Friday, December 31, 2010

Later, 2010

Ringing in the New Year with my sister's cats, Kronk and Huds
The kids are with their dad, and I’m with my sister.  It’s a good temporary visitation schedule.  If I could just stop missing my kids, it would be perfect.

We made the trade in Boise on Sunday afternoon—Boise is the approximate halfway point.  And because my sister Denise lives here, it gives me the perfect opportunity to take a mini-vacation in a single girl’s apartment.  Did you know a single girl’s apartment is vastly different from a single mom’s rental?  Well, there are no expensive exfoliates in my bathroom, designer ornaments on my Christmas tree and organic protein drinks in my refrigerator.  There are also no Legos lodged in her carpet, popcorn kernels stuck in her couch cushions and globs of toothpaste solidified onto her bathroom countertop.  It’s like I’m on a different planet, people.  And I like it!

Well, I liked it for about 2.5 days, and then I started missing those three rowdy kids of mine.  The long quiet hours uninterrupted by fighting, spitballs, unfinished homework, basketball practice, and wedgie free-for-alls have become much longer and quieter with each passing day, and not in a good way.  I wonder how I can be crazy frustrated with their wild kid antics one day and then ravenous for them 2.5 days later.  Parenting has knocked something loose in my noggin.  Or maybe that’s a prerequisite of parenthood, that you have the capacity to function with multiple screws loose.   (Sadly, childbirth has caused the loosening of many things in my life, noggin and otherwise.)

So here I am on New Year’s Eve with my laptop and a couple of cats, resolving to take joy in the hectic, the chaotic, the outnumbered nature of motherhood while it’s swirling around me.  And once I tackle that, I will begin work at the New York Stock Exchange. Or an amusement park.  Or maybe the psych ward.  Until then…

God Speed, 2010.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa, Espionage and Rice Crispy Trees

The Rice Crispy Tree by Spy Santa
This year, for the 12 days before Christmas, we’re playing Secret Santa to a family we sorta know.  This was a tradition that started before my divorce and has lapsed a bit since.  And now that we’re settled, we decided it was time to pick another family and prepare for our first drop.

Since it’s been awhile since we’ve done this gig, I prefaced our Secret-Santa run with a message about the true meaning of Christmas and the nature of anonymous giving.  I may have also mentioned that this was a clandestine operation and that we needed to maintain secrecy.  In retrospect I realize that my kids somehow thought I was giving a timely lecture on spy training. 

I should have known what we were up against when my boys donned ninja-wear before we left.  Zack put on black thermal underwear, the top too short to completely cover his belly, and Kaleb had changed into a dark tracksuit and pulled a black knit beanie over his head. 

We reached our target location, and before I could say ‘covert operation’ my children had bailed from the vehicle and were hiding behind the corner of the nearest apartment complex; I wasn’t even sure where these people lived.  As I walked aimlessly through the parking lot, carrying a mound of rice crispy treats designed to resemble a Christmas tree, my children went about being sneaky behind me.  At one point, Kaleb executed a spy somersault before lodging himself behind a stocky bush. 

What was truly amazing was how much louder they were as spies than as normal children. Leah had a fit of giggles that no amount of intimidation could discourage and Zack seemed to have somehow confused espionage with karate that included shrill cries and grunts.  People began looking out their windows, and I suddenly realized we were just one ski mask away from a visit to the pokey. 

Finally, we found building C, apartment 101.  Our droopy rice crispy tree now leaned precariously, but we placed it on the doorstep anyway and prepared to make our getaway.  That’s when someone visiting the apartment just above stepped out and began coming down the stairway.  My kids, untrained in the fine art of keeping their cool, scattered, one of them yelling, ‘Merry Christmas’ to no one in particular. 

And because I hadn’t prepared them for becoming separated during a mission, it took awhile to locate everyone and get them loaded back into the car.  That’s when we realized we hadn’t even rung the doorbell.  In a somewhat anticlimactic move, I drove up to building C, and Kaleb, now missing his black knit beanie, got out, knocked on their door and ran back to the car. 

