Monday, November 30, 2009
I tried to like you, really I did. You were the one who first introduced me to Photo Books. You showed me how I could put an entire year's worth of pics into one small, thin book-- no cropping, stickers, or glitter required. You convinced me that if I powered through one day in December, by the time Christmas rolled around, I'd have a nice album on the coffee table, look completely pulled together, and even gain points with the in-laws.
I wasn't wowed by your photo quality or your customer service and was eventually woo-ed away by Shutterfly and occasionally Kodak Gallery. But you were my first.
This year, when you sent me the 50% off "each album" coupon, I was back by your side like a lovesick teen. I wanted to wait until December, really I did, but your coupon expired in November. To heck with Thanksgiving. To heck with our Christmas card photos in matching plaid pj's. I wanted you and your savings, and I was willing to compromise to get it. If Nov and Dec had to go into NEXT YEAR'S BOOK, then so be it.
Imagine my dismay when, after 6 hours of selecting, editing, uploading, placing, and captioning 300 pictures, I discovered you weren't really who you said you were. That 50% off coupon, which should have been pretty significant on my ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DOLLAR ORDER (????) amounted to $19.99. And the free shipping I'd been promised? Not able to be combined with any other offer. Gotta love the fine print.
I had to make a choice. Throw away all the time I'd put in and go crawling back to Shutterfly, who was ready to embrace me with open arms and a REAL 40% off coupon. Or, suck it up and press "order." I was leaving the next morning for Thanksgiving and that car wouldn't pack itself.
So, when you received my order, you may have thought I was the same happy little Anna See of days gone by. As if all it takes to impress me is .11 prints or a snappy website. No sirreee. And those little coupons you've been putting in my inbox ever since you received my colossal order? Just like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut. I bet by Christmas Eve you'll be offering me 75% off plus a make-out session with tongue.
Well, forget it.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Coming home is a pain. The stuff we take out of the car quickly overwhelms the kitchen and the hallway and is enough to drive me either to distraction or to drink. One of my favorite things to do when I get home from a trip, once I’ve put in the first load of laundry and managed to dig out a place to sit down, is to look over the newspapers that arrived while we were gone.
I am able to pick through and make a nice little stack of my favorite sections only. Everything else goes straight to the recycle bin. It feels decadent to have four days of unread Style sections or Local News to be enjoyed at one sitting. World news? There's always tomorrow.
Today wasn’t as fun for me because of one thing: Black Friday.
With all the traveling and visiting, I can never shop on Black Friday. It’s not that I even like to shop AT ALL, but when if seems like everyone else is doing it, I feel a sense of urgency that comes from peer pressure, I suppose. But the people who are pressuring me aren’t my peers, but the people on TV and in the newspapers and on the radio.
Tom and I are in the market for a new car, and I read that statistically Black Friday is the best day of the YEAR to buy a car. Aargh. Missed it. Now, regardless of which of the 364 other days we choose, we’ll feel like chumps.
Last night, while visiting my dear relatives, it was all I could do to not whip over to the local Walmart and start scooping up socks, undies, and small electronics. Their pristine, country Walmart was just down the road and if our little car hadn’t been packed to the gills with all of our travel crap (and it did feel like crap by day 4), I would have done it. The clown-car situation, with stuffed packed on the dashboard and under our feet, made me sit down at the farm table with a cup of spiced tea and enjoy the company instead. It was the better choice and one I enjoyed thoroughly.
But to arrive home to find my newspapers full of ONE DAY ONLY offers and coupons for a day that had already passed was a little disheartening. It appears that Target, Toys R Us, Michael’s—well, just about everyone—was handing out free money and merchandise on Friday. I almost get the impression the parking lots were paved in gold.
So what’s your take? Did you run around snapping up the deals, or did you lay low? I’m usually finished shopping before Thanksgiving so this year I feel behind before I’ve even started.
