Friday, June 29, 2012

Are We Done Yet?

New walls?  Check.

New bathroom?  Check.

New floors?  Almost check.

We're heading down the home stretch in this rebuild after the April Fool's Day disaster.  The wood floors are just about installed, and all that will be left is the carpet and a few baseboards.

The house is looking good, from what I can see underneath the 3 months of asbestos, wood, and drywall dust that has accumulated.  We're contemplating paying someone to come in and do a full top to bottom dusting and vacuuming, but the cheapskate in me is bound to put the kibosh on that one any minute now.  

As close as we are to finishing this ordeal, it really isn't helping me cope with the irritations of having a steady stream of laborers flowing through the house.  For the most part, everyone has been very nice, respectful, and thoughtful.  It really hasn't been until this last crew that I personally had complaints about the situation.  I mean, sure, they didn't take the nails down when they painted over the entire wall, and sure they showed up unannounced on the morning we weren't planning...but that stuff is minor.

At least until this last crew showed up on the scene.

This latest group of guys has zero personality, and in my book, if you're making my life difficult, a good personality goes a long way.  So when they left their Dominos pizza box and empty 2 liter on my lawn, along with a half eaten slice tossed on the driveway, I took names.

And when they missed the toilet and left a little welcome puddle on my brand new remodeled bathroom, I saw red (and yellow).

And when they drove away without telling me they were done for the day, I thought, "thanks for the heads up, I guess I'll just assume the floors are ok to walk on now." By the time I had booked it downstairs to see if I could catch them, they were already pulling out of the driveway.  I felt foolish chasing them down the street, so I just stood there and watched them drive away.

About the same time, one of the workers noticed me standing there.

Fast forward to this morning.  The crew arrived as normal, but this time I made no effort to engage them.  After the peed-on floor, pizza on the driveway, and ninja-like disappearance, I was done trying to maintain friendly relations.  I said hi, let them in, and went upstairs to get started with my work day.

A short while later, I heard one of the guy's phone ring and then heard him say, "yes, we're here already."  A very polite voice then trailed it's way up the stairs, "Um, excuse me, Manuel wants to speak with you."

Well, what can this be about?  I take the phone and am immediately greeted with, "I have to tell you, my guys got some water out of your fridge yesterday and drank your bottles.  I'm so sorry, I'll replace it today."  Followed by lots more apologizing.

What???  They actually went into my fridge looking for something to drink?

That was the last thing I was expecting, and I was caught off guard, so I brushed it off and told him not to worry about replacing the water.  If I had had my wits about me (I'm trying to bring that phrase back), I would've played up the invasion of privacy bit.  Or at least leaned on the pilfering angle.  But as my wits were nowhere to be found, I settled for telling him that if they needed to go into our stuff, they needed to let us know first.

Now tell me, is it normal crew behavior to just go into someone's fridge and help themselves to whatever looks good?  I mean, to be fair, it was a warm day, but 3 months into this, every crew until now has brought their own fluids and foods.  And for most of the day, the kitchen was sealed up by THEM so that they could work in there.

And with that final offense, I officially became sick of this repair project.  From here on out, I'm counting the minutes until my house is finished.

On a more interesting note, we discovered this little gem beneath our floors.

I'm torn between delight and disgust.

And we also finally understood why our baseboards were so thick along this wall.

Every home has its secrets.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fishing at Carpinteria State Beach

Me (approaching M, who is tying sea kelp to a rock):  "Watcha doin', M?"

M (not looking up, working):  "I'm going fishing, and this rock looks like cheese, and the fish is going to bite it, and I'm going to catch the fish."

The bait.

The fishing pole.

The fisherman.

A short while later...

Me (seeing M has abandoned the first idea):  "Did you get tired of the cheese?"

M (walking past me):  "I'm going to use a fish instead, and the fish will come up to say hi, and then I'll catch it."

It promptly broke off and floated away.

He never caught a fish, but he learned that rocks and sand toys make bad bait.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Someone Should Make a Public Restroom App For People Like Me

We're still recovering from The Great Flood of 2012, and as part of that recovery, we need to find a desk to replace the one that was doused in poop water.  It hasn't been easy finding a replacement.  As is usually the case, we have caviar taste on a tuna fish budget.

