Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clueless but willing

As I get closer to my occupational change from higher education professional to SAHM (that's Stay At Home Mom for anyone who doesn't frequent parenting websites), I've begun thinking about some of the skills that most SAHMs have that, well, I don't. I know that this indicates all kinds of horrible things about me, like that I'm spoiled and incompetent and blah blah blah, but there's nothing I can do about that. All I can do is admit that I have a problem and seek help. I would never take a job in, say, accounting without learning the basics first--the same should be true with this. The only difference is that no company would hire me to be an accountant unless they knew I knew what I was doing. My family doesn't have that luxury.

So in an effort to perform a sort of self-inventory and confession all in one, I present:

The List of Things That I Should Be Able To Do, And That Other Moms I Know Can Do, But I Can't (But Am Willing To Learn)

1. Sew on a button.
2. Take the screens off my house windows.
3. Change the bag on my vacuum cleaner.
4. Cook.
5. Play a DVD on our TV.
6. Flip one of our breaker switches (technically I know HOW to do this, I just don't know WHERE the box is, which makes me sufficiently insufficient)
7. Pick out fruits and vegetables that are ripe at the store. I have no idea which ones are supposed to be firm, which ones are supposed to be squishy, or bright, or pale.
8. Manage the giant volume of school take-home papers. (Am I the ONLY mother that has this problem? I go to other mother's houses, and I can actually see their table top! WHERE are all those papers?)

I'm sure there are more--this is just a starter list. As I look at it, I realize that most of this stuff doesn't directly have to do with parenting. In fact, I really don't think SAHM will be an accurate name for my new life. I believe I shall refer to the position into which I am moving in less than a month (!) as AMEN Chief Operations Officer (COO). Makes sense, doesn't it? Now I just have to learn all the stuff on my list before my family figures out a way to demote me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lucie, you're going DOWN

Okay, I've survived my weekend and feel sufficiently rested, so I'm ready to tell my tale of scamming and debauchery.

Almost two months ago, I received an email from a young lady named Lucie Signoret. Lucie lives in Monaco, and she and her fiance Bertin are relocating to NWA for his job. They had decided to get married here on December 19 and needed to hire a coordinator to organize everything. We began regular correspondence and discussed everything from color scheme to reception site. She requested a contract and a quote, which I sent her. Then on this past Thursday, I had a UPS envelope waiting for me at home. In it was a bank-issued check for almost $4000. I checked my email, and Lucie told me that she had sent me the check to serve as both a deposit for my fees and the money necessary to begin reserving vendors for the wedding. This was totally in line with what we had discussed. She had previously told me that she had reserved a band that they knew to play at the wedding, and asked me to wire the balance, after I took out my deposit, to the band.

Of course, when I read that now a million red flags appear, but I get asked to do random stuff all the time as a coordinator, so I didn't think much about it. I was actually getting ready to head to the bank to take care of it when my friend, my dear friend, my heaven-sent friend Mandy called just to say hi. I told her what I was doing, and she suggested that I call the bank that had issued the check, just in case--she had just heard about this happening to someone on eBay.

The minute she said it, I KNEW it was a scam. I called the bank, and sure enough, the check was not legitimate. I was SO mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner, but SO relieved that I hadn't deposited the check. (Their hope was that I would deposit the check, withdraw some of the money, wire it, and THEN find out that the check was fake and that I would have to cover the withdrawal myself).

Matt was as worked up as me, and he had me email "Lucie" to tell her it would be the next day before I could get to the bank just to buy us a little more time. Friday morning I was on the computer preparing to submit my wire fraud complaint to the FBI when my cell phone rang. IT WAS THE SCAMMER! He pretended to be Bertin, French accent and all. Said he was so happy to talk with me, thanked me for all my help so far, and oh, was I going to be able to wire that money today?

I was sweet as sugar. "Bertin! I was JUST about to email Lucie! SO great to talk to you, too! THANK you for calling! I JUST returned from the bank! And GUESS what? The check was FAKE!"

