Once every four years

I anticipate Leap Day with great excitement. It's like a free bonus day much like the Fall Back time change back to Standard Time. Only it's a WHOLE day of possibilities. But this one here? I could've done without.

It started with Big E crawling into bed with me. Something that used to be an every day occurrence but in recent months has dwindled to something to raise an eyebrow at. She was shivering and cold, but started heating up the bed quite nicely. I laid there and felt her fever rise tenth of a degree by tenth of a degree. She has said about twelve words all day, five of which were "I'm going to throw up". Which was punctuated by promptly throwing up.

Then the phone call from the other Girl Scout leader who is to accompany myself and the EIGHT third-graders on a two night camping trip starting TONIGHT. "Oh, Big E is sick too?....so is MY daughter.". Just Great. And then at least a dozen other phone calls trying to figure out a plan and finally ending up with the plan being the original plan sans Big E. Hopefully Big E will be well enough for Bubble Boy to shuttle her out tomorrow for some Hugging and Loving of Horses. Poor girl..she was looking forward to this all week....wearing t-shirts and jeans to school every day rather than her cute outfits because she was in a "camping mood".

And while that all might seem bad enough, but not really THAT bad, just regular sick day bad with a little campout problem thrown in, add in a 5 year old boy who has been homebound for the previous TWO days with his own illness and now feels JUST FINE. Just fine like all his regular energy and attitude and did I say energy? But he can't go anywhere except the backyard and that's so BORING without FRIENDS! And I'm trying to pack and load and clean up vomit. And he wants me to read the damn DS. Sorry...I can't right now I'm wiping up puke...but I'll be right on to Zelda just after I wash the barf off my hands.

OK. I feel vented now. I've been trying to reframe my way of thinking upon the suggestion of a good friend. I have the opportunity to go camping with a great mom and several fun girls. I have the opportunity to enjoy a day at home with both my kids who may be under the weather TODAY are healthy overall. It could be worse. Days like this only come around every four years.


Motherly Intuition

Snuggled right in there between 3) Extracting my own innards with a shrimp fork and 6) Shoving glowing hot toothpicks underneath all my fingernails, on my list of Things I Hate To Do are, 4) Going to the grocery store on a weekend and 5) Going to the grocery store on a weekNIGHT. Being able to do all my food shopping during the "work day" is one of the most significant perks of being in the field of Domestic Sciences.

But last night I felt compelled to go to Whole Foods to get some items I was going to need for a little after-work thing we're hosting for Bubble Boy's team. Normally, I would just plan to get needed supplies the day of said event when I can go without having people bump into me or give me the How Dare I Push a Cart Down This Aisle look. But I thought I better do it - Just In Case. Bubble Boy met me downstairs (he works at Whole Foods), managed a little family dinner sans Big E, who was at swim practice, then he took off with Little A while I headed into the fray.

This is where the Intuition comes into play. Woke up this morning with a little 5 year old boy snuggled in next to me when I had been dreaming there was a bag of hot coals trying to crawl all over me. He was a hot little bugger and has only managed to get off his little sick bed once when I carried him to the potty. And next?

He asked me to turn off a movie so he could take a nap.

People. This is something that simply does not happen in this house. I began to worry.

I'm sure it's just one of Those viruses. Hopefully it's one of the in-and-out things and he'll be his regular bouncing off the walls, cranky, bossy, sweet, cuddly self by tonight. My intuition thinks (hopes) so.


Just when you think you might be getting it together...

....you take a little Look-See inside your child's water bottle. The one you've been rinsing and sitting upside down to dry every night before refilling it with freshly filtered water each and every morning so the water doesn't have to sit inside the plastic water bottle all night long with all that nasty PLASTIC leaching into it. You throw the lid in the dishwasher but you can't put the bottle itself in there because it's one of those double-layer, insulated bottles and the dishwasher would warp it in one night. So you take a peek inside and what do you see?

You see ORANGE MOLD growing in the little round indentations.

Ooooh, goody. Not quite getting it together. Nope. Not yet.


In News

The writer's strike is over. Had you heard? I had read something to this effect last week, but only last night when we finally caught up to last week on The Daily Show did it become real for me. Don't get me wrong, Jon Stewart has been doing a bang-up job improvising A Daily Show (same for Stephen Colbert). Seriously, I was skeptical that they were coming up with all that material on their own, on the fly, but I guess that's because I'm a cynic and can't trust talent, mostly because I'm so void of any. What kind of juice were they on? Comedic steroids? I guess that would be called cocaine. Or ample quantities of tequila. That stuff always made me a hilarious riot.

