Monthly Archives: May 2009

Mild Trepidation.

Last night our microwave shot craps.

Today I bought a new microwave.

Greg is installing it.

He hung a template:

microwave template

He does not speak Spanish.

This should be interesting.

Memorial Day, 2009 – Table Rock Lake

The number of times we’ve gone camping this spring: 2.

The number of times it has rained on us while camping: 2.

It’s becoming clear that we are magnets for cruddy camping weather; after all, the one time there was rain in the forecast and we actually canceled our reservations, the sun shone like a mocking beacon all weekend.

There are two very distinct reactions to this in my family:

1.  I tend to laugh about it. I think our little misfortunes are downright hilarious, especially when they begin compounding (which I will address later).

2.  Greg turns into the human incarnation of Eeyore, albeit with saltier language, complete with the woe-is-me grumblings. And when he does that, I laugh even harder.

So here is how our Memorial Day weekend developed:

Saturday spit on us off and on with rain while we traveled to Marshfield and Springfield to enjoy dinner with my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. After stuffing ourselves stupid on meat at a Brazilian grill, we went on down to Branson – Indian Point, to be more specific, and took up temporary residence in the campground there. Saturday evening was a nice night for a campfire and beer, and we took full advantage of it which meant I had to get up in the middle of the night and run to the nearest latrine.

Sunday morning we enjoyed a nice pancakes-and-bacon breakfast, then went to Ride the Ducks. I’ve been on the Ducks a couple of times and knew what it would bring; nobody else in the family had been on them, so they had a GREAT time. HOWEVER. I found all the quacking of the revelers in front of us pretty obnoxious, my hair was limp from the humidity, and and we were in the back seat. If you’ve ever been in the back seat on splashdown, it’s not the best place to be – fortunately for me they had curtains up which curtailed the water. Ethan and Laurel got to drive the Duck and ohhhhhhhhh, they were thrilled. Ethan couldn’t stop smiling.

We returned to the campground and we all needed a nap – and that was fine, seeing as how it was raining more steadily. We had a boat reserved for Sunday evening and decided we’d see what happened…but by the time we awoke, it was pouring. So no boat.

And did I mention the campground had no firewood?

By that time, Eeyore was in full effect, so Laurel and I went to the little grocery up the way to see if we could figure out something else for us to do. I asked some of the locals, one of whom was either drunk or high (which I also found amusing).

“Party Pizza,” they said. “It’s just like Chuck E. Cheese.”

“What about movie theaters,” I asked. “Got any of those around here?”

“You bet we do! They’re on the way to Party Pizza! Oh, there’s also Grand Country Square, you can play miniature golf indoors there, and what about the Butterfly Palace?”

“Well,” I said, “We’re from St. Louis. We have the Butterfly House there…”

Truth is, we’ve been to the Butterfly Palace in Branson and it SUCKS compared to the Butterfly House.

So we went to Party Pizza, but Party Pizza was c-l-o-s-e-d. Permanently. Greg was unamused. I started laughing.

“Okay!” I exclaimed, “Let’s go to Grand Country Square!”

So we did, and mind you, they have a pizza buffet there, but we walked in and the game room we’d been promised was under construction. Greg stormed out, saying he was NOT going to eat there if we couldn’t play there, thankyouverymuch. I asked the lady behind the counter where we could play indoor mini golf…and it turns out it’s just across the lot in another building.

Feeling confident, Laurel and I returned to the pickup – to where Greg and Ethan had fled – and informed them that all was not lost! We could still eat pizza and play arcade games and mini golf!

And that is what we did. Of course, once we arrived at the arcade, about 30% of the machines were out of order and the air hockey table was falling apart, but we still had a lot of fun, and Eeyore…

…yes, even Eeyore…

enjoyed himself.

(PS, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ethan got one hole-in-one and Laurel actually got two – in a row!)

(Also, we really did get to do some real camping stuff like roasting marshmallows and the like.)

Here is the photo gallery:

ready to roll wet camper greg and ethan on ducks michelle and laurel on ducks air hockey motorcycle game ethan playing mini golf laurel playing mini golf marshmallow madness ethan marshmallows

A Conversation with Laurel – The Unibrow

Me: “Laurel, when you get older, you’ll probably want to tweeze your brows.”

Laurel: “What?! Why would anybody do that?”

Me: “High fashion. It’s fashionable. Without it, you’ll have a unibrow.”

Laurel: “Unibrows…I think they’re cool.”

Me:  “You think they’re cool?”

Laurel: “Yup.”

Me: “Um, well, I’m pretty sure the unibrow is the universal symbol for ‘not cool’ but if you want to start a trend, go right ahead. It worked for Frida Kahlo — eventually.”

Laurel:  “Yeah, I know. And I love Frida Kahlo, so I want to have a unibrow.”

Me: “You think the unibrow had something to do with Frida Kahlo’s talent?”

