Saturday, December 10, 2005

Five More Days of School!

I am so excited about the holidays this year! Zach is at such a fun age, where everything is magical and fun to him. I want to start all sorts of family traditions, but I'm just not that motivated. We put our tree and lights up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and all of my cards have been addressed and mailed. I've done a lot of shopping, but no wrapping yet, and I am getting together with some friends tonight to do the baking. I still have grand plans of decorating a gingerbread house with Zach; we'll see if that happens!

School ends next Friday for the semester. I am hoping to get some teaching done this week, but between the kids' excitement and all of the holiday programs and concerts, there isn't much class time available. My plan is just to keep them busy and quiet. Let's see if I accomplish that...

Zach and I are flying to South Carolina next Friday, to attend my sister's graduation party next Saturday. I am so proud of her, and couldn't have done what she has. For the past two and a half years, she has worked a full day, then driven over an hour to class one or two nights per week. Granted, I don't want a master's in middle school math education, but that takes a whole lot of dedication. I have no motivation to get my master's; our district doesn't pay enough for me to have to worry about leaving Zach in the evenings, then finding time to do the homework.

We are heading to Louisiana for three and a half days to celebrate Christmas with my family. My sister and her husband are driving down from South Carolina, and this will be our first Christmas all together in Mom and Dad's new house. We'll have to leave Zach's big gift behind, and come up with a clever way to give it to him. I'm thinking of having Santa leave him a picture of his new art desk in his stocking, with a note. We've been watching the Polar Express over and over, so maybe it will work...We have an engagement party for Natalie's best friend the night we get to Lafayette, and besides church and Christmas lights on Christmas eve, we don't have any plans. I can't wait!

For the third year in a row, Darren and I are having a New Year's Eve party. Neither of us really wanted to have one, but we also didn't want to be stuck at home that night with nothing to do. We also wanted to be able to have Zach with us, and not worry about a sitter. I'm asking people to bring their own alcohol and an appetizer or dessert, and we'll play games and have a good time. It won't be all that exciting, but I go back to work on the 2nd, and a hangover wouldn't be fun. I still think of New Year's Eve 1999-2000, and shudder. Darren and I made plans with our friends Kenny and Lorraine and another couple to spend the evening in New Orleans at a Cowboy Mouth concert. The tickets were $100 apiece, but that included unlimited alcohol and dinner. We took a cab from Kenny and Lorraine's house to Tipitina's Ruins, which was near the Convention Center. We started drinking as soon as we got there; if you ordered a beer, the bartender would give you a six-pack. By midnight, none of us was standing very well, and the concert ended shortly after. We took a cab back to Kenny and Lorraine's and we all sat on the couch. Lorraine and I started eating crackers, and the next thing I know, it's 6am and I am still on the couch. Darren and I left their house around noon, but were feeling too bad to drive back to Baton Rouge. We drove around New Orleans for a few hours, went and had coffee, and finally drove home and went to bed. I had to work the next day, and it was absolutely miserable. I think I was hungover for three days afterward. So, I don't want to repeat that. We didn't have a kid then, so I can't imagine doing that with one!

Well, I'm off to clean the nasty house and get everyone ready for our day of fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Our Tenth Anniversary Weekend

Darren and I went to Austin Halloween weekend for our tenth anniversary. We reserved our hotel room on Orbitz, and it turned out to be really nice. We left Saturday morning, and arrived in Austin around 1:00. We checked in to the hotel, then went and climbed Mount Bonnell (not as impressive as it sounds). After that, we went shopping in a funky neighborhood, and tried to find the place where we went on the Haunted Hayride eight years ago. That dude ranch is now a gated neighborhood, and we saw them driving the hay wagon around. After that disappointment, we went and found this convenience store that stocks every brand of beer legal in Texas, then drove to Driftwood to eat at the Salt Lick. It is the coolest place to have barbecue, and just as good as I remembered. They don't have a liquor license, so everyone takes their own beer, and sits outside to wait for a table. There is a band that plays, and the food is definitely worth the wait! Later Saturday night, we went and took pictures of the state capitol building, and had coffee at this place called Mozart's on Lake Austin. It was just so nice to be somewhere where the whole town doesn't shut down at 9:00!

Sunday, we went on the Duck Boat Tour. It was corny, but fun. The vehicle was something that the British Navy had used in World War II, and it moved at about ten miles per hour. Also, it had transmission problems. Our tour guide was very entertaining, and made us wear duck whistles, to blow at pedestrians that we passed. After our slow drive around town, we drove into Lake Austin and made a big circle. We worked up an appetite with that tour, and went and had lunch at the Hula Hut. It was okay, and the service was bad. We drove around downtown, then went to the Whole Foods Market to wander around. We then went to the Arboretum, which is an outdoor mall, and it had most of the same stores that we have here in The Woodlands. We had fajitas at the Iguana Grill out on Lake Travis, but it was too dark to see. We went back to the hotel and went to bed after that.

Monday, we checked out and had breakfast at the Magnolia Cafe. That was the best Eggs Benedict I have ever had! We were sad to leave Austin behind and head back to Houston. Everyone there is so much more relaxed, and there is so much to do. I would still love to live there someday!

What Happened to the RSVP?

As we move rapidly toward the holidays, I am already feeling like life is moving too quickly for me. Between work, my Creative Memories business, the sorority, and being a mom, I feel like I am already stretched incredibly thin. Now, we are getting ready to add Thanksgiving meal planning and preparation, which I really enjoy, and Christmas shopping. I think I would enjoy Christmas shopping so much more if I had more money to spend. It's tough to buy gifts that you hope make people happy, plus don't cost a fortune, yet still look like they do. The area where we live is getting more and more expensive, and I can't afford to shop in all the new exclusive boutiques that we have here. Since we don't use credit cards, I need to space our presents out over several paychecks. That is tough, because once I start shopping, I just want to get it over with.

My Creative Memories business is not going nearly as well as I hoped that it would. I had high hopes that it would help to pay for Christmas this year, but those hopes will go unrealized. I had my Holiday Open House this past weekend. I planned that thing for weeks. I sent out invitations and e-mails, made phone calls, put up fliers at school, put signs on the mailboxes in my neighborhood, and put a sign in my front yard. I even put an ad on the local website. I had nine people tell me they were coming Friday night or Saturday, and never heard from the rest of them. Thursday, I worked from 4:30-1:00am typing out a welcome letter, planning the food, and artfully arranging my products. I was so excited about the weekend, and having so many people come. Friday, I rushed to the grocery store after work, went home and prepared food, and waited for my guests. I had four people Friday night, then two customers on Saturday. I never heard from the others. No, "sorry, I can't make it" for whatever reason. I did book one show for January, and had two more orders after that, but I still haven't made back the money that I spent on the food.

