Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To(k)night's Topic - A Castle Party

This is for Courtney - and anyone else with a knight-obsessed child.

We did a "knights" party for Connor's sixth birthday - well, actually, it was an "adventurer" (knight/pirate/Viking) party, because "I JUST CAN'T DECIDE, MOM." Including pirates helped, because it was fairly easy to find pirate-related junk (as is typical with my kids, we were a year ahead of the big pirate party explosion, but I found a great Web site called and got a lot of decor and treat bag items from them). Since then, I have seen more knight stuff in the stores, and - also as is typical - Family Fun did a feature on knight parties some time AFTER I had to pull stuff out of thin air.

What we did: when the kids arrived, we gave them oversized cardboard shields and markers, and they created their "crests" while we waited on our other guests. Then the kids chose additional accessories for their adventurer costumes out of a big pile on our back porch (knight and Viking helmets, pirate eye patches and head scarves, etc.). Next, we divided everyone into teams and handed out treasure maps. Prior to the party, Connor and I turned an appliance box into a Viking ship, using cardboard tubes for masts and stapling yellow paper plates to the sides for portholes. We cut a figurehead out of another box (I believe it was a sea serpent - or sea serpent-ish) and attached it to the front of the boat. So the maps instructed our guests to start by boarding the Viking ship, plundering it for treasure (gold coins located inside the ship). Next challenge was to loot the castle (Little Tikes play castle that we already had in the backyard), and then they were to proceed to the Egyptian desert, AKA our sandbox, decked out with Connor's Fisher-Price Egyptian pyramid and his Egyptian temple playset, and dig for treasure there. (Yes, once upon a time Fisher-Price made an Egyptian pyramid, and we totally scored one - and the temple playset, oddly enough, came from an Albertson's grocery store in Aledo, Texas.)

I'm a little fuzzy about how the whole odyssey thing played out - we counted out their coins, and they redeemed them for things? Parnell handled all of that - I distinctly remember him sitting on the floor in our dining room, with the kids around him in a circle, sorting gold plastic pirate coins into piles. (Meanwhile, 13 month-old Parker was in the backyard with his paternal grandparents, who were feeding him ice cream . . . which he was not supposed to eat, because he was on a no-dairy eczema diet, but which, of course, he totally loved. That's was my father-in-law's response when I told him that the child wasn't supposed to have ice cream: "Why not? He REALLY likes it." We later found out that dairy wasn't an eczema trigger for him at all. My father-in-law passed away very unexpectedly four months after Connor's birthday party, and I think I heard a very faint "TOLD you so" filter down from heaven when, a year or so after that, the allergist told us that we could have been giving PJ dairy all along. The kid loves ice cream to this day - his brother can't stand the stuff - so we always make a point of reminding PJ that he got his love of ice cream from his granddaddy. It's a way of keeping him connected with Parnell's dad, since realistically he has no real memories of him.)

While coins were being sorted and contraband ice cream was being consumed, I got the cakes ready to serve. Yes, cakes, plural. The main cake was a castle, but not a girly princess castle. It practically took an act of Congress to get someone to bake me a non-girly, non-princess castle. I went to a well-known local bakery first and requested a simple round, two-layer cake, iced in gray icing, with cupcakes (also iced in gray) placed upside down around the perimeter to make turrets. That's it - I just wanted someone to do the cake, because I had a small child underfoot (literally - PJ was walking and into everything) and felt I owed it to myself to outsource the cake. I didn't want to deal with a crumb coat, or crumbling layers, or any of that nonsense. I wanted a gray castle-shaped cake to use as a blank canvas, and I would take over after that. (Ultimately, that is what happened, thanks to Luz at the Montgomery Plaza Super Target - dear, wonderful Luz, she of the giant chocolate sock monkey head cake and accompanying banana-shaped pull-apart cupcake cake that we served for PJ's second, and the alarmingly PURPLE, but totally cool, rocket ship cupcake cake that graced the table on Connor's seventh. Luz made me a generic castle exactly to spec, and I studded it with earth-toned Jelly Bellys to resemble cobblestones, added a drawbridge made from Kit Kats, and put toothpick-and-paper flags on the turrets. And then I thought about taking the cake around the corner and smashing it in the face of the snotty woman at the well-known local bakery who seemed somehow horrified that I was asking for a gray cake and kept showing me pictures of VERY PINK, VERY TALL girly castles, complete with turrets and unicorns. "Um, okay, no. See, that's a girl's cake. Pink plus upside-down sugar cone turrets equals 'girl.' Gray plus upside-down cupcakes equals 'boy.' Really, you should give it a try." "Well, we have the same cake in turquoise, with a silver-glittered unicorn instead of a gold one . . . ." "Okay, I'm talking about a boy here. A BOY. With, you know, all of the boy parts, and a boy brain, and - he's just a BOY, right? He's not that big into unicorns. He isn't actually into them, like, at all.")

Flanking the (apparently very high-concept) castle cake were two pirate ships that Mom constructed out of those frozen Sara Lee chocolate tortes (you know, the ones with all of the thin layers?) that I carved into ship shapes. Took the sails and other ship parts off of two play pirate ships that Connor owned and used those as "cake kits," inserting the pieces into the appropriate locations on the cakes, and also pirated (bad pun, I know, but I couldn't resist) the cannons and pirate people off of said play ships. I think malted milk balls were involved as cannonballs?

So that was our party . . . . As noted above, since then I've picked up some other hot "knight party" tips. LOVE these "sword in the bubble" bottles from Oriental Trading ($6.99 for a case of 24! Patronize them, because they are in the middle of a bankruptcy reorganization, and a world without Oriental Trading is not a world that I care to live in). I got the cardboard shields for our party at OT as well, and they still have them (see picture on left) for $9.99 per dozen.

The "cocktail sword in a styrofoam stone" idea at the beginning of this post came from Family Fun. Idea is to carve a stone out of a styrofoam block, paint it gray and insert cocktail swords that have been premarked with a Sharpie marker (one with one black stripe, another with two and so on). Family Fun suggests creating silly "lord and lady" names (Sir [Blank] of [Blank]) and deciding ahead of time which marked sword gets the first name on the list, which gets the second name, and so on. So the kids pull out swords to determine their names for the day.

Images below are also from Family Fun. The goblets are super-easy if you use plastic "crystals" with adhesive backing. Tubes on the left are Sonotubes, which you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe's for about $9 each. Contractors use them to pour concrete columns, but why not paint them gray, with a brick pattern, and use them in the cute obstacle course game described below? Jousting sticks are pool noodles wrapped with electrical tape. (Love pool noodles. Love electrical tape. Love, love, LOVE pool noodles with electrical tape.)

So here's how Family Fun's party activity plays out:

Events are Joust the Target, Storm the Castle, Rescue a Fair Damsel or Gent and Jump the Moat.

Prior to the party, you create two obstacle courses, one for each team, by setting up challenges as follows:

Joust the Target: Use string to tie the balloons from tree branches at knight-shoulder height.
Storm the Castle: Place a plastic ball next to each Sonotube tower.
Rescue a Fair Damsel or Gent: Place dolls and action figures (one for each player) under an overturned laundry basket, then place a toy dragon on top.
Jump the Moat: Fill buckets with water.

