Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Deep Thoughts

So I was finishing a book about Ashley Smith, the drug-addicted young mother who was taken hostage by fugitive Brian Nichols who murdered 4 people in Georgia in 2005. You may remember the story.

Ashley spent 7 hours in her apartment with him, during which time they talked about God and read aloud from "The Purpose Driven Life." She helped convince him to surrender without killing more people or being shot himself. It was a fascinating story about two people connecting during really strange circumstances.

My daughter Molly saw the back cover, which showed the man in shackles, and she started asking questions about the rest of the photos in the book. Just like me, the kids go straight to the photo section, whether it's a book about Queen Elizabeth or Star Wars.

Our conversation was all over the place (drugs, premarital sex, spousal abuse, murder, mayhem, faith, redemption). In addition, she couldn't get over the fact that Ashley didn't "look like she used drugs." She was also hung up on the fact that Ashley started using drugs after switching from a Christian school to a public school. The school issue has reared its head in our house again because, well, it's August, and we have a hard time making decisions. Great parenting, I know.

Finally, peace, my morning paper, and a huge bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.

A newspaper photo of young black man arrested for killing local MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS (!) caught Molly's eye.

Yep, it appears we have a serial killer on our hands.

So, all before 9 am, she got an eyeful of murderous young black men in chains or in mug shots.

In addition to all of the regular stuff I'm worried about today, I am wondering if she now thinks:

1. All young black men are murderers

2. All murderers are young black men.

Do I discuss this with her or just let it be? As you know, I am sometimes of the TMI school of parenting.

Do I drum up some photos of young white killers and place them strategically around the house so she knows that depravity comes in all colors, or has she already "learned" enough for today?

A Tisket, A Tasket, Check Out My Great Big Basket!

So, I had a little lapse in my "no thrift store shopping summer" on Monday. I managed to spend $60, mostly on clothes. My new theory is that if I go MORE OFTEN, perhaps I won't spend as much. Thoughts?

The bargain of the day was this gorgeous basket. Please don't ask if I needed a basket, or if I had recently gotten rid of a ton of baskets at our charity yard sale. This is an entirely different basket, you see. It looks a little orange-y next to our oak front door, but it's really a nice, weathered color.

Couldn't you just picture it in my (non-existent) mudroom full of shoes or beach towels, or backpacks?

At 25% off of $2.92 (that's $2.19 people!) it was a steal.

Problem is, I've told Tom I'll sell it on Craigslist if I can't find a place for it.
So far-- too big for the kitchen, hallway, office. Please help me find a use for it so I can keep it.

Here are some visuals, and a 9 year old girl, to help you with scale:

My favorite is the one where Shadow tried to get in on the action and knock the basket over.
Linking to Second Time Around Tuesday.
P.S. I know it's Wednesday.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Country Girl Will Survive-- the heat

I am home recovering from our annual camping trip. Those of you who have been with me for a while, may recall hearing that on last year's trip I had the honor of removing a tick from my sister's bare rear. And you may also recall that the place where we camp, which is in a majestic, beautiful setting, has no running water or bathrooms. It does have very nice latrines (note the little brown buildings in the top pic)

This year had all the regular fun PLUS the bonus of being Hotter than Hell.

This is a picture of a bank clock in one of the little towns on the way to the campground. When we drove by the first time it said 101, but I couldn't find the camera amidst mountains of crap packed in our car, so this photo was taken on the way home. Yes, it had cooled down my one glorious degree by that time.

So, if you recall Fry Fest, which has been re-dubbed "Fry-Day" because it took place, well, on Friday, you'll know that my brother will and does deep fry anything he can get his hands on in beer batter and a vat of oil.

Here's what we he fried this year:

french fries
chicken nuggets
chicken thighs
corn dogs
egg rolls

The master in action:

All that frying also helped take our minds off the fact that it was nearly impossible to keep our food cold this year. When I pointed out that I didn't love that our other food was floating in water alongside packages of chicken thighs, my brother pointed out that deep frying makes everything okay. Ummm. Okay.

I ate and obeyed.
And ate. And ate.
I also forgot my toothbrush.

