Monday, July 30, 2007

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

I didn't fall off of the face of the Earth. Well, actually, I guess I kind of did. For the past week, the family whiled away our time in picturesque Deep Creek, Maryland. The town is actually McHenry, Maryland, but who's heard of that? (Okay, not a lot of people have heard of Deep Creek either, but it sets the scene a little better). Here's what it looks like:

Pretty, right? We rented a place with three other couples, two of which have three children among them. Shockingly, all of the kids got along pretty well (the Boy was calling the little girls his "sisters" by the end of the week). I expected way more meltdowns over some of Playskool's finest, or some tussles about watching TV. So, I was pleasantly surprised that way.

My only quibble? I'm clearly completely ridiculous when it comes to my clutter threshold. It's as low as a limbo pole. But man, toys, shoes, cups, beer cans, and cigarette packs were EVERYWHERE. It drove me bonkers. That's right. Bonkers.

How bonkers? One of my most satisfying mornings was the one where everyone went to a playground and I spent an hour putting stuff away. Since I was the only one compelled to tidy up, I recognize that I must have a small obsession. Still, though, I think leaving steak knives on end tables might not be the best child-rearing technique.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Me & Sam Walton

For reasons too boring to delve into, I found myself in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night with nothing to do but walk off a gigantic meal procured at Smokey Bones.

My com padres suggested walking over to the strip mall adjacent to our Marriott. I was down with that, because if I went to bed without a minimal amount of exercise, my heart my have exploded from the amount of barbecue I'd eaten.

You might question the choice of a stroll to a strip mall. Trust, there were no other options. This hotel was on a road named Power Line Drive. You know how roads are typically named after historical personages, geographical destinations, or are designed to be evocative of local vistas? Well, Power Line Drive was indeed evocative of a local vista...of the power lines. So, off we went to the strip mall.

Turns out, though, the strip mall next door wasn't a strip mall. Nope. It was just a GIGANTIC Wal-Mart. I've seen how Wal-Mart kills whatever Mom & Pop industry is indigenous to an area, so I don't shop there. But my co-workers do, and marched toward it because they needed to pick up a few things. Aaargh. These were my choices:

(1) Accompany them, but don't buy anything;
(2) Turn around, feigning sudden fatigue, the need to make a phone call from a land line, or illness (which, come to think of it, would've been believable considering how much I'd just horked chez Smokey Bones); OR
(3) Share my politics, and take off back to the hotel.

I'm a passivist pacifist, so I opted to go but not buy anything. Going was a good thing, because my reasons for avoiding Wal-Mart are not limited to the political sphere. Now, my reasons include the atmosphere. Which, for the record, was kind of depressing. Nobody wanted to be there. The greeter kind of grunted at us. And the shoppers comprised grumpy parents, wailing kids, and portly teens who resented that their summertime entertainment was loitering at Wal-Mart...

So, in the future, I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm really missing out on something great at Wal-Mart. Not like I was really worried, I guess, but any shadowy doubt that lingered is gone.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Good Day, Sunshine

(I don't live in this glorious place, but it seemed a nicer illustration than the sparkling Inner Loop of 695)

Is it reassuring or extra creepy that this is the sunshiniest, mildest day of all time AND it's Friday the 13th?

Wait, did I just blog about the weather? THE WEATHER?!? Seeking redemption...seeking redemption...

One New Year's many years ago, I visited my sister when she and her family were living in Deutschland. It's a German tradition, apparently, to set off fireworks in the neighborhood at midnight (since they have red clay roofs, they don't really need to sweat the possibility of New Year's Flambé). Whilst the fireworks lit up the sky and we sipped champagne, my sister's neighbor, Felix, chatted about when he'd lived in the States (the Republic of Texas, thankyouverymuch). He said he loved America, with one exception: our predilection for talking about the weather.

His tirade went a little something like this...

"You have nothing to talk about except the weather? That is so boring! I have more interesting things to talk about! I am studying [insert some applied mathematic juju that I couldn't retain]! We should talk about that! Schnell!"

Okay, he didn't say that last 'Schnell'. In my imagination, Germans want to punctuate everything they say with it, so I added it to Felix's rant. Oh, and to clarify: he wasn't yelling at me. He was yelling at remembered conversations with bouffanted Mary Kay saleswomen.

Phew. Suddenly, this post turned into a recollection of an exciting travel experience, and NOT a post about the weather. See, Felix? I do have better things to talk about. I was worried for a second there.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Satellite Killed the (Terrestrial) Radio Star

Family Truckster is equipped with Sirius satellite radio. I haven't decided weather or not to pick up the subscription yet. Eh, I'll probably wait and see whether the gubment allows XM and Sirius to merge, and then I'll get a cheaper monthly subscription since we already have XM in Hubby's car (Oh, LtW, at last you're becoming a crafty consumer!). Anyway, I'd forgotten the joys of having more than five or six programming choices. The option to flip over to satellite couldn't come at a better time since all of the DC-based shows seem to be on vacation this week. Either that, or they aren't funny.

