Friday, March 31, 2006


How the hell did it get to be Friday already?

Um, so yeah. It's been a week since I made an appearance. Sorry. Alive. Just seemed to come down with that bug; you know, the one with all the snot. The snot that seems to have replaced all grey matter, making me dulldulldull and want to sleepsleepsleep. (I love the frequent comment of *cough!hack!sneeze!* "Hey, doc, so how do you keep from getting sick?"....Answer: "Um. We don't. Please put your mask back on. Thank you so much."

So. Better now; just snoring at night. Poor, poor Charles. What the man puts up with.

Speaking of putting up with, I just have to share what we did today. (Actually, he said I had to. I think he's trying to make a point, but I don't see it.) See, Charles took off yesterday and today, it being Spring Break and all at his school. (No, administrators don't get things like Spring Break off, they get to use vacation days for such nonsense.) Anyway, yesterday, we chugged up to the Mecca of Madison and that destination of spring, Home Depot. We got this and that, and some topsoil. We were planning to hit one of the nurseries on our way out of town, when I leafed through the thingie of newsprint ads they put in the plastic bag with our baggable purchases and saw that they had TREES. FOR SALE. PRETTY, FLOWERING TREES. BACK THERE. AT THE HOME DEPOT! TREES! ON SALE!!!

Well. You can just guess where we were at 8:23 AM today, in the minivan, with the seats all put down, well, except for Sara's, as it would have probably looked, um....bad, to tie her to the roof. Even for just a little way.

I didn't get my hopes up. No, no, no. I grabbed just one flat-bed cart. But, you see, there were just so many different ones. So we loaded up a second flat-bed cart. One for Charles, one for me. Pity Sara wasn't bigger. She could have manned her own, instead of 'helping' me.

Did I mention that there was a steady 40 mph wind blowing? Adds to the ambiance.

So. $250.62 later, we trundled across the parking lot with our 12 trees (1 maple, 2 crabapple, 2 plum, 2 tart cherry, 2 dogwood, 2 ornamental cherry, one other that I don't recall, but it is really pretty, you better believe it) and a forsythia. Charles nixed the redbud as it was 'too tall'. Sheesh.

Not bad, I say, all-in-all, and these are lovely, healthy-looking trees.

Well, that is until we get to the minivan, which seems to have unaccountably shrunk in the interim.

"They won't fit," states Charles.

"Sure they will," I assert.

"Nope. No way."

Secretly, I agree. But, I am unwilling to give up without a fight. Plus, these are trees. Nice trees at an extremely good price. Nope. They will fit.

My eyes become steely.

Knowing he is at this juncture defeated, Charles gamely starts to load the 13 multiple-gallon buckets, each with a 5-8' sapling.

It's not working.

"We need a tarp," he says, hoping to wear me down.

"OK. We need a tarp," I chirp, and am sent back through the gale-beset parking lot and back into the home supply store to find a painter's tarp.

I dance across the parking lot with another $5.74 worth of goods.

He sees that I am not deterred, poor sot.

"We need plastic bags to put around the buckets. If we don't, when we place them on their sides, the dirt will spill out all over. I'll go get some," he says, and flails back across the lot and into the amazingly handy home supply store.

Meantime, I decide to start putting in the shorter, bendy-er trees, and find that I can actually get all but 5 or 6 in! Yippee! I am even more determined. Sara sits dejectedly in her carseat, picking at her wet pants. Did I mention that it was raining, too? Not hard; just enough to give the day extra character.

Charles returns with another $11.37 in hefty plastic drawstringed garbage bags and a double roll of duct tape. We start bagging and securing the remaining trees, load them in on their sides, some reaching nearly to the front windshield. Good thing Colin was in school so we could put his seat back. (Again, the whole frowned upon thing of tying your child to the roof rack, even for a relatively short distance.)

Yes. They all fit. Every-fucking-single-one. HAH!

The only thing that trumps realism in this family, is me.

Although, he was right about the redbuds. We'd have had to either knock out the windshield or angled them to protrude out the front door window. Which would have been totally reasonable, in my opinion, at least more reasonable than leaving them behind for somebody else to buy.

And so, without further adieu, I present the newest editions, currently residing on the front porch, until I can dig many large holes, say tomorrow and/or Sunday. Or so.

