Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Favorite Mermaids

Recently, I had occasion to re-watch "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" (and when I say "I had occasion," I mean "I turned on the TV, which was tuned to HBO, and there it was"), and I paid particularly close attention to the merpeople part, because that is also the part that features Viktor Krum from Durmstrang half-transfigured into a shark.  This part is VERY IMPORTANT to the history of our family, because:
(1) Once upon a time (like, six months ago) my shark-obsessed younger child insisted on dressing as the Ian Ziering character from "Sharknado" for Halloween, at which point my older child offered to dress as THE ACTUAL SHARKNADO, at which point I was called upon to MacGyver a sandwich board-style sharknado costume, like so:
(2) Little Kid got very frustrated that he could not finesse the Ian Ziering thing for his school's storybook parade, because - unfortunately for Little Kid, but fortunately for fans of literature - no one had thought to pen a novelization of "Sharknado."  And then he had a brainstorm:  Big Kid's shark hat could be the basis of a Viktor Krum-as-half-transfigured-shark costume.  And so it was that, in the same week that I crafted a snarknado, I found myself making a Bulgarian Quidditch Team jersey.  Throw in a repurposed Jedi robe and a broom from the porch, and BOOM, instant Viktor:
(I used good old-fashioned iron-on numbers and letters for the jersey, which the boys found endlessly fascinating.  "Soooooo, back in the day, when you wanted a cool shirt, or a personalized one, you just BOUGHT these weird fuzzy letters, and your mom ironed them onto a t-shirt?"  Yes, and sometimes you PAID someone to do the ironing for you at the store.
And, yes, I did create a sort of Viktor Krum trading card featuring an image of my child and post it to Facebook.  I think I was seriously bored that day.)
During the merpeople part of the movie, I remembered just how creepy, off-putting and distinctively non-Ariel-ish I found them, and that got me thinking about my favorite mermaids.  In reverse order, my top three:
#3:  Celine Dion in the "My Heart Will Go On" video, AKA "some sort of a French Canadian Space Mermaid."
John Oliver's words, not mine.  If you don't get the reference, then you need to track down the episode of "Last Week Tonight" where he rebuts the eyewitness accounts that the band played "Nearer My God to Thee" as the Titanic went down (he's confident that they heard "The Titanic Song," as sung by the French Canadian space mermaid pictured above).  (He then proceeds to offer a replacement for CNN's "doomsday video" - a tape apparently on file at CNN HQ and marked for release just prior to the apocalypse, which assumes that we will have sufficient warning for some production intern to queue it up.  Said replacement video features Martin Sheen, a human-history blooper reel featuring YouTube fails alongside marching Nazis and an atomic bomb blast, a saloon filled with cats dressed up as Wild West characters and the graphic "WELL PLAYED, LIONS," referring to actual lions, as opposed to football players from Detroit.  In short, it's genius, and you should watch it.)
#2:  Fat Amy from "Pitch Perfect," when she's mermaid dancing.

#1:  Sea Wees.  Fortysomething female friends, please tell me that you remember these toys, initially released in 1979.  BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL KINDS OF AWESOME. 

Clockwise from the top:  Sandy (blonde), Coral (redhead) and Shelly (brunette).  (What was it about the Sixties and Seventies that you always had to have the hair color trifecta?  Like the sisters on "Petticoat Junction"?)  Initially, they just sold you a mermaid, a sponge and a comb:
Then some marketing genius pointed out (entirely correctly) that the only thing girls like more than a doll with comb-able hair is a doll with comb-able hair PACKAGED WITH A BABY:

And then, at some point, they started to release progressively glittery versions - very space mermaid-ish, actually.  They were Celine before Celine was Celine.

And that's all I have to say about mermaids.  Which is surprisingly more than I ever thought I would say in written format.

Carry on, and enjoy your day.

Don't Quote Me

Movie lines are a MOM's* (*Mother of Males') best friend.  I use them all of the time.

Okay, truth be told:  I overuse them.  BUT THEY GET THE JOB DONE.

When the boys dilly-dally en route to the dinner table:

"Tina, you fat lard.  Come get some dinner.  TINA!  EAT THE FOOD!"

[This would not be at all funny if either one of my children was remotely fat, and/or named Tina.  But Big Kid is tall and lanky, and Little Kid looks like the "after" in a P90x commercial.  Are 10 year-olds supposed to have six-packs and obliques?  Because mine does.

