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Archive for October, 2007

Wicked

This morning I brought Autumn into my office for what will probably be her only round of trick-or-treating for the day. This year she’s dressing as a witch, a good witch according to the costume tag. Her attitude, however, has “bad witch” written all over it.

I decided to wait until I got into the building to dress her in the costume because the skirt of the dress is rather stiff and full and not really the thing to wear in a car seat. As soon as we entered the building her little Elmo bucket was filled up with treats from the financial aid staff standing in the lobby and she thought that was pretty cool. Mamma didn’t really think it was cool when she saw the girl bite into a Mr. Goodbar without first unwrapping it.

I eventually steered Autumn into the women’s bathroom to get her dressed. Did not want the dress on, folks. Not at all. She ran into the handicapped stall and clung to the wall. You’d have thought I was trying to slip her into a coat made out of live bees instead of the sparkly velvety goodness of a quality store-bought costume. When I was a kid they didn’t make costumes like that. Our costumes consisted of one die-cut plastic half-mask that was secured to your head with a rubber band and a vinyl tunic that fooled no one into thinking you were actually Holly Hobby. Or maybe those were just the kind of cheap costumes my parents chose to buy us.

I finally got the dress on her but she would not keep the hat on, at least not until she realized she was actually getting free sugary goodness just for being all cute and dressed up. After that she eased up a bit and let the hat sit on her head, but she still wanted nothing to do with the wand.

The rest of the trip went rather smoothly with the exception of one incident during which she had a tantrum and sat her little witch butt on the ground in front of a bunch of students waiting for the bus. She was actually rather charming most of the time and I saw a few smiles from the random students she chose to bestow a “hi!” upon as we moved from one building to another.

I have a few pictures from the day, sadly none of my trip to work because I forgot to bring my camera, but pictures will have to wait until tomorrow because I’ve spent the whole day with the girl and she’s done me in.

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Autumn spent the afternoon with my parents yesterday since our daycare provider had an afternoon appointment and had to have her charges picked up by 3:00.  We picked Autumn up from my parents around 7:00.  When we arrived, she was wearing her pajamas and was happily eating a bowl of tapioca pudding my mother was doling out in spoonfuls  “I only changed her diaper once,” said my mother, “so you’ll probably have to put another one on her before she goes to bed.”

So we get the child home and I wrestle the pajamas off enough to change the diaper but I can’t find the stupid diaper tabs to pull the thing off.  That would be because my mother put the diaper on backwards.  I couldn’t help but laugh because this was the second time she’s done this.  The first time we’d figured this out before we brought Autumn home and we all had a good laugh about it.

I decided to call my mom up and very innocently asked her if she’d had any trouble getting the diaper on Autumn.

“Not really, why?”

“Well, you put it on backwards again,” I said.

My mom laughed and explained that she thought Elmo went on the front.  Of course.  Why wouldn‘t Elmo go on the front?

I explained if she was ever in doubt of what was the front and what was the back to just look for the number.  The size of the diapers I buy Autumn are always on printed on the front.

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Round two

A few years ago I took a graduate lit class in which most of the students were teachers. I remember one of them saying that one of the things no one ever told him about teaching was how much you get sick. The first couple of years are especially rough while the body builds up immunities against the onslaught of germs one finds in your average classroom.

Before Autumn, I had a virtually impenetrable immune system. I once went two or three years without getting so much as a cold. No lie. And now? Now I am beginning cold number two for this season and it’s not even November yet. While the last cold seemed to come out of nowhere, I know exactly where this one came from; my daughter.

I guess I should have been a little more diligent with the hand sanitizer, but the last thing I think of after holding my daughter’s hand is that I have to wash my own. That part of my mommy brain just hasn’t kicked in yet, even after seeing her repeatedly wipe her dripping nose with her hand. I also had no qualms about asking for kisses, all the while thinking that I’ve been through this already and should be safe. Yeah right. At least I was smart enough not to share my fork with her this morning.

