Sunday, December 16, 2007

Still Kicking

So I'm still sort of hanging onto the blogosphere by my fingernails. It's calmed down a bit around here, but I'm still juggling a few things, which is why I don't post so often. It occurs to me that it was much easier to post when Sam nursed twelve times a day, because then I was spending a lot more time sitting the glider with the laptop pulled up to me while I fed her. Sam only nurses 2-3 times a day now, though, so I no longer have that mandatory sit-in-front-of-the-computer-so-I-don't-go-crazy-while-nursing-the-baby-time anymore.

Both Michael and Sam are sick. I'm fighting to keep Cassie and me from getting whatever creeping crud they have. I'm so tired of trying to work around someone being sick. On Wednesday I had to take Cassie to the doctor for a check up. Every time I go, I have to initial a privacy statement. They give me the same paper each time, with a new date stamped on the bottom where I'm supposed to initial. I took a look at how many times I'd been in the doctor's office with Cassie since August and I nearly fell over. Since June I've brought Cassie in seven times. And that's just Cassie. I've also had quite a few appointments for Sam as well. And I've been to see my own doctor on two occasions during that time period. Why the hell can't we stay out of the doctor's office?

Every time one of the kids gets sick, it kills my exercise schedule. I've been trying to go to the day time classes at the karate dojo. Normally, I pack up some toys and a snack for Sam and I let her play on the side in a play pen while I take class. But I can't go if either she or Cassie are sick, and I won't go if I'm sick, so I've missed a lot of classes over the last few months. I'm feeling the effects too. We had a test Thursday night, and even though I wasn’t testing, I was reviewing, and man did I feel shaky on a lot of things. I'm having the same problem just getting into the gym. I can't go if I've got a sick kid. The nursery won't take 'em. Yet it seems to me that Sam always, ALWAYS gets sick within a week of me returning to the gym. I suspect it's because someone else is bringing in their sick kid and just infecting the rest of the population. I'd like to catch the parents that do that sort of thing and slap the crap out of them. Really I would.

But anyway, I took this review Thursday night, and I was dragging. Michael was sick, Sam was sick, I haven't been in class or to the gym much, and my interest in karate has been pretty low. I had to force myself to go to the test, and when I got there I wasn't happy. Usually Michael and I get a sitter for the kids and we go together so it's like a date (yeah, I know, a really weird date where we beat each other up), but he was sick so I had to go alone. Whine, whine, whine. And I went through the test, wondering what I was doing there. I just didn't feel like I could hang, you know? I did not have my act together, and I hate feeling like that. There's nothing that annoys me more than to see a black belt who can't do their katas properly or keep up with the rest of the class. That's a lazy black belt, and I realized that's what I had become. Lazy.

I can't just blame everything on the kids being sick. If I wanted to, I could have found a way to fit in the practice time and the class time. In fact, I have. After hearing my instructor complain about having the play pen in the dojo, I got kind of pissed. It's a lot of work for me to show up to that day time class, what with having to feed Sam right before we go, and then packing toys and a snack and some juice, and then having to set up that damned play pen (it's a bear to unfold), and then I get to go through class gritting my teeth every time she makes a noise because I know the instructor expects her to be quiet, but she's only 18 months old, for pete's sake. And so after his complaining, I kind of went on a tear about how hard it is for me to even get there and how I'm sick of missing classes and I realized that the afternoon classes weren't even all that challenging anymore anyway so why was I going? I mean, I don't even break a sweat when I'm there and that's not good.

At some point, in the middle of this rant (which my poor husband had to listen to), I realized that if I wanted to change things, I was going to have to CHANGE things. In other words, I was going to have to drop the afternoon classes and start going to the evening classes instead. It's the perfect solution. Michael stays home in the evenings, so I don't have to take bring in Sam. If he's watching the kids, I don't have to worry about missing class because one of them is sick (although if I'm sick, forget it - I'm still not going). I can still take the same amount of classes if I double up one of the evenings I go and take a regular class along with that evening's specialty class (black belt training or weapons training). Yeah, it would be perfect.

Except that my lazy ass didn't want to do it.

Why? The evening classes are harder, for starters. The daytime classes are filled with older students who have various injuries (like me with my bum knees). The evening classes are mostly younger students. They're also run by some really tough instructors, one of whom used to run the daytime class (back when it was a kick-ass class to take). And they spar a lot more in the evening classes. Sparring is hard work, let me tell you. It's not only potentially painful if you get hit (and I know because I've had some ribs broken, plus both knees, plus my nose), but it's also very aerobically demanding. In fact, an evening of sparring is just plain frickin' exhausting.

But that's what I want, right? Tougher classes, more time in class, a chance to feel like I'm worth my black belt?

My lazy ass started making excuses right away. "I have two bad knees -- what if I get injured while sparring?" "I haven't taken classes regularly in ages -- what if I can't keep up?" And my favorite... "But if Michael and I both take evening classes, we'll never get to see each other any more!"

Whine, whine, whine. All this was sitting at the forefront of my little pea-brain during the review Thursday night. Then the instructor called me out on the floor with a group of brown belts to do some kata. Except I didn't get to line up with them. Instead, he told me, "Sensei Helen, you stand back there, a little separate from the group. You're going to do something different."

And that's when it hit me. Yeah, I get to do something different. I was the only black belt there that night, the only one who knew the black belt katas, the only one who was going to look killer doing the higher level stuff. And man, did that turn me on.

And I did do well. Fortunately, I have managed to squeeze in some practice time, and I looked good, doing MY kata while everyone else did something else. And it was a long kata too, which meant long after everyone else had finished up, I was still going, with everyone watching me.

I'm such a frikkin' show off.

But it worked. I suddenly found my motivation to go back to evening classes. I like doing karate. I like that I do something different from most of my friends, that I do something HARD. I worked to earn my black belt, and I remember how Michael and I just about tore each other up during our black belt test, and how people to this day still come up to us and say, "Man, I remember that test. I thought you two were going to kill each other. That was so cool!"

So next week, I start evening classes again. I already told my instructor, and he's very happy about that. He wants me back on a regular schedule, and I want that to.
Speaking of which, my blogging time is up. Time to go wake up the rest of the family. See ya later.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So I Fell Off The Blogosphere...

I'm not even sure if I'll get this entry written and posted, but I've been gone for more than two months, and I thought I should explain.
Hell with that. Explaining takes too long. Let me sum up.
My folks visited for the week of Halloween. Cassie refused to wear the Hermione Granger costume Grandma bought. Sam refused to wear anything.

I've been working like crazy on my podcast, Heat Flash. Several of the stories have shown up on the ERWA's story galleries, so I know the writing is good. I wonder if the podcast is good too.
Sam, Cassie and I keep giving each other some sort of near-lethal upper-respiratory infection. I'm on antibiotics right now, and am so fed up with being sick I'm just blowing off the whole week. I'm doing the work I have to do, but have opted to skip going to karate and the gym and doing anything else. Did I mention that I have a pinched nerve in my neck as well?

I've decided getting up at 4AM in the morning is not feasible at this time. Yeah, I get a lot of work done, but it's almost like being in an entirely different time zone from the rest of the family. Nobody else wakes up that early, and nobody else goes to bed as early as I need to in order to get up the next morning. So I haven't been seeing Michael at all. Plus, with being sick so much, I've gotten out of the habit. I'm resetting my clock for a more reasonable time, still letting me get up early enough to work on the podcast before the kids wake up, but not so early that I might as well be in Englad, you know?

Michael cleaned the office over the garage, which means there's now room enough for both of us in there. It looks very nice, and I am actually considering moving back in. The biggest problem I have with it though is that my computer in there runs on Windows 2000, and some of my software doesn't work on an OS that old. So I need to update my OS. Plus, that computer doesn't have a DVD drive, which means it can't read any of the disks I've stored all my old files on. Michael is toying with the idea of building me a new computer. He bought a $100 case for $10 the other night. I only hope he doesn't junk up the office again in the process. That would kind of defeat the purpose, you see.

Sam is running, playing, laughing, giggling, and dancing all the time. She climbs on everything, including the coffee table, and gets into everything, like Michael's papers in the roll top desk. The roll top broke, with the top half disappearing into the back of the desk. We keep the bottom half down, but Sam has figured out how to pull out the chair, climb onto it, and reach over the remaining roll top to get Michael's papers. Not good. Kid's too damn clever for her own good.

Cassie is growing like a weed. In fact, I'd almost say she's freakishly tall. She's doing pretty good in preschool, and in karate class too. She keeps begging me to get her sparring gear so she can join the Power Kids class. So guess what she's getting for Christmas? Don't tell her though. I'm having a hard time imagining my freakishly tall four-year-old sparring with the older kids. My baby's growing up so fast!

John turned 40 the other day. Ha ha! You're older than dirt John! I just had to say that.

And I've got a ton of work to do. E-book covers, podcasting, stories to write, a book to outline, an image to finish up for a contest. Baby is screaming right now, so I'll wrap this up.

Hope I don't fall off the blogosphere again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Litany of Things Gone Wrong

It would not be life if things didn't go wrong. Here's the skinny on what's up - or rather, down - at the Madden household.

Two weeks prior to Fantasci 6, the entire family came down with the creeping crud (actual scientific name for unknown upper respiratory infection we all had).

The day after Fantasci 6, the entire family came down with the cousin of the creeping crud, an all new yet strangely familiar upper respiratory disease with bonus symptoms (i.e. Cassie puked at school).

The sedan kept stalling on Michael, forcing him to take it in to be serviced. The diagnosis? A fried alternator that needed to be replaced to the tune of a couple hundred dollars.

