Monday, December 31, 2007

Ready for a Change?

Last night Hollywood and I went to see Barack Obama speak in Des Moines. Iowa holds the first caucus, so we have been completely bombarded by political ads on tv, radio, billboards, and cereal boxes (not really, but probably someday!) We have constant visits from the candidates, get recorded phone messages from them, and news segments on them as well.

It used to be that I could line up most of my beliefs with the Republican party. I have always voted the conservative ticket, so I'm a bit puzzled at my change in heart lately.

Could it be the poor choices being made daily by the president that we have in office at the moment? Maybe. Could it be my mother-in-law is slowly wearing me down and turning me into a Democrat? I hope not.

On many issues, ones that are important to me, I still side with the Republicans. But this current administration has ignored these issues only to focus on a war that's not only unwinnable, but is one that we shouldn't have gotten into in the first place.

I don't think that America is going to elect a Republican president in 2008, and maybe that's for the best.... Because of this, I want to make sure that the Democratic ticket holder is someone I can live with. So I started researching, and I started listening to my Mother-in-law who is a precinct captain for Obama's Iowa campaign. I read through Barack's 'Blueprint for Change' handout and agreed with many (but not all) of his points. Here are a few of them:

1. His ethics campaign is focused on getting lobbyists, special interest groups, and big business out of the white house. Whether it's oil companies or drug companies. I read a book this summer about the AIDS crisis in Ethiopia. It talked about what the drug companies are doing to virtually withhold life saving medicine to millions of dying Africans. They're doing the same thing to our seniors right inside this country, with the full support of the government and that's despicable.

2. Ending the war in Iraq. This one seems like a nobrainer to me. It surprises me that there are still Americans out there who think we should be in Iraq.

3. Coming together to bridge the partisan gap in our country. Sure, all the candidates say that they'll do this. Barack has a history of bringing party lines (not panty lines) together. His quote, "I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America, I want to be the President of the United States of America." is a great mantra.

4. Reducing our dependency on foreign oil. People, we sent a man to the moon. We spend gazillions of dollars on a war that will not make us safer or gain us allies. If we spent a fraction of that amount coming up with a clean energy alternative for vehicle use, all cars would be equipped with a Mr. Fusion by 2010. (Remember Mr. Fusion? From Back to the Future? When Doc Brown comes back from his trip at the very end of the movie, he puts a banana peel and pours a half empty beer into the receptacle on the time machine. Mr. Fusion was the upgrade from the plutonium that he previously used to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power needed for the flux capacitor to work...)

Ah, Back to the Future. What an awesome movie.

Anyway... these are the big points that are causing me to change my political affiliation (at least for the caucus) and go caucus for Senator Obama.

Last night we had front row seats, and I got to shake his hand twice. My MIL introduced Hollywood and me to him, and he even kissed Hollywood on the cheek. It was pretty cool. He's a very charismatic speaker, very motivational and I think he'd be a good leader for our country. My bleeding heart friends might be shocked to see my change of heart.

****I'm Monnik, and I approved this message.****

Friday, December 28, 2007

Post Holiday Eating Habits

We've all spent several days eating nothing but junk. Between the cookies, the breads, the baklava, the dips, the chips, the crackers, the cheeses, the chocolates, the sausages, and about a million other things, our bodies are in complete revolt.

Well, mine is anyway. I went to the store last night and bought $40 worth of produce. Broccoli, beans, brussels sprouts, bananas, apples, and those delicious clementine oranges. It was like my body was begging me to ingest something - anything - with nutritional value.

Bumblebee's body, however, doesn't seem to be craving healthy food at all. Here's what she asked me while eating her breakfast this morning:


Whipped Cream Cereal from Monnik on Vimeo.

Yes, that's right. She wanted 'whipped cream cereal'. Um, no. Not today. And yes, this video was a re-enactment. I don't typically roll film while she's eating breakfast (from a tv tray) on the floor of the dining room.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Recap

Christmas was great this year. I usually bemoan the fact that I have a thousand things to do at Christmastime, and this year was no different. In fact, it was worse because of the trip to San Francisco for my brother's wedding.

