Let's get one thing straight

I love Erma Bombeck. But I ain't her. Unfortunately. OMG. That's the first time I ever wrote "ain't."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where's a Brat Kid When You Need One?

Home schooling an only child creates extra concerns. Like, "What brat kid will tell my angel the truth about Santa?"

Sydney is in third grade this year. By the time I was her age, I knew because the neighborhood brat kid told me. I was in kindergarten when she burst my bubble. Knowing she was probably just being mean to me, I figured I'd better ask my mom for the truth. So I did.


"Does Tim know?" I demanded.  Because if my older brother Tim knew, I was really going to be mad.

She nodded.

That did it!

They'd tricked me. Everyone in our house knew except me. Even the brat kid knew. I'd been taken for a fool. I didn't care about the presents. It was more about dignity, by golly! I imagined them secretly laughing behind my back. I decided to get even, but that's another story.

This is our second year of home school. A few nights of watching George Lopez last summer took care of the "How will she learn what 'bad' words are" conundrum. But what about Santa? Does George Lopez take requests?

"So are you gonna be the brat kid or me?" I asked Jim just about a month ago.

"What brat kid?"

"The brat kid that tells Syd the truth about Santa."

He laughed. "I guess we do have to consider that, don't we?"

"Are you JUST NOW thinking of this? I started worrying about it last year."

"Why don't we wait and see. Maybe she'll ask us."

"I don't know if that's a good idea. I was furious. If we let this go on til she's in junior high, she might turn goth or something."

"Were you goth?"

"NO, but I might have been if we'd had goth back then."

"But you turned out okay."

"No I didn't. I'm bitter and angry."

"Because the brat chick told you about Santa?"


I don't know how he does it, but the conversation just kinda ended there.

Two weeks ago, it happened. I was working on one computer and she was planning her arcade empire on the laptop. "Hey, I wanna ask you something," she started.

I'd never heard that tone from her before. I was afraid it was about babies, but she doesn't talk about them much. She doesn't like them. She's been very vocal about not adding any to our family.

"I want to ask you a question and I want the truth. Not a little truth, but all the truth. I don't want some crazy explanation that doesn't really answer my question," she said.

Geesh. She's figured out my dodging technique.

"Is Santa just parents who get up in the night to check on their kids and then they put the presents out?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Just answer the question." (Pretty obvious that her dad was an investigator for a number of years.)

So we had a nice long talk. There was no name calling or vowing to get even like in my case almost 40 years ago. No foot stomping accusations. Just a big hug followed by a sincere "Thank you."

I sent Jim a text message to let him know.

"Is she mad?" he asked.

"Nope. She's grateful and has been respectful all night."

When Jim got home from work, Syd made sure to let him know about our talk. Then, she informed him that she's prepared a handy shopping list by copying and pasting photos from online toy stores of all the things she wants. Thirty-six pages worth.

"It's in the Dropbox so you can read it on your iPhone," she said. "I just want to make Christmas shopping a little easier."

Maybe we'd been better of if she had gotten mad.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Things My 8 Year Old Said this Summer

"It's too bad you can't get paid for sitting around, belching, and pootying."

"I've made this check list of Build-a-Bears that I want. Will you help me calculate the tax so I know how much money you need to give me?"

"Will YOU pay the tax on my Build-a-Bears? After all, a kid shouldn't have to pay taxes. I don't even have an accountant."

"You mean there are lots of different kinds of taxes? I've got to ask Mamaw if the Republicans caused that."

"What should I do if I'm ever held captive in a brick building with no windows, a cement floor, and a cast iron roof?"

"What's so scary about zombies? It's not like they work out or anything."

"I've created an online wish list of all the things I want to order to sell in my zoo souvenir shop. I'm going to mark them waaay up so I can make a ton of money."

"That lady at Bible school keeps telling us to bring more money for those foreign orphans. I just want to know if those foreign orphans are going to make our house payment or buy our groceries. How much does that woman expect from us?"

"I'm going to go pack for time travel. I want to be ready to go as soon as I figure out how to do it."

"Can we go to Texas to dig for dinosaur bones? I want to find them then sell them to museums."

"If Twilight wasn't so popular, I wouldn't have to worry about the wolf Build-a-Bear selling out before I can buy it."

"Will you Google search inflatable animals? I've been thinking -- inflatable animals don't eat so an inflatable zoo would be cheaper to maintain."

"I'll let you work for me at my aquarium and I'll even pay you a little bit."

"Can we have a shark? It doesn't have to be a big one."

"Cake ice cream cones are misleading. They are not made of cake. Not at all."

"I know your back hurts but remember, it could be worse. You could be a whole lot older than you already are."

"I can't explain it. The purple vanilla ice cream at Purple Cow just tastes better."

"I wanted to be in Girl Scouts so I could earn patches, then I thought: Duh. You have an embroidery machine. So, here's this book. I've marked 71 embroidery designs that I want you to make as patches. When can you have those to me?"

