Monday, June 29, 2009

Mexican food + late evening + 5 children = crazy fun!

I know there are about 1,000 other things I need to post, but on Saturday evening, a group of us went to good ole' La Fiesta for some dinner fun. We ended up with 15 people, 5 of which were kids! They had the "privilege" of sitting together at the end of the table... by themselves. They did great for most of our dinner, but I think the late evening and the sugar rush played into some restlessness and silliness there at the end.... and that's where these photos came into play!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prenatal education system? Did I just read that right?

OK... it's been nearly 7 years since I was last pregnant, so I've been flipping through all of our "tried and true" baby and pregnancy books. You know the ones. You've likely read them if you've ever been (or plan to be) pregnant! I've also been lurking around Babies 'R Us, and other baby-related sites and blogs. Just picking up details here and there. Making sure everything is ok. Hey -- I'm a planner. I can't help it! Of course, I'm not one of those people who believes everything she reads, but I do like to read.... and research.... and maybe overdo things just a bit!
Well, just minutes ago, while on a hunt to see what's going on with me and with the baby at 14 weeks, I discovered something that, frankly, made me laugh. Have things changed that much since my last child? 'Cause I don't remember anything like this product: BabyPlus Prenatal Education System.

Here's what their website had to say about said education system:
"BabyPlus is an audio device that introduces patterns of sound to prenatal children in the only language they understand – the maternal heartbeat. As a baby discriminates the simple rhythmic sounds of BabyPlus from those of the mother, learning begins.

Babies at birth and infancy:

•More readily nurse

•Have increased ability to self-sooth

•Are more interactive and responsive, and

•Are more relaxed and alert at birth.

And later in life, these children demonstrate
•Earlier developmental milestones
•Improved school readiness and intellectual abilities

•Greater curiosity and independence, and
•Longer attention spans."

Later on, the website actually claims that "BabyPlus children have an intellectual, social, creative, and emotional advantage from the time they are born."

Hmmmm. Maybe I'm a weirdo, but this, uh... interesting little product has made me ponder a few things.
1. If this thing does what it says it does, how did I -- or any of us, for that matter -- get through school without a prenatal education?
2. How early do we need to start kids in "school mode," anyway? Conception?
3. If rhythm is the ultimate learning tool, should we now consider doing all teaching by means of rhythm alone? You know, maybe skip language acquisition altogether?
4. If it's this easy (and this effective) to teach babies in the womb, why haven't we found better ways to teach 7th graders?! (I'd like to see them have an increased attention span!)
5. Did all the smart kids, genius types and gifted children have some sort of prenatal education that we were just left out of? If not, what made them smart!? ;)
6. Have they actually tested BabyPlus? And how, exactly would you do that? Are we talking using clones -- one in one womb and one in another womb?
7. As far as general "smarts" go, are we now ruling out, oh, you know, stuff like genetics, environment, health, parenting style, education, love and attention, etc., etc.?
8. What happened to good old music... or just talking to your baby in the womb? (That was part of the fun, as far as I can remember from the first time! As well, I distinctly remember that my baby did all the wonderful things BabyPlus claims are directly related to their product. She self-soothed, tracked voices, communicated quickly, slept through the night early.... all without a prenatal education system. What are the odds?!? Ha-ha!

What do Y'ALL think? Prenatal education: a "No" or a "Go"? :)
I guess it's just one of those things that make you go hmmmmmm.....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's Day... with a twist of lime?

I recently discovered on some pregnancy website that our little, growing baby is now the size of a lime. Wow. I shared this little detail with Sean on Saturday. He was equally in awe.
So... since the baby isn't actually here yet, but since it was Father's Day on Sunday, I set up a silly little Father's Day surprise.... from the baby, of course!

Monday, June 22, 2009

TV…. or no TV?

TV…. or no TV? That is the question.
Why, might you ask, is THAT the question? Well, it’s been 2 years now since Sean, Jaiden and I have had TV. Let me clarify: we HAVE TV… 3 televisions, to be precise. But we do NOT watch TV, because we do not have any channels. Nope. Not one. NO cable. No Satellite. No Direct TV. Just 3 blank boxes that seem more like a decoration or a simple afterthought than a living, “must-have” part of our lives!

