Saturday, December 27, 2008

Signs Are Mixed

Well, I'm embarked on a solo trip to a conference in San Francisco. Airport delays everywhere--I'm connecting in Dallas hours later than I should have been, due to snow up in the Texas panhandle, which caused delays at DFW, which caused every other corner of the world to get royally in a bunch. But this trip was not off to an auspicious start this morning even before I got to ATL. Hank came down with croup in the wee hours of the morning. Have you met croup? You know, whooping cough? He hadn't really ever settled down for the night, and he had a runny nose. Then he started that cough. I had only read about it--"a seal-like barking"--and that's exactly what it sounded like. Matt got him out of his bed about 4 am, crying and coughing, and when I heard him I knew exactly what it was. We carried him into the kids' bathroom and got the shower going to make some steam, and that made the coughing stop, just like Dr. Sears said it would. Then I put a humidifier by his bed, and we all three slept fitfully in that room for the rest of the night. I hated to leave him today, but he's in good hands--both Matt and my mother-in-law are at my house.

The downward trend continued when I got to the airport and found my flight was already delayed an hour and a half, making my connection and my evening plans in SF seem unlikely. But all of this bad news was only to set up my dramatic karmic reversal--the universe has given me something that I didn't think really existed. Something like Bigfoot or dark matter or an elephant graveyard: a free upgrade to first class. Yes, you read that correctly. I thought this was the stuff of legend. And I have no idea how I scored it. Here's what went down:

It has been my experience that when it becomes apparent that you'll miss your connecting flight, even if you haven't left your departure city yet, you should call the airline's reservations number and rebook. Don't wait until you are with a planeload of people in your connecting city who all want the single gate agent to fix their problems. The people on the phone will look at your itinerary and rebook you, even hours in advance. So. I called the American Airlines number and said, "Hey, I haven't left Atlanta yet, but I'm going to miss my connection, so can you put me on a later flight out of DFW?" The nice lady said, "Hmmm, no, there is no availability." I said, "Does that mean you don't have any seats?" And she said yes, that is what she meant. I was like, "Ever?" And she said, "Your best bet is to hope your connecting flight is delayed too." I thanked her and she thanked me and we hung up. What we were thanking each other for, I don't know.

Reader, I am not ashamed to admit that I was glum at this moment. I gave in to the glumps. But then I rallied and dialed again. I was thinking, "Maybe I can buy an upgrade to first class?" I had no idea what such a thing could cost, but I have a truly astronomical amount of credit. So I thought I would at least ask. When a different nice lady answered the phone, she said, "Hmmm, yes, there is no availability until tomorrow afternoon." I said, "Can I buy an upgrade to first class from Dallas to SF? I have a job interview to get to." This seemed a novel idea to her. She said, "Would you buy the upgrade using miles?" And I said, "No, I have to buy it using money." She said that she couldn't sell me an upgrade over the phone, but that there was first-class "availability" on the two later flights leaving Dallas, and if I "hot-footed" it to the ticket desk, they would help me. I asked her if she could put a hold on a seat long enough for me to get down there, and she said she would. Then we thanked each other.

Out at the ticket desk, I asked about buying an upgrade and said that I'd just spoken with the phone people. The agent punched some keys and looked at me with surprise. "They booked you," she said. "There it is. You got lucky--you got it for free. I just turned someone away from this flight 15 minutes ago." Then the lights went out except for a single spotlight that was shining on me, and a bunch of balloons fell down from the ceiling, and I was blubbering and trying not to smudge my mascara as the agent placed a tiara on my head. Or that's how it felt. What happened was she gave me new boarding passes and "sent a note" about my luggage. And I said, "Oh, great!" Then she apologized for the crappy seat I had for the first leg of my trip, because you know, I am first-class material.

Because you want to read even MORE about what happened to me at the airport, here is how I am continuing to thank the universe for my good fortune. Finally aboard a plane, I was settled into my economy seat for the flight from ATL to DFW, where I would assume my natural first-class state. I was by the window, and people were still boarding. A family with young children was in the aisle saying that they had been given all middle seats in different rows, meaning their baby would have to sit by herself. So I gave up my window seat and took one of their crappy middle seats. I've been where those people were, and I felt that I owed the capricious gods of airline seating this concession. I have no idea why today, I am the favored one.

So now my delightful first-class flight to SFO is delayed too, but that's okay, because it will give the flight crew longer to chill the champagne. Or harvest the Beluga roe, or whatever they do up there in first class. And I will try to be humble and not be one of those people who sit in first class and ostentatiously swirl their cocktails while the rest of us trudge by. Reader, I will try.

I hope you aren't having post-Christmas letdowns. I'll be on the left coast until Wednesday, so posting will perhaps be light unless I see or overhear something that I must share. Have a good weekend, y'all!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Christmas, Baby

I sat down to post a few pictures of the kids--a standard Christmas bloggy placeholder post, but instead I find myself wanting to talk about how hot my husband is. O holy night! He will die--let's hope this is one of the posts he skips--but when I downloaded all my pictures off my camera, my primary thought was, "I need to be sure and keep that one happy."

First pic I took with my iPhone. Thanks for the iPhone, honey! I know I keep going on about it. iPhone!

Here he is toting a child up a mountain and rocking some Old Man Glasses while doing it. He always carries and/or keeps up with Hank when we go out somewhere so I can do my thing, and he never frets or repines.

Hey hottie. Here he is keeping our child from being swept out to sea. One of the many services he provides. This was last Saturday in Pensacola. It was that warm. The kids got wet from head to toe. (Then the next day was freezing.)

Finally, here's Matt late last night, after finishing his Santa labors. That huge wrapped package on the left is a dollhouse that took Matt and his brother Andy a lot of Christmas magic, and a lot of swearing, to put together. They made the train tracks go all the way around the tree too.

He works hard for us all the time, and puts up with a lot of sass along the way. Actually, I think he likes the sass part. Merry Christmas, babe! Here's to another great year.

I hope you and yours are enjoying the day. Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We Got Elfed, and It Was Good

Remember the other day I wrote about how Laura came home wanting to leave crackers and water out so an elf would appear? An elf that would then stay at our house and make mischief every night until Christmas? At the time, I was like, "Huh? Is this a thing now? I don't need a job as an elf." Well, the company that I mentioned in my post, Elf Magic, contacted me after that (I think they must have Google elves) to "clear up the tradition" for me. They were as nice as they could be, but I know they were probably wondering, "Why does this girl hate joy so much? She needs re-educating." Or something like that. I kid--I got a very sweet email from them, and then an elf arrived from the North Pole via FedEx. (Santa uses FedEx doncha know.) So if you were wondering when and if I would sell out, compromising the journalistic integrity of this blog, stop the timer, 'cause we took the elf. Yes, we are in bed with Big Elf. And it is awesome.

Laura LOVES THIS ELF. He's very cute. He arrived with a little fuzzy sleepsack, a sprinkler of "snowflakes," and a canvas tote bag. Laura had actually mentioned this whole elf thing several times before he ever got here, and finally I told her she ought to put the crackers and water out. She put them up on the mantle, and then Fowler appeared overnight. Laura said, "Mom, every drop of the water is gone and every cracker crumb!" Since then, the elf went with us to Florida and back, and he's hidden some nights, and made mischief some nights. And last night he rested because we were all tired from our drive. I had an idea that I think would be fun: share an elf with another family--this would work best with one of your neighbors. Some nights the elf would be at one house, and some nights another. The kids would have fun comparing notes about it, and the mamas divide the elf labor.

Laura read the poem that comes with the elf and now knows all about the elf's whole story. She's told me a couple of times, sadly, that tonight, Christmas Eve, will be our last night with the elf. I am really taken with the way she still believes in Santa and Santa-related magic, even though she's almost eight. It is fun--I don't know how many more Christmases this will be the case, but we're enjoying it. And the elf will come back next year. In art class she made a special plate for Santa cookies, and we have some reindeer food to sprinkle outside tonight. It's almost time to fire up the Santa tracker. I wonder if there is a Santa tracker app for the iPhone? Hmm.

