Beam Us Up

Posted on 1/31/2012 09:47:00 AM
We have had to instigate a rule in the house that The Caterpillar not wake up before 6:30 am.  An early riser myself, my tendency is to roll with kids' body clocks and let them wake up when they wake.  But the problem with that strategy is The Caterpillar does this thing where if you let her get up fifteen minutes before her wake up time one day, then the next day she'll get up fifteen minutes before that.  And then fifteen minutes earlier the next day. And the next day.  And the next day.  And before you know it, she's tip-toeing ever so quietly into your bedroom at o'dark thirty, an hour after you finally fell into a dead sleep, and stage whispering in your ear: 

"CAN YOU MAKE ME A PANCAKE?" 

So we finally bought her this clock - it lights up and the digital eyes open once a certain time has been achieved and it's okay to get out of bed - and made an edict in the house that she's not allowed to wake up "until your clock wakes up first."  It's worked for the most part and on those occasions when she does wake up before her clock, she stays in her room and plays, thinking we don't know she's awake.  Only when she plays, she's super imaginative and her toys have conversations and sing songs and they all talk to each other and have arguments... constantly.  And she provides the voices for all of them... at approximately 95 dB.  So she's not really pulling the wool over anyone's eyes.

Sometimes she simply can't amuse herself with merely thirty or forty small plastic friends though and she needs human validation for her antics.  So all the characters in her world gather 'round and wait together for her clock to wake up.  Either that, or they're worshiping the the timekeeper


Ah, that Caterpillar, she's one of my favorites.

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Insect Pottery

Posted on 1/30/2012 08:26:00 AM In:

This funny little bug hut appeared on the brickwork in front of our house a couple of months ago.  I really wish I owned one of these right now, because I'd like to have a better picture of it. Every member of my family has tried to remove it at least once and I've slapped each of their hands back every time they go near it because I enjoy looking at it as I come through the front door.  It's smaller than a dime and after consulting my Resident Entymologist, Dr. Google, PhD, I learned that this is probably the work of the Sphecid Wasp, better known as a mud dauber. How did people know stuff before the internet?


Oh, that's right.

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I HAVE Seen a Crocus or a Rosebud

Posted on 1/29/2012 06:13:00 PM
It's January Twenty-ninth on the East Coast.  Mother nature is confused.


But then again, if you look down at the feet and see the shorts and flip-flops, you'll notice so is my kid.

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Bang Nazi

Posted on 1/28/2012 11:39:00 AM
About a hundred years ago (or maybe four) I posed the question: Should I cut The Caterpillar's hair or not?  And you, The Internet, told me not to.  Apparently, I am quite obedient to the wishes of the Internet because other than one ill-advised moment where I didn't know where the scissors were, I have not taken the time or effort to have The Caterpillar's hair cut even once since she was born.  

I have no training in hair cuttery whatsoever.  But once when between high school and college while I was working as a counselor at a music camp, a friend asked me to cut his hair because we couldn't go off campus for two weeks and we were broke and poor and penniless.  I said something to the effect of, "Dude, you know I don't know how to cut hair, right?" 

And he replied with unique logic, "What's to know?  You pick up the hair, cut it with the scissors, you're done."  

And I was all, "Hmmm.  Point taken.  You have an appointment at ten o'clock this evening."

So we sat in the lobby of the girls dormitory late that night and I gave my very first haircut of my life.  I may or may not have used a regular pair of paper cutting scissors from the secretary's desk drawer.  I admit to nothing.  It didn't come out half bad if I do say so myself.  Which really just means no one noticed he'd gotten a hair cut the next day, but no one said, OH MY GOODNESS WHAT SMALL RODENT WAS GNAWING ON YOUR HAIR LAST NIGHT?!?!? either, and in my estimation, that.... is a success.

I generally stayed away from cutting hair in most other cases, that is until The Dormouse came around.  Somewhere during the year she turned two, I had someone cut bangs into her hair and that proved to be a cute look, but also a royal pain in the ass.  Bangs grow out quickly, you see.  And I have a hard time ponying up the dough for a $20 haircut where kids can watch three minutes of Scooby Doo cartoons while a hair stylist who is barely verbal (not just English, but any language at all) cuts a hasty, uneven swath through my kid's hair and then shoos us out of her area for the next victim client, like Sweeney Todd.  Except Sweeney didn't expect to be tipped before his clients victims left the chair. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of places which shall remain nameless but where an elephant washes your hair.  

