Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back Off, June

He tried to keep it a secret. He promised it was no more than a flirtation and that it meant nothing. But the cat's out of the bag now, and I have to face the truth and brace myself against the competition for my man's affections.

My husband got hit on by a cast member at Disney World.

Well, not really hit on. More like, flirted with in a child-like and innocent matter. But still.

It happened at our character lunch at Hollywood and Vine at MGM Studios. He "forgot" all about it until we had friends over this weekend and shared the story. Forgot. Yeah, right. I think he was covering his little character tryst.

This particular character lunch featured Ainsley's favorite Playhouse Disney pals, Leo and June from The Little Einsteins. June in particular holds a special spot in Ains's affections; she's a pretty little character who loves to dance and leaps gracefully about in her ballet shoes in every episode. Ainsley was thrilled to see June, and to make sure the kid didn't miss her, I grabbed Ains for a potty break right after we arrived and while June was still on the other side of the restaurant.

Apparently I shouldn't have left my husband unattended around such riff-raff. While we were gone, June slid past my husband on her way to some other tables and brushed her hand along his shoulder as she passed. Jason thought nothing of it until our waitress called out, "Now, June, let's not flirt." At that, June raised her big old character hand up to her big old character mouth and made a cute little "Who, me?" expression.


Jason said it cracked him up, but I guess he didn't feel it was amusing enough to share when we got back to the table. This weekend's revelation was the first I've heard of it. I think he knew I would be jealous of June in her sexy little purple dress and super-sized head. After all, I know my husband likes his brown-eyed brunettes (and this particular specimen was all eyes and hair). He probably has her phone number somewhere.

I am shocked that a preschool role model would display such behavior. I expected something like that from Ariel or Jasmine, but from June? For shame.

If push came to shove, I am pretty sure I could take her. With that big, bobbly head of hers, I'm sure she has a high center of gravity and one good knock would be all it would take.

Bring it on, June. Bring it on.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shortest. Summer. Ever

Today finds me at my first day back to work after waaaay too short a summer "break." It's been exactly one month since Relay, and I only had one free week before that, so all in all this was the shortest summer I've ever had as an educator.

I have our new calendar to blame. After a series of discussions and votes, the fellow teachers in the district, for reasons I can't fathom, chose a calendar for the next two years that has us starting back with the students over a week earlier than any year since I've been here. That would be all fine and dandy with me if it meant we finished before Memorial Day like every school around us does, but it doesn't mean that. Instead, we get a fall break. A fall break that will be great fun for me, since I can't go anywhere or do anything because Ainsley does not get this same break at her school and Jason will have to work. (Hold the sarcasm, that actually does sound fun!) But I would much rather us get out early next summer.

I can also blame a snafu with our district's big professional development workshop for me coming back so early. See, I technically shouldn't be here. Even with my extended employment, I shouldn't have to start until next Monday. But I found out right after we got home from Disney that I would be responsible for helping with the technology for that workshop this week. It's a long story as to why this got sprung on me, and I am extremely bitter about it, so I am going to just let that one lie (lay?) lest I go on a tirade that just leaves me feeling more depressed than I already am.

How did I spend my last weekend of this short summer? Ainsley did a program at a local recreation center Friday night for a few hours that gave Jason and I a chance to be alone. We were all excited about it: 4 hours to do what we want! When hubby got home, we discussed our possibilities, and decided on a nice Mexican restaurant a little too nice to take Ains. Barely two streets away from home, while a sudden rain was pelting the windshield, I heard myself saying, "Or, we could just stay home and order pizza and have the house to ourselves..." Pitiful, I know. The next thing I knew I was standing at the refrigerator, pizza ordered and on the way, Netflix rental we've been sitting on for approximately a decade waiting to have time to watch cued up in the DVD player, contemplating whether or not the $7 bottle of Chardonnay I had dipped into for a chicken dish the night before would go well with string cheese. (It did.) Ahh, the life of a grown-up.

Then I got up insanely early to run a 5K with the hubby that I wasn't very well prepared for and that has left every muscle below my hips crying with pain today.

And yesterday I just sat around the house, mourning the end of a summer that had barely begun.

But as I write it is 3:00, and my first day back is over. The first day is always the hardest; from there, it becomes routine. Like prison.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oh, No, She Didn't!

Can you believe that my daughter actually said to me today, "But you're not the boss of this house!"?

How has she lived with us for 4 years and not know that the mama is, indeed, the boss of the house and all who dwell within?

And where does she get off talking to me like that?

This is alarming. I thought I had another decade before smart-mouting and diva-like behavior. Whodathunk I'd be dealing with such attitude on the eve of her fifth birthday?

