And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Helpful Household Hint

Having trouble keeping your house cleaned regularly? Here's a little tip from me to you. Pretend that you have put your house up for sale. Get a friend to call you at random times during the week and announce that she's a Realtor from Such-and-Such Realty, and she'd like to show your house in an hour. Then go into a cleaning frenzy unrivaled even by that inspired by a visit from your mom (especially since you've had the excuse that your mom will understand because you just had a, 6 years ago).

Oh, this is such a fun aspect of our lives these days. We're trying to keep things cleanish on a regular basis, but The Call always seems to come just when we've let our guards down and the kids have toys scattered from one end of the house to the other and there's black stuff growing in the toilet (it happens in less than a week down here, I swear! And I don't know why) and the dishwasher's full but not yet run and the sink is also full, and we're hesitant to run the dishwasher because it's SO LOUD and we don't want to scare off the prospective buyers and the laundry is in multiple piles/baskets in the laundry room.

We've gotten pretty good at the "battle stations" routine -- Dave Swiffers the hardwood floor; I hit the bathrooms with toilet brush and sanitizing wipes (thank God for sanitizing wipes -- second only to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on my list of miracle cleaning products); I make beds; he picks up toys and opens shades and turns on lights all over the house and lowers the air conditioning a couple of degrees. I clean the kitchen counters; he gets the kitchen floors. I vacuum; he scoops the cat litter and lights scented candles.

And then we sit and wait and get our hopes up. I tell you, the closest feeling to that of waiting for a looker to come to our house is the ones I experienced when I was 15 or 16 and was sitting waiting for a date to show up. Butterflies in the stomach. Wondering if this connection will be "the one." And then, sometimes, they don't show up during the window in which they said they'd arrive. And you wait a little longer, and wonder if maybe they're just running late. And you keep your high heels and makeup on -- er, you keep the candles lit and lights on and shades open, and wait some more, until finally you realize they're not coming. You've been stood up again. And you wonder what went wrong. What didn't they like about you, and couldn't they have had the courtesty and call and tell you what happened? You'd be forgiving and understanding; really, you would. Honestly, it's exactly the same feeling -- except with house selling, there's a lot more money involved.

Time to straighten the office (always the last room to get "the treatment"). Wish us luck -- again. They're be here in 47 minutes -- or so they say.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Scenes from an Alabama Birthday Party

So. One of the boys in Katie's class had a birthday party today. Though she's not a particular friend of this boy, and though we received the invitation less than a week ago, I thought she might like to go. She concurred. It was a pool party, and since I had had to rescue Katie at a pool party we attended last week, I cornered the mom at the last day of school party (these kids have a swingin' social life) and sort of invited myself.

Side note: We're at a strange juncture in life -- last year, at the 5-year-old birthday parties, moms and dads and siblings came along, and we had to plan for 20-some people inside the house when we threw preschool-and-under parties. This year, by some sort of hive consensus, the kids are just dropped off at parties. I'm finding this difficult to deal with. I'm not that overprotective, but you know, good moms are supposed to give strangers the third degree over items in their house ranging from guns to child molesters, and somehow, it seems awkward to do that with the parents of one of your kids' classmates. From the other side, I'm a little bewildered by dealing with strange kids staying at my house when I don't exactly have the authority of familiarity with which to discipline them. So I'm going along with this, but reluctantly.

Anyway, given that Katie almost drowned twice, I mentioned to the mom that she wasn't a very strong swimmer, and that maybe I should just hang around just in case. "Oh, you don't have to," said the mom. "I'm going to be watching them like a hawk. This little guy," she said, nodding to her 2-year-old who needs a haircut so badly he's crooking his neck to see under his bangs, "almost fell in the pool last week and gave us a heart attack." "Well," I replied, "if it's okay with you, I would like to stick around." "Oh, but you really don't have to." "Well, I'll talk to Katie about it and see if she wants me there."

Katie, being the somewhat shy (initially) kid that she is, wanted me there. Fine. Then this morning we wake up to gray clouds and predictions of thunderstorms. Sure enough, by 1:30 it's pouring rain and there's thunder rumbling in the distance as we prepare to go to the party. I have Katie dress in her clothes but bring her swimsuit just in case, even though I'm sure there's no way they're going to be actually swimming. The poor mom, I'm thinking, planning outdoor activities and having to squeeze everyone inside to do alternative activities. I took some work along and planned to be a drop-off mom so that I wasn't taking up too much room.

And then we got there, and the house was a mansion. Well, no worries about taking up too much room, I guess. But I have to qualify it. You see, if you went by the invitation, you would have thought that this was a pirate-themed party. I was soon to discover that it was actually an Alabama-themed party. The first clue was the enormous front yard -- which had scattered around it various faded Little Tikes vehicles and a giant trampoline. Yes, in the front yard.

At the front door, there was no evidence of a door bell. In front of the unvarnished entry doors were a 3-foot by 2-foot Army tank toy and a cardboard box with a sad-looking turtle and some wilted greens. We knocked on the door, which was opened by a man wearing jeans and no shirt. This man appeared to be the boy's father, but I'd never met him before and he didn't bother to introduce himself to us. We were ushered in.