A fun twist to this year's festivities was that my brother's best friends from high school plus his best friend from college joined our regular crew of siblings, relatives, and friends. His high school buddies actually rented an RV, or "The Rolling Turd," and braved the winding, mountainous roads to join us.

These guys hadn't all been together in decades. This was an interesting experience for me for several reasons. First of all, when these guys graduated, this is what I looked like:

Please ignore the scratched-out face of the Worst Date Ever and travel back with me to 1984 or'85. It was not a lovely time. Short of digging up my college Sorority composite photos and parading them about the campsite to try to prove to these guys that I did indeed blossom, I had no recourse but to accept the fact that they, the cool guys in high school, would have no inkling that I got slightly easier on the eyes in the ensuing years.

Why, you might ask, did I not dazzle them with my 40 year old beauty on this camping trip, making up for any 9th grade ugliness and a mullet?

Well, perhaps you have forgotten it was 101 freaking degrees.

There could be no make-up, no swishy, figure-flattering clothes, no pretense whatsoever. When they pulled up in The Rolling Turd, I had just gotten out of the river and was sporting my latest Lands End skirted bathing suit, uber-flattering water shoes, and a splotch of gray.

I pretty much stayed in the bathing suit the whole weekend in order to avoid spontaneous comustion. And if you are wondering whether every body part can sweat, I'd have to say an emphatic yes. Even earlobes.
The neat thing was, while a lot has changed over the years, some things remain the same. Sitting in camp chairs, luke-warm adult beverage in hand, telling stories and catching up, is balm for the soul.

It makes all the packing and schlepping and sweating worth it. Molly learned to fish and jumped off the rope swing for the first time. Jake shared a raft with his favorite cousin. My sister and I wore our matching Botox shirts I got at the thrift store as a joke. We parked ourselves in the river as much as we could.

We re-connected with old friends and my brother introduced us to new ones. And the view of the full moon out of our tent flap was pretty cool, too. And by cool, I mean, about 92 degrees cool, not 100.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Splotch of Gray

Okay, it's time to discuss the outcome of Tom's coloring my hair last night.

The results were mixed.

On the one hand, it was fun. We laughed a lot and it was a very intimate act. I mean, I don't remember feeling that close to him since, well you know... he picked the nits out of my hair .

On the other hand, he missed a few (big!) spots. His advice to me upon inspection, "Well, it looks like you'll have to do a comb over."

Certainly not words I thought I'd hear in my lifetime.

And in less than 2 weeks I'll be at a big blogging convention, which kind of sort of seems like the closest I've been to a prom since 1987. And while I won't have a date trying to deflower me in the back of his grandfather's Town Car, I will have some pretty pressure-filled moments as I try to hang with the big guys (er, girls).

I mean, I don't know half of the hip bloggy jargon and my real goal is to drink wine with people I have admired from afar rather than trying to do anything fancy to my blog.

I have some other issues, in addition to the comb over, that will not be working in my favor at this convention:

1. 5 lb summer weight gain. This may be as a result of canceling our pool membership, thus alleviating any pressure I've felt to fit into a swimsuit.

2. Going straight from my husband's family reunion in CT to the convention. Let me paint a little picture for you: 18 relatives, 1 week, 1 house. By the time I get to NYC I may very well have lost my mind.

And at my in-laws I think we may have been downgraded from our traditional twin beds. Not that my air mattress under the ping pong table won't be restful, but I have a feeling Psycho Anna will show up early and often. My mental state might not be the best for meeting new people.

3. The anti-humidity hair treatment appears to be wearing off. I fear I'll be like Cinderella at midnight when I turn into a big-haired pumpkin on 5th Avenue. Hello? August? In New York?

4. Due to much stellar planning, I have arranged to be on Day 1 of my period at the convention. This will ensure that I am a zitty, semi-comatose ferret, better suited to curling up with my friends Ben and Jerry in a fetal position than hanging with the cool girls in high heels and halters. Also, on Day 1 I can't drink alcohol without feeling sick, so there's that.