Our oven died, and was replaced to the tune of $500.

A sensor in the front driver's side wheel of our SUV went wonky (again, another actual scientific term) and had to be replaced. To the tune of $440. As an added bonus, Sam and I got to spend two whole hours in the Saturn dealership waiting for this to be fixed. Yea!

Yesterday, everyone but me came down sick with the mother of the cousin of the creeping crud (and yes, that really is its scientific disease name). Sam can barely breathe, which makes breastfeeding fun. She's also been using my shirt as a hanky. Eeeew. Michael is so congested, he's walking around in a daze. Cassie hasn't succumbed to it yet, but she's coughing and wheezing, so it's only a matter of time. Me? I'm disinfecting the crap out of everything, including my nipples once Sam's done breastfeeding. And I may just burn my shirt from today...

So how are things in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

By The Way, I Survived Fantasci 6

Just thought I should mention that I survived Fantasci 6, the sci-fi convention I went to a couple weeks back. I was there to represent EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection), and spent all weekend talking to people about e-books. The convention wasn't as nearly as large as the staff predicted it would be, but I thought it was worth attending. I got to run a fan table for the first time ever, talk to folks about e-books, and I spent most of the weekend with Kathryn Lively from Phaze Books, which is not a bad thing when you are a writer who would eventually like to publish with Phaze. Nope, not bad at all.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Sauce

I am not normally the person you go to for a recipe. I can barely cook. So it surprised me that I came up with a recipe that's easy and actually works. Blame my oven. It died on me last week when I went to make dinner.

Spaghetti Squash with Sauce


1 spaghetti squash
1 jar marinara
1 package shredded parmesan cheese
1 really big Crock Pot (okay, not really an ingredient, but work with me here, all right?)


Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the yuck. Take a big fork and stab a bunch of holes in the outer shell.

Pour the jar of marina sauce into the Crock Pot. Lay the spaghetti squash, cut side down, on top of that. Cook on 'low' for 8 hours.

When cooking is done, carefully pull out the squash (use oven mitts, it'll be hot) and scrap the insides into a bowl. Throw out the empty shells. Pour the marinara sauce over top of squash in bowl. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

And that's it. Three ingredients and almost no work on my part. Gotta love that.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Not To Enjoy Blow-Off Day

Michael's been away on a business trip all week, so you know what that means. After a week of struggling with two kids on my own, Friday arrives and with it comes Blow Off Day, the day where I do absolutely nothing but what I want to do, outside of taking care of the kids.

It should have been a breeze. My plan was to get up extra early and blow some fun time on computer graphics. Then I would wake up Cassie, get her dressed and fed and dropped off at preschool. Then Sam and I would head out for a nice lazy walk. Then we would head out for the morning. First stop, the hospital to pick up copies of my last mammogram (yep, coming up on time to get the boobs ironed out). Second stop, Barnes and Nobles because I have a coupon burning a hole in my pocket. I thought we might look through some manga and cook books and whatever else caught my eye. I'd have a frou-frou coffee with extra whipped cream (the baristas always give me extra whipped cream when they see Sam because they think she's so cute). Then I'd hit the toy store and pick up a small gift for the party Cassie is going to tomorrow. All of that would be followed by a trip home, during which Sam would fall soundly asleep. I'd carry her to her crib, lay her down, and sneak off to do some more fun stuff on my computer. I'd pick Cassie up from preschool around 4 PM. At home, the kids could enjoy cartoons while I whipped together a quick dinner. We'd eat, pop in a movie (we only watch TV on Fridays and Saturdays around here, so yeah, Friday is a big day for the boob tube), and head up for bath and bed around 7 PM. After stories, both kids would be in bed by 8 PM, 8:30 PM tops, and I would have the rest of the evening to myself.

Yeah, that was how the plan was supposed to work. Here's what really happened.

I got up early, just like I planned and spent some quality time with my graphics programs. I put together a really nice graphic for the podcast I'm starting up next month. I puttered away on my laptop happily until 6:25 AM, and then went to wake up Cassie to get her ready for school.

Only to discover that her right eye was glued shut by greenish-yellow goop. Twenty minutes later, when I had finally soaked away the last of the super-goop, I discovered my child had pink eye.

You know that put a kink in my plans.

I can't take Cassie to preschool when she's got pink eye, so I called the school to let them know she'd be staying home today. No biggie, I can still enjoy Blow Off Day with both kids. Of course, I'd have to take Cassie to the doctor, and to do that I'd have to make an appointment...

Since the doctor's office doesn't open until 9 AM, I had to delay my walk. I let Cassie watch some TV while she ate a waffle and I went back to work on my computer graphic. It was really turning out beautifully. I decided to let Sam sleep, since we weren't going anywhere until after I called the doctor. When she finally woke up around 8 AM, I pried myself away from my graphics program and fed her breakfast. Then I let her wander around the living room, destroying everything she could get her hands on while I went back to my computer graphic. Cassie continued to nibble at her waffle and watch the Wiggles with one eye glued shut again.

At 9 AM, I made the call to the doctor's office and spent fifteen minutes on hold. When I got through, I was told I could have an appointment that afternoon at 2:30 PM. Great. That would be right smack-dab in the middle of Sam's nap. But Cassie has pink eye so I had to take it. I hung up the phone and started herding kids upstairs to get dressed. The afternoon was shot but I could still make it to Barnes and Nobles and enjoy browsing through books.

Unfortunately, we didn't exactly hustle. For various reasons, we didn't make it out of the house until 10:30 AM. No problem, though, I could still get in a short trip before lunch, and then put Sam down for a short nap so I could have some quiet time. Cassie could read in her room while I went back to work on my graphics. Right before we hit the parking lot of B&N, I remembered I was supposed to pick up my mammogram films, so I had to keep going and circle around to the hospital. Not a huge trip, but it did eat away that much more time from my book browsing.
At this point, Cassie started complaining of being hungry. "We'll get something to eat at the book store," I said, envisioning us all smiling as we shared a cheese-stuffed herb pretzel and I happily sipped my frou-frou coffee. "But I don't want to eat at the book store, Mommy. I want to eat at Wendy's."


"It's my favoritest place in the whole world!"

We debated the advantages of the B&N café versus Wendy's all the way through the hospital and back out again. We were still debating it as we headed into the bookstore. Sam started to fuss. I gamely tried to pick out a cook book while Cassie went on and on about Wendy's and Sam's complaints about being stuck in the stroller grew louder. Then Cassie said she really needed to go to the children's section of the bookstore, so we went. I thought maybe the kids would get engrossed with the train table and I'd get to look at the cookbooks I'd picked out at random. Instead, I spent most of my time chasing after Sam as she ran amok in the kid's section, yanking books and toys off the shelves. We didn't stay very long (although somehow I did manage to pick out one cookbook and use my coupon; I hope I bought a good book...).

Upon leaving the bookstore, Cassie immediately announced that it was now time to go to Wendy's. Since I obviously wasn't getting any frou-frou coffee now anyway, I relented. It was close to home, so why not. We headed back across town, found the Wendy's and I enjoyed what had to be the absolute cheapest meal of my life. I can't really eat the food at Wendy's - the burgers give me heartburn - so all I ever get is the baked potato and chili from the value menu. Cassie and Sam seemed to enjoy their meals though, so at least someone was happy with the cuisine.

After lunch, we went home and played outside for a while. Sam was thrilled with this. She'd had enough of the car for the day and was anxious to stretch her fat little legs. Too bad we only had 30 minutes before we had to head out for Cassie's doctor's appointment. Oh, the screaming we had when I put Sam back into her car seat. And the thrashing too. Kid nearly knocked me on my butt in the driveway. Somehow, I managed to get her strapped in and we all took off again. Sam's screaming sounds a lot like a police siren, so we made good time as other cars pulled off the road ahead of us.

We spent an hour and a half at the doctor's office, most of that in the waiting room. I had expected to spend much longer there, but I guess they were having a quiet day. My diagnosis of pink eye was confirmed and the physician's assistant prescribed an antibiotic. It was at this point I remembered that I still had to get a toy for the party Cassie is going to tomorrow. Naturally, the toy store is on the exact opposite end of town from our pharmacy. Could the doctor's office call in the prescription for me, so I could pick it up on my way home? Of course they could! Thinking I had just made life easier on myself, I took the kids back out to the car and headed for the toy store.

By now, Sam was getting seriously pissed. She'd missed her nap and had been stuck in the car seat most of the day. When she wasn't in the car seat, she was in my arms to prevent her from trashing whatever location we happened to be visiting at the time. She screamed all the way over to the toy store and...

Fell asleep. I had to carry that little lump all through the toy store, and man was she heavy. I also had to argue with Cassie over what to get her little friend for the birthday party. Personally, I can only afford to spend so much on birthday gifts, especially since all of Cassie's classmates seem intent on inviting everyone in the class whenever a birthday rolls around. The present buying thing gets expensive, you know?

Cassie eventually found a toy horse set that fell within my price range. After paying for it, we headed off to the pharmacy. I had this plan (again with the plans; you think I'd learn by now) to pick up Cassie's prescription, rush home, turn on the cartoons, and whip together a quick dinner just like I'd planned. We'd all relax after running around all day and maybe even have time to play.

That plan went to hell in a hand basket when I got to the pharmacy and was told I'd have to wait another 30 minutes to get my prescription. It had been called in, but they were busy, so that was that. It turned out to be an hour long wait in the end, during which time I once again chased both kids around the store, trying to prevent them from breaking anything. Cassie started to complain about being hungry again, so I bought a ginger ale and a granola bar and the three of us split that while we waited. When we finally got the prescription, we headed home. By now Sam was furious about being stuffed in the car seat again, and not only did regular cars pull over as we drove, but so did a police car as well. At least we made good time on the drive.