At the party:

1. Divide the knights into two teams. The first player on each team should mount a stick horse and grasp a (pool noodle) lance.
2. At "Go," each contestant gallops toward his balloon, strikes it with his lance, and gallops on to the castle tower.
3. The knight then dismounts and storms the fortress by grabbing the ball and throwing it into the tower.
4. Once back on his trusty steed, the knight must rescue a fair damsel or prince, after first knocking the dragon from atop the dungeon with the lance.
5. Finally, the brave knight must jump over the moat before racing home to hand off the lance and horse to the next knight on the team. The first team to finish reigns victorious. (Grown-ups will need to quickly retrieve the ball from the tower and return the dragon to his post after each knight meets his challenge.)

If your child is a purist and wants a "knights only" party - or if you just aren't that keen about building a Viking ship of your very own - the Family Fun concept may be just the ticket.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Holy Cupcakes, Batman - Parker's Almost Six!

And he has changed his party theme . . . well, I don't think he changed it, I think he humored his mother, for a time, into thinking that he would be up for something OTHER than Batman, but Batman was always what was in his brain. I shouldn't be surprised - his brother was Batman every year for Halloween, several years running. (Only, of course, he was never the SAME Batman twice . . . because that would have been economical. Thanks, costume manufacturers for providing us with SOOOOOO many Batman options, and thanks, also, for sending those glossy catalogs with all of the enticing pictures of said costume options. You are the reason that we are in possession of a "classic" Batman costume, and a "muscle chest" Batman costume, and a "Batman Begins" Batman costume, all of them just sliiiiiiiightly different from the others.)

Here's how he broke the news: this week, PJ's kindergarten class assembled their own books of vocabulary words. One of the words was "cake." Parker very carefully colored the cake that illustrated that word blue, yellow and black, and then made a point of showing that page, first before all others, to both parents. (In fact, he left the book at school and made his father take him BACK to the school to retrieve it, just so that he could show us the blue, yellow and black cake.) Then, with all of the subtlety of an elephant, he explained, "See? That's the cake for my sixth birthday, BECAUSE I'M GOING TO HAVE A BATMAN PARTY! Oh, did I mention that I want a Batman party? But it will be just Batman, and my last birthday was Justice League, so this one will be totally different. And I promise I'll do Harry Potter next year."

Siiiiiigh. So much for my Harry Potter idea board. But - bonus! - the last time I checked out the Dollar Spot at Super Target, they had really cool Batman easy reader books and activity books, so this change in plans is fortuitous. I recall seeing Imaginext Batman villains on clearance as well. Yeah, um, all of that seems to be out of the stores now. I blame Joker - this crime against Mom-anity has his fingerprints all over it.

But you can't keep this mom down for long, Joker. I can rally. Rally is my middle name. Or it should be. I have come up with a great party favor that is totally cheap and - bonus again! - a possibly really great bonding activity to do with the kids one weekend. Plan is to buy packages of Hanes white tees (which I've seen for roughly $1 per), Rit Dye them in yellow, and then tie-dye them black, so the yellow shows through. May throw some blue in there as well. Then I thought it might be fun to do captions on the shirts using a technique posted by Prank on You use those alphabet refrigerator magnets, place them on a shirt and spritz around the letters with a bleach-and-water solution (using an old perfume spray bottle) to create white outlines:

I would love to make them say "I'm Batman," but I'm fairly sure that they don't make an apostrophe magnet. So I need to experiment with that, and also with a Batman logo - maybe I could cut one out of a sheet of adhesive contact paper, or an adhesive magnet sheet? Whatever wouldn't react with the bleach. After you add the bleach, you wait three minutes and then dip the shirt in cold water to halt the bleaching process. I'm toying with the idea of letting the kids create their own patterns, I'll do the spritzing and dunking, and they can dry on a line outside while the party progresses. Or, I may do them from start to finish. Depends on where we have the party. My initial thought was to do something offsite, as the kindergarten birthday is always awkward (particularly if you are fortunate enough to have an early birthday kid) - parents of new classmates don't know you as well, you aren't sure how many will show up, and so you invite the preschool classmates as well. You could end up with thirty kids, or three. Pro for a home party: Easy to accommodate an unknown number of party guests. Pro for an away party: Chuck E. Cheese/Main Event/etc. are the great equalizers. If not all of the kids know each other, doesn't matter - tons to distract them. And parents who don't know you from Adam are more likely to RSVP yes, because it's a neutral location, with plenty to distract.

The problem is that part of my job involves representing landlords under commercial leases, and, occasionally, I oversee the eviction of kid party palaces. Which, in this economy, tends to make me distinctly nervous when faced with the prospect of plunking down a $100 non-refundable deposit today with the hope that a venue will still be around in two months. Do you think it would be rude if I asked for financials and an estoppel, certifying that they are current with their landlord?

So, venue not certain . . . but I am moving forward with another idea board, nonetheless. This adorable favor cake, from FavorCakes on Etsy, is going on there for sure:

If push comes to shove, I figure that we can have an in-home party, and the activity can be "dress up like Batman." We should have enough costumes to go around, regardless of how many kids show up . . . .

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We are on approach to kindergarten - today is T minus four days and counting. PJ is getting excited - and, inexplicably, describing his excitement in Jane Austen-speak:

"Tomorrow I shall return to visit my new school, and next week I shall be a student there. Together with the other children, I shall learn so very many things."

Aw, sweet. Weird about the speech pattern - guess "shall" is the word of the day - but sweet, nevertheless. And then:

"One of the most important things that I shall learn is . . . karate."

Um, yeah. See, a couple of years ago, we acquired a librarian from Fort Worth Country Day. In addition to being a top-notch educator, Mr. Duke is, well, Mr. Duke. No doubt many of the little girls have innocent baby crushes on him. (I remember being over the moon for my swimming instructor at 7 or 8, and - as my mother enjoys reminding me - I was SOOOOOOO in lurve with him that I would GRIN while swimming, the water would pour into my mouth, and I would start to drown. I would like to think that I did all of this on purpose - simply to set up a situation where Cute Swimming Instructor would have to rescue me - but I wasn't THAT smooth. I just REALLY loved Cute Swimming Instructor and was THAT HAPPY in his presence.)

The boys at our school, on the other hand . . . well, the boys think that literacy is made marginally cooler by the fact that their librarian is a guy, and infinitely cooler by the fact that their librarian is a macho guy. Because, back at Country Day, Mr. Duke taught wrestling. And, on his own time, Mr. Duke studies a variety of martial arts disciplines. And Mr. Duke wins a lot of titles.

Hence, the Martial Arts Club at our elementary school was born, to my great delight and to the delight of other MOMs (Mothers of Males) who had been wondering when something would be offered as a counterpoint to the school's Ballet Club. (Not that I would have a problem with either or both boys being in the Ballet Club, but Son #1 - yeah, HE stared at me like my hair was on fire when I raised BC as a possible extracurricular option for him.) Son #1 was a founding member of the MAC, and Son #2 assumes that, because he will be attending the same school, the MAC magically will open itself to five year-olds - or one five year-old in particular.

