Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Schooled: Oh My Goodness Edition

My 12 year old son has a summer assignment: Read and Annotate Oliver Twist. No, not the Disney-fied movie featuring adorable animated dogs and cats, but the real, honest to goodness 450+ page novel.

From my English major days, I remember that Charles Dickens wrote in serial form, publishing chapters in newspapers. His audience eagerly awaited each installment. London was abuzz. The See Household? Not so much.

Before you feel give me too much sympathy for having to shepherd my child through this miserable summer experience, I must confess I used to assign 16 year old students the likes of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre to read over the summer. Looking back, I can't believe I inflicted those works (my faves, natch!) on rowdy, hormonal 16 year old boys.

Payback is hell.

And speaking of hormonal boys, Oliver Twist, known for its extensive vocabulary, unwittingly illuminated a new one here in the See household.

I popped the Oliver Twist audio cd in the car yesterday, hoping to help get our Dickens mojo on, and within moments, Jake was laughing uncontrollably. Pleased that he had turned the corner and was now a Dickens-lover, I asked him what was so funny.

Bad decision.

We replayed the segment in question. Turns out there's a character named Charlie Bates. Who was referred to 4 times in a row as... Master Bates. Yep. Which to a 12 year old boy, and perhaps a 41 year old mom, is pretty funny stuff.

Problem is, my 10 year old was in the car and needed some 'splaining. Let's just say Molly learned a new word today, something her mom didn't hear about until she read it in Cosmo in at LEAST 10th grade.


Advanced curriculum these days, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pump it Up? Shake it Up? Take a Nap?

Just got back from a fabulous Girls Day/Night Out with college friends. Because it was a mere 100 degrees, we hung out by the pool. Imagine my surprise, nay consternation, when all 3 of my friends were sporting bikinis and rock-hard bods.

In general, I am not one to begrudge (too much) others' fantastic bodies especially when they work hard at it. But when these girls and I became friends, in like, 1987, suffice it to say we weren't exactly hard bodies. Or at least I don't think so, although the big hair, Navajo sweaters and shoulder pads might have prevented ultra-close inspection.

And here we are, over 40, when I'm ready to throw on my comfy pants and throw in the proverbial towel, and they do THIS TO ME! Classic bait and switch I say.

So what would any self-respecting couch potato do when faced with extra summer pounds and insanely buff friends? Would she put down the apple pie (a la mode!!) and go for a fitness walk?

No, not this one.

I decided to take the kids to the glorified Dollar Store, Five Below, which basically means "We charge you $5 for stuff that should cost $1."

And what did I buy?

Something called Pump2Fit-- a plastic bar bell that promised me "Sexy, toned arms in just minutes a day!"

I could sense something was off, but I could have sworn I'd seen this miraculous product on an infomercial at some point and that it would transform my flabby, Cafeteria Lady arms (sorry Mrs. Winklebaum) into "ROCK SOLID ARMS!" as the box proclaimed.

Speaking of boxes, the kids suggested I might want to keep the box so it would be ready, intact, for our next yard sale. Such moral support, I tell ya.

I was reasonably confident this product would transform my arms, nay-- my life, until I came home and saw a CVS ad touting "The Shake Weight."


That was the one from the infomercial I'd seen, and the one I had purchased was a flimsy, non-shaky imitation. I went to the Shake Weight website and saw some mildly erotic demos of how "The Shake Weight" could tone my arms. A quick glance pretty much made it clear that the only weight the "Pump2 Fit" was good for was a paper weight.

Oh well.

As I was reeling from the discovery that I had not found my own personal fountain of youth, 12 year old Jake, who will hitherto be referred to as Captain Painfully Obvious, summed it up thus: "So what you did was buy a cheesy dollar store imitation of a cheesy infomercial product?"

Grasshopper, you are correct.

Well at least Molly and her friend Kelly are having some good old-fashioned summer fun using my precious "Pump2Fit" to make fake infomercials. And to think that at their age, we used to play dolls.

I think I'll join a gym.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fear Not

The kids were at summer camp last week. Outside in the blazing sun all day. With a heat index of 110. Sweating on top of nylon sleeping bags in screened-in "cabins" at night.