I am also not a fan of paying $40-$75 for a bang trim that takes forty seconds with a reputable hair stylist, so I taught myself to cut The Dormouse's hair and have done most of the maintenance all these years.  About once a year, I'd take her to a real hair stylist, have that person give her a proper haircut and then I'd take care of trimming it for the next nine months to a year or until I'd mucked it up so badly it needed a savior again. Recently, The Dormouse decided wanted her hair cut short and she now has a hairstyle that is above my ability to maintain, so I see us spending a lot more dollars on hair care in our future.

Trimming bangs is a mother dog, by the way.  They grow out unevenly in our gene pool and The Dormouse has a cowlick in the bangline which makes her look like the person who cut her hair was wearing a blindfold no matter how many episodes of Scooby Doo I forced her to sit through while I adjusted just a little more off this side, now just a little more off that.  I finally learned a few techniques that helped get her bangs exactly straight, but I'm afraid one of them was "'come over here and let Momma fix what she messed up yesterday.' Repeat daily for seven days."

So when The Caterpillar came along I said, "No bangs for you!" and that, more than any other reason, is why I have not had her hair cut in nearly four and a half years of life.

But all good things must come to an end and her hair had been looking pretty raggedy for awhile.  Take into account that no one in my family from the clan-of-the-straight-hair (that would have made a much more boring book title, by the way) has ever seen a curl that wasn't put there by an iron, so I have not clue one as to what to do with curly hair like The Caterpillar's.  I've combed it. I've put product in it. I've sprayed it.  I've braided it.  I've ponytailed it.  There is not a hair management device I've tried that doesn't come out in under twenty minutes, leaving her looking like a ragamuffin with a giant hair halo who can't even find her hairbrush. 

So this week, I drew in a big breath, sat down with my hair cuttin' scissors (real ones this time) and attempted to cut The Caterpillar's hair - myself.  I cut about two inches off the long piece in the very back (she had some weird, Fish Tail Mullet Thing going on back there) and I gave her some long layers and tapered sides in the front. 



I'm pretty sure that any proper hair stylist who looked at it closely would find problems and scold me immediately, but it's such an improvement over before, I don't care.  It doesn't look like a small rodent gnawed on it and that... as I learned many years ago... is a success.

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Cobbles

Posted on 1/25/2012 05:32:00 AM
There's been a little experiment going on along side of my driveway.  The goal is to one day, instead of stepping out of the car into a giant mud hole, step out on the mudless, newly widened driveway via these fake cobblestones.  And one day these cobblestones will line both sides of the driveway and lead a path along the side of our house, into the back yard. The KingofHearts has been working on this project since... oh about March of last year. He doesn't work quickly, but I don't pay in him the same way I'd pay a regular contractor.  Now if only we could arrange for a light dusting of snow every morning so they could look as good as they do this week.



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Arsonist in the Making

Posted on 1/24/2012 01:09:00 PM
"Momma why don't we go to people's houses that are far away?"

"Well, we do.  We go see your friends in other states and we hang out with them for the weekend.  That's a really long drive, right?"

"Oh.  Well, why don't we go drive to Grandma's house?"

"Well, that's a really long drive.  We'd have to fly in an airplane and that's really expensive for four people.  It's easier for Grandma to come here because then we only have to buy an airplane ticket for one person.  It's a lot less expensive."

"Momma?  I wish Grandma's house would burn down."

"Um why?"

"Because then she wouldn't have a house and she'd have to come here and stay with us for a long time.  Or..... maaaaybe, someone else that doesn't have a house could come live in her house and then we wouldn't have to burn the house down.  That might be better."

"Probably better."

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Phun with Photoshop, Vol. II

Posted on 1/19/2012 03:13:00 PM In:
A few weeks ago, we were driving home from some place and passed this rolling valley/county right of way near our house where the divits were all filled with fog. It was beautiful.  Much more beautiful than this photo, taken at dusk on a camera phone when I made them stop the car, could represent.


