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I’ve had this song on my mind all morning because I’m getting my piano tuned today.

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It’s a new guy tuning the piano. I had a piano tuner I’d been using for about…I dunno. Several years, let’s say. He was a good piano tuner–good work, affordable rates, nice guy–but he wasn’t very professional. Like, he wouldn’t always return phone calls. He didn’t always remember you had an appointment. He was always late, usually by at least an hour. I’ve been threatening to replace him for a long time. Not to his face or anything because I’m too passive-aggressive for that. But behind his back I’ve been threatening to replace him, because seriously, is it too much to ask that you come on time? Or that you come? Anyway. The reason I’ve never replaced him is that replacing him would mean finding a new piano tuner, and you know how I am about change. I mean, if you didn’t before, you certainly do now, don’t you?

The piano was due for a re-tuning in July. The old piano tuner was very good about sending reminder post cards about when the piano needed to be tuned. He was not good about returning my phone call so I could make an appointment, and I guess this time that was the last straw. Yeah, I was so morally affronted that I spent the next three months thinking, “Dude, I really need to find another piano tuner.” Finally, my husband brought home an ad on a little yellow piece of paper that said “PIANO TUNING & REPAIR” and a phone number, and well, it was only another two weeks after that that I actually called the number and set up the appointment. And here he is now. Not on this blog, but in my living room tuning my piano, even as I type. The appointment was 9:00, and guess when he showed up? Nine o’clock. Needless to say, I love him already.

I do feel a little guilty, though. Like I’m betraying my old piano tuner. I know! What’s the matter with me? I don’t know. I’ve just had this anxious feeling the whole time the new guy’s been here, like the old piano tuner is going to drive by my house (because he just happens to be in the neighborhood), look into my living room and see that I’m having someone else tune my piano. And he’s going to think, “Gosh, if responsiveness and promptness were so important to her, why didn’t she just tell me I should return her phone calls and get there on time? I’m not an unreasonable guy! Is it my fault she’s a lousy communicator? Am I supposed to read her mind?” Stuff like that. Intellectually, I think I’m totally justified in my behavior, from a capitalist point of view. Emotionally, I feel unreasonably responsible for the man’s livelihood. (He has six kids!)

On the other hand, I don’t know how many kids this new guy has. He hasn’t spoken much since he got here. He’s been too busy tuning my piano.

Tangentially-related and somewhat-creepy aside: Does anyone else think “tuning my piano” sounds like a euphemism? It’s not. He’s literally tuning my piano. My literal piano. Nothing weird.

Back to the subject at hand, though. Well, I suppose there’s nothing else to say. I’m just waiting for the piano to be tuned and for him to tell me what the damage is. My piano is super-old. It was my grandmother’s, and it was old when she got it, back in the 1940s, or whenever. I think it’s probably almost a hundred years old. It’s an enormous upright grand. Extremely heavy. It’s been through a lot of abuse. For one thing, it’s the piano I learned to play on, and I broke a lot of its hammers during my temperamental-artist phase. Also, about 35 years ago it fell off the back of a truck and bounced down a hill before splattering all over the street. My father had to piece it back together. I’ve told this story before, I’m sure. He pieced it back together, and it was still in tune. It was a miracle! You see why I have to hold on to it even though it’s in terrible shape. It’s like my lucky piano. I can’t connect it with any particular good luck that I’ve personally experienced, but you don’t take a piano that’s miraculously survived a bouncing-and-splattering accident and just…get rid of it. It would be like taking an old person who’d survived six wars and three kinds of cancer and smothering their face with a pillow at night just because they were getting cranky. It’s just wrong.

I do wish I’d taken better care of it over the years. Just like I wish I hadn’t broken my grandmother’s arms during my temperamental-artist phase. (I’m totally kidding. I never broke my grandmother’s arms! Or anyone’s arms. Honest.)

The new piano tuner is discovering the hopelessness of the upper register. This part is never pretty.

DRAMATIC UPDATE: The new piano tuner has finished tuning the piano, and he charged me $15 less than the old piano tuner. AND he said it shouldn’t need to be tuned again for another nine months, and he will call me then so I “don’t have to worry about remembering.” Did I mention I love this guy?

I’m feeling a little less guilty about loving him, anyway.

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Mister Bubby: It was hard enough getting the shoes in my backpack, so I’m just taking the fur and the belt as a carry-on.

Madhousewife: What shoes are you taking?

MB: My church shoes. What do you think? I’m in a play. I’m Leif Erickson. Vikings didn’t wear Nikes!

Mad: They didn’t?

MB: Nikes weren’t even around in those days!

Mad: They weren’t?

MB: Mom, this play may be fake, but it will teach you something. Humph!

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Girlfriend is home sick today, so she is relaxing by watching Blue’s Clues. Unfortunately, it is TV Turn-off Week, so she isn’t lying on the couch watching it on the big-screen TV. She is crumpled in a chair watching it on the computer because she is convinced that that won’t count. I don’t have the heart to tell her that it actually does. Also, I don’t care. TV Turn-off Week bugs me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment. We should all watch less TV (except for those of us who already don’t watch any). I just don’t like being told when I’m supposed to turn my TV off. Maybe I celebrated TV Turn-off Week last week. Maybe I’ve been celebrating it for the last six weeks straight, but this week I feel like watching old MST3Ks on the Netflix. Is that any of your concern? No! Have I been celebrating TV Turn-off Week for the last six weeks, or any of the last six weeks? No, technically–but theoretically I could have, and anyway, it’s still none of your business.

The school invites us all to observe TV Turn-off Week and sends home this form for me to sign off on which days my child has not watched TV. Every child who participates gets a prize. I think it’s a pencil or something. I dunno. Who cares? I think Mister Bubby managed to not watch TV for the whole week last year, but he has no enthusiasm for the project this year. Girlfriend has had one TV-free day this week. Or at least she said it was TV-free. Obviously, I have since found out that she has a letter-of-the-law approach. Oh well, I’ve already signed off on it. Because I don’t care! I’m not going to let The Man dictate my media choices. Even if it means teaching my daughter that it’s okay to be dishonest sometimes? Well, yeah, I guess so. I don’t care!

