Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mice Would be Nice

While I am impressing you with my mad photography skills and aversion to touching things, I have another fun thing to show you.

During our quest for Chalk Ink at Michaels, the kids and I picked up this little kit from Martha Stewart for about 4 bucks. It took about 2 minutes to put them up with the sticky dots provided.


Here’s my blurry little mouse at the top of the stairs.


Here’s the same staircase after we Halloweened it up a bit with these mouse (rat???) silhouettes.

They haven’t freaked any of us out yet.

Pumpkins, bad lighting, and dog hair optional.

Product Shout Out: Chalk Ink; OR, I Have Issues

I love the look of chalkboard paint and chalk, but the thought of actually touching a piece of chalk sets my teeth on edge. I know, I’m a little bit weird. Don’t even get me started about how the pages of certain books feel or how I love to read the newspaper, but touch one? Not so much.

Anyway, this post isn’t about my sensory issues so much as to introduce you to a product I discovered while cruising blogs instead of sleeping the other night.

Cool product = Chalk Ink.

Chalk Ink flows freely like a paint pen and can be used on any non-porous surface. Chalkboards? Check. Mirrors, Check. Counter tops? Check. But seriously, would you really want to risk it?

Chalk Ink is what Starbucks and other businesses use on their blackboards and on those clear plastic signs.

Anyway, I tried them out on the little sticky chalkboards I have on the pantry door. The result? Although my crappy photos don't begin to do it justice-- clear, vibrant, non-smudgy (or dusty!) words that will stay there until I wash them off with water. There’s a product website, but I bought them at Michael’s.

The best part? I don’t get the heebie jeebies when I pick them up to use them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Final Countdown

As our summer wound down, Jake said, “Mom, August is the Sunday of Summer.”

I wasn’t sure of what he meant, but he explained that rather than being able to enjoy August, the flurry of school supply shopping, haircuts, and general back to school angst generally put us into a funk, unable to savor a perfectly good month. Likewise, Sunday can be depressing because what a few hours before had been a weekend full of promise is now winding down all too quickly.

As a teacher, I could relate because I used to struggle mightily with both August and Sundays. Now that I have a “regular” job, I enjoy them both.

Here’s hoping you are able to live in the moment today, and that your Sunday doesn’t feel too much like “August.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

License to Spill?

So I opened my email at work and saw a note from the principal, subject line: “Jake.” Now if it said, “5th Grade Party” or “Tuition Overdue,” my heart would not have jumped into my throat the way it did when I saw “Jake.”

A kid’s name in the subject line? Never good.

Turns out during lunch he was bumped, or jostled, or startled, or breathed on, or looked askance at by his tablemate, spilling his Danimals drinkable yogurt on his shirt. Jake’s reaction? To pour the remainder of the yogurt on his friend’s shirt.

A sincere apology by Jake, a talking to by the principal, a clean shirt for the friend, an email to mom, and some time to “think about it” have cleared things up, but it got me thinking.

When I was packing Jake’s lunch and had just taken the Danimals out of the fridge, I had a fleeting oogy feeling. Now I know you know I get these feelings.

“What is it?” I thought. “Is the sugar going to make him hyper?” Since I didn’t think a tad more sugar would kill him, and never did I imagine the “pouring it down your neighbor’s shirt scenario,” I plunked it into the bag.

Which leads me to consider, in light of this oogy feeling, was Jake destined to commit this yogurt-fueled crime? You see, I am a Christian and I believe God knows the exact number of hairs on my frizzy head. I believe he knows each thought in my mind and feeling in my heart before a word ever reaches my lips.

So I wonder did God, through his Spirit, send me a divine nudge or feeling, akin to (insert booming voice here) “Put down the yogurt Anna, before your beloved son sends it flying?”

Whenever I have paid attention to the nudges I feel, I’ve been blessed. The outcomes vary from making a new friend, avoiding dangerous situations, having the opportunity to help someone going through a hard time, or getting the chance to talk to someone about God. These nudges have often led to little miracles.

But Danimals?