I discovered that my new minivan .... Yes, I have fallen victim to the overpowering Soccer Mom Syndrome and am exhibiting symptoms of Minivan-Driving Mama, MDM for short. No known cure - you just gotta wait it out. Anyway, it's equipped with 3 months of free XM radio. Now, I've only randomly jabbed at buttons enough to find two news stations and a sports station, which means I've been listening to a lot of news. Yesterday being President's Day, I had the good fortune to hear Bill Clinton's acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic convention (take a listen here). You may remember snippets. I think many have called it the "Revitalize America" speech. Some call it the "I still believe in a place called Hope" speech. Say what you will about this man, and I realize there's a lot that could be said, but Whooeee! he is a damn good speaker. Dare I say, a Great Speaker. I sat in my car, physically unable to turn off the radio.

Maybe I was so excited about it because of the Good Speaker Vacuum we've endured for the last eight years. I think even the supporters of W would never go out on a limb and say he's a great speaker. Or even a good one. Maybe around the poker table, but not much in the way of inspiring anything beyond "when will this end???". Or maybe that's just me.

Hillary and Obama will be in Austin Thursday for a debate and oh, how I wish I could go! Alas, I have no connections and am not a big donor. Or even a small donor. I have high hopes for this election, not just for the country and my fellow citizens, but for myself (still selfish after all these years!). I hope to be restored.

Bits of optimism have been bubbling to the surface in the past couple of weeks that this year could be different. And while I'll still be devastated if the Democrats do what they're so famous for and (in the most recent words of Jon Stewart) "snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory", I still see a glimmer that perhaps it will have at least been a good, fair fight. Maybe. Guess I still believe in a place called Hope, too.


Sugar and Spice and everything nice

One of the major reasons I had no time to blog anything last week but was provided with Plenty of Bloggable Activity was that my sister and her two little girls were here for much of the week. She had not been to Austin since last May when upon entering my home her 15 month old promptly began falling and bashing her head into progressively harder and harder surfaces. First the stair banister, then the kitchen island, then the floor, then the edge of the table, etc... There was a cranium cracking episode approximately every 2 minutes and 45 seconds (average). She left here looking like the beginnings of the Elephant Man with lumps and goose eggs all over her skull that were developing deep, rich colors. For some reason, my sister wasn't eager to come back any time soon.

Little M is the kind of girl who is safest in her own home which is outfitted in similar fashion to a padded cell. She's.....ahhhhh...shall we say....inquisitive. I'll leave it at that. Luckily, she's got lots of cuddle-inducing sugar oozing out of her to compensate for all that spice, or else my sister might not keep her. Well, I'm sure she'd still KEEP her...but she'd complain about it.

Big M, on the other hand, while still a handful, is a handful of normal 3 year old magnitude. In typical 3 year old fashion she is very eager to be The Big Helper, so I turned that to my advantage every night by employing her to make dinner for the kids. Her payment was a little apron which when presented to her she carefully rolled up and asked her mother to please put in their car to protect it from dragons.

It was kinda like vacation because KT walked her cool boots down with some queso and we shared chili and queso and fired up the Rock Band. It was awesome when my sister gushed about how awesome KT's boots were when she didn't even know her to be KT of Cool Boots fame. This following her nailing PJ as a cop due to the outstanding projection of his voice the night before. Anyhoodles...Aunt A took lead on guitar while KT laid down the rhythm on drums. I had the dubious duty to sing during that episode and I apologize to everyone present. It was painful....I know. My ears bled for hours. Later, I was able to hone some drum playing abilities which is another hilarious spectacle to behold. The thought that some people can work their feet and hands all independently across 4 (or more!) drums plus the bass drum is mind-boggling to me. I guess what I'm saying is that my musical ability is not just bad, it's non-existent.

That doesn't mean it's not a blast though. Just bring your earplugs.



The summer before I started college was spent working in a Hallmark store and buying somewhere in the neighborhood of 950 cards - give or take - for every friend, family member, acquaintance and person I might eventually meet who would be simply perfect for some particular card that was so hilarious I couldn't pass it up. And so my card stash became quite extensive...a store within itself.

It was many years before I found need to purchase new cards and by then I was burned out on cards. In fact, I think the final handful went into the trash one year when I was cleaning out and purging. And then I just didn't really do cards anymore. Maybe a birthday card if someone

ranked really, really high or a thank you card because I felt like I should. I like to think that I always sent thank you cards, but if I'm being honest I'd have to confess that there was a time in my life when thank you cards weren't a priority. I was young and selfish and I was rebelling against all those things my mom tried so hard to teach me and while one wouldn't think Thank You cards would be an object of rebellion, I was indiscriminate in my rebellion. Hopefully they understood.

Long way to say that I bought Valentine cards this year and I'm just so pleased with them. My photographic skills in no way reflect the simple sweetness of the cards, but you get the gist.


How long has it been?

