Thursday, August 27, 2009

Survival Mode

Stress. I find that I'm not really good at dealing with it. In fact, I'm flat out horrible at dealing with it - which is particularly sad given that I find myself to be still in a state of living and thus coming up drastically short of one of the most basic necessities for survival these days. When I say I'm bad at dealing with stress, I'd like it to be noted that it's the modern day stress that I'm bad at. I feel my natural responses to stress would've been perfectly acceptable and even necessary were I living a few hundred years ago and was regularly forced to outrun or fight off rabid dogs and angry mama bears. But now in a modern day setting, my natural responses to stress really serve no purpose aside from making me feel strangely weird even in my own skin.

My ability to feign strength and logical reasoning when confronted with an overwhelming situation is very short lived. More often I find what little reasoning or intelligence I might normally exhibit takes an unannounced sabbatical roughly ten minutes into finding myself amidst the said overwhelming situation. I'm kind of like a deer in headlights except worse, much worse. I don't just freeze, but rather I watch the slow motion process of the vehicle heading straight for me and foresee my quick demise and the demise of the vehicle at hand as well as any other random bystander or vehicle who might cross my line of vision, and I see my poor little Bambis at home all forlorn as man enters the forest. . . You get the picture. My husband references this habit of mine as 'predicting' and he hates it - largely because I'm frequently wrong in my predictions and succeed in not only spazzing myself out even more, but also any others who are gullible enough to buy into my vision of doom. Ya, add a little stress and I'm a full on the-glass-is-half-empty, Negative Nancy kind of girl.

I think part of my inability to deal with stress is the fact that so often I'm looking at the larger picture. Something bad happens, and I don't just see it for the burden of that day, I see it affecting my life and my family's lives for months and years to come. And then I think of all the events leading up to *the big one.* It's this whole time line thought that bothers me the most.

Take this whole horrid event of Jim losing his job as an example. The time line for this one starts two years ago, just a few weeks after Kyla was born. It was at this time that Jim realized he hated his lawn business. I had hated his lawn business for a long time and was all about him getting pretty much any other job on the planet (trust me, it was a LOT more work than one might imagine from the outside - a lot of bookkeeping, a lot of taxes and filings, a lot of crabby customers, and a royal ton of work all day into the evening/night and weekends). So when Jim made this announcement, I quickly posted a resume and began a job search for him. He had several valid offers for employment within just a couple weeks. In the end he selected this job here in Ocala because the work appealed to him more and appeared to be very stable. We moved here and were getting settled when a few months later Jim's Dad died randomly. After that we were forced to move again when the value of the house we were renting with the intent to purchase decreased drastically, and the owner offered no compromise on the price. (Have I ever mentioned that I despise moving? It's just a ton of work for a long time and it's very disorienting.) Nevertheless, we were getting settled. Jim's work was going well, and he was working a bit extra to earn a raise. So here we are all nice and settled and actually living our lives when this whole new fiasco strikes.

Can I just say, it irks me. I know that it was a good job while it lasted, and we actually were able to enjoy THREE whole vacations in less than one year (gasp!) - something which had never before happened. But honestly if I had known the rug was going to be pulled out from under this whole operation just as we were getting settled, I never would've even considered this job. My aim in life is stability. For as much as a human needs water to survive, my personal desire is just stability. I don't like drama, and I don't like change. I know everyone reading this is right about now thinking to themselves, "Well fat chance of finding stability. Life's hard, get used to it - and it changes a lot too by the way!". But the problem with this is that I look over my life and those that I've known, and I've watched as people have made one stupid mistake after another and have somehow come out from all of their stupidity OK and even kind of stable. My question is, why, for all the smart and strategic planning and hard work, could it not work out for us just this once. I'm not wanting something bad or evil. It's not like I'm a drug user or pusher. I'm not wanting to be rich or famous. All I want is stability for my family - nothing more. I want to set my mind to a task, accomplish it, and then have that be the end of it for a good while at least.