I just don’t know. In addition to being a Christian, I was raised Presbyterian. Although we barely ever discuss it, Presbyterian doctrine has this whole predestination thing going on.

Sooooooo I ask you, was Jake predestined to chuck his Danimal? If so, why would God give me the oogy feeling in the first place? Was it so I could stop him, by replacing it with a nice, nearly solid Yoplait Thick and Creamy? And where does Jake’s free will, in this case the will to overreact and hurl food, come into play?

Has this post given anyone but me a headache yet?

I believe I am predestined to eat a pie tonight. Might as well get it over with.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Thing I Have High Self Esteem

So I went to the dentist on Friday and she opened my mouth and said, “I guess you’ve never had any orthodontic work done.” To which I replied that yes, I had braces as a teen. Her response? “Oh, they must not have used retainers BACK THEN.”


After that, my crooked teeth and I went to the mall to get my bushy eyebrows threaded. By the way, if you haven’t had this done before, let me tell you, it is brutal. The dentist poking my gums until I bled like a stuck pig hurt less.

I knew the threader was at a kiosk which meant running the gauntlet between the other chichi overpriced vendors… and one in particular. I tried to dodge it by going up a flight of stairs and taking the elevator down, but NO, the brow lady was in direct line of sight of the flat-iron kiosk.

You could almost see them rubbing their hands together when they saw my frizz a-coming. They could use me as an example. People would flock. People would oooh and aaah. People would buy. The sales team converged on me like bees to honey. “No, no thank you, no.” I said, walking briskly, my hand partially shielding the frizz. “I have your product. This is what I look like WITH your product.”

When I got home to let myself disappear into the blogosphere for a few minutes (or an hour) with the help of a friend I’ll call Little Debbie, my comment word verification was:


Thanks, world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Question

If you could choose, which of course you can't...

Would you rather have a kid who behaves perfectly at school, yet gives YOU a run for your money in the privacy of your own home...


A kid who is relatively mild-mannered at home, but who gets in trouble at school. A lot?

Decisions, decisions. Well, I guess I couldn't make up my mind, so God gave me one of each.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heirloom Party/ When to Say Goodbye

I'm participating in an Heirloom Party at Emma Calls Me Mama. My house is full of family treasures including a family Bible from the 1800's, dishes, furniture, and old family photos. I am blessed. Today I'm taking a different approach and writing about letting go when the time comes...

I recently had a yard sale, and now I’m looking around the house for other things to get rid of. The breathing room is lovely. After all, who needs fancy stuff when you can have a regulation sized air hockey table in the basement?

I am finally ready to part with a broken down, yet lovely Victorian settee and armchair that belonged to my grandparents.

I used the chair for about 10 years, but left the settee in storage because it needed major repairs and because I had no space for it. Check out the back. That's the bottom falling out, too, and it looks like it just popped out a plastic Easter egg.

You may find it interesting that I love to spray paint and fix up random stuff I find by the side of the road, yet I am willing to part with things my dear grandparents owned without fixing them.

I think it’s because although I like stuff—the finding, the fixing, learning the provenance something-- I don’t hold anything too close.

My grandparents and my mother were the same way. The hunt was fun, as was finding the perfect spot, but there was also some freedom found in the giving away.

For me, these two pieces don't remind me of my grandparents at all, and I think that will make it easier to let go.

Not holding stuff too closely helped my mom, who had the decorating bug, stay up late painting our 1830’s farmhouse the colors of the day, not being hemmed in by what would be historically accurate. She felt free to spray paint or decoupage without fretting about resale value or what others would think. She mixed high and low, and although she refused to let me drag stuff in from the curb (maybe that’s why I love it so much now!), her decorating style suited mine quite well...except for putting contact paper on the fridge, but that's the the topic for another post.

As for the chair and settee, and a few other things I’m hoping to find new homes for, it is time to let go. I have other pieces from my grandparents that fit in better with my house and my lifestyle.

...Such as this chair that was the springboard for my bedroom’s color palette. Do you like my shoe in the corner of the pic? Classy.

