Monday, August 31, 2009


Sigh. Sometimes I break my own rule of not saying "yes" when I want to say "no." This afternoon about 6 I was having a brief period of reclining on the couch. I may have been resting my eyes. My phone chimed with an incoming text message. It was from Frenemy Neighbor:

Would u be open 2 P coming over from 7 to 8:30 pm 2ni so Jim & I can hav an anniv dinner out? If doesn't work, NP, thxs.

I thought, no, I don't have a problem with it, if 8:30 really means 8:30. But unlike FN's daughter, my child is not homeschooled, and has to go to bed by 9 in order to get up at 6:30 to catch the bus. And the previous time that we had P here for her parents to go do something at night, they did not return on time. And last week Normal Neighbor watched P in the evening with the same result. But since we were home, and L loves to play with P, and there was no real obstacle to our having her, I said, "Sure, bring her down. Happy Anniversary!" I could not think of a possible way to tell another adult that she needed to be back by 8:30. I just did not want to go there. If it had been me, I would have killed myself getting back here when I said I would. I might have resented being reminded I had a curfew.

So P got dropped off at 7:15. She and L played happily. Everything was fine. At 8:30 I started making noises to Laura about how she needed to go ahead and be ready for bed. She naturally resisted, because her friend was here. I told her to go ahead and brush her teeth, and I let them be. At 9:00 I got another text from FN.

We r on the way back, should be 10 min or less, sorry to go over time. Thxs

I didn't respond to that one. I knew that their next move would be to either call P's cellphone when they pulled up, or to text me or call me and ask me to send P outside. I put my phone on silent. I didn't want to play fast-food drive thru person anymore and just pass their order through the window. I marched into Matt's office and told him, "I'm going to make them get out of their car. It is my silent protest. It is little, but it is mine."

So they did. At 9:15 Frenemy Neighbor came to the door. She saw Laura and Hank in the sunroom and said, "Oh, well we didn't mean to keep everybody up." I just smiled. Then I told her she looked pretty. Then they left, and the kids went straight to bed. So why am I so annoyed?

The heretofore unblogged context for this event is that the Frenemy family has had a rough time lately. I haven't been telling this story, but a month ago, late one night, Laura had another friend sleeping over. Matt was gone up to D.C. to fetch the dog from her summer camp at my brother's house. About one in the morning, I was going to bed, and Frenemy called me. She sounded upset. She said, "I need to take Jim to the ER, can you come up here and sit with P?" Her husband was having an irregular heartbeat and was really uncomfortable. I said that Matt was out of town and I couldn't leave, but to bring P down here. So she did. P came in and I put her to bed in my room, on a spare mattress. I felt that I needed to stay up, plus I wasn't exactly sleepy anymore. At 4:30 she texted me again and said that Jim was having atrial fibrillation, but was being medicated and would be okay. P's grandma would come fetch her in the morning, she said, so I went to bed. Frenemy's mother came at 8. I told her to call me if she needed anything.

The next day, FN called me at 9 to ask if I would go up the hill and show her mother how to light her gas stove, which made me chuckle. I went, of course. After another day, Jim got better and came home from the hospital.

Then two weeks ago, a phone call at 7 am. Jim was having a kidney stone attack, and could she bring P over? Of course. Geez, that poor guy!

This story is already too long, but all this is to say that, I feel genuinely glad when I can help someone out. And even more glad, in these cases, because I have realized that FN doesn't have many (any?) close friends. Nobody she can call upon. And they have all been shaken up by their run of bad luck. I was glad to help and would have taken P in as much as needed. It's not any trouble, and neighbors need to help each other, right?

I was glad to help in those cases, but somehow this simple request to have P over to play with Laura this evening rubbed me the wrong way. On their anniversary, for Pete's sake. Maybe it also has to do with her communication style? I don't know, I am a mystery even to myself.

Now you're up to date on what's going on with the Frenemizer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hot Friday Night Action

Right. In the midst of our Friday evening, children asleep, ice cubes melting in drinks, everything cozy, Matt leapt to his feet as though jerked by a string. "My fantasy football draft is in ten minutes," he hollered. Then he ran from the room. Now I know how Jessica Simpson must feel.

