November 28, 2013

My Turkey's Name is Murphy

It's 8:02am on Thanksgiving. I have been up for exactly 32 minutes and already I have laughed and I have cried. And I'm the only one awake.

It started with me randomly waking up enough to look at the clock and realizing that I overslept. I was supposed to be up an hour earlier to get the turkey in. Jump out of bed, race to the kitchen, dig out the only-used-once-a-year roasting pan from where it is stored on top of my hutch and beneath all the mini appliances--without waking the kids, of course--and then start prepping the oven and the turkey.

The turkey was freed of all its hidden giblets and other unknown organs that I refuse to think about lest it remind me that I have my hand inside something that was once a living animal, and then it was rinsed and patted dry and set aside in the roasting pan to await the final treatment. On to the onions.

I know there's some secret to cutting onions without them making you cry but I have yet to discover that. And lucky me, I chose the onion that I had bought several weeks ago (don't freak out--onions are good up to 6 weeks after you buy them). I have discovered that onions are like wine or cheese; the longer they sit, the more they ferment and they grow more potent. While it was still fresh and usable, that seemingly innocuous onion was harboring secret kryptonite-like powers. I cut the ends off first and immediately smelled that obnoxious onion smell, but it wasn't until I cut the thing in half that it hit me. Oh, good heavens! The wave of onion vapors didn't just waft through the air, it came at me like a freight train and slammed right into my tear ducts. My eyes started to water and I had to turn my face away. Squeezing my eyes tight seemed to help a bit so I did that a few times and turned back. Good night! I swear, the onion had grown stronger. My momentary show of weakness was just the opportunity it needed to double its forces. My eyes started closing on their own and I had to force them open so I wouldn't cut my fingers instead of the onion. Tears poured out in a useless attempt to wash away the burn. It was all I could do not to rub my eyes which probably would have resulted in a trip to the emergency room so instead I grabbed the nearest towel and rubbed it on my face.

Yes, that would be the towel I used to dry my raw turkey after rinsing out the giblet residue.


I just used the essence of raw meat to cut through the onion burn.

On the plus side, it worked. So after some serious scrubbing, I finished prepping my turkey--buttered, seasoned, foil-tented (which is an art itself). I have 2 built-in ovens and I had already checked to make sure I was using the bigger one and had lowered the rack. This isn't the first time I've cooked Thanksgiving turkey in this house so imagine my surprise when the turkey didn't fit. I had to flatten down my beautiful dome so I could get it past the heating coils and still didn't fit. No problem; I turned my roasting pan sideways. It still didn't fit. My pan was just way too big. How was it that I didn't remember this particular problem?

I set the turkey on the stove and just laughed as I tried to come up with a solution that didn't involve ordering a pizza for Thanksgiving dinner. I took off the foil tent and then grabbed one of my other baking pans. I picked up the rack and set the whole thing down in the new pan. The rack was too big. The ends of it hung over the side. The turkey fit, however, and all the drippings would be caught in the pan so I figured it was a good last choice. I dug around a bit and found another baking pan. I had better luck with this one as I was able to force the feet of the rack inside the pan.

Turkey is in--crisis averted. Nothing else can possibly go wrong today. Right?

November 18, 2013

Driving Me To Drink

After years of dreaming, months of saving (then spending that savings and having to save it again), hours and hours of online research, and even a trip or two to look at our prospects, we finally bought a new car.

But have no fear, it was not a standard, boring business transaction. Oh no, we certainly can't have that. Because if I have to do something like buy a car, it can't be normal. It has to be (all together now) an adventure. Which is really just code for, "Am I being Punk'd?"

