Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bureaucracy

Some people might call me a procrastinator, but procrastinator's such an ugly word. We could dissect it like we did back in English class pro (prefix) cras (root word) inator (suffix) Can you see why it's so ugly? The root is cras(s) which means:
without refinement, delicacy, or sensitivity; gross; obtuse; stupid:
crass commercialism; a crass misrepresentation of the facts.

See, that's not me at all, even if some might disagree. But I propose it applies to my local county government, although I've personally used another word.

The great state of Missouri requires its residents to pay personal property tax. In the four states I've lived in, it's the only one to do so. Whatever, right? The states get their money one way or the other. Only it really became What the...? (and it wasn't even Wednesday) when I tried to get my license plate tags for my cars. Ross' car tags expired first so I took the title, proof of insurance and state inspection to the Department of Revenue. I waited in line for about 30 minutes, went up to the counter and they asked for my personal property tax receipt from the previous year. Uh oh. I don't have one 'cause I didn't live here. You can tell that from the fact that my title says Tennessee and has a Tennessee address, right? Wrong.

"All we need is a waiver from the county court house saying you lived somewhere else and weren't required to pay taxes. Here's the directions to the court house."

So off I go, ever the Pollyanna, to the courthouse to get my slip of paper. I was practically skipping along swinging my basket full of posies, only I was driving and it's hard to swing your basket outside your car window while you're parallel parking. I get to the court house, go through security and wait in line for almost an hour in the assessors line. Yet, still, I'm optimistic. Why? I dunno. Hello! I'm waiting in a county courthouse.

I got up to the counter and explained my situation, fully expecting my waiver to be printed up at any moment. "I need the receipts of your personal property taxes for the last two years." The completely disinterested woman behind the counter said.

"No, you don't understand," I replied trying to reason with her. "I lived in Tennessee the last 3 years. We don't pay personal property tax there. I don't have any receipts." Seriously. I was in a state surrounded by states that don't have personal property tax. Couldn't they keep a list or something?

"Then I need the two previous years car registrations." I seriously wondered if she was about to drop off to sleep.

"But I bought one of my cars last year. I don't have 2 years registration on it." Did I even have 2 years on the other 2 cars? Do people keep those?

"Then I need utility bills for the months of January for the previous 2 years showing that you lived in Texas..."

"Tennessee..."

She looked at me like I had grown another head.

"But my titles say Tennessee. Why would they say Tennessee if I didn't live there? One is from last April, see? That proves I didn't live here on January first. Can't you take that?"

"I'm sorry, you'll have to provided something from the approved list." She unceremoniously presented me with a very smudged, obviously over copied, list of approved documents.

I realize that Missouri is The Show Me State, but they were taking this a bit too far.

I was becoming frustrated. "I've waited in line for an hour. The Department of Revenue sent me here. I didn't even know I needed this documentation. They should really tell you that and not waste people's time."

"Ma'am, we don't have control over the Department of Revenue. Next."

So I went home, a bitter and changed woman. Shafted by the woman. I whined. I complained but ultimately, I needed some approved documentation. Easy, right?

Not when this is your filing system. (don't judge me, just come file it for me.) And because this is my filing system and it was a major pain in the booty to find what I needed (although some older stuff was filed in real files) and because I wasn't eager to stand in that line again, and because I actually had to take my van somewhere to get a state inspection, I put it all off. Until today. Well, I got the inspection last Saturday, but the rest I did today because today was April 30 and my tags expired in April. Uh oh. The problem with a filing system like this, because obviously everything else about it works, is that it's difficult to find what you need. (Really???) So I found a utility bill from February 2008 and from November, 2007. It wasn't January, 2008 but it was good enough. Right? Hahahaha! You're so gullible. We're dealing with the county bureaucracy here.

I went back to the court house more jaded than before but believing in the reasonableness of my fellow humanity. This time I got right up to the counter. I showed the man my utility bills.

"I can't accept these. I need January."

Are you friggin' serious?

"But this one is for February and the other is for November. This shows I lived there from November through to at least February, showing that I lived there on January 1st." I had a smile on my face because we all know you catch more flies with sugar.

"The problem is that people hop around. They move around to avoid having to pay."

Honestly, if someone is that determined to get out of paying $100 that they move their entire household from an area that does require personal property taxes to a state that doesn't and then moves back a month later, then they can keep their $100. Give them credit for tenacity or frugality. Obviously their going to need that $100 for their mental health bills because health insurance only covers 50%.

But that didn't help me right then. And the whole logic fell through anyway since I wouldn't have moved to avoid the personal property tax since I didn't have to pay it anyway. Too bad the county assessor couldn't reason like that too. I had three choices. I could go home and look for January. I could get mad and throw a fit. Or I could beg. I'm not above begging. Or is it below? I'm not sure because my eyes were closed.

"Please." I begged, careful that I sounded needy but not overly desperate. "I promise I didn't move. I was there. Really, I moved in June, June 1st. Please don't make me go find January. This is my second time here and I had to wait over an hour that time before I even got the counter."

"Well," I could see he was softening. "I'm really not supposed to. I'm supposed to have January."

"But that one's for February. I didn't move. I was really there."

"I'm really not supposed to but I can see that you've got a good sense of humor and a nice smile so I'm going to go ahead and accept it."

What have I been doing wasting my time on eHarmony? All needed to do was go to the county courthouse, do a little begging and I got me a man.

He processed my paperwork and printed out my waiver. As he handed it to me he hesitated holding it out to my like one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. "Now don't you lose that smile."

