Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kid Stuff: Slippery Vixen

The scene:  I am heading south to the apartment, and Spouse and the kids are heading north on the same road.  Spouse and I are on the phone, discussing who is likely to arrive first, who should park in the garage, etc.  Twice, he opined that he and the kids would arrive before me, given that I had to make my way through a typically nasty road construction-related traffic snafu.  I checked out what was ahead of me and reported that things didn't look that bad.

I was unaware that, from the perspective of one of the backseat passengers, the gauntlet had been thrown.

I got home first and pulled into the garage with Spouse hot on my heels (tires)?  Doors opened, Spouse literally (LITERALLY) fell out of the driver's side laughing his patoot off, and the seven year-old burst out of the backseat hollering:

"YOU SLIPPERY VIXEN!!!!  I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT YOU BEAT US!"

Slippery vixen?

Spouse assured me that the phrase did not originate with Spouse but, rather, with the seven year-old - hence, the falling-out-laughing part.

I have been called a nimble minx before, but never a slippery vixen.

Postscript:  Yup, Google confirmed it.  It's a Phineas and Ferb reference.  God bless P and F for making us laugh even when we aren't in front of the TV tuned into their show.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Event: The McGlincheys Move to Europe


Okay, we're not moving to Europe - but our kitchen is.  Or, more precisely, Europe is moving into our kitchen.  Bringing with it induction cooktops and convection ovens.

After many hours spent staring at things in home improvement showrooms, we have determined that we are not a double oven family. What we are is a “single oven with two microwaves, one of which also has true European convection and infrared broiling” family. When I started to think about it, I very rarely need two ovens, but there are tons of times when I wish I had two microwaves. And if one of those microwaves also bakes and broils . . . sold.


Item on the left: Jenn-Air oven with multi-mode convection and professional handle. It’s ridiculous how much I love that professional handle. They make the same model with a normal handle (like the one on the right) that would allow this item to blend in with the other items in close proximity – but I don’t care if the professional handle clashes, because everything about it is amazingly right.  It feels good in the hand, it's a substantial weight, the ratio of the weight of the handle to the weight of the door is exactly perfect.  Everything just balances, dammit.  So I'm getting my handle, overall aesthetics be damned.

Dad approves of the Jenn-Air (and a similar Kitchen-Aid model that I don’t like as much, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAVE THE PROFESSIONAL HANDLE), because it is capable of doing complex math calculations in its little oven head.  You program in the regular temperature and time and it converts to convection numbers.  I'm not entirely sure, but it's possible that it will even do your taxes for you.

The kids like the Jenn-Air because IT SINGS TO THEM. I am not making that up.  Opening the door powers up the onboard computer, and the computer plays a happy little chime to let you know that it's awake and ready to cook things for you.

Did I mention that it has a "Favorites" feature - not unlike Microsoft Explorer or Mozilla Firefox?  You can bookmark your favorite cooking times.

Yeah, I'm fairly sure that the thing also does taxes. 

The heating element is hidden (so nothing drips on the burners), and there is the most amazing insulation around the door. Seriously.

The Kitchen-Aid has the same insulation, and - as noted above - it also does the conversion thing.  But it does not chime, and IT DOES NOT HAVE THE PROFESSIONAL HANDLE (which is weird, because the professional handle is offered as part of an oven/range combo, but not in the wall oven).  I am afraid that I will end up with the Kitchen-Aid, because Spouse is on a streak of finding amazing deals on Kitchen-Aid appliances, and Spouse is in charge of purchasing.  (This is what Spouse does best.  His skills at finding stuff that fell off of trucks would put any mid-level Mafioso to shame.)  If I end up with the Kitchen-Aid, I will still be happy - notwithstanding its lack of chime, professional handle AND Favorites button, and did I mention its odd cobalt blue interior?

Okay, I really want the Jenn-Air.

Item on the right: bad-a** Miele microwave oven with true European convection and infrared broiling.  It does not sing, but if it did, it would sing "Deutschland Uber Alles."  Miele is just a bit smug about its products, in that smug German way (Miele's tag line:  "Immer Besser," which translates into "Ever Better"), but with good reason:  they totally rock. 

And I totally want this oven in my kitchen.

Regular oven is going on the bottom (but not too low). Miele microwave is going on top, and in between (at kid height) we plan to build in a traditional microwave (the kind where the door opens outward; the Miele model opens down, like a regular oven), so the kids can pop their popcorn, etc. The Miele is possibly too complicated for child use, although part of my reason for selecting this model is that you switch from micro to convection to broiler using dials, and the options surrounding the dials are spelled out in big, clear letters.  In other words, it's somewhat more idiot-proof than the convection microwaves with the panels, which scare me, because you could brush up against the wrong button and accidentally cause Armageddon if you have the wrong pan inside.  This one has dials.  (When I typed that, I did so using my best Nigel Tufnel voice in my head:  "This one goes to eleven.")

My kitchen is going to be amps on eleven.  If it ever gets finished.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kid Stuff: Pumpkin Boy


PJ was "Pumpkin Boy" from the get-go.  Two weeks before his arrival, in a fit of boredom, I donned a tube top and sweatpants and my spouse painted my stomach to look like a jack o' lantern (using orange and black Halloween grease paint).  I literally bellied up to the bar (well, the kitchen countertop), and we cropped the tube top out of the photo, so all you see is a ginormous pumpkin belly.  That photograph is in his baby book, next to the ubiquitous "first photo" taken of him by the hospital photographer.  Given that it was Halloween, we thought it appropriate to dress him in orange coveralls and a matching pumpkin hat.  Not seen in the photo:  the long john-style trapdoor in the back, labeled (appropriately enough, for an infant) "Trick or Treat."  (Gallows humor; not many treats coming out of that end, to be sure.)

Fast forward seven years.  PJ LURRRRRVES pumpkin EVERYTHING.  Coincidence?  I say nay.  Starting in early October, the fridge was stocked with pumpkin-flavored milk, and we had a carton of Dreyer's pumpkin ice cream in the freezer.  When his actual birthday arrived, he eschewed all of the vanilla and chocolate cupcake varieties at J Rae's in favor of . . . pumpkin spice. 

And then it was Thanksgiving week, and a few days before the big day PJ noted the large can that had been placed at his eye level in the pantry:

"WHOA.  MOM.  You have PUMPKIN PIE IN A CAN?!?"

Um, no - yes, I see that there's a picture of pie on the can, but the contents of the can are the contents of a pumpkin pie.  There isn't an actual pie IN THE CAN.

Harumph.  PJ thought that this was false advertising.  He brightened when I assured him that Nana would be bringing a pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving.

Later that day, acting on a tip from a Facebook friend, I bought a carton of Blue Bell's Spiced Pumpkin Pecan ice cream.  We tend to avoid Blue Bell (yes, I know that them's fightin' words in Tejas), because Dreyer's has less fat and calories.  But Facebook Friend said that the Blue Bell pecan variant was the bomb diggity.  She wasn't lying.  I whipped up a batch of pumpkin spice cookies and surprised PJ with a "pumpkin-squared sammie."


Needless to say, I won major parental points.

We ran out of pumpkin spice cookies before we ran out of Blue Bell, so as of today we have moved on to soft-baked gingersnaps, which add a whole layer of flavor and dimension to PJ's new favorite dessert.

Gotta love Pumpkin Boy.

Kid Stuff: Another Day, Another Manifesto

The Unawriter continues to make appearances at Casa McGlinchey.

My mom babysat for us awhile back.  She came bearing six donuts - one for each child to consume after dinner, and two each for breakfast the following morning.

Apparently, while watching PJ do his homework, she commented on his sloppy handwriting and told him that she knew that he could do better.

He pitched a fit, and she responded by revoking his donut privileges.

PJ responded with the following:



Allow me to translate.  "OPEN, NANA.  I said I'm sorry.  Please let me have 3 donuts, pretty please.  I'm super sorry, Nana.  Check yes or no if you accept my apologies.  Yes or no."

We also got a note this afternoon, when we told the boys that they could not go out to ride bikes and play soccer unless they made a serious effort to summit Mount Toysandjunk (I think it was tall enough to qualify as a mountain) and return things to their appropriate boxes and bins.  A few minutes after being sent off to tackle this task, PJ returned to our room with a note that said:  "You said I can't play soccer unless I clean, but Connor said that I was annoying him and made me leave the room, SO NOW I CAN'T CLEAN WHICH MEANS THAT I CAN'T PLAY SOCCER."

You're probably wondering why he simply didn't just TELL US this information?  Yeah, good point.  His voice works and all (and how - he's a loud one).  But it's ever so much more dramatic to enter the room in "silent running" mode and shove a note in an adult's hand, and then wait expectantly (remaining close-lipped) while they read it, and stifle their urge to laugh out loud.

If notebook paper (his preferred canvas) is unavailable, a parking lot and chalk will do in a pinch.  Here is the Unawriter at work at a recent TCU tailgate:



We start out innocent enough:  "Frogs rule, yo."  Okay, so a little attitude there, but all in good fun.

Then we add some art:



I believe that says, "TCU Rocks."  And, yes, that's a horned frog - I think.  Our horned frogs look an awful lot like our stegosauri.

Then we ask one of the girls to create a chalk body outline for us.


Big Bro is enlisted to draw a second body outline.


And then the mayhem begins.  Aww, he's adding a heart:


And drawing an arrow through it.  See, that's a Colorado State player - and the TCU defense JUST DONE WENT AND SHOVED A STAKE THROUGH HIS CHEST, YO.


