Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopping for Grand Lighting goodies

I'm the Ebenezer Scrooge of Thanksgiving

I've been a bad blogger lately.  Bad blogger.  No cookie!

Haven't felt like there's been much to say, really.  And the whole, "Here's what I'm thankful for" Thanksgiving diatribe just feels rather trite.  I give thanks every day, not just one day in 365.

Maybe I'm just feeling cynical.  I know I've done thanky posts for Thanksgiving before (although right now I'm too lazy to go back in the archives and look).  My cynicism this year started on Veteran's Day, when Facebook was flooded with wall posts about thanking veterans and being so grateful for them, blah blah blah.  It all seemed overdone, overplayed.  It felt like one person took the time to change their status in recognition of Veteran's Day, all their friends saw it and thought, "Damn. I better put something up lest everyone think I don't appreciate veterans."  As the day wore on and more and more people felt it necessary to say the same thing over and over, I grew more agitated.  I tried talking myself out of my internal griping.  First of all, in the grand scheme of things, what people post on Facebook is really not important.  Second, if they want to thank veterans, who am I to say that's wrong?  Third, it's none of my business.  Fourth, do I really not have more important things to worry about?

Instead of adding my thoughts to the FB pile, I wrote my annual thank you e-mail to my uncle who served in Vietnam.  It felt more personal that way, and felt (probably incorrectly) that maybe it somehow made more of a difference to an actual veteran.  As opposed to the legions of FBers who are most likely not veterans of either WWII or the mess we can sum up as Indochina.  (Not that more recent veterans - Gulf War, Afghanistan, etc. don't deserve recognition...just that they're more likely to get it immediately and personally from family and close friends, not FB acquaintances.) (And don't get me started on how this country completely f*cked up how we treated our returning Vietnam vets.)

So when I saw the Thanksgiving posts start to crop up in Facebook, I gagged and swore off the site for the remainder of the weekend.  Again, I'm not saying it's wrong to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  I guess I'm just fed up with the overwhelming idea that in order to be properly thankful, one must update her social networking status to assure everyone that she is, indeed, thankful.  It feels like that's the easy way out, the cursory, perfunctory "Give public thanks...check!" act that carries no real meaning.  It's like standing by the Salvation Army kettle and yelling at passersby, "Okay, I'm doing it!  I'm making a donation!  Look at me...I'm helping others!  Here I go...sticking my money in the kettle!" instead of discreetly folding up a twenty and dropping it in as you walk by.  Instead of logging into FB and spouting off, wouldn't it be better to wrap your arms around someone you love and whisper, "Thank you for being you."  Isn't that a much better use of your time?

I'm not entirely cranky for the holidays.  Zozer and I had an incredible weekend, cleaning out her room and the library, putting up the Christmas tree, and setting up the train board.  Then, Saturday night, a new tradition started that I already love.  I didn't hang a single ornament on the tree this year.  Instead, I camped out on an ottoman and unpacked/hooked ornaments for M and Zoe to hang.  I made two piles as I completed them: fragile (M) and sturdy (Zoe).  They went back and forth between me and the tree, finding the right spot for each ornament and working together.  "Hang this one high, Daddy!"  I was so busy just trying to keep up with them that I didn't pay a bit of attention to how or where they were hanging the ornaments.

When it was all done, and the empty boxes were re-packed in their bins, I sat back and viewed the tree for the first time.  It.  Was.  Beautiful.  Evergreen perfection.  I felt like I was unwrapping my first Christmas present, made by those I love the most.  I enjoy looking at our tree, and all the ornaments that mean so much to us.  There are three that Zoe made last year.  Some from events that we attended, or places that we visited, starting with the sand-filled sphere we picked up on our honeymoon cruise.  A tin tiger I bought the year I graduated from Mizzou.  The little owl Zoe and I bought at World Bird Sanctuary when Daddy was in Europe (the first time!).  A small, pewter C6 Corvette we picked up at the National Corvette Museum since 2010 is The Year M's Dream Came True.  The ornament of a man riding a bike and pulling a child in a carrier that I gave to M and Zoe last year after two forays on Highway 40.  The plain, shiny ball ornaments M and I bought together for our very first Christmas tree. The silver pawprint that's engraved "Tachi."  So many truly wonderful memories, all right there in one place.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Feeling winter

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hats off to Zozer

Zoe and I were eating lunch together Sunday and she told me a story about one of her experiences at school.  I'm not sure why she chose this particular time to tell me, but I loved the story and so I don't really question the machinations of her mind.

