Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Obligatory End-of-Year Recap

So the idea is that we put the obligatory holiday letter on the blog, you can read it at your leisure (or in installments – like a serial in the newspaper!). Additional 2009 photos are in the “year in pictures” section to the right (click on the slide show to enlarge it and view captions) and elsewhere on this site. Hope that you stay awhile and visit us often!

We’ll start with the youngest (human) member of the family (who, oddly, refers to people AS humans – as in, “The other humans at the party were Camden and Zachary”):


Pop culture counterpart: Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother.” Parker has a – shall we say healthy? – sense of self-worth. (“Mom, know why I always beat you in the Uglydoll game? ‘Cause I’m awesome.”) He also loves the ladies and won’t leave the house until he is sure that he “looks handsome.” We still haven’t stopped laughing at the pick-up line that he unleashed on one of his little friends at the tender age of three: “Ella, your hair looks pretty today. By the way, I’m wearing underwear; I don’t wear Pull Ups anymore.”

His best girl (well, perhaps on par with preschool girlfriend Avery, “best friend who is a girl” Lauren Grace, and family friends “Baby Greenleigh” and “Baby Allison”), I am proud to say, is his mom. He frequently tells me that he loves me, that I am pretty, that he likes what I am wearing, etc., and of course I just melt. Both parents are treated with the same endearing morning ritual Monday through Friday – before going into preschool, we “high five, fist bump, ear honk [a couple of rapid tugs on the earlobe], kiss and give a BIG SQUEEZE.” (Pretty sure that Dad’s fingerprints are all over this ritual – the ear honk bears a certain Parnell signature – but I’m honored to be a participant nonetheless.)

Nickname: The King of Chicken (a title that he gave himself, in recognition of the fact that he would eat chicken at every meal, every day, day in and day out).

Favorite word: “Actually.”

Favorite things: Batman. Also Batman. And Batman. Honorable mention goes to other DC Comics superheroes* (but they all take a backseat to Batman) and Transformers. But we really, REALLY like Batman. Did I mention Batman?

(* For some reason that cannot be fully explained, we are DC snobs. Connor got offended when Parker received Marvel Comics action figures at his Justice League birthday party, and I was embarrassed to acknowledge that I had the same reaction.)

Hobbies: Does annoying his brother count? Or watching Justice League cartoons on a continuous loop? Like Connor, he swings a mean tennis racket, both in the real world and in the virtual “Wii Sports” world. (Actually, Parker’s quite adept at all of the Wii Sports games, and if you ever see him play Wii boxing, you’ll think twice about crossing him in a dark alley. He’s little, but he’s very, very scrappy – and pretty much a natural athlete. No doubt we have soccer games in our immediate future.) He loves to sing, and he is looking forward to joining the children’s choir at First Methodist next year.

Current employment: Preschooler at Baylor All Saints. He was a little confused when he turned five in October and did not immediately start kindergarten the next day! He is very much aware of the fact that Connor’s beloved kindergarten teacher, Ms. Sylvester, is postponing her retirement for a year just to have the privilege of teaching Parker. Mom is pretty shameless about throwing this in the child’s face: “You know, you’re really going to have to get out of the habit of [fill in the blank], because Ms. Sylvester won’t allow that in her classroom.” (Hey, whatever works, right?)

Future career: We probably have an actor on our hands. Big brother, with his distinct engineer’s bent, was all about designing layouts for Thomas the Tank Engine, but could not have cared one whit about the characters. Parker is happy to put the track in a circle (or do without track altogether), but all of the characters have distinct voices, and they all have back stories. Ask Parker to sing a children’s (or any) song for you, and you are likely to get several bonus verses – whatever springs spontaneously from his creative brain.

If the performing arts don’t pan out for him, he could make quite a career with the Webster’s Dictionary folks, having already added to the lexicon such gems as “graymote” (referring to the gray DVR remote), “to-morning” (contraction of “tomorrow morning”) and “random oranges” (you have to admit, mandarin oranges are sort of random).

CONNOR, Age 10

Pop culture counterpart: Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory.” Same strict dietary requirements, same fashion sense and low maintenance grooming regimen, same obsession with science, and same relentlessly logical brain. A Sheldon quote from the second season: “I couldn’t become Green Lantern unless I was chosen by the Guardians of Oa, but given enough startup capital and an adequate research facility, I could be Batman.” Actual Connor quote (age 4): “Spiderman is a superhero because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Superman is a superhero because he was born an alien. But Batman is a superhero because he is smart and good in business.” After Connor broke his arm in September, I sought to reassure him while we waited for his x-rays with a motherly (and entirely honest) “if it makes you feel any better, my right elbow is aching in sympathy for you.” Connor’s response: “Why would that make me feel better?”

Nickname: Well, I call him Mr. Spock – and it fits (see above).

One more Sheldon/Spock-ism for the road - while (appropriately?) watching a scene from “Star Trek Zero” where Captain Kirk is marooned on an ice planet by his own crew and then chased by two vicious ice beasts, Connor leaned over and whispered, “Why would they maroon him on a planet where his life would be at risk?”

“Well, the onboard computer warned him of the danger and told him to stay in the ship until the authorities came for him, but he was a hothead and blew the hatch.”

“Mom, it’s an ice planet. Anyone’s head would be hot in comparison to the outside air temperature.”

Favorite word: All of them. Apparently he thinks he has run out of English two-dollar words, as he has begun to work French into conversation, and he has asked his mother to teach him German.

Favorite things: LEGOs, Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars (and all of the other LEGO computer and video games – Indiana Jones, Batman, Rock Band), the Beatles, the Percy Jackson book series and anything related to Greek mythology.

Hobbies: Tennis and swim team at Ridglea Country Club (he will be adding diving to his repertoire next summer), Cub Scouts (Connor and Dad are quite the pinewood and space derby team – Connor brings the passion for engineering, Dad brings the natural competitiveness that comes with being one of four boys!), art, music, and Junior Worship Leaders at First United Methodist Church (“Junior Worship Leaders” being code for “choir for kids who think that they are too cool to be in choir”).

Current employment: Fourth grader. And, like most fourth graders, he tends to be, by turns, a little forgetful, occasionally distracted, and more than a little cocky. Result: he completed his history fair research well in advance of the deadline, but he didn’t commit any of it to paper (at least, not in a way that could be glued to a backboard) until the night before. We try very hard not to be helicopter parents, so we recognized a “teaching moment” when we saw one, placed him in front of the vast, empty backboard and said, “It’s all on you, bud.” Two days later, he came home and announced that he had won the school prize. A week after that, he came home with the Olympic-sized medal awarded to him for winning the district competition. Mom and Dad couldn’t decide whether to be happy or surly . . . .

A month later (what is it with fourth grade teachers and projects?), he waited until the last minute to put together his Invention Convention submission – and forgot that a backboard was involved with THAT project as well, remembering it two hours prior to bedtime the night before. (Note: The backboard was in dad’s car. Apparently, the backboard was QUITE forgettable.) Once again, we warned Connor of the likely consequences of his procrastination. And, once again, he came home with a prize, remarking to his eye-rolling mother, “You know, you keep telling me that I need to change my study habits – but so far, they seem to be generating pretty good results.”

Future career: He’s a born engineer, but if you ask he will tell you that he plans on being a cryptozoologist (translation: he wants to chase mythical creatures, and prove that the Loch Ness Monster is real). He also has a good head for business and is constantly creating business and marketing plans for . . . well, lots of things.

KATHRYN, Age 39 and holding

Pop culture counterpart: Wonder Woman. Or Elastigirl. See below.

Everything else: Work is great, all things considered, and I’m both amazed and pleased at how much work I have on my desk at present, given the state of the economy. However, on the assumption that things would be at least a little slower this year, I agreed to serve as president of the Junior Woman’s Club of Fort Worth (taking office 6/1/09) on the theory that there would never be a better time, so really I have been juggling three jobs – attorney at the office, “development director” at home with the kids, and JWC prez in the space in between. I haven’t regretted the decision, though – what a wonderful group of women, and what fun we have had thus far! I selected “Young at Heart” for this year’s clubwide theme, and my officers have taken that concept and run with it, putting a “Sandlot” spin on our softball tournament in October, throwing a high school homecoming bash (in a real gym!) in November, and hosting a Candy Land-themed holiday open house in December. Morale and membership are up, but I have to give most of the credit to the ladies around me – I just stay out of the way and offer support as needed! One of the perks of the job is that I get to throw a Christmas party for the 50 some-odd executive committee members, standing committee chairs, department presidents and Woman’s Club advisors – so on the evening of 12/17 we are bundling up, boarding a luxury coach (translation: bus with a bathroom!) and heading to Grapevine, Texas to view Christmas lights and attend “Ice” (indoor winter wonderland, complete with ice slides) at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Did I mention that I have a budget for said event? Bonus!

PARNELL, Age . . . a year older than last year

Pop culture counterpart: The married guy/father on “The League” (that incredibly funny new show about fantasy football, which seems to be biographical).