You know what gets me about TV Turn-off Week? Aside from the implication that our family is addicted to TV and we need outside help to get us to turn it off? They send home this sheet of paper with the “rules,” and list all the things that count as watching TV. Watching a video or DVD counts. Watching something on the internet counts. I think under “video games” it says, “Ask your parents.” (Well, thank you sooooo much for the vote of confidence in my parental judgment.) But watching a movie at the movie theater doesn’t count. (What if you have a movie theater in your own home? HMMM?) And watching TV at school doesn’t count because that’s school. Hypocrites!

Well, these days MB likes to unwind after school by watching National Geographic documentaries on Netflix. No, for real. The other day he was telling me all about the situation in North Korea. (It’s bad.) That’s educational. That’s like school–or does it only count as school if it’s government-approved television-watching? Hypocrites! Totalitarians!

I’m still grumpy from Tuesday when I had to pack Elvis a “zero-waste” lunch in honor of Earth Day. It wasn’t a big deal, but my husband thought it was ironic that they had to kill trees making the flyers notifying us of Zero-Waste Lunch Day. (Not only did they send home a notification on paper, but they sent two! Tree overkillers!) And of course I’m freshly irritated at the advent of TV Turn-off Week, so naturally it rubbed me wrong that they were once again deciding for me when I should be a responsible earth citizen. When my child goes on a field trip and has to pack a sack (made of paper!) lunch, they tell me everything I pack in it must be disposable. So it’s okay to hurt the earth when it’s convenient for them. Hypocrites!

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Sugar Daddy: I’ve figured out the perfect frivolous thing to do with my prize money. When Rhapsody of Fire comes to town, they’ll be selling VIP tickets. So for an extra $150 per person, we can hang out with the band before the show and we can go to the after-party. Won’t that be awesome?

Mad: But Luca Turilli’s not even in the band anymore.

SD: No, but there’s still Fabio Lione and Alex Staropoli!

Mad: Do we even want to go to an after-party?

SD: I don’t know. I’ve never been to an after-party.

Mad: It could just be drunken debauchery.

SD: Probably. But it’ll be drunken debauchery with Rhapsody of Fire.

Mad: Your point is well taken.

Remember that old board game, Aggravation? I think we used to have that game. I don’t remember enjoying it.

You know what aggravates me? PayPal. I know PayPal is the safe, secure way to pay. Once upon a time–a very long time ago, I’m sure–I set up a PayPal account. I even remember the e-mail account and password I used. I can log in to my PayPal account, but I can’t use it because every time I try, it tells me my credit card is no good. It doesn’t matter which credit card I use; it hates all of them. (To be fair, I don’t have an unlimited number of credit cards, so I’ve only tried a couple.) Which is fine, you know–I use my credit card online all the time. It hasn’t been stolen yet, and when it finally is, I’ll probably say, “Well, it’s about time, I guess.” Between the grocery store club cards and the Facebook I’ve pretty much given up on keeping my personal information private. I’m at peace with the fact that someday my identity will be stolen. Maybe that’s why I have this blog, to warn potential identity thieves that being me isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But I digress. My point is that I’m okay with PayPal rejecting me; I don’t need PayPal. That part doesn’t aggravate me.

What aggravates me is when I pay with my credit card and PayPal pops up and says, “We see you already have a PayPal account. Would you like to use it?” No, melon-farmers, I would not like to use it. I already tried using it and you wouldn’t let me. Maybe you don’t remember–IT WAS TWO WHOLE SECONDS AGO. Privacy-pimping bastards.

That’s really all I had to say about that.

I just bought some clogging shoes online WITH MY CREDIT CARD. (Bring it, identity-nappers!) My performance on Saturday went reasonably well. Better than I had feared it would. I practiced very hard. It more or less paid off. So I figure I’ve earned myself some proper clogging shoes. Actually, I already felt like I deserved them. It’s just that after Saturday I decided that I’m tired of being the only one in the group without them. Mainly because my tap shoes are black and everyone else’s clogging shoes are white. They make black clogging shoes–they make red ones, too–but apparently no one uses black (or red) clogging shoes. Only white clogging shoes. All the used clogging shoes I see on the eBay are also white. So yeah, I’m tired of not matching. If I’m going to stand out in the crowd, I don’t want people saying, “Why is that lady wearing black shoes? Is it because she dances so poorly? Are they the dunce cap of the clogging world?” when the truth is that I’m just too cheap to buy real clogging shoes.

Except I’m not because I just bought myself clogging shoes. And risked my identity to do so.

Elvis’s birthday party went well. I don’t know why it was stressing me out so much. Parties hosted by third parties are inherently less stressful than parties one hosts at one’s own home. They’re spendier but worth every penny. You have a party, then you just WALK AWAY. It’s that simple. It’s a good feeling. My husband took charge of the party favour situation. I think he volunteered once it became plain that I wasn’t going to do a darn thing. And I really wasn’t. The guests all would have gone home favourless. Why am I insisting on spelling “favour” the British way? Sometimes I just do. Same reason I insist on saying “grey” instead of “gray.” Not consistently. Just sometimes. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. My husband. Party favours. He just handed out a bunch of candy. Like, a lot. But I had nothing to do with it.