With 11 days left until our Secret Santa mission is complete, I’m hoping that we’re not ‘made’ before Christmas.  I’m going to have to search my closet for my own ninja wear, because even if we are, I’ve decided that Spy Santa is much more fun than Secret Santa.

In other news, that same night we got our own Secret Santa gift.  Here's what we were lucky enough to get:

These Santas are authentic--this is the first day of Christmas, minus the partridge (I already ate one of the pears).  Much better than a sugar-coma inducing rice crispy tree.  That's okay.  We still have 11 days to prove ourselves.

We'll keep you posted on our merriment of espionage proportions.  Until then, enjoy the 10th day before Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Santa is back on speed dial.  In fact, just yesterday, during a conversation with one of his elves, my youngest was placed on probation.  I’m to fax, email, or text verification of his niceness within the next 5 days before the Big Guy will validate Zack’s Christmas list.  I couldn’t be happier that Santa has joined the technology revolution.

For the past four year, I’ve become a big fan of technology myself.  But never more than during the holidays when the snow is high, the roads are slick, and the retail lines are longer than church on Christmas.  These days, I get my shop on online.  I’ve become giddy for electronic shopping carts, secure servers, and eBay’s outbid notification service.  (The fact that Al Gore allegedly invented the Internet is enough to place him on my Christmas card list.)  

This year I’ve done all my major Christmas shopping online, and it began with Virtual Black Friday—a blessed event that only required me to stay awake until midnight in my jammies in order to secure those deals.  Packages arrive at my door like magic and remain unhampered and snoop-free until they’re wrapped and placed under the tree.  It’s like I’ve discovered the Holy Grail of Retail.  Does anyone else get this excited to click the “checkout” button? 
Even Twitter, which I’ve never really understood, has helped hundreds of consumers tweet their way from real-time bargains to parking spaces.  That and you can find out what brand of toilet paper Ashton Kutcher uses.

I’m sending all my Christmas cards via Facebook this year.  That’s right.  What’s the use of having 350 friends if you can’t send them electronic holiday greetings?  Don’t ask me how I befriended so many people (I’m still awaiting friend confirmation from Keanu Reeves).  My regular Christmas card list was never that long.

This will be our first Christmas in our new digs.  When Spunk (the one on probation) asked if Santa will know where to find him, I was happy to announce that his sleigh comes fully equipped with both GPS and a child-specific locator application (and, I’m guessing, complimentary On Star service, because, well, he’s Santa!).

But regardless of all the technological advances, Christmas is still the same.  My To-Do List is a mile long, and I’m still running about a week late.  My kids are begging me to put up Christmas lights outside, and I’m still afraid of the ladder.  And Spunk, of course, is still on Naughty Watch.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Man-up, Mama

This is actually the car his dad helped him make
I'm happy to announce that I'm so busy with freelance work this week (let's pause for a moment while I do the happy dance), that I'm pulling from the Post Register archives for this post.  This was actually written while in the throes of preparing to move and sell my house over six months ago.  Sheesh, I'm so glad THAT is over (well, mostly over). 

As much as I fail at being a girl, I’m even worse at being a guy and completely clueless about being a boy scout.  Let me explain.

I am a single mother outnumbered by the children in my home.  There is no man of the house, which means there’s no Honey-Do list.  Which means that when the wax ring on my toilet needs replacing, I Google for instructions.  And while I’m all about I-am-woman-hear-me-roar, when I get to the step that says, “Lift and remove the toilet,” I’m stumped.  The sexes are equal in theory but at that point my biceps are unequal in reality.  

And let’s just be honest, my man-skills are also lacking.  Or should I say my handy-person skills?  I’d like be to all empowered and tell you that I can wield a Craftsman Impact Driver with the best of them, but I can’t.  In fact, I had to Google to even find the name of that power tool.

The good news is that I’ve survived nearly three manless years.  Yes, I need light fixtures replaced, floors refinished, a new doohickey for one of the switches in my electric fuse box and a kitchen sink installed.  (By the way, I Googled “doohickey” and discovered that many of you are wondering, “Do hickeys cause cancer?”  Considering my current status, I’m happy to say that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.)