Everything else: Parnell is still playing fantasy football with the same group of guys from law school. Football is big on his mind this holiday season, as both his Horned Frogs and his Longhorns are headed to BCS games. We have a classy and not-at-all-clashing orange-and-purple Christmas light scheme going on in the front yard as a result – and those of you who remember last year’s Christmas light-related fall “with” (not “off of”) the ladder, resulting in a broken arm and two broken ribs, will be pleased to learn that this year he stuck to the archway leading up to the porch, dispensed with the roof and let me spot for him. (Proof that an old dog can learn old tricks! By the way, when we took Connor to the aptly named Dr. Rapp to get his cast in September, long-suffering Dr. Rapp just took a look at us and sighed. Whereupon my ornery husband inquired about the availability of a “frequent faller family discount” . . . .)

Parnell continues to thrive as a solo practitioner and is building his client base at an impressive rate. Most important of all, he is truly happy being on his own, and can I tell you how wonderful it is to be married to someone who is happy in his own skin? He enjoys harrassing his office-dwelling, clock-punching wife with mid-afternoon Friday phone calls announcing that he is laying himself off (or “furloughing” himself) with the expectation that business will pick up and he will rehire himself on Monday. (Okay, perhaps not that funny in the larger context of a bad economy, but he’s earned the right to make some jokes, having fought his fair share of uphill battles to get to where he is today.) I THINK he enjoys his role as JWC “First Man” . . . most of the time, and I am tremendously fortunate that both my spouse and my kids value my JWC friends (and their husbands and children) as much as I do.

I am also fortunate that I married a great father, son and son-in-law who takes advantage of his flexible schedule to serve as a PTA officer (long after I quit that noise!) and assist his mom and my parents and grandmother with all manner of things.

THE BEASTS, Ages . . . various

Our newest Ani-Pal addition has not been assigned a permanent name (Rusty? Ace the Batdog? Cinco?), but he is adorable, and he took to the menagerie like a dream (and they to him). He is a dorgi – half long-haired dachshund, half corgi – and is the living embodiment of the phrase, “the tail wags the dog.” He is so happy to be with a family, and his tail is so large in proportion to his sausage body, that when he gets to wagging, his hips swing back and forth to the point that he crawfishes when he walks. A very funny visual! “Ace” (we’ll use it as a place holder) loves big sister Ruby (nine year-old Sheltie) and follows her to the front door, on constitutionals around the yard, etc. Ruby, for her part, seems pleased as punch to have a minion, and is always looking over her shoulder, making sure that he is following behind.

Max, the youngest (and biggest) of our black-and-white Maine Coon cats, is, like many Maine Coons, convinced that he is, in fact, a dog. Thus, when I get home and call for the dogs, I usually end up with Ace on my lap (I have to pick him up – legs are too short for jumping!), Ruby on one side and Max on the other. Much head- and chin-scratching ensues . . . .

The older cats (Barkley and Gabby, both 13 years old) tolerate the younger crowd. (Barkley did hiss – once – at the newest beast, whereupon Ace barked – once – and we all discovered that he has a surprisingly deep and commanding voice for a little guy. Barkley conceded the point, and harmony was restored.) All five animals are amazingly well-adjusted, loving to one another and exceedingly tolerant of our kids. Hopefully this delicate balance will not be disturbed if/when we finally pull the trigger on the addition to our house, which (I am told) will give us room for fish, a rodent and a bird. (Yeah, Dad threw in the bird request – some help he is! I think he promised the kids the fish and rodent with the expectation that their whining would force me into making a decision on construction plans. What he doesn’t realize is that I have always been fascinated by lizards – so, Parnell, I’ll see your fish, rodent and bird and raise you one gecko.)

Love to everyone, and blessings of peace to you this holiday season and throughout 2010!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bat Hound

"Mom, Ruby needs a companion dog."

My flawlessly logical oldest child then laid out his case: Our nine year-old Sheltie is slowing down (a fact that was confirmed by our vet, who put her on a regimen of glucosamine and chondroitin - the same stuff they give less hairy middle-aged folk). While two of our three cats (the Maine Coons) are quite doglike - and bigger than a great many dogs - they just aren't that keen on a romp around the dog park, or having a fetch. And, busy humans that we are, we simply aren't doing enough to keep her occupied and active.

So the search for dog #2 began, with local city ordinances (our three cats put us at the city-mandated upper limit for feline ownership, but we were two shy of the canine maximum) and Petfinder on our side. First candidate: Hoku, a Sheltie mix hailing from the northern environs of Big D. Her Petfinder profile looked promising - complete fetch monster, loves kids and cats, etc. I contacted her host rescue group and completed their adoption package, which MIGHT have been a page or two lighter than the adoption package that you have to complete when you adopt a human child . . . but I kinda doubt it. After enduring what I call a "full cavity search on paper," I was instructed to wait for a phone call that I would receive within twenty four hours. I followed up with an e-mail, explaining that Hoku would be a companion animal to our existing dog and that it probably made sense to introduce Ruby and the kids to her before we proceeded, to see if things would gel. I also asked them to call me on my work phone. Person that I have to assume is an unpaid volunteer called a day later than specified, called Parnell instead of me, and asked when we were available for our home study. Parnell essentially read her my e-mail over the phone and, oh-so-politely, suggested that we bring dog and children to them, thus saving the rescue dog a stressful trip in the car and a visit to a strange home if nothing was going to come of the exercise. This idea . . . DID. NOT. COMPUTE. Stepford Volunteer abruptly veered in another direction and made the apropos-of-not much pronouncement, "If you adopt this dog, she will need a job." (One has to assume that she was reading off of some sort of breed standard applicable to herding dogs?) Parnell swallowed several obvious sarcastic responses and advised Stepford Volunteer that he is self-employed and has the ability (and, frequently, given that he helps his mother with business issues, the excuse) to visit the family ranch property during the day. Thus, if Hoku was a herder, she would have multiple Herefords at her disposal. Parnell: "Does she like to herd?" Stepford Volunteer: "I have no idea." Ooooohhhhhkaaaayyy.

Then Stepford Volunteer mentioned that Hoku was still in the middle of her heartworm eradication treatments and would not be available for some time. Ummmmm . . . . Petfinder profile clearly stated that she had had heartworms in the past but was now "heartworm-free." Present tense. We started to wonder what other artistic license had been taken with her profile. Was she actually a dog? While her adorably fuzzy face in the profile pic appeared doglike, it did bear a certain resemblance to a publicity still for Wicket the Ewok from "Return of the Jedi" (which I continue to maintain is the THIRD Star Wars movie, because those God-awful prequels don't count . . . but I digress).

Biggest problem was that, given pending heartworm treatments, Hoku would have to be kept absolutely calm during our introductory visit with her, as an increase in heart rate and body temperature could result in the heartworms squirming through the lining of her heart, resulting in death by embolism. Ummmm . . . hmm. So our options are to (1) meet the dog while she's sedated, thus getting no accurate read on her personality, or (2) kill her? Thanks, but we think we'll look elsewhere.

So, unbeknownst to me, Parnell - who now is in full-on "dog acquisition" mode (he gets this way about lots of things - flat-screen TV's, computers, mammals - he's a born comparison shopper) - starts visiting Animal Control, and bonds with our second candidate (and eventual winner - but, oh, it was a LONG way from candidate to winner). Only, he can't exactly explain to me what the second candidate IS. "He's, like, REALLY burnt orange and kind of corgi-ish? And he's sort of so ugly that he's cute." (Hey, I said he was a born comparison shopper; I didnt' say anything about his salesmanship skills.) Yes, I could have gone to the pound to personally inspect him, resolving all doubt as to what "he" was, but that would involve me going to the pound, and I don't do the pound. I have a very strong sense that if I went to the pound, I would go bat-you-know-what crazy and run around opening all of the cages shouting, "RUN! RUN TO FREEDOM!"

Instead, Parnell took both kids, one at a time, to meet Mystery Dog. Both kids took to Mystery Dog, and Parnell informed Animal Control that we wanted to adopt him. (I'm glossing over a good part here - he showed up early in the morning to fill out paperwork, based on Web site information that said "Office opens at 8 am, but no animals will be shown before noon." Since he had already been shown the animal, and liked - whatever - it was he saw, he figured it would be possible to fill out paperwork at 8 am. Wrong. "We don't let people fill out paperwork until noon . . . . but I suppose I can get it for you." After a fifteen-minute delay, Disgruntled Office Worker - who just might have been Stepford Volunteer from the other place, post-job change - disappeared into a back office, returned several minutes later, sat in her chair, and SWIVELED IT AND RETRIEVED THE ADOPTION PAPERWORK FROM A TRAY IMMEDIATELY BEHIND HER. Then she disappeared again, never to return. So Parnell took the paperwork to go . . . . Oh, and one other chestnut - when he asked if Mystery Dog got on well with cats, the person showing Mystery Dog to him said, "Let's find out," and essentially tossed Mystery Dog into the cat enclosure. I am not making this up. Fortunately, the experiment worked out well for all parties.)

