Friday, March 30, 2007

Kira's plan for our house

So Kira came up with the "most awesome idea ever" this morning. Her thought is, we need to work really, really hard to clean up the house, then we can sell stuff at a lawn sale, and make a lot of money, and then we can buy things to decorate with. And somehow the idea is to make the house look like this.

My girl is nothing if not optimistic. mk

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Funky Socks

Well, my friend Ro tagged me for this Funky Sock Exchange. Heard of it? It's the little pyramid thing where you send socks. Other variations include recipes, earrings, get it. Actually, she had tagged me *and* my mom, but mom declined to participate on the basis that she doesn't have six friends. Seriously. She could not think of six people she knew who would participate. I know this, because she was brainstorming with me and she kept coming up And Ro. No matter how many times I explained that she couldn't tag Ro, because Ro had tagged her. And she couldn't tag me, because I was having enough of a time thinking of six people who might do this, and if Mom tagged me I would have to think of six MORE, and, well, I don't have *that* many friends. Really. I kinda maxed out at the six.

I had been tagged with this before by another friend, but I dropped the ball. Yup. I killed it. My bad. But I have a chance to redeem myself, and so I have picked my people, made out the letters and the blank letters, put everything in the mail and now I just have to get the freakin' pair of socks to mail to the person I don't know. And that is on my list for tomorrow.

I added a little twist to my forwards. See, I think this is really fun and all, but I understand how some people are reluctant to hit up six of their friends, etc. (seeing as I'm reluctant to hit up my friends for stuff too often.) So I wrote a little p.s. at the bottom of the page, kind of an escape clause. Which is that if they don't want to send the letter on, just send the socks to Ro and they're done. That will alleviate any guilt the letter recipient may have about just KILLING the exchange (you know, like I did with my other friend). I am giving them full permission not to allow me the thrill of receiving 36 pairs of funky socks. (Has anybody ever actually received the full allotment of stuff from one of these? I think my previous max is like, two recipes.) It's not that I wouldn't LIKE to get a bunch of funky socks. I looooooooove socks. And anyone who reads this is free to send me some cool socks if you like. Or recipes. Or earrings. Or heck, anything your little heart desires as long as it's not toxic or illegal. Anyway, my point being that if *someone* has to suffer from the dropped-ball thing, I would prefer it not be Ro. I will sacrifice myself. Because I am cool like that. Yeah, that's it. mk

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My new pet charity

I did tons of research. I asked for suggestions (thanks BM & Jenny!). And my final decision for a new pet charity is Heart to Heart International:

From their web site: "Heart to Heart International is a global humanitarian organization that inspires, empowers and mobilizes individuals to serve the needs of the poor in their communities and around the world. We accomplish this mission through partnerships that promote health; deliver resources, education and hope; and provide opportunities for meaningful service."

It is a Christian-based organization (although not an evangelical one). They have paid staff of about 30 people, not one of which makes more than $81,000. In addition, they have thousands of volunteers, which make them able to use over 99% of donations for their stated purpose, as opposed to administrative costs. For example, per their 2005 annual report, they spent $48+ million on international relief & development, $5+ million on US projects, and less than $500,000 on general/administration/fundraising/public relations. Forbes has them on the list of 200 largest charities.

If you go to check out their web site, it is outdated. I emailed to find out why, and immediately got a reply back from a VP of marketing, who explained that they are in the process of changing servers and updating. But they are very much still alive and active. I encourage you to go explore the web site and tell me what you think! mk

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Son is a WIZARD!

Our elementary school is having a drama residency this week by Children's Stage Adventures. The focus of the residency is the middle school students, although I believe the second grade is also participating. Auditions were this afternoon, with rehearsals to begin after school from 3-5. Daily rehearsals from 12:30-2:30 and from 3:00-5:00 will culminate in performances on Friday at 1:00 and again at 6:30.

