Third Time’s Charm

We originally said we wanted three kids.  We got three all at once.  So then we had three more.  Most of their birthdates are divisible by three.  All of our kids are about 3 years apart, except for the triplets who are 30 seconds apart.  The triplets were three months early, and they spent three months in the NICU.  We had three bottle babies and three breastfed babies, usually weaned at 3 years.  None of them potty-trained before age 3.

We’ve lived in three houses since starting our family.  Since buying our current house, which has three official bedrooms, we’ve had three vans.  We usually have three cats around the house, along with three main computers.  The kids have been through three playgrounds, and the current playground has three swing attachments.  We’re on our third refrigerator, our third dishwasher, our third microwave, even our third master bed since having kids, too.

The only year the triplets went to government school together was for third grade.

Brian and I dated for almost exactly three years before getting married.  We lived in three different cities together before having kids.

We have a lot of threes around here.  Did I miss any?

 

‘Tis the Season

The gift-giving season, that is.  For our family, it starts in September, really, and runs all the way to March, after which our family gets a nice reprieve (except for Kender’s birthday).  Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, every month, one after another.  If you speak of friends, we have birthdays year-round, of course.  But then there is December, The Month Of Gifting in just about every major religion practiced in our country.  Except it’s not confined to December.  We must begin thinking about it now.  What am I saying? We were supposed to be thinking about it All Year Long, and feel guilty if we don’t already have a list of gifts and some of them already piled in our closets or socked away on layaway.

gift, n., something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

Is it really voluntary?  Do you really have a choice of whether or not you show up for that holiday gift exchange or birthday party without a present?  Wouldn’t social services have something to say if you just up and decided no more presents for your kids? (Ok, maybe not.)

Some people wait all year long for these gift-giving occasions.  We’ll call them The Planner.  They keep their eyes open while they shop, tagging things in their minds (“I bet Suzy would just love that little trinket there!”), maybe even making notes somewhere if they’re especially organized and talented.  These are the people who have their shit together come The (Black Fri) Day, the ones who will have all the best presents ready to go, wrapped and tagged, special gifts for every person.  (The worst of this species hand-makes all their presents, and I’m not talking jars of brownie mix, either.  Martha Stewart, I’m looking at you.)  Those of us who can’t resist buying something “really neat” for our loved ones the instant we see it are not good at emulating this type of giver.

Then there is the person who may not have been planning all year, but who still knows their targets well enough to just pick something out on the spot.  Call them The Telepaths.  You can’t tell these two species apart at the moment of giving; the difference is only apparent by the lead time in the planning and purchasing stages.  The Telepaths can use their special talent to pick out the perfect gifts without the weeks and months of general shopping around.

There is another species: The Bulk Gifter.  This person picks one thing and gives it to everybody but their closest family.  If they are especially democratic, they might even use it for birthdays.  The item may be identical across the board (“You get a cookie mix! And you get a cookie mix! Everybody gets a cookie mix!!!”) or they may vary in detail rather than theme (a book, another book, oh look I got a book!).  Either way, this person has their gift giving solved.  Bulk processing, economies of scale, and usually they still manage to make it something that everybody likes.

I don’t think The Regifter gets enough credit.  The regift is generally frowned upon as cheap, ungrateful to the original gifter, thoughtless to the new recipient, etc.  Think about it, though.  The Regifter has shown enough appreciation for the gift that they have cared for it long enough to pass it on to what they believe will be a truly loving home.  They could have donated it to Goodwill or just thrown it away, but they hung on to it, waiting for it to find it’s forever home.  The connection in their mind to the new recipient may have been spur of the moment, or it may have been growing for months, but it does not have to be dictated by time or available funds.  What better way to show environmentally-friendly thought and action than to make sure something does not go to waste?