So here I am, Reader. Before I go to bed, I offer you a few moments from my day.

1) Today I was driving the kids somewhere. In the backseat, Laura mused, "I wonder if I will ever love anyone as much as I love myself?" That made me smile, there in the driver's seat, though she couldn't see my face. I thought of several different things I wanted to say in response, like, "You know, I used to wonder the exact same thing," or "It makes me really happy that you feel such love for yourself." But I just went with, "I am pretty sure that you will." And she said, "That's hard."

2) Later, with Laura away at a friend's for a sleepover, Hank was slightly drunk on the undivided attention of both of his parents. He said, "Raise your hand if you want to do something awesome!" Matt and I shot our hands into the air. Hank just sat there looking at us. He had nothing. Little buddy's not so good with follow-up.

3) I mentally composed an open letter to TJ Maxx. It was this:

Dear TJ Maxx,

I wanted to let you know, about that Polish pottery you sell back there in the dishes, you know, this stuff?

Yes, it's lovely, yes, I have the little pitcher with the Christmas tree motif, I like it very much. But what I wanted to say is, you've been carrying this stuff in every TJ's I've ever been in for about 12 years now. Everyone who wanted this pottery has now purchased it, I promise you. Seriously. So if you could be an angel and either show us something new, or demote this to the bottom shelf, I wouldn't have to get down and put a knee on the floor to look at the Denby.

Your friend,

4) This morning I got confused for a minute and forgot that Jude Law and Chris Martin of Coldplay aren't the same person. Does this happen to you with celebrities? And I was thinking about how Jude Law has knocked up a girl from Pensacola, my hometown, and I was feeling sad about it on Gwyneth Paltrow's behalf. Then I remembered that she's married to a totally different person from Jude Law. So then I just felt kinda proud of Pensacola. I mean, who ever thought that one of us Panhandle girls would get impregnated by the likes of Jude Law? He's so sophisticated! I mean, now that we're on the map, who knows where this could lead? Maybe somebody from Okaloosa County could get groped by that Edward Cullen guy.

Obviously I need to go to bed now. We're home for the first weekend in a while. Hope y'all enjoy yours!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Redneck Water Park

Redneck Water Park

Normal Neighbor offered us their old swingset play structure thingie, and on Monday Matt, my dad, and a couple of stalwart dudes carted it over here and muscled it into the backyard. (They asked me to help with the carrying too, so I did, but I didn't really lift as hard as I truly could. Shhh!) It's not all put back together, but I was gone for an hour the other night, and while I was away Matt and the kids conceived of and built the whole slide/pool combo you see here.

It is a lovely addition to our backyard. Let me point out some of its appealing features: It's hard to tell from ths photo, but the end of the slide is propped up on an ice chest (filled with water) and a stack of boards from an old Ikea shelf. Usually the pool is filled with bobbing squirt guns and plastic containers, like there was a flood at the Dollar Store. The other, slightly downhill side of the pool is reinforced with two big plastic chairs and a few bags of playground sand. It is the most redneck thing possible.

Yesterday there were five kids playing on that thing. Mine was the kid wearing only his whitey tighties ('cause bathing suits seem awful fancy). So far there have been no injuries, and judging by the shrieking, good times are being had. I don't know what we'll do, though, when Mitch shows up to mow tomorrow. (Now Mitch, that's a whole other story.)

If you're in the neighborhood and want to slide, no need to stand on ceremony. Just come on 'round the back.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That Woman Is A Non-Stop Party

Last night was curriculum night at Laura's school. On curriculum night, parents go to the classrooms and hear what's on the learning agenda for the year. I think it's a good chance to get oriented to the teacher and her expectations, AND a major, important chance to meet and scope out the other parents. You know, chit chat, say things like, "Laura loves sitting next to Kennedy/Cooper/Addison/Carlyle!" (those are all girls, by the way), discuss playdates, and check out each other's handbags. The uniform for this event, if you are a woman, consists of:
  • cropped pants (everybody's wearing those cargo ones, the kind that never go near any actual cargo)
  • a floaty, fluttery top OR a t-shirt, if it's pink or turquoise
  • sandals
  • a pedicure
I am always slightly out-of-uniform because I wear jeans most of the time, whereas my fellow matrons only wear jeans in winter. I have the other pieces, though, which keeps me from getting a demerit. Anyway.