So Mark just called, and he has been cast as a wizard in the production of A Sword Called Excalibur. I am so happy for him! I was involved in drama throughout high school, and I absolutely loved it. I've been so hopeful that either or both of my children will discover the joys of theater, either in front of the footlights or behind the scenes. (I was primarily a techie, with a specialty as the makeup mistress.) I've been careful not to push it too hard, but I've been SO excited since I learned about the residency. What a terrific opportunity for the kids!

The residency has been made possible by Partners for Enrichment, which is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that sponsors arts, science and technology enrichment for the K-8 schools in our school union.

Anyway, my boy's a wizard! yay!

In other news: had another day of jury selection, *still* didn't get picked for anything. I go back for one last selection day on April 25th, for two more trials being held the 26th & 27th. Then my obligation is over for five more years.

Little League has started back up, tryouts are over, the new positions have been filled and practices have officially begun. Right now Mark has practice three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. This week this will get a little hairy for his schedule on Tues/Thurs, because he has the drama residency after school from 3-5, then practice from 5:30-7. Somewhere in there I need to get some food to him, and he also needs to get his homework done.

I'm going in to the school on Wednesday to help the student council with creating prizes for Spirit Week. This year, Spirit Week will have the following dress-up days:
Monday: Pajama Day (always a favorite)
Tuesday: Career Day
Wednesday: 60s or 70s Day
Thursday: Crazy Hat or Hair Day
Friday: Twin Day (last year Kira was a "triplet," and they won for their level)

Mark's excited about Twin Day. There are 6 boys in his class (sixth grade), and he was going to propose an idea to them today: that all of them wear bright blue t-shirts with the number '6' stencilled on them. I picked up six shirts yesterday (clearance, $2/each) as well as a stencil sheet and some paint. If he gets the green light from them, I'll make the shirts. If it's a no-go, I'll return everything.

I've got some pictures from last year's Spirit Week:

These are from "Sports Day."

And this is from "Crazy Hat/Hair Day." Mark's hair was divided into about twenty liiiiiiiiittle tiny ponytails, and then from each pony there was a red pipe-cleaner corkscrewing out. I was amazed that he actually went to school like that. And did not win. He lost out to a girl in a hat. He was SO happy to get home and get all that out of his hair, it was pretty uncomfortable. Wimp.

I'm trying to convince Mark that he should wear this for Pajama Day. I have so far been unsuccessful. mk

Monday, March 19, 2007

New Week, Fresh Start

Well, today is the first day of the new week (I know, most people consider Sunday. But I'm choosing today, so there). I am DETERMINED to have a better week than last week (kinda setting the bar a little low, aren't I?).

One of the bees that got into my bonnet today was charitable giving. It occurred to me that I am past my 56 days of waiting to be eligible to give more blood. Fortunately, there's a blood drive on Thursday, so I've put that on my calendar to do. I love the feeling I get after I've donated blood, like I've really done something worthwhile. It's only a short time out of my life (although the last time I had to wait freakin' forever, because I was a walk-in...I really should schedule a time for this one), and it really helps people, possibly even saving a life. Plus, I have veins in the crook of my elbow that you can pretty much see from across the room, so the techs LOVE me. They could throw the needle across the room like darts and still hit 'em.

Another thing I try to do is click on the Hunger Site every day. (see the button on the left side of the page....have you clicked it??) In addition to donating 1.1 cups of food each day, there are five other charity sites you can help just by clicking a button. Why would you NOT do this?? I have a daily email reminder sent to me so I remember to do it.

Beyond that, I do try to do a little donating each year. I send money to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I have donated to the Pine Tree Society, the March of Dimes, Cambodian mosquito nets against malaria, I've sent stuff to local food banks, participated in book drives for the children's wing of the local hospital. I know there's other stuff, but my brain is still a little fried.

What I'm getting to is that I'm in search of some new charities. I'm fussy: I don't want to send my money somewhere where 90% of it is going to be eaten up by administrative costs. I want to know that my money actually, truly does make a difference. I'd rather help people than animals, although I'm not opposed to suggestions for our furry friends (no skunk charities, please). I'd prefer *not* to have to donate a set amount each month, which leaves out sponsoring children.

So, suggestions, please. What are your favorites? Thanks for your help! mk

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It. Never. Ends.

