Friday, May 28, 2010

You Complete Me

A while ago I wrote about my kids' bathroom, formerly known as One of the World's Ugliest. Shall I refresh your memory?

How cute is this pic of the kids bidding farewell to their beloved green toilet? They said goodbye; I said good riddance.

What we came up with was a brand new bathroom with shiny chrome and porcelain fixtures, bead board walls, and a bright white shower with subway tiles going all the way up. The kids loved going from a single to a double sink. Wish Tom and I had two in our teeny tiny bathroom.

We also had the contractor make a little niche to be used now for sterling baby cups, later for Molly's "products," of which there will be many.

One thing was missing. The huge 60 inch mirror desperately needed framing. I thought of taking it down, but it was glued to our brand new drywall. I know a lot of people DIY when it comes to framing mirrors, but I knew Tom and I weren't up for that.

Instead, I contacted the great folks at Mirrormate for their opinion on which of their easy to use frames to purchase. Seeing the bead board and other old fashioned touches in my bathroom, the creator and founder of Mirrormate recommended Acadia White.


This made me a little nervous because while my bathroom is a little old fashioned, most of my recent decorating attempts have veered more modern. I mean, how could they know about my sexy new Crate and Barrel bench and a liberal use of zebra print?
I wondered, would the new frame be too frilly for me?

I took the plunge and ordered, and within just a few days, everything we needed came in the mail. Tom and I assembled and hung the Mirrormate frame directly on top of the existing mirror. It worked great!

I would say as far as marital home improvement projects go this one is rated:

1 eye roll

2 grumbles

1 smart ass remark

Not bad, considering what a change it made in our bathroom! Good measuring, a little glue and some teamwork is all you need.

Once it was up, I did feel as if the room was a sea of white, but when I re-hung our black frames and added a little black tray for toiletries, I thought it looked great.

What an easy, inexpensive way to change a room. Thanks, Mirrormate! You complete me.

There are tons of styles to choose from. Visit Mirrormate and check out the easy to follow assembly video. They seem to have had even more fun than Tom and I did. Nary an eyeroll in sight.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Which I Consider Becoming Superstitious

So I've never been superstitious. No knocking on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder or good luck rituals.

Not much freaks me out either. We looked at a house next to a cemetery and I considered it a nice peaceful place for the children to play. Superstition goes against my beliefs and seems to be limiting in so many ways.

Events of the last few months have made me reconsider my stance, so I'm exploring my superstition options. You see, I am the one who bragged at a staff meeting that in 11 years of parenting, we had never had an ER visit. Within the week, we were well acquainted with the place.

I also had the audacity to say to my husband, "the kids haven't been sick at all this year." I know, I know. Stupid.

This week, I was heading off to my son's baseball game. It's getting toward the end of the season and I've been grateful there has not been a spectacularly tragic meltdown like we had at the end of basketball season (camera in purse) after he'd been up all night at a sleepover. As I put the camera in my purse to capture some baseball highlights, I had a pang. A pang as in, maybe having the camera will make this evening turn to crap.

Some background here: 22 years ago I headed off to the hospital to visit my very much alive mother. I tucked my camera into my purse. I felt a pang and ignored it. I hopped in my car, stopped off at McDonald's for a fillet of fish, and by the end of the day my mother was dead.

The thing is, I don't WANT to be superstitious. It seems to represent a lack of faith and freedom.
When I got to the baseball game, camera in purse, our team was winning 5-0, bases loaded, no outs. S-weet! The camera curse was not in effect! Woohooo!

Less than an hour later, we lost 8-6 and one child, who shall remain nameless, was having the most dramatic, epic tantrum in the dugout the likes of which our Little League has never seen before and probably never will again. Later, he cried himself to sleep, lamenting that he had reacted so inappropriately in public. My heart ached for him.

So, you may be saying, "Anna, your child's reactions have nothing to do with your camera and more to do with the fact that organized sports are a challenge for him."

I know, I know.

But I say all of this because the very next day was his school's performance of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and I seriously, seriously, considered leaving the camera home. I mean, if a small action on my part could somehow prevent a karmic, cosmic flame-out on a day that was so important to my kid, I was on board.

The thing is, parents DO bring cameras to school plays, and I did not want to be held hostage by crazy thoughts. The camera came.

Shortly after 9 am the play began, with my progeny playing the lead role. Each line flowed silkily off his tongue. His timing was perfect. His movements superb. He was comfortable and in his element. He stayed in character and did not react when a few others flubbed their lines. I wondered-- dare I remove the camera from my bag and capture this moment of glory? I hesitated and thought, "What the heck?" I pulled it out of my purse, and turned it on to document his moment in the sun.