Why don't people RSVP anymore? I've heard that it is a Houston thing, but that is poor manners in my opinion. Growing up, I was taught that you respond to any invitation that you receive, whether or not you are able to attend the event. The host needs to know how many people to prepare food for, and how many chairs to have. It's just good manners. If an invitation comes with an RSVP, it's not an optional thing, and I don't know why people think that it is. The letters RSVP stand for "repondez, s'il vous plait", or "respond, please". I've had many events the past few years when I was left wondering if I should telephone everyone on my guest list to find out if I would be alone that night or not. If anyone is actually reading this blog, what does a person do to get responses to an invitation? It really makes me never want to have a party again! I could have saved myself a whole lot of time and money this weekend if I would have known the number of people who would actually show up.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Life in Fast-Forward

I cannot believe that it is October already! This is my favorite time of year, and I wish things would slow down enough for me to take the time to enjoy it. School is still stressful, I am trying to work my Creative Memories business, and I am trying to get our fledgling sorority chapter to grow. I have tried to cut back on my commitments, but I always seem to overextend myself anyway. I can never say that I am bored! I just want to have the time to go to the Renaissance Festival, or enjoy an afternoon at the park with my family.

Next Friday is our ten-year anniversary. It is hard to believe that ten years ago today, I was getting ready to get married. We lived in Baton Rouge, but got married in Lafayette, an hour away. Much of the wedding planning fell on my mom, who was trying to take care of my grandmother. She had fallen and broke her hip, wrist, and another bone, and moved in with my parents. I was struggling in school, not sure what direction I wanted to go in. I knew that I wanted to go into the art field, but was unsatisfied with the graphic design program at LSU. They taught students how to draw, but nothing on the computer, which was what Darren was doing at the time. Darren was in grad school at LSU that semester; going to class two days per week, and commuting to New Orleans three days a week to work. It was a somber day, two weeks before our wedding, when Darren and I went and resigned from the university together. I was waiting tables at a new restaurant, On the Border, so there wasn't much income being contributed by me. I was tired of wedding details, and just wanted to forget about all of it.

Eventually, I settled down, and really enjoyed my wedding. Friends said it was the most fun wedding they had ever been to, but I don't remember a lot of the details. What I do remember is that I cried through the entire ceremony, and at the reception, Darren and I had a private waiter. Every time we'd take a picture, which was too often for me, our waiter would dispose of our drinks. Consequently, neither of us had much to eat or drink that night. Our two sixteen-year-old bridesmaids, on the other hand, had the time of their lives! My sister and her best friend drank numerous glasses of wine, danced, and leaned against columns for support. Beth went home first, when her dad found her dancing cosily with Darren's step-dad. Natalie was taken home by some neighbors later on, and they put her to bed. Darren and I went to Mom and Dad's house that night to tell her goodbye, and she was passed out cold.

The night of our wedding, Darren and I stayed in a bed and breakfast about a mile from my parents' house. We arrived long after everyone else had gone to bed, shook the birdseed off our bodies, and went to bed. The time changed that night, so we arrived an hour early for breakfast that morning. While waiting on breakfast, we read the local newspaper, which had a picture of the bed we had just slept in. Apparently the house was haunted. Thank God we didn't encounter any spirits that night! We were too tired to notice anything, anyway.

That morning, we went to Mom and Dad's, opened presents, and headed to Memphis. We spent a night there, then drove through Tennessee to Nashville. I think we spent the night there, visited Graceland, then drove through the mountains to Chattanooga. We stayed in an old train car at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, where I stayed with my parents at a much younger age. We toured Rock City and Lookout Mountain, then headed for the Gatlinburg area. We spent two nights in a cabin in the mountains near Sevierville, and had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect, the leaves were gorgeous, and we were in love. We then went to Atlanta, and took the Marta train to the World of Coca-Cola. We explored Underground Atlanta, and turned toward Baton Rouge the next morning. After 8 hours in the car, and an hour away from home, we were no longer speaking. I think it had something to do with Darren talking during a good song on the radio. I sure am used to that now; if Darren isn't talking, then Zach is. There isn't much silence around my house!

For our tenth anniversary, we are supposed to be spending next weekend in Austin. I haven't been there in eight years, and am looking forward to getting away for a few days. We have a long list of things to do; we go on vacation to do stuff, not relax. I hope that we have a wonderful time!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What a Week (or Two) It's Been!

Just when I thought things were settling down for me, and looking forward to having a calmer month, October came along like a bulldozer. We recovered from Hurricane Rita, thinking, "Well, that wasn't bad at all. It was nice to have the extra days off!" On the Sunday after Rita, the 25th, the cable company lost power just before the season premiere of Desperate Housewives. We ended up having to listen to the show on my kitchen radio, which wasn't the same. That same night, my cool new kitchen light flickered and faded, and eventually turned off, not to be revived. We figured there was a loose wire in there, and we'd get to it when we could.

That Monday, the 26th, our dear power company began doing what they called "rolling blackouts", and assured us that we wouldn't be affected for more than an hour at a time. They were doing this to try to help turn on customers who had lost power during Rita. Their rolling blackouts turned into 4-5 hours at a time, and usually during the hottest part of the day, or just when I was about to cook dinner. They'd go off for an hour, come back on for an hour, then go back off for several hours. What fun that was! Thankfully, that only lasted for 3 or 4 days, and we are back to business as usual. The grocery stores and gas stations are restocked, and we finally cleaned up our backyard yesterday.

My parents came in that Thursday night from Louisiana, because Darren had surgery on Friday. He has had a lump on the side of his neck since the eighth grade, and finally decided to have it removed. The lump had grown steadily since it appeared, and was about the size of a chicken nugget. The doctor thought it was a benign cyst, and we weren't worried about the procedure. We left the house at the ungodly hour of 5am, then drove an hour to downtown Houston. Darren's surgery was at 8:00, they woke him up around 9:45, and kicked him out ten minutes later. It turns out that the lump was a giant ingrown hair; when his beard started to develop as a teenager, that hair grew in instead of out, wrapped around, and a cyst formed around it. Darren went back for a check-up on Friday, and the doctor told him that the hair was over a foot long. Gross! She took out his stitches, and the swelling is almost gone. It looks great!

Darren slept for most of the weekend after his surgery, so I took my parents and son shopping. My poor dad is stuck with Zach every time we are together. Poppa is Zach's favorite person, and I cease to exist when he is around. Lately, though, Zach is becoming more and more defiant to Poppa, and rude to my mom, so Poppa is losing patience with him. He needs to get back in his good graces; he hopefully won't be the only grandchild forever.

Darren did get up long enough to drive into Houston Saturday night. He took me to dinner for my birthday, a week late, at the Melting Pot. It's a cool fondue restaurant, and everyone has a private booth, and you eat until you feel sick. We ate every bite of our cheese course, salad, meat course, and chocolate course. I can't believe I didn't explode! It was fun, and we hadn't been there in a couple of years.

I knew I had a busy week ahead of me, and I was dreading it. I found out on Saturday that I had a Creative Memories meeting on Monday night. I knew that Darren had a huge project due Wednesday, and wouldn't be able to get home to watch Zach. I didn't want to go to the meeting, but I knew that I needed to. Zach had a wonderful time, and I had to drag him out of Laura's house! He loves being around kids so much, I know he'll make a great big brother someday.

