Come play in my world for awhile!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A brief commercial timeout

Hello friends! I have received all of your emails. Everything is fine! I don't have time to answer them individually, but wanted you to know that we are enjoying this week with our wonderful friends from California. I'll be back to posting next. Probably Monday. But they are running me hard. Literally. We even went to the gym this morning. And I swam -- well, actually body surfed, but that counts -- yesterday. I might need a couple days to recover from all the fun :)


Friday, September 26, 2008

How can I feel hot when it isn't hot?

Holy limp noodle, I am not a humidity person. Humidity brings the similarities between my hair and over-cooked spaghetti all too close. Plus I am not a delicate perspirer in humid conditions. It surprises me how much sweat my body can produce. The volume of perspiration is not at all consistent with my actual body size. I hate it. North Carolina, occasionally, is muggy, muggy, muggy. It almost feels as if you could grab hold of the air and wring it out like a wet rag.

This morning when I woke up it was actually so humid that water was condensing on the tiles of our screened porch. I left footprints as I walked out to check the rabbit all the while breathing air that was as thick as syrup. Yuck. It was only 65 degrees out there but it felt oppressive.

99% of the time I am happy. Rarely do I find myself in a foul mood without a really good reason. I consider this to be one of my better personality traits. But this humidity was turning me into a major grouch, and as I progressed through the day I began to feel about as good-natured as Lizzie Borden with PMS. Factor in the brouhaha with the economic turmoil and corresponding nationalization of our financial sector and I could hardly stand myself by the time I got to Costco.

I do love Costco. Usually a trip to Costco makes me at least a little bit happy. It's sort of like a treasure hunt. But today I walked through the hallowed doors of cheap prices and found no reprieve.

I plowed through my shopping, paid for my purchases and departed with a cart quite literally overflowing. As I left the building it felt as though a cloak had been settled on my shoulders. Humidity. It had just rained and the pavement was steaming. Double yuck.

By now my mood had bypassed grumpy and taken the express route to ferocious. I approached my car and briefly pondered my strategy for loading the trunk. Imagine my surprise when a complete stranger approached me. At first I was cautious. The stranger, a 30-something male, said, "Excuse me ma'am. You look like you're having a rough day. Would you like me to help you with that?" Seriously. I was so taken aback that I just stood there and stared at him. I guess I stared longer than I thought because he started unloading my cart! This is completely out of my comfort zone and initially made me nervous, but he had me when he set my bag of spinach aside so that it wouldn't get bruised. We made quick work of the groceries together, and then he simply said, "Have a good one" and was off. I called out a sincere thank you as he walked away with my cart, and he smiled and waved, and was gone.

I still had a bazillion things to get done, and the humidity had certainly not improved. But just like that, Lizzie Borden left the house and Kathy Belinski returned.

Thanks kind stranger! You ROCK!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Parenting is a funny thing. Before kids I can remember looking at parents with small children. I am not particularly proud to say that I would often observe them and then have the audacity to think that I could do it better, even though I had no kids of my own. I guess I used to be a bit of a know-it-all. Thankfully I'm not like that anymore. I don't think. But that's not the point. The point is that I had an abundance of preconceived notions about how life would work once I had kids.

Most of my preconceptions have gone up in flames. I worked hard to get my graduate degree while working full time. I never thought that I would stay home and be a full time mom. I always thought I would be one of those super-moms who had the amazing kids, the fabulous career and had a Martha Stewart dinner on the table every night for dinner. At least I got my amazing kids because I struck out everywhere else.

I was scurrying my way up the career ladder, traveling extensively, and mostly loving it when I got pregnant with Rachel. I went back to work for 6 months after she was born, went out on maternity leave with Hannah, and never went back. Good-bye amazing career. I really don't miss you too much. But dinner is a different story. When the twins were born we went through a period where dinner did not happen. I made something bland and kid-friendly and usually fed the kids around 5:00. Pat and I would forage for food after the kids went to bed.

It was during this evening quest for dinner that DOYO (pronounced dough-yo) was born. DOYO, quite simply, is Dinner On Your Own. Basically, it means if you want to eat you'll have to fend for yourself. Eventually the kids got older and progressed from eating food out of a jar. We began to eat as a family and DOYO fell out of our daily lexicon.