Then there is me.  I want to go out and give my friends and family the absolute coolest gifts ever.  I want to show how much I care about them, how much I’m willing to spend time and money on them, how much I want to hang out with them, how grateful I am that they are around.  But when the time comes, there’s always a missing component.  Sometimes I have the best idea in the world, but the available funding turns it into a crappy execution.  Or maybe I can’t figure out what to give the person who has everything.  Sometimes I just don’t know or can’t remember what my own husband would like to have.  Other times, I run through a laundry list of books, music, special trinkets, and other things, feeling confident that every possible choice that sounds new and exciting to me is going to be old hat, yesterday’s news to them, because they are just such cool and amazing and knowledgable people.  Some years I think I am going to be the Planner, making out lists of things I can knit and crochet for people.  I get a few gifts done that way, but never the whole lot, and I’m sure most of those gifts are moth-eaten and gathering dust in some closets.  Rarely, I will find something, have the funds to purchase it (or the time to make it), be able to hold on to it until the day, and remember where I hid it, and pull off a fantastic gift.  More often, I feel like the Forrest Gump of gift-giving: my heart is in it, but that’s about all you can say is there.

Oh well.  They say it’s the thought that counts, right?

Bad Comedy

I’ve been told before that I should write a book about my life.  All the strange and weird things that cross my path and keep changing my fate ought to make for interesting reading.  Right now, I think it would make a bad comedy, to use a friend’s words.  Suspension of disbelief in the audience might be rendered completely impossible.  There’s only so many times lightning is supposed to strike one person, after all.

Computer processing power is measured in FLOPS, or FLoating-point Operations Per Second.  On Tuesday, we had an intake appointment with a new therapy center that we hope will be of use to Kender.  On the basis of that appointment, I have coined a new measurement: HPI, or Head-desks Per Interview.  The intake required detailed information about Kender’s medical history and development, and for the first time I caused a measurable HPI in the therapist taking down the information.  For example:

Yes, he’s had surgeries.  He’s been put to sleep more than 20 times now. ::headdesk:: We think he was in pain for about 1.5-2 years straight from his eyes. ::headdesk:: Oh, and there were the teeth, and the root canal he needed, and the pain from that which didn’t get fixed until this spring. ::headdesk::

I got a kick out of this, personally, because I know this is what is going on inside somebody’s head when we really sit down to tell our life stories.  With this guy, I actually got to see the headdesks and count them.  He made no effort to hide his reactions, to be polite or nod like Freud about to ask about my mother.  I thought this was pretty fantastic.

Another bad comedy in my life right now is the state of my home, its appliances and furnishings.  Every single thing in our house has something wrong with it.  I have to laugh, otherwise I’d cry.  The most spectacular failure this year, though, is the refrigerator.  Technically we have two, but the second is tiny and was only ever intended to hold corny kegs; it has only one shelf, no drawers, and now no rail on one of the door shelves.  The other is our main food fridge, a very nice 25-cu-ft Samsung with French doors and a bottom freezer.  It isn’t that old, only about 5 or 6 years.  However, this refrigerator decided to start crapping out in early September, and we have now had 8 visits from Consumers Energy to try and fix it. (Thank the gods we have an appliance repair plan with them that covers the refrigerator!)  They have replaced half a dozen parts, and every time the refrigerator turns on, works for a day or two, and then dies again.

They started sending out a Senior Technician for the last few visits, and Monday he ordered yet another part to replace.  Yesterday he came out to replace it.  The first thing we found when he opened the box was the company sent the wrong part. ::headdesk:: This part had an extra thermostat piece on it, so the tech’s boss told him to just cut it off and install it anyway.  Then he finds that the plugs don’t actually match. ::headdesk:: So he cuts off the plugs, swaps them out with wire connectors, and shoves the whole thing into the back panel so he can get the screws back in.

It’s already looking like it’s dying again.  I think I’m out of headdesks on this one.  All I can do is laugh.  Or I would, if my head weren’t pounding so hard that my eyes are already watering.