But still I spent the better part of an evening trying to salvage it in some way with Photoshop.








Not sure I ever managed to do it justice, but you gotta admit, Igottalottapictures now.

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Bewildering Conversations in the Kitchen, vol. II

Posted on 1/16/2012 08:04:00 AM In:
I only wish this is the image I had my head.
"What do you want for lunch?"

"Grrrrl cheese!"  (this has always been pronounced by The Caterpillar exactly as written here; no vowels, just a collection of consonants resembling a word we thought we knew: "grrrrrl  cheese")

*teasing* "Don't you want boy cheese?"

"Dad, there's no boy cheese, only grrrl cheese."

*for the first time realizes she's been trying to say 'girl cheese' for the past three years and not 'grilled cheese'.*  "Uh, honey.  It's called 'grilled cheese.'  Not 'girl cheese.'"

"No.  It's not."

"Yes.  It is.  It's grilled because you grill it.  Girl cheese is something else."

"Oh."  

*short pause, then the inevitable*

"Daddy, what's girl cheese?"

*heavy sigh* "Well I don't know, but it's not a sandwich."

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Old and Rusted

Posted on 1/13/2012 05:39:00 AM
While "they" were cutting down a Christmas tree last month, I was wandering around the farm, taking photos of old farm equipment.  Because I'm fascinated by it.  And because I'm weird.  And maybe just a little bit because I was not really interested in the Christmas-tree-finding drama and needed a break from my family.

Shhh about that last one.



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Lastmas

Posted on 1/12/2012 10:36:00 AM In: ,

Merry Christmas everybody!

OK, it's not just the cough medicine talking; I am aware that Christmas has passed us by.  I believe I remember telling everyone that Christmas, and really 2011 in general, kicked my butt this year.  So despite our best intentions, we never even got around to our favorite of all December traditions: the annual making and distribution of the snarky Christmas card.  I did hear from many people with concerns about whether or not they were removed from our Christmas mailing list, and if you're one of those people who felt slighted, let me just say it's not you, it's me. There's a very good reason why you didn't get a Christmas card from us this year:

I suck.  The end.

The Shortlings absolutely love a Christmas book that was given to us a few years ago where the main character, Mr. Moose, was so involved in trying to make Christmas perfectly perfect that he forgot to get a tree until Christmas Eve.  All the trees were gone by that time, so he stuck out his arms and let his family decorate him instead. While we were putting away the Christmas decorations, the girls created an hommage to the book and I grabbed a camera, thinking it might be a good opportunity to send "New Year" cards instead.  Given the last year of my life, I say that'll do, pig, that'll do.   

Happy 2012, and here's hoping we all have enough antidepressants to get through it.

Full disclosure: I'm not happy with the photo and how it came out on the printed card.  It's much too dark, but the delicious irony coupled with the fact that this also falls right in line with how crappy 2011 was for me, was enough that I didn't even complain to the printing company; I just dropped them in the mail with no explanation.  When faced with righteous indignation and lots of work vs. procrastination and laziness, laziness wins out every time.

This is what the photo should have looked like


Sometimes people ask me about taking pictures of kids and how I get mine to be so photogenic.  Get ready, because I'm about to share a little-known photographers' secret with you: 

digital cameras.

You see, back in draconian times, you either had to install your own darkroom on top of the chest freezer in your laundry room (don't mock me) or (gasp) PAY for every developed photograph in order to see it.  Either way, it was a lot of expense and work and it forced you to be judicious about your shutter clicks.  With the advent of digital cameras, you can take literally hundreds of pictures and then pick out the one or two from that hundred that actually worked.  Show off only the good photos and suddenly, your kids are the most photogenic on the block.  

Add in a few Photoshop skills picked up from the interweb and viola, you are the envy of amateur photographers everywhere.  (Professionals know you're just a bum with a medium-priced camera; you can't fool them.)  You just have to be willing to spend inordinate amounts of time ignoring your kids while clicking through photos on a monitor to delete the scores of pictures that you screwed up in one way or another. 

Here's the SOOC shot above.  Un-cropped.  Un-altered.


It's an okay photo, but much better with a little Photoshop magic, right?  Imagine what one could do if one ever read the manual.  At least I think there's a manual.

