Monday, February 27, 2006

"Smoke-free" sucks.

I know things have been kind of quiet out of Fort Jen lately. I actually quit smoking about a week ago, so I've been laying kind of low because, frankly, it's been pretty hard. I got sick last week and had to make another emergency asthma visit to the doctor; Mom threw out my cigarettes and I was feeling too crappy to even argue with her. That was last Monday night; and here I am, a week later, still smoke-free (although somewhat more tense and a couple of pounds heavier, LOL).

I'm chewing "the gum"--Nicorette. Going cold turkey doesn't work for me, that's for sure. It's hard, because I'm one of those people where it's not even the NICOTINE that's addictive to me. It's the sheer HABIT of it that I have a hard time breaking. Smoking becomes a ritual. First thing in the morning. In the car. After dinner. Certain times of the day, certain events, just trigger this...internal reaction that's really, really hard to overcome. I think that's why nicotine-replacement treatments haven't really worked for me in the past--because it's truly not the nicotine I'm craving (by now, it's out of my system; I'm totally "detoxed"); it's the ritual of it, the routine. Still, the gum can't hurt. (And yes, I've tried a million other things, too--chewing straws, carrot sticks, etc. If you have any other suggestions, though, please let me know.)

I did treat myself to some new jeans at Penney's this past weekend, once I realized that I can actually fit into Juniors jeans again. I figured that the money I saved in a week of not smoking could be put towards some jeans that, quite frankly, make my ass look FABULOUS. And that makes it a little easier to continue with my smoke-free days--knowing that my "cigarette money" has already been spent on something else. (Sure, for some people, the satisfaction of knowing that they're making a healthy decision for themselves and their families, that they're adding years to their lives, renewing their skin, improving their smile, and are no longer smelling like an ash tray--that may be reward enough. Whatever. For me, I need STUFF. I need PRIZES, dammit. And if a weekly "present" to myself gets me through these first few weeks and months, then so be it.) ;)

So that's what's been up on my end.

On a more serious note, I want to give a big shout-out and long-distance hug to our girl Renee, who just lost her grandmother today. I'm thinking of you, and you know I'm here. Hang in there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What the f*#^?

I'm reading an article about the current movement by certain Christian groups to ban gays and lesbians from adopting. "Now that we've defined what marriage is, we need to take that further and say children deserve to be in that relationship," says Greg Quinlan of Ohio's Pro-Family Network, a conservative Christian group.

No, you dumb f*#^. What children DESERVE is to be in a home, a loving, stable home, whether that's a single-parent or two-parent home, gay or straight. There are SO MANY CHILDREN in foster care right now, especially older (and often minority) kids who CANNOT be placed because some people only want to adopt a Caucasion infant with no problems or challenges, emotional, physical or otherwise. And you're telling me that it's better for those so-called "special needs" kids to live their lives in group homes or being bounced from foster home to foster home rather finding a forever home with a family who loves them?

This is a subject that, for some reason, incenses me to the very core. Maybe it's because children are involved. Maybe it's because it shows everything that I hate--literally, HATE--about some self-professed Christians (the ignorance shown by certain people who claim to be "compassionate" and "God-loving" just astounds me sometimes). But whatever the root of my passion, I'm about to get out there and march with those poor gay and lesbian rights groups.

As I've mentioned before in a couple of posts, I'm also pro-gay marriage, because let's face it, they can't f*#& up the "sacred institution" of marriage any worse than we straight people have with our sky-high divorce rates. But now, to say that gay people can't make fit parents?!?!

(For those counting, I have used the "f" word, albeit censored, 3 times in this post. That means I'm really, REALLY mad. Seriously, although I do swear like a trucker sometimes, I don't think I've EVER used that word so much in one post before.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Florida Trip

As much as I was dreading it, we actually had a really good time in Florida. The first three days were spent in Orlando, where we stayed at the Nickelodeon Family Suites Hotel. The rates were incredible, considering all they have to offer-- tons of Nickelodeon characters milling about in costume, a "mall", restaurants, a bar, two HUGE waterparks, basketball courts, an arcade, and all of the rooms are suites, so Brent had his own (SpongeBob) room, we had a small fridge, cupboards and a kitchen sink. All for $142 a night! Granted, this IS the off-season, but the hotel my sister works at in Saugatuck charges more than that for a standard room with just a bed and a shitter :-). It was great!