Even as I type this I have the urge to hop on over to Amazon to see if there are any good deals left, so I guess I'm pretty caught up in this whole consumer culture. I must say, however, that having the chance to spend time with my 90+ year old grandparents, who have been married 74 years (!!!) was better than any Early Bird Special on the planet.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
So I may have told you we live in a 1960's split level with no garage and no mudroom. The specs from 1969 do exalt the praises of a "spacious mudroom on the lower level" which is the room I now use as an office. It was planned as a laundry room/mudroom, and it's a great size, but since it is in the back corner of the house, with no connection whatsoever to the driveway, carport or entrance to the house, it is not useful as a drop zone. So a blogger's paradise/laundry room it remains.
Even though we only have 2 kids, stuff seems to pile up around here. Tell me I'm not alone.
I thought I'd share some of my imperfect solutions to dealing with clutter. Not that all of my solutions ever last. Remember those cute vintage train cases I had on the stairs? Gone to greener pastures. They looked cute, but the junk just accumulated and no one felt like carrying it upstairs.
Now this is what I like to see when I think of home organization:
Alas, that is not the reality here.
We come from the carport directly into the kitchen eating area. We've made a mini-mudroom area just inside the door, which is usually a bit chaotic. The black organizer holds dog stuff in one drawer. Hats/mittens/scarves go in the next 2 (in the summer it's sunsreen and bug spray).
The lower ones are for the kids' shoes and socks. If you are going to have kids take off and put on shoes downstairs, why not cut out a step and keep all their socks right there, too? See, there's Jake putting his socks on.
I've added a metal shoe rack for Tom's shoes. I don't love it, but I hope it will keep things neater.
The hooks work well for us, but if they get overloaded, coats get in the way of the door. Ugh. Soooo, you'll see some secondary storage for the kids later on.
The top holds our phone, a bowl for keys, and paper and pencils for phone messages.
This mini-mudroom is great for the kids' stuff, but Tom and I need a place, too. You may wonder if we have a hall closet, which we do, but I find that even the grownups are...reluctant...to hang up coats in the closet each day, so I changed things a little bit in our foyer, which is next to the kitchen.
Here's a nice bookcase from Crate and Barrel. It has always held my collection of silver bowls and pitchers. I decided to take the silver out and replace it with some white baskets I had in basement.
I also added 4 cute hooks from Anthropologie with our initials on them. Mere steps from the coat closet, I think these hooks will be good for my purse and whatever coat is in rotation that day.
The kids' hooks hold their sports' bags and scout stuff that is not needed every day.
Tom thought all of these hooks would lend an cluttered, junky air to the foyer, and they might. My thinking is that our foyer is generally wasted space. We have no key to the front door, so we never come in that way, leaving it just a weird, tiled pass-through. The house specs circa 1969 called it a "Grand Reception Room." Yeah, right.
Here's a closer look at those cute Anthropologie hooks.
Next is the coat closet. Inside the door is a shoe holder that has gotten lots of use. It used to hold my kids' craft supplies in our old house. For the past 5 years or so it has held hats, the camera, bug spray, flashlights, sports equipment and the very useful snowman kit (hat, coal, pipe, etc). While it is not lovely to look at, it has been handy.
Another nice addition to this small coat closet, and all the closets in our house, is an extra shelf up top. We noticed that all the closets had dead space up there, so we just added a cheap Closetmaid one from Home Depot. We needed this space because our coat closet also holds the vacuum, brooms, mops, and a tub full of rain/snow boots. I really like the holder that hangs the brooms on the walls.
Also in the foyer are these 2 huge vintage picnic baskets. One holds all of our Calvin and Hobbes books, the other about 5 extra rolls of paper towels. When I go to work, I use them to block the stairs so that Shadow doesn't wreck the family room.Talk about multi-purpose.
Heading upstairs you'll see the kids' hallway. It is a mini-gallery for their artwork and it has a row of hooks for hoodies and sweaters.