Until now. I'm about to bring DOYO back. I'll admit cooking for my family is not my favorite thing even though I actually enjoy cooking. My husband sits down at the dinner table and is always thrilled at what I have made and full of compliments. It's probably a result of the trauma from all those years of DOYO. Regardless, it's fun to cook and try new things when the recipient is appreciative. But no matter what I make someone is offended by something. In their defense they eat what's made and don't really complain much, but you can tell by the way they push the food around their plate forlornly or drown it in barbecue sauce that they aren't into it. I don't really care whether the kids love what's in front of them, but it definitely sucks some of the joy out of the actual cooking process.

The real problem, though, is that I can't manage to actually get dinner on the table. The kids are home by 3:15, and from that point until 7:00-ish I am slammed. I want to hear about their day, I need to know about their problems and struggles and their successes and accomplishments, I have to help with the tricky math problems, I must sit with each of my first graders for 30 minutes as they practice their reading.

So, if I do all those things when does dinner happen? As I see it there are three choices: 1) Cook while doing the aforementioned. This kinda works. But my full attention is really not on the kids, and they realize this. And then sometimes I get a tad grouchy when I am distracted by the kids and something on the cook top goes up in flames. Burned food + surly mom = bad dinner, 2) Cook mid-morning and just heat it through at dinner time. This is probably the right choice, but I am not hungry for dinner mid-morning and, thus, have zero inspiration to do anything about it. I think about this option but rarely act on it, 3) DOYO! I haven't tried it yet with the kids, but I think it could work.

In my head I am trying to package DOYO as an educational opportunity. They'll be learning life skills! I'll be nurturing their independence! They'll be wonderful cooks as adults! Who could say know to an opportunity to provide enrichment and education for their children? I'm just not sure whether 6 year-old twins running loose in the kitchen will solve problems or create new and more scary ones.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This post has been hijacked by a stuffed toy

I started out intending to post about pumpkins. These pitiful little specimens are the result of my enthusiastic attempt to grow pumpkins from last year's spent jack-o-lanterns.

I had so many blossoms, I thought I would have pumpkins to share. Instead I got two. And they are small. That's why I used the picture with the stuffed dog -- for scale. I'm more than a bit disappointed as I put some serious effort into these pumpkins.

So as I downloaded this picture into my blog it got me thinking about that little stuffed dog. That dog is quickly becoming the bane of my existence. The dog's name is Cookie, and she is owned by Abby and Emily's Girl Scout troop. The premise is that Cookie goes home with a different girl after each meeting. The girl then completes a journal, with pictures, describing the joys and adventures that she has had while Cookie was with her. I love this idea. It's creative, it encourages the girls to write, plus it fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment when the girls bring the journal back to share with the troop.

We choose who gets Cookie by drawing names from a hat. The girl who last had Cookie chooses the next recipient. And every time a child goes to draw a name I say a little prayer that it won't be Abby or Emily. I know they love Cookie, and can't wait to bring her home. And yet I hope that she'll go somewhere else.

I suspect that Cookie's real purpose is to complicate life. Once Cookie comes home it is a constant succession of, "Wait! Mom! I need to get Cookie!" Or, "Mom, where's Cookie?! I can't find her anywhere!" At this point we are usually running late. Thanks Cookie.
The best, though, is when it's time to put the journal together. Optimally, the girls would write the journal entry. Realistically, this is how it actually works:

-Wake kids for day, and do mental checklist of what needs to be done
-Curse softly as I remember we have Cookie and need to have journal completed
-Talk to child over breakfast and identify memorable moments with Cookie
-Retrieve camera for last minute photo shoot
-Scramble in the dwindling minutes before leaving for school to photographically recreate two weeks of fun
-Rush to Target to get prints before picking kids up from school
-Realize I should have allotted at least 15 minutes more for the photos to print
-Curse again, but not quite as softly, as I realize I am officially running late and will continue to run late for the balance of the day.
-Sit in carpool line at school while taping pictures into journal and adding captions
-Rush to Girl Scout meeting where we present the journal and entries as if we have been diligently chronicling our lives with a stuffed animal for the last two weeks.

This is one of those parenting booby traps that I stumble upon occasionally. There is so much stuff that needs to take place during that two week period; family time, homework, chores, other activities. The list is endless. Conceptually, the journal seems innocuous. I promise myself that I will stay on top of Cookie. Hypothetically, it is doable. And yet it isn't. Life conspires against the achievement of the goal, and you end up staging photo shoots before school.
Here is Cookie terrorizing our rabbit. My kids are standing behind me shoving bagels in their mouths and watching me run around like a crazy woman. Hannah is reminding me of the time at 30 second intervals. She is convinced this last minute monkey business will make us late, but she is wrong. I am a force of nature when I am under the gun.
This picture seemed kind of sweet initially, but right after the photo was snapped the rabbit went berserk and attacked Cookie. Hard. Not such a good idea after all.