It starts. And I'm not ready. Help me out: is it just a stage, or a sign of a loooong road ahead?

Good Endings

I do so love a good ending.

If you've been wondering why Cranky hasn't posted this week, it's because I've been spending every free moment reading Harry Potter. Well, not every free moment. I got very close to the end Monday night, and I made myself stop reading to prolong the end. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to those characters. Tuesday night, after Ainsley and Jason both were in bed, I savored the last chapters in complete privacy so I could cry if I wanted to, cheer if I wanted to, and pop open a beer if the ending left a bad taste in my mouth. Alas, the first two happened, but the last wasn't necessary.

I was in a contemplative mood all day yesterday. Not because Ms. Rowling didn't do justice to the most beloved series of "children's" books ever. I was pensive because of the finality of it all. And the simple beauty of her ending.

So many of the books I've read and the movies I've seen in the last decade have had open endings. Everyone got so uptight last month over the abrupt, open-for-interpretation finale of The Sopranos, but to me it just seemed part of a larger trend. It's become popular to end things by not really ending them. By leaving at least one big question unanswered. Like, what the frick was in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction? And even when contemporary movies and novels tie up all loose ends, they often do it with a twist. I love twisty movies like The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, and The Prestige, but I don't really think it's an ending when the audience's first reaction is to head back to the menu on the DVD to watch it a second time. Only in a second viewing can you really piece the story together and have a feeling of, "And NOW I get it."

It was good, then, to have Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have a real end. No cheap tricks, no set-up for Harry Potter: The College Years. We got the answers we needed. We saw the future. No Potter fan should feel cheated. Simply...beautiful.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for giving us these characters and this story. And thank you for giving us a good ending.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Happy Harry Potter Day!

It's both a happy and sad one today, kids. On the one hand, the mail man is going to bring my copy of Deathly Hallows. Hooray! On the other hand...the mail man is going to bring my copy of Deathly Hallows. Boo. That means after I read it, Harry Potter's adventures are over. I'll never again spend a summer morning waiting breathlessly for the mail man. I'll never again read a Harry Potter book for the first time. I'll never again wonder how it all ends and whether or not Harry dies, whether or not Dumbledore is really gone, whether or not Snape is a good guy or a bad guy. Since Ainsley is spending THE ENTIRE WEEKEND at Mamaw's (go away for a week, and the grandmothers knock themselves out wanting to spend time with the little one) I may have all the answers by this time tomorrow. The magic will be over.

I am going to try to make the best of it. It is an absolutely gorgeous day here in northern Kentucky, and I plan on slathering my pale self with sunscreen and heading to the deck to soak up some rays (safely; I've already had cancer once.) When I spy the mail truck, I will run out and grab my treasured book and begin the final journey. I will try my best to savor it and soak up every moment and prolong the end. But I know me; I am, after all, a person who slammed down The Road during a car ride through Georgia. I am a fast reader and go through books I like the way that Japanese competitive eating champion goes through hot dogs (or did, until he got arthritis in his jaw and got soundly spanked by the American kid.)

It's the end of an era. Endings are always hard for me. It is with a heavy heart that I go on with the very last Harry Potter Day.

Gotta go; methinks I hear the distant whine of a mail truck...

How Old Does My Daughter Think I Am?

Overheard at lunch this week:

Ains: "Mommy, do you graduate today?"

Me: (Wondering where in the world this came from, and how she knows what graduation is, and whether or not she overheard any of my nostalgic and revealing conversations with my college roomie last week) "No. I graduated a really long time ago."

Ains: "Oh. You graduated a really long time ago. Was that back when the dinosaurs died?"

Then she grinned. I swear, I think I was just set up for a slam by my 4-year-old.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One Loooooong Decade

Ten years ago today, Jason and I stood before a loopy deacon who had only performed one other wedding besides ours and promised to love, honor, and obey 'til death do us part. I should have known by the craziness of the ceremony that we were in for an interesting, eventful ten years.

I converted to Catholicism the year before we got married. I did this partly because Jason is sorta Catholic (he wan't confirmed and isn't a really big church-goer, but he went through all the motions as a kid) and partly because I found the Catholic mass more in line with my religious preference than the fire-and-brimstone revivals of my evangelical childhood churches. I adored Father Britt, the priest at the church where I was baptised and planned to be married, but a month before the ceremony he asked if the deacon could perform the ceremony instead as he had been asked to co-preside at a parishioner's half-Catholic, half-Jewish ceremony that same evening. At the time, it seemed fine; we were doing the abridged version with no communion, and as long as we finished up as husband and wife and I got to wear my pretty white dress for 45 minutes, I didn't care.

I should have cared.