Well, I did manage to get dinner out quickly. I had cooked chicken stew the day before, so all I had to do was heat it up again and serve it. Neither Sam nor Cassie wanted the stew though, and that started the nightly food wars up again. I did cave to Sam and let her have some baby raviolis, but only because they're so easy to fix. With Cassie, I finally had to turn off the TV and tell her no more cartoons until she'd eaten her dinner.

"How many bites?" she asked me.

"All of it," I said.

"But how many bites is that?"

"All of it means you eat every bit of food on that plate, young lady."

"But I can't do that! I don't want stew!"

"Well too bad, because I'm not cooking you anything else. You either eat the stew or you go to bed. TV is not coming on until you've cleared your plate."

And so on and so on... That particular argument lasted for over half an hour. I let Cassie sit at the table and whine over her stew while I finished eating and then went on to do my evening chores. I told her once I was done with the chores, her plate was going away and she was going to bed. Did she listen? Did she even attempt to finish her stew? Nooooooooooo. She sat and whined and cried and pouted and then threw a screaming fit when I finally came for her plate. Oh well.

Cassie did calm down in time to get a bedtime story. Sam sat through one board book and then tried to mug me for breast milk. I made her wait while I read to Cassie. Then we did our usual bedtime routine of rounding up monsters (we give them to Cassie to eat before she goes to sleep) and saying good night. Well, I said good night. Cassie said, "Mommy, I need someone to stay with me tonight!" This is her latest delaying technique. I always answer with, "I'll be right down the hallway if you need me. Good night sweetie." Then I walk out of the room. We've done this often enough lately that Cassie no longer cries when I leave.

After getting Cassie down, I tried to nurse Sam. She was more interested in chewing on my nipple than in nursing, so she went to bed early too. She screamed all the while as I worked on this blog entry, but now she's quiet. It's 8:30 PM. I finally have the house to myself. I'm dead tired and the only thing I got done that I had planned to do was my graphic for my podcast. Everything else just got derailed. I'm so pissed. I hate it when Blow Off Day gets screwed like that. Maybe I should try again next Friday. We'll see.

Anyway, Michael will be home later tonight. Once he's home, he gets the girls all weekend. I'm going to be busy working at Fantasci 6 this weekend, handing out brochures and promotional materials for EPIC. Should be fun.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Conversations with Cassandra

This morning, Sunday, around 10:30 AM. I'm upstairs checking e-mail. Sam is playing in her room. Michael and Cassie have just returned from church. Cassie comes running upstairs...

Cassie: "Mommy! We're home!"

Cassie bounds into the room.

Me: "Hey, sweetie. How was your first day of Bible school?"

Cassie, flinging her arms wide: "Excommunicated!"

Me: "What?"

Cassie, huge grin on her face: "I got excommunicated!"

Me, wondering who put her up to this: "Why were you excommunicated?"

Cassie, now laughing: "For asking questions!"

Me, shouting downstairs: "Michael! Get up here..."

The funny thing is, Michael told Cassie to tell me she was excommunicated, but he didn't tell her to tell me she was excommunicated for asking questions. When he heard about that, he fell over laughing.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Say What?

Now that Sam is almost 16 months old, it seems she's learning new words every day. At least I think they're words. It's hard to tell. She points at something and babbles, and somewhere in there is something that sounds like a word, so I guess that's what's going on. Here's a lexicon of what I think she's saying:

Ma-Ma - Mama (naturally)

Da-Da - Daddy (of course)

See-See - Sissy, or Cassie, her sister

Bee-Bee - depending on the context, this could mean 'Baby,' 'BJ' (the name of one of our cats), or 'kitty.' Sometimes it also means 'dog.'

Shoo! - shoe; also sock, apparently. Always said with emphasis

Shoo! - juice; may sound like shoe or sock, but if she's pointing at the fridge or table instead of a smelly sneaker or a foot, it's definitely juice

Sa - Sam (I think; this one is very new)

Bbbbbppppttzzz! - a complex statement, usually accompanied by flying spittle; means, "I have pooped my diaper"

Ma! Ma! - when accompanied by a banging of Sam's head on my chest it means "I! WANT! BREAST MILK!!"

Uh-Oh - "I have entered Sissy's room and knocked something breakable off of her dresser. Do you think she'll notice?"

Noooooooooooooooo! - means "I don't want to... take a bath, change my diaper, take a nap, give back Sissy's favorite toy, spit out the cat food I just ate!"; usually followed by the pitter patter of tiny feet fleeing the room.

So much for communicating with Sam. Cassie, of course, has learned a new language that no one else but she understands. We're calling it "Whinese." A conversation in Whinese sounds something like this:

Cassie: "Mooooooooommmmmmmyyyyyy! Iiiiiiiah wa-wa-wa-want miiiiiiiiiiilk!"

Me: "Huh?"

Cassie: "Iiii-aaaaah-iiii-aaah-uuuuuhh wa-wa-wa-wa-want miiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaeeeeeelk!"

Me: "What on earth are you saying? Stand up straight and speak clearly, please honey?"

Cassie: "Waaaaaaah! Waaaaaaah! You-ou-ou-ou ma-ma-maaaaaaaaaaaake meeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiieeee unha-ha-happyyyyyyyyy! Waaaaaaah! Mooooooommmmmmmmmmyyyyyy i-i-i-i-is so-so-so-so meeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaan!"

Me: "Oh for pete's sake, could you just speak English please?"

If anybody can figure out what it is either of my kids are saying, please let me know. Meanwhile, I'm going to start answering in pig Latin. Hey, if I can't understand them, why should they understand me?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who Is Harold Rockin'?

Cassie has come up with a new nick name for Sam. It's Harold Rockin'. I have no clue why she calls Sam this, but she does. For those of you who don't know, Sam is short for Samantha so the name Harold Rockin' really confounds me. The first time I heard Cassie use that nick name was a couple months ago. It was right after I had applied some sunblock to Sam. Sam has this very fine blonde hair and she hates to wear hats so to protect her scalp from burning, I doused her head with sunblock and worked it into her hair. The end result was this wild, crazy hair style, sort of like Albert Einstein on a bad hair day. Cassie took one look at Sam and shrieked, "That's Harold Rockin'!" Then she collapsed in a fit of laughter. Sam has been Harold Rockin' ever since.

I've tried asking Cassie where she got the name Harold Rockin' from. Is it a cartoon character? No. An imaginary friend? No. Is it the name of one her friends at preschool? No again. Best I can figure, Cassie just came up with the name on her own, and she uses it every time Sam's hair gets wild. Whether it be spikey with sunblock or tousled from the tub, wild hair gets Sam dubbed Harold Rockin'.

Maybe he's a rock star? Who knows.


Harold Rockin' and her sister Cassandra Jane.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Walking Down Memory Lane

It seems like I can't get much done these days. Everything and everyone is conspiring to foul up my work schedule. From never-ending vacations in Hell to federal holidays and a husband who seriously needs to get out from under my feet, my schedule is in the crapper. The biggest problem I have right now is getting up early enough to get a jump on the day. I try to get up before 5 AM (yes, that's right; the crazy lady likes to get up before the butt-crack of dawn) in hopes of getting in some physical therapy for my knees, getting the laundry started, and doing a little work, but I've been having a hard time of it. The biggest problem I have of course is getting to sleep early enough to get up at that (ungodly) hour of the morning. But this weekend I made a concerted effort to get to bed by 9 PM every night.

And things still got fouled up.

Ah. Remember those nights early in Sam's life, when she was just a wee baby, and she'd waking up crying every two hours to nurse? Remember that? Remember how exhausting that was? But those days are long gone, right? Sam's 15 months old now, and sleeping through the night, right? Right?

Hell no. The little twerp has woken up around midnight each night since Saturday, screaming her noggin off. I let her scream for a bit at first, hoping she would quiet down and fall back to sleep. Babies are supposed to soothe themselves to sleep. But she didn't do that. Instead, she got really pissed off that no one was running in to get her and she screamed even louder.

It was really bad Sunday night. She woke up at midnight and screamed until 3 AM. So much for getting up before 5 AM. Then last night, she nursed herself to sleep, only to wake up the moment I put her down in the crib. Screaming ensued. Michael had to go in and sit with her for an hour. She finally nodded off and woke up around 4 AM to pick up where she'd left off. Well, at least I did get up early this morning.

All this late night waking and screaming really reminded me of how hard it is to take care of a baby that doesn't sleep through the night. I would have to be crazy to have another child (as if the whole "get up before 5 AM" thing left any doubt on that subject).

Then Michael pulled down the boxes of old baby clothes for me to sort through yesterday morning and I discovered that crazy is exactly what I am.

Yep, going through all those tiny little outfits, trying to find old dresses of Cassie's that might fit Sam, really made me want to have another baby. In fact it made me long to have another baby. I got so teary eyed picky through old bibs and mismatched socks, sorting the newborn onesies from the 6-month clothes, stashing Sam's outgrown outfits into old cardboard boxes to make room for Cassie's old cold-weather gear. There was one particular line of outfits that really killed me. There was a time between Cassie's first and third year when she was my little angel. She went everywhere with me and did everything. We were best buddies, and it was just the two of us. Cassie was so sweet and loving then, and unquestionably my little girl. Now she's four and she's a handful. Still my girl, but more of a tantrum-throwing devil child than the little angel she was when she wore those cute little outfits. It just made me want to cry, pulling those shirts and pants out of their boxes and seeing them again after all this time. Sam is already sprouting devil horns. She still loves me, but she's got a defiant streak in her that will not quit. I feel like she's my little girl only because I'm still the mommy with the magic, milk-producing boobies. Will she ever love me for anything more? I wonder.