I try not to worry when he draws crime scenes.  He's a boy, after all, and a dramatic one at that.  It was less than a year ago when he announced his career aspiration to play a corpse on CSI Miami and then have lunch at the craft services table.  (Why CSI Miami?  Two words:  Spring Break.  Spring Breakers tend to be young, and he wants to get a jump on this acting thing by being cast as a dead guy sooner rather than later.  Also, Spring Breakers tend to get themselves in lots of trouble, making for MUCH DRAMA.  This whole topic arose when PJ happened to walk in on a CSI Miami episode where a drunk Spring Breaker had fallen off of a balcony and impaled himself on a giant post at pool level.  For a second, I naively thought that the open-mouthed expression on my then six year-old's face signaled horror rather than admiration.  I quickly went into damage control mode:  "Isn't that kid a great actor?  He has to sit there perfectly still and not blink or twitch, and he gets to wear that cool makeup and a prosthetic device that makes him look like he has a spike through his stomach.  Cool, huh?"  Cool, indeed.  The wheels were already turning.  Playing a dead guy:  pretty awesome.  Playing a truly messed-up dead guy dripping in gore:  amps on eleven.)

So I'd be lying if I told you that our installation at the TCU game was our first foray into the true crime genre.  A few weeks ago, PJ was bored, so he started drawing imaginary crime scenes, and - being PJ - he labeled everything.  In the left margin:  the weapon, labeled "rifle" or "pistol" as appropriate.  In the middle:  the victim, with X's for eyes.  To the right:  THE TIME OF DEATH.  SOOOOO many questions:  Does he do this at school?  Surely not, or we would have received a call home by now.  Did he have to assign the victims names of ACTUAL CLASSMATES?   I made inquiries and quickly determined that he bore no ill will towards the named students - they were just people he knew, and therefore knew how to draw.  I gently outlined for him the consequences of making a perceived terroristic threat in a public school and received a horrified assurance that he would not be drawing any more crime scenes - at least, not in class.

I asked my spouse if we should be concerned.  He gave me the look that says, "Oh, honey, sometimes it is so obvious that you did not grow up with a brother."  How did PJ know the difference between a rifle and a pistol?  Um, because he's a boy.  It's a boy's job to know the difference.  Give a boy a room full of innocuous, non-weapon-y toys, and he WILL find a way to turn one into a pretend firearm.  Or, in the case of my boys, give them a ream of notebook paper, some crayons and tape, and THEY WILL CREATE BROADSWORDS AND BOWIE KNIVES OUT OF PAPER.  No, I am not making this up.  The other day, I discovered a paper battle axe.  (Okay, maybe that one was an editorial comment from my spouse?)  During the same cleaning spree, I found what I initially thought was an abandoned Unawriter note but subsequently determined was an actual list of toys that could be used as weapons in a pinch.  The title of the list:  "THINGS TO USE FOR REEVENGE OR FITEING WITH MY BROTHER."

All of this reminds me of my Brownie Scout days.  The boy who lived diagonally across the street was in Cub Scouts.  He managed to sever his finger after slamming it in a car door, and his parents packed it in ice, drove their child and his finger to the hospital.  The finger was successfully reattached.  (This was all EXTREMELY cutting-edge stuff - remember that I was a Brownie Scout in the seventies.)  Our Brownie troop made him get well soon cards, featuring flowers and rainbows and unicorns.  His Cub Scout troop also made him get well cards - each and every one featuring a depiction of a bloody severed finger.

I recall being horrified - but I guess that's not surprising.  On account of the fact that I didn't grow up with a brother.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kid Stuff: The Tallboy Fought PJ, and PJ Won

So we were going to go out to dinner on Wednesday night, and I was en route to the apartment to rendezvous with the rest of the fam when The Spouse called:

"Can you meet us at urgent care?"

"And to whom do I owe the pleasure?"

At this point, I identified the source of the wailing in The Spouse's backseat as The Little Kid.

"PJ may have broken his arm."

"Explain."

"He couldn't find the remote, so he was reaching up to change the channel remotely, and he pulled the TV and the tall chest over on top of him, and for a minute he was pinned to the bed."

Lovely.

So many thoughts at once: 

Damn The Event.  At home, dangerous furniture was secured to the wall.  At the apartment:  not our furniture, not our wall.

Spouse, I told you so.  I told you that if you didn't bring the kids' (smaller) TV over to the apartment on the first day, the movers were going to accidentally pack it up.  After they accidentally packed it up, I told you that putting the larger TV on top of the tall-and-narrow chest was a recipe for disaster.

What is it with my kids and broken arms?

Then I had a panic attack:  what if his neck or back was broken, but not all of the way through?  What if he moved a certain way, and the break competed itself, and his spinal cord was severed?  Seriously, this happened to my mother's cousin's wife:  she was run over by a car in her driveway while sunbathing (okay, I realize that that sounds totally ridiculous, but I do not think that my mother had a reason to lie, and I SWEAR this is how the story was recounted to me, several times), and initially she got up and was moving around like nothing was seriously wrong, but her husband took her to the hospital in an abundance of caution, and the doctor asked her if she could move her head from one side to the other, and she did, and she died.

Thus ends the tragic tale of my mother's cousin's wife.

I called The Spouse back:

"ABORT!  ABORT!  Take him to the ER!  He needs to be immobilized and strapped to a backboard!"

"He's fine.  With all of the flailing about, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth, anything that was going to snap would have snapped by now.  [The Spouse has heard the tragic tale of my mother's cousin's wife.]  I don't even think that his arm is broken."

We agreed to take him for an X-ray out of an abundance of caution.

Fast forward an hour.  After suffering through forty five choruses of, "Am I next?  How long is this going to take?" we were taken to the back.  Pretty much already knowing what the verdict was going to be, because, the longer we had to wait, the more forced his "Ow, my arms" were becoming, and the more times he slipped up and actually used said arm in a way wholly inconsistent with an actual broken arm. 

PJ to the nurse:

"Hi.  I'm PJ.  You might remember my brother?  You have X-rayed his arm before.  A couple of times.  But this is MY first time."

Doctor came in, examined him, took note of zero swelling, and then gave me a look over his head that clearly said, "And I'm looking at this kid why?"  I rolled my eyes and shrugged, hopefully conveying the "abundance of caution" message.

Doctor:  "PJ, can you take your shirt off for me so that I can look at your shoulder?"

Ah, the classic "let's see if the kid's faking" gambit. 

PJ:  "My arm's broken.  YOU take it off."

Wow, he's good.

Doctor:  "Can you just see if you can lift your arm over your head?"

PJ:  "Ow.  Ow.  OW."

Big Brother:  "He's faking.  HE'S FAKING, MOM.  I have broken my arm twice, and sprained it once, and I can tell that he's faking."

PJ:  "STOP IT!  MY ARM IS REALLY BROKEN!"

Big Brother:  "If you keep this up, it's your own funeral.  Because Mom will make you keep it in a sling, and she'll write a note for PE, and you won't get to go to recess, and you'll get really, really bored, and the only way to get out of wearing the sling will be to tell Mom that you lied."

Big Brother knows me pretty well by now.

X-ray technician arrives.

PJ:  "YAY.  My first X-ray.  I love X-rays."

Big Brother:  "How can you love them if you have never had one before?  And, also, X-rays are dangerous.  And expensive.  Mom and Dad may dock your allowance."

Dad asks Big Brother to kindly stop co-parenting.  Mom thinks that he is doing a pretty good job.

The X-ray reveals something odd where the shoulder inserts - something odd in the growth plate.  Of course in the growth plate.  It's always the growth plate.  Doctor wants to take a look at the other shoulder, for the sake of comparison.

Great.  TWO X-rays.

Right shoulder looks exactly like the left one.  Apparently, my child has oddly formed shoulders.  Um, good to know?  Child is given a placebo sling.  Child is irritated:  "I really do think it's broken."

"Well, we'll have the radiologist have a look at it in the morning, and if it's broken we'll call your mom.  If we don't call, then you can take the sling off once it stops hurting."

Placebo sling made it until lunch the next day.

When we got back to the apartment, we determined that, while tallboy didn't do much damage to child, child did some damage to the tallboy, requiring a wood glue repair to a drawer support. 

The TV fired right back up.  No damage whatsoever.

So, for those scoring at home, that's McGlincheys 2, McGlincheys' Television 1, Murderous Apartment 0.  (Remember that the first day in the Murderous Apartment, the big kid took a tumble down the steps - REQUIRING AN X-RAY.  I am starting to suspect that the Murderous Apartment is getting kickbacks from the urgent care.)

Two final notes, and I'll wrap up the tragic tale of my drama king seven year-old and the rented tallboy dresser:

(1)  Upon returning home, Big Brother, in a moment of uncharacteristic emotion, turned to me and said, "Mom, if PJ hadn't thrown a shoulder at the chest the way he did, he could have DIED."  As I was opening my mouth to explain that, as a parent, you have to shut your mind to "woulda, coulda" thoughts, or you go crazy, Big Brother continued:  "If he had died, do you think that we would give his toys to charity, or would we have a garage sale?  Do you think we would keep some of his toys as a reminder of him, and, if so, for how long?"

Yeah, I got nothin'.

(2)  From the Department of Ironies:  as noted above, PJ pulled over the tallboy and TV as he was attempting to change channels manually, because he could not find the remote.  Know what hit PJ first?  THE REMOTE - AS IT SLID OFF OF ITS PLACE ON THE TALLBOY, DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE BUTTON THAT PJ WAS REACHING FOR.  Clearly, he is his father's son.  My spouse can, and frequently does, look for something in the pantry for eons without finding it, at which point I will open the pantry door and the item in question will be on the front row, at my spouse's exact eye level.  My question ever time:  "You couldn't find THAT?"  His answer every time:  "Nope, because it didn't leap into my outstretched hands."