I was smiling all right, because I finally got my waiver and subsequently my tags. And maybe a man. At least he has a job right? That's already a step up from some of those eHarmony bozos.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There's Always Room For TWO More

You read that correctly and this time I'm not talking about dogs. Meet the two newest members of our family:

Trace's girlfriend Cody and her sweet little boy Gauge.

Cody and Gauge just moved here on Sunday from South Carolina. They are currently staying with us until Cody gets a job and they find a place to live, not that we mind having them here. (Cody is SO helpful that I'm not sure I want her to move out!) And for those of you who are like me and not strong in math skills, there are currently 9 people living here. While we now have almost as many people as Jon and Kate Plus 8, we still aren't anywhere near the Duggars. Yet.

They arrived on Sunday afternoon and after 2 days of driving they immediately headed for the back yard. Gauge, being a 3 year old boy cooped up in a car so long, needed to play. Notice, however, that my children are hogging the swings.

Ryan is loving have a built in friend although he's not too sure about sharing Trace with Gauge. Emma, being Emma, just does her own thing. Of course, being the opportunist that I am, I'm thinking there might be some potential blog posts out of all this this. I didn't have to wait very long.

Last night I was giving Ryan, Jenna and Emma a bath so Gauge joined in the fun. Gauge is potty trained (here's hoping that Gauge is a positive influence!!!) so when it came time to get in the tub he was just wearing shorts. In one fell swoop he had both his shorts and his boxers off. There stood Gauge, totally naked, waiting to get in the tub.

Ryan had been taking off his clothes and turned to look at Gauge. Ryan's eyes got wide with surprise and he pointed to Gauge's private area and began to squeal with excitement. Now a male can respond to this in a several ways. One is to be proud to have caught the attention and obvious appreciation for his male appendage. Or, the male could be like Gauge, completely caught off guard by the turn of events, semi freaked out and run and hide behind his mother's leg. In the meantime, obviously missing some very important social cues, Ryan continued to express his glee.

At that moment I realized that my son had limited access to views of the male anatomy. Poor boy is surrounded by girls and probably thought he was deformed. I can only imagine how happy he was to see someone who looked like him.

I got Ryan completely undressed and away from Gauge. Gauge, in the meantime, had relaxed a bit and had moved away from his mother's leg. However, Ryan's excitement could not be so easily dampened. Once Ryan was stripped, he arched his back and with both hands began pointing enthusiastically to his male parts, trying to show Gauge that he looked just like him. Ryan then proceeded to walk towards Gauge with the apparent intention of having their parts touch.

I quickly began to wonder if this had been a good idea after all. My son was becoming a pervert. Officer Ryan was going to have to arrest himself of indecent exposure and lewd behavior. I snatched him before there was actual contact and tried to communicate to him that he needed to keep that part to himself. Let's just hope he remembers our little chat in about 13 years.



PS> The actual bath with off with further incidents.

Fashion Foward

Unbeknownest to me, Emma got a makeover by an unknown stylist.

It's obviously some new trendy style, kind of like those asymmetrical looks

Notice the chuck of hair missing below her ear? Yeah, that didn't used to be there. On Sunday morning I noticed some hair on Emma's shirt but I had cut Ross' hair the afternoon before and thought perhaps some of his hair had some how escaped my broom. I really should have known better. Things have been a bit crazy around here (hence my lack of posts) so I'm didn't realize that there had been an actual hair cut until last night.





Was it

Ryan Scissorhands?













Or was it Emma the Mute?



We'll probably never know, but for now the scissors are being kept up in a shelf. Like that will keep Emma out!









Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breaking the Curse

I was going to write a blog post about my incredible savings over the last two days-- I'm so proud of myself!!! But Emma, as always, has her own agenda, not that I can blame her this time.

Our day started at 5:00 am when Emma woke up crying. I went in to check on her and she was burning up. A fever of almost 103 kept her up and I was up by default. By 8:30 she was asleep on the living room floor. Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury. I really could have used a nap to get me through the rest of the day.

She woke up about an hour later crying and crying and crying, which prompted a trip to the doctor. As directed by Section 22 of the Baby Code handbook, she immediately stopped crying and had a normal temperature upon arrival at the clinic, thus trying to prove her mother a liar. Good thing for me the doctor had an otoscope and knew how to use it. Emma had an ear infection, in spite of her ear tube which may, or may not, be still embedded in her ear drum. An eartube was spotted but its relation to the ear drum could not be determined. A antibiotic was prescribed and Mommy is now $87 poorer, $117 if you count the co-pay. Lucky for Emma, Mommy really loves her.

Emma showed her gratitude by spending the rest of the day 1) not napping and 2) being the crankiest, whiniest, cryingest child that ever graced the planet earth. But of course she had an ear infection, so how could I be upset with her for expressing her discomfort? Upset? no. Nerves shot to hell? yes. I rocked her for 30 minutes to put her to bed and once she got to bed she screamed and cried herself hoarse. So, of course, after about 20 minutes I got her up. She expressed her gratitude by screaming and crying for what seemed like forever. (Do we notice a trend here?) In any case, I finally got her to stop.

By letting her eat chips and salsa. I had offered her all kinds of other snacks but she wanted my chips and salsa (can you guess what I was drinking?) It's all your's baby! (The chips, not the drink) A desperate mom does what she needs to do to get a little peace and a moment of sanity. Oh yeah... and I want my baby to be happy, yeah that too.

Who knew an early Cinco de Mayo celebration was all it took to make a Vietnamese baby happy? It's now 11:00 and Emma is toddling around investigating everything, running on only about an hour of sleep since 5:00 am. But she's starting to wind down and I'm praying that sleep is in my future. Oh yeah, for her too. Again, my sleep is by default.

