Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two (Improved) Front Teeth for Christmas

I am pretty much convinced that my dad does cool stuff for me from Heaven.

Like, I do not think it's a coincidence that the tiniest corner of one of my front teeth just happened to come out in mouth the other day at swim practice.  I wasn't chewing anything, but all of a sudden - something gritty between my molars.  Tongued the something, transferred it to the tip of my finger:  yup, tooth colored.  Then I felt the tiny chip (which, because it was in my mouth, felt like the Grand Canyon).  Called my dentist the next morning to make an appointment, either to have it buffed out or filled.  I am all about prevention these days, and no sense walking around with something jagged in my mouth that could catch on another something and create a much larger (and more expensive) problem.

I have always been good about going to the dentist and consider regular checkups, cleanings, etc. to be wonderful, positive things.  My dad:  HATED the dentist.  And had the not-great teeth to show for it.  But he knew, and appreciated, that I felt differently about dentistry, and he complimented me on my attitude with regularity.

He also knew that I have always hated my front teeth.  They were buck teeth, for awhile.  Braces fixed that, but once the teeth were properly oriented (pointing straight down) it became apparent that they were a good bit larger, and slightly longer, than they probably ought to be to be in proportion with the rest of my choppers.  Drawing attention to this fact:  the right one was longer, and not straight across at the bottom.
What's worse than two kinda-rabbit-y front teeth?  One that's more rabbit-y than the other.

Once upon a time, I asked a dentist about filing both of them down, and he gave me a ten-minute diatribe about enamel erosion and yada-yada, so I resolved to live with my uneven rabbit teeth.

Then chip happened - to the outside corner of my elongated tooth.  And today I went to see my dentist (the marvelous Diana Raulston - seriously, she is marvelous, in every way), and the dental assistant opined that, as small as the chip was, no filling was likely to be needed - just a little smoothing.

Then in came Dr. R. - and, after confirming that we were talking "file," not "fill," she said the magic words:

You know, I think that tooth is too long, and that might be why it catches on stuff.  Want me to shorten it?

You can do that?

Sure.  I mean, I don't want to take off too much - you can always remove, but you can't add back.  Well, you CAN add back, but - you know.

Yes, I know.  And, YES, please shorten it.

She did.  It is now the same length as its partner - for the first time in EVER.

Such a small thing - but I cannot tell you how happy it makes me.  It is a good thing that I was the only person in the elevator on the way back up to the office, because I could not stop looking at my two front teeth, and smiling - much wider than I usually do, because I have no need to hide the bottoms of those teeth behind my bottom lip anymore.

I am convinced that Daddy set this all in motion, as a Christmas gift of the type that only an all-knowing, all-seeing, otherwordly person could provide. Angel wings look soft and fluffy, but they are deceptive.  If you put your weight behind them, and angle them just right, you can chip a tooth, just so.

Thanks, Daddy.  Front teeth for Christmas may be a corny cliche, but I love mine - for the first time in EVER.  And I will love you forever as well.

He Scares Me, Part Deux

LK has decided to write the Great American Novel.

He's trying out several concepts simultaneously.  One is on my phone, another is on my hard drive, and I believe that a third story starter is stored in the cloud somewhere.  (How is it that my nine year-old is intimately familiar with Google Drive?  Two words:  Big.  Kid.  One more word:  osmosis.)

And now LK has an agent.

Mom, Camden and I are writing a book together.  Well, sort of - I'm doing the writing, and he weighs in with ideas and stuff.  You know, he makes suggestions, and he proofreads?

You are describing a literary agent.

Cool.  I didn't know what to call him.  Do you have an envelope?


I wrote down some instructions for him, and I want to give them to him tomorrow, but I want to put them in an envelope.  You know, to make it more legit.

Got it.

I found an appropriately sized envelope.  And, yes, I snuck a peek.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

No Helicopter Needed, Part Deux

Allow me to introduce the Little Kid - elementary school crime-fighter.

[Note that I do not have a current picture of him dressed to fight crime, so a photo from his sixth birthday party will have to do.  He is bigger than this now - but only by a little bit.  Kid's never going to play professional basketball.]

A few weeks back, I heard LK explaining to Big Kid the deets of a playground run-in:

So then [name of child] said that he had six flat-screen TVs, two Playstations and an Xbox, and he said that EVERYONE IN OUR CLASS had that much swag, EXCEPT for me, because I'm "poor." 

BK:  But NONE of that is true.  And I think your friends know that.

LK:  Doesn't matter.  It still hurt my feelings, and he was still being a bully, and PEOPLE SHOULDN'T BULLY OTHER PEOPLE.

At this point, I stepped in and asked if Mom and Dad needed to take the matter up with LK's teacher - perhaps set up a meeting with the other boy's parents?

LK:  Oh, no.  I already told the teacher.  And she made him to apologize to me in front of everyone AND OFFER ME A FULL RETRACTION.  And he also lost playground time FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK.  So I think we're good.

Oh.  Okay.  Offer withdrawn.

Maybe two weeks after that, a highly agitated LK came home from school and informed his father of an unpleasant run-in with a male substitute teacher (no, not THAT kind of run-in):

I got up to go to the bathroom, because Mrs. C just lets us go on the honor system [editor's note:  the bathroom is right next door], and the substitute asked me, "What do you think you're doing?"  And I told him that I was going to the bathroom, and he said, "Oh, you THINK so, huh?"  And then he started mocking me - like, when I folded my arms, he folded his arms, and when my voice got high, he copied my voice, and then the other kids started to laugh.

Did he let you go to the bathroom?

Yes - EVENTUALLY.  And I cried a little bit in the bathroom, but I didn't let him see me cry.  And when I came back, I walked up to him, and I told him that I thought he was behaving like a bully, and that adults shouldn't bully kids - ESPECIALLY TEACHERS - and I told him that he hurt my feelings and I thought that he should apologize.

And how did he respond to THAT?

He blinked a couple of times - and then he apologized to me.


Spouse took offense at the substitute's action (with good reason) and decided to take the matter up with the principal.  He took LK with him, and when Spouse began to explain the situation, LK said:

No, let me.

An experienced trial attorney, Spouse described what followed as some of the best testimony he had ever seen delivered on the witness stand:  "He was aware of his audience and spoke to the principal like an adult conversing with an adult - never got overdramatic, never overexaggerated.  AND HE NEVER BROKE EYE CONTACT.  I am more afraid than ever that he is considering a run for major political office."

During his deposition - excuse me, while he was talking to Principal D - it came out that, after LK returned from the bathroom, the substitute proceeded to put another kid in a corner and taunt him until the boy started to cry.  It was at that point that Super LK decided that he needed to take a stand and call the substitute on his thuggish behavior.

The kid he defended?  Same kid who bullied LK on the playground.

Like LK said - they're good now.

The substitute has been forever banned from our campus. I'm planning on taking my helicopter seed money to Vegas, because apparently neither of my children will be in need of helicopter parent services anytime soon.

The principal is more convinced than ever that LK can do no wrong.  His given name has been permanently shelved:  to her, he is, consistently, "my sweet angel."

And LK has officially announced that in next spring's Student Council election he plans to forgo a run for treasurer (he's currently secretary), because "fourth graders can run for either treasurer OR vice president - and the vice president is that much closer to president."

Yup.  Just one heartbeat away.

Monday, December 2, 2013

He Scares Me

I may have mentioned before that the Little Kid was quiet as a church rodent for the first two years of his life - to the extent that I wondered aloud if he would ever establish a personality.

Be careful what you wish for.

It subsequently became apparent that the Little Kid is the whole package - smart as a whip, but savvy enough to know when to fly under the radar.  I fully believe that he spent those first two years developing his poker game, and to good effect - the kid knows when to hold 'em, fold 'em, walk away and run.

He is so adept at radar deflection that, from moment to moment, it is easy to forget just how whip-smart - and ever-so-slightly devious - he is.

And then he reminds you.

As we were putting up the Christmas tree Saturday evening, I muttered my displeasure at having to tether the tree top to a plant hook with fishing line in order to keep the canines and felines from tumping it over.  I referred to said canines as "hell hounds" and then opined that the Big Kid's cat (our twenty-pound Maine Coon) was an honorary hell hound.

Big Kid responded, "Max is NOT an H-hound."

Me:  You know, it's sweet that you are going out of your way NOT to swear in front of me, but it's actually okay to say a word that would otherwise be a swear if you are using it in a Biblical, mythological or literary capacity.

Little Kid:  Moby Dick.

Me:  Huh?

Little Kid (wearing a highly satisfied grin):  Moby.  DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK.

Ever have one of those moments when you can't decide whether to paddle your child or high-five him?