As it turns out, the remote did leap into PJ's outstretched hands.

Kind of funny.  Not funny ha-ha, funny ironic.

Okay, kind of funny ha-ha, too.  Because, as a parent, you have to laugh to keep from beating your head against a wall.

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 16 Through 20

Day 16:  Thankful for good friends who know that I still love them and am thinking about them even when I don't get around to actually calling or e-mailing them.  I have admittedly strayed off of the grid this fall, on account of The Event.  In a lot of ways, it's like life stopped for us in July, and we were transported to some alternate reality that is kind of like real life, but not.  I was reminded of this in a quite tangible way when I went to the house for the first time in a long time, and I actually took the time to look at my front yard for the first time in a long time.  In addition to noticing that my coleus were leggy and in need of pruning, I couldn't help but notice the red, white and blue pinwheels and patriotic garden flag - yard decor that I decided to leave out for the entire month of July.  And then, in the last week of July, life ground to a halt.  And the Fourth of July yard kitsch have been out on display ever since.  No back to school banner, no display of hay bales and pumpkins, and - next month - no Christmas lights.  Okay, straying off-topic - back to my tolerant and inexhaustably patient friends, who are probably reading this and thinking, "ENOUGH ABOUT  YOUR STUPID YARD ART, ALREADY."  But they don't say that out loud.  Out loud, and in e-mails, they say incredibly supportive things, and they indulge me when I go ON AND ON AND ON about how much the house situation sucks, and they (hopefully) understand that this, too, shall pass, and in a couple of months I will be back in the swing of things, and will actually make it to keno, and to happy hour, and - in fact - will be overjoyed to host keno, and happy hour, so that I can utilize my new groovy copper bar sink.

Until we get back to square, thanks for putting up with me.  You all know who you are.

Day 17:   Thankful for the fact that my children appear to be constructed entirely of steel, with a Teflon outer coating.  Story behind this one deserves its own post.  And so its own post it shall be given.

Day 18:  Thankful for the Crock Pot.  Back in August, I committed to bringing brisket taco meat to the tailgate for the last TCU home game of the year.  I distinctly remember the spouse taking me to task for committing to do anything when we were poised to have our lives disrupted, and I distinctly remember responding that I picked the last home game because surely we would be back in the house by then.

Ah, naivete.

Did I mention that the insurance company extended the lease on the apartment through January 12th?  Sigh.  That development gets its own post, too.

But back to being thankful for the Crock Pot - specifically, my mother's oversized identical twin Crock Pots, which I just used to cook twelve pounds of brisket.  Picked up the brisket and brisket fixin's on Thursday, on the way home from "Social Studies Night" at C's school (it was exciting as it sounds), then procured said Crock Pots, cut the brisket into manageable chunks and kept the meat in the fridge overnight.  On Friday I went to Encore's auction fundraiser, got home at 10 pm, and fired those puppies right up.  Around 4 am, I woke up thinking about the house (this happens all too often lately - I compose letters to the adjuster in my sleep), downshifted the Crock Pots from "high" to "low," and went back to sleep.  Meat was done by 7 am.  A little trimming, some shredding, and a bit more seasoning, and - bam! - good to go.

God bless the Crock Pot.

Day 19:  Day 18 didn't find me feeling terribly thankful, due to house issues and what seemed to be a rotten day all around, for me, various members of my family and a couple of clients.  Kind of wanted to skip Encore's auction, but so glad that I forced myself to indulge in some girl time.  Came home in a much healthier state of mind, so on Day 19 I had to give a shout-out to the ladies of Encore, and also to Lamar the awesome Cabinet Dude and our equally awesome plumber and electrician.  They show up on time, do their jobs right and bill appropriately.  Exhibit A of why cloning might not be a bad idea.

Day 20:    Thankful to be an Alpha Delta Pi.  Spent a gorgeous (if a little windy) Saturday tailgating with TCU ADPi friends, who are just as important to me as my UT sisters are.  As the day was winding down, I ran into another ADPi sister - pledge sister from Texas - who, in fact, used to own the home that my parents live in now.  Small world.  Being in a sorority does make life seem smaller, in a good way.  Less scary.  The first group I got involved with when I moved to Fort Worth was the local alumnae group.  Through that group, I became involved in Fort Worth Panhellenic, and through Panhellenic I:  became involved with a number of other nonprofit organizations; met my future next door neighbor, godmother to my youngest child and surrogate big sister (it's all the same person); and began friendships that I cemented after joining Junior Woman's Club and Junior League.  So, if you think about it, the fact that I have put down so many roots - big HONKIN' roots - in Fort Worth in a relatively short time frame is directly attributable to my sorority.  Of course, it goes much deeper than that:  sorority involvement taught me leadership and interpersonal skills that I use to this day.  It taught me how to be friends with other women.  Well, it started that process - I didn't get good at being friends with other women until I was much older.  I wasn't just an only child, I was an Army brat who moved nine times in six years.  Making friends:  part of my skill set from the get-go.  Keeping friends:  now, THAT was the difficult part.  ADPi provided me with my first experiences in having, and being, a "sister."  Sisters fight, they annoy each other, but they never write each other off.  They continue to see the good underneath the surface.

Again, a lesson that I use to this day.

Gotta go - time to write a check to the alumnae association capital campaign.

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 11 Through 15

Day 11:  Veteran's Day.  Thankful for all veterans, particularly those in my family tree.  I am the product of two military families:  my mom's older brother and two of her uncles were West Point grads, and my dad and two of his brothers were career Army officers.  That's how my parents met, actually.  Have I ever mentioned that?  My dad and my mom's brother served together.  I always labored under the assumption that my uncle introduced my parents, which quite honestly surprised me, as I had heard a lot of stories about him denying his friends access to her in their high school years.  You know, "don't even THINK about asking my sister out on a date" kind of stuff.  Turns out that he never outgrew the protective big brother role:  a mutual friend of my uncle and my dad arranged the set-up date, to my uncle's considerable consternation.  My dad was a FRIEND, and FRIENDS DON'T DATE YOUR SISTER.  But my clever dad found the loophole:  instead of dating her, he married her.  Seriously; he proposed to her on the second date.

It gets weirder, people:  my dad's brothers ended up working at the Pentagon with my mom's brother, and Dad's baby brother - Uncle Don - rode carpool from the Virginia suburbs into DC with my mom's brother, Uncle George.   Uncle George's wife had a friend who also needed a ride into the city, so she joined the carpool - and subsequently married Uncle Don and became my Aunt Carol.  Because the wives were good friends, their kids were good friends as well, so my cousin on one side of the family was the matron of honor in the wedding of my cousin on the other side of my family, et cetera.

But I digress.  This is about veterans.  Dad's great-great-great-etc. grandfather, Charnel Durham, was a Revolutionary War officer, so the military tradition goes back a ways in our family.  Dad served two tours in Vietnam, and now he is fighting his second battle with renal cancer as a result of Agent Orange exposure - a particularly poignant reminder of the sacrifices, some obvious and some not so obvious, that servicemen make for their country.

Happily, I had the opportunity to spend time on Veterans Day with my daddy (and my mom):  after attending a Veterans Day assembly at PJ's school, we had breakfast together at Central Market.  Great way to start a Friday!

Day 12:  Thankful for my Junior League friends and for the good work that League does for the community.  Spent part of Day 12 at the JL resale shop.  I actually enjoy volunteering there - I know that some folks think that it's a chore, but I worked retail for pocket money in college (summers and Christmas break), and it fits my personality.  I like to help people, I like to organize things, and I enjoy a good bargain.  In college, it was all about the employee discount.  At Double Exposure, it's all about being at the right place at the right time.  Among my major scores:  a never-worn navy blue blazer for the big kid ($4.80, which is the perfect price, given that he'll outgrow it in a nanosecond); a really great Talavera platter ($2.00); and a stoneware Hofbrauhaus mug to hold my pencils on my desk ($1.00).  I have always coveted my dad's vintage Hofbrauhaus mug, which he acquired when he was living in Germany.  Because he is sentimentally attached to it, he wouldn't let me have it, so I had to buy my own - except, when I finally made it to the 'Haus, they only had glass mugs in stock.  So, finally having a stoneware one is, like, mega-cool - and the dollar price tag makes it mega-cool to the nth degree.

My husband tolerates me working at the resale shop because "I got this Tory Burch top and these Prada flats for 90% off retail" is a heck of a lot more pleasing to the ears than "I got this Tory Burch top and these Prada flats for full price at Neiman Marcus."

Day 13:  Thankful for Reverend Lamar Smith at First Methodist.  Dr. Smith is a one-man welcome wagon.  It is his job to transition in new members and help them feel at home, and he does a bang-up job.   I speak from experience, as he was the one who welcomed us when we decided to officially join the congregation seven years ago (after "visiting" for two; wow, nine years at FUMC, is that possible?).

We used to be 11 am attendees, but, due to confirmation class schedule for the big kid and Sunday School schedule for the little kid, we now attend the 9:30 am service.  Both services wrap up with a "hymn of invitation," and before the hymn Dr. Smith encourages those who wish to join the church to come forward.  At 11 am, he almost always got a new member, or two, or three, but we have learned that, in general, newly minted FUMCers are not early risers:  at 9:30, new members seem to be few and far between, and I was amused to hear my spouse say, "You know, it really bums me out to see Dr. Smith down there and no one comes forward.  Because you can tell that he wants it - it's like he's WILLING IT - and I AM ROOTING FOR IT TO HAPPEN.  Because, I mean, IT'S DR. SMITH."   My thoughts exactly.  Now, it's become a weekly thing with us - at 10:20, we start chanting under our breath, "Come on, come on - anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?"