I really will do better. Next time.


Lots of exciting firsts around here lately.

Neither Abby nor Emily had lost a tooth before last week. This is surprising to us as Rach and Hannah had each lost half a dozen teeth by first grade. We were beginning to think Abby and Emily would have those impossibly straight baby teeth forever.

Abby came to me last week complaining that her teeth hurt. I was checking her gums for a canker sore when I discovered her floppy tooth hanging as if by a string. Yuck. Blood I can handle. Wiggly teeth not so much. I don't know what it is, but they give me the heebie-jeebies.
Abby made quick work of the tooth and proceeded to pull it out while in bed that night. She also wiped her bloody hands and mouth all over her nice, clean, white sheets. I have gotten blood out of numerous items of clothing and even furniture over the years, but these sheets are not coming clean. Abby sleeps in a loft bed, though, and you can't actually see her sheets unless you physically climb up there. Does it make me a bad mommy if I put those stained sheets back up on the bed and pretend as though they are still crisp and blemish free? 'Cuz that's what I did.

In news of other firsts, Emily got her first tie-up shoes, and learned to tie them herself. I know most kids learn this in kindergarten, but I was not taking any chances. It's challenging enough getting four kids out the door in a timely fashion. I already wrangle lunchboxes, lost coats, last minute practices of oral presentations, as well as my own personal appearance. I do not need to wrangle shoelaces.
The thing I love most about this picture of Emily, though, is her fashion sense. Check out the brand-spankin'-new-blue skips paired with the orange Halloween socks. The funny thing is she has the sparky personality and confident swagger to actually (almost) pull it off. It is always a treat to see what Emily comes down with in the morning. Even when all of her clothes match perfectly she has a flair for doing her hair or finding a headband or doing something to make herself look uniquely -- Emily!

Premature decoration

My husband, as much as I love him, has lost his mind. This weekend he got out the Halloween boxes and started decorating. Newsflash sweetie -- it's still September. While this might not seem particularly odd to some it is completely out of character for us.

I have always been a bit of a child trapped in an adult's world. I love special occasions of any sort; birthdays, religious holidays, anniversaries, you name it. I'm on it. I savor the break from the ordinary routine, and the opportunity to revel in whatever season is upon us. Add kids to the equation and the concept of celebration takes on a whole new kind of fun.

Pat, on the other hand, is a willing participant and happily goes along with me on this. I'm sure over the years I have been the recipient of more than one mental eye roll as I have joyfully over-committed. He is not, however, the instigator; more of a partner in crime. So what on earth inspired him to drag out the Halloween stuff 6 weeks ahead of Halloween? He gave me no rational explanation other than, "Well, we don't want to wait 'til the last minute." What?? Holy role-reversal. And I actually had to pull the plug on him when he started unpacking the Thanksgiving decorations. What is this world coming to?

This is my favorite. When we bought our first house I was all about decorating for Halloween. I went to Target and bought a bed sheet and turned it into the veritable masterpiece you see pictured above our front door. Rachel had to get the Sharpie out yesterday and go over the facial features a bit as they were starting to fade, but otherwise Ghostie is still going strong!

Since Pat had pulled boxes out I got in on the act, too. This looks really tacky doesn't it? I swear it does not look bad live. I think the flash washed out the picture. Yes. Let's go with the flash. I am still clinging to the fantasy that I have impeccable taste and a keen eye for decorating, and I'm not quite done with that fantasy yet.

All kidding aside, though, these are my favorite decorations. They're hard to see, but they are hand print wreaths that I made with the kids a couple years ago. I do wish I could take credit for that cute idea, but crafty is one thing that I am not, and will never be. Check out this site for tons of cheap, fun stuff. I'll still be pulling those wreaths out of the box and faithfully hanging them in my window 20 years from now when they are faded and curled.

Friday, September 19, 2008

THIS is what I get for trying to be productive

Another consequence of passing our one year anniversary in North Carolina is my habit of taking stock of our current life situation and comparing it to where I thought we might be as I looked forward last year.