I had an inkling of what was to come when I got a phone call the other day. MC and I had applied for financing online for this one particular car lot we'll call The Lot (I know, creative genius, right?). The next morning I got a call from Bob. Let me clarify Bob. This was not "Bahb" who will scratch his belly while watching "da Bears", this was "Bobe" (pronounced quickly and succinctly) who looks like Eugene Levy with a bushy mustache and speaks like Chirag from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. Are you with me? Ok. So, I answer the phone and he identifies himself as being from The Lot, which I knew we had applied at. Then he asks for Paul. Now, I generally don't use real names but I am going to make an exception here. MC's name is not Paul--it's Chris. Seeing as how I was sort of expecting this call, I went ahead and made the necessary correction, "Do you mean Chris?"

I was met with silence.
Then I added, "My husband is Chris."
Bobe replied, "He is sick? Oh, I'm sorry."
Me, "No, his name is Chris."
Bobe, "Yes, I'm sorry to call at a bad time."
Me: rolling my eyes and praying for patience, "Can I help you?"

I was so not impressed with my introduction with The Lot but since we might end up with another car company, I wasn't too worried. Fast forward a few days and we pull into a car lot to test drive (and hopefully buy) a van we saw online. As we walk into the office, a man comes out and says, "You must be Chris? I am glad you are feeling better." Nooooooo! My eyes shoot over to MC with a mix of disbelief and alarm. We're seriously going to do business with Bobe?! This better be a reaaalllly good car.

As he gathers the keys, he informs us that the car we really wanted has been sold but our other inquiry is still on the lot and, by the way, there is now a third one as well. At least we have options, right? And just so we were aware of how new the vans were, Bobe repeatedly pointed out that one was an "oh-ten' and one was an "oh-eleven". (Am I the only one who finds this not only wrong but highly irritating???) Stepping outside we go to the van, open it up and try to check out the interior. Given that it was now 6:00, it was too dark to see anything and the interior lights didn't come on. And when MC tried to turn the key in the ignition, we discovered the battery was dead. Not a good omen.

But not to worry, Bobe saved the day. As he explained, "Dees cars, you leave da lights for a week and da battery, it does not work." Noted. He was able to jump off the battery and get it going for us. We looked it over, tried out all the seats, fiddled with all the knobs, and then away we went. Once away from The Lot, I felt a little better. The car drove really nice, it had lots of bells and whistles (you know, like A/C and heat, windows that roll down, and a radio), and was in great condition. Yay!

Back at The Lot, we ask Bobe if we can test drive the 3rd van and he then informs us someone is on their way to (possibly) pick it up. Seriously? We weren't gone that long. Did you not feel like mentioning that we had our eye on it as well? But whatevs. We liked the one we test drove. Even though we now found out it was $1000 more than the one we came to look at originally.

Of course it was.

But it did have everything we wanted, the price was still good--even with a warranty, and they were willing to finance our less-than-stellar credit. Deep breath, try not to hyperventilate, "We'll take it!"

And so began the hour and a half process of watching Bobe type at his computer and then wander around the office asking questions and searching for his stapler. We came to the conclusion that Bobe was trained at the "Hello, my name is Peggy" school of customer service. After comparing the 2 warranty options, we asked if he knew what the difference was. Big mistake. He then took the brochures and proceeded to read aloud what each one offered. Dude, seriously! Did you not see us doing the exact same thing just a minute ago??? After letting him recite a few lines and sharing "you have GOT to be kidding me" looks, MC interrupted with, "We'll take #2."

Bobe kept reading.

This whole time, I'd been bouncing around in my chair like a 5 year old hyped up on Red Bull and off her Ritalin. Leg bouncing, foot tapping, eyes rolling, head bobbing, arms flailing randomly. The stress of adding another bill combined with having left my phone with the minions and my book in the car couldn't compete with the Addled Tortoise From India and I was ready to bounce off the walls. MC just sat there silently chastising me.

Until Bobe kept reading.

When MC starts to lose his cool, something is going wrong. (Or right, depending on how you look at it. I found it highly entertaining and a very good distraction.) When Bobe would stop for a breath, MC would butt in with, "That sounds fine. We'll take that one." Only after the 3rd or 4th time and MC raising his voice just shy of a growl did Bobe finally catch on.