And, yes, what you are looking at above is a Napoleon and Tina BOXED ACTION FIGURE SET that, sadly, is out of production.]

When they pick at their food and then ask me to make them a "fourth meal" hours later:

"Knock it off, Napoleon!  Make yourself a dang quesadilla."

When they try to convince me that I should allow them to do something stupid:

"I sometimes have a feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, 'Mmm, better not.'"

When they fail to listen to me and proceed to take steps towards, indeed, doing something stupid:

"Don't put metal in that science oven, Rosalyn."

When they, indeed, do something stupid:

"You're killing me, Smalls."

When that something stupid causes me to take my attention away from a project at work:



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pop Culture Minute: Gorbachev, Pele, Shields and Cameron-Bure, Table for Four

For some inexplicable reason, this photo ran in the campus newspaper when I was in undergrad, and I cut it out, because I was fairly sure that Mikhail Gorbachev, Pele and Brooke Shields appearing in the same place together was a sign of an imminent apocalypse.  It has been my "WTF" benchmark ever since.

[Props to the Internet for serving up this image immediately upon my request.  All it took was a Google search of "Gorbachev Pele Shields" and, BOOM, there it was.]
Sorry, Mikhail, Edson* and Brooke, but there is a new WTF sheriff in town.  Surely news that THESE people are returning to Netflix is conclusive proof that the rapture approacheth:

Seriously?  We need a "fuller" house?  With Kimmy Gibler in the Joey role?  Will the actress who plays Kimmy go on to inspire Alanis Morissette to write another hate anthem, a la Dave Coulier?  (By the way, does anyone else find it funny-slash-telling that Dave Coulier is the archetype of a bad boyfriend in Canada?  We have Chris Brown, Canada.  Your argument is invalid.)

Will Michelle Tanner return with an older, vaguely creepy husband in tow, and reveal that he happens to be related to the ex-Prime Minister of France?  Will wacky hijinks ensue?

Will Uncle Jesse continually drop in, stick his head in the fridge and ask where they keep the Dannon Oikos yogurt?
In the words of Dakota Johnson on SNL:  "I'm trying to can, but I literally can't."**

[* Yes, Pele's birth name was Edson.  Thanks, Wikipedia!  One of these days, I'm going to get around to sending you three dollars, or whatever it is you want me to send.

** BEST SNL line in recent memory.  I can't even.  Literally.]

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Modest Proposal

Our plans to visit Washington DC over Spring Break were cancelled due to disinterest.

Specifically, child disinterest.  Little Kid wanted to attend a week-long, competitive-enrollment art camp instead.  Of course, he failed to bring home the application packet, meaning he never actually applied - yet, somehow, it's our fault that he didn't get in.  Because that's how those things work.

Big Kid's verbatim response to the idea of a DC trip:  "Seriously?  You expect me to travel with you people?"

Well, not when you put it that way.

So we stopped planning for DC and started planning for summer travel instead - and then the first day of Spring Break dawned.

"Where are we going?"

SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE?  I can't even.

As it turns out, it's fortunate that we didn't go anywhere, because I am suffering from horrible sinus issues and am prone to awful coughing fits.  Yesterday it felt like my ears were going to burst, and I found myself thinking, "Good thing we didn't fly anywhere."

Then I immediately flashed back to last year, when we were preparing to leave for a SB trip to San Francisco, and my eardrums were also bulging, and I was hitting the sinus irrigation bottle hardcore and popping antihistamines right up until we left for the airport.  Huh.  Same issue.  Same time of year.

Coincidence?  I think not.

A modest proposal to North Texas schools:


Allow me to plead my case:

1) Second week of March?  STILL MOUNTAIN CEDAR SEASON AND DEFINITELY OAK SEASON.  If Mom and Dad have seasonal allergies (which they probably do - I think they're included in the "welcome wagon" bag that your Realtor gives you get when you relocate here, and if you were born here, your allergies came factory-installed), you are asking them to travel (such travel potentially involving getting on an airplane that flies at high, ear-popping altitudes) at a time of year when they would rather curl up in a fetal position and pray to die. 