AFTER three-fourths of the family got attached to Mystery Dog (who, by then, we had identified as a dorgi - half-dachshund, half-corgi), the Animal Control brain trust tested him for heartworm. Yup - positive. "Okay, you'll have to keep him absolutely calm for six weeks, or he'll die." Nice. A dog, two kids and three cats . . . . Plans for a slumber party involving multiple ten year-old boys . . . . Yeah, can you say, "Death sentence for poochie?" Parnell inquired as to the availability of a volunteer who could foster him during the six weeks; DENIED. (I hear that the ASPCA does provide this service, which is good information to have, but a day late and a dollar short in our case.) Helpful Worker then reminded Parnell of the thirty-day money-back guarantee on all animals: "You can take him to your vet, and if the vet says that he just needs heartworm pills, there's no problem. If he needs more than that, you can drop him back off and get a full refund." SERIOUSLY????? WHO DOES THAT????? So, needless to say, we decided to part ways with Mystery Dog, for his own good.

And then the crying jag (mine) started. I wept, on and off, for four days over a dog that I technically had never even met. In my fevered imagination, this dog had identified my sweet husband and precious children as his "forever family," only to be cruelly kicked (back) to the curb. It got to be comical - I would be going around my daily business and, suddenly, I would think of Mystery Dog and the waterworks would start.

So two weeks pass, I meet Parnell for lunch on his birthday, and - being congenitally blonde - I see the envelope marked "Adoption Papers" in his car and think nothing of it when he hastily flips it over before we head into the restaurant. Hey, I was thinking it was something he just received from a client (he's been known to do some family law occasionally), and he wanted to safeguard it from prying eyes. However, I did think it odd that immediately upon finishing our tacos at Yucatan he said, "Let's go." Huh? This from the man who accuses me of too infrequently including me in my lunch plans? He elaborated: "There's something that I want to show you in the car."

"Is it a dog? Because I don't recall you cracking the windows?"

We get to the car, he hands me an Animal Control bandanna, and I start freaking out . . . in a bad way. It's too soon, I'm still grieving (bizarrely and irrationally) for Mystery Dog, and then there's the whole "I'm never going to step across the threshold of the pound, EVER" thing working against us. So he hands me the "Adoption Papers" envelope - and, slowly, the pieces floating in my blonde brain start to click.

He to me: "I'm telling you this on my birthday, because it's my birthday, and you're not going to get really, REALLY mad at a fellow on his birthday, right? I'm somewhat insulated, on account of how it's my birthday."

Me to he: [Sobbing noises.]

He to me: "Okay, are those good tears?"

Me to he: [More sobbing noises, coupled with vigorous up and down head motions.]

Turns out that, at some point during day four of my "I think we just sent a dog to the death chamber" pity party, my dear, sweet spouse took a leap of faith, adopted Mystery Dog, and threw himself at the mercy of our dear, sweet vet . . . who agreed to give Mystery Dog the heartworm treatments AND board him for the duration.

So, for the last five weeks, we've had another dog. Who I still haven't met. Because various delays keep getting thrown into our path . . . . We were supposed to have him by Thanksgiving - but the vet decided to wait another week in an abundance of caution. We called to pick him up on Monday, and they told us to wait until Wednesday. Wednesday came, and they told us that they wanted to do one more test, and to schedule pickup for Thursday. Thursday came, and we were told to wait until 3 pm when Dr. Tierce would be in the office and, I guess, available to talk about follow-up treatment stuff.

Now it's 4:45 pm, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, we'll have our Mystery Dog shortly after 5. Kids have no idea. Oh, and Mystery Dog is now named Rusty, because Parnell choked when they asked him for a name at the vet and blurted out "Rusty," because he's rust-colored. One has to assume that they have been calling him Rusty for the last five weeks, so Rusty it shall be. We're big fans of the show, "Greek," on ABC Family, and we love the main character, Rusty "Spitter" Cartwright. We're also big fans of the National Lampoon Vacation franchise, so full name most likely will be Rusty "Spitter" Cartwright Griswold Batdog McGlinchey. (I have to throw in Batdog, because I'm advised that he has the most ginormous ears . . . . And, yes, I've seen cell phone pics, but he was moving his head around in all of them, so I can confirm that he has a body, a tail and a blur in the facial region.)

Photos to follow . . . hopefully.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And Now We Are Ten

Last year, when our oldest turned nine, I agreed to a “Night at the Museum” slumber party. It seemed like it would be a cake walk (small pun intended) compared to the eighth birthday “let’s invite the free world to Pump It Up” throwdown, which followed the seventh birthday “let’s invite the free world to Rollerland West” shindig. Some of our parent friends wanted to hang around for awhile and offered to assist in chauffeuring guests the scant five blocks that stand between our house and IMAX. Such a short drive, but such a loooooong one. It’s amazing how much armpit noisemaking, burping, etc. a nine year-old boy can fit into a two-minute car ride. Then there was the whole fight over who got to sit next to Birthday Child once we arrived at IMAX. The slumber party portion of the evening wasn’t much more fun. I made a mental note after the last guest departed that our slumber party days were over.

Then I lost the note. My father told me once that a goldfish’s power of mental retention is roughly one lap around its bowl. Thus, it passes the treasure chest, thinks, “Hey, a treasure chest,” swims another lap, says, “Hey, a treasure chest,” and on and on ad infinitum – like Tom Hanks in that “Mister Short-Term Memory” skit on Saturday Night Live. (“HEY! TONY RANDALL!”)

Apparently, one lap around my personal goldfish bowl translates into, roughly, 365 days. Every year, I leave my annual “mole biopsy party” swearing that I’ll die of skin cancer before I go back. A year later, I find myself thinking, “I really need to schedule a dermatologist appointment.” Ditto childbirth: after my first (unplanned) C section, I swore I wasn’t going through THAT again . . . but it wasn’t long before I was considering a second one.

So I agreed to a tenth birthday slumber party. And hilarious hijinks ensued. Here’s the blow-by-blow:

Week before party: Stuff bags of party favor LEGOs into treat bags. Count 200 more LEGOs, purchased from the “bulk bin” at the LEGO Store, into one of the tumblers in which they package bulk bin LEGOs at the LEGO Store. Notice that tumbler looks like a martini shaker, but with a LEGO button on the top. Chuckle. Wonder if design is meant to make parents chuckle – and buy more LEGOs. Stuff treat bags into pinata shaped like Darth Vader’s head. Worry that suddenly too-cool-for-school Birthday Child will object to fact that pinata is of the toddler “pull string” variety. World-weary Birthday Child informs me that they market it that way to big kids, “because you only want to tear the bottom out of the pinata – so you can wear it on your head.”

Day before party, 3:00 pm: Birthday Child sees me putting candy LEGOs and LEGO Star Wars figure key chains on turkey pull-apart cupcake cake, and asks, “Wait, is that for me?” Birthday Child begins crying and tells me that he thought cupcake cake was “a fake-out.” Remind him that we celebrated his eighth birthday “Aloha Scooby Doo” party with turkey pull-apart cupcake cakes embellished with icing leis. (Apparently, a turkey pull-apart cupcake cake is my go-to when Birthday Child – born on Thanksgiving Day – selects a party theme that is commercially unavailable.)

3:01 pm: Birthday Child answers: “Yeah, but Mom, we were EIGHT then.”

3:02 pm: Go all attorney on Birthday Child: “So, what you’re telling me is that you all are two years older but somehow LESS MATURE than you were when you were eight? Because no one made tacky comments about your cake when you were eight – so if you think that they’ll be tacky now, then you all must be regressing.”

3:03 pm: Birthday Child glares at me – but concedes the battle.

Morning before party, 9:45 am: Show Birthday Child place cards for party, pieced from scrapbook paper to look like LEGOs, with jokes like: “What did Obi Wan say when his apprentice had trouble mastering chopsticks? ‘Use the fork, Luke.’” Birthday Child rolls eyes, reminds me for umpteenth time that he is TEN. YEARS. OLD.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Pick up toys/put up laundry/carefully dust and arrange tchotchkes/vacuum/decorate for party.

4:00 pm: Discover gnatlike insects swarming in vicinity of kitchen sink. Spouse Googles gnat infestations. Google advises spouse that gnatlike insects most assuredly have been attracted by scent of aging fruit. Note that gnats seem to be everywhere in the kitchen except in the vicinity of the three, perfectly-in-their-prime oranges that are sitting on the counter. Remove oranges anyway. Google further advises that ammonia or bleach down the drain will take care of gnatlike insect problem. Confirm suspicion that do not own ammonia or bleach.

4:30 pm: Spouse decides to move Wii to living room and hook up Beatles Rock Band instruments . . . a scant two hours before the party. Carefully dusted and arranged tchotchkes are dumped in pile on sofa to allow for rewiring of TV/DVR/DVD player. Dust gets discharged everywhere.

4:50 pm: Leave for trip to Best Buy and grocery store to purchase LEGO Rock Band (which, Birthday Child advises, must be procured lest party be “TOTALLY RUINED”), a USB hub, ammonia and bleach.

5:00 pm: Fight with Best Buy manager, who assures me that we don’t need a USB hub. Call spouse, who reads blurb from back of Beatles Rock Band carton, advising us that we need a USB hub. Best Buy manager and spouse agree to leave things at a stalemate. Purchase USB hub and party-success-ensuring LEGO Rock Band software.