So my house is slightly dilapidated.  Which wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t planning to put my house on the market.  And it definitely wouldn’t be a problem if I could woo a man to help me out.  But those of you that have been reading this column for more than, say, one month know that I woo about as well as I wield a power tool.  That and my hair is permanently embedded in a plastic clippie.  Not much of a man draw.

All that aside, I have a boy scout that needs her mommy to man-up.  The last two weeks we’ve focused all our attention on what needs to be completed in order for him to earn his wolf badge only to discover that we also need to prepare a car for the Pinewood Derby.  Remember that Craftsman Impact Driver I don’t know how to use?  Hence my dilemma.

Luckily the nice fellows at Rocknak’s Hardware Plus have promised to walk us through the whole Pinewood Derby experience, demonstrating how to use all their power tools, bespeckled with some attractive safety goggles, no doubt.  These guys are a single mother’s dream.  I just might have to surrender my hair clippie for the occasion.

And since I’m issuing shout-outs, I have to publically thank the attendant at Ace Hardware for taking me and my son on a tour of the tool isle in order to pass off requirement 5a of the Wolf Trail.  Turns out there are a number of fine men out there that need no wooing to turn a good deed.

Hhm.   Maybe I should see if there’s a wax ring replacement buried somewhere in the scouting requirements.  Or a Honey-Do list trail.

Monday, December 06, 2010

My Name is Shauna and I Have Panicklitis

I have been plagued with a horrible condition; I call it Panicklitis (think Panic + Pickle + itis).  Yes, I made that name up.  Please don’t confuse my imaginary illness with Panniculitis which is an inflammatory something or other for which you can be prescribed medication.  Or Panic Attacks which are episodes of intense fear that include physical symptoms and also warrant medication.

My ailment cannot be medicated, at least not least not legally in 47 of 50 states.  And my symptoms include freaking out unnecessarily about anything, and then, upon further reflection, freaking out some more.  That’s it.  It looks like this: Panic first, ask questions later.  Much later, like after I’ve called the ER, the Center for Disease Control and/or the Department of Homeland Security. 

I blame it on my creativity.  Because only in your right brain could you decide that the two small bumps on the base of your spine are really the early stages of shingles which is symptomatic of leukemia—and oh my hell, of course I have leukemia.  Better call the ER.

The left brain would have looked at that rational and said, “Security!” 

Only I could be kicked out of my own brain.

You can blame people with Panicklitis for all the unnecessary alarm over the Y2K bug, H1N1, and the end of the world as we know it, 2012.  Also the Tickle Me Elmo shortage of 1996, because that was scary too.

I’m the person who would’ve been the first to yell, “We’re going to die!” on the Titanic.  In fact, I was a little tempted to say it out loud while watching the movie in the theater. 

I also love to participate in worst-case scenario conversations where each party is to contribute a more horrific alternative than the last.  Here’s how that works:

Person 1: I heard this Swine Flu could kill millions of people.
Person 2: We may need to quarantine ourselves for over six months.
Person 3: And can you imagine those sick people running wild in the streets like in that cancer/vampire movie Will Smith was in?
Person 4: Civilization as we know it would be over.
Person 5: I better hurry and buy one of those Tickle Me Elmo dolls before the world ends!

My ailment wouldn’t be quite as disturbing if I hadn’t passed it on to my oldest child.  Periodically he will ask, “Does my sore throat mean something bad?”  For some reason, my panicklitis doesn’t extend to him.  “Son,” I reply.  “It’s just a little virus.  It’ll go away in a few days.”

But if it were my sore throat?  That, coupled with the gastrointestinal pain I’m kinda feeling, could mean that this is the Bubonic Plague—and oh my hell, of course I would be the one to initiate the worst epidemic since the Dark Ages.  Better call the Center for Disease Control.
Just be grateful it’s not contagious (Panicklitis, not the Bubonic Plague.  Because you just might have that, and if you do, civilization as we know it would be over).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Deck the Halls

This week has been emotionally eventful.  It began with a powerful urge to decorate my home for the holidays, as if the Christmas spirit herself had possessed my body and made me snort glitter—all was aglow with seasonal bliss.   