We are getting the house all spruced up for Matt's family to arrive. For me, Santa's sleigh arrived this morning in the form of two Crate and Barrel delivery guys. I got a new dining table, and I am in love. I keep fondling it--is that wrong? And I hope you are feeling merry and bright at your place!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shorties Were Sipping

The second-grade Christmas party was today, and a good time was had by all. Definitely the place to see and be seen at 8:30 this morning. I was there at 8:15 WEARING MAKEUP, armed with a proper tablecloth and supplies for our crazy "Dress Your Santa" game (all the hot details on that below, as well as a special party installment of OMG You Did Not Just Say That.)

This event only had three components: Food, craft, and game. Since it was so early and the kids still had to eat lunch at 11:30, we did a breakfast party. One mom brought bagels and three kinds of cream cheese. And she didn't just bring in the tubs. Please! She decanted them into little serving bowls that fit on a metal rack, and had little Santa spreaders in each. I heartily approved of that. We also had fruit and mini muffins and two juices. And peanut butter. That was all, but you would have thought it was ambrosia. The kids were happy. Like this.

The kids decorated huge gingerbread men that another mom had brought. This doubled as their craft, and we bagged 'em up for them to take home. Before the party, the class had done a creative writing exercise about gingerbread people. Laura's says:

Frost [the gingergirl] sat on the riverbank, and the river made all her memories flow into her mind. Behind everything she was thinking, a voice was telling her to steal anything she could get her tasty cookie hands on.

It's so festive! And disturbing! Holidays! Then for the game, the kids were divided up into four teams of 4 or 5 kids, and each team was given a shopping bag. Inside the bag I had put:

  • 10 sheets of red tissue paper

  • a couple yards of wide black ribbon, the cheap outdoor "satin" kind

  • a big piece of black felt, like an 18" square

  • a big piece of cotton batting. I bought a piece intended for a baby quilt and cut it into fourths.

  • a handful of black and white pipe cleaners (or "chenille sticks" as they're now called)

  • a white pom-pom

  • roll of clear tape

  • scissors

Each team had a mom to dress. When I called "Go!" the kids dumped out their supplies to see what they had, and got to work crafting their Santa costume. I thought they might be a little too young to make a go of this, but they had fun. They loved the timed aspect of it and the open-endedness, I think. The teacher said she liked having a game that made them work in groups, and that did something creative. Best of all, it was short and intense--five minutes of frenzy, and then we lined up the Santas to judge. As you can see, it was more about the process on this one.

We all decided which Santa was the Most Creative, Funniest, Cutest, of Silliest. As you can tell, this was not an exact science, and you guessed it, everyone is a winner. Jan my co-room mom handed out goody bags, which each had a pencil, a candy, and then a random toy, like a tiny deck of cards or a yo-yo. You know, party favors. Here's where the OMG moment was. The kids were checking out their goody bags, and I was picking up piles of tissue paper, when a mom got right in front of me and said, "Maybe next time, the kids could all have the same toy. Some of them are unhappy with what they got." Only her inflection was like, "Maybe next time. . ."

A range of thoughts flickered beneath my calm countenance, like koi beneath the surface of a pond on an overcast day. One of those koi/thoughts was, "Maybe next time, you could kiss my ass." But oh dear me no I did not say that, because I don't talk that way. I only blog that way. What I said was, "They are?" And she said, "Yeah, my son thinks this is too girly." She held up one of those ring pops. I said, "Because the bag is purple?" And she said, "No, because it's a ring." I smiled and gave her a shrug, and she turned away.

But several problems with this come to mind. Let me say that it is normal and perhaps expected that a 2nd grade boy would think a ring pop is girly. Perhaps that is their way. But I don't think it is expected that a mom will take up this cause. I can't really begin to unfold all of the problems with this exchange. I ask for your help, Reader. It's like a delicate origami onion. Also, and the broader issue, is that she mistakenly thought this children's party we organized was a forum where she could offer feedback and complaints. That was not the case. The job of a mom attending this party--especially a mom who hadn't volunteered to help organize, not that it's that big a deal--is to show up and be delighted with everything. That is how people do. To her kid, she could have said, "Hon, find out if anyone wants to trade, but that's a kid thing, not a mom thing." Or she could have said, "Say thank you and hush your mouth." Either is acceptable. What is it with me and the lecturing lately? Must be that time of year. Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Be Ye Nice: Tip The Mailman

Yesterday our mail lady Margaret slid her annual Christmas card into our box. The first year we lived here, I was like, "Oh how nice, Margaret wants us to 'enjoy the peace of the season.'" I didn't realize that this was her way of saying, "If you would like to give me a little holiday something, that would be great." For some reason, tipping at Christmas is a very controversial topic. Do some Googling and you'll see. The question of whom to tip and how much elicits the kind of bitter debate usually reserved for questions of breast vs. bottle feeding or whether or not to "Ferberize" your baby. You know what I'm talking about, and you do not want to get in the middle of that. (BTW, put me down for all-breastfed, but formula is not poison; infant cosleeping; yes to babywearing, but not in anything that has been batiked; and modified cry-it-out, but not before six months of age.) Bombs away!

So I tip our mail lady at Christmas. It is not required. The mail carrier is not going to throw your mail down the storm drain if you don't tip. It may not even be customary where you live. But it is nice, and I absolutely think it is smart. I get great service from that lady, all year long, and if you've ever suffered at the mercies of a not-so-good mail carrier, you know what I mean. Your box of checks from the bank? They're at somebody else's house. Priority mail envelopes? Accordioned into your box and reeking of cigarette smoke. Dealing with a bad mail carrier is a constant, low-grade irritant. And a good one is, well, good. I get a fair amount of packages, which Margaret brings all the way up to the door, and when I'm shipping things out, I schedule carrier pickups online (if you're not doing that, check it out because it is wonderful) and she comes up to the garage and takes things away. I don't think it need be a major amount of money, and some people just give cookies or something. Anything is nice, of course. I think last year I gave her a $25 or $30 gift card to Target. Target gift cards are like legal tender to me, but as Matt often says, "Nothing spends like cash." Maybe this year I'll do cash. But it's not a high price to pay for a lot of goodwill.

If you tip at this time of year, who else do you tip?
When I still had my cleaning lady, I gave her a gift card (Target of course) for one session's pay. And she usually brought us a bowl of cookies and candy she made. I could see how this could really add up if you had a cleaning lady, the mail person, a nanny (lord I wish), and whoever else. I have heard that people give things to their garbage men, but how does that work? Someone told me that she makes cookies and puts them on top of the can where they'll see them. Something about that is unappetizing, but maybe that's the way to go?

It makes sense to me that plenty of people don't tip, whether because it's not the thing to do where they are or because there is no extra money for that kind of thing. But the people who attempt to justify their not tipping and get all righteous about it. . .I hate to say it, but they often sound like jerks. A glance around the intertubes turns up the following reasons for not tipping:

"I look at his government pension as his tip." What does his pension have to do with you and how you might say thanks?

"The mailman uses our poolside bathroom during his rounds. That's tip enough." Is that you, Donald Trump? You are tacky.

"I tip her every time I pay taxes or buy stamps." Sigh. You probably aren't really a jerk but you sound like a real "Get off my lawn" type. Or one of those people who hates the fact that they have to press one for English.

"I don't tip them because they are overpaid." I think being a mail carrier probably is a good job, but I doubt they are "overpaid."

So, not to get all lecturey up in here, because I think there are different good ways to go about thanking the people who help us everyday, and I'd love to know what you do. Tipping our mail lady is what Works for Me!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits: When Child Photographers Attack

When you let your two year-old use your camera, he will not use the large display screen to compose his shot. Instead he will hold the camera up to his squinched eye, even though there is no viewfinder. You will contort your body to try and stay in what you think is the frame. No need to say "cheese," because he chants "cheese! cheese! cheese!" like a mantra.

