Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Tell Your Kids About Stranger Danger

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Our crazy-ass neighbors gave Emmie a Blow-Pop today. Even though I had specifically told her to stay away from them, that was all it took to regain her good graces. Great. A week ago, they were machete-wielding weirdos. Today: The frickin' candy man.

Later this evening, after I had put her to bed early for acting like a frickin maniac all day, I heard her calling "Hellooo! Hellooo!" and went to check on her. She was standing at her window waving at the neighbors.

"Emmie," I sighed. "I don't want you talking to those people."

"But," she protested, as I tucked her back into bed. "Dey gib me a lollipop."

"I know, sweetie, but they're not good people. They did some really bad things, and mommy is afraid of them. So I don't want you to talk to them anymore."

"Dey do bad things? But dey're nice! Dey gib me a lollipop wif bubble gum!"

I decide that it's time to get serious. These people are unpredictable, and I don't want her to get hurt.

"You're just going to confuse her," Scott calls as he walks by.

Rubbish. What does he know?

"Listen carefully to mommy, sweetie. That man tried to hurt mommy. They are not good people, and I don't want them to try to hurt you."

She looks at me, her sunny brow pinched together. "Dey try to hurt you?"

"Yes. And I don't want -"
"Ohhh," she interrupts, with relief. "No, mama. You mate a bistake. Dey not try to hurt you."

"Really? Cause I had to call the police," I tell her. "It was a very serious situation. Now please -"

"Da police?!" She squeals over my protest. "To come and tate dem away?!"

"Yes, because-"
"But dey LIB here!!"

Wait - what?

"Yes, I know, but people can't do things like that. People can't try to hurt their neighbors. They did a bad thing, so I had to call the police."

"But! Mama! Das where dey LIB! Da police goeend TATE them AWAY! Das not good!"

Crap. How did I become the criminal in this conversation?

I try to Disney-fy the explanation for her: "Honey, those are the bad people. They do bad things to people."

She throws her arms around my neck for a moment, then takes me face between her palms: "No, mama! Cheer up! Dose aren't da bad people. Dey're GOOD people! I know it! Dey gib me a lollipop, and dat's good! Dey are good people. I know dis. I promise."

I look at her kind face, as she tries to reason with me and what she obviously feels are my irrational fears. The enormity of her innocence crushes my anger and mistrust at my drug-addled neighbors. It's true that they're very sweet to Emmie. They go out of their ways to talk to her, to bring her small treats, to offer to babysit. Of course, I'm not INSANE. That's never going to happen. But they aren't all bad. I'm sure that if the house were on fire, they'd call 911 for us... after borrowing our phone, first...

"Sweetie, you are so good, and you are so beautiful inside. But mommy has to remind you that they did try to hurt mama."

"Dey did?"
"Yes, honey. I'm sorry."
"But... How?"

Do I tell her? Should she know? Is it too much, or just enough? She's a smart girl, and - uncertainly - I decide to put my faith in her: "The man had a knife, and he scared me, and that's why I called the police."

(Stunned silence) She looks at me with incredulity etched into every feature.

"He hab a knife?" she asks in a tiny, hushed voice. My heart breaks a little for her. I didn't want her to know this about the world so soon. I want her to believe in magic and goodness, so that she can pass them on to other people - other children, who might need them more than she does.

"I'm sorry, honey, but - yes."

Slowly, her expression changes... Her eyebrows separate, her chin raises, and her mouth opens wide. She's smiling! And, shockingly, she begins to giggle!

"He hab a knife?" She giggles.
I frown and watch her face, "Yes..."

She giggles harder. Then it hits me: She doesn't believe me!

"Emmie, he had a big knife called a machete, and-" she begins to cackle.

"A bid knife called a bashetee?!" She falls back on her bed, rolling. "He hab a BIG KNIFE called a BASHETEE?!"

Emmie thinks this is the punch line to a bedtime story! I can hear Scott's smirk from three rooms away. Fine. He told me so.

I sigh and grin and plop Emmie back in the bed with a tickle. Only two of us need to be vigilant against evil in the world. I'll let the third wear her rose-colored glasses a while longer.

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Is My Mouth Open Because I'm Such an Amazing Singer?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 By

AUGUSTA, GA - This is the picture Emerson drew of me. Notice a few key elements. First, that I have no arms. Second, that I look like an M&M. And third, that my piehole is wiiiiide open. Probably not an accident.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Kids try, like new foods if exposed to them, experts say

Friday, July 24, 2009 By

This is Emmie eating calimari for the first time at Malibu Jack's off Furys Ferry Road. Irritatingly, she refused to reference it properly.

"I like dis booger cheese," she said.

"Honey, it's calimari," I corrected, gently.

"Iss booger cheese," she laughed.

"No potty talk, young lady," I tried to sound stern, but booger cheese does sound REALLY funny.

"Boogers not go in da potty," she laughed, uproarously.

(Sigh) Why is she so much smarter than us?

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Dessert at Cindy's Cafe

Friday, July 24, 2009 By

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What My Preschooler Thinks About...

Augusta, Ga.

Incidents Show Husbands Big Softies, Experts Say

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 By

AUGUSTA, GA - This showed up on our front porch yesterday. It was skittish, but sweet. I let it into the house for a minute so Emmie could pet it. She was beyond thrilled, but Scott set his jaw and bitched the whole time.