After doing some online searching, we found a desk that seemed to have potential.  Unfortunately, the closest store to have it in stock was all the way in the Valley, so Saturday, we piled into the minivan and took a little road trip to the Sherman Oaks Galleria.

For any of you who grew up in Southern California during the 80s, the words "Sherman Oaks Galleria" should conjure images of Jeff Spicoli and valley girls who sound like that Kardashian sister...the short one with the baby (not Khloe, not Kimmie..I can never remember that last one's name).  Anyway, imagine a town full of girls who sound like that.  I know.  One of them is bad enough.

Since the shop we were headed to was located at the Galleria , we thought it would make a nice little outing to visit the place made famous by Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

The Sherman Oaks Galleria back in the day.
What a disappointment that turned out to be.  Turns out the place was torn down and rebuilt into a restaurant/movie theater/gym multiplex, with a furniture shop tacked on.  For all the foot traffic and terrible parking it had, this place offered very little that held our interest.

But I suppose it didn't matter much, because I wasn't feeling too well and was ready to go home from the moment we arrived.  You see, I have a finicky stomach.  Ever since having my gall bladder removed 10 years ago, I've had to be especially careful with what I eat and how I eat.  It's nothing I can't work around, I just know that I shouldn't skip breakfast, and I shouldn't have a meal less than 1.5 hours before a trip.  Otherwise I take the chance of my stomach making life difficult for me.  And by difficult, I mean pain-filled and embarrassing.

I've managed fairly well and haven't had problems in a while, so when I realized that I hadn't eaten breakfast (and lunchtime was fast approaching), I threw care to the wind and suggested The Meat Locker for lunch.  I was in the mood for bbq, and this place has a good hot link sandwich.  The kind that leaves your lips burning.

Unfortunately, my stomach was having none of that, as was evidenced about 20 minutes after taking my last bite.  I'm very familiar with how this is going to progress, and it's about now that I start weighing my options, developing a strategy for how I will approach this situation.  "If I can make it to the Galleria, there'll be a bathroom there..."

Turns out this was no regular stomach revolt.  My belly was TICKED OFF and was not going to let me get away with a simple visit to the restroom.  Oh no, not this time.

You know the kind of pain you get when it feels like you need to stay near a bathroom or else something mortifying is bound to happen?  And that feeling just lasts and lasts, making you wonder if anything is ever to come of it?  That's how my Saturday went.  Despite the pain, we managed to visit the furniture store, found nothing, wandered the Galleria, found nothing, and decided to drive down Ventura Boulevard, looking for a hidden gem of a furniture store that would carry the desk of our dreams.

We got about 2 miles down Ventura Blvd, when we found our first furniture store.  By then, I was practicing my lamaze breathing, because the pains were coming so fast and furiously that I couldn't speak, let alone peruse the aisles of a furniture store.  BH ran in, found nothing desk-like, and ran back out.  At that point, I told him, "we need to find a restroom." And thus began our tour of Southern California's public restrooms.

Fyi, the McDonalds on Ventura Blvd, near Woodman has outstanding facilities.  I would recommend this one to any of my friends.

By the time we made it home, I had spent about two hours staring at the tiles of various restrooms across the valley.  And my poor BH and kids had lots of quality time together in the minivan, waiting.

But not all was lost on this trip.  While visiting the Vons Pavilions restroom in Woodland Hills, BH and the boys decided to use this time to shop the toy aisle at the grocery store.  By the time I came out, winded, they were knee deep in matchbox toys.  They spent way too much time trying to decide on which they wanted.  I tend to get antsy with stuff like this, so I suggested we get going.  To which he thoughtfully replied, "I was just trying to kill time, so you could go again in a little while.  Get comfortable."

He's a keeper.

Turns out his tactic wasn't foolproof, but what it did do was buy us enough time to coincidentally be in line at precisely the same time that Lou Diamond Phillips was in line paying for his groceries.

Lou Diamond Phillips?  Yes, Lou Diamond Phillips.

There we were, sharing the same grocery store air with the guy from La Bamba.

Pa-da-da-da-da-da Bamba!

Given the state I was in, I was in no mood to even consider a meet and greet.  So I settled for a paparazzi-esque photo of him as he drove by in his black SUV.

Truly, I could just be pulling your leg with this photo.

I wish I could say this was where the tour ended, but sadly, it was not.  At some point, late in the afternoon, I finally recovered.  Not feeling energetic enough to cook dinner, we went to Taco Bell.

