July 29, 2010

One man's pest is another man's pet.

A few weeks ago, an exterminator came to our door in a deluded attempt to hawk his services.  As he pointed to the spider webs dotting our house's foundation, I gently broke the news to him.  I gestured toward the "errant" webs and replied,  "Those guys are just doing their jobs. Also, we have tarantulas.  In cages.  As pets."  The guy smiled, then quickly cut his losses and ran.  I did not even bother to tell the poor sap that I routinely nudge spiders out of my kitchen sink, lest they drown.

Sofia, our Common Pink Toe tarantula (avicularia avicularia)

While it may seem that we come across our pets capriciously, nothing could be further than the truth. I had met Sofia at the pet store and knew that I wanted that particular T because she was so laid back and just plain cool.  I call her Cheech because her species is usually very skittish, but she is very laid back and calm.

Madison, our Antilles Pink Toe tarantula (avicularia versicolor)

Madison?  Not so much.  Every time I open her cage, she darts to the top, as if we have been making her pound out license plates in her enclosure.  I am not afraid of either T biting me, actually for the avicularia set, bite reports are rare.  However, they are effing fast and they are climbers.  I am more afraid of them getting lost, then falling prey to a cat or a dog.

Innernets, meet Edward.  The new kid in town.

Yes, we added fins to the mix.  Just because.

Lucy, our West Highland Terrier. Purebred "scrappy".
Having a dog is totally a Tale of Two Cities.  Dogs are a pain in the ass, y'all.  A squillion times more work than a cat and infinitesimally more work than a tarantula.  But a dog's devotion?  When you are sick on the couch crying from the pain of a concussion, that dog will be right there in your face because she is so worried about you.  She will be your child's best playmate. She will go places with you, happily. SHE WILL EAT YOUR EXPENSIVE CHEESE. 

Pearson, our pretty boy.

Harry, our burly stray who appeared like magic one day.  Our tough kitty is oddly sweet and the friendliest of the bunch.  

Vanessa, the shyest of our kitties, but the one that Team Chaos loves the most.  They had to EARN her trust and it is a privilege to pet this kitty most of all.

A month ago,  I brewed up a vat of sea monkeys.  Since I have that innate ability to suck all of the enjoyment out of any activity in my attempts to impart knowledge, it also provided a nice little lesson plan for Team Chaos on the topic of cryptobiosis (one of my children will be a Trivia Nerd, I am true and steady on my course.)

Homo Simian
Comes pre-equipped with opposable thumbs, inquisitive personality and an incredible ability to evolve.  Prehensile tail option no longer available. 

You might think we are done with pets.  You might be wrong. 

Arun's savings account for a crested gecko.

The only issue is that lizards are akin to mice in India and Daddy is not taking kindly to the thought of a lizard in the house. Me?  I am okay with it.  I have been researching the topic of lizards for over a year now and know that we can handle a crested gecko.  Also, I suspect the poo of the gecko will be something to behold.  And yes, that was my first thought in the matter.  What sort of scat will this entail?  What is the method for its removal?  What is the level and quality of aroma?  You see, gentle reader, the secret of satisfactory animal husbandry is the ability to handle a wide variety of shit.

Trust me, everyone poops.

July 23, 2010

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.

"Mama, stop SINGING! You are not a RADIO.  We need a RADIO because that is where the GOOD music comes from." - Anjali George

Several weeks back, we shuttered Snapgifts.com.  Which explains the lack of shilling, as of late.  Relieved much?

With a serial entrepreneur such as my husband, there are always Irons in the Fire.  Iron A, Snapgifts, was actually going well.  Business was steady, we had a system down for it. Meanwhile, Iron B was also glowing red and Iron C just needed more coal to the fire.

Quite simply, we were at a point with Snapgifts where we could not handle more growth - we were at capacity.  We were on the verge of getting overwhelmed and there was no way we could have handled the holiday rush - not without extra investment money to hire seasonal help.  Couple this with endless fraud attempts and we had to make the difficult decision to concentrate on Irons B and C.   The fraud attempts were particularly frustrating and we are very, very grateful for my background.  Since I had worked with fraud in some past positions, we were able to nip quite a load of it in the bud.  And yes, I have a post percolating on how you, as a consumer, can prevent credit card fraud (Hint: credit cards don't really care about preventing credit card fraud as much as the fancy commercials claim.  Why?  Because they pass the buck to the merchant, which works out quite profitably for the credit card company.  Nice how that works, eh?)

