Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, June 18, 2012

Things I'm Digging: For NEXT Father's Day

. . . because I didn't find them until today (yeah, yeah, story of my life - day late, dollar short), and also because I wasn't really in the market for Dad's Day gift of the tchotchke variety this year.  (My Mom's Day gift was a kitchen, and Spouse's will be the plasma TV that he tricked me into agreeing to convinced me would be a positive addition to the living room.)

But, next year, for sure:

Die-cut wood, $26 from Spunky Fluff's Etsy site.  Can be finished in a number of colors, including this gorgeous pear green.

I like her description:  "A flashback from Children of the Corn or a practical warning for visitors to your property? You decide."

Umm, yeah, I'm thinking for us it's definitely the latter.  Although, when the Big Kid's hair bleaches out, he does look like a CotC extra.

I am also in LURVE (with a capital L) with this piece ($44):

FAN-flippin'-TASTIC.  And so appropriate, given that our boys go around quoting fun "facts" about Batman and Chuck Norris, very much in keeping with "The Most Interesting Man" ad campaign.  One of these days, I am going to blow their little minds by asking them who would win in a fight:  Batman or Chuck Norris?  You may not be surprised that the comic book cognoscenti have already weighed in on the likely outcome (click here for an example).  I particularly like the suggestion that Batman ultimately defeats his adversary by confronting him with scenes from Norris' own 1986 movie "Firewalker," causing him to implode.   I have never heard of this movie, but I have to assume that it is horrible based on (1) context, (2) the fact that it features Chuck Norris and (3) the fact that it was made in 1986.  However, much as I love Batman (and George C. in certain contexts), I have to say that the same argument could be made, going the other way, with respect to the Clooney Batman movie.  You know, the one where he walked around sporting Bat Headlights?   I'm just spitballing here, but I think that, were one to play "Firewalker" and "Batman and Robin" on opposite movie screens facing inward, a black hole would open up at the midpoint between the two screens, and the known universe would be swallowed whole.  Perhaps this is what the Mayans were worried about when they chiseled out the Long Count Calendar.

I kid about the Mayan thing.  Because I'm a kidder.  Fun factoid:  There are no Mayan inscriptions predicting the end of the world at the end of the "long count."  I know a little bit about this, because ONCE UPON A TIME AS A UT UNDERGRADUATE I ENROLLED IN, AND THEN ACTUALLY COMPLETED,  A COURSE CALLED "MAYAN HIEROGLYPHICS."  This was, I believe, the same semester that I took Primate Behavior.  (Ah, the joys of a liberal arts education.  My Bachelor of Arts and a roll of quarters would net you exactly ten bucks.)

Primate Behavior (like Mayan Hieroglyphics, an offering of the Anthropology Department) was largely a lab course.  The "lab" consisted of watching monkeys through a one-way mirror and taking notes of what they did.  VERY CAREFUL NOTES, I might add (because they were actually utilized in an ongoing research project):  you couldn't just say that a monkey ran away, but rather YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE ALL OF THE STEPS INVOLVED WITH RUNNING AWAY.  See, first the monkey has to STAND, so you have to enter the three-letter code for standing (actually, there were two different codes - one for a bipedal stand and one for a quadripedal stand), followed by the three-letter code for walking (because you have to WORK UP TO RUNNING, people) and THEN followed by the three-letter code for running.  It was all very exciting.  This is the sum total of what I remember from Primate Behavior:

1.  The monkeys involved in the research project were vervets and Sykes monkeys.

2.  Vervets and Sykes monkeys like to run.  A LOT.


(This is a vervet monkey.  And THAT, my friends, is what ya call a quadripedal stand.  Booyah!)

3.  The alpha male vervet was named Mork.  He was frequently injured and therefore always in quarantine.  (I suspected that he got tired of dealing with the general inmate population, so he initiated a lot of prison yard fights hoping that he would get sent to solitary.)

4.  Gibbons are the most vindictive critters on the planet.

The last item I remember from one of the classroom lectures.  Gibbons are grudge holders, and they have extremely long memories. We were told the tale of a primate researcher who had developed a close personal relationship with one of his gibbon research subjects.  (Well, the guy thought that they were close; the gibbon, apparently, was far less invested.)  One day the gibbon (literally) went ape-you-know-what, basically tore the scientist's arm out of its socket, and did a number on his flesh.  After a significant stint in the ICU, he spent more than a year undergoing skin grafts and completing physical therapy.  Then he insisted on being reunited with his gibbon "friend" - and within seconds the gibbon had given him a second beat-down, eerily identical to the first. 

Oh, that's another thing that I learned in my primate behavior class:

5.  Some primate researchers exhibit a notable lack of common sense.

I consider myself one of the smart ones:  after collecting my 104 for the semester, I finished college and enrolled in law school, where it was reasonably assured that I would not have to interact with any gibbons.  (Also, I needed to do something to make myself marketable; see "liberal arts degree," above.)  I am pleased to report that in the two decades since college I have been the victim of ZERO gibbon attacks.

