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Archive for May, 2008

My mom is re-doing her kitchen next month and is on the prowl for some more of her daisy-themed vintage pottery. My parents don’t have an eBay account and my mother has been getting me to bid on some of the things she wants. A few weeks ago we bought a cookie jar and a covered veggie dish because she has plans to incorporate those pieces into her grand design.

Last week the the pottery finally arrived but the cookie jar was totally smashed. Amazingly there wasn’t so much as chip out of the veggie dish, but I was very disappointed in the state of the cookie jar because that meant my mother would be sending me back to eBay to find another.

Accidents happen when fragile things like this are left to the devices of the U.S. postal service, however they might happen less if a package is properly packed and marked, which this one was not. The woman packed the pieces in newspaper and didn’t bother writing “fragile” on the box, so I sent her a strongly worded e-mail that let her know what a piss-poor job she did in packing the stuff. This was the reply I received:

I have been selling china on Ebay for 10 yeras I have tried teh bubble stuff but do much much better with newspaperI hardly ever have any breakage but then that was a wierd shaped piece It was packed well Read myfeedback everyone is happy with mypacking Didnt you insure the items I will look tomorrow for teh insurance tag

I find a couple of things wrong with this reply. One is her shameful lack of punctuation. There’s not a single apostrophe, comma or period in that jumble of words. The second thing I find wrong with this reply is that there’s no apology. That may be due in part to the ‘tude I copped with her right off the bat, but this woman has a feedback rating of over four thousand, so you know she moves a lot of product. You’d think someone with that much experience shipping stuff out to customers can, at the very least, pick up a Sharpie and scribble “Fragile” on the box.

After ten days of hearing nothing else from the seller, I decided today to visit the post office with my mother’s broken cookie jar. Of course I couldn’t get a refund without the insurance receipt, which No Punctuation lady referenced in her reply. The post office did offer to send the box back to her at no charge so she could file the claim, but I didn’t want to do that and lose my proof that I received damaged goods.

I decided to e-mail the seller and ask for a refund to my PayPal account.  I told her once I received my refund I’d send her box back with the broken goods so she could file the claim herself.  Sounded like a reasonable request and I really was not a bitch this time. This is the reply I received:

You have to file teh cloam I found the insurance receit and U wukkwrite uo a sale slip and get it off to you
Barbara

Huh?

I had Nathan read it.  “Do you have any idea what the hell she’s saying here?” I asked.

“Not a clue,” he said.

So this is what I sent back to her:

Pardon my ignorance, but I have absolutely no idea  what your reply says.  Can you explain further so that I may understand?

To which she replied with this:

FSorry,

I did  find the insurance slip and my husband finally got stamps You have to file on  your end I will send a receipt and the insurance slip andIf I need to sign  anything which I did one  time  before ill sign it  Ive only  had likr 5 or so things break in thr 10 years I have been doing Ebay

Now I’m starting to think she doesn’t like vowels either, but I get what she’s saying.  The ball’s in my court and I have to wait for Cletus to lick the stamps and send me the insurance tags so my mom can get her refund.

And no, it never once occurred to me that this woman might be mentally challenged.  Anyone with as high an eBay rating as she has is obviously in possession of enough mental faculties to run a business.  She just needs to read this book or invest in an e-mail program with spelling and grammar check.

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Cut

Last night, for the first night in years, I had a nightmare about my hair. In my nightmare I went to a different salon and they did horrible things to me. And they were mean. They ruined my hair and they were mean.

I can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare like that. I most certainly haven’t had a nightmare like that since my hair has been short. When my hair was really short there wasn’t much you could do to ruin it.

So I went to my usual salon today and asked for a little more body. More layers. Nancy, the woman who’s been cutting my hair for years and years, happily obliged and I wound up with this:

It’s not that much different than what I had before, but at least it’s nowhere near the horror I conjured up in my dreams last night.

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Nathan left early Sunday morning to join my dad on an excursion to a Detroit Tigers baseball game. I wasn’t really looking forward to this day because a) I was working on the first paper for my Shakespeare seminar and b) it meant a whole day home alone with Autumn. I love my daughter, but she can be a handful. She can also be a joy, but the joy part of her is not the part that taxes her parents.