For some reason, this year didn't actually stress me out as much as it usually does. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I folded under pressure and bought the kids the super expensive electronic gifts that they wanted instead of taking the time to search for something more thoughtful and less trendy. One year, Hollywood begged and BEGGED for these stupid electronic pets called a Meowchi and a Poochi. I spent forever looking for the damn things, and spent a fortune on them when I finally found them, and she played with them for about two hours before she lost interest. Seriously. I was not pleased.

So, in light of that, it's been a rule of mine not to give in to their demands for for electronic gadgetry. Until this year. Hollywood wanted an iPod Nano Video. The Boy wanted a Nintendo DS. They got them because I didn't have the time to think of something better for them. And, of course, they loved them. At least with a DS and an iPod I know they'll get used - more use than I want them to, I'm sure. I told The Boy that he had to read for an hour for every hour of video game time he spends. Since he loves to read too, that wasn't a terrible rule.

But anyway, back to the fact that I didn't feel stressed out this year. It was really great! We had Christmas with my side of the family on Sunday. The early afternoon was spent at my dad and his wife's house. 15 people were crammed into a small living room watching the Packers/Bears game on tv. My brother is a Bears fan. My husband is a Packers fan. The Packers got KILLED by the bears in an ugly, ugly game. The Husband showed an amazing amount of good cheer and didn't get mad and mopey about the loss. My brother was a good sport and didn't cram the win down TH's throat.

We moved on to Mom's house afterwards and spent the time drinking wine, eating too much food, and playing games. It was a really fun time. On the way home, The Husband said, "I married into a family of real squirrels. But I couldn't love them more." Which is one of those backwards compliments. But I knew what he meant - my brothers are a bunch of squirrels. It's hard being the only normal one.

We went to mass at a tiny church on Christmas Eve. I wish I'd have taken a picture of this church. It had eight rows of pews (one on each side of the aisle). Each pew fit six people max, so it was a very small church. And it was so pretty and charming - it really made the evening special.

On Christmas Eve before we sent the kids off to bed, Bumblebee set out cookies for Santa and reindeer food for Rudolph and his friends. In the morning she ran into our room and said, "Mommy! Santa ate all of the cookies but one! He must have gotten full!"

I asked her if he'd brought her presents, and she said she didn't know. She'd only ran out to the living room to check to see if he ate the cookies. (There were new toys all over the living room left by Santa, so she really must have been on a mission to check out those cookies only!)

I let the dog outside in the front yard while the kids were checking out their Santa booty. While Merlin was outside, she ate the reindeer food and left a nice yellow pee spot in the snow.

When it occurred to Bumblebee to look outside, she saw that the food was gone and that there were tracks and a pee spot in the snow and she exclaimed, "The reindeers ate all of the food! AND they peed by it!"

"EW, Daaaad!" Hollywood said with disgust. The look on her face cracked me up. She was convinced that it was The Husband who peed out there - she didn't know I'd let the dog outside.

We spent Christmas day with The Husband's family and spent the afternoon eating and drinking and hanging out. It really was a nice time. There was way too much food and drink. I actually felt queasy and thought I might not keep all that food down, but in the end, I managed not to get sick. And, as usual, I vowed not to let myself become a gluttonous fool at the next holiday gathering. We'll see how well that promise sticks.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas!! I hope you have a relaxing (ha!) and joyous holiday. I'll be spending mine with family - who could ask for anything more?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Least Welcome Things

Travis over at One Word, One Rung, One Day wrote a warm fuzzy version of his favorite things on his post today. It's really great, so you should go check it out. Being the pessimist that I tend to be this time of year, I decided to steal his idea, and flip it around so that it's about things I don't love so much. So, without further ado, here goes:

My Least Welcome Things

Clients who whine and children who bicker
Not being able to bribe them with liquor
Having a telephone that always rings
These are a few of my least welcome things

Too many emails and crazy work deadlines
Stories of whackadoos hogging the headlines
The slush and the snow and the ice winter brings
These are a few of my least welcome things

Holiday shopping when my list isn’t done yet
Why didn’t I buy all of my gifts on the internet
Driving with idiots and getting door dings
These are a few of my least welcome things

When the school calls
Asking for baked goods
The day before they are due
I simply remember my least welcome things
And then I feel twice as blue!