"Honey, it's just for a minute," I assured him.
"We are not keeping that animal," he said.
"No crap," I replied. I don't even WANT a pet.

This morning, between traffic runs, the big goober went and bought cat food.

"Uh, honey?"
"I know, I know," he said, obviously disgusted with himself. "But if it stays outside... it's a sweet cat."
"Psh!" I scoffed. "You mean it's OUR cat."


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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Machete Man Murders Small Tree! News at 11!

AUGUSTA, GA. - Yes, it IS 2:30 in the morning. And I AM posting. That's because the police just left our house. At 1:45, our idiot neighbor, Michael Avery, decided to start hollering my husband's name repeatedly: "Eey, SCOTT! SCOTT!! SCOTT!"

That's how we know he's still alive. Because if he's breathing, he's asking for something. Can he use the telephone? Can we drop him off at the store? Can he bum a cigarette or a beer? A sandwich, or a kidney, or whatever? This man is 49 years old and works at a car wash. Yet, he doesn't own a car.

This would be the third time THIS WEEK that the fool has started hollering at us at oh-god-o'clock. The first time, I woke Scott. The second time, I told him to hold it down unless it was an emergency. This time, I'd had it. Scott is AT WORK from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. six days a week. He doesn't need this crap. So I told him to shut his piehole. I'm going to relay his responses in plain English. But it was very difficult to understand him because he was bombed out of his mind. There was a lot of me repeating, "What?.... What?!" In fact, I'm just going to write him in an approximation of an English accent. Because he still sounds crazy - just imagine .

Me: "Michael, it is 1:45 in the morning. I told you: If it isn't an emergency, I don't want to hear from you after 10 p.m."

Michael (standing outside his front door in boxers and a tank top, waving a machete): "I say, old chum, did you, perchance, come to my house and chop down my bushes with this machete?"

Me: "Did I what? Is that a machete? Are you serious?"

Michael: "Yes, ma'am, I am serious. I desire to know if you perpetrated this grievous offense."

Me: "Michael, I don't chop down bushes with reckless abandon. Maybe one of the yard people left it by accident. But it is 1:45 in the morning, and these things can wait until daylight!"

Michael (pointing the machete at me): "Oh, I do not think so. Were you the individuals who called the rental agency and filed a complaint about me?"

Me: "No, I didn't call them. But I'm going to on Monday, just so there's no unwarranted suspicion. You can't keep waking your neighbors up every time you need something. Scott goes to work early, and he needs his sleep."

Michael (waving the machete and stomping around - really, he's doing a fantastic impression of a Maori welcome dance): "Aha! I thought so: You DID call the agency! I suspected it was you, and now I am certain of it!"

Me: "This is ridiculous! Do not wake us up again like this. My husband needs his sleep."

Michael: "I think you mean to say that you require YOUR nightly rest."

Me: "... Are you high?"

Michael: "Are you high?"

Me: "Absolutely not. Now shut the hell up and let everyone sleep!"

Michael (muttering): "Yes, female dog. You need YOUR sleep."

Me: "Don't you call me - look, don't come borrow our phone anymore. And we're not taking you anywhere in our car. Do not bother us. Don't talk to us. Don't ask to borrow things from us."

Michael (walking closer to me and chopping at a nearby tree with the machete) "Oh, you cross onto my property, and ruin MY bushes, and then you raise the subject of TELEPHONES? Why don't we discuss your husband. I see him. I know what he does. Let me raise this name, and, simultaneously, make an important point: Austin Rhodes."

Me: "What does he have to do with this?"

Michael: "I repeat: Austin Rhodes."

Me: "What about him?"

Michael: "Please, perchance that you did not hear my comment upon first utterance: Austin Rhodes."

Me: "... okay...?"

Michael: "He is a redneck."

Me: "Okay... And?"

Michael: "And so are you."

Me: "Fine. Whatever. But, for the last time, I didn't chop your stupid bushes. And if you can't be quiet, I'm going to call the police."

Michael (jumping and shouting and brandishing the machete menacingly): "By all means, call them! Be my guest! I shall cross onto your property, and enter your front door through a precise kick! I shall also cause serious damage to your vehicle so that when your husband is driving with your child..."

Me (interrupting, and dialing the telephone): "Okay, idiot. I'm calling the police and telling them that you threatened me, and that you're waving a machete."

Michael: "Oh, I say!"

As the 911 operator answers the line, Michael throws the machete across the yard and storms back inside his apartment, turning off his porch light. Momentarily, officers are on their way.

Two officers respond and bang on Michael's door. He has dressed himself in a polo and chinos. They see that he is intoxicated, they find the machete he tossed, and they question him about his activities. In his usual incoherent manner, he claims to work for E.G. Meybohm, for the Augusta National... I'm pretty sure the C.I.A. was next. Luckily, they didn't buy it, and they didn't care. That wasn't the point. They asked him about what happened, question me as to precise location and whether or not he touched me (is he still alive? Then, no).

He tries to tell them that I'm making things up. He insults me, my husband, our parentage, and the whole of the Austin Rhodes-listening free world, for all that has to do with anything. They run a warrant check, and it doesn't help him that he has priors - nothing serious, a DUI, small things. But they dress him down verbally, warn him not to talk to us again, tell him that he's their first suspect if any property damage occurs, and take the machete away. He goes back inside, but not before stopping to give me a long, menacing glare.

