December 31, 2009

The Obligatory 2009 Top-Ten List...

I have totally lost count of how many top-ten lists I've read or glanced at in the last week or two. Also some very clever videos promising to give me the highlights of the entire decade in 3 or 7 minutes... the 7-minute one was better and had fewer mentions of Britney Spears. It also had the perk of ending with "and President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Collectively, Americans go, "huh?!" Good times...

So anyway, I'm going to sit here and totally improvise my own top-ten list with the highlights of this year (just this year, forget the rest of the decade!) from my own narrow, egocentric perspective. Enjoy!

#1) Moving to the apartment. By far the most exciting thing to happen to me in ages, and a huge change toward the positive. Spidermice, I miss thee not!

#2) Starting a new job. So far I like Head Start, even if some of the rules are a little funny to me.

#3) Brand spanking new friends (but not for spanking). The CTG, Lorena, Wendy, Nancy, Tazzy... people who make my days (and my job) more fun.

#4) Finally getting a guitar. Talked about it for ages, finally did it in May.

#5) "Life Starts Now" by Three Days Grace. Had to wait until September for that one, but it was worth the wait.

#6) The Coiled Crap Hound and the Disco Newt. Thanksgiving will never be the same again.

#7) Finally making it to "hard" on drums on Rock Band. Might sound lame to you, but it wasn't easy to overcome years of CRD!

#8) Learning to drink water. I drink 2 liters every day at work. Formerly on the rare occasion I drank water, my liver would sputter at me and demand "What the heck is that stuff?! Are you trying to poison me?!"

#9) Cinnamon Candy Canes. Those may have existed before this year, but I just found them for the first time. A real nice thing for those of us that like Chrsitmas but hate peppermint.

#10) Homemade tortillas. How did we get by without those?

Song o' the Day: "Life Starts Now" by Three Days Grace

December 27, 2009

Forced Creativity/The Quest for the Holy Grail...

Okay, so I did a mini-vacation from the blog because of the whole Christmas thing, and I'm sure absolutely NOBODY actually noticed or cared. Except for me, and that's enough I suppose.

Anyway, the story I want to relate first takes place on Christmas Eve Eve (That's December 23rd for those of you who can't sort this stuff out). The scene: Allison (sister sib extraordinaire) and I are out trying to get all the shopping done. Also important to note is that on December 16th my class made tortillas at work and I learned how, and I was given the leftover masa mix and told where (supposedly) I could buy a tortilla press. Specifically I was told WinCo. So when Allison and I were up on 82nd in Clackamas where there's a WinCo, I decreed that we should venture in and search for the tortilla press. It was INSANE in there... way too many people and no tortilla presses.

This was a scenario that would repeat at Fred Meyer, K-Mart, Haggen, (all in Oregon City) and Wal-Mart and Mega Foods (in Woodburn). Though we were having great fun out running around shopping and trying to make an innuendo of some sort out of every street sign we saw (that was some hilarity there!), the tortilla press had become the Holy Grail of the shopping trip... none were to be found anywhere, even in a Wal-Mart where I can pretty much be the only white person in there.

I was about to give up standing despondently in the Hispanic Foods aisle of Mega Foods when lo and behold, there came a man whose son I used to teach at MES. The kid was also with him and I said hi to both of them. Then I decided there was no harm in asking, so I asked the guy (who happens to be Mexican) if he knew where in the world I might find a tortilla press. He gave me the name of a little Mexican tienda up in the "little Mexico" section of town... that strip where nearly every store and business is owned and run by Mexicans and the majority of the signage is in Spanish. If I didn't speak Spanish I might have been a little freaked about going there, but I do and so we charged on boldly to find the store.

We arrived there shortly before 9 p.m. (we had been out shopping since about 1) and they looked at us a little strangely as we wandered up and down aisles looking at the imported candy. Allison's primary comments were "What's this?" and "Can we buy some?" The place did have a number of tortilla presses, but they were wooden rather than metal and looked more decorative than functional. No Holy Grail. After almost giving up in despair even at that store, I noticed a corner window display area that we hadn't stepped into yet. And there, in a crate on the floor, were about five metal tortilla presses.

Holy Grail found. Much rejoicing in the camp.