Some of you may be wondering if we’re crazy. Or part of a cult. Or just cheapos who won’t pay for our talking box to have hundreds of useless channels. I assure you, it’s none of the above. Having no TV wasn’t even really our choice. IT chose US!

It all started two years ago…
Sean, Jaiden and I moved into our new (and current) house, which we absolutely adore, only to discover that -- for some weird reason or another -- good ole’ Charter cable did NOT run cable to our cul-de-sac. So, we hemmed and hawed a bit over what to do, especially since Charter runs a monopoly in our area, and there are no other cable options. We did consider satellite… and wondered about losing the stations during rainy days! ;) And we do still receive about thirteen thousand fliers a week about Direct TV. But, whether distracted from the move or just tired of spending money (or both), we just decided to put it off for later.
And later never came.

It’s been 2 blissful years with no television. And we LOVE it!

Of course, we thought it would be difficult at first to get used to living in a too-quiet house, missing our favorite shows, being “out of the loop” on all the latest news and gossip. Woo-hoo. Whatever. It hasn’t been difficult at all. We seek out news and updates on the internet and in newspapers (from sources we choose). And we DO still watch all our favorite shows… and movies. Not only do we have plenty of DVDs and Blu-rays, we have Netflix and Roku (which, together, costs about $8.00 a month).

So we can just pick out movies, documentaries, TV shows, etc. and have them mailed to our doorstep via Netflix, or – even faster – streamed live to our TV via Roku. In fact, when I want to catch up with "CSI," I get to watch the latest episode one day after it airs. We’ve also gone back and watched every episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The A-Team." As well, we've discovered some new favs: "The Office" and "30 Rock." And as much as we love Discovery Channel, we can get just about any one of their specials and shows…. sans commercials, of course!

Oh, but we live in Alabama, so others of you may be wondering how in the world we get our college football fix. Well, we don’t. Not really…. because it’s no longer a fix. We don’t let blue and orange or crimson and white direct our lives. If we want to see the stats, the updates or the games in action, we check the internet. You won’t find us rearranging plans during the fall to accommodate football games! (I’d rather see a game in person, anyway!)

The bottom line:
• We don’t turn the TV on first thing when we get home.
• We don’t plop in front of it and veg out or keep it on as background…. for everything.
• We don’t have to deal with commercials or all the other crap out there in TV land.
• We don’t have to flip channels, frustrated that there’s “never anything on” or mad that there are more commercial interruptions than actual shows.
• We get to choose what we want to watch when we want to watch it.
• We have more time for talking, for games, for reading, for exercising and playing and for “old fashioned” family time.
• We don’t feel trapped by TV programs or times.
• We don’t get depressed and/or agitated by the morbid news, the crazy media and all the hype, the one-sidedness and the propaganda.
• We save money: no cable, satellite or Direct TV bills!

Having no TV is AWESOME!
So, believe it or not, “no TV” is our answer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Little things... happy moments

I just wanted to share a silly little thing that makes me smile: My bright yellow Peeps bunny pen.
I keep it on my desk, and when I look at it, I can't help but smile. You could almost take a bite out of it. Almost. It would just taste fuzzy and weird rather than sugary and sweet... like biting into a stuffed animal.

Actually, I have several silly little things around here in my office that keep my spirits up (in addition to family pictures and things Jaiden has drawn/made for me), so I figured I'd take a moment and share them with you.... in case you may need a smile, too!

My mini Etch-a-Sketch (I had to put a penny next to it for size reference! It's really tiny! And fun, too! But I haven't yet perfected the art of drawing with little white knobs.)

Wall-E and Eve. Enough said. (They're just way cute! Too bad they didn't come with sound effects....)

The "talk to the cone" cone. I get a lot of comments about this silly thing that Sean bought me for my office. I don't think I've ever "used" it on anyone, but it makes me snicker sometimes when I see it and people are being bratty, bossy, demanding or just plain mean.

My Hershey's syrup chocolate-scented candle (YUM!). One thing a raving chocoholic probably does NOT need!