I think it’s amazing that with all the autistic children I’ve invited to parties, I’ve never had a guest who was GF/CF. Maybe all the GF/CF kids just stay away because they don’t want to watch everyone else eat cake and ice cream. Last year we had invited a boy who I knew was GF/CF because he’d come to another classmate’s party and had to watch everyone else eat pizza and cake and I thought it was the saddest thing I’d ever seen. (He didn’t seem too happy about abstaining.) I was all prepared to make a gluten-free cake for Elvis’s party, but the GF/CF boy never RSVP’d, so I gave up the project and went with the chock full o’ gluten option, which was a lot less trouble. I wonder if the GF/CF boy’s mother finally said, “Screw it, we’re not doing this again.” Maybe next year I will explicitly state on the invitation, “WILL HAPPILY ACCOMMODATE ALL DIETS.” Except that would be a lie. I might not happily accommodate all diets, but I would still accommodate and act like I was happy to do it because that’s the neighborly thing to do.

Or maybe I should just stop trying to feed our guests at all. Our culture has become too food-centered. No wonder we’re all obese. Maybe next year I’ll say, “Instead of a party favour, do yourself a favour–thirty minutes on the treadmill! Go!”

I’m just kidding.

I’ve decided that I’m going to find Princess Zurg another sewing mentor. I just haven’t broken the news to her yet.

What else is stressing me out these days? The laundry. The laundry is out of control again. It’s stressing me out a little bit.

Saturday is PZ’s birthday and I haven’t bought her a present yet. Mister Bubby and Girlfriend have bought her presents, but they’re kind of…frivolous. So the pressure’s on to buy something that won’t make her say, “What the crap…?” She told me some things she wanted that I could only get on the internet, and now it’s too late to do the internet shopping. I didn’t really want to get her those things anyway. I don’t know what I want to get her. It’s impossible to buy my child’s love! Why do I continue to try? Why haven’t I taught her how to sew yet? I’m just a selfish, sad excuse for a human being!

Okay, I’m done with that. Moving on.

My MIL goes back to California next week. That’s stressing me out because I’ve gotten used to having her here. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Gertrude, our regular babysitter, for about a month. Gertrude is going to have to find a new position once my MIL is up here full-time. I feel obligated to find her something. I know I’m not, but I still feel it. So that’s stressful.

Oh, I forgot about all the other birthday-related stress. So PZ’s friend’s birthday is two days before hers, but she’s having her party on PZ’s birthday. So PZ is going to have her party the day before, we think, provided her other friend is able to attend that day. PZ’s birthday party always stresses me out because her two BFF’s are so…ADHD. They’re dear, sweet girls but they fray my nerves. The experience of having them around is somewhere between an obnoxious neighbor cranking up his bass and a colicky baby screaming non-stop for several hours. That’s stressing me out.

Also, Mister Bubby’s class was supposed to elect a mayor for some…school-related…thing…and he just lost the election and is sorely disappointed and hasn’t moved beyond the anger/denial stage. That’s stressing me out, too.

I just remembered I forgot to take my happy pills today. And now it’s time to unload the dishwasher.

This post wasn’t that creative.

…but I took a stupid nap this afternoon, which was more like early evening and when I woke up it was 7 p.m. Oops.

You know what the problem is? The house is too cold, so I sit curled up on the couch with a book and possibly a blanket, and then what am I supposed to do? Huh?

On the other hand, if I turn up the heat and therefore (theoretically) stay awake, the house will be too hot for me to move around and do stuff. Therefore, theoretically, I should make myself warmer by moving around and doing stuff instead of curling up on the couch and reading. But I hate to do stuff!

Case in point: We are going on a little trip tomorrow, the Madhousefam + MadhouseMIL. Just a little trip, out to The Dalles. Someone heard we were going to The Dalles and said, “Why?” I dunno. Because it’s close and low-impact and we’re going to fool our kids into thinking it’s a real vacation. We’re going to stay overnight in a hotel and swim in the swimming pool, and that’s pretty much all our kids require in a vacation that’s only going to last two days. More than two days and there’s gonna need to be roller coasters.

Have I mentioned lately that I don’t enjoy swimming? But this vacation isn’t for me.

Anyway, we’re going on a little trip tomorrow, and I’m supposed to be packing right now. I was packing earlier, but then I stopped. I had some laundry to do, as it’s been piling up. I was only going to do one load, but then I realized that somehow, all of Elvis’s socks ended up in the laundry hamper. Every last one! This wouldn’t be remarkable except that he has about 20,000 pairs of socks. We all do, except for Mister Bubby, who is very particular about his socks and therefore only has about half a dozen that he’s willing to wear. It wouldn’t be remarkable if all of his socks wound up in the laundry at once. But anyone else, it’s kind of amazing. And suspicious. I doubt very much that all of those socks were dirty. That seems kind of impossible. And yet, there they all were. And I wasn’t about to start subjecting them to the smell test one by one. It was easier to just wash all of them. Are you beginning to see why I have so much laundry all the time? I suspect a conspiracy, but I don’t know who all is in on it.

Anyway, I’m waiting for the socks to dry so I can pack some. I really dislike packing. I do it because I’m the only one I trust to make sure everything gets packed that needs to get packed. I very rarely forget anything. But that’s because I almost always overpack. Often I overpack grossly. I just can’t not think of all the contingencies. We’re only going to be gone overnight and come back on Tuesday evening. Theoretically we should be able to get away with just one change of clothes and the clothes on our backs, shouldn’t we? Everyone’s toilet trained and no one wets the bed anymore. And yet…what if something happens? Something could happen that would make it so we needed more clothes. Something like what? I don’t know. We’re going to Multnomah Falls tomorrow–what if someone…falls in? Well, I reckon we’ll have bigger problems on our hands than wet clothes in that case, but you know what I mean. Something could happen. And if we don’t have spare clothes, it’s all on me.

It means I am overpacking again.