And Charles? Well, we made a visit to Best Buy, and now all is well.

One last thing, for those whose yen for gardening is still not sated, there are pictures on the sidebar taken today, demonstrating that spring, indeed, is here, even in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.

It's even early! The crocuses are blooming and it won't be April until tomorrow.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday Afternoon

And so, they are home again.

Everything went fine. He did Molly first as, according to tactful Sue, who womans the front desk of the clinic, "She was loudest." Heh. I bet. Molly has never been a shrinking violet. When I dropped her off, she started shaking in the kennel. I beat a hasty retreat after several kisses and a long hug. I'm sure the loudness followed shortly after. Kit pulled a Gandhi, forcing Sue and I to put her carrier on the floor and pulling out the towel she was lying on first, then prying her out of the thing, where she must have left several claws embedded in the plastic of the bottom of it. I haven't had the heart to go and look to be sure. Well, fewer claws to cause mischief, right?

Kitty was just about to go into heat, too, so she is a bit swollen about the incision. I feel as though we dodged a large bullet there. Last thing we need in this house is a horny kitty at all hours.

And so, they are "shaved" as Colin refers to it. And tired. So very tired. Well, the dog is. Mad-kitty was positively wired for a few hours this morning, but now is nicely tuckered, too. Charles and I are thinking this is a really good thing. Maybe we can convince our vet to do some anesthesia-requiring procedure on them each week, so they will be right tuckered for the whole weekend, or at least Saturday.

Kidding. KIDDING!!!


And, so, here are the two 'its' in sad repose, or as we like to call it, "Money Well Spent."

Mad-kitty in her cave.

Sad, tired dog.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thursday Night

Hello, Dearest Darlings,

And how have you been?

Really? How dreadful! Or do I mean shocking? Lovely? What's the word I'm looking for? Oh! Interesting! That's a good all-purpose one. Because I really am interested.

Well, since you asked: Wet. And a bit smelly. Of dog.

You see, we washed the dog tonight. First time since we took her home, actually, and that was about 40+ lbs ago (20 kg-ish for the civilized world). The occasion? Ah. She is going in for her operation to become an "it" tomorrow. Well, both the pup and the kit, actually. It's just that one smells horribly of dog piss and one smells vaguely of kitten crunchies.

Clearly a bath was in order.

Now, we've bathed dogs before. We've had 2 prior German Shepherds. Yes. Something to be planned and dreaded and fortified beforehand with something bracing.

Tonight, we chose a ceremonial margarita to steel our nerves, as we had the ingredients on hand. Lovely.

The tub filled was with water, a large pile of big, old, sad towels at the ready. Bathroom door shut to prevent horrible things happening to the rest of the house should she get by both of us and through the door.

Charles tossed her into the tub and we braced ourselves for the worst.

She adored it.

No way. Really. She started drinking the bathwater, wagging her tail as he poured water over her with a large, plastic, ricotta cheese container. He lathered her. She made a token lunge or two to get out, but it was more of an attempt to climb into his lap to thank him, I think. He sudsed her, I stood there, basically superfluous, passing shampoo and such. He rinsed her. She snapped at the globs of fur floating in the water, trying to eat them. Then, she started pawing at them, with delight.

At the end, I toweled her as she repeatedly tried to escape. Well, make that climb back into the tub.

What the hell?

We've never had a pet; dog, cat, or fish, who wanted a bath.

At the end, we stood blinking at each other as she raced around the house in sheer glee. We finally had to shut her in her crate, next to the heat vent, to mellow her out.

I cleaned the bathroom, now basically covered in splashes of water and dog undercoat. Sadly, the bathroom I had cleaned a few hours ago. (Clearly, planning is not my strong point.)

Charles is now downstairs with the kids, watching a movie. The puppy is in her crate, longing for the bath. (Obviously, I am here, telling the tale to you.)

And I wondered why I always had to keep shooing her out of there when bathing the kids. The cat, she avoids the place like the plague.

Apparently, tonight, Molly realized a life long dream.

Good to give your pets a bit of joy before going under the knife, eh?

Guess who'll have the best time of all at the beach this summer?

Wish them well, tomorrow, please. We are rather fond of the furry ones.


Monday, March 20, 2006


Sucks to be disappointed.

