Apr 30, 2008

Ice Cream Oozes from Within...

(I read an article that says the latest research shows that kids seem to do best when they watch no TV before the age of two. As in zero. None. So I might be killing a few of His Highness's brain cells here. Hope he has some to spare.)

I try to minimize the TV due to my own TV zombie tendencies, but His Highness and I do watch a little bit on occasion. Here in Lompoc we have the phatty-phat-phat digital cable package, with On Demand & everything, and I feel a self-imposed duty to take advantage of it while we can. I mean why not, right?

Anyhoo, our favorite show is Kipper the Dog. This is one of my favorite kids' shows of all time. It's based on a series of books by a British guy with a fantastic pen name: Mick Inkpen. At least I think it's a pen name; either way it is one of the best last names ever. The show follows the ordinary life adventures of Kipper and his friends--Tiger (who looks like a schnauzer), Pig (a pig), and Pig's little cousin Arnold (possibly a Green Acres reference?). They do things any kid might do--play in the park, put on a magic show, and sail boats in a pond, to name a few...

My favorite episode departs from reality a bit. It starts with the four main characters walking home from a fair. They're all carrying balloons, talking about their favorite attractions. They stop at a park bench, and while they're getting situated Arnold is carried away by his balloon. He floats up & over to a fantastic candy mountain, and docks the balloon to have a look around. There are little "volcanoes," for lack of a better word, where ice cream bubbles up & oozes out...which he scoops up with a stalactite cone and proceeds to eat while he bounces around on marshmallows, walks thru chocolate puddles, and jumps across a candy path. Meanwhile Kipper, Tiger, & Pig resolve to rescue Arnold, and have to get more balloons from the fair so they can float the park bench enough to go after him. To be honest, I was a bit jealous of Arnold--I wanna have ice cream in a stalactite cone from a candy mountain! I won't give away the ending, but it's quite an adventure for all.

The first time I saw this particular episode I felt a little troubled. After seeing the characters do such normal things as swimming and exchanging Christmas gifts I had trouble suspending disbelief when it came to floating away on helium balloons and eating pieces of mountain.

Then I remembered I was watching a show about talking dogs & pigs who walk upright and wear swimsuits & goggles to the pool...

Apr 29, 2008

Minus the Spicy...

I'm back home after a week in lovely Phoenix. Lots of blogalicious things to talk about, but sadly lots of chores and whatnot to catch up on, as well.

I'll leave you with one helpful hint: if you get takeout from Pei Wei and order the Spicy-Chicken-Salad-Minus-the-Spicy, and they forget and leave on the spicy, rinsing the chicken will take away the spicy so you can eat the chicken.

"I'll have the Spicy Chicken Salad with the rinsed chicken, please..."

Apr 25, 2008

Icebergs & Onions...

This post by iMonk resonated with me. A friend of mine once said "God is simple to the simple and complex to the complex." This could refer to individuals' intelligence, I guess, but it has also been true of me, depending on my mood on a particular day, or month, or season of life, or whatever. Sometimes I like to get all heady and think about heady-God-things that blow my mind. Other times I need to shut everything off and remember the verse about being still and knowing he is God.

Dangit, now the Newsboys are stuck in my head. Ah well...

Apr 20, 2008

Dress Quest...

In recent years I have been attempting to overcome my fashion impairment to some degree. Finding what my likes and dislikes are. Figuring out where my fashion comfort zone is, then challenging it. And so on. In general my tastes are very casual and very plain. For everyday wear this is no problem; however, when the occasional formal event comes up, fashion becomes a quest.

The Cat Daddy has a Dining Out coming up in a few weeks. I've never been to one, but basically a Dining In/Out is military speak for a formal dinner of some sort for some reason, or maybe none at all. Dining Out is when spouses/significant others are invited; Dining In is when they aren't. And when these guys do a Dining event, it means the mess dress. Which is more or less a tux. Which doesn't quite coordinate with my jeans and Doc Martens--or even my cute little olive drab skirt or navy flowered sleeveless number--so that means time to go dress shopping.

I'm really good at shopping for jeans and tennies; if I need a pair of jeans I can go to any of several favorite stores, where I will likely find something suitable within an afternoon. Dress shopping, on the other hand, takes some mental preparation. It is, like, the apex of the fashion quests.

