Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Call Me

Theodore George "Ted" Paraskevakos is my hero. Don't know who he is? I didn't either until tonight, when I googled him, because I wanted to thank him....for inventing Caller ID.

You see, I hate talking on the phone, and I hate talking on the phone to people I don't want to talk to even more. So if you call me and I answer the phone, that means you really rate in my book. If I spend more than 10 minutes talking to you, consider yourself a true blue, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die friend.

Maybe it's an age thing. Maybe it goes back to the whole Mean-Ass Woman thing I've got going on. (See that new hyphen there? Learned that from my writing class. Yep, mean-ass is a compound modifier. Who knew?) Whatever the case, I'm really not sure why, but talking on the phone ranks right up there with running around the neighborhood trying to find the damn dog.

So, tonight when I was cursing the Big Ballerina's teacher helping the Big Ballerina study for her latest geography test and warming up some old mac-n-cheese preparing a nutritious dinner for the Little Ballerina, the phone rings.

The ballerinas both freeze. They know the drill. Nobody move a muscle. We don't want anybody to know we're home. Slowly, I creep towards the phone. Getting close enough only to read the Caller ID display. I don't dare touch it. God no, I might accidentally answer the thing if I do that.

I check the display and it reads, Marketing. I laugh a maniacal laugh, and say to the ringing phone, "Not in a million years!"

This got me to thinking. All callers need these explicit ID's. Displaying just a phone number is worthless. Displaying the city and state along with the number is pretty useless as well. Sometimes even the name and number does me no good if I've never heard of you, and maybe you're calling to tell me I won a radio contest, but only if I pick up the phone, or they'll move to the next person on the list.

So while Caller ID is an invention of most awesomeness, I really need my displays to be a little more specific. For example, it should read something like this... 

  • PTA president who wants you to chair the Silent Auction committee
  • Room Mom who wants you to bring in $50 worth of art supplies AND do the craft with the kids
  • Friend who wants to tell you every last detail about her month long trip to Italy 
  • "Friend" who wants you to keep her kid after ballet on Friday while she and her DH go to a wine tasting festival...until Sunday
  • Sister who wants to ask you questions about your friends that she doesn't know that she stalks on Facebook 
  • Mother-In-Law ('nuf said)
  • Good Samaritan who wants to return the dog
  • BSD
  • School Nurse 
  • Mommy
  • Friend calling to tell you she got you a babysitter because she needs a movie fix (yes, she really is that awesome)
  • Friend calling to tell you to turn off your lights and look out the window because the crazy neighbors across the street have called the cops on each other, again
  • An editor calling to tell you she wants to publish your essay and "what else have you got?"
So, thank you, Ted. Caller ID has been a real lifesaver. I think you deserve your own national holiday, or at least a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Now, do you think you can do anything with this list of suggestions? 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Author Came to our School

On Friday, I took the Little Ballerina to a school family night. It was advertised as an evening of storytelling by a "famous picture book author." While I thoroughly enjoyed it because she spoke a bit about being an author, the Little Ballerina and the rest of the under-7 crowd, and their parents, were not as enthralled.

I'm guessing this had a lot to do with the fact that our school advertised this as "an evening of storytelling," and what we got were lessons about writing. While the lessons were valuable, (to me as an adult) they sailed over the heads of the intended audience. Again, I'm sure this was the PTA pulling one of their famous bait and switches on us, and not the fault of the author. (As a 4 year PTA board member veteran, I should not be surprised, but I always get sucker punched by this fact at least once each year!) are a few bits of advice from a parent and former teacher for those who do school visits. (StoryQueen, if you're reading, I'd love your comments on this.) They probably seem insanely obvious, but after what we experienced, they may not be.