"Memory Card Full."


Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Cup is Half Empty

So today at church a friend gave me $10 she owed me. I wanted to donate it to our Well Project. Since I was wearing a dress and didn't have any pockets, I decided to do what any classy, well-bred woman in my family would do-- tuck it in my bra.

My late mom was a buxom beauty. She was head cheerleader and Homecoming queen in the 1950's when the uniforms were modest,the bras pointy, and the lipstick red.

I remember a trip into Washington DC with cousins when I was about 10. Mom played tour guide and was in charge of all the important stuff. I remember watching in horror as she pulled 11 metro tickets, the house keys and possibly a small map of the city out of her ample cleavage, or as she called it, her "bosom."

I've never been built like my mom, except perhaps when I was nursing and could no longer see my feet over my boobs, but I have been able to carry my own in curves department.

Things have changed, I guess. When I went searching for that $10 bill later, I realized it had snuck right out of the bra, headed south, and made its way right out of my dress. Boo. I told Molly and she said, "I saw a guy pick a folded ten dollar bill off the floor at church and look around to see if anyone had lost it."

Poor guy, poor me.

Thinking I could keep that bill held securely in my bra was akin to convincing myself I could keep jello from running through a sieve.

Oh well. Here's to a Monday where your cup is MORE than half full!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Martha, I Hardly Knew Ya

Just got my new Home Decorators Collection catalog. I love to look through all of the furniture in there that ranges from Mission style simplicity, to Rococo (!), to wacky pieces like the unforgettable "chair shaped like a hand." HDC fits the bill for inexpensive furniture in pretty much any style. All items need assembly, which helps keep prices down. I am more of a peruser than a buyer because I live in a house full of chairs and am trying to get rid of things, not add things, but I really like some of their items.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a lovely new collection on the cover by Martha Stewart Living! Now I know Martha has her upscale furniture line, and that she tried a line at Kmart, but this is yet another collection. There were some really cute items like this bedroom set:

And this side table comes in lovely colors plus an unfinished version you can paint yourself:

Her rugs are gorgeous, too.

This dresser is lovely, but at $799 plus shipping, doesn't that seem quite steep for something that comes Ikea-style flat in a box? Just imagine the arguments my husband and I could have trying to put THIS together:

Oh, and one more thing. This desk has some little vases on it that Martha has dubbed ...

"Menage a Trois Glass Bud Vases."

Really, Martha? In all of your infinite wisdom and experience, you couldn't come up with another way to describe them?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friendship Friday

Every once in a while I'll write a post, usually that I'll find very funny, but then I'll take it down.


These posts are usually about another person. The rush I get trying to put into words someone's ridiculous or rude or clueless behavior lasts a few minutes, but the regret lasts longer.

You may think this is totally weird, so for a psychotic-Anna point of reference I'll tell you I still feel bad that I turned down the chance to dance with Jeff Travis in 9th grade at a "Sock Hop." He was a friend from elementary school whom everyone called, "gay." I chose my burgeoning social life at our new school over loyalty to an old friend. 27 years ago. It haunts me. You get the picture. Speaking of pictures, that's me in 9th grade at the top of this post. Eeek.

I even removed a rather innocuous post that referred to a man I saw wearing a cape. A CAPE! It was, I thought, hilarious, but the uncomfortable feeling I had after I wrote it lingered until I took it down.

Now if we look at the issue of a grown man wearing a cape (not of the super hero variety-- more Sherlock Holmes-ish) you may have sided with me in thinking that his fashion choice was outmoded at best, bizarre at worst. I would have been "right." Hello? A cape? But was it kind?

I know that's a silly example, but I've been thinking about kindness a lot lately.

Recently I saw my son struggle to play a kick ball game with a group of kids of varying ages. He got all wrapped around the axle when some of the kids weren't playing "by the rules." As a mature 40 year old, I could see that when kids aged 4-11 are playing a game together, it's not really about playing the game correctly. It's about finding common ground in which all can have a good time. And truthfully, only one person wasn't having fun, and that was my 11 year old son, the oldest in the group. He was intent on being right, but he didn't care about being kind in that situation.

I have friends who are in conflict right now. To an extent, both sides are "right," but damage is being done. I feel for everyone involved. And I wonder, do you think it's easier being right or being kind?

Feelings Friday

Just got back from Walmart. As I walked through the aisles I realized my kids were too old for the little clothes, too old for the toys. I felt weepy and hopeful all at the same time.

