Fabulous Fall Giveaway!

September 22nd is a bittersweet date. It’s the first day of fall, which means saying goodbye to summer, sandals, and sundresses. For many, it means embracing the chance to get reacquainted with cozy sweaters, fun boots, and pumpkin-spiced everything.

And for me, it also means I turn another year old.

Yep, today is my birthday! I have big plans to spend the day doing fun things like paying bills, organizing my closet, and using the occasion as an excuse to eat something chocolatey on an hourly basis.

I know, I’m going WILD, right?

But when some fellow blogger friends suggested hosting another giveaway to start today of all days, I said “Heck yeah!” What better way to celebrate my birthday than by giving YOU a chance to win some cold hard cash?

I’m a giver like that.

First, let’s meet the the bloggers who have joined forces to offer up this Fabulous Fall Giveaway!

Fabulous Fall Giveaway

Down the left side: Jen, Jessica and Julia.  And then down the right side: JeanaeGina and Rachel.
When you get a moment, do me a big favor and go check them out!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is participate in the Rafflecopter below. The funds will be transferred immediately via Paypal once the winner has been notified. And then, you know, the winner might want to head out and buy a new fall sweater. Or a pumpkin-spiced pumpkin. Totally up to you, winner. Go nuts.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why I Hate My Rental Car

While my car is getting put back together at the body shop after a recent collision, I’m driving a rental car that my insurance company hooked me up with. And I hate this car.

Wait, I really shouldn’t use the word “hate”.

How about, “vehemently detest.”

Rental Car

Yeah, that’s right, Gift Horse. I see your mouth. And I’m looking right at it.

Because here’s what I experienced in getting a free rental as a loaner car from my insurance company: having no say whatsoever in what I was given.

When I asked what my $40 a day coverage would get me, the rental company assured me that I would be getting a premium car.

And by premium, they probably meant that the interior is luxurious and spacious, and that they were doing me a favor by “upgrading” me to this line of rentals. So, for that, I am grateful they didn’t put me in a well-soiled box car.

But I think “premium” really means a sedan with enough leg and head room to house a small basketball team.

Let me interrupt this little rant by saying that, on a good day, when my spine is feeling sprite and lively, I stand five feet one inch tall.

Not a giant person am I.

So, when I first dipped in to the Chevy Impala after they pulled it up to the curb, I had to spend about an hour adjusting the seat and mirrors so that I could see anything, anything out of the windows.

Because this car is clearly made for someone much taller, more beefy, and perhaps even more manly than I am.

With my seat raised as high and as far forward as it can possibly go, I can’t see the tail of my car out the rear view window. Or the front of my car out the front windshield. Or any side of the car out of any window or mirror at all.

It’s like I need to sit on a freakin’ phonebook, or, even more embarrassing, a booster seat to see what I’m doing.

I am a grown adult, dammit! Though, in this case, I guess I’m taking “grown” a little too far.

You want to know what else makes me feel like a midget in this car? The window base sits higher than my shoulder, so the mere thought of resting my left arm on the ledge is nearly impossible without needing a visit to the chiropractor.  I can barely see the speedometer through the steering wheel. My head doesn’t even come in close proximity to the headrest.

I’m surprised the cops haven’t pulled me over for thinking I’m a tween who likes to break the law.

I’m sure that if I were a large male who liked to sit all low in my seat, with my legs stretched as long as they could go to air out the Family Jewels, this car would be fine and dandy.  But I am a 40-something petite mother of two who would like to be able to see if I’m about to sideswipe the minivan next to me at car line.

The engine roars at the slightest press of the gas pedal like a muscle car, making me blush with embarrassment when I start to accelerate at a green light.  I’m sorry, but that kind of horsepower just screams “I’M OVERCOMPENSATING FOR THE SIZE OF MY MAN PARTS WITH A LARGE AND INTENSELY LOUD ENGINE!”

I’ll just come right out and say it: When I drive this car, I feel compelled to sport a mullet, a muscle shirt and crank up heavy metal music in this car, with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

Not. A. Fan.

My kids, however, love the rental car. LOVE. IT.

Mostly because it’s new and different and has a nice, clean, untouched interior. It’s probably the same feeling pioneers experienced when they came upon the western plains.

Plus, the dashboard has this weird little box in the front that goes up and down at the push of a button that my kids love to play with.

What the heck are you supposed to put in this magical little hidey hole?

Probably your weed. To hide it from the po-po, I guess.

Because it’s just that kind of a car.

I know I shouldn’t complain, considering my insurance company is footing the bill. And this massive beast of a car is only temporary.  But I’ll be more than relieved to get my old car back and kick this Impala to the curb.

Until then, does anyone have a copy of The Yellow Pages I can borrow?

 

 

Being a Germaphobe. And a Parent.

Have you heard the latest illness that could terrify a germaphobe parent like myself?