We got crafty and made messes.

Hung snowflakes from the ceiling.
And then somewhere between hanging snowflakes and putting out the nativity, Spunk hijacked the camera and took some festive pictures of his own.  Like this (Spunk, thinking to myself, the camera, the camera, I’ve got the camera).  Blurry and creepy all at the same time.
Look at the nostrils on that kid!
And this, which is unnerving because somehow those appendages look more leg-ish than arm-ish to me.
And this, which is an actual picture of his legs.
And this, a block fortress constructed, apparently, to house his SpiderBear.
And this, which is, oddly enough, his spoils from Christmases past.

Okay, so back to decorating. We got out the nativity.
And placed the stocking hangers on the mantle.
The kids even posed for a picture in front of the fireplace.
I thought, So this is what it feels like to get excited about Christmas again.  The world was instantaneously filled with ambient light and a Gaussian blur applied.  In that moment, the Hareld Angels just may have been singing.
For years I haven’t mustered much enthusiasm for the holidays.  The year after the divorce my ex and I shared an awkward Christmas with the kids at his place, and the year after that, last year, the kids spend the day with their dad.  This is the third Christmas following the big D, and if what some counselors claim is correct—that it takes one year to recover for every three you were married—I’m right on track.  Can I get a hallelujah shout?  Or even a little hollah?

Merry Christmas to me!  And you too, of course.  

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sick Day and a Column about Texting

Instead of spreading Christmas cheer, today I'm spreading some type of grinchy virus.  In hopes of appeasing the nasty thing, I'm going to take it easy today, drinking peppermint tea while snacking on chewable Vitamin C.  Hopefully, I'll be in more of a posty mood later this week.  Until then, here's an old Post Register column:

My new cellphone
I’m on a new phone plan, and it includes texting. BION B4 I wz a txtN vrgn.

The cell that came with the new phone plan has a fold-out keypad.  A writer using a cell with a fold-out keypad on a plan with unlimited free texting is a nuisance to society, or at least her family and friends, Ncase u wr 1dering.

I can’t believe that I didn’t appreciate the value of texting before.  It keeps me connected with all my contacts while minimizing the time I have to spend actually talking to people.  And I’m getting smarter.  Or is that more smart?  Mor smrt?  Either way it’s NhancN my lyf.
I’m sure that everyone who knows me is grateful for the manner in which I reach out daily, sometimes hourly, to touch their lives with my abbreviated words of wit and wisdom.   Here are just some of the things I’ve been able to share:

To my ex: Plz hv kdz 911 b4 bed.
To my mom: Dd u let d c@ ot?  (as opposed to “hu let d K9s ot?” which you could probably find and send as an annoying ringtone, of which I now have many).
To my BFF: Im hngry.  Dd U e@ NEthng gud 2day?
To my kids: lov yr guts

My skilz r unbleevabl.  I can’t help but wonder, will I be the first person awarded a Pulitzer Prize in texting?   Aim high, that’s what I always say.

Okay, so here’s where I come clean.  I couldn’t exorcise the English major from me that easily.  The truth is, I don’t abbreviate very much and my texts are long and verbose, which I believe, makes them more annoying.  I use commas and apostrophes and even hyphenate when appropriate.  And then there’s the pictures.  I take pictures of my sister’s dog, her baby, my mother cooking, women wearing sweats that say Spank Me on the rear and then I send them with pithy captions.

I also have the tendency to text excessively (remember, these are long, verbose texts).  In fact, I’ve texted my BFF so much that her husband has actually said, “Is that Shauna texting, AGAIN?”  
I do have a fear of texting messages to the wrong people.  Like sending questions about Weight Watchers points to my real estate agent instead of my sister-in-law.  Or sending tirades about my ex to my ex instead of my BFF.  Texting is a complex exercise in human relations. That or it’s a total waste of time.  I haven’t decided which yet.  

Either way, it’s free on my phone plan so I will continue texting my friends and family to death.  TJTWIR.  (That’s just the way I roll, FYI.)