Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Death by boxer shorts averted!

I am happy to report that my dryer has made a complete recovery, but not before we had to stare death in the face. Here are the exciting events.

As of Monday, the heap of dirty, smelly laundry in the laundry room had grown to epic proportions. It had ceased being a pile and was moving into the category of county landmark. "Just drive 'bout a mile 'til ya get to Stench Hill, then turn left. Roll down yer windas and ya cain't miss it."

Yesterday, when I opened the laundry room door, I swear I saw movement in the heap. Now, I'm not normally paranoid (much), but I have taken a microbiology class and I've read enough Steven King novels to know what was going on in there. In the midst of that composting laundry was a regular microbial convention, and they were plotting evil in their little black hearts. Just imagine a bunch of bacteria with greasy hair, shifty eyes, and black pinstripe suits, and you'll get the picture.

I could imagine the headlines:

Family of Six Found Murdered by Mysterious, Malodorous Laundry Beast.

The death of six family members continues to puzzle local investigators. No trauma was apparent on the bodies, police say, and the only evidence found at the scene was a pair of boys' SquareBob Spongepants boxer shorts, a muddy crew sock, and a pair of women's jeans with the size label cut out. Witnesses say they saw a large BigFoot type creature walking away from the home. Neighbor Rufus "Junior" Spitoon reported, "It was kind of all covered up in clothes, sort of like someone had just stood up inside a pile of laundry. And did it STINK! We could smell it all the over here at our place. My son said it smelled like the inside of Josh Tubbs' basketball shoes." Police believe the family may have been asphyxiated by the odor.

Well, I wasn't going to let a bunch of punk bacteria get away with that. Besides, what if they left behind one of my pairs of jeans with the size label still intact?! I shudder at the thought. So I made a trip to the nearest laundromat and spent half of our kids' college funds getting those clothes clean and dry. (Why is hot air so expensive?) I could almost hear the bacteria mafia screaming as they realized I had thwarted their plans.

When I got home, the dryer parts had arrived. Tonight, I am listening to the sound of a humming dryer, music to my ears. But I still don't trust my boys' boxer shorts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"A good, old-fashioned, clothes line."

That's what CleghornClanMom suggested to solve my current laundry problems. After I stopped laughing and got the button sewed back on my pants, I thought, "You obviously don't know my husband."

This is a man who never, ever, pays to have anyone else do anything around our home. He is the ultimate Mr. Home Depot. One caveat: every project he undertakes must result in perfection, in both form and function. This tends to make projects take just a wee bit longer than they might otherwise. For instance, to put up a clothes line, he would require

  1. A new & better welding torch.
  2. Premium domestic iron mined from the hills of Pennsylvania.
  3. A special commercial concrete mix that is only available to contractors in Uzbekestan. A letter from the Secretary of State is necessary to acquire this.
  4. Extra long-lasting rope woven from the hair of albino yaks born in November, hand made by Tibetan monks.
  5. A GPS to determine the best latitude and longitude for the clothes line, to optimize sun and wind exposure.
  6. A professional survey to verify the GPS data.
  7. Artistry in Clothesline Design, an out-of-print book.
  8. Music to weld by.
  9. Time to hand carve clothespins from exotic, pesticide-free hardwoods which came from reforested South American woodland.

So, two years from now I might have a clothes line, but I would also be obligated to cover it with a clothes line cozy when the weather was bad. I'd have to make a mink-lined clothespin bag to keep the clothespins from getting scratched. And I'd have to wax the rope with yak liver oil after each use.

Nope, no clothes line for me. I think I'll get faster results by tying wet towels to the collar of our black lab and sending her to chase squirrels.

Tomorrow: Death by Boxer Shorts

Monday, March 27, 2006

Decisions, decisions.

Paper or plastic? Smoking or non-smoking? First class or coach? For my family this week, the question is, "Stinky or nude?"

This is because last week my clothes dryer had the mechanical equivalent of a myocardial infarction - a worn-out belt and a frozen motor. It's now resting comfortably, thank you, but the problem is I don't know when it will be released back to regular activity. So we're having to chose between wearing clothes that could stand to be dipped in a vat of Febreeze, or wearing nothing at all. So far, we're all choosing the stink option, although my 10 year old son is leaning precariously toward nudity, if for no other reason than to make his sisters scream.

You may be thinking, "But this is America, land of the free and home of the appliance & electronics mega-store! Why has her dryer been broken for a whole week?" This is why, my friends: THE HUSBAND.