2)  If you decide to stay at home (perhaps because of #1 above), you may have the opportunity to do some fun stuff locally, or get some projects done around the house, but probably not, because MARCH WEATHER IN NORTH TEXAS IS CRAZY SCHIZOPHRENIC.  If it doesn't snow on you, it's going to rain a bit.  Or a lot.  This SB is a case in point.  Monday and Tuesday:  rain.  Friday:   morning drizzle.  That means that everybody who staycationed was forced to pack all of their activities into 2 1/2 days, and it was the same 2 1/2 days for everybody.  Long lines everywhere.  Ugh, ugh and triple ugh.

3)  Some of us have friends and family in Central Texas.  Central Texas schools almost always schedule Spring Break for later in the month, resulting in fun conversations like this one:

"We're heading to Fort Worth for Spring Break!  When can we see you guys?"

"Over the dinner hour.  If we go someplace quick.  The kids will probably have homework."

4)  If you're insistent on holding SB in March, the least you could do is make it coincide with the early rounds of March Madness.  Austin does.  (See #3 above.)  Fond memories of attending first-round games with Spouse at the Erwin Center in Austin and of Spouse convincing a member of the Wisconsin band to part with his cheese hat.  (It had the band member's name written in it in Sharpie, and it smelled a little.  It eventually got moldy, which I thought was really funny, on account of how it was a CHEESE HAT.)  My children most likely will not have this experience until they are grown, because North Texas forces them to go to school during the NCAA tournament.  THIS IS AMERICA, PEOPLE.

I get that it makes sense to stagger Spring Breaks a bit, so that only half of the country is trying to get into Disneyworld at the same time, but I kind of envy the folks in Northern California who get SB at the end of March and in the early days of April.  It just seems more humane.

Rant over.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Monster-Creating Mom

Follow-up to yesterday's post:  Big Kid's question was related to Valentine's Day customs.  After a strong start on his planning (more on that in a sec), he is now second-guessing his decision to go with the personal, not the canned. 

"Do you HAVE to give roses?"

"No.  There are waaaaay more original flower choices out there.  And if you ever do want to give her roses, buying them on Valentine's Day just demonstrates that you have more money than sense."

"How expensive ARE roses?"

"Unjustifiably so.  Five times more unjustifiably so in February."

As these words are exiting my lips, my head-voice is shouting:  "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP."

Here's the deal:  I am kind of starting to regret just how good a boy mom I apparently have been to date.

You know those Old Spice "Smellcome to Manhood" ads?  "Old Spice sprayed a man out of my boy"?

I get it.  I totally do.  But I don't have a popular line of men's grooming products to blame.

Since the boys were little, I have been telling it like it is:  Girls get self-conscious and, at some point, become their own worst enemies.  Treat them well.  Treat them like people.  Yes, you run the risk that they will assume that you LIKE-like them, simply by virtue of the fact that you SPOKE to them, because girls are delusional like that.  Just roll with it.  When in doubt, be nice.  Don't be a jerk.  I never want to hear that you were a jerk.  And always be true to yourself - to your values, your goals and your personality.

As they got a bit older, my advice became more targeted:

Shoot for the hot geek.  See:  Olivia Munn and Olivia Wilde. 

"Pretty" is pretty awesome, but "unapologetically true-to-self" is even more amazing, and the hot geek is basically the holy grail of girlfriends, if your goal is to outkick your coverage.  [P.S.:  You goal should totally be to outkick your coverage.]  At some point, pretty girls get invited to sit at the popular table, and some pretty girls feel like they need to change who they are inside, lest a glimpse of the real-them gets them uninvited.  If a girl can retain her quirkiness under such circumstances, even if she compartmentalizes it:  you're on the right track.  If said girl has no issue expressing her desire to attend ComicCon, out loud and in public, WHILE WEARING A CHEERLEADING UNIFORM (a school-sanctioned one, not a cosplay one):  you have done well, Padawan.

Oh, and learn to know the difference between "authentically quirky" and "quirky as an affectation" (the latter being a variation of "high maintenance"). 

Let me describe Big Kid's girlfriend to you:

Smart, talented (triple-threat, musical theater-and-dance student), cute as a button.  Considering a lateral move from drill team to the cheerleading squad.  Friends with kids from all cliques.  Thinks she wants to be an interior designer, but "gets" Big Kid's engineer brain, as she is the product of an all-engineer family.  Doesn't see herself having kids until her later '20's, because both Mom and Dad should have graduate school out of the way.  If she doesn't stay in Texas, sees herself settling in San Francisco, or possibly Portland (a pre-existing preference, not something she arrived at after falling for a boy with Stanford and Cal leanings).  Likes superheroes (DC, I believe, has a slight edge over Marvel, just as God intended), good sci-fi (Star Trek:  The Original Series, Dr. Who), Japanese anime and procedural crime dramas.