Not sure about that, but it's looking like he will be playing golf in the fall, as will his big brother. That's assuming that the online schedule isn't lying to me, classes for both age groups are being offered in the same time slot on Saturday mornings, and two spaces truly are available. Dad wants to participate in a Saturday tennis league this fall, and I want to see that become a reality for him, but everything hinges on the kids' schedules. Thus, the prospect of having both boys in the same place at the same time on Saturday mornings had me turning handsprings - but also made me deeply suspicious, because the loose ends of my life so rarely resolve themselves so flippin' neatly. So, we'll see - paperwork completed, waiting for confirmation that we are locked and loaded.

Speaking of handsprings . . . Son #1 is less than enthused about the golf thing, but he has agreed to participate in exchange for his parents' agreement to enroll him in gymnastics. Before you point out that his desire to participate in gymnastics is somewhat at odds with his earlier anti-ballet stance, rest assured that this is not your daughter's gymnastics class. No giant hair bows, no facial glitter. It's boys only, taught by the North Texas Elite men's gymnastics club, and the end game, from Connor's perspective, is improved technique going into diving season. So I guess that means that he's planning on continuing with diving in addition to swimming . . . . Sorry, Nana - I know that you cringe every time he goes off of the board, particularly when he's doing an inward. You'll just have to get used to it, like I did . . . ish.

Anyway, Connor is so excited about the gymnastics thing that he has blocked out of his mind the fact that Mom (AKA "The Wicked Witch of the West Side") will also be enrolling him in Cotillion this fall. All too happy to see him throw down with the karate-chopping librarian and the handspringing men of the North Texas Elite, but would it kill him to learn the foxtrot? And, maybe, shake the "elbows on the table" thing, once and for all (and with the pressure coming from someone other than yours truly)? I have visions - nightmares, really - of my child at his first job interview lunch, leaning back in his chair ("SIX LEGS ON THE FLOOR, CONNOR. SIX LEGS ON THE FLOOR!"), ordering a plate of macaroni and cheese as his entree, and eating some portion of it with his hands. Hopeful that the Cotillion people will helps us make some inroads. The likely (high) girl-to-guy ratio also is an attraction - well, not an attraction for Connor, yet, but an attraction for me. See, I already have my eye on the ball: foster and maintain those friendships with the girls from church/swim team/Cotillion/etc., and when you need a date for a school function but can't work up the nerve to ask the classmate that you really like, or you strike out with said classmate, well, then you have your short list of go-to dates who don't attend your school and therefore are likely to be available to attend the event with you.

Yes, that's right - I am proactively pimping for my ten year-old. It's one of the many services that I provide. My partial inspiration? Guy from college who took me to his frat party, zero sparks flew (at least, not on my end), and in mid-November, I am walking out the door to go to the football game when he calls. "Hey, Kathryn, what's up?" "I'm going to the game." "With a date?" "Yes, actually." "So, who's the guy?" I told him. "Oh, isn't he a ZBT [an exclusively Jewish fraternity on my campus]?" "Um, yeah, why?" "Well, if you're going to the game with him, then you probably don't have a date to a Christmas formal yet. Wanna go to mine?" I had ABSOLUTELY NO RESPONSE. At the time I was irritated, because I felt like he'd outmaneuvered me (which, in fact, he had). Now, I marvel at the sheer genius and chutzpah of the guy. And wonder if he ended up in law school, because the dude totally had the makings of a great litigator. And, yes, I went to his Christmas formal. Once again, zero sparks flew, but the evening wasn't a total waste. I got a really great sweatshirt out of it - one of the best party shirts of my college career - and also an important big guy tip to pass on to my little guys. Learn to play the angles, boys - you have to play your angles.

So, lots of great fodder for future blog posts - life through the eyes of a kindergartener; karate chops, golf swings, and dismounts off of the still rings (but NO trips to the ER - gosh, it's hard to type with my fingers crossed!); and, no doubt, much Cotillion awkwardness. Will miss our days spent poolside, but I'm starting to really look forward to fall.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spider Monkeys and Canned Green Beans

Recently, my doctor cheerfully reminded me that, because of my "immune issues," which currently are amps on eleven, I could see immediate benefits from a raw food diet. Note: We have to call my immune issues "issues," and not "deficiencies," because THERE AIN'T NUTTIN' DEFICIENT ABOUT THIS HERE IMMUNE SYSTEM. Is my immune system bat-s*** crazy? ABSOLUTELY. But deficient? Far from it. Are you an allergen? No? Do you sort of look like an allergen if my immune system squints at you? Well, then - forewarned is fair-warned. Because my immune system is going to come at you like a spider monkey, Chip. (If, Mr. Allergen, or Mr. Unfairly Profiled Non-Allergen, your name happens to be Chip. Points to all readers who got the "Talladega Nights" reference. Sorry for confusing you, Other Readers - but do consider renting "Talladega Nights," because it's pretty awesome.)

Technically, a raw diet only needs to incorporate 75% raw foods. But I'm all about jumping into things feet first - and making myself miserable as a result. Day 1 lunch was great, thanks to a quick trip by Central Market en route to the office: a half cup of cucumber salad, a half cup of French vegetable salad, a couple of spoonfuls of artichoke kalamata hummus (all vegan) and a handful of grapes, washed down with some wheatgrass juice and a green tea chaser. Day 1 dinner? Well, I grabbed a sweet potato while I was at Central Market, and I remembered to bring it home. Points for me! Tasted awesome with a little agave nectar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Except it was just one sweet potato. So I did some fridge recon - nothing jumped out at me (figuratively, or, thankfully, literally - there's stuff of questionable vintage in there, and some of it may have evolved to the sentient stage by now). Next, I moved on to the pantry to peruse the canned goods. (I know, not truly "raw," but better than scarfing down the small frozen pizza I was heating up for Son #1. Yes, I was doing the short-order cook thing. Throw me a bone - it was only Day 1, and my hips were hurting big-time, thanks to an antibiotic shot to the left and a steroid shot to the right. Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight - but gingerly, because, OW.)

I know enough about sugar content in foods to know to avoid the corn and peas, so moving back a row . . . hmm, a can of green beans. And another can of green beans. AND EIGHT MORE CANS OF GREEN BEANS! Clearly, I've been stuck in a "Grocery Shopping Groundhog Day" rut. You might be familiar - you remember that you need an item, but the next time you forget that you remembered about that item the last time, and you buy that item again. Wash, rinse, repeat. End result: ten cans of green beans, or ten bottles of ketchup. (The same phenomenon manifests itself during holiday shopping - hence the back-to-back hunter green duvet covers presented to my brother-in-law . . . who hates hunter green. But does own a duvet. ONE duvet, but a duvet nonetheless.)

Moving on to the next shelf: Crud, more green beans. And ketchup. Several bottles of ketchup. The green beans, I'm fairly confident, are mocking me. And multiplying.

Green beans it shall be. Now, given that they are canned green beans, I probably could nuke them - but in a misguided attempt at keeping it raw I decide to eat them cold, maybe drizzled with a little balsamic vinaigrette. Except I don't have any sugar-free balsamic vinaigrette, and because I am digesting my own organs at this point I don't care to take the time to make any. So I grab the first bottle of sugar-free dressing that I find.

Cold green beans with poppyseed dressing it shall be. Ohhhhhkay - now this makes sense. A raw diet cures your immune issues because it makes you cranky, causing you to commit (1) suicide or (2) homicide (or, what the hey, why not both?). If (1), then, hey, problem 100% solved. If (2), you're in the big house or the loony bin, and you've got bigger worries than a few hives.