She said Ms. Lisa brought in different kinds of hats recently and was explaining to the children what they were and how they were used.

"Then she held up a hat that had a square thing on top.  I yelled, 'I know that that is!  That's a graduator hat and my Mommy and Daddy wore them!'"

I swear that if she asked for a car in the next five seconds I'd have given it to her, I was so tickled.

I asked her what Ms. Lisa said after that, and she shrugged.  "She just turned around to Ms. Jenny and said, 'Zoe knew what this is!'"  I guess it is pretty odd for a five-year-old to know about mortarboards.

How adorable is that?  For the rest of my life, I will no longer consider them mortarboards, but rather, graduator hats.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another Zoe question

On the way home from school last night, Zoe and I were talking about her day as we always do.  She is very excited as Monday is a pajama party day at school and they're going to watch a movie and have hot chocolate and smarshsmallows and Junior Mints.  Then she was quiet for a minute, and then out popped some of those questions only children ever ask.

"Yes, Zo?"
"God made everything, right?"

This is where I started to sweat.  Oh, jeez.  It's not that question that freaks me out, it's whatever she comes up with after that question.  The lead-in question is always relatively easy.  It's the follow-up that's impossible.

"Yes, Zoe.  God made everything."

"Well, then, who made God?"

I mumbled something about it being complicated and hard to understand and I don't know but I could find someone who does, and then was thankful, again, that we're sending her to Catholic school where people far more versed in religion than I can answer these questions.

I also wondered why on earth her father never seems to have to field these questions.  Although, I'm not sure he's the right person to answer her, either.

When I was going through RCIA in college, I asked a nun (Sister Julie, who was a freakin' rockstar nun) to please explain the holy trinity.  I wasn't grasping it.  She responded, "Your boyfriend is a cradle Catholic, right?  Why don't you ask him?  It'll be a nice conversation for the two of you."  Okay, cool.  M and I hadn't talked hardly at all about religion or Catholicism up to that point.  I think he was as shocked as anyone when I announced I was in RCIA.  So that night, on the phone (I was at Mizzou, he was at Rolla), I explained my conversation with Sister Julie and asked him for help with the holy trinity.

"I dunno.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost.  They're all the same but they're different."

I could practically hear him shrugging over the phone.  So much for deep theological discussions with my cradle Catholic.

I think I may flip Zoe's question on over to the priest at our church.  The good one, not the hellfire and brimstone one.  I told the story here at work and someone suggested that I tell her God hatched from an egg.

Yeah, gonna go to the priest on this.  But it's good to know most mere mortals have no idea how to answer it in a way a 5-year-old can grasp.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kindergarten Tour

A few weeks ago, we received a postcard from the school at our church, inviting us as prospective Kindergartner parents to come tour the school and meet the principal.  I promptly entered it into my calendar and RSVP'd.  I knew M would be in Rhode Island, but I figured that since he went to school there himself, it'd be no big deal if he missed it.

Turns out that I wish he'd have gone this morning.  Then he'd have been able to hold up the sobbing mess his wife became after setting foot in one of the two Kindergarten rooms.

I did not expect this.  At all.  I was so excited about touring the school.  Even though we've been there countless times for fish fries and blood drives and pancake breakfasts and food donation drop-offs, I looked forward to seeing the classrooms, seeing children in their uniforms, meeting teachers and staff.  Looking at everything through the eyes of a parent, and not a hungry fish fry patron.  Our church, and its school, is wonderful.  I love the fact that we go to mass each week at the church where we were married.  I love that the priest who married us also baptized our child, and rides his bicycle past our house in the summer.  I love that M can identify so many people in the congregation as the parents of his grade school classmates, and that some of his grade school classmates have also come back to the parish to raise their own families.  Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and warm.  It's our own little Mayberry.