Like I said:  whip-smart.  And ever-so-slightly devious.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Salute to My Suck-Ups and Non-Suck-Ups

I recently stumbled upon a piece by JD Bailey, a Huffington Post "Healthy Living" blogger, that completely summarized where I am in my head now that we are more than half a year past my dad's death:

Grief is uncomfortable. It is foreign. It is an ill-fitting garment that pinches you in all the wrong places. You can feel like you've shed it for a while, and then it can unexpectedly wrap you up like an unwanted sweater in July.

And because of this, it's hard to be around a person who is grieving. You don't know when she's going to break down and start sobbing while watching Chris Matthews, because he looks a little like her dad. Or because football season started, and her dad's not there for it. Or because it's Tuesday. And Tuesday is just another day without her dad.

[For the record, Chris Mathews is not a trigger for me.  On his best days, Dad looked like Tom Brokaw.  When he packed on a little weight:  William Shatner (the "Boston Legal" version - not "Young Kirk").  When he packed on a LOT of weight:  John Goodman in "Roseanne."

But, apparently, Bob Newhart is a trigger, on account of the facts that (1) my dad (also a Bob) had TV Bob's deadpan comedic delivery and (2) TV Bob was one of my dad's favorite television personalities.  And so it was that the first time that I really, truly wept over my dad's passage (not those first tears at hospice, which were a combination of tears of disbelief, relief and - oddly - joy, because I was so grateful that his suffering had come to an end) was a few weeks ago during an episode of  "Big Bang Theory."  All it took was one particular turn of the phrase from Professor Proton, and the floodgates opened.  It didn't help that TV Bob is visibly showing his age.  (Spouse is on notice that, when TV Bob passes away, I will probably take it ridiculously hard -  in a weird way, it will be like I'm losing Daddy Bob all over again.)]

Yes, being around the grieving is hard for anyone. But that's how you help a grieving friend. You suck up your own uncomfortable feelings and you are there for her. You are around.

My very best friend - Spouse - most definitely sucked it up during what we now refer to as my "Professor Proton Pity Party."  He has been there before:  we lost his dad, very suddenly, when the Little Kid was a toddler (seems like yesterday, but we will hit the eight-year mark next spring), so Spouse is a more senior member of what another, similarly situated friend astutely refers to as "a really s***ty club that no one wants to join."  I remember at the time of his dad's death desperately wishing that I had a frame of reference for what he was experiencing, because I felt that I was doing an entirely inadequate job of "being there" for him.  It didn't help that I, too, was grieving the loss of a father-in-law who over a span of twelve years had become like a real dad to me.  I felt guilty for mourning him myself - after all, he wasn't my dad, at least not in the biological sense.  Was Spouse angry at me for grieving alongside him?  Gratified?  I finally asked, and he assured me that it was the latter.

Now we have been in both positions:  the grieving child, and the concerned spouse simultaneously grieving for a second father.   We have a complete understanding of each other, and that understanding enhances our relationship.  (We have joked for some time about divorce never being an option for us, because we know where all of the bodies are buried - a figurative statement that in our shared middle age has become literal as well.)

So, obviously, it's easy for Spouse to be part of the Suck-Up Squad - he has the requisite frame of reference, and, also, it's kind of his job to pick up the pieces when things go pear-shaped.  (Seriously, a priest in Houston said so, seventeen-plus years ago.  Okay, he didn't say "pear-shaped," but it would have been awesome if he did.)  Likewise, fellow members of the Really S****ty Club have waded in, and on the Scale of Awesome they have blown "a theoretical priest saying 'pear-shaped' during a wedding ceremony" out of the water.

For awhile, I was confused, and more than a little hurt, by the fact that most non-RS Club members seemed to avoid the topic of Dad's death (and I'm talking the "never bring it up again after the day of the funeral" kind of avoidance).  But then one day I had the epiphany:

it's hard to be around a person who is grieving.

Really, it's like walking into a minefield:  if I ask her how she is doing, will she cry?  Get defensive and bite my head off (my signature move when Dad was diagnosed with cancer the first time; I was nineteen, and I could not handle the idea of people caring that much for me)?  If she blows off the subject, should I accept the blow-off, or should I push?  How hard should I push?

Oh, Lord, what if I put my foot in my mouth?

Based on personal experience:  I don't think that there's such a thing as saying the wrong thing.  If you fumble, the only discomfort your friend is likely to feel is the emphathetic kind.  Mostly she will appreciate that you volunteered to tap dance on eggshells in the first place.

Also, on behalf of myself and others similarly situated, allow me to offer apologies for sending out CUH-RAZY mixed signals.  One minute we're joking and posting photos on Facebook with "Good times!" captions, and/or fretting over inconsequential things, and the next minute we're wallowing.  The joking, good-timing and fretting could be defensive, but not necessarily.  The first thing that they tell you after a parent, spouse or child dies is:  grief is not linear.  And if you are me (or my mom), you respond, Mmmmkay, what the heck does that mean?  But I get it now.  There are stretches of time where you are able to function, more or less, like a non-grieving person.  You joke, you enjoy your family and friends, and you sweat small stuff.  Doesn't mean that the grief is gone, and sooner or later it comes back to the forefront.  If the erratic pattern catches me unawares, I know it has to be confusing to others.

So, to my Non-Suck-Ups: please feel free to get in my face.  Or, you know, don't.  Just know that I will love you either way.

To my Suck-Ups who are RS Club members:  Thanksgiving will be over in 48 hours.  Love to you all.

To my Suck-Ups who are not RS Club members:  how bleepin' brave are you?  Thank you for getting in my face.  Your in-my-face-ness means more than words can say. 

And, also, I love you.

Thankful for you all.

Monday, November 18, 2013

No Helicopter Needed

We had an inkling that the Big Kid would not be in need of a "helicopter parent" when Radio Disney stuck it to him at Mayfest.

A shiny-faced RD intern handed him a swag bag, and as we were walking out of the fenced-in RD enclosure, my then seven-year-old surveyed the contents and discovered that he had been shorted by a couple of promotional geegaws, relative to what his friends had received.  Instead of whining or bursting into tears ("Moooooooom, everyone else got TWO bumper stickers [that we will never stick on anything, because you aren't that into Radio Disney, and so Mom will throw them away when you aren't looking] and a Mickey-shaped squeeze ball [which will also mysteriously disappear], and I only got ONE bumper sticker [that Mom is totally going to throw away - count on it]"), he stopped in his tracks, said, "Excuse me, I have to go back," and next thing I know my kid is at the giveaway stand, politely explaining that HIS SWAG BAG WAS DEFECTIVE AND EITHER NEEDED TO BE SUPPLEMENTED OR REPLACED.  RD Intern looked somewhat shocked to be dealing with a small child with a firm grasp of customer service protocol and glanced over to me. 

I just shrugged.

Since then, Big Kid's nickname has become "Cher Horowitz," after the Alicia Silverstone character in "Clueless" who wouldn't show her attorney father her report card because "some teachers are trying to low-ball me, Daddy. And I know how you say, 'Never accept a first offer,' so I figure these grades are just a jumping off point to start negotiations."  Big Kid's worldview seems to be that all guidelines are flexible, which bugs the ever-loving crud out of his parents, and what bugs us even more is that HIS TEACHERS DRINK THE KOOL-AID AND AGREE WITH HIM, but at least he does his own dirty work and doesn't come crying to Mom and Dad, asking us to intervene on his behalf.

On the more positive side, he didn't break his stride when we enrolled him in a magnet program for middle school.  Final selection of a campus was his, but the decision not to remain at the home campus in any event was parent-fueled, and we worried that he would be morose about having to leave his friends, with good reason:  middle school's hard enough without having to start fresh, you know?  But Mr. Independent took to his new school like a duck to water, and happily claimed the pond as his own.  His other elementary school friends who had opted for magnet programs?  Not so much.  By the end of sixth grade, all of them had migrated back to the home campus, and in a bout of word vomit one day, I asked him:  was he upset that the proverbial band was getting back together?  "Nah.  I think it's pretty cool that I'm the only one who tried something new and stuck with it.  And I'm happy that I did something different - it's a great school. I have made a ton of new friends, and I'll see the old ones when I get to high school."