I felt kind of guilty sending Autumn to daycare since she’s essentially a walking biohazard. She’s been using her treasured blanket and Pooh bear as Kleenex and I’ve tried to get them in the washer as much as possible. That’s kind of hard when she rarely lets them out of her sight. The last time I tried to sneak the blanket out of her crib when she was sleeping, her arms instinctively reached for it as I pulled it from under her awakening body. She’d had a nose bleed and the blanket was stained, and as I left the room she started wailing, “No, mamma, NO!” I’ve managed to take a lot from that girl, but her plaintive cry just broke me down and I returned the blanket stains and all, explaining to her that we HAD to wash the blanket in the morning.

So now Autumn’s sick, I’m getting sick and it’s just a matter of time before Nathan gets sick, not that I wish that upon him. Still, it would be nice if we could all get this and get over it before Autumn’s birthday. I’d like us all to be healthy by then.

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Creepy Crawlies

I’m planning on making a special cake for Autumn’s birthday. I bought the cake mold, the decorating tips, food coloring and all the paraphernalia needed to make this little bit of Elmo goodness. I realized after all was said and done that I probably could have gone down to the corner store and ordered the quarter sheet cake with Elmo on it for less, but by the time I found out the corner store made Elmo cakes, I had already invested in the idea of making the cake myself.

Today I practiced my icing techniques on a set of Halloween themed cupcakes I plan on taking to work tomorrow. Here’s how they turned out:

And a closer look…

While I did have some idea this might be a bit of a time consuming project, I had no idea the extent to which my hand would cramp up, making me think regretfully of the made-for-me cake. However, as I was visiting the Wilton website and brought up the picture of the Elmo cake, Autumn, who was sitting in my lap, squealed excitedly at the sight of her best friend.

Screw the corner store and their sheet cake with the Elmo picture on it. I’m making Elmo himself.

I rule.

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Concluding a GREat break

I’m at the end of a five-day weekend. I took the GRE on Friday and spent the previous couple of days preparing, which more or less amounted to freaking out about the test and about how much I hadn’t really prepared for it. But that’s me. Procrastinator extraordinaire.

When you sign up for the test, the GRE people are kind enough to send you a CD containing two full-length practice tests which I did end up taking Wednesday and Thursday. The verbal section was challenging, but the quantitative section, aka, “torture math”, was brutal. Each time I took the practice test I demonstrated how much I had lost in the ten years since my last college math class. Unlike language, math does not necessarily have to be a part of your everyday life. Language is a necessity to communicate and we hone our skills with every conversation we have. Math, at least the kind of math on the GRE, is only used if you’re planning a trip to hell and want to know how long it’s going to take you to get there. Solve for X and you can determine whether or not you have time to make a pit stop on the way.

Many people consider math to be a type of universal language and that whether one speaks French or Farsi, a mathematical equation can be solved by anyone using the same theorem or formula. That’s pretty nifty, but as I was sitting in that cubicle and staring at the screen, trying to determine if the value in column A was greater than the value in column B, I chose to put my faith in the mathematical probabilities of guessing. While I was able to actually work out a few problems on the pretty blue scratch paper, the majority of my answers were blind, random guesses.

I pretty much approached this test resigned to whatever fate awaited me. I didn’t much care about my math scores because I’m applying to an English grad program, but I didn’t want to look like a candidate for a ride on the short bus either. At the very end of the test I was given the option to report the scores or cancel them. I knew this would happen and was prepared to report no matter what. The Dutch part of me absolutely refused to consider paying $140 to take this test and not realize the fruits of my labor.

So the report pops up on the screen. My verbal scores were quite respectable. Not fabulous but about 25-30 points greater than what I had scored on the practice tests. At least I’m consistent.

The quantitative score? Exactly the same as the verbal score. No shit.

My jaw dropped and I just sat there staring at the two identical numbers. All I could think was that I had made some really, really extremely lucky guesses and that perhaps I was cashing in on some good karma due me because that math score was 120 points greater than the best of the two practice tests.

I won’t know until I receive my score report how I scored in analytical writing, which is the part of the test I enjoyed the most, or how my scores placed me percentile-wise, but at this point I’m just glad it’s over. Nathan was home on Friday also, so when I got home from the test he was there standing at the top of the stairs with one of my test prep books in one hand and a lighter in the other. “Would you like to do the honors?” he asked.