More than once in the past year our family has gone on a day trip and there’s been some event that caused someone to need spare clothes, but of course we didn’t have any because it was a freaking day trip and everyone’s toilet trained. I can’t even remember what any of these events were, just that Sugar Daddy would always turn to me and say, “Do you have any extra pants for Girlfriend/Elvis/whoever in the car?” and I’d be like, “Noooo [tone clearly implying “Why would I have extra clothes in the car when we’re on a freaking day trip and everyone’s toilet trained?”].” Well, clearly I ought to have. Not that SD was blaming me or anything–he was just being hopeful. But I hate to disappoint people. Also, I hate to be personally inconvenienced because I’ve disappointed people. So why haven’t I learned my lesson about the day trips? Always have extra clothes. Yes.

But if you’re going on a two-day trip, does that mean you need twice as many extra clothes? I just don’t know!

I have some banana-chocolate chip cookie bars sitting on my counter that are going to be stale by the time we come back from our trip. I don’t suppose I can talk people into eating them in the car. I can’t talk people into eating them while they’re sitting on their cans inside the house. I gave some to my MIL and some to our neighbors, but no one in the family wants to eat them. I take it back. SD had one last night. He’s still on his diet, but he’s relaxing a little lately because he’s so close to the end and he’s so far ahead of everyone else in his challenge group that something really crazy and unlikely would have to happen for him not to win.

Something crazy and unlikely like needing extra clothes on a freaking day trip when everyone is toilet trained!

I’m packing his gym shorts so he can exercise in the gym at the hotel. That’s how hardcore he’s gotten. He’s going to exercise on vacation. (A two-day vacation!) On the other hand, I am not packing my tap shoes so I can practice my clogging routine while we’re at the hotel. One of us had to make a sacrifice.

I want to eat one of those cookie bars, but I’m in the living room with the new carpet and I shouldn’t eat in here, and I don’t want to move the laptop into the kitchen. I’m too warm where I am. But I’m not falling asleep, no sir.

I’m telling you people, those cookie bars are good. They deserve to be eaten. I’m just saying this because I have such a hard time getting people to eat my baked goods. I’m not like the world’s most magnificent cook, but I know how to bake cakes and freaking cookies. Come on. This crap is hard to mess up. It’s not brain surgery or pie crust. And yet no one will eat what I bake. I know how that looks, and I know what you’re thinking: “If nobody’s eating them, that means they’re no good.” But you’re wrong! I eat them myself. Would I eat stuff that didn’t taste good? High-calorie stuff that doesn’t taste good? Do you really know so little about me? Please. No, the rest of my family is just obnoxious.

Yesterday I spent all day in my bedroom cleaning out my desk. It’s actually a desk with…I dunno…would you call it a hutch? There’s drawers and shelves and crap over it. It’s a big freaking thing that holds a bunch of crap, and I spent all of yesterday cleaning it out and didn’t finish. I kind of hate myself. But I hate my crap more. Why does it have to taunt me? This is the same problem I have with the packing. I want to toss out 90 percent of these papers, but I just don’t know which ones I’ll need ever again. I do not want to find myself standing around someday and SD turns to me and says, “Did you keep the EOB forms for Elvis’s speech therapy from 2007?” and I have to say, “Nooo [tone clearly implying “Why would I have saved those things when I obviously wasn’t ever going to need them again?”].”

As it is, if he ever does turn to me and ask that question, I will have to say, “Yes, but hell if I remember where they are.”

Which should tell me something, but something in my soul doesn’t believe it. What’s wrong with my soul? I should probably get some professional help specifically for this problem.

And please, please, please do not ask me if I’ve seen Hoarders. One, my house is disorganized and often a wreck, but I’m not a hoarder like you see on Hoarders. I’m only a mini-hoarder. I like to dabble in hoarding on the side. Two, I have a limited amount of time to watch television and why would I watch anything so depressing and close to home? I may be some kind of masochist, but I’m not that kind. I like to dabble in masochism on the side.

Which reminds me of a tangentially-related-but-not-really anecdote. SD and I teach the ten-year-olds at church and today we were telling the story of some people in the Book of Mormon who were in bondage, and one of the boys in the class was surprised to learn the meaning of bondage because he’d assumed that it meant “like you bond with a friend.” And I, being so very articulate, said something like, “No, usually when people speak of bondage, they’re not talking about the good kind…of…bonding…” and then I had to explain the difference between good bondage and bad bondage while my husband just sat there giggling.

I didn’t do very well, by the way. I eventually just had to change the subject so SD wouldn’t wet himself. (‘Cause then he probably would have asked if I happened to pack him a spare pair of dress pants in my purse, and I would have had to say, “Nooo…”)

The socks are probably dry now, and I’m starting to feel sleepy.

Waiting at the bus stop with Girlfriend

Girlfriend:  You know what Alex’s mom does?  She waves at the bus while she’s walking away.  Like this.  [Demonstrates waving while walking away]  Can you do that?

Madhousewife:  Yes.  I can try that.

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I’ve been putting off blogging because I’ve been trying to write something important–important to me, not, like, to the world or anything–and I thought I just needed to be disciplined to finish it, but it turns out that I’m just not as good at writing these days as I used to be.  So I’ve returned to the blog.  Welcome back, Madhousewife.  Thank you, it’s good to be here.  Did I miss me while I was away?

Once again I have nothing to talk about.  I say that just about every single time.  I need to come up with a new way to segue to random topics.  Topics such as this:  Why do they only sell pudding in those little cups?  Why can’t it come in big bowls?  I guess if you want a big bowl of pudding, you have to make it yourself.  But is that really fair?  I should start a new movement, Occupy Jell-O.  My demands are modest.  I don’t see why I shouldn’t succeed.  Surely it’s only 1% of the population that thinks a cup’s worth of pudding is an appropriate serving size.  At least in America.