While I don't LOVE having our stuff "out in the open" all the time, I think the likelihood of people putting things back where they belong is greatly increased if we store things on hooks rather than in drawers and closets. Also, I always hope this strategy will help people find what they are looking for. A girl can dream, right?
I must admit I prefer summer when these hooks have beach towels, goggles and swim suits on them, but now that it's almost Thanksgiving, I think it's time to admit those days are gone for a while.I hope you enjoyed this little tour. While a well-appointed mudroom would contain all of these things and more (drool! drool!) we've had to get a little creative around here. Organization and near-constant culling by Mom (do men ever go through the kids' clothes to see what has been outgrown?) help keep our junk from being completely overwhelming. Except for on the days that it is.
Just remember: Home is Where They Love You
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today’s Flatulence Etiquette Question for you.
If you are shopping in a crowded store and are suddenly overwhelmed by a holy heck awful-- so bad you can taste it-- smell in your general vicinity do you:
A. Ignore it, hope the burning sensation in your eyes goes away, and keep shopping?
B. Crinkle up your nose in a delicate manner to show that while you do acknowledge there is a putrid smell around you, you are not the source?
C. Wave your hand a little in front of your face, as in “Whew, that was a bad one?”
Issues I have with the above:
A. Does this make me look oblivious as in, perhaps one snuck out and I didn’t even notice?
B. My preference, but I’m afraid it might be a little insensitive to the guilty party should he/she notice. Also, does crinkling my nose smack of, “Whoever smelt it dealt it?”
C. Just seems a bit rude, as well as artificially chummy. I’m here to shop people, not bond.
So which one is it? Or is there another option I’ve not considered?
And to add a wee little wrinkle, what if I just happened to be bending over a stack of china plates at the time the smell originated? Does this incriminating posture negate all of the above options?
Would acknowledging the odor in any way at this point reek of, “Methinks thou dost protest too much?" At this point would it be better to just slink away?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
We managed it pretty well at home, introducing new things slowly and repeatedly, but the pickiness was usually worse on trips. At someone else’s house, the brand of food wouldn’t be right, the house would smell funny, the butter would be wrong, you get the picture. That’s fun because you can mix in travel stress, parental angst, and relatives’ expectations to make a delightful stew of stress and recrimination.
As the years passed, Jake became drawn to international food. His favorites: Greek, Italian, and Mexican, but not standard American (read: birthday party casual) food. Barbeques and class parties were unpleasant. And Thanksgiving was the worst of all.
You would have the Thanksgiving school meal, followed by 3 or 4 days of not eating the same wonderful (yet despised by him) food as we traveled from relative to relative’s house for multiple Thanksgiving dinners. By the time we would return from our holiday travels, he would look weary and wan. We tried to throw in some Taco Bell and Subway along the highways to keep him going.
For those of you who have dealt with picky eaters, you know it can put a strain on the marital relationship. Usually the mother, for fear that her child will expire, will feed the child what he/she wishes, while the father puts his foot down, knowing that no such coddling occurred when he was a child! “He’ll eat when he’s hungry enough,” becomes the line of choice. At least that’s how it’s been for the past 10 years in this household.
So, Tom and I have reached a delicate balance, trying to juggle my wishes, Tom’s wishes, and Jake’s health. I have never cooked separate meals for Jake, even though our doctors have given us their blessing to give him milkshakes or whatever it takes to help him gain. I have had to explain to people who wonder why I don’t do more to fatten him up, that I’m dealing with multiple factors here. I am not the only parent in this house, and my way is not necessarily the right way. Also, I bring the style of my family of origin to parenting, as does Tom, but that's a topic for another post.
We have had to try to back off and relinquish our desire to control Jake. Sometimes we do this well, and sometimes not. I am sure we are not the only family who has nearly come to tears over whether a kid eats a bite of chicken potpie.