Apropos of nothing (not that any of this post is apropos of much - didn't I start out talking about Father's Day?), why do they call them one-way mirrors?  Aren't pretty much ALL mirrors one-way?  Wouldn't it be more appropriate to divide mirrors into "mirrors that you can look through" and "mirrors that you can't look through"?

See what a finely honed machine my mind was - um, honed into - by four years of liberal arts studies?

And yet the father of my children married me, anyway.

Guess how many liberal arts degrees he has?  Hint:  It's more than one.  And that is why he is . . .

. . . the Most Interesting Dad in the World.

Friday, June 15, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

. . . a somewhat out-of-character rant.

Notwithstanding that I have an extremely low tolerance for bullcorn, I pride myself on taking the high road.  (Exhibit A:  Did ya notice that I said "bullcorn" instead of something else?  See, HIGH ROAD.)  Before you nominate me for sainthood, allow me to clarify:  my insistence on high-roadin' it is entirely (or at least a good bit) selfish. If you do it correctly, it's far more efficient and sanity-preserving than stooping, and exponentially more satisfying.  How so?  Here's a page from the playbook that I followed when I was president of the Junior Woman's Club:

Okay, I can see/hear that you are incredibly upset/concerned by [insert description of perceived slight/area of somewhat ridiculously nearsighted focus], and I share your feelings/concerns.  In fact, I have been thinking for awhile now that we need a task force/special committee to focus on how to avoid that particular outcome in the future/tackle that particular problem going forward.  And, given, your level of pique/motivation, I think that you are the right person for that task.  Would you be willing to take on this role? You could select your own task force/committee, or  I could suggest some names for you. 

You're probably asking yourself, exactly how much bile can a human being swallow?  Answer:  a lot, and it's EXTREMELY bitter the first time that, through sheer force of will, you choke down the words, "OH, GET OVER YOURSELF AND YOUR PETTY PROBLEMS.  WE'RE NOT CURING CANCER HERE."  But here's the deal:  pointing out to someone that they are petty/off-base/insert-your-own-negative-adjective-here is a one-way ticket to Escalation of Hostilities Town  (population, you and some person that you really would leave as soon as take).  Whereas, suggesting (ever-so-positively and politely) that THEY COULD BE PART OF THE SOLUTION is almost guaranteed to result in hemmin', hawin' and tap-dancin' of epic proportions.  "You know, I may have been overreacting a bit.  The status quo isn't that bad.  Things are good, all in all, and - oh, you're breaking up - my boss is on the other line, the building is on fire, AND I HAVE TO GO."

See?  The high road works.  What do you mean that my version of taking the high road seems awfully shrewd and manipulative and more than a bit like backing someone into a corner?  SCROLL TO THE TOP OF THE PAGE:  I TOLD YOU UPFRONT THAT MY NOMINATION FOR SAINTHOOD WAS PREMATURE.  But I do like to think that forcing people to default to their self-interests ultimately has a positive effect on the universe, because it stops the bullcorn before it really starts.  And I think we can agree that the universe needs less bullcorn.

All of that being said, I do have my limits.  And, increasingly over the last few weeks, I have found myself mentally mumbling, "DOWN, INNER MEAN GIRL."   And, instead of some variation of the "High Road Speech," I am tempted to pull out this speech (which henceforth shall be known as "The Speech That I Really Want To Make, But I Probably Never Will, So Now I Am Blogging About It Which Is Almost As Satisfying As Making It For Realsies"):