Tuesday, I had an eye doctor appointment after work, my first in 14 years. They ended up dilating my eyes, and I barely made it home. It was 8:30 before it didn't hurt to keep my eyes open, and I decided to get a head start on my cooking for the sorority meeting/Creative Memories show that I was hosting on Wednesday. I started browning some chicken on the stove, and put some cookies in the oven to bake. I was feeling so well-prepared and domestic, and all proud of myself. Just then, the oven started to beep, and "FI" starting flashing on the control panel. I opened the oven and pulled the cookie sheet out, and the parchment paper looked like it had started to burn. Three cookies slid off the sheet, and onto the element. They immediately ignited, and I now had a small fire in my oven. I kept trying to turn the oven off, but the elements wouldn't switch off, and the temperature kept rising. Darren finally went and turned the breaker off, leaving Zach alone in the bathtub in the dark, but smoke kept billowing out. I decided to call the non-emergency number for the fire department, thinking they could tell me how to get the smoke out of our house. They decided to send a truck over, and I asked them not to turn on the sirens and lights. About 30 seconds later, I heard approaching sirens, so Zach and I went out to the driveway to wait for them. He was so excited to see the pretty lights! The firemen used a huge fan to blow the smoke out of the house, removed my charred Pampered Chef stoneware pieces from the oven where I store them, and checked the area around the stove for heat with a cool infrared camera thing. By the time they left, it was 10:00, and I stayed up until 1:00 cleaning the kitchen. We put in a call to the home warranty people that night to have the stove looked at.

Wednesday night, I had the sorority meeting at my house, and it was fun. I sold enough Creative Memories stuff to stay active until the end of January, so I don't have to worry about that right now. I just have to worry about the fact that I have an all-day event scheduled for next Saturday, and no one is registered to come. I don't want to waste all the pretty stickers and new products on me! I guess I'll sit and crop alone...

Well, 6:00 is going to come early, so I'll have to finish this later. It's taking way too much effort to look at the screen.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Goodbye, Rita!

We made it through the night virtually unscathed. We all slept downstairs in our office, and the wind never howled. If it did, it didn't wake us up. We have leaves and pine needles everywhere, and a couple of small branches down. We never lost power, either. I guess we can start cleaning up once it stops sprinkling.

It's going to be an exciting rest of the weekend! If we sit in the house, Zach is going to drive us crazy, but we don't want to drive around too much. We don't know when the gas stations will be refilled, or when other businesses will reopen. It would be nice to go out to dinner for my birthday, but I guess that will have to wait. I could clean, but it would just get dirtied immediately. I have a couple of library books, so I guess I can read those. Darren will probably work on his website all day. What an exciting bunch we are!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane Party

Well, it looks like I am going to have an exciting birthday. We'll be stuck in the house, with probably no power. So much for an evening out at the Melting Pot, and no Zach! It has been an interesting week, to say the least...

People started making preparations on Tuesday for Hurricane Rita, but not us. We figured that we'd head to my parents' house in Louisiana to ride out the storm, and there was still plenty of time to get everything done. Well, during the day on Wednesday, a decision was made to cancel school on Thursday and Friday. The kids were restless and worried, and it was a very stressful day for all of us. We couldn't tell them until the end of the day, but they suspected that something was amiss, and wanted to talk about it all day. I tried to ease their minds as much as I could, but it wasn't very effective.

They began evacuating Galveston, 70 miles south of us, and people bought up all of the supplies in the stores. By the time I left work on Wednesday, gas was scarce, and groceries were even more scarce. It took Darren 3 1/2 hours to get home from work that day, because the roads were so clogged with people heading north. We went in search of gas that night, and found one station south of The Woodlands that was about to close, but still had gas. We tried to find an ATM with money in it, but there were none to be found. This area has voluntary evacuation, and a lot of people headed out of here that night, preventing people with mandatory evacuation from getting out of the area.

Darren's dad left Galveston at 7:30 Wednesday night, and finally arrived here at about 9:00 last night. They spent 3 hours in a hotel yesterday morning, and finally got off the interstate and took back roads late yesterday afternoon. Thank God for cell phones; Darren used a computer map to guide them here. After over 24 hours on the road, they were exhausted, and went over to Sean and Jamie's house to sleep.

We went out in search of money yesterday, and found a bank that was about to close. We waited in the drive-through for over 30 minutes, but were finally able to get cash. I went to the grocery store before they closed yesterday afternoon, but couldn't get water, milk, or bread. We have plenty of food, though, and filled up several containers,plus the bathtub and washer with water. We brought in all of our outside stuff, packed all of our valuables and important papers in Rubbermaid containers in the back of the truck, took pictures of everything in the house, and I guess we are ready.

There is no traffic today, and no businesses are open. I'm glad that we decided not to go to Louisiana; they might get it worse than us. Mom and Dad do have a generator, though. It would have been a miserable drive with an energetic, restless 4-year-old, and an energetic, restless, 11-year-old cat. Most of our neighbors have stayed, and we'll hang out with them and pool whatever resources we all have. I've heard that if we lose phone and cell contact, text messaging will still work. I guess we'll try it if we need it...

We're going to sleep downstairs tonight in our office, which doesn't have any windows, and has a separate window unit. I'm not sure that we'll sleep, but it's better than being upstairs in our bedroom with the huge windows. I hope they're still there tomorrow! We just painted our bedroom and bathroom, and I really don't want to have to remodel again. It's going to take a few days to put everything back in order, but I guess we have to go to work on Monday, and act like everything is normal.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends!

I don't have the same angst at the Green Day song, but September is always such a hectic month. My dad's and my birthday are in September, we always have Open House at school, and are just getting adjusted to the school year. I am five weeks into the school year, and don't feel settled yet at all! I'm not sure what to blame for that, but I am just so tired all the time, and feel out of sorts. I only teach one subject this year, so there is less grading and less lessons to plan, but things are different at school. We have to turn in lesson plans, which is stressful to make sure I have them written on time and copied before I leave for the weekend, and we have a lot more meetings this year. I also have a special-needs child in my regular-ed classroom, who really needs more than I can give her. It is my smallest, but most talkative homeroom, and in order to work with her, I have to completely ignore the rest of the class. In the meantime, they crawl on the floor, run through the room, and talk in incredibly loud voices. I am not certified to teach special education, and I hope that everyone is getting what they need out of my class right now. I guess that is weighing pretty heavily on my mind.

Besides school, we are currently in the middle of yet another home improvement project. We painted the bathroom Labor Day weekend, and have been planning to paint our bedroom for months. After finally settling on metallic silver paint, we have worked on it all weekend. The paint is $40 per gallon, so we really only planned to buy two gallons. We bought the special Ralph Lauren roller covers, but after two coats, it looks as though another gallon is in our future. I just want to finish this project so we can have our weekends back for a while. Then, we'll forget about our previous projects, and be ready to tackle the next one, which is tiling an upstairs bathroom floor.

In addition to my previous worries, my Creative Memories career is not exactly flourishing. I was really excited about it when I signed up in July, had two great parties, and have only had one since, which I hosted. I scheduled another one for yesterday, and invited over 50 people. No one showed up, which really sucked. I had 4 people who were supposed to host shows for me, but I haven't been able to get them to commit. I have a sorority fundraiser/show as well as a Croptoberfest event coming up in October, and if neither of those is successful, I think I might call it quits. I have contacted (and probably bugged) everyone I know, but no one has scheduled a show. I have spent way more than I have made, and can't afford to keep doing so, so maybe this wasn't meant to be for me. I don't take failure well, and this is hard for me to accept. I keep hoping to find that one person who will book a show, and that will really make my day!