So yesterday. Saturday. I was so looking forward to just recuperating from the last week. (and thanking the stars and God and leprechauns that the cookie booth had been cancelled)

And it rained. Sleet and rain on top of the foot of snow we got over Friday night. And the basement started accumulating water. And more water. And yes, even more water.

And the hoses to the sump pumps had frozen up.

And the culvert that is supposed to divert water from my yard to across the road was completely covered in snow and ice. Both sides of the road.

And I was totally dependent on the new drainpipe that was installed this fall to remove all the water that was pouring into my basement. (and when I say pouring, I mean it. I have many many spots in the basement walls where the water pours out like a hose. It's like a multitude of water fountains down there. I should have taken pictures, because it's hard to actually believe if you haven't seen it.)

I. am. maxed. out. on. stress.

Thankfully, my father came up and *he* handled it all, because I was absolutely incapable. I tried. I really did. I went outside and tried to free the hoses, to unbury the culvert (from both sides), to do what needed to be done. But all I really succeeded in doing was getting myself completely, soaking, wring-out-a-gallon-of-water, wet. And more depressed.

I went to bed last night at 8, slept until 9:30 this morning. And am probably going back to bed shortly for a nap. I think I need to sleep off a couple days. mk

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Week From Hell. Seriously.

Ok, so I already wrote about how I had jury duty scheduled to begin on Monday the 12th. And the rest of the week was pretty packed as well. Sunday I FINALLY received the Girl Scout cookie order, so I spent the day sorting it out into X's part and then further sorting my part into all the different orders and arranging them by delivery, etc. And sadly, this was fun for me. The last bit of real fun I anticipated for the week. 'Cause here's what else I had going on:

Monday: Jury duty. Need I really say more? Oh, and cookie deliveries after, once I had picked up the kids. (thanks Ro!!!!!! who was watching my kids) Oh, and MEA's started for Mark.

Tuesday: no jury duty scheduled, but I had a Brownie meeting until 4:30, then at 5 baseball signups, then at 7 Mark's basketball recognition dessert.

Wednesday: possible jury duty. and a school volunteer meeting at 6pm.

Thursday: therapy, if jury duty didn't cancel it.

Friday: no school for kids, no jury duty either, but a Brownie meeting at 9am to decorate cupcakes and then deliver them to the Coast Guard. (this, by the way, is a FIVE HOUR THING scheduled for first grade girls. I am thinking our Brownie leader is either insane or seriously into masochism.)

Saturday: Girl Scout cookie booth, Kira's time slot is 1-2pm.

And also in there I needed to deliver all the rest of the cookies, preferably as early in the week as possible since people have been waiting since January for them.

SO. Naturally Sunday night I was not sleeping well, as I was totally stressed out about the jury stuff ALONE, not to mention trying to figure out how I was going to fit all the other crap in there.


At 1:32 am ('cause I was awake), there was a god-awful yelping/screaming noise right outside my (open) bedroom window. It sounded like the death of some kind of animal (and in fact I looked out there the next morning expecting blood on the snow, but there wasn't any). That was obnoxious enough, but then a moment or two later, I got blasted by a horrific eye-watering scent of SKUNK. It was AWFUL. Apparently the yelping was an animal that had startled the skunk (or possibly plural...really, it smells like there was a little army of the suckers) that LIVES UNDER A SECTION OF MY HOUSE!!!!

The smell ended up working its way through my ENTIRE house, most particularly concentrated in my bedroom and the playroom/storage on the first floor (it's pretty much a playroom in name only, as the kids haven't been able to play there in years). The dining room/living room got hit pretty good, too. The kids' bedrooms got it only marginally.

And of course, I had jury duty that morning, so there wasn't a lot I could do about it. Got the kids on the bus and headed out.

And that is when I realized what a funk I was carrying around with me. It was nasty. I ended up having to apologize to everyone who was sitting in a two-row radius around me, all day. (Febreeze did not help. I had tried it before I left, and also again at the lunch break.) An elderly woman who was sitting behind me leaned forward, tapped me on the shoulder, and gave me a little sampler of Chanel.