"Do I have to pants today?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Fired My Kid Today

If my 8 year old kid tells you she's going to juvey, she's not. She's just on probation. Let me explain.

I fired my kid this morning.

Let's get something straight. I didn't fire her from being my kid. That's a job, sure enough, one that she'd probably resign from if she knew all about resignations. But she's 8 and doesn't even like writing her school work so a strongly worded resignation letter is years away.

But she does have a job to support her habit -- Build-a-Bears. She's made a computer listing of all the animals she wants to buy, outfits and accessories. She knows that in 8 weeks, she'll meet her first goal and will be able to fund her well-planned trip to the store.

Her "job" is just normal kid-stuff chores: making her bed, feeding and watering the dog and cat, walking the dog twice a day, and picking up any of her cups or dishes she might have left in her room before bedtime. That's it. No toilet scrubbing or floor waxing. No digging trenches or cleaning out the septic tank. But today I snapped and fired her.

There were three bugs floating in the cat's water dish outside. That's what started it all.

"What are bugs doing in the water dish?" she whined.

"Apparently drowning," I said.

"I hate bugs."

"I know."

"Will you do it?"

"No. It's your job."

"But I don't like bugs."

So I explain that it's easy to scoot the bowl to the edge of the porch, then pick it up by one corner and pour the bugs over the side. No touching the bugs required.

"That sounds good. Will you do it?"


Whine, whine, whine. Whine. Whinety-whine-whine.

"You know what? You don't get to negotiate in a real job. In a real job, you have duties and you are expected to do them. So are you going to empty that water and fill it with fresh water or not?"

"I really don't like bugs," she said.

"Does that mean you are going to fill the water or not?"


"Okay. You're fired."

"Fired? What does that mean?"

"It means you no longer have a job."

Tears filled her eyes.

"Will you just give me the money for Build-a-Bears?"

I can't believe she asked that.

Yes I can. "No."

"How can I get my job back?"

"Do it -- all of it -- without whining."

She got the cup of water and did it. Without complaining. Dead bugs and all.

So, she's been rehired but she's still in her probationary stage. But as I told her the good news, tears came to her eyes again. "Does that mean I have to go to juvey?"

"What do you know about juvey?"

"Well, Sam on iCarly went there for sticking a chili dog in some foreign guy's pants."

Ah, yes. I remember that episode. It was especially funny. But no, no juvey and not that kind of probation.

We've talked about a lot of stuff today: work ethic, jobs, firing, hiring, work probation and juvey -- all before noon. Something tells me this is going to be a looong day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting a Head in the Yard

So I find this head in my burn pile....

I know. You're thinking, "Just what is a burn pile?"

A burn pile is where you put everything else that you don't know what to do with when you live just past city limits. It's true.

Jim and I were out doing some yard work recently and we were commenting on how much of our land we've reclaimed. "I remember when you couldn't even walk out this far into the yard," he said.

"I remember when our burn pile wasn't as tall as me standing on my own shoulders," I said.

He looked at me and smiled. We've been married long enough that he knows that's how I measure things...by how many of me's I'd have to stack up. I do the same with width, too, but we won't go there.

This particular burn pile is the largest in the yard. It's in the back, thank goodness.  All the stuff we had to rip out of the house when we bought it is in that pile. In a way, it's sentimental.

It's also got a tree in it. One fell over this winter during our crazy weather. It barely missed our storage building, but it did. Jim cut it up to put in on the pile the first day I met Chuck Norris. Ah, memories.

There are chairs in this burn pile, too. They're from my shabby chic days. They were way more shabby than chic.

It's also got an old pool in it. The pool was one of those cheapy fill'er up things that was big enough for the whole family to splash around in. I was skimming it one day before water play with the kiddo when I saw a black widow spider run underneath it.

"Get out here and kill this spider!" I yelled. Jim came out and did so. But I was convinced that the black widow had laid eggs in and or around the pool and it would never ever be safe. If nothing else, it must have been a black widow magnet because I was in my 40s and had never seen one before. I pointed to the burn pile and he dragged it off.

Most of the stuff in the burn pile is brush. There was a huge bushy mass in our front yard that Jim cut down as soon as we bought the house.

This big burn pile is at the edge of our ravine (which you must pronounce as RAAveen once you move just past the city limits sign). We were talking about why the pile has never been burned.

I have a few rules around here. One is: hide all fire sources from Jim on windy days. It seems like that's when he has the time/urge to burn. I'll give him credit -- he's learned to control it over the years. Rule 2: keep the fire insurance paid (which is also necessary when you live past the city limits sign)...just in case. Rule 3: no burning unless he can be with the fire all day and night.

Rule 3 is the one that has held up burning progress for so long. As an investigator here for a number of years, we never knew for sure when he'd be called out. He was on call 24/7 and his time off depended on the criminal element of our area. Don't get me wrong. Our town is nice and safe most of the time, but we're located on an interstate. That means folks from out of town drive here, do stupid stuff, then try to leave. We also have domestic violence in our area, like most places. And of course there are the hunting club break-ins. And dog fights.