The rest of our time there was an exercise in patience and loving your fellow man as Bobe kept pronouncing our last name as "Tarp" instead of "Tharp", couldn't figure out what to do about the odd spelling of MC's name, lost his stapler--twice, kept pointing out that the van had power seats (only on the driver's seat but he chose not to catch our correction) and generally tried his best to not listen to us.
"Do you want 60 months or 48 months?"
"We want 48."
"We also offer 54 months."
"We want 48."
"Here is the price for 54 months." Grrrr!

But in the end, we became the proud owners of a fully-functioning, good-looking mini van that is only 3 years old and comes in a sparkling, metallic, Seattle Seahawk blue. Oh, and we are also the owners of a contract signed in blood wherein we pledged to pay out in sweat, tears, and our very souls for the next 48 (NOT 54) months until the thing is paid off.

Let the adventure begin!

(Editor's note: MC pointed out that since we were buying a Dodge at D**** Imports, it must be the employees who were imported and not the cars.)

November 8, 2013

Flashback Friday: Explicitly Yours

I'm bringing Flashback back!

Yeah, it doesn't have the same kind of zing as bringing sexy back, but I have to work with what I've got. And what I've got is a new Flashback.

Today I present to you one of my more humiliating moments (and that is truly saying something). And it's actually pretty recent. So buckle up for another ride on the "Why does this have to happen to me?" train.

MC and I have now celebrated our 18th year of marriage. (Go us!) 18 years, 3 kids, 8 addresses, 10 pets and a countless number of cars later and we are still going strong. One of the challenges of keeping a marriage strong for so long is sustaining the fire. How do you keep that spark alive when your spouse has seen you sick, grouchy, and PMS-ing? When he's had a front row seat during 3 births (and yeah, it's all miraculous, but it's still not pretty)? When you have intimate knowledge of your spouse's morning breath, snoring habits, bodily functions and smells (and yes, I'm talking about mine), how do you ensure that the fire is still burning?

Over the years, we've found ways to get creative. I won't go into too many details except to say I love smart phones. I can text my husband little hints and secret messages all day long at work to build up that anticipation. I can send him pics (Hey, don't judge! 18 years, remember?) and get that oven pre-heated while still doing the laundry at home. And we take full advantage of this modern wonder.

If you are one of my FB friends, you know what's coming. If not, let me enlighten you. On a very boring, nothing special day in April of last year, MC was sitting at the computer with his back to me while I was waiting for the mom of the little boy I took care of to pick him up. Realizing that certain aspects of our marriage had been a little too neglected, I decided to offer up a remedy for that in a simple, clear cut manner. Anticipating the moment when MC would get the message and then turn around to give me that saucy little wink, I sent him a text. A very special text. It didn't involve any pictures--hello? Sitting with a 2 year old?--but I did make a suggestion for the evening's activities.

I was not I could have been but I was still disappointed when it failed to stir MC from his computer screen. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt since he had no idea what was being sent--maybe he was planning on looking at the phone in a minute. So I waited. And waited. Still nothing. I busied myself with Little Man until I couldn't stand it any longer. Finally I had to ask, "Seriously?! No reaction at all? I got nothin'?" Unfortunately MC had no idea what I talking about. He never got the text.

And why, dear children, didn't he get my text? Because I didn't send it to him. I SENT IT TO SOMEONE ELSE! There are a number of people that I could have accidentally sexted and it would have been no big deal. (Not sure what exactly that says about my friends...) If I had sent it to one of my sisters, perhaps, they would have laughed and it would be brought up at family gatherings for the rest of my life but I would have been laughing with them. Even my parents would be a good recipient as they would no doubt just tease me a bit and move on. But, did I sent this explicit invitation for some sexy time to any of them? Noooooooooo! Of course not--then I wouldn't bother blogging about it. So who, you ask, was the lucky one who got to read the plans I was making for my hunk of Man Candy?

The mother of the child that I provided child care for.