The house was huge inside -- probably at least 4,000 sf -- and there were vaulted ceiling and faux finished walls and archways between the rooms. And then I looked at the floor, which was part marble, part warped and twisting wood, part tatty carpeting, and part bare concrete. Yes, bare concrete. The dad sheepishly admitted that they'd had a flood about a week ago and that was the reason for the state of the floors. That's awful, I commiserated, all the while thinking, It hasn't rained in weeks -- how did they have a flood? I found out later from the mom that the 2-year-old, who appears to live a largely unsupervised life, had turned on the water in the bathtub upstairs and put in the plug without his mom realizing it, and then she had left for work. It flooded the whole house and caused $10,000 worth of damage!!! Oh. My. God.

Anyway, we go outside to the back yard, where it is -- let me remind you -- actively raining in an area known for its huge thunderstorms. There are four children in the pool. I am so not comfortable with this, but I gave in to peer pressure (and the fact that there was apparently nothing else planned for the kids to do) and let Katie put on her suit and go swimming, all the while nervously watching the skies. About 20 minutes later, a thunderbolt chased the kids out of the pool -- thank God -- and the moms made noises about having to wait half an hour until the kids could go back in again. Fortunately, food was served -- pizza and hot dogs -- as the only other activity in the house was watching some older boys play a gory, violent, I-wouldn't-let-my-husband-play-it video game on a 60-inch TV. No one seemed concerned about this but me. Katie and three of the girls from her class -- the birthday boy, as far as I can tell, never said one word to her at the party -- sat and ate and acted silly. Then the kids explored the house a little while I chatted with some moms, trying to suppress the idea that they were going to stumble across some weaponry, because -- make no mistake about it -- this was the type of house that held guns. And, of course, every 3 minutes Katie would come back and ask if she could go in the pool again and pout when I said no.

Two of her friends' moms relented and let the girls go in the pool -- traitors! -- but at least one held back and told her daughter to wait until after the cake and ice cream, which bought us a bit of time. We went out back, where it had stopped raining (but I still wasn't happy about the weather) for the cake. The birthday boy had to be almost bodily dragged out of the pool for pictures and singing and cake, while his 2-year-old brother (who had appeared from naptime wearing a pajama top and a diaper -- cringe) had to be stopped from walking directly into the deep end of the pool. He then proceeded to balance precariously on various pieces of lawn furniture, giving the other moms and me heart attacks while his parents and other relatives blissfully ignored him. He also managed to take the ice cream scoop to the remains of the cake and eat about a cup and a half of icing all by himself. When you're at someone else's house, when do you step in?

So much for watching like a hawk. I spent most of the party counting little wet heads in the pool and looking for shadows on the bottom. There were many times when there were no adults outside, and once the 2-year-old was left outside -- around an unfenced pool! -- with no adult supervision. Yikes! I could not wait for the damned "party" to be over with, I was so appalled. Not to mention I was tired of explaining to my daughter that I didn't want her to go in the pool during a lightning storm because I didn't want her to be electrocuted and also because I like her hair nice and straight. I tell you, this child does not appreciate me.

All I can say is, from now on I'm going to trust my instincts about what party invitations we accept. No wonder this boy is the one who always gets in trouble at school.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Trapped by Technology

Well. Here I am, sitting in Atlanta Bread Company, killing time between dropping off Katie at school at 7:35 and going back to her school at 9:40 for an "event." (Her class of 12 has read 1203 books since January and have made a bookworm (out of paper links) to represent that, and they're walking the bookworm over to the upper school to show off. I'll be there taking pictures.)

Anyway, one would think that this would be an ideal time to get a little work done on the manuscript I'm copyediting. And I did think that. And then I got to ABC, opened up my laptop, and realized that it wouldn't recognize my mouse. @*&#*! Well, obviously, I can't work on the manuscript.

I have a love-hate relationship with my laptop (although I'm a little afraid to type that, worried that the laptop will read this post as I'm typing it in a HAL-like voice and blow up or something). It has never worked properly. I think there's something freaky in the wiring under the place where you rest your wrists, because I can be typing along, and somehow the cursor will jump up a paragraph and let me keep typing right in the middle of a previous sentence. Usually I notice, but there have been times I haven't, and that's bad for business!

Also, I don't get touchpads. I just don't. I know how they're supposed to work, but I can't get mine to do it. So if your laptop has a problem when you type and you can't navigate it to point-and-click, it's pretty worthless, right? Except that sometimes I need to get out of the house to work because there are so many things to distract me at home. I'm at a loss. I think about getting a new laptop, but I'm not so sure all my problems would be solved with a new one, so I stick this one out. Hey, at least it gives us an alternate computer for my daughter to play her horse-jumping video games -- when the mouse is working.