So what's the deal with the title of this post? What does all of that have to do with breaking a curse? For the first time in several weeks I've posted something on Thursday (as opposed to posting on Wednesday and then waiting until Saturday like I've done the past few weeks.) The curse is broken. You can put away your voodoo dolls now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Cougar

When I write a blog post, I sit in a quiet spot with soothing music playing in the background while scented candles are burning around me. I'm filled with peace and serenity as the sounds of the tap, tap, tap of the keys echo in the deathly quiet room.

Yeah, right. When I write anything I have to have some kind of noise around me. When I work on my book I usually listen to music, and not soothing music. Loud music with a heavy beat. That's just one clue of many that Trace inherited his ADD from his mother. (I've never officially been diagnosed but many people have accused me of it and it wasn't without merit.) Many parents of children with ADD or ADHD have a hard time understanding why their kids need noise around them as they study. I so totally get it.

So usually when I write my blog posts, often after the kids are in bed, I have the TV on and sometimes I even pay attention to it a little bit. Last night was no exception. I was channel surfing trying to find something to watch and I happened upon a show I had seen advertised.

Hmm, maybe I want to be a cougar too. I did practice my cougar growl with Demi from the Unreal Housewives of Kansas City. I decided to watch and see if it was for me.

Then again maybe it's not.

Meet Stacey, a 40 year old commercial real estate agent with four kids. She thinks men her own age are boring and lack spontaneity and a "zest for life." Stacey's looking for a 20 something guy to spend the rest of her life with 'cause we all know how deep 20 something guys are.

The Cougar is brought to us by the creator's of The Bachelor so it came as no surprise that The Cougar makes her appearance and meets her baby's in waiting men in front of the The Cougar Mansion. Stacey was the center of attention (of course) as the men were in a semi circle around her (just like kindergarten!) waiting for their chance to make their introduction.

Oh my goodness!!! Each one was trying to out do the other with their introduction and the one who impressed her the most got one on one time first. Oh my goodness! The testosterone was flying because who has more testosterone then 2o something guys? Teen ages boys, but that probably would be illegal so they had to go with the guys in their 20's. Who could have impressed her the most? I was on pins and needles waiting to see.

It was Travis.
Meet geeky Travis who just turned 21 and impressed her by presenting her with a champagne glass. He poured them both a glass of champagne and told her it was one of the first times he had drank alcohol. Ah, that's so sweet. He's totally into anything "boarding," skate boards, snow boards. Maybe she could drop him off at the skate park later. Travis was rewarded with a nice kiss after their little chat. I hope it was legal. Maybe she should have carded him first...

It was the first of many kisses for Stacey.

Here she is kissing some other guy during their little chat. Isn't that sweet? She doesn't want anyone to feel left out. Only she has to, because before the night is over she has to "kiss off" 5 of the 20 men in the room.

Say what? Kiss off??? Instead of handing out roses, the Cougar's handing out kisses, or not. If she lets you kiss her on the lips you're in! If she turns her cheek, you're outta there! Hope Stacey brought some chapstick with her. Before the night was over she kissed 15 guys, some multiple times. Cougar gets around.

I found it interesting that as she talked to the guys, she seemed more interested in the guys who weren't into responsibility, but then maybe I misread her. Because, she must totally be looking to settle down with a young little whipper snapper. I also have to say that as I watched the boys hangin' out that I was more than a little grossed out thinking out dating one of these guys. But maybe that's just me. Can you imagine me with a 20 something guy? He'd just blend in with all my kids. "Brody! I told you that you couldn't go to the skate park until you cleaned up your room!" Oops! I've got enough babies, thank you very much.

What's the term for dating a guy less than 10 years younger? If a 40 year old dating a guy 12-19 years younger is a Cougar, maybe 5-10 years younger is a wild barn cat can be a Liger.

Remember the mythical creature created by Napoleon Dynamite? It was bred for it's skills in magic. Cool. Maybe I could use those magic skills. You're just jealous because I spent 2 hours chatting with babe's in a chat room.

Make you own dang casadilla Brody!




(Sorry, couldn't resist the Napoleon quotes/adaptations!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chores

Last October I posted about my attempts to get the kids to help clean up the kitchen after dinner. The title of the post, Cinderella, says it all. I, of course, am Cinderella. Ultimately, it didn't work out very well. There's something about having your kids clean up, taking forever to do it and then having to go clean it up after them. Yeah, I know they need to learn about responsibility, blah, blah, blah, but I'd rather be cleaning up the kitchen at 6:30 instead of 8:00. Hello! Facebook's waiting! Even so, we're currently revisiting the kid kitchen clean up chores. Of course, with the same results as last fall. So far.

Since I've started the other responsibility lessons with Emma and Ryan, I've decided to keep going with it. Perhaps where I've failed with my older children, I can train Ryan and Emma to be better. Perhaps the key is to start young. Really young.

Yesterday at lunch, I decided it was time to start the lessons. I told Emma and Ryan that they had to clean up after they were finished with lunch.

Not to shabby Emma! How did you get that plate so clean?

Macaroni and cheese all over the floor? Well, at least the dogs will assist in the clean up. Unfortunately, there was a casualty.

Some of Emma's lunch ended up on Fifi. However, when I went back later to clean Fifi up she was already clean. I can only hope that it was the other dog Bella who cleaned her up. Yeah, let's not go there.

Okay, so the lunch clean up didn't go so well, but Emma decided to make it up to me. She must have caught on to the fact that I hate paying bills so she decided to pay some for me.

I'm not sure who this check was made out to but at least she made an attempt. That is after someone took the checkbook out of my purse, found a marker, opened it up and then filled it out. Not that I'm naming names or anything.

Of course, Ryan couldn't be shown up by a baby.