5:15 pm: Purchase (lemon-scented) ammonia and (linen-scented; who knew?) bleach. Dither over whether to purchase same or different scents. Decide to give self options.

5:30 pm: Stop at Central Market. Find self distracted by orange cherry tomatoes/new line of frozen pizzas/gruyere dessert cheeseballs/etc. Get head back in game and purchase more candy LEGOs. Also orange cherry tomatoes. And a cold coffee/tea beverage that looks like pure caffeine in a bottle.

5:50 pm: Arrive home to discover that several party guests have arrived an hour before published party start date. Not surprised to find spouse still hooking up Rock Band instruments.

5:55 pm: Discover that lemon-scented ammonia still smells 100% “ammonia-y.”

5:56 pm: Discover that gnatlike insects also have taken up occupation over bathroom drains. Abandon fruit theory in favor of hypothesis that plumber’s recent snaking of sewer line out to easement unclogged blockage, created superhighway for gnats. Apologize in my head to the unfairly maligned oranges. Spouse and I agree to plan of aggressive gnat genocide in interest of disrupting breeding cycle. Opt to pour (linen-scented; who knew?) bleach down bathroom drains. Birthday Child drifts by, sniffs and asks if maid came today. Because, evidently, we now associate “the smell of clean” with “not Mom.”

6:00 pm: Granddad arrives with Bruschetta pizzas that did not fit in our freezer and that grandparents graciously agreed to babysit and deliver. Carefully arrange pepperoni slices into grid on square pizzas to resemble oversized LEGOs.

6:10 pm: Spend a minute and a half talking to parent on front porch; discover that pizzas (which have only been in the oven for half of the published cook time) are burning.

6:11 pm: Dispatch spouse to Domino’s to pick up pizza.

6:15 pm: Guests begin playing LEGO Rock Band. Marvel at odds that ALL of Birthday Child’s friends would be tone deaf.

6:16 pm: Two hundredth “dude” is uttered by party guests. (Many “dudes” will follow.) Notice that Birthday Child is introducing newcomers to guests that they don’t know. Pat self on back for not raising total Philistine.

6:20 pm: Ask Little Brother to sign card for Birthday Child. Little Brother immediately opens card and holds up to ear, assuming that all cards are musical. (Same child always asks to see photo immediately after it is taken and is thrown for complete loop when someone explains to him that their camera is not digital.)

6:25 pm: Walk parent outside; hear loud crash. Boys learn the hard way that three people cannot bang on the drum set without things vibrating off of the armoire. Boys spend next five minutes picking up potpourri and returning it to bowl that was wedding present and is, evidently, indestructible.

6:35 pm: Start pouring drinks in anticipation of pizza arrival. Birthday Child comes into kitchen crying, announces that two guests have informed him that he must endure ten “birthday stomach punches” from each. Take guests to task. One mumbles, “I only punched him a little bit.”

6:40 pm: Serve pizza and drinks.

6:40 pm and ten seconds: Little Brother spills drink.

6:45 pm: Party guests compliment joke place cards. Birthday Child takes credit for joke place cards and follows with, “Wait until you see my cake. It’s awesome.”

6:50 pm: Lead guests in “Happy Birthday to You.” Guests add two verses, invoking monkeys, etc.

6:51 pm: Serve cake. Begin to empathize with flight attendants: “Coke, Sprite or Sunkist? Cheese or pepperoni? Yellow cupcake with chocolate icing, yellow cupcake with colored icing, or chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing?”

7:00 pm: Birthday Child opens his gifts . . . in five seconds. Haul includes LEGOs, a Star Wars: The Clone Wars encyclopedia, Air Hogs, many Nerf weapons, clothes and a card with $20. Birthday Child counts money, claims only $19 is accounted for, and asks gifter to explain himself. Missing dollar found in bottom of bag. Reconsider Philistine thing.

7:05 pm: One of clothing items is an Ed Hardy t-shirt. Spouse heard to mutter: “Great – a douchebag starter kit.”

7:06 pm: Accidentally refer to Ed Hardy as “John Hardy,” as in the jewelry designer. More muttering from spouse: “Yeah, that’s a Freudian slip I’d expect from you.”

7:10 pm: Spend ten minutes scrubbing icing out of the crevices of LEGO Star Wars figure key chains with a potato brush.

7:15 pm: Entire party relocates to Connor’s room to build giant LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars ship that Mom selected solely because it features Mace Windu and his bad-bohiney purple Light Saber.TM

7:35 pm: Rock Band resumes. Admire Birthday Child’s mediation skills. “Cameron hasn’t gotten to play, so he gets to pick an instrument first. Parker, Garrett gets to be band leader this time.” Re-reassess “not a Philistine” world view.

7:36 pm – 8:15 pm: Reason with Little Brother that Rock Band gets to stay at his house, so he should be generous in allowing guests to play. Find “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” online game to play one on one with Little Brother.

8:16 pm – 9:15 pm: Begin blogging as coping mechanism. Endure sixty five renditions of “Kung Fu Fighting,” “Ghostbusters” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”

9:16 pm: Spouse drifts in from den, asks “How are you holding up?”

9:30 pm: Second wave of guests arrive, fresh from TCU game. Mom not so fresh.

9:45 pm: Stop blogging to videotape Little Brother’s inspired vocal performance of “We Are the Champions.”

10:00 pm: Threaten to send children of good friends back to good friends. Repeatedly.

10:05 pm: Little Brother evicted from Birthday Child’s bedroom. Nature of his transgression: repeated mooning. Consider dropping Little Brother off with good friends’ children as package deal.

10:15 pm: Finally convince guests to collect in one room for pinata thing, because one guest (yup, ONE, darn the luck!) isn’t spending the night, and his parents are en route. Birthday Child threatens to go through with the “pinata on the head” routine. Spouse explains that when he sees a pinata, his natural tendency is to whack it, really hard, with a big stick. Birthday Child rethinks “pinata on the head routine.”

10:20 pm: Dump LEGOs that did not fit into Darth Vader into pile on floor. Guests build LEGO vehicles for awhile.

10:30 pm: Brief respite from craziness ends. Previous rules about not swinging/throwing/destroying things/people/animals apparently totally forgotten.

10:35 pm: Start cleaning/doing dishes/collecting trash to take focus off of craziness. Manage to have a couple of good one-on-one discussions with guests about their new pets, favorite subjects at school, etc. Faith in humanity restored.

10:40 pm: One of conversation partners attempts to re-break Birthday Child’s oh-so-recent broken elbow. Faith in humanity back offline.

10:50 pm: Remember that we never played the “guess how many LEGOs” game. Realize that I never assigned a prize to the game. Decide to use game to raffle off first choice of sleeping arrangements. Guesses range from forty to four hundred. One of the guests (math whiz like Birthday Child, and one-third of Birthday Child’s team that won district history fair) looks at the tumbler and says “200.” Award him the prize, expecting him to call dibs on Birthday Child’s top bunk/Little Brother’s loft (Little Brother is, by now, passed out on couch in den, and plans are to leave him there, as far away from craziness as possible)/couch/leather recliner. Winner calls “floor.”

10:55 pm: Spouse finishes viewing “TIVO delayed” TCU game. Negotiate handoff of “parent in charge” duties.

11:00 pm: Off duty, but still mediating disputes/locating pillows and blankets/fetching beverages.

11:05 pm: Remind spouse of handoff.

11:30 pm: Guest who’s supposed to be going home still on the premises. Too-cool-for-school ten year-olds who Birthday Boy worried would diss a turkey pull-apart cupcake cake have moved on to playing with Little Brother’s Imaginext Batcave and Rescue Heroes.

11:45 pm: Noise level from living room is DEAFENING. Walk to den, ask spouse exactly how he interprets role of being “parent in charge.” Spouse promises to be more “diligent” and “hands on” and closes door to our bedroom, where I have sought refuge.

11:50 pm: Door ALMOST blocks out the sound of what could be swordfighting.

11:55 pm: Decide that eleventh birthday celebration will involve no more than two guests and will be held offsite. Make mental note not to discard mental note.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fall Into Fun

Connor and Parker initially wanted to be Clone Troopers for Halloween. Like most boy costumes, the ones at Super Target were incomplete, so the sticker price was misleading: once you factored in the blaster and other add-on accessories, you're talking about a pretty expensive proposition, particularly when you are multiplying by two! While the boys were evaluating blaster options, I found this Area 51-ish "Alien Commander" costume (all accessories included for $13.99, less 10% because I had an all-day shopping pass) and made them a proposition: if Parker would agree to wear the astronaut flight suit that Santa brought him last year as his Halloween costume, and Connor agreed to the alien getup, I would spring for an alien costume for the dog (Ruby gets into the Halloween spirit!) AND I would buy them a Wii. (Okay, truth be told, the Wii was coming home with us anyway, because Mom and Dad really wanted to get Beatles Rock Band - plus I had the aforementioned 10% pass - but the boys didn't know that, and I why not exploit a teachable moment about budgeting and choices?)