He also won't take care to compose pictures that don't show how messy the house is, as you see in the shot of the book room above. Or this Portrait of Mama with Pepsi and Socks.

And he does not consider the tops of people's heads to be really all that big a deal. He had just said, "Daddy, I'll take a cheese of you," and Matt barely had time to jump into the shot. Hank is not one of those difficult-to-work-with celebrity photographers, which makes up for his challenging and edgy compositions. Just one quick cheese and you're done. I think he's taking portraiture in a new, exciting direction. One that makes me seasick.

Then again, one of my favorite pictures of Laura was taken by our then-four year-old niece Ava.

And Laura got this one of Hank over the weekend. At Grandmama's house, you get to play with her little Christmas village, and you get to eat ice cream while you do it.

That is what I have for this Random Tuesday. In other news, I got my hair done. We went to Ikea last night, which for me, is like returning to the mother ship. And the class party is coming along nicely. That is all. But check out the more exciting lives of others over at Un Mom.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thirteen Things I Gots To Gets Done

Hello friends. We spent the weekend up in Chattanooga at Matt's mom's house. Wintry, lovely and a nice change of scene. And this Friday afternoon, we're heading down to Florida to stay with my parents for a long weekend. But before then, I have to turn this mother out. Bust a move. Put my shoulder to the wheel. Shake a leg. Swink and sweat. Make hay. Accomplish several pressing tasks.

1) Prep for a job interview I have at the end of the month.

2) Have solo fashion show to figure out what to wear for that interview and the conference surrounding it. The black suit or the tan suit? With what shirt(s)? Pointy-toed boots or sensible pumps?

3) Get my hair done. And while I'm at it, get my eyebrows attended to. But when to do this on a weekday? I could get it done at Lifetime Fitness, but the two-hours of childcare per day they offer would not cover the cut and highlighting. I know, First World problem. So I could arrange some kind of thing where I take the kids there and Matt pics them up while I'm still getting worked on. HAIR: DONE

4) Consider going to Lifetime Fitness to actually work out.

5) Figure out if all the food for the second-grade class party is covered. Parents are beating down my door to bring more stuff, so this shouldn't be a problem. DONE

6) Ask co-room mom to go get the gift card for the teacher. And ask if she will make goodie bags from her copious supply of trinkets. (Most of being a room-mom, for me, is asking people to do things. No sweat.) DONE

7) Get supplies for the Dress Your Santa party game. Maybe test-drive this game by having Laura dress Matt. Could be fun.

8) Make 7 sets of slacker fudge for neighbors and assorted people. Find cellophane bags at Michaels and package all the fudge in these cute felt buckets I got at Target. Deliver Fudge.

9) Go by and chat with Frenemy Neighbor to catch up and deliver the message, "Hey, I know we're estranged because of the election and all those "Obama is a Muslim" emails you sent me every day, but can't we put it behind us because our girls miss each other and here's some fudge."

10) Go to Laura's class party which is at 8:30 in the freaking morning. No siblings allowed. Joyeux Noël!

11) Get the dog bathed before we take her with us to Pensacola. And Mom, is it okay if we bring the dog with us?

12) Pack for everybody.

13) Round up and wrap Christmas gifts for people we'll be seeing in Florida.

Okay, I'll probably keep adding to this list, but it feels good to start to get it down in writing. Things have been so crazy lately that I have this constant sense that there's something I'm forgetting that's really important. Like goodie bags for the second graders, or my eyebrows. You know, important.

For lists that are a little more profounder, check out ABDPBT:


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cracking Wise

Laura just got off the bus busting to share the latest second-grade witticism. She instructed me to answer "ketchup and rubber buns" to whatever question she asked:

Laura: What do you eat for breakfast?
Me: Ketchup and rubber buns.

Laura: What do you eat for lunch?
Me: Ketchup and rubber buns.

Laura: What do you eat for dinner?
Me: Ketchup and rubber buns.

Laura: What do you do when you see Britney Spears walking down the street?
Me: Ketchup and. . .you stinker, I'm not saying that!
Laura: Get it? YOU RUB KETCHUP ON HER BUNS! (hilarity ensues)
Me: . . . .um

I think it's good that we didn't pursue the gifted program last year. I think the regular second-grade classroom is proving plenty challenging for this child. One day last year, around the time we were making that decision, Laura hollered down from upstairs in a panic. "Help! I can't get out!" She had gotten trapped in her duvet cover. She (presumably) crawled through the opening at the bottom, and then couldn't find a way out. Sometimes it's like she is just average. Or like she's a lobster.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hard Times in the Cul-de-Sac

I checked in with my next-door neighbors, Mindy and Conspiracy Guy, yesterday for the first time in a while, and the tenor of the two conversations was very similar--that their budgets are stretched, and they're finding it hard to make ends meet. Both of them brought this up in response to my "Hey, how's it going" query. It was interesting to me, because their circumstances are very different. They live right next door to each other in roughly the same kind of house. I thought how you can't really assume anything about people's financial situation based on where they live. A neighborhood that looks pretty homogenous can house a lot of different economic stories.

Mindy was bummed out because Ron, her new husband, has come out of retirement to go back to work. They're in their upper fifties, and neither of them had been working. Mindy was living on the annuities and such left behind by her late husband, and I think Ron had just made enough money to retire at a relatively young age. He is a civil engineer, so for him, work means traveling out of town to various building projects. He is gone a lot now, and Mindy is not happy on her own. (We were thrilled when those two started shacking up last year, because Mindy goes a little kooky when left to herself.) Anyway, both their investment portfolios have tanked, so off to work he goes.

And I understand why, because those two spend money like sailors on leave. I say that with no judgment at all--I just mean that their kids are grown and gone, and they are living their version of the good life. They have a lot of toys--they were a two Humvee household, his and hers, until Mindy traded her Hummer in for a Jaguar convertible. (I say no judgment, but the two Humvees seemed crazy to me.) Ron had a fancy motorcycle that he wrecked and replaced over the summer, and they have boats and a couple of other houses, Ron's house from before their marriage and Mindy's cabin in the mountains. And, they run with a fairly hard-partying crowd of people their age who go out every night, dressed to the nines. Matt and I went to a little party they had at their house to announce their engagement. I dressed in a manner that I thought was appropriate for a casual get-together in the summer--like capri pants and a cute top. All the other ladies were in cocktail dresses with Swarovski crystals on their boobs. So Mindy and Ron, not surprisingly, are finding it hard to keep up with all that.
Conspiracy Guy and Mrs. Conspiracy Guy are having it rough. Yesterday I saw CG outside while the kids were playing together, and I said, "Hey, what have y'all been up to?" He said, "Trying to survive. Just trying to figure out how to survive." He is a stay-at-home dad to their 4 and 3 year-olds. Mrs. CG works, but I gather it's not a super high-powered career. What they want, he says, is to downsize to a smaller house with a bigger yard. They don't want to sell in this market, though, so they settled for refinancing their mortgage from an adjustable-rate to a 30 year fixed. (Before that, they'd had their house on the market for months with no nibbles. I think they were asking too much, but what do I know?)

They have a way different "lifestyle" from Mindy and Ron's. No toys, no extras, living pretty light, from what I can tell. I heard through the grapevine that right after we moved in in 2006, Mr. and Mrs. CG tried to start a business where you make millions in real-estate with no money down. I remember CG telling me that they'd gone to a seminar that taught them how. I remember having a sinking feeling as he told me this. So the grapevine part was that they lost all the money they put into it, and some of their family's money as well. That was when they put their house up for sale. So I feel sympathy for them--they seem kind of stuck. I feel bad even if CG is a quasi-Libertarian, paranoid, tax-evading fruit loop, as you will see if you take a moment to peruse that link. Tax evasion may be a strong word, but he explained to me how his plan between now and the end of the year is to take their belongings to Goodwill, one bag at a time, and get the receipt they give you where you fill in the value yourself. He says the max per donation is $599, so every garbage bag of old toys and clothes they donate is worth a $599 tax deduction, in his calculation.