I skipped dinner.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Miracle of Life

“Mom, they showed a birth in Science today.”

These were the words that P greeted me with at pick-up last week.  At first, I didn’t quite understand what he was telling me, so he repeated again, “Mom, they showed a birth in Science today.”  This time he’s looking at me, and I can see that he’s unnaturally calm.

Me:  “A live birth???”  I asked.

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “A live, human birth???”

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Really?  Was it a video?”

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “How much did they show?”

P:  “Everything.”

Me:  “EVERYTHING, everything?”

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Like, crotch shot?”

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Eeeuuuwww.  Really???”

P:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Pretty gross, huh?

P:  "Ugh, it was nasty!"

Me:  "I can’t believe they showed you that.  I didn’t want to see that on myself, I didn’t want your dad to see it when you guys were born, and I sure wasn’t planning on you seeing it in 7th grade.  I can’t believe they showed you that.”

P:  “I know.  Cal and Mark were so lucky, because their moms didn’t sign the permission slip, so they got to sit outside during the video.  I wish I could’ve sat outside.”

Me:  “I don’t remember the permission slip saying anything about a video of a live vaginal birth, do you?”

P:  “No, it didn’t!  Mom, you should call the cops and have the school arrested for pornography.”

Me (laughing):  “Yeah, it is pretty graphic, isn’t it?  How did everyone react to it?”

P:  “No one talked about it afterward.”

Me:  “That’s so weird that they would show this to a bunch of 12 year old boys.  I don’t think you guys needed to see that.  Where were the girls?  Did they show them the video in another room?”

P:  “We were all the same room watching it.  But they sat at different tables.”

Me:  “WHAT?!?!  They had you all in the same room?????  That is crazy.”


L:  “Mom, it was so nasty and bloody and disgusting.”

Me:  “Yeah, it is, kind of.  Lucky for me, you guys were all c-section, so I didn’t have to do any of that.”

P:  “I know.  I’m so glad I was born the good way.”

Ok.  So I know it is my responsibility as a parent to preview the Sex Ed curriculum, and when I sign the permission slip, I am giving my ok to it.  And I should've watched the video when they screened it (I'm assuming they did and I just blew it off).  But really.  I'm pretty open about this stuff, so I figured whatever they discussed would be old news to him.  I had no idea he'd be learning the true meaning of crowning.  Had I known, I think I might've held off on signing the slip.  Not because I'm anti-sex ed, but because I don't think this 12 year old boy needs to see this yet.

But whatever, the damage is done.  My kid has seen his first vagina.  Shudder.

To be sure of exactly what he saw, I called the school, got the name of the video, and sat myself down to watch it online.  Nova’s Miracle of Life.  Turns out I had seen this before, back when I was pregnant with L.  The video is really well done, with lots of great footage of eggs and sperm and embryos and all that good stuff.  Really informative and interesting.


And then we get to minute 46.

The next 4 minutes were enough to make ME shudder.  Seriously, this was not for the squeamish.  Sure, it’s the miracle of life, a beautiful thing, blah, blah, blah.  I appreciate the sentiment.  But when it comes down to it, it is aesthetically unpleasant to view.  And I’m a girl!  These are essentially MY parts, and I’m turning queasy watching it.  Imagine how a room full of 12 year old boys felt.

I now know that P’s unnatural calm was misleading.  He wasn’t calm, he was in shock.

Immediately following the birth, the video turns to the parents and their joy in having created this expression of their love.  In true crazy female fashion, I quickly about-face and start misting up at this tender moment.  Nothing gets to me more than the sight of a new dad crying over his baby.

A couple days later, I mentioned to P that I had watched the video and was thinking about showing it to L when he’s in 7th grade.  (L is very modest and this type of public experience might mortify him to death).

P:  “No Mom.  Don’t show it to him.”

Me:  “You think?  Just let him see it in school?”

P:  “No.  Don’t sign the form either.  He shouldn’t ever have to see that.”

Awwwww….brotherly love.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Can You Tell Me What Happened?

Yesterday, I was working from home when I got a phone call from the Boys and Girls Club.  “This can’t be good,” I thought to myself.  P goes here after school, and while the calls are very few and far between, I still tense up at any caller id from his whereabouts (based on years of calls during elementary school).