I started the process several weeks ago. Our nearest mall is a sorry sort of place in Santa Maria, so I popped in to a few places just to look and get a feel for what's new in formal fashionwares. Is that even a word? It is now. I even tried a few dresses on and determined that, while there's an abundance of black dresses wherever you look, the color black (still) really doesn't flatter me. Sadly, this significantly limits my options. Not prohibitively, but enough to notice. So while I didn't find a suitable Dining Out dress, I figured out to an extent the type of dress I'm looking for (probably short; some color other than black), and even determined that I need some sparklies this time around. Which is major progress, given my normally plain tastes.

Really it's a give and take sort of thing though--if I get a dress with some sparklies already on it, I have much less to worry about in the accessory department...in which I am even more impaired than with the clothing.

So for today I was invited on a major shopping expedition to Simi Valley, where they have real malls, with popular stores and everything. I went along with two other mil-wives who also needed to find outfits for the dining out. They, too, have young sons, so all three daddies were fortunate enough to get some quality time with the boyz while the mommies went looking for pretties.

I have determined that the key to successful shopping as a fashion impaired person is to go with one or several people who, at the very least, can provide objective input as a third party. A spectacular sense of color and fit is even better. I was lucky enough to shop with such a person today. I started out looking for something plain and subdued--perhaps a navy or dark brown. After the first round in the dressing room, I started to get a feel for things and branched out into some reds and even silvers. Lo & behold, Mrs. Fashion informed me that I need to be looking for things in "jewel colors," which apparently include emerald greens and hot pinks and varying shades of red. I'm not yet brave enough to do emerald green or hot pink, but I did enjoy the red. I didn't like anything enough to make a purchase, but I got some fantastic ideas and a much better sense of what I'm looking for than two weeks ago, even.

I had a nice success on the side, though. I'm not big into purses and handbags and such, and those I have are buried in a box somewhere, so when I found myself going out today sans kiddo, I started out with a backpack. A very cool backpack which I love, but a backpack all the same. So my secondary goal for the day became finding a purse. When we reached the mall I ditched the backpack and hand-carried my essentials, to remind myself to suck it up and visit the "hosiery & handbags" department while I was there.

My general taste in purses is brown. And practical. My primary criteria are a top zipper (in case I happen to be throwing my purse across a room; I wouldn't want anything to fall out), a shoulder strap (if I can't wear it I'm apt to leave it somewhere--which for me has been proven empirically, by the way), and a few, but not many, extra pockets (easier to put a few things in one main compartment than dig through endless little zippers). I don't carry an inordinate amount of stuff with me, so I was looking for bags on the smaller end of the spectrum. And I'm rough on things like purses, and shoes, and sunglasses, so I don't necessarily like to put a lot of time and money into them (except for running shoes, but that's another story). Macy's was having a shoe and handbag sale--supposedly the best one ever, or something--but I wasn't finding much. My favorites were the Fossil purses, but unfortunately they cost way more than I wanted to spend.

Well, guess what? Out of nowhere Mrs. Fashion said "Skerrib, you need a green purse. Green is actually very versatile." And guess what else? There were some fabulous green (close to the color of wasabi?) purses right there that fit all my criteria exactly. And guess what else?! They were under $30. While this is high on my price scale for purses (this is how little I invest into purses), with the Best Shoe & Handbag Sale Ever it ended up costing me just over $23 with the tax & everything. Not bad for a fantastically-green purse!

So I checked out, walked a few feet away from the register to allow my other shopping buddy to purchase her new blue wallet, took the tissue paper stuffing and silica gel packets out of my new purse (DO NOT EAT), dropped in my wallet, cell phone, and keys, and began using my new purse right then & there.

Mission accomplished...

Apr 15, 2008

Special Music...

Church hunting has, in fact, gotten old real quick. This past week I found myself attending church solo, so I went back to the Nazarene church. Yes that's right folks, I'm a total wuss when it comes to attending new churches by myself. In short, I don't do it.

Snarky critiques aside, I thought more about why we haven't settled on this one. It's not a bad place. Sure the opening & closing theme songs are a little...different than we're used to, but the teaching is solidly Biblical, if a little bland. Hard to put a finger on what we're looking for but haven't found yet. Especially because we've still only been to 2 places.

