Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holy parentheticals, Batman!

What? Don't look at me like that. Yesterday counted as a non-weekday (and apparently Friday did too because when B called the garage about our brakes, they were out Friday through Monday). So ... there.


(Real mature, self. You're resorting to "neiner-neiner face" emoticons now? When this whole thing fails and all of your readers have left you, don't come crying to me ... who is also you... or something.)

Long story short, I was out having a nap fun-filled holiday weekend, and I don't plan on apologizing for it.


Yes I do. Please forgive me. All I want is for you to love like me and keep coming back here to read my inane blathering thoughts and witticisms and to be best friends forever and braid each others' hair and have sleepovers and pillowfights and make waffles in the morning and tell your friends that I am positively adorable and not at all crazy or RainMan-esque.

*pointing in the distance* What's that over there?

*Runs away*

*Shoves medicated clone with minimal social anxiety in front of the keyboard*

Ahem... nevermind; you can come back. It must have just been a squirrel or a mongoose or something (depending on where you live). What were we talking about? Oh, right. My unexcused absence. [Sidenote: That phrase always gives me flashbacks to high school gym class. I was ... shall we say ... not an athlete. Or coordinated. At all. I also had a "stinky attitude," as one of my teachers once told me. Thanks, Mrs. Dinger. I'll bet you were just trying really hard not to drop an F-bomb on the whiny, foul-mouthed, Goth brat who was throwing a fit about how "math class step aerobics is HAAAAARD!!!" Little did you know how that one innocuous, on-the-fly euphemism would provide more than 10 years of laughter.] So, I failed to uphold my strict "blog every (week)day" promise. Have you been here long? (If not, I can hardly blame you. This thing is updated so infrequently that [insert witty joke that I'm too lazy to come up with here].) You should know by now to neither listen to what I say nor do as I do... or something. Let's move on before we get lost in the seemingly neverending labyrinth of asides within sidenotes within parenthetical comments.

I know I promised pictures of the guest room/office remodel, but I only got everything officially "photo-worthy" this morning, and I wanted to take the pictures in the daylight so they turn out better, and I have this whole "work" thing that I have to do during the day, so ... maybe tomorrow? We're aiming for tomorrow.

Tonight I want to share with you a song. (Warning: Earworms Ahead) I heard this little ditty probably close to a month ago, and I just cannot stop laughing at (or humming) it. It's catchy; it's nerdy; it's got ukulele; it's everything I hope for in a YouTube song. Plus, as someone who used to have a MySpace (back in the day when facebook was still new and cool and people still Yahooed instead of Googling things... you know, way back in 2005 or something), I think the "inside" jokes are just hilarious. My favorite line has got to be: "I hope your cynical kids say, 'Holy crap! This is great!'" One of the best song lyrics of all time... or something.

(Drinking game idea: Go back through this post and take a drink every time I say "...or something." [For you hardcore lushes players, go back a second time and take a drink every time I start a new parenthesis, bracketed comment, sidenote, or interjection.])

So, without further ado, I give you "My Hope" by Molly Lewis (YouTube account sweetafton23):

If you like this song and/or Stephen Fry as much as I do, you'll also want to check out her "Open Letter" song for him on her channel. I prefer the version where she performed it live for him at Harvard. I've never seen a gay grown man look so flattered and embarrassed at the same time.

*For those of you playing the drinking game at home, you might want to call yourself a paramedic because by my count, you've just consumed 17 shots of alcohol, and that is one shy of a Dylan Thomas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Useless internet connection is useless.

I had big plans, internet. Great, big plans. I was going to tell you all about our guest room/office remodel and include a bunch of reveal pictures... but then our internet connection decided to party like it's 1999... by which I mean it decided to act like a dial-up connection instead of the high speed, broadband, wi-fi that it is. Lamesauce. Considering the fact that I've been trying for 30 minutes to load a two-minute YouTube video, I'm guessing that a picture-heavy post would be sort of like Tolstoy sending War and Peace word by word via Pony Express from Russia to Miami (let that one sink in for a minute). In other words: It's not happening. Does this count as a blog post? Let's pretend it does because B just got home, and I haven't actually talked to him yet all week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's been a long day, so all you're getting is a crappy list.

The title pretty much says it all, so let's just jump right in, shall we?

1. We began our day by tidying up Jude's mohawk. I cut his hair into a 'hawk back in March or April, and because his hair grows inordinately quickly, I have already had to trim it at least three times. It should have been four because this last one was WAY overdue. (Sidenote: If any of you were wondering, I have discovered the secret to the perfectly straight, perfectly centered mohawk. Take a washable marker and draw "borders" on the head. Only shave up to the border markers. Wash the marker out when you're finished. Bada bing. You're welcome.)

