Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Event: Keep Fort Worth Uncomfortably Interconnected

So I lied when I said that there would be no immediately forthcoming Event-related blog posts.  I'm under stress, so cut me some slack.

Just a short and amusing anecdote, shared primarily to illustrate the proposition that FORT WORTH IS THE BIGGEST SMALL TOWN ON THE PLANET.  Seriously, everyone is two degrees of separation from everyone else, maximum.  (Thus, when my parents decided to relocate to The Fort, they - completely randomly - bought their home from one of my ADPi pledge sisters.  Then, a couple of weeks later, when my recently relocated grandfather fell ill and his new "regular" physician wasn't on call, the doctor who checked in on him in the hospital was . . . none other than the father of said ADPi pledge sister/home seller.  Have I told this story before?  Don't care - I'm under stress, the gerbil is turning the wheel in my head VERY SLOWLY, so moving on.  Mom mentioned the substitute doc's name, told me how wonderful that he was, and I told her that he was my sorority sister's father.  That was just too much of a coincidence for Mom to process, coming so recently from the sprawling Houston metropolitan area, so I told her to wait until the doctor checked in on Grandpap again and then simply . . . TELL HIM HER ADDRESS, AND SEE IF HE BLINKED.  She did.  And he did.  "Oh - YOU'RE the family that just bought my daughter's house.")

That was six years ago.  Mom's been around the block enough times that she is now in full agreement with me that we live in one of the most cheerfully and unapologetically incestuous places that you will ever find.  Which leads into the following:  one of Parker's kindergarten friends attended our school last year, because his mother is one of our teachers, but he is now attending school near their residence.  We were aware that they were in an apartment, and we were aware that they were in our general (current) vicinity, but this afternoon we confirmed that THEY LIVE IN OUR APARTMENT COMPLEX.  Yup - you really can't make this stuff up, people.  Needless to say, PARKER IS OVER THE MOON.  Older brother had already identified some age-appropriate neighbors with whom to swim and hit tennis balls, which did not sit well with little brother, who felt distinctly left out.  BUT NOW HE HAS AN ACTUAL ESTABLISHED FRIEND WHO LIVES IN OUR COMPLEX.  And established friends trump new friends - duh.

Therefore, you can add to Parker's relocation silver lining list:  opportunities for spur-of-the-moment get-togethers (maybe even a slumber party!) with NT.  Already on the list:  friend LG lives two minutes away, Nana and Granddad are now less than five minutes away, and Dad sprang for U-Verse in the kids' room.  Oh, and he saw his first possum while accompanying his father and the dogs on a walk along the riverside jogging trail.  (Seriously?  That was his first possum?  How is that possible?) 

See, our situation doesn't totally suck.  Not totally.

Apropos of Nothing: The Utilikilt

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

It has been almost two weeks since my last blog post.

(Hey, you can take the girl out of the Catholic church, but you can't take the Catholic church out of the girl.  Not completely, anyway.)

Lots has happened, "The Event"-wise, but I haven't had the time to process it all, and I worry that in my present state of mind it will be difficult for me to fully "find the funny," so putting a pin in all things Event-related for now.

In the interim, I am finding the funny where I can.

Ran into an interesting fellow when I was walking back to the office today after a short run to the downtown Barnes & Noble (where I procured three overpriced kitchen makeover magazines, each depicting EXACTLY ONE design idea that I wish to incorporate into the kitchen - totally stuck in my craw to shell out $20 for said magazines, but the three design depictions are, unfortunately, critically important to work going forward, and - since they are new publications - I didn't like my chances of locating the images on the Internet).

I didn't literally run into said fellow, which I realize now was a tremendous stroke of luck, given some questionable accessorizing choices that I will explain in the next sentence.  Said fellow was wearing (I'll describe him from head to toe):  a straw cowboy hat (questionable, given that it's after Labor Day, but we do live in the tropics); largish hoop earrings; dark aviator sunglasses; a tribal collar-style necklace; a tight navy t-shirt; a belt with a large, Western-style belt buckle; A KHAKI CARGO KILT (I cannot stress KHAKI CARGO KILT enough); and flip-flops.  Said fellow was not in any danger of being taunted for his sartorial choices, because he was jacked.  He looked, basically, like a wrestler.  But not an unkempt wrestler.  A Chris Jericho-type wrestler - the kind that cleans up well.  It was pretty obvious that Said Fellow (that is now his name) conditions his long blond hair on a regular basis.

I had a camera with me - a good one, that takes good high-res photos.  I so desperately wanted to snap one.  But, since he was coming right at me, I could not for the life of me, at the spur of the moment, how to finesse that without being totally obvious.  Also, while you have to assume that he's used to having his picture taken - that's the price of being freaky deaky - I worried about startling his older companion.  Did I mention that he was walking with, I believe, his grandmother?  She was all grandmother-y.  I think that she was even wearing one of those housecoat-y dresses - but I'm not sure, because I was kind of all about looking at him.

Hmm.  They were walking north on Throckmorton.  Perhaps he had accompanied her to the Social Security office, which is located in the Federal Building a block south of us.  But I digress.

Upon returning to the office, I updated my Facebook status to alert the general populace of the Fort to the existence of Said Fellow - and discovered that he was a known quantity to at least one of my Facebook friends, who had run into Said Fellow (again, not literally) at her local grocery store.  Like me, she wanted to capture his image for posterity (and so that she could peruse the details of his ensemble in greater detail after the fact).  Also like me, she couldn't muster the nerve to snap a pic.  But we agreed that IT HAD TO BE THE SAME GUY, and she advised me of an important detail that I missed:  when she saw Said Fellow, HE HAS A LIVE SNAKE WRAPPED AROUND HIS WRIST LIKE A BRACELET.

Awesome, blossom.

