one batch of Crunch Bars that first weekend, I haven't gotten anything further done towards sending her a box back. Like I said, I suck. Maybe I can get my crap together tomorrow and do some baking.

*In addition to that, I also owe boxes to two other online friends, and I've yet to get off my duff about either of those. Sorry, guys. All I can say is, I suck!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Enormous Fish and Mutant Children

It's a family in-joke that my Mother-in-law can't cook. JF joked when we met that he learned how to cook so well early on because it was either learn or starve. Whenever we have a big meal, like Thanksgiving or Easter, I will typically make her a plate, and take it to her at a later time.

It has become a tradition to spend Christmas Eve at my mother's house, and the afternoon of Christmas day at M-I-L's house. Since we usually spend quite a bit of time at both places, there's usually a meal involved. (We have to keep up our strength after all that hard unwrapping!) My mom has gotten in the habit in the last few years of planning for steaks on the grill and baked potatoes. This saves her from having to make two humongous meals in a relatively short time span, and is both easy to prepare for and to clean up from.

Mother-in-law, however, posed a problem. She's can't cook for love nor money, and most businesses are closed for Christmas. About eight or so years ago, we happened to notice that a small little Japanese place right around the corner from her house was open on Christmas Day, and a new family tradition was instituted that very night. After unwrapping gifts, off we go to the little Japanese place, where JF usually grosses his mother out completely by ordering the nastiest-looking sushi he can find. (Yet another holiday tradition...)

Early this evening, we went for a late lunch/early dinner to Little Japanese Place. We got worried for a second when we drove up and there was a large sign on the door, but it just turned out to be a notice that they WERE planning on being open. So, we go in, and we're the only people in the place, other than the wait staff. We sat down and ordered, and made small talk while we were waiting for our salads. Right behind M-I-L and Offspring is a large fish tank with these gigantic fish. Seriously, the fish are so big that there's very little room for them all to maneuver in the tank together.

About fifteen minutes after we arrive, another family arrives. There's two small boys with their parents, and they also are instantly drawn to the fish. They remain, noses pressed to glass, while their parents are seated directly behind us. The parents place their orders while the children shout and yell at the fish. After a few minutes of this, I expect the parents to call the children over, and continue on with their meal. Silly me. The children continue to shout at the fish at top volume, so much so that the conversation at our table grinds to a halt because we cannot be heard over their noise. Their parents sit and talk, and ignore the kids completely.

The larger of the two kids begins running his hands along the top of the tank, trying to get his fingers into the water. When he's unable to dabble his fingers in fish water, he pulls his body into a chin-up on the fish tank! Astoundingly, the parents still do nothing. These kids are yelling their heads off, and attempting to scale the fish tank like they're making an assault against Mount Everest, and the parents do not do a single thing about it.

I worried that the tank would fall over on Offspring and M-I-L, who were seated right behind it. The child was small enough that he'd manage to escape, because he'd fit into the space between the high back of our booth and the large stand the tank was on. Offspring and M-I-L would get whacked with the tank AND soaked.

When their food arrives, they manage to coax the older boy into sitting down and eating, but the younger still stood right next to our booth, trying to talk to (or more accurately, shout at) us. Normally, whenever I encounter kids in public, I try to engage them in conversation, or at least smile at them. Not these demon spawn. If I had my way, I'da chucked 'em into the tank and hoped the fish were piranha.

What killed me was not that the kids were acting like kids do -- but the parents! They did nothing! In fact, the only time that I heard the mother tell the kids to actively DO something was when she said, "Joey, *please* stop kicking me!" The younger whined that he didn't want this, and he didn't want that, and kicked the back of the booth repeatedly. The parents had no regard for their poor kids at all!

I place all my anger at the parents' doorstep on this one, however. Sure, the kids were little monsters, but they're that way because the parents haven't taught them any better. I'm not a person who believes that children should be seen and not heard, but you can bet your bottom dollar when Offspring acted up when she was small, we did something about it. And, you don't have to beat your child to get them to behave, though you wouldn't believe how many ass-whuppin's I've seen in Wal-Mart, Target, etc. All you have to do is instill in them that there's a certain time and place for things, and make sure they know what is and is not appropriate behavior in public. And, if they act up, be prepared to chuck 'em to the piranhas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Because Stealing Just Screams "Christmas"

While perusing the blogosphere this morning, I ran across this cute Christmas meme that Marni had up. And, being that it's the Christmas season, I figured I'd steal it. Because, as we all know, stealing just screams "Christmas", right?