And let me tell you a little bit about LITTLE KID'S girlfriend.  Yes, LK has a girlfriend - one who teachers have described as "the complete package" and "one of the coolest girls in school."  She's one of two girls who play football with LK and other boys at recess, and LK was most excited to inform me that "the other day, when she scored a touchdown, she raised her first and shouted, 'FOR NARNIA!' when she got to the end zone."

And then:  "Mom, I did good, right?"

Uh, yeah.  Double-back-pat for Mom!

And then it got to be time to talk Valentine's Day.  BK went first:

"Well, she really likes Totoro [Japanese anime character], and if I could find her something Totoro-related - like a hoodie or something - that would be my way of letting her know that I think it's cool that she likes anime."

The hoodie was too expensive (he had the money, but Mom vetoed), so a stuffed Totoro was procured.  Then, a few days later:

"She started watching 'Bones,' but she's way behind, so instead of going to a movie or something like that, I thought that I could offer to binge-watch an entire season with her, and we could have a picnic on the coffee table in the living room.  Is that a good idea?"

Uh, yeah.  And, also:  uh-oh.  I have created a monster.  An "A-plus boyfriend monster."

Then LK piped up:  "I'm making [name of girlfriend] a bouquet of origami roses."

(LK makes redonkulously cool origami roses.)

Make that two monsters.

Several girlfriends (of mine, not my children) have pointed out that I will feel better later about how well they listened.  LATER.  But not now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stuff My Kids Say

[While waiting for Spouse to bring the burgers to the table at Bottlecap Alley, watching Pro Bowl pre-game stuff on one of the monitors.]

Me:  What is up with all of the "" ads today?

Little Kid (without looking up from his 3DS):  That's racist.

Me:  What?  NO. Golf-knickers.  With a K.  KUH-NIC-KUH-KUH-ERS.

Big Kid:  Seriously?  Have you ever heard Mom use that word ANYWHERE?  At home?  Let alone IN PUBLIC?

Little Kid (shrugging, still glued to 3DS):  I heard what I heard.


[After Spouse suggested that he could run Big Kid to the store to stock up on PowerAde and snacks for the district swim meet and purchase French fries in mass quantities from Sonic, because apparently the carb-loading has commenced.]

Big Kid:  Um, Mom, can't you drive me?  It's possible that I might need to talk to you about something.

Me:  You can talk to Dad.

Big Kid:  Yeah, but I'd rather talk to you.  (Looks to Spouse.)  No offense.

Me:  Is this something girlfriend-related?

Big Kid:  Possibly.  And I just don't have a good feel for how savvy Dad was back in the day.  (Another Dad-directed look.)  NO OFFENSE.  I mean, he got YOU, Mom, but that might have been an anomaly.

[Mom's - I mean, mum's - the word.]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Apropos of Not Much: Meandering Musings for a Monday (Movie Edition)

You might be a mother if you see this item advertised on One Kings Lane and think, "Oh, they finally made Emmet's double-decker couch from 'LEGO Movie.'"

(You might also be a mother if your law partner basically starts hyperventilating because his secretary is out sick, you offer to help him out and enlist the services of your own assistant, and then you seek to reassure him by singing, "EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!  EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU'RE PART OF A TEAM!")


Every time I am scrolling through the movie channels on our TV and I see "Snitch," I get excited for a split second, because I think it says "Hitch," and I think I'm going to get to see Kevin James do THIS:


If "Snitch" (starring, I believe, Dwayne Johnson?) is also airing on HBO's Spanish-language channel, then it shows up twice in the program guide, about five lines apart.  AND I READ IT AS "HITCH" BOTH TIMES.

Because I really like "Hitch."  And the kids really like Kevin James.  Meaning we have ALL of the moves down:

Start the fire.
The feet are going.
Start the fire, make the pizza.
Hips:  always going.
Can't get enough hip.
Throw it away.


My children have decided that Spouse and I have our own twin language.  They aren't wrong.  We do tend to blurt out the same, seemingly-out-of-nowhere-and-totally-random responses.  Roughly 50% of them are derived from Saturday Night Live skits, and the rest are movie lines.