Here's the funny thing (well, one of perhaps several):  when I saw him, my immediate response was, "OOH, he's wearing a Utilikilt."  Not "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" but "HE'S WEARING A UTILIKILT."  Because, on some level, my subconscious had retained the information that khaki cargo kilts are a known quantity.  (In my defense, I am Scottish.  Well, Scotch-Irish.  Scotch-Irish-American, technically.  And I married a half Scotch-American, so that makes our kids . . . never mind.  Suffice it to say that the Anderson, Duncan, Mackenzie and Scott clans all claim us.)

THIS is a Utilikilt.

Please bask in its awesomeness.

There are various models of Utilikilt.  Like the "Workmans":

I like the phrase "pants-loving wimp."  Keeping that one in my pocket (which, sadly, is not a Utilikilt pocket).  Reserve the right to use it if/when the contractors and I don't see something eye-to-eye.  (Wouldn't that be awesome?  Tempers are getting heated, and I whip out, "Pants-loving wimps!"  Total game changer.  Or game stopper.  I can hear the needle-scratching-against-the-record sound in my head as I type the words.  "Did she just call us PANTS-loving WIMPS?  WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?")

There is also a "Tuxedo" model - because, to quote the Web site's ad copy, "There ain't nothing classier than a fine Tuxedo model Utilikilt for that special occasion."

Amen, brother.  And, also, did you notice it has "tails"?

This was in the right-hand margin of the Utilikilt Web site:

This scared me.  Was it serious?  It sounded too . . . arch . . . to be serious.  But I worried about clicking on it.  So I didn't.  If you visit the Utilikilt Web site after reading this post, and if you are brave enough to click on the "Referral Program" box (which, on the bravery scale, I would put just below "photographing kilt-wearing Chris Jericho lookalike as he is walking across the street"), please do provide a full report.

Thank you.  Carry on with your day.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Event: Enjoying The Eye of the Hurricane

When I was in junior high, Hurricane Alicia hit Houston.  Thirty years later, I still remember:

Dragging my trundle bed mattress to my parents' room and putting all of my precious preteen keepsakes in the empty trundle space in a somewhat desperate attempt to assure their safety (and keep them from becoming airborne);

Falling asleep to the sound of the weather radio that my mother had put by her bedside;

Being awakened by said mother at 4:45 AM when said weather radio advised that it was time to batten down the hatches;

Barricading ourselves with sofa pillows under the massive dining room table, because the builder of our home failed to provide us with a closet that wasn't on an outside wall;

Watching a tornado trace the line of our street, thankfully picking up nothing other than a few trashcans; and

About an hour after the whole thing began, hearing the rain suddenly stop and the wind suddenly drop and realizing that the eye was overhead.

Of course, we went outside when the eye arrived.  How could we resist?  One minute all hell is breaking loose, and the next minute all is calm.  But not a reassuring calm - an eerie, unsettling and entirely supernatural calm, unlike any calm you have ever experienced.  You feel, somewhat, like you are floating in the void of space, because the air has a vacuum-y quality to it, but you are very much rooted to the ground, and the sky above you is a color that cannot really be described or duplicated - not quite gray, and not quite green.  I remember birds flying in the void of "not-space" above our heads, and I tried to be reassured by their presence.  (The next day, we saw other, less reassuring birds:  dead seagulls, picked up over the Gulf and dumped onto our lawn, an hour inland.  Months later, we were finding shells and starfish in our flower beds.  Not making that up.) 

Mainly, the eye was unsettling because we didn't know exactly what to expect after it had passed:  more of what we had just experienced?  Or something entirely different, but perhaps just as bad?  Once the eye passes, things tend to become more disorganized - but disorganization isn't always a good thing.

If you have ever had the (dis)pleasure of experiencing a hurricane, then you may know that the eye, as the calmest part of the storm, is surrounded by what is called an eyewall.  The eyewall is a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather occurs. 

Last week was our eyewall.

We finally - FINALLY - got clearance to sign a lease Monday night.  Signed the lease on Tuesday morning and spent the remainder of the day moving the bulk of our "take-withs" into the apartment.  Washer and dryer were delivered in the morning, rental furniture was delivered in the afternoon.  So far, so good.  We spent Tuesday night in our own home, hoping to have the remainder of our "take-withs" in the apartment by lunchtime.  I'll spare you most of the details, but we were still moving items into the apartment on Friday.  The packers and movers from Blackmon-Mooring invaded Wednesday morning and were on the job until Friday as well.  Things got put into storage that were supposed to go to the apartment.  Stuff got lost.  Spouse loaded the fridge and freezer food into big Rubbermaid totes, headed out to drive them over to the apartment - and discovered that the movers had gone to lunch, in their van, leaving the giant panel truck BLOCKING HIS CAR INTO THE DRIVEWAY.  Spouse radioed to me for an assist.  Oh, did I mention that I actually tried to work this week?  I was in the office for four hours on Wednesday and the bulk of the day Thursday and Friday.  That is, when I wasn't leaving at the spur of the moment to rescue perishables, or to pick up my child at the middle school so that he could have his arm X-rayed.  Because, the first night that we stayed in the apartment (by "we," I mean me and the kids - due to pet and other issues, we were a fractured family for much of the week), he tripped coming down the stairs from our second-floor walkup (thought that there was one more step, when there wasn't), fell forward and caught the brunt of the fall with his right arm.  (I will give the kid credit - he's consistent.  That right arm goes out every time, saving his face.  This time, it does not appear that he actually broke anything, but, given that he's only complained of significant pain twice in his life before this incident, and both times HE HAD BROKEN HIS RIGHT ARM, we take right arm injuries pretty seriously.)