Here we go!

Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate! Eggnog is evil! It's like saying, "I want to get a *little* drunk, but I also want some pancakes."

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree?
Santa will occasionally be sneaky, and put something under the tree, but mostly, he leaves Offspring's presents set up beside the tree. I think this is a total racket, because JF and I never get anything.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored, and the more the better! We used to do a whole lot more decorating, but we just haven't done all of that this year. JF complains that I like what he terms "a frickin' glow tree", but I figure once your tree looks like it has enough lights, add two more strands, and then you're good to go.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No. It's probably full of nargles.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
As soon as my Grinchy husband will let me. He absolutely REFUSES to put up decorations/tree until it is actually December, so we often have a colossal begging/whining session when the first weekend after Thanksgiving falls in November, and not December. That's prime decorating time!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I don't think I really have a favorite. Most everything is so good at this time of year, I can't pick a particular favorite, and EVERYTHING is hard to resist. Those people who deep-fry a turkey are always welcome to drop by my house. With the turkey.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
We had a large leather strap that had jingle bells attached to it, and this was always hung on our front door with a wreath. Every Christmas Eve, when my brother and I were waging our yearly battle to stay up as long as possible, my dad would sneak out of the house, and shake the jingle bells. My mom would tell us that it was Santa, and we had to get in bed and be asleep as soon as possible, or he'd pass us by. It always worked.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
What truth about Santa?!?! Do you know something I don't? Has he been stepping out on Mrs. Claus?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
When I was little, we used to beg to do that, but now that I'm an adult and we have so many family to see over the holidays, it seems like we're opening gifts for about a week, so it doesn't really matt
er. For example, tomorrow night, we'll go to my mother's house and open gifts there. On Christmas Day, we'll go to my M-I-L's house, and do gifts there. Then, we may be making a trip to CityOfMyBirth on or around the 27th, so we'll have to do gifts with my Dad at some point. Then, whenever we get a chance, we'll do gifts with JF's dad. (They're not exactly a priority since they forgot both their own son's birthday this year, but also their granddaughter's. I've got a serious case of the humbugs as far as they're concerned.)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With lots of lights (when I'm allowed) and all those special little ornaments that we've collected over the years. We used to do a whole family decorating thing, but for the last couple of years, JF has put the tree together and strung the lights, and Offspring and I have done most of the decorating. JF will place his few special ornaments on the tree, but he mostly watches while we have "A Charlie Brown Christmas" playing in the background.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Don't get it down here. Too warm. It snows, on average, once every seven years here. The only time in my life that it snowed and actually STUCK, I was in college, and I scraped enough snow together to make a six inch high snowman on the hood of my car. 'Course, it was dirty snow, full of twigs and leaves, but I had a snowman, by God! The local wags called that the "Blizzard of '89." I think I'd like a lot of snow for about three hours. After that, I think I'd hate it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Only if falling down a lot and ending up with a frozen butt can be considered "skating." Then, sure! My parents once took us skiing in the mountains of North Carolina when I was about 10 or so. I was an absolutely abysmal skiier, so I spent most of my time ice skating. I got pretty good by the end of our trip, but that was 25 years ago, and since I've been ice skating a total of two times since then, I'd say I'm a wee bit rusty.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
My favorite gift is my family. I know that sounds totally sappy, but it really is the truth.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
I really love making stuff for people, and I love seeing the looks on their faces when they realize that I've spent all that time, making something specifically FOR them. I think I like giving things more than I like getting them. I mean, the getting of gifts is nice and all, but I really enjoy the reaction of OTHER people who open a gift I've gotten for them.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
My praline cookies. I usually make about a hundred batches of those every Christmas, but I haven't yet this holiday. I did discover a similar recipe that uses walnuts instead of pecans, and also has chocolate. Anything can be made better by the addition of chocolate!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I love them all. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love darn near everything about it.

