Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yin And Yang

Now we come to the tale of last week. A tale of Karma. A tale of woe and salvation. And donuts.

As you all know, Marvelous Charles is in the throes of grad school. He attends in Madison at the illustrious University of Wisconsin. One of the main reasons for us moving from the small town in which we work, across the border to our rural place in the sun: instate tuition. At some point, say in 2-3 years (these academic time lines are strangely vague to me) he will have his PhD (which I pronounce "Fudd", as in "Elmer", because I can't help such things) in educational-something-or-other and we will only have to share him with work, running and football.

At least that's the plan.

Along the way, he's also looking into garnering his superintendent's license, so he can, well, superintend, if the right situation comes up. No one in his right mind wants to be a middle school principal all their live-long days. It's a good gig for now, but he'd like not to be doing it at the age of 60.

So, last Thursday, he trotted up to campus to have a little heart-to-heart with the Powers That Be about what he'd need to do to get his superintendent's license, in addition to his current course work, followed by his exam this fall, followed by writing his comprehensive exams (and orally defending them), then the dissertation proposal (which must be orally defended, too), and, if accepted, the actual magnum opus of dissertation and (well, naturally) the defense of such.

At the end of which will be much wine and song and fatty foods. You're all invited.

And this is where nature fell out of balance.

You see, the Powers That Be (who consisted of a nice woman with, let's hope, some authority and not one of the adjunct faculty having a laugh) told him that "things could be arranged" and they basically could wipe out his need for the 6 hour exam covering 2 courses this fall, wipe out his need for the 2 comps exams, and thought that the courses for his superintendency would fall in with his general requirements.

Bada-boom, bada-bing! More for less!!

Again, this is not in writing.

Filled with hope and light of foot, our Charles tripped merrily to the elevators of the grim cement rectangle that houses the education department and hopped aboard Elevator #1.

And, here's where Karma realigned the universe, which had tipped dangerously in his favor. Half way down from floor #13 (that would be floor #6+1/2), the elevator stopped. Thinking this was an odd thing for elevators to do, but remembering that he's heard of other elevators in the building breaking down (namely Elevator #2, the partner of Elevator #1), he was not as shocked as one might otherwise be.

He looked for a way to pry the doors open, as he's seen done multiple times on TV by grannies. Nope. No way. He looked up to see if he could escape through the panel in the ceiling, again as we know to do from the entertainment media. Not happening. Clearly, these elevators were bought on the cheap from the Houdini foundation.

Well, nothing for it but to push The Red Button at the bottom of the floor button panel. You know The Red Button: the one we've all secretly wanted to push but don't dare. The one that says "Emergency" on it. I always figured it sounded some alarm.

Before pressing The Red Button, shall we mention that the fire alarm started to go off.

So it was with no calmly beating heart that our beloved Charles punched The Red Button, suspended about 80 feet above the earth's surface in a machine that suddenly seemed less than kindly.

Shall we mention that our Marvelous Charles has a decided dislike of heights? Usually this means things like airplane flights and lookouts over ravines with flimsy guard rails, but his new predicament of being trapped in an elevator with the fire alarm sounding is not made more comfortable by being a goodly distance from the ground.

So, with a desperate pounding with his thumb, did he activate The Red Button:

"911. Do you need help?" came the disembodied voice from the panel.

"Oh, yes. Please."

"Are you in Elevator 1?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Shall we come and get you out?"

"That'd be nice. And the fire alarm is sounding. Is there a fire?"

"Not to my knowledge, but someone will be there in about 15 minutes."

Longest damn 15 minutes of his life, and this is a man who's played several seasons of rugby, has administered a middle school and taken weapons off 'children' who've outweighed him by several stone, not to mention faced down armed, pissed parents. He routinely diffuses enraged custodial staff, lunch ladies, bus drivers and secretaries with aplomb. He has yet to be poisoned by the head of the teacher's union. This, in short, is a man with no little courage.

He has also, in younger days, broken up an altercation consisting of 20 snow ball throwing youths and a really cranky old man by asserting his presence and authority. He may have also uttered the phrase, "Excuse me!! Can I help? I'm an undercover narcotics agent." (Phrase said in a booming voice that caused all involved to either hop back into his Lincoln Town Car or scurry back to their respective houses.) We may mock Marvelous Charles but we do not doubt his courage and resourcefulness.