Connor immediately saw this as the opportunity that it was, seized his brother by the shoulders and started shaking him and shouting, "TAKE THE DEAL! TAKE THE DEAL!" (For a minute I thought I had been transported into an episode of "Law and Order.") Parker balked, raising the objection that "Connor gets a new costume, and I don't." (Never mind that he'd never actually worn the astronaut costume in public - apparently, it was the principle of the thing.) I missed the full negotiation that followed, but I do believe that future consideration was offered. Long story short, they went with the astronaut and the alien, and it was kind of fun - Parker particularly enjoyed telling people that he was taking Connor "to President Obama" (because, you know, they always ask for an audience with the leader). Connor enjoyed having a costume that disguised the cast on his broken elbow.

And everyone is enjoying the Wii . . . . Win!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beauty Blog

So one of my Junior Club departments had its fundraising auction, one of our members donated an obscene quantity of high-end makeup, and Ruth, Robyn and I formed a “makeup syndicate” and purchased it, dividing the spoils thereafter . . . . It’s a testament to our friendship that there was zero squabbling during the divvying – although it didn’t hurt that I have green eyes, Ruth’s are blue and Robyn’s are hazel, and we all tend to gravitate to different shades.

I’ve had a lot of fun playing with my new toys, and I’ve found some definite keepers that I’m adding to my daily repertoire:

Lancome eye shadow in “Vue”: A nice pink-y neutral with a bit of a plummy cast; nice against green eyes.
Philosophy “Bare Your Soul” (peach-pink) cream blush and “Honest” and “True” powder blushes: “Honest” is great for contouring, and “True” blends in nicely over the cream stuff.
MAC “Naked Honey” Lipglass in “Buzz”: Nude with a hint of pink. This may be my new default lip gloss.

Also, some of the avant garde stuff proved to be surprisingly wearable:

MAC “Star Flash” eye shadow in “Fashion Groupie” and “Rated R”: The former is purple, the latter is acid green, and – while I wouldn’t wear either one over the entire eyelid – both of these look pretty fabulous as a liner.
MAC “Veluxe Pearl” eye shadow in “Bright Future”: Wouldn’t have tried a yellow eye shadow on my own in a million years. Glad I did. Very yellow in the pot, but really gorgeous on the eye.
MAC Greasepaint Stick in “Black”: A dark black-purple kohl eyeliner. Maybe not something I will wear every day, but I will be rocking it. A lot.
Benefit “Almost Famous” lip gloss: Rosy bronze with amber bronze glitter. Watermelon-flavored, a little on the grainy side – like a watermelon, come to think of it. Color, shine and flavor make up for the grit.
MAC “Style Warrior” lipstick in “Purple Rite”: A wearable purple (particularly pretty with “Blackware” over it; see below). The “Style Warrior” collection has great packaging, too – bronze and gold exterior, zebra-striped interior.
MAC Style Black Glimmerglass “Blackware”: Gray/black-tinged gloss. Looks plum when you put it on. Seriously, I swear. Major shine. LOVE THIS PRODUCT!
MAC “Style Warrior” nail lacquer in “Mercenary”: Described as a “frosted blackened bronze,” and that’s an excellent description. I don’t do color on my fingers, and I can’t see myself ever wearing a true black polish on my toes, but this is pretty edgy without going over.

While I’m in review mode, here are my other current product obsessions:

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Mask: Gel mask with bitter orange, hops, rosemary and horsetail. Can be used on the eye area. Recommended by an aesthetician at Perfect Touch Spa.
Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Toner: Alcohol-free. Contains allantoin, a compound found in comfrey root that is known to be a bacteria inhibitor.
Dermalogica Gentle Soothing Booster: When put under moisturizer, reduces irritation and redness while adding to skin’s hydration.
Lancome Primordiale Skin Recharge, Absolue Premium Bx and Absolue Night Premium Bx: Love these moisturizers. REALLY love the way that they smell!
Blue Q Boss Lady SPF 18 Honeysuckle Nectar Lip Balm: Delish. Put it on morning and night. Gift to me from Robyn, who presented it as a “just because” present along with a koozie emblazoned with “Stressed Ladies Unwinding Together” – and the accompanying acronym.
Lancome Cils Booster XL and Hypnose Black: Great lash conditioner and mascara combo. I get the same level of “Are those your real lashes?” comments with these two as I do with Diorshow.
Anything J. R. Watkins: Thanks to the same auction, I have added to my Watkins collection the lemon oil (so invigorating!) and the lavender hand and cuticle salve. Thumbs up to both. (Ooh, bad pun.)
Aveda Beautifying Composition Moisturizing Oil: Rosemary and bergamot – yum! I work this into the ends of my hair after blow-drying to lock in moisture, but you can also use it in the bathtub or massage it into your temples. I’m thinking of layering it over the lemon oil as a fragrance?
Van Cleef & Arpels “Feerie” Fragrance: Violets, blackcurrant, Italian mandarin, Bulgarian rose, Egyptian jasmine and iris butter. I have no idea how one gets butter from irises, but the result is spectacular. And the bottle is a work of art. I stalked this perfume for a year before I broke down and purchased it. Worth. Every. Penny.

The Rants

The evening started out GREAT. Things are busy at work (a very good thing, given the current economy), and in addition to having lots to do for current clients I have brought in several new ones over the past couple of weeks, which is always a good feeling. (“Socially useful” and “fully employed” – both high on my list of turn-ons.) Saw Marjorie Bellomy, Hair Goddess, after lunch and received multiple compliments on my cute bob (went with Mena Suvari’s bangs this time in lieu of Katie Holmes) and gradually darkening color. Received phone call from husband that Connor’s physical therapist reports progress on the “elbow-returning-to-normal” front and – oh – Connor also won the fourth grade division at the district History Fair. (Not at all surprising, as a scheduling conflict prevented us from actually attending .)

We talked about going somewhere for a celebratory dinner, but Uncle Alex and Aunt Dahna had dropped off Wii games for both boys’ birthdays, along with a belated birthday gift for Mom (it’s okay – I still owe Dahna her present from January). Bath salts, body wash, lotion and body splash, full of grapefruit-y and bitter orange-y goodness! Boys instantly requested a change in plans – PIZZA AND WII PARTY! – and I gleefully headed off for a rare Friday night tub soak. (Love those rare occasions when what they want and what I want coincide.)

Daddy went off to forage for pizza. (He’s anti-delivery. LONG story.) Mom tried the first of two crazy-dark and (for me) quite subversive and extreme MAC nail polishes with edgy names, acquired as part of a major makeup score at the Benessere auction. Discovered that I am not “Seriously Hip” but – apparently – I AM “Mercenary.”

That’s when the bottom dropped out of Hades.

Parker was enjoying playing his LEGO Batman game “Parker-style,” blowing up everything in sight and cackling gleefully, with no thought given to racking up any actual points. When he ran out of inanimate objects and villains to blow up, he set out to blow up Robin. This did not sit well with law-and-order big brother, who believes that rules are meant to be slavishly adhered to. If the object of the game is X, you had better accomplish X, notwithstanding the fact that you are having a HECK of a good time doing Y. Because, you know, we don’t play games to have fun. (Oh, wait . . . .)

So Connor starts his running commentary: “GREAT, Parker. 1.2% efficiency. That’s just AMAZING. By the way, you said that you were going to play for ten minutes, and it’s been twenty. Way to follow through on your promise.” Yeah, at nine-going-on-ten, we have the jaded, passive-aggressive act down pat. Then the Wii signaled that the remote needed new batteries, and Connor pushed the pause button on the box and went off in search of double A’s. Pushing pause did. NOT. SIT. WELL. WITH. PARKER. The next part was a blur, but there was some wrestling, a whole lot of screaming, and Connor surfaced from the rugby scrum and half-cried, half-screamed:

“Mom, can I break his legs?”


“PLEASE, can I break his legs?”


“Please, MAY I break his legs?”

“It’s not a matter of how you are phrasing the question. You may not break your brother’s legs.” (Note how I skirted the issue of whether he COULD break his legs; given how easily limbs seem to break around here, I’m fairly sure that the deed is doable.)

I was then regaled with the laundry list of grievances: “He hit me. Then he threw a granola bar at me. IN MY FACE. Then he called me a name. Then he bit me.” Okay, okay. I get it.

I advised Parker that he needed to go to his room and wait for his dad to return. (I estimated that Dad would be walking in the door shortly – not realizing that Pizza Hut had screwed up our order. He wasn’t delayed by much – maybe five minutes – but under the circumstances, it was a pretty LONG five minutes.) Mister Five-Going-On-Fifteen started in on one of his patented teenager-ish rants:

“I want to move to a NEW family, because THIS family doesn't LOVE ME. You don’t want to give me my OWN LIFE. You just want to BREAK MY HEART. If I go to my room, I could DISAPPEAR. I might be LOST, or KIDNAPPED, or in BIG TROUBLE, or . . . or DISAPPEARED. And who’s going to be on the lookout for me? Nobody. NOBODY will be on the lookout for me. Because nobody cares about me. NO. BODY.”