While I am griping, my son has had an attitude change for the worse recently. He has begun talking back, saying things that we don't allow, and growling and yelling when he doesn't get his way. That makes for lots of discussions and punishments, but nothing seems to affect him. We had a very long battle tonight, which resulted in several spankings, and Zach going to bed without dinner. He also didn't get to sleep in his tent tonight. I don't know if this behavior is coming from school, because we certainly haven't taught him these behaviors, nor do we condone them. I want my sweet boy back!

I think it is time for Darren and I to have a night out without Zach. Our weekends lately have been filled with too much work, and not enough fun. I can't remember the last time we had an evening with friends. We used to get together with our friends regularly for dinner or games, and we haven't had an invitation to do that in forever. I guess we need to invite people over here, and get the ball rolling again. I'm ready to have a social life again; staying home all weekend is making me stir-crazy! Darren and I will go out to dinner next Saturday for my birthday, but there won't be a party this year. I don't feel like there is a whole lot to celebrate right now. Maybe in October we can celebrate that we survived September!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Proud to Call Houston Home

Darren and I have been in Texas for five and a half years, bought two houses and a car, and had a baby here. We've also both had more than one job here, and made numerous friends, but have never really felt much of a connection here. It's still weird to me to say the pledge to the Texas flag each school morning, like I'm being disloyal to Louisiana. After this weekend, we've both decided that we are proud to say that we live here, and it is finally beginning to feel like home.
We went Saturday morning to volunteer at Reliant Park, which is made up of the Astrodome, Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center, and the Reliant Dome. There are all kinds of things that happen there (which we've never been to), and Astroworld is across the street. After a 30-second orientation, we followed a whole bunch of people to a walled-off section of the Reliant Center, and waited for job assignments. We were eventually assigned to unload the cars of people who came to donate items for the hurricane victims. After a slow start, we started having masses of people who wished to donate. It was absolutely amazing to see the generosity of the residents of Houston, from the truckloads of water and formula, to the old beat-up cars filled with garbage bags of clothes. It seemed like everyone had something to donate, and since many people here have Louisiana roots, I think it helped with the healing process. There were crews of people inside the center whose job was to sort the items, and if you could imagine something to donate, we had it. There was a plethora of clothes, shoes, and bottled water, but also hygiene items, food, formula, diapers, toys, towels, appliances, and luggage. It made me feel like we were going to be able to help every person who was now calling Reliant Park his or her home.
When we left after four hours, Darren and I both had a renewed energy and appreciation for where we live. I know we didn't make a huge difference, but it felt really good!
On our way home, I received a phone call from the woman who introduced Darren and me almost twelve years ago. She and her husband, two boys, brother, his wife, their kids, her parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, had made it to Huntsville, about 60 miles north of Houston, the night before. They were staying with some family members, but were going to rent an apartment in the town where we live. Their house in Kenner wasn't flooded, but had some structural damage. They have a few outfits each, and are planning to stay here for a couple of months. She works for Aramark catering, and they will continue to pay her, as long as she goes and volunteers at Reliant Park. We went to see their apartment that night, and it felt so good to reconnect. I think that a lot of friendships are going to be renewed in the wake of this tragedy.

On a completely different note, Darren and I finally decided to tackle our hideous bathroom this weekend. After doing the neglected yard and cleaning the house yesterday, we went and bought paint, light fixtures, and towel bars. Darren primed last night, and we both painted today. I am finally getting the calming retreat that I always wanted! Darren is installing light fixtures as I type, and now we are dreaming of tiling the floor and getting knobs and pulls for the cabinets. We still have to paint our bedroom, as well. All of this home improvement will insure that neither of us will want to move for a while, I hope. A fourth bedroom sure would be nice...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Feeling Helpless

This has been a rough week for me. I have so many friends and family members in southern Louisiana, and we were so worried about them surviving the hurricane. My parents in Lafayette came through just fine, Darren had some family members come in from Jeanerette and Slidell for two days, and Darren's mom, step-dad, aunt, and uncle refused to evacuate from Lacombe, just west of Slidell. It was taking people up to 8 hours to travel the 75 miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and they didn't want to sit in traffic.

After the hurricane hit, we watched as much TV as we could stand, and just wanted to know that everyone was all right. All of our friends in Baton Rouge are fine, but some didn't get power back on until last night. Phone service to anywhere in Louisiana is still tough, as well. We didn't hear anything about Darren's mom Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and prepared for the worst. We placed her name on a couple of missing-persons lists, and hoped that she was safe somewhere.

Thursday morning at 1am, we received a phone call from Darren's brother, saying their mom was safe and on her way to Jeanerette. I can't tell you how relieved we were to get that news! Darren talked to her yesterday and got the story. Apparently the flood waters didn't go above their second porch step, and the only damage sustained to her property was a pine tree that snapped off and hit her husband's garage. They had a generator and plenty of food and water, so they weren't too worried. Volunteers weren't going to search their area right away, so they decided to try to get out on their own. It took two days with a chainsaw and help from strangers to make their way out to the highway, and Darren's step-dad, who is an electrician, stayed behind to work.

It's amazing how this is affecting all of our lives. I want to help as much as possible, and it is so sad to think that New Orleans might never be the same again. Darren and I lived there for a year, and it is the most alive city I have ever been in. There is so much history there, and the people are extremely friendly. Darren and I got engaged on the banks of the Mississippi River there.

We are doing a few things to help here. It is amazing how generous people are in the Houston area, and probably elsewhere, too. Churches in our area are each sponsoring a hotel for people to stay in, everyone is collecting money, and we are enrolling Louisiana students in our public schools. I got one student today from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, and I am getting another one on Tuesday from St. Bernard Parish. My son's preschool is collecting items for the 230 people who are staying at one of the area churches, and they are going to deliver the items next Friday. My school is collecting money for United Way, and Darren and I are going to work at the Astrodome tomorrow morning. I'm nervous, but I feel like I need to do this. Hopefully, everyone will continue to heal, and people will step up and try to restore the Gulf Coast area to what it used to be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

So Tired...

Well, we're a week into school, and I seem to be perpetually tired. I am hoping that I can fix this; maybe by exercising or trying to actually go to bed before midnight. My eyes are hurting really bad and making me more tired than I already am; I am promising myself a visit to the eye doctor (my first in 12 or 13 years) when my new insurance kicks in on the 1st.

We've had a whirlwind week! School started last Wednesday, and we had Zach's birthday party at our house on Saturday. I baked his cake and did some cleaning Thursday night, decorated the cake for 4 hours Friday night, decorated more of the cake Saturday morning, cleaned, and decorated. The party was a big success, and Zach got more toys than any kid should be allowed to have. Saturday night, Mom and Dad, my brother-in-law and his family all hung out and ate pizza. My nephew spent hours putting together a block playset that Zach received that day, which of course has already been taken down. Sunday, Mom and Dad left early, and I spent the day on the couch, first by reading an entire novel, then by taking a nap. Zach spent the day playing with his new toys, and went to sleep in his new tent pretty easily.

Monday night, I went to a Creative Memories meeting to find out about the new get-together format, which is really cool. My upline challenged me to hold a get-together within the next week, so I am having one Saturday at my house. Hopefully I won't be alone!