Or this china cabinet that used to hold pots and pans in my grandparents’ kitchen and is now in my dining room.

I think it’s a matter of owning things, but not letting things own us. When having something around elicits feelings of pressure or stress, it may be time to let go.

In the case of this settee and chair, I feel guilty about the space they take up and the fact that I am not willing to put the money in to fixing them and using them, when they could be something spectacular. Can't you just picture how cute they would be with a little bit of spray paint? But I digress... I hope I can find someone who will transform them and enjoy them, making them part of their own family's memories.

Meanwhile, I will hold onto the great memories of my childhood, with all four of my wonderful grandparents, memories triggered by sights and smells and photos and precious heirlooms which I intend to hold close.

p.s. I also think "down-sizing" will make my husband happy. He came into this marriage with exactly one possession-- a New England Patriots' trashcan.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flirting with Converting, or Why Do Mormons Look So Darn Good?

When you think of how Mormons dress, you may have something like this in mind:

(I know, I know, this is a FLDS not a LDS picture, but still, think hyperbole people!)

From what I’ve seen, the reality is a whole lot more like an Anthropologie ad.

I’m wondering why all the Mormons I know, either through blogging or “in real life,” always look like a million bucks? I mean do they take all the money the rest of us blow on alcohol and put it into “self-care?” Brynn, one of my favorite former students (and a reader of this blog!) has 5 kids and looks spectacular. Yes, I felt old after typing that.

Brynn’s kids look picture perfect, too. When her husband took their 4 kids to the hospital to meet baby #5, they had matching pink polos or polo dresses, khakis, and adorable hair ribbons. Considering Brynn had been working hard giving birth for the previous 24 hours or so, that means that at a prior date she had trained and equipped her husband to pull off this feat.

I find this astounding. I can barely pull off a single crappy family picture once a year (snapshot, not studio), and can't imaging being photo-ready on other important life occasions.

I know I’ve been pacing myself on this marathon called motherhood, trying not to expend all my energy in one place, but these hot Mormon mommies expose me as the slacker I am.

They’ve got their fancy jeans (I tried to put a hip brand name here but I don’t even know one), high heels, and perfect accessories. When my peer group and I first had babies ten years ago, we looked pretty schlubby. We walked around in oversized sweatshirts, which may or may not have been adorned with pictures of licensed characters, and sported mom jeans, tennis shoes, and scrunchies. I wore my Old Navy overalls a lot, and sometimes my sister would share “a really cool nursing shirt!” with me. We knew how to party like it was 1999.

Now, even though my kids are 8 and 10, I often still use them as an excuse for why my gray is showing, why I don’t exercise, and why I have shmutz on my shirt.

And parties? Those LDS ladies are decorators and entertainers, going all out for holidays and picnics. I get some of my favorite design inspiration from their blogs.

Makeup? You should see my hot Mormon blogger friend Shawn at Swanee Singer. Not only does she rock with her band in real life, she rocks the hair and makeup every day.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but in a post rife with gross generalizations, I’ll pile one more on. While I have sometimes looked at motherhood as something to be survived or endured, I think my Mormon friends see it as something to celebrate. As an ongoing special occasion…and who wouldn’t dress up for that?

I think this attitude is a positive one, particularly if Brynn is any indication; with 5 kids before age 30, there’s a whole lot more celebrating on her horizon...

And although my childbearing years are over (Tom is now in the market for an Ektorp), I still think I could stand to kick it up a notch. Tomorrow I’m wearing cute ballet flats I purchased at Target, NOT at the thrift store. Baby steps.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So Much to Lose, Part 2

I flew home from Colorado and my roommate picked me up at the airport. We got to the turn off between my house and the hospital. Did I want to go see my mom tonight? she asked. It was late. Visiting hours were over. I didn’t feel like navigating the parking garage and other perceived hassles, so I declined.

“But if she dies tomorrow, don’t blame me,” I joked. Oh yes I did. That’s how far from my reality even the concept of a dead mom was. For 1/10 of a second I had that oogy feeling that comes right before a stranger yanks your purse from under your arm, or your car slams into a dump truck, but as quickly is as it came, it flitted away again.