Enterovirus — EV-D68

It’s that rare respiratory virus you might have read about in your Facebook feed. The one that starts like your garden variety cold, then quickly ramps up to respiratory distress and could land your child in medical care. It’s particularly threatening to children who struggle with asthma.  And it’s popping up in the Midwest, including the state in which my children reside.

I hate seeing stuff like this.

Not because I empathize with the kids who are ill, but because it sets off all those bells and whistles in my head that make me want to douse our home and our children with sanitizer.

Germaphobe Parent

My kids do not have asthma, and they’re relatively healthy.  I should have no reason to worry.

And yet, I do. I find myself flocking to those stories like a Real Housewife to an open bar.

Parenthood is already ripe for worry enough. Is my child happy? Is my child developing normally? Will my child do okay socially? Will my child be free from bullies? Will the world be a better or worse place from them a decade from now?

Will my child need therapy later from all of the stuff I bring to the table as a parent?

Slap on health scares like this, and it’s almost enough to send me over the edge.

I get it. Kids are petri dishes. This is not the first time we’ve faced weird bugs, and it certainly won’t be the last. So, I need to get over it.

I don’t know when I got all weird about illness. I think it was dormant when I was single, but now that I have children and love them to pieces, I just don’t want to see them suffer.

So, when I read news stories like this, instead of blowing stuff like this off as a “hmmm…that’s interesting,” I let tiny bubbles of panic float around in the back of my mind. Every now and then, one of those bubbles will pop, and my mind will give in to those thoughts of worry.

Like, “Is my son sniffling too much?” or “Why is she coughing all of a sudden? WHY IS SHE COUGHING?”

And then, I catch myself. I tell myself to calm down. If my kids are truly sick, my mother’s instinct will tell me. In the meantime, I need to dial back the freak factor a few notches.

I know deep down that it does no good to worry about something that is out of my control. I also know that my kids don’t need that type of phobic parent, and I don’t want them to become germaphobes either.

All I can do is encourage my kids to wash their hands regularly and hope that all of the surfaces they’ve ever licked has helped to build a healthy immune system.

And perhaps I should disable my news notifications.

After I wipe down my phone, of course.

Kids and Car Crashes

I was originally going to post today about road trips, being that the Labor Day weekend coming up is a huge traveling holiday.

And then I was involved in a car accident yesterday.

It was a five-car collision, with the force and trajectory of a pinball machine.  One car was hit by another, then went careening across three lanes of traffic, nearly missing the back of my car, only to hit the car behind me, which was catapulted forward, sideswiping my car and the one in the lane next to me as we were stopped at a red light.

Luckily, thankfully, everyone is okay.

Including my two children who were sitting in the backseat.

Kids and Car Crashes

“Are you guys okay?” was the first thing that blurted from my mouth, before I could even assess, or process, what had just happened. My kids were all right. My kids were all right. My kids were all right.

It’s the first thing you check on when something like that happens, right? I mean, I could have cared less if I was paralyzed from the neck down. As long as my children were unscathed, everything would be fine.

In the chaos of arriving fire trucks, police cars and EMT’s, amidst the vocal barrage of the hysterical and belligerent driver that came pouring out of the skidding vehicle, all I wanted to do was make sure my children stayed safe and sound inside of my car.

My dented vehicle was drivable, in the mere sense that I could lurch it over to the nearest parking lot where the police corralled us all to get our accounts of the incident, but had to be towed away. I’ll be driving a rental until our insurance can appraise the damage and make repairs. And I can’t imagine what impact this will have on our premiums.

But really, does all of that matter?

All I can think about now is how grateful I am that I wasn’t a mere three feet further back in the lane.

Or that my eight year-old son, after much begging and pleading on his part and much internet searching for legality and safety on my part, just graduated to a big kid seat belt instead of his booster seat, and that I’m kicking myself now for allowing that to happen.

That thing my mom used to say to me as a teenager that I would roll my eyes at keeps coming up. The one that goes “it’s not YOU I worry about on the road, it’s all of the other idiots.”

I realize that car accidents happen all the time, that I am a safe driver, blah blah blah.

But the thoughts that ran through my head last night went something like this:

I’m thinking that perhaps I should purchase a military vehicle. A Hummer. Made out of solid titanium.  Equipped even bigger versions of those gigantic fenders you see on bumper cars so that we’d take up two whole lanes. Ideally, with a movement-activated force field set to shield us completely at the first sign of something moving in our direction.  That’s right. Shut. That. Thing. Down.

And then, I think before they even get buckled in to their seatbelts, I’ll envelope my children from head to toe in bubble wrap, layering them in even MORE bubble wrap once they’re finally strapped in.

I’ll maybe even make them wear a helmet.

And to make us super-duper über-safe, I should put ALL of us in five point harnesses. Yes, I expect some protest. But my husband will just have to get used to it.