Okay.  Here's the 411.  Just because I tend to shun mean girl behavior like it's f****** Hester Prynne doesn't mean that I don't SPEAK mean girl.  Fun fact:  I speak it fluently.  Know who's better than your average mean girl?  A WHIP-SMART ONE WITH A QUICK WIT AND A LARGE VOCABULARY.  So, if you want to keep pushing me, then YOU BEST COME CORRECT, because if you push hard enough, I reserve the right to go ALL ANNA KENDRICK-IN-"CAMP" ON YO A**.   What do you mean, you aren't familiar with "Camp"?  It's a 2003 independent musical film written and directed by Todd Graff, about an upstate New York performing arts summer camp. WIKIPEDIA IT.  IMDB IT, B****.  AND THEN NETFLIX IT, BECAUSE YOU WILL REALLY ENJOY IT.  It features a cast of largely unknown child actors - the only person anyone had really heard of was this chick from "Degrassi."  No, not the ORIGINAL Degrassi, the one produced for Nickelodeon's N Network.  Anyway, THAT chick is a total diva, and everyone hates her, but Anna Kendrick's character is really mousy, and follows the diva chick around like she's Jerry Garcia, and even washes out the diva chick's camp underwear in Woolite.  And then it's time for the end-of-session "big show," and Diva Chick has the lead in "Company."  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF "COMPANY"?  HELLO, STEPHEN SONDHEIM MUCH?  See, I just slipped into Mean Girl there, but with a Broadway-appreciating Gleek accent.    Anyway.  Diva Chick is set to go onstage as Joanne and sing "The Ladies Who Lunch," which is kind of a song about mean girls when you think about it, and apparently Diva Chick has abused poor little Fritzi - OH, I JUST REMEMBERED THAT ANNA KENDRICK'S CHARACTER IS NAMED FRITZI! - one time too many, because FRITZI WOOLITES HER SNAPPLE.  YES, that's a thing.  It's like putting Visine in someone's Coke, only YOU USE WOOLITE AND YOU PUT IT IN A SNAPPLE.  So she Woolites Diva Chick's Snapple, and Diva Chick throws up onstage.  The camp director and the show director, who everyone calls Rummy but Fritzi never calls him that because she's too proper or something, are freaking out, and then Fritzi walks out in full-on understudy garb, and Rummy puts two and two together and accuses Fritzi of sabotaging Diva Chick's performance.  AND THEN ANNA KENDRICK DELIVERS THE BEST MEAN GIRL SPEECH OF ALL TIME (and you have to say it with a TON of venom in your voice and ENUNCIATE EVERY WORD):  "Oh, save the speech, Rummy.  SHE'S F*****, I'M READY, AND THE G**D*** SHOW MUST GO ON.  So, let's get cracking, shall we?"  Seriously, YOU NEED TO RENT THIS MOVIE.  Her delivery is so icy that you get chills.  You really believe that this b**** is capable of murder.  It's, like, way better than Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance in "Cruel Intentions," which I think you will agree was the previous high watermark in cinematic mean girl acting performances.  Wait, what was the point of all of this?  Oh, yeah - I am totally capable of going full-on Anna Kendrick.  No, I won't Woolite your Snapple.  I stopped hand-washing my delicates years ago.  But I can go from zero-to-ice-b**** so fast your head will spin.  JUST TRY ME.

And definitely rent "Camp."  It's worth two hours of your time.  

Ahhhhhhhhhh.  Much better.  This concludes our Rant Broadcasting Day.

Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.

And here's to the girls who play smart--

Aren't they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's.
I'll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

And here's to the girls who play wife--

Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of LIFE,
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they're fools.
Aren't they a gem?
I'll drink to them!
Let's all drink to them!

And here's to the girls who just watch--

Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
I'll drink to that.

So here's to the girls on the go--

Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!


Low-Maintenance Mother of the Junior Groomsmen

There's a funny story in Spouse's family about the fiftieth anniversary photos that his parents took shortly before his dad's death.  My mom-in-law found a really lovely suit on clearance at Dillards - paid pennies for it - but it was a rather specific shade of mauve, and none of Granddaddy's ties cut the mustard (or, well, mauve - you get my drift).  She ended up finding one tie that would work - at Neiman's, and it was the work product of a rather high-end designer (can't remember which one), so at the end of the day his tie ended up costing exponentially more than her entire ensemble.  He thought that this was fabulous.  When the pictures arrived, and people would ooh and aah over the overall composition, he would find a way to steer the conversation to the tie.  And by "steer," I mean he would hit them over the head with a, "Let me tell you the funny story behind these pictures.  MY TIE COST MORE THAN HER SUIT."

(He was well-known within the family for his subtle conversation shifts - like the time at dinner when, after a half-hour of discussion of politics and other current events, he blurted out, "I SAW A BABY DEER ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD TODAY, AND IT WAS THE SIZE OF A SMALL DOG."  Apropos of absolutely nothing.  My best guess is that he had been waiting for the conversation to naturally steer itself to deer, or dogs, or things that are smaller than they usually tend to be, but we did not provide him with an opening, SO HE REACHED OUT WITH BOTH HANDS AND TORE ONE INTO THE FABRIC OF THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM.

God, I miss that man.)

My baby brother-in-law is getting married in a few weeks.  Okay, he's not a BABY baby (certainly not in the sense of being small dog-sized); he's now in his thirties, but when Spouse and I got together, he was barely a teenager, and he was still in high school at our wedding, so I reserve the right to continue to think of him as a baby for awhile and also to be a little freaked out about the concept of my children being in his wedding, and not just as ring bearers but as junior groomsmen.