But, in the end, many members of the fire dept came. They had quite a difficulty getting the doors open, but he did get to climb out through the doors and jump the 5 feet to the solid floor and not have to be hoisted out the roof, a la Hollywood.

And there was no actual fire, thank goodness, but one of the firefighters noted that he smelled smoke, likely from evil Elevator #1, just having another laugh at the expense of one of those punk college kids.

So, all's well and so forth.

Will The Powers That Be keep her word? Will the misfortune of having been trapped in the elevator assure that the good things discussed in the preceding meeting will come to pass? Will Marvelous Charles ride in another elevator again or will he forever more climb the 13 flights of stairs to his classes? Will this generalize to a more universal distrust of elevators in general?

Time will tell, but the next day he decided to start living life to the fullest, starting with breakfast:

Pictures for you

These here are the best donuts known to man. They are a chocolate yeast dough, filled with this... this...I can barely describe it with any adequacy: a cross between freshly made whipped cream and custard tasting strongly of vanilla, not too sweet. It is topped with thick, very chocolate frosting, again, not too sweet. The good from the bad.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vroom! Vroooom!

Yesterday was a banner day for Gorbag The Half-Orc (a.k.a. Marvelous Charles).

You see him finally riding his dream:

Pictures for you

Ever since moving out among the thug deer and the ticks 3 years ago, one thing became clear: To keep the wildlife at bay and away from our back door, we needed to mow approximately 5 of the 8 acres of Wisconsin prairie upon which we reside throughout the growing months of the year. (See, the deer don't like to leave the tall grass and the ticks like to stay in the deer traffic paths. The ticks aren't adverse to eating human when they can get it, but are happiest, again, in the tall grass, where the deer play.)

Therefore, Gorbag and I went shopping for our first riding mower. We went around to places before the snow had thawed and, after comparing advice from friends and online forums, we decided on this little beauty and brought her home (well, as it was 3 years ago, it is actually the 5000 and not the 6500, but looks the same, so good enough for government blogs and so forth).

The snow thawed, the grass grew, and she started breaking down about 2-3 times a season. Fortune had partially smiled upon us as we had ponied up for the extended service plan, where they send the guy out rather than making you bring the damn thing in. Over the past 3 years, we've soaked Sears for the price of the plan plus the mower twice over in service costs. We also exchange Christmas cards with Burt, the service guy. But, while it warms the little cockles of our hearts to stick it to major corporations for sucky products, it doesn't get the grass cut.

As the grass sprouted that first spring in '04, we began noticing various serious landscaper-guys and occasional gentleman ruralites, like us, with this new breed of mower. Fast. Low to the ground. Fast. Tough. Fast. Yellow. Fast. And, best of all, not parked by the side of the garage with the hood up, a person hopping up and down nearby throwing things at it, curse words drifting across the hills.

There was instant desire.

But, "No," we told ourselves. We had a perfectly good (Well, not really "good", but work with us. We'd paid for the damn thing AFTER doing the research.) mower at home. And what if the damn thing broke down every other month? That still meant that it could be used 6 weeks out of 8, right?

That leads us to this year. It broke. And broke again. And almost broke a third time. (There was all this white smoke that started pouring out of it, but it went away when the thing was stopped and didn't return the next day, when it was restarted.) And the second time it took 3 weeks to get it repaired. And the orc part of Charles roared and would not be denied.

So, now he has his new yellow mower, a terror to vegetation everywhere, and, as I recall, he can mow the place in about 2 hours, once he gets the controls down, with a good tailwind, as opposed to 5 hours with the other machine.

Last night, I walked him around the yard and, once again, showed him where things were planted so he wouldn't cut them down. (I do so enjoy deluding myself.) And then he hopped aboard and took 'er for a spin.

Don't worry, though, we are keeping the crappy Garden Tractor for a spare. We're sure that the new one will have the occasional break down (oh, yes, we did spring for the extended service agreement on that one, too). Plus, when they are both working, we can mow in tandem, creating patterns and love knots in the grass or mowing in formation, like fighter pilots, only with 2 of us, on the ground, and much slower.