But your nails will be smooth and unridged . . . as they linger for all eternity in your coffin! And your hair will be glossy . . . just in time for your mug shot! Your youthful and plump skin will provide a glowing contrast to your orange prison jumpsuit.

Sorry about the Debbie Downer attitude. It's the green beans talking.

Proof of Life

Parker is, most assuredly, a victim of "second child syndrome." No ifs, ands or buts about it. With Son #1, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth (mostly mine, some of it from grandparents) over the decision of where he should matriculate for kindergarten - then, once we decided to "dance with the one that brung us" and enroll him in the local public school, I distinctly remember fastidiously assembling his enrollment packet, well in advance of the enrollment period. All exhibits were carefully labeled. I practically had the thing professionally bound.

Fast forward a few years. It's been common knowledge for a couple of years that a certain teacher is waiting for Son #2 (postponing her retirement, even), so in our minds, PJ has been locked and loaded for some time. Thus, as tends to happen, the actual details of enrolling him in kindergarten got pushed . . . to this week, being the week prior to school. Once we became fully engaged, we remembered a couple of things:

(1) To enroll a child in school, one must demonstrate that the child, in fact, exists.

(2) Evidence of the existence of a second child - yeah, not the cakewalk that one experiences with first children. (Hey, we consider ourselves stellar parents in that he is represented in roughly half of the photos on display in our home. Based on comments I have received from grown-up younger siblings, we're firing on all cylinders.)

In the words of Yo Gabba Gabba's DJ Lance, "Uh, let's break it down!":

Item A: Birth Certificate. Seriously? You need proof that he was born? He's standing right. Over. There. Clearly, he serves as his own evidence on this point. But, um - yeah, I've got the application for the birth certificate right here. Says we were supposed to expect it . . . some time during my maternity leave. So, yeah, blame that one on Dad. I wasn't opening mail during that time period, what with the lactating and the recovering from major abdominal surgery and all. Which recovery, by the by, was totally ad hoc and on the fly. If I haven't said this before, let me once again go on record: C sections are notable among surgical proceedings for the distinct lack of regard afforded to the post-surgical patient. Immediately after being wheeled out of the surgical suite, you are: (1) weaned off of the good drugs (because poor, widdle baby shouldn't have to deal with all of that icky-wicky stuff . . . really, because the reality of having a mother who is cranky, in all sorts of pain and therefore potentially entering "wiggin' and homicidal" territory is so much better?); (2) asked to get up and move freely about the cabin - sans the good drugs; and (3) thrust headfirst, without ceremony or any form of orientation, simultaneously into your new roles as:

(1) Social secretary! ("Mom! The birth certificate guy is here. Oh, were you trying to sleep? Yeah, he's on a bit of a schedule, sooooo . . . if you could just sign here, and fill this part out here.")

(2) Personal stylist! ("Here comes the First Foto photographer. Time to dress baby in an outfit that, by all rights, should fit the kid, because he weighed a metric ton when he arrived eighteen hours ago, but, oh, he seems to be shrinking - so, maybe a little tuck there, and another one over there?")

(3) Nutritionist! (Self-explanatory.)

(4) Julie the Cruise Director! ("Hey, all of your husband's college buddies are here to see the BA-BY! Oh, were you trying to nurse? Well, could you postpone that, maybe, and hide those bits upfront back in your gown, there? They're on a bit of a schedule, sooooo . . . .")

By no means discounting the fact that non C-section moms are dealing with equivalent ickiness and discomfort of their own, and not intending to place the C-section experience above all of that. No, my basis of comparison (and complaint) is the hysterectomy - basically, the same incision as a C, but I could not help but notice that, 24 hours past surgery, my mother was on all sorts of good drugs (THE DAMNED SPINAL BLOCK WAS STILL IN PLACE!), no one was asking her to dress anyone (herself, even) or obtain a Social Security card for anyone, and a lot of concern was given to "letting the patient sleep and get better."

Bollocks. Total and utter bollocks.

Cost for a duplicate birth certificate: $23.

Item B: Social Security Card. Yeah, here's the letter acknowledging that we've filed for one - it's right next to the "we're going to send you a birth certificate" letter. But no actual, factual social security card. We received one, based on the fact that, once upon a time, we gave the number to our accountant. But we don't carry the physical card, because of identity theft concerns - not that misplacing the physical card is any great shakes on that score. He does have a number, though, for sure. I don't actually know it off of the top of my head, but our accountant totally does, soooooo . . . .

Item C: Shot Record. Okay, we have MULTIPLE copies of that. Can't find any of them, but we definitely have them. Oh, here they are - discovered minutes after another one was procured from the pediatrician's office. Would have needed another one, anyway, as all of them are identical . . . in that they are current through eighteen months, and then just sort of stop.

Item D: Utility Bill. I mean, we GET them - and we totally PAY them. But, uh, we pay them online and, in the spirit of a paperless environment, we receive most of them electronically, and we shred and recycle the ones that come in hard copy. You would think we would have at least one of them laying around . . . .

Love you, Parker James. Too busy loving you, and your brother, to fret over all of the silly details that seemed so blessed important when we were new at parenting and didn't have our eyes fully focused on the real ball. So take our scatter-brainedness as what it is - evidence that we, finally, got a clue about what is really important. Neatly indexing and cross-referencing only OCCASIONALLY relevant data was "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" behavior, the stuff that we did to fill time before you and your brother came fully online and demanded our more direct attention. You know, the stuff that fell by the wayside in favor of teaching you to read, taking you to soccer games . . . oh, except we haven't spent nearly as much one-on-one time reading with you as we did with your brother. Hope you absorbed a lot by osmosis. And is late soccer registration still open?

Bollocks. Wanna hit the toy aisle at Super Target?

Piece of Flair . . . or Something

Two separate house porn magazines urged me to buy this book, on the same day that One Kings Lane (that alluring and addictive online storefront for house porn) advertised its Rizzoli coffee table book sale and offered to sell me my own fabulous copy of Flair by Joe Nye at a substantial discount. I was intrigued. I went to to comparison shop. I purchased my own fabulous copy of Flair by Joe Nye. And I waited anxiously for it to be delivered - because I am a big fan of exquisite invitations, lush flowers and gorgeous table settings, and always looking for ideas for all of the above.

So, reality check. First, this is not a coffee table book, per se. Unless, maybe, you live in Manhattan, in a 400 square-foot efficiency with a really tiny coffee table. So, okay - given that I may have just described a large segment of the target audience for Flair by Joe Nye - culturally biased snarky remark withdrawn.

But I know these facts to be true - cultural biases or no:

(1) Flair by Joe Nye is noticeably short on images of (a) exquisite invitations, (b) lush flowers or (c) gorgeous table settings. Like, really noticeably short. There aren't all that many pictures - and none are jaw-droppingly stunning. The orange ranunculus/parrot tulip/geranium leaf/berry thing that he has going on on page 45 is worth duplicating. The rest are pretty ho-hum.