Sam's cuddle bug phase came and went much earlier than Cassie's. While Cassie started out as a red-faced, screaming, colicky demon-spawn, Sam was the quiet, cuddly angle baby that clung to me and stared at me with adoring blue eyes from the moment she was born. I miss that unconditional love. I miss being able to kiss my child without getting smacked in the head. "No, Mama!" she says every time I go for a smooch. She's too big to cuddle now, too busy to be my lovey girl.

So I want a third baby, just so I can have that cuddle time again. Yeah, I know. It means wearing maternity clothes again, and getting all swollen and round. It means my knees will be shot to hell by hormones and loose ligaments, and may never work properly. Or it means that Michael and I will pay big bucks to adopt, in which case we will not be bringing home an infant but an older child who hopefully needs to have some cuddle time with a mom who wants to give unconditional love as much as she wants to receive it. Either way, I want that third kid. Will I have it though? Give me a few years and we'll see. I need to walk down Memory Lane a few more times before I finally make up my mind.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Trip To Hell

Just a quick update to let folks know what's going on. We've had a slight change of venue since my last post. On Sunday evening, Michael, Cassie, Sam and I arrived in Hell. Well, it may not be Hell for **them** but it's definitely Hell for ME. For the curious, Hell looks a lot like the Hilton Head Marriott Resort in South Carolina. To get here, we had to make a NINE-HOUR CAR TRIP, during which Sam decided to practice her scream-, er, singing skills. She sings very loudly, and several cars pulled off the road ahead of us, thus facilitating our entry in Hell that much more quickly (and yet the trip still seemed to last an eternity; what a paradox!).

We arrived late Sunday evening. I must admit, the scenery in Hell is lovely, but the conditions of my being here are sucky. I am not here because of any sin **I** committed. No, I'm here because I married a geek. Okay, maybe that is sin. Any way, Michael is attending a never-ending geek-fest on aeronautical modeling and simulation. Meanwhile, I am stuck in a hotel room with the kids. Since yesterday afternoon, Sam has running a fever of 103+. She was up all Sunday night and up all last night screaming. She's also been screaming a lot during the day. When Sam's not been screaming, she's been actively trying to dismantle the room (I believe she has a future as a rock star). Cassie has been well-behaved, but is chomping at the bit to go to the lower pits of Hell (i.e. the beach) so she can drown herself in the surf while Sam screams about the sand (to which she is apparently violently allergic).

Meanwhile, I want a shower (to wash away the sands of Hell which have become stuck in my nether-regions), but I can't seem to get one without some disaster occurring while I've got shampoo in my hair. I'd also kill for a decent cup of coffee, but we all know that there is no good coffee in Hell (that's why it's called HELL, right). There is this brown-colored urine the locals call coffee, but it is still actually urine.

While the coffee sucks big time, the food is slightly better. Not because we're eating at any of Hell's fancy restaurants, but because Michael has thoughtfully stocked our hotel room with goodies from the local Piggley Wiggley (yes, there are Piggley Wiggley's in Hell). So while Michael enjoy-, er, endures the string of luncheons and receptions hosted by his geek-fest, the kids and I are surviving on PBJs, bananas, and microwaveable soup (we brought our own microwave just for this purpose).

I had had hopes for wireless internet connection during our stay, but broadband in Hell costs $10 a day and we can only afford one day, so this is it. Not a huge loss though, as I've had dial-up that runs faster than Hell's broadband. In any event, you won't hear from me again until I manage to escape, a feat of daring which involves making another NINE-HOUR CAR DRIVE back through South Carolina, North Carolina, and part of Virginia. Hopefully this will happen on Monday. Oh, did I mention Sam hates car trips? Pray for me.

Of course, my current trials are nothing. Michael's geek-fest is an annual thing, and next year it's being held in a different part of Hell known as Hawaii. Getting there involves a NINE-HOUR trip on a plane. Michael says we're going. I say only he's going... In a shoe box.

Signing off now. See you in a week.


If I ever get out of Hell.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Eulogy for Fritti

Portrait of Fritti Madden

After weeks of feeling sad about his passing, I wanted to take some time to remember the happier moments (and some of the stranger moments) in Fritti's life. I remember the day I first brought Fritti home. I was 23 back then, just moved into my first (and only) apartment with Beetlejuice, my Himalayan cat. BJ was only a few months old and I wanted a second cat to keep him company, since I knew I'd be busy with grad school. Michael and I went to the Montgomery County Humane Society and that's where I found Fritti. He was a scrawny orange tabby who yowled like a banshee the moment he saw me. I don't know what had happened to him prior to arriving at the Humane Society, but his whiskers looked liked someone had clipped them short, making him look a bit like a walrus around the nose. It was a cruel thing to do to a cat. Still, he seemed eager for a human touch and when I put my fingers to the cage, he cuddled right up and started schmoozing.

"Hey baby," he purred. "You know you want to take me home. You look so fiiiiine. I bet you got tuna in your pantry, don't you? You wanna feed me some tuna and I'll purr in your lap?"

Yep, he was a charmer. I remember reading somewhere that when you go to pick out a cat, pick the friendliest one you can find because they make the best pets. Well, they didn't come much friendlier than Fritti and once he glommed on to me, there was no letting go.

I filled out the paperwork and took Fritti home. That's when I found out Fritti hated cars. He howled so loudly on the drive home that three other cars pulled over, thinking we were the police. When we arrived at my apartment, there was a delivery man waiting to unload my new furniture. He said he heard us coming from a mile off and wondered if the building was on fire. I rushed Fritti into the apartment and locked him into the bathroom, not ready to introduce him to BJ while there was heavy furniture being hauled around the place. I had this vision of two cats fighting and screeching and clawing the delivery man to death, causing him to drop my new couch down two flights of stairs where it would crash and become a pile of really expensive splinters. Well, Fritti apparently liked the bathroom about as much as he liked the car and he began to yowl even louder, so much that he almost did scare the delivery guy into dropping my couch. Meanwhile BJ sat outside the bathroom door, sniffing at the crack and going, "What the hell do you have in there, Mama?"

Once I opened the bathroom door and let Fritti out, it became obvious I had worried over nothing. Fritti and BJ did not fight at all. Instead, they became the fastest of friend, even, dare I say it, lovers. Yep, my two boy cats took suck a shine to each other that they would tussle over who got to groom whom. Fritti usually won, bullying BJ into lying still while Fritti licked his head and face. It was way too cute the way they would cuddle up on my brand new couch (which shortly became their new scratching post).

Fritti as a kitten

Fritti as a kitten, and the couch that became his scratching post

Four hours after his arrival to my apartment, we discovered that Fritti had a little digestive tract problem. We called it "the Hershey Squits." He kept leaving small stinky piles in one corner of the apartment, right next to the TV, forcing me to put a litter box there to keep him from permanently staining the carpet. After a few weeks, Fritti's bowels reverted to a more normal state of activity and I was able to move the box, which did not look very pretty sitting in the middle of my living room. However, Fritti was stuck with the name "Shitty Kitty" for the rest of his life.

About that time, a friend gave me my third cat, Lydia. Lydia was another striped tabby, this time black and brown. She was extremely shy and had been bullied horribly by another cat. Naturally, she and Fritti did not get on at all. They hissed and spit at each other, and Lydia hissed and spit even more at BJ who did not look at all like a cat to her (too fluffy - I think she thought he looked more like a walking toilet toupee). But somehow these three cats managed to come to an accord without destroying each other or my one bedroom apartment and we all lived together quite cozily for the next fifteen years.

Lydia, BJ, and Fritti enjoy the fine dining of Chez Madden...

...followed by a breath of fresh air.

I got married a year after getting my three cats, and moved in with Michael. We rented a townhouse that was so much bigger than my apartment it scared all three cats. Fritti was the first to come to grips with his new environment, and soon discovered the joys of running head long down the stairs. His favorite game was to rush into the office at the head of the steps and drop a plastic ring from a milk jug at the doorway. Then he'd prance around while I dangled the milk ring over his head, making these excited chirruping noises (the cat made the noises, not me). Finally, I'd toss the ring down the steps and Fritti would go bounding after it, ten pounds of orange tabby hurtling down the steps like a race horse at the Kentucky Derby. The bit of floor at the foot of the steps was polished wood, and very short. Every time Fritti hit the floor he skidded across it and slammed right into the front door. Whammo! Then he'd stagger to his feet, grab his milk ring and run right back up to do it all over again.

I suspect that it was Fritti who lost Michael's first wedding ring, probably by batting it off the night stand. And I suspect it was Fritti who snapped off the head of the groom on the Lladro wedding statue we had when Michael swore at the cats for losing his ring. I also suspect it was Fritti who killed a small snake and left it lying at the foot of the steps inside our condo, causing me to have a near heart attack. He was the great big hunter after all.