As the respective youngest children in Irish families of four and five siblings, Uncle P and "Almost Aunt M" are insistent on including all of their collective nieces and nephews in the wedding, which will translate into four junior bridesmaids and five junior groomsmen.  (I believe that they dispensed with the concept of flower girl and ring bearer because, given the numbers and age ranges involved, it was best to just put everyone on equal footing.  See, they are not totally crazy.  Emphasis on "not totally".)  Being a junior groomsman is a totally awesome concept, because:

It's WAY cooler than being a ring bearer.
You get put up, along with your parents, in a hotel room in downtown Dallas, and you get to go to something called a rehearsal dinner.  (They have been to these before; they just don't remember.)  And said rehearsal dinner is being held at a fabled home-cooking restaurant called Celebration that used to have a counterpart in Fort Worth, and it was their dad's favorite restaurant in college because you could turn your TCU ticket stubs in for discounts and free food, and everything was served family style, and whatever entree you started out with, you could get seconds of any item at that price point or below, so Spouse would start with chicken fried steak or pot roast, and then move on to spaghetti and meatballs, and keep going until he was, quite literally, stuffed.  They have heard the stories, and now they expect to see a real-time reenactment.  (The Fort Worth Celebration was still in business when we got married.  I have seen Spouse at Celebration.  It ain't pretty.  But they aren't expecting, or wanting, pretty, so we're good.)

The rehearsal dinner is like a mini-mixer between you and your new "sort-of cousins."  (The Big Kid is obsessed with cousins, on account of how he has exactly one first cousin, and B doesn't completely count because he is a cousin-by-marriage and joined the family as a young adult.  So Big Kid is insistent that my cousin's children are much closer cousins to him than they actually are and actively seeks out opportunities to see them, and now he is equally insistent that his uncle's wife's nieces and nephews have to count as his cousins somehow.)

Most importantly, you get to dress up.  Dress code is a dark suit, white shirt and gold tie.  Interestingly, this is deemed to be MUCH COOLER than being made to wear a tux.  Somehow, the dark suit/straight tie thing seems infinitely more grown-up.  Big Kid is particularly excited, because he recently outgrew his navy blazer and announced that, from now one, he's gonna suit up exclusively.  As of this weekend, he's now one suit into the game.

Where did we find said suits?  At K&G, home of the Steve Harvey Junior Collection, which was just fine with the Big Kid, whose tastes in suits definitely lean in the "African-American stand-up comic" direction, veering dangerously close to "early nineties Arsenio Hall extreme shoulder pads and Cross Colors colors" territory.  He was particularly fond of one black/white pinstriped number, which he wanted to pair with a dark shirt and monochromatic tie, shoes with spats and a fedora.  I patiently explained to him that his uncle was getting married in a Catholic church in central Dallas, not in a Tyler Perry movie or in a Harlem jazz club circa eighty years ago.  I also pointed out to him that, with his Irish coloring and overall level of geekiness, said suit made him look about as hip as Anthony Michael Hall in that scene in "Weird Science" when they crash the blues bar.  Reference sailed over his head.  At this point, he started doing a weird little shuffling dance that reminded me, for all the world, of Morris Day.  So I offered him a mirror and a shout-out:  "JESSE!  Now, now, Jerome."

Whoosh!  Another cultural reference, cleared for takeoff.

We settled on a Calvin Klein number that - glory of glories - also came in the Little Kid's size.  Both kids found belts, Little Kid got shoes, and Mom made a mental list of items remaining to be procured (socks, new dress shoes for Big Kid, white shirts for both - the bride and groom are providing the ties).

At this point, Spouse decided that he also needed a new suit for the occasion, so a second shopping list was prepared.  And then I started thinking about what to wear, and I decided that (given the lateness of the hour of the wedding) the black halter dress that I purchased at the holidays and only wore once would be an acceptable option, particularly if I put a colored wrap with it, and - hey, there, hi, there, ho, there - isn't that a turquoise fringed wrap I see peeking out of that moving box?  DONE.  Shoes:  check.  Jewelry:  check.  Now, if only I had a clutch that would tie in the turquoise wrap, a little bit of black from the dress and the gold in the jewelry (and in my guys' wedding ties).  Pulled up Etsy and found a couple that would do the trick - none of them over $35.  Finally settled on this one, from Tamra's Bags:

As I am charging the thing to PayPal, I make a point of reminding Spouse that, once again, the McGlinchey men have outdistanced the McGlinchey women by a mile in the "highest-priced special occasion wardrobe" competition.  And I think with fondness of my father-in-law and that ridiculously expensive pinkish-purple tie.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Diaspora in Reverse: Life's Little Mysteries

Well, the train is slowly pulling into the station.  Twelve boxes of charitable donations departed today.  Closets are coming together.  You can see a whole lot of floor, and also walls.  Which means that art is starting to go back up.

At some point during the renovation process, I ran across this image out of Southern Living and pinned it to a Pinterest board with a comment that, inevitably, my rooms tend to look like this, with art tiled pretty much from floor to ceiling. 