Did I also mention that Thursday and Friday ended up being crazy-busy at work?  Or that I had multiple Junior League commitments that were attendance-mandatory?  Or that Friday was my grandmother's 93rd birthday, meaning that instead of immediately retrieiving the cats from our now-empty house, they ended up marooned there for a few more hours while we participated in her celebratory steak dinner?

Can I tell you how sleep-deprived I was by Friday night, or how worried I was that my spouse was going to have a heart attack from all of the physical exertion and/or mental stress?  Care to guess how many times I drove away from the apartment on Wednesday with my parking brake still deployed?  (Answer:  Three.)

But, ultimately, the movers left.  The dogs accompanied us to Gigi's birthday dinner and slept over at Nana's and Granddad's, giving us the opportunity last night to introduce the cats to the apartment without the canines underfoot.  As I predicted, Baby Max thought the whole thing was tremendously exciting (until yesterday, he did not know that there was such a thing as a second-story window!).  Gabby Cat rebounded in the space of fifteen minutes and is currently enjoying the fact that the master bathroom has two sinks.  (Now she can demand a drink from one faucet, and then immediately march to the other end of the counter and repeat the process.  So.  Much.  Power.)  Barkley was the slower to recover when we moved into our house twelve years ago, and he was the slowest this go-round as well.  However, his time is improving:  a couple of hours spent hiding in the back corner of the closet, and he was with the program.

So all of us, except for the dogs, slept here last night.  Spent the morning doing laundry and unpacking the boxes, and then Parnell took the kids out to run errands while I folded tissue paper, flattened boxes and finished setting up the kitchen and bathrooms.  And then, around 4:45 (PM, this time), the eye arrived:  the kids retreated to their room to play Wii, and Parnell got the rabbit ears adjusted just right (U-Verse guy doesn't come until THURSDAY) to pick up the Texas/UCLA game.  Added bonus:  he remembered that his Android is a mobile hotspot, allowing all of us to access the Internet in the days leading up to U-Verse guy's arrival.  So Daddy watched football and caught up with the latest blog posts warning of the impending Big 12 apocalypse, while Mommy made dinner.  And barbecue chicken to serve on baked potatoes for lunch tomorrow.  And cake balls. See, it's my goal to use up every jar in the fridge and box in the pantry, so when we move back, it won't matter if a fleet of moving trucks has blocked in both of our cars, because there will be no perishables to tote. I am pleased to announce that, through various food prep efforts (I also marinated some chicken to make Monday night), I killed a bottle of barbecue sauce, the remainder of a jar of lemon herb mustard, half of a jar of olives, and a box of brownie mix, among other items.

So far, so good.

It occurred to me as I puttered around my not-my-kitchen that it has been awhile since I have had the chance to enjoy cooking or baking.  The Event put a temporary stop to stuff like that.  But now I can resume cooking, and baking, and blogging.  I can justify taking the time to read a book, or play a board game with the kids.

I could feel the calm descending.

After dinner, I took a bath.  A long one.  The persual of cooking magazines may have been involved.

More calm.

The dogs arrived from Nana's.   Ruby saw her reflection in the mirrored doors in the third bedroom that will serve as Parnell's office.  She growled at herself.  Herself growled back.  She yelped.  We laughed.

Still more calm.

The apartment doesn't suck.  It's a little worse for wear in areas, and there are college kids on both sides of us, but both of those are positives when you have kids and pets (theory being that the damage and noise potential of our brood is on par with what you would expect from nineteen year-olds living on their own for the first time- we'll blend right in).  The garden tub in the master bathroom is nice and deep (see:  bath involving cooking magazines, above).  We have a fireplace in the master as well, and - because the master has a sitting area and the furniture rental people couldn't provide Parnell with the office desk that the relo company requested, substituting a small writing desk instead - I have my own office.   (Movers brought his desk over, so we're both in clover.)  I'm sitting at my "happy accident desk" now, with the window open a crack (WINDOWS THAT OPEN!  ANOTHER NOVELTY, when you are used to living in a ninety year-old home) and the sounds of a wedding reception drifting in.  Did I mention that our bedroom directly overlooks a wedding venue that is now called Stonegate Mansion but in a former life was known as Cullen Davis' home and the scene of an infamous multiple homicide?   Weird that I find both of these facts amusing?

So industrious were we in the unpacking department that I will actually have time tomorrow to take the kids to the complex pool (which is also pretty sweet - loving the little cabanas, just like Vegas) and then finish decorating the kitchen for Halloween (I'll explain in a subsequent post).  We're agreed that at least one of us ought to be home at all times tomorrow, as the pets get acclimated.  Wait - did I just call this home?  Yeah, I guess I did.  My peeps, and my pets, are here, so it really is home. 

And  being home is - well, calming.

I think it's fairly notable that it rained last night.  Not just a little bit of rain, either - what we in Texas call a gullywasher.  The kind of rain that we're used to having in the summertime.  It was the lack of the wet stuff that caused The Event, and the irony that The Event created a deluge of Biblical proportions, during a time of drought, was not lost on us - nor was the symbolism of a rainstorm hitting just as the moving truck cleared our street.  A cleansing rain, representing the trailing edge of the eyewall as it passed overhead, signaling that the eye of our own personal storm had arrived.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Rough and Tough Boy Party Themes

Okay, someone needs to hire me to do a little boy party, because I am FILLED with great ideas - but I am fresh out of little boys.  And, much as I love parties (and, for that matter, little boys), I'm just not willing to add a third heathen to our brood.

Got a race track of some sort at your house?  If you have a boy, chances are good that you have more than one.  Why not repurpose one of them as a cupcake display?

Paper plates and napkins, creatively arranged, make steering wheels.

You can serve kid-friendly beverages in gas cans.  CLEAN ones, obviously.  As in, buy new ones from Home Depot or Lowe's.  THEN you can put gas in them - or not - AFTER THE PARTY.  (This public service announcement brought to you by the Common Sense Police.)