And yes, I know there is a huge standard quantity of change that happens to everyone all the time. I get that. Cars break and people have to find ways to pay for new vehicles or find alternative transportation - that's standard stress. Kids are sick for months on end and end up needing surgery to have adenoids out and tubes in - that's standard stress. The dogs get out and eat the neighbor's rooster and bunny and then proceed to begin herding their goats throughout the neighborhood - again, that's standard stress. All of it annoying and distressing - but on the level of standard. What I'm sick of is the upheaval - the continual upheaval. Right now Jim's out of work, but that's just one aspect to this whole mess. His company truck was taken away so he had to find alternative transportation. We banked through Lee's bank which now appears to be also complete with fraudulent activity too, so today I went and withdrew in cash form what money remained there to deposit at a new bank. We have no health insurance at all, and the way everything went down, no one can even get on cobra (we're hoping to at least get our kids on KidCare). Our homeowners insurance and auto insurance were with Lee's insurance company which also went down - so that needs to be changed. Our mortgage was held with TBW which also obviously changed (and the new company that's received all this work is so flooded that they can't be reached by phone at all. Ever.) We've filed for unemployment, but haven't received a dime (this is 3 weeks later people, and all their phone lines are conveniently always busy too).

Quite honestly, I don't want to deal with any more change. These are the type of stressors that should occur when you move and have to set all this stuff up, not when you lose a job in a small *city* (I use that term very loosely) which already had an unemployment rate over 12% prior to the other half of the town being laid off. And given all that's happened, it's not totally beyond the realm of possibility that we'll be having to move again and do all this stuff again. And did I mention my mother's doctors have found a 'mass' of dense tissue in her liver which they're looking into. . just as a side note. .

Ya, so I'm not the strong one. I'm not the pillar in this family. I can try to be upbeat and helpful in searching for jobs and claiming "Sure, it'll all work out." And I really hope it does, but basing my expectations on past experience, what exactly does that mean for it to all work out? Don't answer that. . . It means that life is hard and unpredictable. It means that you can work really hard and smart to achieve, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. For right now, I'm left finding myself occasionally just not breathing. That's right; I find that I sometimes subconsciously hold my breath. And when I am breathing, it's like I'm in a permanent state of having some sort of panic attack. My hands shake, and my stomach is often upset, and I don't always sleep well. Again, all of these stress responses would be perfect were I hunting my dinner hand to hand with the Lion King hundreds of years ago, but for now it's flat out ridiculous, and it leaves me exhausted and needing to go to bed. Ya, you could say I'm kind of incompetent at this stage of life.

What's worse is I can't seem to do anything about it. I can't make myself get a grip. I can go for a run or try to remember to breathe deeply, but invariably deep within the dark recesses of my thinking, my mind is not at all fooled and is still in the 'hunt or be hunted' mode. I think it's that ominous and vague abstract quality to this whole thing that further perpetuates my stress level. There's not really an end in sight, and I'm not sure what all else I'll have to change or fix or deal with before any kind of resolution is discovered.

So if I sound just a smidge keyed up or cynical, now you know why. It's not you, it's me. . . Really.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

Anyone who's ever done any measurable amount job hunting, particularly for any kind of government position, has faced a serious dilemma in the filling out the application. I'm not talking about the length of the application (which is in itself baffling), but rather the tediousness of the questions. One set of questions in particular that I've come across several times has caused me to wonder who wrote the application in the first place.

The said question begins something like this: "Describe all knowledge you have which will assist you with the position." So, in paragraph form I of course wrote out a detailed explanation of Jim's knowledge. Given that he doesn't have a doctorate or anything, most of his knowledge has come from experience and the school of hard knocks - the 'live and learn' kind of knowledge.

Feeling pretty successful in thoroughly describing all the knowledge he'd acquired over the years, I then went on to read the next question. "Describe any skills you have which will assist you in this position." I actually had to read the question several times thinking it was some kind of typo or something. And then I found the one. single. changed. word. Skills. Emmmmmm. I think I just pretty much answered that question. See above paragraph. Obviously though, that would not be the thing to put on a job application, so I commenced writing my next paragraph explaining Jim's skills. Pretty much it was the 'knowledge' paragraph repeated and reworded.