I have decided to take up clogging, but I have not yet actually taken up clogging.  The reason is simple:  I’m confused.  Well, the reason might be simpler:  I’m lazy.  When I get lazy, I tend to overthink things, and then get confused.  First I was too lazy to e-mail my friend and ask her about the clogging group.  Then I did e-mail her, but she was out of town.  Then she came back into town and e-mailed me back.  Then I got sick and couldn’t go.  Then I got distracted by other stuff and didn’t think about going until it was too late.  There are still four more days until the next clogging session, which should be plenty of time to buy some clogging shoes and tell my babysitter I need her to watch Girlfriend and also make sure she eats lunch and gets on the bus for school.  (Whether she waves while walking away is something I will leave to her discretion.  She usually has good judgment on kid-related stuff.)  But will I do all of those things before it is too late?  My confidence is not high.

Here’s a thing:  There are two clogging classes, one for intermediate/advanced, and one for beginners.  I’ve never clogged a day in my life.  My friend who is in the clogging group was a tapper before she was a clogger, and she seems to think that I would be fine in the advanced class (where she is), but I’m not so sure.  Am I dithering and treating this like a real problem because I’m afraid of trying something new?  Well, obviously.  Duh.  I was not born yesterday.  That doesn’t change the fact that it’s yet another obstacle to me making it to clogging on Monday morning.

Girlfriend did so well in swim classes that I decided to sign her up for five more weeks.  But after that, forget it!  Just kidding.  I don’t know what the future holds–I don’t even know if I’ll be clogging come Monday–but this is a good segue to a related topic.  Sometime during the summer my husband somehow talked me into agreeing that we would all go swimming as a family once a month.  I believe the rationale was so that the kids could keep up their swimming skills.  And we have to go as a family because the two younger kids still can’t swim independently.  I don’t remember exactly how this agreement happened, unless it was just that my husband decided it was the thing he wanted us to do, and once he’s done that, that’s pretty much the end of the discussion.  I mean, the discussion can go on longer, if I want it to, but further discussion doesn’t change anything, so as an energy conservation measure, it’s best to just wrap it up with simply agreeing and moving on.  I have to skip most of the stages of grief that way, but whatever.  We’ve been married fourteen years and we haven’t killed each other yet, so I must be doing something right!

Anyway, the last couple times we’ve gone swimming–September and October–it’s been cold.  It’s cold outside, and it’s cold in the pool, too.  Obviously.  Swimming pools are always cold; it’s just that you don’t mind so much in hot weather.  In cold weather I mind it very much.  And I still don’t like to swim.  Nothing has changed.  I just hope that soon Elvis or Girlfriend will be swimming independently, and there will no longer be a need for two adults in the pool filled with Madhousechildren.  I guess that is why I am taking Girlfriend for more swimming lessons.

Speaking of the swimming lessons, she is taking them at the very public pool where I learned how to swim as a young girl.  Her first day of class was my first time setting foot in there in 30 years.  It was a lot smaller than I remembered it being.  A LOT.  But I should have guessed that was how it would be.

Gentle readers, adieu.

Tonight I was helping Elvis with his homework.  He was doing this language worksheet where he had to find the noun in the sentence.  At the top of the worksheet, it explains that a noun is a person, place or thing, and it gives examples of each.  I thought Elvis might have a hard time with this concept, but it proved to be concrete enough for him.  He was getting the noun in each sentence without any help at all.  Then he came to this sentence:

Now let’s go sit outside.

Gentle readers, can you find the noun in that sentence?

[cue Jeopardy music…get about halfway through and press fast-forward because I can’t wait to tell you the answer]

The correct answer is no, you cannot find the noun in that sentence because there is no noun in that sentence.  There is a pronoun–sort of–“let’s” being a contraction of “let us,” and “us” being a pronoun (half of which, in this case, is hiding behind a freaking apostrophe, if I hadn’t made that clear).  The subject of the sentence is you-understood, but that does not actually appear in the sentence, so it would be ridiculous to ask an eight-year-old autistic child to find it, and anyway, it is also a pronoun (in addition to being completely invisible).

I’m assuming that the word they’re expecting you to think is the noun is “outside”–because I can’t imagine that it’s supposed to be “now” or “go” or “sit,” and it’s true that “outside” can be used as a noun in a sentence.  It just isn’t a noun in this sentence.  It is an adverb, modifying the verb sit.  I will spare you a sentence diagram for the time being because it’s late and I still have to do the dishes–but I’m tempted, gentle readers!  I am sorely tempted!

As I said, “outside” can be a noun–usually when it’s used as the object of a preposition, e.g. “He was on the outside, looking in.”  It would be tricky to make it the object of a verb, which apparently it’s supposed to be in this sentence.  You can’t really sit the outside, though, you see?  It doesn’t make any sense.  I suppose you could say, “Outside is a great place to be,” and call “outside” a noun in that sentence–if you were trying to be cute–but that’s an ambiguous sentence in any case, as far as its meaning goes, so it would still be a terrible example of how to use “outside” as a noun, especially when you’re teaching the noun concept to autistic primary grade children.

Anyway.  [Deep sigh]  As it happened, Elvis did pick “outside” as the noun in the sentence, and it took every…ounce. of. self…control…to say [cleansing breath], very quietly, “Yes.  That’s…fine.”  When what I really wanted to say was, “No!  It’s not fine!  It’s a good guess, but it’s not a noun!  Not in this sentence!  The people who made this worksheet were not paying attention to what they were doing!  They are teaching you lies–LIES!”  But I didn’t.  I compromised my intellectual integrity for the sake of getting my child in bed before nine o’clock.  (It still didn’t happen, but even getting him to bed at 9:30, it was totally worth it.)

There.  Now that I have that off my chest, I feel much better.  Bonne nuit, mes amis.  I will see you in the morning.

None of my schools ever had Pajama Day when I was growing up.  And I thank God for that because I think Pajama Day is stupid.  Staying in your pajamas all day when you’re at home on a day off is fine.  I guess.  It’s not really my thing, but I don’t really have an opinion on it either.  Going out in public in your pajamas is different.  Spending all day in your pajamas while you go about your business just seems…I dunno…vaguely indecent.  What are we doing, celebrating laziness?  Thumbing our noses at what few standards of decorum are left in our society?  Pretending that we’re relaxing while we’re actually not relaxing?  Will that make not-relaxing more relaxing?  Are we pretending that we’re all such bosom friends that we can hang out together in our PJ’s unashamed, like school is just one big slumber party?  I don’t understand.