After an excruciatingly long day, I got home to a message on the answering machine from school, which turned out to have been a request to bring different jackets for the kids, as they smelled so bad they had to be put outside. Of course, even if I *had* gotten home before 4:45, I would not have been able to do that, since all the kids' OTHER jackets were in the playroom that got hit worse than the dining room where the jackets they wore that day had been.

So I ended up grabbing kids and some clothes, and abandoned the house to go to my parents'. Where we stayed the remainder of the week. I have done a lot of work this week in between all the other scheduled crap to try to rid the house of *most* of the odor, so it's at least liveable. Last night I actually stayed here overnight (without kids, who are with X). It's tolerable, but I also know that I now smell of skunk again. And I still can't sleep in my bedroom, even though there have been open windows and fans running constantly since Monday. (did I mention that it RAINED Wednesday and Thursday??) Last night I slept in Kira's room. And I think the girl deserves a new mattress, hers is NOT comfortable.

I have NOT been having a good week. It's feeling a little better right now, even though I am still in skunk hell, but at least I got a little time to myself yesterday afternoon, which I hadn't had all week, with the running around and the cleaning whenever I *wasn't* running around, and the staying at my parents' house. I've been feeling very displaced and discombobulated all week, and just being able to be by myself for awhile has gone a long way towards restoring my equilibrium. So that when I'm writing this, I'm really finding myself unable to really express just how hellish the week has been, because it's just not as bad right this minute. Bad, yes. As awful as I felt yesterday morning? No.

So, plans for the day: cupcake decorating this morning (I flat-out bailed on the delivery portion). Mark is staying at X's all weekend (dog duty, mostly, while D. sleeps), so it's just me & Kira till Saturday night. We're likely to get weather to cancel the cookie booth tomorrow (which does NOT break my heart at all). More cleaning of house after cupcake decorating, including hopefully going into the bedroom and getting started on making it habitable.

For right now, I desperately need a shower (like that'll help much, as I'll still be in skunk air after the shower, but still).

By the way, things that will help after a skunk attack outside your home: apple cider vinegar, charcoal briquettes, coffee grounds, baking soda, tons of Febreeze, circulating air (open windows, turn on fans). Rumor has it also Massengil douches, but I haven't gone there. Apparently tomato juice does NOT help. If you have an animal (thankfully I do not anymore), you can clean it with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish detergent. (there's lots of recipes for it on the web, just google) This solution might bleach your animal's fur, but it beats the hell out of skunk smell. Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover is another option, but it's a little pricey. (although when a skunk hits, you really stop thinking about prices and just want the smell GONE) Removing the skunk is an obvious preference. (which again, I haven't gotten to yet). Skunks are reputed to hate the smell of mothballs, so putting mothballs in the area of their suspected den should drive them out. (really gotta get to that)

OK. Shower. mk

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Killed. Or worse, expelled.

You know in Harry Potter where they fight the troll in the bathroom and then afterwards Hermione says, "I'm going to bed before either of you comes up with another clever idea to get us all killed. Or worse, expelled." Obviously, I, too, "Need to sort out my priorities."

Mark had his basketball recognition dessert on Tuesday. You know, show up, the kids get their participation certificates, coach says something nice about everyone, eat cake, go home. Well, it was held in the gym at school, half the gym was empty, and so naturally the kids grabbed a basketball and played a little beforehand. It was really fun to watch them all enjoying themselves so much.

After the certificates were passed out, the boys pretty much inhaled the cake and went back out to play some more. I was ready to leave, walked over, told him to c'mon, was told to wait while they finished their game of Knockout...y'know, regular stuff. Then they finished (Mark came in second, by the way), and he was horsing around and did one of those running jumps, grabbed the net and was hanging by it. So I yell at him to let go, he's gonna rip the net. He lets go, drops down, grabs stuff, and we're walking out. And here's the conversation:

mk: "Yeah, I don't want you doing that. You could rip the net."
Mark: "Hey! If my fingers got stuck I could've broken them!"
mk: "I don't care about your fingers, I care that you could've ripped the net."