Our Scene : Friday afternoon, St.Patrick's Day. 4:02 pm.

Colin (bursting through the front door after getting off the school bus): "Mom!!! Guess what?!? There's no leprechauns in first grade! All we did was make a stupid book. Well, it wasn't really stupid. Just sorta. No leprechaun gold. Nothing."

Poor kid. I had a feeling.

You see, last year, in kindergarten, they were visited by a real live leprechaun. Or maybe several. You can never be sure. He (they) left footprints of gold running through the classrooms, gold-covered chocolate coins everywhere and there was a party! With shamrock cookies!

Man, it was better than Christmas in a way, because it was so totally unlooked for by the kids. Yes, they knew, theoretically, that there was a St Patrick's Day and you were supposed to wear green to avoid all the merciless pinching, but who knew? Unlooked for bounty from invisible gold-footprinted sprites.

From that point on, he has fervently believed in leprechauns. Maybe it's in the blood. His paternal grandfather was 100% Irish (via generations of Irish Canadians intermarrying). Our last name is blatantly Irish. I even cooked corned beef and cabbage once. He almost even tried some, but opted for a hot dog at the last minute.

I tried to down-play things the week leading up to it, with my,"Well, honey, you never know how things will be in first grade," and my, "leprechauns don't always make visits like that, I don't want you to get your hopes up."

He met such things with a roll of the eyes and an exasperated, worldly, "Moooooom. Yes they do." Clearly I didn't know what I was talking about.

And so this year, not a gold coin, shamrock cookie, or gold footprint in sight. Just the making of a paper book about a leprechaun who has lost his pot of gold and goes around asking all the farm animals if they have seen it. The punch line? The hen is trying to hatch it.

He's right.

What a gyp.

Next year, I think I'll make him cookies. Gotta keep the faith.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Match

Smell that?

That combination of fear, panic, 22nd guessing, hope, and feeling like 24,000 people are about to enter into a 1-7 year (or more) arranged marriage come the last week of June?

It's also the smell of impending relief as finally, the whole damn kiss-ass, put-your-very-best-face-on, snow-all-and-sundry (from the receptionist, to the program chief, to that asshole chief resident who led the tour), god-I-hope-I-got-in-to-one-of-my-top-three-choices-please-please-please process is about to be over in a few hours and, well, at least you will know!!!

It's Match Day!

Ever wonder how the hell you get from medical student to that spot as an intern? You though it was just like many other things? Throw out applications, interview, sort through offers, choose that spot in Honolulu over that one in Bismarck? (Or vice-versa, depending on presence or absence of frontal lobotomy.)

Nah. Much more dysfunctional.

First, you send out your requests for information to different internship and/or residency programs (an intern is a first-year resident). You leaf through the slick folders, much like you did for college, grad school, med school, law school, and everything else you've done. Then you fill out the application, again, as you've always done. So far, just tedious. You send them out and buy a suit (or suits, if you have a sugar daddy or a partner who is gainfully employed above the minimum wage level), several pairs of nylons, a pair of shoes that you can tromp through airports and hospitals for hours on end in without sobbing (no scrubs or tennies allowed). The offers for interviews at awkward times are received and you scramble to schedule them in clusters to diminish the travel costs. Perhaps your partner can go with? (A huge bonus to provide prospective when visiting strange cities, as they will likely be living there, too, won't they? They can check out the local flavor while you are grimacing in your suit. Plus, it is nicer to not drink alone in your motel room, staring and muttering at the peeling, flowered wallpaper each night.)

You then return from your trip(s), broke and broken, needing to list all the programs who have interviewed you in order of preference. Who had the least-worst coffee? Who had the most elective time? Which program had the least-bitter-looking residents? Did any of the programs actually let you see any of the other residents? Even away off in the distance? Then you close your eyes and point, as it is as good a way as any, and submit your list (then it was a mailed-in #2 pencil bubbled form, now it is online). The programs do the same. ("Hey, which was the one with the legs, Bob?")

Then all is sent in to the National Resident Match Program. (Somewhere along the line, probably early on, you sent in fees. Can't do anything without sending in those fees. Fees for everyone!) Everything is fed into a database and, magically sorted, so you are matched with the program that wanted you ahead of someone they wanted even less than you.

A Match made in mediocracy.