So, Manoj has been working full-time on Iron B since early June.  This requires him to leave the house and that has been an interesting adjustment for everyone involved.  Oh sure, I have complained about him being a WAHD, but in reality, I have lost my co-parent.  And now, I have to feed my children and change diapers again (previously, my primary duties were Entertainment and Clothing).  The kids have never really known a time when Manoj was not here most of the time - Arun has done fine with it, Anjali cried for him at first, but that is tapering off a bit now.  And both kids are skinny as matchsticks now.  (Note to Self: FEED THE CHILDREN.)

Overall, Manoj has been circumspect about this Conclusion.  In the post-mortems we have done, we are perfectly okay with what happened and how we went about the business. The ultimate business idea/endgoal was rock solid (and actually, Target and Starbucks have announced plans to do the very same thing - gift cards via your smartphone are coming, folks.  And I can report personally that having a gift card on your phone is incredibly convenient.)   Anyway! We did the very best that we could, but in the end, we did not get investment money.  Quite simply, it was time to close shop and stoke the other fires.

It was easier for Manoj to move on, because he is still working, only in a different capacity.  The adjustment for me was a little more disjointed.  One day I was working, the next day I was not.

And the freedom I felt was palpable.

I decided to celebrate by taking the kids to a berry farm, then to a puppet show.  It was a perfect day, a delicious way to put our life back on track.  I am quite happy staying home full-time and for the first time in a long time, I feel right, I am aligned.

Nevertheless, the last year has taught me that I will need to work outside of the home.  EventuallySomeday. For now, my days are quite full in the home - Team Chaos currently figures largely, but soon enough, they will move on with their own activities, their own friends, their own lives.  It is up to me to determine my next path, lest I find myself a cautionary tale akin to Mrs. Bridge

And yes, I am acutely aware as to how incredibly fortunate I am to have such freedoms.  It is certainly not something that I take for granted.

Rest in peace, Snapgifts.  Thank you for giving me perspective.

July 19, 2010

It's a major award.

So, it seems I am a finalist for the BlogHer 2010 Voices of the Year.in the Opinion-Editorial category.  Very honored, very humbled.  Very much in great company.  The post of mine, Pissing off people Left and Right, was very difficult for me to write at the time.  It is still difficult to read.  The post came to me after I was publicly questioned on Facebook regarding my parenting (as in "would you really tell your kids that?")  Don't poke the Mama Bear, folks.  After my anger, I had to really sit and reflect.  And out of that, came the post.  I think there is a message in there for everyone, somewhere.  We all need to be true to ourselves, first.  And it is often very painful to get there, when it means hurting people you love, respect and admire.  Even when you disagree with their world views.  The fact that a post which was born out of such sadness is now being honored is bittersweet for me.

This is your segue and you will like it.

In more entertaining news, my BlogHer roomies this year, Dawn RouseKelli Best Oliver and Celeste Lindell (aka Average Jane, the oxymoron of blog names since Celeste is anything but average), were also finalists (Leg lamps for everyone!)  As such, the Other Kelli has declared our room a Power Room.  We just found our 4th roomie *waves furiously to Dawn* and I hope she will be not intimidated by the Awesome that will surely permeate our quarters.  And the alcohol.  The Other Kelli has promised alcohol (no?) and  I believe I am in charge of tie-dying the "I'm With Kelli" t-shirts.  And yes, This Kelli and the Other Kelli have been cackling about the name thing (Name Twin Powers: ACTIVATE!)  Actually?  when I first saw this "kelli best oliver" chick floating around The Tweetle, I thought she was mocking me.  How dare she claim the Oliver moniker and then say she is the best one??  It's been mine since 1971!  (Hey, I have never denied the narcissistic whore skulking deep within my psyche.  She's a Screamer, folks and the world is All About Me.)

Anyway, getting the Voices of the Year finalist news was a lovely way to cap a perfectly delightful weekend.  I hosted a sponsored party which I have written about on Queen of the Free Bees (seriously, it was so much FUN.  It was my first experience doing an in-home party like that and again, so FUN. Also, is it not great hosting parties if not for the sheer fact that it completely forces your hand on cleaning your damned house??  Yes?) 