Except . . . now that high school is fast approaching, he is wavering.  On some levels, he loves the idea of the home campus:  it's a great school with great traditions, he will know a ton of people, and joining the swim team will be pretty seamless, since it's basically his summer swim team with a couple of additions.  But then, completely on his own, he decided that there would be some benefit to enrolling in another magnet, geared towards either engineering or architecture.  At the district's "Choices Expo" last weekend (which Big Kid was supposed to be attending as a representative of his middle school campus, but he ended up spending a good bit of time interviewing high schools, completely on his own), he winnowed the available magnet options down to one - a blended engineering/architecture program (giving him more opportunities to find his groove before college, because he's not sure which direction he wants to go) at a campus with a fabulous swim program.  When I suggested that, maybe, just going to high school is okay, and it's not strictly necessary to specialize - particularly when specializing would mean starting over with new friends once again - the answer I got was, "Mom - I wouldn't have suggested it if I wasn't up for it.  ALL of it.  My old friends will still be old friends.  I'll see them at church and swim meets and stuff, and I'll get to make new friends again."

He's turning 14 in a week, and I'm still waiting for his awkward/maladjusted phase to begin.  And it occurs to me that that wait may be open-ended.  Kid's not perfect, but he's ridiculously grounded and self-confident without being smug.  And I have no idea how that happened, because I really don't think that Spouse and I are that good at being parents.  Gotta give credit to the kid himself.

And thinking that maybe we can go ahead and transfer the "purchase a helicopter" budget to "college - general" on our balance sheet, once and for all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kids Paint the Darndest Things

I have the privilege of being a visual arts Sunday school teacher this semester, ministering to a mixed-age class of five to eleven year-olds.  At the beginning of September, our children's minister whitewashed the tables in the art room, and we "commissioned" four tabletop murals depicting themes from the Bible.

The older kids tackled Moses and his burning bush.  The flaming heart above is at the center of their design. As a collector of milagros, I love that another teacher in our room thought to suggest this, inspiring a discussion about ex votos, sacre coeurs and the flaming heart as a common theme appearing in the religious folk art of various cultures. The bush wraps around both sides of the table:

The third graders depicted the story of Abram ("count the stars in the night sky, and that is how many descendants you shall have"), borrowing heavily on "Starry Night" imagery:

So far, so good, right? Now we get to the little kid masterpieces.  One table of kindergarteners and first graders painted a Nativity scene.  The stables are in the middle, there are angels off to the right, and above the angels - outer space.  Kicking myself that I didn't take a photo of outer space to share with you, but I did snap a pic of the candy shop located in the heart of Bethlehem's central business district:

Makes sense.  Pay your taxes, spend your last shekel on some saltwater taffy as a little pick-me-up.

Another group of small ones channeled their inner Leonardos and produced a version of "The Last Supper":

Looks entirely conventional when viewed from 30,000 feet, but let's take a look at some of the details:

See the small person sitting at a table behind the waiter?  (Yup, Baldy's a waiter - because SOMEONE had to serve them all of that food.)  That is a diner in another section of the "restaurant" in which Jesus' feast was held.


1.  YAY!  Depth and perspective.

2.  How humbling to learn that Jesus couldn't score the private banquet facility at the Applebee's, or whatever equivalent of the Applebee's they had in suburban Jerusalem.  Maybe he didn't ask for the private room - man of the people, and all.

But my favorite detail of all is this one:

See that pink oval?  It's a HAM.  "Because you eat ham on special occasions."  Well, sure you do.  We can get into the meaning of keeping kosher later.  The important thing is that they recognize that this was a very special meal, and when you are planning a very special meal, a trip to the Honeybaked Ham store typically is in order.

We left the ham exactly as they painted it (the second largest item on the table next to the wine bottle - "because little kids drank wine back then, since the water had germs").  If anyone objects, we'll say it's challah - or one of those pink conchas that are my favorite form of pan de huevo to munch on while admiring my milagros.

Reminds me of the Christmas song, "Some Children See Him":

The children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus' face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.

Love, love, LOVE seeing faith through the eyes of children.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

No, My Nine Year-Old is NOT Having a Breaking Bad-Themed Birthday Party and Yes, Andy is a Genius

I was feeling pretty smug about  personally graphic-designing all of the elements for Little Kid's mad science birthday:  ORIGINAL CONTENT!  AT A BARGAIN-BASEMENT PRICE!  Only expense was the cost of printing (yeah, there's a color printer around here somewhere - probably in the attic, but I never go up there, soooooo . . . .).  Correction:  only expense is printing if you ignore the human cost (measured in brain cells) relating to the following:

1.  The Black Screen of Death Approacheth.  Went to upload everything from my laptop to Office Depot's "Print & Copy" Web site when said laptop started acting major-league squirrely.  Running hella-slow.  Sensing that the end was nigh, I decided to rebudget my time and email all of the would-be Office Depot print jobs to my work desktop, to be processed over my lunch break today, and giving me enough time to upload vacation photos to Picaboo so that I could finish our summer scrapbook before the dang Groupon expires.  Once Picaboo pics were safely in cyberspace, I went to email the party stuff - and discovered that all of my files were too large.  Spent a good bit of time splitting the baby.

(In case you are wondering, Spouse bought me a replacement for the dinosaur computer - um, about two years ago.  Haven't gotten around to transferring anything over to it.  Guess I need to do so now.  The irony that, if anything goes wrong when I fire it up, I have probably blown past the warranty is not lost on me.)

2.  Somewhere, Walter White is Smiling.  As I went to upload the party invitation to Office Depot, I realized that the graphic at the top kinda, sorta looks like the Breaking Bad logo.

I swear that this wasn't intentional.  MORE time wasted, questioning whether it is appropriate to mail out a Breaking Bad-esque invitation to small children.  Ultimately decided that we, as a people, cannot abandon the periodic table solely because a savvy graphic designer came up with an iconic logo for a TV show.

3.  E-commerce is So Convenient!  It took forever to upload various files to Office Depot's site (and that was after I opted to do things in two batches - had I done everything at once, it would have taken close to an hour).  I thought I opted "store pickup" on all items, but when I went to the payment page, it informed me that the cost of mailing my items to my home would exceed the cost of the actual print job.  Um, right, which is why I opted to pick the sucker up - or did I?  Impossible to know, because when I tried to page back, I was informed that my session had expired.  Decided I would be DAMNED if I had to upload everything a second time.  Availed myself of the Web chat feature.  A nice lady in Bangladesh couldn't tell me why the system glitched, but ultimately gave me the email to my preferred Office Depot location, along with the phone number.  Spoke with another nice lady, who confirmed that I could email her the file (at this point, I had decided to cut bait and only focus on getting the Salute to Walter White printed an in the mail).  I did so, with an explanation that the job was time-sensitive and a clear explanation of number of copies needed and preferred paper stock (glossy card).

4.  Andy is a Genius.  No, seriously - I actually titled the screen capture below "Andy is a Genius.jpg" under "My Pictures."

Andy was not the name of Nice Lady #2, and at the risk of stereotyping I'm guessing that Andy is male:

WHEN will you be getting more in stock?


Reminds me of many fun childhood dining-out experiences with my frequently distracted mother:

Smoking or non?


Booth or table?


Yeah, so maybe more than just the cost of printing.  But the print job is now safely with ANOTHER Office Depot location.  Hoping that Andy is not a floater.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Calorie Count from National Neighborhood Night Out

So I'm trying to be scrupulously good about tracking what I eat over the course of a given day - primarily, to make sure that I get enough protein and not a lot of sugar or salt.  And so it was that I found myself last night, faithfully inputting my National Neighborhood Night Out "grazing dinner" into

The thing you need to know about our neighborhood:  it's in a mixed-use urban environment, so we count among our "community partners" a lot of great restaurants, both old-and-established and new-and-trendy.  Thus, our NNNO's are thinly disguised food raves.

The record of my transgressions:

1 slice of Hawaiian pizza with jalapenos from Reservoir Bar
(I had to account for the jalapenos separately, because apparently no prior My Fitness Pal user had seen fit to enter the nutritional information for Hawaiian pizza with jalapenos.  Because apparently no My Fitness Pal users, other than moi, hail from Texas?)

1/2 of a fried chicken thigh from Lisa's Fried Chicken
(I always get halfway in before remembering that I don't actually like fried chicken.)

Two cashews and one pecan half from Vending Nut Company
(I picked and chose from among the selections in my little nut cup.)

12 tortillas chips and 1/2 cup salsa from The Original

3 cheese cubes from Central Market

1 piece of spicy tuna roll from Tokyo Cafe

1 bite homestyle lasagna and 1 bite garlic bread from Bella Italia
(At this point, I was plate-sharing with Spouse, who had gone back for seconds, and a dessert sampler.)

1 cube of lemon Bundt cake with 1 dollop of cream cheese icing from Nothing Bundt Cakes
(Hooray!  Someone had actually inputted the nutritional information for a lemon-raspberry Bundlette, so I was able to extrapolate the damage done by one cake cube from there.)

