Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gooey Perfection




I remember feeling really sorry for Deborah Norville when she took over Jane Pauley’s spot on “The Today Show.” People were so mean. They never even gave her a chance. For 20 years or so I’ve been rooting for her, even during those lean years on “A Current Affair” or “Inside Edition” or whatever it was… until now.

Her interview in Family Circle has left me fairly nauseous. Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading magazines such as Family Circle if I don’t really aspire to a certain level of domestic bliss myself, but puh-leez.

I mean, at our house we had a near perfect Christmas. We wept at all the appropriate parts of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” we looked semi-decent for church. The kids woke up at a reasonable hour and took turns opening presents. They seemed genuinely grateful. We ate homemade chili and played games all afternoon. Fine. But do you really want to read about that?

Here are some snippets from the Deborah Norville interview:

Q: You were raised in Georgia. How have your southern values influenced your kids?

There’s a lot that I’ve tried to teach them: to say ma’am and sir, to have impeccable table manners, to respect their elders, and to pray before bed.

Yada, Yada, several more Q&A’s in which Deborah confesses to being a superior seamstress who “feels fulfilled when I finish making curtains or a dress” and a terrific cook whose chicken curry “is the dish my kids request the most.”


Personally, I feel most fulfilled after diving into a half-gallon of brownie ice cream. And I know that the second I would dare to mention that my children have "impeccable" anything, all hell would break loose. I'm never taking that chance.

This my fav:

Q: What’s life like on a random Saturday at your house?

A: If raspberries are in season, the kids and I like to bake a berry dessert. We put fresh berries in the bottom of a quiche pan and sprinkle them with sugar. Then we top that with a mix of soft butter, sugar and flour and bake at 325 until the fruit gets gooey. Delicious!

Sounds just like a typical Saturday here at Casa See. Nice and gooey.

All I Want for Christmas Is...


Poison Ivy? In December? In his eye? Poor kid.

Oh Well


Remember last week when I was going to write about my mysterious yearly weight loss? Well, never mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Worst. Date. Ever



I was reading Texas Mama’s blog and was thoroughly entertained by her tale of her worst date ever. It got me thinking about which date in my life would qualify. I decided to count out the heart-wrenching “should we break up or not?” dates and instead focus on the date that, while not emotionally scarring, would blow the others away on a Crappy Date Meter. It just had to be prom, my sophomore year in high school.

At that point I had dated a few boys, but I wouldn’t call myself “experienced.” By this, I mean, I had never kissed a boy. The boys I dated may have thought it was because I was a “good Christian girl,” but it was really because I was afraid that if I tried, I’d suck. In a bad way. After a while, hesitation turned into phobia. For the same reason, I didn’t learn to ride a bike until FIFTH GRADE and I still can’t dive into a pool.

Therefore, I was as chaste as chaste can be. One of my boyfriends, dear Calvin, who would ride his little red mo-ped 5 miles through traffic across town to see me, eventually saw through my act and gently said, “Anna, if you are afraid to kiss me, because you haven’t done it before, that’s okay. There’s nothing to worry about.” I, in a haughty 14 year old voice retorted, “It’s not that I don’t know how to kiss, I just don’t want to kiss you.”


Ouch. I punished him for seeing through me, and 25 years later, I still regret those unkind words.

Sooooooo, by sophomore year I had some unresolved dating issues. My friend and confidant Nancy had an older friend who had to be in his 20’s at that point. Imagine my surprise as I answered the kitchen phone, to hear this guy, this man, offering me “his services” to work out “a problem he heard I had.” Ewwww. I was mortified and declined. Just thinking about that part of the story makes me want to lock Molly up for the rest of her life to keep her away from pervs like that.

Well, let’s get to the worst date ever. So, here I was a sophomore, with an active dating life—Pizza Hut, parties, dances, the movies. My preferred dating M.O. was to go out with slightly older guys who could drive. I had no intention of attending prom, since I was just a sophomore.


One day I got a call from an older boy in my church youth group. He asked if I’d go to his prom at the rival high school and I said sure. I didn’t know much about him, but he was cute and I figured he must like me and I’d just never noticed. I was actually closer to his mom that to him—I think I would have fared better going w/ his mom.

Despite some anxiety about the kissing thing, I pulled a ruffly peach gown out of my closet (it was 1985!) and was ready for the big night. I can’t remember what we did for dinner, but at the dance I was not my fun, bubbly self. I was not getting a flirty vibe from this guy at all. I was used to guys showing me attention. From him? Nada.

At one point I went into the bathroom because the ballroom felt hot and cold all at once. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a pale face, clammy skin, and my mullet-like hair plastered down with sweat. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but was determined to tough it out.

Eventually, we headed to his house for an after-party. This consisted of a 6 people, two of whom were my date’s ex-girlfriend and her date. If I had been more in-tune to current youth group gossip, I would have known my date and his hot and heavy girlfriend had broken up just a few weeks before the prom. I would have found it unusual that she would be at his house at all.

At this point, however, my head was pounding and I didn’t much care. My date continued to ignore me completely. As I sat on his couch with my eyes closed, willing the night to end, I heard, “Mmmmm, Oh yeah….. mmmmmm” coming from right next to me.

Yep, my date and the ex-girlfriend were making out on the couch. I guess somewhere between breaking up and prom, there had been some making up. The parents must have insisted they not cancel their prom dates. Gee thanks.
These two love birds could not bear to be apart on the most important night of the year. Eventually, they went outside to “talk” while the (no-longer ex) girlfriend’s date and I were left alone. Awk-ward.

Eventually, my date came inside and deigned to drive me home. He drove so fast that I got the distinct impression he had somewhere else to go, as in, “ditch Anna as fast as you can so I can put my tongue back down your throat!”

No walk to the door. No goodnight. He did slow down enough for me to get out of the car. Before I dragged my shivering butt into my bed I looked in the mirror. What did I see?


Chicken pox.


Thus ended the Worst. Date. Ever.

P.S.

I’d like to add a footnote for those of you are wondering how this kiss-phobe ever became the mother of two beautiful children. It did take a couple more years to get over my “issue”—time and a few Bartles and James wine coolers did the trick. Thank you very much.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Confession: Psycho-Mom


I was going to write about my annual shrinkage, in which I tend to lose 5 stubborn pounds every winter, through no virtue or effort on my part, only to see it land back soundly on my thighs each May just in time for pool season. I was going to regale you with tales of this squandered thinness from Nov-April a chilly time in which even I don’t see myself in a state of undress.

I was going to lament the 5 lb’s presence in mid-July when even the longest skirted swimsuit can’t disguise it. I was going to deliberate whether I should try to keep it off this time, by cutting back on ice cream and starting to exercise again. I was going to leave you with a wise, borderline profound and mostly sincere statement about how losing those 5 lbs does not bring me happiness, for happiness cannot be found in things. But I won’t.

Instead, I have the pressing need to write about something else. Psycho-Mom. I tried to leave her home from Molly’s class Christmas party today, but she snuck into the car with me. Two cups of Constant Comment tea and a Diet Dr. Pepper beforehand, almost as sure an antidote as garlic to a vampire, didn’t ward her off either.

This has been the unfortunate situation over the past few years on field trips and lunch duty, too. I try to shake her off, and sometimes I make it through the craft and snack portion of the party without her rearing her ugly head, sometimes I don’t.

Molly has expressed embarrassment at Psycho-Mom’s unpleasant outbursts. Other moms tend to turn away, much as you would from a train wreck, while sneaking the occasional peek.

Why am I the only bitchy mom in these here parts? The others have wonderful soothing voices and don’t seem driven to psychosis when 16 second graders are all yelling, “My turn! Pick me! She cheated! Me! Me!” at them. The other moms are pictures of serenity, genuine kindness, and Christian restraint. I think of Michelle Duggar, who gave birth to her 18th child yesterday and has never raised her voice to her kids.

I’d almost made it through the whole party when I decided to take the last 10 minutes to play “Christmas Pictionary” on the board. Bad move. There was not enough time for everyone to go, and they all crowded around shouting out answers. The crush of bodies at the board threatened to turn into a WHO concert, or another Black Friday tragedy at Wal-mart. Psycho-Mom was starting to sweat. The clues were too easy, everyone was right and everyone deserved to go next. Four children held dry-erase markers, poised to go. Kids’ eyes started to well with tears. Pure chaos.

By this time the other moms were checking out, cleaning up and vacating. I wish they’d left a few minutes earlier, before Psycho-Mom really spread her wings.

I don’t really know how to paint this picture for you, other than to say it stunk. Kids, knowing that not only was I a horribly unfair mom who had let her own daughter go first, started bemoaning the injustice of it all. The enforcers, key 2nd grade girls, tried to regain some semblance of control by bossing the other kids around, and complaining to me, not knowing how short Psycho-mom’s fuse could be.