We didn’t burn it, but we did celebrate with a trip to the Olive Garden, during which he dumped his Diet Coke in my lap. But that’s another story.

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The angel from Alma

Meg over at Sleepy New Mommy posted a great story about a stranger’s Random Act of Kindness. I love reading stories like this because I think too often people tend to put themselves first, so it’s nice to know there are still those folks out there who will help others and teach their children to do the same.

Meg’s story got me thinking about something that happened to Nathan and me about nine years ago. We wanted to plan a trip to get away for a few days, but we didn’t have a whole lot of money to take a proper vacation. This was back when Nathan was heavy into building model airplanes, mostly military aircraft, so we decided on a stop at the Air Force museum in Dayton and two days at King’s Island in Cincinnati.

We decided to drive since funds were limited. Dayton’s about a five-hour drive from home, but we didn’t exactly have great cars at the time. We had a compact Mazda 323 that was so small it could have doubled as a clown car at the circus. Our other vehicles were a Ford Escort that didn’t run at all and a Taurus that needed work done. Being six foot five, Nathan wasn’t keen on driving the clown car and neither of us wanted to drive a car that didn’t have a working air conditioner, which none of our cars had.

I called my dad up and asked if we could use his van. He was teaching driver’s training for the school district at the time and wasn’t using his own car to get back and forth to work. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for him since his own van would be sitting in the garage anyway, but he said no. I believe his unwillingness to let us use the car came partly from his knowledge of how bad a driver I used to be and partly from just being stingy with his stuff. The combination of the two meant we had to use one of our own vehicles to get to Ohio.

We ended up getting the Taurus tuned up and the air conditioner fixed. The repairs ended up eating a bit of the money we had hoped to bring on our trip, but we decided it would be worth it for a fun few days away. We were also pretty sure repairs on a domestic car would be cheaper than getting the AC fixed on a foreign car and chose the lesser of two evils.

Or so we thought.

Things were fine all the way into Ohio. We found our motel without a problem, checked in and went out for dinner at a restaurant down the street. The next day, a Sunday, we got in the car and made our way to the museum, but just as we pulled into the museum parking lot the car sputtered and died.

Shit.

We tried to start it. Nothing. The battery warning light came on and we kept turning the ignition with no response from the car. Meanwhile, other cars were lining up behind us. I was sitting the the driver’s seat and waved them past, which they did while we tried and tried to get the car started with no luck.

Eventually a pickup truck with Michigan plates passed and pulled over just in front of us. An gentleman and his two teenage sons emerged and asked us if we needed some help. Seeing as we didn’t want to clog the entrance to the U.S. Airforce Museum any longer than we had to, we quickly took him up on his offer to help us push the car into a parking space.

Our good Samaritan turned out to be from Alma, a town about an hour and a half from our home that also just happed to be the town where Nathan’s mom grew up. The five of us had a friendly chat while we stood around the piece-of-shit Taurus and tried to assess the problem. Since the battery light had come on we thought maybe we just needed a jump. Only we didn’t have any jumper cables nor did he.

Nathan mentioned passing a Meijer on the way to the museum and wondered if it would be possible to get back there. Wanting to help but not wanting to miss his trip to the museum with his sons, our good Samaritan handed over the keys to his truck and told us to go buy some jumper cables. “Are you sure?” we asked. This guy didn’t know us from Bonnie and Clyde. How did he know we wouldn’t take the keys to his truck and leave him stranded? I guess there was something about us that didn’t say “felons”. He only asked that we page him when we got back to the museum so we could give him back his keys.

As we headed out of the museum in search of the store, Nathan and I sat silently in the truck as we contemplated what had just happened. “I can’t believe he just handed over his keys like that,” I said. “My own father wouldn’t let me borrow his car and a complete stranger loaned us his truck without blinking an eye.”

It turned out the cables didn’t work. After finding a towing service and repair shop that operated on Sundays, we found out our alternator was shot. While at the repair shop, I placed a collect call to my parents to tell them how we had been stranded at the museum and how a complete stranger had showed us unbelievable generosity.

Yeah, I had to rub it in.

I still remember that guy’s name. Roger. Roger P. from Alma.

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Black eye, round face

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