 1 bite of fudge brownie and 1 bite of carrot cake from Bluebonnet Bakery

1 entire white chocolate macadamia nut cookie from Bluebonnet Bakery
(I took a bite to start, and then I decided to commit.  It was a very small cookie.)

Total damage done, in terms of calories - 1,156.  Not horrible compared to other indulgences (according to the Intrawebs, the equivalent of one slice of chocolate peanut butter cookie dough cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, and typically you consume one of those bad boys after eating a full, and equally caloric, meal).  However, it did look odd compared to my breakfast of 2 scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, bell pepper and mushrooms and 1 cup of oatmeal/quinoa porridge with dried fruit and my lunch of 1 small olive oil and sea salt chicken breast, 1 cup sauteed yellow squash and 1/2 sliced tomato with basil pesto.

Tomorrow (well, actually, today) is another day.  And yesterday was super-fun.  Love our neighborhood and our awesome community partners!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Max the Halloween Cat and My (Former) Pumpkin Orange Kitchen

Max the Halloween Cat says:

Mom, while I approve of you decorating our home with replicas of me (and question why you only choose to do so one month out of the year), I feel compelled to point out that I DON'T SMILE LIKE THIS.  EVER.

Photo above was not posed - he sidled up to his likeness on his own - and I would have missed it if Big Kid hadn't pointed out the photo op.

I subsequently ran across another "Max at Halloween" photo, dating back to that first Max Halloween, when the Little Kid was barely three and the Big Kid was soon-to-be eight.  I believe that this may have been taken on Max's actual "gotcha day":

He seems genuinely interested in the Little Kid's Matchbox tutorial, doesn't he?  Probably because he had only been an indoor cat for, like, twenty minutes, and everything about the indoors was fascinating.  (He has since gotten over the indoors and decided that, just maybe, the outdoors is the place to be.  Thus, we have to be ever-vigilant when we open a door, lest an escape plot is in the works.  Fortunately, almost-seven-year-old Max is dense (in body mass - well, also in the other way, if I'm being honest) and not in great shape, so he only makes it a few yards before he pulls up lame, and then it's just a matter of hefting his weight like a sack of so many potatoes and transporting him back into the house.)

You can see a bit of the old, horrid kitchen in the background.  Yes, the walls were painted roughly the same shade as PJ's Halloween shirt.  And that restaurant shelving that you see represented half of the storage space in the kitchen, on account of how no one prior to us had figured out how to use that wall.  (Said wall now features a counter-depth side-by-side refrigerator and a floor-to-ceiling, shallow larder cabinet that supplements the ginormous pantry occupying the footprint of the prior fridge.  BECAUSE I FIGURED OUT HOW TO USE THAT WALL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.  It just took me thirteen years of living in the home and a major insurance casualty to get there.)

Here's another lovely photo of the kitchen, from the same batch of pics:

Maple cabinets with barn-door hinges!  Stark white appliances!  Martha Stewart-green laminate countertops with silver racetrack trim!  (Okay, truth be told, I kinda liked the racetrack look.)  Lowest common denominator stainless steel sink!  That weird wooden vent under said lowest common denominator sink! 

Where have I seen this before?  Oh, on a rerun of "Kitchen Cousins," rebroadcast a few days ago.  SAME WEIRD WOODEN VENT - and same piece of useless scalloped wood trim over the sink.  I'm guessing that this kitchen was a kit, because in looking for a "before" photo of the KC kitchen (yeah, they didn't publish one - guess it was deemed too horrible), I located this doppleganger:

I'd like to tell you that I only found ONE doppleganger, but no, I found several - one of them identified as a "fifties Cape Cod kitchen."  Yeah, it makes sense that a prior owner would put a fifties Cape Cod kitchen in my twenties Tudor because - oh, correction, makes no logical sense at all.

I'm guessing that said prior owner allowed herself to be seduced by a slick piece of advertising like THIS:

Hey, THAT'S where I went wrong - shoulda gone with the YELLOW laminate countertops, matching appliances and loud red wallpaper.  Or, you know, not.  All I'm sayin' is the June Cleaver wannabe in this ad looks way happier to be in my kitchen than I ever was.  (But I do approve of her wedge sandals.)

I find it funny that in the real-life photo above, you can see a sliver of yellow paint on the walls.  That seems to be the first phase of trying to learn to live with a fifties Cape Cod kitchen - or, at least, it was my phase one.  Why?  Honestly, because I saw an "inspiration" photo similar to the one above, and figured, "Well, no other color's gonna work, might as well go with what others have tried."  After going through several shades of yellow, I decided that if you can't beat orangish cabinets, you might as well join 'em and paint the entire sucker orange.

That didn't work, either.

If the kids cooperate, I'm going to pose them in the same location in the new "old kitchen," with the same mixer and rolling pin.  It's going to look a bit different - and not just because the Big Kid is now taller than I am and there's a Keurig machine in the corner.

Yay for (some) change.

Monday, September 9, 2013

When a Working Mom Gets an Upper Respiratory Infection, Day Two

When said working mom takes her Singulair and Zithromax prescriptions and goes to bed before midnight like a good girl, she will wake up on Saturday feeling fairly human.  She will actually wake up at 7:30, having received roughly eight hours of sleep (which is a LOT for her), which means she will have the opportunity to talk to Spouse before he leaves for his tennis match.  She will lounge around for awhile, and then around 9:45, because she is still under the influence of awesome steroids, she will convince the Little Kid to go with her to the farmers' market at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.  As she and the Little Kid are pulling into the parking lot, the Little Kid will remember that he meant to be cranky on this particular Saturday, and he will decide that he never wanted to go to the farmers' market, he hates farmers' markets, etc., etc.  His mother will ignore this, because she has met the Little Kid before, and she knows that five minutes in he will drop the "most unhappy boy in America" act.  Hopefully.

Five minutes in, the Little Kid will drop the "most unhappy boy in America" act and start showing interest in things.  (Big sigh of relief.)  By this time, Mom will have already bought a tiger melon (because it looked cool) and a poblano pepper (because she needed one).  The Little Kid will select some apricot jelly for himself and a jar of strawberry balsamic jelly as a Grandparents' Day gift for his nana (because, as everyone knows, strawberry balsamic jelly is THE traditional Grandparents' Day gift - available anywhere Hallmark cards are sold).   Mom will select lemon blueberry.  The Little Kid will try to convince her to let him get a cactus.  She will hold firm.

Then she and the Little Kid will purchase some okra, and some tomatoes, and some raw peanuts and these funny little fruits called jujubes (like the candy) that are some sort of Japanese fig and are supposed to taste like a cross between apples and pears.  The peanuts and jujubes will be the Little Kid's idea - but he will agree to try okra, if his mom will consent to roasting the peanuts in the oven.  She will say that she has never roasted peanuts, but she would like to try, and therefore this sounds like a good trade.

Because she is still under the influence of AWESOME STEROIDS, she will decide to risk a side trip with the Little Kid to the plant nursery (because the cactus seller also had some basil, but she didn't have the right kind of basil, and the basil pot is looking one-sided).  On the way, she will field questions about okra, and methods of preparation of okra, and she will suggest that "fried" is a good entry-level form of okra because, when prepared thusly, it is the vegetable that most closely tastes like popcorn.  The Little Kid will point out that actual corn tastes the most like popcorn. Then they will discuss the relative merits of tigons versus ligers.

At the plant nursery, the Little Kid will lobby for a small (very small) pot with ornamental peppers in it.  The mom will capitulate, because the pot is only $1.99, and the peppers are a pretty shade of orange.  The Little Kid will ask what meals can be prepared with his new peppers.  The mom will explain the concept of "ornamental" - and then agree to the purchase of three NON-ornamental pepper plants.  (Three, because the Little Kid "wants to watch the circle of life unfold" - his words - and therefore wants a taller plant with mature peppers that are edible now, a medium-sized plant with almost-ripe fruit and a small plant with the world's tiniest pepper on it.  In other words, a Poppa Bear, a Momma Bear and a Baby Bear - seems to be a recurring theme these days.)

The mom will get her basil, and some more mint, and some fountain grass, and the Little Kid will get a "baby boo" (miniature white) pumpkin.  He will insist on riding in the car with his peppers lined up on one side of him and his pumpkin on his knee.

