Sunday, August 30, 2009

The perfect day

So, the hubby has been working crazy hours. He leaves in the morning and comes back at night, working 60 or more hours a week. This sucks the big one. Nobody signs up for this sort of thing, and I'm actually kind of sad that we've adjusted to it, but we have and we are making the most of the time we have together as a family.

Last night, he got home around 6:00, and we immediately left to go out to dinner and a movie, on a family date night. We had the best time! Who'd have thought that Panera and a movie at the dollar theater could have brought so much joy to everyone? We saw Up, and the kid stayed glued to the screen the whole time, except for during the climax of the film, where he announced he needed to go pee, so I took him to the bathroom (he was dry! Woohoo!).

This morning, we woke up, packed a lunch, and headed off to the zoo with some friends. Another perfect day! The weather has been unseasonably cool for a Kansas August, and the high today was only 72. I can't remember ever enjoying a day so fully, and I say that with all honesty. Walking around the zoo is SO much better when it's not 100 degrees!

The kid did really well today, too--excited at every animal, naming the ones he could pronounce, and even stopping for a bathroom break. He ate pretzels in his stroller and chased us down the hills with sticks. Everything really was perfect.

The kid zonked out in the car on the way home, and the plan is for the hubby and I to join him in his siesta as soon as I'm done with this blog. I threw in some delicious country style pork ribs for dinner, which will slow cook until I'm ready to make the mashed potatoes and green beans to go along with them. We have the windows open and the candles lit, and I don't think I could be any more happy than if Publisher's Clearing House showed up with a giant colorful check.

As a gift to you, my readers, in celebration of my perfect day, here is my delicious rib recipe:

TB's delicious country-style pork ribs!

Buy some boneless country-style pork ribs. That's what they're called here, but there is a slight chance they are called something else in your neck of the woods. They are basically just really big strips of meat, with little or no bones in them.

Pre-heat the oven to 275.

Take the ribs and pour liquid smoke over them, and then sprinkle them with this rub:

brown sugar
Lawry's seasoned salt
onion powder
garlic powder
pepper

I don't know how much of each I put on, I just sprinkle them as I go, from the bottles or with a spoon. Rub that all in, then repeat on the other side of the ribs, making sure to cover the whole piece of meat.

Take the meat and put it on a slotted broiler pan, with maybe an inch of water in the pan below. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. You'll know they're done if you stick a fork into the meat and it falls apart.

Next, take them out and brush them with a good bbq sauce. I like to use Jack Daniel's original 7 bbq sauce, but use whatever you like. You can put them back in the oven to heat the sauce, but I usually just leave them and let them cool as they are.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Drinks with friends, dampered by racism.

I went out to dinner on Friday night with a couple of good friends. It was a belated birthday gift from one of them, to take me out for Thai food, and I was very thankful for that lovely offer.

The hubby got home around 6:00, and I headed out, all gussied up, to the tune of the kid saying, "Mommy, stay here!". Very difficult, but I soldiered on and headed out to the restaurant.

Again, beautiful weather, so I drove with my widows open, fixing the hairdo that I took down in the car. Too overdone with all the bobby pins and hairspray, so I turned to the wind, which has become my own personal stylist since I cut my hair short a month ago.

Dinner was fabulous. Yellow tofu curry and a lemon drop. Mmmmmmm. What is it about Thai curry that is so superior to other curries? I couldn't say, but if I could make it at home, I would! I once got some Thai curry paste from the Asian market, but my recipe didn't turn out half as good as what I can order at a good restaurant. Oh well.

After dinner was drinks at a local bar where the waitresses show way too much cleavage and dance on the bar. There was a time in my life where I wouldn't think twice about that, and would even maybe consider working there if I could make enough money, but now I just find it degrading. I don't know if it's my age or the fact that I'm a mother now, but I just feel bad for all those girls, being objectified and drooled over.

I only had one beer and a Coke at the bar since I was driving home, but the conversation was great, and it was really nice to go out with friends. One trip to the bathroom, however, put a damper on the whole night. I was walking with my friend to the facilities (we girls pee together, you know) and on the way we both spotted a girl wearing a tube top with a giant tattoo on her back. It was a confederate flag that said "WHITE POWER" across it in giant letters. WTF????