When I finally lost it, I insisted they all sit down and I may, just may, have uttered in an extra-loud voice something as self-righteous and pouty as, “ Sit down! Mouths closed! I am hurt, even wounded, that you would be screaming and shouting at me during this Christmas party. Especially while one of your poor fellow students is trying, in vain, to draw our blessed Baby Jesus on the board for you to guess! What, I ask you, would Baby Jesus think?” Crazy mom on Aisle 3, perhaps?

I know when I don’t volunteer for Girl Scout outings, sleepovers and class parties I may look like an uncaring person, who leaves others to pick up her slack, but I’m starting to think that the best gift I can give this year is to avoid these events altogether. To the children, the teachers, and my fellow mommies, I am so sorry this took me so long to figure out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Confession


This is the image my family tends to project at Christmas.

Sometimes, the reality is more zany and snuggly like this:
But a lot of the time, like this morning, it's more like this:


Minus any hint of a smile on my face.


When Jake threw a pen at Molly this morning in anger, I went all Linda Blair on him. I started screaming and ordered him to his room. When he gave me a shocked, angry, defiant look on his way up the stairs, I even grabbed him by the collar and yelled some more. Nice.


Molly told me later that she got caught in a stream of spit coming out of my mouth as I screamed. After I sent them off to school-- Isn't it nice to start their day on such a positive note? You're welcome, teachers!-- I had time to think about what kind of example I was setting.

My anger at his getting angry was about 100 times more intense than his was, minus the flying object. Any message I was trying to send him about self-control was lost in my own venomous rage.

I was really probably pissed because I hadn't had any caffeine, I was freaked about how much I was going to spend at Costco later ($400 to be exact), and I was feeling pressured to pick the "perfect" family Christmas card photo that captured us in all our adorableness. Hmmm.


I used the teachable moment to apologize, explain the irony of the situation (former English teachers like to get that in when we can), give hugs, and ask for forgiveness. All is back to red-plaid "perfection" in the See household again.

For all of us who have screamed at our kids seconds before pulling into the church parking lot, huffed and puffed around our "too small" houses while lamenting our kids' stubbornness and lack of gratitude, and any others who fall short on a daily basis--

I wish a Christmas of Peace, from the Prince of Peace, who loves us no matter what.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wounded Pride



Ever since I put a picture of Tom on my blog with a big gash on his forehead, I’ve been meaning to tell you the story behind his injury. In hunter’s parlance, he “got scoped.” When I was in college, “to scope” was to check out hot guys. This morphed into calling all hot guys you liked your “scopes.” Well, this is different from what happened to Tom.

He was in WV hunting with my brother. I was at home seething because he always leaves me alone with the kids for the first part of Thanksgiving week while he takes this trip. It took me until about Wednesday to get over myself and realize that leaving a mom home alone with two toddlers is vastly different from leaving her home with a 7 and 9 year old who are in school 6 hours a day. I had also overlooked the fun of having cereal and/or grilled cheese for dinner each night and blogging until 2 am without feeling like I had to explain myself.

During this year’s hunting trip, my 11 year old nephew rose to the ranks of the adult hunters by bagging 3 deer. Tom’s pressure to perform rose too. You see, Tom was not raised in a hunting family. When he and I married, my brother and his fellow hunters welcomed him warmly and spread the love of expensive hunting equipment, copious amounts of fried food, and male bonding, but Tom was still on the fringe. What he needed was to bag a huge buck.

Over the years he has endured some teasing, most of it deserved. There was the year he took a novel out into the woods with him and was caught reading under a tree. Or when he got excited and shot a “button buck”—when he was supposed to leave it alone so it could mature into a massive beast. Another time he fell asleep and nearly got trampled by a herd of deer running down the hillside on top of him. My brother and his friends are Southern-ish good old boys. Burps, farts, dirty jokes. Tom is all Northern private boarding school. Reserved, tidy, preppy.

So, when Tom did take a shot at a deer this year, not only did he miss, he bashed his head in with the scope from his rifle. Blood everywhere. Wounded pride. A Harry Potter-like scar. Much explaining to do at work, at church, in the hood. It didn’t help his self esteem when my brother let me shoot a rifle off the porch at a target and I almost got a bulls-eye. Beginner’s luck.

Oh well, part of me wants him to start hating hunting since I’m not really in love with the concept and so we can all travel together for Thanksgiving next year. The other part of me wants him to get back into the game and keep trying. This will be a great example to the kids about perseverance, and who knows, he might even bag his elusive “Moby Buck.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Perplexing Postage


Is it just me, or is this new papaya postcard stamp vaguely disturbing?

Maybe between Lamaze classes and my gyno's office, I've seen one too many posters over the years.

All I know is, whatever she's got, I don't want it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Confession


I am a huge dork. My non-bloggy friends have seen many examples of this in everyday life and need no more proof. For my bloggy friends, in case you have even a shred of doubt that I’m a dork, this post is for you.

Okay, I’ve been doing this blog thing for about 11 months. When I started writing mine, I had never even read a blog. I soon started reading and enjoying other people’s blogs. Not wanting to navigate away from them and lose track of my new friends forever, I decided to save some of them to my “favorites.”

This is before I knew anything about RSS feeds and the “Blogs I follow” function. Actually, I still don’t know what an RSS feed is, but I hear it’s kind of cool.

Anyway, for a good while I would click on my favorites to check out these awesome blogs. I got discouraged when I realized that these women, whose writing I admired, desired, and perhaps even coveted, WEREN’T POSTING ANYTHING NEW.

What was going on? Had they dared to let family time and jobs interfere with their blogging responsibilities? Why were they still talking about the swimming pool when they should have been writing about carpools and soccer games?

It took me a teeny bit of time (precise days, weeks or months are not necessary to divulge here) before I realized that when I saved to “favorites,” I was just saving a particular blog entry instead of the front page of a blog. I kept going back to the same old blog entries I'd read before.

I’m glad to know you are much more productive than I thought you were. I am glad your priorities are much more in line with where I thought they should be—entertaining me-- for instance. And I’m glad to erase any doubt you may have harbored about my immense dork-dom.


Oh, and see those band-aids on Tom's face in this picture, the one in which I'm working a Farrah Fawcett hairdo? He's a dork, too, but that story will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Anna's Free Gift Guide


Jake's very detailed Christmas list contains Legos, Legos, and more Legos. I wasn't sure what Molly wanted, so I set her to work on her list. Here it is with corrected spelling:


1. Big surprise is a mouse!

2. Tickets to a Jonas Brothers' concert (please)

3. Do not take me to Home Depot ever again.


#1 gives me the creeps, no way in heck for #2, and I'm seriously considering making a fancy gift certificate for #3. I mean, she's not exactly a whole lot of fun to take to Home Depot anyway. This could be the gift that keeps on giving...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Real Moms...

My friend Shana at So Not Zen tagged me with this meme. I have never done a meme and am not really sure what one is.

Sooooo, instead of figuring out how to tag others right now, since I really have to go pee, I'll just put this one on here, having added a link to one of my posts at the bottom, or number 10. I hope you'll enjoy taking a look at all of the posts linked in this meme.

If you are sad I didn't tag you, I'm sure I'll learn more about these things as time goes by.

1. Real moms don't flinch when they talk about boobs. They do make you laugh your brains out.
2. Real moms go on vacation and learn to play traffic cop.
3. Real moms brag about their kids.
3. Real moms do not mince words when they present the truth.
4. Real moms juggle.
5. Real moms "resist the guilt and embrace the journey."
6. Real moms don't give a damn to media generated Mommy Wars.
8. Real moms creatively modify discipline techniques.
9. Real moms give good advice. Really, kids, you should listen.
10. Real moms get unsolicited fashion advice from their off-spring.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Mother of All Compliments


Tom is a bit quiet and shy, so he’s not the most demonstrative guy in the world. Even with me. Before we got married, at our church's 3 hour mandatory communication class (yeah, we rocked that thing!), we had to write down our wants and needs for after marriage.

Here’s my list:
I need to sleep in until 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
I want to be told, on occasion, that I look good.

After 5 years of dating, I knew that I was marrying a morning person, who might be tempted to seize the day and drag me along with him into it, and I suspected he might also need a little nudge when it came to complimenting his wife.

I’m not a prima dona, or at list not too much of one, but we had experienced more than a few ill-fated attempts at compliments in the past. I had read somewhere that men want our needs spelled out for them, which is why I was so blunt. I was looking for-- “You look good. You look nice. You look pretty.”

You see, this is the guy who told me he was attracted to me for my personality. This is not sought-after information when you are 21 and as hot as you're ever going to be. This is the guy who, upon seeing me in my new floral, drop-waisted dress (it was 1992!) said, “You look HOMELY in that dress!”

Silence.

“Uh, it’s just so soft and pretty?”

“Okay, so are you trying to say I look “HOME-Y” in my dress? And if so, is this a good thing?”