When they are finished with their plant shopping, the mom and the Little Kid will stop at Central Market, ostensibly to get buttermilk for okra-battering.  They will come home with buttermilk, plus yogurt, bread for the jelly, more produce (including a Fuji apple, an Asian pear and an actual apple-pear hybrid, because the Little Kid wants to conduct a head-on taste test with the jujube, and a huge bag of Granny Smiths, because the Little Kid saw the sign, "Great for homemade applesauce," and decided that homemade applesauce sounded like something he might like to try), and red snapper fillets (because the Little Kid recently has decided that he is a fan of snapper).  As they are walking alongside the fish counter, the Little Kid will apologize to the crab legs - "sorry that you got murdered."  The mom will distract him as they walk past the (ridiculously HUGE) frog legs.  The Little Kid will demand Fiji water (SINCE WHEN?).  When informed that Fiji water is unavailable except in a case, he will select a single bottle of "Crazy Water" (which his mother will think is far more appropriate for him, based on name alone).  He will wash his Crazy Water down with salted caramel and Oreo gelato, most of which will end up melting all over him in the car.

When they get home, Mom will clean out the fridge to make room for her purchases, and she will remember that she has tahini that is soon to go bad, and a lot of produce falling in the same category, and way too many eggs.  She will end up making:  white bean hummus; salsa verde (to eat now and freeze for chicken enchiladas later); peach and tomato pico (to serve with the snapper); homemade applesauce; chocolate chip cookies; and a rum cake.  She will make the rum cake because her rum cake recipe requires exactly the number of eggs that she needs to get rid of after making the cookies.

While things are cooking, she will start the dishes, and hand-wash pots and pans, and reorganize the refrigerator and the pantry.  And then she will remember that she is sick.  So she will go to bed.
Well, she will get IN to bed.  And then the Big Kid will come in and inform her that he needs to make an animal cell model in a two-liter soda bottle, and he has to draw an analogy to something that is like a cell, and he has decided that he wants his to be a sailing ship.  (Okay, so we'll attach the sails to the top.  No, he says - the model has to be fully contained in the bottle, with no protrusions, for ease-of-storage purposes.  So, basically, he wants to construct a ship in a bottle.  Nope, nope, nope.)

The mom will steer him to the idea of a submarine - being a two-liter soda bottle-shaped item.  They will spend time drawing analogies (captain = nucleolus, bridge = nucleus, hallways = endoplasmic reticulum, maintenance crew = lysosomes, engine  room = mitochondria, hatch = semipermeable aspect of cell wall).  The Big Kid will decide that in lieu of a submarine he wants the Starship Enterprise.  The mom will remind him that the Enterprise is not two-liter soda bottle-shaped.  He will once again raise the "ship in a bottle" concept.  He will once again be denied.

Then the mom will move on to writing lesson plans for Sunday School while simultaneously researching waiver of subrogation language for commercial leases and graphically designing a poster  featuring Times Square on New Year's Eve and  pieces of what will eventually be a three-dimensional crystal ball and tower. (Don't ask.)  While she is multitasking, Spouse will return from his Kimbell Museum trip with the Little Kid.  (The mom had acquired two tickets to the Wari:  Lords of the Ancient Andes exhibit, and since the show was ending the next day, she really wanted some quiet time in bed, and the Little Kid had expressed in the show, she thought that a dad/kid outing was just what the doctor ordered.)  The Little Kid will be crying, because:  (1) he will never get to see the exhibit again; (2) the whole family did not see it together; and (3) it is a day with a Y in it.  The mom will ultimately bribe him with chocolate chip cookies.  His mood will improve, which means that he will continue to pop into the mom's room with fun factoids about animals.  By this point, the mom will be blogging, with the television off, seriously enjoying the peace and quiet.

Then Spouse will join in on the "peace and quiet disruption": "I'm looking for your new car.  What are your first, second and third choices of exterior colors?"  She will explain that it's as much about exterior/interior color combos as exterior colors.  She will go to the VW Web site and pull up the "configure your car"  feature.  She will annotate the VW brochure in Spouse's possession and rank her choices  in order with a Sharpie.  Twenty minutes later, he will interrupt her with the news that some graphic artist has obtained the rights to the original Star Wars scripts (when R2D2 spoke English and Han Solo was a green alien) and  is making them into graphic novels, and the first one is already out, and there will be seven more, and they only run $3 each, and the kids will LOVE THEM, but you cannot order them, but Lone Star Comics has them.  She will realize (or remember) where the Little Kid gets his lack of enthusiasm for silence.  She will beg Spouse to see if Lone Star Comics is open, RIGHT THEN, so that he will leave her alone.

She will finish her blog post, and she will ACTUALLY go to bed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When a Working Mom Gets an Upper Respiratory Infection, Day One

. . . she won't recognize what it is at first.

(Head and Eustachian tube congestion?  Yeah, we practically live in a swimming pool.  A little congestion is par for the course.  Sweaty head and neck at night - the kind of sweats you get with a fever?  You also get them with hormone fluctuations and, HELLO, we're 43 now.)

When she wakes up nauseated on a Friday morning , she will assume that she has "the intestinal thing that is going around the schools" (as described to her, via text, by her oldest child who, on his way home from school on the bus on Thursday, began lobbying to skip swimming practice, (1) citing the fact that "the kid who sits next to me has been out for two days, and I've heard that it's an epidemic in North Texas" and (2) ACTUALLY LINKING, VIA MMS, TO A NEWS ARTICLE about a particularly bad strain of norovirus . . . dating to a year ago).  She will consider apologizing to her son for finding his claims of illness suspicious given that they were made fifteen minutes before swim practice.  She will put a pin in the apology, and get dressed, and go to work "for just a little while," because she has some stuff to move off of her desk that actually involves being AT her desk.

(She will not leave until 2 pm.)

When she goes into the office, she will apologize to her assistant for coming in germy, and promise to stay sequestered, and when she decides that a Coke might help settle her stomach she will instruct her assistant to put the Coke on the corner of the credenza near the door and then back out of the room.  She will retrieve the Coke once her assistant is safely ten paces away (because she would like to think she's a good boss, and a caring person).

Around 11:30, while sitting at her desk, her head will swim.  And then swim again.  (Hmm, vertigo.  When do we normally get vertigo?  When a migraine is approaching, or when we have a "stealth" sinus or ear infection.  At age 43, we don't get infections gradually anymore.  They just show up one day, full-blown.  We credit this to lots of years of practice at being functional "walking wounded.")

After her head swims, she will notice that her ears are feeling really, really full.  She will notice a little drainage running down her throat - the kind that can cause tummy upset.  She will, tentatively, cough.  Her cough will sound icky - borderline wheezy - and as soon as she coughs the presence of EIGHT TONS OF FLUID IN HER SINUSES will present itself.

After she realizes that she has an upper respiratory infection (and gets over her embarrassment at taking a week-plus to realize that she has one), she will make plans to see her doctor.  She will stop off in the restroom on the way out of the building (no longer concerned about spreading a particularly nasty strain of norovirus left over from 2012), and on her way out of the stall her head will swim again, and her body will careen into the exposed locking mechanism protruding from the doorframe.  Said locking mechanism will collide with her left forearm, HARD.  She will spend the next two minutes with her head down on the bathroom counter, gritting her teeth and trying not to swear.  The bruise will be forming as she leaves the office.

After obtaining confirmation of her self-diagnosis, she will say YES to the steroid shot, BECAUSE STEROID SHOTS ARE AWESOME (well, the actual shot part is non-awesome, but if you remember to adopt the flamingo stance and hold on to the exam table with the leg below the designated steroid hip off the ground with knee cocked, it mitigates a lot of stiffness afterwards, because it's really difficult - although not impossible - to tense your butt muscles in that position).  In addition to pulling all of the swelling out of swollen nasal passages and ear canals, allowing stuff to drain, STEROID SHOTS MAKE YOU WANT TO RUN MARATHONS WHEN YOU AREN'T A MARATHON RUNNER.

She will get her steroid shot, and her antibiotic prescription, and her prescriptions for one-month supplies of Zyrtec-D and Singulair, and she will be extra-glad that she cried "uncle" and went to the doctor, because a one-month course of Zyrtec-D and Singulair during ragweed and mountain cedar sounds like an excellent idea.  On her way to the pharmacy, she will stop at the mall, because (1) the steroids are taking effect and she feels a whole lot less cruddy and (2) her mom tipped her off on a monster "one-day-only" sale on gold chains.  She will purchase a long chain for her Junior Woman's Club president's medallion for a scandalously low price, and she will be very happy about this, because her medallion has been on a too-short chain for years, result being that she never wears it.

Then she will go to Super Target, where the wait for prescriptions is 45 minutes, but she wants to get her prescriptions filled at Super Target because as a Target Red Card Visa holder, she gets a bonus discount shopping day after every five prescriptions.  She will kill 45 minutes shopping for birthday gifts for the Little Kid and favors for his party (which is in six weeks, but she has learned to buy things when she sees them) and pondering birthday gifts for her soon-to-be-95-year-old grandmother.  She will decide that you can only have so much hand cream, and she will decide that her grandmother really, really likes wine and being taken to the country club for fancy meals.  Done, and done.