My cheesy-grinned kid posing in his beloved SpongeBob room, complete with bunkbeds, tv, playstation, radio and a small desk.

Brent's favorite things about the hotel were the waterparks (they're outdoor, but the water is 85º and they don't close the pools unless it gets below 50º) and the Character Breakfast, which the price of made me choke. $50 for three of us to eat a buffet breakfast and take pictures with the Nick characters. Brent was in his glory, though, so I guess it was worth it.

Brent blasting innocent bystanders with water. At least it's 85º water...

This whole contraption is filled with slides, bridges, tubes and tunnels, with water spraying everywhere and huge buckets of water that dump on you when you least expect it. And, thanks to my stellar photography skills, the side of my husband's head in the lower left corner.

These were taken at the Character Breakfast. We also took pictures with Patrick and Squidward (from SpongeBob), and Tommy and Angelica (from the Rugrats), but I won't make you look at EVERY picture I took on vacation...

Whilst in Orlando, we went to Sea World and Universal Studios. Sea World was, by far, my favorite. I would go back each time we're in Florida. We all loved it. We watched a Pirate and seal show and a Shamu show, which kinda sucked cuz halfway through, the whales decided to quit performing. The Pirate show, however, was HILARIOUS.

Universal Studios was much more adult-oriented than I thought it would be, and Brent was so overwhelmed and tired and just downright crabby that day that it wasn't really even worth it to buy the tickets, but you live and learn. Next year we'll reserve a day to hang out at the pool or whatever between park days to rest up :-)

Then on to Sebring to stay with the in-laws. Everything went really well there; my MIL minded her manners, for the most part :-) John and his dad golfed every day we were there, and Brent was beside himself with awe that he got to drive the golf cart around the neighborhood (not by himself, of course).

I celebrated the big 29 while we were there, and on my birthday, a friend of the in-laws took us for a boat ride on the Kissimmee (sp?) river, where we got to see lots of gators, otters and turtles. Oh, and very large birds, which terrify me. Sandhill cranes are not my friends. I cannot put into words how beautiful and peaceful the boat ride was. It was just really nice to see GREEN again.

This little guy was on the golf course. The gator pics from the boat ride aren't close enough to see on here.

Grandmas are always doling out the chocolate chip cookies, aren't they? This is Brent with motorcycle mama great-grandma.

Can't do a post about Florida without some palm tree pics! This is the in-laws' back yard, the canal, and the golf course. What a view each morning!
The weather was like this every day- nary a cloud (yes, I said "nary"), low 70's... it was rough.

And here's what we came home to...


Mad props to all you crazy bastards who include pictures in your posts on a regular basis... this took me FOREVER!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Coming up for air.

As a lot of you have remembered, I started my new job this week. My days (and nights) have been pretty busy--I feel incredibly overwhelmed, actually--but I wanted to take a moment to give you all an update.

As I mentioned, I'm working at a childcare center here in town. I'm working as the teacher for the "school-age" kids, although here, school-age means "any kid 4 or older--and maybe 3, if they're driving us crazy and we want to send them down to Jen." ;) From 11-3:30, I work primarily with the kindergartners; at 3:30 or so, we're joined by the afterschool kids (1st - 6th grade) who come to us from the local elementary schools.

A big part of my morning is spent on a) lunchtime and b) naptime. Both, as you can imagine, are time-consuming processes. I usually have about 10 4-5 year olds; and we actually serve them lunch--they don't bring it from home, because that would be too easy. None of that "sandwhich and juice box" stuff for US. No, we serve these frickin' 9-course meals including the main "entree" (today, it was tacos), veggies, fruit and milk. Oh, and since we encourage independence, the kids "serve themselves." So you can imagine the free-for-all that is lunch.

Then comes naptime. Yeah. Getting those same kids to lie (lay?) down is pretty easy. Getting them to actually STAY that way, without talking, is the challenge. Most of that hour and a half is spent repeating "lay down." "No talking." "Lay down." "No, you can't get a book." "Please get back on your cot." "We need to be quiet." "Take that out of your nose."