A statistically significant number of the lines come from Nora Ephron movies.
If someone says, "Who is she?" we are both likely to answer:  "Helen Hilson.  She's a lawyer. She's keeping her name."

Upon hearing a reference to Michigan State:  "No, she went to Northwestern, but they're both Big 10 schools."

When speculating that one is getting sick:  "I'll stay up and moan.  Maybe I should practice now.  Mmm.  Mmm."

When discussing foods beginning with the letter P:  "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash, but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.  YOUR PEECAN PIIIIIIIIE."


(In lieu of saying something romantic:  "I want you to know . .  that I will never . . . want that wagon wheel coffee table.")

Upon hearing Deborah Kerr's name:  "Is it CARR or KERR?"

Upon any mention of "The Dirty Dozen":  "Trini Lopez!"  "STAHHHHP!"

When the kids botch anything related to geography:  "Do you know where Oklahoma is?" "Somewhere in the middle?" "I'm not even going to think about what they're not teaching you in school."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Little Kid's "The One"

Little Kid is taking a break from swimming - on account of how "I've never beaten my brother in a race, ever." 

(Your brother is five years older and has a 74-inch wingspan.  If you can beat him, then you are the second-coming of Michael Phelps, and/or Big Kid has real problems.)

While we are working through our competitiveness issues, we are playing basketball.  It's not a secret:  I LOVE BASKETBALL.  (See multiple prior posts re:  my obsessive-compulsive b-ball fan status.)  If I had been a boy, or a much taller and more athletically inclined girl, it totally would have been my sport.  So, on the one hand:  YAY, my child is playing a sport that I actually understand and enjoy watching!

On the other hand:
UGH, my child is playing a sport that I actually understand and enjoy watching.

It is a S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E not to be "that" parent.

Coach:  why in the Sam Hill are you running a zone?

Other Coach:  seriously, calling a timeout when we had possession?  Extra points lost for blowing the whistle while my child was mid-fast break.

Center and Power Forward:  simply being tall doesn't cut it.  No one likes a ball hog, particularly when the ball hog doesn't score and keeps getting called for fouls and traveling.  LET THE OTHER PLAYERS DO THEIR JOBS, AND LEARN YOUR OWN.

Parents of Other Players:  Learn the game, and stop shouting out instructions and encouragement that are diametrically opposed to the position your child plays.

Thus far, I have managed not to blurt out (most) of these thoughts in my outside voice.  Because, on some level, I do comprehend that Coach and Other Coach are just two dads, and Center and Power Forward are fourth-graders.  Nevertheless:  S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E.

Aiding me in The Struggle:  Little Kid has mad skills at point guard.

If you are not basketball-obsessed:  (1)  Good for you.  You probably are a whole lot saner than I am.  (2) Point guards are referred to as "the one" - hence the title above.

Point guards are also known as "dribblers" or "play-makers."  Check and check:  Home Skillet's an excellent dribbler (none of this crazy "let's see how high I can bounce the ball and, whoops, I just let that guy get the ball away from me" stuff that makes me near-homicidal; you can spot the steal coming a mile away), and he definitely understands how to set a pick.  He's also, for the most part, a great passer (a few wild passes here and there, but most of the misses are not on him).

Quick?  Check.

Good on defense?  Check.

Bossy?  Check.  (Another nickname for the point:  "coach on the floor.")
Crazy-determined:  Definitely check.

Of course, the main reason that he was picked for the point is that he's short, which leaves me to wonder:  is it fortunate that he's short, because it set him up to play the position that he was pretty much born to play?  Or is being short what drives an up-and-coming player to be a little faster, a little more agile, and a little more of a student of the game?  If so, then being the little brother by five years is gravy.  Little Kid's been running a D since he was old enough to defend himself.  And - as evidenced by his brother-envying swimming rage-quit - he's more than an average level of competitive.

So maybe this basketball break may turn out to be more than just a break.  If so, I am looking forward to watching my little One progress.  I just need to learn to watch him with laser-like focus, and tune out the rest of the mess.

Pray for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bullet-Pointed Christmas

Please verify that Spouse and I are not the only ones who send emails like this during the holidays.  Explanatory notes bracketed and in Italics, actual text of the email appearing as regular text.

Christmas-related bullet points:
  • When you pick up C., tell him that I have K's body spray (Vanilla Bean Noel - the girl equivalent of Axe; I sampled the lotion, and now I reek), and a bag to put it and the giraffe ornament in.  He needs to remember to take her gift and the chameleon glasses to school tomorrow.