  1. Introduce Yourself - Yes, you may have already spent the day at the school and the kids may already know who you are, but the parents don't. 
  2. Know Your Audience - I'm assuming the PTA will tell you the age range of the students for a day visit, and it should match up with who is at the assembly. But, if you are there in the evening, you can't be sure what ages will show up. So, be over prepared. Have stories, lessons or activities ready for younger and older audiences and go with the one that matches the majority of your audience. 
  3. Tell A Story - If you've been promoted as a "storyteller," please tell a story. If it's one of your own, even better. 
  4. Engage the Audience -  If you can, have the group chant, sing, clap, move or repeat after you during the storytelling. If you can, bring audience members up to be part of the presentation as well. Ask the kids questions. Whatever works for you to get their attention and keep it.  
  5. Work Out Who Will Take Care of Discipline - Unfortunately, there may be times where some children become unruly...and the parents of these little angels are nowhere to be found. Either be a master at drawing wandering attentions back into focus or make sure someone from the school will have your back and step in. You shouldn't have to stand up there, continually raising your voice, to be heard above the chaos. 
  6. Have Your Books Available for Purchase - Even if you've sent home fliers ahead of time for families to buy books, bring extras along with you. If you don't read any of them to the audience, at least have them on display where families can see them and look at them. Be available at the end of your presentation to sign them. 
I hope this post is received in the spirit in which it is intended. In no way, am I saying that authors are incompetent and need my advice. Who the heck am I?!?!? Just someone who thinks that maybe someday she might like to find herself in front of an audience sharing something she wrote. And, if that day should come, these are just a few of the things I'd like to remember.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If I Bring Home a Ping Pong Table Will You Sell it on Craigslist...

Sounds like a country western song, doesn't it? Actually, it was a text I sent to BSD yesterday. He's working out of town for the rest of November.

His return text: As soon as I got home.

I wish I could say it's because he's afraid I'd turn into Monica on Friends in that famous ping pong game episode. But no, he's seen my hair like that before and it still doesn't turn him off.

 No, it's because...
When he goes out of town, that's when I buy new pieces of furniture, have the house painted or try to sneak things into the garage. It may take him months to figure out there's a new chair in the living room or the walls are a different color, but sneak a tiny weight bench into his garage and he's got it listed on Craigslist before his bags are unpacked.

BSD and I went out and got new phones this summer with full keyboards and upgraded our 400 free shared minutes, dinosaur days plan to one of the hip, new unlimited texting packages. We also just learned how to Skype (but that's a whole other post). Yes, we were living that deep under the technology rock. Shameful, I know. 

Anyway, we're having lots of fun with our new toys. We send each other random texts throughout the day "just because" or to relay important info that is better remembered via text than a phone call. 

The Big Ballerina loves to use our new phones to text too. And, she's more willing to text us her deepest thoughts than to express them verbally. For example, at her Nutcracker auditions this year she found herself trying out for a bigger part than she expected. That night, she texted me,  "I really, really hope I get to be a Party Girl!" I knew she was excited about the prospect. I had been explaining to her that it was a long shot, but I didn't realize how much she wanted that role until that text. 

She didn't get the part, but I was glad I knew ahead of time how much it meant to her. She also sends us random texts of "I love you, Mommy (or Daddy)!" If she continues to text this openly when she's in her teens, it will be worth the extra monthly fees we're forking over to Verizon each month.

So...what @ u? R u a textaholic? Or maybe a non-texter like we used 2 be? Any great text stories 2 share?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Started With a Dream

Did anyone catch the interview with Stephenie Meyer on Oprah last week? I'm not an Oprah fan and I haven't read any of the Twilight series, but I was really interested to see this interview. And, I'm so glad I did.

For the writers who stop by now and then, this is probably such old news to you, but I was shocked when I found out Stephenie was "just a mom". The author of the most sought-after young adult fiction books with crazed fans across the globe was just a mom who had a dream.

A dream! Not the "I dream of becoming a famous writer" kind of dream. The "I've got three kids under five, I'm so sleep-deprived I'm lucky if I nap long enough to even begin a dream" dream!

Holy crap! I think that's simply amazing.