So we were sitting at our children's desks for this event, which required getting ourselves little chairs from a stack. Jan My Former Co-Room Mom's daughter sits in the same group of desks as Laura, so when she entered the room ten minutes late, I waved excitedly and pointed out her daughter's desk to her. I was thrilled to see her, because she always says or does something a little startling. The teacher was already talking, and everyone was actively listening to the intricacies of the first-quarter rubric for mathematics standards. Jan threads her way through the chairs and arrives at her desk. When she realizes there is no chair there, she points to a dad sitting at the next desk and says, at full volume, "I'll just sit on his lap," and she does a half-bend of her knees, as though she is about to come in for a landing. Everyone erupts in titters, the dad leaps to his feet to offer her his chair, she refuses, saying she can get her own, he insists, his wife smiles blandly, and we all get completely distracted from the pressing need to buy multiplication flashcards.

Everyone was seated again and the teacher went on with her program, and everything was fine except that she said, "If it's a test they had did badly on" instead of "had done," and I was pondering how big a deal this was, this grammar slip-up. On the subject of linguistics, in general, I am a liberal, but not when it comes to teachers. For them, I tend toward a jackbooted, strict prescriptionist model. I wondered if maybe she had been going for the simpler, "A test they did badly on," and got caught up in her tenses.

While I was working this out, she came to the end of her remarks, and we were invited to take our child's composition journal out and read it. Then we each wrote a little note for our child to find. I was engrossed in these activities, and only became aware of Jan again when she asked the teacher, "Will N get in trouble because I messed up her desk?" Ms. H came over by her and said, "What do you mean?" Jan said, "I messed it up, I totally trashed it as a joke. I spilled her pencil box and messed up her papers." I couldn't see, but Ms. H glanced into the desk and actually looked horrified. She said, "Oh, don't do that to that child!" My fellow parents were watching this scene in bemusement and dismay. Because they don't know what I know:

The woman is kooky.

I think that is the technical term.

And that's all I have for you today.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mountain Doings

The kids and I went up to mom and dad's mountain house in North Carolina for the weekend. They were about to go back down to Florida for a few weeks, so we wanted to get some more grandparent time up there. I was thinking that I often mention our going there, but I don't blog about it much. So I wanted to show y'all some of what we get up to in the mountains.

Goldfinch Taking in the View

Bird watching requires a major time investment. My dad is the Bird Whisperer. He has these bird feeders on two corners of the deck, and he's lashed branches to the deck rails to make a comfortable bird lounge. So lounge they do. And we lounge on the deck nearby, watching the birds, discussing their habits, and speculating about their inner lives. Usually when I arrive at the house and ask, "What's going on around here?" they answer with a species of bird. Like, "Indigo buntings!" or, this weekend, "Goldfinches!" So y'all don't need to worry about whether the birds of western NC are getting enough attention. It's covered.


Mountain Road

Jeep Ridin'

Then it's time to load up the kids and go riding around the mountain in the jeep. They love this, though usually the combination of the bouncing and the fresh air puts Hank to sleep by the end.

The closest towns are Sylva and Dillsboro. They are great little places, lively and charming, but not all fancy, and not very touristy.

Downtown Sylva, NC

Mom and Laura

Hank at the Court House

I've blogged about geocaching here before, when we went to the movie location by the river, but this time we found a couple of caches that were right in downtown Sylva.

Laura Geocaching

That is my child, down on the sidewalk looking under a bench for the cache. I don't think we attracted the attention of any Muggles, but I was taking this picture from far away so nobody would think I was with her.



She found the little tiny canister stuck to the underside of the bench. It had a paper sign-in log inside, rolled up into a tiny scroll. I have been amazed at how widespread geocaching apparently is. The caches are everywhere, even in little places like Sylva, NC.

And of course, no summer weekend in the mountains would be complete without the kids getting wet in a creek. We went to an old grist mill just inside the national park.

Mingus Mill

In the summer, the mill is running, and you can go inside and see millstone turning and grinding the corn. You can buy the flour and cornmeal too.