With his new job, though, he doesn't get called out so much on his days off. Now the problem has been drought. Then wind.

We were standing there talking about it when I realized he was standing on an arm.

"Is that a head?" I asked. I wasn't right up on it, but it sure looked like a head. We have neighbors who also add stuff to this burn pile but I'm pretty sure they're not killers.

"Yeah," Jim said.

Yeah. That was it.

"Well, whatup with a head in our burn pile?" I asked. The reason I was surprisingly calm is because once, when I lived alone in my hometown, I had a fight with my neighbors. They put their trash in my yard. I know because I opened the trash and found their address on mail inside. I asked them nicely to stop. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that I found their address inside the garbage bag. In hindsight, that does sound a little psychotic.

Not to be out-psychoed, they proceeded the next week to dump their garbage around my mailbox and burn it. There was something that looked like a human skull in the middle. I called the police.

A friend on the force came out and looked at it. He poked it with a stick. He looked at me. He poked the skull some more. "This isn't a skull," he said. It's a football helmet. This stuff melted. That's all."

"What's my next step?" I asked. I figured he'd arrest them or ask me to fill out an affidavit to press charges. He told me I should learn to keep my mouth shut. Or maybe move.

But that was almost 20 years ago. Now here I am, with a head in my yard again.

"It's that old mannequin I found," he reminded me.

Stupid mannequin has scared me a number of times over the last eight years because I forgot about him. Jim and another buddy found him in a dumpster while checking downtown after an alarm sounded years ago. I saw it in my storage building once and almost passed out. He was lying by Jim's car project once -- a Cougar up on blocks (which is also a must have for life beyond the city limits sign) Now, this.

I've named him Bernie...Burn pile Bernie.

Now, to deal with that elephant in my yard.....

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Redemption Bag

If you've ever been an 8 year old girl, you know this is true: you are only as cool as your sleeping bag.

My 8 year old daughter is at her first sleepover tonight. She's never spent the night away from home. I was just like her 36 years ago. The first sleepover didn't warrant a bag. Most of us made a pallet out of quilts because, honestly, our moms didn't see investing in a sleeping bag if we weren't going to use it for several years. But after the first successful sleepover, I got my sleeping bag.

It was mostly yellow and had big red apples and hearts on it. Inside the apples, it said "You're the apple of my eye." I was 9. It was cute.I don't remember picking it out. It probably came from the Sears catalog (for you younguns, that's sort of like an online store printed out on paper). It's how we ordered stuff before the Internet. It might have come from the Shur-Value store in Little Rock. It used to be that when we went grocery shopping, we were given trading stamps as a thank you for our purchase. Those stamps were licked and stuck in books that we collected then traded in for merchandise.

The sleeping bag was fine. I think I was in 7th grade before someone made fun of it. As I unrolled it, I heard a friend snicker, "You're the apple of my eye." It became apparent that this bag was not meant for a 12 year old.

I don't know how I presented the topic to my mother. I mean, the bag was good enough. There was nothing wrong with it. But someone had made fun of it. My dad would have told me to slug the person who made fun of it. My mom, on the other hand, must be the one I told because I ended up with a new bag. It was a Hershey's sleeping bag that looks like a label, but not the brown label we're all familiar with today. It's so old that I couldn't even find a picture of it online.

That bag got me thru my sleepover years, then was used by my niece. I thought I saw it at my mom's house recently and asked her about it. She had forgotten about it.

"How can you forget the Redemption Bag?" I asked.

"Redemption Bag?"

"Yes. Redemption! It redeemed my social status in junior high."

"You had a social status in junior high?"

Nothing like a kick in the confidence seat 30 years after the fact.

I told her the story about how I  had been made fun of at a party because of my old sleeping bag.

"I'm surprised you didn't knock her out," my mom said, knowing that I was apt to take my dad's advice had he given it. But it was puberty and my hormones were making me try to be all girly and stuff so there was no bloodshed. I do, however, recall wondering if the fun-poking would warrant me dropping the girl during our levitation game or using my Ouija board to predict her certain doom. Because all us Christian girls became pagans during sleepovers. But that's another story.

My mom said, "That's the silliest thing ever. I can't believe someone made fun of you for your sleeping bag and that I bought you a new one because of it." Whew. Thank goodness I had a kinder, gentler mom 30 years ago.

"Hey," I snapped. "It's a good thing you did because someone else was making fun of that sleeping bag not too long ago."

"Who?" she demanded.

"Donna." I answered. Donna has been my pal since 10th grade. We've known each other since fifth, but it wasn't until 10th grade that we tagged up as best buddies. Not too long ago she laughed and said, "Who was it that had that 'You're the apple of my eye' sleeping bag?"

That was me. We laughed about it. I don't even think she was at the party when the initial remark was made. Thus proving that a girl's sleeping bag reputation precedes her and sticks with her for life.