Again, feeling like I'd conquered the application, I moved on to the next question. "Describe any abilities you have which will assist you in this position." At this point, I'm not joking in stating that I seriously considered just turning the computer off on the spot - application incomplete and all. They had repeated the SAME question three different times in three different ways. Based on principle alone, I wasn't about to repeat the same paragraph again in a mildly different form, so I think I put down something to the effect of "I work hard, learn quick, and I like people." Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that simple, but I really felt like they were messing with me - OVER THE INTERNET. I can see someone thoughtlessly concocting this type of questioning at a live interview, but OVER THE INTERNET? REALLY?

The next day, still bothered by my first encounter with the knowledge/skills/abilities questionnaire, I stumbled across it again for another government job (this time though, I knew what was coming when the *knowledge* question came up. . .) That was it - the straw that broke the camel's back. I was forced me to look up the difference online. As it turns out, a LOT of people have looked up this very same question. Now to me this indicates that it's a stupid series of questions to begin with and someone should rephrase the questions. But there's also the aspect that someone in the psychology department probably decided this question would offer the employer insight into whether or not the potential employee would bother to research the question - and whether or not they really wanted the job.

I'm not expecting the creators of these applications to be moved by my critiquing to rework their applications, so instead, I'll just explain it to you. Knowledge: Emm. Well, I guess this is what you know or have learned. . . (OK, I really didn't look this one up; it was more the skills and abilities one that totally flabbergasted me). Skills: Stuff you've learned through practice that you didn't start out with (now doesn't that make more sense?). Abilities: Things (for lack of a better word as I'd hate to interchangeably use the word *skills* here) you're innately good at - from the beginning without any training or knowledge (this could be something like people skills/things).

In the process of deeply pondering these words, I was reminded of the movie Napoleon Dynamite wherein *skills* was quite the hot topic.
Pedro: Do you think people will vote for me?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! I'd vote for you.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache.

So of course, all this talk of skills has caused me to ponder what skills I have to offer. For one, I'm really good at the Eager Beaver Adventure Park game on my son's Webkinz site. In fact, I'm so good at it that I've actually BEATEN the game. Who beats the game, I ask you??? WHO? Me. Yes, I'm a word making fool. I'm also really good at performing Houdini-esque stunts in order to appease my children. My mother was both dumbfounded and horrified when she rode with me a couple days ago and observed that I was able to, while still focusing on the road and driving cautiously, reach my arm nearly 360 degrees around backwards while searching through the diaper bag for a peace pipe that I was hoping to extend to Kyla who was screaming in the background. And speaking of searching through the diaper bag, that's another skill I've got: being able to identify objects solely with my hands. Remember the party game where you're blindfolded and the host brings out a basket full of random items that you have to identify with your hands and then remember? Well, that's my game (not so much the remembering part though). In short, I feel like if I'm ever blind, in a lot of ways I could do alright.

While I've got a lot of great skills, I don't necessarily know that any of these would be the clincher for an employer looking to hire. Still, maybe there's a special job out there where people are looking for just these skills. Should you come across a job that I could shine in, let me know; I'd be happy to put my skills, abilities, and knowledge to good use in exchange for a paycheck.

Kid Quips

The commentary coming from my children's mouths lately has just begged to be documented. They each are at such different stages of development, yet they both manage some pretty unique and profound thoughts. These are the thoughts I like to ponder at night before I drift off to sleep; they're funny thoughts and calming thoughts, and they give so much insight into what their little minds mull over each day. So for your pondering pleasure, I present to you some of their current profound thoughts.

-A couple of days ago we were all in the car, and little Jimmy was in the back seat saying to Kyla, "Kyla, say female; say it. Kyla, say feeeemmmmaaaalllle." Then she would try to repeat it in her own special way, and Jimmy would cheer wildly as though he'd just conquered the universe. Curious about his knowledge on the said subject, I asked him if he knew what 'female' meant. Disgusted that I would question his intelligence in any way, Jim chidingly responded, "MOM! It's a type of bird!". Priceless.