So anyway, I slipped in & out quickly & quietly, so as not to draw attention to myself. I'm really enjoying being a "bad" visitor...evading greeters & connect flaps, arriving just before church starts & making a beeline for the door afterward, saving my conversational skills for the restroom (literally; for once I'm not talking about bathroom humor). Besides, no one here seems to have the free food hospitality hour afterward, like we're used to. That's more of an observation than an excuse, by the way.

I did see the assistant from my PT's office from a distance. Then at my appointment yesterday I freaked her out by saying "Hey I saw you at church Sunday." That was fun.

Following Pastor T's advice, I've been reading the Field Guide for inspiration and search tips. This is one of my favorite passages--

"While the tithes and offerings are received (or taken), many churches allow a soloist to perform a song. Welcome to the Desperate Housewives portion of the service when, after practicing for weeks in her car, a woman with a painful lack of talent also demonstrates her inability to evaluate her own skill sets. When she's finished dissecting your inner cortex with her tongue and everyone applauds, she'll point to heaven, blaming God for her voice."

Knitting a Tale...

Came across this one via A Time to Laugh:

Mason-Dixon Knitting

Now I am at best a dabbler in the crafty arts, but the dialogue between these two appears to be well worth the read. If it weren't 10pm, and if I weren't trying so hard to move my bedtime back to 10pm, I'd explore it further. Tomorrow, perhaps...

Tuesday Snippets...

Did my chores yesterday. Felt good about it. I was worried about when to vacuum, since His Highness gets so freaked out about it. But guess what? He got into the dirt again, so I didn't feel guilty at all about v

uuming in his presence.

And he likes to hit my buttons (the keyboard keys) when I'm typing. Up to now I've been fending him off with Life cereal & Ritz crackers, but he just brought me some beef jerky from the pantry, which I am not giving to him, so I think my time here grows short...

...We took a walk/jog this morning. It was a beautiful, cool morning. At the last stoplight on the way back there was a guy counting cars for some sort of traffic survey. We chatted a bit until I got the walk signal. He was bundled in a winter coat, hunkered down in his chair, lamenting the fact that the 80 degree weekend has given way to cold weather.

I pondered this as I was walking the last couple streets home, and it dawned on me that if I were in Mass right now, I wouldn't have even been wearing my sweatshirt. I did today though--nothing to prove after the winters I've lived in! =) But I'd have been entirely too warm in a winter coat, that much was true. So I checked the temp as soon as I got home, and it was 50 degrees. I've definitely become accustomed to the cooler temps...

...This weekend I went thru our entire file cabinet and purged all the old paperwork we didn't need anymore. Including much of the paperwork from our house in Phoenix. I paused over it, but it was time to let it go. (sniff)

So now I have a pile of papers about a foot high that I need to run thru the shredder. I set aside the stuff that can go directly into the recycle bin, but anything with personal info on it needs to be shredded. Just to be safe. Our little home shredder doesn't hold much, so I set up some paper grocery bags to empty it
into every so often.

And oh me oh my, I really should've thrown out what I've shredded thus far, because His Highness just carpeted the office with a grocery bag's worth of shreds...

...I'm getting into some 5k's & stuff while were here. Something fun & different!

...Lots of shreds to clean up...

Apr 12, 2008

American Idol Shout Out (to the Lord)...

So, the big news in Evangelical circles is that they sang Shout to the Lord on American Idol this past week. The only bit I saw was the YouTube video where they replaced the very first "Jesus" with "Shepherd," so at least part of what I say here is hearsay.

That (hear)said, Chewymom posted a blurb here about it. In the comments she says that apparently they edited out the "Jesus" on Wednesday night and put it back in on Thursday.

I was in on a couple discussions debating the changing of the words, and have since found out that there's all sorts of debate about those performances...the word change, AI's using the song at all, and all sorts of things I wouldn't even think would be debatable about singing a song on a TV show. Some say triumph, others travesty.

My two cents: I thought it was great, but I'm not running around proclaiming personal victory over it or anything. Replacing the "Jesus" with "Shepherd" doesn't bother me because Jesus is often referred to as a (The) Shepherd, and it did nothing to alter the very obvious intent of the song. I guess there's some legal thing about it, but that's between AI and Hillsongs. Everyone dressed in white--perhaps a little cliche...but it still looked cool.