***

Don't forget to check out the post below about my mom. It's worth the scrolldown.

The Male Tree

We're back! And I'll write up a real post about our trip (which was awesome) when I have the time. Until then, you'll have to be content with this photo of my mom feeling up the "male" tree in the Redwood forest. For those of you who don't know - Mom is blind and when my brothers and I spotted this, er, protuberance on the tree, we knew that we had to show it to her. I snapped a picture of her fondling the tree peener and told her it was going on my blog. And here it is!!!

It cracks me up every time I see it! I think I will look at this picture whenever I'm in a bad mood from now on. If a picture of your mom having her way with a tree-penis doesn't cheer you up, what will???

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow Day

We had an ice/snow storm and school was canceled today. I worked from home, and it's times like this that I'm thankful for Giant Ass Bank's flexibility. The older kids had a fun day - I was glad to see them out playing in the snow, even Hollywood was outside sledding and having fun. I was glad they didn't spend the day in a Play Station or MySpace trance...

Unfortunately, Bumblebee was cooped up inside because we left her snow pants at her babysitter's house. She tried to go out with sweatpants on but was just too cold. Being confined with her all day was about as much fun as my annual gyno exam. She was like a kitten on speed - zipping all over the house, creating a giant mess everywhere she went. And she didn't want to listen to anything I said. It wasn't pretty. And it really frightens me that we have to get on an airplane in two days with her. I'm hopeful that the novelty of a plane ride will at least occupy her for a while. I'm picking up an armload of I Spy and Where's Waldo books from the library and am hopeful that they will occupy at least fifteen seconds of her time.

We're heading out to San Francisco this weekend for my brother's wedding. I think the entire family is cursing the couple for choosing to get married halfway across the country 10 days before Christmas (he's the only brother of mine who doesn't live in the Midwest), but it will be a nice time to get the family together. Hollywood is a bridesmaid and Bumblebee is the flower girl. I'm some sort of commanding officer - supposedly I'm in charge of telling people what to do when it's time to do something. That should be interesting!

I did some online Christmas shopping today. Turns out I can't even control my urge to shop for myself even while I'm online! That's pretty pathetic. I bought myself 3 books. Oh well. You can't fault someone for buying books. At least that's my story.

I'm running again... shorter distances to keep my hip from screaming at me. It feels good to be back on the saddle. Or the treadmill...

Well, that's about all I can blabber on about for now. I'm on one of my late night conference calls for work and it's making me itchy that I can't be curled up in bed right now... I'm sure the pot of coffee I had to keep me awake this late will do wonders for my sleep when the call finally ends.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Joys of Holiday Pictures


I took Christmas pictures today. And I wrote my Christmas letter. I didn't really think I'd have time to do either this year, but the weather prevented me from going to my mom's house today, so I had the time and decided to go for it.

I think this year's picture is really pretty - the kids are beautiful in it and the absence of The Husband and me made us both very happy people. Neither of us chose to shower today, so we weren't in picture condition. But the kids sure all looked cute, as always!


Last year's Christmas picture was an ordeal. Since we'd purchased a Packers jersey for everyone in the family, we decided to take a family portrait with them on. So, I read the directions for the timer function on the camera and set up the piano bench in the sunroom so we could gather around the tree. The camera sat atop a stack of books that were just the right height for the picture.

Family Christmas picture take one is what I like to call "Huh? It's time to actually take this thing?"


NOBODY is smiling. They are all irritated that they have to sit so close together. They're all looking at me, watching my ineptitude - while I'm behind the camera trying to figure out how long the timer lasts. Let's try again.

Take two - this time the dog jumped in on the fun. Everyone seems to be laughing at something, well, except for The Husband who has his this-is-retarded-can-we-please-be-done-now look on his face. I clearly didn't make it to my perch on the bench quick enough this time either.