Let me assure you: this is a condensed version. I had just turned on my laptop when the rant began, and because I wanted to (1) keep myself from reacting inappropriately (by screaming, or – more likely – by busting a gut laughing) and (2) share the rant verbatim with Daddy when he returned, I started typing out the rant in real time – like I was taking dictation. But he was going too fast, and I got behind, so mid-rant I interrupted him:

“I’m sorry. What did you say about your heart? That we’re breaking it, or that it’s already broken?”

Mister Red-Faced Ball of Fury stilled to a stop. “Are you writing down what I’m saying?”

“Well, yeah. I might blog it later.”

In the “you learn something every day” category: more powerful than threats of spankings or time-outs, apparently the threat of having your rant BLOGGED TO THE PUBLIC BY YOUR MOTHER is the end-all, be-all of threatened punishments.

“Mom, NO! STOP TYPING! And you’re saying it WRONG. I didn’t say ANYTHING about my HEART! NOTH. ING.”

At this point, he started manhandling “Mr. Pumpkin Legs.” Mr. Pumpkin Legs is an oversized, pumpkin-shaped papier-mache treat bucket standing about two feet tall on green-and-yellow striped witch legs and black witch shoes. (Okay, so “Mr.” technically is a “Mrs.” – them ain’t warlock shoes – but for some reason we have assigned "him" the male gender.) The pumpkin part bears the slogan “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet” across the front. Mr. Pumpkin Legs was purchased at Super Target several years ago (when Connor was a toddler) and holds a metric ton of candy. Mr. Pumpkin Legs is awesome and has survived MULTIPLE HALLOWEENS – until Parker focused his attention on him and made it his mission to tear him apart like the sort-of-pinata that he is. After Halloween, the now-empty MPL was relegated to a corner pending his return to the carriage house along with the rest of the Halloween decorations that Mom is SLOOOOOOOWLY taking down. (Hey, there’s a lot of them. I have to pace myself.) MPL stayed in the corner for maybe a nanosecond before Parker appropriated him and started torturing him – leaning on him, tipping him on his side and standing on his fairly fragile legs, carrying him around, upside-down, on Parker’s head, etc. I have warned Parker multiple times that he’s going to be the undoing of MPL, and I swear that –while some of his fiddling with MPL is of the unconscious, “it’s there and I can’t seem to stop touching it” variety – tonight’s bout of manhandling was 100% in retaliation against my threatened blogging.

So I took a page from passive-aggressive big brother: “Okay, so I guess I might as well take Mr. Pumpkin Legs out to the trash, because it’s clear that he’s going to end up there eventually.”

The inevitable Parker response (remember, we’re still ranting):

“You just don’t want to give people candy. So, FINE. DON’T give people candy. People just WON’T. HAVE. CANDY. Connor and I will have candy, because we’ll go out and get some, but you guys won’t get ANY. Because we WON’T share with YOU, and you will have. NO. CANDY. Because you won’t have a place to PUT the candy. And you won’t have a place to put candy for OTHER PEOPLE, EITHER. So, THERE.”

Does Guinness publish a record for suppressing inappropriate laughter? Because I swear I hold the title. I just kept typing.

Dad arrived at home, the ranter ultimately lost steam, torturing Mr. Pumpkin Legs was abandoned in favor of pizza consumption, batteries were located, and, at press time, big brother has control of the Wii, little brother is watching him play “Star Wars, The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels” (funny game – CGI Jedis talking sci fi geek smack to CGI Sith lords), and all is right in Mudville. Until someone breathes wrong around the five year-old, and a new rant commences.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mother of the Year

Trying to pick what my submission for M.O.T.Y. is going to be . . . . (You know, like the "For your consideration" clips that the studios send out to all of the Academy voters.) So very many possible submissions to choose from these days! Among the front runners:

1) Nine year-old won his school's history fair (with a little help from Dad on the typing side, since we're still dealing with a cast, and a little visual design assistance from Mom - but the concept and research were his). Just discovered that the district judging and awards are scheduled for this Thursday . . . problem being that one of my Junior Woman's Club departments is having its auction fundraiser that evening, and Dad is committed to being the auctioneer. So option #1 is to staff out history fair night to a babysitter (although we don't actually have a babysitter lined up at press time, SOOOOOOOOO . . . ); option #2 is to skip history fair night, on the theory that - knowing Connor - if he attends and does not win, he will complain mercilessly about the evening being a colossal waste of his time, but if he finds out that he won after the fact, he might be pleasantly surprised and pleased? No doubt either option will be overlaid with a (pick one) trip to Purple Cow/trip to Putt-Putt/trip to Gamestop.

2) Did such a good job of planning aforementioned nine year-old's LEGO Star Wars-themed tenth birthday party in my head that I failed to actually implement any part of said plan in the real world. Realized last night that party date is fast approaching, and I had yet to take any action in terms of inviting (theoretical) guests.

Invitation Plan A was to build one of Connor's LEGO Star Wars ships and photograph a scene with the little droids coming down the back ramp, carrying a birthday candle on their shoulders. (NOT an original idea – totally stole it from an Internet site.) We were going to glue the pictures onto cardstock, and I downloaded a Star Wars font to my computer (okay, so I did that much!), with the intent of printing out text for the back of the card that would scrolldown the page a la the opening of Star Wars #4 (which I consider #1, because I actually saw it in the theater the first go-round in 1977 - let's just agree to call it "A New Hope" and move on). You know: "LONG, LONG AGO, IN A GALAXY NOT SO FAR AWAY,CONNOR SCOTT WAS BORN . . . ." Something to that effect.

I was going to include a joke, too:

How did Obi-Wan know what Darth Vader was getting for his birthday?
He felt his presents.

So what am I actually sending out? Something that I commissioned a very nice lady in another state to create and E-MAIL to me, and for which I paid with PAYPAL. Nothing like the nice, homey touch, huh?

The good news is that my child is about to turn ten, and when I told him that we were going with Plan B for the invites, he advised me that he doesn’t care if we do invites at all – he’s perfectly capable of inviting people in person. “Or, you know, Mom, you could just call or e-mail people.” Once upon a time, I was afraid that when we got to the point where he didn’t care about his invitations, I might get all weepy over the fact that he’s growing up. Nope, no weeping – just pure joy.
I do have to say that the ticket-style invitations kind of rock - much cooler than what I would have pulled together. And I have to give it up for Jennifer, proprietress of the "Baby Bundles Boutique" eBay storefront. Ordered the invites (snippet below) quite late last night, had a proof in my inbox before lunch, and the Montgomery Plaza Super Target is printing those bad boys as we speak:

Oh, and because we had accumulated purchasing credits through eBay or Paypal (not sure how, but confident that my husband's "enthusiastic" eBay patronage is being rewarded - we have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy re: his eBay obsession!), one of those giants of the Internet paid my tab with Jennifer - I only have to pay for the cost of the one-hour printing.

Concerned that this "phone-in parenting" thing might get addicting . . . . It certainly is convenient!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Sandlot

Sunday brought gloriously perfect weather for Junior Woman's Club's "Minor League" softball tournament. Slideshow follows . . . . Below the slide show is a link to a video of Parker letting his hair down at Love Shack, post-tournament. For those who are convinced that I gave all of my genes to Connor, here is evidence that he is definitely my child, because Daddy doesn't move like this!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy OktoBREAKfest/Birthday Parties in the Time of H1N1

It seems like the McGlincheys can't catch a break lately (well, we caught one - see the photo above). First, Connor broke his elbow in a freak jungle gym accident. GP who was the first to look at it was fairly sure that there was a break in the growth plate but couldn't with 100% certainty pinpoint the extent or exact location. Orthopedic surgeon (same doctor who treated Daddy after the "Christmas Light Incident of 2008" - we've asked him to consider implementing some sort of "frequent patient" punch card program and grandfather us in, as we think we're well on the way to a free visit!) had the same problem. An x-ray of the healthy arm revealed that what looked like it COULD be a break was just a quirk of Connor's anatomy. So it was on to the imaging center for a CT scan . . . and, after three doctors and three images, the elusive break finally was found - VERY small, and in a location that will not arrest growth of the arm in the future. (The radiologist called it a "fortunate break" - like there IS such a thing? But I do realize that we dodged a very large bullet - and for that I am so grateful, all kidding aside.)

Connor was a trooper, as per his usual. This was not his first broken arm rodeo - buckle break to the same arm at age three - and that fact, coupled with his incredibly easygoing personality, made the ordeal much easier to endure. An hour after the accident, he advised the nurse that his pain was "a 5.5 or 6 on a 10-point scale" (drama child Parker probably would have reported pain at a threshold of "a bazillion") and by our ortho visit two days later (accident happened on a Saturday - of course!) he was down to a 1 out of 10. En route to having the CT scan done, I asked him if he understood what was going on: "Yeah, either I broke my elbow or I just dislocated it and it popped back in. I'm hoping for a break, because the last time I had a cast none of my friends could write, so no one signed it." The CT scan itself was the source of minor drama - but only because he had his heart set on a full-body scan! ("Mom, I thought it would be like an MRI, with a tube and all, but it was just this little donut." When I explained that most people dreaded "the tube," he said, "Well, that's just dumb.")