God bless Dr. Smith, and others like him, who help people settle in in their new church home.

Day 14:  Thankful for the Furry Five.  As I type this, Barkley is curled up in one of the dog's beds (which is sort of weird, because he's not a dog, but sort of explainable, because he is a Maine Coon, and Maine Coons think that they are dogs).   Gabby is on the windowsill, enjoying the awesomeness that is LIVING ON THE SECOND FLOOR.  Seriously, to think that she made it some fifteen years without knowing that there was such a THING as a second floor.  I don't think that she's going to take it well when we have to move back to our lowly single-story abode.

Max is stretched out on my side of the bed (and is taking up a good bit of it - he's a big boy, not just by cat standards, but by supersized Maine Coon standards), slumbering next to my spouse, who hit the hay early, as he is coming down with something indeterminate.  The dogs are - somewhere.  Probably in with the kids.  There is a changing of the guard that takes place at some point during the night, such that I wake up in the morning to find the older dog stretched out next to our bed, the two older cats in bed with us and the furry small fry bunking with the human small fry.  (Max, who has figured out how to make it up to the top bunk, sleeps with C, and Ace the Batdog, who can only get onto low-lying furniture, and then only with a running start, gets PJ by default.)

Yeah, it's a pain in the butt not having a yard right now (picking up poop with a little baggie was unfamiliar territory for us; at home, "poop happens" in the backyard and gets picked up with specialized poop tongs by a child as part of his weekly chores).  Yeah, I'm tired of having the dog bowl stand in an awkward location in the small apartment kitchen, because there's no non-awkward location for it:  I move it to one side of the stove, until I need to get into that cabinet, and then I kick it to the other side, and water sloshes all over my foot.  But it's okay, because we're all together, and we fought the insurance company hard to make that happen.  Totally worth the grief, on balance.

Day 15:  Thankful for the kids' teachers.  See my previous post about C's teacher temporarily restoring my fatih in humanity (and simultaneously making me want to drop-kick the humans who don't rise to his level).  Both boys have been blessed with good teachers this year - and, pretty much, every year.  Definitely cause for thanks.

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 6 Through 10

Playing catch-up here.

Day 6:  I am thankful for our church family at First United Methodist Church.  Day 6 fell on a Sunday - specifically, the first Sunday of the month.  First Sundays bring with them "Children First" services, which are led by Mister Mark, who could give Trout Fishing in America or Laurie Berkner a run for the money.  Seriously, he should have a major recording contract, and a concert tour, and a show on Noggin.  Until he gets all of that, we are more than content to have him run our Children's Ministry. 

Children First services are hilarious.  On this particular Sunday, Mister Mark put his own unique spin on the story of Mary and Martha, with his assistant and one of the ministers acting out the story in pantomime.  Did I mention that the minister who played Martha was male?  At one point, said minister ad libbed a line (in falsetto), and Mister Mark looked at him and said, "You know, Mike, it's really not a speaking part."

LOVE Mister Mark.  And the kids love him, too.

Day 7:  Thankful to be in my forties.  After the Children First service, I headed to a local baseball park, with the fam in tow, to participate in the Junior Woman's Club softball tournament.  By "participate," I mean "lead my department's team in a half-dance/half-cheer that I choreographed to Shania Twain's 'Man, I Feel Like a Woman' as part of the opening ceremonies."  Girlfriend doesn't play softball - never has, never will.  But I do dance, and I did enjoy watching my fellow Encore members, who, for the third year running, came darned close to stealing the title away from the presumptive favorite.  This is significant, because Encore is a department whose membership consists of mostly 40 to 45 year-olds.  The fact that we more than hold our own against twentysomethings appeals to me.  We held our own in the dance/cheer category as well.  Personally, I think that we should have won best performance honors, 'cause we kind of rocked it, but our enthusiasm and overall awesomeness obviously did not go unnoticed, as we ended up winning the "Best Sportsmanship" prize.

Good times, with awesome ladies - all of them living proof that life does not end at forty, but gets a heck of a lot sassier, and unapologetic, and a whole lot of other good things.

Day 8:  Thankful for my Junior Woman's Club and Woman's Club friends.  See Day 7, above.  Particularly thankful that my days as president (and immediate past president) are over, and I can fly below the radar when I want to.  Flying below the radar is good.  Kind of novel, and really, REALLY good.

Day 9:  Thankful for my mother, who, according to the Social Security Administration, was born on November 9th.  According to my grandmother, she was born on November 10th.  I think we can agree that my grandmother probably has the clearer memory of when my mom was born, right?  So November 10th has always been Mom's recognized birthday in our family, which is kind of cool, because my husband is also a November 10th baby.  (Explains why they occasionally butt heads - they are WAY too alike.)  But when Mom retired and had to deal with the Social Security Office for the first time probably since she got married and changed her name, she was reminded of the discrepancy in dates and was informed that, as far as the federal government is concerned, she does NOT share a birthday with her son-in-law.  At this point, she gave up the ghost and accepted the 9th as her actual birthday.  I still haven't accepted it, and probably never will.  But I devoted Day 9 to her, in part so that I could devote Day 10 fully to my spouse.

Day 10:  Thankful for - duh - my spouse.  Who is, indisputedly, a November 10th baby.  We celebrated his birthday by - um, doing nothing together as a family.  Because he wanted it that way.  I should explain:  we all went out to dinner on the 9th to celebrate both my mom's birthday and his birthday, and we had gone out for a big dinner the night before that, and his birthday fell on a Thursday, and he plays tennis on Thursdays, and - for various reasons - he had missed tennis three consecutive Thursdays prior.  So when I asked him what he wanted to do on his birthday, he said, "Honestly?  Play tennis."  And I did not get my feelings hurt.  The boy deserves a stress reliever.  Heaven knows we're under enough stress right now.  And I plan on spending a number of birthdays with him in the future.  In our own home, dammit.

The Event: A Cabinet Maker Restores My Faith in Humanity

Continuing my moratorium on insurance company- and general contractor-related blog posts.  When I have something good to say, you'll be the first to read it.

I'm choosing to focus on positives - like the plan for our kitchen.  After some MAJOR waffling, we have achieved (1) a floor plan and (2) a design concept.  When I say that I have waffled on the design concept, the picture that you should have in your mind is of a waffle made on THIS bad boy:


Okay, I don't know if this is an actual waffle iron. But it's possible - it appears to have been made in Japan, and the Japanese seem to love to supersize things (like lizards and insects) when they aren't making things extremely small (like hotel rooms). (Okay, yes, I am basing my image of Japanese culture on "Godzilla vs. Mothra" and the "Seinfeld" episode where Kramer turned his home into a capsule hotel and rented drawers to Japanese businessmen. So sue me.)

MAJOR waffling.  HUGE.  Shaker doors! Wait, no, Craftsman! Or would that be too much visual clutter? Shaker, definitely Shaker - in a ginger maple finish. Oh, scratch that - the countertop would look HORRIBLE next to ginger maple. We need something darker.  Chestnut.  Ew, no - too red.  Okay, something really dark - espresso. But that would make the room look horribly small, wouldn't it?  Like a horribly small, horribly dark cave.  So maybe we go with a light-colored paint finish. Except stain wears SO much better than paint. Okay - paint on top, stain on the bottom. Um, but what about the cabinets that run from the floor to the ceiling? Do you finish 'em like upper cabinets, or bottom ones? And do I REALLY want Shaker doors? A basic square front would be nice. Timeless. Although Shaker doors are timeless, too.

If you follow me on Pinterest, and you have checked out my "Unexpected Home Remodel" board, then you have a general sense of just how intense this waffling has been.  I haven't counted how many kitchen images I have pinned,  because I think it would scare me.  But, with a little help from our custom cabinet maker, I have settled on a design.  Which - no surprise - tracks pretty closely some design concepts that I pinned to a kitchen idea board BEFORE all of this began.  Like this one:


This was back in my Shaker phase, but note light on top, dark on bottom (or, at least, on the island).  I pinned this one around the same time:


Sensing a pattern?  No?  Okay, here's two more:



The granite in the last image is similar to what we have picked out, which was a deciding factor in moving to a light-and-dark palette, versus a monochromatic, medium-brown design concept. When I searched for "Venetian Gold granite" in Google Images, almost all of the pictures showed Venetian gold paired with either a light (painted) or a dark (painted or stained) cabinet, or both. The few that featured a lighter brown-stained cabinet just didn't work for me. Too sallow. Too country. I don't do either one of those.

Two-tone suits me.  I like light kitchens. I like dark kitchens.  I don't like having to choose between two things that I like.  And the odds of us acquiring a second home, which would permit me to have an all-light kitchen and an all-dark kitchen, are slim and none.  Particularly after the proctology exam that we are going through on residence #1.  So light plus dark equals best of both worlds.  Light cabinetry around the perimeter and the dark island in the center should expand the room visually.  Because, you know, light colors recede and dark colors advance.  You did know that, didn't you?  My spouse didn't.  Bless his sweet little heart.

My only concerns about having painted cabinets are:  (1) paint doesn't wear as well as stain; and (2) light colors get fingerprint-y.  But having stained cabinets on the bottom will help with the wear issue:  chances of dents on bottom are greater, because my boys are still relatively low to the ground, and more often than not they are REALLY low to the ground, in that they like to wrestle.  Basically, they live on the floor.  So, dark stain on the bottom is good.  We'll put handles on the top cabinets to minimize fingerprints.  And, also, I'm thinking that "light" doesn't necessarily have to mean "white or cream."  It could mean "lighter."  Like beige.  Or greige:



I fell in love with greige after we painted the home office in Benjamin Moore's Pismo Dunes.  Since the home office is adjacent to the kitchen, a greige on the kitchen cabinets would be visually pleasing.  And - added bonus - greige is the exact color of fingerprints.  So, there you go.  (Memo to Benjamin Moore product development team:  you totally should market a color called "Fingerprint."  Mothers would line up to purchase it.)