Yesterday, I took Arun to the Kansas City Reptile Show.  And of course, you want to see non-simian snappage for a change, right?  No? At least I did save the snaps of the Burmese python hatchlings still in their eggs on my Flickr account, they are not for the faint of heart, even I was a little squeamish.  Click if you dare.

And yes, all of these things could be your very own Precious, if you are willing to fork over the cabbage.  Which makes me wonder, who the hell buys an alligator in Kansas??

Baby Alligators!
American alligator baby, about 18 inches.

Baby turtles!

Baby Humans!
Whatever.  He will always be MY baby.  *Sigh*  I simply adore the smiles on his face in these snaps because they are of pure, unadulterated happiness. He was in his element, folks.

July 15, 2010

You! Are! A! Toy!
(pssst!! and an allosaurus)

A lot has been going on - Anjali's birthday extravaganza over the weekend, then a new niece - Rogers Baby #4 arrived on Monday sporting the Oliver nose, poor baby.

I am also on my continued trek through the Harry Potter series.  I am now on The Goblet of Fire and wow, this series was exactly what I needed right now - I love that I am not so anxious to zip right through to the end and that I am simply enjoying being in the world.  Except for the Deathly Hallows, I have read all the books many, many times over.  Previously, I was often irritated by the likes of World Quidditch Cups, S.P.E.W meetings, Hermione/Ron fights and Dobby (dear Universe, DOBBY - the Jar Jar Binks of the magical community). In past readings,  I just wanted to get to the end to find out out what happened.  This time through?  I am just sitting back and relishing.  I already know what happened.  Now? I simply want to experience.

I love re-reading books - it is not really re-reading - it should be called "experiencing again", right?  Are you a re-reader?  I have a friend who adamantly does NOT read books more than once - time should be spend on new books.  I understand her reasoning, but still cannot resist a siren call from the literary equivalent of a Sure Thing.

Do you read books many times through or are you a One Stop Shop kind of reader?

Anyway, the Goblet of Fire is about to announce its selections for the Triwizard tournament which means I need to get my ass back to my reading chair.

I will leave you with Birthday Extravaganza snappage AND special Birthday Edition footage in the meantime.....

I am Legion, for we are many.
No amount of pixie dust could save us from the ill effects of all that artificial food coloring.  Bleh.  And blargh.

3D stands for Dazed, Dizzy Dementia
We went to the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit at the Union Station and it was as if Team Chaos had stumbled upon some sort of Cretaceous Canaan.  First stop, the movie.  By the end, I thought I was going to vomit and desperately needed some painkillers.  But the kids loved it and I did enjoy watching their attempts to catch the dinosaurs by waving their hands in front of their eyes.  Still.  Crap on a cracker, what a mother will suffer through for her babies.  Can someone please pass a popcorn bucket and hold my hair back for me?

Rex, I am your father.
Arun would like the world to know that Rex from Toy Story is not a T Rex, but is actually an ALLOSAURUS.  Oh sure, we understand that the kindly Pixar animators needed to give Rex THREE claws so that he could grasp things and be a "helping" sort of dinosaur.  But sheesh, you'd never see this sort of blunder on the Ice Age set.

She's sassy in her sombrero .
 I don't do many videos here, but this still cracks me up, even after 20 viewings.  Also, includes special guest appearances with Manoj, my sister Maureen, and her overly-enthusiastic boyfriend Brian.

July 9, 2010

Her special gift is narcolepsy.

In 2007, I had no idea that a birth announcement would be so very fitting for the little dancing diva parading around our house, issuing edicts as is her wont.   Such a small baby filled our house and made our family whole.  She is still the tiniest being in our home but certainly, she brings a large presence.  Where her brother is laid back and fairly easy-going (we all have our days, no?), Anjali is so very not.  She has my temper, but while mine burns quickly, Anjali's simmers into a hot steamy mess.  It seems she has also inherited her father's patient tenacity and I can only begin to imagine what lies ahead in her teenage years..  I hope she puts it to good use in the future as her current attempts at holding out have not gotten her very far and were for dubious causes, at best. (Anju, fruit ice pops are not worth it.  Standards, please.)