When I try to explain to Tom why I spent hundreds of dollars to watch Lifetime movies by myself in a New York hotel room while everyone else was out having fun, I don't know what I'll say...Nah, after almost 20 years with me, he'll think that sounds about right.

5. Additional 5 lb weight gain. See #4.

So, that's about it.

So if you are in NYC the first weekend in August, please take pity on me and come up and introduce yourself. I promise I won't bite. I mean, that may be what I do when I'm PMS-ing, but you will have just missed it.

Who knows? If you hang out with me, maybe we'll have a celebrity sighting like the last time I hit the big city.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deal or No Deal?

So we're trying to rein in our spending this summer. Fortunately we decided to so this AFTER I'd already committed to going to a pricey little conference in NYC called BlogHer. Too late to back out now!

I thought I'd share some of what we are doing in case any of these ideas will work for you:

Canceled pool membership: Savings: $450. Verdict: good call. Our next door neighbor has a pool and likes us! Downside: I miss the Chipwiches and Nutty Buddies at the snack bar. Up-Up-Up side: No need to wear a bathing suit in front of numerous town residents. Yay!

Canceled trip to Europe: Savings: 8,000. Verdict: Waaaaaaahhhh.

Putting cheap meals in our weekly rotation: Spaghetti (family of four, $3), Turkey Tacos ($6), Black Beans and Rice ($3). Verdict: Yum. Side dishes? Who needs side dishes?

Couponing: Savings: $20-40 per weekly shopping trip. Verdict: I am glad I'm no longer passing up "free money," but you wouldn't want to be behind me in the checkout line!

I have not yet gotten into the whole stockpiling and "moneymakers" things, but I am learning bit by bit. These websites: , help me plan my shopping each week by showing me what the best deals are and telling me which coupons to use.

They showcase other special offers, too. For instance, my family got 4 free tickets to an amusement park just because we own a Chevy! That saved us $200!

These sites have also alerted me to fun freebies like free Slurpees at 7-11 on 7/11, which have helped get the kids excited about saving money.

Freebies: Taking advantage of local freebies such as free bowling, laser tag and movies. Savings: TBD. Verdict: Good, but I'm finding this harder to squeeze fun activities in with my job this summer, unless you count taking the kids to work with me fun. I wouldn't.

I think our yearly Library Coupon Booklet program, which offers tons of freebies, will be an epic failure this summer because I can't get one of my kids to read a darn book.

Using Coupon Codes: Savings: varies. I have started doing an internet search before I buy anything, just in case there is a discount code. Verdict: Big Thumbs up!

Tropicana Juicy Rewards: Savings: $30. Verdict: I don't see a lot on there that I want, but I think our one-time savings at our (very expensive) petting zoo makes it worth putting my codes in the computer. I think this will handy for eating out, too.

Groupon: Savings: $50 so far. Verdict: fun! We purchased $75 worth of wine for $25 and look forward to getting more local deals through the power of group purchasing. My dear friend and reader, Lisa G., gets all her manicures and pedicures through Groupon.

Mouse Poop: $30. Verdict: Gross but useful. When Molly found an object of dubious origin in her can of refried beans, we complained and received coupons for free Old El Paso and Betty Crocker products. When we sent the poop in for analysis, Old El Paso called and said it was likely a wayward bean. Hmmmm.

Hail Damage? Hail Yeah! Savings: $6-11,000. Verdict: Not finished yet, but a freak hailstorm we had in May will probably result in a brand new roof for us! This is good news because having just bought a new HVAC system, spending big bucks on another practical (read: unsexy) project was at the bottom of our list.

When we saw roofing signs springing up in the neighborhood after the hailstorm we thought it wouldn't hurt to have our insurance come out for a look-see. Turns out we qualified! We'll end up paying our deductible (1,000) and for any upgrades we want, but getting a new roof for a few thousand dollars will be a huge help to us. Not that you can plan on a hail storm, but it's worth being aware of what's going on in your neighborhood.

No thrifting: Savings? About $100. Verdict? Mama wants to shop! Even though I save a ridculous amount of money by buying my clothes at thrift stores, I 've realized I have too many clothes. Soooo, I'm gathering donations together, being honest about what doesn't fit (too much ice cream) and trying to decide what I really need before I let myself go back to the store.