The next day I called my mom as soon as I woke. She sounded great. “You must be tired from your big trip. Why don’t you go back to sleep?” she said. So I did.

Later, I gathered up some art books for her to look at, a camera to take pictures of us together, and headed out. I stopped at the McDonald’s across from the hospital. I did not rush. We had time.

As I walked down the hallway to her room, I could see a glassed-in smoking lounge straight ahead. Patients could still smoke inside in those days. I thought it was funny to see people clutching their IV poles in one hand, cigarettes dangling from the other. I heard one woman say, “She’s been doing that for a while; they’ll probably move her roommate out because she's so loud.” The others nodded in agreement, a silent Greek chorus.

I entered Mom’s room to loud moaning. Her head was in intense pain. Her eyes were closed. I reached out for her small, warm hand. To this day, even though her voice is lost to me, I remember the feel of her hands, the smoothest I’ve ever felt.

Without opening her eyes, she said, “Oh, Anna, you’re here. I’m sorry I’m being such a chicken liver. It just hurts so much.” I assured her that she wasn’t chicken, but I was glad her eyes were shut, because mine were full of tears.

Her roommate was moved out of the room. Someone tried to find her doctor, but he was not reachable. Anywhere. Did doctors golf on Tuesdays? Would he ever come? Now it was only the two of us.

I didn’t have much faith in the Doogie Howser interns who came to check her every once in a while. Was there a real doctor in the house? Did these people even give a shit?

My father appeared, having been called at work by someone. Was it me? My mother opened her eyes and said to him, “You have been so good through all of this.” These words--her last-- were, I believe, her gift to him. A comfort he could pull out of his pocket and remember later, when he most needed to. She’s so damn classy, I remember thinking, to reach out to someone else when she was in such pain.

Something changed. She grew quiet. A good sign? Another person, still not her doctor, checked her eyes.

Brain bleed.
No recovery.

My dad and I walked to a waiting room to discuss life support. Everything was happening so quickly. Of course she would not want to be, as people said so callously in those days, “a vegetable.” I smiled at my dad through my tears, wanting to comfort him, wanting him to know he didn’t have to worry about me.

Inside, my mind raced. Didn’t people come out of comas, like 10 years later, finding their children grown and their clothes out of date, but none the worse for the wear? Was there hope? Should we DO something?

I wanted to fight for her, but I didn’t really know what that meant, and I felt small and tired. I mean, if I hadn’t wanted to deal with a stupid parking garage, how could I be strong enough to defy a doctor’s recommendation and demand she be put on life support?

I hugged my dad. I said nothing.

We returned to her room, joined by one of our ministers, maybe two. We prayed around her bed as her breathing became loud and labored. I wanted to shout: “Walk AWAY from the light! Stay with me!” But that seemed weird, and embarrassing, and vulnerable, so I joined hands with the others and silently prayed for peace.

And we stood for a very long time, saying nothing, as her breathing got slower and slower…and stopped.

I gathered the unopened art books, the camera, and went home.

I truly believe a mom wants what's best for her kids, whether they are 4, 18, or 40. So in sharing what happened on that sad, strange, horrible day, I have regrets, but I am not paralyzed by them. Why? Well, what mom would want that for her kid? Not mine.

You were right, Mom. I did have a life and I did have things to do. But Mom, you also were my life, and I’m pretty sure you know that too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So Much to Lose

I walked into the house and threw the keys on the long dining room table. Instead of going straight upstairs, something led me to the kitchen. My 46 year old mom was seated at the table, still dressed from a lunch out with the girls, her back ramrod straight. She said nothing. I gave her a smooch on the head and then realized something was wrong. She couldn’t talk.

Six weeks before, life as we knew it had changed. While I was sunning and funning on the beach in Key West, my mother had a brain aneurysm. I didn’t find out until later when I flew back home from Spring Break, badly sunburned but ready to dive back into my freshman year of college. This was before cell phones, and my dad hadn’t known where to reach me at the rundown motel where my friends and I were staying.