The deacon's ignorance of the procedure for a modern Catholic wedding became apparent in the first 5 minutes of the rehearsal. Our church had a great pre-wedding coordinator who met with me twice in the six months before the wedding helping me finalize the readings, the songs, and making everything fit into the liturgy for a Catholic-light wedding. The deacon apparently hadn't gotten any of her memos.

He questioned the music. He questioned the order we were doing things. He puzzled over the readings. He asked us for a vessel to bless our rings and acted scandalized when we had no idea what he was talking about. By the time Jason and I practiced our procession out of the church, I was in tears. I need order and predictabiliy. I don't procrastinate. I plan my bowel movements a month in advance. (Not really, but oh that I could.) My plans for a beautiful, personal, and still-organized and very Catholic wedding had gotten thrown out a fake stained-glass window. I cried all the way to the future in-laws' house for the rehearsal hoe-down.

Someone put a tumbler of cheap white zinfandel in my hand upon my arrival. It was Jason's best man and the third member of our "Great Triumvirate" in high school. I was assured that he would take over if things started going wrong and if the deacon started to skip over anything like he had done in rehearsal. He also assured me he would find the darned vessel we were asked to supply for the rings (he ended up using a brass ashtray shaped like a seashell.) Seriously, the church didn't have a dedicated something-or-other for the blessing of the rings? Somehow, though, it seems fitting that our rings, the symbols of our everlasting union, were made sacred in a random knick-knack that the best man found in a drawer at his grandmother's house.

An hour and a wine-buzz later, I was line-dancing to "Boot-Scootin' Boogie" with my sister on the in-laws' concrete backyard and readying myself emotionally for a disappointing wedding by getting toasted.

To this day, I don't remember that much about our wedding ceremony. Not because of the cheap wine the night before. But because I was the on-the-fly wedding coordinator. I was watching every step our officiant made, correcting him at several points (If you listen closely on our wedding tape, you can hear me hissing, "Unity candle!" after the deacon rather rudely and wrongly cued my sister-in-law to do the prayers of the faithful.) I knew our born-leader best man would do anything short of tackling the deacon to give me the wedding I had planned for for months (actually, I think he may have taken great pleasure at taking out the deacon) but I felt like the whole thing was in my hands. After we were pronounced man and wife (and after improvising our kiss, as Deacon Dumbass forgot to say, "You may now kiss the bride") I felt a great burden lift off my shoulders. We had somehow pulled our wedding out of chaos, and most importantly, I had my man.

Looking back, that wedding was perfect for us. I can be a control freak, but neither Jason or I take ourselves very seriously. A big, fluffy, perfect ceremony would not have fit. I am glad I can look back at the seashell ashtray and orders hissed under my breath and get the giggles. That's really who we are.

And these first ten years haven't gone exactly as planned, either. If you've read this blog, you know we've had a rough beginning. We both realized classroom teaching wasn't for us and admitted defeat, spending two years going back to school to go into different careers. The in-laws' house caught fire and the entire second floor and most of the contents of the first floor were destroyed. Jason lost a beloved grandmother and his stepdad, who was more a father to him than his "real" dad ever was. I lost my dad to cancer shortly after battling it myself. We almost lost his mom last year. But we're here. We're together. And we're ready for the next ten years (we think.)

Here's hoping for a more quiet, less eventful decade. But I know that's as unrealistic a dream as a "perfect" wedding. I can handle whatever comes my way, though, as long as my Jason is by my side, to laugh with, to cry with.

And as long as we have people in our lives to bail us out with brass ashtrays and tumblers of wine when the situation calls for it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Out of the Mouth of Ains, part 3

One funny Ainsley-ism before I shut up about Disney World.

On our second Magic Kingdom day, we made a beeline for the Space Orbiter. Ainsley had wanted to ride it the first day, but the lines in the afternoon after we'd hit Fantasyland were too long. It's basically another variation on the Dumbo ride (these variations are all over the parks and just about the only thing 4-year-olds can ride there) but with one exciting twist: the ride is on the roof of another building, so you get to go round and round a lot higher than you do on Triceratop Spin or Dumbo or the Magic Carpet Ride.

As we were going from the park entrance to Tomorrowland, Ainsley kept asking if we were going to ride the "eskimo". "I don't want to ride the eskimo!" she kept saying. We just assumed she meant the "Small World" ride; we had gotten stuck in the last room of that ride the day before (an experience which, if prolonged, would make a really good punishment in hell), and there were those creepy international dolls all around us singing that infernal song, and we had pointed out that some of those dolls were Alaskan eskimos.

Wrong-o! As we got close to the Orbiter, she spied an escalator that takes people to another attraction in that same area. "The eskimo! I don't want to ride the eskimo!"

