Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Such A Bargain?

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

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

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


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

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Bit Warped

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Going Out of Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things That Don't Do It For Me

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


Front doors with Oval glass windows in them.

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

Precious Moments figurines

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

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

Underwear that doesn’t fit right


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


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

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

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

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

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

When I act like a jerk

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

Designer originals and prices


Moms judging other moms

Superhero movies

My nose

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

My Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Good Academics and Some Moral Respects"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your Understanding.Bill Christopher.”

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

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

Is this a problem?

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Ektorp By Any Other Name...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aaah, the Joy!

After a homework-induced meltdown, and a trip to time out, Molly left this little gem for me on my bedside table. The photo is from our church's Mother-Daughter Tea, which I thought provided a nice added touch.

Later, I found this note in its place:

I think my husband made her write it. Let me know if you think a curlicue mustache is a good look for me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Boob Tube

I’ve been pondering our tv habits. For the first 6 years of life I only let the kids watch PBS, but for the past year I’ve allowed the Disney Channel. During that same year, there has been a marked increase in sassiness, preening in front of the mirror, and eye rolling in our house. I was pretty much ready to blame it on Hannah Montana (whom I personally find very entertaining!), when I started thinking about the tv shows of my youth.

Shortly after the Sesame Street, Electric Company and Wild Kingdom era, I remember watching “grown-up shows.” While the Disney channel focuses on tweens, these shows were more for teens and adults. I’m talking Three's Company, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. We had a pretty steady diet of these at our house throughout the 70’s.

I missed the more wholesome family fare of The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Growing Pains in the 80’s because by that time my parents had put the kibosh on weeknight tv viewing and I was too swamped with homework to put up a fight.

I think of Three's Company with its bedswapping, boob jiggling and gay mocking. I think of The Love Boat with a whole lotta sex and not a whole lotta love. I mean Doc was terribly unattractive, but he had a different woman in his cabin every night!
And Julie McCoy was a coke-head. Ok, I know that was in her off-screen life, but it’s not as if I couldn’t read the National Enquirer headlines for myself in the grocery store line. Fantasy Island? Super sleazy and super creepy (I’m remembering lots of lightning flashes and voodoo). This doesn’t even include the topics of war, drinking, extramarital affairs-- not to mention cross dressing-- on M*A*S*H.

The show we weren’t allowed to watch was Charlie’s Angels. Our way around that was to have our friends, the Joneses, audiotape episodes for us. Yep, they’d hold a cassette player up to the tv and record the show for us and let us listen to it later. Inspired! We had stacks of Charlie’s Angels trading cards and debated the superiority of one Angel to another. Years later we got to watch the repeats during the summer. Pure bliss.

I’m just wondering if letting my kids watch “kids’” shows, and limiting them to that, is causing them to soak in this weird alternate universe of fashion, bubble gum rock, crushes, and idiotic parents. Would it be better to let them watch some adult tv, such as Tom’s and my favorite reality show The Amazing Race or should we throw the tv out the window altogether? It’s not like I became a bedswapping, coke-snorting voodoo queen by watching the shows of my youth. I doubt any of it rubbed off on me at all. On the other hand, I do see some imitation of these tween shows in my kids and I don’t care for it. Hmmmm.

BTW, who was your favorite “Angel?”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

I was bored today, really bored. Jake and Tom were at a movie and Molly was at a friend’s house. I know I should have been happy, because for years the thought of some alone time in my house with no one touching me was an unattainable dream, but I was just in a funk.

It was pouring rain and Shadow I and couldn’t take our usual walk. I didn’t want to drive anywhere, because I knew I’d just spend more money. My first 3 days of freedom from the kids this week meant big budget trips to Costco and Walmart, and I know I need to reign it in.

I thought about how peeved I got with the kids all summer whenever they said they were bored. Hello? Read a book! Clean your room. Use your imagination.

Every time Tom heard them say it, he gave them a chore to do. They learned fast and stopped saying it to him and pretty much saved it for me. I was more likely to suggest going outside or lecture them on how lucky they were to be able to be bored in the first place. I told true but long-winded stories of villagers having to walk miles every day to get contaminated water out of creeks for their poor, sick kids. I brought up other pleasant topics such as child labor and war. Not super effective.

When the kids said, “I’m bored,” it really meant, “I want to watch TV!” It annoyed me that they couldn’t think past the obvious, but the first thing I did in my boredom today was turn it on. When HGTV didn’t do it for me, I set to work on my candy corn. I still have ½ pound to eat. I thought about doing yoga, since I was already in workout clothes, but after all that candy corn I just didn’t feel like it. I could have made phone calls since I’m behind on various projects. I could have blogged. Nope, nope, nope.