Homemade Birthday Cakes:
Savings? About $35. Verdict? Yum. For Tom's birthday I made a gorgeous ice cream cake (ice cream sandwiches, 3 flavors of ice cream, crushed Oreos), and for Molly's I used a free cake mix and icing tub (thanks, Mouse Poop!) to the tune of big savings.

Covering my roots at home: Savings? TBD. Verdict? Thumbs up. I don't want to start coloring my own hair because I love what my stylist, Donna, does. But as someone who is almost 100% gray, and not a pretty gray mind you, I've started buying Nice 'N Easy Root Touch Up to stretch my appointments from 6 weeks to about 8. Tom applied it for the first time tonight. Doesn't he look excited about saving money in that picture up top?

Beach Trip Off Season: Savings? $1-2,000. Verdict? No longer loving it. For years we have gone to the beach the very last week of the summer, after most kids have gone back to school, to the tune of BIG SAVINGS. This allows us to go in with another family for a beautiful beach house with a pool and a hot tub.

I think this may be the last summer for this strategy because the kids have activities in late August. I also don't like having all of the school supplies purchased before I even get to put my toes in the sand. What worked GREAT when the kids were preschoolers isn't working as well now.

So I'm wondering, do you have any money saving strategies to share?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dear Neglected Readers:

I've been writing a lot this week, but posting? Not so much. Unless you count posting at 1 a.m. and then taking it down 5 minutes later. You see I live in fear of hurting people, or more truthfully, doing stuff that will come back later and bite me in the butt. Therefore, I second-guess a lot of posts. This leaves me drained and An Inch of Gray a little light on the posts. Never fear, I've asked Tom to attempt to cover my gray for me today with my beloved Nice'n Easy Root Touch Up, so I'm hoping for fresh tidbits to share with you tomorrow.

With Love,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mama Say What?

Okay, so when I was saying goodbye to Jake as he got in his carpool (the only boy among a bevy of lovely grade-school ladies) for camp this morning, I may have stuck my head in the car and blown him a big kiss.

And, when he said he didn't want the bagel I was trying to press into his hand, I may have said, dramatically, "But, Sweetie, you'll starve to death!"

Considering this is the summer of push-ups, trying to "get a tan," and artfully arranging his hair, I'm sensing the times they are a-changing.

The kids are due home in 10 minutes. Can't wait to see if I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hello Trouble? Be My Guest.

I have not posted about any home improvement projects in while. Not much going on around here on that front. I've had to tread delicately with my husband because when I mention such projects, this is what he hears: "I would like to empty our bank account, invite chaos into our home, and hopefully emasculate you in the process."

I take a pro-active approach to home care, while my husband operates more in the "let sleeping dogs lie," denial, and crisis modes, with perhaps a little passive aggressiveness thrown in.

Blogging is helpful because I can connect with other women who, say, want to move the couch...RIGHT NOW...or rhapsodize on the virtues of Home Goods.

But I'm not really talking about buying a new lamp here.

And I'm not talking about tearing down the wall between my kitchen and living room (although I want to, oh how I want to!)

No, this is about basic personality differences regarding the general upkeep of our home. Take, for example, the landscaping of our property. Just because we had a certain number of bushes when we moved in SEVEN years ago, to my husband it is as if they were ordained by God to be here forever, and any attempt to drastically prune or dare I say remove them would desecrate the sanctity of our 1969 split level.

Inside the house I see crumbling grout and lackluster caulking in our showers. This makes me worry about dreaded water damage. I'd rather fix this now than deal with it later when the drywall is ruined and tiles need to be removed. We have no spare tiles! What would we do?! Crap. Crappity Crap. Unfortunately, a responsible, pro-active homeowner is NOT what my husband sees.

What he sees is a relentless harpie who is inviting trouble. Sure, I may be the same person who tested for and discovered: lead paint, Radon Gas, and asbestos, all of which resulted in a drastic depletion of our bank account, but I'm of the "I'd rather know" school of thought.