So Syd got her first sleepover invitation this week. My first sleep over was for my friend Lori's birthday. Syd's was for Lori's daughter. "We'll need to go buy you a sleeping bag," I said.

"You can use mine," Jim said. He thought he was being helpful. I must have had *that* look on my face.

"It's in the hall closet," he continued.

"I know where it is! I'm not sending my kid to her first sleepover in an Army green camping bag." I'm pretty sure I was indignant. He obviously didn't know girl code. So I told them the story about the apple sleeping bag and how I had redeemed myself in the eyes of teen girls with the Hershey bag.

"I had no idea that Hershey trumped Army green," Jim said thoughtfully.

"Duh. It's CHOC-O-LATE. Of COURSE it trumps slick Army green. I mean, I want your sleeping bag if I'm lying in mud in a tent but I want mine if I'm asleep on another girl's floor."

"I've never seen another kind of sleeping bag," he said. But that's understandable because he's never been a little girl.

"Do you still have that Hershey bag, Mama?" Sydney asked me a day or so later. I called my mom to ask and sure enough, it was at her house. "Can I use it for Abby's party?" she asked.

Well, of course.

We got it from my mom, washed it and fluffed it up. It's seriously 30 years old. Other than a little fading it was fine. She was happy to roll it up and carry it with her tonight. We'll see how it went over tomorrow.

"You know Syd took my old sleeping bag tonight, right?" I asked Jim.

"The apple one?" he asked innocently.

"Well, no! The Redemption Bag. She took the Redemption Bag."

"Redemption bag? The Hershey bag?  You're calling it the Redemption Bag?"

"Yes I am. Because it redeemed my social status in junior high."

"You had a social status in junior high?" Somehow I'm starting to think I didn't. And unfortunately now I know it was no fault of my choice of sleeping bag.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Prince Penguin

"Will and Kate pen"

That's the second most popular thing trending on Yahoo as I write. Before I could even click on the link embedded, my mind was racing....

Will and Kate pen...itentiary sentence?

Will and Kate pen...one-hit wonder?

Will and Kate pen...cil dates on calendar?

Will and Kate pen...dulum hangs at Big Ben?

Will and Kate pen...sion is cut?

Will and Kate pen...ny minted in UK?

Will and Kate pen...tagon guests?

Will and Kate pen...sacola honeymoon?

Will and Kate pen...tagram?

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I had to know.


Will and Kate penguin? You're kidding, right?

Nope. The woosome twosome has been given a penguin from the Chester Zoo. They're adoptive parents of a penguin named .... Acorn. Not the name I'd pick for a penguin, but nobody asked me.

Names I'd suggest for the penguin:

Billy (after his father, assuming that he's male. The penguin, that is. I think we all know Will is male. After all, nobody talked about his dress before the wedding)

Chuck (to honor his grandfather)

Randy (just b/c I know a guy named Randy who looks like the penguin in "Happy Feet")

Percival (for the alliteration alone)

and, possibly my favorite due to marketing potential -- Prince.

Just think. They could use music by Prince to blast from the zoo speakers and they could cast purple lights on the penguin water, which would have to include a water fall to create a mist that would resemble "purple rain." Come on, you saw that coming.

Anyways, congrats to the Duke and Duchess on their bouncing baby penguin. I hope someone gets to spend Mother's Day at the zoo with her little one ;D

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our first trip to Build-an-Addict Workshop

We took our 8 year old daughter to Build-an-Addict Workshop. You know the place, you pick a limp-bodied critter, fill it with the perfect amount of stuffing then dress it. I didn't think Syd would have fun there. She hates to shop and try on clothes. I figured she'd hate the whole outfit approach and just leave with a naked animal.


She finally decided on the lamb and explained to her daddy why. "It's a limited edition Easter lamb. So, they're not going to make any more. The lady said there are only two bags of them left, then they won't get anymore. It's rare." Yes, she asked the lady how many more lambs she had in stock and if she'd be getting more. When I was pregnant, we used to do a lot of flea market collectible shopping. I think this is one of those things she picked up in the womb.

"That's nice," he said as he headed to the register to pay.

"No, wait," said the really nice sales lady. "We've got to make her fluffy."

She talked to Syd about the importance of caring for her new stuffed, cuddly friend. We chuckled. What she didn't know is that we talk to Syd about the importance of caring for her real life cuddly friend (min pin Candy) and it's all for naught as soon as cleaning up pee or poop is involved. "At least this one won't pee," Jim said.

The nice sales lady gave us the evil eye.

Then she went back to her speech.

Just before pulling the string to tie the stuffing into the lamb, she told Syd to pick out a heart. Syd reached into a box of 2 inch hearts and handed one to the lady.

"Not yet," the lady said. "First, you have to rub it in your hands to make sure it's always warm."

Jim raised his eyebrow. The one that I call Geraldo Rivera. Honestly, an eyebrow that can move on its own like that deserves to have its own name.

"Now, touch it to your heart so it will always feel close to you." Or something like that. Whatever it was, the kid was eating it up.

"Touch it to your head, so it will be as intelligent as you are."