The day didn’t really get off to a good start. My father, who told Nathan he’d be by to pick him up at 7:45, arrived a full fifteen minutes early while Nathan was still in the shower. Seeing that our garage door was not open yet, my dad proceeded to ring the doorbell, the box for which is right near our bedrooms. This caused Molly to start barking like a fool and the whole house was up. Thanks, Grandpa.

Autumn and I got up after Nathan left. Having spent the night before reading through King Lear, I left my volume of Shakespeare open on the kitchen table with my glasses and ink pen resting on top. While Autumn was kind enough to leave my glasses intact, Shakespeare did not fare so well. In her defense, she probably saw my own markings in the text and thought nothing of adding her own scribbles to Act 2, Scene 1. I was furious nonetheless and instantly called Nathan, who had yet to turn on his cell phone. “Oh yeah, this is going to be a GREAT day!” I bellowed into his voice mail and hung up.

In spite of our rocky start, Autumn and I actually had a good day together. I had decided ahead of time to just forget about my paper for the day. Instead, I worked on a grocery list and we wound up spending way more time at the store than I had planned. Part of it was due to the three bags of soda bottles and cans that Autumn insisted on pushing into the recycler herself. Seriously, we had over fifteen dollars in refunds which meant over 150 bottles and cans I had to hand to my child to toss into the tube.

Walking through the store was slow going, and by the end of our trip I was limping along and whimpering from the pain in my knee. “What’s the matter, mama?” Autumn asked.

“My knee hurts, honey,” I replied.

“Aww, poor mama,” she said and patted my hand. It was such a sweet moment, and had our trip to the store ended at that point, I would have walked away with a smile and a full heart. However, as I navigated our cart towards the checkouts, Autumn looked at me and crinkled her little nose in distress. “Mama, I’m wet!” she cried.

I looked down at her pants and sure enough, a large wet stain was quickly spreading across her capris. Urine started dribbling down her legs and splattered the 12-packs of soda I had stowed at the bottom of the cart. She had apparently exceeded the absorbency capacity of her Pull-Up and it couldn’t take any more. Unfortunately I’d left her diaper bag in the car and had to leave my cart while we trekked out to change her pants. I keep a spare pair of trousers for her in the bag for such occasions as these.

We changed her pants and headed back into the store to retrieve our cart. I dutifully wiped the pee pee off the seat and the sodas with some sanitizing wipes that were available near the entrance. By that time I was completely exhausted, but we still had to go home, put the groceries away and meet my mom for dinner.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful. Dinner with my mom was…okay. Normally I enjoy spending time with her, but our trip to the Chinese buffet included a heaping portion of complaints about various relatives. My mom has a lot of anger. She was raised to be obedient and kind and has yet to discover the power that comes with telling people to stick it. Thankfully I learned how to do that awhile ago, but even though my tongue is sharper than hers, I’m not about to tell my mother she’s starting to sound just like her mother-in-law. That would just kill her.

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Last night was rough.  It was one of those nights when being a parent isn’t so great.  Autumn awoke some time after 2:00 calling for me.  “Mamma?  Mamma!”  Her door was closed but I heard her right away.  I heard her, but I chose to stay put.  I hoped that whatever she thought she needed would sort itself out without me having to actually get out of bed.

My maternal hearing wouldn’t quit though.  I was keyed in to the mattress that creaked under all 33 pounds of her.  I heard her patter across the floor and pound on the door.  “Maaaamaaa!”

I pulled myself out of bed and walked over to her room.  I opened the door and saw her little face looking up at me in distress.  “I’m all wet!” she cried and pointed to her bed.  “Look!”  I walked over to the bed, and in the orange glow of the night light I saw it.  Corn.  Lots of corn.

I walked back into my bedroom.  “Nathan, you gotta help me.  Autumn just threw up.”

Luckily it was just corn.  That was about all she had eaten at dinner.  After a change of sheets and a change of jammies we were all set to get back to sleep.  But then we heard it.  The yakking.

It wasn’t as bad this time. There wasn’t any corn or anything to clean up, but the child obviously wasn’t fit to be unsupervised.  We brought her into our bed and nestled her in between our exhausted bodies.  I gave her a Children’s Pepto tablet and she drifted off to sleep.  And then she yakked again.  Pink Pepto yak that covered her neck and got into her hair.

As I drew her a bath, she screamed.  As I put her in the tub she screamed some more, and as I poured some water over her sticky, pink Pepto hair she cried, “I don’t wan take bath. Go way!”