-Given that Kyla is two, she has developed a fascination with all things poo or poo related. Today we were putting a little puzzle together in her room when our kitteh, Tagger, wandered over the puzzle board. (Bear in mind that Tagger is a clean cat and there's nothing wrong with her - at least not physically. . .). I petted her and crooned over her expecting Kyla to do the same, but Kyla could only respond to one thing: Tagger's tush. "Na-tee, Taga, na-tee poo-poo butt." And then she ran over to grab a wipe with the obvious intent of cleaning Tagger's tush while repeating the same thought over and over again. This on the tail of my having just changed a real na-tee bio-hazard-type diaper from Kyla. Irony.

-Little Jimmy had just gotten dressed for school this morning when he came into the bathroom where I was brushing Kyla's teeth. He was pulling on his shorts in the back and jumping around. In disgust and anger he declared: "Mom, I hate these shorts! They're making my underwear seep into my butt." Just his phrasing on that struck me as very vivid and perfectly descriptive. I was able to sagely inform him that that's something we refer to as a ' wedgie.' Imparting wisdom.

-While at Wal-Mart this morning, Kyla decided to ride in the part of the cart intended for the bulk of the groceries as opposed to sitting in the little seat up front. The cart was getting pretty full, and I'd just added some frozen chicken to the mix when I had to remind Kyla to sit down before we'd move again. Inadvertently, she sat down on the frozen chicken I'd just put in there. She scooted over and commenced apologizing to the chicken for sitting on it: "Sa-wee, chicken. Sa-wee, chicken." Over and over again - as though the chicken were somehow hurt by her sitting on it. Innocence.

Their little discoveries and announcements are perfect. They provide an endless source of amusement. While these two can drive me insane at times, I wouldn't trade raising them for the world. We just learn so much from one another.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sweet Summer

Another beautiful summer is coming to a close. We've vacationed and visited; we've shared time with family and friends, and we've had lots of play time, just us - our little family. We've scheduled lots of play dates and library trips and park visits; we've planned beach days and spring days and swimming pool days. And now we'll be settling back into more of a routine and less of the spontaneous-on-a-whim decision making.

Because I'm not one who likes people to gloss over things and make their special little lives appear more magical and perfect than anyone else's, I should point out this summer was not without it's fair share of struggle and heartache. There's been lots to overcome and lots to reckon with, but on a whole I don't think those experiences necessarily define the journey our family shared that was summer.

I guess I'm coming to realize this little grain of truth about life: it's never perfect (I know - I'm just a bit slow here at picking up what's being laid down.) We can never plan for or predict what's going to be thrown at us next, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the moments that make up our existence just the same - despite and around the hardships we find ourselves amidst.

Over the summer I've found that whenever I get to the point of taking myself too seriously and obsessing or dwelling on *issues* too long, it's a sure thing that either Jimmy or Kyla will be around soon enough to lighten the mood and remind me of the funny and happy experiences that still sprinkle each day - no matter the extenuating circumstances.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Job Hunt

It's been two and a half weeks since the Taylor, Bean and Whitaker lay offs, and in that time period we've been busy.
  • We've submitted approximately 20 resumes (many with ridiculously long accompanying applications comparable to what I'd expect when applying for a job with the CIA.)
  • We've called pretty much every large farm or estate in our area just to check for openings (and there are a LOT of these in the Ocala area).
  • We've become familiar with the varying levels of government which list their job openings independently on each of their websites (cities, counties and state), and we've found most government websites to be rather inept; we've also have suggested in some cases that IT persons be hired to polish up their websites a bit while also providing much needed employment for some skilled individual.
  • We've uploaded the resume to a large variety of online search engines for companies looking to hire.
  • We've also constructed a number of cover letters each advertising the vast grandeur of my spouse in general, and each also stating how much he would just LOVE to work for them and how their company is just the creme de la creme and how he'd be the perfect candidate for whatever opening it is they have.
Through this experience I've discovered that I'd make a pretty great marketing rep. or advertiser; I really feel like I could market just about anything to anyone. Despite my feelings of success and accomplishment, the desired end result of a job has not yet been achieved.

