Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky PhotoShoot

Ali and I spent most of the day recovering from our annual Halloween party. Other than taking care of the Ogden cats (who actually cooperated with us this time) frogs and fish, and cleaning Ali's fish bowl, we pretty much laid around like dogs.

I did manage to feed her, but we reserved most of our energy for trick-or-treating. I chose to escort Shaun White and Mario around the neighborhood this evening while Jeff stayed home to dole out the candy.

Alison insisted on taking a pillowcase to collect her bounty tonight. She didn't complain about carrying it. Dominic complained a few times when she turned it into a weapon and whacked him with it. We only made it about two blocks before she was asking me to carry her snowboard and Dominic was complaining that his legs hurt.

I'm pretty sure I could see my breath on occasion, but at least it didn't snow like it did in Maine today. Brr.

And what's up with the people who left their lights on but still wouldnt' come to the door? One woman actually walked past her open door, looked at the kids and kept on walking to another room, never answering the door. I'm OK with people taking a pass on the Halloween candyfest, but turn your lights out, man. Follow the rules. It's just mean, and you're inviting tricks. Don't think I didn't make note of the house number of that, um, witch.
As I type, the annual candy negotiations are underway. It's like Malta up there. Jeff is offering non-chocolate treats to shore up his chocolate goodness collection. I'm hoping he takes it -- along with the rest of the pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies to work with him tomorrow.

I had two bowls of zero point soup and some bran cereal, trying to stave off the lure of the candy bowl and cookie jar. Somehow four of the cookies still infiltrated my boundaries. I'm hoping to make it through the night without succumbing further.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catching up

After some glorious fall weather, a bitter wind blew in this week, and I didn't like it one bit. The weather folk are offering glimmers of hope for a milder trick-or-treat weekend, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Before the cold snap, Ali decided to turn a Halloween decoration into a baseball pinata of sorts. We've used a softball to anchor a huge spider that we drop on the unsuspecting Halloween party goer from time to time.

Ali reversed it to use the ball as a pinata of sorts. She used an old broom instead of a bat, and tried to smack the ball from up in the tree. She'd do really well for a while then she'd get all tangled up.

It kept her occupied most of one afternoon, but involved a series of rescues from me first, and then Jeff ultimately.

Alison's been living her routinely large lifestyle. Aunt Margaret started it off, stopping by last week to drop off some sugar cookie seasonal treats that made Ali the envy of the CKS lunch crowd. She's had and will have more friends over, and she's cat sitting for our Ogden friends.

I say friends. I'm not sure we'll be friends come Monday if one of their cats escape again.

Alison's allegedly in charge, but when Cat No. 2 fled the premises on our first cat-sitting-visit, it was me who had to chase it down. Ponza and Alto are identical evil twins, if you ask me. I'm not sure which one was the flight risk, but they're both incarcerated now.

I'll be on extra vigilant guard today when we go check them out again. I'm thinking of confining them to Dale and Karin's bedroom rather than giving them the full range of the house. Ha! That'll teach 'em. Oh, wait. I think I want them to trust me.......Dang!

PS to Hannah. You were so right. I don't if the frogs will survive, either... You guys might want to hurry home.

We're hoping to have some fun tonight for our annual kid-focused Halloween party. I have about 10 hours to turn Ali's plastic play house into a haunted something. She'll be impersonating Shaun White this year -- her first costume without Aunt Donna and Jaime's careful tailoring. We'll see how this goes. I have a feeling we'll be begging the aunts to help us out again next year...

We celebrated Jeff's birthday yesterday by shopping around town for an extension ladder he's been wanting. I was against it as a gift, arguing that it's a household necessity and therefore a needed purchase, not a gift. But I capitulated and he seems thrilled with it.

I did stop off at the Sun King Brewery so he wouldn't have a totally practical birthday, and our friend Andy came by with a gift so super cool I'm telling anyone what it was because we want to steal it and use it for others at Christmas. But you want to be nice to us for the next few weeks if you're a fan of fine spirits.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My phone is smarter than I am

Jeff and I had dinner at Zest Friday night, and the food was so amazing it wiped out every bit of the stress that had gotten me down earlier in the week.

It was a beautiful fall evening; crispy enough to need a sweater, but not so cold you could see your breath. I knew I wanted to go some place within walking distance. (I'm trying to use those phantom 35 "extra" points Weight Watchers claims I can consume and still lose weight, but I wanted the tiny bit of exercise just in case.)