[These are the chameleon glasses.  They are Big Kid's gift exchange item for swim team.  He picked them because they look, sort of, like goggles.  But are totally unusable as such, on account of how they have no lenses.

Giraffes are the source of a private joke between Big Kid and his girlfriend.]

  • P. needs to bring his teacher gifts tomorrow as well.

[I have had Little Kid's teacher gifts for weeks and fully intended to send them up to school early, on the theory that it would be one less thing for a teacher to carry home on the last day of school.  Of course, I utterly failed to follow through on this awesome suggestion-to-self.]

  • I found an appropriately sized flag case for Dad’s casket flag (also got a free bottle of body lotion for Nana when I bought K.’s stuff) and got the balance of J.’s gift while I was out today, so the only things remaining on my to-do list involve picking up Water Gardens photos at Barron Photografix and buying replacement (actual human-sized) boot cuffs for L.G. at the antique mall.  Intentionally pushed off those two trips because they are off of the beaten path and can be accomplished Saturday AM while the unwashed masses are the (non-antique) malls.  

[My dad died almost two years ago.  We are just now getting around to putting his flag in a thingy.  Which is okay, I suppose, given that we purchased room in the crypt at his church for his ashes, the tab for which has long since been paid for, but Dad's still in a box in Mom's room.  Baby steps.
I ordered crocheted boot cuffs for my friend's nine year-old daughter through Etsy.  The item listing said "child"-sized.  I bought them based on a general working knowledge of Etsy sites and an understanding that "infant" means infant, "toddler" means toddler, and "child" means a smallish human who is nevertheless bigger than an infant or a toddler.  Yeah, what arrived are toddler-sized as best.  Little Kid couldn't even get them over his feet, and Little Kid is pretty tiny.] 
  • While “I” am basically finished, “you” are not – still need to finish Christmas for A. and birthday for Z. (framing gift cards for both?) and Christmas for B. ($25 Harbor Freight gift card).

[I shop for all of the women and girls, plus Spouse and the kids, neighbors, teachers, ministers, friends, etc.; Spouse shops for his three brothers and one male nephew, plus me.  That's five people on Spouse's list, and eleven-ty million-trillion on mine, but I always end up finishing first.] 

  • I am still waiting on two packages – a scarf for M. and the hymn wall hanging for T. and L.  Both are set to be delivered to the house.  Everything else I was waiting for arrived at the office when I was out yesterday.

[I have always felt like we were weird gifters - not in the sense of weird people who gift, although that probably applies, too, but in the sense of gifters who gift weird stuff - and seeing "giraffe ornament," "chameleon glasses," "casket flag case," "crocheted boot cuffs" and "hymn wall hanging" in the above communique pretty much seals the deal.]

Friday, December 12, 2014

That's How You Know

You may be the mother of a teenaged boy if:

1.  Much of what you have purchased for him for Christmas is apparel.

2.  You decide that it's a good idea for him to try on some of said apparel before wrapping those items - notwithstanding that that will spoil the surprise - because you suspect that some things are too short or too tight.  Good call, because YES, and YES, and everything pant and jean ended up having to go back to be exchanged for bigger sizes.

3.  You end up taking one shirt and one pair of pants out of the gift column and give them to him in advance, after you realize that, while he has a sports coat and slacks to wear to holiday functions with the one dress shirt that currently fits him, that's pretty much ALL he has to wear to holiday functions.  And swapping out a different tie only gets you so far.

You may be the mother of a teenaged boy AND an elementary school kid if all of your holiday photos look like the one above, and you find yourself sympathizing with the photographer who had to get Manute Bol in the same frame as Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ninja Shopping Assassin

I got a late start on gift acquisition this year, on account of being sick, tired and sick of being tired for most of Thanksgiving.  (Thanks, ever-changing North Texas weather and killer pollen counts!)  But I am making up for it.

In fact, I'm prepared to call it:  I am a ninja shopping assassin.

Immediate family:  done.  Mother and mother-in-law:  very close to.

Sisters-in-law and grown niece:  final touches knocked out in a half hour of online shopping completed this morning, thanks to Lands' End, Macy's and Neiman Marcus, who conveniently offered me deep discounts, shipping deals AND money in the kids' Upromise account.  Only missing one monogram.