"Touch it to your tummy, so it will never be hungry."

I lean over to Jim and whisper, "Touch it on your booty so it will always have health bowel movements." He laughed. The sales lady did not. She's never met us before so there's no way she could know of my mom's obsession with everyone's bowel movements. ("Did Syd go to the bathroom today? Did she eat salad? You should give her prune juice. Does she eat as much peanut butter as Jim? Bananas will constipate her. Did I send enough bananas home with Syd?" --yeah, there's no logic.) Anyway, there's no way that sales lady could have heard me. Jim says it was the motion I did that gave it away.

Oh. Oops.

The end was to kiss the heart and drop it inside the lamb. Syd kissed "at" the heart and tried to stick it inside. The lady said, "That wasn't a kiss. Give it  REAL kiss." Syd froze and I knew that my 8 years of brainwashing had paid off.

"It's a germ issue," Jim explained to the clerk. As it turns out, she has a Geraldo Rivera on her face, too.

I explained further. "You have all these hearts in a box and lots of little fingers touch them and we don't know where those little fingers have been or what was on them when they touched the little hearts. I think I have an individually wrapped sanitizer wipe in my pocket..."

"Just put it in," she told Syd.

Anyway, we got through the ritual. From there, it's time to fluff your critter at the spa station. My kid who hates to hear a blow drier absolutely loved blow drying this lamb.

"Now it's time to pick an outfit," the sales lady said.

It was like someone aimed a remote at the kid and pushed "fast forward." OMG. Seriously. I didn't know she could move that fast.

She had cheer outfits, swimsuits, coats, crowns, shoes, you name it. I stepped in to start winding things down. I limited her to one outfit. She wanted to know if she could get the car and the beach chair to go with the outfit.

No, not today.

So in trying to decide what to get, the sales lady suggests getting a first outfit that reflects something Syd loves to do. Back went the cheer outfit.

Back went the beach gear.

Back went the sparkly dress and shoes.

Then, we saw it. A night gown with a robe. Perfect for the home-schooled kid who asks, "Mom, do I have to pants today?"

Jim was relieved. The sales lady was ...well, she was hard to read at this point, but pointed out that the newest member of our family didn't have on any undies.

Jim said, "Really?" Then he looks at me and asks, "What kind of person am I if I say our lamb doesn't need undies?"

"I don't know," I said. "But there are little undie thongs back there to wear under those low cut critter jeans over there." That's his pet peeve: young girls (and old women for that matter) who wear low rise jeans and high rise thongs to show off. I forgot to tell him I was just joking.

So, we did skip the lamb undies but did get her one pair of bunny slippers. At $8 a pair, I-- the cheapskate of the family -- wasn't going to point out that the lamb has two more feet. I was the one naive enough to think we could go in and get out of the store for less than $25.

Syd named her lamb Snow, which is a good name for a fuzzy lamb whose fleece is white as snow. I had Jammy Lamby in mind, but I'm just a mom. What do I know?

I do know a little more after my Build-an-Addict experience:

1. Don't expect to build a critter for less than $25 unless you get a mini animal. They're in the back. The big ones are prominently up front. Because they expect cheapos like me.
2. The stuffing and heart ceremony is as almost as sacred as a wedding. More sacred than two of my own.
3. It's addictive for moms, too. I've spent the day designing a canopy bed and closet system to hold all the clothes I'm going to make. Snow will wear one-of-a-kind Jammy Lamby designs.
4. Get a hanger. We didn't get our hanger that the outfit came on. If we had, I'd have been able to trace it to make more. As it is, I had to design my own (I'll post it soon).
5. I wish I'd thought of that!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The butt biting ways of karma

We were watching cartoons when my 8 year old asked me about karma. A talking dog had just told a boy not to do something because "karma would bite him in the butt."

"Is that true, Mama?" she asked.


"Will karma bite you in the butt?"

"Not only will karma bite you in the butt, it can also bite the butts of those you love," I said.

Her eyes widened. "Is karma gonna bite my butt because of something you've done?" she asked.

"Nah, not you. Daddy."

"Oh." And she continued watching.

But I had one of those flashback moments. Like the ones on tv where they have squiggly or fuzzy lines to denote a flashback. Yeah. The lines were part of my flashback. I think maybe I watch too much tv.

The year was 1990-something. I was married to a different husband at the time. We had a convenience store and I loved to  heckle the customers, especially the ones who picked on me first.

Officer X was one of those. I'm not sure of his title. Honestly, I just called him by his first name. Everyone else did. It was no disrespect on my part.

He was an officer for the state Game & Fish Commission. Great guy. Always came in at the same time of day and bought the same thing. Day in and day out. And he'd find something to pick on me about. Anything. And I never could get him back.

One day as he was leaving, I noticed he was wearing a gun.

"Hey!" I shouted. "You came into my store with a gun?"

"I always wear a gun," he said. "It's part of my uniform."

"Do they let you have bullets?" I asked. I was a little serious with that question.