“Yes.”

*******
Here’s Tom’s List:

I am not the enemy
Clean counters

Since Tom does not have a blog, and therefore a voice, we will not need to delve too deeply into the first item on his list, except perhaps to posit that w/ five years of dating me he knew that he might, perhaps, be my closest target when I got a teeny bit grumpy.

As for the second item, I guess he desired clean counters. We will not dwell too much on or judge him too harshly for the fact that he answered his questions in a non-standard fashion that deviated from the clearly established I want/ need format.

******

Soooooooo last night, with a newfound resolve to try to improve my self-image, or get some pre-Thanksgiving action, Tom took a deep breath and said, “Kids, you have the most beautiful mother in the world.” He looked uncomfortable, but he got it out just fine.

Molly: “No she’s NOT, I saw a newspaper picture of the best mother and it wasn’t her.”

Tom: “I never said BEST mother, I said most beautiful.”

Gee thanks guys. Kind of makes me what to go smear raw chicken all over the counters.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Slow to Warm Up

Let’s just say your microwave breaks and even though it’s probably just a little fuse, you don’t want to shell out the 100+ bucks to have a pro come in to take a look at it. You don’t think you use it that much anyway except to check out your hair in its door before leaving the house and to use the timer to tell the kids, “two more minutes!” before time to leave for school.

After a few days in a microwave-less state, you and your husband decide it might be better to start over with a new microwave, rather than pay for repairs, so you take time off work to buy a new one.

You have done your research. You are armed with product reviews and Consumer Reports that basically all say the same thing. Over-the-stove microwaves are, in general, crap, and will most likely break the day after the warranty wears out. You will then be forced to shell out hundreds of dollars to get one fixed, when a brand new countertop model would probably only set you back about 80 bucks.

Sooooo, depressing info in hand, you hit Sears on a weekday morning and see what’s available. At first you start looking for the best price and key features you like, but after a while you just ask whichever one is available to fill the gaping hole above your stove by Thanksgiving Day. Ding! Ding! Ding! You’ve got a winner. For only $692 you now have a new microwave that will be installed on Friday.

You leave Sears and realize that $692 is almost 2 weeks salary at your important new high-powered job. Your husband, thinking he’s making you feel better, says, “Don’t worry, I’ll just put in a couple of extra hours at work this week to pay for it.” Somewhat deflated, you slink off to work.

Now your old microwave sits at the curb ready to be picked up with all of the computer monitors, printers, TV’s, digital cameras and other detritus of our wasteful, throw-away society.

You feel dirty and more than a little guilty as you wonder whether your new gadget has a popcorn button.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Is There Any Mommy Out There?: The Fisher of the Turds

For anyone who has potty trained a little person, this blog entry is for you. This mom rocked it! Is There Any Mommy Out There?: The Fisher of the Turds

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Say To-MAH-to, I Say Please Don't

Anyone who has ever been married for any length of time can talk about the ups and downs of marriage. The rhythms. The times when you are in sync, and the times you’re in the weeds.

I can tell it’s overdue for Tom and me to reconnect when everything that comes out of his mouth makes my skin crawl. Anyone else could say the same things, and I’d extend an inch of grace (or more!) but not to him.

Let me give a few examples. We’re looking for a new microwave, and today he suggested we choose “A-MAH-na.” Ugh. Who says Amana like that? A few minutes later he asked me where the “tape measure-er” was, before finding it the drawer where it has lived happily for the past 5 years. I don’t know what bugged me more, that I prefer to say either “tape measure” or “measuring tape,” or the fact that he couldn’t find it all by his lonesome.

Don’t even get me started on how he says “Hyundai.” Think about every possible way to say it in your head. Then screw it up more. Then make a weird shape with your mouth as you utter it. Drag it out over about 7 seconds. Okay. You get the picture.

Now, many things bug him about me, too. But he doesn’t have a blog, so there’s really no need to delve deeply into them here. My sighs and eye rolls would probably make the list, as well as the way I literally bite my lips shut to avoid saying something mean. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I look like a pointy nosed shrew either way.

I also utter seemingly innocent phrases, which my shy husband thinks sound sexual. I usually do this at parties. You see, I come from a long line of women who are pretty sheltered, perhaps naive about the ways of the world. I remember cringing when my mom dropped off a bunch of “pussy willows” at our neighbor’s house and called them by an embarrassing derivation of that name that I will not type here for fear of unwanted search engine hits.

Sooooooooooo, when I complain at parties of that I’ve “shot my whole wad” at the thrift store lately, my red-faced husband claims that what I am saying is not what I think I am saying. Got it?

I know I am irritating. I even irritate myself sometimes. I just wish certain other irritating people were as self aware.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Barbie Without a Beach Blanket

Jake: “Mom, if Molly’s naked Barbies were in a movie but they were real people, like teenagers, and instead of being in the tub, they were like, at a beach, would the movie be rated R or X?”

Mom: “Um, X, I think.”

Jake: “I thought so.”

Note to moms everywhere: if you have a pile of naked Barbies in the house because they are marketed to girls who are far too young to have the dexterity or follow-through to dress them in their teeny tiny clothes, you may want to think twice before you leave them lounging around in the family bathtub.

If you’ve, ahem, gotten so sick of the little shoes and wetsuits and hotpants that you threw them all away in a cleaning frenzy, you may want to get off your rear and dispose of the dolls themselves, too. What may look innocent to a little girl or her mom could scream X rated movie to others in the house. And if you have Bratz, go ahead and toss them, clothed or unclothed. I’ve heard those girls are hussies.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just Wondering

Did you ever start writing a blog because it was a creative outlet, kept you from watching too much tv, and helped you document your family’s life?

Did you then start to read a lot of other people’s hi-larious, riveting blogs, stay up too late, ignore your family, and get an icky feeling that your blog was really lame by comparison?

Did you start out writing for yourself not even knowing what comments were and then find yourself feeling a little twinge-y about the huge number of comments other people were getting?

Did you get really busy with kids, work or life and quit blogging as often as before and wonder if everyone would stop reading?

Did you remind yourself that this whole blogging thing was really supposed to be for you in the first place and that it shouldn’t ever make you feel crappy, un-creative, and “behind?”

Yeah, me neither.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Give Me A Staple Gun, Part 2


Here's a closer pic of a zebra print chair. I was too cheap to get enough material to cover them all in it, so there are only 2 of these. Ever see any brown and white zebras running around?

Give Me a Staple Gun, I'll Give You a Chair


A month or so ago I bought a run-down 60's or 70's dining room set at my favorite thrift shop. I was initially pumped up by this awesome score, but I got bummed out when I realized they reeked of cigarette smoke and "old taxi cab." Ick.


A lot of Murphy's Oil Soap helped cut down on the stench, and replacing the foam seats helped, too. They either smell much better now, or we've just gotten used to it, much in the way we don't smell the dog anymore.


Tom stained the table dark brown with gel stain that was a vast improvement over the old orangey color. I spray painted the chairs and made new seat pads and covers with my glue and staple guns. I did a pretty crappy paint job, but the overall effect looks pretty decent. The nice thing is, with all 3 leaves in, and using a hodge podge of chairs, this bad boy will seat 10 people!

Here's the tab:
Table and 7 chairs: $44
New Foam: $15
Zebra Fabric: $18
Blue Velvet: $0 (already had)
Gel Stain: $0 (already had)
Spray paint: $40

$117 for the whole shooting match seems like a pretty good
deal.
Here's an "after" shot:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's SNOT Okay

I’ve got nothing, nothing to give to this blog today. I have a vicious cold. My head feels like a giant ball of snot. I sneezed all over my co-worker today and I feel awful about that.

A new jewelry store opened down the street in the hollow shell of the old one despite my ardent desire that the a sweet little man from Mongolia NOT pour his hopes and dreams into that miserable, blighted strip of pavement thereby forever ruining his family’s chances of ever making it in this country.

Now he’s taken to putting key merchandise on a table in front of the store and standing next to it, hour after hour, hoping this will attract customers. No chair, he just stands. How am I supposed to handle this?? It’s enough to make me cry. Okay, I am crying. Why must he do it?

There’s a new neon sign up, attracting NO ONE. NO ONE. Neon isn’t cheap. Did he not realize this store has been 8 different things in 8 years? Why did he think he’d be any different? I just want him to run. Cut his losses before it’s too late. Why pull the scab off slowly, when quickly would be so much better?

I put a silver chain on my Christmas list so Tom can throw this guy a bone, but I can’t even bear to go in there myself. What will I see in his eyes? A ray of hope? Aargh.

So many businesses and restaurants are going to fail in the next few years. I just don’t think I can take it. Too many broken hopes and dreams. Truth be told, the new “Pet Spaw” down the road is more likely to make it than this jewelry store.