Long, scary days in ICU, then a regular room, followed by recovery at home, and we thought my mom was on the mend. My sister, brother, and I went back to college at our mother’s urging: Go, you have a life, you have things to take care of… and we did.

My mother adjusted to the new reality of giving up her car for a whole year (people who have had a seizure should not drive), scaling back her business, and focusing on recovery. She was almost herself. She didn’t like having an aide stay with her during the days, because she felt like she had to entertain her. She liked it best when her friends would come just to hang out. We never discussed my leaving school and taking care of her.

She did not lose her spunk. In language therapy, she had to write a sentence involving kittens. No “The cat sat on the rug,” for her. Her sentence read something like, “The coddled and capricious kittens constantly craved quality quilts.”

Freshman year ended and I came home. And now, after a day of shopping and spending time at the tanning booth, I found myself standing in front of my silent mother, and she needed me.

I called 911 and the ambulance arrived shortly. Four men came in the house. One said to his buddies, “Hey, we’ve been here before. This is the same lady who was yelling and screaming and seizing a few weeks ago.” I hated him. I wanted to make him pay for his insensitivity -- for planting that image in my brain—but I was 18, my mother was not acting like my mother, and I kept my mouth shut.

Back to the hospital for more tests and procedures. Within a few days she seemed like herself again. My long distance boyfriend had a week of dances and festivities at the Air Force Academy. My mother told me to go. “Just make sure your boob doesn’t fall out the side of that green formal dress,” she laughed. Go, you have a life, you have things to do…and so I did.

Dances, parties, we had a lovely time. My mom sounded like herself on the phone whenever I called. But something had changed. The word Cancer was mentioned for the first time. Biopsy. Should I come home early?

Stay, you have a life… I’ll see you when you get home. So I stayed.

More next post...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Or: Don't Read This While Eating

Soooooo, our family spent 3 hours on Sunday doing yard work for an elderly lady from church. Tom got a leeetle poison ivy on his arms.

Let’s just say this is more of a romantic buzz kill than watching “The Reader.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Well, today was the big day! Molly switched from a 13 person class at a small private school to a 27 person class at our local public school. She was up early, dressed, bed made and ready to go. I was so darn proud of her.

The verdict? The bus was cool and a nice girl helped her in the cafeteria. We'll see how the year progresses. We have wanted to give public school a shot, and this seemed like a good opportunity to capitalize on the fact that she was excited about buses, bells, and picking out her own clothes. I'm not wild about our all being on different daily schedules, etc., but I hope it works out well.

I want to thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts today. They helped.

Jake doesn't start school until tomorrow... which meant a drastic change in look per the private school hair code.

Old Look:

Doesn't he look so happy?

New Look:

I felt like I was witnessing the 5 stages of grief on his face as he sat in the barber chair. This is right after Depression but well before Acceptance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

More than Enough

So I went to my favorite thrift store today because holiday Mondays mean 50% off everything. It took me 20 minutes to find a parking place, and once inside I couldn't navigate the aisles because of all the people. Now I'm not easily dissuaded when it comes to finding a bargain, nor am I at all squeamish-- all my clothes are used, and a lot of my furniture comes from the curb-- but I just wasn't up to it today.

Not enough carts, loud music, too many people jostling against each other, plus lots of coughs and sneezes. I felt like I might as well go ahead and inject myself with a case of the swine flu just to get it over with.

And for what? To load up on more clothes I may or may not get around to wearing, or another cute thing to paint and figure out where to put? Even after last month's yard sale and big thrift store donation, I still have too much stuff. When I saw the checkout lines snaking around the store, I put back the pants I'd found for Jake.

I left empty handed once I was able to squeeze my way to the door.

I could tell that for a lot of people, being at the store today was NOT about the thrill of the hunt, but instead about the necessity of clothing themselves and their kids. I hope today meant a great chance to find things they needed that will make their lives easier in the months to come. Perhaps what I left behind will be exactly what someone else needed today. Although knowing me, what I left behind was probably something like a 4 foot tall gold birdcage.