Me: "Nuh-uh, Michael. Not scared of you."
Officer: "Sir, go inside."
He does. Slowly.

They can do one of two things, they tell me. They can file this as an incident report, and keep an eye on the property. Or they can file it as a criminal complaint, and I can take a warrant out on him in the morning, for terroristic threats - although I won't be required to. But a criminal complaint is... more? Actually, I don't quite understand what the deal is. Isn't it just paperwork? Ah, well. They advise me that if they had seen him with the machete, it would be a different matter. But right now, it's a he-said/she-said situation.

I trust their judgment and go by their recommendation to file an incident report. I know they'll keep an eye on the property by driving by several times during the night, as they've assured me. They seem to be good officers. So as not to be accused of stealing the machete, they toss it back in the yard where he'll be able to find it in the daylight - but not at night. [Update: my husband totally found it the next morning and took it.]

Officer: "He could come in and claim that was a $500 machete and then this guy's face [jerks his thumb at his fellow officer] would be on the 6 o'clock news."

Me: "You guys have way more to worry about than just catching bad guys, huh?"

Officer: "You have no idea."

This is the scene of the bushes assault. In the background, on the ground, you can see the pieces of greenery where someone (probably Michael, cracked out as always) chopped at the bushes. The damage to the tree was caused by his crazy machete wielding during our middle-of-the-night "conversation."

MONDAY UPDATE: It seems Meybohm has received so many complaints about him that they began eviction proceedings on Sunday, after hearing from Scott about the incident. We sent Emmie over to her grandparents' house last night, and I've stayed awake until 4 a.m. the last two nights, trying to make sure nothing unsafe happens. I don't know what we're going to do tonight, but I'm pretty freaked out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Fashion Trend is on the Rise... Like My Bile

This came in my e-mail. First of all, there's nothing stylish about that. Second, I don't wear clothes with the word "sweat" in the name. And, finally, this involves some kind of sewing. I don't do sewing. I can replace a button, but I will never forgive the button for detaching itself in the first place. The only voluntary sewing I'll ever do is if an appendage is somehow separated from my body. And even then, I'd rather use a stapler.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009 By

Emmie's scared of the dark, and she can't quite reach the light switch panels in the house. One evening, as she was going to use the bathroom, I heard her feet pounding back into my bedroom.

"Mama!" she gasped, holding her arms up for me to hold her.

"What is it, honey? I thought you went to the bathroom?"

"I did. But ders awready somebody in der."


"Da ghost!"

And the little girl inside me shivered with fear. What? I froze. Oh, wait. I don't believe in ghosts... Do I?

No. Yes. No... No. Be reasonable.

"Honey, show me the ghost."

"I can't. It's abbisible."

"Honey, where's the ghost?"

"Da ghost dats going pee-pee."

We walk (slowly) to the bathroom, everything shrouded in darkness. I hear it: the tinkling of water. And for a heart-stopping moment, I see a shadowy form shimmering in the doorway.

Emmie looks at me with wide, frightened eyes, and I'm strengthened by a mother's bravado. I flick on the light. As expected, there's nothing there, and it only takes me a second to locate the source of the noise.

"Look, honey. There's no ghost." I left the back of the toilet tank and show her the water trickling steadily. I should probably fix that.

Her eyebrows go up, her mouth open in a wide grin. "OHHhhh! I thought it was a GHOST!" she laughs and shrugs. "Iss just wadder."

And she's never mentioned the ghost again.

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In Augusta, They Don't Ask if There Are Crazy People in Your Family - They Just Ask Which Political Party They Belong to

I finally understand something about former editor Tom Grant that eluded me for the past five years. You know all these crazy people he had writing for us? I won't name names, but let's just say that they're socially challenged. So, anyway, this week, they've all come out of the asylum.
  • One acted like a complete drunken fool at a recent event (the Black Panthers? Really?)
  • One left a mile-long racist rant in our whine line (no, we're not going to print it)
  • One has decided to engage in advocacy for bee venom therapy, despite the complete lack of empirical evidence to back it up (but, hey, go ahead and sting yourself with bees all you want)
  • And one is pairing with the Queen Crazy in town to attack "the powers that be [that] continue to control the media in this local area for their agenda... The dogs are there for reason to sit in front of the big house." (Because we're all being controlled, people. CONTROLLED!! I am writing this blog with a gun to my head! Help me!)
Tom didn't take pity on them, in their insanity, to help them to learn and build their resumes - and even to help normalize their reputations. He kept them in control! Now that he's gone, there is no one to watch them!

I foresee bloodshed in the office...

Hey, How Did Art Garfunkel Get in My Camera?

Thursday, July 16, 2009 By

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Happy Car Doggie Makes Me Smile

Thursday, July 16, 2009 By

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Makes Sense to Me, Too

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 By

We've had Emmie so far off her schedule, and in so many different places this summer, that bedtime has become quite a battle.

"Emmie, time for bed."

"No," she'll reply, mildly, with a sidelong glance at me.

(Sigh) "Okay, you're going to lose a story, sweetie."

"I not," she'll insist, just as matter-of-factly as though she were saying that she doesn't have three eyes.

But most nights, with some extra "hugs and mooches and zrrbrrts," she settles down.

Not Monday. Monday was Waterloo.