The third year we were married, Michael and I bought a house. The house was even huger than the condo, and it really terrified the cats. It took them a while to get used to having so much space. But they were brave little kitties and pretty soon they were owning the place and letting us live in a small corner of it. Fritti had an allergic reaction to the new carpeting that made him go partially bald. I think it was during this time that he developed his absolute loathing of vets. I took him in for so many appointments, trying to figure out what was going on. Finally, a specialist told me that Fritti was allergic to five hundred different substances and he would have to be given a shot every day for as long as he lived. The vet then demonstrated how to give the shot. It involved wrestling Fritti to the ground, sitting on him, getting a vet assistant to sit on him as well, and then jabbing Fritti in the neck with a long, sharp needle. During this demo, Fritti took a swipe at the vet assistant and nearly severed her thumb from her hand. Afterward, I clearly recall the vet saying to me, "See? That wasn't hard at all. Now you get to give him his shots at home."

Ha. Ha ha. Ha.

But we did. For several weeks, Michael and I took turns sitting on Fritti and giving him shots until one day Michael accidentally gave me the shot instead of Fritti and we decided that enough was of that, because we were tired of fighting with this damned cat.

Fritti eventually re-grew his fur, just in time for his mid-life crisis. Not having enough manly things to do around the house, he took up fighting plastic bags. And lost. I remember late one night hearing this horrendous bashing and smashing going on down in the kitchen. Crash! Bang! Bam! Smash! Then there was a moment of silence followed by the world's most pathetic meow. I dragged myself out of bed and found Fritti standing in the kitchen with a plastic bag wrapped around his waist. He'd managed to kick out the bottom of it, but still couldn't get out of it. The mess in the kitchen was terrible... groceries that Michael had yet to put away laying all over the place... suspicious wet spots on the floor that turned out to be cat pee... cat food bowls upended and Lil' Friskies all over the place. But what really caught my eye were the bloody footprints that ran all over the kitchen and stopped at Fritti. Yep, he'd torn out a claw. It was after midnight, so I bundled him into the car and headed for the nearest emergency vet. On the way there, we came to a traffic jam. In the middle of Poquoson. At midnight. One by one, the cars ahead of me turned off the road until I found myself driving behind a Cesna airplane. Somebody was driving the plane down the highway in the middle of the night, with people running back and forth behind it to let the driver know whether or not he was in danger of hitting the trees on the shoulder with one of the wings.

I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. I just sat in my car and stared. Even Fritti popped his head up in back and meowed as if to say, "What the hell is this?" Eventually I too turned my car down another road and took the very long way around to the emergency vet. To this day, I have no idea what the hell was going on with that plane.

Fritti survived his torn claw, and went on to live a happy life, although we made sure he never got into a fight with another plastic bag. He took up playing with his catnip toys instead, and occasionally chasing Lydia through the house whenever he was really bored. He kept me company on the nights when Michael was out of town and came to be what I called my boyfriend cat. He was just so manly and so proud; a big old orange faux tom that loved to swagger through the house and stretch out on any surface long enough to accommodate his length. I also often referred to him as the hotdog cat, because of the way he would stretch out and roll around on the floor, proving that he was indeed a slim cat, but a very long one and that was why he weighed a ton.

See, his claws worked just fine after the tragic plastic bag incident.

Fritti, Lydia and BJ were all the great loves of my life, and were a huge comfort to me when I began my struggle with infertility. I know some people joke that infertile women will turn their pets into children, but cats can be so loving and so caring. They know when their owners are hurt and grieving. Fritti always knew when I was down, and would climb into my lap and purr to remind me that he was there to love me. If there is one thing I regret, it's that once I did have children, I didn't have as much time for him any more. Kids have a way of changing things between people and pets. I still loved Fritti and the others for all they were worth, but found my days and nights dominated by a screaming infant. And then another. It wasn't until these last few months that I finally had the time to slow down and appreciate my cats. And those were the hardest months of Fritti's life.

He was still affectionate to the end, although I know he was hurting. I spent as much time as I could with him toward the end, staying with him as he ate, brushing him whenever I had a few free moments. He loved the brushing more than anything else, and would purr just like old times as I groomed him.

Fritti is survived by his fellow house cats, Beetle Juice (aka BJ) and Lydia, as well as his owners, Helen, Michael, Cassie and Sam. He truly left his mark on his family, as well as on the scratching post, the couch, the carpet, the wooden banisters, and several other spots around the house. Helen plans to gather up all the cat fur he left behind and use it to knit an afghan. A very large afghan. Meanwhile, the family continues to remember Fritti fondly by all his many nicknames - Fritz, Fritti-tata, Fritata, Bean Head, Shitty Cat, that Damn Cat, and the Orange Lothario of Luv.

Fritti, you were one of the best boyfriend cats a girl could ever have. Wherever you are now, I hope you're back to your old, suave, handsome self, hot-dogging on the floor and chasing milk rings for all you're worth. I love you and I miss you.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Goodbye Fritti (1992-2007)

I know I've been offline for a while. Three weeks to be exact. Ironic sort of, considering the last line of my last post was "We'll have to see what the next two weeks brings."

My cat, Fritti, did not survive long after that last post. Michael and I took the kids to Maryland that weekend, leaving Fritti at the vet's. They took very good care of him, and when I picked him up on Monday, he seemed fine. Skinny as hell but no worse than when I dropped him off, and actually a little bit better. He'd just been bathed, and though he's not partial to baths, it did improve his appearance some.

However, within a few hours of bringing Fritti home, I noticed that the problem he'd been having with his back left leg had now spread to his back right leg. I called the vet, who said the problem might have been caused by Fritti staying in an enclosed area during the weekend, as opposed to having an entire garage or house to roam around in like he was used to. I decided to give Fritti a day to recover. Perhaps some time to move around would improve the problem. It did not. An hour later when I went to feed him again, he was having problems controlling all four legs. He had to sit to eat, and even then he had trouble keeping his front legs from sliding out from under him.

I did not want to admit it, but it was painfully obvious that the time had come to make a decision. I called the vet again and asked if there was anything else we could do, or if I should just accept that it was time to put Fritti down. The vet's response was that he would be ready to take care of Fritti as soon as I made my decision. Neither a yes or a no. The decision had to be mine. So I went back to the garage and spent a few moments watching Fritti rest in one of his hiding spots. Normally, he would come out of hiding any time I entered the garage. Not this time. I don't think his legs would let him. I went back into the house and called the vet to make the appointment for the next morning.

As soon as I made the call, I returned to the garage and coaxed Fritti out of hiding. No matter what kind of mess he made, my cat was not spending his last night alone in the garage. I put him up in my bedroom with some fresh food and water and a cushy towel to rest on. Then I headed back downstairs. I had made the appointment to have him put down for a time after Cassie left for preschool. At the age of four, I wasn't sure if she would understand what was going on. It would be best, I thought, to simply explain that Fritti had been very ill and so he'd gone to sleep and had simply not woken up. I was going over what I would need to explain to Cassie and what I was going to do the next day before going to the vet when I snagged my foot coming down the steps and fell head over heels to the landing.

I fell a total of four steps and ended up curled around the scratching post we keep on the landing. My left foot was in agony, and I couldn't stand. I had to crawl down the rest of the steps and into the living room to get to the nearest phone. Fortunately Sam was still asleep in her crib, but it was almost time for her to wake up so we could pick up Cassie at preschool. I tried calling Michael first but couldn't get through. He was tied up in a teleconference. My next door neighbor wasn't in either. So I called my best friend Mary, who just happens to be a nurse. She had just walked in the door when the phone rang. And she walked out the moment she understood I was incapacitated.

Mary made it to my house in fifteen minutes. She got me bandaged up and put plenty of ice on my foot, then fetched the crutches from the garage. By that point I had finally managed to get a hold of Michael and explain to him that I had probably broken my foot. Would he please pick up Cassie and bring her home? Yes. While Michael headed off to the preschool, Mary helped me upstairs to take care of Sam. As soon as Michael and Cassie arrived home, we all piled into our cars and headed over to Mary's house, leaving poor Fritti hiding under my bed. Mary took care of the kids while Michael and I headed out to the nearest urgent care center.

Fortunately, I did not break anything, although I had managed to badly sprain my foot. The doctor at the urgent care center was quite surprised that I hadn't wiped out a hip, knee, or ankle in the process. He gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and sent me on my way. We spent an hour at the pharmacy waiting for my prescription, another hour at Mary's eating dinner, and then we all headed home.

I slept fitfully through the night. My foot hurt like hell and I had to keep it propped up to reduce the swelling. I could have taken a pain killer for it, but decided against it because painkillers usually to make me feel worse, not better. Throughout the night, I heard Fritti creep around the room. He would drag himself ten steps then lie down and rest. Another ten steps, another rest. He moved very slowly, and in the dark I couldn't really tell if he was lying down or falling down at the end of each short walk. I wasn't even sure why he was moving around at all, since he didn't touch his food or water.

We woke up late the next morning. Michael got Cassie up and ready for preschool, then came back to help me with Sam and Fritti. Fritti spent the morning by the dining room table where we laid him. After breakfast Michael pulled out the camera and had me sit with Fritti on the couch for one last picture. I'm torn over that. Fritti was so ill, I didn't want to remember him like that, but it was also the last time I would ever get to take his picture. After the photo, Michael brought out the cat carrier and put Fritti in. He fought a bit, but not as much as he would have when he was well. It was only a two minute drive to the vet, and then we waited in the examining room while Fritti lay on the floor.

By that point he was obviously miserable. He wouldn’t get up and hide like he normally would have for a vet visit. He just lay by the wall, panting. I lowered myself to the floor to spend a few more moments scratching him behind the ears. When the vet came in, Sam started to fuss so Michael took her out. I stayed behind and watched the vet very carefully put Fritti on the examining table. The assistant held Fritti steady while the vet pulled out a needle. Fritti didn't fight it. He simply lay there. The needle went it and that was it. It all happened so quickly Fritti didn't even have time to close his eyes. He just simply passed away.