Permanent cast (at Dad's request, the ortho's office tracked down some bright Halloween orange casting material) was put on on October 5th and comes off in time for trick-or-treating. In the interim, we decided it was only fitting to restyle our Oktoberfest dinner party as an "OktoBREAKfest." (Why an Oktoberfest party? Because the party store had Bavarian flags on an end cap. Yup, $3.99 worth of plastic is all it takes to motivate me these days . . . .) Connor's baby cast temporarily was given a place of honor on the mantel, next to some jack o' lanterns (see picture above).

OktoBREAKfest was second in a series of silly parties for the McGlincheys - we also had a "Happy MAXiversary" party for our (big) feline baby Max, who joined the family in the fall of 2007. This is a pic of Max checking out his cat food "cake":

Also celebrating a big day in October is our Parker James. His actual fifth birthday is the 29th, but various considerations (the Texas/OU game, the Junior Woman's Club's annual "Minor League" softball tournament, our annual kids' Halloween party and miscellaneous other Halloween events) mitigated in favor of an early October party date. I broke out the way cool Batman foldover notes that I bought at a Papyrus store eons ago, and shamelessly borrowed the text from Connor's "Justice League" fifth birthday party (yes, my kids continue to make lockstep birthday party demands - Purple Cow at three, Chuck E. Cheese and Thomas the Tank Engine at four, JL at five - I'm beginning to think that there's actually a list, like the list of traditional anniversary presents that appeared in the back of the little pocket calendars that they used to hand out at Hallmark).

Naturally, three days before the party the thunderstorms moved in . . . and Parker announced that his arms and legs really, REALLY ached. H1N1 test came back negative, but we were advised that he could still be "swiny," and certainly SOMETHING was going on. We put him to bed, cancelled plans to have Connor's friend Garrett sleep over, and cancelled at the last minute a scheduled appearance at friend Bennett's birthday. (Mom was as upset about missing this one as the boys were - theme was mad science, and they did the "Mentos in a bottle of Coke" trick, which I have always wanted to try!) We decided to leave the actual decision as to whether to have the party until the very last minute - and then I went into full-on contingency planning mode. How to throw a party for five year-olds in this time of swine flu? (By the way - points to those who got the Gabriel García Márquez reference in the title to this post.) Well, we were helped by the fact that the party was scheduled to be held at my parents' house (away from any Parker germs), and we also had planned to do most of the activities outdoors. "Pin the Bat Emblem on the Batmobile" was scrapped in favor of "Heroes Versus Villains Trying to Kick a Bomb Into the Other League's Headquarters, Which Bomb Will Detonate If Touched By Your Hands." (Any resemblance between this game and small-sided soccer is entirely coincidental.)

Plans for chip, dip and bowls of snacks also scrapped, in favor of pizza and Chex Mix served in individual, name-labeled cups. I bought Super Target's entire stock of hand sanitizer. I broke the bad news to Parker that he might be making only a very brief appearance at his own party - and I reminded him that Batman frequently wears a full-face mask with rebreather. And then I prayed . . . . Sunday morning I woke to the sound of a good, steady drizzle outside the bedroom window. Lovely. Nana assured me that it was only "misting" at her house. (Given that she and Granddad live eight minutes away, I have to believe that she was lying to preserve my sanity!) But, glory be, the little patient woke up fever-free and back to his chipper self. And the clouds parted - literally and figuratively.

How you know that you've thrown a good party: the kids were having such a good time just playing and being kids that most of the scheduled "structured activities" went out the window, and most of the snacks went uneaten. Here's a slide show of photos of PJ's big day, along with some random Oktoberfest photos. Click on the slide show to bring it to full-screen size and to view captions:

I had a lot of fun with the decorations, and I was pretty pleased with how the party favors turned out. We poured glycerine soap into cupcake molds and topped each with a "super duck" (Batduck, Green Lantern Duck, Flash Duck, etc.), and I put my spirit stick-building skills to work making Kryptonite party crackers:

I find that it gets easier to go with the party planning flow with each passing year - the benefit of experience and perspective, I guess. I also think that I'm becoming ADHD in my old age. The day before the party, I ventured out to purchase refreshments and other last-minute items and found myself shoe shopping instead. The festival of "fiddling while Rome burns" continued up to the eve of the party: as I drove into the parking lot to pick up the balloons, I saw a woman wearing a really cute newsboy cap, and suddenly I REALLY needed a newsboy cap. And I managed to get both the cap and the balloons with minutes to spare.

Coming up next - our annual "Little Cooks Tricks and Treats" Halloween party. This year we are going with a mummy theme. The kids and I made these invites featuring mummies made from paper tags and purple plaid Duck tape . . . .

More mummy crafts on the horizon - but first this "mummy" plans on taking a little break from party planning!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

As president of the Junior Woman's Club of Fort Worth, I have the privilege of attending the opening and closing dinners (or brunches or lunches) of each JWC department. Two openings took place last week, in a week already crowded with the club's official opening, JWC board of directors and my grandmother's 91st birthday. Eight openings will hit between Tuesday and Friday of the upcoming week (you read that right - Thursday will be particularly interesting, with a lunch and two dinners, back to back), and Monday is our new member orientation, so basically I've said a temporary "goodbye and see you Friday" to the family (and then I remembered that "Fame" opens on Friday and promptly scheduled a girls' night at Movie Tavern, causing me to revise my au revoir to "goodbye and see you when I wake up mid-morning-ish on Saturday").

This weekend was the proverbial calm before the storm - only two JWC events (sad that I consider that "calm"?) - and I actually had time to (1) work on birthday party plans for both boys, (2) work on plans for our annual Halloween party, (3) buy some fall clothes (goodbye, patio dresses - you will be missed) and (4) organize the closet. I also spent some quality time with the boys (highlights for Mom - making Halloween party invitations and reading storybooks; highlights for boys - watching "The Batman Superman Movie" and playing Wii Bowling). Sunday evening marked a very special occasion - a holiday that we call "Mom-is-home-and-we-can-see-the-surface-of-the-dining-room-table" - so the big kids celebrated with rosemary-ginger-rubbed salmon and sweet potatoes and the little kids made fudge cupcakes with peanut butter icing and decorated them as - well, as random things. Candy eyes were purchased for the upcoming Halloween party, but it was too tempting not to try them out. Photo #1: Connor's whale and Parker's snowman. Photo #2: Cookie Monster, a lion and an attempt to create an image of Parker's friend Lauren Grace out of pastry (note the TCU purple Twizzler bow).

Here's a slide show from our "weekend about nothing" - first pics are of Mom and her friend Elizabeth at a new member tea for Culinary Arts (Mom and Elizabeth are celebrating a certain "big" birthday two days apart next spring, and friends are plotting a joint b-day blowout, so I'm trying to chronicle the days leading up to the shindig - when I remember to bring my camera). Next couple of pics are of the boys post-TCU game (they had a night out with Dad while Mom went to the mall to try on jeans and then came home and worked on "the big closet project" while occasionally catching a glimpse of the UT/Tech game). Last photos are from the fall festival at our church . . . .

We ended the weekend with a little impromptu Emmy-watching party. Dad declined to attend - something about a Cowboys game? - and the boys conked out after the first hour, but it was fun while it lasted. As per his usual, nine-going-on-thirty-nine-year-old Connor had something funny and/or insightful to say about everything: "Mom, is it ironic that "Pushing Daisies" is pushing daisies?" Now it's Mom who's pushing something - the clock, as it's close to midnight, and I'm blogging instead of picking up toys, etc., in anticipation of the maid's triumphant return after a four-week absence. Miles to go before I sleep!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Week Down . . . .

The first week of school is over, and the only thing remarkable about it was how utterly unremarkable it was. Notwithstanding the fact that Connor attended full-day preschool, I was a teary, strung-out ball of stress his kindergarten year. Fast forward to first grade: I breezed into the school on parent/teacher night, waving and yelling shout-outs to the other returning parents and smiling sympathetically at the newbies, feeling more than a little bit foolish about the pity party I'd thrown for myself the year before.

Okay, now fast forward to fourth grade: did I breeze into parent/teacher night this year? Noooooooo, because that would have involved ATTENDING parent/teacher night, which DID. NOT. HAPPEN. Justification #1: I was still sort of hobbling after the ankle sprain incident, and I didn't particularly feel like navigating the overly crowded halls that seem to be the hallmark (small - and bad - pun intended) of parent/teacher night. Justification #2: Parnell was in Dallas for a seminar that morning and afternoon and wanted to throw in a business dinner on top of that, to make the trip to and from Big D more worthwhile. Thus, I would be navigating the overly crowded halls sans Daddy. Man-to-man defense is always preferable to a zone in my book, but particularly so when just coming off of the injured reserve list.

Justification #3: We had a pretty good idea of who Connor's teacher would be, but even if they pulled a switcharoo on us (which they did, but we were totally okay with it - in fact, we would have been great either way, which is a testament to our wonderful elementary school staff), after a year as PTA president and a follow-up year as carnival chair, there wasn't a teacher or room assignment that would have thrown us.