So on Christmas Eve, the Chamaco and I made tortillas. Or I should say really he made tortillas... he rolled the dough into balls and pressed the tortillas, and I just fried the suckers up. About halfway through the tortilla making process I realized I had no idea what we were going to put on the tortillas, so I went digging through the cupboards. I found a can of chicken, a can of corn and some cheese and tossed all three into a skillet. It was surprisingly good... the Chamaco said it was the best dinner he's ever had.

Christmas came and went really quick like it always does, and I realized that we have not much food and not much money with which to buy food until approximately the 2nd of January. So tonight I've been digging around seeing what I can find to feed us for the next week or so. I went by Grocery Outlet and picked up those cheap food staples that I don't really know what to do with... dry beans, rice (the regular kind, not the Rice-a-Roni kind with flavors), some corn... going to be getting creative with that and the tortillas during the next week. We'll see how it turns out.

December 19, 2009

The changes a year can bring...

Comparing Christmas season '08 and Christmas season '09...

LAST YEAR: We lived in a falling-apart house with no heat.
THIS YEAR: We live in a pretty nice apartment with gas heat.

LAST YEAR: I was unemployed.
THIS YEAR: I sometimes wish I worked less, but I am blessed to have a job surrounded by good, godly poeple who are passionate about what they do and make working with them so much fun.

LAST YEAR: I did nearly all my Christmas shopping at the Dollar Tree, because it was what I could afford.
THIS YEAR: I did most of my Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart... moving on up!

LAST YEAR: We got food boxes from a couple of different local organizations.
THIS YEAR: An organization called to offer me a food box and I told them they could probably find someone who needs it worse than I do. After I hung up I realized what I had just been able to say and I almost cried.

LAST YEAR: I carried my son upstairs to his bed when he fell asleep on the couch.
THIS YEAR: I can barely pick up my son, much less carry him upstairs. This only happened in the last month or two. I realized today that soon I won't be able to pick him up at all... my baby is gone. I almost cried.

LAST YEAR: My son was the sort of co-dependent that being the only child of a single mom will get you.
THIS YEAR: I have an increasingly independent eight-year-old who more and more often wants to do things by himself. I told him that I was going to get Nancy's recipe for play-doh because the stuff we make at work is better than the store-bought stuff. I said this because I thought it would be something fun we could do together. He asked if he could do it by himself.

LAST YEAR: I had a couple of friends, but mostly felt very lonely and isolated.
THIS YEAR: I have some very good friends, some less-close-but-still-good friends, some casual acquaintances that always make me smile (hello CTG!), a pretty full social calendar, and sometimes wish desperately to just be home by myself for a few hours.

LAST YEAR: I was single.
THIS YEAR: Still single... no change there. : )

Thank you God for filling 2009 with so many positive changes!

Song o' the Day: "Blessed" by Martina McBride. It fits. Listen to it here.

December 16, 2009

I less-than-three "rounded swag"!

The last few days have been riddled with hilarity and brand new catch phrases, so I shall sum up the best I can. :) A few new entries to the encyclopedia/dictionary are in order.

LESS-THAN-THREE (v.): Some of my more Facebook savvy friends have informed me that in order to make those silly little hearts that everyone is so fond of sticking in their status messages, you use the < (less than) symbol, followed by the number three ( <3, get it?). This strikes me as hilarious, and has caused me to go around exclaiming, "OMG! I totally less-than-three you!"

SWANKY LOUNGE, THE (n.): The little corner of the office at SR with a couch and a water cooler in it.

SWANKY FLYSWATTER, THE (n.): The flyswatter hanging in the swanky lounge.

SWAG, ROUNDED (n.): Due to the strict non-celebration policy at work (we do not acknowledge any holidays at all... we might make seasonal projects such as snowmen, but not Christmas trees), I was a little baffled last night at Family Night when I noticed a number of families making something that looked suspiciously like a wreath. (This was made even more funny because earlier in the day one of the teachers was told that she shouldn't have put the wreath picture on something she sent home with the children because it was a holiday symbol). I was informed by one of my co-workers that it was a "rounded swag". I thought that was hilarious as I went about pointing out how a great many of the "rounded swags" had something suspiciously looking like Santa Claus attached to them, and also how my co-worker's own "rounded swag" had the word "NOEL" prominently displayed. We agreed that this was certainly not in any way a holiday statement and that it only meant to signify that the alphabet now has only twenty-five letters.