We've known since before Zoe was born that she would go to school there.  We decided together, long ago at our pre-cana Engaged Encounter retreat, that our child(ren?) would go to Catholic schools.  This was initially a point of contention, as I figure I'm a decent representative of just how great public schools can be.  My favorite line, when the private-versus-public school debate came up was, "What was your ACT score, again?"  'Cause I knew full-well that mine was higher.  Me, a little ol' public school girl.  (Let's not dwell on the fact that his score represents a more well-rounded academic background while I relied heavily on my perfect English and Reading scores to yank up the abysmal Math and Science scores.)  Anyway, we ultimately decided that the Catholic school experience was something we wanted, and it was a huge part of why we moved back to the parish in which M grew up.

So while the tour today was mainly designed to sway those parents sitting on the fence of determining where their preschoolers would go next year, for me, it was a sneak-peek into my daughter's future.

The full weight and force of that hit me the instant I walked into that Kindergarten room.  My little girl, my baby, isn't any more.  Babies do not learn Spanish.  Babies do not participate in service projects.  Babies do not have little lockers with their names on them.  Before I knew it, tears were in my eyes and, to keep myself from looking like a complete sap, I swiped them away and made a joke.  A few other parents laughed, but I could see some other moms getting emotional, too.  Oh, my.

The rest of the tour, I had to force myself to take deep breaths and beat back the tears.  Ridiculous.

I told M about it later.  He said, "She will do fine there."  I said, "It's not her I'm worried about."

Turns out that today wasn't just a sneak-peek into Zoe's future, but into mine and M's as well.  It looks pretty darn good, but man, it's bittersweet.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Wouldn't it be lovely if I could sit here and tap out everything I accomplished this weekend?  Feel full and fat and proud of myself?  Yeah.  That would be great.

Instead, what I accomplished was remaining upright half the time, cleaning up Zoe's barf twice, and managing to get a bit of laundry done so M didn't have to recycle underwear for his trip this week.


The Great Stomach Flu of Fall 2010 hit the girls of the Z house this weekend.

At some point I will be able to laugh at the absurdity of it.  About how M took the "I'll comfort the daughter" route while I scrambled to clean vomit off our bed despite the fact that I was doubled over in pain and barely keeping it together myself.  Seriously, M.  You have a kid.  You have a wife.  At some point you have got to get over this fear-of-bodily-fluids thing.

Okay, so maybe it's a weensy bit funny already, despite the fact that I'm still hunched over and wondering what the hell is wrong with my gut.  He's really very sweet in his helplessness.  He makes up for it being ultra-caring in every non-vomit regard.  Last night he was a proper nursemaid, making sure we were each tucked in to our blankets on our couches, queuing up A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on the DVD player, and switching out Zoe's cool wash cloth.

Zoe is being nursed by her grandmother today, and I am buckled over my keyboard trying to get some work done from home.  Didn't think it fair to inflict abdominal pain on my beloved colleagues.  M left this morning for a week in Rhode Island, and I think he was relieved to jet out of Sickville.  I don't blame him.  Would leave myself if I could.

In the meantime, I'll weigh the pros and cons of trying to eat something.  Pro: get rid of headache.  Con: bring on another bout of cramping pain.  Eventually the headache wins out, and I know this, so I should just go try to eat something bland.

Meanwhile, the enormous weight of my to-do list bears down.  I'm beginning to relate to ol' Charlie Brown.  Good grief!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Sometimes the view in the rearview mirror is better than what's ahead.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Checked off another item on the "I should do that some day list."

On a residential street near our home and my work is a house with a small sign in the front yard. All it says is HONEY. I usually go flying right by and so it took a couple of passes (over weeks or months or maybe even a year) to realize there is a small bookstand in front of the house with jars of honey. Then it took a few more passes, at much slower speeds, to see a small cash box on top if the bookstand.

This idea, this concept of selling homemade honey through the honor system, is so cool to me. I always thought, "I need to stop by there." I love honey anyway and use it nearly every day in my tea. For awhile, until my local grocer started selling local honey that's not mass-produced, I was cajoling Stef into bringing me honey from the Ann Arbor farmer's market. I guess you could say I'm a honey snob.