Ooooh. I see. Escalator. Eskimo.

It's actually an improvement. She used to call them "alligators." As in, "I don't want to get on the alligator!"

No matter what they're called, she's afraid of them.

Think about it next time you're at the mall. Beware the eskimos.

The Road

OK, so I've complained a lot about driving all the way through Georgia non-stop to get home from Disney World, but there was one really good thing that came of it. I read The Road.

I bought this Oprah pick a few weeks ago but with Relay, I didn't have a chance to start it. I also wanted to finish The Book Thief before I started anything else. (You may have read my post raving about it when I first started it back in April; I got side-tracked and didn't read much for a while, but when I did finish it, it had one of the most satisfying endings of any book I've read in years; I cried the night I read the last pages.) I threw The Road in the back of the car before we left for Disney with high hopes that I would have time to read at night. Jason and I got caught up in Wonder Years reruns after putting Ainsley to bed instead. But it worked out for the best as The Road really is a wonderful companion for an arduous road trip.

This book was listed as Entertainment Weekly's best novel of 2006, and guest columnist Stephen King sang its praises in two separate literary columns last year. Then Oprah picked it, so I almost gave it a pass, because I haven't had much luck with liking Oprah's sometimes pretentious book picks. It proved to be just as amazing as Uncle Stevie said in his reviews, though, so I am glad she encouraged this book to the masses.

It is not the feel-good beach read of the summer. It is a spare apocalyptic story of a man and his son, one of only a handful survivors of a never-fully-explained earth-ending holocaust. In what seems to be a coming nuclear winter, the man and his boy hit the road to go south in search of warmth, food, and hopefully, more "good-guy" survivors. As they travel, they must stay hidden from the "bad guys", bands of marauders who enslave and cannibalize other survivors in this dead world. There are scenes almost too horrible to read, but for 8 hours from northern Florida to an hour north of Atlanta, I couldn't put it down.

I got so absorbed in this novel that even though Jason and I were supposed to swtich off driving duties in Atlanta, Jason offered to keep driving so I could finish it (and so Ainsley could keep sleeping.) When I did finish it, I bawled. Reading it was such an emotional experience, especially reading the way I did, going through a journey myself; you get so vested in seeing the characters get to their promised land.

I do wish I had taken longer to read it. I can imagine how much more devastating and beautiful the ending would have been if I'd spent weeks instead of hours getting to know those characters and letting them live in my heart and head. On the other hand, I don't know if I could have put it down long enough to stretch the reading experience out.

Pick it up if you want a dark but redeeming power of love and survival.

I am trying to not get too involved in anything else this week because Harry Potter is on his way (and I also want to savor The Road a little longer.) If you happen to read it, come back to the blog and let me know what you thought.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I want to pause for a moment to publicly thank some people who made the drive down to Disney World fun. I saw their comments today on my last post, and it reminded me to give them some props.

My college roomie and her husband are two of the kindest people in the world. She drove all the way up here 5 years ago to attend one of my baby showers, and then she and her husband came back a year later while I was undergoing cancer treatment. Every time I've ever needed encouragement, from the time Jason and I broke up for 2 days in college (at 19, that was the biggest heartbreak of my life) to my illness, she was there.

We hadn't seen them since their last visit 4 years ago because Ainsley used to be such a terrible traveller, and it was so good to see them again. We had never met their beautiful daughter, and I've always regretted that I didn't try to get down there to see her sooner. They treated us to a good dinner and awesome smoothies (do pass along your formula!) and, as always, good conversation well into the night. And I can't forget the Good Eats pancakes...though I wish I could, because my little Martha White specials from the package just ain't gonna cut it around here anymore.

It was great seeing them, but I've been sad because it just brought back so many memories and I've been missing them ever since. Some of our best friends live too far away for us to see them as often as we want (I'm thinking of you, too, Rosses!) I resolve to not let another 4 years go by without seeing them (and they're only a couple of hours into Georgia, and given our recent driving woes in that state, that's a huge plus.)

So, to our friends in Atlanta: Thank you so much for the southern hospitality. We miss you (and Ainsley misses her play buddy).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinosaur Rides, 3-D Duck Electrocutions, and Smoldering Cracker Barrels: How to Scare Your Kid to Death on Vacation

We're back! And we're more or less caught up on sleep! What a trip. It was fun, but as my favorite red-slippered Kansas girl says, there's no place like home.

Five consecutive days touring Walt Disney World is a lot to take. It was overwhelming for Jason and I, so I know it had to be sensory overload on Ains. In typical 4-year-old fashion, though, Ainsley didn't want to leave and cried on the way out Saturday morning, saying she wanted to stay at Disney World forever. And tiring though it was, I can see why; it truly is a magical place.