Yesterday was Zach's 4th birthday. He started gymnastics, which he loved. What I love about it is that he goes during the day at school. It doesn't take away from family time, and he's not spending all day at school. He was allowed to bake a cake in the Easy Bake oven at school, and we brought cookies for snack time. When Darren got home from work, Zach opened even more presents, then we took him to Johnny Rocket's for dinner. It's an old-fashioned diner place, and the waitresses sing and dance. They sang happy birthday to Zach, and he didn't react too much. After dinner, we took him to Target to spend his birthday money. He wanted the two Scooby-Doo movies, but they only had the second one. We decided to let him pick out a toy instead, and what he really wanted was this Ford F-150 truck that was motorized. What he liked best about it was that it had speakers in the back, and when you press a button, it plays "We Will Rock You", and the speakers light up and move. There was NO WAY that thing was coming to our house to drive us crazy! We settled on the Hot Wheels car transporter instead.

Today, Darren took Zach to the doctor for his FOUR shots, then kept him home for the day. He wasn't feeling well, and needed some TLC.

School is going fairly well for me so far, but the kids are very low this year, and seems like they are pretty immature. They work slowly, and ask zillions of questions. I am working hard to have patience with them, but it's hard, and the other teachers are feeling it, as well. Our kids are babied in elementary school, and intermediate school is a rude awakening! The kids suddenly have 4 teachers, an elective, and the dreaded lockers. Lockers and covering books are my least favorite part of teaching. Hopefully it won't take long to pick up speed, and the last few kids will learn how to open their lockers. Then, life will be good...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

We Both Survived the First Day!

Today was my first day of school, and Zach's first day of preschool. He went into it with much more confidence than I did! His daddy had to drop him off, since I had to be at work SO EARLY, but he just went to the new classroom, found his friends, and sat down. He had a great day, took a long nap (unfortunately), and was in a great mood when I picked him up. He is zoning in front of the TV while I play on the computer, and his dad gets the yard ready for his 4th birthday party on Saturday.

Today was exceptionally long, especially when I kept the same group of kids all day. We had a break at lunch and fine arts time, but some of the kids were with me from 7:30 this morning until almost 5:00 this afternoon. It was time to get away from each other! The parents cracked me up this morning; they all had huge smiles on their faces, and were very excited to get their freedom back after the summer. I don't think most of the moms were worried about their kids' first day; they were too happy about having an empty house to let it bother them!

I think it is going to be a good year (I'll be interested to read this again in May); I seem to have a pretty good group of kids. There are a few who already seem like they will be a lot of work, and a few who can't sit still, but that is all part of the job. Most of them seem to be caring, kind individuals, and it will be fun to watch them grow this year. Fifth grade is such an important year for the kids; they come to us from elementary school, and suddenly have lockers, four teachers, and electives. When they leave us, they have usually grown several inches, discovered the opposite sex, and have a much more developed personality. It's always so much fun to see my students from the previous year in the fall; they grow up so much! I have four kids this year who are younger siblings of previous students, and it is nice to be able to "check up" on former students.

I am thrilled to be able to only teach Social Studies this year! I feel like I will really be able to go in-depth with the material, and maybe get through all of US History. We are starting with geography tomorrow, which is a necessary evil. The students need to learn how to read maps, but it is hard to make it exciting!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Four More Days of Freedom!

I haven't posted in a while, but there hasn't been much excitement to report, and I'm sure that no one wants to get involved in the mundane details of my life. We went to Louisiana for the last weekend in July, and it was a nice, relaxing weekend. We went out on Dad's boat that Saturday, which is something we hadn't done in a couple of years. We went to the big city of Delcambre, known for the apparel called "Delcambre Reeboks". If you aren't fortunate enough to own a pair of these beauties, you are truly missing out! They are sexy, white rubber boots that the fisherman and shrimpers there wear. When the boots aren't occupying the feet of their owners, they are displayed upside down, wedged between the toolbox and rear window of pickup trucks.

Anyway, we launched Dad's boat in the Delcambre Canal, and headed out toward Vermilion Bay. The weather was beautiful, and Zach didn't mind the life jacket too much, so it was a pleasant trip. If it wasn't so expensive for Texas residents to get a Louisiana fishing license, we would have loved to have fished that day. According to the fish finder on the boat, there were lots of places that would have been good fishing holes.

After driving around Vermilion Bay, we went down the Intracoastal Canal toward Cypremore Point. We passed tugboats pushing barges, as well as shrimp boats headed back in with their catch. We drove underneath the new bridge to Cypremore Point, which was weird, because you could see the cars and trucks driving over it. They had to build a new bridge because the old one was really low, and boats kept running into it. The new one is about 80 feet tall, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Zach napped in Gammy's arms on the way back to the dock, and we decided that seafood for dinner was a must. We stopped at the bait store/bar/daiquiri shop and bought some shrimp, which Dad barbecued for dinner.

Zach stayed with my parents until Thursday, when they came here. I missed him, but I had forgotten how easy it was to keep the house clean without a child around. It was so nice to be able to go wherever I wanted, and not have to worry about the nightly bedtime battle. I went shopping with a friend, went to a Creative Memories meeting, planned our sorority calendar for the year, worked at school, and Darren and I went to see a play. Freedom is so nice!

Monday, July 25, 2005

When is the Weekend?

I know, it's only Monday, but I'm tired! We had an action-packed weekend, with not much relaxation thrown in. Darren stayed home on Friday, preventing me from doing my usual thing of sitting in front of the computer for hours. I used the time to finish the Harry Potter book. I know that opinions vary about this one, but I liked it better than the fifth one, and thought that she did a good job of leading into the final book. Friday evening, we took Zach to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I liked it much better than the first movie, since it had less songs and was more closely related to the book. Darren was disappointed that the Oompa-Loompa song wasn't in this version.

Saturday, we had a barbecue for my sorority alumnae chapter. After two months of planning, we only managed to have five members show up, but we did have a lot of fun. It was hot, and I consumed massive amounts of liquid, but it wasn't unbearably hot. If the camera batteries hadn't died, I'd have pictures. The only downside to the afternoon was the flies. I think that every fly in the state of Texas converged on Creekwood Park that afternoon! I'm glad I had some Ziploc bags to store all of the food in. Those flies were vicious! Besides swatting flies, Zach and I spent a while feeding the ducks and fish in the pond nearby. Fish sure like hot dogs! Zach had another little boy to play with, so they ran around and did little-boy things, like poking sticks in the mud at the edge of the pond.

After four hours at the park, we decided that we needed to go swimming. So, we hauled everything home, changed into bathing suits, and headed for a pool. There are 12 public pools where we live, but this one is the best. It's round, is about 2 feet deep, and in the middle of it is a structure with slides and fountains. Off to the side is a ten-foot-wide slide that Zach loves to go down. When we go there, Darren and I get to sit in the water while Zach runs around and does his thing. Too bad it's always crowded...