That's right--Little Man's mama, whom I had texted earlier, was sent the message that was meant only for MC's eyes. It takes a lot to embarrass me but I have to tell you I. WAS. MORTIFIED! She's not one of my liberal minded friends, she is a conservative member of the Texas bible belt. How in the world was I going to face her? Day after day? And was I actually going to have to explain to her that those words weren't really meant for her? I mean, I hoped she knew I don't swing that way, but still...Gah! Oh, and did I mention she's the sister of my sister-in-law? What will I do if this gets back to my husband's family? I will never be able to live this down!

I did the only thing a mature, married, responsible woman could do in this situation. I apologized by text so I wouldn't have to look her in the eye while doing it. I mean, seriously, what was I supposed to do? Wait until she came by to pick up the precious child she entrusted to me and, as I'm handing him over, apologize to her for soliciting her for sex? My willingness to embarrass myself only goes so far. Luckily, she took it well. She is, after all, married with 3 children so it's not like she's never had to pre-heat the oven herself. But that didn't make it any less embarrassing when she came to pick up her son.

And the reaction I got from MC? Sooo not the one I had planned. Instead of an afternoon delight I got to play witness to him wondering how on earth he managed to snag such a brilliant wife.

Needless to say I am much more careful when I send out any...personal...texts to my husband now. Yes, I still send them but I double- and sometimes triple-check the recipient before I hit send. It would be just my luck that I would send one out to the wrong person and they would actually accept. I have enough blog fodder without that.

November 1, 2013

Isn't School Over Yet?

When I was in school, my favorite subjects were English and History. Now that Bubba is in school, I LOATHE English and History. I can't tell you how much I hate these classes. Why is that? I'm so glad you asked.

The other day I got a call from someone at Bubba's school giving me a heads up that he failed the Reading pre-test they were given. Of course, this isn't just any pre-test, this is a practice for the BIG ONE they have to do at the end of the year--the STAAR test. This is the test that teachers around here dread because every year the test gets harder but the curriculum doesn't, so the kids and the teachers can't really keep up with what's on them. Oh, and the teachers are pretty much graded on how well their students do. Kids fail? Must be bad teaching. Personally, I hate them with every fiber of my being. Sassy come home last year in tears because she was told that she'd better be ready for the STAAR test--the one that if she didn't pass, she wouldn't move on to the next grade. They were already telling the kids about the 6th grade STAAR--she was in 4th grade! She was stressed out over a test 2 years away! I flat out told my kids, "I don't care how you do on the test. I care how you do in your every day work in class."

So Bubba failed the precursor test. If he fails the BIG ONE he will have to have a tutoring class just for the test, he may have to attend summer school, or he'll simply be held back. The best thing? There is no consideration for the fact that this is my Autistic son we're talking about.

In their defense, they have the same problem many in Bubba's life have--how much do you coddle a kid who aces his classes and does math for fun? He is super smart; we all acknowledge that. But how about acknowledging his shortcomings?

In October I had the joy of attending his annual ARD meeting. This is the meeting where we go over his behavior and education plan for the year. At least, that's what they say it's for. What it really is is a chance for all those involved to re-read the paperwork that was in place at the last meeting and tentatively ask, "Are there any questions?" while hoping and praying that mom doesn't open her mouth. I got pretty lucky the last few years in that I felt there were some who were actually proactive in the ARD meetings. That wasn't the case before that school and so far that hasn't been the case after.

I walked into the meeting and I got to meet the woman who is in charge of Bubba's 15 minutes per week of speech. (Yes, I said 15 minutes A WEEK. I spend more time than that in a day working on his enunciation, socialization, and awareness. I almost think, "Why bother?" But that's all he's ever been allotted in school. Bless you, public education.) She spent about 2 minutes (literally) in the meeting introducing herself and saying things were fine and then she left. Then the lady in charge of the Special Ed program began reading through page after page of ARD notes while a fresh faced college grad (who didn't look any older than the lady in charge), an older administrator (I'm assuming since no one introduced themselves), and Bubba's math teacher sat in. College Grad's job was to take notes so he had no say in what was going on and Administrator most likely has never set eyes on Bubba.