I think I especially don’t understand why a pre-school has to have a Pajama Day.  Isn’t pre-school low-stress enough?  Do the kids really need a break from that regimented, competitive environment?  Don’t they already get enough of a break the other 21 1/2 hours a day they’re not in school, plus weekends?  I don’t know about anyone else, but I worked hard to get my daughter in the mindset that she has to change into real clothes and brush her hair for school because school is different from home, e.g. we don’t wear our pajamas there.  Except now we do!  Whatever!

No, I don’t really think one Pajama Day is going to undo all sense of propriety that I have managed to instill in my five-year-old, and I realize it’s all just for fun.  “Fun.”  Bah!  I’ve told you how I feel about “fun.”

And no, I’m not really angry or anything.  I just think Pajama Day is stupid.  Stoo-pid.  But I’ve never particularly understood the lure of staying in one’s pajamas all day in any event.  Unless you’re sick or just had a baby.  See, there it is.  Staying in my pajamas all day is not an activity I associate with fun or relaxation.  I like to be lazy.  I like to be useless.  I just don’t like to feel lazy and useless.  If I’m going to play pretend, I like to pretend that I’m being productive and useful, and part of that pretending is putting on real clothes and acting like I’m going to engage life today, even if I’m not.  If I had to pretend I was relaxing while I was actually engaging life, I think I’d go crazy.  So here I am, wanting to foist my values onto other people–sucking all the joy out of my children’s lives just to validate my own old-fashioned sensibilities.

Yeah, I’ll send her to school in her pajamas.  But I won’t like it.  I won’t like it one bit!

I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to see if I’m still alive.  I’d almost forgotten that I intimated that I might be dead by this time.  Well, I’m not.  I’m alive.  I successfully arranged a play date for my son and also for my daughter.  So I have two kids-unrelated-to-me over here.  I did it so my son wouldn’t bother his sister and her friend, so hopefully it works.

As it turns out, laser tag does lend itself rather well to peripheral engagement.  I found a place to hide and waited for people to show themselves and shot them when I could.  In the end I ranked 38 out of 40 players, but my firing accuracy was 21%, which was better than I suspected.  I got shot much less when hiding than when not hiding.  So it really was like gym class.  My husband had a great time, and that’s what matters.  Still not my cuppa, but as my husband pointed out, we so rarely get invited to things, we really ought to take advantage of what few social opportunities come our way.

“You know why that is?” I said.  “Because people don’t like me.”

“Actually,” he said, “I think it’s because they don’t know what to do with our children.”

I think he’s right about that.  I think the fact that two of our children have disabilities and don’t socialize well with other children has put a distance between us and others in our demographic.  Of course, we’re not the only people in our age range/stage of life who have children with autism.  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody’s kid who has autism, but oddly enough, having this thing in common is not enough to base a friendship on.  At one point I was seeking out support groups for parents of Aspies (before I knew that Elvis was also autistic, when Princess Zurg was my main worry), and I found that they just weren’t my scene.  All the conversations revolved around how much trouble our kids were giving us, or what kind of trouble the schools were giving us, and frankly, it was all pretty depressing.

Now, you know me.  You know I like to complain about stuff as much as the next person, maybe more.  But I’ve come to the sad conclusion that my misery doesn’t like that much company.  I don’t really want to relate to people primarily in terms of how much trouble I’m having with my kid.  We can all commiserate about that to some extent, but I don’t define myself primarily as a parent of someone with autism, and being in those support-group situations makes me feel sort of, I dunno, boxed in.  Like I don’t really belong.  I don’t imagine that other parents of autistic people define themselves primarily in that way and that I’m some special snowflake, but maybe I, more than these other people, have some personal problems that prevent me from feeling like one of the group.  Maybe I’m in denial.  Probably there’s no maybe about it.  I’m sure I’m in denial.  I know that my children have autism and that sometimes it sucks, but I don’t like to be confronted with it.  I don’t like to face the fact head on.  I prefer to think of it as an interesting facet of my life, rather than the mostly-consuming thing that it really is.

A couple months ago a friend from church was over and asked Elvis how old he was.  I thought, “He’s not going to answer that question,” because I’d never heard him answer it.  I knew that he knew how old he was–at least I was pretty sure he did–but that didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to process this person’s question and come up with the right response, or, for that matter, be interested enough in the person’s question to bother trying to come up with a response.  So when he said, “Seven,” I was pleasantly surprised, and simultaneously started crying.  Possibly because I realized he’d hit a milestone, but also because I was confronted, unexpectedly, with how low I’ve set the bar for pleasant surprises.  That unexpected confrontation is not a pleasant surprise.

So, yes, I’m in denial.  I’m in denial about a lot of things.  Maybe that’s my defining trait.  I’ve spent the last little bit of my life coming to terms with the fact that I really am an upper-middle class person, heavy on the upper.   I’m not rich, at least as the government defines it.  Our household doesn’t make more than $250,000.  (It doesn’t even make $250,000.)  But I have housekeepers and a part-time nanny, and my husband and I go out to eat at expensive restaurants.  When I was 24, I went to New York City with a friend, who was there on business.  My friend’s boss told her to go out for a nice dinner with her friends (me and another gal, who we were staying with) and expense it.  So we went to the Rainbow Room, which was the swankiest place I had ever been in my life and probably remains so.  (Fancy restaurants and operas and crap on the West Coast are just not the same as fancy places on the East Coast.  West Coast is much less formal.)  It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience for me.  I didn’t care for the food, but more than that, I felt ill-dressed and magnificently out of place.  I felt like the wait staff was looking down on me.  You might be able to convince me intellectually that it was my imagination, but emotionally, forget it.  I knew I was not good enough to be there.