Chocolate-covered mini donuts make perfect "Spare Tires" for a car party.  Seriously.  You don't have to do a thing to 'em.

This extension cord wreath would work for a car party or a construction party.

Click on the image below to enlarge it and marvel at the creativity behind these refreshment names (Wrecking Balls, Fill Dirt, Drill Bits, etc.).

And, finally, I give you . . . the CONEstruction pinata.

Seriously, somebody, put me out of my misery and let me plan your little boy's party.  Otherwise, I may attempt to force one of these themes on my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old.  And the ensuing battle will not be pretty.

The Event: Turn Out the Lights, The Packing Party's Over

It practically took an act of Congress, but we have keys to an apartment, and movers come tomorrow (in a few hours, actually - it's well past midnight, but I can't get my brain to turn off).  Hopefully, said movers will be pleased to find out that a good bit of their work has been done for them.  Knowing that perishables can't be stored, we transferred the contents of the pantry ourselves and will transport the fridge and freezer food in the morning.  A lot of our housewares also made the move and won't have to go into storage.  Kids' clothes are already hanging in their new closet, and we moved shoes and other stuff out of the master closet this afternoon, so all that is left is the hanging stuff ready to be transferred into wardrobe boxes.  The irreplaceable stuff (paintings, family photos and "breakables," as Parker likes to call them) were sent off to Parnell's mom's house.  After a garage sale and MULTIPLE trips to and from the apartment, our house is considerably "lighter" - and, in the process of figuring out what to take with us, we packed twenty-plus boxes for the movers.  (You're welcome, Blackmon-Mooring.)  Boxes, boxes, everywhere . . . lined up down the hall and along the back of the living room couch, ready to be put into the truck.

Long story short, we made the best of our interminable wait.  And now the second waiting period begins - the wait to get the all-clear to return to our home.  When the contractor advised us of the likely timetable for restoration (and opined that our kitchen floors and lower cabinets were going to have to come out), we briefly flirted with the idea of tackling a more ambitious home reno.  We asked the contractor for an estimate (both of expense and of duration - mindful of the fact that any additional time spent out of the house would be entirely on our nickel).  The contractor did not respond.  Busy, I guess.  And we were busy, too - busy trying to push things forward on the work that absolutely needed to get done.  Long story short again:  the "getting out of our house" part of getting out of our house has exhausted us, physically and emotionally.  Stick a fork in us, we're done.  And get us back into our house soon, please.  Just replace the floors and hand us the keys.

The keys - who gets our keys?  Are we actually supposed to give them to somebody?  I don't know how this works.  Doesn't help that we've received precious little guidance from the people who are supposed to be guiding us.  Okay, enough grousing, for now at least.  Moving forward, by hook or by crook.

Sooooooo . . . what to do between now and the glorious day when we get the all-clear?  Here's the "Exile Bucket List" thus far:

Bake with the kids.  The kids went to my mom and dad's house tonight so that we could continue packing and shuttling, packing and shuttling, wash, rinse, repeat, without the littles underfoot.  While there, Connor made candy bar cookies with Nana, and he kind of dug it.  (I realize that most kids dig making cookies, and cookies in general, but this is my non-sweet-eater.)  Thus, he was over-the-moon-delighted when I informed him that the Star Wars and dinosaur cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma had made the moving cut. 

Recycle/pin/try new recipes/blog more.  Yes, this is actually one item.  I am taking with me a thick stack of magazine clippings and the kids' school papers, the idea being to pin the recipes and decorating ideas to Pinterest, blog about the "kid stuff" and then recycle the paper.  Oh, and I am going to actually try a lot of the recipes, and, in the process, I am going to use up a TON of duplicative spices and pantry staples.  Okay, not actually, factually, a ton, but it sure seemed like a ton when we were cleaning out the spice cabinet and the bottles of vinegar in the pantry and noticing that we had a lot of containers of the same thing.  You know how it goes:  you buy oregano (or red wine vinegar), then you see a recipe calling for oregano (or red wine vinegar) and you can't remember if you have oregano (or red wine vinegar), so you buy some more oregano (or red wine vinegar).  My challenge to myself is to return to the house with only one container of each thing.  Which is, sort of, a form of recycling?

Resume reading for pleasure.  Several half-read books stashed under my new bed.  'Nuff said.

Spend time with Nana, Granddad and Gigi.  Okay, under normal circumstances we are eight minutes away, but now we're four minutes away.  'Nuff said again.

Walk to LG's house.  Parker's friend LG lives in the gated community down the street from us.  Therefore, Parker's own personal "Exile Bucket List" includes walking to LG's house - which necessarily will include WALKING THROUGH THE SECURITY GATES.  We're on the guest list, so it should be a simple matter of knocking on the guard's door, right?  Stay tuned for details of Parker's Big Adventure.

Explore a different part of town.  Okay, so we're only FOUR MILES TO THE SOUTH.  And we have lived in this 'hood before, prior to Connor's arrival.  But there are still some opportunities for exploration.  Our go-to place for sushi will change.  I may (choke!) forgo my beloved Montgomery Plaza Super Target for awhile and do my grocery shopping at the newish Kroger across from the TCU campus (which, come to think of it, has a pretty awesome sushi chef). Et cetera and so on.

Swim in September!  The Ridglea Country Club pool is closed for the season - but the pool at our complex is still open for business.  And, currently, mid-afternoon temperatures are hovering in the 107 degree range, so I'm thinking that we'll continue to swim for awhile.  Makes up, somewhat, for the kids' displacement.