I prayed that they would have a safe, amazing, louse-free week and they did.

I figured Jake would enjoy it, because it's his 3rd year. He loves camp and says he feels closer to God there.

But if you remember Molly's... er... bumpy re-entry earlier this summer when she returned from a week with her cousins, you'll know that I was braced for a very tired girl with Linda-Blair-like tendencies. I wanted to tread lightly in case the whole summer camp thing was just too, too much.

Imagine our surprise and relief when, as soon as they got home, she and Jake were already talking about what they wanted to do at camp next summer. And dinner started with an unusual request from Molly, to lead the blessing of our meal. We held hands, and instead of moaning and munching through "God is great; God is good," Molly prayed a short, sincere prayer from the heart. Wow.

This morning she was up reading her Bible and highlighting passages that stood out to her.

Here's the thing: I don't think you are a "good Christian" for reading your Bible and a "bad Christian" for not. Truth be told, much of the time my Bible serves more as a bedside coaster than a life-line for me. Does that mean God loves me less? Absolutely not. I do know the life-giving, powerful words the Bible contains, but more often than not, I seek a million other forms of solace and counsel before turning to it.

So you can imagine how touched I was when she, of her own volition, started searching for key passages to guide her through life.

She said as she did this, the words "Isaiah 43" came to her. Now you know as well as I that Isaiah 43 could have ended up saying something about 2 donkeys costing x number of shekels, or something like that, but it didn't.

Here are the verses she felt guided to in Isaiah 43. For Molly, for me, and maybe for you:

"But now, this is what the Lord says-- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

And you know what she said after sharing this with me? "Mom, I'm so glad God led me to those encouraging verses, but it makes me nervous because I wonder if that means I'm going to go through a lot of hardship in life and REALLY need them to lean on."

I hear you, daughter, and I understand. You are your mom's little girl, all right.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

And the Winner is....


Congrats on winning the Hip-T of your choice. Please email me your full name and snail mail address and I'll pass it along to Hip-T!

Thanks to all who entered!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordy Wednesday and How Blogging Messes With My Mind

The kids are away at camp all week. Although you might think that Tom and I have been walking around the house naked and I've been painting, gluing, and staple-gunning everything in sight (Tom excluded), my week has turned out differently than expected.

For one, Tom and I didn't coordinate our "free week" very well, so it meant he spent part of it in NYC and had obligations some of the other nights. We tried to go to a movie or a play, but there's nothing out that we want to see. Good news? We've started watching "Friday Night Lights" from the first episode and are hooked. It's so nice to be able to start a show before 10 pm!

And the painting projects?

Waah!!!!!!!! I have a new curbside find called a Pier Chest, which is going to knock our socks off (I hope), but I can't finish painting it because it's almost 100 degrees in the the carport. The paint ain't sticking, people.

I know it's pretty lame to feel sorry for myself about the heat when my kids are sleeping on plastic mattresses and nylon sleeping bags in un-airconditioned cabins, but they haven't written me a single letter yet, so how would I even know to be sympathetic?

Also, the reality of this week has been that I miss the kids a ton and feel kind of mopey. I know I'll be yelling at them within hours of their return, but for now they are my precious angels who are too darn far away.

I've decided that next summer, I will plan my free week better to take FULL advantage of it (cool weather, lunch dates with friends, and ample nudity).

Now for the "blogging messes with your mind" part of the post:

I don't know if this happens to you, but I find myself thinking about blogging quite often-- even in my sleep. In the midst of a crazy dream, for instance, I'll think, "I need to tell my blog friends about what just happened!"

When I wake up and realize it was all a dream, I feel disappointed. That's why you haven't heard about the time I tried to use a Chinese urinal, or the time I peed in front of Richard Gere and J. Lo at an upside-down nightclub. Am I the only one who is surprised I don't ever wet the bed?

I also think about blogging a lot during the day.

Today, for instance, I had 2 things I wanted to take pictures of and share with you, but I just couldn't do it.