I still don’t feel good enough for places like that.  I don’t feel good enough to have housekeepers, either.  I’ve had housekeepers for three years, and I still feel like it’s beneath them to clean my house.  I’m embarrassed to have them over, and I’m embarrassed to tell people that I have housekeepers because the response is always, “Wow.  Must be nice.”  Well, yeah, it is.  I hate mopping my own floor.  But it’s also weird, being this person who has other people mop her floors for her.  It’s weird to have angst over whether or not or how much to tip the help.  Ha ha, “the help.”  It’s weird to think, “They didn’t do a very good job vacuuming this time,” because then I think, That is not who I am, the lady who complains about The Help.  The Help is probably complaining about me.  (“Her floors are sure filthy.”)  I’m not fit to complain about The Help.  I’m just a simple girl trying to get by.  Or am I?

That last part was rhetorical flourish.  I didn’t really mean it.

When my husband was still in grad school and we had run out of money (again), we housesat/dogsat for these people who way out-classed us.  (We weren’t doing the housesitting/dogsitting for money.  We were doing it for cheap rent while my husband was interning at the Big Satan for money.)  I felt weird and unworthy living in their house and using their towels.  It was a nice house; they had nice stuff.  They used to get these catalogs in the mail for home and garden accessories, and this one catalog sold fancy mailboxes.  The ad copy said, “Have a mailbox that matches the caliber of your home.”  And we just thought that was the height of pretentiousness.  It’s been a joke ever since.  Every time we buy something, one of us turns to the other and says, “But does it match the caliber of our home?”  We are overfed white people who mock overfed white people.  We know we’re them, but we also think we’re really not.

These things are related, but I don’t get paid enough to write something coherent about the relationship.  I’m just a housewife with a free blog.  Or am I?

(No.  I really am.)

Tonight Sugar Daddy and I are supposed to go play laser tag with some friends.  I’m not particularly looking forward to it.  In point of fact, I’m sort of dreading it.  I’ve never played laser tag and have never had any interest in laser tag, but when SD asked if I wanted to go play laser tag with these other people, I knew I couldn’t say “no” without making him sad.  As I confessed yesterday, I dislike saying “no” to anyone but my children and possibly the government.  (I’m a Republican, you know, Party of No and all that, or so I hear.)  This is why I’m opposed to my husband asking me to do things I don’t want to do.

Before you go telling me how fun laser tag is, let me assure you that I’ve already heard what great fun it is.  I assume from the outset that it is fun because people do go and do it “for fun,” as opposed to doing it “for the money” or “for the prestige.”  So no one has to tell me that it’s fun.  That is just a given.  What you need to understand, if you are new to this blog, is that I am not fun.  Fun and I have compatibility issues.  Things that other people find fun I tend to find a) stressful, b) boring, and/or c) depressing.  I am especially un-fond of activities that require speed, agility, coordination, strategy, and teamwork, because they remind me of gym class.

I didn’t like gym class, in case you are slow and needed to be told that explicitly.  I specifically didn’t like the “fun” aspect, i.e. the playing of games–because I do not enjoy things that are exciting and/or things that can be won or lost.  I am already a consistent loser in the macro realm; I don’t need this identity confirmed ad infinitum in the micro realm.  I especially don’t like to be the person who is responsible for an entire team losing.  Do you remember when I said I don’t like telling people “no”?  Well, being on a team, for me, is like having to tell a bunch of people “no” all at once.  The team wants to win.  I, as the least competent individual on the team, always have to say, “No.”  As in, “No, you may not win if your strategy involves relying upon my efforts in any way whatsoever.  Sorry.  Good luck, though.”  (No one appreciates that last part, by the way.  All they hear is the “no.”)

Unfortunately, I can’t use the same strategy at laser tag that I used through three years of high school gym, i.e. stand on the periphery, avoid the teacher’s gaze and keep my face out of the way of stray balls until the 55 minutes are up.  I just have this feeling that a) laser tag doesn’t lend itself to peripheral engagement, and b) my husband is more vigilant than any of my former gym teachers.  So I’m just going to have to psych myself up and go with the flow, I guess, whatever that means.

Would you like to know something else, totally unrelated, that I don’t enjoy?  Arranging play dates for my children.  I only mention that because I’ve been putting off phoning the mother of one of my son’s friends, and now I have to go do it or die.  Or something.  So I guess I’ll go do that.  Although, if I were dead, I would not have to go play laser tag tonight.  Tune in tomorrow to see what I chose.

(P.S.  If you don’t see me here tomorrow, don’t assume I am dead.  I’m probably just too lazy to post.)

First of all, I trust all you gentle readers had a good Christmas, or, if you do not celebrate Christmas, that you had a good December 25 anyway.  Maybe it wasn’t so good if you wanted to go out to dinner or buy something at the grocery store and had to make do with whatever was available at the Rite Aid or the 7-Eleven, but hopefully that was not the case.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, the niceties.  Yes, I hope your Christmas was as enjoyable as mine was.  Heck, I hope it was even more enjoyable, because it costs me nothing to wish you better fortune than I myself receive, though I myself received plenty.  Of good fortune.  So I can afford not to be bitter over how much better your life is than mine because I have nothing to complain about in the first place.* *Except what I might complain about over the course of this blog post, but even those complaints are relatively trivial and not to be taken seriously.

Now that manners and boilerplate are out of the way, let me tell you what’s rendering me perturbed at the moment.