The results are announced on Match Day.

Match Day is sacred.

Actually, today, with the internet, I think it is a bit different. It seems you can look up your results online, rather than waiting for what ever ritual your particular school had. I actually hope some of the schools found a way to continue the traditions. My favorite was the one (with many variations) where students were gathered in an auditorium (say a main lecture hall) and one by one, the names were called and the envelope with their fate was handed off. As each approached, a dollar was deposited in a hat or something, and the one who was called last got the consolation of getting the Kitty in dollar bills.

For our class, we met in a plain room in the one dorm on campus. (Most of us did the apartment thing.) We gathered, almost completely silently. The envelopes were distributed, and we opened them together. Nobody said a word for a bit, then, almost like at a funeral, we sought each other out, in ones and twos, exchanging the news of where we would all be going. Some were very pleased, some (most, probably) relieved, a few in silent tears.

Lord, it was weird and surreal. Your whole life for the next year or decade or whatever the length of the program, decided in one fell swoop. The thing was also binding. Pretty much no getting out of it without much legal wrangling and more money.

So, what if nobody wanted you? Well, the day before, you sat by your phone, waiting for the dreaded call from your school, telling you that they had been notified that you HAD NOT MATCHED (not uncommon in highly competitive fields like ophthomology or orthopedics) and giving you info on programs that had not filled. You then got the hell on the phone, in a panic, calling all these places and trying to get in somewhere, anywhere. Fortunately, the programs were also desperate to fill, as not filling is a terrible black mark, (and, hey! any tepid body is worse than no tepid body, right?) Some very good graduating classmates didn't match, many because they didn't rank enough programs or were trying to match with partners, (so they could stay in the same city) and the partner was trying to get into a highly competitive program.

Then, it is all over and there you are. Your foreseeable future laid out in front of you. Now, you have about 9 weeks to finish your classes, go through graduation (usually early June) and get your self moved and settled so you can start working for real, usually starting the last week of June with orientation and various life support certification classes; your first day on the wards--July 1st.

What ever you do, don't get sick and in the hospital the month of July.

Man, I don't miss that.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The 57th Level of Hell

We are still in some respects newish parents. Our eldest is only in first grade. We are still learning the vagaries of the local public school culture. For instance, I learned that it is wise to keep on hand a full "farmer's costume" so when demanded to drop and produce attire so one's offspring can "dress like a farmer" for Future Farmers of America Day or some-such nonsense, you can.

But sometimes, when thrown a curve-ball, you are comfortably on the same playing field as all the other parents.

As we were when Colin brought home his Friday Folder on, yes, one Friday, a week or so ago. It announced that on Monday there was to be a concert. A SPECIAL concert. An artist-in-residence concert.

We should have up and moved. Moved to one of scads of districts with completely decimated arts programs. Where the music programs are lucky if they consist of some thug named Butch singing off-color limericks at the back of the bus.

Hey. I signed up for one concert a year. At Christmas. I went and sat on the bleachers. I didn't even leave early, dammit.

I actually rather like the Christmas (not 'Holiday', not in this district, remember) concert. One of every 3 songs is familiar and they keep things moving. The whole damn thing lasts no more than about 45 minutes, including kindergarteners, and moving the masses on and off stage. It is beauty to behold.

So, Charles and I resign ourselves to this. Colin, dressed as instructed in "dark", is deposited at classroom and we slug down to the auditorium. As we trudge, we run into our neighbors, who are almost as antisocial as we are. I like them lots. We never do things together. No pressure. We wave at a distance. Sometimes. Occasionally, we carpool each other's kids. Occasionally. If one of us lost a limb, the other neighbor would be happy to drive us to the emergency room and feed our kids junk food. That sort of wonderful neighbor. Turns out they have no idea what the hell this is all about. Judging from the overheard conversations around us, none of the other parents do, either. Feeling less stupid by our collective unenlightenment, we hold on to our sole hopes: We will be out of there in about a half hour (stupid, stupid, vane, unrealistic hope) and we will be able to snag a folding chair with a back rather than huddling on the bleachers.

Nope. Bleachers for all. Our backs begin to burn before the kids even file in. I dangle an escape plan in front of Charles, "Psst. Honey. If we just snuck out now, we could go to a bar and have a drink and come back in time to collect our beloved son." Oh, how Charles rued turning down what was in retrospect a brilliant plan.

