Saturday, November 18, 2006

My husband only washes his hockey shirts and all ring tones are irritating.

Sing it, my sisters and brothers. Sing it!

The Helsinki Complaints Choir

What constitutes breaking news these days.

With a war on several fronts, a new Democrat majority in the Senate and Congress, Blair saying something about an Iraq "disaster," and most importantly, the Michigan/Ohio State game today, CNN's breaking news banner says this:

NEWS ALERT: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have wed, People magazine reports.

Let me tell you, it's times like these that I am most proud to be an American.

Buyer's Remorse.

"My husband says that if I buy any more Pampered Chef stuff, he expects me to actually start cooking."

Declined E-vite to a Pampered Chef party.

The gift that keeps on giving.

For Christmas, we bought my in-laws airline tickets to come visit us. They haven't seen the Munchkin in a good long while (read: years) and we figured that it would be nice.

Scratch that. CPT Dick thought it would be nice. He must have because he made those plans (and promised his parents those tickets) without consulting me first. I'm not even going to continue talking about that because between the audacity and the cost I think my head might explode if I tried.

The reason the outlaws have not seen their grandson is such a long while is because of a spat that my mother-in-law and I had during their last visit. It was only a few weeks after my son's birth and I was sleep-deprived, cranky and scared shitless that the authorities would realize their error in allowing me take home a real live baby and come looking for him. I guess I snapped at my MIL once or twice -- although, I don't think I did anything but snap at people when I wasn't practicing motherese with the baby -- and she decided the appropriate course of action was to leave early without bothering to kiss her grandson goodbye. She wouldn't even look at him. It was a horrible incident and I'm trying hard to get over it. So far, I'm not all that successful.

Since then, our phone rapport has, over time, gotten better. Everyone else likes to pretend nothing happened. And so we (well, CPT Dick) made these plans.

Fast forward a few weeks. Of course, now it looks like CPT Dick will be off training when they come. The idea of being on my own with them is vexing me something fierce. My son is now old enough to understand what's going on and I'm not sure if I could handle another scene like the last one. But I suppose what's done is done and I have to make the best of it.

It is amazing how many facets of my life involve having to make the best of it. Got to love life with a military man.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The luck of the potluck.

Of course, if you invited me to join your potluck, you may not be so lucky.

In the military, almost every event is an occasion for a potluck. After a while, it really sort of gets on my nerves. I'm the kind of person who realizes around 4:15pm each day that, oh yeah, I have to actually cook something for dinner. People are depending on me -- me, of all people! -- to eat. And sad to say, I usually realize this only after my son starts to get cranky and starts rummaging through the pantry. As he starts upending random boxes in his foraging attempts, I rush to figure out what kind of meal one can exactly make from the groceries that are in my house. The other night, I had to make magic with some farfalle, a package of frozen peas, sour cream and a lime. The meal wasn't horrible but it's hard to think ill of any food that is immediately followed by vanilla wafers for dessert.

So if I get this discombobulated about just making dinner for my family just imagine how I get when I have to make a dish for 50+ people. One, since I didn't register for my wedding, I don't have any actual dishes that are (a) pretty or (b) big enough to serve in public. And two, I usually don't remember that I have to bring something to the potluck until, oh, about an hour before I actually have to be there, which sort of limits my options.

Last night, I somehow managed to make some macaroni and cheese to take with me to a farewell potluck. The sauce was homemade, following the recipe as much as I could with what I had (numerous substitutions were made), but the noodles, well, let's just say they were not the real deal. With no type of *real* pasta in the house, I just opened up 4 boxes of Kraft's The Cheesiest and stole the noodles for my own ends. I can't quite figure out if this constitutes cheating or sheer brilliance. When I finished the mac and cheese, I searched high and low for an appropriately sized container to place it in. The only thing that jumped out at me was my son's sand bucket. It's got side handles and a lovely raised shell pattern on the sides. And I figured if I was stooping that low, I might as well just use the matching shovel as a serving spoon.

So, yes, I'm not proud but I took my ghetto mac and cheese to this dinner in a sand bucket and served it with a kiddie shovel. Hey, at least I cleaned it thoroughly first.

And you know what? People loved it. They thought it was so cute. And I don't think they were lying either. My desperation somehow resulted in my looking crafty, as if I had put a lot of forethought into my dish and its presentation. I was floored.

Now I just have to figure out how many times I can repeat this performance before I'm found out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My boy's one fart smeller.