I didn't consciously intend to reinvent the master bedroom around this image, but somehow it happened - I painted the walls gold, and when the art started to go up, it started to go up, basically, like this. Also unplanned: the designation of the master as "place where Mom's original art, crazy folk art and travel souvenirs come home to roost." My pumpkin painting from last fall ended up there for lack of any other rational place to display it, plus the colors harmonized with the bed linens. My vintage image of Salzburg (acquired when I was living there and lovingly schlepped from there to Vienna to Budapest to Houston with only a minimum of muss and fuss) was already a bedroom fixture, and while unpacking I ran across a similar image of Budapest that was unframed but now is dressed up and hanging over a chest of drawers. From there, things kind of snowballed: made sense to add the watercolor of Banff (honeymoon souvenir) because it was already in a gold mat, and it tied in thematically to the other travel stuff. Et cetera, ad nauseam. Add deer antlers and a couple of bird images, and you pretty much have the image above.  Oh, wait - two decorative rooster plates, in these colors, occupying the space between the door and my bookcase.  Bird image comment withdrawn.  And we do have a moose head (not a real one, but a plush animal head mounted on wood - another honeymoon souvenir), but it's too kitschy even for me, which is why the 12 year-old has claimed it as his own.

So, yeah, we're there.

Interesting about the art:  in the same box as the Budapest advert and some other unframed art, I ran across a tube of lithographs, roughly twelve in all.  Each is a (very high quality) copy of a pencil drawing colored in with pencils and pastels, and if I am interpreting the imagery collection, each is intended as a survey of an area of study - as in, the history of the Earth, the evolution of machinery, the arts, zoology and so on.  They are sort of ridiculously hard to describe but, also, quite cool.  The Big Kid immediately latched on to one that, from top to bottom, flows from pyramids and aquaducts to the Hoover Dam to the combustion engine to an astronaut in free flight:  all very science-y, and therefore very him, and the colors (blues and golds) match his new bedroom color scheme.  I am partial to the one that depicts the arts (ballet, opera, theater, literature) and the zoology one (various animals, one flowing into the next, with colors that would go perfectly in our dining room) and am strongly considering having them custom matted and framed.

One interesting little detail:  NO ONE KNOWS WHERE THE MYSTERY ART CAME FROM.

I assumed that the portfolio of images was Spouse's - a souvenir from his own Grand Tour of Europe.  The drawings look like something that you might buy at an art fair held in a public park in Italy or France.   But he claims to have zero prior knowledge of their existence. 

They certainly didn't originate with me, but they have to be ours somehow:  can't think of a theory on which they would end up in one of our boxes, given that everything that was packaged with them pretty clearly was ours.

Forget to mention that they are unsigned.  Seriously, we have MYSTERY ART in our midst.  And I'm okay with that.  You open a box, you find some art, you actually like the art (well, some images more than others), and (if you are me) you just know:  it's the universe's intent that you do something with this stuff.  So framing will be involved.  But, first, I'm going to photograph some of the images and upload them . . . somewhere . . . in the hopes that somebody might recognize the artist, or provide some hint as to provenance. 

Would share them with you now, but there's this small matter of us not having Internet still, because Spouse was weighing his service provider options.  I am informed that I will have Internet TOMORROW.  And then my sleuthing shall begin . . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Diaspora in Reverse: One Mom's Trash is Her Twelve Year-Old's Treasure

Continuing with the sliver theme:  we are starting to see slivers of the floor in the Big Kid's room. This represents very real progress, because up until a day or so ago, there was a solid layer of debris in the Big Kid's room, stretching from door to bed. 

In contrast, Little Kid's room is totally organized, because Mom tackled that room.  Big Kid declares this system unfair, to which Mom responds:  

  1. Yes, I help the Little Kid, because he's seven, and we don't expect as much from him at seven as we do of the you at twelve.  Coincidentally, though, we expect exactly as much of the Little Kid at seven as we did of you when YOU were seven.  So stop saying that things are unfair.
  2. Although, when you get right down to it, life is unfair, so now would be a good time to accept that and move on.
  3. Also, it's not true that we don't expect as much of the Little Kid as we do you.  The Little Kid actually earns a little bit more credit with us.  Here's the other reason that I am willing to clean the Little Kid's room:  he's a bit of a slob, but he's not a pack rat.  His stuff falls back into place far more naturally, because it's easily categorized:  dinosaurs.  Hot Wheels cars.  DC Comics action figures.  Non-DC Comics action figures.  Little Kid (AKA The Performer) is all about play-acting, so it's a matter of organizing props and set pieces.
Big Kid (AKA The Engineer) is all about creating things out of other things.  But he also has a bit of the performer in him.  Here's what I have to deal with in the Big Kid's room:
  • Eighteen trillion kinds of building sets.  LEGOs. LEGO Mindstorms.  Uberstix. Knex.
  • Building set projects, in various stages of completion.
  • Model kits.
  • Completed models.  Including every Pinewood Derby and Space Derby entry he has ever submitted, with corresponding trophies.
  • Trash.  Seriously, just trash.  Bits and pieces of stuff that he thinks he could turn into something some day.
  • Things built out of trash.  (Example:  a functioning Camera Obscura, made out of a cardboard box that once upon a time housed a NatGeo science toy of some sort.  The toy is long gone, but the box remains.)
  • AN ENTIRE RUBBERMAID TOTE'S WORTH OF PAPER AIRPLANES.  All of them representing a refinement of the prior design scheme.
  • Reams and reams of origami paper.  Most of it mangled, but I am informed that the mangled paper IS STILL USEFUL.
  • An entire library of books on paper-folding.
  • Magic props.  It's danged difficult to tell what is a magic prop and what isn't, but I'm getting better at it.  Segments of rope:  probably a magic prop (particularly if they go rigid if you jerk 'em just right - oh, wait, I'm not supposed to explain how that works).  Little plastic cups that look like they could nest in other plastic cups.  Foam balls that you can squish into little plastic cups.  Silk scarves that I don't recognize as coming out of my accessory pile. 
And on and on.  Seriously.  I'm leaving out the Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and the Bakugan cards, and the umpteen computer print-outs with cheat codes and programming tips.