Much as I love Pismo Dunes, I don't think I want to duplicate it in the kitchen.  It has a lot of purple in it, and I'm leaning towards a more greenish cast in the kitchen.  A pale gray-green says "kitchen" to me.  I have no idea why:  because of Martha Stewart?  Kitchens say pale gray-green to Martha, that's for sure.  I had  Martha green countertops in the old kitchen - I mean, in the existing kitchen, back when it actually possessed countertops.  I'm going to miss those countertops.  So I'm planning on paying homage to them by painting the walls in the "new" kitchen a pale green.  Probably BM's Agnathus Green.  Or Tea Leaf.  The greige, if I go with greige, will have to harmonize with one of those.

Cabinet Maker Lamar gave me two (large) pieces of wood to play with, and I have several Benjamin Moore samples in the trunk of my car.  Tomorrow I'm going to have a painting party, and I'm going to make some color decisions.  Oh, if you're wondering why "two (large) pieces of wood," one is maple (the best wood for taking paint, and thus our choice for upper cabinets) and the other is cherry (takes dark stain well, and has the most even pattern and texture, so that's going on the bottom).

For the backsplash, I'm once again going back to the "gray-green that is almost a non-color" well by using a just-slightly-greenish glass subway tile.  (The one below is sort of too green, but it gives you the general idea.)


So about Cabinet Maker Lamar.  He.  Gets.  Me.  When I advised him that I had abandoned the Shaker door concept and wanted to go with a square front panel (his initial suggestion), he handed me an idea book, and  I began to page through it:

"Hmm, I'm thinking about something sort of like this - except not that busy.  That one is too busy, as well.  Too many layers of molding.  That could work, but it's almost too busy, too.  That one's close, but there's too much relief between the panel and the edging.  It's, um . . . ."

"Too busy?"

"Yeah."

He nodded, walked over to a worktable, and came back with THE PERFECT DOOR.  It was NOT too busy.

"Okay, what's THAT?"

"It's something I came up with.  I took one of those designs you just pointed out, and I changed the proportions of the panel and the border to give it a more subtle look."

Perfect.  Sold.

We talked about beadboard.  I wanted it on the back of the island, like this:


Lamar:  "The details in beadboard get lost if you stain it a dark color.  Not worth the money.  Do you like those legs?"  (He was looking at the image above.)

"Yes, legs, definitely."

"What do you think of THIS leg?"  (He showed me THE PERFECT LEG - a tapered column, with fluting to match my existing door molding.)

Sold, again.

"Do you want molding above the cabinets?  Like in the picture?"

"Yes."  (HELLS, yes.  Keep talking, Lamar.)

"Corbels?  Under the open shelves you're talking about putting in over the windows?"

"Yes.  But only two shelves.  I want a high cabinet over the window over the bar sink.  With a decorative glass front.  With THAT Gothic arch, THERE.  THAT EXACT DOOR.  AND I WANT BUN FEET."
 

Lamar nods. 

"Got it.   What kind of floor?"

"Eighteen-inch tile.  Slate-look.  Dark."

More nodding. 

"Are they tiling from wall to wall, or are they tiling around the cabinets?"

"I think the estimate calls for wall to wall."

MORE nodding.

"Good.  We'll float the cabinets on top of that.  With the bun feet, they will really look like free-standing furniture."

YES, YES, OH, GOD, YES.  I WANT MY KITCHEN CABINETS TO LOOK LIKE FREE-STANDING FURNITURE!

No, I did not actually recreate the 'big O" scene from "Harry and Sally."  But I did nod, a lot.  And, probably, I bounced up and down on the balls of my feet.  My spouse was present, and I am guessing that, from his perspective, Lamar and I looked like two giant bobblehead dolls come to life.  Spouse weighed in from time to time but mainly stayed in the background, as he was slightly out of his element.  And, probably, slightly afraid of the giant bobbleheads.

Spouse did ask questions from time to time:

Me (looking at a cabinet in progress in Lamar's shop):  "Is that maple?"

Lamar:  "Yes."

Me:  "But with - is that an MDF panel in the center?"

Lamar:  "Yup."

Me:  "Seriously?  You can bevel MDF like that?"

Lamar:  "Yup.  It's really easy to work with, actually."

Me:  "Can you do that for me?"

Lamar:  "Absolutely.  It will knock the price down a bit."

Spouse:  "Wait.  What is MDF?"

Lamar and me, in chorus:  "Medium density fiberboard."

Spouse:  "Is that, like, particle board?"

Me:  "No.  Particle board is particle board.  MDF is MDF."

Spouse:  "And we want it because it's cheaper?"

Lamar and me, again in chorus:  "No, you want it because it takes paint better than solid wood."

Me (seeing that spouse is hoplessly lost):  "Um [searching for a metaphor], MDF is to solid wood as Silestone is to granite.  Silestone is ground-up quartz, right?  It's a natural-based product, but it's a natural product that's atomized and put back together, to make it stronger, and less porous, and to give it a more uniform appearance.  MDF is just like that."

Lamar (back to bobblehead mode):  "But with wood shavings substituted for ground-up quartz.  Because the texture is more even - especially in the bevels, here - you don't see splintering, and you don't have unevenness, so the paint goes on tons easier."

Spouse:  "Huh."

Bless his sweet little heart.  Spouse does not watch nearly as much HGTV as I do.  Clearly.

So - plans for the kitchen, moving forward.  We've settled on a sink, and a faucet (two faucets, actually - one for the sink-sink, and one for the bar sink), and hardware, and other stuff, but we haven't purchased much, yet, on account of how there's no place to put stuff.  As it is, I have a bar sink (hammered copper) and a bathroom faucet (Delta's "Victorian" model, in brushed nickel) in the corner of my bedroom at the apartment.  And, soon to be joining the party:  two counter-height barstools, because I got a scandalously good deal on them (two of them for the price of what Pottery Barn would charge for one of them!), and because I want to match the cabinet stain to them.  Seriously, I'm going to carry one of them into Sherwin Williams, and say, "MATCH THAT, baby."  (Lamar says I have to go to Sherwin Williams for stain.  This news did not sit well with me initially, given that I am a Benjamin Moore girl.  But I have decided that I can be a Benjamin Moore girl for paint and a Sherwin Williams girl for stain.  I owe Lamar that much, right?)

These are my barstools:



We went with counter height stools (and a breakfast bar height to match) because of the boys.  Boys plus stools with a high center of gravity plus ceramic floors equals a trip to the ER waiting to happen. 

Put another way:  the lower the kid is to the ground to begin with, the shorter the fall.

We also got a scandalously good deal on a top-of-the-line KitchenAid refrigerator.  By "top-of-the-line," I mean an Architect Series, counter-depth, side-by-side, stainless-fronted, ice-in-the-door-and-refrigeration-on-top, "I AM PRACTICALLY A CUSTOM MODEL" refrigerator.  By "scandalously good deal," I mean 95% off of original MSRP.  You read that right.  90% after we buy an extended, after-market warranty.  Does it sound like I'm buying a car?  Well, it's a lot like that - we actually bought this one used and, therefore, depreciated (just like a certified used Lexus!), the appliance store is providing a warranty, and KitchenAid will service it after that.  Once the extended warranty runs out, you just pay to have it serviced  out of pocket - exactly like a car.  Most refrigerators, you don't bother to rebuild - it's cheaper to replace them.  But these suckers are HARDCORE. 

My HARDCORE refrigerator is not being stored in our bedroom, next to the copper sink and the bathroom faucet.  Appliance store is kindly babysitting it for us, as it weighs a bazillion tons, and so it's only going to be moved once.  I don't even want to think about how they are going to get it into our kitchen.  The cabinets are being built around it.

Like I said - HARDCORE.

My admiration for Lamar the Cabinet Guy:  also hardcore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Event: In a Dark Place, Struggling to Focus on the Light

Like many mothers, mine encouraged me to keep my lips zipped when I didn't have anything pleasant to say.

Please accept the foregoing as my explanation for dropping off of the blog radar - and, to some extent, off of the Pinterest radar, and the Facebook radar.  Although I am attempting to keep up with the "30 Days of Thankful" concept, because some small part of me is still aware of the fact that I have things to be thankful for.  A roof over my head - not my roof, but a roof nonetheless.  And a family that is putting up with one of its members shouting one minute and bursting into tears the next.

Seriously - I burst into tears in the shower this morning, and the crying jag lasted for awhile.  Trust me when I tell you that crying in the shower is not the norm for me.  I'm a "git 'er dun" kind of gal.  I get angry, and then I get composed, and then I plow through the problem at hand.  But I'm, almost, too tired to plow.  And rapidly approaching the stage of actually, as opposed to almost

Again, not something that I'm used to admitting to myself.

I really do like to give people, and organizations, the benefit of the doubt.  It was that spirit that got me past a major molehill with one of C's teachers the first week of school.  The first DAY of school, actually.  At the time we were knee-deep in the mess that was our relocation (and literally knee-deep in moving boxes), the result being that I was rapidly approaching "too tired to plow" status back then as well.  Imagine my delight when the spouse informed me that he had gotten a call home from said teacher, ON THE FIRST DAY, advising of a disciplinary infraction and inquiring as to whether we thought our child was cut out for the accelerated track.