Any way you shake it, though, I clearly need a host of choices. This morning I listened to the Animaniacs' The Presidents, then Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and finally, the October 2006 roast of Gary Dell'Abate on the Howard Stern Show. Does that indicate that yours truly has multiple personalities? or ADD? or esoteric tastes? I'm going to go ahead and vote for that last one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Brave New World

Actually, come to think of it, "brave" isn't quite the way I'd describe this new world in which the Hubby and I find ourselves. Considering all of the safety features that come standard, our new car isn't really the picture of courage. Yup, that's right, we are now the proud owners of our first Family Truckster. Voilà:

That's a 2007 Ford Freestyle Limited. It's kind of a FrankenCar -- one-third SUV, one-third minivan, one-third station wagon. We needed something bigger than the Ford Focus and the Chevy Cavalier we'd been driving because the Boy is getting bigger, and if he isn't pounding the back of the driver's seat with his size 7's, then his knees are up around his ears. Not really a safe way to ride in a car, to say nothing of the style. Plus, we've got many road trips this summer, and the amount of stuff we haul around for the Boy and the Girl is astounding.

We chose this model because we're on a budget, want to seat more than five people, and we don't want to leave an Ozymandias-ish carbon footprint. LtW, you might ask, if those were your criteria, why not just go with a fuel-efficient minivan? I'll be honest with you. I could spout statistics at you about why the Freestyle is better than a minivan, even though it may only be slightly better in the categories that matter to me.

Here's what it boils down to: I couldn't do it. Not yet. I could not make my 31-year-old self cross the line into the world of minivans. When we were driving to the dealer, I pointed out a Dodge Caravan to Hubby, and told him that it got the best rating for minivans in the government's Fuel Economy Guide. The blue swerving wonder had one of those giant soccer magnets on the back of it. Hubby's response was, "Ugh. Is the soccer ball mandatory?"

So he wasn't game to become a citizen of the Republic of Minivans either. I won't say that I won't become naturalized someday, but I'm not ready yet. Vive le Freestyle!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Like a Bull in a Nursery

Well, it finally happened. The Boy broke his first lamp yesterday. I knew it was right around the corner, because he's been really into this crazy show called "LazyTown." It's a mix of "Spitting Image" and the Olympic men's gymnastics competition. The Boy was channeling Sportacus (the tumbling maniac who stars in the show), and executed a perfect somersault into a plastic set of drawers in the Girl's nursery. A little white lamp lived atop those drawers, and alas, it did not survive the wrecking ball known as the Boy.

As soon as it happened, memories of that unfortunate stick ball-in-the-living-room incident surfaced. That little game 'twixt me and Little Bro cost my parents a pristine mirrored knick-knack shelf. We weren't that much older than the Boy when that happened, so I knew that Bustin' Up the Joint Era was coming soon. Guess I just hoped the Boy would take out more of Hubby's stuff than general household stuff.

Time to surf the web for cheap, unbreakable lamps!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Only 173 Shopping Days Until Christmas!

Over the weekend, I went to a bridal shower tea for a college friend. Most showers (bridal, baby, and otherwise) are a yawn fest. There are only so many times you can ooh or coo over china and onesies. But, at this shower, the bride received something that I covet. Her mother gifted her with this:

(image courtesy of the Yellowstone online gift shop)

How perfect is that? I love that it's completely ahistorical. Well, of course it is, as our Lord and Savior, if you truck with Christianity, was not, in fact, a black bear. But black bears are not indigenous to the Middle East, which makes the whole thing even more fanciful. And that little grouping up there? That's just the starter set. There are two more. The second set features a shepherd, Bear-Caspar, and some of the animals that chilled out in the stable:

And then, set three: Bear-Melchior, Bear-Balthasar, the Little Drummer Bear and a Bear-Cow.

I'm not sure if this is blasphemous or awesome, but I'm leaning toward awesome.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I Am a Moron

The combination locks on the inner stairwell doors of my office building were changed two weeks ago. Our building manager put messages reminding us of this on hot pink Post-It notes above each doorknob and keypad. Every day I muscle my way up the stairs, see the note, and say to myself, "Duh. We all know the combination has changed. When are they going to remove those notes?" And then I promptly enter in the old combination.

Prince William Has a Voice Twin!

I'm a bit of an anglophile, so I cranked NPR up to eleven during its piece on the Concert for Diana (trust, I understand that admitting that makes me sound like a gigantic nerd). Something about Princes William and Harry's speech gave me a wicked case of déjà vu, though. I'm sitting in my car, tapping my steering wheel, thinking I've heard this address before. I'm picturing a castle, a crowd, someone saying "Boo!" Wait! Prince William, starting at about 1:30 in the video below, bears an uncanny vocal resemblance to Chris Sarandon's Prince Humperdinck in "The Princess Bride." Here are the heirs to the British throne:

Now, go rent "The Princess Bride" and fast-forward to Buttercup's funerary fantasy, when Prince Humperdinck tells the murmuring crowd, "My father's final words were, 'Love her, as I loved her and there will be joy. I present to you, your queen; Queen Buttercup." (Sorry about the offline re-direct; that scene doesn't exist on these here Interwebs.)

Eerie, right? What? It's just me? Really? Hmmm.

And by the way (slight non sequitur): why hasn't Broadway created a musical based on "The Princess Bride" yet? If they can retro-fit Monty Python's "Holy Grail" as "Spamalot," then surely the tale of Buttercup and Westley would make a jim dandy of a show on the Great White Way. So, all you musical theatre types, get to work on that. I would, but me and the writing of music, we're like this (MCV holds arms out to sides like the model for one of Da Vinci's more famous pencil sketches).