We are going to the dinosaur extravaganza at the Union Station today for her birthday.  She is very concerned that there must be a styracosaurus AND a triceratops.  Yes, she still primarily plays with animals while a legion of baby dolls are tumbled in heaps like corpses in the toybox and my dreams of teas with American Girl Dolls in Chicago lie dormant, shining with hope.  Once in a while, she will swipe a herd of Kai-Lans, a gang of Polly Pockets or a posse of Barbies and declare "Mama, I need my HUMANS". A guest star billing has its perks.  Little does she know that later today, she will add a band of fairies to the mix.

When the house goes quiet, we know this can mean only one of two things - Arun is preoccupied with a toy, book, show, or game while Anjali is either asleep or in trouble.

Exhibit A
This is one of the oddest places in which we have found her asleep - it is as if she KNEW I was going to write a post about this today.  We have also found her asleep in the middle of her classroom floor at school and even the floor at the gym's nursery.  More times than I count, she has fallen asleep, sitting beside me in my chair.  With her chin hunched over her chest, I could swear it is my Grandpa Clyde speaking from the Great Beyond.  He would be so proud.  Dude.  If our baby girl is sleepy, nothing will stand in the way of getting in her 40 winks.  Good for her.

Exhibit B
For the record, when I found Anjali in this corner as she brandished a black marker, she could have given Lisbeth Salander a run for her money, but she saw me and began furiously wiping at her lips between giggles. Her Goth days are still to come, I suppose.  She is the child who will bring me to me knees.  She is also the child who introduced me to the wonders of the Magic Eraser.

When the photo shoots are done, she pulls out her best Sean Penn and scowls, "No more pictures!"   No charges are pending.  Yet.

Still, my favorite is when she gets angry and puts herself in time-out.  That would be the one where everybody wins.  The picture above is the result of her hapless brother offering to help her with some golf ball action at Wonderscope.  The nerve of him, right? She stormed out, quietly muttering "I do it MYSELF." and sat outside the door.  No coaxing from me could convince her to join us.

On the 4th of July she decided to do a magic show for us on the driveway.  She wielded a burned-out sparkler stick with an aura of power and solemnly declared "I am Condition Anjali!  Abracadabra! First, I am going to disappear myself!"  She ran behind me, giggling.  I replied "Condition?  I think they have a cream for that."  More giggling, then a voice demanded "Stop talking, Mama.  You're a FROG."  Lance Burton she is not, but she makes up for it in personality, sans the Kentucky drawl.

Every night, she reaches for me and nuzzles my face with hers as her fingers reach for my stomach.  "Mama, I want your tummy."  And then she whispers "You're my best mama."  and I whisper back "You're my best Anjali."  She lifts her head and replies "No, MAMA, I'm your best GIRL."

Happy birthday, Anjali Lilly.  You are complete and utter trouble yet worth every skip of my heart.

Thank you for making the last of my dreams come true.

July 8, 2010

Much ado about nothing.

I am putting together a post for Anju's birthday tomorrow.  I do not always write birthday posts, but I need to admit that this 3rd birthday is crunching my heart.  She is such a girl now.  I want to capture some of the things that tickle us so much about her.

While I write a real post for tomorrow, I am going to ramble about trifles today........

First, I am getting pretty irritated with the whole 3D craze.  I cannot see many optical illusions, including that Magic Eye crap, because my left eye is a lazy whore and is a fraction slower than my right.  3D gives me a headache and physically, as confirmed by my optometrist, I CANNOT SEE MOVIES IN 3D.  So yes, I am a selfish brat and this world should be all about me, me, me and as such, I would like to see 3D outlawed.

Second, I am really upset about Kris Kobach running for Kansas Secretary of State.  I know some folks thought I over-reacted to the whole Arizona Thing. Perhaps, at the time that I wrote that post, I should have mentioned that one of the writers of legislation is from MY state (for shame!) and has made it known he would like similar legislation in MY state.  Also, I may have mentioned in passing a few times here that I am married to an Indian.  And he is brown.  Which again begs an answer - what does an immigrant look like?  But even worse than Kris Kobach running for Kansas Secretary of State is my own lack of action on the matter.  I had it in my head that I would research candidates, find one to support and help hand out flyers, at least.  I have done some research and was easily frustrated by how difficult it was to find anything on anyone.  So, yes - a huge, big, fat fail on Citizen Kelli's part.  I suck.