In the bath tonight, the Munchkin was idly splashing in the tub when he farted. It was an impressive emission, the kind of fart that would have received some serious laughter and high fives if it had occurred in a room full of guys drinking beer or in a Farrelly Brothers movie. Surprisingly, I didn't laugh. Not because I'm the kind of girl who doesn't like a good fart but more because I was sort of stunned by the loudness and length of it. I began to wonder how I missed the trumpet Munchkin had stuck in his butt when I washed him only moments earlier. And somehow, the water had not muffled the roar of his gas but amplified it so it echoed in the tiled acoustics of our bathroom.

But to sweeten the deal for the Munchkin, it created all kinds of bubbles. So many that after fart had left his tiny little body, he stood up suddenly and proceeded to bend over to try to look at his own butt. It is fair to say that he did not succeed but he did stretch much further than I would have estimated in the trying. Once he raised himself back up, not finding anything different about his booty, he looked up at me with an expression of such joy and wonder. I imagine that he was just marvelling that his body could create such magic.

No doubt about it, my boy definitely takes after his father.

And McCain throws his hat in the ring.

I should probably state upfront that, historically, I vote democrat. Given my husband's career, this has gotten a lot of laughs and a fair amount of heckling. To be fair, I've only been able to vote in a handful of elections so far, and with the exception of a ballot for Harry Browne in 2000, I have happily checked boxes next to the names of Clinton and Kerry.

I would argue that I am a fiscal republican and a social democrat. I understand that it is a paradoxical thing to be but that's just where I am these days. And as for morals, well, I just think they are a bit to slippery to even attempt to legislate. CPT Dick believes that I will become more conservative over time and though I can see a bit of that, I don't think it's in the way that he thinks. Because the only place in which I want to draw lines about how people conduct themselves is in terms of personal and fiscal responsibility. And slowly but surely, I'm beginning to believe the possiblity of legislating common sense is about as likely as Nancy Reagan coming out as a cokehead.

But let's go back to the election in 2000. Sure, when you mention it, everyone gets all fired up one way or another. It's the "stolen" election or the election that showed that Joe America cares about strong moral and family values (which don't include, apparently, oral sex from interns). But for me, that election is all about dirty pool. It is the election in which I might very well have voted Republican, if the GOP had the sense enough to put John McCain on the ticket. But they did not because a political mastermind named Karl Rove twisted both the history and the words of Senator McCain to make him seem weak, immoral and psychologically unsound. It was a disgusting display of negative campaigning and I was very sad to see that the majority of Republicans were stupid enough to fall for it.

But I am hopeful that the very attributes that were used against McCain in 2000 may be the ones that get him the recognition he deserves this time around. During a time of war, would it not be in America's best interest to have a leader who has actually fought for his country? When we are so carefully walking a line between intelligence gathering and torture, do we need the input of "echelons above reality" staff or someone who can speak to the experience of both a prisoner and a serviceman?

Will I vote for him in 2008? I do believe that Senator McCain is the kind of leader that this country needs. I think he is honest, forthright and an outstanding public servant. He is the kind of politician who doesn't make you feel dirty, who you really feel is working for the best interests of our country instead of the best interests of himself, his family and his business cronies. But he is also a staunch conservative who is against legalized abortion. That is a tough one for me. Though he has publicly stated that a constitutional ban on gay marriage is "un-Republican" and is working with Ted Kennedy of all people on guest worker legislation for immigrants, he is not a "soft" Republican and anyone who thinks otherwise is dead wrong.

A while back, a friend of mine went to hear McCain speak during his book tour. She, like many, wondered if perhaps McCain was more of a Republican in name only. She saw many democrats and independents in the audience that day probably wondering, like her, if the Senator from Arizona might be the kind of candidate they could get behind. But McCain opened his speech with the following line:

"Make no mistake about it. I am a conservative Republican."

So can I, in good conscience, vote for McCain? I can't rightly say. But his ability to be so forthright when he's just warming up the crowd for 2008 has got my attention.

So Senator McCain, I'm listening. Let's see what you have to say.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The future of Donald Rumsfeld.

I hate to say it but I'm a little worried about what's going to happen to Don Rumsfeld. Given that just a few days before the election, President Bush was saying that ol' Rummy would remain Secretary of Defense until the end of his term, I doubt that Don's resume was in order. What, oh what, will become of Rumsfeld? As he considers his next move, I have a few career suggestions based on some of his more famous (and fabulous) quotes.
  • Fortune Teller. "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."
  • Professional Tracker. "We know where [the WMDs] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
  • Grief Counselor. "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."
  • Communications Consultant. "I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said." And my favorite Rummy quote, "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."
  • Literature Professor. "Well, um, you know, something's neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said."
  • Venture Capitalist or Government Contractor. "I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty."
  • Geographer. "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."

Whatever he decides to do next, I wish the man luck. I'm not sure he'll be missed.

It's a bird, it's a plane...No, it's SuperMommy!