2. I babysat my youngest niece on a whim this morning while my sister-in-law (this one, not this one) went to the dentist. She (my sister-in-law, I mean; my niece is an infant and not able to work, even in countries with no child labor laws) paid me for my "efforts" (I use this term loosely because the baby napped 2/3 of the time she was with me) with Sheetz MTO coffee. I was more than pleased with this form of currency.

3. I went to Chuck E Cheese for the first time in my life this evening. My oldest niece (who also belongs to the aforementioned sister-in-law) turned 7 last week, and B's mother set up a party with The Mouse (this one, not this one) for her family and ours. B had to work until 9:00, so Cara came in his stead. We ate pizza, played skee ball (and a bunch of other games, but let's face it: skee ball is the best), climbed on things (okay, the kids climbed on things - the adults supervised), and cashed in our tickets for some dollar store quality, Grade A crap prizes.

3. a. Scout is TERRIFIED of all things in costume (I need her to get over this by the time she is 7 because my lifelong dream is to take the kids to DisneyWorld for Christmas when she is 7 and Jude is 5), so during the big birthday song and dance, wherein Chuck himself graced us with his presence, she clung to me like a baby spider monkey and cried, begging to go hide in the bathroom until he was gone.

3.b. My niece made out like a bandit at the prize counter, primarily due to her special birthday girl status (which raked in something like 700 tickets without her having to play a single game), going home with a jewelry making kit, an arm full of bracelets, and a pocket full of candy. My kids? Well, they're a bit below the typical Chuck E Cheese demographic, so they didn't do as well. Scout snagged herself a rainbow Slinky (which she promptly tangled in her balloon string before we had left the parking lot), a mini-box of Tinkerbell crayons, and two small plastic frogs (I'm sure she would have gladly traded all 340 tickets for 17 of the frogs if I'd let her). Jude walked away with a temporary tattoo and some Smarties. All in all, it was a lovely time for them (except for that whole "giant, terrifying mouse" business... although Jude did just fine and was actually boogieing down with him at one point).

4. Before the party, my sister-in-law, my tiny humans, and I all went to Michael's for a few much-needed (and a few much-wanted) crafty items. While we were there, Scout happened to spot a FABULOUS Charlie and Lola pop-up book, in mint condition, in a clearance bin for $5.99, so we snatched that up faster than you can say, "Soren Lorenson." I also snagged some yarn to make scarves for my kids (I know, I can't even make one scarf, so why am I stocking up on supplies to make three? I have no excuse other than the fact that hoarding runs in my family.), some supplies for our kids' traditional Father's Day gifts, and some new embroidery hoops and stamps (because I can never, ever resist the $1 stamp bin at Michael's).

5. Any day that starts with drawing on your kid's head with magic marker and ends with a trip to Michael's and Chuck E Cheese is a good day. It's also a long day, which is why this is so late and why it's all you get for today.

The end.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Okay, about that "every day" business

Let's be honest. I don't turn on my computer most weekends (except to do homework, which, as you know, I will not be doing for another five weeks). To keep my weekends free to party (and by "party" I mean "nap" and "take my kids to the farmer's market and/or library"), I'm going to revise my previous "I will blog every day" statement. I will blog every WEEKday. It seems more manageable and gives me time to recharge my wit over the weekend so that I can regale you with tales of hilarity and/or woe throughout the week. Besides, don't you have better things to be doing with your weekends too?

So ... this is the part where I'm supposed to regale you with a tale of hilarity and/or woe, huh? Let's get down to business, then.

So, Friday afternoon, the kids and I went over to visit B's grandma (who is also our next door neighbor, you may recall). We decided to take the "road" (read: circular driveway) instead of walking through the grass because it had rained half the day and Grandpa had just mowed, so there were clumps of wet grass everywhere. We had a lovely visit and then, because I was feeling frivolous (Guess whose husband got a job! What up?) and it was just me and the kids for dinner, we decided to go get Chinese takeout. We placed our order (chicken and mixed veggies for me, chicken lo mein for the kiddos) then went next door to the grocery store for some beverages and dessert (skinny cow ice cream sandwiches for me, popsicles for the kiddos). Scout was ecstatic because she got to push the little cart (I tell you , it is the highlight of her LIFE). We got a lot of "Oh, isn't that just darling?" looks, and everyone was freakishly kind. I later realized it was probably because I recently purchased these headbands, and people probably thought I had cancer because my hair is so short you can hardly see it when I have them on. Morbid? Perhaps, but I have a feeling it may come in handy if I ever have 21 items in my basket and need to use the express checkout lane. Who is going to begrudge a young, tumorous mom one measly extra item? That's immoral. I digress. (I also meticulously count my items if I plan on using express checkout because I am terrified of being "that person" and the prospects of someone confronting me about my abuse of the 20 items or less lane. I digress from my digression.)