Anyway, things have improved vastly over that past years, months, and even the last few weeks, most of it due to Tom's being a great cook. Chicken enchiladas? Delish. Chili? Bring it on! Flank steak? Yum! Hamburger? Well…I’ll try it. Venison? Not terrible. He even ate salad recently! Woo-hoo! Still no interest in hotdogs, chicken nuggets, or French fries. But as I told Tom years ago, I will never force a kid to eat a hot dog. Ick.
I felt like we were making progress and were on target for a great Thanksgiving meal.
Until the expander.
Last Wednesday Jake got a palate expander put in his mouth in anticipation of braces down the road. He was a total trouper, and I gave him a hot piece of Dominoes pizza for lunch. That thing squished through the expander like Jell-O through a sieve and got lodged on the roof of his mouth. “Aaaaaaaaagh!” he yelled. “Aaaaaaaagh!” I yelled. Toothpicks, a water pick, and major intervention finally got the offending food out of his mouth.
Turns out we should have started with wee little bits of food to get him used to an entirely new way of eating. Now he is too freaked out to eat because he does not want to get food caught in it.
The first few days I was able to get away with giving him smoothies and shakes, chicken broth for dinner, and Instant Breakfast for breakfast. I could tell that Tom thought I was babying him, but I didn't care.
Now, however, the statute of limitations is up. It’s been more than a week and he should be eating. His peers have adjusted to their expanders just fine. I shudder to think of his caloric intake.
And the old standbys we used to get extra calories in him between meals (apple with peanut butter every day after school…) are no longer an option. Neither is mindless snacking, which always helps me gain weight (!)
Tom’s neck veins were bulging as Jake flailed, freaked, and complained last night while attempting to eat one of his favorite foods—tacos. Multiple trips upstairs to the waterpik and to time-out just made dinner all the more pleasant.
And today? Is Jake’s 5th Grade Barbarian Feast at school. Lamb Stew, Bread bowls, nuts, Venison. Nice.
My gift to his teacher is a cranky, hungry kid.
You can bet I threw in a thermos of Instant Breakfast just in case. Call me the enabler.
And the true Barbarian? I think it’s whoever invented this thing:
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
So, as I was dozing on and off today I thought about words.
For instance, at some point when I was a little kid I got the words "hangar" and "curtain" mixed up in my head. To this day, when I am thinking of one, the other pops into my head unbidden. Useless information, I know.
Then there are words that just bug me. For instance, I dislike the word "tissue." When I was young, I would hear my dad talking on the phone to patients, and the word “tissue” will forever be linked in my brain to things like bloody, swollen, and diseased. Ick.
I also don’t like “slacks.” Tom agrees. They’re pants, people.
And, you may remember from my ill-fated Victoria’s Secret trip with both kids in tow, I don’t do “panties.” I wear underwear.
I like to ask people about words they dislike. For my mother-in-law it’s “guts.”
For my cousin it’s “trousers” and the word “moist.” Imagine my surprise when my shy, mild-mannered husband blurted out to her, “Well then, I guess you really hate moist trousers!”
I guess I deserve that for all the times I’ve said racy things in public when I didn’t really know what I was talking about.
So, since I’m sick, I’ll throw it out there to you.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Today we will take a tour into the seemy underbelly of the See household to discover just how many chairs I've accumulated over the years. Prepare yourself for lots of dog hair, Legos, bad paint jobs, bad judgment and even worse photography.
Note: no dust bunnies were harmed in the making of this blog post.
I would like some lovely new chairs. They should be comfortable and stylish. Slipper chairs from Target, perhaps?
The problem is, this house is already full of chairs. Chairs seem to seek me out wherever I go. You may have already read about these chairs I found in the trash and fixed up:
They have two buddies--adirondack chairs-- chipping away in the yard and a few more "finds" on the back porch which, thankfully, can not be seen too clearly in this photo.
The suede chair I snagged out of the trash and spray painted is suffering right now. Her legs have started to separate from her body. Not sure what to do about that.