In the little urchins come. Actually, they are a rather well behaved bunch, all looking like they are showing up for a funeral or becoming Future Goth Farmers of America. Colin is in head-to-toe navy, rather than black. The rebel.

The Artist is introduced by super-happy-organizer-woman, who we quickly come to despise and soon wish to lock in a spidery cellar so we can torture her at will.

This is all her fault.

The artist-guy is a seedy looking character, who is sadly probably about our age. He wears a head-mic and a guitar. We still have some shreds of hope as we learn that the kids helped write the songs (Hey! kids write little short stuff, right? After all, they are little and short, themselves.) Then our hopes are toppled as we learn that, as the program is "short" (huzzah!) he will be performing a set of his own songs afterward (nooooooo!)

Were we near the fire alarm, we'd have pulled it.

So, off they go. Song after song (nine of them) are sung. They are all really fucking long. There is no way the kids made them up. As we don't know the words, we can't even sing along in our heads, counting down the verses until they are done.

Our backs go into tetany; our butts numb; our knees seize.

We realize that had we gone for drinks, this would not be a problem as the chairs would have backs and alcohol is a muscle relaxant.

Charles vows to become State superintendent of Schools so this guy will never work again. He will then fire super-happy-organizer-woman and burn her car.

Finally, it ends, after 45 minutes. Well, the kid performance does. The kids all form an audience on the gym floor at his feet (we are trapped in the bleachers, miles and miles away from any fire alarm pull. He begins to sing. He sings folksy kid-songs that he has written. The kids love it. Little bastards.

Charles realizes how lucky he is to have a building of middle school students who, as he points out, would riot if subjected to this. The police would then be called and the parents could escape in the fracas.

But, no. Our polite little rural kids sit and eat it up. And he sings. And sings. And adds hand motions. And explains the very self-explanatory hand motions, stopping the songs to do so. After several songs, he tells us that THIS is the LAST ONE! We weep with relief.

He is one lying son of a bitch.

He sings another. Oh, yes. And another.

I look around expecting to see mutiny and, perhaps, someone knotting a rope to string his pudgy white ass up from the nearest bare, but soon to be re-snow-covered tree, as not only was it a school night, a Monday night, and after 7:30, but supposed to snow along with the wind storm a-coming in.

But no. Everywhere I looked was a placid face with a half-smile and glazed eyes. Then, I noticed that everyone was a bit too placid. And I learned another lesson. All the parents were pre-medicated. Had to be. Either that or they are pod people.

God, I hope it's the former. I just don't have the energy to spread the alarm and marshall the forces to fight and invasion of body snatchers.

As he finished singing his Last of the Last, Last songs (entitled, creatively, "Bye-bye"), he announced that, if we really loved his songs, and wanted to hear them over and over, well, we were in luck! He would be selling tapes and CDs after the concert.

Charles decided that he should buy one just for the pleasure of destroying it in front of him. Then he thought he'd really buy two, so he could smash them together, messily, in front of him. No, wait, lets get 3: One to drop from a great height, one to run over repeatedly, and the third...well, he wanted a bit of time to decide what to do with the third. Something to really make a statement about how he felt about the whole thing.

We collect our enraptured son, who spent the car trip riffing on his favorite song, something about "don't pull your pants down when there's an alligator in town".

[I want to end this by saying that I really do support the Arts in schools. Hell, I sang in school choirs straight through the end of high school. Several of my relatives are very musical. One of my beloved uncles, as I recall, was even an Artist-in-Residence. It's just the sheer pain of this experience clouded it all. A Monday night, I ask you. Monday night, after a long day at work, when all you want to do is curl up some place warm and comfortable and not have to fantasize about messily offing annoying people who inflict their dreadfulness upon you.]

I'm not wrong about this.


Sunday, March 12, 2006


Last post, I warned you. I told you that Spring Fever was a-coming. Well, it has hit. Specifically, Friday morning, at about 8:37 CST, as I gazed out the window, finishing my last cup of fortifying tea, realizing that the day was actually going to be sunny and near 50 degrees.

I started to vibrate. My hands itched. My plans hatched. Not elaborate plans, of course. Basically, I decided that Sara would be happily occupied with the large puddle that was the driveway, and the accompanying mud. Molly with same.