Also, many of the pictures are of Joe Nye - author of Flair by Joe Nye - creating flower arrangements and table settings. Helpful photos like a picture of Joe Nye - author of Flair by Joe Nye - holding a wine glass and smiling at the camera (page 8). I particularly enjoyed a montage of photos of him holding silver-colored things (page 54), accompanied by the caption, "There is sterling silver and silver plate, both of which are shown here." Only he doesn't identify which items (out of a sauce boat, a leaf-shaped dish, a salt cellar and an assortment of handled cups) are sterling silver, and which are silver plate. Also a fave: the shot of him hunched over an arrangement of blue glasses, white porcelain, blue and white porcelain and a striped placemat that he has spread out on the floor. The caption: "At Crate and Barrel, I am arranging a possibility of blue glassware, white porcelain, and blue-and-white-porcelain on a striped placement." Okay, placement - typo or affectation? And what, exactly, does the caption add to the image, other than the inferred tidbit that glasses, porcelain and placemats/placements can be acquired at Crate and Barrel?

Which leads me to my second observation.

(2) The target audience for Flair by Joe Nye not only has never thrown a party but, in all likelihood, has never attended one. Here are some helpful tips for those of you who happen to dwell under rocks:

Page 62: Hot mixes of strongly colored flowers can set the tone for Mexican-themed or other festive parties.

Page 86: Self-service is a common feature of buffets. (Were you sitting down for that one?)

Page 94: E-mail invitations are fine for some informal occasions, or for work-related occasions (where, you know, e-mail likely is your primary means of communication?), but a paper invitation is appropriate for formal occasions (like your wedding? the coronation of European royalty?).

Page 98: One of the greatest invitations that the author ever sent out was last minute, and - get this, people - HE WROTE OUT THE TEXT ON PAPER. WITH A SHARPIE MARKER. AND THE SHARPIE MARKER WAS RED. THEN HE HAD KINKO'S COPY THE PAPER. SEVERAL TIMES. It's not specified whether the copies were color or black-and-white. THEN HE BOUGHT ENVELOPES AND MAILED THEM.

I could go on and on. Really - I could. I could quote the whole book in an arch and ironic tone. But, instead, I'll limit myself to two favorite passages:

"Because they are used well before the party starts, invitations are the first things you should think about after you've decided when and what the party is going to be" (page 92). So, wait - we should set a date for a party before we print the invitations? And also pick the theme? Yeah, I can see how it would be embarrassing if you send out invites to a baby shower tentatively scheduled for November and then subsequently determine that you really want to throw a Super Bowl-centered chili cookoff. Oh, wait, page 100: "Ironically, the part of creating an invitation that many people find the most challenging is figuring out what to say. I've seen hosts get so caught up in finding a fresh way to say, "Will you come?' that they go overboard, or worse, forget to include important information such as the date or time!" So, the whole "think in advance about what and when" concept is a hedge against making a complete arse of yourself. Got it.

And one more, from page 86 (it's long, but I can't bring myself to edit it):

"A basic full bar should include a mixture of dark and light liquors, beer, and wine (at least one white and one red). Scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka, and sweet and dry vermouth will cover pretty much any drink a guest could think up. Tonic water, ginger ale, cranberry juice, and another tangy juice are good to have on hand as mixers. Some people also like to stock sodas, such as Coca-Cola and 7UP. And always keep a good supply of flat and sparkling water for those who prefer not to drink.

"If all of this sounds too fussy, you can forgo the mixed drinks and just serve beer and wine. That's certainly more economical, and if the party is quite casual, it's perfectly fine not to go all out. Or you can choose to serve one type of cocktail or alcoholic beverage along with beer and wine. If your gathering has a theme, you may want to come up with a drink that goes along with it (such as pina coladas for a beach party or mojitos for a Cinco de Mayo celebration) or one that goes with the color scheme or aesthetic you've established."

Questions and comments:

(1) Did you get all that? The part about the different beverages, the clarification that some are alcoholic and some are not, and the stuff about how different people like different beverages? Also that you can offer two things, or three things if two doesn't seem like enough, and buying a few things is more economical than buying all of the things? Did you get that beverages come in colors? Which you can coordinate with your theme - if you remembered to pick one, before or after you sent out your invitations?

(2) Entreaty to Joe Nye, author of Flair by Joe Nye: if your target audience is incapable of functioning within society on the strength of common sense alone, as you seem to suspect that they are, you really should not leave it up to them to pick "another tangy juice." Also, consider using a synonym for "aesthetic."

(3) Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a holiday held on May 5 that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. A mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail. Cuba is not located in Mexico. It was separately colonized by the Spanish, some years prior to the colonization of Mexico. 1492, Columbus . . . ring any bells? Sterling, silverplate or otherwise? It's called Wikipedia, buddy. But perhaps the Internet service to your rock is dial-up and therefore on the spotty side . . . .

Yes, I'm in a bad mood. I was expecting a sparkly piece of Flair - and I think I got a piece, alright. But, on the bright side, I put a coin in my "Seriously?" jar with the turn of just about every page. I may have paid for my next gorgeous table setting.

Postscript: I was going to delete this post before I published it, realizing just how mean-spirited that it was. But then my ten year-old mentioned that he had looked at Flair by Joe Nye, and he thought that it was funny, "because someone needs to tell you that you can display flowers in a pitcher instead of a vase? Seriously?" So give it up for guest blogger Connor, who would like to add the following:

"Maybe he should clarify that if the flowers are too tall for the pitcher, you should cut them - but DON'T CUT THE HEADS OFF!"

"Aren't margaritas the appropriate beverage for a Cinco de Mayo party? Mojitos are Cuban."

"I have allergies - sniffle, sniffle." (He made me write that last part. Why? Because he's ten, and he's silly - but I think he might have a little more on the ball than this Joe Nye guy, even when suffering from allergies.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Vacation That Wasn't

Day 1 of "staycation that might turn into an actual vacation at a moment's notice if we could just figure out where to go and also could get over our angst specific to dumping the dorgi dog off at the very vet's office where he spent six weeks in a Guantanamo-esque hotbox recovering from heartworms": The inside air conditioning unit ices over. Spouse changes the filter and runs the fan. Per call placed to spouse's cousin, an air conditioning contractor who - for reasons that completely escape me - we feel "funny" about "imposing upon" during "his busy season", this should cause the ice to melt and solve the problem once and for all. Unless we are looking at a freon problem. (Side note: Is it imposing if you offer to pay American dollars to someone for a service that he provides to the public, simply because he is family and might actually care enough to check up with his A/C tech and make sure that the guy actually made the service call?)

Day 1 of "STMTIAAVAAMNIWCJFOWTGAACGOOASTDTDDOATVVOWHSSWIAGHRFH" plus four hours: Whoops. There's still ice on the inside air conditioning unit. Freon problem, it is. Call placed to our go-to A/C contractor - the one that we don't feel "funny" about "imposing upon" during "his busy season" (and will not be imposing upon henceforth . . . keep reading). Contractor assures us that we will see his A/C tech bright and early Sunday morning. With ceiling fans running and the A/C pushing the air around (just not cooling it), the temperature isn't that bad overnight.

Bright and early on Day 2 of . . . um, we'll just call it "Fred": No A/C tech on the doorstep. House is now noticeably hot. And noticeably humid.

Close to 5 pm on Day 2 of Fred: Is it just me, or do the carpets feel kind of damp to the touch? Honey, did you call the A/C guy for an update after his tech missed "the window" by, roughly, five hours? No? Um, okay. No need to get testy. I thought it was a legitimate question. Wow, it's really hot in here.