I need to go blow my nose.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Putting the Nasty in Nastia


Molly and I went to the Gymnastics Superstars event last night. It featured Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liuken, as well as the entire men’s 2008 Olympic team. Molly was beside herself with excitement, and so was I! I can still remember how enamored I was with Mary Lou Retton in 1984 and how I would have done anything, anything, to meet my loves-- Bart Conner and Mitch Gaylord. Tim Daggett? Yeah, him too.

Last night’s show was put on by Disney, so I expected a little Disneyfication, but I figured for the most part, it would be watching girls and guys in leotards performing amazing feats on the rings, the beam, etc, just like in the Olympics. The sweat of the gym, bright lights, grunts of exertion, some chalk dust in the air.

I hadn’t seen any commercials for it, so I was unprepared for the pseudo-sexual teenybopper rock aspect of last night’s show. Rather than leotards, the women wore sparkly bikini-like costumes or tiny school-girl skirts paired with thigh high stockings. The men’s team was shirtless with blue jeans (made out of very stretchy material, I presume) and cargo shorts. The lights were low and music blared the whole time.

It was weird to see Shawn Johnson, that beautiful little fireplug of muscles and power, tarted up in mesh and sequins flinging her hair around during her floor routine. Check out Shawn in this clip.
It’s funny b/c I’ve always thought that the Olympic leotards should be much more flattering, but after last night, I’ve changed my tune. Even though some leotards look like a sparkly duck died on the shoulder, and the bottoms tend to creep up during strenuous maneuvers, they lend an air of athleticism rather than voyeurism to the whole scene.

These young men and women are world-class athletes who have trained for years and years to be able to do stuff 99.95% of people could never do. I think their get-ups and gyrating dances took away from this. I mean I could dress up in a skanky outfit and dance with a ribbon. You wouldn’t want to watch me, but still.

Wires came down from the ceiling, transporting the gymnasts upward for a Cirque du Soliel effect. There was an all-girl rock band playing, plus Jordan Pruitt, whom I had never heard of, but Jake says is a Disney rocker he saw on a box of Mac and Cheese last year.

There was a whole Hannah Montana send-up and the male gymnasts dressed up like the Jonas Brothers. Good cross promotion, Disney.

Toward the end, Nastia donned a plain white, conservative leotard and did a floor routine set to “Ave Maria.” It was beautiful, albeit jarring after everything else we had seen up until that point. I couldn’t help but think that last night highlighted the Nasty over the Nastia.

I really believe we all would have enjoyed it just as much if it had been a straightforward gymnastics event. Oh well, the tweens ate it up! It was the best night of Molly’s life and Jake is sad he missed it. Nastia and Shawn looked like they were having a blast, too. Now I need to go get Molly into her Hannah Montana Halloween costume. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank You For Not Commenting


No, not my readers. I crave YOUR comments. This is for Tom. When I came home today with two mini-scarecrows to put in the pots in front of our house, but I didn’t have time to get milk for our breakfast tomorrow, you may not have noticed.


If you did notice, thank you for keeping quiet about it. You see, Halloween is 2 days away and I wanted to get a little decorating on. I have priorities. Like coming home and blogging about it.

I tend to think that if you had gone to the store for a big box of my favorite Special K and had come home with-- I don’t know…a baseball card-- I might have had a little something to say about it.

Thanks also for not getting ruffled about that little home improvement “To Do” list on the fridge. You know I like to write jobs down so we can have the satisfaction of crossing them off if we ever get to them. Thanks for not taking this as a personal affront to your manhood.

When you’ve asked me to pick up stamps while I’m out, I’m sorry for those times I’ve acted like you are trying to oppress me and all womankind. I guess sometimes a stamp IS just a stamp, and a #2 coffee filter is just a #2 coffee filter.

While we’re at it, thanks for never once, in the 9 ½ years since I quit teaching, ever uttering the words, “But you’re home all day anyway.” Good decision. Good man.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thank You for Your Support


It’s time to say goodbye to an old friend-- a friend who has seen me through thick and thin and thicker. Through childbirth and nursing and beyond. Through weight fluctuations and mood fluctuations.

Over the years my friend became a bit beaten down and strung out. Others sometimes implied that this friend wasn’t good enough for me anymore and that I should start looking for a replacement. I resented the implication and remained loyal for a few more years. We exercised together, and then quit the gym together-- again. We shared insomnia and late night ice cream runs.

Today, however, was the final straw. My friend failed me in a dramatic way and I just knew I had to look somewhere else for much-needed support. I can now admit it: my favorite bra, dingy and torn, has to go.

If you’ve had kids, you know how your life changes dramatically in so many ways. I’m not even going to get into the physical changes here, some of which do focus in the bra arena, but rather, I'll mention the psychological. The need to be ready to spring into care-giving mode on a moment’s notice changed my habits. Namely, when I had kids, I went from sleeping in the raw to sleeping in a bra, and this comfy cotton number was always my favorite.

I remember a while back Tom asking, “Since when do you sleep with a bra on?” I was like, “Thanks for noticing. This thing hasn’t left my body since 1999." Daytime, nighttime, my bra was the best.

Today I found 3 snazzy yet utilitarian numbers to replace Old Faithful. I hope I’ll like them half as much. Well done, old friend, well done.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quite the Duds


I am trying to fathom how anyone could spend $150,000 on clothes. In today’s papers Sarah Palin denied that amount, and I hope she’s right, because I just cannot wrap my mind around such a staggering number.

It makes me sick that citizens will pony up huge donations to pay for a candidate’s clothes, or, after an election, to replace the rug in the Oval Office ($30,000-50,000--replaced in EVERY new administration, Republican or Democrat), but would these same people donate as much to address world hunger or eradicate malaria??

Today I went to Wal-Mart to stock up on necessities and I actually found some adorable clothes there. Okay, I know I should consider quality over price, but these were semi-trendy clothes, and I’ll feel a lot better next season when today’s baby doll styles are out if I spent $50 rather than $1500 on them. BTW, is that whole sweatshop thing resolved, or do I need to stop buying clothes at Wal-Mart?

I’m sure Sarah Palin has a Wal-Mart in Wasilla, so if she’s reading this, I’d like to give her an idea of what I got for my $226 today: two birthday gifts, jumbo TP and paper towels, 3 bras, 3 sweaters, one trendy blazer, 5 loaves of bread, English muffins, 8 yogurts, 5 boxes of cereal, hair clips (yep, banana clips), 4 bottles of Acai juice, laundry detergent, canned food, snacks, turkey, cleaning supplies, and a few other items I can’t identify from the receipt but that seemed really important when I was there.

Now I’m not saying that Sarah Palin and other politicians must shop at Wal-Mart, Target, and thrift shops like I do, but, hello, how about giving Ann Taylor or J. Crew a try?

Friday Confession

I'm already on my third round of candy corn for the season. I've gone through 1/2 a bag of Skittles and just opened the Reeses assortment Tom bought for trick or treaters. I hate to think I'll have to make a run to the store on Halloween night, but why should this year be any different?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dropping the Ball

This morning we ran out of milk. And toilet paper. And tampons. Each of these might not have seemed like a big deal individually, but together they meant a very stressful start to my day.

I liked it when there was someone here all day who made sure we were well-stocked in necessities. When I opened the closet, towers of paper towels greeted me and made me feel secure. She also made sure the house didn’t look like a sty and that we didn’t accidentally put our NetFlix movies in the recycle bin. She bought a lot of Lean Cuisines on sale so I didn't have to eat Candy Corn for lunch. Oh well.

For those of you who have been ably juggling a job, family, and keeping everyone in food and personal care items for years, I salute you. I hope I get better at it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Discovering My Son is a KABOB*


I've been a tad stressed about writing because this is my 100th post. A lot of people do something special for their 100th, such as writing 100 things about themselves. I've got squat! So I hope a regular post will do.

I’ve been meaning to share with you an event that Jake, Molly and I attended called Brick Fair. As you know, Jake is a huge Lego fan. On the first day of school when he told the class he wanted to be a Lego designer when he grew up, he said some kids laughed at him. So, when outraged Mommy found out there would be a Lego extravaganza in our town, I took him, hoping to support his passion.

Molly wasn’t psyched to go along, but she rose to the occasion. Thousands, yes thousands, of people lined up around the outside of a hotel waiting to get in. A woman with 3 kids and a stroller smoked in our faces as we waited—thanks Lego Mom! 45 minutes and $30 later we were in and surrounded by AFOL’s.

AFOL’s are Adult Fans of Legos. You see, while this event attracted numerous children, it was really a weekend convention geared to adults who still love to build with Legos. They painstaking planned, assembled, disassembled, transported and reassembled behemoth creations—castles, cities, bridges, a huge American flag, and mythical creatures—so they could share them with fellow AFOL’s and children. There were awesome robots. In one entire room, a huge chain reaction machine involving Legos, pulleys, computers and trains, transported little balls from one place to another. The men (yes, mostly men here) wore headsets and communicated with one another electronically. Jake was in heaven.