I really had Mama Corolla's in mind. It's a right turn for us rather than a left to get to Zest, but we've had pasta many times. We'd only managed to get to Zest once before. The line was long at Mama's. So down the street we strolled.

I may never go Italian again. It was that good -- and while it wasn't cheap, it's not over-priced, either. I even had a couple of glasses of wine. If I gain weight next Wednesday, I'll skip the wine but still have the food...

Anyway, I'm trying to focus on that lovely, lovely time because my new Smart phone is killing me. Really KILLING me. I know somewhere in my heart that I'm not stupid. But this thing is annoying. And it did me no good to read that toddlers are playing with iPhones like they're rattles and squeaky stuffed toys. (In my defense; the children aren't customizing the damn things -- they just like the lights and colors. But still.)

Lucky for me, Jeff likes technology and likes negotiating. At this point, I'm not 100percent sure he still likes me, but he made the time to find phones and a deal that will keep us at about the same price for smart phones that our old dumb, no-text plan phones were costing us. We test drove models for a week, and I was figuring out the Blackberry when I decided at the last minute to switch to a phone that has a bigger keyboard and screen. It's some sort of evil, touch-screen/Blackberry hybrid.

I'm pretty sure that we, as a society, have crossed that line where technology is already ruling the world. I suspect that some of it has jumped the divide to actually think on its own. This I know: my phone doesn't like me at all. And I, quite frankly, don't like it, either.

I want my dumb phone back but am afraid to tell Jeff. Plus, nearly all my friends and family persist in sending me texts all the time even though I think they all know I don't have a text plan or text-friendly phone. Like a dope, I read and answer them at some ungodly price per-text.

Not having a text-savvy phone was making me feel that person who held out against TV because she liked to imagine the pictures herself from the old radio shows. Or that guy who wouldn't even consider trading in his horse for a model T. Hell, even Amy Tokash is a texter and she hates change worse than I do. My eldest sister got her iPhone more than a year ago.

Old. I felt old. So old I didn't think it was possible to feel older.

We went together to the store last night to take advantage of the clerks who would transfer all the data from our dumb phones to the smart one.

While we were there, I managed to figure out the basics. I inadvertently started the voice mail set-up process with Alison's DS noise on one side of me, Musak overhead, and the sales crew and Jeff chattering on the other side. The recording was awful and I was trying to re-do it when the damn thing turned on me. That led to one of the clerks snickering at my feeble attempts and I was suddenly done with the whole endeavor.

Before we left the store, I did a superfiical check to see that all my contacts were there, and sure enough, when I got home, I had no contacts from D to W.

I started hand entering the missing info this morning because I just didn't want to face the kid in the store again. I probably was something to laugh at, but I'm not quite ready to admit that.

But even my manual entry got all fouled up. The keypad is pretty sensitive, I guess, and apparently I still have finger weight to lose.

After whining and cursing and frowning and just being a huge brat, Jeff decided to take my phone back to the store to see why neither he nor I can't get my email to recognize my password or to grant me mobile access to email and Facebook. Yeah, it wasn't just me. Jeff couldn't make it work either.

I read the damn book. I followed the instructions. I swear. Is it possible that I did something really wrong and messed my self up? Oh yeah. It might even be likely...

Ugh. I'm going to start thinking about Zest again.

Oh, Ali got her yellow belt. The photo is her and the formidable Master Jay Park.

I bet his phone is smart enough not to torture him like mine is me...

Also, if you don't hear from me by text or voice for a while, it's because I'm still tracking down your phone number. Apparently my smart phone doesn't like you either...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1 kick; 4 pieces

In all her 9.5 years, I don't remember a time when Alison has been more proud of herself.

She's impressed herself, sure. She's done well in school. She's created some killer moves on the monkey bars, and she's had some super sweet belches.

But Saturday, she passed her first taekwondo belt test with flying colors. She broke her board with her right (and injured) foot on her first attempt. It flew apart in four pieces a precisely the moment my camera batteries died.

I think her smile could have powered the camera if I had enough McGyver in me to figure out how to harness it. Jeff's smile was just as huge.

She'll get her yellow belt this week. She's pretty sure she'll stick with it long enough to earn her black belt. We'll see about that, but right now, yellow is looking pretty good.