Baby nieces:  done.  Besties and their kids:  one item lacking, another en route from an Etsy seller.  Otherwise, complete.  Neighbors:  done.  Teachers:  done and done.

You get the idea.

Not done:  two brothers-in-law.  Spouse is in charge of acquiring their gifts.

Pray for us.

I like to make lists, and I like to efficiently cross items off of those lists (while also leaving some wiggle room for impulse purchases).  This year, I have a Trello board for my lists.  More on that later.  My game plan always involves purchasing and wrapping a little each day, every day, so I don't get overly stressed, and I try to wrap up that process at least ten days out from 12/25.  Spouse's default mode is more of the "wheels-off, skid-across-the-finish-line-on-fire" kind of thing (although he has gotten SO much better over two decades, something for which I take SO much credit, and it's been a long time since he accused me of being the Grinch for suggesting that waiting to do his shopping until 12/23 and 12/24 was kind of a wack idea).

(Note to file:  I am so blond that, after I looked up how to spell "wack" and was surprised to learn that it wasn't spelled like the real word "whack," it took me a five-count to go, "OH - SHORT FOR WACKY."  I am forever "discovering" obvious things like this.  A recent example, driving down Montgomery Street here in Fort Worth:  "Look, hon.   Billiards and Barstools put up their giant inflatable holiday bear, and Vending Nut put up a nutcracker again.  OH, I JUST GOT IT.  IT'S ALWAYS A NUTCRACKER BECAUSE THEY SELL NUTS.")

I have spent a lot of time this year serving as personal shopper for Big Kid, acquiring gifts for youth ministry staff and choir directors and white elephant items for multiple gift exchanges.  Once upon a time, I participated in multiple gift swaps, but now I'm down to one, and for every one I've dropped, Big Kid has picked up a replacement.  I refer to this as the Matter-Antimatter Theory of Holiday Gift Shopping:  everything offsets.  An aged family member dies, and a baby joins the family in the same year, so you still end up shopping for the same number of people.  And, apparently, I will always need to shell out $X for Y number of gift exchanges.

As Yoda would put it:  balance in the Christmas force, there is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sudden Realization

Our tree is an I Spy.
I spy two (of three) sequined partridges (sewn by my mother),
a poodle and a felt horned frog (sewn by my grandmother-in-law),
one of a growing number of sock monkeys,
the Wizard of Oz,
the parrot judge from Alice in Wonderland,
a bunny rabbit dressed like Superman . . .
. . . and on, and on, and on, and on.
Our tree reminds me, sort of, of the Special Shapes Glodeo, an event we attended with Little Kid when we visited New Mexico during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  Only the non-balloon-shaped hot air balloons participate, and they don't take off.  Rather, they are inflated shortly before dusk, and when it gets sufficiently dark, someone counts backwards from ten, and all of the balloon pilots ignite their burners at once.  You have not lived until you are standing in the middle of a field (yes, you are encouraged to go out amidst the balloons), surrounded by the most random combination of nightlights-on-steroids imaginable.  To your left, the Belgian flag, next to Chesty the Marines Corps Bulldog.  To your right, a piggy bank next to a matryoshka doll.  In front of you, a giant bottle of whiskey.  I promise you that is one of the most surreally beautiful things you will ever see.
Our tree makes as little sense - and as much sense - as the Special Shapes do.  Each ornament is unique, some are quite weird, but, together, they make sense.
Every one has a story behind it, and the stories are a big part of the beauty.  I get that now.  When I was young, and being raised by a non-matching-tree mother, I used to go through holiday catalogs and wonder what it might be like to have a coordinated tree.  At one point, I suggested that Mom do away with all of the non-matching stuff and just buy a few kits of entirely impersonal, but totally coordinated, glass balls, in colors to match the furniture.  She declined.  And now I have my own version of a Hodgepodge Tree, with WAY too many ornaments, and I cannot imagine having anything else. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Speaking of Pineapples . . .

. . . and I WAS, I apparently have a kindred spirit living somewhere in Los Angeles, who decided that the best birthday theme for her toddler was . . . FOXES AND PINEAPPLES.  Because he loves (get ready for this) . . . FOXES AND PINEAPPLES.  What a co-inky-dink, right? 

(Technically, the kid wasn't so much of a fan of foxes, per se, as of that "What Does the Fox Say?" song, but I digress.)