Then I think Conspiracy Guy asked me out on a date. Or, he told me how his wife is gone from today through the weekend and he'll have the girls on his own, and then he said, "You could come over one night and watch a movie." So I'm going to assume that what he meant was, "You could bring the kids over to watch a movie with my kids." But I don't know, ew. Where was I again? Oh yes, hard times. That is my neighborhood report for today. Have a good one!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits: Brotherly Love Edition

A few years ago, while they were still in college, my brother Dave and his roommate decided to make a Christmas sweatshirt. I don't really know what area of human knowledge we can draw on to help us understand that. Just two dudes, creating festive holiday garb. Their particular brand of college hipster culture was so complex that it can't really be known how sincere their efforts were. They certainly weren't snarky about it, but were they making the sweatshirt or quoting the sweatshirt? I think that, perhaps, postmodern irony really has given way to The New Sincerity. Maybe. It's possible that there are young twenty-somethings all over the country who are lovingly crafting that Tampon Turkey centerpiece. But here is the sweatshirt.

Lest you think that this was the half-assed work of a moment, I refer you to the 3D tiny wrapped packages under the felt Christmas tree, which they have decorated with little lightbulbs. My favorite part has to be the cheery and vague "Holidays!" leading up to the pom-pom poinsettias on the shoulder. This thing wants a wider audience. Surrender to its cheeriness. Holidays!

My sister Amy has been recently celebrated on this blog, while Dave has received only brief mention. I thought I would remedy that today because Dave has now started his own blog, Better than Machines. He is the real writer in the family, so check it out if you're into progressive politics. Or just enjoy the sweatshirt. Holidays!

And in keeping with Keely's Random Tuesdays, here's some more Dave and me.

This was Christmas of 2000, when Dave was practically a baby, and I was pregnant with Laura. I also had an acute case of fake Kate Spade. Sigh. I'm sorry y'all, I was new to ebay. But don't I look proud of Dave? And here we are this past August.

We always have a good time together. And I can't figure out how in the heck he turned into a fascinating and productive adult in the last eight years, a period of time when I was mostly experimenting with different hairstyles and buying purses. That's a Patrick Robinson for Target tote, by the way. Always get tons of inquiries about it.

Here we decided to take a series of awkward close-ups. Like so.

This has been a shout out to my brother, one of my top favorite people on Earth. Go check him out. You might like other members of the family better than me. They are all nice people.

And see what else is brewing over at Random Tuesdays.

Monday, December 8, 2008

6 Elements of a Happy Birthday

One more trip around the sun, y'all, and boy are my arms tired! Oh, I am hilarious. Yesterday was my birthday. When I was a little kid, I knew that my birthday was also Pearl Harbor Day, but I didn't know what that meant. Somehow, I formed the idea that Pearl Harbor was that woman on "Hee-Haw" who had the pricetag hanging from her hat. I thought December 7 was a day dedicated to a national celebration of her. Later I found out the real story, and I thought, "Wow, that's much grimmer." So, a day which shall live in infamy. But a good day for me. Here are a few highlights.

1) We had some friends over Friday night, and Matt surprised me with cake. He got up with the kids both Saturday and Sunday, while I slept late. Then he raked leaves in the backyard and supervised Hank at the same time, while I sat on the sofa and read magazines. Or I think that's what I did--it's kind of a pleasant blur.

2) We took the kids to the mall to ride the merry-go-round. It had been so long since we were there--like almost a year--that I don't think Hank remembered the carousel. He was awestruck. He just sat and stared. Like this.

3) Unbeknownst to me, the real reason for our trip to the mall was so Matt could go to the Apple store and get my present. Hello, Lover.

4) I realized that my age is now a perfect square. It really is the little things.

5) I loved hearing from my Facebook friends all day.

6) These little goodies arrived in the mail.

Six napkins, each with a different cookie on it, from our friends David and Michael. LOVE THESE. I am already imagining different table settings for them. I think they will work great for Christmas, too.

Thanks for indulging my birthday scrapbooking. I hope your weekends were cozy and warm!

And Anna has an excellent list today at ABDPBT:


Saturday, December 6, 2008

American Girl is Bending My Mind

I think I said here once before that I wasn't going to get Laura an American Girl doll for Christmas this year, because she already has two (she got them for Xmas whens she was 4 and 6), and they don't get played with every day, and they're expensive, and well. . .yeah. So obviously, as soon as American Girl emailed me to say that they were having free shipping, I ordered a doll. I'm like the Manchurian Candidate of Christmas shopping--I just respond to my programming. Ho ho ho, speaking of programming, I just remembered the time that Frenemy Neighbor told me that the American Girl company is "run by feminists." Only she meant that as a warning. Good times in the 'hood.

Laura and her friend and I watched the Kit Kittredge movie, and we admired Kit's determination and spunkiness, so I was surprised when L said she wanted not Kit, but Kit's friend Ruthie. If you have any knowledge of the Kit story, you know that Ruthie is the daughter of the bank president, the one who is foreclosing on the houses of some of Kit and Ruthie's friends. (This is set during the Great Depression--the one in the 1930's, not this one right now.) I had to laugh, because it is so Laura to choose the doll who is living in more comfortable financial circumstances. When given the choice between the Colonial American dolls Felicity and Elizabeth, she chose the Tory, Elizabeth. Just in case the whole Revolution thing didn't work out, you know. A girl's gotta think of where her next pony is coming from.

So I'm not totally sure whether I'm going to keep the doll or not. I want to direct you to a beautiful post that Carrie wrote about taking her daughter to the AG store, because I think it identifies my dilemma--I see that it's extravagant (Laura has two dolls, for the love), but they are so beguiling, and I want something nice for her; I want to give her something so appealing. And she hasn't asked for anything else--she is NOT a mile-long Santa list kid. She asked for a Thomas the Train thing for her brother (she feels she must write on his behalf), and the doll, and a certain webkin. So here comes Ruthie.

But here's the mind-bending part. I was poking around the American Girl website, checking out a sale on doll accoutrements. Each historical doll has period toys she can play with, like a ragdoll or old timey roller skates. Sold separately, of course. Well, the 1970's doll Julie can play with a little Barbie styling head. Remember those things? It's like a bust of Barbie, and you fix her hair and put makeup on her face? Of course, that was big in the 70's, so Julie has one. And both Barbie and American Girl are now owned by Mattel, so it's a nice bit of cross-promotion for them. Balls, pure balls.

For a dizzying moment I experienced a mise en abyme of toys. If Julie has a Barbie, what's to stop AG from making a 1980's girl, say, Jessica, who could have a little American Girl doll for her historically-accurate toy? And that doll could have a tiny American Girl, and so on, and you see the situation. Each tiny doll more historically accurate than the last. And more adorable, at a microscopic level. Also compounding the problem, as The Onion has warned, if the trend of being nostalgic for the relatively recent past continues--having 1970's period dolls, we may be facing a terrifying "retro gap," leaving us stuck "expressing nostalgia for events which have yet to occur." (Go now and read that Onion article. You're welcome.)

Have a good Saturday night, y'all.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What the Elf?

Laura just showed me a picture she drew of a little fellow in a red and green suit, with curly-toed shoes, and said, "This is the elf I'm hoping to get. His name will be Muckle." I was like, "That's cute, babe, but you're standing in front of the TV and I can't see Anderson." She persisted, "Do you want to know how I get the elf?" And I was like, "Okay, how?" She explained that if you leave crackers and water out some night in December, in the morning, an elf will have arrived and taken up residence. She said that he will be a little doll sleeping in a bed, but that every night he will come to life and get up to all sorts of mischief and tomfoolery.

As she spoke I had a dim memory of another mom I know complaining last year that her children had gotten an elf. And the elf was her. It dawned on me that this is some sort of awful plot on the part of the Elf cabal to add items to Mom's Big To-Do List. Lunches packed? Clothes laid out? Homework in school bag? Elf mischief accomplished? Good grief, Charlie Brown. My whimsy reserves are already taxed. The fairy houses are bad enough, and luckily Laura only makes one of those every few months.