We thought it was over after the bath, but her little body seemed determined to siphon out everything that had been in her stomach.  After the Pepto came the dry heaves.  By that point we didn’t even bother putting jammies on her.  Nathan sat up with her until she fell asleep in his arms.  He then put her back in her own bed and joined me in ours.

Neither of us got much sleep.  Every time we heard Autumn cough we’d sit up.  Nathan would throw the covers back and get ready to bolt in case we heard her gag again.  It reminded me a lot of that first night with her in the hospital after she was born.  The nurse had told us she’d probably spit up a bit of mucus and to be at the ready in case she started choking.  Every time we heard her stir Nathan would sit bolt upright from his bed on the pull-out couch next to me.

We didn’t have any more incidents after we put her to bed, but we’re both exhausted now.  Autumn is fine.  She was able to take a nap this afternoon.  Lucky kid.

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They might be giants

About ten years ago Nathan and I grew some jalapeño peppers on the deck of our apartment. They were a success in that they didn’t die, which was a miracle considering how neglected they were. We didn’t use the deck much and would often forget the plants were out there. Occasionally we’d look outside, see the containers and their withered cargo and be like, “Oh, the peppers!” and finally water them. Luckily they’d perk right up and we wound up harvesting a nice bunch of hot peppers we shared with friends.

When we moved to the duplex, we tried to plant a small garden of cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes and peppers in the patch of dirt that lined the back of our garage. The cherry tomatoes flourished, but the plum tomatoes and the peppers did not. The light just wasn’t very good in that spot and there was also the water issue. Plants need water, at least more than what the overflow from the rain gutters provided.

By now you’ve probably caught on that Nathan and I are lazy gardeners, and since we’ve been in our house we haven’t attempted to grow any more produce. We really don’t have the room anyway since two-thirds of our yard is occupied by the pool and deck. But since everything in the world is going up in price, we figured we’d plant a few things this year and see how it goes.

We wound up ordering something called Tomato Giant tomato trees from one of those “As Seen On TV” commercials. The plants are supposed to produce gargantuan tomatoes, and since the company is from Michigan we thought we’d give it a try. We ordered the plants in early April and eagerly awaited the arrival of our Giant Tomato trees.

Imagine our surprise when a smallish box arrived containing six planting containers, one brick of dehydrated mix-it-yourself soil and two packs of seeds. Seeds? Nathan and I looked at each other as we evaluated our purchase. You mean we’re going to have to grow these things? From scratch? We felt as though we’d been a tad misled. The commercial was all about the tomato TREE and how many pounds each tomato TREE would produce. We couldn’t help but feel as though a crucial bit of information had been left out as Nathan opened up the tiny white envelopes and poured the seeds into his hand. Seeds?

While we had imagined receiving something a little more robust and already grown, Nathan was a trooper and promptly mixed up the soil. He planted seeds in each container; three early plants that are supposed to produce tomatoes by early July and three of their regular stupendous giant trees. I have to admit to being incredulous because I’ve never grown anything from scratch save for the child who grew in my womb as I ate lots of pizza and ice cream. Sadly, you cannot feed pizza and ice cream to tomatoes and expect them to flourish as Autumn did.

Believe it or not, those plants have started to grow. A few days ago Nathan noticed a bit of green poking through the soil of one of the containers. This morning no less than four of the six containers had tiny sprouts poking their way through.

I don’t know what’s up with the ones that haven’t poked through yet, but at this point I don’t care because we have sprouts. We have sprouts! Our seeds have turned into sprouts and some day we might actually get tomatoes out of them. How cool would it be to know our salsa or pasta sauce or the tomatoes on our salad had once been tiny little seeds in a white envelope? I imagine we’ll feel a similar pride the day Autumn goes off to college.

We’re now so in love with our sprouts that we’re going to grow more things. We’ll probably try peppers, cherry tomatoes and jalapeños again. Unfortunately we still don’t have the yard space to accommodate a proper garden so I guess it will all have to be grown in containers. We’ve actually thought about getting some of those Topsy Turvy planters. Does anyone have any experience with those they’d like to share?

I’ll have to post a few updates here as the plants grow. Hopefully they do.