"Of course they let me have bullets," he answered. He could tell I was serious and I could tell he thought I was an idiot. That's the first rule of not getting picked on: Never let them realize you're an idiot.

He was just about to make fun of me when I said, in my most serious voice, "Wow.  You've got cuffs too. I guess you need them when those fish get out of line. How many times in the course of a day do you catch yourself having to say 'Spread 'em, Fish! Put your fins on the hood, Fish?"

Haha. I got him first.

He left.

But the next day he came back. I said, "You have the right to remain silent, Fish. You have the right to legal counsel, Fish." He bought his stuff and left.

But the next day he came back. "I bet those bass are troublemakers with their wide mouths and all," I said. He bought his stuff and left.

But the next day he came back. "I don't know how you put up with deer and their insubordination." I got a response.


"You know, when you interrogate one and they just stare at you like they're caught in headlights." He bought his stuff and left.

This witty, one-sided banter went on for ages. I'm not sure why I stopped picking on him. Maybe it's because he finally stopped picking on me. I figure you shouldn't dish it out if you can't take it. Maybe he figured me out.

The flashback ends about here. Squiggle lines back into reality.

Now, I'm happily married and my husband has the job of his dreams...with the Game & Fish Commission. In our state, training for this job is a lot like boot camp. It's 4 months long and extensive. It's hard work. The long-term officers generally teach classes.

That's where I feared my karma would bite my husband's butt.

Sure enough, Officer X was an instructor. I prayed long and hard that he'd never figure out that I was married to one of the cadets. I was afraid he'd have been picked on mercilessly.

"You didn't tell him who you were, did you?" I'd ask when we talked at night. No, he hadn't. Whew.

The day Officer X left, he wished my husband luck and said, "I won't be working with you, but I'm sure I'll see you when you come to visit your in-laws," he said knowingly. He knew all along and, fortunately, he's a forgiving soul.

THAT, I tell the kiddo, is how Daddy's butt could have been bitten by my karma.

But since I can't undo the past, I tell my husband, "Get ready for those trouble-making bass. I hear their wide mouths keep them in trouble."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The dog's butt towel

If you look very closely at my logo, you will see common items from my daily tedium noted on a long list. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. The first item really does say "Wash dog's butt towel."

Let me explain.

It's pretty simple, really. I'm a mom and washing butt towels is what a mom does, right? So, I guess the bigger story is in explaining exactly what a butt towel is.

Fifteen years ago, my husband (now my ex) bought me a dog for my birthday. I fell in love with the tiny, shaky, big-eared little guy (dog, not ex) when I first saw him. He was the runt. He needed me (a theme which also explains that particular marriage).  This little dog is the only good thing that's ever come out of my former co-dependence.

He's a min-pin. For those who don't know the breed, he's a yappy lap dog but looks like a bad, mean doberman.

I'm stating the obvious when I say that the dog far outlasted the relationship with the ex.

Regardless, I now have a 15 year old dog. He's bumpy and lumpy and smells like a nursing home. No matter what I do. Even after treatment and teeth cleaning, the little guy still has a condition that we in the Pennington household refer to as "butt mouth."

We've adjusted to butt mouth, but another old dog affliction recently surfaced. Apparently, he's lost a little control of his body functions. It's not bad, but we've noticed that on his way to the door to go out, we might find a small puddle near the door where he just didn't quite make it in time.

It's the same with bowel movements. In human terms, we'd refer to this as "skid marks." But since my dog doesn't wear whitey-tighties, we have to do something to protect our laps when he sits with us.

And that's where the butt towel comes in.

So, in a way, a butt towel is a whitey-tighty alternative for dogs.

And now you know the first chore on my daily to do list.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No, I don't write adult content...not that there's anything wrong with that

I'm a freelance writer and I'm working toward a master's degree.

There's some thought among my instructors that if you get paid for writing, what you're doing is far less important than the books of poetry they are paying to have published. They write for art. I write for...(spit at my feet) money. They write for the appreciation of the word. I write for that horrible green stuff.

So, they've prostitutionalized what I do. (How's that for word art? I created that one myself!)

I've always got this in the back of my mind, especially since so much of my work is ghost writing. Already, I'm a secret -- like a cheap rendezvous. But, whenever I pay my bills, I smile and scoff at the instructors who insist we buy their books so they can get royalties or those who pay just so they can have a book.

But a potential client crossed the line the other day. And it brought the whole idea of prostitutionalization to a new level.

The number on caller ID said, "Blocked." My husband's job is in law enforcement. A lot of times calls from him or from former coworkers looking for him say "blocked," so I answered expecting to talk to a familiar voice.

Instead, the voice was New Yorkish. I watch TV. I know a New York accent when I hear it.

"Yes, I got your name from your resume online at Guru," he said. Guru.com is a great place to find work if you want to get started as a freelance writer.

"Do you write adult content?" he asked.