You know it's been a looong time since your rode your bike when you can't remember how to get your shoes off. I don't think I've been on my bike since I rode into New Braunfels completing my first 100K bike ride in November. That's not really THAT long ago, but apparently it was long enough to forget how to operate the complex ratcheting system that attaches my shoe to my foot.

This is not my actual shoe, but it's very similar. Mine are pretty blue and red. Very patriotic. And obviously not in high demand as they were on clearance for 50% off, so they were a STEAL. They look great with my blue Hard Core sunglasses. And really. Isn't that what it's all about?
Funny how I was so nervous about trying clip shoes for the first time and my concerns were always focused on trying to get the shoe out of the pedal...NOT my foot out of the freakin' shoe. That would seem like a no-brainer, huh? But there we were, CCC and I, in the locker room following our first spin class in a few months (since we've been training for our half-half marathon), trying everything we could think of to get the darn shoes off but only making them tighter and tighter. That's a real confidence builder, let me tell you. Luckily, CCC happened upon the correct sequence of pushing and pulling and the lock popped right open. It's really easy once you know what you're doing. Really.

So anytime you're feeling like you just don't have a solid grasp on what's going on in your life, take comfort in knowing that at least you can extract your feet from your shoes at will. It's more than some people have.



A few years ago I started putting all the books I read through a simple test before I read them. Beyond the skill of the writer or the interest in the plot or subject matter the question was Will this book make me cry? I'd just come off a string of books that were lump-in-your-throat-for-two-hours-every-night tear jerkers. Last time one of my kids complained about us sharing a rich dessert I invoked the scene of Frank McCourt's family of seven sharing one boiled egg for Christmas dinner. To say Angela's Ashes was a downer is like saying Lindsey Lohan might partake of mind-altering substances on rare occasions. The Uber Understatement.Then there was A Map of the World. Somehow I went into that book not having a clue what was going to happen. I'm guessing they keep that information closely guarded because why would anyone knowingly put themselves through that kind of torture? Because it was TORTURE! And yet, I kept reading.

Damn those authors who can make me miserable and yet compel me to continue the misery. And could I forget Midwives? No. I couldn't. Not ever.

And so began the simple test all books must pass before I read them. There have been a few exceptions. The Lovely Bones for one. I DID try to get out of that one by desperately calling
CCC on her cell phone to tell her I couldn't keep reading because I couldn't make out the words through the tears and my family was becoming concerned by my bawling on the sofa. She didn't answer.

Last month I started reading Old Yeller with a group of kids from Big E's class. Her teacher has been kind enough to set us up with discussion questions and all kinds of ideas for enriching the book. Now that we've been reading for a few weeks we're getting close to the end. And I know what's coming. The kids have learned what rabies is but I don't think they've picked up on the blatant foreshadowing that's been put before us. The author tells us on the first page that he ends up shooting Old Yeller but they've forgotten. They're just innocently reading along enjoying the adventures of Travis, Little Arliss and that rascal, Old Yeller.

Not only will I be a wreck when we get to the horrible, inevitable ending, but I will have five nine year olds who've come to love that thievin' whelp of a dog. I'll be sure to bring tissues next week. I'm going to need them.


Come on feel the noise

It was brought to my attention a couple of days ago that I am not posting regularly enough to satisfy you - The Devoted Reader. It is bitterly ironic that the more blog-able activity happening in my life the less time I have to actually blog about it. Quite the paradoxical twist of fate that teases me so. Trust that I will endeavor outwit Irony. But know that my wit is fairly stunted.

Meanwhile. Our last minute Super Bowl party morphed into a Rock Band party.
Around halftime (sorry Mr. Petty) we all crammed into the tiny Bonus Room and held an ol' fashioned jam session. The thing I really like about Rock Band is that if guitar ain't your thang, then how 'bout drums? Or vocals? And it's like you're really in this gig together. When the audience gets all "BOOOO!!!! We want better guitar!! BOOOOOO! You're awful!!!" and the guitarist is booted off the stage, then the bandmates don't get all "you suck! you're embarrassing us! why don't you go home already??", causing the guitarist to cry and lock themselves in their hotel room and shoot enough heroin to cripple a horse. No...they use their ENERGY and become your savior! It's real teamwork.

So, yeah. I like it. Problem is that I have these OCD tendencies that make it difficult for me to stop playing the game. If I get an 82% then I know I can do better if I just try it again! And if I get a 95%, then maybe I can be perfect next time! Then I get 99% so maybe I should go to the next difficulty level! And then the next thing I know it's 1 am and I have to get up for stupid CPR class in 6 hours.

Another problem is that my voice is something akin to listening to the feral cats partying with raccoons in the neighborhood. See, when I'm driving in the car and singing my heart out, I can turn the speakers up loud enough to drown my voice out. Nevermind the strange looks I get from others. I sound decent when I can't hear myself. But when singing in my living room with the button guitar and color-coded drumset, I can hear myself more than I can hear the real singer.