And though I feel like I'm really honing my 'advertising craft,' I just don't enjoy it. Quite frankly, I'm sick of it. Maybe if I were advertising some inanimate object or service, I'd still be relishing a love affair with a marketing career, but given that I'm advertising my husband - it's really lost it's thrill quickly. The first couple of days - even week - I tried to temper my excitement each time the phone rang or we got in a new email, optimistically expecting it to be someone calling for an interview. I'd say that was the 'waiting period.' At this point, having exerted this much effort, and having received only one credible offer (yesterday) for a job interview, I'd say I don't feel so much like I'm waiting anymore. Now I'm just existing. It's a strange thing to exist in this sort of permanent state of limbo that stretches on before us indefinitely. There's really no call backs, or responses or any sort - just silence. So in that time we try not to imagine what we'll be doing in two months if we're in the same situation; instead, we just kind of hang out expecting it will be different and hunting for more jobs and submitting more resumes and applications.

Fortunately, as I stated, we did receive our single callback yesterday to schedule a job interview in the beginning of September. That was encouraging - a shred of hope amidst the stillness that otherwise pervades. As the woman on the other end of the line explained some of the responsibilities of the job and the interview process, there was one rather odd clip-it that stood out to both of us. She suggested that if Jim had any "media clips" he should bring them. . . Of course I immediately pictured the local media coverage in our area over the last couple of weeks of newly laid off employees touting their disgust and horror for all things Taylor, Bean and Whitaker. "Ya, I think we're good. Nobody taped us at the employment workshop or anything" I told Jim still a bit confused. Jim responded "No, I think they're wanting some sort of media clip - like something that I've stated representing a company or something - an intentional planned statement on behalf of someone. . . " Oh. Well, that's a different story.

We both thought hard about it for a few seconds, searching through our memory banks for any brief moment of fame that we could have somehow dismissed. Jim recalled that he was pretty sure the top of his head was in the back (center) of a photo featured prominently in the local paper from the employment workshop. We also remembered his weatherman gig in our back yard from when Tropical Storm Fay hit last year (now that was some intense reporting). You can see it here if you missed it the first time around (scroll to about 5 min., 45 seconds to see where weatherman Jim takes over.)

Unfortunately, this is pretty much all we've got as far as media clips, so I guess he probably won't be bringing any to the interview. The woman on the other end of the phone said that it was no big deal if he didn't have any as lots of their candidates didn't. So I guess we'll just hope the rest of the interview goes as close to perfectly as is possible and that maybe a few of the other prospective candidates accept other work before the scheduled interview day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

TBW's Closing

So Wednesday last week was the last day of my husband's work. There was no announcement ahead of time or forewarning. It wasn't because he'd been a bad boy and gotten into some kind of trouble or something. No, this was because the whole company - or rather empire - closed. . in one day, in one fell swoop, it ended.

Well, I guess there was a little bit of forewarning when the FBI raided the Taylor, Bean and Whitaker global headquarters in Ocala on Monday. Yes, that surely raised some suspicions. But whatever concerns were raised, Lee Farkas was certain to allay all those fears by merely reminding his 1,000+ employees (that's just in Ocala too, and only at his main office - not his subsidiary companies) that there was plenty of work to be done, and we needn't be distracted by this little *raid* incident.

Following Lee's lead, it appears that the employees quickly revived their work efforts and went back to business as usual the next day, Tuesday (with the FBI circulating around and amongst them still - taking files and computers, etc.). Unfortunately, things took a few more sudden turns for the worse. Ginnie Mae decided to quit working with them, and the federal government decided to quite backing them. On Wednesday, the infamous email entitled "The saddest day of my life" was sent out around 1:00. Here's what it said:

Today will be the last day of operations for TB&W. I have done everything possible to try to save it, but I couldn’t. Since 1991, we have provided excellence in mortgage banking. We did our best for a very long time.

I apologize to everyone.

Everyone except those specifically designated as “essential employees” will be terminated today. Payrolls through today are currently being processed. Additional information with respect to employee benefits will be sent as soon as possible.