Since I am not with Bubba for the 6 hours he's in school, I rely heavily on the teachers to help me out with what his needs are at school. I know how he works, having homeschooled him and the fact that, you know, I'm his mother, but I don't know how things change for him unless they tell me. Bubba certainly isn't sharing anything. The kid doesn't even know when he has homework. Anyway...we get through the reading of The Plan, blah, blah, blah...and then comes my favorite part.

"Do you have any questions or concerns?"

See, if I don't ask questions or bring things up, no one else will. YES, I have concerns. My child had to drop Art class (which I told everyone involved before school started that they should take him out of that class) and they put him in a social skills class. I approved this (as a possibility even though no one told me it actually happened) with the understanding that he would either be helping the teacher or doing some kind of computer based curriculum. Imagine my surprise when he came home from school all excited because his new teacher told him he could download Minecraft on the computer to play during class. When I mentioned at the meeting that I had a problem with this, I was met with blank stares and the sound of crickets. No one knew what Minecraft was. I said, "None of you have kids, do you?" They don't. (It happens to be a videogame the kids are crazy about.) After spelling it out so everyone could write it down, I explained that while I don't have a problem with the game, I would prefer my son to be doing educational work while in school. (The next day Bubba was disappointed because the teacher told him mom said he can't do Minecraft at school. Thanks.)

I also had to mention that unless Bubba made some drastic improvements, not only would doing the Reading STAAR test be a struggle, but I'm not expecting him to pass. It's not the Reading so much that he has a problem with, it's the spontaneous writing that he won't do. You can't plunk him down in front of a test and tell him to do expository writing. It just ain't gonna happen. It stresses him out beyond belief to have to think of something to write. It took HOURS of listening to him yell and scream and argue and negotiate before he would write a half page letter to his pen pal last year. There's no way he's going to write without me there to ride herd on him and in a finite period of time.

So their oh-so-astute question was, "Would he do better in a small group?" My response, "A small group is fine; other kids won't bother Bubba. BUT, if you think him screaming, throwing things, crying, yelling, and tossing furniture might disrupt the other students, you might want to think about changing his accommodations to include one-on-one test administration." You would not believe how long it took to convince them.

And in History? He has a huge assignment for National History Day. All the Jr High and High school kids were given this assignment back at the beginning of school. They had to choose from a pre-set list of topics and do a report--either a written report, a video, a documentary, or a visual presentation. It has to include a process paper detailing how you found all your research (RESEARCH! I won't even get into what it's going to take to get that kid to do research.), a bibliography divided into primary and secondary sources, and a written report somewhere between 1500 and 2500 words. It took 12 hours to get half a page out of this kid!!! Are you kidding me?

What this really means is that, if I don't want my son to fail the class, I will be spending all my free time over the coming weeks "helping" him do a research paper on how the Nazis took away the rights of the Jews. Good night! Doesn't that sound like fun? And just so I was aware of what was going on, his teacher emailed me letting me know he was behind on the assignment. I emailed back and told her I hated the assignment. I also said the two of us would get it done but since I refuse to do the work for him, she can expect crap. (I'm sorry, but writing is not his gift.)

You know what the worst part of all of this is? It's not feeling like dealing with the school is pointless, it's not the idea of us both ending up in a crying heap at the library, and it's not the sinking feeling that my son will probably fail in 7th grade. What bothers me most in all of this is I look at him now and I'm already thinking high school and beyond. When I approach these behavior/education planning meetings, my goal is, "What do we do now to prepare him for life on his own?" What bothers me most is I know this is just the beginning. We have years ahead of us of assignments, projects, essays, presentations, and work that his brain is capable of doing, but because he'll get frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, and beyond stressed, he may not be able to complete.

Where do I draw the line between building my child's independence and aiding him in his struggles?

And how do I help both of us accept it when we fail?