Three books, two beverages, one bathroom break, and a new night light later, I thought she was settled in for good. But just before we turned our lamps off, in she crept, crawling past our insistence into the middle of the bed, in pink footie pajamas that were not the ones in which I had dressed her for.

"But, but, but..." She reasoned, with her I'm-Being-Reasonable face, palms out and down, through our directions. "Lithen. I wan' tell you sumping."

(Sigh. Gritted Teeth) "What. Do. You. Want. To. Tell. Us."

"I jus wan hug you and mooch you and snuggle wif you. And den I won hab a bad dream, wif a bad lady, an I sleep all night an not wate up an you not wate up an you not hab bad dreams and den we all be happy! Mate sense to me."

It made sense to us, too, dangit.

But I wasn't willing to get kicked in the head all night by our newly-anointed white belt. So I told her that her choice was that she could either sleep in her own bed, or she could sleep on the floor next to me.

"OKAY!" she ran into her room, got her blanket and pillow, and snuggled up on the wooden floor next to me as I turned out the light and tried to stifle my guilt. Was it okay for her to be on the floor? I honestly thought she'd choose her bed... Conflicted, I decided to let her choice stand.

Just then, her hand snaked up to clutch my arm: "Danks, mama. I be happy."

She was fine with this! The floor wasn't hurting her. She wasn't kicking our asses all night. She wasn't scared. We were all going to sleep - do you hear me?! Sleep! All night, I hoped!

I. Am. A. Genius.

Satisfied with the situation, I relaxed. Every so often she'd reach up, or I'd reach down, to pat each other. We were all getting what we wanted, and Scott was already snoring.

And just as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt her clamber gently into the bed between us. Curses! My sleep-addled brain thought. But then she snuggled against me, and kissed me on the arm: "Mama, you da bess mama eber." And I reached out my arms to her, folded her within them, and dreamed.

(For a couple of hours, at least, until I moved to the couch to get away from the Horizontal Ninja.)

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

After a Layoff, Co-Workers' Reactions Can be Unpredictable

Sunday, July 12, 2009 By

AUGUSTA, GA - So, there's a former co-worker I've let get under my skin recently. She wasn't a pleasant person to work with, but she had a variety of medical conditions to deal with and it was not easy on anyone to see her lose her health insurance.

Over the last couple of days, she's said a few things to me that I've been turning over in my mind. Accusations about my character, my integrity, my skill, my value as a friend to others.

And it's hard to know how to separate the truth from her desire to cause pain and what seems to be her complete inability be truthful.

I know who I am. I know that I'm a hard worker. I expect good in people. I am always surprised to find when someone is lying or manipulating people. I write well. I try to be better than I am. I like to help and educate people. I like to learn new things. I like a challenge, a harmonious environment, and an occasional break in routine.

But I also know what my flaws are. I'm mouthy. I say inappropriate things in a sometimes misguided attempt to make people laugh. I can get down or angry about general stuff and let that creep into my personal interactions. I'm messy, and can't hold a logical train of thought for very long. There are some words I will never be able to spell without help from spellcheck. Scott just told me that I'm too sensitive, which transitions nicely into...

The ex-coworker (we'll shorten that to "e-cow" for future reference) nailed a lot of my flaws in the absolute least flattering terms.

1. I complain a lot. I really do try to make people laugh, but if done in a negative way frequently enough, I guess that would sound like a constant stream of complaints.

2. I'm polite to people's faces, but I say negative things to my friends behind their backs, which she says is fake. I thought it was called having manners, but taken too far it IS fake.

3. I'm stupid and inexperienced and nobody likes me. Well, I can't argue about the first two, because they apply to all of us in some ways. But the last, I mean, SOMEBODY likes me, right? At least my husband and daughter, I hope? Surely I'm not SO disagreeable as to turn EVERYONE off?

Here's my question: How is one supposed to sort the legitimate complaints about oneself from the mean-spirited e-cows out there? Is it good, when people lash out this way, that I take it to heart? I have been diligently trying to reason through her criticisms. Or am I giving the e-cows of the world too much credit and causing myself (and my long-suffering husband) undue stress?

I have also been reminding myself that even the best intentioned self-examinations can yield unpredictably negative results. And no matter who or what I'm dealing with, the only thing I can control is my own reaction.

And, finally, is this appropriate blog material - or is this part of the too-mouthy personality trait?

All of this lends an unfriendly tone to the inner voice that whispers in my ear. It steals away some of the confidence I've stockpiled, and renders me slightly less able to function at my best.

So what do we think? Is ignorance bliss? Or should we shoulder the burden of other people's perceptions, regardless of how positive or negative they are?

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

For the Last Time: Barak Obama is a U.S. Citizen - So Shut Up Already, Conspiracy Theorists and Sore Losers!

AUGUSTA, GA. - I'm so sick and tired of national and local mouthpieces questioning the status of Barak Obama's citizenship. While I'm not all that happy about his performance so far, choosing this issue upon which to make your stand just shows your ignorance of your own country - and influences me to lean closer to advocating an IQ test for voting rights.

For the last time - not that my blog gets so much readership that it will cause a national collective silence on the matter - Barak Obama is a U.S. citizen, and it doesn't matter where he was born.