So today is Monday of the following week. I have been busting my butt since last Wednesday with updating a two year old resume and perfecting the dang margins (Why are the margins on resumes always an issue?? Why??? Is there no way for Word to make their program just a smidge more user friendly??). I have submitted said resume to numerous companies online. I have filled out various "applications" (which can be up to 15 - 20 pages on average) in addition to the resume. I'm exhausted. And as I've been informed by my spouse this evening, this may just be the beginning. Can I just say, I can't handle this. I recall my husband quoting the infamous Lee Farkas as having stated: "Some people can handle life, and some people just can't." Ya, so I guess, Lee, we're kind of on the same playing field; I'd venture to say neither of us can handle life today. Granted, my version of not handling life means filing for unemployment and scaling back on gas and what groceries I buy, and your version of not handling life means retiring a bit ahead of schedule. . . . Which I guess is fine - you've worked harder and longer than I have, so go for it. Either way, for today, we're feeling similarly inept and flat out crappy.

Personally, I'd like to just excuse myself from this little segment of life which I'd like to refer to as *hell.* Lee referenced this as the saddest day of his life, and I concur; it very well was the saddest day of his life. He worked hard and built himself up from a 'nobody' to a billionaire. I think I can speak for all of us in Ocala in stating that we truly appreciated his success and the impact it had on our life. We had good jobs with good pay and good benefits and good comradery. Really, it was good while it lasted; in fact, it was great while it lasted.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. I've gone over this a myriad of times in my head, and I still can come to no reasonable conclusion: 'Did Lee Farkas see this coming?'. I don't know. Maybe a week or two ahead of time he had an inkling. Maybe he knew his baby would eventually fail, but I really don't think that was ever his plan or intent. I think he intended to see it through until the day he died.

Obviously there were screw ups (in a big way) within the company. They didn't file their annual reports which obviously indicated (to me at least) that the books were soooo cooked that any nimrod with half a brain would suspect fowl play. The audit conducted last February was canceled midway through because there was so much evidence of fraud. Ya, I think Lee had an inkling, but I wonder if he hoped it would just slide under the radar a bit longer. Remember, for every day he stayed in business, he made money, and for everyday that he remained 'in business' but unable to conduct business as usual, he lost money; hence the sudden announcement of their closing on Wednesday - no pensions and no explained benefits.

I'm not sure at what point Lee knew about the fraud. His top two company officials have been banned from business with the federal government for the next 18 months. To me, that sounds like a lawyer set things up so Lee would never be the victim of the fraud within his own company. To me, that sounds like the upper officials within the company knew what was going on - and that doesn't exclude Lee. To me, that in itself sounds like fraud.

Regardless, the success that has been the last 18 years of Lee's life, and all who entered into business with him came to a close last week. For Ocala especially, it was a miserable day. For the USA and our economy on a whole it was a bad day. For Lee it was the saddest day of his life.

So Lee, maybe that was the saddest day of your life. For me, it's not the saddest day of my life, but it sure has been a miserable week. It sure has been stressful and difficult. It sure has been mentally and emotionally draining. Every night I go to sleep and I swear my eyes do not open for even an instant until the morning has far surpassed it's beginning. Every day feels like marathon - and I'm told this could go on for a while (I'm hoping to not be one who dies in the process of marathoning, but who actually somehow gets stronger). And every morning I wake up to see my husband sleeping peacefully next to me, when he shouldn't be - when he should be off at work taking care of business as usual.

I wish the very best to all impacted by this in any way.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fine Dining with Kids

I don't have any idea what came over us on Saturday night when we decided that dining out with our children would be a nice idea, but I can tell you now in hindsight that it was a temporary lapse of sanity. Maybe our disturbing thought pattern was encouraged by us aristocratically needing to be waited on and catered to after living the life of mere peasants for nearly a whole week since debarking from our cruise, or maybe it was that extra nudge we got from knowing we had a gift certificate to use that was just burning a hole in our pocket. Regardless, we were not right in the head when we thought up this idea.