This is not a function of him being a tween.  I swear that it has been like this, essentially, since the kid was born.  (Once upon a time, there were Thomas trains in the mix, and BRIO.  Those were our early building sets.  He didn't care one whit about the characters or their back stories and never actually interacted with them.  Thomas and his friends were useful only as crash-test dummies.  It was all about the layout.  Once the layout was built, and tested, the trains went back in their carrier.  Then he would ask me to photograph his latest creation, and then he would tear it down and start over.)

So, here's the real reason why I will choose to organize the Little Kid's room over the Big Kid's room:

In the Little Kid's room, I can tell what's trash.  IT'S ACTUALLY TRASH.  The Little Kid consistently forgets the rule about not eating in his bedroom.  And the Little Kid eats, A LOT.  We think he has a slow leak somewhere.  So, in his room, you find granola bar wrappers, and segments of fruit roll-up covered with a fine layer of pet hair.  It's gross, but it's easily recognizable as stuff that needs to be thrown away.

Everything in the Big Kid's room looks like trash to the naked eye - but, to the owner, it's almost entirely treasure.

So Big Kid, who wants a cell phone with a full data plan, and an electric guitar, and a whole bunch of other grown-up stuff, has been advised to put his money where his mouth is and unpack and organize his stuff like an actual adult. This process has been thwarted by the fact that the Big Kid will soon be thirteen.  He sleeps.  A lot.  He is, basically, a narcoleptic.  When he is awake, he is complaining about how tired he is, or actually in the process of nodding off.  The only time that he is fully awake, and engaged, is around midnight.  Spouse thinks that this can all be controlled.  I'm not convinced.  I have a fairly good idea that twelve-turning-thirteen was around the time that my parents reversed a long-standing "no TV" position and wheeled an old set into my room.  (Seriously, it was on a plug-ugly TV cart, and it had rabbit ears.  This was the early eighties, and the TV was on loan from the seventies.)  They plugged it in and said, "Watch TV in the middle of the night.  Knock yourself out.  JUST PLEASE LET US SLEEP."  (This is the reason why I am a Trekkie, by the way:  the only show that came in clearly at that late hour was Star Trek:  The Original Series in reruns.)

Anyway.  The other day, I actually witnessed the Big Kid slump over a Blackmon Mooring carton and start to snore.  Again, I do not think it's artifice.  I think that this is our life until he leaves for college.

Diaspora in Reverse: Finding Slivers of Silver Lining

Behind-the-door bookcase contraption located this afternoon.  Of course it was located this afternoon, because last night I organized the kids' books on the assumption that it would never be found.  THIS IS HOW MY LIFE WORKS. 

Also located:  the Dish Network receivers.  Somehow, they mysteriously ended up in the "garage sale" section of the carriage house.  Glad we found those suckers . . . so that we can immtediately turn them back in to Dish and tell them to kiss our collective hindquarters.  Nitwits refuse to restore our service without making a house call (no doubt to try to sell us additional stuff), and it appears that their prices went up while we were in exile.  We really, REALLY became fond of U-verse while we were living in the apartment, but U-verse continues to play chicken with us:  when we left, they were offering services on the other side of the middle school football field, but not on our side.  Now they are offering Internet only on our side - no cable.  Ugh.

That leaves us with three options:

1.  Suck it up and continue to deal with Dish.
2.  Sign up with Direct TV and immediately switch back over to Dish, taking advantage of "new customer discounts" that you would think they would just go ahead and give us when we explain to them the end game.  I mean, cell phone providers understand that you occasionally have to sweeten the pot to keep folks coming back, right?  Add Dish to the "playing chicken with the McGlincheys" contingent.
3.  Sign up with Direct TV and stay with Direct TV.

Number three is the current frontrunner.  And it will that much easier/more satisfying to give Dish the heave-ho if we don't have to mumble at the end of the conversation, "Oh, um, by the way, we seem to have misplaced our receivers.  Do we owe you anything for those?"

So we are slowly finding tangible things, and with them, snippets of the intangible (I'm referring here to our sanity).