Sure, this would take us an hour to leave the house, and probably just as long to get out of the car when we arrived at school, but we’d all be safe and sound, right?

In all seriousness, the only armor I could provide for my family yesterday was the invisible kind. The kind that didn’t show alarm or panic, the one that reassured my kids that everything would be okay, and they had nothing to fear. Not then, not now, not ever.

In the adrenaline and excitement of the afternoon, my kids went a little bonkers. I’m sure they will tell just about everyone at school today that they were in a car crash.  It was all they could talk about last night, and I’m sure it’s all they will be able to talk about today. But I really, really, really hope they never have another story like this to tell, ever.

In the meantime, I’m going to Google the heck out of that force-field thing.

Dealing With Pet Loss

You know what’s funny about life? You never know when it’s going to take you by surprise and knock you on your ass.

Last week, we came thisclose to losing our pet fish.

Wait, let me rephrase that. My daughter came thisclose to killing her pet fish.

It was by no means intentional. Actually, it was quite sweet.

I was changing the water in the fish tank, and had moved her little beta fish, Golden, to the tiny plastic cup that brought the fish home from the pet store a month ago. As I walked in to my daughter’s room with fresh water, she quickly threw her fish back in to the cup and started to look guilty.

I ran over to make sure the fish was okay, then asked my daughter was she was doing.

Petting the fish. That’s what she was doing.

Petting.

The.

Fish.

Can you get any cuter than that? It was pretty hard to get angry with her, when I know that all she wanted to do was show her pet some love. I reminded her that fish need water to survive, and that they’re better off in the tank than in her palm.

When we checked the tank, Golden swam around a little, so we moved on with our afternoon.

But later, the swimming stopped.

The poor fish started sinking down to the bottom, finally coming to rest atop bright, florescent gravel. And I thought, “Okay, here we go. Get the ‘Circle of Life speech ready.”

Pet loss

My daughter felt absolutely horrible. Her fish sat listless at the bottom, but banging on the tank produced some flutters, so we hadn’t pronounced the fish dead just yet. We decided to wait and see how the fish was doing in the morning before making the crucial decision: backyard burial, or burial at sea.

Because I knew, I just knew that fish was as dead as a doornail.

The next morning, my daughter shuffled downstairs, hair in every direction, and swore she saw her fish swimming around during the night.

Oh, honey.

I walked in to the room, bracing myself for having to discuss death with my five year-old.

When sure as shit, that fish was swimming around the tank. SWIMMING. It was like a resurrection.

I have never seen anything like it, and my daughter was convinced that all of her love had brought the fish back from the brink of death.

So when our beloved parakeet started looking like crap four days later, it came as a shock.

Fish? Yes, I’m prepared for fish to live short lives. But our bird? I wasn’t ready for her to die yet.

pet bird

Our little cutie, Coco

We adopted Coco two years ago. My husband (a.k.a. “Bubble Boy”) is horribly allergic to anything with fur, and this bird gave our kids the closest experience to a pet they could cuddle. Well, except for my daughter’s fish-caressing.

Coco was a social little bird, who greeted us every morning with tweets and chirps.  The kids adored her, often perching Coco on their shoulders while reading books or playing with toys. And my son loved to tell everyone he had a pet bird at home.

She was a wonderful addition to our family. And I thought we’d have more time with her.

The thing with birds is, once they start looking sick, it’s usually too late. So when Coco got all fluffed-up on Thursday night, I knew things would probably not end well, I just didn’t want to believe it.

Not seeing any improvement on Friday morning, I took our bird in to the vet. They diagnosed her with a gastric ulcer, which was causing her red blood count to be extremely low. By Saturday morning, she was so weak she couldn’t stand up, so I took her back to the vet, who suggested hospitalization in the hopes of getting the bird stabilized.

I left her at the vet at 10:30am, and at 11:30 as I was standing in line at Whole Foods, I got the call that our bird had passed on her own.

It was the first time I’d ever lost a substantial family pet. And it was the first time my children had ever lost a substantial family pet.

I wasn’t sure how the kids would handle the pet loss. My daughter cried, my son processed it slowly. And I took it worst of all.

I’m sure the folks at the vet think I’m The Crazy Bird Lady, hemming and hawing over how I’d like them to dispose of her teeny body as if I’d lost a dear relative.

Yes, I realize it was a one-ounce bird. But she was our sweet pet and she will be missed.

Through the whole ordeal, I kept thinking, “If only that miraculous coming-back-to-life thing had blessed our bird, instead of the $5 fish.”  But life never works out how you expect it to.

Surely, the swift and sudden death of our pet has made us stop for a few minutes and appreciate the brevity of life, and to hold tight the ones we love, for we never know when they’ll be taken from us.

I just need to tell my daughter that “holding tight” is figurative, and not literal. Or we’ll be dealing with another pet loss soon.