Pictures for you

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Time for the Serenity Prayer

Her: "Is it me or is the air conditioning louder than what I remembered from last year?"

Him: "Sounds louder."

A few hours later....

rattlerattlerattleRATTLE...rattlebang, rattleboom, RATTLEBOOM, RATTLEBOOM, BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMCRASH! (silence, silence, cricket-chirping silence)

Her: "I think it's dead."

Him: "I'll call in the morning."

Of course, you know that the mercury is over 90 F. And the humidity is close to that.


So off to bed we go, hours later, all ceiling and box fans whirling away. Dog in front of the screen by the decklet off our bedroom. Cat nowhere near her usual place on the body pillow next to me. I think she found a way to open the door to the freezer and curl up around the ice cream. Either that or she's fled to the basement.

You remember small Sara, right? Sara "mommy-I-need-to-sleep-with-you-yes?". Sara "but-when-your-light-is-off-I-can-sneak-into-bed-with-you-yes?".

Last night, after each variation of the above queries was answered with a flat "NO" or a "No, honey, daddy really, really, needs his sleep and when you are there, he gets literally kicked out to the couch and then he is all stiff and sore and his back bends at all the wrong angles."

Of course, a short while after I fell into sticky, fitful slumber, I wake to find a small furnace curled on top of the pillows, between our heads. I evict the small furnace back to her own bed and fall back into what passes for sleep, listening to small sniffles from the other room. Of course, the next morning, I am hit by new guilt. See, the poor dog has been evicted from her place on the carpet by the screen by the small girl in pink kitty pyjamas.

Who is now sleeping in the middle of our bed.

What can you do?


And then there's the neighbor's dog, well, one of the neighbor's dogs. She's a very sweet yellow lab, about a year old, very jumpy, very knock-you-over, very poor manners, who looooooves to come over and play. Normally, I don't mind. She and Molly have a grand old time racing around the yard for hours at a time, stopping to do doggy things, like sniff critter poop and stick their noses into the various burrows, but now that it's hot, the kids are out there with their slidey-pool. Molly knows that only BADDOGS go into the pool and only BADDOGS steal the inflatable sliding board and only BADDOGS try to bite the side of the pool. Sadly, Bailey is a baddog. And baddogisms are contagious.

So, Charles gets to go over to the neighbor and see about getting him to keep his damned baddog in his own yard. Molly will be sad, but she won't succumb to the dark side and hopefully the pool will last more than a week, having avoided being punctured by baddog teeth and nails.

And how was your weekend?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


I feel cranky.

I have a blog.

I will therefore inflict my crankiness on you.

(This is your chance to hit the 'back' button and flee. Don't say I don't give you a fair and fighting chance, dearest darlings.)