Bored at a Wedding

Yesterday evening my husband and I had a wedding to go to.  Or, rather, a wedding reception.  We were invited as acquaintances.  I have no real friendship or connection to either the bride or the groom.  In fact, the groom couldn’t even remember my name!  Which means I was sitting for about four hours in the middle of a celebration in which I had absolutely no emotional investment, with people I did not know and mostly would never see again.

I did get dressed up for it, because it’s not ofteMe with makeup, a sight not often seen anymore.n that I get an excuse to get fancy.  The wedding and reception were listed as “semi-formal”, which is a bit nicer than anything I had ready to go (and actually able to squeeze into!).  I made a new tank top and bought some heels that gave me some optimistic thoughts.  Normally I would never wear heels, but I am still waiting for the replacements for my broken sandals.  I even put on makeup!

 

Doo-de-doo-de-doo. Ho-hum. Hey, look, there’s a strong, free wi-fi connection in this room!

FB post: I spy little girls with wings on. I should've brought my own.

I think they were the flower girls or something. I’m not sure.  I do have wings, though. I wore them to my last wedding.  After this, I’ll be sure to bring them to any future weddings I attend.  Maybe a tiara, too, just because.

FB post: I don't think I've ever heard a serious attempt before at turning Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles into lounge music. Strange people.

Strange DJ, strange music choices, but hey, it’s not my wedding.  But really? Who’s idea was it to take “Time After Time” and turn it into lounge music?  I’m not talking about comedy, either; this was a serious cover.

FB post: "What kind of wine do they have?" "Free. They have free wine."

Usually an open bar someplace means you’re going to see some serious partying.  There were too many small children in attendance for anybody to let their hair down last night, though, and I swear I only had three glasses over the four hours or so that we were there.  Totally not drunk, just bored.

FB post: When did flapper fringe dresses come back?

No, I have no right to be a fashion critic.

FB post: Awesome. Somebody just applauded the Christian blessing. Moar wine?

I wonder if that guy just got caught up in the applause for every little announcement anybody makes.  “Attention everybody!” Clap-clap-clap. “Congratulations to the bride and groom!” Clap-clap-clap. “We’ll be eating dinner soon!” Clap-clap-clap. “(insert nice, boring prayer and blessing of your choice).” Clap…oops…

FB post: I have never learned the art of wearing lipstick properly. Woman secrets...I do not have them...

Not being able to pull off lipstick with what I consider sufficient grace is a large part of why I don’t wear makeup very often anymore.  I used to wear just eye makeup a lot, but then I discovered that many people don’t notice when it’s behind my glasses unless I have lipstick to go with it, so I stopped trying.  I got some suggestions from this post, and I may have to try them out soon.

FB post: If you have to hold your bewbs up, your dress was not meant for running.

She may not have actually been holding her chest up as she ran toward the buffet line, but it looked like it.

10487309_10152970067744745_385695554221272764_n

These very charming glasses partially filled with blue liquid and little tea lights were the centerpiece of the buffet table.  The way things were arranged made them look like something that should be taken.  I almost went up and brought one back to my table.

FB post: If you go up for seconds, you have to eat with your fingers. The waitstaff are ambitious.

My husband got up to get seconds from the buffet.  The very instant he turned away from his chair, a waiter swooped in and grabbed everything from his place, including his silverware, leaving only a napkin.  Brian ended up having to grab more silverware from an adjacent table.  There was none on the buffet line.  He did attempt to prevent any further silverware thievery the next time he got up.

silverware hidden underneath a folded napkin

FB post: That's twice he's played Walk Like an Egyptian in a Lounge tonight.

Remember my mention of the Bangles and Cyndi Lauper. Yeah….

10501645_10152970079934745_3125768298281042581_n

Cake serving fail: The icing is on the bottom.

As a cake maker myself, I hope they didn’t pay too much for this cake.  Flavorless white cake with whipped frosting.  Even the strawberry stuff in the middle didn’t add a lot of flavor.  Maybe the spice or orange cakes were better, but I grabbed this one first and didn’t want to be gorging on cake.