What is wrong with people? Why does someone think it's ok to have a tattoo like that, and on top of that, go into a public place and show it off? There were people of all races there, and I was just waiting for her to start a brawl. In fact, I almost went up to her and kicked her myself. Had I been drinking more, or if the hubby had been present, a fist fight would definitely have ensued.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but the hubby is half Filipino and I am white, which makes us a mixed-race couple. We really don't run into many problems--in fact I can count on one hand the number of times in our twelve years together that someone has expressed a problem with us as being a couple. It's pretty much a non-issue in our relationship, and friends tell me that they don't even think of him as Asian, though he clearly is when you look at him.

The fact that there are people out there who will hate us, or hate my CHILD because we are not of the same race is deeply disturbing to me. I actually try not to think about it, and when I do, I have a hard time grasping the issue. The hubby likes to watch documentaries on white power groups and finds the whole thing incredibly interesting, but I really would rather avoid seeing or hearing about anything so hateful.

My friends and I sat at that table, expressing our shock and awe about this person waltzing around with something so vile written on her shoulder blades. I watched her do a lap around the bar, making sure to walk slowly past a whole table full of African-Americans, with no result. As we walked out the door on the way to our car, I made a point to ask the woman at the door if they could ask the girl to cover up or leave, and she said she would talk to a manager about it, but I couldn't tell if she was really going to do it or not.

I can tell you that I will not likely go back to that bar. The fact that they allow someone like that in the door to begin with, with such a horrid advertisement of hate on her back, is reason enough for me. It's possible that she got through the bouncers and door girl without them looking at her back, but it is entirely impossible that the waitresses and bartenders didn't notice it. I just don't want to patronize a place that won't stand up for what's right without someone else having to complain about it.

So, the night was a lot of fun, but we left on a very sour note. I'm going to try and make a point of it to go out with just "the girls" on a more regular basis, even though it can be difficult to schedule it in. From now on, though, we're going to make sure and visit more upstanding establishments. :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daisy the dog.

The weather is getting cool already! So exciting! I'm supposed to take the kid to a playdate at the park with my mom's group, but it's kind of wet and rainy out, so we'll see if that happens or not. I'm not too keen on him playing on a damp playground with wet wood chips under foot.



My dogs are driving me freakin' nuts.
Daisy, in particular, barks constantly. She is an an epileptic, so I try and cut her some slack, but she's *this close* to moving. We gave her away twice now, and both times she came back. Actually, she didn't really start out as our dog. The hubby was weed-eating the lawn one day and she just showed up in the middle of the road, watching him. We took her in, gave her a bath, took her picture and put up fliers, but nobody ever claimed her, poor thing. I can't imagine why--she's super-cute.

We already had two dogs at the time, which is the legal limit in our county, so we gave her to my sister's sister-in-law. She kept her for a few weeks before her cat started chewing a hole in her own side in retaliation. So, back she came and we took her in as our own.

Earlier this year, we had some horrible neighbors. They had a dog that ran around the neighborhood all the time and someone called animal control on them. When the officer showed up to take their dog, they got mad and told the guy that we had three dogs and that they should take one of ours too, presumably because they thought we turned them in (we didn't). The animal control officer was really nice to me, possibly because I came to the door in pajamas with no bra and a baby on my hip, then proceeded to cry when he told me I had to get rid of a dog. He ended up backtracking and telling me that he hated his job and he was so sorry and actually, I didn't have to get rid of one, just to take out two out at a time so the neighbors can't complain. Well, I figured they would see what we were doing and call us in again, so off Daisy went to stay with a friend.

During the time we had only two dogs, one of them, Chiko, began to get aggressive with the neighborhood kids, so I took him to live with my mom in the country.
He now lives a very happy life, chasing rabbits and rolling in mud puddles. As soon as he was gone, Daisy began to have seizures while living with our friend. The day I took her back home, she had EIGHT and I had to take her to the Emergency Vet that evening. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS later, we found out that she was epileptic and will have to be on seizure meds for the remainder of her life. Great.



So, that's Daisy for you. She's cute as a button, just came into our lives one day, and now she's a sickly thing. The kid loves to terrorize both Daisy and Vinnie, and he's taken to pulling Daisy's tail, which she does not seem to appreciate as much as he does. He also chases them around with bats, hitting them. Vinnie seems to tolerate it pretty well now, even though he's going on 8 years old.





Ok, yeah, so Daisy's getting a new home. As I took a little break from writing this blog, she bit the kid on the cheek/mouth. He bled. Not ok. I'm not blaming the dog, because obviously she was pushed to her breaking point, but I certainly can't find the kid a new home, and it seems that they are unable, at least right now, to live in harmony. This sucks. Guess I'd better get on that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Woohoo! I got a parking ticket!