Anyways, we came home and ate, and after dinner, the kids were covered in MSG and popsicle residue, so I decided to plunk them in the tub. They splashed; I scrubbed; we drained the tub (a mini-poem, just for you). As I was lifting Scout out of the tub, I saw what I thought was a freckle under her chin. I thought, "Huh... How is it possible that I have never noticed that freckle before?" Upon slightly closer inspection, I decided it didn't look like a freckle so much as a scab. I thought, "That's weird. How did she get a scratch on her neck?" Then I did what any normal person would do: I scratched at it. (What? Don't act all affronted. I'd like to see you resist the siren call of a mystery scab.) It didn't come off. At this point, I was totally confused, so I had Scout lay down across my lap and tilt her head back so the light from the bathroom vanity would illuminate the mystery spot. I peered at it. I peered closer. And then, I saw what no mother wants to see...

The spot had legs.

Blogger keeps shrinking my images, making the text difficult to read
(and making all of my hard work on the non-magnified parasite
completely worthless). Lame.

Eight, horrifying legs. This is the part where I totally impressed myself. I simply said, "Scout, I need you to lay (Lie? I have a degree in English, and I still don't know the lay/lie rule.) right here and wait for me. I'll be right back." Then I calmly walked out of the room and called my sister-in-law. Since Handsome, her husband, is a firefighter/EMT, and they are both "outside people" (unlike me, a strictly inside person), I figured they'd be able to tell me what to do. It was very cool for me to be able to interact with Handsome in that capacity. I got a tiny glimpse (or earful, as the case may be) of him on the job, and he was totally in his element. I half expected him to call me "ma'am" or something. He didn't even say anything remotely terrifying to try and freak me out (which rarely if ever works anymore because I am totally used to his antics). He confirmed that it was, in fact, a deer tick on my child's jugular and told me how to go about removing it. He also suggested that I keep it in case we needed to take it to the doctor (which is why I have a Ziploc bag on my fridge that reads, "Scout Deer Tick 5/20/2011, Do Not Open or Throw Away," and every time I look at it, all I can think is, "Dead Dove. Do Not Eat." Love that show). Equipped with this knowledge, I went back to the bathroom armed with tweezers and the parenthetically aforementioned Ziploc and set about trying to remove the nasty little parasite.

At this point, I should mention that Scout fears the tweezers more than death itself. Once she realized I wanted to use them so close to one of her major blood vessels, she kind of, sort of, freaked out a tiny bit lot. While she kicked and screamed and flailed and I tried to remove the tick without puncturing her artery, I managed to pull the body off, but the head remained in her neck. When she kicked at me again, I noticed that she had another one on her thigh. Abandoning the disembodied head, I decided to try for the one on her leg instead. I'm not sure how, but I managed to get that one out completely without severing her femoral artery. When I tried to go back for the remnant of the one under her chin, she clung to my neck shrieking, "I'm scared! I'm scared, Mom! I'm a-scared of the tweezers! I'm just SCA-AARED!!!" At which point, I am pretty sure my heart looked like this:

Contents may have shifted during delivery.

She broke it right into a million, zillion pieces. It was heartbreaking, that's why. So I returned to the phone to ask my sister-in-law if it was imperative that I get the head out and/or if this was emergency-room-worthy (since we live in Western PA, where "deer tick" often equals "Lyme Disease"). She consulted Handsome, who did not seem to think so, but they agreed to call his mother (a nurse) and get her to call me. A few minutes later, she rang to say that we could wait until Monday to call the doctor, and she was pretty sure the remaining head would come out on its own, but she had a few tactics I could try to get it out without tweezers. (Both were a bust. Sorry, Leah.) In the end, I got Scout to settle down, put her and Jude to bed, and we all went about our weekend with Scout telling anyone who would listen that she had two deer ticks on her (cue the serious face) and it was very scary (insert gravely emphatic nod here).

I took her to the doctor this morning, where she was a total champ (probably because no tweezers were involved), and they put her on a round of antibiotics just to be safe. She's not running a fever and her bites haven't turned rashy, so I'm thinking she's out of the woods (both figuratively and literally; we don't need her going in there and getting more of those little bloodsuckers on her). The part that has me the most confused is where on earth she picked them up in the first place. Although I suppose when you're 38 inches tall, even walking into the as-yet unmowed yard to pick a dandelion could land you with them. Who knows? All I know is that this has firmly reinforced my "inside person" status.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Crocheting is nothing like riding a bike.