The woman had no writing background. No aspirations of becoming a writer. No deep fascination with vampires. Heck, she didn't even realize she was writing a novel until she was done. (I'll bet she's also one of those women who didn't know she was pregnant until the baby fell out while she was running a marathon.) She was just "having fun, escaping into a fantasy land" recording what she saw in that one dream.

And then she went on to write three more books in the series at a rate of one per year?! That was some frickin' dream! Her mattress company should be beating down her door begging for a testimonial.

I decided there must be something to this dream business. In a writing book I was reading a while back, it also said to pay close attention to your dreams and record them when you wake up. "Relax yourself before you go to sleep and tell yourself you will remember your dream when you wake," the author suggested.

Well, I tried it, but either I am dream-impaired or destined to write a story about...

1) having to go to the bathroom (#2) and the only bathroom stalls available are either taken, clogged or those ultra bizarrely shaped toilets that have no seats and you'd never sit on it in a million years, not even with one of those paper toilet seat covers. What are those toilets supposed to be used for anyway?


2) not being able to graduate from college because I didn't go to one class all semester and there's no way I'll pass the final (and then I wake up truly wondering if I did, indeed, graduate. It takes me forever to remember that I did because it was so many years ago that I'm already starting to forget. You'd think I should be over this type of dream by now, wouldn't you?)

Not sure there's a best-seller in either of those, but I have them often enough that they must mean something. Anyone here a got a clue what that might be? Do I really want to know?

What about you? Do you have any recurring dreams or have you gotten any story ideas from dreams?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding Nemo

The flooding is over and the kids are back in school. We were lucky. Our yard was half under water, but our house, like an island, remained high and dry. Sadly, for many of my friends and neighbors the water did find its way into their homes. 

One of the best things about our neighborhood is the sense of community. From helping a neighbor replace his ruined hot water heater to loaning out your pair of rainboots to someone in deeper trouble, everyone is pitching in to help each other out. There are even Lost and Found emails circulating in hopes of returning wayward items. It's amazing what items managed to float away in the storm. Take a look...

  1. If anyone lost their kayak from the dunes last night, they may find it in a pile down on the beach near McDonald's. 
  2. A large boat bumper - light in color was found.  Email if you are missing one.
  3. Several boat boxes have been lost and found.  If you have found one, let me know and i will post it. 
  4.  A long haired fluffy (but slight) grey and white kitty showed up at our front door last night.  We took her in and fed her and gave her a place to sleep for the night.  She has no collar, but is very sweet (not ferrell).  We let her out in the a.m. and she was gone for the day, but has returned again this (Sat) evening.  We'll keep her for the night.  If you have any idea where she belongs or if you're looking for a sweet pet, please contact ----.
Good Samaritans, huh? I'll say! But this do-gooder really warms my heart...

If anyone lost some goldfish or coy in the storm.  We found 2 of them.

Hallelujah! Nemo is found at last!

*Side Note: If anyone needs anything, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm not good with power tools, but I can loan you just about anything. If it turns out to be something you have to buy, I am good at researching the best deal around. Oh, and I'm a good listener and can bake a pretty good chocolate chip cookie. Both have been proven to be therapeutic.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just One More Halloween Post, I Promise

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. I love creating the costumes and getting the whole family involved. I hate making 10 different costumes because the ballerinas change their minds every other week. (Erin, you are not alone.) I love going door to door hearing the ballerinas say, "Trick-Or-Treat." I hate the mountain of candy they drag through the door at the end of the night.

I know everyone is way over Halloween by now. I thought I was too. (I did finally take down the decorations. I swear.) But, this morning the Big Ballerina sing-songed to me from upstairs, "Maaa mmmeee, come up heeeeeerreeeee." I know when I hear that song it's not going to be pretty.

I brace myself, count to 10, promise myself I won't yell, and head to the playroom.

"Where are you?" I ask.

"Over here. Behind the couch," replies the Big Ballerina. "Look!"