17. What tops your tree?
We're Disney freaks, so our tree topper is a Cinderella Castle that encircles the uppermost branches, and then we have a Cinderella "angel" over that. (Offspring used to be a slavish devotee of Cinderella in her younger days, but now she's outgrown the princess fascination.)

18. What are your favorite Christmas songs?
"Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" by Amy Grant
"The Holly and the Ivy" by Bing Crosby
"Coventry Carol" by Alison Moyet

19. Real tree or artificial?
If I had a choice, I'd pick real every time because I love the way they smell. But, an artificial tree is much more practical, and you don't have the added expense of purchasing a dead tree every year.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or yum?
A little of both. Candy canes I have to take in small doses. I can get tired of them REAL quick, so I limit myself to only a few every holiday. That way, I don't max out on peppermint.

If anyone else is interested in playing along, let me know, and I'll link back to you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Working With Kids Is Never Boring

The kids are all aflutter, what with Christmas holidays coming up. They're most excited about tomorrow, because it's our last day at school until after the new year. This is typically a day where no actual work gets done. Kindergarten does a lot of coloring, we make holiday-themed ornaments, and we generally goof off. We're planning to show up to school in our jammies, and watch The Polar Express while drinking hot chocolate.

The older kids also have a variety of fun activities planned. As a group of fourth and fifth graders were leaving the building this afternoon, I overheard them discussing their plans for tomorrow:

"We're gonna play Ghetto Chess!"

"Ghetto Chess?" How you play dat?"

"Man, ain't you know? In Ghetto Chess, *black* goes first!"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Now *That's* More Like It!

The heatwave here in HumidityLikeABrickWall has finally broken. We woke up Sunday to clear, but rapidly cooling weather. It went down to 37 last night, which might not sound like a whole lot to all of you who are currently snowbound...BUT -- considering that the day before, it was in the eighties, 37 is a drastic change.

Saturday night, JF and I were so warm that we turned on our ceiling fan, and only had a sheet and a light blanket on our bed. Sunday night, we had to break out our little space heater, and I had to put a comforter and a quilt on our bed.

Now, *that's* more like Christmas weather!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just Not Right

Things are odd here in HumidityLikeABrickWall. It's all topsy-turvy. We've gone Bizarro World.

I got sent home early from school today because the nurse caught me vomiting in the bathroom. I had a migraine that would just not! go! away!, and it was exacerbated by all six of our kindergarten classes loudly practicing their holiday songs together for next week's PTA meeting. I tried to explain to her that I would be a little better now that I'd vomited (for some strange reason, it does help with the pain somewhat...) and I was going to wash my face. She insisted that I had to go home, and even sent another teacher to my room for my school bag. Oy. So, I drove home very carefully, and slept from 2pm to 6:30pm. I still feel very disconnected and fuzzy, but no longer within the throes of the almighty pounding.

I have several Christmas-themed sweaters and sweater vests, and I like to wear them to school for the holidays. The kids always get a big kick out of them, and they help me be in a more Christmas-spirited mood. I decided to wear one of my favorite vests this morning -- it's navy blue, and depicts Santa in his sleigh, flying over the night sky to deliver presents to the houses far below. It was slightly chilly this morning, but not enough so that I needed a jacket, since I had a white t-shirt on under the vest. When we left the classroom for lunch, our thermometer said 81 degrees! 81 freaking degrees! My headache was probably not helped much by the fact that I was DYING OF HEATSTROKE!

It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you're sweating like a construction worker, is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mommed All Over It

We have a saying in our family, one that was gleaned from a snippet of conversation from a Simpsons episode. In an effort to become closer to Bart, Marge begins to play an online game that Bart and his friends like. Of course, she over-mothers Bart, even in the game. She turns Bart's "EverQuest"-like cottage into a small girl's dream with pink curtains and Hello Kitty decorations everywhere the eye can see. Bart complains to Marge that his game (and his life) were just fine until she went and "mommed all over it."