Third, over the weekend, I was suddenly enchanted with a strong desire to reread the Harry Potter series - I have read them all several times over, but not all in rapid succession since the series ended.  I have read some really, really good books lately, but it has all been dark and depressing.  Anna Quindlan's Every Last One?  Elizabeth Strout's Olive KitteridgeThe Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins?  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series by Steig Larrson?  All utterly awesome reads.  All utterly dreary.   Even Justin Halpern's hilarious Sh*t My Dad Says couldn't perk me up.  So, Harry Potter it is.

Fourth, I had a HUGE Tweetastrophe the other day.  Manoj and I were having a stupid Text Fight.... wait....  What?  Huh?  Please tell me that I am not the only one who bickers with your loved one via texts.  I, for one, love having the proof of what was said later so when it gets particularly nasty I can pull out my phone and say "Gotcha!" Anyway, per usual, we were fighting about food (I swear 99% of our fights are based in the marital quicksand that is HUNGER) and I accidentally tweeted a text that was meant for Manoj.  Seriously, my ass has never left the couch quicker than that moment when I realized I had tweeted instead of texted.  I am sure at least a few folks were wondering why I was so pissed off about jalapenos.  Ahem.

What has been your worst texting nightmare?

July 6, 2010

My happy place.

Recently, I read a great article on Happiness - the most compelling piece, for me, was this paragraph:
Happiness is something you achieve, a constant thing. A constantly turning over thing, like a small plant that has flowers constantly blooming and dying on the same stem. It’s not like you achieve happiness this one time and it just stays with you forever. You don’t bake a cake because a cake makes you happy, you don’t bake that one cake because you baked this cake or bought that car you wanted to get. You’ve always wanted this car, you got the car, now you’re happy forever…no.”
- Maynard Keenan
I highly recommend reading the entire article, chewing on it for a bit, then re-reading it a few days later to let it sink in.  I really appreciated the explanation of the different selves and the creation of memories.

This past weekend was all about experiencing memories.  And fortunately, I have a blog perfectly designed for capturing these little moments so that I may never forget them.  While I do use my space for the occasional rant, I am grateful that I primarily use it for pondering and more importantly, remembering.

Playing with fire.
Arun loved writing his name with "sprinklers" and twirling in the dark. Anjali was still too afraid this year to do it, but Arun? NO FEAR. That's my boy! Before you know it, he will be blowing up shit right alongside his mama. Kansas Style.

A Passion for Fashion
Many mornings, Arun will come downstairs with his legs through the armholes of his shirt and his pants on his head.  I have to wonder when I will stop giggling at this.  I am supposed to be the grown-up in this equation, right?

She is her own person.
The other day, Anju requested "alligator tails" for her hair.  I love that she is still free to love creepy crawlies and "non-girly" stuff.  All too soon, her peers will be issuing fashion edicts.

An ugly, over-exposed snap of a beautiful, perfect day.
Last week, we went to the Berry Patch and had a sweet, perfect morning together.  It was just the three of us enjoying beautiful weather, eating blueberries straight off the bushes, enjoying the sounds of bullfrogs and chasing butterflies.  Perfect.  Simply perfect.

Lending a Hand
They may not always get along, but for right now, they are each others' best friend, favorite playmate.

July 2, 2010

Presently, I am living in Present.

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.
~ Winston Churchill 

I really appreciated the comments on yesterday's post - I knew I would receive thoughtful responses, even if folks didn't agree with me.  Often the topic of Technology and Kids raises all sorts of reactions.  It seems that video games, in particular, have been solidly cast on the side of Evil.  Listen, I love books as much as anyone else, but if my kid sat in his room all day reading books, I would be just as worried as if he had an obsession about anything else - be it video games, television, whatever.  I am okay with video games right now since we have so many hours in our 12+  hours days where we are doing other things.  Additionally, playing video games is something that we do with Arun.  Yes, even my husband has been bitten by the Mario vampire.  That, right there, should speak to the power that is Mario.