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The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

I’d really like to know who’s judging this, because apparently I scored above average. Do they work on some kind of a scale with the really big five dollar cuss words carrying more weight than others? Does “crap” even register because I use that one a lot. Shit yes, I do.

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Had my quarterly bout of insomnia last night. Insomnia sucks. Seriously. I realize I don’t have it all that bad if I only suffer through a sleepless night every few months or so, but knowing others have it worse has not at all diminished any feelings of self pity I have going on right now.

I’ve somehow gotten into the habit of staying up too late. About quarter to midnight I decided to watch Heather Armstrong’s “Nightline” segment from Monday night (thank you TiVo and your wondrous online scheduler). It was after midnight when I finally slipped under the covers and turned out the light, and in spite of feeling somewhat drained, my mind would not shut off.

And then the song started. At least the pop gods were merciful and did not submit another Wiggles song for me to digest while I tossed and turned. Last night it was Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You”, which I had heard over the loudspeaker at Walgreens during my lunch hour yesterday. I used to love that song. It brought me back to my teen years and I wound up singing it in its entirety on the drive back to campus. During the hours between midnight and 2 am, however, the song lost all its nostalgic luster and I started to wonder why I ever liked it in the first place. I mean she’s sleeping with a married man, right? Or is he just a mamma’s boy strongly committed to his family? Neither scenario is a winner if you ask me.

Like Lady Macbeth, I found no amount of mental scrubbing could remove the stain of that song from my mind. And then there was Nathan, contentedly snoring and twitching next to me. It’s constant, this twitching, like minuscule seizures that take hold of him and shake our bed. He moves in his sleep like a dog who dreams about chasing rabbits, and no amount of disgusted sighs from his wife could make these twitches cease. I know he can’t help it, but I finally got so fed up that I blurted, “Stop twitching!” The bastard didn’t even wake up.

At 2:00 I’d finally had enough and pulled out A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had a few acts to finish and hoped the reading might put me to sleep. Yeah, I know, Shakespeare is a genius who deserves better than to be used as a tranquilizer, but it was late and I was desperate and it didn’t work anyway. If finished the damn play.

I think I finally dozed off after 4:00, less than two hours from when my alarm was due to go off. And yes, it was very hard for me to get up this morning. I wound up drinking a glass of something called “Cranergy” to give me a little boost this morning, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a stronger beverage to get me through the rest of the day.

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Here you see the fruits of my labor. I made a killing tonight and I’m pretty sure I’m done for the month. I went to CVS with some carefully planned lists only to find they did not have everything I was looking for. Nevertheless, I’m quite proud of what I accomplished. I bought:

2 Freestyle Lite blood glucose monitors
9 Soy Joy bars
3 bottles Viactiv Flavor Glide vitamins
2 packages Viactiv chews
2 Colgate 360 toothbrushes
1 Shick Intuition 3-pack razor refill
1 jumbo pack of Pull-Ups
2 Addias deoderants
2 Reeses Big Cups
1 Simply Asia soup bowl
1 kid’s digital camera

all for the whopping total of…..$30.85

If the store had been fully stocked of everything I wanted I could have better planned my purchases for less out-of-pocket cost. But still, I bought all this crap for what I would have paid for that camera alone. Nathan thought it quite strange that I bought two blood glucose monitors when neither one of us has diabetes, but I told him we could donate them to someone who needs one…or two.

I don’t have the time to break all my purchases down, but I now have only one measly itty bitty ECB left. Instead of saving some ECBs to seed my next purchases, I blew them on the camera for Autumn.

I don’t really plan on making anymore Walgreens or CVS visits this month. I kind of have to take a break from all this. It’s fun but it’s so much work. While I might get an “A” for effort tonight, I’d really hate to have to tell my professor I didn’t read A Midsummer Night’s Dream because I was taking pictures of my groceries and blogging about how much money I saved.

Adios.

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Grandma dearest

For some reason my 85 year-old grandmother offered to host Mother’s Day dinner this year. By the end our our afternoon yesterday, it was patently clear there would be no more Mother’s Day dinners at her house. Ever.

My grandmother did not refuse to host again, but I don’t think any of us who were there would care to repeat the experience of yesterday. It’s not that my grandmother was horrible. She was just very much herself, and I had forgotten how endearing some of her personality quirks are. I really can’t go into much detail because my grandma is probably one of the few 85 year-old ladies out there with broadband internet service. I will say this much though; everyone in that house left feeling like a heel for accepting an 85 year-old woman’s offer to cook dinner. We also left knowing exactly how much that ham she cooked had cost.