First of all, a lifeless dryer takes a pretty low position on his priority list, lower than, say, a nonfunctional iPod or substandard computer speakers or dead batteries in the TV remote. Clean underwear can wait! A man's gotta have his entertainment!! Gosh!

Secondly, this guy is a world-class penny pincher. He can squeeze a penny so hard he makes that minature copper Abe Lincoln cry like a little girl. When he ordered replacement parts for the dryer, did he choose expedited shipping? Of course not! That was going to cost extra. I swear, if he had the option of choosing Pony Express delivery for 3 cents, he would take it.

So if you're driving around north Texas and see a house with a green fog around it and a nekkid boy playing hockey in the back yard, that's us.

Tomorrow, Part 2 of the story: Composting laundry can kill.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

Color me aghast. I thought everyone knew that the standard uniform for small-town Texas men was a tank top, mullet haircut, "Git-R-Done" ball cap, and a pair of run-down boots. Of course, that's when they're gussied up to eat out. For just a jaunt into town to run by the Beer Barn, the tank top is optional.

But in local news, a small rural school district had to amend its school dress code in order to forbid the wearing of makeup and tight girl's jeans - by the male students. I bet that looks lovely with those plugs the size of dessert plates in their earlobes.

Guys, here's a tip: it's "Remember the Alamo," not "Remember the Almay."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why didn't anyone tell me?

My eyebrow hairs are turning gray. This is so disturbing to me, on so many levels, that I had to eat an entire party-size bag of M&Ms. Now I'm 5 pounds fatter and have gray eyebrows, which I'm pretty sure is not The Look for Spring 2006.

But that's not my point. My point - and I do have one - is that no one warned me that this was going to happen. In fact, no one warned me about any of the other freakish things my body would do on the road to antiquity.

Here's what I think. We need the kind of books that are written for ten year old girls. You know those books: Almost Twelve, The Care & Keeping of You: A Body Book for Girls, Facing the Facts, and many more. Somebody needs to write those kinds of books for women. They need to have the same bright, cheerful, Vanna White tone, so you feel good about sagging body parts and thickening toenails. Here are some ideas for books.

Facing the Ugly Facts About Your 40's. "Sometime after you turn 40, you will probably notice that you can't read a book unless it's propped on the TV stand across the room. This means that you need reading glasses! The good news is that reading glasses frames are now stylish, colorful, and fun. Take a friend to help you shop for glasses. She can't see any better than you can, but maybe she'll buy you lunch."

Almost Fifty. "You may notice that your hair is thinning. This is normal. In fact, the hair doesn't actually leave. In men, the hair moves to their ears, and in women, the hair moves to their chin. Aren't our bodies amazing?!"

The Care & Keeping of Elderly You: A Body Book for Dismayed Women. "Women who still foolishly try to wear jeans at this age often notice that their waistline, which thickened ten years ago, is now completely gone. This is actually quite helpful when taking your measurements. Because everything between your chin and mid-thigh is now basically a shapeless blob, you can just wrap a measuring tape around yourself at any point and write down the number. This single number is your bust, waist, and hip measurement."

Your Exciting Eighties. "If you're reading this book, congratulations on living to be older than dirt! This is an exciting time in your life, when every thing, every day, is new again, because you've forgotten what happened yesterday! In fact, tomorrow you'll probably forget that you've read this book! And no longer are you a slave to fashion. Feel free to wear that pink polyester jacket embroidered with purple chickens. And don't forget to accessorize with the enormous, green purse that's shaped like a hibiscus and the matching earrings!"

In any case, every book should contain the warning, "DO NOT tell your children about any odd physical changes you notice. They are just waiting for a chance to take away your car keys."

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Day I Lost the Baby

I was recently reminded that it was about this time of year, fifteen years ago, that I lost the baby. Now, I don't mean one of those sad perinatal losses - I mean I lost the baby, as in I misplaced her.

This was back when I only had two children: darling CharmingChild (before he morphed into DestructoBoy) and sweet Princess PeachFuzz (before she became Princess BroccoliTop and later Princess BunHead). Charming Child was 16 months old and Princess PF was 3 months old, so we had a double stroller. The monstrosity weighed more than a VW Beetle, but it allowed one child to ride behind the other, and it had a full faux-leather canopy and a fabric mesh basket that ran the entire length of the undercarriage.