Now, I don’t mean to be harsh, but I know that Trekkies and Star Wars fans get mucho grief about how geeky they are. Let’s just say AFOL’s can hold their own in geekdom. While on the one hand I was encouraging Jake to explore his passion and assuring him he never need outgrow his Legos, I also inwardly hoped he wouldn’t become one of the AFOL’s walking around gushing at different creations, taking pictures, wielding an 8” x 8” jumbo Lego-covered name badge with nary a child in sight. I'm hoping he'll at least have a kid as a cover. A few young AFOL couples (matching plastic Lego badges, striped knees socks and overalls, no children) convinced me that Jake can one day find a woman to share his brick building passion.

I did crack up over one dad’s amazing creation—our favorite of Brick Fair. It was a humongous castle complete with secret passages, moats, a dungeon, a chapel, etc. dubbed “Kathryn’s Castle” in honor of his daughter. As he spends thousands of dollars adding to it in his basement, he can just tell his wife he’s doing it for his daughter. Yeah, right Dad.

Oh, AFOL’s are very touchy about, well, touching. Head bent over Lego bricks, no eye contact whatsoever, an AFOL can somehow sense if little fingers are sneaking close to a colorful brick. “Hands off!” they shout, never raising their eyes from their work. Jake already hates it when anyone goes near his Lego creations, so he will be well prepared for this aspect of AFOL-dom.

In all, Brick Fair rocked. I got to feel like a supportive mom, and of course I loved my window into a subculture I heretofore had no idea existed. Jake felt buoyed in the knowledge that he was not alone in his love for all things brick. Molly, well Molly got to get her shopping mojo on by buying a few trinkets for Jake and herself. Tom? He was at the office, which is good since he can’t stand crowds. Next year, however, is his turn. In fact, his mom and dad still have his old box of Legos from childhood, so Tom could still turn into an AFOL and I can be his NLS.



A few terms:
“Adult Fan Of LEGO or AFOL refers to those adult hobbyists who build with or collect LEGO. Quite often these people played with LEGO as children, went through what are called Dark Ages, in which their interest in LEGO waned, but then regained their enthusiasm for the hobby.”
NLSO - Non-LEGO Significant Other: the partners of AFOLs
NLS - Non-LEGO Spouse: like NLSO but requires marriage
NLF - Non-LEGO Friend: other people in the lives of AFOLs
*KABOB - Kid with a Bunch of Bricks

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Christmas in October?

I'm having a hard time getting pumped up for Christmas shopping for the kids (yes, we are already thinking of this at our house) when a lot of their toys are still wrapped in garbage bags from this summer's lice infestation. They haven't missed them at all.

It's disheartening to have so much junk that you need to get rid of some before bringing more in. I feel bad about it, but we grant Jake's gift requests much more willingly than Molly's because he wants things like Legos. Okay, he just wants Legos. Tom was a big Lego guy when he was little, so we have the nostalgia factor going on. I don't like the outrageous prices, considering he already has thousands of pieces, but the plus for me is that they store neatly in nice plastic tubs. I like order.

Molly's requests usually cost 1/10th the amount of Jake's, but they just don't have the same appeal to us. She is as happy playing with a piece of yarn, a roll of scotch tape and a tube of lip gloss as a $50 toy. This leads to good, creative play that is a cheaper, but exponentially messier than Jake's. It kind of makes me just want to buy her a pack of pipe cleaners and a cool temp glue gun and set her loose with them.

She is not a hoarder, but she could be described as a collector. Chaff and grain are thrown together in various piles around her very small pink bedroom. Clothes mingle with stuffed animals, schoolwork, and Ranger Rick magazines. Sometimes I go in and throw away little slips of paper and various treasures when she's off at school, but I feel like a jerk doing so. Why is a plastic Lego precious, but not a scribbled song lyric by a future Rock and Roll star?

If she asked for one high quality item (read: American Girl doll) rather than a dozen little plastic items (Littlest Pet Shop animals again!) it'd be easier to comply. But the American Girl dolls have been in lice quarantine since September and have not been missed. Now I'm afraid she's going to ask for MORE stuffed animals to bring into the fold.

When the kids were younger we got them each three gifts: one book, one toy, and one board game. We got this number from the gifts the 3 Wise Men brought baby Jesus. I am not sure when we stopped doing this, but it wasn't because the kids asked for more. As parents, we would just see one more cute thing and want to buy it-- another book, a calendar, a toy car. Before we knew it, our 3 gift limit was shot. Last year I had a whole stocking full of thrift shop goodies that were simply overflow presents.

When I was little, we seldom got anything on our lists. I now know that's probably because I asked for crap and my mom was crap-averse. I'd like to post a Christmas list I found in which I asked for a Shrunken Head Kit that could turn an ordinary apple into a delightful shrunken head. Hmmm. I usually moped around on Christmas thinking I'd gotten the shaft once again. Calling my neighbors, the Joneses, never helped matters. Keeping up with them, as I'm sure you could guess, proved almost impossible.

Oh well, I have 2 1/2 months to ponder these things. The economy could answer some of these questions for me, or at least motivate us to re-institute the 3 gift tradition.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday Confession

I am a fast-talking person whose mouth sometimes gets me into trouble. Sticky situations happen more than I’d like to admit. Fortunately, sometimes I see God work through the humiliating messes I make and teach me something important.

If you know me personally, this Friday Confession won’t be new to you; if you are a blog friend, I know this post is long, but I hope you’ll have a chance to read it anyway:

My family moved about 5 years ago. I loved my old neighborhood, and I was nervous about making new friends in my new home. As I settled in, I waited hopefully for a family to move into a vacant house a few doors down. I prayed that they would have young children and that we would be friends.

One day, as I pulled into my driveway, I saw people in the kitchen window of the vacant house. It was a family! Instead of calmly driving up to my house and coming back later, I pulled over and jumped out of my car. I had always tried to be super-friendly in my old neighborhood, and I wasn’t going to let two cranky toddlers and a full bladder stop me from rolling out the welcome mat!

As I crossed the lawn, a cute mom came out of the house holding a baby and leading a four year old by the hand. Jackpot! As I introduced myself, the wheels started turning. This woman had potential… best friend potential! I pictured us swapping babysitting, planning Halloween parties, the works.

My kids yelled and screamed, wanting to get out of the car, but I was on a roll. Within two minutes, the woman knew ½ my life story, where I attended church, and where the best parks were.

When I pointed out my house, I launched into an amusing tale that I had told pretty much the whole neighborhood since moving in. Yes, we liked our house, but we knew we had overpaid for it. Why? Well, we got into a massive bidding war with some random couple that jacked the price up 11,000 dollars. The hilarious things was that by looking at the signatures on the documents I figured out I had dated the husband in college. Ha! Ha! She and I laughed together.

A few moments later the woman said something that hit me like a freight train. It became obvious to me, but somehow not to her, that I had been talking about her and her husband. They were the ones who had lost the bid on our house. They were the ones I was gossiping about. Crap. Crappity-Crap. Crap.

I felt sick and ashamed; I wanted to move. My whole life I had been so proud of making people feel good about themselves, and for being loving. Yet here I was, talking about someone, insensitively, right to her face.

At this point I could have fled, but I knew I had to address the situation immediately. Full of misery, I confessed my mistake and asked her to forgive me. Do you know what she said with a warm smile on her face? “That’s okay. We extroverts do that sometimes!” I wanted to kiss her.

This woman, a total stranger, helped illustrate to me, in a very real way, what GRACE means. I did not deserve her favor, her forgiveness, but she gave it to me anyway. I felt low, terrible, and ashamed of myself, but she made it right.

At that point I had a choice to make. I could wallow in my mistake, bringing it up again and again, even though it no longer bothered her. I could try to AVOID her, because seeing her would remind me of my own faults, OR I could accept what she offered and move forward.

This is the way it is with God. He offers us forgiveness and grace even though we can’t earn it and don’t deserve it. If we accept it, there is no need to look at the past anymore. Instead, we can move forward in a relationship.

Since that time, my neighbor and I have become super-close. We are freakishly alike and we know we can be real with each other. When she and her husband had their third child, Tom and I were blessed to be asked to be the godparents. This rich relationship wouldn’t have been possible without her offer of grace, and my acceptance of it.

An Inch of Gray, A Dearth of Friends?


Seems like an inch of gray may not be the way to go. Is this why my phone hasn't been ringing lately? Check out this Clairol ad from 1944 and see why.

(click on image for a closer look)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

I started a new job today after 9 1/2 years at home-- more on that later-- but I thought you would enjoy the kind words I got from the family this morning. Tom wrote me a little note on our kitchen chalkboard. Here it is:
















Molly encouraged me in her own way, which I loved!