When she goes to pay for her prescriptions with her Target Red Card Visa, the pharmacy tech will ask her if she wants to sign up for a Target pharmacy card.  She will ask what the pharmacy card gets her.  She will be told that the pharmacy card gets her a bonus discount shopping day after every five prescriptions.  This will sound familiar, and she will advise the pharmacy tech that she THOUGHT that she was already getting these benefits as a Target Red Card Visa holder, per propaganda previously delivered to her.  The pharmacy tech will yell back to the pharmacist, who will tell her that she is supposed to get those benefits with her Target Red Card Visa, but it doesn't always work out that way, and if the system is prompting the tech to ask, SHE PROBABLY HAS NOT BEEN GETTING THOSE BENEFITS WHEN SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS ACCRUING THEM ALL ALONG.  She will consider once again assuming the "head down on counter position."

She will leave with her prescriptions, and brand-new Target pharmacy card, and credit for three prescriptions (but not the prescription for the dog's medicine last month, $%*&#$!, and other stuff, and go home to take her medicine and go to bed.  Except, first, she has to find her president's medallion and see if it works on the new chain.  The search will take her fifteen minutes.  She will spend the next twenty minutes getting the medallion off of the old chain, because the bail on the medallion is crazy-narrow, so you have to pull a chain through by looping thin ribbon through the end of the chain, first, and the bail second, and then tugging on the ribbon with all of your might.  To get the medallion off, you have to reverse the process, but with an additional step in the threading process that is more than a bit vexing.  She will discover that she has no thin ribbon.  She will resort to dental floss.  Then she will use the same process to put the medallion on the new chain . . . which is TOO LONG.  Like, "medallion wedged between the boobs" too long.  She will spend countless additional time, with help from Spouse, getting the medallion off of chain #2.

And then, still sick, she will drive to a different Macy's (one closer to her house) to try to find a "momma bear" chain, having struck out with "baby" and "poppa," because she is tired of this too short/too long #&@* and it's a one-day sale.   She will wait ten minutes while another patron, who evidently has never seen a chain before and is not sure what to do with one, considers her many chain options.  She will finally get access to the case, locate a chain that seems to be the right length (but we have thought that before), and exchange it for Poppa Bear, and then she will go home and go through the dental floss process a third time.  Momma Bear does the trick.  She should go to bed.  She really, really should - but when she goes to hang up the chain with an outfit she plans to wear to a Junior League meeting the following week, she will remember that she has not decided what to wear to two Woman's Club meetings, her son's third-grade Bible presentation and a private shopping opportunity at the Christmas in Cowtown bazaar IN EARLY OCTOBER.  It will make perfect sense to her to play dress-up for forty five minutes, because she is under the influence of steroids.

She will eventually go to bed.  Eventually.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I wondered what would get me back on the blogging wagon. 

I never expected it would be a metal tray with a pig on it.

Specifically, THIS tray:

One Kings Lane is offering it for $22, representing a $23 markdown from a $45 original sticker price.  It looked . . . familiar.  Like, maybe, I had seen it at Target?  NOT for $45, or even for $22?  So I Googled "Barbeque Heaven Tray."  Nope, didn't see at Target - Sur La Table.  For an original sticker price of $39.95, now marked down to . . . $9.99.

Whoa.  I LOVE OKL.  I buy stuff from OKL.  Along with designer baby blankets, throw pillows and personalized address stamps, I purchased the concept that, when engaging in e-commerce with OKL, I was getting designer home decor at markdowns equivalent to Home Goods markdowns.  Like, in my mind, OKL was to online storefronts what Home Goods is to brick-and-mortar:  the final resting place for overlooked quality bric-a-brac (well, the final resting place before my casa, or yours).  The "Island of Misfit Poufs and Picture Frames," if you will - all priced appropriately. 

I now feel sorta compelled to Google each and every item before purchasing, to see if some other online retailer has beaten OKL to the final clearance bush.  (Note:  OKL does have a clearance "aisle" - "Downstairs at One Kings Lane" - but Pig Tray hasn't sifted down to that level yet.  Although, apparently, it has over at Sur La Table.)

I looked to see if other retailers had Pig Tray.  Nope.  Well, someone's trying to sell one on ebay for full freight.  And an animal rights activist has featured it on a "Portrayals of Animal Exploitation" page on  Maybe that's why Sur La Table decided to fire-sell it - it's backing away from a political poop-storm.  Oh, wait - Sur La Table sells six different kinds of meat pounders and tenderizers.


By the way, I never had any interest in purchasing Pig Tray.  Did you see that, animal activists?  I do not and will not support pig murder through the purchase of whimsical metal serving pieces.  Primarily because I haven't done "country cute" since the late nineties.  And I don't have that much red in my decor.  Whatever.  The ends are more important than the means.

No, Pig Tray just caught my eye because it, maybe, looked like something that I saw at Target.  And I decided to do some checking, because I needed a break from digesting scholarly treatises on the thrilling topic of Section 101(j) of the Pension Protection Act of 2006.  (Okay, that was sarcasm, but actually Section 101(j) makes my blood boil in a ridiculously geeky transactional lawyer kinda way.  Stupid, misguided law.  But that's for another post.)

And now I am disillusioned.

But I am, also, back to blogging.  Maybe.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cold Snaps and Gold Snaps

It's May 2nd, in Texas, and I am wearing a puffer vest.  And wishing I thought to stuff gloves in my bag.

In other news, the aqua blue Lilly Pulitzer puffer vest with the tropical floral-print lining that Spouse characterized as the poster child for all vanity purchases? 

LOOKING PRETTY DANG PRACTICAL.  I have worn the heck out of that thing over the last few months.  It keeps me warm, but I still look sorta spring-y - well, as spring-y as one can look in a down-filled overgarment.

Here's the thing:  I am never sure how I am supposed to dress when the weather does crazy things.  If it's after Easter, is it okay to break out the black tights that you shoved to the back of the closet when (you THOUGHT) the last chance for frost had passed?  I can tell you that it doesn't FEEL right when you were wearing ice cream pastels just the day before.  It feels ****ing schizophrenic, that's what it feels like.  Of course, the other alternative is to wear what you would otherwise wear on a spring day, and walk around with your teeth chattering, looking like a complete moron incapable of processing a weather report.

I know that I am not the only woman who frets over this.  I have seen too many spring-dress-and-Ugg-boot combos in the lobby of my office building to think otherwise.  (I am told by a friend who is currently living in London that the schizophrenic look is the dress code during three out of the four seasons in the UK:  parka over a sundress with tights and boots.  I guess at some point you just give up and say, "I'm clothed.  I'm reasonably comfortable.  We're DONE.")

So, new business plan:  Thinsulate-lined linen and shearling-lined sandals.  I'm gonna make a killing.

Meanwhile, Spouse wakes up all chipper:  "Can you believe how lucky we are to be having this weather?"  SERIOUSLY?  Men lead such a charmed life.  "Am I appearing in court today, or attending a business meeting, or having an audience with the Pope/the Queen/Donald Trump?  No?  Okay, so long-sleeved polo-colored shirt or short-sleeved polo-colored shirt?"  Then it's a matter of grabbing the first shirt of the appropriate type that is within grabbing distance (hence the reason that Spouse has - and I am not making this up - forty or fifty golf shirts, but he only cycles through two or three of them). 

No "will the buttons on this shirt clash with the hardware on my purse or shoes," because he has no purse, and his shoes are remarkably lacking in hardware.  Yes, as I type this, I am realizing that we bring these extistential crises on ourselves, by not demanding that retailers keep their products fuss-free.  The thing is, I LIKE the fuss - as in, I really LOVE the gold snaps on my Lilly Pulitzer puffer vest, which mitigate in favor of the Kendra Scott earrings with the gold trim, but - oh, snap, that means I can't wear the loafers with the silver vamp trim, and what bag am I carrying currently?  Spouse, for the record, this is why your wife has twenty pairs of black shoes and is known to cycle through four handbags in a week.  The female equivalent of "I only wear the polo shirts that are hanging in the front" is "I coordinated a week's worth of work outfits around THIS PURSE because I don't want to go to the trouble of moving my stuff over to a different one."

So, note to designers:  if you could find a way to make a bag both black AND navy blue with a combination of gold- and silvertone hardware, you could, maybe, make a LOT of money.  But don't touch the Thinsulate-lined linen idea - it's all mine.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dinner Table Conversation

Big Kid:  So I was thinking that we ought to try out the new trampoline park, because . . .

Me:  Yeah, okay.