The vet and the assistant left, giving me a last few minutes with Fritti. I couldn't believe he was gone. His eyes were still so wide and clear. I scratched him behind his ears and kissed his head and I cried. I stayed in the examining room until I realized that Fritti's eyes were finally starting to dim. Then I gave him one more kiss and left.

That was almost three weeks ago, and I still cry every time I think about it. We had Fritti cremated, and now his ashes sit in a white acrylic box on my bookshelf. It even has his name on it. It breaks my heart to look at it. All I can think of is how much I miss that bone-headed cat, and how frightfully ill he was at the end. I'm still working on a proper eulogy for Fritti, something that covers the happier moments of his life. I will post that when it's done.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's A Dirty Job And Guess Who Gets To Do It

Yeah, I know. I suck. I haven't been making regular posts like I ought to. There is a verra, verra good reason for that and that reason is...


Let me explain. No, that would take too much time. Let me sum up (sorry Inago, but that line's too good to pass up).

I live in a HUGE house with one husband, two kids and three cats. I am apparently the only person in this ENTIRE house who knows how to clean. Fortunately, Michael is the only person in the house who knows how to do yard work, cause I ain't doing both.

Michael isn't too huge a mess to clean up after, but he has two problems that will probably send him to an early grave on the day I finally snap. These problems are: 1) he insists on throwing his socks into the hamper from the other side of the bedroom, even though we all know his aim sucks rocks; and 2) he has forgotten how to load his dishes into the dishwasher even though he used to be the responsible adult who did it every day. Perhaps this is payback for all those times I used to forget how to load the dishwasher. If it is, he better knock that shit off, because I am going to take revenge on his underwear very soon if I continue to find random forks, plates, glasses, etc., scattered through out the house (unless they're my random forks, plates, glasses, etc., because even I am not that petty).

The kids are a slightly bigger mess. Cassie leaves her toys, clothes, books and shoes all over the place and can't seem to understand that it's her job to clean them up. And she can't figure out how to clean stuff up unsupervised (read "with Mommy standing over her threatening to take away her Barbies and her movie privileges for all eternity if that stuff is not picked up right now!") "I'm too tired," she'll whine, when I tell her to clean up the mess she left in the living room. "You have to help me!" Oh, I'll help you all right. Give me a cardboard box and I'll help you cart those toys to Good Will! No, just kidding. Really. But don't tell Cassie that.

Sam is still too young to understand how to put toys away, although we're working on that. But her biggest problem is that she thinks throwing food is the current big Olympic sport and she intends to get a gold medal someday real soon. I have scraped food off the high chair, off my chair, of the dining room table, floor, walls and ceiling, and off of one of our cats. I'm considering repainting the entire dining room and cat in a generic spotty beige so you can no longer spot the stains from Sam's energetic eating techniques. Just as soon as I manage to wash today's lunch out of my hair.

So the husband's a bit messy and the kids are more messy, but really, the biggest mess is coming from the cats. Or rather, one of the cats in particular.


**Sigh.** This is hard. I've had Fritti for fifteen years. He's a big orange and white striped tabby that has very little brain but looks absolutely gorgeous and he knows how to make a girl feel special, even though he was neutered at a very early age. At least, that was what he used to be like. Now he's fifteen and he's become crotchety-old-man cat with a serious case of diarrhea. He's been ill for over six months now, and yet is still alive and getting around. But the diarrhea has gotten really, really bad. So bad that two weeks ago I had to banish him to the garage for the foreseeable future, and no, I don't think he's ever coming back out of there unless it's in a shoe box.

Fritti has lost a LOT of weight. I can clearly count his ribs and vertebrae, and that's not good. I feed him at least 15 oz. of wet food a day, and he gets all the dry food he wants (which is about zip, because he hates the stuff). He gets plenty of water, too. And all of this is just going straight through him and coming out the other end in a truly frightening fashion. This started being a problem back in April, and back then I figured he might only survive another month, but some how he has continued to hang on. He's still getting around, is still bright eyed and obviously aware of what's going on around him. He still likes to be brushed and petted, but he's quit using the litter box and he's turned the garage into his personal dumping ground. Although that's better than when he turned the entire rest of the house into his personal dumping ground.

I put Fritti in the garage two weeks ago, mainly to keep him isolated from the other cats because I had to add medicine to his food every time I fed him. In the course of two weeks, he discovered that he likes to defecate all over the area where the garage door meets the floor. That is not exactly an easy place to clean. I have to open the door just enough to run a hose into the garage, then spray the garage door to wash away any poop that stuck too it before I can completely open the door to spray and scrub the floor. Add to this the fact that it's summer, and diarrhea bakes into stone pretty quickly on a hot day, and you've got one really nasty mess to clean up.

Well, **I've** got one really nasty mess to clean up.

I spent all afternoon yesterday cleaning up the cumulative mess that still existed even after I spent an entire week scooping up poop and mopping the floor. I put Fritti in a bathroom so I could throw open the garage door, haul everything out, and scour the garage floor. Some messes were baked so hard I couldn't get them up no matter what I tried. Because of where he's making the messes, half the poop ends up on the smooth concrete floor of the garage up against the door (hard to clean, but not impossible) and the other half gets embedded in the concrete and stone mix of the driveway (thus impossible to clean without a sandblaster). I spent THREE HOURS scrubbing my garage floor! And parts of my driveway. And the place still stank when I was done, but by then I was exhausted and getting high on cat poop fumes so I had to quit.

I took Fritti to the vet this morning. We've upping the current level of meds he's getting, plus adding a new one. A fourth medication is on order. He's also getting hypo-allergenic food to eat. Michael and I are taking the kids out of town this weekend, so I've had to arrange to have Fritti boarded at the vet, because there is no way in hell I can justify asking my neighbor's kid to clean up after that cat. It's just too messy, and at this point, it would be cheaper to pay the vet to handle Fritti rather than pay a teenager to come clean up poop three times a day (although the teen in question is very responsible and has never complained about cleaning up after Fritti in the past, but I feel so guilty about asking her to do it that I pay her twice what I would normally pay).

Fritti is on the decline. I don't know if anything I'm doing will help him or not. He's now also having problems with one of his rear legs, probably because he's got almost no muscle tissue left to support it. I do think that he's gained a tiny bit of weight, but that's probably because he no longer has to worry about contending with the other cats when he eats.

I wish there were something I could do for my poor cat, beyond having him put down (it's the obvious answer, but one I'm not ready for yet as long as Fritti can still get around and he doesn't seem unhappy). We'll have to see what the next two weeks brings.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

How To Make Blue Poopie

For this recipe, you will need:

One (1) baby
One (1) pint of blueberries
One (1) high chair (optional, but recommended unless you like cleaning mashed blueberries off your carpet and furniture)


Feed one (1) pint of blueberries to one (1) baby. Wait 12-36 hours. Change baby's diaper. Contents of diaper should be grayish navy blue, with small round pieces in it that look suspiciously like whole blueberries.

And that's it. Voila! You're done!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Mad Month Of June In Review

Usually, when I don't post much, it means there's so much going on I don't have time to sit down and breathe, let alone blog. This past month has been just such a case. So to quote Innago Montoya, "Let me explain... No, no that would take too long. Let me sum up..."

2 June - Sam's first birthday.

9 June - Michael's birthday (all I gave him was a CD because...)

9 June - the same day as Michael's birthday is also the deadline for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association theme week this month. And the theme was speculative fiction erotica, and there's no way in hell I'm missing that particular theme (they liked my story, by the way, and will be publishing it on their website next month. More details later). Of course, the writing came in the midst of...

24 April to present - picked up some actual paying work that is eating up all my free time!

15 June - Cassie's first karate belt test. She was so cute! Hiya! Pictures later, I promise.

17 June - Father's day. Michael got a picnic, my Dad got nothing, nadda, zip (see note above about having paying work which eats up all my free time).

19 June - our 14th wedding anniversary. I spent the evening at home feeding dinner to the kids. Michael spent the evening at the dojo getting ready for...

21 June - our 2nd degree black belt test! Which left us so exhausted that we barely made it to...

23 June - our next door neighbor's wedding, which was followed by...

24 June - Sam and Cassie come down with a cold.

25 June - I come down with a cold. One of my cats is also very, very ill, so I take him to the vet. Now I have to keep him in the garage and feed him food with crushed up pills in it six times a day, which is a lot of work, but it beats cleaning up cat diarrhea six off the carpet six times a day.

27 June - my cold is now a sinus infection. I am so dead tired...

And that is a quick review of the month of June in the Madden household. Now you know everything, so go to bed!

Monday, June 25, 2007

What A Lovely Family!


Ah, a peaceful moment from Father's Day. Here you see my wonderful husband and two darling children. Aren't they something? What you can't see in this picture is that the youngest has trashed our Father's Day picnic by stomping all over it. What you also can't see is that later that day, the oldest child will throw a screaming temper tantrum. And my husband? Well, he will simply keep me up all night with his snoring. That never-ending, sleep-depriving snorting and grunting that ruins any chance I have of getting eight hours of... wait, what was I talking about? Oh yes, my lovely family. Here they are! Aren't they something?
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Temper Tantrum Or Demonic Possession? You Decide...