Moms, if you haven't had a chance to watch this yet. It is well worth it. Get past the blush, get past the use of "countless" when a more precise number would have sufficed. Grab a tissue, and let's go...

I wish for all of us, the gift of an ordinary day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's the Little Things

So, while I'm really yearning to gut my kitchen, that's not an option right now.

I had to find a decorating project that would put a little spring in my step, but not set us back money-wise.

Last weekend I bought my first can of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint. I know, I know, I'm a little late on this. It was hard to spurn my first love-- Heirloom White.

All of the traipsing up and downstairs taking care of sick kids meant I had many opportunities to look at 3 of these beauties in our upstairs hallway. Don't you love the green tarnished effect?

Tom took them down for me, I took the glass off, gave them one quick coat of oil rubbed bronze in the backyard, and had Tom hang them up. Easy Peasy.

It's not a dramatic change, but in a multi-level house, where these suckers sometimes hit me at eye level, it's a welcome one.

My photos, as usual, are terrible, but trust me on this. They turned out beautifully!

If you came to visit, you probably wouldn't even notice them now, and that's just what I hoped for.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What's Better Than Building a Well in a Developing Country?

Building 2 wells!

After the heart-warming, inspiring, and even miraculous response to my friends' and family's project to raise money to build a well in a developing country, I was ready to rest on my laurels for a while, or at least on my comfy chair.

But...Someone had different plans!

Last week we found out that a Generous Soul is poised and ready to MATCH what my friends and I come up with over the initial $5,000. If you visit our donation page at Charity: Water you'll see that I've "upped" the amount we hope to raise in the remaining 22 days of our campaign.

The beauty is, we only have about $1,400 left to raise before the Generous Soul chips in enough to finish funding Well #2. That would be 2 wells in the same time-frame in which we thought we couldn't possibly fund ONE!

So, Friday night we got right to it and Jake and Molly had a lemonade and brownie stand to catch people on the way home from work. They made $50 in one hour's time and would have made more, but it started to hail! Hail, yeah it did!

So, as you can see, there's something bright and wonderful happening around here to take our minds off of Possum Fever, or whatever the heck we've got in this house. If you would like to help, please visit our donation page. I have been overwhelmed by your generosity and encouragement during this whole process.

It feels so good to know that in a small way, we are making the world better. What an honor!

I can't wait to share with you the exciting things that transpire over the next 22 days!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Master of My Domain...Name

A great big thank you to the person who donated this Victoria Hagan Target end table to my local thrift shop. SCORE at $7.50! Both Tom and my daughter said, "When are you going to spray paint it?" Guess they know me pretty well. For now, I'll enjoy it au naturel. The table, not me, you silly goose!

As I was snapping the pic of the new table, I started thinking about An Inch of Gray. I mean, what is it? A house blog? A "mom" blog? An online journal?

Sheesh. I'm wondering if my blog, like my life, just reflects a "jack of all trades, master of none" approach.

I LOVE house blogs, and for the very reason I love them, I know this doesn't qualify as one.

Many readers come over from one of my faves, Young House Love, and they must take one look and say, "What the heck?" After all, we read house blogs for eye candy and tips. We want to build an idea file. We want an escape. House blogs are like a glossy magazine, showing how life COULD be. People coming to my blog are more likely to read about PMS, flatulence, and my general anxiety, which are not really conducive to dreaming.

Also, the facts that I couldn't take a good photo if my life depended on it, and that the windowpane right behind my cool new table is covered with cardboard and painter's tape pretty much disqualify me from ever reaching house blog status.

Mommy blog? I don't know. As my kids get older and their lives get more complicated, they feature less prominently here. They know how to find my blog on the computer, and that scares me.

All of this is so typical for me, anyway. I've never really known where I fit in and can never seem to jump whole hog into anything. I probably never would have gotten married if an ex hadn't called me out on always trying to keep my options open.

This has been the case with friends, too. My dear friends from college start reminiscing and invariably I have no recollection of the event. I've already shared that I was "less festive" than they were in college, so to an extent they were sheltering me, but there's something else. They dove into very close friendships with a tight group of people, hanging out together and at select fraternities. I may have made this party, or that one, but I also might have been with the black turtleneck wearing English majors, complete with fake British accents, the InterVarsity Youth Groupies, my roommates, or more likely alone with a pint of Ben and Jerry's and my comfy pants. I was all over the place.

So those who love house blogs are probably wondering why the heck I write about getting my brows threaded or "celebrating intimacy" with my husband.

And the rest of you are probably wondering how many more times you'll have to look at my yellow lamp-- which the entire family HATES, by the way.