One was in an "antique store"--and I'm using that name liberally-- where everything was piled together willy nilly. I was DYING to take a picture OF A PICTURE in a little silver frame. The subject? 2 middle aged people cavorting in a hot tub. We'll call them Tawny and Big Ron. Gross. Gross. Gross. Could they not have removed the photo???? Alas, no picture for you, as the "antique store" proprietress was watching me the whole time. She offered me 30% off, but I didn't bite.

The other thing I wanted to photograph was my dear next door neighbor's house. They are moving on very short notice and I am giving her my somewhat-solicited advice on staging the house.

Let me tell you, I'm putting the TOUGH in Tough Love. I wanted to take before and after pictures for you, since a lot of you are into houses like I am, but I didn't want to put any more pressure on her than she already feels.

Her husband is out of town, her daughter got her wisdom teeth pulled yesterday, they have to drive 20 hours to drop off their 4 pets halfway across the country, and the house goes on the market in 5 days! Needless to say, my friend is up to her ears in packing and probably would not have appreciated being a "before" picture, you know?

It has, however, piqued my interest in staging, and I'm toying with the idea of learning more about it. I'd love to get advice from any of you who have tried staging as a career. Thanks!

Well, I've got to go, Tom gets home from his softball game in 20 minutes and "Friday Night Lights" is calling my name!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big Smokey?

The kids are away at camp all week. Thus, I had cereal for dinner last night, and then again for breakfast and lunch today. Seriously considering having cereal for dinner tonight since Tom won't be home until late.

I'm looking forward to sharing a brand new furniture project with you in the next day or so, so please stay tuned!

Until then, I'll leave you this.

Molly and a friend were in Target with me doing some pre-camp shopping. The friend showed Molly a Slim Jim and said,

"These are gross because they are made with the ears and hooves and butts of cows."

So Molly proceeds to pick up a mammoth, shrink-wrapped smoked sausage and says in a loud, faux whisper,

"Does that mean this is the Cow's penis?"

All I can say is, "Who knows?"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Subject Line: Panic

So my father-in-law sent his three kids and their spouses an email a few weeks ago.

Subject Line: Mom

When we opened the email, we learned that Tom's mother had won an award for her artwork. Yay.

But of course we were too busy trying to backpedal from the fatalistic mental gymnastics we'd done (Tom's mom in ICU, Tom's mom hit by a car, Tom's mom with flesh-eating bacteria, etc) to care much about art awards.

Tom's father obviously doesn't think there is anything wrong with sending an email with the subject line "Mom," because each subsequent email this summer has been part of the same darn email thread. Hooray, we get to have little panicky moments in our inboxes with regularity!

This got me thinking about subject lines. For instance, since becoming a mom, I have dreaded emails with the subject line: "Today" as in:

From: Your Child's Teacher
Subject Line: Today

Nothing good can come of that, I tell you. Nothing good.

So what about you?

What would be your most dreaded Subject line, real or imagined? How about?

From: Your High School Friend
Subject Line: Bought a scanner! Sleepover pics on Facebook!


I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hip-T Giveaway!

Remember when I wrote about the hip-T? It's an ingenious stretchy band that covers your "assets" and prevents muffin-top and rear cleavage.

I made my own by cutting up my daughter's tiny tank tops.

Well, I contacted the folks at hip-T and they sent me one to try! And they would love to give a hip-T of your choice to one of An Inch of Gray's readers!

Get ready for fall when you'll be digging out those jeans again. Wouldn't it be great to be able to reach down and tie your child's shoe without giving away all of your womanly secrets?

I have tried the Original hip-T and am very impressed! It is super soft, stays in place, and doesn't shrink when washed. I like how it retains its shape, while my homemade ones get stretched out. It ads length to my long-sleeved tees that have gotten a little too short. When the shirt moves, the hip-T stays in place.

As for sizing, I would say they are true to size, but they are snug! I ordered a small, but I wish I'd ordered a medium. I may have to give my small away to another lucky reader. Please refer to previous posts about Oreo Truffles or summer weight gain for further explanation.

If you would like to win a hip-T, just comment on this post. For fun, could you let me know about your favorite problem-solving product or accessory?