We had Zach snoring on the couch by 9:00 that night. It was so exciting, because he rarely gives in before 11:00. That child does not need sleep! He doesn't nap, and every evening starts out with Darren and I being hopeful that this will be the night that we get him to sleep without a fight. We give him a bath, read stories, and tuck him into bed. Usually, before we can make it downstairs, we hear his door open, and there is a request for another hug, water, or to use the potty. He is a master, and can make this go on forever. Taking away toys does not deter him, nor does a spanking. He is determined to delay bedtime and come downstairs! The fight generally ends with Darren and I begging for mercy, and one of us passing out in his bed. He'll wonder why he is an only child...Anyway, Saturday night, Darren and I were able to watch an entire movie, eat ice cream, and not have anyone climbing on us. What bliss!

Yesterday wasn't as exciting as Saturday. I folded laundry, Darren went rock-climbing at the YMCA, and Zach played in his pool in the backyard. We watched too much Scooby-Doo, and Zach went to bed at 11:30. I guess he's trying not to spoil us!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pictures from our Las Vegas Trip

This is a picture of us under the arch at Valley of Fire State Park
These are some of the formations at Red Rock Canyon
Hoover Dam
the famous sign

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cramming it All In...

There are three weeks of summer left, and just like every year, I start panicking that I haven't gotten everything done that I wanted to accomplish. In a way, it would be nice if we had year-round school, so that we could get a couple of weeks off a few times a year. I wouldn't feel nearly as pressured to maximize the time, and wouldn't get bored.

So far this summer, I have been to Florida and Las Vegas, cleaned out Zach's room, learned to knit, done a lot of scrapbooking, joined the pools, joined the YMCA, read a lot of books, and started a new business. What I still want to do before I go back to work is clean out our office, paint our bathroom, and plan Zach's birthday party. I've worked in my classroom for the past two days, and spent all afternoon making curtains for it yesterday. I have the new Harry Potter book, but am rationing it so I don't finish too fast. It's rained every day for the past two weeks, so we haven't been able to swim.

Besides that, I don't have too many exciting things going on right now. Zach and I are getting tired of each other. I haven't been a good mommy this summer; I haven't taken him to story time at the library, and we haven't gone to the children's museum here. With the rain, he's spent a lot of time watching TV, which he really enjoys. It's really too hot to play outside, as well. He's going to spend a few days with his grandparents in Louisiana at the end of the month, and I think he'll really enjoy that. I'll miss him, though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

This is Me Getting Nervous

I am a pretty creative person. I've always enjoyed arts and crafts, and even majored in art for a while in college. I had a ceramic painting studio for nine of the longest months of my life, but I'm better now... Since we have been married, Darren has watched me experiment with various art-related hobbies. We've been through the candle-making phase, the soap-making phase, the jewelry-making phase, etc. For the past six or seven years, I have been interested in scrapbooking. For the longest time, all I did was go to hobby stores and buy all sorts of scrapbooking stuff, but I never did anything with any of it.

My neighbor invited me to a Creative Memories show last summer. I went to one six years ago and liked their stuff, but thought it was too expensive, and not something I wanted to invest in. Scrapbooking always intimidated me, because of how complicated some people's pages are. I knew that I never wanted to waste that much time on one album page. Anyway, the consultant at my neighbor's show last summer wasn't into all that complicated stuff. Her mission was to show us how to organize and store our pictures safely. If we wanted to get into album-making, fine, but we didn't have to. If we did decide to do an album, she explained that our goal should be to get the pictures on a page, and write about them. Stickers and all that other stuff are nice, but not necessary. I really took that to heart, and finally began working on all of my pictures. I had boxes of them everywhere, and I finally got them all sorted and organized. I began making an album for my son, since I hadn't done too well in the baby-book department.

Since then, I have been going to this consultant's class once a month to work on my album, and stealing time when I have it at home. My son loves to look at the pictures about him, and he tells people about "Mommy's scrapbook." I have been trying to figure out how I can make some extra money to support my scrapbook habit, and help other people get their pictures organized. I don't have a whole lot of friends who scrapbook, but a few who might get interested if I make it simple for them. Anyway, I decided today to become a Creative Memories consultant. I'm nervous about it, because I am afraid of failing. I sold Pampered Chef five years ago, right before we moved to Texas. I did well with booking initial shows, but didn't book any off those initial shows, and ended up having to stop selling it. I really want to do well with Creative Memories, and I have e-mailed everyone I know, as well as placing ads on a few local online garage sales. I've booked one show, but want to book two or three more, so I can feel comfortable with this. My kit should come in early next week, and hopefully I will be writing on here later this month about how well I am doing, and all of the shows that I have booked. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Viva Las Vegas!

We had a wonderful time on our trip. As usual, we packed in more activities than thought possible. We are not the kind of people who go on vacation to relax; we go to "see stuff!" We left our house at 5:30 Monday morning and arrived in Las Vegas at 8:30, their time. We got our rental van, loaded up, and headed to Red Rock Canyon, which was beautiful. Zach especially enjoyed hiking to a cave. That evening, we checked into our hotel, ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, and walked to the Bellagio to see the water show. By then, we were all so tired that we were miserable, so we took a taxi back to MGM, and went to bed.

Tuesday, we ate breakfast at the buffet and headed out to Hoover Dam. Due to security measures, it took a while to get there, but it was worth it! Lake Mead is beautiful, with unreal, green water. We toured the dam, visited the hot and crowded gift shop, and headed back toward the city. We ate dinner at one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants in our hotel, then went across the street to Monte Carlo to see Lance Burton, a magician, perform. Zach really enjoyed it, as did we, but Lance has an annoying voice, and doesn't seem to move his lips when he talks. After the show, we took a taxi to Fremont Street, and watched the light show there. Darren and I enjoyed seeing the old-time casinos down there.

Wednesday, we ate breakfast at the hotel buffet, then went north of town to Valley of Fire State Park. We drove out in the middle of nowhere to get there, but the rock formations were beautiful there. We climbed on some of the rocks, saw some petroglyphs, and hiked 1/4 of a mile to something called Mouse's Tank. That was in 115 degree heat, walking in sand. There were some interesting petroglyphs on that hike, but we got to the end, and Mouse's Tank was a small pool that you had to lean between rocks to see. We went back to the hotel that afternoon, where Mom and I lost $20 on the slot machines, and Darren and Dad took Zach to the pool. Darren and I went to dinner that night at Top of the World, which is on the 107th floor of the Stratosphere. That was really nice, but you have to walk through a crappy mall to get to the elevator, which I could have done without. The restaurant revolves, and they have a photographer who comes around taking pictures. The food was really expensive, but good, and we had a really good waiter. After dinner and dessert, which was a chocolate version of the Stratosphere, we went up to first the indoor observation deck, then the outdoor one. It was really windy up there, but there was good view of the city. You could also look up and see the four rides on top of the tower. We were not crazy enough to ride one of those! Darren and I took a taxi back to New York, New York. We planned on going to Coyote Ugly to get drinks, but were too full.