I actually made it into take three but it's a disaster. Remember that part in Steel Magnolias where Shelby tells her mom (Sally Field) that her hair looks like a helmet? Yep - that's me in this picture. And this picture makes it glaringly obvious that Bumblebee has no socks on. It's December, and that means it's cold in my house. Why wasn't that kid wearing socks?! The Husband has a goofily cheerful grin on his face, which is a departure from the usual grimace he flashes for the camera. The boy has unnaturally good posture, and Bumblebee looks like she's either in pain or has to poop, so on we move to the next one.


This next one isn't bad, except that I thought The Boy looked too pale and too much of my thighs were showing. And we all know that since I'm the final approver on which picture makes the cut, it's going to be the one that makes me look the prettiest, slimmest, and least helmety of them all.



Finally, we come to the one that was the least awful. I played around with it in photoshop and here's what we came up with:


Here's hoping that you have an easier time getting your family together to pose for a Holiday Picture.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tickety Tock

Here are only few of the questions Bumblebee asked me today:

"Mom, how many universes are there?"

"What do you think God's favorite color is?"

"What does 'vomit' mean?"

"Can Kennedy (her daycare friend) become my step sister?"

***

Today I was on an elevator where two women were talking about a mutual acquaintance of theirs who'd recently had a stillbirth. I think I had an audible intake of breath when I heard it, kind of an "Oh, no..." sort of reaction.

Then I started thinking about Joseph, the baby we lost. It amazes me that I will go for days, weeks even, without thinking of him. And then when I do, it's a fleeting thought - usually to contemplate how difficult that time in our lives was. But sometimes I feel guilty that our life went on so completely after we lost him. I know these are useless feelings, of course I'm glad that our lives did go on after Joseph.

I write these thoughts not to make anyone sad or to elicit pity for our loss. I've written before that losing our son was something that taught us many amazing lessons in life and ultimately gave us Bumblebee. I bring up the thoughts simply to reflect on how feelings can resurface from time to time and be edgy again, if only for a few moments, and certainly when you least expect them.

****

Tonight I was on my way home from work and I turned off the radio because I had a headache. I came to a stoplight and in the silence heard the tick-tock of a clock coming from somewhere inside of the car. I looked around, puzzled. I held my watch up to my ear, and heard a softer, different ticking so I knew it wasn't the source of the sound.

The displays on my car, are obviously digital and don't tick. Though I really wish digital clocks did tick because if so, I would have been spared the fate of being embarrassed one Christmas. My parents had bought me a Strawberry Shortcake watch (digital) and I'd opened it before Christmas to sneak a peek (I've never been great with surprises) and then I rewrapped it. When Christmas came and it was my turn to open the present, I made a big show of squeezing and shaking the package and wondering aloud, "Whatever could it be?" Then I sealed my fate by saying, "Hey! It's TICKING!!!"

"Nice try, Sunshine." my mom said flatly. "Digital clocks don't tick."

Yeah, I was busted. And it was embarrassing because I was probably 10 or 11 - definitely old enough to know better than that. Duh. But anyway, back to the ticking in my car. Since I learned that Christmas that digital clocks don't tick, I knew it wasn't my dashboard clock.

What was it then? Did my brand new car have a ticking engine? No - it wasn't the engine.

Was it a bomb? Did someone mistake my shiny new black car for a mobster's sedan and place a bomb under it? Exciting as that sounds, of course it wasn't the case.

I must have looked pretty special at the stoplights on the way home, because each time I stopped, I searched frantically around the interior of my car for that maddening sound. It was making my headache worse by the second.

Finally - I found it. The Husband was given a coffee mug with a clock stuck to the side of it for his birthday. Since it's purple, I stole it, and it's been an interesting conversation piece during boring office meetings. It was sitting in the cup-holder. I never noticed that it ticks before.

Yeah, well, that's not an exciting story necessarily, but it does illustrate that I need to do what I can to get these headaches to stop again. And I know that working out will help get rid of them, so here I sit in my workout clothes with my iPod downloading a podcast. I WILL run tonight and hope that my gimpy hip doesn't act up. Wish me luck.