An unexpected call from here can only mean he either behaved inappropriately or he got hurt.

And option number two it was.

While playing basketball with another boy, a third thought it would be funny if he pushed Boy #2 into P.  Boy #2 lost his balance, barreled towards P, and head butted him in the mouth.  Boy #2 falls to the ground and starts crying in pain, while P’s lip starts bleeding.  

Upon closer look, it was decided a call home to mom was needed. 

When I got there, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find.  They had warned that he might need a stitch, so I figured there would be blood.  As I walked into the facility, I could see P sitting with an ice pack on his lip.  I approached, and then, as if in slow motion, he removed the pack to reveal pile of bloody ground beef that made me recoil in horror.  My stomach turned ever so slightly, but I sucked it up and took a step closer to see what the damage really looked like.

It looked worse up close.  It was deep and ran the length of his bottom lip, front to back.  The bottom lip had also puffed to twice its size, making it look almost comical.  After the second look, I again backed up, this time to flap my hands and make gagging sounds.  It was all very entertaining for the audience, who had already had their fill of the grisly sight.  Poor P just stood there, looking like he was barely holding it together.  My brave boy.

After a quick call to the pediatrician and explaining what happened, they directed me to the ER, where a plastic surgeon could be called, should he be needed.  Turns out lips aren’t the easiest to repair.  I gave a silent prayer that we wouldn’t need a plastic surgeon, because this accident was already going to cost us an arm and a leg.  And a lip. 

When all was said and done, we came away with two stitches and no plastic surgeon.  It was all very straightforward: check-in, triage, stitches, check out.   As far as ER visits go, it was ho-hum.

But there was the the constant CHILD ABUSE line of questioning that is worth mentioning.

I counted 6 instances of being asked these words: “Can you tell me what happened?”  The first time, it was while on the phone with the pediatrician.  When I called and told them my son has busted his lip, they didn’t care that he was bleeding, unconscious or dead.  Their first question was, “how did it happen?”  I barely noticed this, since it was only the first of the six times.  The second time they asked, they wanted to know more specifics of the events.  I thought they were just being thorough.  But then in ER, when the guy who took our name asked, my radar went up.

In triage, again, we gave the story.  It was at this point, the triage nurse received a phone call and took a moment to answer it.  Here’s how her conversation went:

“Yes, I’m doing it right now.  Playing basketball.  No, it’s ok.  Yes, you know I’d tell you right away if I thought so.  Sure, thanks.”

Suddenly, I’m feeling a little uncomfortable.  All along, I’ve been “under suspicion”.  With this realization, my next thought flies to, “P, you better not decide to joke about us doing this to you.”  And now my silent prayer has switched to one that hopes he doesn't decide to go Stand-Up Comedian on me.

We made it through two more interrogations before they seemed satisfied and dropped the inquisition.  And fortunately, the devilish thought didn’t occur to P until after the stitches had been completed and we were alone.   I didn’t hesitate to nip that impulse in the bud.  Once I explained to him the gravity of what his joke could lead to, he mulled it over and decided to refrain from joking.

On a side note, he was a complete trooper about the shots and stitches.  He never freaked out, not even when they covered his eyes with gauze and placed a surgical drape over his head and body, leaving only his mouth and nostrils exposed.  I even caught him signalling SOS with his nostrils.  This made the doctor laugh, which only encouraged him to perform some more.  By the end of the visit, I had to give him a mean look and tell him to knock it off.

At that point, he says to me:  “Mom, you do look kind of mean.  Especially wearing that jacket.  I can see why they kept asking what happened.  Do you have any chapstick?”

I’ll say one thing about him, the boy is resilient.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Laser Tag at Paint Ball USA

In this family, the kids have big birthday parties every other year.  On their off years, they get the standard family get-together, with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  So basically, they get a big birthday party every year, the difference being one year it's family, the other year it's friends.

This year was L's turn for his big blow out.  Since he was turning ten, this party marked the end of his "invite all your friends and have an extravaganza" style party.  After this, it's strictly 2 or 3 kids going somewhere fun.  So he knew he had to make this one count.

He chose laser tag at a local paintball venue.

Last Saturday, we made the drive over to Paintball USA for the big day.  Including him, we had 11 kids, which was perfect for two decent-sized teams.