  1. Gorbag the half-orc and his Weedwhacker Of Death have caused me more grief. They've now laid low 2 black-eyed-susans and 3 very pretty foxgloves that I had been nurturing around the benches at the way-back of the yard. For weeks I have been trotting out there (about a hundred yards) with a watering can in one hand and a pail in the other, to lovingly slake their thirst. I planted them where I thought was both far enough from the benches to save them from slaughter, yet close enough to be enjoyed by any quiet bench sitter. Now, there's naught left but shreds. Gorbag has agreed that perhaps it would be best if I took over the wielding of the whacker.
  2. I love the wood floors. How I love the wood floors. How much cleaner they make the house. Why? Because I must move all the furniture every week to vacuum all the accumulated crumbs and large drifts of dog hair that scamper, oh so visibly around it's sleek surface. In addition, I have to vacuum an extra day (that's 2! days of vacuuming each week) to keep things from accumulating a visible layer of fuzz. With the grimy carpet, all this was fairly invisible. Reasonably invisible dirt bothers me not in the least. I moved the furniture once a year, whether it needed it or not. I guess like most pretty things, they are higher maintenance.
  3. Last night I had beans. This morning I have gas. My apologies to the counties down wind. (I have my windows open.)
  4. The lawnmower has been out of commission for 2 weeks now and will not be fixed for another week. 3 weeks without mowing this yard at this time of the year is not only unsightly, it is downright scary. We are not able to trod the path for our nightly constitutional as the thistles are now past ankle high. The thistles, as you may recall, populate our grounds much as crumbs populate the floor of a family car. Yes, there are other components (namely dandelions and clover and prairie grass), but the thistles are spread thickly throughout all. They also grow 4 times faster than any other green thing. We shall not mention the fact that keeping things cut keeps the ticks at bay.
  5. I managed to forget to apply sunscreen before I went out to stain the horizontal surfaces of the deck last weekend. It wasn't hot. There were plenty of clouds. I was stupid. I'm now stupidly sun burnt on my shoulders. Sadly, my bra strap seemed to have escaped the borders of my tank top, so now I have a pasty-white bra strap line (complete with visible circle from the dealie that allows the strap to adjust) streaking across my shoulder. So very classy.
  6. Somewhere, hidden in the house, my nice cup of coffee, with the right amount of cream, is well on its way to becoming stone cold.
  7. The house is not self-cleaning, although I've managed to bribe my tamagotchi-coveting son to pick-up, dust, clean the bathrooms, schlep the laundry and help fold the clothes all for $3. Guess I really can't count this, can I?
  8. While the 4 apple trees are all still alive, the 2 sweet cherry trees are either dead or close to it as to make no matter. Sorry, Dumdad.
  9. It's Swimming Lessons Day. The kids loooooove Swimming Lessons Day. I haaaaaaate swimming lessons day. For an hour and a half I get to stand and watch through the window as first one child then the other mostly holds on to the edge of the pool while waiting for their turn to not-swim back and forth or to jump off the diving board. The very best days are 'water safety day' where I get to watch them sit and listen for half the class. Yes, there are a hand full of stools to perch on, but in order to get a stool, one has to be there ahead of the other parents. Having to wrangle Sara into and then out of her suit, I am never early enough. My only hope lies in the occasional day that most of the other families are missing, for some reason. Then, THEN! I get to snag one. I have toyed with the thought of leaving and running some errand, but the huge signs that proclaim that PARENTS MUST WATCH THROUGH THE WINDOW AT ALL TIMES, prevents me from doing so in reality. Sadly, progress is slow for the Piffle kids and I've literally years more of Swimming Lesson Days to look forward to. In about a year, though, Sara will be in the next age group and should be able to take them at the same time as her brother. That will at least shorten my woe.

Well, I'll be.

Worked like a charm. I've managed to sluff off all the evil into the computer and off into the landfill that is the Internet. I will then be responsible for the crashing of multiple systems as my vitriol and whininess breeds like. Sorry about that.

Yes, indeedy. Cheaper than Prozac and without all that incarceration hassle of heading up to a bell tower with many firearms.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

He Meant Well

"Good-bye! Thank you so much for coming out and fixing the water softener!"

"No problem. You should start to notice a big difference after 5-7 tanks of hot water through the water heater."


"I left the valve that had corroded and the other broken parts on top of the unit. Your husband will want to see them."

Yeah. Right. You bet he will. (Because he's so into that sort of thing.)

Right after I perform the autopsy. Just lemme get my toolbox.

And while I'm at it, I'll just fix that bathroom sink.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Haikus for Mommy Guilt

Such a silly girl.
Dressed in jammie tank and shorts
Cute but not so warm.

Yet you feel the need
To join us in the wee hours,
Leaving your warm bed.

We find you curled
There, at the foot of our bed
Like some hairless cat.

You don't plan ahead,
Leaving all your blankets there,
Piled on your own bed.

Tucked in your arm, though,
One stuffed animal to hold
Against the night's chill.

So there I find you,
Small and shivering and so
Very sound asleep.

I grab you by the
Arms and haul you up by me
Where it's nice and warm.

I spend the rest of
The night bent in bizarre shapes,
Curled around your form.

I then wake and try
To walk, the pretzel woman
Gimps to the bathroom

I'm sure it's not a
Coincidence that you've done
This since I left you.

Clearly, 4 days gone
From me has left you worried
That I'd not come back.

And so, nightly, here
You come, to make sure I'm still
Here in the morning.

Guess the solution
Is to bring you with me on
All trips from now on.

There we'll be, at the
conference, me, eighty-three,
You can be my cane.

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