Another coworker then pointed out that wreaths, as she so boldly refers to them, come in many varieties, not necessarily tied in with any specific holiday... for example, your autumn wreath. Dang it, she's right! Now if only we could beat that through the heads of the administration! Honestly I would have more patience with this policy if we actually had a family among our three classrooms that doesn't celebrate Christmas... but we don't. So "rounded swags" for all, and a joyous no-12th-letter-of-the-alphabet!

WHADDYACALLIT (n.): I had no word for this last thing, but it's pretty hilarious. We have this chair at work that is broken... the backrest, instead of being at the level of the middle of your back, is at about the level of your butt. Lorena and I have had great fun over the last few weeks trying to imagine the body structure of someone who could sit comfortably in that chair, and last night before Family Night we decided we needed to try to make this guy. Thank God for internet, MAD magazine, copiers, and old socks... Also for Lorena, because I less-than-three her.

Initially we tried making this guy with some gloves, but Lorena decided her own hands would probably work better. Apparently he is "voguing" in this first picture, which is an 80s fad that I totally missed what with not having been socially conscious for most of the 80s.

Song o' the Day: "This Time Imperfect" by AFI. For no particular reason other than that it has been in my head a lot.

December 10, 2009

The coolest Chinese lady ever...

I went bowling with Audra tonight. In the second game I got 104 points, which I think is a record for me. Yay! (Yes, I know I suck, thank you.)

Anyway, after bowling we goed Happy Famiry (which in my family is code for "we went to Happy Family, which is a Chinese restaurant here in Mo-Holla run by authentic Chinese people with authentic Chinese accents). And we couldn't help but notice the large and colorful display of not-so-authentic flowers on the table, seen below.

Not the sort of thing you could easily miss, right? Actually when we went into the restaurant, they told us we could sit anywhere we wanted since we were the only people there and I immediately selected the table with the large tacky neon flowers because I am attracted to bright and shiny objects sometimes.

Anyway, while we were deciding what to order, Audra noticed that the waitress was sitting at another table (remember, we were the only customers in the restaurant at shortly after 8 p.m., so she wasn't that busy) making roses out of ribbon. The flowers on our table were also made of ribbon - though much more intricate than the roses - and logical deduction geniuses that we are, we made a connection.

When the waitress came over to take our order, I asked her, "Did you make these?" She said she did, and that each flower took about 40 minutes to do. She also said that the roses she was doing now only took about two minutes. And then she directed our attention to a large mobile hanging from the ceiling, and if memory serves me she said it had taken her ten hours to make that. We were much impressed and praised her artistry because, hey, we can't make flowers out of ribbon.

She was very attentive all through the course of our meal, visiting our table no less than half a dozen times to ask if we needed anything, if everything was all right, etc. And after we'd paid the bill and were getting ready to leave, she said, "Wait, I have something for you nice ladies." And she handed each of us one of the roses she'd been making. I haven't got a picture of it yet, but perhaps I'll add it later... it's quite cool.

Now all I need to do is get Kyle in there to tell me if they're speaking Mandarin or Cantonese. I surely can't tell the difference. :)

Song o' the Day: "Silver and Cold" by AFI. Oh how I tire of these sub-freezing temperatures!

Chuckling evilly to myself...

This morning I took the Chamaco to school along with 30 cupcakes. His birthday was yesterday, you see, but he wasn't in school yesterday because he went to Seaside with his dad. His teacher said it would be okay for him to bring in a treat today though. So I sent him to school with loads of sugar for his little friends and said a quick prayer of thanksgiving that I have a class of 17 3, 4 and 5 year olds who will not have sugar today as opposed to a class of 26 second graders who will be quite hopped up.

Why 30 cupcakes for 26 kids, you ask? Because the cupcakes come in boxes of 12 or 6. Two boxes of 12 would not have been enough for everyone, so I got 2 12s and a 6.

Know what the Chamaco got for his birthday from his other grandpa? $75. But here's the fun part... $50 of it is in $1 bills. The other $25 is in quarters.

Gotta love relatives with a weird sense of humor. His dad gave him a dictionary.

December 6, 2009

The super-amazing blog/Christmas list/Top 10 list!