1.  I’m beginning to think that it would be worth the $15,000-30,000 to have our windows replaced just to get the window salesmen to stop coming around here.  I’m not a fan of the door-to-door sales thing.  I’m especially not a fan of the door-to-door sales thing that poses as a non-sales thing.  “First of all, I’m not here to sell you anything.”  Well, if you’re not here to sell me something, why are you bothering me?  What’s in it for you?  Can’t we just be adults about this?  But that’s neither here nor there.  The main reason I don’t like the door-to-door sales thing is not because it’s irritating but because I hate saying “no.”  Not to kids.  No, I love saying “no” to my kids.  But to perfect strangers who never did me any harm and are only trying to make a living?  Gosh, that just breaks my freaking heart.  But I resent the heartbreak, gentle readers.  I resent feeling obligated to buy stuff I don’t need, and I resent feeling guilty about not buying it, so there’s no way I can win in this scenario.  I resent innocent people coming to my door and forcing me into a no-win situation.  And during the Christmas season, too.  Bastards.

And that is why I don’t like door-to-door sales.

It’s an embarrassing position to be in, incidentally–a Mormon who opposes door-to-door sales.  Don’t think I don’t grasp the irony.  But personally, I would much rather see Jehovah’s Witnesses on my porch than window salespersons.  I don’t feel guilty telling the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I’m not interested.  It’s not like their livelihood depends on me becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.  They’re not going to walk away sad about anything except that I’m going to hell.  I can handle that.  Not that I’ve ever had to tell a Jehovah’s Witness I wasn’t interested.  I’ve never had a Jehovah’s Witness be that direct with me.  Maybe it’s the region of the country I live in.  Maybe they’re just grateful when you don’t yell at them.  All I’m saying is I get the sense they’re not really in it to win it.  One of the important differences between Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses, incidentally.

The question is whether window salespersons are more like Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Mormons tend to travel by bike, whereas the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the window salespersons tend to travel by foot.  Mormons and window salespersons have little name tags.  Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have name tags.  Mormons travel in single-sex pairs.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and window salespersons can travel in mixed-gender groups.  But the most important things that they all have in common are that they show up on your doorstep unwanted and none of them are real Christians.* *According to the pamphlets I’ve read.

2.  It’s time for my annual angst over a holiday bonus/tip for the housekeepers.  I will have to tell it in novel form.

I hired a cleaning service in 2007.  When they started, it was always the same team that came.  If it wasn’t the exact same set of ladies each time, at least one of them was consistently there each visit.  They did a great job.  In September of that year the house caught on fire and since we weren’t living in the house anymore, we stopped the cleaning service.  We opted not to use it at our rental and just clean it our damn selves, since we were hemorrhaging cash at the time.

We did hire the same service to do a move-out clean of said rental in December–specifically December 31.  I’m pretty sure I blogged an angry blog about that experience at the time.  How may I put it succinctly?  We hired them to clean the rental.  Someone put in the wrong code and the housekeeping team (a different one, not the old one) showed up at our real house, which we were in the process of moving back into and which was therefore filled with boxes and all manner of other crap.  Finding the house in this condition, the housekeepers did not clean it (though they were nice enough to leave a note about getting the house ready for cleaning and re-scheduling for another time).  I will leave out the part where I was livid whilst spending several hours trying to get hold of a supervisor who would take my call and believe that they had sent the team to the wrong house.  At 4:30 p.m. I (miraculously, still don’t know how it happened, in retrospect) got a supervisor to understand that an error had been made.  Not that she admitted it was an error.  I’m leaving out the part where she was a bitch, pardon my francais. Anyway, she sent a team over to clean the (correct) house, which they did, albeit not very carefully, for which I can’t completely blame them, for they were being asked unexpectedly to do a move-out clean at the last minute on a major holiday eve.  Whatever.  None of what made me really angry was the fault of the housekeepers themselves, but that’s just the background you need for the following.

When we resumed the housekeeping service in January 2008, a new team started coming to the house.  They weren’t quite as good as the old housekeepers, and frankly, they were a bit surly–which was fine, actually, because it’s not like I’m a big box of giggles myself.  At any rate, they lasted three or four visits, and then a different team started coming, and that is pretty much how it’s been ever since.  I have never had the same people cleaning my house for more than a couple visits in a row.  Often it’s a different team from visit to visit; generally, they do a fine job, but some are better than others.  In any case, they’re all doing a job I don’t like to do myself, so I can’t bring myself to complain.

This is all very nouveau riche and gauche of me, but I’ve had conflicting advice about whether or not I should be tipping/bonusing the housekeepers at the holidays.  As of now, I have had the same team cleaning my house for the last five or six cleans.  That is a record for the post-fire era.  They do a very good job.  I would like to give them a holiday thank-you.  However, historically, there has been no guarantee that I will have the same housekeepers from one visit to the next, especially not around the holidays, so if I leave something extra for the cleaning crew, it may very well go to some strangers I’ve never seen before who may or may not do a great job.  Some people say if you have a service that doesn’t send the same people every time, such niceties as holiday bonuses and tips are unnecessary.  Other people (I suspect former housekeepers) say that you should especially tip people who work for a service and you should do it every time, not just at Christmas.

Well, half the time I don’t even see my housekeepers, so I don’t know if they’re going to be the usual people until after they’ve been here and leave the receipt that says, “Your house was professionally cleaned by Team #Whatever aka Lexi and America (or Whoever),” and I certainly don’t know in advance if the new team is going to do as good a job as the last team did.  However, I suppose that if I’m going to get all philosophical about it, everyone could use a bonus at the end of the year and why should I be so concerned about whether it’s Team #Last5or6Times or Team #WhoKnows?  Hence, the angst.

3.  There’s a lot of fudge lying around here that lends itself very well to being eaten by yours truly.  I felt so guilty about the amount of fudge I ate yesterday that I went out to the (freezing cold) garage last night and rode the exercise bike and worked off nearly three-quarters of a piece worth of fudge.  Whee.  That’s serious.  Fudge has a lot of calories.  I would probably have to ride the exercise bike continuously between now and next February to come out ahead, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is that there’s a lot of fudge-eating going on by one particular human being in the house, and it bodes ill for the coming year.  That’s all.

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