So he made out his very own check. I was impressed that it looks like he actually tried to fill it in. What scares me is that it looks like he actually tried to fill it in. Also notice that they kept the checks in numerical order. I'm going to have to watch these two. At least I haven't noticed them practicing my signature yet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm Craving Savings Too

Money's tight. I've mentioned this before and I'm sure most of you are feeling the money pinch as well. One way I've tried to combat this is by listing some of our old stuff on eBay. I've made one sale so far, much to my delight, a pair of shoes for $15.50! It's inspired me to list more items so we'll see how that goes. But there's one area of our budget that could really use a makeover and that's our food budget.

The food budget's a tricky place to cut. For one thing, these kids insist on eating, demanding bugers that they are. And for another, you could really cut things to decrease the budget but then you're eating a lot of junk. Let's face it, fresh fruit and veggies can be expensive. Throw in some organic milk and you've blown your budget before you've even bought very much. But lately something has caught my attention: coupons.

I've never been a big fan of coupons. I used to clip them years ago, file them in a cute little pouch and never use them. For one thing, they were often for things I never used. Even when I used that $.25 coupon for Gillette shaving cream, buying the generic brand was still cheaper. What was the point?

But Brandy from I'm Not Your Average Soccer Mom has got me interested in them again, and not just coupons. There's a whole different outlook in shopping. Brandy has another blog, Craving Savings, and she blogs about what she saves and how she saves. One of her favorite places to shop is CVS Pharmacy. Who knew? This year alone she has spent $39.88 at CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. Big deal you say? But she's saved $1911.35. Yeah, you read that right. She's bought over $2000 worth of items at CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens and only spent a little less than $40. How can that be? I admit, I'm still learning and I haven't tried it yet but you have to start somewhere. I am her eager pupil.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the grocery store and realized that I left my meager pile of coupons at home again. And then I saw something spectacular. There was a display of Kellogg's cereal with a $1.00 coupon attached to the boxes if you bought 2 boxes AND the cereal was on sale! I ended up buying 2 boxes of Kellogg's cereal for about $3.00. Let me tell you, I was excited! I was so proud of myself that once I left the store I decided that my little over $1 savings deserved a reward. I was going to Starbucks! Saved $1.00/ spent $3.50. Okay, so maybe I need to give this savings idea a little more thought.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pseudo Sunday Soundout

It's time once again, for me to think of imaginary questions and then answer them. But wait! I actually have some REAL questions this week! I'll let you figure out which ones are the real ones and which ones aren't.

I loved your post about the dentist. I can't believe that you posted it! as stated by my neighbor Kristin Friday night as we sat in our neighbor Sheila's driveway.

Technically Kristin, that isn't a question, but it does bring up a point I will address. Kristin was referring to my post Soon To Be Royalty. While at the dentist I was afflicted with a small amount of gastrointestinal distress. I totally admit to hesitating about publishing that post. It sort of steps on the toes of good taste. But in the end I decided to do it because for one thing, I really didn't think I overstepped the bounds of TMI and second, who hasn't faced the same situation? Maybe yours wasn't at the dentist, but it was somewhere public and in a situation difficult to excuse yourself.

So what do you do in that situation? asked by Kristin
Thankfully, I never had to find out. If someone else finds out, be sure to let me know.

Aren't you worried that you'll scare people off posting weird stuff like that?
Apparently I already have. I've lost a few followers this week. Maybe it's the dentist post. Maybe it's because I let time elapse between posts, again. Bottom line is I could play it safe and be boring or I can push the envelope (well mine anyway) and have fun. You have no idea how many times I've written something and my finger has hovered over the publish key. I look back now on some of those posts (The Dishwasher Repairman Cometh, or Not, The Seventh Food Group, Tidy Tuesday just to name a few) and I laugh because now they seem tame, but at the time I hesitated. Did I go too far?I asked myself as the post went into cyber space. In the end, I've decided to just be me. I'm not everyone's cup of tea and that's okay. A few years ago I would have been devastated by it, but then I turned 40 and I didn't care (as much) anymore. Truth be told, I've thought about getting rid of that Followers button. Someday you just might see it gone. I don't want it to keep me from doin' my thang.

Mom, stop talking like that!
That could have been said by 4 of my 6 children. It's anybody's guess which one.

That is soooo Cool!!!!! Can I send Lily Wen and Graeme for training at your house? They need to learn a skill too! A comment from Margaret M. in regards to my post The Swank Family Economic Recovery Plan

Margaret, but of course! You know, one can never have too many life skills and baristaing isn't Emma's one and only skill.

She's begun her apprenticeship in pie making.

Now lest you think Emma is the only one working here, Ryan will soon be starting his own lawn service.

He's been getting a lot of practice in with his bubble lawn mower. Look for an annoying flyer in your doorway soon.

Speaking of that sweet little Ryan, is he so sweet all the time?
Uh, no. If the lawn mowing job doesn't pan out for Ryan he has a back up career as a Pro Wrestler. Lately I'll hear Emma's call of distress and upon investigation, I find that Ryan has pinned her to the floor by laying on top of her. Then tonight as I was putting laundry away in the little one's room (blogger say what? Did she say "putting laundry away?"), Emma was screaming and I found Ryan sitting on her head in the rocking chair. Words you never expect to say to your child: "Ryan don't sit on your sister's head." But that being said, his sweetness far surpasses his orneriness. Nobody can be sweet all the time, not even me. ;>)

How's your eHarmony experience going?
Ugh. I've only been on one date, partly because I only answer guys questions every 5 days or so, which tends to slow things down a bit. I've thought about stopping, but I'll give it another month, maybe. That new guy from Kansas who's main interest is hunting and fishing, looks like he's a grungy cowboy, and has been unemployed for awhile just keeps pulling me back in. If only he would ask me out. *** sigh****