To the maybe two of you who noticed/cared, I apologize for the lack of posting over the last few days. I have been sick as a dog (too sick to play Rock Band, even!). I am still sick as a dog, but now getting bored with it and ornery about it, which means recovery can't be too far behind... just in time for work tomorrow! This is nicely ironic, because I started getting seriously ill about two hours after I got home from work Thursday (which is Friday for me). At least cold viruses are respectful of my work schedule. On the plus side, I got a new 20" widescreen monitor for my desktop computer, which makes everything I put on it look pretty (and makes my sims look kind of short and squatty if I try to run the game fullscreen. I've found that running it in windowed mode works much better). You may see the screen in all its glory in the following picture:

I am particularly pleased with this monitor because I got it cheaply. Someone had returned it to Best Buy because of some "superficial scratches on the base", so they'd re-boxed it and knocked 20 bucks off the price. Me, I'm not much looking at the base and I don't care if there are a few "superficial" scratches on it, so I said "Okay, I'll take that one." Which is good because it was the only one they had... they apparently sold out on Black Friday and this one came back. So I took the poor (superficially) battered thing in and gave it a nice home.

Being sick has given me ample opportunity to do something I try not to do that much... sit around and passively stare at pretty moving pictures on a screen. I'm talking movies/television here, people. Not my favorite thing in the world. Many of you are under the impression that I don't watch movies or TV at all. This is very nearly true. The only TV show I watch with any frequency at all is "House", and I only watch movies that appeal to my fairly limited interests (and usually I get up several times during because I don't like sitting for that long without doing anything). However, to say that I don't like movies at all would be a lie. So I scratched around and came up with a top ten list comprised of my favorite movies and TV series. Some of them may surprise you, others may leave you scratching your head and wondering, "What the ****?!" That's usually the reaction I'm trying for in these blogs. : )

My rating scale for these can be summed up as "Can I watch this show/movie repeatedly without wanting to barf, and if so, how many times could I watch it before I barfed?" So I would barf shortly after only a few repititions of the #10 item, but could probably watch the #1 indefinitely with no nausea whatsoever. Enjoy!

#10 - "Pirates of the Caribbean" (movies 1 and 2... I didn't bother buying the third)
Had they not made the second movie, I probably could have given this franchise a higher rating. However, each movie was progressively worse aside from the fact that Johnny Depp was still hot in all of them. Seriously, if it wasn't for his Keith Richards-esque portrayal of Jack Sparrow (Captain!) nobody would bother with these films at all.
Vomit Tolerance: About 3 repititions

#9 - "A Bit of Fry and Laurie"
Most of you yanks (Allison and Audra excluded, because they hang out with me enough) are probably not aware of this sketch comedy series that aired in England in the late 80s/early 90s. Sucks to be you. Some of you might recognize the "Laurie" bit of "Fry and Laurie" as being Hugh Laurie who is now internationally known for playing... DR. HOUSE! This just proves that even when my interests diversify, there's a connection. This show is undoubtedly funnier if you're British, but having a smattering of knowledge of British slang/politics lets you in on a good bit of the humour. It also helps to have a Brit on call who can explain to you the stuff you don't understand. (Hi Wong!)
Vomit Tolerance: Can watch all 4 seasons about 3 times yearly.

#8 - "Animaniacs"
This one would have undoubtedly ranked higher were it not for the Chamaco and his tendency to watch things so often that I hate them, even when I started out liking them. But I loved this show as a child (well, middle schooler... that was how old I was when it was on), and now having bought two volumes on DVD as an adult and watched them with my own child I am pleased to announce that most of the more adult humor sails right over the Chamaco's head just as it did mine when I was younger. This show truly has something for everyone, and adults and children find it amusing albeit for completely different reasons.
Vomit Tolerance: Can watch both volumes we own about 4 times yearly.

#7 - "Finding Nemo"
We got this movie accidentally sort of. Wong was fishing about for a good 4th birthday gift for the Chamaco, and I suggested a kids movie, and together we settled on this one which neither of us had seen. In the end, I think I liked it better than the Chamaco does. This is still one of my favorite Disney movies, right up there with Mulan (which someone should get me for Christmas, thus bringing in the Christmas list part), and Lilo and Stitch (which I already own, thanks). There's enough humor and action to keep the kids interested, yes, but for adults - and particularly the parent ones - it's a rather touching story about learning to let go of your growing child a little. Someone pointed out to me the other day (I forget who it was) that "Nemo" is Latin for "no one". Clever play there, Disney.
Vomit Tolerance: I can watch this one once every couple of months.