AND... Ladybug push pins. Makes even posting accounting codes fun! ;)

Those are just a few of the things that brighten my boring, tedious or crazy days around here. I'll save some other little treasures for another post or two... whenever I need a pick-me-up!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CSI: Mailbox Madness

I got home yesterday to a sight that, frankly, angered me to no end.
I'm not sure pictures do it justice, bu our whole mailbox is pretty cattywompus now. You can't even close the door!

But not only did I see our mailbox destroyed... it was what I did not see that put me over the top, ranting and raving about felonies and U.S. government property... and principals.
What did I not see? Well, a "fess-up" note, of course. Whoever carelessly busted our mailbox also carelessly did it without admitting it.
A mailbox hit and run.
Using my keen CSI abilities (sharpened by watching umpteen episodes of the original CSI, CSI:NY and the occasional CSI: Miami, for a good laugh), I snapped some photos, took some notes and gathered the evidence...
From the get go, I'll tell you my assumption: someone working on the construction site across the street who has a large, white truck backed into it.

Why do I assume such things?
1. The workers across the street are the ONLY workers in our neighborhood right now.
2. Only 2 other families live on our street (well, those are the only people who pass by our driveway/mailbox, anyway).
3. We live in a cul-de-ac... so it's kind of hard to back into things with all that room. HOWEVER, workers from across the street were parked in front of our house, making passage for large vehicles difficult. Someone maneuvering between/around those cars may have figured it was better to trash the mailbox.... (or may have missed it completely in a large vehicle surrounded by dumb cars that aren't supposed to be in front of my house in the first place!)
4. The mailbox was hit with some force.... or at least with some strength, as you can tell from this photo that shows the mailbox "uprooted" from the ground. (It's hanging there by threads, so to speak. I'm surprised it hasn't toppled over completely....)

5. It was also smacked by a white or light-colored vehicle, as you can tell from this photo that shows a little paint transfer. Now, if only I can find a worker's vehicle in our cul-de-sac that has a little of my mailbox on it!

Back to my ranting... it's one thing to damage someone's property (and actually it's a whole other ballgame to damage a mailbox, which is government property... and a federal offense).... but it's intolerable to damage someone's property and NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT! That drives me crazy. If I mess up something, as dumb and as horrible as I feel, I say something about it, admit to my mistake, ask to fix it, pay for a replacement, whatever....

But I will hop off my pedestal for now. My head hurts too bad to continue this tirade! Plus, no matter how vocal I am about it, it's not going to fix my mailbox!

Just for the record: Mailboxes are considered federal property, and federal law makes it a crime to vandalize them. Violators can be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to three years for each act of vandalism! I would think that our hit-and-run-mailbox doofus would rather pay the $500-$700 to fix ours that go to jail or pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, wouldn't you?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tickling the Ivories

How sweet it is.... my baby girl started piano lessons last week! I am so excited for her! She has been asking about piano for nearly 2 years now, and we finally found a great teacher who's not too far away from us. Here she is at the baby grand! (Sorry for the poor photo quality; I haven't remembered to take my camera anywhere lately, so it's been iPhone photos galore!)
I guess I'm extra happy about Jaiden being interested in piano because I started playing piano at age 5. I can't say that I remember much about that time in my life. Who knows what I was playing back then... in the early '80's!?!? YIKES! What I do know is that I wasn't too fond of practicing. And I also know that I "fooled" my teacher for a while. Instead of reading music, I just played everything by ear. Not a good plan. At any rate, Mom made me keep practicing, and I'm glad I did. I took lessons through most of high school and started writing my own music about that time. Of course, nowadays I rarely tickle the ivories anymore. Staying busy doing everything else keeps me from that! Too bad, too...'cause I know I'm out of practice (literally). Very rusty, indeed. Maybe I can just learn again along with Jaiden! ;)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chuck E. Cheese's... AKA "The Place of Utter Chaos"

Mom, Dad, Sean and I took Jaiden and her friend to Chuck E. Cheese's the other night. I believe it was a Thursday night. And, like always, the place was crawling -- literally -- with snotty, bratty, sugar-crazed children... who must have all gone to the same school of bad manners and even worse hygiene!