I was, by turns, completely devastated, and terribly angry - at my child, at the teacher, and at the world.  I considered a number of responses.  I tested out several of them to the air around me.  And then I started going through the various syllabi and classroom conduct codes that teachers sent home with C, and I learned that it was this teacher's across-the-board policy to call home after a first infraction.  No exceptions. 

I tried to put myself in the teacher's place - which, as it turned out, was not terribly hard for me to do, given that both of my parents were teachers.  Calling home wasn't a bad policy - it put the parents on notice and, perhaps, allied them to your cause, and it also gave you the opportunity to get a feel for the home situation and the parents themselves.  If the parents were supportive of you as the teacher, that would give you cause to suspect that the child was being raised properly and probably wasn't completely irredeemable, and that might shape the way that you view the child going forward.

So I took a deep breath.  And I composed an e-mail.  I began by telling the teacher how delighted we were that C got his first choice of a magnet program, and then was placed into the fastest of the fast tracks within that program.  I told him that we had stressed to C that participation in the accelerated track (allowing him to place out of four or five high school-level classes) was a privilege that he was truly lucky to have.  I explained my parents' own struggles to secure similar advanced placement options for me when I was a bored middle schooler dying to move on, already.

I also advised him that, as the child of two teachers, I (1) wanted to do as much as I could to support him (the teacher) but (2) understood that the first week of school was incredibly stressful.  We took his call home seriously, and I wanted to make it a priority to discuss with him his expectations of our son, but I also respected that he might want to schedule that discussion for a later time, so I was available at his convenience.  I opined that, perhaps, the first week of school was equally stressful on our brand-new-to-middle-school son, who had let it slip that evening that he filled out the blank for his nickname on a first-day questionnaire with "Fish Out of Water."  (He explained it away as a reference to him being a swimmer and diver on hiatus from competition, but I didn't believe him.)  I described C as a good kid whose typical disruptions skewed more towards the "attempting to teach the class" end of the spectrum.  When feeling more like himself, I warned that C was far more likely to get overexcited and blurt out answers than to cut up or act out; however, I reassured his teacher that we recognized that even well-meaning forms of disruption are exactly that - disruptions, not conducive to the learning process - so we had made it our goal to teach our bright child, as early as possible, how to self-edit his comments and overall behavior, irrespective of how innocent his motivation might be.

In closing,  I warned the teacher of our impending move, and I opined that the stress of dealing with that reality had to be wearing on C as well.  Because it was certainly wearing on me.  I disclosed the fact that the insurance company was attempting to put our boys on a sofa bed for the duration of our displacement (most definitely not conducive to the learning process) but assured him that there was no way in Hades that I was going to let that happen.

In the interim, I asked him to be patient, and to be kind.

And here's what happened next:  C's teacher determined that I was one of the good ones.  That, or he felt sorry for me.  Or perhaps some combination of the two.  First thing in the AM on Day Two, he sent me a response, thanking me for my e-mail and also for appreciating the demands on his time during that first week.  He said that he looked forward to meeting with me the following week, and he advised me of available time slots.  He also offered to include one of the other fast-track teachers who had the same planning period, if I wanted to kill two birds with one stone.  And he said that he agreed with me that C's first-day outburst was probably just a result of nerved.  He acknowledged, and said that he appreciated, the fact that C sought him out at the end of the day to apologize for being a disruption.

Later that day, a third e-mail was added to the string - the teacher again, saying, "I just wanted you to know that C had a wonderful day today."

Since then, we have become e-mail buddies, and I look forward to seeing him at Whiz Quiz meets and other events.  He is always there, supporting his students.  At one point last month, I did have to get on him for permitting my absent-minded 11 year-old to retake a take-home test that had failed to make it into the backpack.  How's that for a reversal?  Me taking him to task for being too easy on my child?  (His defense:  "C breezed through it in five minutes, so I knew that he'd done the work before."  My response:  "You're WAY nicer than we are.  When he called home earlier in the day and asked us to conduct a hard-target search of his room, we told him that he needed to take his lumps, and perhaps he would remember next time to put things where they needed to be.  Please feel free to use that one on him the next time, and remind him that his mother endorsed the message.")
Fast forward to this evening.  C had a nasty abrasion on his forearm, the result of a fall on the basketball court.  C advised that my favorite teacher had witnessed the fall, rushed to help him up, offered to carry his stuff into the main building and gave him leave to go to the nurse to have the scrape cleaned and bandaged.

My response:  "I knew I liked him."

Except, for a few hours on the first day of school, I didn't know if I would like him.  I was concerned that he and I would be at odds for an entire year - a continuation of an unpleasant experience that we had with a male teacher of C's the previous year.

But I plowed through, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I am so very glad that I did.  In that moment, talking to my child in the kitchen at the end of a thoroughly unpleasant day, I was reminded that I do have things, and people, for which to be thankful.  For a brief moment, my faith in humanity was restored.

And then, somewhat inexplicably, I got angry.  Angry at people, and organizations, to whom I give the benefit of the doubt, and who take that trust and stomp on it.  My good experience with C's teacher painted in sharp relief the bad experiences that I have had, and am continuing to have, with others.

Mostly, I got angry with myself, for trusting so freely.  But if I hadn't trusted C's teacher, where would we be today?  C is thriving in middle school.  How many parents can say that?  If I had started things off on a negative note, can we say for sure that he would be having the same experience?

So I will continue to put myself out there, with the expectation that most people will rise to the occasion.  Everyone makes mistakes, first impressions can be deceiving, and all of that.   But if the other party doesn't rise to the occasion - and particularly in situations where their failure to step up puts my family and property in jeopardy of actual, physical harm - welll, I reserve the right to feel betrayed.  And to cry in the shower.  Or while I'm blogging.  Because I know that they are capable of doing better.

My fatal flaw very well may be that I am too hopeful.  And, on balance, I'm okay with that.  Even if the fallout of that fatal flaw is situational hopelessness. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Adventures in Party Planning: Glitter Litter Solution


Spilled some glitter?  Spilled a lot?  No problem - just break out a lint roller. 

Ingenious.  Feeling like less than a genius for not having thought of this before.  But, no matter:  it definitely is going to "come in helpful."

Kid Stuff: "Pecific" Theater

Thursday morning, ten minutes before departing for school:

Little Bro:  How many days are left in this week?

Big Bro:  It depends on what you consider the week to be.  It could run through Saturday or Sunday, or if you are talking about the school week . . . .

Mom (interrupting, because Little Bro is clearly getting frustrated):  There is one more school day left this week, honey.

Little Bro (overdramatically):  WHEW.  I am so glad to hear that.  I cannot wait for this week to be over.

Mom:  And that would be why?

Little Bro:  Because next week is BIG.  It's a NO DRESS CODE WEEK.  Because we raised enough money for the United Way, we get to wear whatever we want, ALL WEEK.

Mom:  Are you sure that you can wear anything?  Or are they going to have theme days, like Pajama Day?

Big Bro (AKA the "Know It All"):   Theme days.  It's always theme days.

Little Bro (now clearly beyond frustrated):  NO.  NOT THEME DAYS.  I PECIFICALLY ASKED MY TEACHER IF WE COULD WEAR WHATEVER WE WANTED, AND SHE PECIFICALLY SAID YES.

Little Bro makes me smile.  Pecifically when he is being emphatic.

Eat This: Pour House French Toast Hack


When time allows, we like to have brunch after church on Sundays, and my spouse's favorite location for said brunching is the Pour House.  The Pour House is (as the name suggests) a bar, but it is a bar with great food, and their brunch menu is no exception.  P likes their Mexican egg selections, which he chases down with a Manmosa or Mansettia (I should say "and/or" - typically, he switches off mid-nosh).  Manmosas and mansettias at PH are not made with beer, as per a recipe I shared awhile back.  These are typical mimosas and poinsettias, just served in man-sized quantities. 

Or, in my case, thirtsy girl-sized quantities.

The kids used to get pancakes.  But then they stopped serving pancakes.  Neither kid is a big fan of egg dishes, so on one of our last visits we decided to try the intriguingly named "Frosted Flakes French Toast."  And oh.  My.  Goodness.  Mom and Dad ended up bogarting most of the toast, because it was so ridiculously delish.  When it came time to have the frimily over for Halloween, and after we settled on a "breakfast for dinner" concept, I decided that we had to have The Toast - and then I set out in search of an overnight French toast casserole that I could morph into a facsimile of the PH dish.

Lo and behold, Kellogg's had a casserole version of The Toast on their Web site - but it did not involved caramelized bananas, which are a big part of the yummy goodness.  So I tweaked Kellogg's recipe a bit, and then I threw in bananas.

DE.  LISH.  Enjoy!

"POUR HOUSE FRENCH TOAST HACK" OVERNIGHT BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

10 slices slices firm-textured, honey wheat bread

1 (12-oz.) can evaporated fat-free milk
1 1/2 cups refrigerated egg product
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup, warmed
Caramelized Bananas (recipe follows), sliced strawberries and chocolate whipped cream for garnish

Coat 13-x-9-x-2-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer bread two slices deep in dish.  (It will be necessary to cut two slices into rectangles to fill the empty space at one end of the pan.)  In bowl, whisk together milk, egg product, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Evenly pour over bread slices, and cover and refrigerate overnight.  (Check the pan after an hour or so and either push the bread slices down into the egg mixture or flip the slices with tongs.)  When read to serve, bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in small bowl combine cereal and butter and evenly sprinkle cereal mixture over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 375°F  for another 20 minutes more or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes, then drizzle warmed syrup over top.  Serve with Caramelized Bananas, sliced strawberries and chocolate whipped cream.