That sounds silly, but this was a very exciting parking ticket. Let me explain:

My friend Kim was in town for my birthday party and we went to Lawrence to do some shopping and walking around in the unseasonably cool August weather. It was one of those days when I was truly thankful to live in the Midwest--the sky was bright blue, the clouds were white and billowy, and the air was fresh, with a high of 75 degrees. Ah, so beautiful!

We headed down to Massachusetts Street and found a meter. As I attempted to transfer the kid from the car seat to the stroller without waking him up, Kim plopped two hours worth of my quarters into the meter.

Well, the kid did wake up, resulting in a little bit of a meltdown, but he did his best for running on such little sleep. We all started out and did a little shopping in the antiques mall and the British Goods store before ending up at The Toy Store. Oh, The Toy Store! SUCH a great store. My kid could play in that store for hours without getting bored, and nobody ever yells at him for being too loud or rambunctious. VERY good store.

Creeping up on an hour in The Toy Store and no bathroom break for the kid (potty training derailed...ugh), Kim gently reminded me that our meter was likely about to expire. After a minor meltdown, we all left the store and hauled-ass to the meter, a few blocks away.

Upon arriving at our meter, we immediately checked to see if it was expired and, luckily it had five minutes left! Unluckily, my car had a ticket on it. So...turns out we fed the wrong meter. In Kim's defense, it was a little confusing! There were two meters there, each with an arrow pointing at the car it belonged to, and she just sort of misread the arrows.

I was a little upset, but was cutting my losses when I opened the envelope to read the ticket. "Are you FREAKIN' KIDDING ME???" I shouted out while Kim braced herself for the worst and begged me to let her pay the ticket. I could not believe my eyes. Take a look for yourself:






I had to read it a couple times to make sure I was reading it right, but it was not a mistake: my ticket was for TWO DOLLARS. TWO DOLLARS??? How the heck does Lawrence even afford to pay their parking enforcement officers? If I pay it late, I have to add $8 more, bringing the total of my fine to a whopping $10. I have never been so happy to get a parking ticket! Well...I have never been happy at all to get a ticket, to be honest, but for some odd reason, this one left me with a feeling of euphoria.

Lawrence stole my heart that day. On top of the town being beautiful, liberal, and fun, it's proven itself to be highly rational and affordable as well. Who could ask for more?




Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our first home

I have that horrible, anxious feeling. Maybe it's because I had too much tea this morning. Or maybe it's because I had an annoying conversation with my sister. Anyway, I am now very anxious and want to get out or just scream, but I can't because I have a two-year-old sitting here who is almost ready for his nap. He just crawled up on me, gave me a hug and said, "I miss you! So much!" I'm pretty sure that he means "I love you so much", but he always says he misses me.

Is he ultra-perceptive, sensing that I'm not quite myself? Maybe he knows what he's saying, and he means that he misses the happy, congenial me when I'm in this mental state. Hm.

Oh, I have so much to do! I am in the middle of repairing a corner in my bathroom that has gotten wet too many times and corroded away--not something you can ignore if you are trying to sell your house, which we are. This house is great, but it does have its flaws.

We moved here in July 2004, after my husband got transferred from his job from California. It was a deliberate transfer, as I am from the Midwest and wanted to be closer to my family for a while after having lived in California for the six years prior. He was willing to give it a shot, so he put in for a transfer, which ended up being a promotion, and we started the process of buying our first home and moving to Kansas.

We would never have been able to afford to get into the market there in California, so when we saw that you could buy entire homes here for under $100K, we jumped at the chance. I made one trip there by myself to scout out neighborhoods and find a house, which was unsuccessful, so I had to do the rest of our house hunt by internet. We had a very helpful Realtor who took pictures of homes for us from all angles, and my sister joined in on the house hunting process by going along with him and giving her opinion.

As we started to count down the weeks, we realized that we needed to get into a place fast and we settled on the 2 bedroom/2 bath house we now live in. We bought it for $89,900, thinking that if we didn't end up liking it there we could always sell it and move again later.

On the day we arrived in Kansas, the first place we stopped was the escrow office to sign the papers and buy our first home. With our Realtor leading the way, we drove to the house under a stormy July sky along roads aligned with emerald green trees and grass: it was the complete opposite of California, and I loved it.

The house was just as we thought it would be, but it was very old and smelled like an old house. You see, the home was built in 1900 and had recently been completely gutted and remodeled, so while the walls and fixtures were new, the floors and basic structure were all over 100 years old. In all honesty, we were probably both a little disappointed with the house at first, but we were so excited to finally have a home of our own that we didn't complain. At first.