Just hang out as a family.  We took our favorite board games with us.  Trying to remember the last time I played a board game with the kids and gave them my full attention.  I think it was while we were on vacation, which makes sense, because Lake McGlinchey sprang into being the day after we returned, and C and P have had two VERY distracted parents since then.  Looking forward to a return to some good old-fashioned Cleaver Family togetherness.  Also, I predict that the kids will occasionally get stir-crazy in their new smaller digs, so in the interest of not annoying our neighbors (did I mention that we put them in the bedroom that ISN'T on a party wall?), I am planning some fun family outings for the weekends.

Okay, it's close to 3 am.  Exhausted spouse is snoring, and I think I'd like to join him.  It's going to be our last night in this room for awhile.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drink This: The Manmosa

Courtesy of Hoboken Guy's blog, I bring you . . . the Manmosa.

If you are a fan of Blue Moon beer, you know that Blue Moon is best enjoyed with a twist of orange. The Manmosa combines Blue Moon, orange juice and a splash of mandarin vodka. Mix to taste, and enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

How To Find Me On Pinterest

Step 1:  Go to

Step 2:  In the search window, search for "manicmomma."  Pinterest will show you search results, including "1 person." 

I am that person.

Step 3:  Click on the "1 person" hot link.

Step 4:  Click on my photo. 

Boom!  You now have access to all 57 (57!  Seriously?) of my Pinterest boards.

Step 5:  Bookmark me, so you don't have to go through this process again.

Kid Stuff: Fun Kid Spaces

Pinned a bunch of random stuff to Pinterest over the weekend. (I have been informed that the "permanent links" to my boards that Pinterest provides and I have faithfully copied to this site are beyond useless, so right after this post I am going to add a stand-alone post with "how to find me on Pinterest" instructions.)

Love, love, LOVE this girls' room . . . for obvious reasons.

Wonder Woman's golden lasso makes me think of rope, and rope makes me think of twine, and twine makes me think of this easy but high-impact kid decor idea:

Step 1: Hammer nails into wall.

Step 2: Tie twine between nails.

Step 3: Clip stuff to twine with binder clips. This example uses alphabet flash cards, but greeting cards or anything printed on stiff paper would work just as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Event: Apologies in Advance

If my posts over the next few days seem phoned in, please forgive - the process of separating Things That Go With from Things That Go Into Storage continues in earnest.  Fingers crossed, we will be in temporary quarters no later than Wednesday, and then I will have lots (LOTS!) of time to blog - am also planning on uploading a lot of great "kid stuff" from my chitlins (found a bunch of stuff as I cleaned out drawers and have sorted a bunch of it into Things That Go With) as well as some scrumptious recipes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Event: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So here's where we are:

Our adjuster went out of town last week (scheduled vacation, and, in his defense, he did warn us and ask if there was anything he could do for us before he left).

THE DAY AFTER he departed on vacay, we found a house, right around the corner from ours, that would be perfect for our needs.

We tried to get the relocation company to step in and help us secure the house, but we were told (not for the first time) that we were not cleared for "long-term housing," so they couldn't do anything on our behalf.

On Wednesday of last week, I faxed a letter to our adjuster's boss, asking her to intercede on our behalf.

We heard crickets from the direction of Head Honcho Adjuster.  No response to my letter or to multiple voicemails from Spouse and from me.

On Thursday, Spouse called through the main directory at USAA (because, we discovered, if you push the button in Head Honcho Adjuster's voicemail that is supposed to connect you to another adjuster in her absence, you get put into our local adjuster's box - you know, the guy who WE ALREADY KNOW IS OUT OF TOWN).  He was connected to a live human being at the same pay grade as Head Honcho Adjuster, who authorized us to lease the house for three months (an accommodation, since current estimate is that restoration work will take a maximum of two) at a premium over the advertised rent rate.

The premium was not enough to entice the landlord to rent us the house for three months - he wanted another half of a month's rent out of us.

We beat our respective heads against the wall, and then attempted to enjoy our Labor Day weekend, thinking that certainly we would hear something from someone in Adjuster Land early on Tuesday.  (I'll spare the details, but suffice it to say that the tale of woe that I faithfully recounted in my letter should have been attention-getting.)

WEDNESDAY MORNING, the local adjuster left Spouse a voice mail:  he understood that we had found a house, and YAY FOR US, because we were forcing him into a position of having to send us a reservation of rights letter (disclaiming responsibility for certain theoretical spin-off damage that could result from the moisture under our home), on account of our delay in moving out in a timely manner.

Spouse went totally ballistic over the suggestion that our failure to vacate was, in any way shape or form, "our delay."  I would have tried to rein him in, but I was busy going totally ballistic my own self.

In crude colloquial terms, Spouse tore the local adjuster a new one.  Local Adjuster, FINALLY, authorized us to speak with someone in long-term housing - but then asked if we wouldn't mind calling them directly, and, oh, by the way, we should still continue to keep doing a relocation company's job by searching for properties on our own.

During the aforementioned orifice-creating phone call, Local Adjuster let it slip that he was aware of my letter.  Meaning that Head Honcho Adjuster received my letter and did not bother to respond to me directly.  For the record, my first letter was fairly gosh-darned polite. My second letter (which I composed after learning of Head Honcho Adjuster's DEPLORABLE LACK OF COMMON COURTESY) was less so.  I have not sent letter #2, because it keeps getting revised as things continue to go from sort-of-ridiculous to "are you freakin' kidding me"?   But if and when I send it, I'm planning on sending it rubber-banded to a copy of Emily Post.