To caramelize bananas:  Slice three bananas into thick coins.  Pour 6 tablespoons sugar onto a plate and roll bananas in sugar, until completely coated.  Spray a medium size nonstick pan, and heat over medium high heat. Add bananas and sugar and cook bananas until light to golden brown underneath, about 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or burn them.  Gently flip bananas, turning heat down to medium. The second side should brown in about one minute.  If bananas won't be served immediately, transfer them to a plate that has been coated with cooking spray so that they won't stick.

Things I'm Digging: IKEA Hacking


My love of the IKEA Expedit bookcase is no secret. Between my office and the kids' bedrooms, we have five of them. Two rest on their sides, three stand upright but all of them are utilized as bookcases.

Apparently, this marks me as a terribly unimaginative - possibly even lazy - person.

Go to ikeahackers.net or one of the other IKEA hack Web sites (IKEA hack is a term for repurposing or improving upon an IKEA product) and you will see Expedits used in a variety of unique ways - as a kitchen island, or even mounted to the ceiling as a light fixture. (Seriously.)

You will also see them embellished, like this:


Cool octopus.  Although you might notice that my Expedit features an animal shape as well.  Specifically, the shape of our cat, Max.  Does the addition of Max to an Expedit constitute an IKEA hack?

Not all hacks involve my favorite bookcase (or "not bookcase," depending) product.  Particularly intrigued by the pendant lights constructed out of IKEA cheese graters . . . .

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 1 Through 5

A lot of folks are putting daily posts on Facebook, advising everyone and no one of what they are thankful for.

I am one of those folks.

The idea is to post something every day through November 30th.  I thought I'd share my "thanks list" here as well.  And, yes, I know that it's already Day 5.  Hence the title of this post.

Here goes:

Day 1:  I am thankful that my middle schooler is happy and thriving in sixth grade, which is not something that we took for granted, or even expected.  So grateful, and so aware that things just as easily could go the other way (and have, for some friends' kids).

Day 1 happened to coincide with C's Whiz Quiz meet.  I believe that this is our fifth meet, and our fifth win.  Watching C and his friends work as a team (and they make a great team, obviously - see "undefeated," above), I could not help but notice how much in his element he was.  And with good reason, because the other kids seem to be as well-adjusted, sweet-natured and full of personality as he is.  They were all very supportive of each other, and the closest that I saw to negativity was a little sarcastic ribbing from time to time, when someone made a bone-headed mistake.  The errant thought ran through my brain:  this is like a Disney Channel version of middle school.  I halfway expected them to break into song.

And then it dawned on me that C and his friends, collectively, are straight out of Disney central casting.

A:  Light-skinned African-American boy, dimples, eyelashes out to THERE - Corbin Bleu, minus the bushy mop of hair.
The Spelling Whiz (I am blanking on her name, but I call her the Spelling Whiz, because she is the team's go-to on spelling questions):  Raven-Symone.  With a little bit of that girl from the jump-roping movie who occasionally guest-starred on Sweet Life.
W:  The kid on Waverly Place who turns into a werewolf.  Has a British accent?  (The werewolf kid, not W.  W's local.)
The other A:  Mitchell Musso, but shorter - short like the other kid on Hannah Montana, who's sort of annoying and runs the beachside concession stand.
N:  Rocky from Shake it Up.  Heck, she's even dressed sort of like Rocky, since it's a no dress code day - denim vest over striped t-shirt, ruffled skirt, Ugg boots.

It then occurs to me that I watch WAAAAY too much Disney Channel with the kids.  But I'm happy that C's happy.

Day 2:  I am happy that I have the opportunity to watch my younger child come into his own. 

Believe me, it's been a long time coming.  But more and more PJ is stepping out of Big Bro's shadow.  And we like what we see.  We knew that he was hilarious, and perceptive in terms of being empathetic and a good reader of people, but now we see that he's pretty clued-in in general, and more like his brother than we ever realized.  One similarity:  an obsession with creative writing.  During Whiz Quiz, PJ had a pad of paper, and throughout the meet he would write out short stories - most no more than a paragraph -using quiz questions for topics.  On a few occasions, he only wrote down a couple of words, I guess as story prompts.  My favorite:  "rainforest canape."  Yes, he meant canopy, but I appreciated "canape" more.  Perhaps he has a future in catering?  Seriously, though, he's a top-notch inventive speller, and as a friend pointed out the other day it's a good sign when kids use words that they can't spell yet - even a better sign when they do a good job of spelling them phonetically.

So, in a nutshell, my younger child is currently the most fascinating person that I know.  And I dig that.

 Day 3:  I am thankful that my parents and grandmother, Parnell's mother, brothers and sister-in-law (and our soon-to-be second sister-in-law) all live within a thirty-mile radius.  Okay, I won't lie - this one went on the list the same day that my mom babysat the kids, on our home turf.  The only thing better than free babysitting is free babysitting that comes to you!  But I have the thought frequently that my children are so much better off than I was, from the standpoint of having the opportunity to truly get to know their family.  We were in close proximity to my mom's family for a short time in my early childhood, but then we moved from California to Texas, and thereafter family face time was infrequent.  Contrast my kids' experience:  because my grandmother lives with my parents, they have benefited from multiple visits by my uncles and aunt, who come into town to see their mom, but both boys are utterly convinced that they are the attraction.  They also have very little concept of the fact that my mom's siblings are not, actually, factually, local.  "Mom, can you invite Uncle George to my seventh birthday?"  "Well, honey, I can, but I don't know if he'll come."  "Why not?"  "Um, he lives in Virginia?"  "Ohhhh.  When did he move there?"

It's cute.  And, most definitely, a blessing.

Day 4:  I cherish my husband - even when we are renovating our home largely against our will and on a breakneck timetable and are therefore fighting like cats and dogs on a routine basis.  He is my best friend, and - somewhat notably - he is a great friend to my friends.  Case in point:  a few weeks back, a Woman's Club cohort mentioned that she'd heard that Parnell would be the auctioneer for one of the Junior Woman's Club departments of which I used to be a member.  Huh.  News to me, probably news to him, although not outside the realm of possibility for him to talk directly to my buds.  The Woman's Club cohort looked embarrassed:  "Well, I'm sure that they said that they were going to ask him.  Maybe they haven't gotten around to it yet."  On the way home, I called him and recounted the conversation, and his response was basically verbatim what I thought it might be:  "When would it be?  ON A THURSDAY?  I have tennis.  I don't want to miss tennis.  Which department?  Who's in that department?  Oh, Melissa, Julie, Tammy, and that group?  Yeah, I'd skip tennis for them."

And so he did.  He was great fun as auctioneer (and darned successful - goal was $3,600 for live and silent auctions and raffle combined, and he brought the live auction in at just under $3,400).  And he had fun.  I consider myself so fortunate that I don't have to entertain him in social settings with my friends - to the contrary, I can go an hour without even bumping into him, if the room is big enough, and I'm working it in one direction and he's moving in the other.  I also consider myself fortunate that I don't ever doubt his motives when he is chatting up one of my friends.  Basically, I see my good friends as sisters, and I think he considers them his sisters-in-law.  He never had sisters, but he would have been a great "brother to a sister."  So he is making up for lost time now, with my buddies.  Confident that he would bend over backwards for any of them - in a strictly nonsexual way.

Day 5:  I am thankful for my coworkers.  We're an odd group - individually and collectively - but, really, who isn't?  What is rare is the fact that I respect each and every one of them - there's no one in the mix who isn't a person of integrity, and it's notable that I can, and do, recommend their services to my clients (including friends who are clients) completely without reservation.  Trust me, I've seen how things are in other law firms, and in other offices in general, and all is not perfect in Paradise.  As a group, we're pretty darned close to perfect, even with (and perhaps because of) our imperfections.

And then there are those moments when I really appreciate them - like Thursday at lunch, the theme of which, evidently, was "let your mind drift into the gutter and stay there."  It all started with a conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace generally, and then someone segued into a story about a judge hitting on a female attorney, which inspired the comment:  "He enjoyed having her on his docket."

And then the gauntlet was thrown:

"He was impressed by her oral arguments."

"He reviewed her briefs in great detail."

Yes, there was much snickering.  Yes, we are all huge geeks.  Refer to the part about us being lawyers.  But it's fun to be reminded that we are all in this geeky business together.  And it's refreshing to be around folks who can laugh.  (Refer to the part about being lawyers once again.)

The Event: Pavlov's Dog Experiences Night Sweats

I think it's fair to describe my current mental state as slightly fragile (but please pronounce it "FRAH-JEEL-AY," like in "Christmas Story" - it just sounds better that way).

Exhibit A:  On Tuesday, as I was helping the librarian move chairs back to tables after C's Whiz Quiz match, my phone vibrated.  I pulled it out of my pocket, and saw that I had a Microsoft Outlook calendar reminder:  "Junior League Meeting (Provisional) 6:30 pm, Junior League Headquarters."

[Expletive deleted.]  It was 6:15.

I explained the situation to my spouse (by "explained," I mean "shouted incoherently over my shoulder as I sprinted out of the room") and headed for the car, passing C's botany teacher and, basically, dissing him when he attempted to initate conversation:

"Gotta go.  Late for a meeting, LATE FOR A MEETING."

Apparently, I had a few brain cells left - that, or I am operating off of muscle memory - because I did manage to puzzle out the quickest route from the middle school to JL HQ.  And I made pretty good time; in fact, there was a good chance that I would get to the general environs of JL HQ by 6:30.  And that's when it would all go to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, because JL HQ has the most woefully inadequate parking situation imaginable.  As in, the parking lot fills up in a nanosecond, and then the cars start lining up along the side street.  At 6:30, I would be looking at a three-block jog, in high heels.