According to U.S. law, a person is a U.S. citizen not only if they are born on U.S. soil (a common misconception), but also if they are born to U.S. citizen parents (or, in Obama's case, his mother). In fact, even if he had been born in Indonesia, where he and his mother moved after her second marriage, he would still retain his U.S. citizenship, because his mother is (and was) a citizen of the U.S. But seeing as how he was born in Hawaii (a U.S. state for the members of the "idiocracy" who probably also think that Puerto Rico is a foreign country) to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, whose parents were also U.S. citizens (not necessary, but another level of protection from the Minister of Where People Live in the cabinet of the government of the idiocracy), that means - you guessed - he's a U.S. citizen!

For further proof, refer to the several billion articles on the Internet that discuss how one becomes a U.S. citizen. If you're too lazy to do that, or if you don't know how to do a proper keyword search (using subject-specific neutral keywords like "U.S. citizenship at birth" as opposed to the more psychologically appropriate "Obama not a citizen get him out of office I'm scared of black people"), here are four very reputable links:

1. From the U.S. government

2. From FindLaw
3. From NoLo
4. From Snopes

And, for good measure, a copy of Barak Obama's Hawaii birth certificate.

Now, please, plant your flag of political opposition on the issues, and not on sour grapes served on a platter of congealed fear and panic.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Apartment Living Can Have Unusual Hazards

Friday, July 10, 2009 By

AUGUSTA, GA - When our upstairs neighbors moved in two years ago, they seemed like nice people. Two students working their way through school, blah blah blah...

But let's just say they were an active couple.

One night, we were sound asleep when the sound of glass breaking alerted me to a burglar. In fact, the glass landed heavily on top of me in the bed!

"Waaaaaaaaahhhh!" I shrieked, throwing the covers off and springing up in bed, ready to unleash my hidden ninja skills upon the intruder.

"Shush! It's okay! Just don't move!" Scott exclaimed, already rounding the foot of the bed and disappearing briefly into the darkness beyond the doorway. Before I could even gather my breath from the shriek, he reappeared and rapped smartly three times on the bedroom ceiling with the broom handle.

"Wha- what's going on?" I demanded sleepily, shakily, squinting as he flipped on the bedroom light.

"Our neighbors were at it again," he groaned, glaring upwards. "Their exercise... Well..."

He gestured to the bed and floor, and I saw, as I followed the line of sight from his glare to the covers and saw that the glass globe cover had been shaken from the ceiling fan fittings and shattered against the foot board of our bed.

I heard muffled laughter and rapid footsteps overhead, as we began the tedious process of cleaning the mess.

"They sure have a lot of energy," Scott snickered.

"Yeah..." I sighed, with dramatic wistfulness. He tossed a sock at me, and I laughed.

Those neighbors moved out a year ago, and we've never found a globe that fit the ceiling fan - although I haven't tried that hard. And while we offered to take the apartment upstairs, too, for another couple of hundred dollars a month and a two-year extension on our lease, the owners instead let it sit open, unrented, for the last year.

But last weekend, a new couple moved in. And tonight, when a rhythmic thump-thump-thump began overhead, I looked at the bare bulb above my head and grinned, glad I hadn't replaced the glass.

And, after a few minutes, I was glad that not everyone has the same level of stamina. I should get more sleep with these neighbors living above us.

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Hilton Head Trip

We're a mile from the beach, at a Westin resort with a 3 bedroom condo, bike trails, an amazing pool and splash park, and more. But we spent an hour chucking cereal off the third-floor balcony to each other and trying to catch it in our mouths.
Emmie's leg got a huge jellyfish sting! But she was back in the water 30 minutes later.
"Look, mama! I got flippers!"
I asked her to give me a big smile, and this was her comical response.

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Why Keyless Entry Systems are the Best New Car Option

Friday, July 10, 2009 By

The car on the right side (with binder + Diet Coke on top): Mine

The car on the left front: Not mine. Good thing my key didn't fit then, huh?

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Make Money and Get Free Stuff - Seriously!

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, you wanna get free stuff? Try products for market research companies? Perhaps earn some extra money? Then ignore all those scammers who send you "Take surveys and make $400 a day!" e-mails. They're lying to you, or they're involved in some kind of pyramid scheme.

Below, I will list reputable companies for whom I participate in market research and product testing on the side. Let's get real: It's certainly not a second income. Most of these companies deal in "points" that you earn from each survey, that you can then convert to cash, gift cards, or merchandise.

Some do offer paid surveys each time to take one, and others offer "chances to win" but send out enough big-money paid surveys to make the little sweepstakes-entry ones worth it. I've made as little as 50 cents for a survey, and as much as $100 for a survey. But I've also redeemed my points for hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise, checks and gift cards this year alone. All total, I might have "made" an extra grand this year doing this. But you never know. I might actually WIN one of those sweepstakes entries and bust out of here with a fat $25,000.

In the meantime, I'll share the info with you. There are tricks to maximizing your membership. For example, if they're offering money or points for a study, never admit that you work in marketing or journalism. They won't want to talk to you. But if they're not offering money or points, but they are offering sweepstakes or prize entries, you're ALWAYS a market researcher. Because that still gets you your entry, but you don't have to go through the entire survey.

Pay attention to what they're asking. If they ask if you take your coffee with sugar, cream, sweetener, flavoring, black or with any combination or all of the above, NEVER choose black. No one ever polls people who drink their coffee black. They want to know how you like the additives they're selling.

Most of these require the invitation of an existing panel member. So leave me your info in the comments section, and I'll send you an invitation to the ones in which you're interested.