I immediately started laughing. Not only do I NOT write adult content, I can't even have a conversation about adult content. Not without using terms like "um, the booty's neighbor" or "you know, that." I finally two years ago forced myself to read a Harlequin romance novel. I was convinced if I ever read one, I could churn them out easily. What I didn't factor in was my modesty factor and embarrassment level.

But as I'm laughing at a stranger, I realize that this man may own an adult website, but he may also own the best parenting website in the world that I might love to work for. So I regroup and apologize and explain my embarrassment level. 

I Seinfelded my response: "No, I don't write adult content...not that there's anything wrong with that." Then I tell him that I understand there is a market for his niche website, but I'm just not the writer he needs. That sounded diplomatic.

Then he whispers, "I don't have a website." He began talking faster, "This is just for me to live out my fantasy. You're the only one I've talked to today that hasn't hung up on me. I just want someone to write my story so I can relive my fantasy over and over, through literature."

Yay. With one blocked call, I've become a weirdo magnet. I laughed again and decided to make a move.

"Sir, may I ask you a personal question before you go on?"


"Are you married?"

"Yes, I am married." 

"Do you love your wife?"

"Yes, I love my wife."

"Then I suggest you talk to her. She needs to be the only person you discuss this fantasy with. And before you hit her up to become part of something you've created in your mind ask yourself if it's worth risking losing the reality that you have. And if you choose the fantasy over reality, do your wife a favor and leave her so she can find a decent husband, one who will love her and cling to her alone, not some weird fetish you've got going."

Then I hung up.

I went to my Guru profile and reviewed it again and again. Finally I found the phrase that I think triggered the call. "I can put your thoughts into words and images." My intent was to promote my writing and graphic design skills. Ooops.

Anyway, the call proved to me that I'm not a word prostitute. Earning a living and selling out are two very different things.

Don't they make fairies and mythies for us 40-somethings?

The Easter Bunny will be dropping by to fill my daughter's basket this year. Judging by our conversation tonight, it will probably be the last year.

"Mama, in a way the Easter Bunny is better than Santa because kids don't have to stress about how good they've been. I mean he doesn't bring Nintendos or anything. It's just candy."

Hm. She's right.

Then she asked if Santa spies on kids all year long with hidden cameras. The Erin Andrews peephole video came to mind. I shuddered. I quickly regained composure and found what every homeschooling parent is constantly on the lookout for -- an opportunity to teach.

So I explained to her that the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. That simply updating a naught or nice list wouldn't give Santa probable cause to spy on kids and that judges would not allow a search warrant to be issued to allow for hidden cameras, etc.

"I'm not sure how the Patriot Act affects things." I added. "I don't think it would come into play unless the kid or his parents were suspected terrorists." I was pretty proud of myself. I could feel myself beaming.

Until I noticed her eyes had glassed over.

"Let's change the subject," she said, stretching and yawning.

After tucking her into bed, I stayed up late and thought about it. I found out from a helpful neighborhood kid about Santa when I was only 5. Now that I'm nearly almost technically exactly in my mid-40s, I'd like to recapture some of those youthful myths, with an adult twist of course.

Leprechaun -- Instead of leading you to a pot of gold, how about to a pot of argan oil to tame those wild gray hairs that always stand up on top of your head?

The Easter Bunny --The bunny from our childhood needs to be replaced by a more mature hare that leaves sugar free candies with a responsible note warning that if you eat too many, you're subject to experience booty blowout.

Santa Claus -- Meno Paus leaves bad women on hormonal tirades hot bags of coals in their bed covers to make them sweat excessively at night. BUT, a good woman gets an ice bag and Spanx stuffed with estrogen cream.

How does Meno Paus know who has been naughty? Duh. Some jerk filmed you and uploaded it to YouTube. He also monitors your Facebook status.

Maybe Rankin-Bass Productions would use their 1970s stop animation techniques to make a Meno Paus cartoon to air on the new Oprah Winfrey Network. (I hope they use Mickey Rooney as the voice of Meno!)

The Tooth Fairy -- At this stage, I could really go for a Wrinkle Fairy. Upon examination of a sleeping face, the Wrinkle Fairy would realize that the fine lines and indentations there don't coincide with any on the pillowcase and she'd get to work nipping, tucking and stretching to restore smooth, wrinkle free skin. And in case there's any doubt the real Wrinkle Fairy has been there, she should leave a jar of eye cream under my pillow.

I'm okay with being older. I'm glad to have learned some valuable life lessons. But it sure wouldn't hurt to kick back and enjoy a new twist on some old myths either!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I don't want to feel stabby. I just want a ceiling fan.

Maturity is leaving when you start to feel stabby, not waiting to be escorted out for acting that way.

I know. Quality thoughts like that must be Confucius, but I actually get credit for it. Well, it wasn't all me. The sales jerk clerk at a nationally-known home improvement store inspired the revelation.

Summer is coming and my daughter's room stays warmer than any other room in the house. She's got a cute, girly ceiling fan in a room that is massive. She needs a bigger fan.