FB post: There's a cute little girl playing with her My Little Ponies at my table. Shall I teach her the summoning of glitter demons?

She was one short of a quorum.  Too bad.  Surely you’ve seen the reference?

FB post: Tactfully refraining from commenting on my love of ballroom dancing and my utter lack of a partner for such.

Somehow I suspect my son is not really interesting in helping me with this problem.

FB post: I never got to dance with my father at either of my weddings.

That would be because he wasn’t bloody there.  This is one of the few things at weddings that get me emotional.  20 years is a long time, but I’m still pissed about that.

FB post: Brian says we're not a couple anymore because we've been married too long.

This was Brian’s way to weasle out of going onto the dance floor when the DJ asked all the couples to join in on the next song.  See what I mean about not having a partner?

FB post: DJ played the Emperor's march from Star Wars while the groom went in for the garter.

This was one thing I whole-heartedly approved of.  Unfortunately, the playlist was Girls Just Wanna Have Fun for the tossing of the bouquet, followed by this for the garter toss…AND THEN he played All the Single Ladies.  Poor timing, poor timing.

FB post: When this DJ says he's going to turn it up, I'm scared.

I was right to be scared.  The subsequent entertainment included YMCA, the Chicken Dance, Cotton-eyed Joe, and several other songs I haven’t heard in many years outside of the children’s session at the skate rink.  At one point, the DJ specifically asked for all children to come to the floor, along with any adults who wanted to act like children.

FB post: "I don't want to act like a kid. Kids can't drink."

 

One of my tablemates was less than enthused about this idea.

FB post: A V-back dress with a racerback sports bra. Creative, I guess.

Back to fashion snarking.  Sometimes I’m old-fashioned for today, apparently.  I don’t think underwear is supposed to be showing.  Corsets worn as outerwear are an exception.

FB post: NO I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE FOX SAYS!!!!!!!!

I’m so tired of that song.  It’s like the music from Frozen has been the past nine months or so.  I don’t want to hear it anymore!

And so some fun was had by all, and I kept my mouth shut (mostly).  Sadly, I have to report that even those heeled sandals were extraordinarily painful to wear after only a short time.  I don’t know how other women can stand it.

Swing 2.0

10175972_10152761214034745_823227162545809448_nKender got a new swing today.  If I had been doing HabitRPG last year, today I would have accomplished the reddest of my red reddy red to-do tasks.  That rider has been sitting in our shed since we put this playset up…was it 7 years ago? 8?  There’s been a baby swing in that spot for most of that time.  By the time Jarod really outgrew it, Kender was ready for it.  For the last two years I’ve been saying I was going to take down the baby swing and put up the rider.  It took the family across the street asking if they could have our baby swing to get me to do it.

And now I know why I was putting it off.  I am going to be so sore tomorrow, I’ll be lucky if I can manage to salute the elements, nevermind actually carrying things up to the room.

I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal.  I thought, well, there’s been a swing there all along, with the swing hooks already installed.  Take down the baby swing, hook the new swing on the same hooks.  Done!

Wrong.

When I got the box out, the swing itself was in pieces, so I went back inside and down to the basement to dig up the 9/16″ wrenches.  I took those out to the playset, hauled the contents of the box over, then looked again at the instructions.

It needs its own brackets installed, four of them.

Back into the house and down to the basement to get the portable drill, find the 3/8″ drill bit, carry it out to the playset.  Back to the basement to find the stepladder, carry it out to the playset.

Have you ever tried to drill a 3/8″ hole in a doubled piece of wood that’s been weathering outside for 8 years?  When said piece of wood is over your head with the tallest ladder you have available? I tried, really hard.

Back into the basement to dig the corded drill out from underneath all the other power tools on the workbench.  Then dig through every coffee can and finally completely unload the bottom shelf with all the bladed power tools to find the @#$@#$%#%^ bit key.  Take that out to the playset.  Go back to the living room, get the one-and-only ginormous extension cord, wade through the black raspberry patch to plug it in.