I haven't used Global TestMarket for long, so I don't have a lot of knowledge. I know that you build points and redeem them for cash, but I don't have enough points to do that. You need at least 1,000, and I seem to be accruing points very slowly on this interface.

Deals n Cash offers you .02 cents for every ad you click. Yeah, it's not a lot. But the point is to be patient and let it build up over time. My current balance: $8.37.

Inbox Dollars offers you a $5 membership boost, and then .05 cents for every ad you click or survey you take. Yes, again, it's not a lot. But it takes only seconds, and the point, again, is to be patient and let it build over time. I have about $40.08 right now. Whaever. That's $40 I didn't have before.

Send Earnings offers you a $5 membership boost, and then between .02 and .05 cents for every ad you click or survey you take. Hey... this sounds familiar... Yes, it works EXACTLY like Inbox Dollars. Their interfaces even look the same. I'm not entirely convinced that they aren't two arms of the same company, since I frequently get the exact same e-mails from both companies. Oh, wait, are they both paying me money? Great! I'll keep clicking.

(I can't seem to capture a larger image - sorry!)

My Points works much like Inbox Dollars and Send Earnings - but instead of getting paid a few cents, you earn points. This is, by far, the most reliable of the sites I've used. There's no BS, no questions, and the accounting is always reliable. I've cashed in for $50 Home Depot gift certificates, hotel stays, e-gift cards, Old Navy and Target gift cards, and more. In addition, if you do online shopping (and I do... heh... sorry, honey...), when you purchase your goods (like the new shoes I got from Target), click through the My Points site and you earn more points... to, you know, then cash in for more Target gift cards. Hee...?

Zoom Panel offers between 30-500 points for taking their polls. The prize folios begin at 800 points, and go to 10,000. I cashed in for a 10,000 prize, a smoker/griller. It was totally free, and they don't even charge shipping. Of course, it took me about a year to get to that level. But luckily, we didn't have any smoking or grilling emergencies during the wait.

Polling Point offers 500 points for each survey you take. I have about 19,000 points, but until you get to a stupid-high level, the prizes SUCK. They're Polling Point T-shirts and tote bags. But then you get into gift certificates, web cams, iPod shuffles, cash and savings bonds. I'll keep accruing points until I get to the level I want.

Harris Poll is generous with points (75-800 points each survey), and has an easy redemption policy for the goods they offer on their site. They have an 800 point level beginning redemption level, and that's worth about a DVD or book or some other little item that costs about $20. The larger levels get nicer and nicer. But Harris Poll doesn't send surveys nearly as often as Zoom Panel.

Survey Spot is a pain and a pleasure all at once. It sends you a crap-load of surveys, so you have a lot of opportunities to make money. But most of their surveys do not offer money. They offer between 5 and 100 sweepstakes entries. However, they do offer between $3 and $100 for each paid survey, and I've probably cashed out about $200 this year. It does take 6-8 weeks to get your money, so plan ahead. But, again, never any problems.
Lightspeed Panel offers frequent surveys for points. I use this one to get gift certificates to online retailers like and that I use often, and cover any shipping costs that I might incur. You're not going to make money off this one, and you're going to have to wait about 2 years to get to a level that is decent enough to cash in for something great. Again, with all of these, patience is key. But this one tries my patience more than others.

Survey Savvy pays for each survey, between $1 and $3. They send 1-2 surveys a week. Do the math. But it's still helpful and I've cashed in about $100 this year, one $75 and one $15. I only cashed in the $15 because I got impatient.

Here's one that I haven't fully tested yet: Opinion Outpost. But at least it hasn't cost me any money. Supposedly you accrue $1 for every 10 points. Or 100 points. I'm not sure. But we'll see. Right now my account balance is the equivalent to $50, but I haven't cashed it out yet.

Here's one to stay away from: Vindale. They make you pay for services, and then reimburse you. You're not getting paid crap. You should never have to put out to get some respect, if you know what I mean... okay, I'll explain. They want you to sign up and pay for something, and then they claim to reimburse you. That got me $200 in CHARGES from (I finally figured out what happened, after about 2 weeks). I got them to remove the charges from my account, and Vindale still reimbursed me, but it was NOT worth the effort.

And here's one that takes a lot more work: It's a word-of-mouth marketing site that sends products to its "agents" to use and them talk about. Sometimes you get a box of snack foods, or a book, or a gift certificate to use. Once I got a free stay at a Holiday Inn Express ($59 value), and I've also gotten a Sonicare toothbrush ($89 value) and a Sonicare UV sanitizer ($79 value). You have to earn your way, but it's not like digging ditches or busting rocks in a quarry. It's running your mouth, something I do well.

Again, if you want to join these, leave me a comment and I'll send you an invite. Yeah, I want the referral points or cash, so I'm not giving you the website addresses. Sue me. I promise to drop the referral e-mail ASAP. And for everyone who does actually ask me to send a referral e-mail instead of finding the company site on your own, I'll send you TWO companies that I withheld. One pays you cash for every survey, and it's been extremely reliable. One is only good for magazine subscriptions, but your points accrue quickly and fairly, and you can give them as gifts. In four months, I've cashed in for six different subscriptions.

Happy earning!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Children Have no Friendship Boundaries - Don't Teach Them Otherwise!