What is a fairy house, you ask? Well, those are actually kind of fun, because they don't cost anything, and they are an actual activity. The child builds a little shelter out of bark, leaves, or twigs, and "furnishes" it for a fairy using rocks or flowers are whatever. Then, overnight, the fairy leaves a little treat for the house-builder. This means Mama has to come up with a treat while the child is at school. Last time, I broke into my gift closet and made her a little string bracelet with her name in beads on it. I only went to such lengths because I was out of random baubles that she'd never seen. She was thrilled. She is 7, nearly 8, and I can't tell if she really believes in this stuff or not. When she and her friend both worked on a fairy house recently, I commented to them that they better leave a note so the fairy would know there were two girls involved. They did. L's friend left a note that included her name and address. Her mom asked me, "Do you think I can just leave something in our mailbox?"

So, this elf thing. I did a quick search online, and it looks like there is one particular company that is behind the whole Mom is Your Secret Elf business. Elf Magic claims to be a "timeless Christmas tradition that has created special memories for countless children and families in homes around the world."

They are cute--I am not a total Grinch. And I'm sure your $26.95 (not including shipping) buys a lot of joy. But what gets me is that the website takes this twee tone, never actually explaining what the real deal is--that you will buy this toy for your kids, and you will acquire a temporary part-time job as an Elf. The website enthuses, "From discovering an Elf’s magical arrival in the home, to searching for their hidden Elf after a night full of mischievous adventures – children know the magic in Elf Magic is real!"

It would make me happier if they would admit for a moment that the "magic in Elf Magic" is Mom. We're all adults, here, right? My kid is not shopping on this site. And another thing, I don't know if I have a "night full of mischievous adventures" in me, you know? There are other people in line for that sort of thing, so take a number, Elf. But their determination to be all magical and stuff continues even in the clearance bin for last year's elves, which cracks me up:

While Available... Santa has discounted the Travel Ticket to $24.95 for his elves that did not get to visit a friend in 2007!!! Because of the lower travel fare the 2007 Elves cannot be returned to Elf Magic. They have a one way ticket only!!!

Oh for Pete's sake!

Have you heard of this? Are you doing it? I wonder, if we were lucky enough to get a visitation from one of the magical creatures, what sorts of adventures can they get up to at night? I think my supply of magical mischief might be short. Any ideas? Maybe, reorganizing the silverware drawer? Cleaning the baseboards? I got nothin'.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


With Christmas approaching, I feel that Suburban Matron is in danger of becoming a shopping blog. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I can't help it--when I really like something, I want to tell. One day I'll be that old lady who rides the city bus all day, wanting to show you everything she's got in her shopping bag. Since it's Things I Love Thursday and all, I'm dying to share the newest addition to the family.

It's the Pottery Barn Kids turtle basket. I've linked to the PB site for informational purposes, but by no means are you to click over to shop. When you go the website, it will tell you that the large turtle basket (35"x22") costs $109. What do they take us for? Please, as if! BUT if you find it clearanced in the PB Kids store, the large turtle is $40. A very friendly price, especially if you took one look at the basket, like I did, and started saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" like the seagulls in Finding Nemo.

My mom and sister and I were having one last shopping hurrah a couple of days ago before Amy flew back to Australia (I miss my best girlfriend already). I guess I am going through a turtle phase, but I would have bought this even if I didn't have kids. I put it up in Hank's room, under his window, holding his stuffed animals. He took one look at it and said, "I can fight the turtle with my sword?" So I think he likes it. For me it's the right combination of modern and traditional, and whimsical, and wicker. And turtley. Happy Things I Love Thursday!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oldies But Goodies

We've been having fun digging up classic cartoons on YouTube. The kids and I started out in October looking for Halloween songs, and now we're building a favorites list of Christmas stuff. We especially like old Disney Silly Symphonies.

They're about 8 minutes long, which I find is the perfect length of time to park Hank in front of the screen when I need a Sanity Moment. Some of the Silly Symphonies go back to the 1930's. They give an interesting glimpse of the times they were made in, and they're just good, retro fun. For this Works for Me Wednesday, here are our top faves.

  • Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952). Featuring Chip and Dale. Hank loves it when Pluto attacks the tree.
  • The Night Before Christmas (1933). All the toys coming to life is a real attention-grabber.
  • The Three Little Pigs (1933). Not Christmasy, but this one has me completely riveted. It has the song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," and at one point, when the Wolf dresses up as a Fuller Brush salesman to try to get into the brick house, he is clearly supposed to look like the stereotype of the hook-nosed Jewish peddler. The image is jaw-dropping. Oh, the golden years! (There is actually an interesting history to this scene, and how it was taken out, put in, taken out, and actually put back in the cartoon when it was rereleased in 1996.) Also, Hank is fascinated by the end where the Wolf burns his butt in the pig's fireplace.
  • The Ugly Duckling (1939). This is the sentimental favorite of mine, and almost a tearjerker. Laura won't watch it because she thinks it's too sad, even though the baby swan finds his mama at the end. The great thing about finding these cartoons on YouTube is that they tell stories and fables that cartoons today don't adapt. I didn't know until we watched this that Laura didn't know the story of the Ugly Duckling. The classics really are brand new for those who do not know them.

So, classic cartoons on YouTube work for me! The kids really enjoy watching these, and they love being able to choose what they like off the little list we made for them. With more and more TV available over the internet, I am this close to canceling the cable. Once I've watched my entire Tivo'd backlog of "House," that is.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Five Things I Heard in the Hot Tub

I'm still sifting through the data from our holiday in the mountains. Sift along with me.

  1. Our friend told us that his dad and brother, who are in the real estate business in south Florida together, have not sold a single house in the last twelve months. Not one.
  2. My sister Amy and her husband regularly give gifts of personal lubricant to friends who are getting married. You see, they know a lot people who, believe it or not, postpone the Full Monty until they are legally wed. And Amy wants everything to go, um, smoothly. You want her on your team, people.
  3. Over 200,000 people have applied online for 7,000 jobs in the Obama administration. If you haven't already, here's where you can. Everybody else is doing it.
  4. Bear hunting season is underway in North Carolina, and in Jackson county, where we were, more bears have been killed so far than deer. Perhaps in revenge, a bear peeled the top off an outdoor freezer belonging to my parents' neighbor. The bear broke the hinges off the lid and made off with some frozen berries and fruitcakes.
  5. My brother Dave was asked, "What is your greatest fear?" He said, "A clown with a bow and arrow."

For more edifying lists, check out ABDPBT and the listing crew today:


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Brick and Mortar Life

On this blog, I never really have the urge to break the fourth wall and go meta, but today I feel compelled to share with you some of the material conditions of blogging over the Thanksgiving holiday. We are still up in the mountains of Western North Carolina at my mom and dad’s house. We’ve got a big crowd, and some more friends just arrived this afternoon. What are the requirements for calling a place “off the grid”? ‘Cause the house doesn’t have TV or internet access. The tubes don’t reach up here, apparently. I love that about this place, usually. It’s far from rustic—it’s very comfortable, but it requires us to unplug.

But NaBloPoMo and unplugged don’t really mix. So I’ve been taking daily trips down into town to find some free wifi. The public library has it, and so does Arby’s. Small town. Every day, there are several people who want to accompany me on this outing, usually with laptops in hand. It feels like the 21st century version of going into town for provisions, like coffee, nails, and lard. Only instead of every six months, we have to go every day. It’s fun, actually, and the only real event in otherwise unstructured time.

On Thanksgiving night, I went down the mountain with my mom and sister, only to find Arby’s closed, duh. They didn’t turn off their wifi, though, so I opened up my computer right there in the car. Then my battery died, so I sat on the sidewalk and plugged my computer into their outdoor outlet, thus leeching both wifi AND electricity. Amy said I looked like a hobo—a very well equipped hobo. With beautiful shiny hair. Or she didn’t say that part.