Long-Term Housing was a much-needed breath of fresh air, informing us that we were entitled to at least three bedrooms (four if such a property could be located) and asking if we required a fenced-in backyard for the dogs.  SUCH a refreshing change of pace from "but we ARE accommodating your kids - didn't you hear us when we said that there's a SOFA BED in the efficiency?"  Within 48 hours, we had a deposit down on a decent enough second-floor three-bedroom apartment (across the street from our "new married" apartment complex, ironically enough), and Long-Term Housing had gotten a waiver from apartment management that would permit us to keep all five pets on the premises.  Long-Term Housing also suggested that it lease furniture for us (not my choice - I have some fairly specific furniture tastes - but in the spirit of MOVING THINGS FORWARD, and also in the interest of protecting several glass-fronted antique pieces that I could see reversing down a staircase, I grumbled a bit to my spouse, and then did the mental equivalent of lying back and thinking of England).

I spent the better part of the day packing.  Yes, I realize that the moving company will pack for us, but in the interest of streamlining the process and MOVING THINGS FORWARD I have attempted to separate out That Which We Will Take With and That Which Will Go to Storage.  By mid-afternoon, I had made a good dent, Spouse had departed to put down a deposit on the apartment, and I had high hopes that I would have keys in hand by bedtime and could start driving over storage totes filled with shower curtains and baking pans in the morning (idea being to stock the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, etc., prior to having the movers bring over the rest of the stuff, take the storage totes back to our place and reload - so green of me, if you ignore the carbon emissions from repetitively driving the five miles between Points A and B).

Spouse returned and informed me that, notwithstanding that we personally paid the deposit on the apartment, USAA WILL NOT AUTHORIZE US TO HAVE THE KEYS UNTIL THE FURNITURE THAT THEY ARE INSISTING ON LEASING FOR US IS DELIVERED.  Which could be Monday, but more likely will be Tuesday or Wednesday.  Meaning that:  (1) I will continue to fill boxes over the next two days, because it's the weekend and I have to use my non-working hours wisely, and ultimately the stacks of boxes will extend to touch the ceiling, BECAUSE I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE THEM ANYWHERE FOR SEVERAL MORE DAYS, AND I AM RUNNING OUT OF PLACES TO PUT THEM; and (2) I will have to take another workday off to actually move into the apartment, BECAUSE I AM NOT ALLOWED TO MOVE SO MUCH AS A FLIPPIN' BATH TOWEL UNTIL A HOME STAGING COMPANY OUT OF DALLAS DELIVERS A BUNCH OF UGLY CORPORATE APARTMENT FURNITURE THAT I DON'T EVEN WANT.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Spouse and I have agreed that we probably ought to pack all of the family photos on our own and store them at his mom's house or some other "safe" location.  Damn, we have a lot of family photos.  I am going to run out of boxes before the weekend is out.  Oh, forgot to mention the boxes:  I ran through the thirty that the moving company originally brought us, in very short order.  (A lot of them went to resale, with the blessing of the moving company - as the rep put it, "You are entitled to boxes for everything that you own.  Whether all of those boxes go into storage or some go to Goodwill is up to you.")  Spouse called and requested more, and when he did not hear back he borrowed the ranch truck and drove to Arlington to retrieve 'em.  At which point the guy on duty looked at him very suspiciously like, quite possibly, Spouse might be working a scam and attempting to steal boxes to which he was not, actually, factually, entitled.  Spouse had to work to convince him that, NO, REALLY, YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO MOVE US AT SOME INDEFINITE POINT IN THE FUTURE WHEN OUR INSURANCE COMPANY GETS OFF OF ITS DEAD BEHIND, AND IN THE INTERIM MY WIFE IS DOING YOUR JOB FOR YOU AND BOXING EVERYTHING THAT DOESN'T MOVE.

"Everything that doesn't move" now includes a bunch of breakable items that Spouse has deemed irreplaceable.  I have ten boxes left out of the second haul of thirty.  They won't last long.  Spouse is now en route to Super Target to buy the few storage tubs (they're turquoise and on clearance!) that I left on the shelves at lunch today.

Serenity now.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Signs That Make Me Laugh

Okay, the first two have been around the block a few times, but I still laugh when I see them.  Actually saw a version of the first one in the parking lot across the street from the Modern Art Museum here in Fort Worth:

But this one is my fave:

Hello?  Is it me you're looking for?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Parker's Unbirthday

So I can cross off of the whimsical bucket list, "indulge October birthday child's request for a pool party shindig."

Now wishing that I had had the foresight to have at least one summer baby.  Reasons:  1.  Pool party birthdays are totally fun.  2.  Pool party birthdays are totally easy.  Seriously, they pretty much plan themselves.  No need to think of activities; the built-in activity is "swimming."  And if you are fortunate enough to be a member of Ridglea Country Club, someone else sets up the table for you, the club assigns you a dedicated waiter (for a more than reasonable flat rate of $25), et cetera, et cetera.

So, needless to say, a good time was had by all - adult guests included.  By "good time," I mean "a lot of folks stayed around until after 8 when the party started at 2."  Believe me, Mom and Dad were just fine with that.  Given all that we've got going on, Mom and Dad needed some couple friend time.  And, also, some frozen beverages - served, in a kind-of-breach of Ridglea protocol, in pitchers rather than by the glass.

More on the pitchers of frozen beverages in a future post.

Parnell and I joked that this party was sort of like a first birthday party - as much for the parents as for the kid.  But I think that Parker enjoyed himself, too.  Do these look like photos of a boy who enjoyed himself? 

Methinks that they do.

Much of the decor came courtesy of my friend Carrye Campbell at Invitation Monkey - including the birthday shark balloon sticker:

Okay, funny story about the royal blue tableloth: awhile back, I purchased several two-yard cuttings of tablecloth vinyl at Garden Ridge, for $5.99 each. Among the haul: two lengths of blue vinyl with dark blue and lime green polka dots, and one piece of turquoise metallic naugahyde. Do I have any idea where these are? No, which is incredibly ironic, because they were underfoot for A LONG TIME. They were thick, and folded took up a lot of space, and for a time they were just OUT in the house. Apparently, I got tired of them being OUT so I put them SOMEWHERE ELSE. And then, like every squirrel who misplaced a nut, I developed selective amnesia. Tore the house and the carriage house upside-down. No luck. I am confident that all of these items will turn up when we move - the definition of a day late and a dollar short.