I'll spare you the play-by-play. We saw way too much to decribe everything. It was a Cranky vacation, though, so it was filled with quirks. Let us discuss those first, shall we?

Dinosaur: The Ride

Our second day there we hit the Animal Kingdom. It was incredible; there's a safari "ride" where we got close enough to the giraffes to reach out and touch one (if we'd been allowed). There was a very cool Finding Nemo stage musical and a Monsters, Inc. 3-D comedy show. What they didn't have a lot of, though, were rides. After a few turns on the Triceratop Spin (think Dumbo ride but with cute little dinosaurs instead of cute little elephants) we were all jonesin' for something a little more exciting. I looked through the brochure, and there was really only one ride left that Ainsley was tall enough to ride. It was simply called "Dinosaur" and from the outside it looked a lot like the old Smurf ride at King's Island. Our brochure did not have an exclamation point next to this ride (exclamation points in Disney guides denote rides that may frighten young children) so we gave it a shot.

Now bear in mind that Ainsley beat the height restriction for this ride by 6 inches. And also bear in mind the fact that there was no parental warning.

It started off well; it was a little car that went through a prehistoric forest. The story of this ride (everything in Disney World must have a story) is that we were sent back in time to capture a dinosaur and come back to the present with it for study. We were all learning a lot the first 5 minutes; as we passed different dinos, we heard their names and whether or not they were plant- or meat-eaters. But then things took a turn. There was a "malfunction" and our "time-travel vehicle" took us too close to a T-Rex. As we passed this huge, fake dinosaur, whose scary, toothy head was no more than 2 feet away from our car, it roared. No, not roared; it ROARED. Loud enough to feel it in your heart.

Have I ever mentioned that Ainsley is afraid of loud noises? Like, really afraid?

That was it. She started bawling. You couldn't hear her, though; the ride stayed that loud for the remainder of the story. I could just see her open mouth and her tears, and there was nothing Jason and I could do but hold her and tell her it would be over soon.

The last dino was something or other that was right over our heads and when it roared, I even had to avert my eyes. I don't scare easily on rides, but that seemed a little too real.

We were able to get her calmed down right after we got off the ride, and she seemed to understand our explanation that the dinosaurs weren't real. But she was emphatic in her assertion that she would ride no more dark or loud rides.

When we got back to our cabin, I popped out our Unofficial Guide to Disney World and flipped to the section where the authors dissect every ride. Sure enough, if I had paid closer attention to that before we went, I would have seen that that ride is loud and scary and sends kids younger than 6 into total panic. Live and learn, I guess.

For the rest of the trip, every single ride or show we took Ainsley to earned an anxious, "But is it scary?" It was frustrating after a while because there was nothing we didn't have to talk Ainsley into riding, including the Dumbo ride she had been talking about for ages. We brought it on ourselves, though. Us and some scary-ass dinosaurs.

Mickey's Philharmagic

This was my absolute favorite attraction. It's in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, and it's a 3-D movie showcasing some of the best scenes from Disney animation with special effects that make you feel like you're there. You get the marching broomsticks from Fantasia, and when water splashes you get misted with water. You see "Be Our Guest", and when accidental maestro Donald Duck holds an apple pie out to you, they scent the air with apple cinnamon. As Jasmine and Aladdin take their magic carpet ride, wind blows around you perfectly synched with the motions of the carpet so you feel like you're zooming on the carpet, too. Since it was a real 3-D movie, we got the added treat of putting on those fashionable 3-D glasses and laughing at how dorky we looked.

The problem was we hit the Magic Kingdom and this ride after the Dinosaur fiasco, so Ainsley was a little squeamish about it. As it went on, though, we could hear her giggling and occasionally see her reach out to try to touch one of the things popping out of the screen.

During the Little Mermaid sequence, though, Donald brushes against an electric eel and gets juiced. Loudly. Which apparently freaked Ainsley a little.

We went back to the Magic Kingdom for an encore the next day, and it took us forever to figure out what Ains was talking about when she said she didn't want to look at Donald while he had the "blue lines" on him. As we rode the Philharmagic one last time, and she hid her face in my shoulder during that scene, we finally understood. When he hits the eel, the electricity makes blue lines on him and he keeps getting zapped throughout Ariel's swan song.

And speaking of the scariness of electricity...

A Smoldering Cracker Barrel at the Tennessee Line

Georgia sucks. (Sorry, Karen!) On the way down, we broke up that monstrosity of a state by stopping for an overnight with some friends. It tricked us into thinking it wasn't that bad to drive through.