As the months and years went by, we found plenty to complain about. From the old floors, to the leaky roof, to the neighbors who we had to call the cops on in the middle of the night for having a knock-down-drag out fight on their front porch, our new home was far from perfect.
Here's a tip if you ever buy an old house: original hardwood floors are good in theory, but once you hear the creaks and see the cracks big enough for ants to crawl through, they sort of lose their romance.

We tried to sell the house two other times, never with any success, but this time we mean business. My husband has been transferred to a job about 45 minutes West, and that commute is incredibly inconvenient when you actually like your family and want to spend as much time with them as possible. So, we've got it on the market and are doing all the things one does when one's house is up for sale. Keeping it clean is the hardest part: Have you ever tried to keep a house presentable, much less sparkling clean, with a two-year-old, two dogs, and a husband who is gone 60-70 hours a week? Ye-ah. Close to impossible.

Actually, I sort of wish we could stay here. Because even though the schools aren't that great and every closet and storage space is overflowing, this house really has become our home. All the unsavory neighbors have finally moved out and the whole neighborhood is full of children playing in the streets and in our double-lot every day. My son has friends who actually enjoy his two-year-old company, even though they are mostly much older. We carpeted most of the floors when our son started crawling, and we just added a new 30-year Timberline roof, so leaks are a thing of the past. I even have come to appreciate the small size of our home, if only for the fact that it's so much easier and quicker to clean than a larger house would be. Add all that to the fact that this is the longest we've ever lived in one place and it becomes clear that I'm really going to miss this place.

So here I've been blogging about our house when what I really need to do is clean and repair it. On a final note, as an ode to our first home, I'll post up some pictures of the old gal. Here's to you, House!



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The best birthday cards ever.

Here it is: Day one of year 31. Exciting, no? Well, actually, yeah...no. It was a pretty uneventful day as far as birthdays go, which I expected since today is a Tuesday and my actual party won't happen until Saturday night.

I had lots of facebook birthday greetings, three phone calls, and two birthday cards...both from the same person. Yeah, it's kind of weird, right? Want to hear the weirdest part? They were both stamped and addressed, then stuffed into an overnight express mail envelope and mailed to me yesterday for a whopping price of $17.50.

So, just to sum it up: My friend "Lynette" (I should use pseudonyms just in case, I suppose) bought me TWO birthday cards--one funny, one sentimental--addressed them separately, stamped them separately, then mailed them in an overnight mailer, together. Not sure what to make of this, exactly, especially since she wrote in one of the cards that I should be on the lookout for a present in the mail soon.

Let me give you a little background on Lynette: We've been friends since I was 13 and broke my arm. She showed up with my sisters when I was lying on the couch in horrible pain, asking for beverages, pillows, and other comforts one expects when they break a bone (or in my case, two). I still am not sure how she met my sisters or why she came to my house that day, but she later told me that she thought I was a real b*tch because of how whiny I was being. I don't think Lynette had ever broken an arm.

Anyway, she quickly forgave my attitude and we became fast friends after that. We didn't really have much of a choice, since our dads lived next to one another out in the middle of nowhere and we were the same age. Neither of us could drive and so we just hung out in the country, swimming in my dad's pool, traipsing through the woods, having sleepovers at one another's houses, and making up (hideous) dances to our favorite (hideous) pop songs.

When summer was over, Lynette would go back to her mom's house in whatever distant town that happened to be that year, and I would stay, vowing to keep in touch by letter. Remember, I'm 30 years old, so we didn't have the internet back then...we were actually pen pals, in the most literal sense of the word. It's kind of sad that kids don't do that anymore these days, and that it's so easy to stay in touch with one another. Nothing can replace the excitement of getting a letter in the mail from your pen pal after you haven't heard from them in a few weeks.

So, Lynette and I have been great friends for years. Some time in high school and after, we grew a little further apart, but that's been corrected and I now am happy to say that she is one of my best friends. Even though she lives on the East Coast, we still manage to talk at least once or twice a week, exchange gifts for birthdays and holidays, and check in frequently on facebook.

Truth be told, Lynette has always been kind of a strange gift-giver, though she's gotten better in recent years by relying on registries and sending gift cards, which are easy to mail. Having a summer birthday, she was usually around to celebrate with me, and I remember the first gift she ever gave me. I was probably turning 14, and she was SO excited about her gift. I remember her throwing out hints about what it could be, trying to get me to guess, and the number one clue was that it was something I could wear. I was sure she had picked out a cute top or something for my hair, so, imagine my surprise when she handed me a bottle of Maybelline oil-free liquid foundation.