Take the rain in our kitchen, which started 3 days after we closed on the house. I kind of wanted to do a little investigating, open up some walls, and see what was causing the leak. He's of the "put a bucket under it be happy when it stops raining" school. This goes along with his generally cheerful attitude about life.

So you can imagine the response he gave me when we were watching a family movie in the basement last week. I started sniffing. "Do you smell mold and mildew?" I asked. Nothing. The kids Shhusshed me. "Tom, this couch smells like mildew. What if we have water problems down here?" Nothing. Then a scathing, "Are you really going to ruin movie night?" kind of a look.

Now Jake has started wheezing and sneezing and I'm pretty much convinced either our house is toxic or he's allergic to our dog. Neither is a welcome thought.

Tom is a little less dramatic about it and just gives him a benadryl.

This got me thinking. Tom doesn't really like to talk about our relationship either, as if discussing problems will make them worse, and not discussing them will somehow keep them from being "real." His way is a lot more pleasant, less painful, and less expensive in the short run. But the long run? Hmmm.

I guess I'm seeing a lot of similarities between our relationship styles and our homeowner styles.

Feel free to discuss.

And BTW, does it surprise you that I was a scab-picker growing up?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Guess I'm Not the Poster Child for Adulthood

So we got Molly's ears pierced on Tuesday night. She was excited, but I may have pressured her a wee bit because:

a) I got mine pierced when I was her age and I remember begging for months before my mom finally let me do it. So, I may have been operating off of contact excitement left over from 1978.

b)Her birthday is coming up and I have absolutely NO gift ideas for her.

If you recall that 2 years ago we gave her a coupon for Christmas guaranteeing she would never have to go to Home Depot again, you understand that while it may seem great having a kid who never really wants anything, it can sap your creative powers. So, the idea of getting her a bunch of cute earrings for her birthday was appealing.

She was a rock star in the piercing chair and got adorable little blue studs.

The next morning, however, she had a little piercer's remorse, which probably happens more often with piercings in more "creative" body locations.

Molly hugged me tightly and said she was afraid that getting earrings might mean she was growing up too fast. She continued, "It'll be awful. Like, instead of you taking care of me and doing stuff for me anymore I'll have to take care of kids and pay taxes and stuff."

I guess she doesn't find my life all that glamorous.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unwired and Coming Un-hinged:World's Longest Post about Porn

A couple events of the past few days have made me get super depressed about the future. The problem? The utter portability of porn…and problems.

I was talking to a friend who recently had a 12th birthday sleepover for her son. During the night the boys used their I-phones and Droids and I-pod Touches to look at porn on You-Tube and other sites. The parents had made sure the movies they had provided were appropriate, and that the snacks were good; what they hadn’t realized was that after lights-out a Lord of the Flies mentality would reign, fueled by puberty, smuggled-in Energy Drinks, and wireless electronics.

Then this morning when I dragged myself out of bed after the 4th of July festivities, I went up to my kids’ rooms. In one room Molly and her cousin were watching a movie on a PSP, and in the next room Jake and his cousin were watching You-tube clips on an I-Pod Touch. Our cousins had these gadgets with them for summer air travel, in the same way we take a portable DVD player in the car on road trips.

Nothing they were watching was objectionable (Herbie the Love Bug and funny You-tube Videos) but it made me think…CRAP! On a typical summer morning they would have had to come downstairs and ask, “Can we watch TV?” in the family room. I know it should be "May we watch TV?" but I'm keeping it real here. We would have made the decision. We would have placed limits on what and for how long. But here we were, a few yards away from them, and we didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

When I was growing up, a friend’s older brother might have had a Playboy magazine that got passed around the neighborhood a couple of times. Our TVs didn’t have cable, and although one or two neighborhood dads might have had a few racy VHS tapes, that was just a gross fact we knew, but we didn’t dare watch them. When phone sex lines started when we in 8th or 9th grade, I am sure Betsy Arnold’s parents got wind of what was going on pretty quickly when the whopping phone bill came in after we got a little crazy at our “Thriller-Video-Watching Party.” But beyond that, there wasn’t much opportunity for accessing porn. It just seemed too risky.