Despite our decidedly naive stance going into the situation, we were both quick to admit our mistake. Upon arriving at 5:00, the opening hour, we had a brief wait wherein Jimmy quickly located the chocolate covered peppermint sticks at the hostess station and proceeded to immediately inhale his first one. Kyla, seeing Jimmy delving into this sweet decadence of course had to have one. I had just returned from having taken both Kyla and Jimmy to the bathroom to clean up (and this is prior to even being seated, let's remember) when I narrowly caught Jimmy red handed with a whole fistful of chocolate-peppermint sticks. I know this is my personal weakness as far as sweet things go, but I still felt it my duty to try and demonstrate and enforce a little self control for Jimmy (at least in public and before sitting down to a crazy huge feast). So there I was, my hand on his wrist just beside the hostess station with a small crowd seated around us observing the melodrama. I tried to get him to simply release the treats. "Jimmy, release it!" I commanded in a tone that probably very much sounded like I was talking to one of our dogs, but it was to no avail. He was locked in on it (kind of like the way Albert on Little House on the Prairie was when he was needing his opium fix). "Jimmy, you HAVE to put it back. You cannot have this before the meal." I had to repeat myself a couple of times before Jimmy came to and responded to me. And this was all before being seated.

Once seated, we were free to raid the salad bar. Jim sat with Kyla while I took Jimmy up and in an orderly fashion attempted to gather food for myself, Kyla and Jimmy (somehow I picture a painting called The Harvesters. . . yep, that was me, gathering for our clan). It was really quite the challenge though with little Jimmy. Though he's been through buffet lines before, somehow, maybe because the food was all different and presented in strangely appealing ways, he had a hard time not grabbing any old thing that caught his eye and then studying it in his hands only to then return it back to the salad bar for someone else to pick up. The monologue that ensued from me went something like this: 'No, Jimmy! Don't touch it with your hands! Wait! You can't just grab! No - once you take it, it's yours!'. Ya, I'm sure we contributed to the peaceful and elegant feel of the restaurant.

The restaurant was a Brazilian Steakhouse with a Churrascian grill (not that I would ever have any idea what any of that would mean except through now experiencing it). Pretty much that means (in my opinion from observation) that the meats (all kinds and lots of them) are cooked over a large open flame with different skewers located above it. Throughout the meal, gauchos (I'm not joking - at this place they wear real Brazilian cowboy attire - Yee Haw!) come around offering the different meats and slicing you off as much as you'd like at your table (I don't know that this is the type of restaurant a vegetarian would necessarily be super comfy in). Lucky for us, we were seated directly in front of the window to the kitchen - which meant my children simply had to turn around in their seats to lean up on the glass and watch the cooking channel that was ensuing behind them. It was really great entertainment, and I'm pretty certain the cooks back there got some amusement out of their tiny faces pressed up to the glass and their expressions of excitement as they sharpened knives or basted meats or pulled out a skewer of sausage (the meat Jimmy had been waiting for all evening - not that he wasn't indulging in some mozzarella chicken or lamb chops prior to that). At one point, we watched as Kyla did a slow motion dance in her chair to the music playing while watching the cooking; it was a riot. We also had to reprimand Jimmy for licking the glass (ya, he had to take it that one step farther that just wasn't okay).

Aside from the kids' awe over the cooking display, there was a good bit of delighted screaming coupled with some moderate bickering which had to be broken up. There was food dropped and silverware dropped. Little Jimmy learned the fine art of accepting or declining varying food offers from the gauchos: "Em. . . No thank you. Not this time." (spoken in the most adult voice he could muster up). The table was quickly and frequently filthy, and our waiters seemed uncertain of how to handle the ever mounting mess (ya, my sentiments at home exactly!). For a good portion of the time, Kyla undertook the cleaning with her napkin. She cleaned the "MESS!" as she declared it. But then she kicked it up a few notches and even polished the brass buttons on the seats, and then she cleaned her face, and then she cleaned her Daddy's ears and his nose. It was at this time, with her napkin wrapped finger up her Daddy's nose that someone came by to refill the drinks and appeared uncertain of whether to be amused or grossed out.