Day 3 of Fred: Call placed to A/C contractor, who cannot get over his SHOCK and SURPRISE that his tech failed to show. Rest assured, said tech will be fired - well, after he does the job. Then he'll be fired. When the theoretical tech fails to materialize by mid-morning, another call is placed - to A/C contractor #3, who is well known about town and advertises in the Ridglea Scene newsletter. I go up to the office (yeah, technically I'm on . . . um, Fred . . . all week, but I needed to attend to some business - and, also, the office has A/C). Spouse gets nervous, calls "bonus" ACC#4. I envision a situation where all three techs show up at the same time, each demanding a service call fee, and decide that I'm sitting pretty where I am. ACC #3 arrives first; ACC #4 is waved off, and spouse decides that ACC #2 doesn't earn a phone call at this point. Fluid levels definitely are low, but ACC #3 doesn't carry the fluid we need (puron, not freon) on the truck. So he has to come back. Which he does. Puron is topped off, and we get an earful about how, when we replaced the outside unit five years ago, we also should have replaced the inside unit, which has a freon coil that is NOT compatible with puron. Ohhhhhhkay. How does one explain that the darned thing has worked fine in a "puron environment" for five bleepin' years? Tech has no explanation, suspects that it's some sort of miracle from above. But now we really do need to think about replacing our coil. Although, notwithstanding the laws of (very) theoretical physics, the ambient temperature should start dropping soon.

Whatever. Clan McGlinchey heads to Grapevine Mills to consort with animatronic animals at Rainforest Cafe. Mom McGlinchey meets up with her friends Michael, Stuart and Kate (Kors, Weitzman and Spade) at Neiman's Last Call. They listen to my tale of woe and suggest that a new cardigan, a pair of super-cute slip-on loafers and some sunglasses will change my outlook on life. Who can argue with that logic - particularly when you get FIVE PERCENT OFF IF YOU USE YOUR NEIMAN'S CARD? Overpriced food is consumed at RC. Mom desperately wants a margarita - but not enough to stomach the $9.99 sticker price. Or deal with the commemorative glass. Prospect of the commemorative glass (which you KNOW the kids would insist on taking home) somehow depresses me more than the cost of the beverage. On to glow-in-the-dark mini golf. INDOOR mini golf - with air conditioning. Did I mention that things glow in the dark there? Cool deal. Except not so cool - their A/C is on the fritz. Sign out front cheerfully encourages us to bring our own beverages inside. Start to reconsider the $9.99 margarita in the commemorative glass.

10 pm on Day 3 of Fred: Arrive at home. House feels exactly the same. Try on my new fall sweater and suede loafers as an attempt at a pick-me-up - then remember that what's depressing me is the fact that I'm BLOOMIN' HOT. Sorry, Michael and Stuart - but points for trying.

Day 4 of Fred: Phone call to ACC #3. Our problem, apparently, was that we didn't let hot air blow through the system. Or didn't let it blow through long enough. So we still have ice on our coil. Consider chipping off some of the ice and blowing a portable fan over it. I really don't remember what I did for the rest of Day 4, but on the evening of Day 4 I ventured out of the house to attend a previously scheduled boutique shopportunity/girls' night out. This girl stayed out as long as possible . . . in large part because of the enjoyable company, but in no small part because said enjoyable company was camped out in a location with air conditioning. Also purchased jewelry - including the same necklace in two different colorways, because (1) it was a shopportunity, so, hey, 15% off, and (2) when you're hot and bothered, how can you be expected to make rational decisions? In the interim, spouse determines that blowing hot air through the system is . . . well, a bunch of hot air. Phone call placed to ACC #5 (a client and friend of spouse's, based in a county of north of here), who was prepping to have dental surgery but had time to opine that it sounded like we were dealing with an expansion valve issue.

Day 5 of Fred: Mom heads to pool with children, because spending a day outdoors actually sounds more pleasant than a day spent indoors. ACC #3 returns to Casa McGlinchey, confirms that we need an expansion valve . . . which he does not have in back stock. Periodic updates from ACC #3 (transmitted to me by spouse via cell) indicate that valve is not to be had in the Metroplex. Spouse begins feverishly searching for SOMEONE with a spare expansion valve laying around. I order another pina colada. By dinnertime, we have determined that the smartest course of action is to purchase a new inside unit, thus securing a new valve AND a new coil, all fully warranted and guaranteed to peacefully coexist with our puron whatchamacallit. Any hope of actually leaving Tarrant County is now dashed, because someone needs to be there to solicit bids and be on premises when the unit is being installed. Spouse heads to Coppell to retrieve a portable air conditioner from his older brother, and the kids and I head to my mom's to collect three additional space fans - and watch "So You Think You Can Dance" in a fully air conditioned environment. As God in his Heaven intended.

Day 6 of Fred: ACC #3 calls, announces that he cannot find the valve anywhere and has chosen to give up. He does offer to refund the prior service charge, which leaves me sort of nonplussed. Um, thanks? Wish I had the luxury to give up and move to a new house? ACC#6 and ACC #7 compete for our business. ACC #7 is, apparently, hitting the crack pipe hardcore and quotes us a price that makes me snort Diet Coke out of my nose. ACC #6 is declared the winner.

Day 7 of Fred: NUUUUUUUUUTHING. Because ACC #6 can't install our new unit until the next morning. At least the house is cooler - down to 78 or so, thanks to stuff borrowed from the family. Really have no excuse not to pick up the mess that our house has become during Fred week (because, really, who wants to clean or straighten in excessive heat?). But, nah . . . much more satisfying to shop for carpet for the Man Cave. Because, when you're depressed about the cluttered state of your house and an approaching large hit to your bank account, what do you do? Say it with me, girls! BUY STUFF FOR YOUR HOUSE THAT COSTS MONEY! Spouse laments that, due to A/C installation scheduled for Day 8, we will be unable to attend birthday lunch for his older brother (he of the way-cool portable air conditioning unit).

Day 8 of Fred: ACC #6 arrives at o' dark thirty. Spouse answers door, I use excuse that I am sleeping in a camisole (unsuitable for A/C tech viewing) to roll back over and go to sleep. At 9 am, I rouse, spouse informs me that tech is way ahead of schedule and birthday lunch may be a go after all. Yeah, right; not my first ro-day-o. I go back to sleep. At 11 am, spouse provides another status report - ACC #6 apparently has "created an electrical issue." EXSQUEEZE ME? A BAKING POWDER? Here are some words guaranteed to give me apoplexy: "Electrical issue." Because other words brought to mind by said words are "fire" and "hazard." Demand further information (but still refuse to change out of camisole) and am advised that tech has shorted out a control panel that is relevant to both the A/C and the furnace and is having to "bypass" it (yeah, another apoplexy-inducing word right there). To his credit, he has another tech check his work before he leaves. An hour and a half past birthday lunch, tech leaves, apologizes and assures us that we will be getting a new control panel on him (ordered and scheduled to arrive later the following week), but, in the meantime, we won't be able to run our furnace. Spouse lets go one of those laugh-snorts: "Yeah, it's 104 outside and we haven't had A/C for a week. Chances of us firing up the furnace are slim and none, buddy."