I did not realize that a teammate of his was listening until he burst out laughing at this point.

I am so obviously now out of this year's running for Mom of the Year. mk

p.s. Will check in again soon with skunk post.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A story by Kira

In Kira's first grade class, they read the story "If You Give a Pig a Pancake." After reading, the teacher asked the students to write their own "If You Give..." story. One girl wrote, "If you give your mom a mop, she'll want a bucket to go with it." (I know that mom. No she won't.) Another little girl wrote "If you give a dog a dolphin." I don't even want to know what she was thinking.

Here's Kira's story:

I might be a tad biased, but I think this is particularly clever for a seven-year-old. Kira says that her story was the longest one. She's the only one who used both sides of the paper for her story. In fact, she's the only one who went past the lines. She didn't even have room left for an illustration.

She may be following in her brother's footsteps. Remember, Mark wrote a 140-page novel last summer. (which reminds me, I still haven't finished typing that up)

OK, well, we're going to have a movie marathon today (Harry Potter), so I'd better go get some housework done before we get that started. mk

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A duty and a privilege of citizenship

That's what jury duty is described as in the summons I received to serve on the Maine Superior Court Traverse Jury. "There is no more valuable service citizens can perform than to aid their community by serving as a juror." NO MORE VALUABLE. There is absolutely NOTHING I can do that is better than this! It says so, right on page 2. I am so awesome.

I have jury selection on the 12th. There's a pretty little 21-day schedule of dates that I have to be available, for up to 15 days' total service. These dates span pretty much all of March and April. So my entire life for the next two months is subject to a possibility that I will have to spend the day in court. I have to be available between 9am and 5pm each of these days. And I need to check in each night after 6 (prerecorded phone message) to see if I have to show up the next day or not. Which means I may or may not need after-school child care (which, by the way, is pretty much next to impossible to find in my area, and IF I was able to find it, would be pretty pricey). Fortunately, I have the TEN DOLLARS A DAY that I will be receiving as a juror fee (plus, don't forget, the fifteen cents a mile for the roundtrip to the courthouse). Which I can expect to receive within 45 days. So that'll help. (much rolling of eyes) I'm just thankful I'm not an islander. They have been notified that it is possible that court will run past the time of the last ferry, and they will be required to find overnight housing. But the State does reimburse for some (SOME!) of the cost of lodging and meals in that case.

I've been on jury duty before. My last experience was in 1994, and actually spanned over the time that I got married. In fact, on my wedding day, I had jury duty in the morning, went in to work in the afternoon, went home, got dressed and went out in my backyard and got married. How's THAT for a romantic marriage story?

I was on three cases last time. One case settled before we ever sat, one case had a couple of days' testimony and then they plea-bargained it, and the third case, which went all the way through, was a baby-shaking. That was a horrible case to sit. I had a particularly hard time with it, because I did not feel that the prosecutor proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and so I voted 'not guilty.' And I was the only one. In Maine, a verdict on a criminal case must be unanimous. The entire rest of the jury tried to browbeat me into changing my vote. It was awful. We ended up deadlocked, and the case was declared a mistrial. Sitting that case was hard enough, and listening to all the evidence, and seeing pictures of the little girl, and knowing that it was entirely possible that the defendant was guilty. But the evidence didn't prove it to me. And so I voted as I felt I was obligated by law and the judge's instructions. And I took a LOT of crap in the jury room.

So naturally, this new summons has stirred it all up for me. And my natural tendency to obsess and worry and panic has been allllll triggered, and I'm just having a wonderful time. The best thing that could happen to me would be if I show up on the 12th and don't get selected for ANY trials. (anyone think that's likely? considering I've had jury summons twice now, and most of the people I know haven't had it even once? anyone taking odds that I'll luck out? no? me either)

Well anyway. I'd better go continue on in my efforts to once again make my house look like a home and not general wreckage. And prepare for the Brownie meeting this afternoon. (interestingly enough, although jury duty is affecting just about everything else in my life, not ONCE is it scheduled on a day we have a Brownie meeting.) Later. mk