Laurel: “Maybe.”

Winding Down.

We’re winding down from another school year, and couldn’t be much busier. Between book fairs, vacation plans, and school functions, we’re about beat.

Last weekend we had the chance to blow off some steam at the school Spirit Festival. I was really looking forward to it, even though we had to get up very early on a Saturday morning after being out late the night before.

The rain that threatened to ruin it the night before held off, but it was chilly. Still, the weather didn’t dampen our spirits. We sat on our tailgate and watched the parade, then walked on up to the school to enjoy rides all day.

The sun eventually came out and made me regret eschewing the sunscreen that morning. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Laurel got “a lot of free reign” as she later told a friend. Greg took Ethan on the kiddie rides and took both kids on the ferris wheel as I watched the entertainment on the main stage and visited with other parents I knew.

It was a great day with great people, and a great all-district event to cap off the school year.


watching the fire truck spinny ride roller coaster wound up carousel carousel2

How to Gauge BBQ Success.

If you had a successful barbecue, your son looks like this 45 minutes past bedtime:

Ethan post-bbq

Note the grease-stained shirt; the orange soda mustache; the oversized hat.

The smile.

He’s sleeping in that hat tonight, he says.

Never Again.

Never again will I take Vinnie to the vet I took him to on Monday.

Vinnie is scared to death of people outside the family. He’s become a little aggressive in his old age, but it’s mostly fear driving it. He’s not really a mean dog. Still, there have been times when I’ve been just a little concerned about how he would react to someone.

Previously we’ve taken Vinnie all the way out to High Ridge for his vet visits; I loved that vet, he is very good, and our personalities and approach to animals are similar. He clearly has a background as a large animal vet or grew up on a farm or something, because he recognizes that while animals are awesome and we love them, they do not enjoy the same status as people.

(waiting for the PETA e-mails to hit)

Anyway, this year I decided I’d try the new vet, the one that’s only 5 minutes away. I knew it’d be a struggle. Vinnie starts shaking every time we enter a veterinary clinic and the sounds and smells of the other animals assault his nostrils. He worries and frets.

Folks, this is a dog who lies in the floor in the evenings and bites his toenails. That’s how nervous he is.

He was so nervous he lost control of his bowels as soon as we walked in the door.

“Oops, sorry,” I told the receptionist. “Well, I guess you probably needed a stool sample anyway.”  I offered to clean it up, but they declined.

Then we went into the exam room. Oh, horrors. Vinnie was nervous enough, but then he was in a tiny exam room and felt claustrophobic. I did the best I could to hold him, but when the vet and her assistant entered, he lost bowel control again.

“What are you feeding that poor thing?” asked the vet.

“Um, you know, just generic food,” I mumbled.

“Oh, GOD,” she moaned. “Please tell me it isn’t Ol’ Roy.”

“Pfft! What’s wrong with Ol’ Roy?” I queried.

“Well, no WONDER he’s pooping so much. That stuff is nothing but trash. You shouldn’t feed him that. That’s probably why he’s had a seizure. Does he always shed like this??!”

“Uh, this time of year, yeah, of course. This is his spring shed.”

“Well, I think it’d be better if you fed him a decent dog food.”

Then Vinnie lost bladder control. “Whoa, buddy,” said the assistant, “You were really full.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “Can’t go blaming THAT on his food, can you?”

Then the vet got ready to draw blood and give his vaccinations. “You may want to muzzle him,” I said.

“Oh, I hate to do that. I don’t want to do that,” she responded.

I gave her a pointed look. “I would muzzle him if I were you.”

Twice Vinnie managed to get out of the muzzle. After the second time, after I saw how they coaxed and cajoled him to get it back on, I lost patience, took the muzzle myself, let out an exasperated sigh, and forced it back on without all the fanfare.

Later: “Why is he so nervous? He’s only this nervous because you’re nervous and you’re not the pack leader like you should be. He gets by with stuff with you.”

That’s where I lost my cool a little.

Laughing, I responded, “What?!  I’m not nervous. For crying out loud, I grew up on a farm, I have that kind of mentality. I like him alright, but I don’t care what you do to this dog. It doesn’t bother me a bit to see you give him shots or take his blood.”

She backed off a little after that, admitted that was true, I probably wasn’t nervous considering my background. I was so angry because she spent an hour – an ENTIRE HOUR – harping on me and trying to get Vinnie to like her. Vinnie hated her. I hated her. Neither of us was going to change our minds about that. I just wanted her to GET THE DAMNED SHOTS DONE ALREADY I DON’T CARE IF HIS EARS ARE CLEAN OR HIS NAILS ARE CLIPPED AND I DO NOT BLAME HIM FOR HATING YOU — I WANT OUT AND SO DOES HE.

The best part was when the vet asked me if his previous vet had this much trouble; to which I responded that no, no, his previous vet seemed to do alright. While Vinnie has never been an easy visit, he had never been that difficult.