Her wish for me is my wish for you in whatever you do today, whether at home or in an office: Work is boring, but I hope it isn't for you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

TMI


With school in session, I can take care of a lot of things I put off during the summer, things I don't want to have the kids around for. I'm thinking haircuts, doctors' appointments, the dentist. This has not always been the case. If you are an at-home mom with little ones, you have probably taken your kids lots of places you wish you hadn't. Even a trip to the grocery store can be a major pain.

I remember taking both kids to the gyno with me when they were little. This, of course, would not have been my first choice, but circumstances prevented my getting a sitter that day and off we went. Now a pregnancy visit is one thing-- pee in a cup, the weigh-in, a little feeling of the tummy. This was an annual exam.

The waiting room wasn't bad, although I wonder if a few of the pregnant women were self-righteously thinking, "MY kids will never act like that!"

Does this happen to you? When the waiting room time is over, you think you're close to seeing a doctor, but instead you are tucked into a tiny examining room, told to strip, and then you wait for a seemingly interminable length of time. Maybe it just seems long because of the lack of pants.

When you are on your own, you can artfully fold your little pile of clothes on a chair, pull the paper robe around you and read old copies of Good Housekeeping. With an 18 month and a three year old in tow, you are simply on germ and damage patrol.

Keeping order in such a small space was nearly impossible for me. Within seconds, my neat pile of clothes hit the floor and Molly started caressing the Sharps container. When I got her away from that, she tried to lick the stirrups. Ugh. Three year old Jake was easier to restrain. Sure, at one point he opened the door to expose me in my paper-gowned glory to folks in the hallway, but I actually think that helped get the doctor in sooner.

During my exam, Jake asked, "Mommy, why does that man have his hand in your bottom?" Yikes. I quickly thrust an old National Geographic at him. "Here, read about the pretty zebras." My exam was brief, to say the least, and after the doctor's hasty retreat, I retrieved my clothes from the floor and began to dress.

Jake soon had another question, "Mommy, why are these people all bloody?" Yep, zebras may have been on the cover, but the magazine was documenting a massacre, in full color.

For those of you in the throes of toddlerhood and preschool, I wish for you unencumbered visits to the gyno, the dentist, and maybe even to get a pedicure. The day will come when you can do all these things on your own again. I know we aren't to wish away our kids' childhoods, but I think in certain circumstances it's okay.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Confession



I’ve always been a bit of a wordsmith, so I’ve decided to focus this Friday Confession on times words have turned, well, awk-----ward for me.

Scene 1:
College French class. Upper level French Phonetics. I was zoned out, thinking about that night’s fraternity party, while the professor wrote on the board. Seeing the vacant look in my eyes, she called on me to pronounce the word on the board. Since I hadn’t been paying attention, I assumed what I saw must be one of the many French words yet unfamiliar to me. “Keeeeeeeet,” I said, in my perfect French accent. Laughs and giggles. The word was in English: kite.

Scene 2:
Let’s go back farther. Sixth grade. I was walking down the hall after school with my two buddies, both boys. We discussed all of the things we had learned that day. When talk turned to math, I volunteered what I knew about geometry, specifically triangles: “Isosceles, Scalene, Scrotum.” Yes, this was the same week we started “Family Life Education,” or Sex-Ed. The good news is, I don’t think my young buddies picked up on it.

Have a great long weekend!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Too Little Information?

Jake is fascinated with movie ratings right now. He is astounded and appalled that some parents let their kids watch PG-13 movies before they are 13. This is one of those cases when I am glad my kid is a rigid rule follower. Definitely helps with movie and video game monitoring.

He is pretty curious about what earns films their ratings and has a good idea about PG-13, but is less clear on R and the other one (that I am afraid to type here b/c I don't want to come up on anyone's weird Google searches).

He couldn’t understand why mom and dad might even want to watch an R movie, so I explained to him that although there might be some foul language and violence in a movie, the rating is probably because the themes presented relate more to an adult’s life than a child’s. In fact, a child would probably find it boring. Whew.

I have no idea how he learned that the other rating exists-- probably at the lunch table-- but he is equally curious.

“Mom, what is in a (letter after W) movie?”

“I’m not quite sure, honey, because I’ve never seen one.”

“Well, is it violent?”

“I guess so.”

“Is there a lot of cussing?”

“I bet there is.”

“So mom, those movies have people running around killing each other and cussing?”

“Yes, Jake, I think you’ve got it.”

“……”

“Um, Jake, I think there might also be some nudity.”

“So it’s naked people running around cussing and killing each other?”

“Yes, Jake, I believe it is.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Am I Blue?



It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Anna See in possession of a gift card must be in want of a blue sweater. Most birthdays and major holidays Tom bestows upon me a gift card to a store that is much nicer than where I usually shop (like Goodwill or the side of the road).

I take the gift card to the store, and after searching the racks, settle on a beautiful sweater or blouse in some shade of blue. Imagine my surprise when I hit Ann Taylor Loft yesterday and couldn’t find a single article of clothing in my favorite hue. Clothing colors are cyclical, and apparently with my “summer” complexion of fair hair and eyes, I’m just not “in” this fall.

The saleslady brought me lots of choices of colors—reds, mustards and purples. When I tried on a burnt orange sweater she yelped, “That’s it! Orange is definitely your color!” Now it’s not as if I thought the earth would spin off its axis if I didn’t fall back into my blue sweater rut, but is it really possible at this advanced stage for “my color” to change? I politely tried on a few more orange things while the other shoppers circled around me voicing ardent approval and unsolicited advice like some sort of Greek Chorus.

I wasn’t sure whether they were messing with me. Perhaps there was a quota to push orange items pre-Halloween. So, I brought back a shirt in the brightest, most vivid emerald green I’d ever seen. Would they rave about this too? Silence by all. This, decidedly, was not my color. But I just loved, loved, loved it. Have you ever bought something that you knew wasn’t the most flattering just because you just HAD to have it?

Total haul: one black shirt (safety), one burnt orange sweater (peer pressure), one emerald green shirt (independence!).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Confession


My friend Kate over at The Big Piece of Cake likes to share “Friday Confessions” and entertain her readers with the quirky things she does. I, of course, thought I had nothing to share. Ha! Here goes one:

I just opened a birthday card and looked at the back to see how much the sender spent on me. What's up with that? I don't know if this is a habit, or whether it was the first time. After I did it, I actually found myself wondering if I could gauge how much our relationship was worth based on what they spent. It was the cutest card, adorable actually, and just my style. Retail price? $1.99. I felt a little, well, bummed.

Now I’m a bit freaked because, as you may know by now, I am notoriously… thrifty. I love to buy 10-packs of cards at Michael’s for $1.00. Does that mean my friends think they are worth a mere 10 cents to me? Eeek.

Costco has those big boxes of assorted cards with all sorts of embellishments and glitter on them. When I buy those, I think I’m being extra cool and generous because they look so fancy. The problem is, the card selection rarely changes. Soooo, if you are a regular Costco shopper (I still prefer to call it Price Club), you totally know if someone is sending you one. And at 30 + cards for a mere $15.00, you could get a bit of a complex.

Having such a storehouse of cards also makes me run the risk of sending the same card several years in a row. My friend Jenn? She seems like a sparkly, cute 3-D purse kind of a girl. Is that because of her personality, or because I keep sending her the same card?

My mother in law never forgets a holiday. She has a tight relationship with her local Hallmark store. I could get all puffed up seeing her spend a whopping $5.00, okay $4.99, on me. However, if I start to over think it, I get a little deflated. After all, she’s in the club. Does she really like me 50 times more than I like my girlfriends, or does she just love racking up those gold crown points?

I do hope this post won’t scare anyone off from sending me a card in the future. Seriously, mail is precious. If you do dare, I promise I won’t turn it over!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why Blogging is Dangerous

Certain people think blogging is dangerous because of privacy concerns. I think it’s for other reasons. I’d like to tell you what happened here last night. My stomach flu-addled self was freaked when we got a call from a mom saying that yet another girl in class has lice. You know how I feel about lice, so I decided to get ready for the onslaught.

My first step was to get out our heavy duty lice combs and boil them so they’d be ready for action. Then, I proceeded to head downstairs to my computer to read some blogs. I got caught up in a blog put out by a crazy in my town, who writes all sorts of inflammatory stuff about our town council members. I am used to reading wildly entertaining and edifying blogs by my fellow bloggers each day, not this vitriol, but I found myself caught up rather quickly.

About ONE HOUR into it, I smelled something burning, and didn’t even bother to investigate. Probably Molly’s sneakers getting a little overheated in the dryer. When I started to gag and choke, I turned around and looked upstairs. The house was filled with thick gray smoke, with the most disgusting burning chemical smell imaginable. In the kitchen I saw the pan that once held the lice combs on the stove. Metal on metal, not an ounce of water or plastic left. All of the plastic had disappeared, apparently straight into our lungs. I put the pan outside and started opening doors. By this time it was almost midnight. The smoke had primarily bypassed me, since I was on a lower level, but had shot straight up to the tippy top of the house where the kids were sleeping. It had been burning quite a while before I noticed.