Right now the object of my obsession is storage. One year is plenty of time to have the house unpacked and meticulously organized. We've been unpacked for months, and 95% of the house has met the organizational standard. We have plenty of storage space in our new house. I would even go so far as to say that we have more than we need. So there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be at 100%. Right?

Often times when you move into a new home you unpack things quickly to get rid of the boxes. The rationale is that this is a temporary storage solution until you get a better feel for where things should go. In our last house, the temporary home became the permanent home, and I marveled at the fact that, five years later, I still had things jammed in inconvenient spots and had never gotten around to getting everything optimally situated. I made a vow to do better in the next house.

So today, rather than dithering around on the computer and playing with the stupid rabbit, I jumped in feet first. I completely tore the laundry room, hall closet, and the craft cabinet apart. I literally dumped everything out and proceeded to sort and re-group the whole mess. I had 5 1/2 hours to dedicate to the project, and felt as though I had a fair shot of completing it in the alotted time. I had made remarkable progress, but needed some storage tubs to make it just right.

I headed down to the basement thinking that I would claim one of the small bins that my kids use to organize toys. I thought there was a spare one down there but, of course, I was mistaken. I decided to combine some items to free up a bin. I reached up while standing on my tip-toes to pull down a bin of blocks that no one has used in years. I remember thinking to myself, "be careful now, it'd be a bummer if you dropped this on your head!" I slid the bin forward ever so slowly. I thought I was careful. Except I didn't keep my fingers pressed tightly enough over the front of the bin's drawer. The drawer launched itself out of the bin and smashed straight into my mouth - BAM! I am not exaggerating when I say that drawer of blocks weighs ten pounds. There were a couple hours where my profile bore a vague resemblance to Donald Duck's.

This is the bin that attacked my face -- except mine was full of blocks

So now I have a bleeding, swollen, duck lip to commemorate the fact that I actually tried to be productive today. You can bet that the next time I feel inspired to get off my butt and do something, I'll remember getting punched in the face by a drawer full of blocks -- and I'll think twice.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Driving around town in my pj's

I am not one of those moms who is showered and dressed before she wakes her kids for school. Me, I linger in bed until 7:25, and then race around the house waking up kids and slapping together lunches. At the beginning of this school year I started making the kids pancakes, or scrambled eggs for breakfast. The kids were ecstatic as this was my first weekday foray beyond cold cereal, bagels, or oatmeal. I was able to accomplish breakfast, lunches and school prep in 35 minutes flat by driving the kids to school in my pajamas. It feels like the perfect solution -- I stay in bed until the last possible second (heaven), I don't have to jockey for position with four kids in the bathroom, and the kids have my undivided attention before shipping out for the day.

But there is a dark side to this strategy. Once upon a time we lived in California. I employed the same drive-the-kids-to-school-in-your-jammies methodology. But alas, tragedy struck and one day I drove my second grader and my kindergartner to school only to have my tire go completely flat as I pulled to the curb for drop-off. I looked for my cell phone to call for help only to discover that, as usual, my handbag and cell phone were still at home. I quickly assessed my appearance: bedhead, unbrushed teeth, rumpled pajamas, bare feet, and no bra. My twins were similarly attired in Pull-ups, a pajama top and, of course, no pants or shoes. We were quite a motley crew.

In the end the twins and I left the car to summon help. I did the 35 year-old housewife's equivalent of the walk of shame en route to the school office. I'm certain I passed every single mommy I've ever met me on the way. I used the school's phone to call AAA (because Pat was out of town, of course) and waited for salvation. The twins and I were rescued, and lived happily ever after in spite of my humiliation.
Oh, this was embarrassing. I wish I had pictures of some of the "looks" I got. It was epic, and yet I didn't learn my lesson. Here I am, three years later, driving the kids to school in my pj's, and many days my phone still gets left at home. I do put a sweatshirt over my jammies to hide my bra-less physique, but that is usually as far as I get. Who knows, maybe knowing the world has already seen you at your worst is liberating?

So if you see a wild-haired, middle-aged mama driving around town with a car stuffed full of kids, honk and wave. It's probably me...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pigs are surely flying

I am an active person by nature. I like to take walks around the neighborhood. I like to bike ride. I love to garden. Generally, I like to be outside and, as a result, I am active. Up until lately this had been enough to keep gradual weight gain at bay.