And you remember my thrift store dining room chairs. I bought 7, but only 5 survive. Not the most comfy things, but I LOVE how they look with their fresh coat of heirloom white.
But there's a lot around here I haven't shown you. The 6 Ikea dining chairs I got for $3.00 each are scattered around the house with various slipcovers and degrees of dog hair. They are comfortable and versatile.
I want to stain or paint the grungy legs of the ones that are in the kitchen, but I haven't gotten motivated to do it.
When I think of getting a nice built-in window seat here, with drawers underneath, I can't bear the thought of getting rid of this bench. This is where you will find Shadow perched (!!!!) waiting for me to get home from work.
Then there is this elephant in the room, the dining room to be precise. Remember how I told you my grandparents were furniture people? Well, in addition to the broken settee and chair I have waiting for a new home in the basement I have this huge chair in my dining room, one in my bedroom, and a corner chair in my upstairs hall, all from the same Victorian furniture set. That pea green upholstery from the 70's is a terry cloth towel, I believe.
Wouldn't they look fun and funky painted a dove gray with black and white and hot pink upholstery? But that still wouldn't make them any more comfortable.
There's also the one that represents my first foray into spray painting and recovering furniture using a staple gun. This one is hanging out in a corner, looking for a new home.
Then we have these 2 wing back chairs. When I was growing up they were green and gold velvet. I had them covered in denim about 15 years ago and they could use some sprucing up again. Silhouette pillow courtesy of my super-creative friend Theresa. Every Thanksgiving my parents sat in these at either end of our really long dining room table.
What about my mom's little cane chair next to her antique desk? I remember her sitting there in our old house paying bills and writing notes on thick correspondence cards-- all January Jones-like with her blond hair and housecoat. Later, this became a good spot for me to sit and talk to boyfriends on the phone until the wee hours.
Do we dare venture upstairs to the top of the house?
This dainty chair was used by the smallest relative each Thanksgiving. I was the youngest, so that was usually me!
What about this one in Jake's room? It is huge AND uncomfortable, but for some reason we all love it. I'm mad at myself for getting rid of the slipcover my grandmother made for it in the 50's. Darn. How do you like all the crap on it? Keeping it real.
In fact, I'll admit that there's no way we could possibly SIT on all of the chairs I'm showing you, given their varying degrees of uncomfortableness (?) and disrepair, but they do make good holding areas for stuff.
Guest room time. This old chippy wicker rocker was on our screened porch growing up. It's the chair I rocked (and rocked!) my daughter in when she was a baby.
I love this armless rocker in the basement. Unfortunately, it got punctured in the moving van (by another chair!) and has a hole in it. My grandpa tried to talk me through how to re-cane it before he died, but here it sits. It was in my bedroom growing up.
Any tour would not be complete without a peek into the creepy unfinished basement area:
A favorite platform rocker from my Dad's parents. It needs a new arm.
Yes, those are stacks and stacks of other chairs. I do believe these pictures clearly illustrate the dangers of having storage space. Thank God I don't have a garage.
So, I guess it's beginning to become clear why there are no new Target slipper chairs in my future. I really do want fresh, stylish furniture, but I can't help but be drawn to the Charlie Brown aspects of hand-me-downs and cast-offs. I feel like they can be redeemed. And if not by me, then by whom?
Which may explain why I did not hesitate before picking this up at the thrift shop on Thursday for $2.00.
Yes, I know, Tom is a saint.
Friday, November 6, 2009
The snarky comment came from someone named “Anonymous” who commented on my post about how men can’t find anything in the house. She said it, and my readers’ comments, helped explain why the divorce rate is so high. I don’t think she liked how I kindly and gently asked Tom to check his body’s orifices for the missing remote control, or something like that.