Big Kid:  . . . it's tons closer than Urban Air, and - wait, did you just agree?

Me:  Yeah, I'm considering it as a venue for an event I'm helping to organize.

Little Kid:  My birthday?

Me:  No, an adult event.

Little Kid:  GOOD.  Because I'm committed to a mad scientist theme, and I don't think that would work at a trampoline park.

[Note:  Little Kid's birthday is at the end of October.  Another note:  Both kids inherited my party-planning gene.]

Me:  You know, back in my day, birthday parties didn't really HAVE themes.  

Little Kid:  HUH?
Me:  Like, if you went to the roller rink, the theme of the party was just "roller skating."

Little Kid:  Wow.  You were boring when you were a kid.

Big Kid:  No, she was actually WAY MORE FUN back then.

Me:  Congratulations, guys.  You managed to insult me equally but in totally different ways.  I'm impressed.

Big Kid:  No, what I mean is that you were "normal-for-a-kid fun" - which, sorry, by definition, is more fun than "adult fun" - but Nana, maybe, wasn't fun and phoned in your birthday parties.

Me:  But she didn't phone them in.  That's the point.  NOBODY'S PARTY HAD A THEME.  Unless "donkey pinata" qualifies as a theme.

Spouse:  Donkey.

Me:  Huh?  I said donkey.

Spouse:  No, the default theme was JUST DONKEY.  Donkey pinata, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

Me:  OOOH, you're on to something!  I wonder why we were so donkey-obsessed as a culture?  Carter was in office - maybe it was a backlash-against-Nixon, Democrat-versus-Republican thing?  HEY, I JUST REMEMBERED:  SCARY CLOWNS.

Both kids:  WHAT?

Me:  Occasionally, just to mix things up, your mom would spring for a really scary clown.  Possibly a mime.  You know, to make balloon animals and squirt water out of plastic flowers and totally creep everyone out.

Little Kid:  That's horrible.

Me:  No, growing up in the seventies was awesome.  

Both kids:  [Skeptical looks.]

Me:  Okay, you just have to trust us on this. 

Exhibit A, above.  Exhibit B, below.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spousal Personal Growth

This week's "Mindy Project" turned out to be a repeat - one that I hadn't seen.  Our DVR is only programmed to record new episodes.  (I started to type "tape new episodes" just now, but then the Big Kid's voice-in-my-head reminded me that "people haven't TAPED shows in EONS, MOM."  Yeah, and they haven't "Pulsed" money out of an ATM in eons, either, but I still slip up and say that, too.  I'm [marginally] old, kid - deal with it.)


Sweet Spouse manually recorded the show for me, AND when I called him on the way home that evening, he provided me with a brief synopsis of the episode, confirming that, in fact, it wasn't one that I had actually seen.  He even called the characters by the right names.

Me to him:  You're so sweet.   Did you read that information off of the DVR menu?

Him to me:  No, I actually watched the show.

Me to him:  _________________.

Dead, "I got nuthin'" silence.  Seriously?  Spouse doesn't like "Mindy Project" - or at least he didn't, I suspect, in large part, because one of the characters looks ridiculously similar to my high school-slash-"sorta-continued-to-date-him-in-college" boyfriend.  Spouse has a weird but kind of sweet knee-jerk bias against Italian types of the Chris Messina order:

But then a few weeks ago I pointed out that, in addition to really liking the show for its sharp writing, the developing story of two doctors (one of whom just happens to be played by this guy) who work together, evolve into friends and then realize that they don't enjoy watching each other date other people and, just possibly, want to spend the rest of their lives together is eerily familiar to our own "When Harry Met Sally" story.  (Substitute "law students" for "doctors," and the description holds:  we met when we were both tapped to serve as teaching assistants to the first-year research-and-writing professors, spent a lot of time bantering in the staff lounge, became each other's best drinking buddies, and it all progressed from there.)

Apparently my explanation was some sort of tipping point - because now Boy Child Who I Married actually knows the names of characters - even the name of their fictional medical practice.

So now I can watch my favorite show with the best friend who happens to be just a smidge above the rest of the tier.  And has a lifetime appointment in such regard.

Chair Apple

In the normal world, you might find an apple in a refrigerator, or in a bowl on a kitchen counter or dining table.  You might even find an apple in a backpack, bound for the lunchroom or a teacher's desk.

In Boy World, you find apples in your armchair.

Witness Exhibit "A."

I chased the kids out of the front room the other night, turned off the television so as to bask in blissful silence, settled into the comfy leather recliner-that-doesn't-look-like-a-recliner - and felt a bulge of some sort pushing against my tush.

Tennis ball?  Balled-up sock?  Nope - apple.

Because, DUH, you keep apples in the crack of a chair.  You know, for LATER.

Which is why every surface in our house is (easily wipeable) leather, slipcovered or Scotchgard-ed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Proof of Life . . . Again

USA Swimming needs to see my 8 year-old's birth certificate.  You know, to confirm that he isn't actually a 24 year-old Chinese woman.

And, of course, I failed to find said birth certificate on my first pass through the stash o' junk that I keep in my office.  I did find a manila envelope stuffed with a bunch of receipts from a trip to DC that we took in 2004.  Hey, I figured out that I was pregnant with the kid on that trip!  Unfortunately, none of the receipts reflect that epiphany.

I'm confident that I had to prove that he exists once before:  last I checked, he was enrolled in school.  However, his "school records" file seems to have disappeared into the ether.  (Of course, I found the equivalent file for his brother IMMEDIATELY, because that wasn't the one I was looking for.)

Clever Spouse has offered to procure a copy from the registrar of the elementary school.  In the interim, I am tempted to send the admin manager of our swim team one of the several date-stamped ultrasound pictures that I found on my work computer.  Because, you know, THOSE I keep readily available.

Proof that I was pregnant with the child in the summer of 2004 is proof enough, right?  USA Swimming can do the math from there.  Or have their friends at Omega crunch the numbers for them.  Those guys build the timers, they can totally figure out the approximate birthdate of a fetus in utero who was 20 weeks-ish in early June.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wise Words

I am officially in love with "The Mindy Project" - a new episode of which airs tonight, that I will be unable to watch in real time due to a command performance in front of the Junior League Board of Directors followed by a dinner engagement with Woman's Club girlies at Joe T. Garcia's.

But enough about my first world girl problems.  (And, for the record, I'm not actually complaining.  I have a DVR.  And my dinner at Joe T's is being comped.)

In honor of my new favorite show, I wanted to share a nugget o' sheer wisdom from a past episode - a line that, possibly, could have been written by another writer, but I would like to think that it was penned by Ms. Kaling herself.  Because, you know, it sounds like her.

(Call me, Min.  We can hang out and surf the Kendra Scott jewelry Web site together.)

I love this line so much that I want to stitch it on a pillow.  And I already sort-of-virtually did:

I [heart] my tier.  Which is modular and could be expanded to fit one Ms. Mindy Kaling.

(Seriously.  Call me.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Observance, and Observations

This was today's installment from my "page a day" Someecards calendar. It made me chuckle, because after church on Sunday the kids and I went to Super Target, and a very chipper woman in a "Target tomato red" apron handed me a (weirdly tiny) reusable grocery sack  - Target tomato red, of course - containing samples of (dubiously) Earth-friendly products and a coupon booklet, all in honor of Earth Week. In the booklet was - wait for it - this coupon for a dollar off of Method hand soap:


Is it just me, or does the woman in the calendar illustration look like Princess Leia dressed for a Downton Abbey viewing party?  Possibly displaying jazz hands?


Happy Earth Day, peeps!

Monday, April 15, 2013

PJ McSwagger

I have certain distinct - um - urban contemporary - tendencies.  R&B and old school funk:  pretty much the soundtrack of my life, for as long as I can remember, since I was old enough to express my own musical preferences.  Rap got added into the mix early on - like, The Sugarhill Gang early.  Senior year, my parents had to essentially ground me to keep me from going to a Public Enemy concert - which was kind of hypocritical, given that I get my hood-rat-adjacent tendencies (including my mad booty-shaking skills) from my mother.

PJ also inherited the gene.  For lack of a better description, he is my little funk-soul brother, trapped in a freckle-faced body.

On Saturday, I thanked him for bringing me my phone when it was ringing in another room, and he responded, "No probs, Moms.  That's just how I roll."

On Sunday, I caught him singing Jaheim.   Specifically, Jaheim's "Ain't Leaving Without You":

You're moving them hips
Killing me with every dip, girl
You about to get a tip
Do it girl
Worst that goes down is you turn me down
But, this time around, I got it, shorty
Hey, how you doin'?
Baby, what you getting into?
I don't know what your name is
Or who you came with
But, I ain't leaving without you

Because eight year-olds know the lyrics to obscure (but musically awesome) neo-soul songs.  (At least, eight year-olds in my house do.)