Hello, long-neglected readers. You know that old adage, "It's just like riding a bike," that's supposed to mean you never forget how to do something? First of all, let me tell you that while you may never forget how to ride a bike, you will lose a lot of your bike riding skills if you, like me, go for nearly ten years without mounting a bicycle (haha - mounting I'm 12). When I was a kid, I biked all the time. My sister and I would ride our bikes for hours up and down the street in front of our parents' house. As we got older and our biking parameters were expanded, we would go on long trail rides or bike to friends' houses several miles away. I wasn't about to join the Tour de France or anything, but I was a proficient rider. I knew when to change gears, I could pedal up steep hills, and turn from a paved road onto gravel without wiping out. I loved to see how fast I could go down hills or on long straight stretches.

Fast forward to the present. I haven't been on a bike in nearly a decade. Last summer, I thought I would start biking for fitness with a friend of mine. I weebled and wobbled and huffed and puffed... sure I could keep the bike upright, but I was clearly out of practice. If I surpassed about 3 miles per hour, I felt like I was careening out of control. Forget sudden moves - I locked my elbows and was afraid to make any moves at all on the gravel. I could barely make it up a gradual incline and then rode my brakes the whole way back down ... I was a real embarrassment. Crista, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I put you through that whole charade and forced you to be seen with me (even if we were only seen by B's grandparents).

All of that to say, after ten years away from the banana seat (haha - banana seat I'm 12), you might not forget the basics of how to ride a bike, but you're not going to be any good at it either. Well, let me tell you this: Crocheting is nothing like riding a bike. Shocking, I know. You're reeling from this information. I'll give you a moment.


Okay then. For you skeptics, allow me to demonstrate the ways in which these two activities are different:

You know another way in which these two activities are nothing alike? You can totally forget how to crochet. ("Why didn't I add that to the table?" you ask. Well, because I already converted the Word document to a Paint image and then closed the Word document without saving it, and I don't want have time to go back and create another one with this information.) Last night I thought I would get started on my totally nerdtastic Ravenclaw scarf. In my mind's eye, it was going to look something like this:

I'd say this is drawn to scale, but that would be one wide scarf.
Actual scarf would be much longer in comparison to width. You get the idea.

There were a few problems I knew I was going to encounter with this project: First of all, I have never worked with multiple colors of yarn in one garment before. Second of all, I have only ever crocheted one thing (a tiny scarf for Scout when she was 15 months old), and that was nearly three years ago. Third, the person who taught me to crochet (Shout-out to Kristi! Holla!) still lives in VA, and we have since relocated to the North (cue sad banjo music). Still, I felt confident. I thought my only real issue was going to be learning how to graft the two colors together. Oh, self from yesterday at about 9:30pm, how misguided and overly optimistic you were.

I thought I'd start by looking up some "patterns" on Google. (Did you know that a crochet pattern is all text with no pictures and is written entirely in Granny jargon? I didn't. I'm still trying to figure out what a yo is, besides a slang term that I overuse in daily conversation in a desperate attempt to appear younger and hipper than I really am.) I finally found a site that included pictures of the steps necessary to incorporate the new yarn into the project, so I bookmarked it and sat down to begin. I held my crochet hook in my right hand. I passed it to my left. I picked up my blue yarn. I put it down. (This is riveting stuff, self. You're going to be the next Dickens, I can feel it). Suddenly, I realized that I had no idea how to start. I thought I knew what to do once I got started, but I just could not remember how to start that first stitch (stitch? chain? yo?) . Then I had an epiphany. I would find a YouTube tutorial on crochet! That would solve all of my problems! Oh, self from yesterday at about 9:35pm, how earnest and overly optimistic you were. I loaded the video and began to watch... After about 15 seconds, the woman was still adjusting her zoom angle on her hand and talking about holding the yarn at precisely the right tension between her middle finger and her thumb. By the 20-second mark, I was scanning the list of recommended videos in the sidebar and had Googled "how to start crocheting" in another tab. (Did I mention that I have a doctor's appointment this morning to determine whether or not ADD medication might be appropriate for me?) Finally, I felt ready to begin. I sat down on the couch and began to work, carefully counting stitches/chains/yos, and telling myself how proud of me Laura Ingalls would be (when in doubt, I ask myself, "WWLID?"). After about 35 minutes, this is what I came up with:

Roughly half the size of the actual product . In addition to crochet,
let's add drawing crochet projects in MS Paint
to my list of "Things I Cannot Do."