Fire Alarm

This is what I'm hearing while I'm trying to work at my desk.

"May I have your attention please. May I have your attention please. There has been a fire reported in the building. While this report is being verified, the building manager would like you to remain at your workstation. Wait on your floor for further instruction."

Followed by a loud screetchy alarm, and repeated all over again.

This message and the screetcy alarm has been going on since 7:55 a.m. It's 8:18 now. I am going to go crazy.

They blocked off the downstairs entrance. And exit, too, if you think about it. So we're basically trapped in a building that's supposedly on fire.

Nice.

Edited at 8:32 to add - it's finally over. My head is pounding, though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Basketball Brawl Between Gray-Hairs

Hollywood plays basketball. She's a scrappy little thing and starts as point guard. I love the fact that we live in such a small school district that my kids can play whatever sport they want.

The basketball team is a bit of a disappointment this year, though. No, scratch that, it's not the team, but the coach who is a disappointment. Normally in a school district like ours, the coaches are teachers who pick up a sport or two for extra money. This year, we got a new coach who isn't a teacher and nobody really knows who he is.

I knew we were in for a long season when Hollywood told me that he doesn't even make the girls run during practice. Now I didn't play basketball, and only like to watch basketball when my kids are playing it. So I don't claim to be an expert on this. In fact, if you want to know the truth, I actually had to look up what a 'point guard' was when Hollywood excitedly told me that's what she was playing. However, I know enough about basketball to know that you need running drills - killers, whatever - to keep the players in condition to play the game.

Another illustration of this coach's questionable ability came in the first game when he didn't know what an 'over and back' call meant. Again, I'm not a basketball person and I'll admit I had to be told what that meant last year. But I'm not the coach!!

I should describe this guy to you. He's old. Like retirement age old. And very soft spoken. The girls claimed they couldn't even hear what he was saying to them. He left the girls alone during halftime at the last game so they sat in a circle and tried to coach themselves. Nobody knows where he went. He rarely calls timeouts to coach the girls and never tells them what plays to try.

Some of the parents have been launching a campaign of sorts to try and oust this man. I'm not happy about him and have no faith in his ability, but as a parent, I think it's important not to undermine authority figures, even when they might be questionable. Hollywood already has issues with authority, and my blabbering on about how ineffective her coach is, would only give her license to ignore his direction. Provided that he was giving any direction, that is. And I'm also not a lover of conflict, so I chose to let the season run its course, assuming that he wouldn't be back for another year.

And then last night happened.

The stands were packed - standing room only, which is really cool for an 8th grade game, if you ask me. Hollywood's team was holding it together fairly well - at least at first. They were losing 10-2, which may sound atrocious, but since they lost their last game 55-5, it wasn't so bad. I was proud of my scrappy little point guard because she was doing the best she knew how. All of a sudden, though, the coach - this bespectacled, soft-spoken, septuagenarian - was chest to chest with the referee. Who, as it happened, was also in his sixties or seventies. Coach was all up in this guy's face, saying who knows what in his soft voice. They walked across the entire court like that, and the seventh grade coach ran down to jump in. The coach lunged at the ref and started shouting. It was surreal, though, watching a couple of geriatrics going at it. The coach was shaky and threatening. The ref was trying to hold it together, but you could see he was getting mad.

Our coach tried to throw a punch, but it was intercepted by the seventh grade coach. Then he was handled by a couple of dads who ran down from the stands and had to forcefully carry him out of the gym. On the way out he yelled something like, "I've got a couple of friends who can call fouls too!" Whatever that means.

We were all stunned. Most of the moms who were trying to get him fired were sort of smug, assuming that this was the last straw. And I'm sure it will be. I participated in the gossipy chatter for a while, but then started thinking about it further. He's a crappy coach, but I still feel sorry for him. I mean, what if he forgot to take his medicine that day, or what if something bad happened to him, like his pet rabbit died or something? Seriously, what would cause such a complete break in character for a man like that? Incidentally, the calls weren't particularly bad. If anything, the refs were letting both sides get away with way more than they should have.