Nathan was very conscious to make this a pleasant weekend for me. Autumn not so much. Autumn was her two year-old self and, like my grandma, has her own set of endearing personality quirks. She was just a piece of work this weekend and several times I wanted to break down and cry, “But it’s Mother’s Day! You have to HONOR me!”

Nathan made up for a lot of the crap Autumn was able to dish out, and I really have to hand it to him for making the effort. This was a hard Mother’s Day for him, not the first without his mother, but I think the pain of her absence was more intense. Last Mother’s Day she had only been gone a week. We had just laid her to rest and hadn’t even had time to process the loss. He’s had a year without her now and the pain is as strong as ever. I think the same can be said for the rest of the family as well.

Saturday we drove out to visit her grave and placed some flowers on the marker. I had Autumn say “I love you” and “I miss you” as we stood at the site, but I know she only said it because I asked her to. Her grandmother will always be a name engraved in stone and some pictures in a book. Autumn will see photos of herself perched on her grandma’s lap but will have no memories of those moments.

People say Autumn will remember if we keep Pam’s memory alive for her. She won’t have any of her own memories, but hopefully she’ll be able to get a sense of who her grandmother was through ours.

And how lucky am I? Thirty-six years-old and both of my grandmothers are still living. I do love them, warts and all.

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One of the things my mother taught me was how to save money. If there was a university curriculum based on getting things on the cheap, my mother would have graduated Summa Cum Laude. This talent, while not unique to her, seems to be restricted to those possessing two X chromosomes. I have yet to meet a man who squeals in delight at getting the best possible deal on deodorant. Men stink and they buy deodorant. End of story.

Recently I was introduced to the world of those smart CVS and Walgreens shoppers who not only save money at these stores but also manage make a little money as well. These women, like my mother, make it their mission to sniff out the best deals and share their finds, hoping others can fare as well as they.

Donielle is one of these women. She’s a stay-at-home mom who is a genius at stretching her dollars, so this week I decided to follow her lead and scope out the best deals at CVS and Walgreens. I had my freshly minted CVS Extra Care Card in hand with a list of what to buy at the two stores.

My first trip was to CVS, where I loaded up my cart and pissed off the cashiers at the front. CVS, at least the one nearest me, is not really set up to accommodate shoppers stocking up for the apocalypse. Like Wallgreens, their carts are very small and by the end of my trip I had to keep one hand on top of my purchases lest they spill out onto the floor. I piled them all on the counter and a very grumpy looking manager-type in a vest started to ring them up. I was all, “Dude, your surly looks cannot diminish my coupon euphoria because I am so going to take you the cleaners.”

My triumphant attitude was quashed when I was given the total. Yes, I saved a lot, $83.59 to be exact ($48.20 in store sales, $35.39 in coupons with $8 of EC bucks to boot) but I was precariously close to maxing out my weekly grocery budget and I had yet to buy any food. But what of those out there who have claimed to have purchased carts full of goods for pennies on the dollar? Why wasn’t I able to create such magic? Apparently the alchemy of turning coupons into money earned is a skill one learns with practice and I made a rookie mistake by being too enthusiastic with my purchases. Lesson learned.

Today I visited Walgreens, armed once again with a stack of coupons. Walgreens is great because a) they’re closer to me than CVS, b) let you maximize your savings by combining store and manufacturer coupons and c) employ a wonderful cashier named Lorna who had no problem keying in a coupon for me when the register told her she shouldn’t. Thank you, Lorna, for your stick-it-to-the-coupon-man rebelliousness. You totally saved me three bucks.

Walgreens was a success with a total savings of $48.19 (which was more than my bill), yet I’m left wondering when I’m supposed to stop. I’m prone to doing a lot of things in excess and I can already feel this rabid spending/saving thing starting to infect me like a virus. I understand the concept of stockpiling, but I’ve purchased no less than four razors this week. Unless we enter into a massive razor shortage that reduces women to walking about looking like wookies, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to buy another one for awhile.

So how do people do it? How do they reign themselves in and still walk away with something to brag about? I’d really like to know because I’m probably anticipating the arrival of Sunday’s paper a little too much.

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