Justification #4: Word on the street was that the aforesaid PTA had experienced "a shake-up and a blow-up" (in other words, the first PTA meeting of the year took place on a day of the week with a "y" in it) and was looking to repopulate its board. Um, not just no, but HEEEEEEEEEELL no. I can only be president of one organization at a time and still, you know, like, work, and parent, and sleep and stuff. Plus, I actually LIKE being president of Junior Woman's Club. I would rate my PTA experience as being slightly worse than having a colonoscopy simultaneously with a root canal.

Still, I was slightly worried that Connor would have other ideas, so I waited until we were through the first course of dinner at my parents' house (that was justification #5: hadn't seen the parental units in eons, plus going to their house got me my man-to-man defense, plus a bench!) before saying, "Oh-by-the-way-tonight-is-parent-teacher-night-and-we're-missing-it." Horribly underhanded, I know, but I was 75-80% sure that he would respond as he did:

"Well, what would be the point of going to THAT? It's not like I need an orientation to anything, and I don't mind bringing my school supplies the first day. Plus, they might try to sucker you into being PTA president or room mom or something, and we DO NOT want that. Really, I don't think you should go anywhere near that building until the end of the first six weeks."

Have I mentioned how much I love my incredibly insightful, practical nine year-old? As an aside, I should point out that Connor has been very supportive of my JWC over-involvement - well, that is, once he got over his initial shock: "Um, when you say president, you're talking about being a DEPARTMENT president again, right? You're not actually talking about being president of the ENTIRE CLUB?" Funny, those were his dad's exact words when I told him. Connor was equally supportive of me when I was PTA prez, but he is genuinely concerned about me becoming overextended . . . because he worries that my overextension could compromise my ability to cater to his every whim. Didn't want you to think the kid is a saint - he IS incredibly insightful and practical, but he's still a nine year-old, so it really is all about him.

So Monday arrived, we were delighted to learn that Ms. Carsey, the fifth grade G/T teacher, had moved down to teach fourth grade - and I was over-the-moon delighted when Connor shared with me the terms of her "vegetable pass" program. If you bring vegetables in your lunch and actually eat them, or if you eat the vegetables on your cafeteria tray, and you end the day "between levels" on the conduct scale, she gives you the mulligan. Her theory is that a child who eats his vegetables deserves the benefit of the doubt. LOVE IT!!!!! Mr. "Talks Excessively" is already mulling over his vegetable lunchbox options, and I am optimistic that her philosophy evidences a general understanding on her part that (1) gifted kids don't mean to be challenging - it's really quite effortless and (2) kids, in general, are kids, you keep a sense of humor, and you don't sweat the small stuff.

Parker was rather disappointed to return to All Saints - several of his friends turned five over the summer and began kindergarten this year, and he naturally thought that he should be going with them. He's also been hearing for the last year that Ms. Sylvester, Connor's saintly kindergarten teacher, is prolonging her retirement until she can teach him, too. And, so, the daily questioning began: "Okay, I'm going to All Saints TODAY, but will I go to Connor's school TOMORROW?" We have attempted to explain the concept of a year multiple ways, but IT'S. NOT. SINKING. IN. Currently, he is telling everyone that "my birthday is right before Halloween [at least he's grasped that part!], and the next day I start kindergarten, because then I'll be five [ugh]."

Connor resumes his tennis schedule in a week or so, and Parker will be making his debut as a four-year old "Tiny Tennis Star" this fall. Big brother also will be a Webelo 1 in Cub Scouts and a Junior Worship Leader at church (translation: choir-for-kids-who-are-too-old-to-think-that-"choir"-sounds-anything-less-than-dorky-but-are-too-young-not-to-be-impressed-by-titles-with-"leader"-in-them). He is toying with the idea of being a church acolyte as well, which makes me cringe, because I have heard the stories of how his father almost burned down Aledo United Methodist Church with the candle lighter.

I owe Parker "mommy and me" cooking classes at Young Chef's Academy, having made the suggestion that we sign up in May and then promptly run out of summer. Maybe we'll learn some lunchbox-appropriate vegetable preparation methods?

It's a Salad, It's a Burger . . . And It's Way More Weather Appropriate Than Chili!

I'm starting to get antsy for "real fall" (well, as real as fall gets in Texas). I ordered a bunch of oilcloth in Halloween and Thanksgiving patterns, as well as some chalkcloth and I am waiting patiently for it to arrive so I can begin hacking it to pieces (plans include tablecloths, tablerunners, placemats and bunting flags - to hang on the mantel and peg racks in the dining room). The parentals came over for dinner tonight (more on that later), and Mom brought me the latest Country Living magazine, which really got me thinking Halloween. I also recently picked up some good ideas from a blog called Over the Tipsy Top, including this adorable pumpkin centerpiece (coming soon to a table near you):

In addition to giving me an excuse to decorate everything that doesn't move (well, okay, I decorate some things that move, too), I love the fall because it's when I start cooking again. I USED to cook in the summer, pre-Ridglea membership, but now the lure of the pool is simply too strong, and we end up eating poolside the vast majority of the time. Although I certainly have enjoyed this year's sabbatical from the kitchen, I'm ready to get back into the fall groove - particularly when the weather gets a little cooler, and I can justify busting out the casserole and chili recipes. But we're not there yet, temperature-wise . . . so I was faced with a bit of a dilemma when trying to figure out what to serve the extended family for an impromptu dinner at our house. Everything that initially came to mind was "too fall"; then I started considering main dish salad options, but those seemed "too summer" to me. And so I arrived at the perfect compromise - the Bobby Flay "Chicken Cobb Burger." My parents and grandmother are big Cobb salad people, so I thought that this one might be in their wheelhouse.

I ended up using turkey instead of chicken (since ground turkey was readily available, and I didn't want to get out the meat grinder). Also, the initial plan was to make homemade sweet potato fries to go with the burgers - I had some sweet potato fries at Jake's Hamburgers not too long ago, and they were delish and reminded me how much I love them - but Super Target had unseasoned sweet potato fries in the frozen foods section that were crinkle-cut, just like Jake's, and after weighing the odds of me actually getting around to crinkle-cutting my own fries, I opted for the frozen, and incredibly cute (did I mention that they were crinkle-cut?), version. I seasoned them with a mixture of equal parts cinnamon-sugar (made with brown sugar instead of granulated) and Serendipity seasoned salt (but any variation of garlic salt would work). Sprayed on some olive oil spray, tossed them in the seasoning and baked them according to package directions. Thumbs up on those all around, so if you see McCain's sweet potato fries at your local grocery store, pick up a bag. (Glad to know that he's moved on after his loss to Barack Obama - oh, yeah, probably not the same McCain!)

Here's the recipe for the burgers. Mom chose to add a little mayonnaise to hers, but I thought that they were great as-is; the Cobb salad dressing adds just enough moisture without being too heavy.

I hope to resume posting recipes on a more regular basis - planning to experiment with a couple of Puerto Rican recipes that I tracked down after watching "Guy's Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives," and we are in the process of perfecting our queso recipe for Jimmy and Christa's queso cookoff extravaganza Labor Day Weekend!



For the burgers:

8 (1/2- thick) strips bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken, 90 percent lean
2 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 burger buns, split
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 8 slices

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely shredded romaine lettuce


For the burgers:

Heat the grill to medium.

Place the strips of bacon on the grill (lay them across the grate so they don't fall through) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Increase the heat of the grill to high.

Form the meat into 4 (8-ounce) burgers, brush with the oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the burgers until golden brown on both sides and cooked completely through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the burgers with the blue cheese, close the cover, and continue cooking until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer.

Place the burgers on the bottom half of each bun and top with a slice of tomato, 2 slices of avocado, 2 slices of bacon and some of the dressed romaine. Cover each burger with the bun tops and serve.

For the vinaigrette:

Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to meld.

Just before assembling the burgers, place the romaine in a medium bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School

What better way to celebrate the last weekend before school than with a giant gummi bear?

I found this confectionary-treat-on-steroids at World Market. Connor volunteered to perform the autopsy - only it was too tough to cut with a knife (butter or steak). We finally resorted to kitchen shears . . . .

The boys fought over who got to eat the face. It got ugly from there, the highlight (?) being when Parker called "butt." Here is Parker enjoying his gummi bear cutlet:

YUMMMMMMMMM. (Actually - editorial comment from Mom - yuck. Sticky goo everywhere.) I managed to get one good shot of the fourth-grader on the first day of school, after luring him to the table with chocolate chip waffles . . . .

They look more like brothers in these pictures than usual. Also got some good shots of PJ and his Batman backpack:

Happy back-to-school, everyone!

New Hair for PJ

The boys got new haircuts for back to school, and in recognition of PJ's newly minted status as a "Pre-K 4" boy, we said adios to the chili bowl 'do. He likes his new look, as do Mom and Dad. Connor was not quite as enthused about his cut, whereas Mom was turning backflips - finally, someone figured out how to cover the cowlick on his forehead! Apparently, Connor was himself quite fond of the cowlick, which looks like his head sprung a leak - a lock of hair grows straight up and then curves in the opposite direction of the rest of his hair.

Here are before-and-after photos from "haircut day":