"Oh...thanks." was all I could say. I wasn't quite sure how to take this--did she think I needed to wear more makeup? Was she trying to save me money on toiletries? In any case, a precedent was set. I remember another time she gave me a porcelain figurine that I had no idea what to do with. I'm sure there are other examples that my 30-year-old mind can't bother to remember at 10:00 on a weeknight, but suffice to say that I just came to expect that I needed to prepare myself whenever I opened a present from her.

I guess my point in relaying all of this useless, though amusing, information, is to illustrate that if ANYONE was going to send me two addressed, stamped, birthday cards in one overnight envelope, it would be Lynette. So, in my tried-and-true fashion, I just say to her, "Thank you". Those were the best cards I've ever gotten.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hello, year 31!

This is it--the moment I've been waiting for all of my adult-life. Today is my last day of being a 20-something: Happy 30th birthday to ME tomorrow! Woohoo! As a birthday present (and challenge) to myself, I have vowed to blog my 31st year of life, hence the name, Year 31.

Many women look at turning 30 with disdain or fear, but not me. I have always wanted to be 30-years-old. I have never subscribed to the whole, "it's all down-hill from here" theory about this milestone birthday. When I was a little girl, I couldn't wait to grow up. I remember vividly lying in bed one night and having a very detailed vision of myself as an adult woman. It's that vision, of a confident, strong, sexy, dark-haired beauty that kept me going all those awkward teenage years. It's like God was telling me, "Don't worry about the present, you have so much to look forward to in the future."

And you know what? That prophesy was right. And as a direct result of being a gawky, less-than-attractive adolescent, I have been looking forward to every birthday and enjoying my advancing maturity.

As an ode to tomorrow, I will now list off some of the things I think are so wonderful about turning 30:


1. I've figured my sh*t out. I got the husband thing out of the way pretty early on, immediately following high school (*reminder* write a blog about when I met my husband), but there was still a big "what am I going to DO with my life" dialogue going on in my brain. At this age, I am happy to say that I've got it figured out. I don't have to be famous or rich to make a difference in peoples' lives or my mark in the world. I'm a mom, wife, singer, and writer--and those things make me profoundly happy. Everything else is inconsequential. Though the idea of making money at one of those talents would be very nice indeed, I am not going to let myself be defined by anything other than those core things which I am.

2. I'm finally pretty. I know this sounds silly, and probably vain, but at 30 you can say stuff like this and you realize that it's ok, and actually healthy. My skin has never been clearer and I've never been more comfortable with my weight. After 15+ years of putting on makeup and doing my hair practically every single day, I finally have figured out the method that works the best for me and how to highlight my best features. Again, not to sound arrogant, but I can now say that I am an attractive woman.

3. I don't take any crap anymore. As I've grown older, I've realized that life is too short to take crap from anyone. If I make plans with a friend who flakes on me or causes any sort of un-necessary drama, I just kick them to the curb. It may sound harsh, but really, unless they're a relative then what's the point? I see no need to keep people in my life who I don't actually like or who don't really like me. This "no crap" clause applies to rude strangers too. I am proud to say that I stand up for myself and for what's right when I am faced with a touchy situation. It's very liberating.

4. I'm more confident than ever. Perhaps you had this one figured out after number 2, but I don't just mean that I'm confident with my looks. At this age, I am more confident in every facet of my life: I don't have the insecurities that used to cripple me in my teens and early 20's. I used to constantly worry about what people were thinking about me or if they liked me and, to be honest, I really don't care very much any more. If they don't like me then they are nuts: I'm awesome.


None of these things I've listed are exclusive to me, of course, and some of this wisdom about the beauty of a 30-year-old woman has come about after years of observation. My husband and I have noticed that whenever we are watching a movie and we see an actress who looks more beautiful than we have ever seen her look, she is either 30 or right around it. Coincidence? I think not! Take Nicole Kidman, for example:

Here she is at 22:

And again at 30:




Amazing, isn't it? And, to be honest, lots of women look even better at 40 than at 30, and better at 50 than at 40, and so forth. I have so much to look forward to!

So, in this final hour and a half of my 20's, I do not feel one hint of sadness for the loss of my youth. Rather, I feel a giddiness at the anticipation that the best is yet to come. Tomorrow I will wake up a 30 year old woman: it's about damn time!
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