Video games are just one sort of technology lurking in our house.  The kids have also figured out the difference between live television, the DVR and the DVD player.  Arun can pause and play all of these devices according to the needs of his gastrointestinal system.  No rushing to the bathroom during commercials for my boy.  Hell, no.  Arun also realizes that my phone is a great portal into all sorts of goodies - calling daddy, games, sending messages, checking emails, the Shopping List.  Since I keep the list on my phone, he is very good about telling me when we need something and declares "MAMA, did you put it on your LIST?"  And of course, my computer is where I double check animals facts for him, find images at his request and where I reserve his precious books on lizards and dinosaurs (he figured that one out pretty quickly.)  He is even beginning to get interested in the "map thingie" on the dashboard of my car and is asking questions about our locations on it.  A few weeks ago, I explained rudimentary banking to him when he noticed that I rarely hand actual money over to cashiers when making purchases (No, he is not ready to hear about the intricacies of the Check 21 Act, but he got the gist of how our money works)

Technology is unavoidable and I am not convinced there is even anything to escape from, save for an  occasional vacation.

Recently, PhD in Parenting had an insightful article with equally thoughtful comments on the topic of technology-obsessed parents.  Apparently, to some folks, I am supposed to feel guilty for checking my email while trapped in an Interminable Puppet Show of Insipidness.  Not to knock the puppet show, but geez Louise, it was mind-numbing.  However! Team Chaos loved it - I would absolutely attend another show.  And, I would,  without apology, check my email again.  And that is fine, it seems the Mommy Militia needs something to judge me upon, so be it.  I will make it easy for them will insisting it is called a smartphone for a reason.

Nevertheless, the primary reason I do not worry about technology in our house is that I know it is just one part of our lives - as long as my kids have a variety of interests, I will not worry.

We have now been pesticide-free in our yard for 3 years.  I mean, who does not love weed?  DUDE. But now, I am a motherly maternal sort and must take it to legitimate levels.  So, clover and dandelions, it is.  Interestingly, now that we are pesticide-free, we getting things in our yard like dragonflies and more butterflies and more lightening bugs.  Is it related to the lack of pesticide?  I cannot prove it, but it seems weird that more of these creepy crawlies are suddenly showing up now.  Oh and Innernets??  I am even growing food. Tomatoes (four types!) and herbs (basil, cilantro and flat-leaf parsley)  Sadly, my arugula ended up as an offering to the Bunny Elite circulating our neighborhood (in light of their mass casualties to our two cats and one terrier, I cannot begrudge them their victory.)  Anyway, we have designated patches in our yard and landscaping where the kids are allowed to dig with free will.    As long as my kids still love to dig in the dirt as much as they love "screen time", I just cannot find it in myself to feel guilty.

Don't misunderstand me, though - I have no illusions that my kids are special or that we are "in the clear".  I believe our challenges will really come when we are in the throes of school schedules - when our free time is limited.  For now, we have loads of downtime which means ample, daily opportunities for digging in the dirt, reading books, practicing writing our letters,  hopping to the park (or pool), watching television AND playing Mario Brothers.

All in a single day.

I know there is a longing, at times, for the simple, sweet days of Ma Ingalls and home on the prairie.  But realistically, Ma Ingalls was tough as nails and an ass kicker.  Read closely, Grasshopper, that woman was not messing around.  She did not have time for your whiny ass.  Their lives were incredibly difficult and often included serious struggles for survival.  We can rue technology, but undeniably, it has made our lives easier. 

At the beginning of June, Manoj began a new gig that has him leaving the house every day.  For the past 3 years (with a short 6 month break), he has worked from home.  Because of technology, of course.  Arun does not remember the days when Manoj was gone every week, flying out to DC.  Anjali has not even known a time when he was not at home to meet her every beck and call.  She has really struggled with this transition and still asks for him throughout the day. Because of technology, my workaholic husband has been able to be a true co-parent with me, 24/7.  When he was home, he did most of the Diaperage and Food Dispensation.  I was in charge of Clothing, Barrette Application and Chauffeur Services.

Oh sure, I have grumbled about Manoj working from home because his working from home was stressful for me.  However, I cannot deny that having him during these early years with the kids was pretty damned special for them.

Down with the Guilt and up with Remote.