And the afterschool crowd is challenging, too, because you have so many different ages in one room and you have to try to keep them all busy and occupied. And the room they gave me hasn't been occupied in a while, so there's not a whole of games, materials, etc for the older kids. And it's been so cold lately that it's been hard for us to go outside.

Don't get me wrong....I'm glad to be working with kids again, but this definitely is not my dream teaching job. Still, it's good experience while I look for a "real" teaching job at an actual school (preferably middle school). Unfortunately, that probably won't happen until the next school year, which means I'll be here at least through the summer. It's just hard to start a new job like this, try to establish control with so many kids testing you, get them settled into their new routine with their new teacher, etc.

So that's been the last few days, me working pretty long days, trying to get my room set up, etc. I'm just pretty tired, cuz it's been a while since I've worked with kids this little. They definitely take it out of you, I'll tell you what. Otherwise, things are going pretty well. Nothing too exciting to report on my V-Day, although I did get a really sweet e-card and phone call from Tyson.

Oh, on Monday night, I took Paige to a roller rink for a skating party her school was having. Now, being a child of the 80s, I was all about the rinks in my day (Holla, Renee!)--and although it's been, oh, 18 years or so, I can still keep myself on my feet pretty well (except for the VERY LAST SONG, which was a Bon Jovi song...I got flashbacks of "back in the day," got a little too conident and totally wiped out)....anyway, although I can keep myself on my feet, I also had to keep PAIGE upright. Mind you, she had only been skating one other time in her life, and--although I love her to death--she's not the most coordinated kid on FEET, let alone on wheels. So keeping us BOTH from breaking our necks was pretty challenging. Still, I had a really good time.

So that's about all I have to report. What's new with all of you?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Date number two.

Tyson and I went out again last night. We had a great time again; we saw Brokeback Mountain and then went to dinner. He was a little hesitant to see that particular movie at first (he said that although he had no problem with gay people, he didn't necessarily want to see them in action, either), but I assured him that from what I had read/heard, the movie focused more on the love story between the characters than on the sex aspect of their relationship. Skip to the first sex scene in the movie, a rather graphic, um, sexual encounter. I'm staring at the screen, open-mouthed, and he's having a hard time even LOOKING at the screen. "I thought you said this movie wasn't graphic!" he whispered. Ooops. In the end, though, he really did enjoy the movie and thanked me for making him go. Dinner was at this small place near the theater; it was pretty empty, so we had the entire section to ourselves; we talked until we realized we were the last customers in the place and figured we should probably leave so that the poor employees could go home. Then I drove him back to his car and we said goodnight.

All in all, I had a great time and genuinely look forward to seeing him again.

And on an unrelated note, Missy highlighted my hair today and it turned out very nice. Very "sun-kissed" looking. My sister is a hell of a cosmetologist.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Remedial sex ed.

Last night was the big Pure Romance party at my house. Due to a rash of last-minute cancellations and no-shows, it turned out to be not-so-big--but my closest friends (except for Renee, of course) were there, and we still had a really good time.

Out of respect to my friends and their privacy, however, I have decided not to post any pictures from the evening. Okay, fine: actually, the batteries in my digital camera died early on in the festivities. I'll try to provide a recap for you, though.

Waiting for Anna. And waiting...and waiting some more....

At the time this picture was taken, I had already had a few drinks. I was practicing my bar-tending skills as I waited for my guests to arrive. I had plenty of time to practice, as Anna got lost on the way and ended up in South Haven.

The consultant, Amanda, arrived early to set up. The first half of the evening was lotions and creams; the second half consisted of the toy demonstrations. Below is a picture of her display table for the first part of the presentation.

Since my camera died before we got to the 2nd half, you'll have to imagine the display table for the toy portion of the evening. It looked like this, only with vibrators.

Very early into her demonstration, however, it became clear that we were definitely the slow group. "What was the name of that?" and "What does it do again?" were asked several times about virtually every product that was passed around. (The third most-commonly-used phrase was a certain high school friend's "Oh, my"--this was her first such party.)

There were a couple of great one-liners. Amanda was discussing these his-and-her, um, "self-help" books--"a guide to your body"-type manuals. She suggested buying both and swapping books with your partner, so that he has the female's guide and she has his.

"Yeah, but which one do you think is actually going to get read?" Kacey cracked. Amen, sista.