Malevolent Scheming

The picture just above was taken at the exact moment that Hank formed the intent to throw his sister's shoe into the millrace. It's the pink blur he's holding. See the little smile on his face? It came from within, as the mischief bubbled up inside of him. Proof of his natural badness. The next instant I said, "Don't you throw Laura's shoe in there!" And his face fell, like I'd told him there would be no more Christmas. Stinker.

So that's some of what's on the agenda in the mountains. A weekend there is never long enough. But all that mountain air must have wiped me out, because I confess that today I took two naps. That is one more than Hank took. I hope y'all are feeling somewhat more energetic than I, and that you had a weekend full of good things.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

But What Do You Think of My Lipcolor, Officer?

Well, that didn't work. Tuesday I had just dropped Laura off at Pretty Neighbor's house to play with her buddy. They live in another section of the neighborhood. Close enough to walk, really, but come on. It is 200 degrees out there, easy. And I am suffering from what I thought was the Hanta virus. (But then I went to the doctor and I guess it's just a sinus infection. Hmm.) So I was driving home, not particularly groomed. Jeans, t-shirt, hair semi-brushed, no makeup. Possibly a pimple, which I was blaming on the Hanta. I was wearing a bra, so that was one good decision.

I am about to turn into my home section, just two streets from my house. Like, I'm stopping at the final stop sign, careful to wait for the roll back because there is a sheriff's deputy behind me. Well darned if he doesn't turn on his blue lights. I pull over, and oh dear, I have a feeling I know what this is about. Yep, expired tag (I know, I KNOW, we're GETTING to it). The deputy guy is just as polite as he can be: "Do you know why I stopped you, ma'am?" This is the part where I totally threw Matt under the bus and played dumb--when Mr. Deputy said the tag was expired, I was all, "Well I do declare! I know so little of such things! I expect I need to check with my husband, just ever as soon as he returns from whoopin' the Yankees." Then I swished my hoop skirts around and held my fan up to my face, gazing demurely at him through long lashes. You know the move.

So the deputy asked to see my license, and I told him I didn't have it, as I was just taking my kid a couple of streets over and I didn't bring my purse. He was kind enough to use his pen to write my name and birthday on his hand so he could go back to his car and check me out. I waited, attempting an attitude of nonchalance. Waving to my neighbors as they drove by. Sweating, but not wanting to start the car so I could turn the air on, because I was afraid Ponch might think I was going to lam it. I wondered whether I was about to get in trouble, and how much. I thought that for having both an expired tag and no license on me, he might impound the car and make me walk the two blocks to my house. Then I looked down at the little console next to my seat. I saw a Lancome Juicy Tubes lip gloss in the color "Touched by Light", and I thought, "I'm saved!" I'd just slather some of that on, and my law-enforcement friend would be charmed by my easy summery glow. I just knew it was the perfect antidote to the whole unwashed, Hanta look I was rocking. And if anyone could get out of a ticket these days, I knew I would, because seriously, that is a gorgeous color.

But when he walked back up to the window, he was already writing out the ticket. Blast! I was puckering like mad, but all in vain. He seemed very sorry to tell me that my tag was indeed expired, and I nodded ruefully, like I couldn't believe my own foolishness. He did not, however, ticket me for not having my license with me, saying he "didn't wanna double up on me." I was wearing myself out trying to look penitent but still breezy and fetching. He could still have torn up the ticket, but no luck. The only thing I can think is that I wasn't enchanting enough?

I got home and told Matt, and he gloated that he'd gotten stopped for the same thing the other day (I know, I KNOW). And dude did NOT get a ticket. What the hecks? Is this male privilege in action? Matt said the guy said, "Be careful, because next time it might not be your local sheriff," or something. Anyway, I'm flummoxed. I can't believe that Lancome and my feminine wiles let me down.

Does anyone get out of traffic tickets anymore? Anyone besides Matt?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

He Says, She Says

Look at the rug (on the wall).

I held the catalog picture up to Matt and said, "What do you think?"

He said, "No."

I said, "Yes, oh yes."

He said, "That tattoo thing is not attractive. I don't want to feel like I'm looking at some Marine's deltoid all the time."

I said, "Deltoid? Making up words is not going to dissuade me."