Now if you are wondering whether that Dateline stuff about kids not hearing smoke alarms is true, believe it! The alarms were going off and didn’t wake either kid or my husband. I woke Tom. He turned off the alarms, opened our window, and went back to sleep.

I went to the kids’ rooms, opened their windows (note to self: get new windows that are NOT painted shut), turned on their ceiling fans, and stuffed towels under their doors. I wasn’t sure whether I was keeping the bad stuff out or in, because it truly was everywhere. Jake’s room was the worst because it was the end of the line, smoke-wise.

After that, I was on watch for the rest of the night. With all the doors wide open, I stayed awake in case some sort of critter decided to waltz in our door. I checked on the kids hourly to see if they were breathing. I toyed with the idea of taking them to a motel, because it was taking hours for the rooms to clear. My husband’s slumber was both comforting and annoying. Okay, it was just plain annoying.

He has slept through hurricanes in this house, while I stayed awake worried about a huge tree coming down on the kids’ heads. He happily tucked them in bed in the 105 degree heat when our furnace whacked out on New Years. Both times I suggested moving them to the basement or our bed, or out of the house. It seems that as long as they are in their own beds, he is incapable of worrying about them. This is annoying because it puts the entire worry burden on me. Why I didn’t move them to the basement last night is beyond me. I just thought of that right now, and it makes me want to cry.

About 4 a.m. I tried to engage him in a little discussion.

“Tom, our kids have always been of above average intelligence! What will a whole night of chemicals do to their brains?”

“Glumph.”

“Tom, the asbestos was nothing compared to this! Ever heard of Chernobyl? 3-Mile Island? Our lungs are shot. We WILL all get cancer, you know!”

“…....”

The good thing about his non-engagement is that he doesn’t say, “What kind of mother almost catches the house on fire because she can’t pull her lazy butt away from the computer for 5 seconds! You haven’t gotten off the couch in 5 days because of the “stomach flu” yet you manage to fill our house with toxins, effectively ruining our lives and our children’s futures when most normal people are already in bed!” or, “If you would quit obsessing about lice, perhaps you would be less likely to burn the house down.” So, although I really need someone to process this with me, I guess it’s okay that that someone won’t be Tom.

Those who know me personally may think I am exaggerating a wee bit in this post, but I am not. I have huge mommy guilt on me right now and worry about what we breathed in. I really think I should have gotten them out of the house last night, or at least to the freaking basement, but I didn’t. There have been plenty of other times in parenting when Tom and I have been slow to face problems, and this alarms me because last night did not prove we are heading in a better direction. It makes me lack confidence in our roles as protectors.

A few positives:

The disgusting table and chair smell are not as noticeable now that the whole house smells like burnt plastic.

The hermit crab lives! Did I hear that they were around during dinosaur times? I believe.

And most importantly, we all appear to be safe, for now, thank God!

Warning: blogging can be dangerous.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Such A Bargain?


My friend Cynthia wanted an update on the table and chairs I got at the thrift shop last Monday. Their auspicious beginning has not turned out to be so wonderful. When I borrowed a pick-up truck to go get the table, the thrift shop guys had taken it apart down to the smallest piece and it was a heap of wood and screws on the ground. Although this would have been easier for me to transport and get inside the house, I had them put it back together to make sure it would, indeed, go back together. When I got it home, it sat in the carport for 4 days.

A monsoon blew through on Friday night and the table got soaked. I was so mad that we let the table get trashed in the rain! When Tom and I brought it in on Saturday, it smelled disgusting. With the rain, a simple musty odor had morphed into the pungent smell of cigarettes, cat pee and as Tom said, “nasty taxi cab.” This is right about when my stomach flu symptoms showed up.

Not sure if the hulking, smelly table in my living room is making me sick, or whether my illness is making the table smell more disgusting. Okay, I need to stop writing about this or I’ll have to run out of the room. Let’s just say that a complete dining room set for $44.00 was looking awesome, but now I would be willing to pay to get it out of here to breathe in peace while I wallow on the couch. The buy of the century? Maybe next time.

FYI

It is not a good idea to watch Rachael Ray's cooking show while suffering from the stomach flu.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Bit Warped

Am I the only one who gets a little freaked typing in those security codes when buying or posting something on the internet? I start second guessing-- is that really a Q? I know they are all wiggly and distorted for a reason, so other computers can't copy them, but I never know if I'm typing them in right. I guess the whole process leaves me feeling a little...insecure.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Going Out of Business

I drove by a mom and pop jewelry store today and saw it was going out of business. I feared this would happen, as I had never seen anyone going in and out. A sign proclaiming “Body Jewelry” went up a few months ago, in an effort to attract new customers, but I guess it was not meant to be.

Do you have a store or a restaurant in your town that constantly changes hands? This jewelry store has been an antique/thrift store, insurance agency, wild bird food store, and, when I was a little girl, a pet store called “The Goldfish Bowl.” I know several restaurants that change every few years or so, too. It breaks my heart, because of course I see it as dashed dreams and mounds of debt. I guess I don’t help when I go to chain restaurants, Target and Wal-mart. Did I darken the door of this little place to help keep it going? No. I’m not even sure what body jewelry is.

I did have an interesting encounter with the place years ago when it was in antique/thrift shop mode. My kids were babies, and on a beautiful, warm fall day I was pushing them in their double stroller. I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t have a mom to help me with the kids, to give me a break, even for just five minutes. As I passed the storefront, I saw a sign “Opening Soon,” and, to my amazement, two very familiar chairs in the window. They were two chairs from my childhood home that I had sold years before for $10 each when I had to move out. Was this a sign?

Here I was missing my mom so much, and there were her chairs sitting in the window! I had always regretted selling them. Who knew rattan would be hot again? And, I felt comforted that my mom might be dead, but she was never far from me. I imagined myself going into this adorable new store, buying the chairs back for a semi-inflated price, and having a great story to tell when the kids got older.

A few weeks passed, and when the store opened I went in. A chat with the owner told me this little store was, indeed, her dream. I didn’t mention that that storefront had changed hands so many times she might not linger long. Never did the words cursed or blighted cross my lips. I hoped her dream would come true.

I did tell her the neat story about the chairs and how they had given me hope on a discouraging day. Could I please buy them back? No dice. They may have been part of my plans, but they were part of hers too. For 5 years they had sat in her shed while she plotted having a little shop of her own. She pictured herself and a friend sipping tea, sitting in the chairs, tending a quaint little shop one day. Not for sale.

What do you do when your dream is at odds with someone else’s? For me, I shut my mouth, bought a few small items (that were also "mine" from that fateful yard sale years before) and left. It was only a matter of months before the shop was no more.

Yes, I feel terrible when I see another “Going out of business” sign, and I fear we may be seeing more and more these days. And how I wish I had gotten my chairs back before that one store was gone.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things That Don't Do It For Me



Some bloggers share a list of 100 things about themselves. A list that long about me would bore you to tears. Since I'm feeling lazy today, however, I thought I'd share a few things that I don't really like. Sorry to start w/ the negative. I'll put together a "stuff I like" blog soon.

Lice

Front doors with Oval glass windows in them.

Vinyl siding --I didn’t say I don’t have it, just that I don’t like it .

Precious Moments figurines

The word “Ginormous” --I’ve tried to say it a couple of times, but it just isn’t a good fit for me. Kind of like the tube top I tried to wear last summer

Skulls for Halloween decorations --This stems from a trip to London about 18 years ago. Some loser was selling REAL skulls on the street. How disrespectful. I’ve been scarred ever since.

Underwear that doesn’t fit right

Blisters

Snacks before, during and after kids’ sporting events—and practices. Hello! What happened to water and orange slices during half-time?

Mornings

When people say, “___ years of age” instead of “____ years old.”

When people say, “Give it to Donna and I” instead of “Donna and me.” Does sounding fancy make it right? I think not. Or, when they are a little gun-shy and they say, "Give it to Donna or myself."

When people say, “At this point in time” instead of “Now.”

The phrases “Bring it!” and “Bring it on!” It just sounds so aggressive. It stresses me out.

Suburban teenage girls who talk tough (see "Bring it on" above)

When I act like a jerk

Alcohol in my sweets-- rum cake, alcohol in wedding cakes, etc.

Designer originals and prices

Legalism

Moms judging other moms

Superhero movies

My nose


All right, "a few" turned into quite a list. I feel like such a grouch for having written all of this. What things just don't do it for YOU?

My Ride


My car is making weird noises. Tom and I have not budgeted for a new car, so we hope this one will last until next fall, when it will be 11. Not that I wouldn’t like a new car. My ’99 minivan, purchased in fall of ’98, is spartan at best. No power windows, no remote locks, none of that push one button and the doors open and close stuff either. In fact, this minivan seems more like a “cargo van” than a family car because the only air vents are in the front seat.