Just like when I went on that attempted bike ride with Crista, I felt like a total embarrassment. Where had that strange lump on the bottom come from? Why was the scarf getting narrower with each row of chains/yos/stitches? Where was a Finch when I needed one? (Kristi learned at the feet of her mother, who is a true artist with a crochet hook.) Would Laura Ingalls still want to hang out with me? I knew I had gone horribly awry when I tried to just pull the yarn to unravel the whole thing, and it got stuck on a giant knot about halfway through the scarf mess.

Sometimes, I think that I think I'm craftier than I really am. It's one of my biggest flaws (right alongside crippling social anxiety and flat feet). So... that's the story of how I wasted my evening. If you made it this far, I'm impressed. If you didn't, I can't blame you. If you know how to crochet or know of a good online tutorial, please leave a comment so I can figure out what the heck I'm doing instead of wasting six weeks' worth of evenings on the scarf that was not meant to be. Save me from myself.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hey! Remember when I told you all those things?

Of course you don't. Because I haven't told you things in ages. Because I am a terrible bloggess who neglects you. Can you ever forgive me? I got my eyebrows waxed just for you! (Okay, that's not true. I primarily did it for me... but it's still a public service, much like putting on foundation and eye liner. I'm doing my part to keep Pennsylvania beautiful.) I have these aspirations and dreams, in which I write every day and become a really good bloggess, like my sister-in-law, whom I adore. And then ... I write one post in five months. I'd call it baby steps, but I'm pretty sure it's just laziness.

I inadvertently ended up not taking a class for the first half of this summer (long story short, it starts with my procrastination habit and bad memory and ends with some late paperwork and a less-than-pleasant email from the registrar), so I am hoping to put some of my newfound "free time" to good use (if you define "good use" as "redecorating the guest room to double as an office space," "crocheting a Ravenclaw scarf for my nerdy self," and "finally watching all of those episodes of How I Met Your Mother on my DVR"... oh, and "blogging more"). I'm going to try and start small. Maybe I'll only get a paragraph up every day. Maybe it'll just be a crappy list. Maybe it'll be a picture of something ridiculous my children got into. Whatever. In the words of a random blog commenter whose name I don't remember now, "You'll get whatcha get and you won't pitch a fit."
(Way to go, self. You're really endearing yourself to the neglected readers, making them want to stick around. Keep sellin' it.)

For today, to start small, we're going with a list. Here are some things I think are super-cool.

1. Florence and the Machine

Some people think she's presumptuous, trying too hard to be "artsy," a Lady Gaga wannabe, or just making a ballyhoo. I think she's brilliant.

2. Coke Zero

Anyone who has known me for pretty much any length of time knows about my near-addiction status with this beverage. I'm also discovering that as I get older, I am becoming one of Those People. You know, Those People. Don't know what I'm talking about? Allow me to set the scene. You're in a restaurant, and the server has just asked for your drink order. Those People ask, "Do you have Coke or Pepsi products?" and if the server says, "Pepsi," Those People say, "I'll just have a water." I swore I wouldn't become That Person. I scoffed, "I might have preferences, but I am not going to become a snob about it." Well, neglected readers, I am a lying liar who lies like a lazy dog wearing an ill-fitting wig on a cheap rug because I am (slowly, but surely) becoming That Person. Lord, help me.

3. WheezyWaiter, Charlieissocoollike, and the Vlogbrothers

In my opinion, these are the three (technically four) most talented vloggers on YouTube. A lot of people think that YouTube is just for Family Guy clips, cute cat videos, and movies of sick skateboarding tricks, but that is just not true. YouTube is like television for busy, thinking people. There are a lot of original content creators out there (someday, I'd love to be one of them. I think sometimes that I'd be much more likely to vlog than I am to blog), putting out lots of funny, creative, intelligent stuff. I've discovered more bands, learned more science and history facts, kept up with current events, and given more money to charity because of YouTube than I have because of TV and regular newspapers combined. I am telling you this: YouTube is the future of media. You have been warned. Below I have highlighted some good "starting-point" videos from each of the aforementioned content creators:

Craig Benzine (aka The Wheezy Waiter) tells you why you'll never be original:

Charlie McDonnell sings a duet... with himself (WARNING: You will hum this song for days):

John and Hank (aka the Vlogbrothers) explain what it means to be a part of their community:

I realize that was an exceptionally short list, but I feel like I've inundated you with enough crap for one day. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually have original (but not really) thoughts or words of my own to share. If you're not bitter about my bad blogging skills and neglect, leave a comment and tell me about some things that you think are super-cool.