Click. He hung up. Gig's up, Lucie.

Homeboy messed with the wrong wedding coordinator, I can tell you that. We are working with the bank that had the check stolen, and submitting the report to the FBI. I'm going to file a complaint with Yahoo since that's the email server they used. The FOOL called me from a traceable number, so Matt the computer whiz found the STREET ADDRESS that he called from (not even in Monaco, but in Benin, Nigeria)(what IS it with Nigeria and wire fraud?) "Lucie and Bertin" have got some dark days ahead if this woman has anything to say about it.

Despite coming close to having been majorly ripped off, I guess no real harm has been done. I feel pretty stupid, but I'll get over it. Meanwhile, I feel for the next legitimate bride who tries to give me a check--I'll probably require three photo IDs and a blood sample before I accept it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Everyone has time for bowling

It's been a busy few days. I had a wedding Friday, and another one today. I had about a million errands to run for both on Thursday and Friday, and-oh, yeah- I almost got scammed ouf of $2200 (more on that later, and trust me, it's worth the wait).

Somehow in all that action, AMEN managed to find time yesterday to check out NWA's newest entertainment venue--Fast Lanes ( It's by the Pleasant Grove Wal Mart for those of you who are local. I had heard the extensive hype about the place and wanted to check it out. We were really impressed. It's got a huge fancy schmancy arcade with cool virtual reality games, a laser tag arena, indoor go karts, a restaurant, and two bowling areas. One is pretty much like every bowling alley you've seen, though configured nicely with tables right behind the lanes and servers on call to take orders and bring you food from the restaurant whily you're playing. The other area is totally sweet--it's all black light and neon, with huge video screens above the lanes. Instead of plastic molded chairs, you sit on big funky sofas. It looks like a cocktail lounge that had a few bowling lanes crash down in it.

We bowled a game, and had a lot of fun. Matt actually brought his own bowling ball and played a great game. Abby bowled an impressive 87, and I think I scored a 43 because Ethan insisted on bowling my frames. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What happened to protractors and compasses?

It's time to check off one more item on the list of Monumental Events (That Are Very Minor To The Rest Of The World) In Parenting. Yesterday, Matt and I took Abby shopping for her Kindergarten school supplies.

If you are human and went to school, then reading those last few words probably threw you into instant nostalgia mode. Just the phrase "school supplies" sends visions of sharp yellow pencils, full glue bottles and 3-prong folders through my head. I can smell the new notebook paper and feel the weight of the crayon box in my hand. Shopping for supplies is such a highlight of the end of summer! Abby was excited, but I was just plain giddy.

Of course, some things have changed since I was in school. Back in my day, you went up to the school to get your supply list. Now they are available at Wal Mart, Office Depot, and every other store that has a remote connection to school supplies. The lists have some ageless staples, like crayons, but some classics (Trapper Keepers, anyone?) have been retired, and replaced with hand sanitizer and dry erase markers. I was VERY happy to see the good old Vinyl Kindergarten nap mat on the list--this school clearly understands the importance of well-rested 5 year olds.

For the most part, the list was just what you'd expect. A couple of things really threw us though:

- Most of the quantities made total sense, like 24 pencils, two notebooks and even 4 24-count boxes of crayons. However, in addition to the 1 bottle of glue, they request that each child bring TWELVE glue sticks. They are only in school for 9 months! Are they going to put it all together and make a life sized sculpture of their favorite animal? I cannot fathom what else would require that much glue. Maybe they count on the kids leaving the top off and drying out the glue every couple of weeks or something. We were even more surprised when we got to the glue section and discovered that glue sticks are actually sold in packages of 12! Does Kindergarten really focus that much on attaching things to other things, or are we teaching our children the dangerous habit of over-adhesing?