Later, she was showing a "pleasure aid" for men. She then demonstrated how, by inserting a vibrating bullet, it became a toy for her, as well.

Anna perked up. "Suddenly, I'm considerably more interested," she observed.

Remember the picture of the lovely display table? Thanks to the miracles of technology, I am able to bring you this recreation of how it looked to me by the end of the evening.

New to Broken Road: Drunk Vision.

All in all, it was both a fun and, for some, an eye-opening evening. (At least, I HOPE everyone had fun.) Since I was lucky enough to win the $24 pot from the raffle, I gave my mom my hostess credits (the hostess receives a percentage of the evening's sales towards her own order); after all, it WAS her house, she did a lot to help me get ready--AND she placed an obscenely large order. (I'm going to have to spend a LOT of time away from the house. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.)

Maybe I should get back into this again. Teacher by day, "romance consultant" by night?

Friday, February 03, 2006

And the good news just keeps coming...

Again, adapted from an email...

I got a job today. Again, I've kept the interview to myself so I wouldn't jinx it. I was hired today as the lead teacher for the school-age kids at a national child care/ learning center (which I won't identify on here, as I'm sure there will be days when I'm ranting about it). ;) I'll be working 11-6; kindergarten kids in the morning and then the school-age kids after school. I'll also help with running their camp this summer. My previous experience and newly acquired certification lines up perfectly with what they were looking for, and she technically hired me about 10 minutes into the interview--"but I guess I should ask you some questions first before offering you the job on the spot," she laughed.

The money isn't GREAT but 1) it's more than the JC 2) it's actually pretty good for the child care field and 3) at least I'll be teaching....PLUS, I'LL GET BENEFITS!!! (Can you say "allergy shots"? Holla!)

So it's been a busy and mighty successful couple of days. And the best is yet to come this weekend!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My "non-date."

Adapted from an email I just sent out to the girls (with some never-before-revealed information)...

I had a date tonight. I've kept it on the "dl" for a few reasons: 1) I didn't want to jinx it by talking about it too much and 2) he has a dog--which I'm horribly, deathly allergic to--so we've been talking as "just friends," assuming that it would have to stay at that casual, platonic level because it would be really difficult to have anything more'll be hard for me to spend an extended period of time at HIS house, and--well, I live with my, even if I HAD my own place, he wouldn't really spend the night because he has to be home to let the dog out, etc. So from the day we started talking through, we've looked at this as a chance to make a new friend but not much more (in fact, we found out tonight that we've both been referring to this evening in the same way: he's been calling it a "non-date" to his friends and coworkers while I've named it my "not-really-a-date date"). In one email, though, I jokingly asked him, "Of course, since romance is practically forbidden, you KNOW we're going to totally hit it off, right?" And he was like, "Yeah, that's a given."

Well, we met up for drinks tonight and....WOW. Wow. He's amazing. The conversation just FELL out of our mouths and we had a great time. We clicked from the instant he walked through the door; it was like talking to an old friend--but with a "spark," that elusive spark that's been missing from all of my recent dates. We both realized almost right away that our "non-date" had just turned into a REAL date.

He's a DJ (and, I just learned tonight, the program director and general boss) at a classic rock station here in Holland--92.7 (The Van). His name is Tyson and he's 32. He's been in the Peace Corp and was overseas for almost 5 years; he taught high school in Poland and English in Nepal. He's amazing.

So he walked me out to my car and he got in and we talked for a while longer out there. He kissed me goodnight (a few times). He's already talking about getting a super-duty vaccuum cleaner and special dog shampoo that's supposed to decrease the dander or whatever.

So.....I STILL don't want to say too much (LOL, too late) for fear of jinxing it, and I'm not going to make one of my infamous "I've met the man I'm going to marry!" declarations cuz I've said it too much for it to really carry much weight anymore, but...really, talking to him tonight, and just looking at him, there was really something...there. I can't explain it, but it was this sense of...comfort, kind of. At-ease-ness (yes, that's a word). Happiness.

And I don't even have to sit and worry about whether or not he's going to call, because it's just one of those things where I KNOW he will, you know? He was already talking about "next time we hang out" and stuff (although the connection there is definitely more than that of just friends). Of course, now that I said that, I'll probably never hear from him again.

If only he didn't have that damn dog...