On the way back, we decided to buck up and drive straight through. Ainsley was doing surprisingly well in the car by that point, and we all wanted to sleep in our own beds, even if it meant we wouldn't see those beds until 1 in the morning.

We almost changed our mind in Georgia. We hit some terrible traffic in two different spots that added an hour to our trip, it stormed almost the entire time we drove through it, and it went on forever. We had resolved to not stop for dinner until we crossed into Tennessee and to hit the first Cracker Barrell we saw on the flip side. (I am a hillbilly at heart, after all, and can't make a road trip without a fried okra stop.)

Finally, we crossed the state line. Jason and I let out quiet whoops so as to not wake Ainsley, who gave up in the mountains of northern Georgia and decided to sleep it out. We had seen signs for a Cracker Barrel at the very first exit in Tennessee and wearily veered in that direction.

No sooner had we gotten seated than we started to smell a hot, electrical smell. Our waitress brought our drinks and said they had someone checking out some wiring and that it was no big deal.

I was doubtful, and got up with Ainsley for a potty break of my own in case we had to leave and hit the road again. The hostess stopped me and said, "Hon, we're going to be evacuating the building soon because there are some smoking wires in the ceiling in the gift shop. You need to hurry."

I grabbed Ainsley by the hand and rushed to the bathroom 'cause, when you gotta go, you gotta go. She sensed my urgency and started to panic. The panic became a full-tilt scream when the hostess came into the bathroom and said she was going to wait with us to escort us out. Ains screamed and cried so loud our escort had to step out of the small enclosed space in order to keep her hearing.

I peed as fast as I possibly could, all the while looking in awe at the acrid blue haze that had started to fill the space above my head in the bathroom. By the time we made our mad dash out, the restaurant had been evacuated and fire trucks were outside. Of course, I had to backtrack to our table to get my purse, because darling hubby had left it behind.

The gift shop was full of that caustic-smelling electrical haze as we left. We knew there would be no chicken and dumplins served at that particular old country store that night and headed back north, calming Ainsley the whole time (and assuring her she could still order mac and cheese at the next Cracker Barrell.)

Fortunately, there's a Cracker Barrell roughly every 4 miles in Tennessee, so we didn't have to drive very far to get us some chicken and turnip greens. We did have to assure Ainsley that the next one wasn't on fire, too (since they all look the same, she got a little panicky in the gift shop of our next Barrell and looked up at the ceiling for smoke.)

From there, it was smooth sailing through Tennessee and Kentucky. When we finally pulled the Canyonero into the driveway, I was very relieved to have our adventures behind us.

But yesterday as I unpacked our souvenirs, and went online to view the pictures taken throughout the House of Mouse, I got sad. Like Ainsley, I wanted to go back and live in that special place forever. We got hot, we got tired, and we got scared, but we also saw some things that can only be described as magical. I have been cynical all along about Disney, but you have to hand it to them; their job is to create a fantasy and make every little girl feel like a princess and every little boy like a hero, and they do that so well that when you come back to your own little home and your own simple life, you long for those vacation days when everything was magic.

Even if you do have to drive through Georgia to get there.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pre-Vacation SUV Update

OK, so we picked up our rental, and it's HUGE. I mean, I know SUVs are big. I've always driven smaller cars, and my mom's Buick LeSabre feels like I'm driving a semi when I borrow it. But this really is a small tank.

It's a Jeep something or other, and it's as high and boxy as a Hummer and seats 8. 8! And there will just be three of us. We wanted some room to stretch out, but good lord. There are smaller SUVs that would have been fine. We're not taking our starting 5 or anything.

Darling hubby reminds me he just went for the cheapest price on Travelocity, and there wasn't a "small SUV" category, and tells me in his own way that I should shut up and deal with it. But I seriously don't think I can drive the damn thing. I'll be a danger to myself and others.

Ever seen that episode of The Simpsons with the "Canyonero"? The jingle includes the classic line, "Smells like a steak and seats 35! Canyoner-o...." That's it. That's what we're driving to Disney. A "squirrel-squashing, deer-smacking driving machine...Canyoner--oooo!"

I can't wait to see what other oversized adventures await us. If we can fit our urban assault vehicle into a parking spot.

Look Out, Disney World, Here We Come!

This will be Cranky's last blog for a while. Tomorrow morning we leave for the Sunshine State to visit a big mouse and some princesses. I am tempted to tote the laptop and hope we have wireless access in our resort, but even librarians need a break from the internets sometimes.

(BTW, Ainsley is watching The Wizard of Oz as I write this; she spent the night with Mamaw last night and didn't get to finish the movie over there. We're to the part where Dorothy and Co. meet the wizard for the first time and I still find that long walk down the emerald hallway a little frightening.)