- Born from parents' tendancies to overdo it and the effort to make all kids as equal as possible, the list is for the most part very specific. For example, it doesn't just say #2 pencils, it says "two packages of yellow #2 pencils." Don't be showing off by coming to school with Hello Kitty or Spider Man. I totally get that, and appreciate it. They require the 8-color watercolor sets to keep kids from bringing a 400 color palette, and get really detailed with a couple of things, like "One 4 pack no-odor Expo Dry Erase Markers" and "One pair of blunt end Fiskar brand metal scissors." We could only find the low-odor markers, but Matt made fun of me when I was worried about it. So we made our way down the list, relieved that we didn't have any guesswork since they were so clear. Then we got to the last item on the list: "One package of highlighters." That's IT? That's all we get to work with? There are about 147 different kinds of packages of highlighters. Again I started to worry, again my sweet husband mocked me, grabbed the first package he saw, and headed for checkout. I admire his ability to remain calm in a moment of confusion.

All in all, the trip was fun, reasonably brief and not horribly expensive. Abby is now armed wtih all of the necessary gear to begin her school career--though if you ask me, adding a Trapper Keeper to the mix wouldn't hurt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blow by blow

Okay, if you haven't read the post I made earlier today, read it first before you start this one.

Matt got a last minute invitation to attend a Naturals game tonight (convenient), so I am flying solo on the bedtime experiment. I'm taking a wild guess that the entire night will be blogworthy, so I'm writing this by way of introduction, and I'll just keep a timeline of events as they happen. Here's my plan. It's now 8:00. Both kids are dressed and ready for bed. I will put Ethan in bed at 8:15 and leave the door open. Then I will go to Abby's room and read her a book. From the chair in her room, I can see Ethan's door and most of his room, so I will know if he gets up. I've taped his light switch so he can't turn his light on, so he will only have about an hour before it gets really dark.

Here goes nothing!

8:15 Ethan's in bed on schedule.

8:16 Abby and I crack open My Little Pony: Golden Egg Hunt.

8:17 I see a blond head peek around the door frame. I get up and calmly tuck him back in. I calmly tell him if he gets up again I will put the gate up. He has seen the gate, and he is NOT a fan. I head back to Abby and the egg hunt.

8:19 Blond head sighting again. By the time I make it to his room, he's already back in his bed. I tell him (clamly) that since he cannot stay in bed, the gate will go up at his door. I put the gate up (which only takes a second thanks to the 25 minutes I spent earlier trying to figure out how to make it fit right). He is saying uh-uh, but not too sadly, and he's staying put. I return once again to Abby's room.

8:19:30 E appears at the door and pushes on the gate. It holds fast. He utters a few "no's." I tuck Abby in and head down the hall. He runs for his bed. I'm sure he thinks I'm coming after him, but this is new, calm mommy. I just close his door (the gate is just on the outside) and go to the living room.

8:20 Door opens.

8:20:20 Door closes.

8:20:40 Door opens

8:20:45 Door slams shut and immediately reopens.

8:21 Whining begins.

8:30 Whining has progressed into full blown sobbing, punctuated with cries of "I'na get outta here!" and "I want my mommy daddy sissy!" and "Where daddy go?" I feel you on that last one, little guy.

8:38 Crying abruptly stops. The door closes, and I can hear the banging of toys. The door opens, and E peers out. He throws out a couple of cries for good measure. Waits, and when I don't react, starts the wailing again.

8:42 Crying got old. He's playing with his toys. Has it REALLY only been 27 minutes?

8:53 He appears to be rather artfully stacking a deck of playing cards against the gate.

9:06 It's pretty dark now, and the entire deck of cards has been woven into the gate. He's fussing again, though it's kind of halfhearted.

9:16 He closed the door, then opened it again--I guess to see if it would trick me somehow. Didn't work, so he's crying louder now.

9:17 I'm hungry but I don't want to turn on the kitchen light.

9:30 This is getting really old. I've been thinking about it, and I'm going to slightly modify the plan. I'm going to speak to him, calmly, and say"If you go to bed, I will take the gate down."

9:37 Didn't work. Back to plan A.