#6 - "Eating Raoul"
Put the kids to bed early for this one! Okay, this is a bad 80's movie and most of you have probably never heard of it. I bought it initally because it has Robert Beltran in it, who some of you may know as Chakotay off Star Trek Voyager, who I had a huge crush on for about a decade. This movie is hilariously twisted as far as plot goes, and the acting is hilariously bad for the most part. The plot centers on a very prudish married couple (separate beds and all) living in L.A. in the middle of the swinger scene. They want to open a restaurant, but can't get the money. They come up with this grand idea to lure the swingers (who "no one would ever miss") to their apartment and kill them for their money because they're always so wealthy. Enter Raoul (Beltran) who accidently stumbles onto their scheme (while robbing their house) and offers to help them get rid of the bodies. Hilarity ensues... trust me.
Best line: "Honey, would you mind picking up another frying pan? I'm just a little squeamish about cooking in the one we've been using to kill people."
Vomit Tolerance: I've seen it often enough to have it memorized, but I could watch it just about anytime the urge struck me.

#5 - "Lilo and Stitch"
Best Disney movie ever. (Sorry Mulan.) I totally dig the more realistic portrayal of life in this movie, and the message that family sticks together no matter what. Then you throw in aliens. How can it go wrong? Stitch is awesome, don't get me wrong, but for me it's Lilo that makes the movie. I could totally see myself in her place... a little kid with high intelligence, an overactive imagination, and some weird obsessions (pictures of fat tourists, anyone?). For me the real winner is when the social worker comes over and Lilo is sitting on the floor shaking some spoons with faces on them in a jar of pickle juice with a book titled "Practical Voodoo" at her feet. "My friends need to be punished," she intones. Hysterical!
Vomit Tolerance: One time the Chamaco made me watch it almost every day for a month. That was too much.

#4 - "Batman Beyond"
This was airing on TV when I was in high school, and I used to look forward to it every day. For those of you who don't know, this is second-generation Batman... Bruce Wayne has given up the game because he's an old geezer. Enter Terry McGinnis and a spiffed-up batsuit. Actually, everything is spiffed up... Gotham looks way more futuristic complete with flying cars (and most of the signs rather suspiciously in Japanese), the villains are spiffed up (even the old ones who come back, and there are bunches of new ones), and even the theme music is way more listenable. I own seasons 1 and 3... someone really needs to get me season 2 (and any others that might exist) for Christmas! : )
And best of all... no rubber nipples on the batsuit!
Vomit Tolerance: Put in another DVD! Seriously, the Chamaco and I have watched an entire season in one evening before.

#3 - "Dogma"
Another one to put the kids to bed early for. Not recommended for people with no sense of humor when it comes to religion (Catholics in particular, consider yourselves warned). One of the less religiously offensive things about this movie is that God is a woman (played by Alanis Morissette) and it goes downhill from there. My fave part is the whole "Walrus and the Carpenter" scene where one of the "fallen angels" convinces a nun to abandon her faith based on the poem about the Walrus and the Carpenter, made doubly ironic (as his friend shortly points out) by the fact that, "You know there's a God. You've been in his presence!" This film is also notable for  being one of the last decent films Ben Affleck was in (ouch!) and for having Jay and Silent Bob in it.
Vomit Tolerance: Pretty high. I'm sure there's a limit, but I haven't found it yet.

#2 - "Shrek" (1, 2 & 3)
I own and adore all three of these movies. And when I get tired of them in English, I switch the audio over and watch them in Spanish... whole new movie! This is one series that has not lost anything from the first movie to the third (and indeed the second movie was arguably better than the first, but this is what usually happens when Antonio Banderas is involved). I hear there's a fourth one in the works. I sincerely hope they don't screw that one up.
Vomit Tolerance: Amazingly high.

#1 - "The Crow"
Yeah, sort of a jump there from animated comedy to gritty drama, huh? I think a lot of people, upon watching The Crow, get caught up in all the revenge, death and violence and miss the point... The Crow is the ultimate love story. It's about a love so strong that nothing can stop it... not even death violent murder on the eve of your wedding. Even so, there is enough violence, sex, drugs, etc. in the movie to make it unsuitable for children and faint-hearted adults. Also the soundtrack is pretty awesome.
Vomit Tolerance: Pretty limitless.