Last weekend, Cassie threw one of her infamous melt-down screaming fits. For those of you who think my child is a darling angel who would never do such a thing, I present the evidence that says otherwise:

This particular screaming fit was started by the fact that I unfairly denied my child the chance to wash her own behind after telling her three times she needed to finish up in the tub or I was going to finish up for her. If you listen closely, you can hear her screaming, "I want MAMA! Don't leave me ALONE!" Meaning, "I want the nice woman who bought me ice cream earlier in the day, why did that other mean old witch put me in my bedroom for a time out?"

Obviously, I was enjoying this too much. But it got even better when I finally let her out of her room and then once again told her no, she was not going to wash her own behind, I had already done it for her, and besides, the tub was now drained. This precipitated a second screaming melt-down, of which I only managed to record the tail end. Had I pulled out my recorder a little earlier, you would have heard her scream, "IT'S UNFAIR!! MOMMY MAKES ME UNHAPPY!!!" However, I did manage to get some closing comments ouf of Cassie that I will treasure forever:

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Have A New Blog On Writing Erotica

Just because I don't have enough to do with my time...

Actually, it's because I need a proper venue for discussing erotica writing and art. I added a blog to my erotica website I'll be using this blog to discuss what's going on with my writing and artwork, plus as a place to discuss what I see going on in the world with regards to sex and erotica. The rest of the site includes an art gallery (mostly male nudes) and will have a story gallery up by the end of this month. Stop by for a visit if you're so inclined!

A Letter To My Husband Who Went To Disney World On A

Michael left on Sunday for a software conference held at Disney World. I stayed home all week with a cranky pre-schooler and a baby sick with an ear infection. I sent my loving spouse the following e-mail on Wednesday. I never did get a reply.


Dearest darling husband of mine,

Woke up at 5AM this morning to sound of crying. Youngest child wanted milk. Nursed her in bed. Discovered overnight she had become a furnace. Took her temp to confirm it. Temp was 104 degrees. Nursed her again for another hour. Came downstairs. Found cat poop. Cleaned cat poop. Oldest child came downstairs. Wanted milk. Went into kitchen. Discovered suspicious smell in kitchen area coming from baby. Found poop all over baby, all over saucer chair, all over kitchen floor. Surprisingly little poop actually in baby's diaper. Cleaned baby, saucer chair and kitchen floor. Finally had breakfast.

Called pediatrician and made appointment. Took a bath with kids in the bathroom to keep them out of trouble. No fun had by anyone. Too much yelling and toilet paper flinging. Got dressed. (oldest child miraculously dressed herself). Nursed baby, who fell asleep. Woke baby up to go to pediatrician. Eldest child screamed all the way there because I didn't have time to get her a drink before we left. Spent all morning in doctor's office to find out baby has an ear infection and is cranky as hell. Went to pharmacy to drop off perscription. Went across town to Wendy's because eldest insisted Wendy's is much better than Tropical Smoothie place. Got lunch, drove back to pharmacy. Got perscription. Came home. Sat down to eat lunch. Heard a series of wet explosions. Had to check baby and foyer. Baby was clean, foyer was not. Cleaned carpet again. Cleaned macaroni off of baby. Sent oldest to play in her room (where she is miraculously staying for the time being). Nursed baby to sleep. Going to work now. Will eat pizza tonight because it's easy and I'm beat. Will probably post this whole e-mail as a blog entry because I'm too damned tired to write anything else original today.


Your wife, Helen


Michael got home yesterday. However, I still haven't gotten enough sleep to realize this fact and celebrate properly by sending him out with both kids to get me coffee and a bagel. I'm so tired.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Who Needs Family Portraits?

Who needs family portraits when you can take pictures like this:

Don't you just love this face?

And how about this one?

Yeah, yeah, I know one of the pics is out of focus, but consider the subject. So forget those professional photographers, parents. Kids look best when they're mess- er, natural.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I've Had Days Like This...

This one comes from Yvonne over at East Coast F'lakers:

Click and open

I can remember doing quite a few things similar to this when tired. Looking for ice in the pantry. Putting my eye glasses in the dairy shelf of the fridge and then wandering around the house wondering where they were. Pouring OJ in my coffee. That last one really sucked because we didn't have any more coffee left.

Sad what happens to moms when they get tired.

Happy Birthday Samantha Ann!

Okay, so her birthday was actually Saturday, but we've sort of had a weekend-long celebration from which I am still recovering, and which I will now relate the details of here.

Rather than throw a big party like we did for Cassie's first birthday, we opted for something different. Not because Sam is the second child and we're slacking off, but mainly because 1) we have a diarrheic cat in the house that would give all new meaning to the term party-pooper, and 2) the usual suspects- er, party guests, were not in town this weekend. Both sets of grandparents were unable to attend this weekend's celebrations, so Michael and I decided to keep things strictly between the four of us. Besides, we do not have $150 to rent a cat-poop free facility to hold a big bash.

Happily enough, there were plenty of activities to choose from this weekend to help celebrate Sam's big day. In Hampton, thousands of people turned out for the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, while in Newport News one of the local Greek Orthodox churches held its Greek Fest. The plan was to hit the pirate fest first, as early as possible, then spend the late afternoon enjoying Greek food and music. We had to adjust the schedule when Sam fell asleep about 15 minutes before we were set to head out. She took a two hour nap which threw all our plans out of whack, but Michael said if the birthday girl wants to sleep, hey, it's her day.

Cassie and I passed the time by baking a birthday cake from scratch. We even made the butter cream frosting! Once Sam woke up, we headed out for downtown Hampton to enjoy all sorts of pirate-y activities, only to be overwhelmed by a large assortment of inflatable kiddy attractions. You know the kind - big bloated canvas contraptions hooked up to an air-blower that the kids crawl into and then bounce around in until they're ready to puke. Cassie loves these and she had to try out every one of them at the festival. Sam, of course, is still too little for such things, so we walked around a bit and looked at pirates while Michael watched Cassie leap about in puffed-up cage dubbed "The Moon Walk" (I swear, it looks like a professional wrestler's nightmare and an orthopedist's dream).

After a fifteen-minute tour of pirates and boats, Sam and I returned in time to see Cassie disappear into the mouth of a gargantuan caterpillar. Now as much as I dislike the Moon Walk, I hate the caterpillar even more. With the caterpillar, kids go in the mouth and get pooped out the other end. At least that's the theory. The reality is that kids go in the mouth and run amok inside the stomach area, forgetting entirely that the rest of the family is outside waiting for them to come out. There are no windows in the caterpillar's stomach area, so you can't spot your kid inside, tap at the clear plastic and gesticulate wildly that it's time to go. No, you've got to stand and wait at the ass-end of this thing and hope that eventually your child will tire of bouncing around inside a smelly, inflated bug and come out on their own. It's either that or else you've got to pry open said caterpillar's backside, stick your head in and scream until your child finally gets the idea that hey, Mom and Dad might want to move on. Fortunately, Michael did not take pictures of me with my head stuck up a caterpillar's ass, though he had plenty of opportunity to do so.

After the inflatable caterpillar, there was the inflatable pirate ship. At least that one wasn't completely enclosed and we could get Cassie out of it without too much yelling. We did have to drag her kicking and screaming to the docks to see the pirate ships and displays. Sam all the while just fussed in her stroller. I bought her fries to keep her happy. I never bought Cassie fries when she was little. In fact, I don't think Cassie even so much as tasted a fry until Sam started eating them. Maybe I have slacked off with child number two. Or maybe I've just relaxed a bit. Yeah, we'll go with the latter I think.

So we ate fries and looked at boats and pirates and then Cass decided she wanted to go play in the sandpit where kids could dig for buried treasure (who's birthday was it again?). This would have been okay except that there was a puppet show in progress directly across the square from the sandpit and Cassie was too distracted by the puppets to do much digging so she wasn't finding anything. After about ten minutes of watching Cassie stare vacantly at the puppet show while standing in sand up to her ankles (she flat out refused to leave the sandpit to watch it up close) I decided it was time to head out. Naturally Cassie howled as we dragged her off. In fact, she howled so much that I decided to give her another crack at digging for treasure - they were getting ready to re-seed the sand with loot when we left - and we took her back... only to watch as she stared vacantly at the puppets again while everyone else dug for treasure. I decided to let Michael take over at that point and I wandered off to nurse the birthday girl.

Michael the Ever-Patient Dad managed to coax Cassie into a little digging, so she eventually found two strands of beads and a cheap plastic pirate, and then even he was worn out with "treasure" hunting. So once again we dragged a screaming Cassie back to the car and headed off for Greek Fest.

Because we hit the Greek Fest late, we decided to go straight for the food lines. The Newport News Greek Fest has the best food and we all ate enough to choke a horse. At least three of us did. Cassie somehow manages to subsist on air and two-percent milk. I fed Sam, the baby with a hollow leg, some of my meal and then most of Cassie's meal and then some of Michael's meal until ol' chubby cheeks decided flinging food was more fun than eating it. Then I took Cassie over to yet another display of inflatable kiddy attractions while Michael took Sam to buy Greek pastries and deserts. Two giant slide rides and a couple of moon-walks later, we coaxed Cassie back to the parking lot with promises of sweets, only to discover that we were completely blocked in.

We had made the mistake of parking in an unattended, unmarked lot and some fool had decided to park his big-ass truck smack in the middle of the only route in or out of the back half of the lot. So Michael headed back to the festival to see if someone could make an announcement about the truck blocking people in while I waited in our car with two very cranky kids. I lucked out and the people parked in front of us showed up five minutes later to leave, so I pulled through and spent the next five minutes warning folks off from the parking lot. I pissed off one guy when I pointed out that he had just triple-parked his vehicle and sandwiched another car in between his SUV and someone else's van. Too bad. At least I was polite enough to let this idiot know he might want to move his car before someone else moved it for him.