Also in the silver lining category:  we are practically running a daily shuttle to local charitable resale shops.  Spouse drives the Goodwill/YWCA route.  The really nice stuff I take to Double Exposure, the Junior League's resale boutique.  First day to drop off quotas for the 2012-2013 League year was June 1st, and I think I deserve props for showing restraint and waiting until the 5th to vomit treasures all over them.  Fairly sure that today's haul satisfied my annual quota about three times over  (no, it won't carry forward to future years - dang-nab-it), although I'm sure that there will be much more to come.  Nice thing about being a League member is that someone else assigns a resale value to your stuff, which gets posted to your computer profile, which makes things really easy come tax time.  And here's some more silver lining:  
  • DE goes through crystal hangers (the clear plastic kind) like crazy.  (I emptied out an entire rack of the kid-sized one on this donation alone.)  
  • It appears that while we were in exile, our crystal hangers (many of which got left behind in the master walk-in closet) got busy and multiplied. 
  • Spouse has declared jihad against crystal hangers (he likes the huggable kind - no, he doesn't actually hug them, but they do hang things nicely, and they have a much thinner profile, so the closet doesn't get as cluttered).
  • Spouse actually packed a box of crystal hangers of his own accord for me to take to DE.  I was quite impressed by this show of initiative.  Certainly, it augmented today's DE experience:  I got to get rid of clothes we didn't need, PLUS UNWANTED HANGERS, all in one fell swoop.  Doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Postscript: Pier 1's "On Hold" Feature

En route to Pier 1, I realized that I really should get a gift for the boys' retiring kindergarten teacher.  Desired that she would appreciate a chalkboard carafe as well.  Thus, it was necessary for me to make a trip to the chalkboard carafe section, notwithstanding calling ahead on the first such item.  Got to the checkstand, the salesperson eyed my carafe rather oddly, and I said somewhat apologetically, "Yeah, I reserved one online, but then I decided that I needed two."

"Okay.  I'll go fulfill your order now."

"Wait, really?  No.  I need to go back over there, anyway, to look for something else.  I'll just grab another carafe."

And so it was that I fulfilled my own online order.  Except . . . when I got back to the register, a THIRD carafe had magically appeared on the counter.  I paid for two of them and left, mentally rating the social utility of the online reservation process as "meh" or "meh-ish."

At least I had gifts, and cards, for both Ms. T. and Ms. S.  Ms. S. was such a great teacher to both boys.  WAIT - I HAVE TWO BOYS.  AND THE OLDER ONE HAS TEACHERS.  TEACHERS FOR WHOM I HAVE DONE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Called home in a panic.

Put your son on the line.  I need to know the protocol for middle school teacher gifts.

What was I thinking, asking a twelve year-old boy ANYTHING about ANY KIND of protocol?  I got the verbal equivalent of a shrug and then, finally, "I don't think we're expected to do anything, but if I had the option I would kind of like to do something for my homeroom teacher."

Homeroom teacher is male, with a wife and two kids.  We already did a Target gift card for him.  Big Kid suggested Movie Tavern - JUST AS I WAS CLEARING ONE INTERSECTION PAST MOVIE TAVERN.  Figures, right?  And then I remembered that we purchased a Movie Tavern gift card at a charity auction, so problem solved.  (AND, in putting the craft closet back together, I unearthed some of those little cups that look like popcorn containers, so there's your gift wrap.  Done, and done.)  Nothing was written on the little card folder (in terms of who the gift was "to"), so that was a plus; minus was that they hadn't filled in the amount, either.  I suspect that it was $40 or $50, which is maybe a bit of a windfall for Mr. H., but hey - the man teaches accelerated middle school math.  No movie theater gift card in the universe would adequately express my gratitude to the guy.

So, to sum up:  one end-of-the-year teacher gift purchased in a rational fashion.  One purchased semi-last minute but without a lot of fuss.  Third gift only somewhat wheels-off.

All in all, not too shabby.

Diaspora in Reverse: Doing Laundry at Mom's

Washing machine still isn't hooked up (because, until this weekend, it was basically inaccessible), so I have been going to Mom's to do laundry.  Kind of makes me feel like I'm in college again, only at least at my current age I have the decency to be both apologetic and grateful.  And, as a gesture of that gratitude, when she asked me to locate another bottle of the sparkling pink moscato that I bought for my grandmother for Mother's Day, I purchased said bottle and resolved to give it to her gratis.  With bottle in hand, I headed over to her house on Sunday afternoon to retrieve one load of laundry and drop off another.  Called en route, and the convo went something like this:

Hey, I'm heading over to get the laundry.

Are you stopping anywhere on the way? 

Like, where?  You're three miles down the road.  There's not a whole lot of options.

Well, I was just wondering if you were stopping at the store and could get me a can of whole berry cranberry sauce.

I do NEED to go to Super Target.  I could backtrack, get the closet organization stuff that I need and get you your sauce.  By the way, you DO know that it isn't November, don't you?