The only problem with the Arby’s blogging situation is that to pay for my table, I buy a jamocha milkshake while I’m here, and then I drink it. So this blog is making me fat. But I am loving it. I am loving the blog, the Arby’s, the hobo scene, the NaBloPoMo thing, and you, my dear Readers. The whole caboodle.

And I say again: have a great weekend!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Geocaching: The Family That Trespasses Together. . .

Instead of hitting the stores for Black Friday, we did some geocaching here in the mountains. Dad has gotten really into this in his retirement. Geocaching, if you don't know, is a kind of game where you use your GPS device to locate little hidden containers, or caches, that people have hidden in out-of-the-way places. You may leave little treasures in the boxes, and take something in return, or just sign in that you've been there. It is great--a more fun version of taking a walk. Some of the caches are what they call "park and grab," as in you don't have to go off into the woods very far, but sometimes, like today, you have to get out of bounds.

We had a multi-step cache that required a couple of waypoints, finally leading us to the site near here where a scene from the movie The Fugitive was filmed. Remember the part where Harrison Ford is on the prison bus, and it crashes into a train, and he gets away? That was filmed right by the Tuckasegee River here in Dillsboro, and the train cars and buses they used are still sitting down by the river. The clues and the coordinates seemed to indicate that the cache was hidden on the wreckage somewhere, but we couldn't actually drive anywhere near that part of the riverbank. Finally we realized that this little road must lead down there. The gate was open, Officer.
The Magellan was our guide, but notice that Dad has the target coordinates written on his hand. So high-tech! Turns out he wrote them down wrong, but we figured out where we were going. Sure enough, the coordinates took us right to the old bus used in the movie.

The bus says "Illinois Dept. of Corrections," because the movie was set in Illinois, of course, and the train says "Illinois Southern." So, we knew the cache we were looking for was a magnetic hide-a-key box, and it seemed like it could be anywhere on this bus, or possibly on the front of the train. The margin of error is such that the GPS won't take you to the exact, precise spot, so you have to get there and look around. But with all this wreckage, it was really hard to look everywhere. Here's Laura after I had relaxed my "No Climbing!" rule.

So this cache was unfindable, at least by us. We felt up that entire bus, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We think it might have been taken by Muggles. Yes, the geocachers refer to non-cachers as Muggles. Laura loved that. Down at the railyard, she did find some stocking-stuffers, so it wasn't a total loss. Hurray for coal! So we need to read the online comments on that cache and get some more info. Then we'll regroup for another sortie. But it was really fun getting up close to the wreck, trespassing and all. I think this is great fun for kids, especially if they're with-it enough to work the compass and the GPS. Here's Laura helping pack up a cache that Dad hid.
That little toy with the dogtags is a trackable item. It will travel from cache to cache, with its location logged online. Really cool. And here's a cache's hiding place.
This was down under a suspension footbridge over the river, where you'd really have to be looking for it. Each cache has a friendly and helpful little note in it in case it does fall into Muggle hands. So, lots of fun for the family, and I think the community around it is really interesting. It's just pure play, you know? With no real reward and nothing to prove. I look forward to doing it lots more, and there are TONS of these things all around, so go to the website and check it out.

Hope you had a restful and fun Thanksgiving Friday!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Are Not Navy SEALs: A Thanksgiving Story

Late last Thursday night I got a call from my sister Amy. Amy, who has posted here before, lives in Australia with her husband and two kids. There was much glumness in the family, because they weren’t going to be able to come to the States for Christmas. My mom had been giving me weekly reports on the degree of wistfulness she detected in Amy’s voice when the holidays were discussed. And her own voice was growing more wistful by the day.

Amy told me that she had a plan. A plan so crazy, she said, that it might actually work. If she booked a last minute ticket to Atlanta, could I pick her up Monday night, and spirit her up to the mountain house to surprise Mom and Dad for Thanksgiving? Um, yes, I thought I could do that. Her adoring husband agreed to hold down the fort there and give her a solo getaway, so the only trick was keeping the secret from Mom and Dad. This is easier said than done. Our mother is nearly psychic, especially about things having to do with her kids. I decided that the best plan was to speak to her as little as possible. The woman notices precise shades of tone of voice, choice of words, and what is said or left unsaid. I am accused, in the family, of having broken the news of Amy’s pregnancy by asking mom, “Have you talked to Amy lately?” So I just went into radio silence. My brother, who was in on the secret, declared that we would only refer to Amy, even between ourselves, as The Package. As in, “I’m on my way to retrieve The Package”, or “The Package’s hair looks really cute.”

So Monday night I picked up The Package. I was afraid that I would be unable to restrain myself from blogging about it. I hated keeping the secret from you, Internets! And indeed, on Monday night, Amy had to turn off her Facebook wall, because her friends in Sydney were posting things like, “Was your mom surprised?” and our mom is on Facebook. She’s hip like that. So we were plugging leaks right and left, worrying that our covert op would get blown wide open.

Tuesday, Amy helped host Pre-Thanksgiving with Matt’s family, then Wednesday afternoon we headed up to North Carolina. We had exhaustively discussed among ourselves the best way to go about the big reveal. We didn’t have a cake she could jump out of, so we were left with deciding how to configure the main elements: Amy, our minivan, the mountain house, Mom and Dad, and time and space. The simple way would have been to have her in the back of the van with the kids, and when Mom and Dad came out to open the doors to greet the kids, there she would be. Surprise! My brother Dave was more in favor of the Gradual Surprise, where Amy was let out of the car before we arrived at the house, and would walk up the road after we were in. They would either see her from a distance, thus prolonging the pleasure of realizing it was she, or she would come up to the house and let herself in. I hoped that in this scenario, neither of my parents would have a cardiac arrest.

I was driving the van, and when we got up on the mountain road to the house, I was amazed at how bare the trees were. All of the leaves were gone, and we could see Dad on the deck (and he could see us, I think) from really far away. We were reaching the critical decision-making point, where Amy would either have to deploy or abort mission. Dad was walking around the house, ready to greet us, but I stopped the car where I thought there were enough tree trunks between us to obscure the car a little. Amy got into position, and I yelled, “Go! Go! Dive!” while she rolled out the door and ran around behind the car. I took off again in a spray of gravel while Amy pulled up her hood and crouched behind a tree. Did I mention that she is 14 weeks pregnant? Take that, Delta Force.

So I pulled up in front of the house and we all acted as naturally as we could while being greeted. Which was not working because I did not feel natural. I don’t think I will win any Oscars for playing myself. Inside, Mom followed Hank to his train table in another room, while Dad went back out onto the deck to check his rotisserie meat situation. I decided to go back out to the van to get my camera, and when I did, I could see Amy jogging towards the house. I ducked back inside and tried unsuccessfully to get everyone in the same room. The front door opened and Amy peeked in. When she saw me standing there alone, she closed the door again. So I started, in a so very natural manner, to say, “Hey Mom, come look at this!” I gestured vaguely in the air. “Hey Dad, come in here!” More gesturing.

Finally Amy opened the door again and walked in saying, “Boy, it’s cold out there.” I have never seen anyone more surprised than my Mom. She said later that she thought she was hallucinating, and she actually had her mouth hanging open. The way people look in comic strips when they are really surprised? That’s how she looked. Then Dad came in and made the same face. Then there was much hugging and kissing. We just finished eating dinner. Today is Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding anniversary, and we are all together, and we are very thankful for that and for many things.

Tonight there will be karaoke and hot tubbing, though sadly, not at the same time. I hope you and yours are having a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cell Phones and Public Bathrooms: A Point of Etiquette

On the way up to the mountain house today, we stopped at McDonald's so I could go in and use the bathroom. Everyone else stayed in the car. There were two stalls in there, and both were empty, so I had my pick. While I was ensconced in my stall, a woman came into the bathroom talking on her cell phone. It sounded like the conversation had just started; I don't know if she had placed the call or received the call. But she was saying "Yes sir," and giving her name, and starting to ask some official-sounding question. The tone of her voice was that of someone in the supplicant position, like she doesn't often have to call "important" offices and ask for things. While she was trying to get her question out, which was something about her daughter's Social Security check, she went into the stall next to me and was seated. She continued to explain her question to the person on the line--she's divorced, and it seems that her daughter's check is going to her ex-husband's address instead of to her PO box.