Jake, who has been in the “way back” for the past 9 1/ 2 years, has never had the benefit of heating or cooling. The sound system is an AM/FM radio. I remember shortly after buying it thinking I would put in a “tape deck.” A few years later, I amended this to putting in a cd player. Instead, it just remained radio.

I do not think I’ll be getting another van, although I do find all the new bells and whistles they have intriguing. Dual movie screens, I-Pod docks, seats that fold into the floor, safety features such as air bags? Right on. Remote lift-gate opening would be handy too, but I’ve had this van so long my kids have grown to the point where they can do most of that opening and closing stuff themselves anyway.

Besides, I’ve been doing the van thing since I was 18 when I inherited my mom’s. Sure, it was fun to see how many sorority sisters could cram into a minivan (please, no puking!), but after 20 years, the bloom is off the rose. I’ve had exactly 2 cars in my life, and I would like to make sure I get to drive something other than a van before I die.

You may wonder how we ended up with such a plain-Jane car in the first place. I was pregnant with Jake and we knew we needed a new van. I was teaching school and Tom was in graduate school, so money was tight. We picked the cheapest model. We didn’t mind that it didn’t have power anything, because we reasoned, “All that electronic stuff just breaks and would cost us a ton to fix.” Yes, we made this statement in 1998, not 1958.

It has been a great car. I am so familiar with it, I can squeeze into the tiniest parking spaces, even in parking garages. I know exactly how much cargo space I have for thrifting and dumpster diving. Today I managed to squeeze in 8 dining chairs, a high chair and several bags of groceries after a spontaneous trip to the thrift store. Tom, if you are reading this, I’ll explain when you get home. They were such a great deal it would have been a crime not to buy them. Seriously.

Any suggestions for a great family car that’s NOT a minivan? I am thinking Saturn Outlook or GMC Acadia.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Good Academics and Some Moral Respects"

I started to dip my toe in the water about getting a job last night. As I perused the Craigslist want ads, one caught my eye. I was mighty excited about the subject matter and the salary. Perhaps getting back into the work force wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. I sent off an email. This is the response I got today:

“Hello Tutor,
Thanks for replying back to my online job posting, requiring your tutorial service for my son, I would like to make a tutoring arrangement between you and my son for the month of October 2008, I would like you to tutor him within a period of 1month, on a schedule basis of 1hr Daily, 3 times weekly, totaling 12 times in a month. I am willing to pay $70/hr. I would like to use these medium to inform you that my son dont live in the US, he would be flying from Australia to the US, I want you to teach him during his 1 month stay in the US, if there is need to extend your services, an ammedment would be made to your salary. The Local Library close to your location, would be your meeting place with him, he would be dropped off/picked up by his nanny during the hours of teaching.

Payment Terms & Condition:You would be receiving a check drawn from a Bank in the US, from my business associates in the US, since i am from Australia and Australia payments wont be honoured in a bank in the US, These check would be made out for the cost of the tutorial services you are rendering, and also for the living expense, nanny fees of my son.

Regarding this- I hope i can trust you with these payments, as the payment would be made out in excess, so all you have to do is process and cash the payment instantly at your bank, deduct your tutorial service fee, which should be $70 per hour X 12 Times a Month = $840 i would include an additional $100 for run around fee and any additional text book you might be needing- so $940 is what you deduct from the check you receive , whatever the remaining balance is after deduction of the $940 go ahead and deduct Money Gram transfer sending charges for sending out the remainder to the Nanny who would be contacting you with futher arrangements and instructions regarding pickup/drop off of my son to the library where you would always teach him.

So i hope i can trust you that you will teach my son good academics and some moral respects so that they can be good to their self in the future, i hope i can count on you for the tutorial and the money to be sent to the Nanny. I look forward to read a detailed message from you containing the following information, if you are OK with my arrangements, terms and condition.


Full Name.
Mailing Address including Zip Codes ( no PO Box pls ).
Cell No ( If Available ).
Home No.
Gender.
D.O.B.
Marital Status.
Best Time to Call.
Present Job Status.
Email.

N.B My sons Name is Bill Jr, He is actually coming to the US for sight seeing, but while he is here i want him to study at the same time, he understand english, can write and read fluently i just need his grammar, reading and writing upgraded,

Thanks for your Understanding.Bill Christopher.”


I’m glad to see that Mrs. Mary Williams of Nigeria, whose pleading missives regularly fill my in-box, is diversifying. Bill Christopher, Esquire from Australia? Oh boy. I’m not super psyched that he/she has my name and email address, all because I finally bothered looking for gainful employment. I can't wait to see what other gems are going to flood my computer in the coming days.

My job confidence was already faltering, and now I have to get spammed, or phished, or robbed or whatever you want to call it on my first attempt out. Of course the teacher side of me feels like helping poor Australian Bill with his letter writing skills. Maybe I’ll just stay home and blog more often.

Is this a problem?

My cousin told me that one of her most common memories from childhood is her mom’s back as she washed dishes in the sink. The implication was that kids, to a certain extent, just pretty much ran around and did their own thing in those days. I know that today we spend a lot more time with our kids—focusing, having quality time, micromanaging—than our moms did.


However, I’m pretty sure the computer is the new kitchen sink, at least in this house. I have 5 kids around me right now, playing happily as I peck at the keys. No eye contact takes place between us. Yes, they were away at school all day and I had loads of time by myself, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to pull me away…I just love-a the blog.


Do you ever ignore the people around you in order to write to the people "out there?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Ektorp By Any Other Name...


On vacation a few summers ago I was chatting with my friend’s husband, while the hubby of another friend sat nearby. I asked Andy, “How do you like your Ektorp?” referring to his couch from Ikea. I’d had my eye on the Ektorp for a while, for its good looks and low price, but I just hadn’t been able to commit.

Andy replied that he liked it just fine, especially the fact that it was washable and had a 10 year guarantee.

Brian, the other hubby nearby, looked at us with both eyes bugging out of his head. Washable???? 10 year guarantee?????“What ARE you two talking about?” he wanted to know.

“The Ektorp,” a couch from Ikea, I replied. “What did you THINK we were talking about?” Brian proceeded to tell us he thought we were talking about Andy’s recent vasectomy. His reasoning? Well, he knew Andy was the only man in the house with one of those, and he figured I might be interested in getting Tom some of the snip snip too.

I was shocked and amused. Even though I sometimes (okay, often) venture into the realm of TMI, doesn’t it seem rather, well, ballsy that I would be discussing something so personal w/ a friend’s husband? I just wanted to know about a couch!

Since then, our circle of friends has referred to vasectomies as Ektorps. So much so that when I told the gyno I wanted to talk about permanent birth control, the word vasectomy was lost to me. All I could think of was Ektorp! I had to get into a rather detailed description… “you know, the thing where they cut the man’s….”

I find it interesting that Tom and I have yet to be able to commit to either kind of Ektorp. Twice we’ve made the pilgrimage to Ikea to look at the couch, including once last weekend. We sat side by side with the kids to see if it was a good fit for family movie night. It was. Twice we’ve left without buying.
And the other kind of Ektorp? We’ve been pre-op before but have canceled at the last minute, not knowing if that Ektorp was right for us either.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate which kind of Ektorp I’ve chosen for a photo today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

I just had 15 women in my living room for a church meeting. Some I knew well, some I was meeting for the first time. One was our assistant pastor. There was a 16th presence in the room, of which no one spoke--the enormous oozing pustule on the side of my face.

Hello? I am almost 40 and would like to think I’ve outgrown zits. No such luck. I wasn’t sure what the church-lady etiquette was concerning acknowledging a zit. In my house growing up, any blemish, real or perceived, would be commented upon. My dear, dear older brother would breeze into the kitchen: “Hey, Schween-bag --can I carry your zit?” Poor grammar, but he got the point across.

Tonight I felt inclined to mention my blemish, but I held off. Sometimes I tend to get a teensy-weensy bit over familiar, you know? I did use the words hell and crap in front of the minister, but they seemed perfectly appropriate at the time.

When the meeting broke up, I was left with plates of brownies, chocolate cannolli, chocolate chip cookies and other assorted desserts to pack away for consumption when my kids are at school tomorrow. I know most people no longer believe that chocolate causes zits, but I did wonder as I bagged up my stash, if some of the ladies thought that’s how my monster zit got there in the first place.

I have not included a photo with this post. You’re welcome.




P.S. Oh my. I just looked up "Shweenbag" and was alarmed to discover what my brother has been calling me all these years. I prefer this alternate definition: "Schweenbag (SHWEEN-BAG) n. - An unpleasant, uncool, and strange person. One who is out of place in a mildly disgusting way." Whew.