And damn the consequences.

So, I crammed Sara into her snow pants and boots (I wasn't that crazed to send her out without some easily washable, non-stainable covering) and we all piled out to the front yard. I hooked up Ole Bessie, the (new last year) blue wheelbarrow, grabbed pruning devices and gardening (not snow!) gloves, and attacked the front beds with reckless abandon:

Here, we see the two beds in the front yard, flanking the front walk. Sara is taking a muddy breather.

And here, we have the after photos, for anyone who is so beyond being besotted with gardening things that you even desire to see a bare bed. What you can't see are all sorts of bulb noses poking up. That bare viburnum under the window will need to be moved this year. I don't relish the though as it is 1) large and, 2) nice and will be, 3) a pain in the arse and, 4) may well die but, 5) can't stay as it is getting too bloody big and will block the window.

Colin, having had an early release day from school, burst through the door with his own Great Idea:

"Mom! We need to make ice cream! We haven't made ice cream in 100 Billion Years! We need to make chocolate! And white!"

And so, yesterday, we did. And it was marvelous, both the chocolate and the vanilla.

I leave you with this last, which is how a Wisconsin lass plays in the sandbox, complete with snowpants and snow boots, in shirt sleeves, surrounded by melting snow.

I'm outta here. Ole Bessie is calling.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dribs and Drabs

Ah hell. This is not going to be much of a post but what can you expect of an early March day in the Upper Midwest? A few little things are going on. Little, like the small noses of bulbs poking hopefully out of the mud. Well, they are there. Just under the several inches of snow that fell this weekend. And we are supposed to get thunderstorms with rain tomorrow. Actual rain. To melt all the white and turn it brown, the better to be tracked in by the dog and kids!

I'm giddy at the thought.

Really. I am. Giddy, I tell you.

Oh, ok. Maybe not quite yet, but give me a day or two and I will be.

Spring really is here, just a little bit. The turkeys were even doing their equivalent of "Hey, Baybee! How's it shaking? I've got me a lotta loving that needs to go around!" It actually sounded not even that cool as it was a geeky "gobblegobblegobble" across the street in the cornfield, but still. Hot turkey sex in the copses is surely a sign of spring around here. Soon the pheasants will be yodeling.

Poor Charles got cornered into playing dress-up today for school. As principal, he usually gets to pick and choose the ones he does, often when no one else has to, like the time he agreed to don a women's pink sweatsuit with paper pig snout and tail and kiss a piglet for some fund raiser. That made the front page of the city paper. He also gets to dress as a cheerleader with the male PE teachers as part of a rah-rah-rah to start standardized testing week. Today, he was bullied into "dressing as your favorite character". So, he grabbed Colin's lightsaber and his (Colin's) brown cape from the Legolas costume he wore Halloween before last and proclaimed himself to be "Obi-Wan". I don't even know if the cape will cover his butt. Sad. Just sad. Particularly as he didn't model for me and certainly wouldn't have allowed a photo for all of you. Selfish man.

So, what else of interest?

I had granola for breakfast.

I am wearing black pants.

My hands and feet are cold.

Yeah. That's the highlights. Still, more interesting than the Oscars, yes?


Friday, March 03, 2006

Taunting Haikus From the Courageous and Heroic Orchid

The Courageous Hero!!! All Hail His Perfection!!

Hah! You stupid cat.
For weeks I watched you stalk us,
Making us all fear.

You with the soft sneak,
Razor claws that bat and shred,
And your sharp, sharp teeth.

But soon, She noticed;
my comrades, ripped and bleeding.
How we suffered fierce.

What tore Her heart worst
was me. Finally I was
to flower, you see.

I'm so beautiful,
She couldn't bear to see me
hurt in any way.

(In fact, never has
there been a more stunning plant.
I'm sheer perfection!)

How to save us from
the fiend? She did not know. She
asked the Internets.

"Tin foil will foil cats,"
said Leigh Ann, while Stacy knew
oranges you would hate.

So, she made us foil
skirts about the base and cut
oranges for our feet.

I'd fart in your face.
Instead I'll make rude gestures
with my long sepals.

What? You heard me? Oh.
Nothing. I said nothing. Nope.
(I hate fucking cats.)