Cautiously, I walk over to the couch. My heart is pounding. With my eyes shut tight, I open one to barely a squint and find it...

The Little Ballerina's Halloween stash.

"That's it?!?" I exclaimed. "You dragged me up here because she spilled her Halloween candy? Big deal!"

"No, Mama. Look closer!" cried the Big Ballerina.

I bent down to pick up the candy, still irritated that she summoned me upstairs for this silly incident. And, that's when I figured it out.

That's not Halloween candy. It's Halloween candy WRAPPERS! The only things left were the lollipops and some random Skittles that she had licked once and abandoned for more sugary confections. Skittles that were now stuck to the playroom carpet.

Yes, I am definitely over Halloween. And, I promise not to post about it anymore. Until next year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Virginia Snow Day

When I was a kid I loved snow days. When I was a teacher I loved them even more. I'm a parent now. Ask me if I love snow days. Um....not so much.

Yes, today is a "snow day". Well, it's actually a "flood day" since we live in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Just east of the Piedmont region, which is separated from our region by the Fall Line. Oh, you weren't interested in that geography lesson? Well, neither am I, and neither is the Big Ballerina, but her teacher seems to think we are because she tests her on this information every 3rd day, and I am required to quiz her nightly on these painstakingly, boring facts. Those of you with kids in diapers, you think it's bad now? Just you wait.

Anyway, it's a flood day rather than a snow day so there's no beautiful, white scenery to gaze upon. No sledding. No snowball fights. Just dirty, swampy water swallowing our street, our cars and my sanity.

It was bad enough that yesterday was a holiday. Now I've got my ballerinas home for a second day in a row, and chances are good that they'll be home tomorrow too. We've already baked the cookies, done the arts and projects, watched every recorded episode of Full House, and it's only 9am. BSD's vacation ended yesterday so I'm left, without backup, to battle them alone...for the next month.

The wind is howling. The leaves are swirling. The rain is falling across rather than down. The water is creeping ever closer to my front door, and high tide is still two hours away. But none of that scares me as much as the flickering lights. If the power goes out, I'll  really be pushed over the edge. I'll miss the Project Runway finale.

 Our neighbor kayaking in the cul-de-sac
My next door neighbor's mailbox

My next door neighbor's flooded garage

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Only One More Week to Go

You may remember that I signed up to take an online writing class. Well, we're already heading into the home stretch.

Last night, I stayed up until the wee morning hours getting my homework turned in only to wake a few hours later with a whole new idea for an entire section. Two nights ago, unable to sleep, I turned on my computer at 1am and worked on my essays until 4am. I've spent hours poring over magazines at Barnes & Noble. For the first time in years, I walked past the Children's Room and crossed the threshold of the Reference section of the library.

I am tired. I am spent. I still have one week to go. But, at the same time...

I am invigorated.
I am excited.
I am learning.

While I miss the camaraderie of a live class, I think it is fair to say it was worth it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The War on Worms

There are worms in my kitchen! Tiny cream-colored worms. BSD said they are maggots. OMG, how did this happen??!?!

I hesitated to even post about this because...
  1.  It is, er, rather embarrassing, not to mention disgusting. 
  2. Many of my new shiny, cyber friends barely know me and this confession may wind up scaring them off. 
  3. Only just recently did LiLa blog about the lack of dignity on Facebook (who, by the way, just got their very first book deal, and are giving away a free Kindle in celebration). 
But, since this is not Facebook, and in the interest of saving you from the same ill fate, I decided it was OK to post about worms in my kitchen.

My first task was to figure out who to blame. I started with the dog.

"I think they're coming from Ruby's butt," I informed BSD. "You know how she scoots on her ass all the time. Yes, it's definitely Ruby's fault."

"They're not coming from Ruby's butt," said BSD protectively.

The next one to get thrown under the bus was the hermit crab we inherited from our babysitter who went off to college this fall.