Speaking of yellow, Alison's injury to her right foot was actually to her big toe. She was wearing flip flops last weekend and helping a little girl from across the street climb the magnolia tree in the front yard. It was wet from a short, but intense rain storm, and she slipped and fell out of tree onto a metal container I salvaged from my parent's house.

She put a pretty big dent in the container, and it rewarded her with a huge bruise on the back of her thigh. I think her toe got caught up in the sandal. In any case, she was some upset and hurt. I don't think she'll be climbing in flip flops anymore.


She and I were in the car the other day, and I mentioned a boy in her class. His name is Sammy Kacius, and I always pronounce it with a hard "a," which is wrong.

"Mom. It's Kascius," she said for perhaps the 1,098th time.

"Man, I hope you don't marry him. I'll never get your name right," I said.

"Dude," she replied. "If I marry Sammy Kacius, he's changing HIS name."


Today we spent part of the gorgeous and unusally warm fall day getting pumpkins and carving them up. We caught up with Dominic at the vegetable stand and he came home with us. The two of them fight like an old married couple. He's the male version of Jenna, although Jenna's actually tougher than he is.

He's a sweet boy, though, and he's the one who introduced Ali to taekwondo. So I guess we'll keep him in the family. He also advanced belts this weekend. A couple weeks ago, he was threatening to quit the sport. Master Park can be rough on the kids, and one night when Dominic wasn't as focused as he should have been, he had to do push-ups and practice a particular kick over and over and over.

I think he'll stick with taekwondo as long as Alison does. He did, you may remember, profess his love for her in front of the entire first grade. Unrequited though it may be, Dominic is nothing if not hopeful.

The couple that kicks together may very well stick together for all I know...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Your focus needs....focus

Sometimes I think Alison has a little too much of both of Jeff and me in her.

She was at taekwondo class the other day, and it had been a particularly hard hour. What I know of martial arts comes from the movies, and even then, I've watched under duress. So I know I don't know a lot about it.

Her instructor, Grand Master Park is Korean. Combine his accent with his stern demeanor and ramrod straight posture, and toss in a little frustration and you've got yourself one scary Grand Master. Even at his most worked up, even Captain Reed's got nothing on the Grand Master.

The kids are supposed to talk only when spoken to -- and then they're to say "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" or whatever words he tells them to repeat. They are to sit quietly and with crossed legs when they're not practicing on the mat, and woe be unto the student who forgot to pee before class. The parents who watch aren't supposed to speak, either, and yes, he's called us on it.

Master Park claims that he's a kinder, gentler master now. Back when he started, he claims the only thing he let students do beyond study taekwondo was to breathe.

So anyway, Alison's focus was apparently not as focused as it could have been and she got more than one earful about it.

She wasn't the only student that night who had Master Park worked up. After he'd had enough of it, he had them all to sit down. There was dead silence as they all sat there, wondering what new torture he had in store and hoping they wouldn't be the one to suffer it. Finally, he asked if anyone thought Master Park was too hard on them.

A lone hand shot up. Yep, it belonged to the redhead in the room. And while no other hands went up with as much vehemence, it stayed up. And then a few other hands joined in.

Now I want Alison to tell the truth and be forthright. But I have to say that I've often been too quick to voice my opinion and if I'd just kept quiet I might not have gotten into trouble or earned enemies quite so quickly. Jeff can be quick with a "helpful" comment, too. It's no coincidence that the U.N. has never asked either of us to help out in diplomatic circles.

Happily for all concerned, I think Master Park isn't holding Alison's quick and committed criticism against her. Instead, he took his time, making eye contact with everyone and reminding them that he was there to help them succeed in life and that if they listened to him, sharpened their focus and paid attention for every minute of their hourly lesson, they'd be able to whatever they wanted in life.

Last week, he told me he was sure she'd advance to yellow belt and had some really nice things to say about her. When I picked her up at school on Friday, she was teaching some other girls some taekwondo moves.

On the way out, she told me that she was frustrated that Madison and Amanda weren't learning as quickly as they should. The kindergartener who'd joined in was learning faster, she said. "It's SO frustrating!" she said.

"Hmmm," I said. "I guess maybe you understand a little bit about how Master Park feels sometimes."

She's still giving that some thought.