Tip from me to you: avoid the stuff in the plastic bear-shaped bottles. Bad, bad honey.

So I'm pretty keen on small-operation, locally-produced honey.

Today, on the way back from lunch and on a whim, I finally stopped at the Honey House and bought a jar. Plan to have a cup of tea tonight and see how it is.

Mmmmmm, honey.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Zoe's observation

I bought two Charlie Brown DVDs for Zoe a couple weeks ago: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Watching them with her brings back my own childhood memories, and makes me realize how children view things and how different today's world is from that of my youth.

There are a lot of things in Charlie Brown that aren't exactly politically correct.  There's a fair amount of bullying portrayed (Lucy), along with name-calling ("blockhead" seems to be the preferred insult). Both of these are worrisome to Zoe, who has been learning for over two years at her school that we treat our friends with respect and dignity.  This is not to say that I'm pulling the Charlie Brown DVDs from her video library, just that I'm staying very aware of how she's watching and what she's thinking.  We've had a few discussions about Lucy's behavior ("Mommy, she's mean.") and how it's not appropriate to call people names.

It's been interesting from a parental point of view - and something I didn't count on discussing as this behavior was nothing extraordinary when I was a child.  I don't remember my teachers carefully calling everyone in my class "friends," nor do I remember the emphasis Zoe's school places on respecting others. In fact, before popping the Charlie Brown DVDs into the player, it hadn't even dawned on me that there would be anything offensive or even discussion-worthy.  Still, I think it's a valuable lesson for both of us, and invokes perhaps a view of the "real world" that Zoe may not see too much at her carefully-structured school.

Last night, though, we had a discussion of a different sort.  We were watching the Thanksgiving special for the first time, and although Charlie Brown's little sister, Sally, was featured predominantly in the Halloween special, I suppose Zoe either didn't notice her before or has been wondering this for a couple weeks now.

"Yes, Zo?"
"Does she have an acorn on her head?"

So much for the deep discussion involving Peanuts characters.

ZoeMobile milestone

I was actually driving when we rolled over 150,000. I didn't think it prudent to snap a photo just then.

Only 90,000 more to go!

Monday, November 08, 2010

A full weekend

The weekend was about as great as it could be, given that M is still in India.  Zozer and I are learning to rather enjoy our "girls' weeks" even though we still miss him.  I look back over my weekend, and even I am amazed at everything I was able to cram in.  We kicked it off with dinner Friday night at Kobe to celebrate Gramma Judy's birthday.  My reunited family was there, and I shared my cake with my niece, Stella, although truth be told it was more like she shared her cake with me, seeing as how she ate most of it.  I grin every day when I think about how my little family is back together...what a phenomenal holiday season this will be.

Saturday morning we got going early with swim lessons.  Zoe has graduated to the next level, and I'm pleased to report that she's already showing definite improvement.  The text message M received was: "OMG she's f*cking swimming w a noodle by herself!!!  Awesome!!!"

After that we went home and opened up a can of whup ass on the house.  Laundry started.  Kitchen cleaned, along with her bedroom.  Holy crap, how much trinkety garbage shit can one little girl accumulate?  We dumped out her toybox and began the arduous task of sorting out what would be kept and what could be discarded or given away.

Kept: jewels and jewelry, headbands, the Elmo doctor kit, magic wands, all things transportation, including the two double-decker buses M bought for her in the UK (one open-top, once closed), balls, Gator Golf, and her electronic keyboard (oh, joy).  Give away: several toys and books that even she admits she has outgrown.  Discarded: a half-dozen cardboard Steak 'n Shake cars that look like they've been through a war, countless tiny dinosaurs, frogs and other plastic figures that she's gotten as part of goodie bags and has never, ever played with, broken toys that she no longer plays with mainly because they are, well, broken.

We're making room for her new purple Christmas tree, which she would like to set up right now thankyouverymuch.  I'm using the great toy clean-out in the bedroom (and its subsequent stop, the library) as an excuse.  "There's nowhere to put it...we have to clean some of this stuff out to make room."  With that, she was a discarding fool, just like her mama.  When it doubt, throw it out!