Unfortunately, age is catching up with me. It has actually been catching up with me for awhile now, but I have been strong-arming the situation by starving myself. I lost about 12 pounds this way last year, and while it isn't fun it worked. Fast-forward to today. I still live in a state of quasi-starvation in order to maintain the weight loss, except the weight is beginning to creep back. I can't eat any less without running the risk of gnawing off my arm in a hunger-induced moment of weakness. At this point it is only a couple pounds, but I know that a little will become a lot if something isn't done to balance the equation.

Last week I started working out. In reality it was my husband who started working out, and he suggested that I come along. I gave a mental laugh when he offered the invitation. I would have laughed out loud, but I try not to be a complete jerk, at least most of the time. I am one of those folks who run if they are being chased with a knife, but never just for kicks. I will work out when pigs fly. So, I politely declined.

My husband knows better than to suggest that I should do anything. My psyche is hard-wired to do exactly the opposite of what anyone tells me I should do. So instead he says, "Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't want to come. You'd probably end up feeling better when you were done, and you'd definitely be working towards a healthier lifestyle." He turned and left the room after he delivered that little zinger. Darn him. I have been talking about making positive lifestyle changes for some time. The combination of reverse psychology and throwing my own words back at me is irresistible. So I went to the gym without anyone chasing me with a knife.

I am on week two of working out. Woohoo. I don't feel any better. I certainly don't look any better, because I am not working out all that hard. But hopefully I won't get any fatter.

As for all of you, please watch out when you are driving. With small wingspans and dense bodies, I've heard flying pigs have trouble getting altitude.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hostage situation

I am currently being held hostage in my own home. Fortunately, it is a benign situation. There are no evil minions holding me against my will; just my computer. I have the quintessential love / hate relationship with technology. I adore the conveniences technology affords. I love the fact that the world is, literally, at your fingertips when you are surfing the Net. But I despise the fact that my computer is able to outwit me.

My desktop computer has gone belly-up. Again. This happened initially in the Spring of 2007, and luckily my neighbor was able to sort it out for me. The crashing of my hard disk was actually the first time Abby and Emily saw me cry. You see all of my pictures were on the computer, and they were not backed up. The thought of all those memories lost... ugh.

Anyway, it crashed again last December. Fortunately my dad was out to help me fix it. This time, though, I am on my own. I called dad this morning and explained the situation. He gave me some initial pointers, but this time I can't even get into safe mode. Dad's assessment, "Hmmmm. That sounds bad." Fabulous.

Previously when this has happened I have blamed the kids. They have access to other computers, but something always comes up and they find a reason to pop onto mine. Well, this time no one touched it but me. Life is so much more fun when you have someone else to blame for the mishaps, isn't it?

What I can't understand, though, is why this keeps happening (oh, did I mention my laptop is toast as well!?). I have antivirus software. I don't do much more than blog, keep spreadsheets, and surf the web. I certainly don't tinker with anything having to do with the interanl workings. I surf mainstream sites where, I would think, I would be unlikely to pick up Internet cooties. So why does my computer(s) keep doing this? Do I have some sort of electromagnetic field surrounding me that causes hard drives to lose their sysconfig32 file?! It is the only logical solution that I can come up with at this point.

Obviously, I have more computers or I wouldn't even be typing this. That is the good news. The bad news is that at the rate I am going I've only got a month or so before I kill this one too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taming the beast

I am getting quite a few inquiries about the bunny. I don't quite know how to respond. Overall she is healthy and doing well. And she hasn't bitten anyone since that first day, so I guess there is some improvement on that front. She is also completely litter box trained now, and that is a major improvement.

On the flip side, she isn't much of a companion. I let her out of her cage to cavort on the screened porch just about every day. I sit out there on the floor with her in the hopes of bonding with her on some level. So far the only thing that's changed is that I think my butt has gotten markedly flatter (no, not fatter - but thanks for the thought) from sitting out there on the tile floor for hours on end. Now if my butt had gotten thinner it would be one thing, but I digress. Anyway, the bunny enjoys being out of the cage and runs around initially. This part is quite cute. She zips around kicking up her heals (literally) and tossing her head and then skids all over the place when she tries to stop. She used to crash into the walls a lot, but I think she has finally come to terms with the lack of traction that the tile affords and has compensated accordingly. Occasionally she will let me pet her, and once she actually came up to me and put her front legs on my knee and let me pet her. Once. After she burns off some steam she flops down underneath one of the chairs. She sits close to me, but not quite close enough that I can touch her. We've only had her a month, so I guess we have to be patient.