But, no matter how crowded or insane, Chuck E. Cheese's is just one of those places that you kind of like and hate at the same time. To explain, I've created a list of reasons why we like Chuck E. Cheese's and reasons why we hate it. (Perhaps you'll spot some thoughts that match your own about this place of utter chaos!)

1. Free Pictures -- I like being able to capture every trip to Chuck E. Cheese's with a free "portrait" drawn by Chuck E. Cheese himself. This isn't our photo, below, but you see what I mean. Kids love it! And it's a fun, little keepsake.

2. Chuck E. Cheese -- I don't know why, but Jaiden really likes good ole' Chuck. Even after taking in my facial expressions of utter disgust whenever I see him, she still happily trots right over to the "real Chuck E." (as she calls him) or to his creepy, bolted down friend. She insisted on me taking this photo. I may have to crop it....

3. Hand Stamping -- I'm still paranoid and over-protective, but I must say, the hand stamp is a little bit of a relief. I don't know about you, by knowing that the competent Chuck E. Cheese's "rat police" won't let you or your children out of the joint until they match up your invisible numbers with the ones stamped on your kid's arm sure puts me at ease! ;)

4. Ticket Muncher -- What's more fun than getting lots of tickets from the fun, germ-covered games at Chuck E. Cheese's? Feeding lots of tickets to the fun, germ-covered ticket muncher and seeing how many points you won for the night! Here's Jaiden and Rachel with their grand total of 461. Kind of a slow night... but, just our luck, many of the games were out of tickets, and the Chuck E. folks were a bit slow at getting those up and running.

5. The Games -- OK. I admit it: we love the games. I love to play basketball and the shoot-'em games with Sean. Jaiden and I play the punch the duckies game and skee-ball. But mostly I run around with a bag full of tickets and tokens, trying to keep up with J and watch her play everything in sight! I also love that every game costs only 1 token. So you can play the "fancy" games along with the cheapy ones for the exact same price. Good deal, Chuck E. Kudos on that one!

And now the flip side....
1. Free Pictures -- Yes, I know "free pictures" was one of the things we like about Chuck E. Cheese's. But photos like this one, below, make me second-guess myself. Looks like the kids' turf is attracting some, uh, interesting folks nowadays. I wonder if they got their hands stamped?

2. Chuck E. Cheese -- Jaiden may like him, but I think Chuck is completely creepy. He's a RAT! A gray, shifty-eyed, animatronic rat with an ugly purple jersey and hideous green shorts. And don't get me started on the costumed weirdo that actually walks around the restaurant.... BTW, this is not a photo from our trip, but it certainly deserves some attention. Not only is it weird that a guy this age is at Chuck E. Cheese's... but, am I seeing things, or does he have a gun? And is that rat, Chuck, a gangster in this shot? (Pun intended.)

3. Crowds of Kids -- We have discovered -- by innumerable trial and error -- that it really does not matter when you go to Chuck E. Cheese's. It will be crowded. There will be at least one loud, obnoxious birthday-party group there. And the place will be full of the kinds of kids that you hope your child does not speak to or interact with for fear that something -- bad habits, food bits, germs -- might rub off on him/her.

4. Cheap Prizes -- I feel bad for the kids. Really, I do. After all that money spent and all that hard work playing games (ha-ha!), all they get to choose from is a handful of plastic bugs, old laffy taffy candy, pencils and a plethora of cheap, made-in-China toys that break as soon as you get them out of the bag or get into the car. Oh, and even if they do have some "good" stuff, you'd better have at least 387,532 tickets to get it! (The most we've ever had in one night is about 870 tickets!)

5. Germs -- I know I've mentioned it already, but I thought that "germs" deserved its own category. Especially if you visit "the Chuck" at night, just check out the scenery around you before you leave.... dried cheese goop on the tables and floors, sticky puddles and patches from spilled drinks, children with pizza sauce and dried ice cream on their fingers and faces, used napkins, cups and plates everywhere. I won't even describe the condition of the bathroom. I'll save you from that nightmare. The point is, the place is a GERM haven!