So on this particular day, we were leaving a large department store. I placed CharmingChild in the front seat, and put Princess PF in the rear seat, reclined. It was a sunny day and we had quite a lengthy walk to our vehicle, so I put the canopy up and off we went. Princess PF was nicely shaded and I could just see the top of CharmingChild's fuzzy little head at the edge of the canopy.

When we got to our minivan, I parked the stroller and went to open the sliding side door. This was back in the Dark Ages when minivans 1) had only one side door, 2) had no remote locking system, and 3) were as ugly as homemade sin. Anyway. I got the door unlocked and opened, and turned to take my children out of the stroller, when I discovered that Princess PF was gone. No baby in the back seat. No baby in the front seat.

Whaaa????? I looked back at the route we'd taken through the parking lot. Surely she didn't fall out? Wouldn't I have heard her cry? And besides, the pudgy little wailer couldn't even roll over yet, unless all that breastmilk had suddenly kicked in to turn her into an athletic prodigy, and she'd vaulted out of the stroller. But another quick search of the lot assured me she hadn't fallen out.

Had someone grabbed her in the 5 seconds it took me to open the van? I didn't think so. I hadn't heard footsteps or an engine. And CharmingChild, who could talk the ears off a herd of elephants, had been pretty quiet. If someone had approached the stroller, he would have launched into his regular routine of "Hiya! Hiya! That's my sister. Do you have a snack? I have juice. My mommy's right there. I like alligators. Do you have an alligator? I have an alligator on my blankie. Where's your car? ....."

So what in the world had happened to the baby?!

In desperation, I got down on my hands & knees to look under the van, thinking perhaps she really had fallen out of the stroller and was under the vehicle. No baby. But when I turned my head the opposite direction, there she was. Princess PF was quietly and calmly lying in the mesh basket under the stroller, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have one's backside suspended 1/2 inch off the ground in a flimsy, swaying cargo hold, while gazing upwards towards one's brother's diapered bottom.

Relief was quickly replaced with alarm. Had anyone seen me toting my baby through the parking lot in the basket? What would they think? Was CPS on its way? Was I going to be the feature story on the six o'clock news? Without further delay, I buckled both children into their car seats, threw the stroller into the back of the van, and took off. I don't think I've been back to that store since.

Oh, and Princess PeachFuzz was none the worse for the experience. Except that now she has a weird phobia about hammocks.

Friday, March 17, 2006

That's the ticket

So I just got word that I've got a big high school class reunion to attend this summer. Reunions always bring to the forefront the questions

1 - How much weight can I lose by then?

2 - What will I wear?

3 - What can I do about this cow bell of a double chin?

4 - Do I have enough time to a) write a bestseller; b) climb Mt. Everest; or c) genetically alter one of my kids into genius status?

The thing is, when you go to one of these events, you want to impress the people who knew you back when you were an eighteen year old dork. It's bad enough going to a reunion and being a loser, but it's even worse to go and be mundane. Uninteresting. B-O-R-I-N-G. In my case, I had nowhere to go but up after high school, where I was about as interesting as low-fat cottage cheese. In college, I blossomed and figured out who I really was. Of course, now that I have teenagers, I have resumed, in their eyes, cottage cheese status. Except for when we're in a store, when I'm suddenly cottage cheese with money. But I digress.

I've actually thought about making up an interesting life story for myself, but then I remember the words of Numbers 32:23: "Be sure your sin will find you out." I can just imagine how the conversation would go.

Classmate #1: What have you been up to?

Me: I'm the editor of the newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota.

Classmate #1: Really? I live there and don't recall ever seeing your name.


Classmate #2: So are you working?

Me: Yes, I've got a high-risk obstetrics practice in El Paso.

Classmate #2: Oh, so you probably know my cousin, Dr. Dewgood?

Me: Er, yes... brilliant doctor. Saved a woman and her unborn child just this week.

Classmate #2, frowning: He's the doctor at the men's correctional facility.


Classmate #3: What have you done since graduation?

Me: Well, I invented the internet.

Classmate #3: I thought Al Gore did that.

Me: Oh, er.... did I say "internet?" I meant Whiskerjet. I invented the Whiskerjet, that new razor with eleven blades.

Classmate #4, who looks like he fought with a mountain lion: So you're the person I'll be suing!


No, I guess I'd better just stick to the truth. I'm just a mom who homeschools her four children, drives a minivan, and sews for a hobby.