Our phones were attached to the wall, right there in the kitchen. I hated this, but it had many advantages. First of all, we had to share phone use with the entire family. This cut down on how long calls could be. Also, the family knew if a boy had good phone manners, and they felt free to throw out opinions on who was calling. Kind of like a Greek Chorus, my older brother could say to me, “Hey, Loser, why is so and so calling YOU if he’s dating that pretty red-headed girl?” Word got around the house, and usually around school, of who was calling whom.

Knowing they had to go through the parental or sibling gateway, callers might think twice about calling, and let’s just say sexy talk was an impossibility when the phone was located right next to the tuna noodle casserole.

Until I wised up and invested in a 100-foot long phone cord so I could sneak the phone up to my attic bedroom, I was at the mercy of my home’s limited phone jacks. Even at the time, as I stayed up until 3 in the morning talking to a boyfriend who was away at college, I could see the wisdom in my parents wanting to monitor what I was doing, because I found myself being pulled in too deeply in a relationship I wasn’t ready for. But I was the third child, and my parents were tired. I also knew I was playing with fire another time, when as a 16 year old, I was getting calls from a 26-year-old man…. I can only imagine if it was today and he was a 26-year-old man with a web cam. Ick.

As a parent, I know I can’t shelter my kids from everything, but I always thought I’d go down swinging. We watched nothing but PBS until the oldest child was 9; no cable tv until just a few years ago. Our aces in the hole were the proclamations that we would NEVER have a TV or computer in the kids’ bedrooms. Puh-leaze. If we had known 11 years ago how much things would change, and how little impact that rule would have, I would have seen the naiveté of this thinking.

Computers and TV’s in the bedrooms? New technology has taken the place of these monoliths. As we all know, wireless technology means we carry our “computers and tv’s” in our pockets, backpacks, and into our bedrooms, bathrooms, and cars.

Unplugging from the walls, however, unplugs our actions from the watchful eye of a family. A teenage girl can receive thousands of threatening texts from a boyfriend, yet stay completely under her family’s radar. There is no one picking up the phone in the kitchen and taking messages on a notepad. Thousands of phone calls on a landline would never go unnoticed. While my kids won't have TV's or computers in their bedrooms, they will have cell phones that can do goodness knows what.

And then there is sexting, when boys and girls can “say” whatever they want, when they would never be emboldened to do so face to face, or even on a family’s phone.

While electronics will help us monitor where our kids are (something our parents couldn’t do), it seems to me that they will make it very difficult to monitor what our kids see and do.

For those of you with younger children, you may be thinking this will not be a problem for your kids. Your kids will be different. It is hard to imagine, when using cool new technology to access Thomas and Friends, Go Diego Go and funny cat videos, how it can all go so terribly wrong, so fast.

But let me say that just as technology seems to be changing at lightning speed, our children are growing fast. I feel like I blinked and landed in the world of PG-13 movies and cell phones. Those same little kids whose heads are bent over a DS right now, will most likely have the latest gadget in hand in the next 5 years.

I tell myself my kids are obedient, and they understand limits. Right now my daughter has zero interest in electronics, and my son asks before he goes to any website. My own kids do not yet have cell phones, and have no portable electronic devices. But I know that will change.

And I was young once. When I was a pre-teen and early teen I had the sex-drive of a piece of corrugated cardboard. But would I have looked at porn if I’d been given the chance? Sure. Absolutely. You can bet on it.

And there’s the real problem. The images I would have seen would have been seared into my memory. I would have carried them with me into my dating relationships and into my marriage. And what I would have seen would have been NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING compared to what our kids could see today.

And the guilt. You already know I feel guilt about everything. The guilt I would have carried about what I saw would have been hard on me mentally and spiritually and driven a wedge between my parents and me as I had to keep secrets, even more than I was already keeping.

So I don’t know where I’m going with this except to say that we only have one family. And parenting gets tiring, exhausting, really. I guess I’m just reminding myself that just because inventions are the "next cool thing" with amazing capabilities and functions, they can come with a cost.