In other news, yesterday was our 8th anniversary. And, of course, we're just like we were as newlyweds. Except we spent the afternoon assembling nine mix-in-a-jars for our daughter's multitude of teachers. And the evening yelling at the kids to get them to sit down and eat dinner and stop fighting in the bathtub. And holding down the boy to get his jammies on while he raged at us. And reading Dr. Seuss books. And turning deaf ears to Katie's cries of "But I'm huuuuungryyyyy" after she was already in bed with the lights out subsequent to refusing the first meal that was offered to her and demanding chicken nuggets for which she decided she was not hungry by the time they were cooked and then refusing them a final time not 5 minutes before she went to bed so that they got thrown in the trash. But oh yeah, everything in our lives is just the same.

We did put a moratorium on TV for the evening and played Trivial Pursuit for Book Lovers, which we abandoned after only earning about two wedges a piece. We decided that whereas with regular Trivial Pursuit, sometimes you can guess, with this version you either know it or you don't, and often you don't. Also, if you don't know the answer, guess "Margaret Atwood." (Am I showing my ignorance to admit that I have no idea who Margaret Atwood is?) I was tickled to see a question about one of Jennifer Weiner's books, given that I'm a devoted reader of her blog. And we also exchanged little gifts which neither of us had a lot of energy to devote to picking out. And there was some romance. (We did, however, have to skip the semi-traditional paging through the wedding album and/or watching the amateur wedding video, as those are packed.) But still, I look forward to the day when we can make our anniversary the holiday it should be once again. Maybe that's why the 10th is such a big deal -- you can finally escape from the day-to-day tribulations of young children and get back to being more of a couple.

Preparations for the move are proceeding apace. And by that I mean, really not at all. We occasionally pack a box. We think we might move in the second week of June, which I'm panicking to realize is only two-and-a-half weeks away. We don't have a mover organized (still waiting on one more estimate). We haven't sold this house. We have only a tentative closing date for the house in NY, and I haven't heard anything about how likely that date actually is. We have a bazillion possibilities for getting selves, possessions, cars, and cats up to NY, and we flip through those daily. At the moment we're thinking that I might drive up to NY with Dave's car by myself and his guitars and other valuables/heavy things (movers charge by weight) to close on the NY house, then fly back for the move out of the AL house. Or maybe we'll caravan up, one kid and one cat to each car. Or maybe we'll leave Dave's car her and come back for it later. We just don't know. I'm waiting for some inspiration to come from the heavens -- something that says, "This must take place on this day." So far, it hasn't come. And really, winging it is not my forte.

All right, I've killed enough time with this. AAA is open and I can go pick up our maps for the trip to NY. And then back to the school for the bookworm parade. Maybe I'll get some work done later this afternoon. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Living With a 2-Year Old . . .

. . . like a quiz show, but with far less exciting prizes!

Ian, hanging on the door to the laundry room, with great enthusiasm: Bug-a-buh!
Me: Bug-a-bug? [A species of insect found on Dora the Explorer -- I don't know why he'd be saying that, but I often find his actions inexplicable.]
Ian: No, bug-a-bah!
Me: What, Ian?
Ian, switching to the door handle of the door to the garage: Bug-a-buh!
Me: Basketball?
Me: Bicycle?
Ian, whining and close to a meltdown and doing that thing where he goes limp but bounces with his knees: NOOOOO! BUG-A-BAH!
Me, the light finally dawning: Oh! Popsicle?
Ian, perkily: Yeah! And me want one!

When does the synonym syndrome kick in? You know, when they can find ways to say something to get around the fact that what they are saying in the first place is incomprehensible to the clueless adults?

Monday, May 16, 2005

No, No, Not Yet!

To set the scene, I have to tell you that I bought our first potty chair when our daughter was 12 months old. I don't know what I was thinking -- it was probably on sale, and I'd been reading about how you should have the chair in the bathroom to familiarize the child with it. Yeah, that didn't really work for us. To make a long story short, I fretted about potty training Katie for almost two years, vowing that she'd be trained by the time she was 3, a deadline she made by about three weeks. And that was only with the help of bribery.

Then here comes the second child. Potty training? What's that? I don't have time for potty training. I'm immersed in all the other trauma in our lives, and oh yeah, have I mentioned that we're moving in less than a month, a trip that will take a minimum of four days in the car? And that we're planning at least one other car trip this summer? And that Ian doesn't turn 3 until December, so I really don't need to worry about this yet?

Yeah, well, apparently my children can even rebel against plans to slack.

We did buy Ian a potty chair (had to buy a new one, as the little "shield" went missing from Katie's). We tried him on it a few times, but certainly didn't push. He's asked to go a few times, but often as not, as soon as his little butt hits the chair, he'll say, "It dee-nent work," and hop back up again. And yet -- for the last couple of weeks, he's gone potty before he gets in the bath, copying his big sister. And then today, Dave found Ian in the bathroom, naked from the waist down, having taken off his shorts and his diaper and gone potty all by himself. He had the lid to the toilet up, trying to figure out how to dump the potty. Mr. Independent, that's my boy.

But we're not ready!

Hey, if he's contrary about this, do you think he might turn out to be the one neat freak in the house? Boy, wouldn't that be nice?