That's what I always do, though. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt when maybe they didn't deserve it. There's always more than meets the eye, though, isn't there?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Little More Random from a Sickie

We're Packers fans in our household, as I'm sure you've gathered. Thursday was the big Cowboys/Packers showdown. Both teams were 10-1, both will win their divisions, and this game was likely to decide who gets home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Bumblebee's babysitter is a big Cowboys fan. On Thursday morning, I dressed Bumblebee in her Brett Favre jersey and when she walked into her babysitter's house, she saw that R was wearing a Cowboys jersey. Without prompting, Bumblebee yelled, "GO PACKERS!!" Good for her.

Oh, if only they would have 'gone' harder. They lost in a game that may not have had the outcome I wanted, but was really very good.

My boss is also a Cowboys fan, and she slung a few 'smack talking' emails with me on Thursday. Yesterday, I decided at the last minute (on Friday morning) to take a day off and go Christmas shopping. My boss emailed me back saying, "Jeez, Monnik, it's just a game. You don't need to go into hiding and take a PTO day because your team lost..."

Bumblebee and I went to the mall and on the way she asked me, "Do you know the Pick Wick Steelers? That's Allie's favorite team. They don't really steal. That's just their team name."

We spent a lot of time at the mall yesterday. Even though Bumblebee was reasonably well behaved, shopping with a 4 year old is hard work. I was looking for Christmas presents (I got several) and an outfit to wear to my brother's rehearsal dinner in a few weeks. I only bought jewelry and a great handbag. I guess I'll wear something that I already have for the dinner, because I don't have the time or energy to do that kind of shopping again. I was exhausted when I got home, but I actually wrapped a bunch of my Christmas presents. I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've ever wrapped presents in November. I'm usually doing it on December 24th.

Does anyone else hate wrapping presents? I cannot stand it. The artistic/creative side of me wants things to look nice, but the practical part of me keeps telling me this is such a waste of time as I try and fold the corners just so. I can never get the darn things to lay down smoothly on the ends. Urg! My side of the family was never really big on beautiful wrapping. Usually we get gifts wrapped up in Wal-Mart or Target bags. The Husband's side is completely the opposite. I swear that my MIL must spend hours and hours wrapping things - her packages are so beautiful that it's a shame to open them.

My brother and his girlfriend came over to hang out last night. I felt really bad because I was soooo tired. I just sat on the couch and we talked and played a really lame Iowa trivia game. They left and must think that The Husband and I are the most boring couple alive.

This morning I understood a little more why I was so wiped last night. I thought it was from the shopping, but when I woke up this morning, my neck, back, and shoulders ached, and I had a headache. Looks like the beginnings of the flu. I spent all but 3 hours today on the couch. Those 3 hours that I didn't spend on the couch were spent in my bed. I'm in bad shape. An Advil and Excedrin cocktail at least gave me the energy to make dinner for myself (I heated up a can of green beans. How's that for extravagant?!) and get up to write this entry, but I'm heading straight back to the couch to finish the book I'm reading after I get done here.

The Boy had a friend spend the night last night. He's a pleasant little guy - a new kid in the neighborhood who has a lot in common with The Boy. They spent all of last night, and then all day today hanging out. The Boy went over to his friend's house and had dinner there. He called to see if he could spend the night there, and I told him no since he'd been with this friend for over 24 hours by now. Five minutes later, his friend's dad called to plead The Boy's case. I ended up caving in, but that made me mad. I said no, dude! Why would he call to get me to change my mind? Maybe it's the fact that I feel like crap that has made me grouchy about this, but I do think it's odd. The Boy probably gave him that wounded puppy dog look that's melted my icy heart a time or two... who knows.

Ok, I've babbled enough for one night. I know I'm not making sense now - so I'm going to curl up on my couch. The Husband made a nice crackly fire in the fireplace for me and is keeping Bumblebee occupied in the basement. So it's really cozy and peaceful up here. Curling up with a cup of coffee in front of a fire with a good book is the best way I can think of to nurse my aches and pains.