9:40 How about Plan C? He's so pitiful. I say, "If you lay down, I will come snuggle you." He's in bed before I finish the sentence. I take down the gate, go in, hug him, kiss his cheek, and say, "If you get up, I will put the gate back up." I walk out.

9:45 HE'S ASLEEP! Exactly an hour and a half was all it took. But, I remained calm the whole time. And I bet (hope) that tomorrow night just the word "gate" will send him scurrying off to bed.

9:46 I'm getting a snack and going to bed myself. Being a calm mommy is exhausting.

We CAN outsmart a 2 year old. Maybe.

Remember a couple of months ago when I posted about moving Ethan to his big boy bed, and how easy he was to put down in contrast to his sister?


Now he gets up almost immediately after we leave the room--in fact, I think Sunday night he was out of bed before I was even gone. The amazing thing is his persistence. He can get up dozens of times before he finally gives in to exhaustion. Last night was horrible--he played the up and down game for two. and a half. HOURS! We were ready to make him sleep in the back yard.

The problem is that he doesn't get up crying or wanting anything--he just crawls out of bed, sits down in his floor and starts playing. Rrrr! We read some suggestions on various parenting websites last night, and we've decided to try a new technique, though I am VERY dubious.

Tonight, we will put him to bed as usual. The first time he gets up, we will calmly say "You may not get up, Ethan," take him calmly by the hand, and clamly put him back in bed. This in and of itself will be a change, because "calmly" is not a word that I would use to describe our past methods.

If he gets up again (and there's not a chance in the world he won't), then it gets serious. We repeat the calmly routine, but this time when we leave, we put a baby gate up at his door. If he opens the door, we ignore him. If he cries, we ignore him. If he plays in his floor, we ignore him. The theory is that at some point, he will get bored because we aren't giving him any attention and he'll curl up in bed and drift off. After a couple of nights of being ignored, he'll decide it's not worth the trouble and just stay in bed.

I will be seriously surprised if this works. I know my son, and I am pretty sure that at 3 AM he will still be going strong. That's assuming that he doesn't just hop right over the gate, which is also entirely possible. For his sake, I hope it is successful--there are lots of mosqitoes in our back yard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Final Countdown

After today, I have 32 working days at most left at my job (that's if I don't take any more days off than I'm currently scheduled for). I can't believe it! Now that we're back from vacation, it's suddenly very close. I feel like a high school kid that's a month away from summer break. It's really still hard for me to comprehend that such a major life change is coming, because I'm so immersed in the mundane right now--cleaning out my files and the such. I think it will really begin to sink in when I start to take home the personal things in my office (for which I might need a moving van)(don't judge, I've spent a LOT of time in this office in the last 7 yeras).

Now that I'm on the countdown, it will be a challenge to stay focused and get everything done, especially since soccer is about to start up again and Kindergarten is barely a month away. I know the time will fly. Before I know it, it will be September 2, and for the first time it will be a work day for which I am not employed. I'll be sitting on the couch watching Ethan ride the ceiling fan, trying to decide whether to tackle laundry or dishes first.

I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hakuna Matata

All week while we were at Disney World, I kept thinking about how to fit the experience into a blog post or posts. Organize by day? By park? By event? There is just SO much. I finally decided that the only way to go was to just be random about it and hit the highlights. So, here are the top events and observations that I think are share-worthy:

1. Hakuna Matata. Unless you are just plain strange, you know this phrase is the name of a song from the Disney movie Lion King and that it means "No Worries." We heard this song about a million and a half times while we were there, but the reason it makes my list is that it is a great theme statement for the week. We just had a really easy, fun time. Things seemed to go our way all of the time, and the kids were relaxed and happy.

2. Meeting the Mouse. Well, and a bunch of others. We got to meet Mickey and Minnie at the Magic Kingdom on our second day there, and we saw them again, along with Donald, Pluto and Goofy, at our character breakfast at Chef Mickey on Wednesday. The kids were delighted by the characters, who were in my humble opinion equally smitten. The pictures do a great job of showing the mutual admiration. I cried every time my kids snuggled up to one of them.