So, the morning of the party, I headed back to Garden Ridge, hoping that they would have the exact same designs and colors in stock. Wouldn't hurt to have multiples, right? Yeah, no such luck. So I stared at what they did have, for a long time, and mentally cursed my fate. Then I "settled" on the royal blue, on the theory that it would provide a nice constrast to turquoise paper napkins and plates. Turned down the next aisle and, voila: a smallish polka-dotted beach towel (translation: INSTANT TABLE RUNNER!) in the colors of the party, clearance-priced at under four bucks, and next to the towel was a stack of turquoise waffle vinyl placemats, fifty cents each. Went home, got out some circle templates and cut out turquoise bubbles of various sizes; remembered that I owned lime green placemats similar to the turquoise ones, and cut those up, too. (I wasn't using them. What's that line from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The line that I love so much? You mean to tell me that you sold your everlasting soul to the devil? "Well, I figured I wasn't using it.")

Long story short, royal blue tablecloth plus beach towel plus bubble-age equaled a much cuter party table than I had found the earlier supply stash. Doesn't it always seem to work out that way? And now I have a royal blue tablecloth that doesn't duplicate the others and "will come in helpful," to quote my college roommate from Big Spring, Texas. Or, "BIIIG SPRAAANG, Texas," the way she pronounced it. Hey, come to think of it, my college roommate from BIIIG SPRAAANG, Texas, sounded EXACTLY like an extra from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Small world! Cue Elton John singing "The Circle of Life."

Um, where was I?

Oh, the non-duplicative tablecloth will come in helpful - that is, assuming that I don't misplace it. Better not store it with the others. Which should be easy to accomplish, SINCE I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY ARE.

I digress again.

Favors included shark-embellished party crackers (filled with blue and green leis and little rubber sea critters) and gummi kabobs wrapped in cellophane trimmed with shark stickers from Invitation Monkey:

Kabob backsides are pictured below.  Those are folded sour belts flanking the various colored gummi sour rings in the middle.  I told myself that the blue sour belts, when folded, resembled waves, and the rings were like life preservers.  Not that any explanation was necessary:  the kids just opened them up and ate them, without bothering to place them in any aquatic context.  No, the explanation was for me - to keep me from going postal after I visited every candy retailer in a fifteen-mile radius, only to discover that NO ONE HAD GUMMI SHARKS.  Seriously?  Central Market always has them (only when I don't need them, evidently), and if they don't, the World Market across the parking lot should.  Strikes one and two.  I checked a few other locales, and then inspiration struck:  the candy store in the mall, just past the Rave Theater!  The one with eighteen thousand bins.

Would you believe that only 17,999 bins were filled, and the empty one just so happened to be labeled GUMMI SHARKS?

(Editor's note:  Just had an aha moment.  The candy store inside the zoo.  That place is bound to have gummi sharks.  Day late and a dollar short is starting to show up as a recurring theme in this post.)

Polka-dotted paper cups were left over from a Fourth of July party.  Slapped on some more of the round shark stickers and, BOOM, finished.  To keep the cups from blowing away pre-cake time, I filled each one with a new splash bomb pool toy.  Paper plates and napkins were weighted down with cupcake liners filled with blue Jelly Bellys (the "ocean") and topped with gummi fish for a sort-of fish bowl effect.

Other favors included water guns  (and more little kid-friendly sand/water sifters for the smallest fry),

and, also, shark hats.  Even the adults appreciated the shark hats.  (Lauren Grace's dad is threatening to wear his while he mows his lawn.  He figures that his neighbors already have pegged him  for crazy, so why not indulge their preconceptions?

Cake was a simple bakery cake, decorated to look like water, and typed with another "Sharky" (this one a vinyl cutout, also from Invitation Monkey).

Like I say, the party was a success all around.  And now I am wondering what other special occasions I can co-opt.  Thanksgiving pool party just doesn't have the same ring and zing.  Bikini Halloween costume contest?  Wait, I PERSONALLY might be called upon to wear a bikini under these circumstances. Withdraw the question.

Happy "almost seven unbirthday," my sweet Shark Boy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Things I'm Digging: Whimsical Housewares

So I'm posting things at random. Sue me. A girl's gotta find her fun and/or impose order where she can when her life is otherwise kinda topsy turvy.

In that vein, please enjoy the following silliness, with my compliments.

Don't you wish that you inherited THESE from your grandma?

Tired of explaining why you have a bandage on your hand?  Let your wound care do the talking for you.  "Dance Off."  "Jousting."  "Ninja Fight."  "Shark Bite."

Good, sweet heavens.  I need one of these.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kid Stuff: Circle of Life

I have become my mother.

Not, in this particular respect, by choice, but by circumstance.

We still don't know where we're going to be living for the next two, or possibly, three months. We hope to have all of that resolved in the next week or so. In the meantime, I am boxing up out-of-season clothes, carting my out-of-season candles to my parents' house (to ensure climate-controlled storage and zero meltage) and taking other small steps to keep things moving forward. The steps are small by necessity, as I am operating in a vacuum of information: I know that I will need this subset of things if we move into a furnished apartment, I will need these additional things if we move into an unfurnished unit, and still more things will be going with us if we end up in a house. Right now, we don't know whether it's A, B and C. So I'm going through the house and culling out the absolute essentials - the kids' favorite books, the family Bible, etc., with the intent of adding more stuff to the "going with us" pile later if/when it becomes relevant to do so.