We pick up our rented SUV tonight and head out first thing in the morning. The gas cost is going to hurt, but neither of our cars is particularly suited for a long car trip for someone as tall as Jason, so we broke down and rented an SUV. We also bought a portable DVD player and a Leap Pad for Ains, and transferred a bunch of her favorite songs onto an old MP3 player we have. So the little beast should be set for, oh, 2 or 3 hours before she starts asking, "Are we there yet?"

We stop in Atlanta tomorrow night to visit a very dear friend and her family and get a good night's sleep before the final leg of the journey. From there it's 6 days right there at Disney a mere boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom.

Wish us luck, readers. We've never taken Ainsley on a car trip longer than an hour and a half away, so we have no idea what we're in for.

And take care of yourselves. I will take copious notes for a nice, newsy blog when I get back. For those of you who read my entry about our day at the zoo, you know that strange things have a habit of happening to me so I expect the unexpected.

If you really need something to read between now and July 16, chat with each other below. Choose from these fun Disney-related topics:

1. If you could sleep with any cartoon character, who would it be? (My choice: Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid. Soooo dreamy. And so not real.)

2. What was the best Disney animated movie? I'm talking old-school animation, not the Pixar stuff. (Personally, I'm for The Lion King.)

3. What's the best Disney ballad? Don't be embarrassed; you know you sing along with them in all their cheesy glory. (My vote goes to A Whole New World.)

4. Which Disney princess do you most identify with and why? (As a librarian and bookish brunette, I think the obvious one for me is Belle. Even if she is much prissier than I am.)

5. Who is the scariest Disney villain? (Cruella DeVil wigged me out as a kid, but Snow White's witch ran a close second.)

6. And, finally, if I think Disney is such an evil, greedy empire, how do they still end up taking so much of my money?

Gotta go. The witch is melting, which means Ainsley is due for a final nap in her own bed. See ya on the flip side!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Worst Medical Test in the History of the World

It's taken me two days to be able to talk about it.

On Tuesday, I had my first annual breast MRI. Apparently, women treated with radiation for Hodgkin's lymphoma before age 30 just earned a position on the ACS's high-risk-for-breast-cancer list, and they just changed their recommendations for that category of women to include an annual breast MRI in addition to an annual mammogram. At least for women younger than 40; our breast tissue is dense, and mammograms are missing early cancers in high-risk younger women. So after a fight with my insurance company, my new radiation oncologist set me up for this lovely exam.

I had one MRI years ago. A few months after I finished cancer treatment, I had a migraine that lasted for two weeks, so I had a head MRI to rule out the unthinkable. I am claustrophobic, but that MRI wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I could see the technicians through the mirror they had placed over the machine and a fan blew on me, so I didn't feel closed in or trapped. I think I actually fell asleep in there. I figured the breast MRI would be just as painless.

Ooh, boy. It su-ucked.

What I didn't expect was that they have to lay you face-down and drop your boobies through two holes on the sliding table that bring to mind two-holer outhouses (yes, I'm originally from the country.) In an effort to make me comfortable (as if such a thing is possible in a face-down position in an MRI machine) the techs put a pillow under my face. Problem was, it was a very soft pillow that my face gradually sunk into, leaving no space under my nose. I breathed through a pillow for 30 minutes. They told me I could turn my head to the side, but because the MRI machine curves, the pillow curved up around my head and pressed the pillow even tighter against my nose.

I didn't start feeling the suffocation until the test had begun and I was reminded to keep as still as possible. It was too late to ask someone to readjust the pillow. Right before the test started, I had already had to call the techs in to turn the fan on higher; I couldn't feel any air on my head, and it was wigging me out to the verge of a panic attack. Then when the fan did come on high, it blew my hair all over the small portion of my face that was free from the pillow and tickled the upper part of my nose while my hands were pinned at my sides and under my thighs, useless to scratch. It was unbelievably miserable.

As the machine roared to life, I had my face upturned with only my chin touching the pillow. When my head started sinking into the pillow and I realized I was going to have to breathe through it, I tried to keep my head up higher. I was able to do this for about 10 minutes before my neck muscles started to cramp up and get too tired. I let my head sink down and just kept telling myself that the fan blowing on me would give me enough air and to try to keep calm. The test lasted a total of 40 minutes.

Add to this the problem that they can't fit the headphones in when people are laying face-down. I heard and felt every bit of the clanking, popping, and roaring the machine makes. They could fit earlpugs in, and I suppose this helped some, but it was scary and near-deafening at times.

Just when I was thinking there was no way I could go on, a voice came into the tube telling me I was doing great and that there were only 4 minutes left. I concentrated on holding my suffocated and cramped body still just a few more minutes while the test finished up.