Monday, July 06, 2009 By

In a crawling race across the grass they're evenly matched. But Emily Bland will need a little practice before taking on her new friend at tree-climbing.

The little girl, two, met one-year-old orangutan Rishi at an animal center while visiting with her father. They took to each other straight away and spent hours tumbling about and having a tea party. Emily poured while Rishi waited patiently, gripping his spoon in a hairy fist.

On all fours: A delighted
Emily plays with her best new friend Rishi

Emily's father Barry Bland, 38, a photographer, said: 'I had come along to the institute to photograph Rishi and I thought it would be good to bring Emily. 'Almost as soon as we arrived, Rishi had an instant chemistry with Emily. They looked completely content with each other.'

The friendship came as no surprise to those in charge of Rishi's home, The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) in Miami.
How sweet, a kiss for Emily, whose father says the pair hit it off instantly.

Dr Bhagavan Antle: 'Orangutans are intelligent and certainly the most friendly apes on the planet. 'The youngsters enjoy their playtime and are always looking for an opportunity to experience new things and make new friends and monkey around. 'Rishi, who is the youngest of the family, is always looking for someone to play with. 'That's where Emily stepped in to provide a playmate to swing in the trees, have tea with, and go for a ride. 'All infants have the capacity to get along and as youngsters the barriers between species appear to disappear.' Orangutans are one of t he most endangered species on earth. Recent expansion of palm oil plantations and over logging of their forests in Borneo and Sumatra have created a rapidly declining habitat for these great apes..

Emily takes her new friend for a stroll

One lump or two Rishi? The pair enjoy afternoon tea 'Rishi was brought over to T.I.G.E.R.S from Jungle Island because he was a young boy,'
Says Dr Antle. 'He couldn't stay with his father or the other male orangutans in the habitat because they throw the boys out. 'But he has now been fully accepted into his new group. He sleeps with them and he stays side by side with them & he is with them all the time.' Rishi will now stay at the institute where he will become part of the animal ambassadors program, participating in education and conservation presentations at Myrtle Beach and Jungle Island institutions. Judging from these photos it looks as though Rishi has found a friend for life.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Children May be Born Empathetic - But Teaching it is Still Important

Sunday, July 05, 2009 By

We've inadvertently pawned Emmie off on relatives for half the summer, it seems. I worry that her memories of this year will be a blur of new faces and random bodies of water.

But today she showed me one reason that so many of our relatives volunteer their time and energy in caring for her.

Nona and I went dollar store shopping, and came back with a pile of crap for Emmie: coloring books, Pop Rocks, a silvery princess balloon, and a bag of Ring Pops. She was sweetly excited: "Dats for ME?! DANKS, Mama!"

And then she delved into her treats. She poured the Pop Rocks into her mouth and the Ring Pops on the table. There were four rings, and five people in the room. She handed one to Opa, one to Nona, one to Scott, and picked up the last ring pop from the table. I saw her hesitate briefly, realizing that she had but the one remaining, and then she smiled brightly and handed it to me.

"You are so sweet, baby, but mommy wants you to have the Ring Pop," I said. But she tried to put it into my hands.

"Honey, take this one," Nona said. Emmie took it, and still tried to give me hers.

I shook my head, gathered the other two pops, and handed them to her.

"Thank you so much for sharing with us, darling, but we want you to have these. You are so good to share."

Instead, she held up her packet of Pop Rocks, starting the process over again.

I worry that, as an only child, Emmie will not have the kind of empathy that we want her to enjoy in life. But I think, maybe, she could be okay...

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Does Anti-Semitism Exist in the South?

Sunday, July 05, 2009 By

It seems it does...

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

High Intelligence in Children Sometimes Still Means They Can Be "Slow," According to Research

Saturday, July 04, 2009 By

Emerson's jellyfish sting looks terrible. But when I was poking her in her wound to irritate her + she said, "Psh! Dat don' hurt, mama."

When I asked her about her favorite part of the day, she said, "Da jellyfish."

Why? It stung you, I said.

"Wull, tomorrow he's goin' be my friend, and he won't sting me."

Um, no. Because jellyfish don't have a brain. That means they can't think. That means they can't remember you. And that means they can't be your friend. Honey, the jellyfish will ALWAYS sting you, no matter what you do.

"Wull, maybe if I tell him, 'Hi! I'm EmersonReneeMcGowenHudson! Iss nice to meet you!' den he will know my name, and DEN he goin' be my friend!"

Okay, see, the jellyfish cannot be your friend. He doesn't have a brain like ours. Is that lamp your friend? No. It doesn't have a brain. And even if a jellyfish did have a brain like ours, he would still sting you if you touched him. He doesn't have muscles or bones to control his tentacles.

"Wull... Maybe if I use my tools, an' I build him sumping, an' I prottet him, den he won't sting me!"

Okay. That's a very sweet idea, sweetheart, and if you want to build something for someone, I'm not going to stop you. I am going to enroll you in Habitat for Humanity. But. Seriously. The jellyfish? Yeah. They're ALWAYS going to sting you. It doesn't matter how nice you are. They can't help it. They don't mean to. It's just what they do.

"Wull, maybe if we tell dem, 'Jellyfish, you sting me. Dats not nice, don't do dat,' den dey would KNOW dey sting me, and dey will stop!"

No. Sweetheart, you can't touch a jellyfish. It knows it's stinging you. It just can't help it. He will always sting you. The only thing you can do is not touch them.