Thursday, we decided to spend the day on the Strip, looking at all of the hotels. We rode the monorail fron our hotel to the Sahara, went shopping at the Bonanza Gift Shop, and walked to Circus Circus. There, Zach rode some of the kiddie rides at the Adventuredome. We took a taxi to the Mirage, and walked through there. We saw one of Siegfried and Roy's white tigers, then walked to Caesar's Palace. We had lunch at a deli in there and saw the living statues perform. After that, we walked to the Venetian. We had margaritas at a restaurant in their mall, then went on a gondola ride. We had a female gondolier, who sang "O Sole Mio" to us. Zach especially enjoyed that, adding one of his songs. After the Venetian, we walked through Harrah's, and took the monorail to Bally's. We walked through there to Paris, which I really enjoyed. It didn't seem too authentic, though, because everyone working in there was Asian. We then went back toward the hotel, walking through Aladdin to the mall next door to MGM. We took Zach to the 4-story M&M store, which I enjoyed. You could buy anything M&M, from Christmas ornaments to clothing, there. They had a whole wall filled with different colors of candy, and you could make a blend of whatever colors you wanted. We went and watched people climbing on the rock wall at the arcade after that, then went back to our room. At about 11:30, Darren and I decided to go and get dinner. We didn't know what we wanted, so we decided to walk to New York, New York, to an Irish pub that was there. We ended up on the wrong walkway, and at Tropicana. We decided to go exploring, and walked through Excalibur to the Luxor, back through Excalibur, to NY,NY. When we finally got to the pub, I didn't have my ID with me, so they wouldn't let me in. We went back to MGM, waited in line, and ate at the cafe.

Friday, we packed up after breakfast, drove around for a while, and headed to the airport. We got there early because of the recent terrorist attacks, but our plane was delayed for three hours. When we finally boarded, everyone was given free alcohol, which was nice. Zach fell asleep on the plane, but my mom spilled her drink on his head, waking him up. Afterwards, he entertained the people around us with singing. We got back to Houston at 11:30, and home at 1:00.

It was a great trip, and I can't wait to go back! I just want the suitcases to unpack themselves, and all of the clothes to wash themselves and put themselves away. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Off to Las Vegas!

It always seems that vacations sneak up on me. I'll shop for new clothes and things days in advance, find someone to feed the cat (thanks, Haley), and clean the house. I always put off the major task that I dread--packing! I really hate to make the decision about which clothes to take, and which to leave behind. I'm always worried that I will forget something important, so the inner packrat kicks in, and tells me, "Pack everything!" My husband, however, does not share that viewpoint. An example of this would be a conversation that we had today:

Him: "Go upstairs and pack!"

Me: "As soon as I finish checking my e-mail (I didn't get any e-mail this weekend)"

Him: "I'm not going to be some goddamned sherpa walking around the airport with all of my earthly possessions!"

Me: "We're only taking two suitcases, a carry-on bag, my purse, a stroller, and the car seat."


It's now 11:20 at night, we are waking up at 4:30, leaving for the airport at 5:30, and are leaving for Las Vegas at 7:10 tomorrow morning. Darren is on the phone with Hertz right now, trying to rent a car seat for Zach. That would be one less thing to lug through the airport.

Anyway, we are off to gawk at all of the cheesy sights of Las Vegas for five days. We won't be doing much gambling, because we will have a three-year-old with us, but I'm sure it will be a lot of fun. I can't wait! See you Friday night!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Dumb-asses in Suburbia

It seems there isn't enough for the teenagers to do at night where we live. It does seem to me that the whole town shuts down at 9pm, and the only thing left to do is go to IHOP, the movies, or a party at someone's house. We don't have any sort of "teen center" or teen club here, and I guess the kids are going to get bored with boozing it up at someone's house after a while.

When I was a teenager, we entertained ourselves by hanging out at Taco Bell, playing illegally at an elementary school playground (Castle Park was what we named it), stealing street signs (or borrowing on a permanent basis, as we called it), or just driving around. We never did anything that was considered harmful or REALLY destructive.

Anyway, most of the teenagers where we live seem to be overly-privileged. They drive nicer cars than mine and fork over thousands of dollars for school dances. It also seems to me that they have no regard for possessions, and treat them carelessly. I'm not speaking about all of them, but the large majority, it seems.

In The Woodlands, most neighborhoods have names, and signs with those names, at the entrance to them. The newer neighborhoods have signs made of stone, which are pretty substantial. The older neighborhoods have signs made of wood with the name carved into it, and they are pretty cool-looking. In recent years, The Woodlands has begun replacing these signs with stone ones, which diminishes the state park-like feel of the area. Someone, or several someone's, has been driving his or her car into these signs, and knocking them down. I don't know if it a group of teenagers who are doing it for kicks, or someone who lost control of their vehicle. I personally think it is the former; a teenager with a Jeep or some other type of 4x4 which is high off the road. We live off a fairly major street, which is one of the few major streets without ditches. People have also been driving through the yards of the houses on that street. It's just sad...

Our neighborhood, up until yesterday morning, had one of those previously mentioned wood signs. During the night, apparently someone drove up onto the median, through the plants, and knocked our sign over. When I left to take Zach to school yesterday, there was a cop, Park Ranger, Woodlands Community Association person, and maintenance guy standing by the sign. They were all kind of scratching their heads at the sight. When I returned home, they were loading the sign into the back of a truck. I bet that we don't get another wood sign, which is a shame. They have a lot more character than the stone ones, but are more susceptible to termites and weather.

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. I hope they find the person who is doing this, and make them carve new signs, or trim the ground cover to perfection at the entrance to all of the neighborhoods.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chronicles from My Not-So-Exciting Life

I can't believe that a month of summer has already gone by, and I am not skinny, nor is my house perfectly clean and organized! I have managed to take a trip to Florida with my parents (it rained the whole time), clean out the pit that is Zach's room, kinda learn how to knit, read LOTS of books, get caught up on Zach's scrapbook, and serve the ever-changing whims of a three-year-old. Zach does go to school two days a week, and on those days, I cram in as much activity as possible. I clean the house, do the laundry, run errands, and try to fit in some reading time.

The goals that I still have for this summer (which means until I go back to work on August 11th) are: clean and organize our office, paint our bedroom and bathroom, and get lots of work done on the family heritage scrapbook that I am about to start. I think those goals are pretty reasonable, so we'll see...

We are taking our second "real" vacation next week, in the ten years that Darren and I have been married. The first one was last summer, and we went on a seven-day cruise from New Orleans to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. It was absolute bliss! We ate and slept as much as possible, went to the shows every night, climbed a waterfall with every other tourist in Jamaica, went snorkeling with stingrays in Grand Cayman (along with thousands of other people), and visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum in Mexico. We wanted to go on another cruise this year, but it was not affordable. In a couple of years, I think we'll take Zach on a cruise out of Galveston.

On Monday, we are headed to Sin City for five days. Las Vegas is someplace I have wanted to visit for years, and I just want to go and gawk at the sights, as well as the tacky tourists who are sure to be in abundance. We won't be doing much gambling, since Zach will be joining us, but we are taking our own personal tour guide/chauffeur/baby-sitters (Mom and Dad). We have big plans to visit Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Hoover Dam, and my personal goal, every hotel on the Strip. We are staying at the MGM Grand, which is the biggest hotel in the world, so I am sure that we will get hopelessly lost trying to find our room! I have four guidebooks from the library that I have been reading (I'm a nerd), and have been boring Darren with random facts. So, all I have left to do is clean the house, finish buying what we need, clean the extra bedroom, because Mom and Dad are spending the night on Sunday, and pack. Minor things, right?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Scrapbook Papers That Should Be in Existence

I know most people couldn't care less about scrapbooking, and think it's a waste of time, but I find it enjoyable. It's a good creative outlet for me, and my son enjoys looking at the pictures. (He probably doesn't care at all about the cute stickers and background paper, but I can lie to myself and think he does.) It makes me feel like I am getting my money's worth out of all those useful art classes in college, and I am able to justify numerous trips to Michael's. Plus, I am single-handedly keeping Snapfish in business, by uploading pictures and ordering prints of them. The only problem with that, is that you never finish. Every time you think you have finished your scrapbook, your son does something else that is cute or funny, and you have to document it. Then you have to upload the pictures to your computer, edit them, upload them to Snapfish, order prints, and wait for them to arrive in the mail.