I pulled a Marge this weekend. While Offspring was at Girl Scout camp, I took the opportunity to do a great deal of her Christmas shopping. I stayed up late Saturday night, wrapping the presents, and putting them under the tree. As I bent over to place one of the last few packages under the tree, I heard an ominous "crrraaaaack!" The tree tipped over, poking me, hard, in several places on the way down. (We have an artificial tree. We got the fake one after the year when the cat tried playing in the tree and a toddler Offspring attempted to climb it, and we've had a fake tree ever since.) That wire isn't exactly soft, you know.

So, I'm yelling for help, and pissed off as all get-out that I've mommed all over the tree. All my precious ornaments that I've collected over the years....the mess... JF comes running to help, and we discover that the stand of the tree is cracked into an un-salvageable mess. As it's late, there's nothing to do but lean the tree in the corner until the morning. We clean up the mess, and I throw away the one (miracle of miracles, only ONE!) broken ornament, and finish the wrapping.

On Sunday, I keep a lookout for a new tree, but they're all pretty tacky. I was mainly focused on gift shopping, not tree shopping. When I arrive home, JF has good news -- his mother has given us her artificial tree! She no longer has any use for it since she can't maneuver well enough on her own, and has given it to us. It's smaller than our old tree, but I'm just grateful that we don't have to lean the tree in the corner anymore.

JF insists that the now-broken tree was older than them thar hills, and that I did not break it, but if coincidence is running that high, I'd better hie my happy behind out to the local Qwik-E-Mart for a lottery ticket.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sorry So Quiet

I've got a million things going on -- sorry I haven't been around much lately. You know how this time of year gets. I spent most of this last weekend at Girl Scout camp, so I didn't get much done on the home front.

I hope to be back with a lengthier post later today, or maybe tomorrow. If I can manage to get myself together by then....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Need to Get Me Some Of That!

While working on a craft project the other night, I had the TV on as background noise. I wasn't really paying attention to it, but my brain halfway registered something odd, and I had to grab the TV remote to backtrack to make sure that I'd heard what I thought I'd heard.

Seems that there's this drug out there for Restless Legs Syndrome (trade name M!rapex) that is getting heavy rotation during late evening broadcasts. The commercial touts this "wonder drug" as THE thing that will help RLS sufferers, but there are a few weensy drawbacks. You can become drowsy when taking it, and even experience dizziness and fainting when standing too quickly. Some patients experience nausea. But the symptoms to watch out for are the increased gambling and sexual urges.


You know how some of those erectile dysfunction medication commercials mention "certain sexual side effects" yet never mention what exactly those side effects are?

So, if you take this drug, don't head for Vegas. That might be a bad choice.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It is now officially December, and I will readily admit that this is my very favorite part of the year. I love the festive atmosphere of the holidays, and all of the things we do together as a family. Some (though not all, by any means) people tend to be nicer to deal with during the holidays, and have a cheerier outlook. Juggling Freak *absolutely refuses* to put the tree up before December 1st, but once that first day rolls around, I can usually cajole him out of his curmudgeonly anti-Christmas mood.

I love to sit in our darkened living room and just bask in the glow of the lighted Christmas tree. The lights twinkling merrily just give me a feeling of calm and happiness. The house is warm, and smelling of good things to eat; my family is tucked into their beds, and my cat dozes contentedly on the bright quilt laid over the sofa.

I got up this morning to clean out the corner area where our tree will go. We'll put up the tree tomorrow, carefully hanging our favorite ornaments in places of pride upon its' green boughs. JF will put the tree together, and string the lights. Offspring will find all those infinitely precious things she made in kindergarten and first grade, making sure they're on the front of the tree, where we can see them at once. I will find all the penguin ornaments, and my favorite brass Queen Elizabeth I, and find them their own special areas. We'll joke as we work, maybe even playing Christmas carols if I can convince Juggling Freak to overcome his aversion to them. Maybe we'll play a Christmas-themed movie on the TV as we work. Afterward, we'll place the presents that are already purchased and wrapped under the tree, on top of the felt penguin tree skirt I made a few years ago and step back to admire our handiwork.