Song o' the Day: "Love Like Winter" by AFI... stuck in my head today since it never got above 35 degrees and the video is very snowy. See it here.

December 2, 2009

This morning....

I staggered out into the hallway toward the bathroom, still rubbing at my eyes and trying to get my brain to engage, and I happened to glance at the stairs. The Chamaco was sitting there on the stairs, playing his DS.

"What are you doing?" I asked him. (Though at that stage of morning it probably sounded more like "Whuttreyadooin?")

He looked me in the eye and said, "I decided I didn't want you to boss me around this morning, so I got up and got dressed and got my coat and shoes on. I didn't brush my teeth yet, though... you can tell me to do that."

I tried to make sense of this for a moment, then I asked, "Did you remember to get your snack for school?"

"Yep," he said. "I already told you... the only thing I didn't do is brush my teeth."

So I left him there on the stairs and went about my morning routine, issuing exactly zero orders for small people to get their shoes on or whatever. It was sort of oddly silent. Then came the point when I went downstairs and opened the blinds on the kitchen window to let some light in, and realized that everything was white out there (frost, not snow). A glance at the thermometer (33!) made me decide I wanted to go back to bed. Unfortunately that's a no-go on Wednesdays (and pretty much every other day of the week too). And then the Chamaco came downstairs ready to go out to the bus, and I looked at him and said, "Get a warmer coat. It's all icy out there."

"What?!" he demanded in that tone of derision that he has mastered so perfectly. This is his standard response anytime I tell him to do anything he doesn't want to do. He likes the flimsy little gray jacket, and he argued with me about whether or not he should have to put on a different coat for a few minutes. But I prevailed, got him into a warmer coat and gloves, and we headed out to the bus stop. As soon as we stepped out the door, he exclaimed, "Brr! It's cold out here!"

"Like I said," I reminded him. "See? Sometimes I still know stuff."

I don't know why, but it seems especially lately I'm on a quest to prove that I'm still relevant as a parent. Aside from cooking meals and washing clothes, he can now do pretty much everything else for himself. I even left him home by himself for 10 minutes the other night while I ran to the store to get some milk after I discovered that ours was more of a chewy solid than it was a liquid. He didn't die or burn the house down. In fact, when I got home he said, "I didn't even move the whole time you were gone." And indeed, he was sitting on the couch playing Wii right where I had left him ten minutes previous.

With his 8th birthday now a mere week away, I'm struggling to get my mind around the concept that the part of parenting where he is completely dependent on me for his every physical need is over. Now comes the hard part... it falls to me to try to guide him as he develops mentally, emotionally and socially, and to help him make good choices for himself until his brain matures. Yeah, he'll still grow, but his physical development is pretty much going to take care of itself from here on out provided I remember to feed him occasionally. I'm a whole 10 years away from being the parent of a legal adult (don't get me started on whether or not 18 year olds are mentally adult).

And no, that thought does not make me want to have another one, thank you for asking.

The first freeze of winter 09-10 this morning prompted deep ponderings of how much I despise Oregon weather. At one point in the planet's orbit you have to wrap yourself in multiple layers just to keep warm, and a mere six months later you find that your skin is bubbling. I am firmly opposed to all things cold and wet, and this includes rain, snow, and animal noses (especially dogs), which means I live in entirely the wrong state, and especially the wrong part of it. Every time I look out my window in the morning and see the ground is white, it prompts thoughts of hibernation... I could totally see crawling into bed and emerging sometime in late May or early June. I mentioned that this morning to the CTG and how ill-suited for Oregon life I consider myself to be. He shrugged and said, "Lots of animals here hibernate." Well fabulous... all I gotta do is get someone to pay my bills and excuse me from work for the next six months so I can crawl into a hole until the weather is nicer.

Or alternatively, I could move back to Cuernavaca where the weather is fabulous year-round and they have way more thunderstorms. (Did I mention that even the rain in Cuernavaca is generally warm? I had never experienced warm rain until living there.)

This was the view from our bedroom window in Cuernavaca. More of this, please!