An Inch of Gray followers, leave another comment for an EXTRA chance to win.

Here's the hip-T website to see which hip-T you would like to pick if you win!

Giveaway closes Saturday, 7/16 at noon.

Thank you to hip-T for providing me with a hip-T to review. I was not provided any monetary compensation for this post.

Monday, July 11, 2011

3 Steps to Bliss: Oreo Truffles!

( photo from bakerella)

Okay, so you may want deeper insights on bliss this Monday morning, but if you whip up these 3-ingredient Oreo Truffles, I think you won't be disappointed!

1 package Oreo Cookies
1 brick of cream cheese, softened
1 pack of white chocolate chips

Crush Oreo cookies into a fine powder. I beat them to death in a plastic bag since I don't have a food processor.

Mix the crumbled cookies with the softened cream cheese and form into one inch balls. Place balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

Melt the chocolate chips or baker's chocolate in the microwave and dip the balls into chocolate to coat. This is messy. You may want to wear gloves. Mine weren't perfectly round, but that's okay.

Refrigerate for an hour, then ENJOY!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Life through Rose Colored Goggles

I was in Target yesterday when I walked by the pool section...and kept right on walking. It dawned on me that this is the first summer in almost a dozen when my summer's pleasure hasn't been all wrapped up in...swim goggles.

Join me on a walk down memory lane:

--The screaming and wailing when pool water seeps into sub-par goggles and my kids' eyes threaten to shrivel up and fall out as if burned by carbolic acid.

--The pile of rejected goggles deemed so because of poor suction, cheesy "Dora" motifs, or that certain je ne sais quoi understood only by the annoying toddler/kid set.

--The attempts to negotiate so that one kid will give the other the "good" goggles for the entire summer because otherwise he/she (okay, HE!) will not dangle a toe in the pool without them. "Would $5 work for you, honey? Because it would work for me."

--The secret nighttime shopping trips trying to stock up on exact duplicate goggles just in case the "good" goggles disappear.

--The threats: "Under no circumstances may you come home from the pool without these goggles. Do you understand? Shoes? Who cares? Sibiling? Meh. Do NOT lose these goggles!"

--The gripping fear, as August and beach-time looms, and the rubbery band of the "good" goggles starts to slacken, thin, and threaten to break.

--The attempt to broker a new goggle purchase as August winds down. Which, I must say, is like trying to buy a Compass and Protractor set in June. Yes, I have tried both.

But this summer? Nary a mention of goggles, good, bad, or otherwise. I am relieved. I am happy. The world seems full of promise and possibility. The kids frolic in the neighbors' pools without any protective eye wear whatsoever. This observation is something I note inside my gray head, but I dare not mention to them.

Because I haven't a stinkin' clue where the "good" goggles are.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The New Object of My Affection

So last week I showed you a great console table at my local thrift shop. It was about 4 feet too long for my home, but I hoped you might like it. On my next foray, I found a very similar one, which although still not sized perfectly for my 1969 estate, would be a better fit. And at $18.75, how could I resist?

She's very sturdy (Drexel) and reminds me of the parsons-style dining table we had growing up. I loved the pattern of her veneer, but knew I was going for a sleek, white look.

I was hoping to replace this little dresser-turned-console that I got out of my friend's trash, because it was starting to fall apart (again):

Here is the new console before I painted her. Love!

I was NOT impressed with the quality of the off-white paint I used, but it could have been the humid painting conditions of July 4th weekend.


Because of my stellar photog skills, you can choose between no flash and blurry:
Or with flash and stark:

Reality is somewhere in between.

Do you recognize those little silver stools underneath?
Yep, there's the crazy leather one I found a few months ago:

And his new buddy, Naugahyde Nate:

Silver spray paint did the trick. They look tiny in these photos, but are a perfect size for pull-up seating.

The two blue lamps (Crate and Barrel) came down from my little-used living room.

So there you have it, some family room freshening!

I know I probably show you far too many pictures of this room, but considering where it started, I can't help myself:




Friday, July 1, 2011

He Says, She Says, Baby Edition.

No, I am not pregnant.

I am, however, old and grouchy.