Anything exciting coming up?
Nope, dull as dirt here. Except that Trace's girlfriend Cody and her little boy Gauge will be moving up here next weekend. We're all very excited to meet them both! No Food Network conference calls, although Julia and I are lovin' watching Food Network Challenge Last Cake Standing, no featured blogger, no free tickets to anything. However, my 300 post is looming ahead of me and I'm trying to figure out what to do for a giveaway. You all haven't been clicking on ads because my revenue's are stinky! Remember, the money I make from those ads is the money that purchases giveaway items! Stinky revenues mean small giveaways.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reunion

On Thursday afternoon I drove to the Kansas City airport all alone. As astounding as the alone part was, the exciting part was that I was picking up my friend Mindy and her two little girls, Nadalyn and Jayde. They were flying in from Utah and on their way to a wedding in Oklahoma. We were lucky enough to get to have them spend a night and day with us before they were on their way.

I hadn't seen Mindy and her girls in a year and a half. The last time I saw them was in Hanoi, Vietnam. Mindy was one of two other women in my adoption travel group. Jayde was her newly adopted baby and thankfully Mindy didn't have any difficulties getting a visa for her baby.

When we arrived home from the airport all five younger kids had a great time playing outside together. Nadalyn (who is 3 1/2) and Jenna hooked up and in a surprise twist, Ryan and Jayde stuck to each other's side. Emma was the odd one out, not that she cared. We all know that Emma walks to the beat of her own drummer. Shoot, she stole the drum from the drummer and makes her own beat.

For bath time we threw them all in my big tub.

{Yes, I've been busy drawing fig leaves again.}

Five children fit in my tub just fine. Guess I have room for two more. Hahahaha!

Jayde giving Emma a hug after much coercion. Jayde is about 10 days older than Emma yet is so much taller. And she seemed so much older too.

The next day, Mindy and her daughters left.

As Mindy prepared to go, Jayde had just woke up from her nap and was upset. Ryan, the comforter, is rubbing Jayde's back trying to make her feel better. How was I so lucky to get such a sweet boy?

Earlier, we got a picture of the four younger kids outside. Left to right: Nadalyn, Ryan, Jayde and Emma. Notice that Jayde's head is on Ryan's shoulder. I told Mindy that I didn't have any problems with arranged marriages and feel free to start discussing the details of Ryan's and Jayde's marriage at any time.

The best picture of MANY taken of Emma and Jayde. Notice Mindy's hand in the foreground.

Jayde and Emma are from the same orphanage. At one point on Friday, I had picked Jayde up and was holding her outside. As I looked at her sweet little face, I realized that there was a 1 in 3 chance she would have been mine. There were three women who received referrals of three babies, the only three babies available. It was by the grace of God that Mindy received Jayde's referral and I received Ella's. I'm not a big "what if" person. After Darrell's accident I realized that Jenna almost went with Darrell on that fateful flight and I allowed myself 5 minutes to freak out over it and then I told myself I was done. Yes, she almost went but bottom line was she didn't. So I admit that I was a bit surprised with myself for going down the "what if" road as I held Mindy's baby. I realized that had I received Jayde as my referral I wouldn't have suffered the pain of Ella's death, receiving Emma's referral, being stuck in Vietnam alone and frightened, dealing with Emma's RSV. And as I thought of all that I looked at my own angel sitting on a swing and my heart ached at the "what if" of not getting my precious Emma. Emma Linh Joelle is worth every moment of pain and more so. I can't imagine life without my Tasmanian Devil. I can only thank God that He's worked out all the details so perfectly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Swank Family Economic Recovery Plan

Times are tough and family members need to pitch in and help anyway they can. With that in mind, it's time for Emma to get a job.

Emma has just accepted a position as a barista at Starbucks. An added bonus is Mommy gets free coffee. It's a total win/win situation. Now if we can just get around from those pesky Child Labor laws.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Taxman Cometh to Get Me

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to announce that there won't be a blog post tonight because of foreseen circumstances that could have been prevented with only a little planning.

Have I mentioned that I'm a procrastinator? Yep, I am. You know last night I told you that my dentist declared me royalty? I've decided that my royal title is Queen of Last Minute from the Land of Procrastination. It's a lovely place, you should come visit sometime. Only make sure you're late. It's expected there.

I try to justify my procrastination by saying I work best under pressure. Yeah... anyway...it dawned on me that tomorrow is April 15, tax day and I hadn't even started on my taxes. But get this-- I have not one tax return to file, I have FIVE. You read that correctly. Five. One for me, one for Julia, one for Jenna, one for Trace and one for Ross. (Julia and Jenna both receive Social Security thus necessitating their very own tax returns! What big girls!)

Yes, I do my own taxes. After I got hosed by my accountant in Tennessee with a $2000 bill for my personal taxes I said a big "No thank you!" the next year, paid $60 for Turbo Tax and actually had fun feeling very accountanty putting all those figures in the little boxes. A big plus was that it only cost me $60. Sixty dollars or $2000? Hmmm... hard choice.

I can hear you. You're saying "But the accountant is a trained professional and you are so... not." True but my dog Fifi could practically use Turbo Tax. It's so incredibly easy. It literally tells you what line/box number to fill in certain boxes. Not to mention it has cute little boxes at the top labeled Federal Refund (or Tax if your just that unlucky) and State Refund with cute green numbers that tell you your amount. And you can watch it change while you enter your numbers. Instant gratification. How cool is that? (And let it be known that while Turbo Tax should so totally be paying me for that glowing review, it was a completely voluntary. It was my way of making me look less procrastinatey.)