Have you ever tried to drill a straight hole through double-thick, aged wood over your head so that it lines up with metal brackets on both sides?  All I can say is that I spent more time drilling those holes, multiple times from both sides, than on anything else.  Arms holding a drill over my head the whole time.

With that, and with the holes in the swing itself not being quite big enough to get the bolt through, instead of a quick swing swap I spent about two hours pushing and pulling and lifting and hammering and swearing. Lots of swearing.  And all this was after my bike ride and bodyweight workout for the day.  So yeah, I’m hurting, especially above the waist.

But Kender has a new swing!

The Viking Invasion of the Buffet Line

It started out simply enough.  Closing ritual for ConVocation was over, Sarenth had planned to do a rune reading for me, all our other friends started making plans to eat lunch out and invited us along.  It sounded great, and we figured we’d just do the runecasting in the restaurant after eating and getting more grounded.  (Because nobody’s going to notice anything strange about that…but anyway…)

Bear in mind that, leading up to this, I had been getting poked all weekend.  My stomach picked that weekend to really and truly pop an ulcer and cause constant pain and gas and panic attack feelings.  Workshop meditations got interrupted.  My High Priestess recommended a teacher to me (“You’ve just got to go to one of her workshops, even if you miss mine!”) who then opened her workshop with, essentially, a blind joke.  I kept leaving my badge and other things up in my room.  Cigarettes got broken.  Beer and wine got spilled constantly, even though I wasn’t drunk (sometimes before I had a single drink!).  By Saturday evening, I had started intentionally just spilling my drinks a bit on the table before I drank them, so I could get it over with.

The plan on Sunday was to go to a buffet that I had never heard of.  Our friend said it had Chinese food and Mexican food, and it was huge.  She gave me directions, but I really don’t function well on directions given to me orally in a strange town when I can’t even point to the hotel I’m staying in on a map (I just follow my GPS to get there!). I couldn’t even spell the name of the place from what they were saying, so finally I got her to spell it out so I could punch it into my phone’s GPS.  It pulled up a result right away, I showed it to her, and she said, “Yes, that’s it!”  Sarenth asked to ride with me, since I had the GPS and he was also unsure of the area.  Everybody scattered, the others leaving directly for the restaurant, Sarenth and me and the girls to pack up his drums first.

The first thing we noticed leaving the hotel was the roads.  Absolutely horrible, terrible, awful, I have never in my life seen roads that bad.  There weren’t potholes, there were bloody SINKHOLES.  There was one place where it was supposed to be a two-lane ramp from one road to the next.  The entire width of the road was just nothing but craters, leaving nothing to be seen of the stripes on the road.  The cars in front of us were single-file and meandering all over the road, trying (and failing!) to find a truly safe path through.  The truck immediately in front of us was towing an empty trailer that bounced several feet off the ground no matter how slowly he went.  When it came to be our turn, we slowly swerved from one side of the road to the other as I tried to navigate the minefield.  I saw a little red sports car come up behind us, obviously thinking we were just slow and he was going to go around.  Then we saw the Gap Chasm looming ahead of us, stretching from one side of the road to the other. Upon seeing it I wondered briefly whether turning around and giving up was a possibility.  I eased into it, and the car actually stopped and needed to be gunned a bit to get each set of wheels over and beyond.

I didn’t see what became of the poor sports car.

About this time, we noticed that the estimated time to get to our destination was showing 30 minutes.  This seemed a bit much for something that was supposed to be “right up the road,” so we tried texting our friends to double-check the destination.  They never responded, and so we headed onward, over potholes that threatened the tires and slippery ice patches that tried to throw us off the road, reminiscing the day and weekend at Con.  When we finally got there, Sarenth went on in to find the table everybody else was at while I paid for myself and the girls.  As I was signing the receipt that committed us to that restaurant, with a line building behind me, we figured out the news.

We were at the wrong restaurant.