Son #1 departs for birthday party. Spouse and Son #2 head out to family birthday lunch - only two hours and twelve minutes late. I offer to stay home, make sure that the unit is truly up and running and do a little light housecleaning. Except that it's still too warm to really get into housecleaning, and I'm quite over the whole thing (what thing, exactly? the lack of A/C? lack of a clean house? Fred? mi vida loca in general?) - so I make it about an hour and a half, and then head to the pool with my book and my Kate Spade consolation sunglasses, hell-bent on securing a margarita in a non-commemorative glass. All's well that ends well. And happy Fred to everyone!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hive a Fun Weekend

Just once, I'd like to enjoy a normal weekend. I mean, really, is that too much to ask? Yeah, probably - not even sure what normal is anymore, and suspecting that "abnormal" has become, in fact, our "new normal."

Let's recap:

Friday afternoon: had a nice lunch at Patrizio's with some folks from work, didn't eat anything weird (this will become relevant in a moment), returned to the office and, around 4 pm, started itching. A lot. Now, itching is part of my "abnormal normal" - although all of the McGlincheys suffer from allergies, only two of us (Dad and #1 Son) experience a normal histamine reaction (watery eyes, stuffed-up nose). The other two of us (yours truly and #2 Son) exhibit all of the signs of what is known as atopic syndrome (well, PJ doesn't have all of the signs yet, but, given that I didn't develop asthma until I was 30, it's probably just a matter of time until he does). In the simplest terms possible: our histamine reactions are freaky-deaky. The same pollen that makes other people sneeze gives us an upset stomach, eczema rashes and mouth sores and causes the little chicken skin bumps that are ever-present on our arms (proper name, keratosis pilaris - also an atopic condition) to become really BIG AND PRONOUNCED chicken skin bumps that itch and itch and ITCH.

The itching leads to scratching, and the scratching inflames my skin and makes it itch more, and the everything goes to Hades in a hand basket in a hurry. A dermatologist explained it to me this way: your skin is like a forest. If you drop a match in a forest that's gotten a lot of rain, the dampness will put the match out. If you drop a match in a forest that's tinder-dry, it catches on fire with a vengeance. So, when my skin is stressed (because of exposure to substances to which I truly am allergic), I start reacting to EVERYTHING - scents, even, and scents of things to which I am not truly allergic. The smell of a household cleaner, run of-the-mill food smells - it doesn't take much.

I suppose I should have seen the signs prior to Friday - upset stomach all this week, trouble breathing, etc. Nevertheless, the itching at 4 pm on Friday seemed to come out of nowhere: one minute everything was fine, and the next minute I was (quite literally) a red, hot mess. Didn't need to look at my back in a mirror to know what I would find - long, angry welts, like whip marks. That's a normal occurrence for me. The itchy neck and chest were normal, too.

What happened next went a little past normal - and kept going.

Like the idiot that I am, I (1) failed to take a Benadryl and (2) en route to friend Ruth's house for dinner decided to get my nails done. And, at said nail salon, my fingertips came into contact with acetone nail polish remover. JUST my fingertips. But that's all it took. At some point during my manicure, I noticed that other patrons of the salon were staring at me. I assumed that my odd behavior in the manicurist's chair was attracting their attention. (Manicurist would begin filing the nails on my left hand, I would withdraw my right hand from the table and SCRATCH MY BACK FURIOUSLY. Just like a dog with a bad batch of fleas. Then said manicurist would need my right hand back, so I would bring that hand up to the table, my left hand would snake around and I would SCRATCH MY BACK FURIOUSLY SOME MORE.) When I got up to wash my hands, though, I came face-to-face with myself in the mirror, and I saw what everyone else saw - half of my neck was magenta, and the other half had magenta polka dots. The solid magenta part was creeping up over my jaw line and threatening to take over my left cheek.


Paid for my manicure, drove to Ruth's and had been in her house for maybe five minutes when the hives started developing at the pulse points on my wrists. Ruth offered me a Benadryl. Nope, I'm fine. Hives started marching up the insides of my forearms. Seriously, you should take a Benadryl. Aw, this is nothing . . . scratch. Scratch. SCRATCH.

I took the Benadryl.

And made it home and into bed without incident. Then, around 2 am, I woke up very suddenly, and I think I actually uttered the following sentence out loud:

"Why I am wearing sandpaper pants?"

Seriously, the inside of the (cotton knit yoga) pants that I was wearing felt like sandpaper to me, and every subtle shift of my body made my legs burn. I shuffled into the bathroom and turned on the light, knowing what I was going to see but still afraid to see just how bad it was.

O . . . M . . . G. The sheer number of hives, and the angry purplish-ness of their color, did not surprise me, but the overall appearance of my skin did. You know when the sheets bunch up under you, and you wake up with sheet lines on your body? Yeah, the overall texture of my skin was like that - weird lines and ridges everywhere - because, apparently, MY SKIN HAD DECIDED THAT IT WAS ALLERGIC TO MY PANTS. Hives of various sizes were superimposed over the lovely background texture, and the tops of my thighs were basically one giant hive each. It really, truly looked like I'd been scalded.

And it hurt like no one's business.

I made it back to bed, and that's when the other symptoms hit me - headache, difficulty swallowing . . . yup, definitely heading into anaphylaxis territory here. I woke up my spouse, who normally takes my health crises with a grain of salt, but he took one look at me and, well, sort of panicked. Enough for the both of us. Like Ruth before him, he assumed the mantle of Benadryl pusher and made me swallow two pink caplets . . . and then a third one for good measure. Then he got ice packs out of the freezer for me to put on the really itchy parts, and he talked to me and distracted me from scratching as best he could. The pills finally kicked in, the itching subsided, and I drifted off to sleep. Parnell didn't - the next day, he confessed that he woke up at half hour intervals the rest of the night to check on me, because he was a little bit afraid that I might check out.

Woke up Saturday morning feeling sort of human and looking a whole lot less polka-dotted, took another Benadryl to satisfy my spouse, and sent him off to his early AM drop-in tennis clinic. And then, given my status as PIC - parent-in-charge - I did everything in my power to remain awake, just short of jumping jacks, because LORD ALMIGHTY - there is a reason that I resist taking Benadryl, and "serious medicine head" is that reason. It felt like I was swimming through pea soup just moving around the house. So when Parnell returned, I took advantage of the opportunity to return to bed and take a catnap. Some time during that catnap, my AM Benadryl dosage wore off. Also during said catnap, Connor put a cup of Easy Mac in the microwave, forgot to add water (yeah, the blonde apple didn't fall far from the blonde tree), and I was awakened by the acrid smell of burnt-black pasta noodles. And then . . . .

I GOT HIVES. HUGE ONES. IN REACTION TO A BURNT FOOD SMELL. I mean, seriously, what the WHAT? I had Parnell take a picture of one of my arms, because by this point I suspected that a trip to my physician and perhaps a steroid shot were in my future, and I wanted to come packing visual aids. I will upload the photo later, so that you, dear reader, can marvel at the havoc that "burnt Easy Mac aroma" apparently can wreak on the delicate skin of my inner wrist and forearm.