So, this morning I decided it was time to finally upload that Turbo Tax CD-Rom that I bought back in January. I put it in my laptop and nothing. It didn't load. I dug deep into the computers innards trying to kick it in the pants to start and it didn't recognize that there was even a CD there. Great. Technology and I just don't seem to be getting along this past week. But once again, the kids trusty upstairs computer came through and loaded it like a charm.

Without boring you any further with all the irritating details, let's just say things haven't gone smoothly. I couldn't transfer last years tax information from the laptop to the other computer. No big deal for the kids, but I have a feeling it might turn out to be a big deal for mine. Mine's a lot more complicated especially when you figure in the adoption tax credit carryover. I know, yada, yada, yada. Cry me a river. I already did that on Saturday, not going there again.


So here I sit, entering in information fueled only by vast amounts of Diet Coke and then waiting for the printer to spit out copious amounts of paper. Who knows how many trees have sacrificed themselves to let the government know that no taxes are owed? (Although the boys did get refunds and they e-filed.) Three and half tax returns done. One and half to go. I saved the best for last, mine of course with it's large stack of papers. It's going to be long night.



PS> Please disregard the first paragraph of this post. Apparently even the Federal Government can't shut me up. The state, however, might.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Soon To Be Royalty

Jenna and I had a Mommy/Daughter date this morning and she even got to miss a morning of school to take part in it. Jenna and I went to the dentist.

I was actually a bit worried about going. I hadn't been in 4 years and I was worried about what they might find. I know, I know, what kind of scummy mouth person am I? But in my defense, during most of the past 4 years I didn't have dental insurance. Add to that the fact that we moved and had to find a new dentist, well, let's just say that I spend my life putting out fires and the big ones usually get the attention. Going to the dentist seemed like a burning marshmallow.

Did anyone else suddenly get hungry for smores?

{I would also like to add that my children have not gone 4 years without seeing dentist.}

We now have dental insurance, I found a dentist and it was time for a good scrap down. Jenna was excited to go but also a little worried so I kept her occupied in the waiting room playing with her new Ken and her High School Musical Gabriella doll and a snapping crocodile. She found the Crocodile Dentist on a waiting room table and at first we took turns pushing the crocodile's teeth down until it snapped shut. Then we took Ken and Gabriella and had them push the teeth down with their hands and arms. Gabriella needs to work on her upper body strength, while Ken-- beef cake that he is, didn't have an trouble. How would I know this? Because I was Ken. I'm always Ken, story of my life. At one point, I held up Ken with the crocodile hanging on his arm and asked Jenna (as Ken, of course) "Do I look different to you?" Hey, it totally went over with the kindergartner. Total giggle fest.

In the middle of our play time, I began to feel my lower tummy rumble. Uh oh. Julia spent most of Easter sequestered upstairs with a head ache and fever and later with vomiting. This couldn't be good. Jenna and I went to the restroom which then produced complaints from Jenna about the smell. The smell that came from me. Please tell me why public restrooms don't stock air freshener??? How embarrassing.

I felt better although I can't say the same for the person that walked in after us. We returned to the waiting room and I was soon escorted to my exam room as Jenna went to the play room to wait for her turn. As the dental hygienist began to scrap 4 years of tartar off my teeth I began to feel a familiar rumbling. Oh crappy doodles! Not yet if I could help it. As the scraping continued, followed by the polishing I wondered what one would do if they suddenly felt the immediate need to find the nearest restroom? Do you just jump up and run or do you try to be polite and nonchalant? It's probably hard to be nonchalant when your mouth is full of hands, and dental equipment as you try to convey in an understated demeanor that you need to sit on the Porcelain Throne immediately. Thankfully, my guts settled down and my cleaning was finished without any embarrassing incidents.

Jenna's turn was next and she did awesomely. No cavities-- Yay! But wait, I didn't tell you about the royalty part, did I? No, the above reference to the Porcelain Throne wasn't it. Last fall I broke a tooth, my very back molar. I had been warned several years ago that it was a likelihood since the filling in the tooth was large and the side of the tooth was weakened. Personally, I could have gone longer without fulfilling the statistic but I guess the tooth had other ideas, ideas like becoming royalty. As in a crown.

When the dentist came in and told me that I was cavity free, she also told me that I would need a crown for my tooth. "Does that mean I'm a queen now?" I asked. "Since I'm being crowned, doesn't that make me a queen?"

She laughed and said "Why, I think it does although good luck convincing your kids."

She had a point. But I have a plan to make sure there are no doubts.

I'm going to rent a diamond tiara. Yes, I did my research and you can rent a REAL diamond tiara. When I stroll around the house wearing my tiara my children will be forced to recognize and acknowledge my royalty. Now I if I can only train the babies to say "Your majesty, I need you to clean my bum."

Then my life would be perfect.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pseudo Sunday Sound Out

It's Sunday so I'm going to take this opportunity to Sound Out, because I've always wanted to do that and there's no time like the present!

What?
you say. But no one asked you any questions!

Well, true enough, but I can read minds sometimes so I'm sure that the questions that follow will have you saying to yourself "I wish I had asked that question!" You did! I read your mind. In the future. I guess that makes me a time traveler too. Cool. Oh, and if you indulge me in this, I'll try my very best to not use the words Seriously and Okay.*

* The key phrase is "try my best." I cannot be held responsible if one accidentally slips out OR if the use of the word(s) is totally appropriate to sentence or situation it is used in.

Let's get started!

Do you really think you can go an entirely post without using the words Seriously or Okay?
I said I'd try, all right? (Ha! Thought I'd say it, huh?)