Apparently this buffet that neither of us had ever heard of was a chain with half a dozen restaurants scattered throughout the greater Detroit area.  Everybody else had gone to one that was, indeed, right up the road from the hotel…in the opposite direction.

We were hungry, and we were obviously never going to get to the other restaurant before everybody else left, so we decided to cut our losses and just eat where we were.  Perhaps it was that decision, that realization that our lunchtime fate was irretrievably diverted because we were too stupid to find a restaurant, that unleashed the floodgates of hilarity.  Whatever it was, the laughter started pouring out, louder and greater the longer we ate.  We laughed over how much meat to put on our grill plates, and how confused the grill chef was at our requests. We laughed at the girls knocking their chairs over and Caitlin getting blue teeth from the Superman ice cream. We toasted our gods and laughed at how incredibly silly the whole thing was.

The whole time we were laughing out loud and eating plates piled with meat, we were surrounded by a packed restaurant full of very nice Detroit families who looked like they were on their way to or from church, with nice dresses and hairdos and suits and ties.  The place was full and getting fuller.  There was a line out the door by the time we left.  As we were leaving, I started to notice that we were getting some strange stares.  And when we finally got out the door and back into the sunlight, the last straw hit me.

We had gone out the in door.  Quite clearly marked, the out door was separated from the in door and line by a long wall.  We had marched past that entire in-line, laughing and giggling, obviously going out the in door.  I could just see the thoughts going through their heads: “What on earth is wrong with those crazy white people?????”  And if they were looking at us funny for just laughing and doing silly things…how big would their eyes have been had we gone ahead with the runecasting there in the restaurant?!?!?!

We lost it.  Just completely lost it.  We were already laughing so hard we could barely breathe as we got into the car.  As we pulled out, I noticed that two guys had followed us out and were still staring at us from their car in the next space over, and the laughter intensified again.  It was all “Hail Loki!” as we got back on the highway for the hotel, with me laughing so damn hard I probably should have pulled over.  We wondered what it would look like if we did get pulled over, and started laughing all over again.  Even having three different cars at three different times try to sideswipe us didn’t stop the laughter.  We didn’t stop laughing until we got to the Sinkhole Slums near the hotel.

It just fit in with the rest of my weekend, and poor Sarenth got to come along for the ride!  The Viking Invasion will live on, in our personal history books at least.  What a way to wrap up Con!

Random Thoughts

  • Someday, I want to buy a whole bunch of My Brittle Pony horse jerky from my supplier in Scotland, go into Hot Topic, and secretly pin a bag to each and every My Little Pony t-shirt for sale.  Then hide and watch.  That store has become such a disappointment over the past decade or so.
  • This article explains better than I ever could why I do not support hate speech, hate crime, and anti-discrimination laws, even though I am a pansexual polyamorous woman and a member of an often-hated and vilified minority religion.  By the time we are ready and able as a society to actually legislate these things, society in general and as a majority is in agreement with them, and those who have not changed their minds yet will just dig in harder and fight back when we try to force them or silence them, perpetuating the very thing we wish to destroy.
  • In an effort to unify English Braille codes around the world and combine literary Braille with computer Braille, the United States blind community is officially adopting Unified English Braille over the next few years. I find it very interesting that many of the changes mean more cells will be required to type a given line of text, because many contractions are being dropped and whole-word contractions are now being spaced instead of bunched together.  My husband’s biggest objection to using Braille in his daily life is its bulk.
  • Corneal abrasion notwithstanding, when you happily play without complaint on the computer, and then suddenly start yelling as though you’re being stabbed when I make you get off the computer, my confidence in your pain level reporting accuracy is somewhat diminished. This comment inspired by my fifth child’s behavior the other day.
  • Why can’t I just kiss and snuggle all my friends whenever I feel like it?  Not fair.
  • I have drawers and boxes that seem to reproduce useless cables like tribbles while eating every cable I actually need to use.  Last check found 12 mini-USB cables in one drawer but not a single micro-USB cable, which was what I needed.