Ay, chihuahua. But we're not done yet. What's the worst possible thing that you can do when you have hives (other than letting your ditsy ten year-old near a microwave)? Get out in the heat, right? So it was agreed that I was on lock-down for the rest of the day. And then. THE. AIR. CONDITIONER. ICED. OVER. Of course it did - because the filter needed changing, and it was having to work overtime anyway due to 104-degree temperatures outdoors, and - oh, yeah, BECAUSE I HAD HIVES. Why WOULDN'T the A/C would choose this particular day to stop working?

So . . . it's almost 4 am Sunday morning, and I have the bed to myself (sweet husband took the portable fan into the den and is sleeping on the couch, as he has a tendency - particularly when he is hot - to encroach into my real estate, often flinging his limbs out to the sides and over me, pinning me to the mattress and making me altogether uncomfortable). It's not hot, actually, with the ceiling fans all turned to "amps on eleven," but I can't sleep, and it's a foregone conclusion that (1) we will be rescheduling with our maid (currently scheduled for Monday), because there's no way in the world that my hivey self is going to complete the usual "Sunday evening pre-maid debris pickup" in the stifling heat, and (2) we will be heading somewhere else during the heat of the day. We had tentatively planned on dinner at Rainforest Cafe and glow-in-the-dark (indoor) mini golf for Monday night, but I'm thinking that Sunday afternoon is as good a time for those activities as any.

Odds that the vocalization of an animatronic gorilla or the reflection of black light off of phosphorescent paint gives me hives?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Hallway Reboot

Our weekend started out with a trip to Cupcake Cottage. Aren't these pretty little things? From left to right, you're looking at traditional vanilla, German chocolate (babycake and regular sizes), amaretto (the orange one top right) and red velvet.

The babycake was mine, as was the amaretto. Sufficiently fueled by sugar and the shot of liqueur from the cupcake, I headed out for the last few items that I needed to finish the hallway project (Parnell having finished the painting for me the night before) - started at Goodwill on Camp Bowie, then drove around the corner to Camp Bowie Mercantile, hit Jo Ann for chalkboard paint and finished at Lowe's (lumber, screws and picture hangers). My last "stop" was my own overflowing craft closet, where I found a bunch of useful items. Here are the results:

This is the wall between our bedroom and the boys' bathroom. Except this isn't the greatest picture, because the weekly menu calendar (hanging trom the adorable wooden spoon at bottom) reflected too much flash . . . . So let's try again, minus reflective surfaces:

Better. Pine rack: $5, Goodwill. Nesting doll pillow that I needed like a hole in the head, but (1) it's a nesting doll!, (2) I collect nesting dolls! and (3) it's an aqua blue and chocolate brown nesting doll!: $12, Mercantile. The peg rack at the bottom is actually a quilt rack. It was half off at the Mercantile, and it attracted my attention because it was unfinished, the correct depth for picture molding and I thought that it might be possible to hang cool stuff from the bottom (under the knobs). The kids' award ribbons, maybe? Yeah, epic fail. Oh, well - it has pegs. That's enough utility, I guess. Here's a close-up of the top shelf:

Yes, I realize that I lined the photos up like cell phone bars. And, yes, that's a jar of paintbrushes. Why? Why not. When I shopped the craft closet, I found literally hundreds of them, left over from an event that I threw a couple of years ago. They were the right colors, I had a really cute canning jar, and the price was right at "free." Plus, they have personal meaning, since I like to paint. Speaking of which, I also found three square canvases in the craft closet - originally from Pottery Barn Kids, I think, had Connor's initials on them, but in baby pastels, so I had gessoed over them and set them aside for a future project. I painted them to match the hall, took a couple of photos that had been displayed on the old hallway bulletin board and decoupaged them. I applied scraps of fabric to the photo of Connor and his friend Christian, because the pattern reminded me of atoms, and for the longest time we could not go to the Science and History Museum without running into Christian's family.

The buttons were yet another craft closet score. I used those to decorate a photo of Parker and his friend Avery, because they are both cute as buttons. Even if PJ's head looks ginormous in this photo.

Next is the wall outside of Connor's room, which was going to be one giant chalkboard (painted with Hudson Paint's "Rayogram Gray"), but - quite frankly - it was a bit of a bear painting the wall adjacent to this one, the brown ended up wrapping around the corner, and I decided that I did not want to mess with creating a clean seam between two colors. However, I compromised by making two chalkboards for the lower part of the wall - one for each boy.

Picture molding one this wall is made from 36-inch long square dowels painted the color of the wall and screwed in. I then faced them with vintage yardsticks. The yardstick project was easier said than done. In painting this wall, we came to terms with the fact that it has some serious problems with uneven plaster. No matter how hard we tried, we could not fully conceal the three big patches that are a different texture than the rest of the wall. I suppose that we could have retextured first, but it seemed easier to just position the art to cover the wall defects. Yeah, it seemed easier - because the frames had to be placed just so, it was necessary to put the lower molding right along a horizontal stud. Took Parnell several experiments with different hardware to get that one done. But I do like the results . . . .

Empty picture frame (made from ceiling tile) won't be empty for long. When I can remember to buy tile grout, I have a really neat handmade ceramic tile, colored in shades of tan and blue, that says "Purple Power" (yes, I said tan and blue - all of this particular artist's tiles are the same color regardless of what they say), and I want to glue that to the frame and then add a photo of Parker and his friend Lauren wearing their TCU purple.

I've gotten pretty good at spacing and mounting art on picture molding, haven't I? I can do all things through painter's tape, which strengthens me - and by "strengthens me" I really mean "allows me to mark exactly where the top of a frame should go, or the corner of one, or the hanger for one, so we know exactly where to drill or hammer."

Chalkboard #1 (Connor's): frame, $1, Goodwill; piece of maple, cut to fit, $2.88, Lowe's. The chalkboard paint is by Plaid, and while it isn't exactly the same shade of brown as the walls, by the time you cure it with chalk - pretty darned close.

Parker's chalkboard doesn't have a frame. It's mounted low on the wall, to cover up another wall imperfection.

Here's a closeup of some of the picture molding on this wall. Most of the yardsticks that I bought (yes, I still have some to use on a future project) bear advertisements for businesses on Camp Bowie or Vickery. The greenish-blue one isn't related to Fort Worth at all, but I really liked the color. Only problem is that it's a folding ruler, so it took an act of Congress to get it glued into place. (Shims were involved.)

Next wall was the most difficult, because it's basically the door to our air conditioner with just an inch or so of wall on either side - but because of molding placement you are talking about painting in teeny tiny crevasses with a detail brush, up one side and down the other. I like the way it turned out, though. We put three coats of magnetic paint on the door first, and - surprise! - it really turned the door into a magnet board. You can't tell in this picture, but the art in the bottom left is on a clipboard hanging suspended from the key that turns and opens the A/C closet. The ribbon helps camouflage the door as a door, I think. Oh, and the clipboard's decoupaged.

One final item - a total improvisation: I had purchased an old rolling pin and these brackets, intending to mount the rolling pin on the side of the kitchen cabinet (to serve as a dishtowel rod), by the window and over the sink, but discovered to my disappointment that the cabinet wasn't deep enough. So now I have a bracketed rolling pin in my hallway. Which I love. This picture doesn't do it justice, but "strange rolling pin installation" definitely is one of my favorites.

Now on to finish the boys' bathroom!