I'm making that fluffy cranberry salad stuff.  Well, I'm TRYING to, but all I have is the jelly kind of cranberry sauce.  How long will it take you at Target?

Forty five minutes?

Never mind.  I'll just go.

No, no, no.  I'll do Target later.  I'll stop at the grocery store on the way to your house and buy cranberries.  [It's the least I can do for the woman who birthed me and continues to separate my darks from my whites, right?]

[Twenty seconds later.]



Can you also get me a small container of ricotta?  Part-skim or low-fat.  Sorry, but it's an emergency.

Got it.  Emergency.  Cranberries and ricotta.

Arrived at Mom's with sparkling pink moscato, cranberries (I bought her an extra can, to forestall future cranberry-related emergencies and ricotta.  Sat with my grandmother for awhile and watched Tiger Woods make a miracle birdie on 16 at the Memorial.  Mom stuffed manicotti and fluffed cranberries in the other room.  And then I went to make my exit, at which point Mom announced:

I think we'll go to Olive Garden.

When?  We had just discussed plans for my uncle's birthday dinner and for my parents' anniversary.


Ummmmmmm . . . so what, exactly, was all of the to-do about the cranberries and ricotta?

Oh, that's just freezer food.  We were never planning on eating any of that today.

I love my mother.

Diaspora in Reverse: APB

MISSING.  One "Madison" four-shelf book rack from Pottery Barn Kids.  Used to reside behind the door to the Big Kid's room.  Now needed for the Little Kid's room.  Expected to find it in a moving carton by now.  Wondering if the contractors are responsible for its disappearance, along with the globes to two ceiling fans.  (Globe #1 disappeared early on.  Suspect it was broken and on one wants to own up to it.  Pointed out to contractors that the fan in the living room and the fan in the dining room match, on account of how the rooms are open concept.  Thus, if it's not possible to find a replacement globe, and it's necessary to replace the entire fan - which is a damned nice fan, by the way - it will be necessary to replace TWO damned nice fans.  Contractors took Globe #2 to Home Depot and Lowe's to find a replacement part.  Contractors never returned.  (This was a few days before the return move.)  Neither has Globe #2. 

So contractors may be buying us two new fans.  In the interim, I am enjoying the effect of naked light bulbs.  At least I can now turn off the light separately from the fan (well, in one room, anyway), after finding the fan remote in a box marked "Napkins."

I think it's a fair metaphor to say that the last ten months have been a battle, and now I feel like a general surveying the battlefield and assessing the extent of the carnage.  Only the numbers on my loss reports don't correspond to humans (thankfully) but to ceiling fans and book racks.


Diaspora in Reverse: Baby Steps

We are down to approximately fifty boxes.

You can now walk down the hallway from the boys' room to the master suite.

I finally remembered to buy Cerama Bryte, and the little scouring pads and scraper tool that go with it.  (Scraper tool is essentially a razor blade.  I find it somewhat amusing that I am being advised to use a sharp knife edge on a surface that is prone to scratching.)

I finally got around to cleaning the cooktop with the Cerama Bryte after one of the felines decided that it was time for Mom to rip off the Band-Aid, jumped up onto the cooktop and vomited on it.  Thanks to said unidentified feline (I have my suspicions), I am now an expert on cleaning said cooktop.

(Shortly after my trial-by-cat-yak, I walked by Spouse, who asked if I was wearing something "watermelon-y."  "No, that's a unique and proprietary blend of countertop cleaner, cat vomit and Van Cleef & Arpels that I plan to market as 'Monday Morning at the McGlincheys.'  Think it will sell?")

My kids are now the owner of the world's most expensive cap rack.  (The girl at the Container Store said that it was WAY superior to the other type of cap rack.  And I was too tired to question.)  One closet in Connor's room is now devoted to clothes - and, thanks to my oldest child's engineering skills, I did not have to put together the little shelving unit that hugs the back wall.  I left the room, came back in and he was 80% of the way finished with it.  I think he looked at the directions once, if at all.  Anyway, jeans and shorts are now folded in cubbies instead of taking up hanger space.  They always tore them off of the hangers anyway, and left them in a pile on the floor.  Now, they will pull them out of cubbies and leave them in a pile on the floor - but it will be a danged sight easier to get them to clean up after themselves.

Cap rack is on the inside of that closet door.  Backpack bungee contraption is on the inside of the door to the closet that is now dedicated for toys.  Toy sorting is in process.  (It's going to be a long process.)

Oh, and Friend Robyn may have her baby by this evening.  We have decided that it would be bad form to carry the moving carton filled with toys earmarked for "Baby A" up to the hospital.  So it's in the carriage house for now.  But we are anxiously awaiting his arrival.  And his arrival could not come at a better time, because if it's been fairly easy to motivate the Little Kid to thin the toy herd on the basis of "you can still play with it over at Aiden's," it will be that much easier to motivate him once Aiden is actually here as a visual aid.