Maybe the blog is random and always will be, like me, and like this list that just burbled up in my head:

Current Fave TV Show: Modern Family
Book I'm Reading: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Dinner Tonight: It's 6 pm already?
Next Movie to Watch: It's Complicated
Low Point in School: The Physical Fitness Test...always!
Night Owl or Early Bird: Night Owl
Current Self Esteem depleter: Seeing pics of parties on Facebook that I'm not invited to
Flaws: Diarrhea of the mouth, defensiveness, low blood sugar freak outs (and many more)
Greatest Hope: To Do Something Meaningful

I guess I don't know what this blog is, but I want you to know I'm sure grateful to you for reading!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Holy Craft!

Molly and I took an ornate gold plastic frame that didn't sell at the yard sale, and covered up the small oil painting with painter's tape.

Then we gave it a light spray painting with Heirloom White spray paint. I forgot to wipe off the cobwebs first-- oops! Yes, I know my legs look like Hilary Clinton's. Please focus on the "artwork." We left some of the crevices unpainted for depth.

When I realized I didn't have any chalkboard paint, I just grabbed one of my adhesive chalkboard rectangles that was on my pantry door, cut it with an exacto knife, and stuck it right on top of the painter's tape.

For a different look, I grabbed a peice of corkboard left over from another project, and stuck it right on top of the chalkboard. Then I added a family picture and an ampersand thumbtack.

So now I have 2 fun, virtually free projects in one frame. Please tell me... which do you prefer?

Linking up at Reinvented today.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meat: It's NOT What's for Dinner, OR, You Can Call Me "Tenacious See"

Sorry I’ve been AWOL all week. This has been the longest I’ve gone without blogging and I’ve missed you!

We’ve been working on figuring out more details about what’s going on with Molly health-wise. This has involved missed work and medical tests. There have also been some sleepless nights hanging out with her on the couch watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I cry every time I watch, do you? None of these sleepless nights has involved my breastfeeding her.

I’ve been meaning to share with you a happy postscript to my meat-buying saga. To refresh your memory, I went from mild-mannered mama to raging carnivore when two shady characters showed up in my driveway at dinnertime offering meaty morsels for me to buy. They used some pretty strong sales tactics. I fell for them, and was soon the not so proud owner of $739.00 “worth” of meat. Yikes.

I am happy to report, that against all odds, I received a full refund from the company, Capital Meats Incorporated!

I put their real name here not to brag about their stellar customer service, but rather because the meat is gone, the refund check has cleared, and I want to help prevent my brothers and sisters in blogland from following in my gullible footsteps. If this shows up on Google, so be it.

The hoops I jumped through to get a refund were numerous, and much of the time I felt hopeless and vulnerable. Certified letters to P.O. boxes in one state, unanswered emails, full voice mailboxes in another state, and out of service phone numbers were commonplace. There were many layers to keep me from ever encountering a real person in management of Capital Meats, Incorporated. I was THIS CLOSE to giving up.

I am convinced that if all of my correspondence had not included the credentials of the man I occasionally sleep with, who has the letters JD after his name, it all would be for naught. I documented every single effort I made, but if they had not eventually given in and picked up the meat, I was out of options. The Better Business Bureau is rife with complaints about this company, but there is no real physical location, and the salespeople are very hard to find.

Since this event, I have talked to others who have been pressured in similar ways. Perhaps it is by the flocks of magazine sellers each spring involved in programs that “turn the lives of youth around.” I heard one “promising” youth call my neighbor a f-ing b* last year when she didn’t buy a magazine. Lovely.

Maybe it’s a tree trimmer

Or it could be my former furnace guy, who told me my furnace was from 1970 and needed replacing when it clearly manufactured in 1996.

I do not mean to disparage those who offer services to make an honest living. I truly respect people who can do the myriad things I can’t.

I guess I just want to remind us to be wary of hard sell practices. If someone needs you to make a decision TODAY, you might want to think twice. If someone says he did work for your neighbors, look into it. Take a deep breath. Sleep on it. It’s your home and your money.

You are the consumer and you have a right to make an informed decision. Don’t feel bad if someone has spent time explaining a product to you and you decide to decline. Reputable salespeople and contractors know that taking the time to talk to potential clients may not pay off in a sale now, but it could bear fruit later.

Be honest when you decline, but don’t provide excuses. An excuse is an invitation to a slick salesperson to pick apart your reasons bit by bit. When the men came to pick up the meat and I was alone I felt intimidated. “Won’t you reconsider? Can't we work this out? We are just going to have to throw all this away!” they said.