Things have thawed quite a bit between Tom and me. That is, they HAD thawed until we broached a touchy subject on last night's after-dinner walk.

For those of you who have been around a while, you know that a 3rd child never materialized in the See household because Tom and I couldn't take the plunge. To give you an idea of how long it takes us to make a decision, we have friends who have fallen in love, gotten married, and gotten divorced in the time it takes us to choose a new TV set.

So instead of having a 3rd child, we talked, and hemmed and hawed, and made Ektorp appointments, and canceled them, and hemmed and hawed some more, and aged, and adopted an annoying dog.

The "should we have another?" dance started as soon as I had my head above water after kid number 2.

At which point we had THIS annoying conversation:

Me: This stay at home mom thing is brutal! I would definitely consider having another child if you could commit to waking up once every night to feed the baby a bottle of breast milk or formula.

Tom: No, I just can't do that. I'd be too tired for work.


At which point my baby-maker clamped shut with the force of a steel bear trap and the conversation halted for a few more years.

Later, we started thinking more and more about adding to the family. We discussed health insurance options. We had lovely conversations like this one:

Tom: Well, I'd consider having another one if I could stay home while you worked.

Me: Silence.

In my head: Does this guy really think we could survive on my measly salary when he makes 7 times as much? It would be a mistake to further procreate with this person. He is obviously really bad at math and has dubious reasoning skills. My sparkling personality will only get a baby so far...

A few years later, we started talking more and more. Things seemed to be bubbling up to baby-dom.

Until we spent a week at the beach with our close friends. One night over drinks I mentioned how Tom and I had caught a case of "baby fever."

At which point Tom looked at me blankly and said, "I really have no idea what you are talking about."

Embarrassed silence by our friends. Pissed-off silence by me.

Now if there is ONE thing I hate more than anything, it is being second-guessed by my spouse in public. I do NOT like feeling unsupported. I want someone to stand up for me-- ALWAYS.

This goes way, way back to my childhood and watching the relationship of key people in my life. I have shared with Tom time and again that I need him to back me up on things. If I am telling a great story and I say something happened 8 years ago, I don't want him saying, "Well, actually, it was 10." I am also trying to teach this to Jake, who is a nit-picky, semantics-obsessed corrector if there ever was one. God bless whomever he dates...

And it's not as if I was making this baby stuff up, Tom and I had been talking about it every day! Okay, every OTHER day, if you are reading this, Tom.

Back in our room, as I glared at him and told him how hurt I was for his claiming to have no clue as to what I was talking about, he said:

"Oh, you meant we'd been talking about BABIES? Sure. I was just unfamiliar with the specific terminology "Baby Fever."

Dear Lord. At which point I lamented marrying someone with the emotional and people skills of a Vulcan. Needless to say, no Vulcan/Human baby was forthcoming.

Which leads us to last night. Our neighbor's beautiful 5 year old was out riding her bike.

Anna: "Too bad we never got our act in gear. We could have one going off to kindergarten with little Beatrice."

Tom: "Well, it's not as if we didn't try."

In my head and on my face and coming out of my ears: TRY? TRY?????????

We never decided to try! There was no official decision! In the 10 years since my daughter was born, we have had unprotected sex one time! Once. Uno. Where I come from, that's called laziness, or Margarita Night, not TRYING.

Believe me, I am a type "A." If I had known we were "trying," I would have put a little more of myself into it, Tom would have gotten a lot more action, and we very likely would have another child.

So there you have it, a 41 year old woman wrestling with ghosts of the past. The truth is, if I had ever really been sure, I would have pursued the baby thing more wholeheartedly. But I felt tired, and often annoyed, and, well, un-sure. Do I wish we had another? Absolutely.

Do I want to do anything about it at age 41? No.

Do I wish Tom and I were better communicators? Heck yeah. I am quite hopeful the next 20 years will bring progress in this area, although if our pre-marital counseling goals are any indication, we are in for a wee bit of trouble.

Well, I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend!

By the way, my old eggs and I are starting to research new kitchen appliances. Tom is not on board yet. I'll let you know when they get delivered, which should be shortly before hell freezes over.