So what's the deal? You go to a party with the UnReal Housewives of Kansas City, make an interview video and then disappear for days. Are you too good for your blog and your readers now?
Actually, yes. After my interview video aired Jennifer (who plays Marci and is a co creator of the series) saw it and read the post about the party and left me the following comment.

jennifer plas said...
Love the pix! You were FABULOUS!! You are an honorary UNREAL housewife for life!! :)


Did you read that? I'm an honorary UNREAL housewife for life! After I read that, well my whole life changed. I laid around the house in a cocktail dress (and of course my pearls) with a martini glass in my hand waiting for the girls to show up or invite me over. That meant I was too busy to bother with my blog or even my kids for that matter. I was waiting for the nanny to show up. But she never did and DFS suggested that I actually start taking care of my kids again, at least until the nanny does show. I guess they had a point. The babies were starting to stink.

No, here's the real story. After I finally got that video uploaded and edited and posted on YouTube and my blog, I was so happy with the results and so excited that I literally birthed the concept around noon on the day of the party and that it all came together so beautifully that once it was all done, it was kind of a let down. You know that feeling? It was like any idea for a blog post seemed so lame in comparison. How could I live up? It didn't help that I started coming down with a cold and on Thursday night when I had an incredibly lame blog post idea, I fell asleep on the sofa around 9:30 watching Ace of Cakes (sorry Duff, no offense.) That in itself was a calendar marking event, the falling asleep part not the watching Ace of Cakes part. Finally I told myself that I had to write something, lame or no. Nobody's on 100% of the time.

Where's all the food? There's no food in this house!
Ross, how'd you get on here? Yes, it's true that those words were uttered on Saturday afternoon (along with some foot stomping and a door semi-slam) while we were scrounging to find something to make for lunch. You have to understand that about a month ago I had a very full pantry and upright freezer in my garage yet it seemed like I wasn't using anything stored and trying to cram new food items in. That was crazy so I vowed to live off the shelves and buy as little as possible and see what we actually had. We've been doing that but we don't have a lot of food left. I'm getting frustrated with it too. I guess I'm going to the store soon.

Was that you in your mini van with your kids dancing and singing "Low" while stopped at a red light in front of Home Depot on Saturday?
Absolutely not! It was Pink's "So What- I'm Still a Rock Star." "Low"didn't come on until we were in front of CVS pharmacy.

I heard that you made your first eBay sale ever! Is it true?
Why yes it is! I sold a pair of Julia's old athletic shoes that were only worn to PE once a week for an hour. They were a pair of 7 1/2 Nike's and they sold for $15.50. Now my bedroom looks like a bomb went off in a closet. I have the kids clothes everywhere as I'm sorting through them trying to separate sizes and whether they are sellable or not. I'm destined to be a Multi Millionaire eBay Queen.

What's going on with the Blogging Friend Get Together? Is it still on?
Yes, it's still very much on! I need to make a decision about hotels this week so we can firm up plans. I promise to have hard, concrete plans by next weekend. In the meantime, mark your calendars for the weekend of June 27-28.

Is Blogging Friend Get Together like the lamest name ever?
Yeah, no question about about it. Think of something better for me!

Did you really bawl watching a Chinese movie on Saturday morning?
Someone's been reading my Facebook and Tweets. Yes, I went to a function on Saturday morning that was for a Chinese school that Jenna's friend attends. The kids watched Toy Story while the grown ups watched Warm Spring, a Chinese movie in Mandarain with subtitles. It was a beautiful movie and I confess I cried. A lot. No sobbing but enough crying to 1)embarrass myself and 2) make my eyes have that yucky feeling that you get after crying a lot. What can I say? I'm a cryer.

Did you actually shed a tear at The Hannah Montana Movie on Saturday afternoon?
No comment.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Derelict Easter Bunny

I know you all have me on a pedestal as the Perfect Mother. And why wouldn't you? Seriously? Never mind me sending Jenna to school in her pajamas, forgetting to send items to school that the kids need, being late to functions, taking away bottles, my messy house, getting frustrated with bean wars. Okay, I get the point. I'm not perfect, far from it. But just in case you had any doubts, I have new evidence to seal the verdict.

Way, way back in February right around Mardi Gras (aka the beginning of the Lenten Season) Easter Candy began making an appearance. And guess what? I bought some. Seriously? Seriously.

(Sorry, seriously is like my new go-to word. Kind of the way okay was my go-to word in my interview. Okay?)

Ross loves Reese's peanut butter eggs so I bought around 6 bags of it. Back in February. And I put it in the pantry. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or physicist) to figure out that by April said candy would be gone. Yeah, it was gone by March. But let the record show that I made an attempt. Okay? Seriously.

This morning I woke up and realized that I hadn't bought the kids Easter stuff. And hermit that I've become, I wondered if there was anyway around going out to get it. Obviously, unless I could suddenly lay chocolate eggs I was going out. Of course, I could have made our own hand made chocolate Easter bunnies. While I was searching On Demand for the latest episode of Survivor there was a preview of Martha Stewart making a hand made chocolate Easter Bunny. Seriously? People do that? (Okay, you totally have to admit that that particular seriously was so totally appropriate.)

For the record, people may do that but I don't do that. Maybe once upon a time, in a land far, far away I would have. But then I got a life. Okay a pseudo life, but a life none the less. I was going out.

I put the two little ones down for a nap and cleaned up my house getting ready for our Easter dinner tomorrow checked out my email and Facebook. I should have been cleaning but you know that previous pseudo life I mentioned? Yeah, checking my email and Facebook is part of it and cleaning isn't. But before I could drag myself away from the computer and out the door protesting all the way, Emma began to cry and ultimately ended up going with me.