By now there are at least two people waiting outside the stalls. Phone woman is actually giving her ex's social security number on the phone, and explaining again that she is divorced and here is the exact situation. I was ready to flush and go, but I felt hesitant to flush the toilet in the middle of her phone call. The sound of those power-flushing toilets is pretty unmistakeable. My neighbor had been actually using the toilet, I think, but now I thought maybe she was just sitting there to finish her conversation. But people were waiting for a turn. And I felt how frustrated they must be. My stall is a total mystery to them, and hers sounds like a phone booth.

Phone Lady began to repeat the story of her divorce, and she gave her husband's mailing address, and her own. (I guess identity theft is not in the forefront of her concerns.) I was peeking through the crack in the door, and I could see that there were three people waiting now. One of us was being rude, I thought, either Phone Lady for the entire situation, or me for enabling her and colluding with her bathroom-hogging by my reluctance to flush in the middle of her call. I decided to go ahead and flush--I was obviously more embarrassed for her than she was for herself, considering that when she started this call, or answered this call, she could have turned around and left the bathroom. So I flushed, and as I did, she raised her voice, very loudly now, to finish her sentence. I winced and felt sorry for a second, then I thought, "Why am I the one who feels responsible for this situation?" Then I gave it another flush.

So, if you must conduct a private and sensitive conversation in a public bathroom, don't camp on the potty the whole time. It is possible, probably, to hold the phone in one hand and finish your business and leave. Oh, or maybe just don't be in this situation AT ALL.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Random Purchases Tuesday, Also, Getting My Party On

I have cleaned two bathrooms, changed numerous beds, put the kids' rooms in order (Laura helped with hers), vacuumed the floors, and done all kinds of dusting and prettifying. I was totally ready to get into Thanksgiving mode, but something was lacking. Then my mother-in-law arrived with half a Honeybaked ham, and suddenly everything was perfect. That is some delicious ham. And that sucker cost $44. Is that possible? That's what it says on the little sticker. I've never shopped there so I don't know.

And since it's Random Thoughts Tuesday at Un-Mom, here is a picture of the little turtle I bought at Goodwill, which caused me to spray paint my fingers. Michele, in the comments of that post, said that she had happened to see this exact turtle at that exact Goodwill. Freaky. The turtle is hanging with some owls over the potty in the kids' bathroom. I gave the frame one coat of spray paint, and I was going to go back and do more, but I liked it this way. It has a pickled, sort of distressed look.

Now, more random purchases, all brought to you by the letter 'T'. A tiny fake tree that I got at Target for $5. Right now it's anchoring a display of Laura's pottery.

It is five dollars-worth of cute. And finally, ALSO at Target (could I please be more boring), they have little painted wooden vehicles up front. They are a buck. You know we didn't get out of there without some trucks. Not sure of their lead content yet.

So, 'T' is for Turtle, Tree, and Trucks. And Tuesday. Have a happy one!


Monday, November 24, 2008

You Cannot Beat That With a Stick

While waiting for the dog to get bathed and have her anal glands attended to--Happy Thanksgiving, Percy!--the kids and I took a spin through the dollar section up in the front of Target. Target, I have often said, is my safe place. It only makes me feel good, and never makes me feel bad, and today was no exception. In their section of junky holiday decor, they had two different felt garlands. You know how suddenly we're seeing these homemade letter garlands all around? Here's one example. Anyway, at Target they have felt garlands for $2.50. One says, "Happy Holidays," and there's this one that I got.

It's all felt. Each snowman is really cute. Not bad for $2.50, so go getcha one. While I haven't started decorating for Christmas yet, I went ahead and stuck this on the mantel. I'm calling it a transitional piece, I guess. When we break out the Christmas decorations, I'll move it, because I've got a different garland I like to put up there with the stockings. I have snow on the brain because my mom told me it's snowing at the mountain house, which is where we're going on Wednesday. Fun! First, though, we're having Pre-Thanksgiving here. And the dog is clean, Praisallujah!

I also swept through Publix with a sheaf of coupons in hand. Scored lots and lots of canned broth, canned veggies, French's onions (green bean casserole, oh yeah baby), bogo Hellman's, Club crackers, raisins, cake mixes, and I don't know what all. Spent about $52 and saved $57. CVS was a little meh. I got the free Maybelline make-up and some much-needed bogo All. Cassie had sent me a $3 off $15 coupon, for which I truly give thanks. I haven't really figured out all the Black Friday stuff happening at CVS. I usually don't shop at all around Thanksgiving. Is anyone taking the time to do that? I love to go to the movies on Thanksgiving night, but we'll be in the wilderness, so I don't think it will happen.

As always, thanks to Fiddledeedee for help in figuring out the Publix deals. Check over there to see what the Supersavers are doing. Sorry to be so brief, but I'm still cleaning house. Have a good night, y'all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

3 Things Standing Between Perfect Contentment and Me

Because even though everything is fine, life could always be better.

1)I spray painted three of my fingers just now. This is my trouble with crafts: I have a great interest in homemade and crafty stuff, but I lack expertise, so I try to half-ass it. Yesterday I picked up a little framed needlepoint of a very 70's turtle at Goodwill, priced-to-love at $1.91. It is adorable and I'm sure you will see it, just like you will eventually see everything in my house. But I can't show you yet because I'm trying to spray paint the frame. It's out in the garage. I was too lazy to take the frame, glass, and needlepoint apart properly, because probably thirty years ago, someone put masking tape all over the back of the frame. So I did a quickie job of covering the glass with paper and post-it notes (really, I should put all these tricks in a book), and then when I got out to the garage, part of the paper started peeling up, so I grabbed a pencil and poked it down while I sprayed, and then I sprayed my fingers. They are a pretty celery green, and so far neither soap nor vaseline will get the paint or the sticky feeling off. Spray paint is not like regular paint. It is nasty. Why did I think vaseline would help? Oh yeah, because I was raised to think it was the cure for anything.

2) The house is a mess, and so far today, limited progress has been made, though Matt is valiantly blowing leaves right now. (I know, I know, leafblowers are a nuisance and they are bad for the planet. The first Fall we lived here, we raked. But you would not believe the biomass of leaves we're talking about. Now we blow.) We've got a busy week ahead, but I thought it would be more fun to spray paint my fingers than pick up Legos and do laundry. Matt's mom and brother are coming early in the week for a little pre-Thanksgiving house party, and I need to get my act together quick. Also I guess I'm dealing with some leafblower guilt.

3)I know I'm killing you with this Room Mom stuff, but late last night, I got this cry for help from my co-room mom about our auction basket:

UGH!!! You should see the PATHETIC amount of stuff that was donated. I’m going to have to make a little go a LONG way!! This is going to be embarrassing! :( What do you think we should do? Jan

I told her that I think she needs to stop being a crazy person, wait a little longer for parents to send things in (because the auction is not until December 6), and that she needs to not botch her every email communication with the class, because probably people didn't read her auction basket emails, and that the way she listed each little wooden spoon and bamboo skewer individually probably made people think we had a long list of stuff, but ABOVE ALL, she needs to wait a little longer for items to trickle in. This morning she responded

You’re right, parents must have thought we had enough stuff but I guess I assumed they would each STILL send in an item or separate $$. That’s why I think I screwed up by not being specific about class money. I bet most parents think that it’s for the basket too. I will add my stuff to the basket that I had bought for my husband for Christmas (I was making him a BBQ basket, that’s where I got the idea). I have all the receipts but I will “donate” most of it since a lot of it I bought awhile back and on sale this past fall. I got my husband a great gift yesterday to take the place of the Basket. Did you know you can have a regular photo turned into a painting? It’s all done by computer! I’m having a picture of my kids walking on the beach at Disney made into one. It’s big but it only cost $160. I can’t wait! I almost forgot, I had bought a whole set of dishes at CVS for almost NOTHING. I think it was 90% off. I can’t pass up a deal! They are plastic ones for a picnic or BBQ and I think they have a fish or shell shape. Can I add them to the basket? I still have a whole set of Christmas plates (from CVS) that I bought 2 years ago for 90% off. Do you know a needy family or where I can donate them? They are breakable so I don’t want to put them in a donation bin. Don’t worry, I’ll get the basket done today and it will be fine.