So, there you have it. I'd write more about this riveting and entertaining topic, but I just found three tokens in my bag. So I'm busy planning our next trip to the rat palace.... ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jaiden's First Fish (Or.... The Fish That Wasn't Really THAT Big!)

Sean, Jaiden and I went to Oak Mountain Lake for a few hours on Sunday afternoon to get in a little fishing! We were planning to just head across the street to our neighborhood lake, but the new boat ramp wasn't quite ready yet. So, we got all the gear loaded up and headed out to the park.

Jaiden has been fishing several times, but -- until this day -- she had never caught a fish. Of course, none of us has really had luck on our past fishing trips. But with some real worms as bait this time, Jaiden hooked and reeled in feisty, little bluegill. Excited, I got out my iPhone and snapped a few pictures of J with her first catch!

Of course, in the above photo, J's little bluegill looks enormous! And it would make for quite the fish story, should I just leave it at that. But bluegills just don't get that big. Especially not in over-fished lakes like the ones at Oak Mountain! If she'd really hooked a fish like this, it would need to go in the record books!

But I can't go on with the charade (or with the sneaky photo taking, if you want to look at it that way!). So, I must confess... in the above photo, I was holding Jaiden's fishing rod. So that little fish was MUCH closer to me (and to the camera) than it was to her.

I'm sure I had you fooled for a second. Right? Hey -- I had Sean and ME fooled, and we were there!

So, here is the "real" photo for comparison... and for clearing my conscience! (Ha-ha!)

It sure was a little squirt, but it was Jaiden's first catch, nonetheless. And hopefully that little bluegill can grow up for some other day, some other cast and, perhaps, some other catch!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A smelly story... because Rachel started it!

A bloggy friend of mine, Rachel, just wrote a funny post that includes a recent incident with an awful -- and awfully mysterious -- bad smell. This reminded me of my own experiences with bad odors. SO I posted a somewhat lengthy comment on her blog. Then I thought, "Why don't I post about this on my own blog...since it's been a while since I've said anything on here lately!?!?"

So, here it is... in all it's hideous, odoriferous glory.

Ok... the WORST odor I have EVER experienced in my house has, unfortunately, occurred SEVERAL times over the last few years.

The first time the bad odor reared its ugly head, I nearly tore our whole house apart, cleaning madly and seeking out the offending odor. Nothing worked. I bleached, disinfected and scrubbed the bathrooms. Nothing. Just bleach and the horrible smell. I wiped down every surface in the kitchen with Clorox wipes. Still no good. I tore through the fridge and tossed containers left and right, hoping the yuck would make its way to the trash and I could just throw it away and be done with it. Nope. Putrid odor still lingering. I cleaned out every crumb in the fridge and every speck off the floor. I disinfected the oven, the microwave, the dishwasher and the sink. Still there. I even started looking in and around the house for something dead and decaying. But I couldn't find ANYTHING!

The wost part was: I couldn't even tell from where the nasty smell was originating! I'd stop in the kitchen and think, "Oh, it's HERE!" Then I'd walk through the den a minute later and think, "Wait, no.... it's stronger in this room. Ha-HAH!" I wandered around the house for literally hours with my nose up or down, in or out, sniffing around like a crazy dog with too many scent trails to follow.

Finally I discovered where the problem was coming from: a ton of old grass clippings left behind (in our HUGE commercial mower, see photo, below) to rot in our small, humid garage.

The garage was right next to the kitchen. Right down the hall from my bedroom. And it was a 1-level house, so the rank permeated its way easily through the nooks and crannies of every room, closet and cabinet. When I finally got the courage to check out the scene close-up (very CSI like, with gloves, mask and all), I opened the hatch just a teensy bit and big clumps of runny, rancid green grass goop threatened to tumble on top of me. It was HORRIBLE! (Thankfully, I have no photos... nor do computers have a way to recreate that smell for you!)

Of course, since we own a lawn business, this uniquely disgusting smell sneaks back into our lives every now and again (due to a forgetful or tired hubby). But at least I know what it is and what to do to get rid of it. NOT knowing the first time around was enough to lock me in a rubber room with a box of not-pointy crayons! ;)