So I decided to be smart and come in at the tail end of the side street, where I was likely to find a space.  Again, more evidence of some existing brain function!   I mentally awarded myself a back pat - and then, in a flash, as  I was proceeding into the University/White Settlement intersection, about three blocks away from the turn-off, it hit me:

Junior League provisional meetings are on Mondays.

It was Tuesday.

But . . . my phone told me that I had a meeting.

Right . . . because, at my secretary's urging, I put all of my extracurriculars into my calendar at work, which feeds into my phone . . . and, given that I'm currently bat-s*** crazy and all, CLEARLY I inputted at least one thing incorrectly.

But, perhaps, I should check.  So I drove up to the turn-off, looked to the right where the long line of cars should be - and, yep, nada.

Damn.

Fast forward to Thursday.  The attorneys in my office - ALL of them - went to the Fort Worth Club for happy hour.  This happens, like, never.  Thus, I wasn't in a particular hurry to leave - although Parnell and I did have to be somewhere at 6:30.  I texted him to let him know that I planned to push things to the last second - and, before I could put my phone away, there it was:

"Junior League Meeting (General), 6:30 pm, Junior League Headquarters."

Not.  Again.

This time, I actually hesitated for a second.   I didn't remember seeing an e-mail reminder about the meeting, and they usually send those out.  And general meetings never fall during the first week of the month.  But, surely, I couldn't have screwed up twice.  Better do a drive-by just in case.  Shouted goodbyes, retrieved my car from the valets, and again managed to plot out the shortest distance between two points, completely on the fly.  Once again approached from the end of the side street, because the parking situation for general meetings is even more horrific than for provisional meetings.  I'd be lucky to find a parking place in the same time zone.  That is, if there actually was a meeting.

Got to the intersection, hung a right, and had no problem turning around in the JL HQ parking lot, because there wasn't a single car in it.  I believe that a tumbleweed drifted in front of me, but I can't be sure, because the howling of the lone coyote on the other side of the sand dune shimmering in the distance distracted me.  TOTAL.  FLIPPIN'.  GHOST.  TOWN.

Seriously?  TWICE?

Thinking of changing my name.  First name:  Pavlov's.  Second name:  Dog.  Ring that bell - or chime that calendar chime - and, evidently, I will respond.

I blame sleep deprivation.  And, in turn, I blame sleep deprivation on my kitchen.  We have spent the last few weeks trying to figure out how to reconfigure it.  Goals, in no particular order, are to maximize storage, provide for as logical a traffic flow as is possible in a small space, preserve the "work triangle," and, ideally, obviate the need to move windows and doorways.

Two weeks ago, I thought I had the general layout figured out.  Since, currently, there are no floors to speak of in the house (well, they left strips around the interior walls, so basically you hug the wall and crab walk to get from Point A to Point B), we decided that there was no better time to replace the pipes under the original portion of the house.  (Pipes in the addition were already copper, and now we have PEX pipes everywhere else - space-age, rodent-proof, can expand due to temperature up to ten times their usual diameter without cracking, and DID I MENTION THAT THEY ARE RODENT-PROOF?)  Plumber was instructed to put the line to the sink here, and the line to the dishwasher there.  The morning after the day that the lines were installed here and there, I woke up at oh-dark-thirty, JUMPED out of bed, fully awake, and screamed at my spouse:

"THE DISHWASHER CAN'T GO ON THE RIGHT!  IT HAS TO BE ON THE LEFT!  [EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED!]"

I'll spare you the details of why the dishwasher had to be moved, but let me just tell you - there is no worse feeling than having an epiphany about where to put your dishwasher the day after you pay a plumber to put it somewhere else.

Did I mention that I'm a newbie at all of this home construction stuff?  Yeah, turns out that my freak-out was entirely for naught.  The line to the sink was the biggie - dishwasher line ties into that and can be routed to the right just as easily as to the left.  Nothing on that score had been set in stone.

Big sigh of relief.

Over the next week, armed with a chart showing all of my cabinet options by type, depth and width, I painstakingly planned out two walls' worth of kitchen.  Even drew an elevation, which, I am pleased to report, looked substantially similar to the one that my husband subsequently generated using a computerized kitchen planning tool.  I was so pleased with myself - particularly, with the facts that I had managed to work around all three kitchen windows and had perfectly centered sinks under two of them, with symmetrical cabinet arrangements on either side - that I took a short break from kitchen design.  Then our contractor requested a "come to Jesus" to finalize certain finish-out selections, and I knew that I couldn't stall any longer.  Broke out the graph paper, penciled in the refrigerator and ovens, drew in the island, and -

"[MANY EXPLETIVES DELETED.]  THE ISLAND WON'T FIT."

"What do you mean the island won't fit?"

"I mean, something won't fit if we put the island where we're thinking of putting it.  I mean, obviously, everything is going to fit.  WE JUST WON'T BE ABLE TO OPEN DOORS TO THINGS.  The oven and refrigerator, specifically.  I mean, they'll open, but there won't be a place for us to stand while we're opening them.  Aaaaaah - here, I'll just show you."

We spent the next half hour recreating door-opening scenarios in the apartment kitchen, using a stepladder to approximate where the island would be.  Many lines on graph paper were drawn and erased.  Clearly, the oven wall needs to go over HERE - and, if we move the island to the south, all of the appliance doors will clear.  Except, we can't move the oven wall THERE, because we won't have enough linear space after we move the doorway to the home office.  (At this point, we were resigned to the fact that a doorway was going to have to move, which would in turn involve moving an existing, albeit currently unused, electrical panel - the one that served as the breaker box before the addition was built and the box relocated.  Doorway had to move, in part, to enlarge 12 inches of wall space in the corner to 24 inches, so as to permit installation of lower cabinets and a counter-depth refrigerator.  All of this made me unhappy, because (1) moving the door would require relocation of a bookcase in the home office on the other side of the door frame and (2) I'm Stingy McStingerson, and moving doors and electrical costs money, people.)

Let's see . . . .  If we DON'T move the doorway,  then we can put the oven to the right, meaning when you take stuff out of the oven, you would put it WHERE?  [More horrible reenactments in the apartment kitchen.]  Okay, that would actually work.  But now you only have twelve inches of depth on the other side of the doorway.  Lower cabinets are 24 inches deep.

But . . . upper cabinets are 12 inches deep.

What followed was a frenzy of excited shouts and pencil scratches.  The refrigerator found a permanent home.  Next to it, in the shallow space running north to the home office doorway, a solid (floor-to-almost ceiling) wall o' storage, constructed entirely of lower cabinets, stacked one row on top of the other.  The aha moments just kept on coming:  "Hmm.  We still haven't established a place for cookbooks.  If we put a 12-inch high row of cabinets right here at eye level . . . most of my cookbooks are smaller than 12 inches square, right?  GO GET THE THREE COOKBOOKS THAT I ACTUALLY SAW FIT TO BRING TO THE APARTMENT AND MEASURE THEM WITH A TAPE MEASURE."  Cookbooks were measured.  Oven wall was assigned a home.  In front of the ugly existing electrical panel.  Which would now be completely obstructed from view by a floor-to-ceiling cabinet housing a convection microwave, oven and warming drawer.

Aha, aha, aha.

(Two days later, the electrician confirmed that said convection microwave, oven and warming drawer could be wired directly into the ugly existing electrical panel, without the necessity of adding a 220-volt power source.  Let's review:  doorway, not moved.  Ugly existing electrical panel, not moved, completely invisible and, for the first time in twelve flippin' years, actually useful.  AHA, AHA, AHA.  And, also, YAAAAAY.)

Did I mention that all of this conversating and kitchen sketching went down between 11:30 pm and 2 am? 

Yeah, like I said, a little sleep-deprived.

A couple of peaceful days passed.  Then, last night, as I was going to bed, I made the sort-of-mistake of asking my spouse:  "So, were the cabinet people really impressed with my drawing?'

[Half asleep] "Yup."

"They didn't have ANYTHING negative to say?"

"Well . . . they did mention that the oven/sink thing was going to be pretty tight.  But they didn't have a better suggestion."

Pride goeth before a fall, people.  I had to ask if I was really that awesome of a kitchen designer.  And, now, five minutes before my head hit the pillow, I was living a nightmare.

[Shaking spouse, whose head had hit the pillow, and who was attempting to sleep] "WAKE UP!  THEY'RE RIGHT!  WHAT DO WE DO NOW?!?"

"Umm . . . put the sink where the cooktop is and the cooktop where the sink is?"

[Actually, factually WAILING] "BUT WE ALREADY PAID THE PLUMBER TO MOVE IT ONCE, AND I DON'T WANT TO MOVE IT AGAIN!"

I took a breath, and caught a grip.  Grabbed my graph paper rendition, realized that I had made the oven cabinet three inches too wide, penciled in a trim piece and three inches of extra countertop, ACTUALLY WENT INTO THE APARTMENT KITCHEN AND PRACTICED USING THE SINK, RUNNING THROUGH SEVERAL DIFFERENT SCENARIOS, and finally, breathed a sigh of relief.

McGlincheys 2, Duplicative Plumbing Work 0.

It was ten minutes until midnight.  Shook Spouse, reassured him that the sky was not falling, reported my conclusions and got a muttered "Thass good, umm," in response.  No, he did not remember the conversation - or my panic attack - the next day. 

Spouse:  not sleep deprived.  Me:  barely holding on.  And miles to go before we - um, sleep.