The worst part, though, is that she chews. When I let her out to stretch I usually bring my computer. It's bad enough I have to sit there on the floor while she runs around so I might as well at least be entertained, right? No such luck. She has started chewing the wood on the screened porch. She did this when we first got her. The experts say to yell no and clap your hands loudly. This worked initially. Now, not so much. So I'm out there with my laptop and every 30 seconds (slight exaggeration but you get the idea) I have to get up and chase the bunny away from chomping on the wood -- not good for productivity. I swear she is part beaver the way she goes after the wood. You can actually see marks where she has been chewing. The experts also say that you can train the rabbit by telling it no, nudging it's nose away from the wood, and redirecting it to something appropriate to chew. Well, the rabbit has cardboard, newspaper, and scrap wood to chew on and she always goes for the house. I, personally, think the experts are idiots. I think that rabbit is going to chew whatever she wants whenever she wants unless I get up and physically intervene.

I started throwing balls at her yesterday when she looked like she was going to chew. This was actually sort of entertaining. There is some skill involved in getting the balls to land so that they have maximum effect with minimum impact. It also kept the rabbit from chewing. I was pleased with myself for finding a way to simultaneously hone my coordination, entertain myself, and train the rabbit. However, Rachel came home and thought it was borderline bunny abuse, and asked me to stop. Sheesh.

I bought her a harness so that we could take her for walks but, frankly, I am scared to try and put it on her. We were supposed to clip her nails a week ago. I know this has nothing to do with the harness, but you have to understand the nails before you can understand the harness. Stick with me. When the breeder clipped the nails she laid the bunny on it's back in the crook of her arm, and put the bunny into a trance. This trance business is no joke. It seems the critters that prey upon rabbits only like to eat the ones that are alive. When placed into certain positions rabbits fall into this trance-like state. This is a great thing to know if you need to do things like trim their sharp little toe nails. Unfortunately, I can't get the stupid rabbit to go into a trance. I mean, how does one get a rabbit flipped over on it's back anyway? I've tried to get her turned over, but she just starts kicking and flops back onto her feet. I don't want to push it too far and then get bitten, either. So now we have a rabbit with sharp nails again. Last time I interacted with sharp-nailed bunnies I ended up with a rabbit down my shirt and my chest all scraped up (refer to August's posts if you are curious). So if I can't get her in a trance, and I can't trim her nails, then I'm certainly not going to mess with the harness. That would really be asking for it.

Essentially we have an animal that co-habitates with us and is mostly scared of us. Occasionally she lets us touch her. To answer the questions about how the rabbit is doing, I'd have to say she's doing just fine.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Don't forget... leave a comment!

Okay, I know you are reading this blog.

How do I know this? Because today, after my hurricane post, I got 19 emails from you. 19 emails!! Wow! I love that you are reading, and I love that I am keeping in touch with folks better than I have at any point in my life.

So, if you are reading won't you please consider leaving me a comment? Please?!?! I am not spending as much time on email because I am spending my spare time blogging. If you send me a comment rather than an email I can maximize my efficiency.

I changed my layout so that you don't have to have a Google account to comment. You can even comment anonymously if you don't want to identify yourself. If you enter your email address when you leave a comment I can reply back, too! And the bonus for you is that you won't have to read my rambling response emails that go on and on and never really get anywhere!

Hurricane! What hurricane?

Last week was our first brush with severe weather. I have to say that I did not fully understand the extent to which our region is impacted by hurricanes. I thought we were far enough inland that all we would ever experience was a big dump of rain, and maybe some wind.

As Hanna vacillated between tropical storm and hurricane status it became clear that the storm would move through Raleigh. Once the arrival of Hanna was a certainty the remember-when-stories began. Everyone who lived through hurricane Fran took the opportunity to share with me just how bad these storms can be. I knew that hurricane Fran had blasted through a few years ago, but I clearly did not realize exactly what that meant. Apparently:

-16 inches of rain fell
-Streets were swallowed up by sinkholes
-School was cancelled for over a week
-Power was out for 9-14 days
-Cable and phone service was down for as much as 3 weeks
-Curfews were in place in some areas
-Trees were down everywhere -- in the streets and on top of homes and cars

This is what it looked like:

Holy cow!

Now that's the kind of stuff that gets me hustling! Suddenly I felt quite motivated to check flashlights and batteries. Pat even got up on the roof and cleared out a gutter that had gotten clogged with pine needles. We were disaster preparedness machines.