I was never so happy to be rolled out of a test in my entire life. With my medical past, I've been through it all; more full-body CT scans than I can count, annual PET scans, biopsies, pokings and proddings. But nothing has ever been like this.

When I do this again next year, they are sooooo sedating me.

And shoving the pillow up their arses.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cancelled DJs, Spilt Meat Trays, Protesting Boy Scouts, and Other Things That Can Go Wrong With Charity Events

It's over, kids. Put a fork in it. It's done.

Relay for Life was Friday night and Saturday morning and I am still recovering. I was awake for 24 hours straight, and was on my feet for around 18 hours straight. The next day wasn't so bad; yesterday and today have been brutal. My body is sore and my mind is fuzzy. But my heart...well, it's not so fuzzy.

I guess all in all Relay was a success. It looks like our total will be a pinch above last year's fundraising total of $43,000. And by pinch, I mean pinch. Like maybe just a few dollars over. Which means we didn't make our goal of $50,000.

What will haunt me about this Relay though is all the things that went wrong. We've been plagued by bad luck from the beginning of our Relay planning. One of our committee members had his second cancer diagnosis this year (he has an excellent prognosis and was back to work within a month of surgery), another lost her mom to cancer, and several of us had immediate family members with other significant health problems. We had a "phantom" sponsor who disappeared 2 months after agreeing to be one of our presenting sponors for $2,500. We saw 2 ACS staff partners move on to different jobs and went several months with no contact helping us at the ACS. We had to wing it with small numbers and no outside help. A fitness instructor cancelled her program a week before, and we also had a protest from a parent in the boy scout troop that volunteered to light the hundreds of luminaria bags needed at the luminaria ceremony. The parent objected to the scouts helping out because the American Cancer Society supports stem cell research. The scouts had to drop out after this protest, leaving us hanging and leaving me royally pissed off. Thankfully, replacements were found the day before and things were looking OK.

And then there was Friday night itself. Before I even talk about it I think I need a shot of something...ahhh, much better. Friday night was the stuff interventions are made of. It would have driven a Mormon to pull a bender.

Things were going fine at first. We had a lot of help getting the field set up, and things were on schedule. However, all week I had had this feeling that the DJ was going to cancel. I couldn't shake this feeling. There was no logical explanation for it; the DJ worked at one of our elementary schools and did the event for us last year and was happy to be on board again. He had confirmed with me before school let out. But the feeling that he was going to cancel was so strong that I had asked our head custodian to make sure I could get into the office where our school's portable sound system is and brought my laptop just in case.

Good thing I have a little spidey sense. At 4:30, an hour and a half before the Relay started, the DJ came up to me while I was getting the cafeteria set up for the survivor reception to tell me he had just gotten out of the hospital and was under orders to not be there. He couldn't reach me by phone, so he violated the orders long enough to come up to school to tell me in person. He had just been diagnosed with a serious heart problem and had been hospitalized all week. I felt terrible for him; he's younger than I am and it sounds like he has a long road ahead of him. I felt terrible for us, too; even with my back-up plan, it was a bad situation. The portable sound system is not very powerful, and the music I have on my laptop isn't exactly the most exciting stuff to keep people walking for 6 hours.

I got the system set up and working with just a few minutes to spare until the opening ceremony. In the meantime, our assistant superintendent heard of our situation and made a few calls; he somehow found an available DJ with connections to our schools who could be there by 7 and work until 11. So for 4 hours we had a professional. I had some good friends bail me out after that; we still had to use my laptop and the crappy sound system, but they played DJ and brought their CDs from home. God bless them.

I also had heard that our survivor reception chair had an accident with the meat tray and fell with it; cold cuts flew all over our cafeteria. He had enough time to go to Kroger and get more food, but he went down pretty hard himself and had to go home to recuperate and left the reception to a skeleton crew of volunteers.

Our staff partner from the ACS also mysteriously disappeared while we were still trying to finalize the accounting so we could announce the highest fundraising team and individual (she told our accountant she was going to her car to nap at 3am, but she never came back and we couldn't find her car anywhere in the lot.) She wasn't much help, anyway, but she did have the spreadsheet we had used for totals on her laptop and without it, our poor accountant had to go back and tally everything by hand.

It finally was over, and it seemed people had a good time. But for something that sucked so much of my life for one year, I can't help but be disappointed that we didn't make our goal. I don't know; the whole comedy of errors has left a bitter taste in my mouth (or is that the beer I've been drinking ever since?).

Hopefully time will change my perspective and I will see Relay 2007 as the worthwhile fundraising experience it was.

Until then, keep the Bud Selects coming.