Actually, he wasn't the only idiot I ran into during our whirlwind birthday tour. At the inflatable caterpillar, I saw a woman pull out a toy gun and fire it at one of the plastic windows near the tail end. I had a heart attack when I caught sight of this out of the corner of my eye. At first look, all I could see was someone pointing a gun at an attraction full of kids, and my kid was in there. It took me two seconds to realize that she what she was pointing was a pirate-style pop-gun, but in those two seconds I almost leapt onto that woman and snapped her fool neck. Fortunately for her, I managed to restrain myself, but I did tell her in no uncertain terms that she needed to stop pointing a gun, even a toy gun, at the kids inside, otherwise someone might report her to the police. Did I over-react? Maybe, but see how you feel when you glimpse someone pointing what might be a deadly weapon in your kid's direction. It'll stop your heart, that's for sure.

Anyway, after pirates and Greeks and stupid people, we made our final stop on Sam's birthday tour - Rick and Cindy's home. Cindy and I met when I was twelve and we've been best friends ever since. Cindy was pregnant with her daughter Izzie while I was pregnant with Sam, and the two girls were born ten days apart (Izzie is the elder baby). We arrived at Chateau Rindy with Greek deserts and greasy kids and spent the evening chatting, pulling the kids out of trouble, eating, pulling the kids out of even more trouble, watching TV, yelling at the kids to PLEASE STAY OUT OF TROUBLE SO WE CAN ENJOY A LITTLE ADULT CONVERSATION WITHOUT CONSTANTLY CHASING AFTER YOU, etc. Cassie watched three full episodes of live-action Sailor Moon. It was all in Japanese, with English sub-titles which Cassie can't read yet, but she understood enough to know that for Halloween she wants to be a cat princess soldier girl with really long hair and a necklace. Wait till I explain that one to the great costume maker, a.k.a. Grandmama.

While Cassie drooled over a Japanese kids' show (okay, I liked it too, even with the ridiculous costumes and ludicrous fight scenes), Sam just drooled. She drooled on Izzie's toys, and on Rick and Cindy's papers, and on Rick and Cindy's cats. We had a little excitement when we put both babies in the play yard. Sam started to howl and I thought for sure we were going to have a little baby cage-match, with Izzie and Sam fighting it out for the best toys, but then I realized that Sam wanted Mommy, not toys. Actually, what Sam wanted was boobies, so we finally packed up and headed home.

Cassie was out cold when we pulled into our driveway. Sam woke up long enough to nurse then passed out again. Both kids slept through until about 6:30 AM this morning, and then we got up for our usual routine. While Michael was at church, I let Cassie decorate Sam's birthday cake. She poured on every bottle of juju beads, candy glitter and sprinkles that we had. There is so much sugar on the top of that cake that you can stick your finger into it up to the second joint and still not touch the butter cream frosting. Made for lots of fun when we blew out the candle. Sprinkles and glitter went flying everywhere.

We opened Sam's presents after lunch. She got lots of new outfits for the summer, plenty of books (Yertle the Turtle is sure to be a hit if I can get Sam to sit still long enough to read it), a set if piggy finger puppets, a cow with a giant computer chip in its butt that allows it to interact with an accompanying DVD, and two Little People play sets. Michael and I got Sam the Little People bi-lingual super-market and the Little People airplane. Fisher Price had a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and you can tell which set we got for free. There was practically no packaging on the super-market, whereas the airplane was secured with enough wire to set up a trans-Atlantic telegraph line. But the super-market is way cool, with a cart and lots of little items for sale and a refrigerated section and a talking cash register. Makes me want to run right out to our local Food Lion for a little grocery adventure.

The plane is pretty cool too, with a female pilot (how very PC) and a couple of touristas in Hawaiian shirts. If you press down on the pilot, the plane sings about how all the passengers go up and down as they ride on the plane, and when you roll it across the floor, the people really do go up and down. The last time I saw people bounce around like that on a plane, I was watching the very first episode of Lost. Perhaps I'll call one Little Person Kate and name the other one Jack. Or should I go with Sawyer instead? Hmm...

Anyway, Sam loved the bows and the wrapping paper and Cassie loved playing with the toys. Our big girl got a few gifts as well from her grandparents and great aunt - books, clothes, and a plastic novelty cup with a light up ice cube. After gifts, we did cake. Sam, who will eat just about anything, decided she would rather fling cake than eat it, so most of her slice ended up on the carpet. Just enough ended up in her hair and clothes that I had to give her a second bath, after which I tried to put her down for another nap. But our new big girl was having none of that! So she ended up downstairs with Michael and Cassie while I snuck off to do some work. Dinner was a quiet affair, aside from a repeat performance of food flinging from Sam, followed by bath number three (perhaps I should just install a hose in the dining room?), and then a final nursing before bed.

I truly love those last moments of the evening, when Sam is just a limp bundle of sweet cuddly baby-doll in my arms. Her little head droops over my arm, exposing the neck I can otherwise never find beneath all those extra chins she has. And there's always just a little breast milk drooling out of the corner of her mouth. She's so relaxed and content, so warm and sweet. She was like that tonight when I put her in her crib. Then as I leaned over to kiss her good night, she startled and popped her head up, smashing me in the mouth with that rock-hard cranium of her. I'm not sure which one of us howled the loudest as I staggered from her room. Sam's probably okay, but I think I swallowed one of my front teeth.

So that was Sam's birthday weekend - two days of pirates, Greeks, idiots, presents, cake and minor injuries. What a way to celebrate my baby's first year.


In honor of the big day, I've uploaded some photos to share. Yeah, I know, this is a first!

Okay Izzie. You go that way, I'll head over the couch, and we'll see if we can defeat these tyranical fascist adults and steal their sodas.

Are these for me? You shouldn't have. Let's open them right now!

Cassie: How do you like it Sam? I decorated it myself!

Sam: Really? I thought Martha Stewart did it!

And here's a close up of the cake...

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Monday, June 04, 2007

New Laws to Protect Public Breast Feeding

Well it's about damn time...

New Laws to Protect Public Breast Feeding

I've breast fed both my kids in public. If you're a breast feeding mom and you want ever to leave the house, you pretty much have to nurse in public. Of course, nobody has ever come up to me and complained about it. That's probably because I have this reputation for being a mean, scary she-bitch who would rip your head off if you even looked at me wrong. I don't know why I have that reputation. I just do.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Want To Go To Hogwarts?

Saw this on the internet this morning - Harry Potter theme park set to open - TODAY: Books -

Earlier this year, we took a vacation to Disney World that involved months of research and planning on my husband's part. There were spreadsheets for everything, including comparisons of resorts, meal packages, rental cars, dates to attend, etc. Michael put so much thought into this vacation, you would have thought we were going to the Moon rather than a terrestrial theme park. But as he put it, this was all for Cassie's fourth birthday and he wanted to make sure our little princess had a good time.

Michael is not a big Harry Potter fan, but I'm thinking he'll put the same effort into a vacation to this place as well. He better. I may not be a princess, but I am a witch, and I'll turn my husband into a toad if he doesn't take me to see Hogwarts!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day - How Do You Say Thank You?

I’m trying to decide how best to observe Memorial Day. It should be a big deal to me, considering how many of my family have been in the military. My father served two tours in Vietnam and retired after twenty-one years in the Army. My mom was an Army nurse. I’ve got two uncles who served in the military during Vietnam, and I served in the Army Reserves for twelve years until I got pregnant with Cassie. Ironically, it was during Memorial Day weekend five years ago that I got pregnant at a fertility clinic. I had thought I would stay in the Reserves after having a baby, but after undergoing a rather scary emergency surgery at the beginning of my second trimester, I realized I never wanted to leave my child for anything, so I got out.

Even though I’m out, I still have an appreciation for the military. The Army Reserves was the source of some of the best and worst experiences of my life, and had a lot to do with the person I am today. And knowing what I know about the military, I have to admit I am very grateful to anyone who serves. It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but someone has to do it. I believe that freedom comes at a cost, and as someone who benefits from the freedoms of being an American citizen, I ought to support the people paying that cost. Let’s face it, there are very few places in the world where a woman can get away with doing the things I do and not be stoned for it. My freedom to write, paint, express myself, vote, practice my religion of choice, read, have an education, drive, earn a black belt, marry as I choose, etc., all come from being an American citizen, and the military defends that freedom. So you’d think I’d have plans to honor said military in a big way today.

Well, I don’t. Michael and I made no special plans beyond getting together with friends for an afternoon barbeque. I will probably call my folks to see how they’re doing and tell them I love them, but I have no intention of heading out to any public events. I hate crowds and I am not keen on hunting for a parking space at some memorial event that is really no more than an over-sized barbeque anyway. Why should I? Memorial Day is not about barbeques. It’s about saying thank you to the people who serve our country. So I’ve been thinking. What is the best way to say thank you?

After a short search on Google, I think I found my answer. lets people send letters and care packages to service members serving in harms way. Basically, you send the stuff to whatever unit you want and it gets distributed to soldiers who don’t get much or any mail and would greatly appreciate the support. What I like about this is the following:

You get to choose what to send, who to send it to and when.

It’s more personal and more involved than a monetary donation. has a non-discrimination policy that includes all people, regardless of “race, color, national origin or citizenship status, creed, religion, religious affiliation, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, veteran status or any other protected status.” That’s a big deal to me.

So, I may not get a package out today, but I think I could send a letter, and I can certainly get a package out by the end of this week. And I can’t think of a better way to honor Memorial Day than this. Can you?