Seriously, I think that is totally hot, but only as a wall-hanging, like they have it. The only place I really need something that big is in my dining room. And I don't think it would look as good hanging above my chair rail as it looks in their super-mod brick-walled space. Sigh. It's sad when you see something you love, but you just can't cram it into your life edgewise.

Now maybe as a headboard. . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Not Going to Do Any of That

Sisters, the time is upon us, the time of reckoning. If called to be a Room Mom, will you answer? 'Cause I ain't. (If you've arrived here by Googling "room mom," please click on my room mom tag and avail yourself of last year's room mom saga. Amongst all the minor drama, there are some good ideas.)

Remember Jan, my co-room mom from last year? I know she was a favorite with some of you. Well, guess whose child is in Laura's class again? So we don't have to say goodbye to Jan after all. A couple of weeks ago, when I got Laura's teacher assignment in the mail, I sent out an email to all the parents of last year's class to say, "Hey, let's all tell where our kids are going." Jan wrote to me to say that her daughter and Laura will be together this year, and to ask me if I was thinking of room momming again, and would I like to do it with her again, because we were such a good team. She said, "Plus, if I don't look busy, my hubby will make me go back to work!" Then she favored me with an emoticon.

I won't lie. I missed her over the summer. I missed her insecurity masked with brittle spunkiness; I missed her free-flowing, oversharing, email-epic confessions; I missed her way with a smiley face. I told her that I wasn't going to be a room mom again, but that I would back her candidacy.

So at open house, when Laura and I went in to meet the teacher, I only signed up for some minor duty--I think at some appointed hour I'm supposed to think happy thoughts about the class or something--but I remarked on Jan's name on the room mom list. To Mrs. H, the teacher, I said, "Oh, Jan is great! I was co-room mom with her last year. She does crafts!" And Mrs. H got a gleam in her eye and thanked me for that bit of information. Then I broke my own Rule for Ladies--Never Apologize, Never Explain--and said, "I need to take a break this year, I've got my hands full." Which is Southern-speak for anything from "This would interfere with my bunco" to "My husband is the governor of South Carolina and also we have bedbugs." So Mrs. H clucked and demurred like, "Honey, don't fuss yourself!"

So I got my absolution and we're cool. And Jan is in line to help pull off another year of wall-to-wall crafts, auction baskets, and melon kabobs. God bless us, everyone!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quick Chattanooga Getaway

We dashed up to Chattanooga on Saturday morning and spent the weekend at Betty's, Matt's mom's house. We lived in Chattanooga for several years after we got married, and I still think of it as one of our hometowns. While we were there we got to:

Catch up with old friends.

Matt and the Rogers Boys

Indulge a nostalgia attack.


Mess up the beds and not have to make them.


And go somewhere I'd never been. The Creative Discovery Museum has been open for years, but somehow I'd missed it. When we lived there, we didn't have kids, but now we've got a good excuse to go.

In the Main Hall

It's not as science-oriented, really, as other Explorium-type places I've been. Instead it was just room after room of really cool stuff to play with, on, and in. Learning, schmearning.

The River Play Area


And for Hank, one of the biggest attractions was this voice recorder station that, wait for it, makes you sound like a robot when you speak into the mic. I know, AWESOME!

Robot Voice

Hank was like, "Mother, am I to understand that, all my life, this wondrous device, this engine of delight, has been sitting here, a mere 100 miles from my house, lightly guarded by those teenagers at the ticket booth and those rent-a-cop security guards? This device that, with the touch of a button, maketh my voice to SOUND LIKE A ROBOT?"

Yes, little buddy. I'm sorry we didn't come sooner. After that, the giant Curious George exhibit was grrravy.

Curious George Exhibit

Doorman Hank

"Madam, I will assist you in any way I can."

May I Help You, Madam?

"But I must insist that you refrain from touching my uniform."

Don't Touch the Hat

Chattanooga is a great town. There is a ton to see and do there, especially if you have kids, and you like being outside. Oh, and if you enjoy stuff that's cool and awesome. You know, if you're that kind of person. Definitely make a weekend trip of it if you're within striking distance.