And people, it isn't pretty. So when the neighbors start complaining about all the stray cats congregating near our house, you'll know why.

The First Pour

The boys popped open their first homebrewed beer Sunday night.

Don't let the next photo fool you. The report I received was a surprised, flattering, "Wow...It DOES taste like beer.... Right?". The reply was "Yeah...and don't worry, it'll get better with age".


Jack Brown Boycott

This is where I use my position as a Blogger to wield whatever miniscule power comes with the otherwise pointless hours I spend documenting semi-(and not so) interesting activities of our lives. I'm sure it's tasteless and tacky, but now you know something about me. Or maybe you already knew this about me and this is the confirmation you needed to pass judgment. Feel free.

I don't do much dry-cleaning. Bubble Boy works at Whole Foods which considers khaki shorts and any kind of collared shirt getting fancy. Mostly I take in sweaters of mine that either require dry-cleaning or I'm too lazy to wash and dry properly so why not take them to the cleaners when there's a Jack Brown $2.79 cleaners right down the street?

Off I go to take two new sweaters (worn twice each) to the cleaners right before Christmas. This was my mistake. Their hours were screwy during the holidays. Closed for several days around Christmas and New Years. I had houseguests and things were a l'il crazy until well into January. So, I kept forgetting to pick up the sweaters. I'd remember them when I'd get dressed but while out and about doing my Mommy Job, I'd never think about them.

'Til today. Stopped by and guess what?

No sweaters.

As the ever helpful woman who works there haughtily snapped down her newspaper and snappily pointed out, they're "Not Responsible for Items Left More Than 30 Days". It says so clearly on the 8"x11" poster behind the desk. Don't I see? When asked To Where do the Articles Go? she replied that "He" picks them up and takes them to Goodwill. Pointing to the Goodwill in the same shopping center. Off I go to the Goodwill. Maybe some good karma from picking up someone's shopping cart and returning it to the Cart Corral will pay back and they're still on the racks. The ladies there never heard of ever receiving anything from the cleaners. Back I go to the Jack Brown.

Where exactly do the clothes go? I say.

Goodwill, she says.

The people at Goodwill don't know what I'm talking about, I say.

All I know is that HE picks them up and takes them somewhere, she says.

Without even a phone call? I say. Don't you think a phone call would be courteous before you give away someone's CLOTHING?

But the sign...she says.

Yeah, yeah. I SEE the sign. It also says you require a ticket stub to pick up clothing but you've NEVER asked me for one of those. Don't you think a good business practice would be a courtesy call before you take away someone's CLOTHING? I say.Why do you take my phone number if you're not even going to use it?

Blank stare. Back to the newspaper.

Finally I get a phone number for the mysterious "He" of the Jack Brown Emerald City. I don't expect to get any compensation or even an apology. I just want him to know that he lost a customer due to a lack of a phone call. And now maybe the legions of readers to My Suburban Bubble will join me in solidarity and won't be taking their clothes to him for him to auction on ebay or sell at consignment.

So there. And if you see a lovely green wool sweater or a red zippered cardigan that are cute as can be at Goodwill? They're mine. Grab 'em for me?

Home Brew

This is what happens when you let your husband go to the pool and socialize with other men. They get to talking. Times were males would gather together and talk about the hot chick rubbing iodine-laced baby oil all over her pre-melanoma shoulders and chest area. Or maybe they'd talk about the newest gadget being introduced by Apple and how they were selected to test the beta version and how it Awesomely ROCKS because Steve Jobs is a god. But I digress.

Now it seems that when men of the married species get together the topic of BEER, and the homebrewing of it, is required to come up. In much the same way the conversation of married women with children will inevitably get around to blue food coloring and the resultant green poop and why do we need to have electric blue cupcakes anyway? Will the children eat fewer cupcakes if they're just plain ol' chocolate and do we need to find ways to make cupcakes more appealing so kids will want them? Again. Digression.

So, the brewing. Bubble boy was able to procure via craigslist many different apparati to assist him in the beer making he attempted to bill as an educational chemistry experiment. CC was kind enough to provide the makings of the first batch and the Brewing Was On! There were many hours of temperature regulation, sanitizing, marinating of grains, etc... deep into the wee hours of the next day. CCC and I sat and watched with trepidation as the kitchen was converted into a brewery.

Bottling occurred a few weeks ago and the first bottlecap shall be popped Sunday. Nothing has exploded as the beer does whatever it is beer does in our shoe / coat / electronics closet. Between the heat of the electronics, the sweat on the jackets and the aroma of all the shoes, I'm sure there will be a rich flavor and bouquet (does beer HAVE a bouquet?). Not that I'm doubting whether the beer will be absolutely fabulous, but I bought some back-up beer today.