3. No cheese! I have a really, really low corny tolerance, so I was worried that I would be more irritated than anything else by the shiny happiness of Disney World. Nope, I was totally hooked. The moment I stepped on Main Street, I was in love. I could have just stood there all day and stared.

4. House Beautiful. I will NEVER go to Disney World and stay in a hotel. We rented an amazing house that had 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, a pool, gameroom, big screen TV, and TONS of space. It was heaven. It was a vacation in itself. And it was WAY more affordable than hotels.

5. HSM Love. Abby and I got to watch the High School Musical 2 dance party from front and center. It would have been enough for her to just see the one thing that she was looking most forward to. But one of the cheerleaders took Abby by the hand and pulled her up to dance. She stood up there in her little Troy Loves Gabriella t-shirt and boogied her heart out with a smile almost breaking her face in half, and I tried to see well enough to take pictures through the tears streaming down my face at seeing my baby so thrilled. I may have boogied a little too.

6. Wild rides. I got to experience some very exceptional roller coasters, including Expedition Everest (3 times), Kracken at Sea World (4 times), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (2 times) and Aerosmith's Rock n Roller coaster (2 times and my favorite). Even better was that Abby has turned out to be a thrill seeker just like her mama. She begged to ride, and shrieked with laughter and not one ounce of fear as we flew down the tracks. She was an inch and a half too short to ride the ones that went upside down, and it devastated her.

7. Why ride when you can drive? One of the random things Disney folks never tell you is that if you ask, you can sit up with the driver on the monorail that you ride to the Magic Kingdom. Jacob and I took Jake and Abby, and they both got official Monorail Co-Pilot's licenses and everything. They were beyond thrilled.

8. It's better in a boat. Our last night there was the 4th, and we had the simply magical experience of being on a private boat at the edge of the lake in the center of Epcot to watch the fireworks. The moment was perfect in every way. Abby and Jake even got to drive the boat--when the captain asked them if they had their drivers' licenses, Abby immediately informed him that she had a monorail co-pilot's license. He managed to remain straight-faced.

Now we'll move to the visual portion of the presentation. I have about 800 pictures, and posting them on the blog is a big pain, so I tried to narrow it down to pictures that focused on the kids and showed how much fun they had. If you want to see the full montage, email me or post a comment and I'll send you the Shutterfly link so you can see them online.

The kids at their first encounter with the Mice. I'm pretty sure Ethan would have moved in with them if given the option:

Our sweet pad:

Scenes from the character breakfast at Chef Mickey's:

Minnie admiring Abby's headpiece:

Pluto was a slave to the rhythm:

A chat with the Donald:

Kindred spirits:

That Goofy is such a riot:

E and Pluto talk world politics:

Good lovins:

How could the characters NOT love these kids?:
It's a shame that they don't have any personality:
(the non-AMEN member in the picture is my nephew Jake)

The LOVED swimming in our pool:

It's not a Speedo, it's a swim diaper. Pretty dapper, I know:

The closest I will ever get to putting a picture of myself in a bathing suit on my blog:

My favorite picture of E from the trip:

Abby learning the dance moves of her heroes:
And just plain getting down at the Hollywood Studios Block Party parade:

This looks pitiful, but he was really never cranky--he'd just fall asleep when and where he felt like it:

Abby and Jake, aka Super Abby and Super Jake:

My sister-in-law Patty, the kids and I on the giant teacups:

Expedition Everest (which my rock star daughter rode!)

Don't they look happy?:

I know you're shocked, but this is actually not the real Cinderella:

Where's Ethan, and who is this little mouse holding our hands?

Abby taking over for the Cap'n:

Jake and Abby's moment of being the luckiest kids on the planet:

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

Wow! Our vacation was amazing, and I can't wait to tell you all about it. I have been dying to blog all day, but I haven't had one free moment and it looks like I won't until tomorrow. So, to whet your appetites, here is a picture of AMEN moments after we first stepped foot onto Main Street.