I have to say that it is weird having so much forewarning. We literally had days to get our ducks in a row. I grew up in Ohio and I can remember riding on the back of my dad's bike and looking at square concrete foundations, chimneys, and toilets. These items were all that remained after a tornado spun through and literally cleared a neighborhood. I thought it was strange that the whole house was gone, but the toilet was still bolted to the foundation. I remember the warning sirens that signaled imminent danger, but that was the extent of the advanced warning. If you didn't have a plan or supplies when the siren blew, you were out of luck. The ability to prepare is priceless.

Ultimately we didn't get much from Hanna. What we did get was this:

and this

Instead of a hurricane we ended up having a sleepover. This is a different type of natural disaster that requires equal amounts of advance preparation and risk to self and structure, but I'll cover that in a separate post. The highlight of the evening was jumping on the trampoline in the pouring rain. When I think of rain I always think it will be chilly, but if it's 80 degrees with no lightning, well, why not?! We received over 4 inches of rain in 10 hours. So it didn't take long to get good and wet.

I'll consider myself lucky to have missed a real hurricane, and I'll be the first one with fresh batteries in my flashlight if anything heads our way again!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Truth is stranger than fiction

Before I delve into the story in the local paper today I have to admit I have an issue with snakes. I really can't stand them. I am fine seeing them in the zoo. I enjoy touching them when they are handled by a professional. But, when I stumble upon them in nature, well, all rational thought is lost. I am petrified of snakes.

So I woke up this morning, got the kids off to school, and found this.

Apparently, someone's pet python got loose and crawled up into the undercarriage of this woman's mini-van. Can you imagine?! She was driving down the road, and another driver caught her attention at a red light to let her know that there was a snake on her car. This all happened just up the street from our house. Of course.

And then there was another story a few weeks ago. A man was out riding his four-wheeler and believes he came across a mature cobra. A cobra! What the heck is going on out here? Surely, this is all an elaborate game that the locals play at the expense of the transplants. Right?

Here is a picture of the infamous snake that was posted in the Raleigh News & Observer. It's not crazy-big, but it is big enough to scare the pants off of me...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Jen!

My 5 favorite things about Jen:

1.) Jen does life the right way.

She exercises. She eats right. Even though she falls off the proverbial wagon and lets her workouts lapse from time to time, she eventually goes back.

And she doesn't take shortcuts or cut corners (like I do). If the recipe says beat at low speed for 5 minutes, then that's what she does. She does not crank it to "high" for two minutes with the logic that 5 slow minutes is equal to two fast ones. Even if she's in a hurry. And when she is in a hurry, you don't see her running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Nope. She's moving fast, but she's cool as a cucumber.

2.) Jen has the perfect fashion sense -- as defined by Kathy Belinski.

This means that when she is around the house she wears comfy clothes! Not wedge sandals. Not a super-cute blouse with perfectly matched accessories. Comfy clothes! The kicker, though, is that when she does have some place to go she looks fantastic. As in, do-a-double-take fantastic. Jen is the only person that I know that can exist on both ends of the fashion spectrum, and hop from side to side with out breaking stride.

3.) Jen is, bar none, the most organized person I have ever met.

I wish I could run next door and snap a quick picture of the inside of her cupboards. But that might seem odd. Her pantry is amazing. In order maximize space she has placed many items in stackable plastic containers. Everything is labeled meticulously (she has really nice handwriting, too). I have a thing for neatness, organization, and the total eradication of clutter, and when I grow up I want my closets to be like Jen's.

4.) Jen is an amazing cook.

She always has a cookbook propped open on the counter, and she always seems to be trying something new. Everything tastes better when it comes out of Jen's kitchen -- my kids will even tell you that her Kraft Mac-n-Cheese tastes better than mine. I think that is the case with all those who are truly good cooks. You can't really pin down exactly what makes it better, it just is.

5.) Jen is super-mom.

She goes well above and beyond what's needed. Whether it's driving in to the City every week to get her daughter to art class, or spending a weekend getting trained so that she can volunteer at a week-long scout camp, Jen makes it happen.

6.) I know I said five, but "my 6 favorite things" sounds stupid.

Just count this as a bonus item. Jen is the best person to drink wine with for no special reason. The best person to sit by the pool with on a hot summer day. The best person to go to Hawaii with. The best person to eat sushi with. The best person to take the kids into the City with. The best friend.

Happy Birthday Jen!