Today was a very stressful day for me. My son, a.k.a. the Munchkin, was evaluated by the developmental Nazis (again) for delays. The Munchkin, you see, was born prematurely and for the past 19 months, I've had to tolerate numerous visits from these people to make sure that he was doing all the stuff he is supposed to do. They set the bar pretty high these days for babies, you see, and if he's not, say, doing Calculus by the time he hits his second birthday, there may be an issue.

The Munchkin, despite his early entrance into this world, has never actually been that far behind his chronological peers. In fact, he's never been behind at all. He rolled over and started grabbing things around two months, causing one of the experts to mutter that perhaps it was too early. When he wasn't walking at 9 months (9 months!), they wanted him to be further evaluated for gross motor delays. He never did really walk, opting instead to start running and jumping at 13 months, which is pretty much on target.

I suppose I should have expected it. Once again, our 18 month well baby visit ended with a suggestion that he see a developmental specialist. I don't really understand why our pediatrician finds him such an interesting specimen. Now, at 19 months, he's all over the place. When he's not running, he's climbing and when he's not doing that he's finding other ways to imitate the man who is sure to be his future hero, Evil Knieval, and effortlessly shaving years off of my life with each death defying feat. And when he does sit still (rarely), it's only because he's managed to turn on the DVD player, call someone on the phone or send a few emails on my laptop. He's a technological wunderkind.

But he isn't really speaking yet. He babbles, he lectures, he sings. But none of the sounds are what I can discern into distinct articles of speech. And this is, apparently, a concern. My plan to just wait until he's ready to talk isn't recommended. And so, the developmental Nazis were assigned to return.

I suppose that these visits should make me feel better. That with this sort of "just in case" thinking I would know of a problem early enough to get in there and intervene. But to be honest, they just stress me the fuck out. For whatever reason, I never see these visits as an evaluation of my son but as one of me, his stupid eedjit of a Mama. I feel even more pressure on these days to be ├╝ber-Mama, channeling Mary Poppins and that crazy Baby Einstein lady in my every thought and deed. It probably doesn't help that each of these visits starts off with an interview about what caused his premature birth, what activities we do each day and what I feed him. And couple that with the incessant notetaking and indiscernible "uh-huh's," and you feel like you somehow woke up in an episode of "The Closer."

And so, last night, I started upon a whirlwind cleaning regimen. Because, let's face it, nothing says good mother like a squeaky clean house. To mop and give the room a pleasant smell, I used a combination of water and a little lemon juice. I put all the developmentally friendly toys out, briefly considered throwing all of the Munchkin's DVDs away, and made sure that my son's blankie was nearby in case the mean-looking specialist with the wandering eye was assigned to us today. I also had a notebook filled with everything that the Munchkin ate in the past week and practiced responding to stupid questions with appropriate answers.

The visit started well enough. The Munchkin was his usual charming self and flirted mercilessly with our expert (the pretty one with the sparkly glasses). But then, just as the DN started asking the boy to make sounds or follow directions, he leaned down and started sniffing the floor. And then, yes, my little pride and joy starting licking it and making "mmmm, mmmm" sounds that were sort of a cross between a grunt and cow impersonation.

I guess I used a little too much lemon juice.

For the rest of the visit, the Munchkin did wow the DN with his mad skills. But in between these dazzling bouts of brilliance, he would catch a whiff of that sweet, lemony scent and once again do his best Rain Man impersonation as he licked the floor. By the end, I was laughing so hard that I broke protocol as SuperMommy. What can I say? I may be the kind of Mom who reads to her child for hours a day and makes sure he gets lots of exercise. But I'm also the kind of Mom who laughs when her son licks the floor, lets him watch Sesame Street when he puts it in the DVD player himself, and wipes his nose with her finger when no tissues are handy. And you know, I don't think that's such a bad thing.

I guess all's well that ends well. The DN just said that we should keep an eye on his speech (duh!) and that he'll most likely talk when he's ready (uh, yeah, I could have told you that). They'll return in a few months and do another evaluation to make sure that he's moving forward. So I have a few months reprieve before I have to mop the floor again.

I just hope I remember to not stress so much over the next visit. These people aren't here to judge me (much). And, of course, I probably ought to halve the lemon juice next time around.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

America, f*&k yeah!

I just finished watching "Team America: World Police," and I just about peed myself laughing. I realize I'm a little late seeing this movie. I'm not sure if I missed it when it was actually new and hip due to that whole baby-having-sleep-deprivation thing or because AAFES decided that it wasn't appropriate viewing material for soldiers and their families. But no matter, I've seen it now. And I have a message for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And that message is, "You have balls. I like balls."