Already the pile includes a lot of seasonal stuff - our most favorite, and most portable, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decor. It's important to me that the kids don't lose an entire season of their young lives due to circumstance beyond their control, because - let's face it - we're not guaranteed another fall, or another winter, and you have to live each day like it could be your last.

As I'm sorting through the holiday kitsch, an image keeps coming to mind - an image that I know exists in a photo album stored somewhere at my parents' house, of me at age 5. I am standing in the window of our last temporary quarters - the house that we stayed in before we moved to Houston after Dad's retirement from the military. I'm standing looking out into the yard, and surrounding my face are Valentine's images - window clings and heart-shaped doilies that Mom has put in the window in in the interest of preserving some sense of normality and continuity for her small daughter. We may not be in "our" house, but life goes on, and it's OUR life, the way we like to live it, regardless of the surroundings. That was the message that Mom's window clings and doilies imparted to me, and now I am paying it forward.

Once an Army brat, always an Army brat. I've watched my mother pack up and unpack countless times. I did my stint in temporary quarters and spent nine months living with my mother at my grandparents' home in California while Dad was stationed overseas. I've got this - just give me my orders, and I'll get it done.

And therein lies the problem - I'm still waiting for my orders. And, thus, I have little choice but to rearrange deck chairs on my own personal Titanic (an apt metaphor, when your house is floating on a hundred thousand gallons of water).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Potpourri: Max's Double Life

This is Max.

Max is kind of . . . ever-present . . . in the sense of always being directly underfoot when I try to take a step in any direction.  So imagine my surprise to discover that he has been sneaking away to model for Etsy seller Sugar Baby Ink.  In Toronto. 

Okay, so this cat isn't really Max, but he (or she) is a dead ringer for Max when we was a young cat and hadn't lost his baby fat. 
Our Max is more angular now.  But the real reason that we know that this isn't Max is that this cat is wearing a collar.  We spend a good bit of our day tracking down Max and  restoring his collar to its rightful place around his neck.  He finds a way to take it off in under ten seconds.  Apparently, he's too sexy for it - didn't you get the memo? 

Gosh, a guy does a litle modeling and develops a swelled head.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Revved Up About Reading Rocks

So last year Friend Robyn and I decorated a table for the Reading Rocks benefit, on just a little bit of notice, and we had a blast doing it.  Through that experience, I became reconnected with an awesome UT sorority sister, who happens to be co-chairing the 2012 RR event, and, long story short, Friend Robyn and I will be co-chairing the decorations committee!  This is the sort of thing that gets both of us ridiculously, geekily excited.  All I can think of is the Target back-to-school ad with the (really hilarious) kindergarten teacher:  "Glitter.  So much glitter."

Bring on the glitter, and . . . you know . . . everything else!

Found a video clip of last year's event on PicFlip's Web site.  Take a look, and if you're local and want to help (or simply attend with your children - how many charity benefits are this kid-friendly?), let me know:

("Glitter" sign available through CountryWorkshop's Etsy site.)

Things I'm Digging: Australians

Allegedly, the questions below were posted on an Australian Tourism Web site and the answers are the actual responses by the Web site administrators.  I choose to believe that these are genuine.  Countries in parentheses identify the countries of origin of the morons - I mean, prospective tourists - asking the questions.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia ? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? ( UK )

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.


Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? ( USA )

A: Depends how much you've been drinking.


Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? ( Sweden )

A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles. Take lots of water.


Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia ? ( USA )

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle-shaped continent south of Europe Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not

... Oh, forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.


Q: Which direction is North in Australia ? ( USA )

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here, and we'll send the rest of the directions.


Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is ...

Oh, forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.


Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia ? ( UK )

A: You are a British politician, right?


Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney, and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )

A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.


Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia , but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. ( USA )

A: It's called a drop bear. They are so called because they drop out of gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.


Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia ? ( USA )

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.


Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )

A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Potpourri: Pledge Class Pandemonium

Fall sorority rush (ahem, excuse me - "recruitment") has concluded on most campuses, and Alpha Delta Pi did fabulously in this neck of the woods.  Not saying that we didn't do well elsewhere, but, as I get my information from the local alumnae group and my good friend Melanie the Province Director, the data at my immediate disposal is specific to "Texas and surrounding." 

Aside:  how is that I am old enough (ahem, excuse me - "mature enough") to have a good friend who is a province director?  Add this to the list of "signs that you are middle-aged" (ahem, excuse me - "signs that you are a grown-up").

The thing that has me freaking out, sort of, is the size of the pledge (ahem, excuse me - Alpha) classes on various campuses.  At TCU and UT, we're talking numbers in the 70's and 80's, which sounded ginormous to me until I read the tidbit about the ADPi Alpha class at the University of Arkansas consisting of 103 young women.  You read that right:  DOUBLE-DIGIT PLEDGES.  That's, like, ridiculous.  And somewhat surprising:  given the state of the economy, you might expect sorority membership (which introduces additional expenses over and above room and board) to be on the decline.

But delighted that the trend is moving in the other direction.  In addition to the long-term benefits of sorority membership (hands-on leadership training, networking opportunities and lifelong friendships being just the tip of the proverbial iceberg), I can testify to the fact that being surrounded by sisters during your college years (particularly when you don't have any biological ones) can be a boon in any set of circumstances, and most definitely when the chips are down.  My dad's first kidney cancer diagnosis came just after Christmas my freshman year, and the following year my dad (along with countless other middle- and upper-management banker types) got handed his walking papers as part of the big bank crash of the late '80's.  I made it through some dark college-era days, with sanity mostly intact, in large part because of my ADPi sisters.  So, belated thanks, ladies.  Hoping that all of our new sisters draw similar strength from each other as they make their way through college knowing that the world that awaits them may be even less certain than what we faced in the early 90's.