To be fair I'm a little biased because I'm pretty touchy about even the slightest aroma of legalism...so this one struck a nerve. Adding to this was my recent perusal of a site explaining in great detail why pretty much all Christian music was actually satanic (long story). One of the big arguments was that a song isn't really Christian if it doesn't specifically say "Jesus" in it. Right off that strikes me as a massively weak argument, since some of the most enduring hymns and songs don't mention Jesus (Amazing Grace, anyone?).

All that's to say someone in Chewymom's comment thread posted this link, which I think gives some really good "inside" info and sheds some perspective on the whole thing. It helped me to relax, anyway, which is saying something...

Apr 11, 2008

Boston Manifesto I--People...

So, I'm a processor. I'm on the introspective side, and I'm neurotic, so I tend to be neurotically introspective. Sometimes I shut myself down for a while and deliberately don't think about anything. But usually I have a relatively harmless train of continual thought running in the background--much like the crawler at the bottom of the news channels--where I observe and evalute my current state. If something gives me pause, I'll shift it to the forefront where I can decide whether or not I need to take action. Usually it's just a matter of forming contingency plans in the event that we're invaded by flies and need to evacuate to higher ground...or something.

Of course all this introspection ramps up around moving time, as I more or less close one chapter and open the next. Comparing expectations with reality and so forth. This is good for my psyche. It helps me to structure my own corner of the world, and have a little closure and all that. And as it turns out, it has also proven very practical for getting acquainted with new people, since I'm then prepared to discuss driving, and the weather, and all those mundane topics that come up when folks are getting acquainted.

For example, Ohio can be best summed up by the words "laid-back" and "friendly." It's more or less in the Midwest, so you've got that unassuming nature and down home sensibility. People talk slower, move slower, and in general aren't in much of a rush. The speed limit on the freeways in town was 65--we would drive 65 exactly, and would be in the fast lane passing folks going 60 or even 55. Some of the time it was old people, but just as often it wasn't. Coming from fast-paced Phoenix, this was an adjustment. I was bothered by it at first, mostly because I was bothered by pretty much everything during the Cat Daddy's first 2 years in the AF, but over time I calmed down...and slowed down...and started to breathe a bit. Even the Cat Daddy calmed down some, which some would say is remarkable. And our good friend Mr. Bee, who never calms down if he can help it, did. Living amid that laid-back culture, one couldn't help acquiescing at least a little bit. Lovely place.

We knew that moving to Boston would likely involve some ramping back up. It is big, and crowded, and generally thought of as unfriendly or even harsh. We (I?) were worried that we wouldn't find a church, since churches are fewer in that area. I wondered if I would have to start wearing black all the time, and we both wondered how long it would take before we didn't have to concentrate so hard to decipher the accent--or if we'd end up taking on a little bit of the accent ourselves. So we geared up.

Then we moved, I found a job, we met people, found one church, then another, picked apples, blah blah blah. And here is what I've determined:...(get ready)...it's an issue of culture.

People are people pretty much wherever you go. Most people are fairly willing to get along. More than a few are nervous and/or insecure-types. There is always the compulsory handful of jerks. The key to understanding Boston (and probably most of New England), however, is understanding that everyone has stuff to get done, and people generally want to let people do the stuff they have to do. So where in Ohio it was common to linger just a tad at the checkout and exchange pleasantries with the cashier, in Boston it was an unspoken "here let me get you through the line and out of here so you can move on to the next thing." A quick, mumbly "thanks" or "have a good one," while seen as terse in the Midwest, was an overture of gratitude in Concord.

I think at least part of the reason for this is population density. Ohio--lots of wide open spaces. Coming into contact with another human being is generally a welcome occasion. Relationship is valued above task because there will always be work to do, but hey there's another person! Let's talk while we can. Boston--nearly zero wide open spaces. One might get a little claustrophobic even, with all the people, and buildings, and construction, and stuff going on. So maybe task isn't exactly valued above relationship (or maybe it is), but there are people everywhere, so please, can you just give me a second to get this done?