After a lot of thought, I decided to go to Target and upon arriving there discovered that there was only one side of half an aisle of Easter stuff. Seriously??? No chocolate bunnies. No Easter basket or even grass. Definitely no Reese's peanut butter eggs. Uh oh.

When in doubt or in times of crisis, cross your mythical creatures/beings. Easter bunny's going arctic ghetto. He's bringing gifts.

As I made my way to the DVD's and toys I was patting myself on the back (may I suggest you not try this in public and if you still insist on it that you stretch your arm out first) telling myself not only what a genius I was but also what a wonderful, organic mother I was. We're talking Mother of the Year quality here! Instead of providing a basket full of sugar and chocolate I was providing material possessions, neither of which has anything to do with the resurrection of Jesus. I got all the kids a DVD, part of which was entirely selfish. Shrek has returned into the van DVD feature film rotation and I need something fresh. (Yes, it is all about me.) I also got the four younger ones a inexpensive toy. I decided what to get them all with the exception of Emma. Then I discovered a Yo Gabba Gabba toy. Foofa who talked. Jack pot. Emma saw. Emma wanted. Emma got. I underestimated the Will of Emma.

Like, where have I been the last 3 weeks? Seriously????

When we checked out, I took the Foofa doll, currently in its box, and handed it to the cashier. Not good. Screaming and crying ensued. And continued even after Foofa was returned to Emma's hands. Because, hello! She was deeply offended and you just can't let that go. It continued until we got to the van and then returned after I made the mistake of taking Foofa out of her box. Girl likes her packaging. Okay?

I now had 2 problems. The first: I still needed some kind of candy. Seriously, it is the Easter Bunny. And the second: There was no way Foofa was leaving those fingers.

The first was solved by CVS pharmacy. They were picked over but I scraped some candy out of the store. The second: no solution there. Thank goodness Emma's too young to compare her basket to her siblings.

Seriously.



For those of you who have missed me, my absence will be addressed in my very own version of a Sunday Sound Out. No worries that no one has actually asked me any questions. Details, details. Don't you know I can read minds?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An UnReal Interview

I had the opportunity of a lifetime (well maybe not a lifetime) when I got the chance to interview all five UnReal Housewives of Kansas City at their 435 South Magazine VIP Launch Party. I used my time to try to convince the Housewives why I should be one of them and true to form, I didn't hold back.

This video is a bit long but hang in there! It's so worth it, especially towards the end when I interview Alaina, the aspiring pop star. I try to convince her that I should be her lyricist or background singer and I prove to her my talent in both areas. (Be sure to check out the woman behind us as I'm singing-- I'm SO trying out for American Idol next year!)

I had sooo much fun making this video, more fun than is probably legally allowed. (Shhh.. don't tell!) It wouldn't have been possible at all if the actresses of The UnReal Housewives of KC hadn't been so willing to participate. Every single one of them was absolutely wonderful! I dare to suggest that they had fun with it too.

So, without further ado, the Premier of The UnReal Housewives of KC Interview!



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Big Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I was invited to a party tonight in honor of the unReal Housewives of Kansas City. I wasn't going to go at first and then I realized that Mommy needed a night out without kids. Only it didn't quite work out that way.

This morning as I mused over whether I should go or not a crazy idea occurred to me. (If I went it meant working out the logistics of child care and taking girls to and from piano lessons.) Maybe I could interview the housewives! So I made a quick phone call to my friend Jennifer Plas and asked her what she thought of the idea and I got a green light. Party on!

My biggest problem was two fold. First, what camera would I use to interview with and who would hold the camera? I settled on Julia's video camera because it was a real video camera for one thing and I thought it would pick up the sound better than my little camera I usually use. The camera operator was also a huge dilemma. I ultimately picked Julia. She was excited to go and I thought she would be more into it than the boys would.

Later I would really regret one of these decisions.

We drove to the windy state of Kansas, which is now the happening area of Kansas City. It's not that far, about a 30 minute drive and soon we were there. It was show time for Julia and I.

The housewives are on the cover of a local magazine, 435 South, obviously a different one than I was on. The story about them is here. The magazine was hosting the party. We arrived as the party started but the housewives weren't there yet. Finally the housewives made their entrance.

The party was held at a boutique, so while you mingled you could also shop. The housewives didn't get a chance to shop though. They were constantly surrounded by admirers. I waited patiently and I finally got my chance.

A picture of me with Meagan Flynn who plays Kiki.

A picture of Julia and I with Jennifer Plas who plays Marci.

A photo of Marci (Jennifer) and Kiki (Meagan) mingling with guests.

A photo of Aliana (Michelle Davidson Bratcher) and her tv husband/Sprint Daddy (Ari Bavel.)

Four of the five housewives posing with guests.

I was so excited because I got my interviews with all five housewives both all together and individually. Julia and I watched it all on the camera and it was awesome!!! I was so excited I was practically jumping up and down in the driver's seat and I couldn't wait to get home and upload my video.

And that's when I realized my bad decision. The camcorder is a mini tape, not a DVD and the cord I had wouldn't transfer the video. One trip to Best Buy and home again reveled that my lap top doesn't have a Fire port, who knew? Apparently, a fire port was needed. A trip to the basement and a chat with Trace brought him into the equation and he spent the next hour try to reconfigure his computer to make his fire port work and download the appropriate software to make it all work. Only it still didn't.

Grrrr.... (wait until you see the video and that "grr" will have a whole new significance.)

So here it is almost midnight and I don't have my video uploaded and edited. I am so majorly frustrated because it's so awesome, I can't wait to share it with you! But bright and early tomorrow morning a trip to Best Buy is in order to get some little doohickey that will make my USB 2.0 port become a Fire port. That better work or I'm about to work up a fire storm!