Does this email seem totally ADHD to anyone else? I do think she is very sweet, but she has a touch of The Nutso, and it's contagious. And apparently she didn't hear me at all when I said DON'T DO THE BASKET YET, WAIT A LITTLE LONGER.

So, fingers are green, house is a mess, co-room mom is a little kooky. All else is well, and I hope you had a lovely weekend.

For more list lovin', head over to ABDPBT:


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slacker Fudge

You know how I'm endlessly in the kitchen, trying out new and ever-more complicated recipes and then blogging about it? By which I mean, I never, ever do that? Yeah. But, BUT, this was so fun and easy and tasty, I had to share. It's not even a recipe, hardly, it's more like a trick. It comes from Julie:

Slacker Fudge (that's my name for it--everyone can make up her own)

  • one 18 oz. jar of peanut butter (due to the shrinking grocery phenomenon, an 18 oz. jar may be hard to find, but the 16.3 oz. jar works fine too.
  • one tub of vanilla or chocolate frosting.

Peel the foil off the frosting and heat it in the microwave for twenty seconds. Have your kids combine the frosting and the peanut butter in a big bowl. They will love doing this. Then they can stir it up. Heat this mixture for 2 minutes in the microwave, then stir it some more and spread it in a 9x9 dish. Let it harden. It will get firm enough to slice into little squares like fudge.

It was really tasty! (And what is totally adorable is that Hank didn't understand the name of it, and kept asking for a "piece 'a pudge." Pudge is right.) Laura and her sleepover friend had fun making it. And then this morning, when her friend's mom came to pick her up, she tasted it and said, "Wow, we never make fudge." And instead of saying, "It was a lot of work, but I want to be the very best," I was all like, "Ohmigod lemme tell you how easy this is!"

So, a totally credible candy. I am definitely going to do this again. I could see packaging it up in pretty cellophane and giving it out to the neighbors for Christmas. Enjoy it, slackers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

We Encumber You With Kindness

Wow, the people at Publix REALLY want to push my cart out to the car for me. What is up with that? I mean, they have always offered to do it, and when I have Hank with me I usually take them up on it. But their desire has definitely intensified to near-uncomfortable levels. Today I went to the grand opening of a shiny new Publix near me, and I didn't even have the kids with me, and my buggy wasn't very full. The bagger girl assumed the cart-pushing position, like she was ready to speed out of there, but after the cashier handed me my receipt, I said, "It's okay, I can do it." She said, "Are you sure?" and I said something like, "Yes, but thanks!"

Then I wheeled towards the door, and a managerial type was standing there. She had overheard my exchange with the bagger, and she said, "Don't you want some help?" I said, "I'm really fine," and she said, "But I can bring the cart back." And I said, "Okay, you talked me into it, since you really, really want to." I smiled as I said this. Then we strolled to my car together, enjoying the beautiful, blue November sky, and unloaded the bags together. Then I got her phone number. Not really, but there must be some special spark between us for her to have wanted to help me so much. RIGHT?

This policy must really increase their need for staff, because the parking lot was full of Publix employees streaming in and out with people's carts. This Publix in general made my regular Publix look totally punk-ass. It wasn't huge like some I've been in, but it was all boutique-y somehow. And there was a jazz combo playing. But I am sure that was because they only opened yesterday. Everything was gleaming, and the shelves were stocked and aligned in a totally OCD manner, like remember that scene in Sleeping With the Enemy where Julia Roberts has to keep all the cans lined up just so? The husband from that movie must be in charge of this place.

Also, a squadron of managers was walking around in a group, being instructed by their big boss at various stations. When I found myself shopping near them, I suddenly felt self-conscious, like they were saying, "Let's observe the behavior of this average shopper as she compares two different sizes of French's onions." So then I would feel pressure to act my role well and not disappoint them. I did my best to embody the nonchalant but with-it consumer, absorbed in her own world and her important errands, but interested in value and convenience.

All the roleplaying, plus having my cart pushed, totally wore me out, as you might imagine. Don't worry, I revived with an iced coffee on the way home. Now Laura is having a sleepover, and it's taco night. Have a great Friday, y'all!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Room Momming: Notes from the Front

"So, how's the whole Room Mom thing coming along?" you ask. Well, when last we spoke of this, my co-room mom had gone rogue, and despite her limited computer skills, was firing off emails and making a grab for various duties that I thought were mine. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I quickly adapted to a new world order in which Jan is doing most of the annoying stuff and I am organizing parties.

Since she had decided to jump in and start collecting money, I decided to start getting the holiday party together. And Jan is also lining up classroom volunteers and collecting items for the class auction basket. To that end, she needed to email all of the parents, and I'd told her how to copy and paste all of the parents' email addresses into her mail. By this time, she had also been the recipient of a mass email that I had sent, which had all of the parents' emails, not blind-copied or anything. Then I get this email from her: "Hi! Can you check this and if it’s o.k., send it to all the parents? I received everyone’s email addresses (thank you!) but I still don’t know how to group them together into one email." Then she favored me with an emoticon.

Okay, so she's not a whiz with the email. Or with basic digital literacy. The teacher in me is always happy to help someone who openly confesses that they don't know something. So I edited (slightly) her memo and sent it to the class, leaving in the superscription thingie that indicated it was forwarded from her. But of course, most parents did not reply to her. They replied to me and told me when they wanted to volunteer. I just forwarded the messages to Jan so she could put them on her schedule.

Then Jan went totally silent for a couple of days. I started to feel guilty because she was doing most of the jobs. So I emailed her and said, "Hey, since you're dealing with the money, do you want me to take over the volunteer schedule?" I even started making a Google calendar for the class. I was going to send it to all the parents and maybe give them the ability to sign up directly for stuff, right on the calendar. Jan never responded to me. But then we got another email forwarded by the teacher, from Jan (who must still be trying to master the whole email situation), with parents assigned to different volunteer slots. So I guess she wants to keep being in charge of that. She is an interesting combination of flaky, friendly, spacy, and territorial. But I can deal.

So, our actual Room Mom activities: The holiday party will be at 8:30 in the morning. Can you believe that? It's such a big elementary school that each class has an assigned time, to minimize parking problems, I guess. So we're doing a breakfasty thing with mini muffins, mini bagels and spreads, and fruit. Jan is handling the craft. And for a game, I suggested the Dress Your Santa game: The kids get in teams of 4 or 5 and each team has a Santa, usually a mom or dad, (but they LOVE dressing the teacher), and they have tape, scissors, colored paper, crepe paper, and cotton batting or cotton balls. They get 5 or so minutes to race to dress their Santa, then everyone judges them. We'll have different categories--funniest, most creative, etc--so basically everybody wins. I thought that would be properly chaotic.

Our holiday auction basket is BBQ-themed. That was Jan's idea. I suggested a Winter Fun basket, where the basket would be a snow saucer, and we could have mittens and scarves, cocoa, ice skating tickets, tickets to ride the Pink Pig, and maybe a wintery movie or something. Jan wanted to go with the BBQ, and she kept saying she had some "great meat rubs." So she has collected a ton of stuff for that, and the basket is a cooler, which will be cute. I sent in this child's apron from Ikea:

Party, check. Auction basket, check. Volunteers are happening. I am actually going in to be the Mystery Reader tomorrow. And Jan's collected a couple hundred bucks already. And again, children in classroom, learning/flourishing. I think we are going to be just fine as soon as I get a handle on Jan's communication style.