One telling experience to me was a conversation I had with Pastor & Mrs T. Mrs. T is a lifelong New Englander (originally from the South Shore, I believe), while Pastor T was brought up more or less in Iowa (and Ukraine, but that's another story). To Pastor T, sharing friendly conversation with random strangers is as normal as brushing one's teeth. Not so with Mrs T...my favorite response from her on the topic went something like "No way! I would wonder what they want from me!" Friendly conversation came after getting to know someone a little bit. Until then, respect a person enough not to detain them unless they wish otherwise.

Not that Mrs. T is some sort of standoffish rock, or anything. She's very hospitable, in fact. And extremely cool, which I've mentioned in a previous post.

The other most telling experience came on the way home from work one day. As I was hitting the turn-off to Rt 62, there was a car pulled as far to the left as possible, trying not to block the turn lane, its driver leaning against the median. This particular intersection is usually pretty busy--it's a long wait for the left turn arrow, so one doesn't dally. However as the traffic inched forward, I saw every, single car in front of me pause in front of the stranded motorist, presumably asking if she needed help, before she nodded and waved them on. But just to make sure, as I passed I rolled down my window and asked, "Do you have help on the way?" and she responded, "I do, thanks," to which I said a quick "Have a good one," and moved on before those behind me commenced with the barrage of honking (a story, perhaps, for the "Driving" manifesto). It made me feel good, knowing that plenty of people were willing to help the lady. Maybe their sole motivation was to get the left turn lane cleared, but still...

All that said, there are plenty of jerks. In a big city it's a statistical reality. And then there are the loud Italians, the stubborn Irish, obnoxious Bostonians and other colorful stereotypes. Sort of like the stereotypical, obnoxious Texans, or Southerners, or Europeans, or Canadians...

But seriously, all told I think people in New England are friendly enough. Yes, even the Canadians. It helps, however, to know where they are coming from. Not necessarily agree or even hang out with them on a regular basis...but to understand the cultural nuances that make them tick. Bostonians, in my opinion, aren't "unfriendly" so much as "trying to stay out of the way."

Write that down, kids...

UPDATE: check out my sequel, the driving.

Apr 10, 2008

Note To Self...

The tongs have been in the dog's water and the gladware has been in the trash. Need to wash both. Need to wash them well...

Apr 7, 2008

Zoe, That Had Better Be Hippo & Not Lambert!!

His Highness got a really nice stuffed lamb from Grandma S. His name is Lambert--said so on his tag. Zoe really wants Lambert for herself, but I've explained that she has her stuffed bone, and Hippo, who is a stuffed hippo, of course. I generally keep Lambert up & out of the way, but since His Highness loves Lambert, Lambert ends up within a cockapoo's reach at least once per day.

...So I've completed my chores for the day (Monday's cleaning day--more about that in a sec) and we're out back on the patio. I'm blissfully blogging while my monsters and creatures run off some steam, and I just saw a fluffy white mass sticking out of Zoe's mouth. Hence the above admonition. Turns out it's Hippo, so all is well...

I like how my chore schedule is shaping up. I designated Monday as Cleaning Day. There's nothing special about Monday, as opposed to any other weekday, except I figure that it's the day I'm the most motivated to get stuff done, coming off the weekend and all. I also made a rule that since the Cat Daddy works (roughly) 8 to 5, then those are my work hours too, and most all of the running-of-the-household should occur during that time. That way I have my evenings off, as well. So far, so good--keeping regular day hours motivates me to get things done, if I want to be rid of them...but if something comes up and I just don't get everything done, in most cases it will just wait until the next day.

(His Highness just backward-army-crawled from the grass onto the concrete patio and rolled around a bit before deciding to mow the grass with his toy mower. Does that strike anyone else as a little odd?)

I can get pretty anal about schedules and routines, but within the Monday Cleaning Day, there's some built-in flexibility. You know, kinda take stock on what really needs to be done and what would be nice to get done or can wait altogether, and make note of the things that need to wait until naptime to do properly, versus the things that His Highness can "help" with, or at least not undo as quickly as I do them. So it feels manageable. Then the rest of the week the big stuff is out of the way and I can commence with the watching TV with my feet propped up, eating bon bons. Because after I do the Monday chores, what else is there, right??