....On a llama farm! In Peru! With Apolo Anton Ohno!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Perhaps we need to work a little harder on vocabulary.

Conversation at my house today:

12 year old daughter: "What's it called, when people are stuck indoors all winter and they want to get out?"

15 year old son: "Dyslexia?"

Dyslexia = cabin fever. Hmm. This might explain why communicating with teenagers is so difficult. We're using the same language, but the words mean different things.

So when I say = they hear

Please clean the kitchen = play video games

Take out the trash = sit on your brother

Whose sock is this? = yes, you can eat a dozen cookies

Do your math = play video games

Set the table = teach the dog to howl the national anthem

Feed the dog = get on the roof

Put your clothes away = play video games

Where's the remote? = sure, we'll buy you a Corvette

ad infinitim....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm entitled, don'cha think?

Cheerleading controversies and Texas just go together like scandals and Washington, DC., don't they? A north Texas high school made the news last week with a big brouhaha over cheerleading tryouts. You can read a summary of the events here, but the gist of the story is this: 32 girls tried out for the squad. They were scored on their abilities, and only 14 girls had scores high enough to make the squad. The parents (you know, it always gets interesting when the parents get involved) of the 19 girls who didn't make the cut complained that the scoring was flawed, so the school board, attempting to make everyone happy (yeah, that *always* works), decided all 32 girls could be cheerleaders. Of course, then the parents of the original 14 were unhappy, so they filed a grievance. The school board has spent countless hours and taxpayer dollars on this issue.

So, in keeping with the contemporary American theme of entitlement - regardless of talent, effort, or achievement - I've come up with a list of things I think I'm owed, just for being mediocre.

  • A Nobel Prize for literature, just for writing in this blog. In fact, I should get the prize for all the times I didn't blog. Better yet, I should get it for writing about autobiographical events that didn't even happen to me.
  • The Mrs. America title. Never mind that I'm so ugly I could make a train back up and take a dirt road. I want a tiara and an armful of roses.
  • A Grammy award. We'll just ignore the fact that my singing sounds like an aged sheep giving birth to triplets.
  • My own TV talk show. I can interrupt guests just as well as Tyra Banks.
  • A competitor's spot in the next winter Olympics. I want to skate short track with Apolo Anton Ohno, and even though I'll wipe out on the first step, I should get the gold medal. (Sorry, Apolo.)
  • A competitor's spot in the next summer Olympics, where I won't compete in any events but should be awarded an unprecedented 22 individual gold medals.
  • A permanent display of all my quilts in the Smithsonian Museum. Even the one that looks like the fabric was selected by a color-blind five year old with ADHD.

Well, that's enough to for the powers that be to start on. I expect the awards to start arriving as early as Wednesday.

In the meantime, I've got to take my pug over to that high school. I'm going to insist they make him a cheerleader. Animals have rights, too, you know.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Okay, people. Listen up, because I don't want to have to say this again.

TC's Rules of the Road

1. The far left lane on a highway is called the passing lane, because when you're in it, you're supposed to be passing the vehicles on your right. If they are passing you, and especially if they are passing you and their drivers are gesturing rudely while they go by, that means you should get out of the left lane. NOW. Please note that the left lane is not called the Sightseeing Lane, nor is it the 35mph Lane. Also note that it is not the Personal Hygiene Lane. Shaving, eyebrow plucking, and tooth flossing should be done at home, not in the driver's seat of your car. Note, too, that it is not the Multitasking Lane. You want to eat your Coronary Bypass Burger, email on your Blackberry, and read the New York Times while hurtling along at 80 mph? Go to Six Flags and do it on the roller coaster. The roads are already full of drivers who apparently can't think and run their windshield wipers at the same time; we don't need you multitaskers to intimidate them and make things worse.

2. There's a little rod that sticks out of the left side of your steering column. It's called the Turning Indicator. You use it to let other drivers know your intention of turning right or left, or of changing lanes. I know - crazy, isn't it?! What will those car designers think of next?! Oh, and you're supposed to signal your turn about, oh, 30 yards before you actually turn. Putting on the turn signal when you've slowed to 5 mph and your front wheels have already made a ninety-degree pivot is like announcing to your husband, "Um, I might be pregnant," when the baby's head is crowning. It's a little late. And if you use the turn signal to change lanes, it's a really good idea to turn it off after you've made the lane change, rather than 142 miles down the road.