When she went down for her nap I had some one-on-one time with the vacuum.  House swept and dusted, and laundry continued.  After she awoke, we headed out for Cousin Joey's final football game.  It was, for the first time all season, a cool to cold day.  We bundled up in our Mizzou Tigers snuggie and rooted on the SoCo Tigers for what should have been a victory.  Stupid-ass refs got hacked at our time keeper and threw him out, then refused to go by the time on the field clock.  Although the ball was dead (out of bounds at the one yard line) in the last seconds of play, they extended the game by enough time to allow the other team to score and therefore win the game.  Grrrrrr.  We had a great time, regardless, and I'm so stinkin' proud of Joey I can't hardly stand it.  He received his medal after the game, and I took his picture with his team trophy.

After the game we went to dinner with Grammy and Papa, where Papa shoved about a gajillion quarters into a crane machine trying to win a stuffed animal for Zoe.  While watching them, I prayed silently for unsuccess, as we are still cleaning crap out of Zoe's room.  Zoe had an absolute blast playing with Papa, which is what it's all about anyway.  I think she gets that it's all about the experience, as she didn't cry or whine at all about not getting an animal.  Once we got home and I got Zoe bathed and in bed, I tackled the pictures from Joey's game and got them out to his parents.  I've learned from experience that if I don't post-process right away, it could be weeks before I get back to it.

Sunday morning was more housecleaning before going to 11 a.m. mass to welcome back my FIL from his Acts Retreat.  Mass was lovely (the men of the Acts Retreat sang for us after mass!), and afterwards we had a nice luncheon with the retreatants and team members.  Walked home to change and get the car, as the lawnmower needed gasoline.  Zoe went down for her nap and I headed out for a rendezvous with the mower.  I filled it with gas, adjusted the front wheels up to a high setting as I've seen M do, primed it and got it going.  Killed it heading into the thick zoysia in the front yard.  After several passes, and engine kills, and what appeared to be a general scalping of my front yard, my FIL came over and showed me how, indeed, the back wheels also need to be adjusted.  Oh.  Riiiiight.

We made a pact to tell M we don't know how the scalping happened, and call it crop circles.  Well, it's not so much a pact as my telling Dad that's what we'd say, and he laughed and walked away.  Dad took over the lawnmower (I, and my lawn, thank him) and I tackled the detail work: leaves in the flower beds, leaves in the garden, leaves in the front corner of the house/driveway.  Leaves, leaves everywhere.  I'm beginning to understand M's hatred of the two pin oaks in the front yard.  Since I only have to do this once a year or so, though, I'm not willing to give them up yet.  (Love you, M!)

I also cleaned out the garden and the flower pots on the patio, and put some things away in the Big Ass Shed.  Right as we finished Zozer appeared, all wild-haired and sleepy-eyed from her nap.  Off she went to play with Grandma while I headed inside to take a shower and lava-soap the damn pine tar from my hands.  We don't have any pine trees in our yard.  It's all from our pot-smoking neighbor.  Since we were all tired and hungry at that point, we headed up to Hacienda and had a muy deliciouso meal.

My head started to throb before dinner, and didn't stop after, so I asked Zozer if she'd like to snuggle in her big purple rocking chair and read books.  She was so excited that I felt guilty for the ulterior motive behind suggesting a peaceful activity.  We read about five books, rocking, snuggling and talking about them.  It was bliss for both of us.  Slowly the ache in my head started to wane, and by her bedtime it was nearly gone.  It came back with a vengeance after I tucked her in, though, so much of the rest of the evening was spent doing only what was absolutely necessary: emptying trash, gathering recycling, hauling it all out to the curb, catching up on e-mail, updating phone and computer.  I finally retreated to bed, where, still not content with the state of things, I spent about 20 minutes deleting image files off the phone to clean it up (dupe shots, closed eyes, bad lighting, etc.).

My head finally forced me to give up, so I turned out the light and went to sleep knowing that I couldn't have possibly packed one more thing into my weekend.