I had already chosen my mantra and repeated it calmly. “I changed my mind” was all I said, quietly and firmly. I didn't disparage their products or complain about their tactics. I didn't blame it on my husband, or say it was too expensive. My thought: Keep it simple-- you just can’t argue with a woman changing her mind.

Thanks so much for all your kind words about my crazy meat crisis. Now I’m off to the grocery store—I have an empty freezer to fill.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How to Piss Off Your Wife in 527 Convoluted Steps, OR, A Formula for Anger

Okay, I’m mad at Tom and I thought I’d give you the joy of crawling inside my psyche to see just how I got here.

Topic of Anger: Baby Formula.

Now before you point out to me that my “babies” are almost 9 and 11, I’d like to say, “Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a wild ride.”

Still with me? Okay.

So when Molly was born, she was tiny, even scrawnier than her scrawny older brother. Sleep deprivation and the fact that I somehow forgot everything I had learned about babies from number one, left me a basket-case on child number 2. That she was yellow, nursed constantly, and took nearly a month to regain her birth weight did not help my confidence.

I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing a teeny tiny rotisserie chicken on a plate and bursting into tears. With those scrawny little appendages, the bird looked just like my baby—but with no head! Let’s just say it was a stressful time.

SOOOO, when the doctor advised us to give her a few bottles of formula to help her gain weight, we did and then went back to nursing for the rest of the year. Even though everything turned out fine, those days just remind me of fear (Will she ever grow? Just grow. Please grow!) and guilt (Is my milk in? Is my milk out? Is my milk skim? Please, Molly, please!)

Fast forward to her first birthday. Her daddy wrote her a sweet note to give her when she was old enough to read it. I know you are ooohing and aahhing right now about what a great guy he is. Fine. But let’s remember whose blog this is and get back on task.

In the note he shared several memories of their year together and his number one memory was—wait for it-- “Feeding you bottles of formula.” Really? 12 months of daddy/daughter time and that’s what you come up with? Sorry to steal your thunder, but did I not spend the first four months of her life “sleeping” in the guest room with my nipple in her mouth?” This human pacifier couldn’t even get up to go pee, yet you give her 3 bottles and that tops the damn birthday list?

Okay, let’s move on. So a couple years later when I was slightly less psychotic, slightly more amorous, and finally open to discussing the possibility of a third baby, I threw out what I thought was a brilliant concept. After nursing both kids for a year each, feeling more comfortable in my own skin, and becoming a lot more flexible about the whole topic of bottle-feeding, I lobbed a proposal I knew was win/win.

I shared with Tom an arrangement our friends Nicole and Trey were using with their new baby. Nicole would breastfeed her, but Trey would bottle feed her once in the middle of each night so they could bond and Nicole could sleep. I told Tom I’d be open to having another baby if he would do that (remember he just loooooooooves bottle feeding, right? It’s apparently the zenith of his parenting experiences) His response? “No. I would be too tired at work the next day.” "Seriously?" "Seriously." End of discussion. I was pissed. Thanks for the honesty, Tom. Our still fictional 3rd child thanks you, too.

Fast forward to today. I’m finally over my nausea from last week’s flu outbreak and it’s been nearly 16 hours since I’ve cleaned up any vomit or diarrhea. The 18th load of laundry of the week is spinning happily in the dryer, and I’m cruising the Internet. What pops up on my screen? A Parental Control, set up by Tom. Fine.

And what is the Password Clue? Out of every possible clue in the UNIVERSE?

Is it my Mother’s Maiden Name? Childhood Pet? Winningest team in the NFL? Dream Vacation? Square Root of 8674? The name of the sled in Citizen Kane?

Of course not.

It is: “Baby Formula.”

Thanks. In one fell swoop you get the trifecta of reminding your wife of the absolute lack of credit she got for nursing your offspring for 24 months, you've taken her back to a very stressful, anxious time when she worried she couldn’t provide what her baby needed, and you've even managed to conjure up bitterness about her nonexistent third child!

This, on top of micromanaging her computer access. Woohooo!
I pound the keyboard with SIMILAC. INFAMIL. GOOD START. Nothing. Is it ENFAMIL with an E? My blood is boiling.

And these parental controls? I AM a parent. And it’s not like I was trying to look at porn. I was trying to look at house plans, which is my kind of porn, but still.

So, I don’t know how to wrap up the world's longest post except to say that while I am NOT against baby formula, I am against baby formula ever, EVER, being mentioned by my dear husband in any way.

And Tom, if you are reading this: I just found out Nicole and Trey are expecting a 4th little “whoops!” bundle of joy. Looks like their unorthodox feeding plan didn’t make Trey too tired after all.