In the 3 hours everyone was gone, I cleaned, read a little, moped, ate, and cleaned some more. After spending the whole summer judging the kids for their utter lack of creativity when it came to keeping themselves occupied, I am not about to admit to them or to Tom that I was bored. Especially after last night when Tom ever so gently told me that my extreme crankiness when I’m hungry has started rubbing off on the kids. Ouch. I’m not going to have the boredom thing pinned on me, too.

I'm just going to let them think I got a huge kick out of rearranging the pantry this afternoon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A "Fallen" Woman

Even though it was 91 degrees today I know FALL is here. Why? Because I just bought me a 1 lb 4 oz tub o’ candy corn! I’m ready to get down to business. I usually share 1 or 2 pieces w/ the kids then eat myself into a stupor.

Molly and Jake aren’t much into candy anyway, so there’s no compelling need to share. In fact Jake said yesterday when Molly wondered where her Halloween (and Valentines and Easter!) candy had gone, “Oh Mom ate it. We’re more into the getting and she’s more into the eating.” Oh so true.

I don’t really love the taste of candy corn, but it’s right up there w/ the smell of new school supplies and buying 2 big mums that I’ll kill within a month for ringing in the new season.
I usually limit myself to one big container of candy corn a year, but I wish the stores would hold off a little in stocking their shelves. If I start too soon, say August or the 1st week in September, I sort of forget about the gorge-fest by late October and opt for a repeat performance.
What says “fall” to you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day of School Navy Blues Update

Phew! We had a great morning and Molly was already in her jumper before I even woke up. Love that first day of school adrenaline rush! Sure we helped her put her socks and shoes on, but I feel so relieved!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School Navy Blues

Just when I think I have my kids figured out, they throw me for a loop. Aaargh. School starts tomorrow. I was a little behind on the bedtime routine, but I was still hoping to get them to bed a decent hour after an unstructured summer of sloth.

In order to put off brushing her teeth, Molly decided to check out her school uniform options. What did she find? A stack of 9 identical jumpers and 7 neatly folded polo shirts. She has had frequent clothing challenges, but I thought our problem centered mainly on socks. Many a tearful morning has stemmed from her having a lump in her sock, an imaginary seam, or having one that just “doesn’t feel right!” Invariably, both kids are marked tardy because of Molly’s sock woes, and I am a screaming shrew.

Unfortunately last year's knee socks of choice have been discontinued, so I bought 12 pairs of seamless socks this summer and have been talking them up ever since with the fervor of an infomercial salesperson.

The polo and jumper thing has been our one certainty. Other girls opt to wear khaki or navy shorts or long pants on occasion, but not Molly. In her 360 day elementary school career, she has worn a jumper and a polo each day. The one exception was a trip to the pumpkin patch when she unhappily donned her tried and true “capri pants”—size 4 gauchos she has had since preschool. One summer she even insisted on wearing her jumper and polo to camp for a week because she loved them so much.

Sooooo, I've accumulated enough hand me down jumpers that I never have to launder them during the week. I've been well-stocked and feeling great.

So tonight, at 9 pm the night before school starts, she decides to wear pants. Why? Because that’s “what 2nd graders do.” She found a pair of navy blue floods (never worn) that I had purchased for her before kindergarten. She pulled them on and started cavorting on the bed in front of the mirror. Navy polo, navy pants, she looked like the Maytag repairman and was well pleased.

When I told her the rules said she needed to tuck in her shirt and wear a belt, she was not happy. When I told her she didn’t own a navy, brown or black belt per the dress code, she was in despair.

When I finally talked her down and got her into bed, her prayer went like this: “Please God let all the 2nd grade girls wear stupid jumpers tomorrow.”

Now I blog and I wait. If you are a praying person and if you read this in the early a.m. on Wednesday, please pray for Molly and for me. In fact, any time this week would be appreciated. And throw in some sock prayers for good measure.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Letter to My Cleaning Lady

Dear Miss Carmen,

I am sorry I ever secretly thought I could clean as well as or even better than you. Sure I'm 38 years old and you are a 55 year old grandma, but here I am, 6 hours into what for you is a 4 hour job, and I’ve yet to scratch the surface of what you do, so capably, every other week.

Every time I turn around I see something else that you do, that I haven’t gotten to yet. I am sorry for those times that we didn’t put our full effort into pre-cleaning the night before you got here. Now I know personally how disheartening it must be to see dishes in the sink, when you just want to get down to business, or a pile of stuffed animals that you have to clean around in the kids’ rooms.

For those times I inwardly thought you could have done more, I am so sorry. Clean the front of the kitchen cabinets? Ha! I haven’t even started on the bathrooms yet.

I am sorry for the times we didn’t get out of your hair in the morning and you had to clean around us as we ran around the house like crazy people. School is starting, and I promise we’ll give you space to work.

I’m really, really sorry about the dog. I know she has made your life more difficult. I will understand if you assess us a dog hair surcharge from now on.

You are away visiting your family right now. Please promise you’ll come back! Mea culpa and Lo siento.