My shopping trip became a reminder to count my blessings. A bargain is fun, it's eco-friendly, and it helps my family financially, but it is not a necessity. Why not? Perhaps by virtue of where I was born, or a job, or education, but certainly not because of any great things Tom and I have or haven't done.

And for this I am grateful.

p.s. For those readers who are pray-ers, I'd appreciate prayers for my daughter as she starts a new school tomorrow for 3rd grade! Thanks!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Before and After

Thrifty Decor Chick is having a Before and After Party today.

Here's my contribution:

I found this old buffet at the thrift store for $24.00 and threw it in the back of my minivan. It had green paper stuck to it and lots of scratches.

Two coats of white paint later, and I now have a great storage piece for my laundry room turned office. In the picture below, the furniture looks microscopic, but that's just the angle of the photo. The buffet is more than 5 feet long and my desk is almost 5 ft. The desk is a yard sale find from my childhood, painted white.

My laundry has moved into that little closet you see in the corner. While I would love to have a big laundry room, I love having an office more. And since my kids share this computer, I like that it is right off the family room. Adding the french doors and hardwood floors has made it seem all the more office-y. My husband made me a big bulletin board (3 ft x 4ft) out of wood trim and I covered it with linen fabric.

I hope you enjoy it. If you like Before and Afters as much as I do, check out the other contributors at Thrifty Decor Chick.

Also featured on: Southern Hospitality and Between Naps on the Porch.



Dear Readers,

I stole an eyeliner today.

My son and I went to Wal-Mart while Molly was on one in a series of playdates and sleepovers. Jake was totally helpful, and he unloaded the entire cart while I speed-read “Us Weekly” in line. By the way, Tori and Dean may be “living a lie!” Anyway, I told Jake to just leave the 44lb bag of dog food there, for the lady to scan from afar. Since Jake only weighs 55 lbs, I thought it might kill him.

When we went to the car, I realized there was a wayward eyeliner under the dog food. Crap. I hoped that I had paid for it and that it had just slipped out of the bag. I scanned my receipt. Other than realizing I had paid $7.58 for an 8 pack of dog treats and $11.94 for a 4 pack of rawhide bones (!), I came up empty.

Now this has happened to me in the past. Once I just took the item back into the store and paid for it. Another time I had babies with me and I left the item in the cart and pushed the cart back into the store, abandoning the item so I didn’t have to wait in line again. Another time, I made a big teachable moment out of it, dragged everyone back into the store with me, and paid.

This time, I had neither the gumption nor the desire to truck back into Wal-Mart on the Friday before school starts. Also, after yesterday’s menstrual mental breakdown , I did not want to push it. Could my fragile psyche handle a repeat public performance? Could Jake handle my crying in front of him yet again?

Side note: as I wept in the car yesterday in front of the kids, I got to share with them about periods and how their own late, great Grandma Molly had also wigged out and wept in the car in front of us when we were little. My mom’s most memorable quote to us on one occasion as we sat wide-eyed in the back seat: “I’m sorry I’m so darn (sniff) emotional kids. I think if I still (sniff) had a uterus, I’d be pre-menstruuuuuual right now.” Yikes.

So, although I had several honorable options, I did not take them. I drove away. And now every time I apply my Maybelline, I’ll feel like I’m wearing a big “Slate Gray” letter for the entire world to see.

What have I learned from my experience besides that Wal-Mart charges far too much for pet items? Well, that I don’t do well with doing wrong. I feel the same way right now as I do after I’ve given in to gossip. Not good. And I obviously feel the need to confess or I wouldn't be writing this.

I'm thinking I'm going to put the eyeliner wrapper in my purse so I can pay the next time I’m in the store. Ahh, absolution.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Was that First Period?

If you are in a position to plan such things, I do not suggest attending the Open House for your daughter’s new school on the first day of your period.

When you start to weep in the cafeteria/cafetorium/”multi-purpose space,” you may startle onlookers, and your daughter might detect that you are having second thoughts about this little game of parenting roulette you call her life. In addition, she may prohibit you from ever volunteering to help in her classroom.