The one benefit to M being out of town is that I find myself being insanely productive while he's gone.  Keeping busy not only accomplishes a great deal, it keeps me from missing him quite so much.  Despite everything I'm getting done (and I have a list to keep every night busy until he returns, which should last through his RI trip next week), I'm ready for him to come home.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Gorgeous day for football

And the Tigers are winning!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Christina's Dirty Martini

Is there a college degree for that?

Zoe's teachers asked the class to talk about what they want to be when they grow up. The kids listed doctor, nurse, veterinarian, teacher, even social worker. Noble professions, indeed.

Not my kid, though. She's shootin' for the stars.

I do believe wholeheartedly that she should be whatever she wants to be. Even if it's a bus driver. So long as she's the best damn bus driver in the whole friggin' world.

Her friend, Drew, listed his future profession as Monster Truck Driver. Awesome.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


What is it about babies that make them so fun to photograph?  I think it's the purity of feeling.  There are no masks, no hidden agendas, no walls.  It's pure emotion.  It's truth, unvarnished and messy and gorgeous.

And, you know, babies are just so damn cute.

Emma was extra fun to photograph because she became enamored of looking at her reflection in my lens.  Seems she saw an adorable baby in there and got quite a kick out of her.

 Emma, hanging out with her mama and watching her big brother's football game last weekend.


M leaves for India today, so he went with me to drop Zozer off at school. I know how he feels...when you walk away you've got this nagging feeling that you've just left your heart behind.

I've set the world clock on my phone to show Bangalore time. Mainly so I don't have to do math in my head multiple times this week. I despise head-math.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that Bangalore is known as the Garden City and is the third-most populous city in India.  And thanks to my phone, I know that it is currently 7:43 p.m. (today) there.  And thanks to Google, I know that he will be 8,793 miles from home.


Talk about dropping off the edge of the world.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Memorial Mass

Election Day Blues

I remember being a kid and going with my mom when she voted.  It was always something special, and I couldn't wait to grow up and be able to vote myself.  I've voted in every election since I was 18 and eligible.  I'm proud that I live in a country where I can make a difference, and I exercise that right.  I research candidates and issues, and I make informed choices.  I'm not Republican, I'm not Democrat.  Just a girl trying to figure out what's best for her country.  I like to tell people I'm staunchly independent.

I'm fired up this morning, though.  Totally pissed.

The old crank at my polling place refused to get out the "I voted!" stickers.  This is the third damn election in a row where they haven't had the stickers.  Since I've been through this before, I already know I'll spend the rest of the day fielding the question, "Are you gonna vote?" when I already have.  Everyone else walks around with their stickers, and you can tell at a glance that they've done their civic duty.  It's a point of pride.  "Yes, I care about my country enough to vote."  Plus, you know, sometimes you get free stuff if you have your "I voted!" sticker.

Remember the first democratic elections held in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled?  They inked fingers to show that citizens had already voted.  Broadcast news footage was filled with people joyfully, proudly showing their purple-inked digits.  That's what our little "I voted!" stickers are.  Proof.  Evidence that I do, indeed, give a damn.

I almost took Zoe with me today. I almost took her for the experience and so she could get a sticker.  I was going to give her mine at the end of the day so she could add it to her sticker wall.

But noooooooooo.

I asked politely after I was done voting, looked around, and found no evidence of stickers.  "Excuse me.  Are there any "I voted!" stickers available?"  The lady, who had to be 108 years old, looked at me with annoyance.  I was a fly in her election glue.  She sighed heavily.  "We haven't gotten them out."  And then she stared at me and didn't move an inch.  I stared back.  We stood there, at an impasse, for about 10 seconds before she turned away and asked someone else if she could help them.

I realize that actually voting is more important than the sticker. I get that.  The important thing is that I was able to cast my ballot.

But I want my sticker, dammit!  Maybe I'll just use a Sharpie from my desk and color my index finger.

Monday, November 01, 2010


A friend asked, "Whatcha takin' a picture of that for?"

I replied, "I dunno. I just like it."

And so I do.

She said I am strange. Maybe. There are worse things a girl can be.

The box has been sitting there for a week now. Empty. I can't figure out why, but conjecture is fun.