3. If the car in front of me is going 28 mph, your driving three inches away from my rear bumper isn't going to make me go any faster. Nope, flashing your headlights won't help, either.

4. Turn down the bass. If you're trying to look cool for the girls, here's a tip: I've never heard a young woman say, "Ooo, I want to date a guy whose car stereo can make me deaf."

5. Get off the phone and DRIVE.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

This is funny.

I stole this joke from Julie's blog. Julie has a pug named Gracie, who I think should be my pug Ozzie's girlfriend.


A couple is dressed and ready to go out for the evening. They turn on a night light, turn on the phone answering machine, cover their pet parakeet and put the cat in the backyard.

They phone the local cab company and request a taxi. The taxi arrives and the couple opens the front door to leave their house. The cat they had put out into the yard scoots back into the house. They don't want the cat shut in the house because she always tries to eat the bird. The wife goes out to the taxi while the husband goes inside to get the cat.

The cat runs upstairs with the man in hot pursuit. Waiting in the cab, the wife doesn't want the driver to know the house will be empty for the night. She explains to the driver that her husband will be out soon. "He's just going upstairs to say good-bye to my mother."

A few minutes later, the husband gets into the cab. "Sorry I took so long," he says as they drive away. "Stupid witch was hiding under the bed. I had to poke her with a coat hanger to get her to come out! She tried to take off so I grabbed her by the neck. Then I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked. I hauled her fat rear end downstairs and threw her out into the back yard!"

The cabdriver hit a parked car.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

"Frau TC?" I think not.

You know, I've always heard that those cool, hip, Euro women don't shave. So this winter, in the hype - er, I mean, spirit of the recent Olympic Games, and in camraderie with women worldwide, and in utter laziness, I opted to forgo shaving my legs. Now, with the weather warming up, it's time to pay the piper. Or, more appropriately, it's time to pay the lumberjack.

Because, yes, I'm growing a new national forest on my legs. I look neither cool nor hip, although I admit my legs stayed much warmer this winter, thanks to my homegrown leggings. I could probably go bare-legged in Siberia and be toasty warm. In addition, my leg hair could shelter a pack of small mammals and their winter food supply.

The question now is, how to remove the forest? This is a big job for a simple razor, even if I change the blade after every 3 square inches of deforestation. It would be like cutting down the redwoods with a butter knife. Let's see....I could knock the tops off first with a chain saw. I could dig out my old Epilady, but the prospect of ripping three million hairs out by the roots without the aid of morphine doesn't appeal to me. Perhaps a weed eater....

Nah, I guess the razor will have to do. So here's a hot investment tip for you: buy stock in Gillette. I happen to know that sales of Venus razor blades are going to skyrocket in north Texas.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Sometimes I even annoy myself.

I'm not good at being sick, so I try not to do it very often. The last time I was sick was last summer, when I had persistant nausea for several weeks. I know what you're thinking, and you're right! My doctor ordered an ultrasound, and there on the screen we could see them, five wee ones, all nestled together in their warm home. Yep, I was carrying quintuplet gallstones. I got those suckers yanked out and have felt great ever since. Well, until this week.

But this is just a bad cold. The thing with gallstones or appendicitis or a broken leg is that those are real illnesses, as in you get to have people bring you food and give you sympathetic looks and you can use the motorized wheelchairs at StuffMart. But with a cold, you get nothin', nada, zilch, except maybe a cough drop handed to you by the nice lady sitting behind you in church. So you have all the suffering without any of the perks. Which stinks. If I were in charge of the universe, a head cold would automatically net you a free 5 pound box of Belgian dark chocolate, round trip tickets for two to Hawaii, and one of Apolo Anton Ohno's bandanas.

To make matters worse, when I get a cold, I turn into someone else. I become this cantakerous, 84 year old woman with emphysema, a bad hip, and a yappy little dog named Sheldon. I mumble to myself and answer my children with grunts. After a good coughing fit, I finish it off with this rumbling "unnnnggghhhh" sound. Sometimes I even say, "Oy." I shuffle around the house, growling, "Where's my box of Kleenex?" It's incredibly annoying, even to me. If I had to deal with me, I'd shut me in the bedroom for a week or until the Benedryl ran out, whichever came last.

Well, it's time for me to put my stuffy head to bed. But if this cold lasts much longer, I'm going to have to get a new wardrobe. I definitely will need a housecoat, some knee-high hosiery (to roll down to my ankles), and some of these slippers that I saw on Junosmom's blog.