The Sunday before, during the children's service at our church (thankfully, because the children's service is kinda loud and chaotic), the children's minister announced that little pint-sized ushers would be coming 'round to take up the collection.  Prompting my child to blurt out;


in his best Ludacris voice.

There was a little dance step involved.

And, earlier this evening, I was handed (by his somewhat amused father) what appears to be the first draft of a rap:

I said you were cool
I was kidding - 'cause you pee in pools
Hey, ace
Guess what?
Yo face
By the way
You don't have a base
Just a place
I'm on your case 
By the way, Mom's pretty
You don't have a job in the city
You work on a farm
Bet chickens are your alarm

Okay, so it's a work in progress.  But it amused me.

I love my little funk soul brother.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Looking Outward

When you are forced, pretty much at gunpoint, to remodel the interior of your house, on zero notice and with no construction loan in place, the silver lining is that you end up with nice new digs - whether you particularly wanted them or not.

And then you step outside.  And "outside" pales in comparison to "inside."  Significantly.  On account of how everything inside is all shiny and new, and everything outside - well.  Let's just say that yard maintenance wasn't high on our priority list when we were mid-construction and living off-premises.  Not helping the situation:  throngs of laborers and movers beating a path from driveway to front porch (on days when it rained - ALWAYS on days that it rained, because isn't that just the way?).

So, "outside" - which wasn't looking all that fab when we left - really looks drab now.

But that is about to change.  Mainly, on account of how I have no projects left to complete indoors.  (Okay, I have a few.  I still haven't trimmed out the backsplash, and a couple of doors need new knobs.  The trim for the master bathroom shelves has been painted but not installed.  But, you know, whatever.  I have made it this long without finishing those jobs, and I certainly can push them off a little bit more.)

Onward and outward.

In roughly the order that I intend to complete them:

Project #1:  Prettifying the broad side of a barn.  Because, literally, that is what we are dealing with on the south side of the carriage house.  I don't spend a whole lot of time looking at it, on account of how the south side of the carriage house fronts on a very narrow strip of real estate - really, just enough space between building and fence to accommodate a stone pathway to "The Scary."  (More on The Scary later.)  However, our neighbors to the south just built a very large second-story addition, which, when occupied, will give them a bird's eye view of the broad side of our barn.

Project #1 will be phased as follows:

I'm going to get around to painting the carriage house the same color as the main house.  Really, honestly, I am.  Some EIGHT YEARS after I repainted the main house, and swore that I would paint the carriage house to match.  We even replaced the trim on the sliding barn-style doors on the front.  The trim, like the structure to which it was attached, has remained primer white.

But Olympic's "Prairie Dust" it shall be.  THIS is an image of NOT MY HOUSE, BUT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE painted "Prairie Dust."  (But it gives you an idea.)

It is more of a greenish-khaki in real life.  I expended several months and countless brain cells trying to find just the proper shade of not-too-brown, really-quite-green Army khaki.  I found, basically, the right color on a house that was en route to the Big Kid's preschool (not the NOT MY HOUSE above - a different NOT MY HOUSE).  More than once, I thought about stopping, ringing the doorbell and asking them to share the name of their paint color - but I worried about the homeowners' reaction.  I worried that they might be serial killers.  Then, some months after I tracked down Prairie Dust on my own, one of my friends BOUGHT MY INSPIRATION HOUSE - and informed me that the prior owners were two of the sweetest gay guys you could ever hope to meet (duh - not to stereotype, but I reaaaaaaally should have known, because, after all, they did pick the BEST possible color to coordinate with their brick), who would have welcomed a pop-in and probably given me a tour of the whole joint, and then offered me a glass of pinot.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  The carriage house shall be Prairie Dust, with white trim, like in the picture.

Second phase - create a gutter garden to hang below the main gable and break up all that broadness.  It needs the addition of plant life, and there isn't enough space to plant a shrubbery (channeling Monty Python here), so options are a trellis or THIS:

I choose THIS.  Three lengths of white vinyl gutter, some chain and some bedding plants or herbs.   The troughs will echo the white house trim and pop against the khaki paint, and the plants will create "visual interest" (a phrase that makes Spouse roll his eyes - kinda like "pop").

Third phase (really more of a Phase 2B) is to find some rubber doormats at the dollar store that look like scrolled ironwork, give 'em a hit of spray paint, and mount them above and on either side of my gutter installation.

Cute, right?  And guaranteed not to rust, and cheap to replace when the time comes.

Fourth phase is to tame, once and for all, the unruly landing strip o' weeds that runs along the Broad Side.  Black landscaping plastic is in hand, as are step stones and mulch, and I am thinking of sinking some old, starting-to-crumble faux plaster pots in the ground here and there, like this:

Again: cute, right?  And tidy.  But how to keep the mulch from sliding into the neighbor's yard?  Given that we live in an old city neighborhood, we have cyclone fencing, not wood fencing as is typical in more suburban areas.  This means that we have problems with materials migrating from one side of the fence to the other.  A walkway border like the one above would be difficult to pull off without help. 

I present to you . . . GUTTER PROJECT NUMERO DOS.  Don't have an image of this one, because I made it up.  I'm going to hit some more vinyl gutter with a little brown vinyl spray paint (so it blends in with the mulch), drill in some drainage holes, and sink the gutter all along the length of fence.  A little soil, some bedding plants, and you have a floral border that will stay put.

At least, that's the theory.

Project #2:  Creating shade on the patio.  I really want a pergola over my backyard patio, which sits in front of and along the length of the carriage house, but figuring out where to put the footings for a pergola is an issue.  I really DON'T want to drill into my existing, attractively stamped and stained concrete.  So I'm thinking about a triangle shade, in a khaki color to match the carriage house's new paint job.

Two corners can be easily anchored to the side of the carriage house - but where to anchor the third?  This got me thinking about one of my mom's upcoming yard projects, which is to cement a patio umbrella inside a very large planter pot, and plant flowers on top of the cement, creating a sturdy base for her umbrella which is also green and pretty.  Basic idea is like the one below:

Theoretically, what is to stop me from cementing a redwood fence-type post into a pot like this, and anchoring the third corner of the sun shade to the top?  Nothing, Spouse tells me.  Bonus:  if you want to take the shade down in the winter you can roll the stand out of sight and out of mind.

Yeah, this is so happening.  Existing redwood dining table with umbrella will create height (and shade) in the southeast corner of the patio), and the new shade structure-of-sorts will offset it in the northwest corner.

Project #3:  Achieving sustainability on the Near South Side.  Sounds like some sort of city initiative, right?  Our front porch wraps around the house at the southeast corner, and there's a little terrace area between the porch and our master bedroom, bordered by two large raised planters.  Nice in theory, but the sun beats down on that little terrace area like no one's business, and logistically it's difficult to irrigate over there - options are to drag a hose from the front, or one from the back.  Another triangular sun shade, coming off of the back of the porch, will add both visual interest (there's that phrase again!) and relief from the heat.  And then I'm adding one of THESE bad boys:

DIY RAIN BARREL!  DIY RAIN BARREL!  I love all three of those words.  And the gutter downspout just so happens to come down in the perfect spot.  Spouse is not only on board with this concept but thinks it's a pretty fab idea.  Not that we get THAT much rain to make this a consistent watering solution, but it will help some, and it's certainly environmentally friendly.

Project #4:  Tackling The Scary.   "The Scary" is my name for the rather large area behind the carriage house - said carriage house having been built, rather inexplicably, in the middle of  our backyard, the result being to create a large, unseen and unutilized VOID between the carriage house and the back fence.  It's not completely hopeless - there's a big shade tree in one corner, and a funky bois d'arc tree in the middle, and the areas in between get enough sunlight during the day that I am thinking that I could do some vegetable gardening back there. Weedy grass is an issue, but if I utilize raised beds, and underline them with black plastic, then I can choke out weeds and grow veggies at the same time.

Project #5:  Creating a succulent Death Star.  Because, seriously, why not?

I have a ton of unused shepherd's crooks hanging around, and at least one hanging basket.  I may even have two of the same size.  I just need to buy new coco husk liners, some soil and some succulents.

It's supposed to be a really nice weekend, so I think that I'm going to drag the boys to ReStore to look for used gutters and other raw materials, and then we will shop the carriage house for fun and funky stuff to repurpose.  Hoping that I find an old faucet and a rusty old bucket, because I know that I have an old chandelier crystal that I could turn into a drip, like this:

Hmm . . . Carriage House Scavenger Hunt.  Coming soon to a sunny weekend near me.