This got me thinking. When I started blogging, I had neither read a blog nor commented on one. I was “writing for myself.” Tom and my sister were my only readers. When people I didn’t know stumbled across the blog, then actually came back for more and started commenting—go Shana and Kate!—I was surprised and thrilled. The comment section became a way to make new friends and to reconnect with several dear friends I don’t see very often.
Now I want comments. I love comments. Does this serve my narcissistic side? Sure. But it also makes me feel as if my writing doesn’t just go into a vacuum. I feel connected to my readers, most of whom I’ve never met. Since I’ve started reading other blogs, and commenting on them, I’ve actually been writing less often. I have found myself drawn into a blogging community, and more of my time has gone to keeping up with other people’s writing. I don’t want to miss out.
But back to the snarkiness…Do you find it interesting that I read that comment 6 times in a row? That’s kind of like picking at a scab isn’t it? And I wasn’t even upset. And I don’t regret what I wrote about Tom at all. And I’m not too concerned about what “Anonymous” thinks of me.
Can you imagine how many times I would have read it if it had come from someone I knew and cared deeply about?
This just reminded me of the power of words. We tend to cling to the negative and let it penetrate deeply into our souls. We wrap it up and put it in our pocket. We pull it out when we are feeling insecure or vulnerable, unwrap it, and let the pain cut a little deeper.
What could seem like a passing remark can linger for years.
I hate to think of how I may have used words over the years carelessly and for sport. As a sister, a friend, and especially as a teacher. Every day we have a chance to build people up or break them down.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Do you know Eddie Haskell? If you grew up on “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs like I did, you know he is the perfectly groomed suck-up who tries to win adults over with flattery and impeccable manners while wreaking havoc behind the scenes. I remember how he’d pour on the charm with Mrs. Cleaver (who wasn’t buying it), and then turn around and act like a real turd to the Beav.
Maybe you have a real-life Eddie (or Edwina) Haskell in your or your children’s lives. You’ll note charm, looks, intelligence-- all the outward appearances of perfection. Then every once in a while you get a glimpse of an inner Eddie/Edwina. Perhaps it’s a quick elbow jab to a younger sibling when no one appears to be watching. A cutting remark. A mean ploy that the teacher never sees, but all the kids do. A desire for division instead of unity.
I’ve been trying to understand why Eddie, and the modern day equivalents in my own life, get under my skin so much. I think it’s because I want genuine kindness, not perfection. I think perfection is not only over-rated, it’s impossible. And I believe that when we are real with each other, everyone benefits. Eddie isn’t about being real. Eddie is about projecting an image.
I think back to when I was a new mom and my son was perfect. He used baby sign language, showed early brilliance and a keen sensitivity to all around him. To listen to me talk you would have thought he would get his doctorate by age 6, followed shortly by the Nobel Prize.
When I came to realize that he wasn’t perfect, my baby daughter wasn’t perfect, and neither was their mother (for some reason I had accepted this fact about Tom much earlier)…. it was a momentary bummer, but it was somehow freeing. I think it helped me become a less self-righteous and annoying parent.
I tell myself when I run across seemingly perfect kids (at least when their life stories are narrated by one or both parents), that there is likely at least a tad of behind the scenes drama somewhere. Maybe it’s screaming meltdowns during homework or a refusal to practice the piano… but something!
My kids are thoughtful and kind. Often. They care about the poor and the disenfranchised. Sometimes. They are well groomed. On occasion.
Other times they leave people out. They are grumpy. They play favorites. They don’t make eye contact. They mumble. They are selfish. They choose popularity over what’s right.
And you know what? That describes me too. Depending on the day, my hormones, my Diet Pepsi intake, and whether or not I’ve stopped to pray.
I wish we didn’t have a conspiracy of silence, in which we all pretend that everything’s great all the time. I wish other moms would share their kids’ problems so I could share mine. I wish I didn’t have the urge to unmask all the little Eddie and Edwinas, as if bringing them down a notch would somehow build me up.
I guess I wish none of us were sinners. As if.