Anyway, on my quest for the perfect background paper, there are several categories which are seriously lacking. I do live in Texas, and there is a plethora of Texas-themed paper to be found, along with those two big Texas universities that I will not mention, because I do not support either one of them. However, I cannot find:

1. Crawfish boil themed things--I had to use a lobster diecut and red-and-white gingham paper
2. Festival International--(okay, most people outside of Lafayette have never heard of this, but for us, it's a big deal) How am I going to show off my husband and his fraternity brothers in their annual drunken poses?
3. Washing the car with Dad

So far, those are the top three that I am having difficulty with. I'm not big on cutesy things, and that seems to be the majority of the market. I don't use chalk to shade paper, I don't use vellum, ribbon, pink, or hearts, and I'm not big on quotes, charms, or fibers. I like to use a nice background, stick some pictures on, write something about the pictures, and maybe add a couple of pictures. I won't be featured in a magazine anytime soon, but that's all right with me.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Will Someone Hand Me a Shovel, Please?

I know there are times when all parents just want to disappear out of embarrassment, and I had my moment on Tuesday. As my mom would say, "God punished you!"

We had the air conditioner repairman here, and I was outside with him, learning how to clean it off for free, instead of for $400, and Zach was inside, watching Lots and Lots of Trucks. Apparently, the phone rang, and he came outside to tell me to answer it. When I refused to comply immediately with his demand, he became agitated, and said, "Go inside and answer the fuckin' damn phone!" From past experience, if there is anything that we ask Zach not to say, he will just repeat it over and over, to be annoying. So, I calmly tried to explain to him that I didn't need to answer the phone, and he'd better get inside before I lost it with him. In the meantime, the air conditioner guy and I are trying not to laugh.

When I called my husband to let him know what our precious darling did, his response was,"But I never use those words together. He did use them in the right context, though."

There you have it. My child will be the one who is expelled from day care for teaching the other students naughty words. Thankfully, he is usually a follower, rather than a leader. He can smell out bad kids from 50 feet away, perceive them as cool, and copy every single thing they are doing. Let's hope he doesn't suddenly decide to educate his classmates. That would be hard to explain...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Zach poses on Gammy's couch with his Garfield toy that Gammy bought him. Posted by Hello

When Living in the South Sucks!

We had a power outage last Wednesday night. The power faded in and out for a few minutes, which was really weird. I had a roast in the oven, and was worried that we would not be able to eat dinner that night. Being from South Louisiana, food is extremely important to me (hence, my ever-present weight problem). Anyway, it took about 15 minutes of going off and on, but the power finally stayed off. We decided to finish cooking dinner on the gas grill outside; we did mashed potatoes, peas, and garlic bread, and were pretty impressed with ourselves.

After listening to various news reports on the radio, going to get ice cream, and driving around for a while, we headed home and prepared for the worst. It was a main transmission line from a power plant about 20 miles north of us, and affected over 100,000 people in several counties. They had no idea when it would be repaired. I guess at this point, it helped that we live in a relatively affluent area, because our power was restored around 10:30 that night. We blew out our candles and went to bed.

Thursday morning, I started noticing how hot it was in our house. We have a programmable thermostat, so it is supposed to keep our house at a certain temperature, but it wasn't working. We have LOTS of windows and vaulted ceilings, so our house heats up quickly. I called our home warranty company to get someone to come and fix it, and they acted like someone would be coming that day. After the upstairs heating up to 97 degrees, I called them back, and they said there was no guarantee when someone would be coming. We finally got in touch with the air conditioning people, and they gave us an appointment for Saturday. We packed up that night and went to stay with friends. Friday, it was even hotter, but we decided to crank up the window unit that we have in our office, and all sleep in there. I went to scrapbook at a friend's house that night, and when I came home, it was nice and cool in the house. Apparently, we have a reset button on the thermostat, and pressing that made the unit outside come back on.

Saturday morning, we canceled our appointment, and feeling great about the money we had saved, decided to go shopping for a new light fixture to go over our kitchen table. We didn't find anything, but did stop at a store and pick up the ingredients to brew beer, something we enjoy but haven't done in six years.

Sunday morning, it became really hot in the house again, and after pressing the reset button numerous times, turning the circuit breakers on and off, and taking apart the thermostat, we realized that we were dummies for canceling our appointment for service. We placed another call, and an appointment was set for today.

I spent yesterday in this room, on the computer, and we have slept in here for two nights. I feel like a hippie in a commune, sleeping on the floor on an inflatable mattress! I haven't wanted to use the dishwasher, dryer or stove, for fear of adding any heat to the house. Consequently, it is dirty.

Anyway, the repair man came today, and informed us that our dryer vents outside about two feet from the air conditioner, which is sucking up lint like no tomorrow. Some piece needs to be replaced, and for $400, he needed to use a blowtorch and burn all the hardened lint off the coils. We have special spine coils, so they can't be brushed off. A call to the warranty company informed me that since it is a maintenance issue, they won't be covering it.

*********This is being written later**********

I called the company that we normally use for this sort of thing, and they informed me that the first guy was ripping me off. A technician showed up a couple of hours later, showed me how to use the garden hose to clean off the coilsl, and replaced the part. All of that for a grand total of $118.25. I called the warranty company back, and they informed me that I still owe the first company their $45 service fee, but may cover part of the repair. The air conditioner guy we ended up using informed me that air conditioner repairmen are bigger con artists than auto mechanics. and to be careful with warranty companies, because they will try to find a way to dismiss the claim. As my house is now cooling off, I feel that I have learned a valuable lesson!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I Didn't Make the Mess

"Mommy, can you clean up the Play-Doh?"

"I didn't make the mess, so I'm not cleaning it up."

"Daddy, can you come clean up the purple circles?"

"Alana, why aren't you watching him?"

Thus goes the story of my life. During the school year, I'm paid to clean up after fifth-graders. The rest of my life is spent cleaning up after a three-year-old. It's not very satisfying, because inevitably, there will be a worse mess to clean up in the next few minutes. I just want the house to stay clean for one whole day! Is that too much to ask?

So, I come from a long line of anal women. We take pride in cleanliness, and have been known to clean up before the housekeepers come, so "they won't think we're messy people". We are also very blunt women. God skipped over me when He was passing out tact, and the things that are on my mind seem to come flying out of my mouth before I can edit them. It presents a sticky situation sometimes, considering I also am unable to lie. It would be so nice sometimes to be able to at least tell a harmless little white lie, but no, I come out with the plain, unvarnished truth. Perhaps that is why my careers in sales and in waitressing didn't exactly flourish?