"It must be Sammy then," I tried next. "You let him out of the cage yesterday for the first time since August, and he dropped the worms as he crawled around."

"Kim, he's a CRAB! Crabs don't have worms."

"No, but dogs do. See, they are from Ruby! I knew it!"

"They are not from Ruby. We already went through this," he said again, shaking his head at me. I'll never get rid of that bitch!

"Then, it's got to be the apples. I just bought a big tote of apples. The apples must have worms," I declared. "Oh no! I just bragged to Anne and Linda about the great deal I got on all these apples, and now they're going to go out and buy their own apples, and they'll wind up with worms in their kitchen too! They'll never forgive me!"

"That's it. The worms crawled out of the apples. That makes sense," BSD finally agreed, his precious pets off the hook.

"hmmm...let me check Google. I thought apple worms were green." I did a quick search and discovered they were not from the apples, and they were not maggots. Thank God!

No, they were moth worms that eat off grains and nuts.

NUTS?!? We just served peanuts on Saturday night for Poker Night. OMG! Our guests were munching on worms! But, the can was vacuum sealed with a tin pull top so that couldn't be. Where were they coming from?

I went into my pantry and pulled every last item out until I finally found my scapegoat...

Yep, an old expired box of Grape Nuts shoved way in the back of the cabinet. That gigundous picture of wheat must have had them pee'ing their pants in anticipation.

So, my friends, let this be a lesson to you all. Do NOT eat Grape Nuts. They will give you worms.

I spent the rest of my morning tossing any other box, jar or can of food that appeared suspect. When I was done, I had a splitting headache and this is all that survived the holocaust.

I'm still not sure what caused the headache. It was either the gallon of Clorox I inhaled or that gallon of Firefly that was full when I started. Either way, I'm up from my blackout nap now.

So...would anyone like to come over for dinner tonight? We're having chocolate covered Spam.

What? You don't like chocolate? You're in luck. We have vanilla too. See you at 10.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bitches Are Bitches

My daughter is a bitch, and I don't know what to do about it. She and the girl across the street have been best friends since they were itty bitty. They are like sisters. They play together every day after school. They're inseparable.
A few months ago, a new girl moved in down the street. She's a nice girl. Plays well. Uses her manners. Pretty, wavy hair. It wasn't long before she became one of the pack.

This morning, my DD's best friend came over to see if she could play. My DD was totally excited to see her, but when she stepped onto the porch, the new girl showed up at the end of our driveway. The three girls all stood there staring at each other. Nobody said a word. You could have cut the tension with a knife.

The staring contest lasted about a minute. Finally, my daughter walked past her best friend and took off down the street with the new girl. Her best friend, odd man out, slowly walked back home.

It was painful to watch. Why are girls like this? The boys don't have these problems. They play ball and wrestle with whoever shows up in the street. They don't have to play with only one friend. Everyone is welcome. Why can't the girls figure this out?

Yes, my daughter is a every sense of the word.

My daughter, Ruby, on the left, hanging with her new bestest friend, Remy, at her house this morning. Sally, her old BFF, was home licking her wounds.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's Time

Taking down the Christmas trimmings is always a chore. I'm starting to feel the same way about the Halloween decorations. Yes, it's a chore to put them away, but more so, I like having them up.

Maybe it's because I was born on Halloween, but looking at them everyday just makes me smile. I don't put up anything really scary. In fact, my giant spider is more friendly than frightening. The crows are more cute than creepy. For whatever reason though,  I feel cozy and content among these creatures.

BSD and I were just discussing when we should tackle this project...

Me: We should probably start thinking about taking down the Halloween decorations.

BSD: Yeah, that's a good idea. When do you want to do it?

Me: When we get the Christmas tree...

But, it's already November 5th, and the Jack-O-Lantern is starting to shrivel and mold. I guess we better get packing. We don't want to be THOSE PEOPLE who keep their Christmas lights up all year long.



No, that would just be batty!

Just ask the Little Ballerina.