This is exactly the sort of inspired nonsense that I live for.  Parties should be personal, and what's more personal than mashing up two totally unrelated things?  Bonus points if you can mash them up with this level of style:


Coupla things:

  1.  I'm prepared to call it:  2015 will be The Year of the Pineapple.  Well, at my house, anyway.  But I'm going to try to make it a thing elsewhere.
  2. I need a "Party Like a [Pineapple Wearing Sunglasses]" pillow, stat.
  3. This mother was fortunate that her child liked a song and a fruit that translated into a cute, citrus-colored party concept.  Both of our boys, oddly, were obsessed with Earth Wind & Fire's "September" as wee ones, although neither one knew the true title until years later.  Big Kid called it the "Oh-Dee-Oh Song," because of the chorus, and Little Kid called it "Night-A-Gruseum," because it was featured at the end of the film, "Night at the Museum," which Big Kid was watching on a continuous loop.  In terms of food, Big Kid's most notable culinary achievement as of age two was a chile relleno, and Little Kid liked carrot cake.  So, trying hard to mash up Earth Wind & Fire, cheese-stuffed chile peppers and carrot cake, and kinda failing.
  4. When I say "coupla things," I almost never mean a couple of things.

Entire party can be viewed on the Inspired By This site.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Apropos of Not Much: Pineapple Motives

I am really regretting that that Regretsy chick decided to focus on voiceover work (she's the voice of Wander's sidekick on "Wander Over Yonder," in case you were wondering), because this would be SO up her alley.
DISCLAIMER:  I swear that I did not go in search of crocheted monokinis on the Internet.  I was actually looking for boot toppers for a preteen girl.  Somehow, this showed up as a search result:
"A black monokini with pineapple motives."  I am 99.9% sure that the owner of the shop meant to say "pineapple MOTIFS."  But "pineapple motives" is now my FAVORITE PHRASE OF ALL TIME.  And I plan to work it into conversation AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Allow me to point out that I first discovered "a black monokini with pineapple motives" when I was still suffering from a horrible "dregs of seasonal rhinitis" cough, and I laughed so hard that I tripped my coughing wire, and then it was all I could do not to actually pee my pants.
There are so many things I love about . . . THIS.  Among them, why do items only ship to Australia from Georgia?  Some of the monokini selections seem to be targeted to the Americas (see "Puerto Rican Monokini" and "Jamaican Monokini").  Is there a market for crocheted-Puerto-Rican-flag-motif-plus-size-swimwear in Oceania?  If so, why?  And then there is this:

"And any size in other body parts" is my second favorite phrase next to "pineapple motives."

I have to say that the quality of the artist's work is amazing.  I can't even fathom how one would go about crocheting a one-shouldered ANYTHING, let alone a swimsuit, and the actual crocheting on some of the pieces is crazy-intricate.  The lily-motif bikini is absolutely beautiful.

But THIS one is my favorite.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christine the Elf

Friend Christine is a Santa elf in human form.
Sitting at my desk, and a message pops up.  Just a picture - this picture.

BING.  Another message.  "Does P need a chair in his room?"
YES.  If it's a shark-shaped chair, and it's flipping adorable, YES.
My actual response:  "OMG, WHERE ARE YOU?"
Her response to my response:  "Homegoods!  Call me."
As I am dialing the number, picture #2 comes through:

"They have yellow and navy, black and green, and gray and turquoise."

A good friend calls and tells you that there are shark-shaped chairs at Homegoods, in a variety of colorways.  A really good friend advises you that the chair is getting purchased either way, because technically she's not finished with your son's birthday present, but she is giving you the option of being the awesome person who gifts him with a shark-shaped chair.  (I believe her actual words were, "I don't want to upstage you with the shark chair without permission.")  We agreed on the more authentic grey/turquoise color combo and that she would buy and I would reimburse.

"Okay, he's in my basket.  I knew that you would want to know, and I knew that he wouldn't last long."

Yup, and agreed.  Aaaaaaaaaand, in five minutes' time, "whimsical wow gift for under the tree" was crossed off of my list - before said list was even completed.

I am fortunate to have several such elves in my life - those awesome girlfriends (plus one male coworker and my mom) who randomly discover something that they know I will want to know about, and possibly acquire, and immediately text me (well, Mom doesn't text, she calls) and offer to serve as personal shopper.  You all know who you are, and - because I don't say it often enough - you're all kinds of appreciated.