Next year we will be returning to High Ridge Animal Hospital. They are the best. They have a logical mentality. Get in there, give the dog the damned shots, and get out. They TOLD me to feed Vinnie cheap food because he NEEDS the fiber for his impacted anal sacs. I eat generic foods and am not going to feed a dog boutique foods. I am not going to feed my dog better food than my children receive.

And anyone who doesn’t like that can come talk to Vinnie about it.

Grant’s Farm, Spring 2009.

Last weekend, after canceling our camping plans due to rain forecasts only to find it dry, we fought cabin fever on Sunday with a trip to Grant’s Farm.

When we go to Grant’s Farm we take advantage of Grant’s Trail. Parking down the line, we ride our bicycles to the Farm. We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed it near the stables, then headed inside where Ethan made the most astute observation to date:

Ethan observing the Clydesdales

“Whoa,” he exclaimed. “Look at that big penis!”

And that was no lie:

clydesdale profile

Moving along, we visited the foals in the meadow…

Kids with Foal

…then headed into the park itself where we saw all manner of animals, as usual, and watched the bird show. The kids rode the new carousel and Ethan avoided a nap that day. We paid for that some later, but that evening, he went to sleep without complaint.

It was a nice day. We all had a fantastic time.

More photos:

laurelEthan with the goats eagle  lazy kangaroosWaiting for the carousellaurel on carouselFeeding llamas baby camelsRiding on Daddy's Shoulders

Her Day in the Sun.

As most readers of this blog already know, Laurel asked the final question of President Obama at Wednesday’s town hall meeting.

And oh, the surrealism that ensued.

Two days prior to the meeting, I registered online for tickets. If we were chosen, the website stated, we would receive a call after 3 p.m.  Around 7 p.m. we got the call.

I e-mailed Laurel’s teacher and told her that if the students wanted to come up with an intelligent question, Laurel would be happy to ask it. The next day, Laurel’s teacher e-mailed us back with several possibilities.

Tuesday evening, we went to pick up our tickets. At the time, we asked the volunteer if questions were being submitted. The volunteer hemmed and hawed and then told us the questions had already been selected.

Laurel’s face fell. I was disappointed, too, and thought it would be difficult to explain why the President’s camp would pre-screen questions. I didn’t even address it; instead, I told her to prepare her question anyway, because one never knows.

As we all know now, the questions were NOT pre-screened, the questioners were NOT chosen ahead of time, and Laurel was picked to read the final question. And once again I will say that I hate it when people don’t know the answers, won’t admit it, and just make them up.

We do not yet have our own personal video of the various recordings we have; we will be preparing that soon. I did want to debunk the rumors of a setup on the internet, though, and post a few photos I took of the event. So here you are.

Before, waiting in line outside the gym and waiting before the event:

crowd crowd inside

the wait before the meeting

Now, before we go along – this morning, a former member of my family (through marriage, my blood relatives wouldn’t say this) accused me of being an “outrageous control freak” – as if that were news, or even an insult. Anyway, it’s true. I’m pushy when I need to be. When we arrived at the venue, there was a gentleman reserving no fewer than three rows of bleachers for teachers who wished to sneak in at the last minute. “No,” he told me when I asked if we could sit there, “I’m saving those seats.”

“Well,” I said, “we waited in line for hours, so I believe we will sit there.”

And we did just that. After all, I have taught Laurel over and over that while we are no more important than others, we are also no less important. We waited in line for hours; many seats were reserved. The remainder? Those were first-come, first-served, and we got there first.

Now on to the event itself. First of all, it would be difficult to adequately describe what an engaging man Barack Obama is. He is so well-spoken, and the more he spoke, the more I realized our beliefs align. I have not yet heard him say something with which I substantially disagreed.

As he spoke, Laurel eliminated a question or two that he had already addressed in his speech, narrowing it down to one. The winner: “What does your administration plan to do to be more environmentally friendly?”

More photos of the event itself:

barbershop quartet sings the Star-Spangled Banner claire

jay obama 1 obama 2

I have many, many more photos of President Obama speaking, but after all that has happened – after Laurel asked her question, after President Obama’s remarkable praise, after she shook the President’s hand and received his autograph; even after my former mother-in-law’s unabashed attempt to take credit for my daughter’s upbringing (though she’s had no contact with her for two years) while allowing her cronies to vilify the woman who really raised Laurel (that would be me)…

This is my favorite, my best photo of the entire event. And there are no amount of negative comments from the jerks on the right that would keep me from smiling at this:

Laurel asking her question

After the event, while Laurel patiently awaited her autograph, reporters from all sorts of media outlets approached us, asking to interview her. I obliged, knowing full well Laurel can handle it.

Handle it she did. Thanks go to the reporters who actually treated her very well during the onslaught. 😉

We’ll have video soon.