The one in my room is perfect. It's got large "palm leaf" blades and on the slowest setting, you don't even feel a breeze -- just nice, cold air. So, I went to buy another one.

They have the fan with polished pewter finish and the light kit in rubbed bronze. If you haven't looked at finishes yet, that means the fan has shiny silverish metal trims and the light kit looks like dark rusty stuff. Call me crazy, but for $200 I want my light kit and fan to match.

The associate is easy to find. He's helping a high-maintenance middle aged woman who demands that they disassemble a displayed fan for her to take to her new home site right now. Because "the guy who installs fans is only going to be there today." Around my house, we call that guy Daddy or Jim. And he does it for free because it will cut the cost of our electric bill and keep the kiddo and me happy.

The guy called a manager who insisted they could find one at a nearby store about 20 minutes away, but that wasn't good enough. High-maintenance Lady would rather wait for them to take the fan down there. The manager was apparently trying to determine their policy on such matters.

I'd listened to enough, but stood patiently waiting for my turn to ask my simple question. As the associate and the woman stood silently waiting for the manager to return, I approached the clerk to ask my quick question. He held up a finger and said, "One minute. I'm with someone else right now."

Forget that he was standing beside her not saying a word. Forget that I'd waited for about 10 minutes without so much as an acknowledgment. Forget that I wanted to show him a finger but didn't because I didn't want to explain its meaning to my kid. So, I waited.

Finally, the manager returns and the clerk walks over to me and says, "Now, what do you need?"

I could have been rude, but I was just happy to get some help. I was going to have everything at home when Jim returned this weekend so he could get it installed. In my own little way, I was doing home improvement even though it meant someone else had to do the actual work.

"Do you have the fan and a light kit in the same finish?" I asked. He looked appalled. Or disgusted. Thinking that something must have come across wrong,  I quickly explained. "The fan's finish is polished pewter but the light kit's finish is rubbed bronze. I'd just like them to match."

He says to me, "You have to have THIIIS (points to light kit) to go HEEEERE (points to fan box)."


Apparently me standing there silent meant I didn't understand, so he helped me out with further details. "THIIIS (points to the light kit) goes HEEEERE (points to exact location on the fan box).

So I figure maybe he'll understand my question if I speak his language: "I just want one of THIIIS (point to light kit) with a finish that matches this HEEEERE (point to fan box). Do you have that?"

I figured I'd get an apology. Surely he would realize how condescending he'd sounded and want to make nicey. Instead, he looked at me and said...

"If I had that on sale, I'd tell you."

And that's when I realized I had my revelation. AND that's why I'm driving 50 miles more today to buy the exact fan somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why don't you write like Erma Bombeck? Yeah. I'll add that to my list of things to do.

Most of the conversations I have outside my house go like this:

"So, what kind of work do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"What do you write?"

"I'm a ghost writer for the craft industry. I write blogs and web content."

No matter who I'm talking to, by this time their eyes have glazed over. It was worse when I wrote lesson plans for an education company.

People under 40 tend to change the subject. Those 40 and over come back with the same thing:

"You're kinda funny. You should write like Erma Bombeck."

Hmm. Now why didn't I think of that? I mean, she's the only author I read by choice in junior high and high school. Yeah, I was middle aged and suburban way before my time. Her book If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? was a lot funnier than Ethan Frome. And she used punctuation -- unlike a certain Faulkner I know.

Then I think about how the web content writing pays my bills. No one has ever hired me to write like Erma Bombeck, although there was this one lady who let me write silly stuff about a serious subject. It's always a good day when you get paid to write a poem plus get to use the phrase "cow pooties" in it. So when people tell me that I should write like Erma, I usually think to myself, "Yeah. I'll put that on my list of things to do in my free time."

My mom said it the other day. "You should write like Erma Bombeck."

"Write what?" I asked.

"Funny books. Funny books would be good. You used to write those funny columns for the newspaper and the mayor even told you how much he liked them."

But she had forgotten the rest of that story. I was talking to the mayor one day who told me how much he loved to read my weekly humor column. Then he mentioned how tired he was of reading another local columnist who often wrote about his family. "I'm so tired of reading about his kid's milestones. Like no other kid has ever done the same thing," he said. Just then, that writer walked up and the mayor shook his hand and said, "I was just telling this young lady how much I look forward to hearing about that kid of yours. I sure do love those columns you write."

Yeah. So the mayor thing is not a compliment.

My mom refuses to be computer literate. I tried to explain to her that these days many bloggers write like Erma did. And that people can read their blogs online for free all day long. What would make them buy a book?

"Well, I don't have all the answers," she snapped back. "I just think you should write like Erma Bombeck. She was even on Good Morning America."

Here's my out: "You know, the camera adds 10 pounds. I can't be on GMA. I'm already overweight as it is."

"About that, you need to get off that computer and get outside. And quit snacking so much. You've got to cut out the junk food."  Just as I'm about to bust into my "I never snack" routine, I hear a beep. "Oh, the brownies are done. How about a hot brownie with butter on it?" she beams.