"But.. You said if it don' hab a brain, iss not goin to know. So I goin tell him."

Uh, crap. Um, well, see... Just ... Fine. Tell him whatever you want. Just don't touch him. Because he WILL STING YOU.

"Not when I tell him dat he not sting me. Den he won't sting me. Because I tell him."

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Beaches of Hilton Head Island Invaded on July Fourth by Swarms of Jellyfish - or, one that simply targeted my family

Saturday, July 04, 2009 By

Emmie was the first to get stung. Then Scott, and finally me.

I'm such a dork, I was like, "Cool! I've never been stung by a jellyfish before!"

When Emmie got stung, I freaked out, because I didn't know why she was screaming. She just freaked out and screamed, "Sumpin BITE me!" Of course, I thought: "Shark!"

I grabbed her - float + all - and ran through the water hollering for Scott like a fishmonger's wife, stepped in a hole, almost broke my ankle, fell down, tore my knee open on something in the sand, got back up and kept running - never dropped Emmie.

The lifeguard was more than just mildly amused as she treated Emmie with her spray bottle of vinegar.
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How to Get Rid of Any Headache

Saturday, July 04, 2009 By

An entire island of distraction on July 4, and this is how we spend our morning

Shoot. Video exceeds maximum attachment size. I'll put it up when we return...
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Why Story Telling is an Important Part of Culture

Saturday, July 04, 2009 By

Emmie wants to watch TV, but we're visiting with our family. I tell her if she'll tell each person in the room a story, then she can watch TV until we go to the pool (in about 10 minutes). She grins, and does it. But I wonder about the significance of the stories she tells to each of us.

She runs over to Opa: "When you was a little boy, I saw your doggie. He was sweet. What was his name?" His name was Pierre. He was a French poodle.

She runs over to Nona: "When you was a little girl, I see your kitty cat. What was his name?" Her name was Angel.

She goes to Scott: "When you was a little boy, I see your bad doggie. He bite me on da on da on da shoulder. " Oh, no, what did you do? "I kick his butt! And he was hurt. But den I gib him a bandaid, and he was happy wif me!"

She come to me: "When you was a little girl, I saw a rainbow. It was beautiful! It likes you. And it tickles me on my neck all da time!"

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Danger of Fireworks is Multiplied by Ignorance

Friday, July 03, 2009 By

We're on our way to Hilton Head Island for the Fourth of July. Emmie is excited about fireworks.

"An' are we goin' play wif spark-a-kers?"

"Yes," Scott and I answer in unison.

"An' is it goin' be magic?" Emmie asks.

"Yes," Scott says.

"No," I scoff. "It's going to be chemistry."

"NOOoo. Daddy said iss goin' be magic," Emmie gloats.

I roll my eyes: "Oh, well, of course that's much more reasonable."

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Adolf Hitler Had Secret Relationship With Michael Jackson

Friday, July 03, 2009 By

Scott is watching some crap on YouTube that sounds like Donald Duck being strangled.

"Whatcha watching?" I ask.

"It's Hitler." And so it is - ranting and stark raving mad.

"What's he doing?" I ask.

"He just found out that Michael Jackson died."


"... Does he know that HE'S dead?"

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Children Care About the Professions of Their Parents

Thursday, July 02, 2009 By

"You a silly, mama. Why you so silly?"

"That's just the way I am, doodle. Never been cool. Probably never will be."

"I like silly. I like you berry mush. But, sometimes, I wish you was a dahtor."

"You wish I was a daughter?"

"NO! I wish you was a DOH-tor."

"A doctor?"


"Oh. Well. So does Wachovia."

"Who's dat?"

"Nevermind. Point is, there'd be some benefits in that. But I'd work longer hours. And I'd miss you."

"I miss you, too. But, if you a dohtor, you could take care ub me when I was sick! An' I not hab to go to da hospital."

"Honey, you haven't been in the hospital since you were born."

"Yeah. But my daddy was berry sick."

(Silence. I don't know how to proceed from here. Is she worried about her father? About herself? Is this idle musing, or a fully-formed train of thought crashing into the station)

"He's not sick anymore, sweetie. He still gets tired sometimes, but we don't have to worry about him anymore. He's all better, and he's not going to get sick again."

Of course, he may very well get sick again, but it's not likely to be TTP again. And I think what she needs is reassurance that mommy doesn't have to be a doctor for her to be safe. I think she may also need for me to take her a little more seriously, just in general.

She sighs: "I know I know." She's heard it all before. Daddy's all better. Daddy's going to be okay. Mommy and daddy are home for good. But those words don't measure up against the sight of seeing your father weakened, bedridden, covered in tubes and surrounded by beeping machinery and medical personnel so sterile that they must sleep in Ziploc bags.

Suddenly, and with a searing pain that makes me thankful for its brevity, I have a crushing vision as to what she might have felt, seeing her father on the verge of death, while her (asshole) mother pawned her off on her grandparents.

I feel like Atlas.

My poor baby!

I don't have any more words. And they don't hold enough meaning for this. Instead, I pick her up and cradle her like a baby. She closes her eyes, smiles, and snuggles into me and sighs softly. We spend a good half-hour in a gentle, silent embrace. After a while, she opens her eyes, raises a soft little hand, and pats my face.

"Danks, mama. You a good mama."

One day, I hope I will be.

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