The Hay Bales field.
The Tires field.
One end of the Buildings field.
Another view of the Buildings field.
And another.
More Buildings field.
And still more Buildings.
Can you tell this was the best field?
Best thing about laser vs fear.
These kids were worn out by the end of the day.
Walking back from the Airsoft field.
The birthday boy.

This place was located in the middle of a bunch of farmland, but that didn't stop it from being crowded with paintballers of all ages.  No joke, I think I saw just as many adults as I did kids doing this stuff.

The slight downer of the day was that our group was clearly the youngest (and only) group doing laser tag, so it made them the object of a few snickers.  Our kids could hear the comments, so it definitely dampened their enthusiasm.   I felt bad, but they shook it off and still managed to enjoy themselves.

Oh yeah, and I got shot in the booty by a stray paintball.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Teaching Art, Part 3: Picasso

Here's what we did for last month's Art Masters project:

We were given line drawings in Picasso style to mimic.  But the trick was that we had to turn it upside down and draw the lines and curves we saw, rather than the image we were perceiving.  Once you turn it back right side, you should have something interesting.  As shown above, my completed drawing ended up looking like a pouty woman.

There were many images to choose from, and here are a few finished products from the 4th grade class.

My personal fave is the last one.  And I'm not just saying that because it was L's.  Ok, yes I am.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Scene of the Crime

The other morning, I was out early and came across this sight.

Ever the investigative journalist, I had to turn around and get a closer look.

These skid marks make no sense to me
Bad photograph, but centered shots are hard to achieve while driving.

Talk about rotten luck.

From the looks of it, some yahoo lost control of their car, nailed the front end of this parked car, spun around, and nailed the car again, this time on the back side door.  The skid marks have me completely baffled.  The only way I see an explanation for these patterns is that the car made a pirouette (or perhaps a triple salchow) with a bad landing.  Or there is the the possibility that there was a second gunman car.

On my second time around, I noticed that another passerby had also stopped to survey the scene.  I realized that I was a solitary driver in an unmarked car, suspiciously pulled over, taking pictures.  It was only then that I became acutely aware of how some might find it odd I was taking pictures from my car.  Every hack cop movie of the 80s hinged on the premise that the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.  I had nothing to do with this collision, and suddenly I was feeling like a suspect.

Witness:  "Officer, there was a suspicious woman who stopped and took photos."
Officer:  "Do you have a description of this woman?"
Witness:  "Well, she was in a huge minivan.  And she was incredibly gorgeous."
Officer:  "Thank you.  We'll put out an APB for a hot mom in a minivan."

Not wanting to be on the lam for a crime I didn't commit, I drove slowly by, rolled down the window and marveled over this accident with her.

Me:  "Crazy, isn't?"
Witness:  "Yes!  Do you think they know about it yet?"
Me:  "Doubt it.  What rotten luck."

And off I drove, my good name cleared.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Minors, Miners, and Minecraft

It started about 2 months ago.  Someone's friend discovered it and began telling others about it.  Soon thereafter, the begging began.  And it never let up.

"Please, Mom, can you look it up on GamerDad and see if it's appropriate?"

(GamerDad is my go-to source for video game appropriateness)

"Mom, did you go to GamerDad yet?"

"Moooommmm, it's only $24 and you don't have to pay every month, like Club Penguin."

"Mooooooommmmmm, if H and I pay for it with our money, can we buy it, pleeeeeeeeze......"

"MOM, when are you going to look on GamerDad?!?!"

I had already decided this game was ok, after I had learned about it last year.  I was just postponing it, because our computer is on it's last leg. 

But those kids were persistent.  They wore me down.  And out of all the lame video games out there, this one seemed pretty cool, even to me.  So we bought it.  Or rather, THEY bought it.

That was two weeks ago..the day I said goodbye to my precious laptop.  The day Minecraft moved in and cast a death-like grip on my children's imaginations. 

Needless to say, I've been a little inconvenienced by this new development.  I have no time to catch up on Suri's Burn Book or Passive Aggressive Notes.  Or to dream up witty, clever posts like this.

I'm down to one back-up post, and I'm feeling the pinch. 

I'm going to have to figure something out soon.  Considering we have 3 hours in the evening to finish homework, make dinner, take baths, and play on the computer...I'm just hoping they get burned out real quick.

Alright, gotta go, my time is up.