But, even more importantly, here are just a few of the photos that didn't make the cut at all.

You might have to enlarge to see why this one was rejected.  The Caterpillar was simply not having a photo shoot that day and she actually has a cartoon frown on her face.

"Look at the camera, honey."  "Ummm... No."

The Dormouse tries to hold The Caterpillar's head up to get her to look at the camera.  Not only is the illusion of the Christmas Tree entirely gone, but this made The Caterpillar even madder, which no one thought was possible.

Chalk this one up to Playing With Exposure/Photographer Doesn't Know Basic Shutter Speed Settings.

Caterpillar decides she is done with the event and starts to take off lights.  Also: WILL SOMEONE GET THAT CAT OUT OF THE WAY?!? (Many more photos rejected due to cat interference.)

Everyone yells, "No, NO!  Don't take them off yet!!"  Caterpillar begins to cry.  Moments of consoling to follow.  Also to notice: cat ear in foreground of following several photos.

Finally convince Caterpillar to play along (upside down smile notwithstanding) and get her to hold up her arms.  Dormouse moves so head is blurry.

Caterpillar losing patience again.  Dormouse talking while photo is taken, providing chipmunk-like cheeks.

Telephone rings.  Dormouse looks toward phone.

Dormouse's face almost completely obscured.  This appears to be the closest thing we're going to get in the way of happiness from The Caterpillar.

Both of them look like they've been placed in a torture chamber.  Not entirely sure they're wrong.

This is the only photo of the day where The Caterpillar smiled.  Idiot photographer couldn't hold still and so the whole picture is blurry.

There were at least two dozen more that I didn't bother to post here, all taken within the eight minutes of the entire photo shoot from beginning to end.  

So you see, folks?  The key to good photography is persistence, devotion to the craft, and a dogged determination to make your children miserable.  

Now go forth and create.

This is actually my favorite photo of the day, but I knew it would be too dark for the card, so it was rejected for print.


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Piney

Posted on 1/10/2012 03:42:00 PM

We generally take down the Christmas tree on New Year's Day. It's less about any kind of moral feeling about how long the Christmas decorations should be up and more that that's just the last full day I have off before I go back to work and everyone begins entertaining themselves in the new year by adding items to my to do list.  My favorite time of year is right after I throw out the Christmas tree and vacuum up the pine needles.  Then for the next few weeks, every time I use the vacuum, there's a newfound scent of pine in the air.  They should try to make a product that makes that happen year round.  Oh wait, they did.

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Geeklike Tendencies

Posted on 1/06/2012 06:36:00 AM
I spent an inordinate amount of time making these over the holiday for my Star Wars fan brother's birthday.  It was tedious, maddening and did indeed make me want to punch small kittens in the vagina. Let's just say I don't recommend it for fun and frolic.  


I've seen all the Star Wars movies, but if you, like me, needed a reminder as to whom all these faces belonged, here's a clue:


If you want to make them too, or perhaps if you've done something terrible in your life and need some penance to do, you can download the templates here.

Happy Birthday!

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Bewildering Conversations in the Kitchen

Posted on 1/04/2012 04:36:00 PM In:
"What's that on the counter?"

"My breakfast."

"That's just a bunch of slices of bread."

"No.  It's five ketchup sandwiches."

"Huh?"

"The Caterpillar asked me this morning if she could make me breakfast in bed."

"So she made you a ketchup sandwich?"

"She made me FIVE ketchup sandwiches."

"FIVE ketchup sandwiches?  For breakfast?"

"And a Diet Coke."

"Well, at least she knows you."

"I tried to tell her that ketchup sandwiches aren't really good breakfast fare."

"And did that work?"

"She said I could eat them for lunch."

"That's true, I suppose."

"Or dinner."

"Guess you're not getting out of eating a ketchup sandwich any time soon."

"You want one?"

"Not really."




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Looks Just Like Us, No?

Posted on 1/03/2012 11:15:00 AM
Happy 2012 from the Underground crew! 

The Caterpillar drew portraits of us for the new year.

"This is you, Mommy."

"You can tell it's you because you're wearing a dress."

"This is Daddy."

"You can tell it's Daddy because he's shaped like a potato.
Oh and he has pants."

This is us together, holding hands:


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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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