But I really could have done without the whole Cleveland Steamer bit.

A little patience.

Back when I worked as a consultant, during each year's review, there was always one piece of advice that I could count on receiving from my supervisors. After they'd get the good news portion out of the way -- you know, that I was doing a really great job and all -- they'd drop the bomb. And they'd say, as kindly as possible, that I needed to have more patience with other people.

"NE," they'd say, "You just need to understand that sometimes people aren't going to get it as fast as you do. You need to be patient and help them to understand."

And suffice it to say that I suck at this. Work is not Sesame Street. With tough deadlines and ever-shifting changes in scope, I never felt that I had the luxury of patience. Certainly I didn't with my own work. So it wasn't easy to make the paradigm shift to try to do it with others. Especially with some of the fucktards that consulting firms manage to hire. They may be able to work a striped shirt, sure, but they sure don't know jack and they are looking at everyone around them to cover up this fact.

But fast forward a few years and I find myself wishing wholeheartedly to be among those striped-shirt fucktards again. And I think that, these days, I would have more patience with them than even they could handle. And that is because I now have to deal with some seriously sorry ass people. People who have no concept of personal responsibility, morals or just plain old common sense. And yes, I am talking about the dumbass military wife.

Now mind you, most military wives are not dumbasses at all. They are fabulous people who are well able to take care of themselves. They are whirlwinds, entrepreneurs and all around good folks. But these aren't the women who call me. No, no. In fact, I don't see them much at all because they are so busy keeping their shit together. I wish they would call me from time to time so I could have someone to gossip with. But instead I'm on the speed dial of the woman whom I will call Idiotina.

Idiotina is what you might call a blamer. It's not that she can't save money or that she spends it all shopping, it's just that the military doesn't pay her husband enough. It's not that her husband won't get promoted because of poor duty performance, it's that his boss hates him. And of course, it's not that other wives don't like her, it's that they are jealous of her. I'm used to Idiotina's calls by now. As the FRG leader, I'm her first line to help get issues resolved. So I calmly and as dispassionately as possible listen to her calls about why her husband can't leave work by 3pm, why she can't get bigger quarters, and why her husband can't be ordered to not speak to other women, well, like ever. But last night, she trumped all, by golly, when she called to complain that her husband would not impregnate her.

What the fuck?

Frankly, I'm not sure why I got this call at all. What does she expect me to do about the fact that her husband doesn't want to help her propogate the species (which, by the way, is probably the first good thing I've ever heard about him)? Call back over my shoulder to CPT Dick and say, "Eh, honey, can you please release Idiotina's husband from whatever job he's currently doing and order him to go home and get to babymaking?"

Was she just venting and I'm the only unjealous girl she knows? I don't know. And so I simply listen, try not to laugh and remind Idiotina that there are couples counseling options available to her at no cost.

The thing is, as much as I dread answering the phone every time I see Idiotina's number on the Caller ID, I won't stop myself from picking up. Because, I hope -- and this is where I'm actually getting some personal growth out of all of this -- I hope that someone who may really need my help will hear that I'm open enough to listen to the Idiotinas of the bunch and call me even if she is scared or unsure. I hope that she knows I will listen and not laugh. And I hope that she knows that if she is in a situation where I can actually intervene, I will move heaven and earth to make her issue go away. But in the meantime, I'll keep listening to Idiotina and consider it practice.

Although, next time, I swear, I'm just going to suggest she buy a striped shirt and apply for a job in consulting.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Training exercises.

CPT Dick's been off at some "echelons above reality" training exercise. He returned for the weekend and then mercifully left again today. I know I'm supposed to whine and tell you how much my heart is breaking that he's gone again but I just don't have the energy. The man came back for two days and tore my house apart.

My husband doesn't need any more training in tactics or weapons maintenance. I think he's up to speed on all that. What he does need is a quick refresh on how to put his dishes in the dishwasher and the why's and how's of laundry hampers. I don't think I'm asking for much. I mean, it's not like I'm expecting him to actually unload or *gasp* turn on the dishwasher or throw his own skivvies in the wash. I'd be happy if he just didn't leave his shit all over the house all the time. I feel like every time he comes home, I feel like I have to housetrain him all over again.

I don't know if his lack of tidiness is a product of living in the field or just that he figures I must be used to it now that our Munchkin happily spits half-chewed food into random corners of the house several times a day. But just the sight of my house is exhausting. Stinky brown t-shirts and wool socks abound. My son keeps finding food-encrusted plates in the living room and licking them with a grimace. And I don't even want to know what might be under the couch. And all this in just under 72 hours.

So I'm in tears all right. But I'm crying because I think today's cleaning session might just require a fire hose and some delousing spray.