By the end of the dining experience Kyla had to be carried out whilst crying loudly over some sort of injustice which was so magnanimous that I've already completely forgotten it, and Jimmy was too distracted to remember the chocolate mints by the door (his shirt bearing evidence of every single item he had even considered tasting). Our table and area in general did NOT look like the rest of the facility, and I'm pretty sure people were alright with seeing us leave (they were actually probably wondering why we didn't hit the McDonald's Play Place instead). Though Jimmy did end up having to come home and right a page about 'good manners' and what all that would entail (due to a few behavior issues we encountered) , I'd still say it was kind of fun - in an adventuresome, embarrassing, non-restful sort of way. But the next time either Jim or I get any crazy ideas in our head about dining out with children, we will both be referencing this blog for a quick reality check.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Yard Lady

I have a confession to make. I mow our lawn. . every week. . . Every single week during Kyla's nap time I set up little Jimmy with a DVD from the library, and I head out to our garage to crank up the large riding commercial mower. It's very convenient for me because there's no cord to pull or anything; you just turn the key, and off you go. There's also no real chair on the thing, and I'm not really sure why; it's more just the space where the seat would go, but there's no actual cushioned seat. And then there's me balanced on top of a fleece (for cushioning) on top of the seat space. The thing is ginormous, and I've never been certain of what exactly to do with my legs while sitting up on this sort of pedestal. Should I sit with them tucked near my rump to give added stability, or should I stretch them out on top of the deck to make the super-sized mower look a little less obtuse with me driving it? Usually I opt to stretch them out and hang on for dear life.

A slight issue developed for me yesterday though when our neighbors were having their tree (near our side of their property) cut down. As I backed out of the garage on the John Deere and observed the large leafy part of their tree laying in the grass over our yard and our neighbors' yard, I could hear the sound of chainsaws hacking the tree into pieces from somewhere deep within the foliage (why they cut down the whole tree as opposed to just trimming it is completely beyond me and a whole 'nother story in itself. . ). Had the tree cutting people been out and readily apparent there's a good chance I would've just ditched the mowing for the week, but given that they were obscured and totally invisible to me I decided I'd just go for it and cut the yard. You see, while I enjoy cutting the yard, and it makes me feel productive, and I like getting to tout my accomplishment to Jim when he gets home (something that he should feel just amazing appreciation for - similar to the way a dad is supposed to feel upon arriving home to see the piece of stupendous coloring their child eagerly presents for them as a gift), I know I kind of look like an idiot, and I'd rather just not do it when there's a lot of people nearby to bear witness to my yard production.

So not seeing any gawkers from the neighbors' yard, I persisted. I got the whole front yard mowed, and had just gotten about a quarter of the way into the back yard, when I was pretty sure the tree people from next door might be observing my mowing skills in the back yard. Now the back yard is kind of tricky. There's lots of big holes which the dogs have dug for seemingly no reason whatsoever aside from to practice war maneuvers. LOTS. And given that I'm on a schedi what with Kyla's nap being somewhat limited, I feel the need to cut the yard quickly. Thus, I was traveling at about mach VII while hitting the ditches in the yard and literally getting air under my hiney from the whole thing, when I noticed the tree crew not just observing the mowing event haphazardly, but actually leaning over our fence and affectionately hugging on our 'guard dogs' (who were also doing their darndest to hang over the fence for the TLC session) while looking quizzically in my general direction.

Ya, it was a moment of horror and shame. I'm not exaggerating even in the least about the joltage from hitting these overgrown ditches while mowing at lightning speed. There's no seat belt on the mower (which I guess is a given since there's no real seat) and my butt literally gets a good, modest 6 inches (I'd say 12 incautiously) of air while cutting the backyard. The problem with this is that I'm hanging onto the speed and direction controls while I'm flying all over the place, and I think I inadvertently sort of lean into the controls while hanging on for dear life thus giving me even more speed. Ya, I know it would be really funny to watch. I know I'd get a good laugh out of it myself; but that's just it, I want to be able to laugh at it maniacally before anyone else does. After that, I'll be fine.

Once realizing I was the comic relief for the tree trimmers, I then had to decide whether to slow it down some and risk not completing the job (gasp!) or just keep going at mach VII so as to hurry through with the embarrassment and get done before Kyla woke up. In the end, I decided on a sort of middle ground; it wasn't mach VII anymore - maybe mach III.

I was more than happy to be done with the yard mowing yesterday and pulling the John Deere into the garage. Kyla was still asleep when I got inside, and I even had time to shower (!!!!). I've already decided that for next week, I'm going to strategically place a recording camera in the backyard to capture the horror of it all. Then, once I've gotten a good laugh out of it all, I think I'll be fine with the world observing my skills.