We also went to see Matt's brother in a play version of The Screwtape Letters, which was great, and went to see District 9, which was also great, though more filled with exploding aliens. And we ate a wonderful Sunday brunch that Betty prepared, a brunch that included vodka, and I managed to make off with a new Eileen Fisher top that she had, which I just happen to stumble upon in her closet, though I think she's coming down here to get it back. Still, a very nice weekend.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Toto, I've Got a Feeling We're Not in Gymboree Anymore

Weekend in Little Rock

This was Laura two years ago, in her first-day-of-school outfit for first grade. It is exactly how I think little girls should dress. I mean, impeccable, right? (Dress is Gymboree Bon Voyage, Summer 2007 and shoes are the Cherry Pie line, for the Gymboholics among us.) Oh, Gymboree had me on their Gymbuck treadmill big time. I confess I even used to be a regular reader of one--okay, two--Gymboree discussion forums. I know. I kind of can't believe it either: a Gymboree discussion forum. We had a long and happy run with Gymboree, workin' the sales to get it super cheap, wearing it, then passing it along or reselling it on eBay.

But in the last year, I've been hearing rumblings from Laura about wanting to shop at Justice, which is apparently the racier sister of Limited Too? Today I finally caved. I hadn't bought her any new school clothes, because I'd bought ahead so much in seasons past. (She still has clothes she's never worn.) So I told her we could go to Justice and she could pick an outfit, but that we would have to agree on it.

I had never darkened the door of the place. And when we walked in, my first thought was that it looked like an explosion in a hooker factory. Spangles, tickity-tack, flirty skirts, lace everywhere, and neon (very on-trend for Fall). Another mom I was chatting with there peeked into the dressing room where her two daughters were trying on the outfits they had picked, and she turned around to me and slowly mouthed, "STREETWALKER." I nodded in sympathy.

I mean no offense to anyone who loves Justice. There were cute things in there, it turned out. But the overall impression upon walking in was just. . .not that little red sailor dress. I had a few minutes of culture shock. Little girls definitely need a guiding hand in there, in my opinion. Laura, however, was in heaven.

Laura Loves her Outfit

This is what we came away with. She fell hard for the peace sign motif. Actually, there were a LOT of peace symbols in there. I think this upcoming generation must be very dedicated to non-violent resolution of world problems. And they love Snoopy too. So, cool. Laura also picked a pair of pink jeans in the same color, and another, more traditional floral tunic top (that was at my subtle prompting). So she can make a few outfits out of that.

And you know, now that I look at her in the clothes, this outfit is perfectly girlish and cute, not too grown-up at all. I think it just had to be taken out of the context of the store, which honestly, did not look like high-end retail, and isn't meant to be, I know. A nun's habit would have looked tarty in there. This lace-trimmed cami gave me pause at first, but she won't wear it to school without the jacket. And she loves herself so much in it. She danced out of the dressing room in this, and the other mom said, "Oh, you'll be buying that." Then that woman, who totally got it, suggested that I might "get another year out of" the Children's Place as a transition from Gymbo to Justice. She might be right. Also, there's Crazy8, the older sibling of Gymboree. So we'll find our new fashion mode for this next phase. Matt is a good barometer, and he just thought she looked cute, so we're fine.

But I look at that picture of her in the red sailor dress, and I remember that I thought she was such a big kid then. I guess because I had baby Hank. But she was a baby herself, practically. And now she's rocking canvas wedges. I bet there is no chance I'll ever get her back in one of those striped Hanna Andersson playdresses. So for the second time this week, I must now go to my room and cry forever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Which I Offer a Strong Opinion

Let me explain something.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Beginnings out the Wazoo

Get this: we went back to school yesterday. As in, August 10. I'll pause here to allow for expressions of outrage and sympathy. Isn't that early? It just seems crazy to me. Why can't we start after Labor Day like civilized people? Of course, we did get out before Memorial Day, but that was like ages ago and who even remembers that and WAH! But these girls seem happy enough.

Laura and her Buds

This brings me to a story that I think is very illustrative of Laura's outlook and of how sometimes you realize you're parenting the child you were instead of the child you have:

We moved here three years ago, the June before she was to start Kindergarten. Also, Hank was born that June, so there was a lot for her to adjust to. The week before school started, I sat her down and tried to prepare her in case she was feeling overwhelmed.

I said, “The first morning when you get to kindergarten, you might feel scared, or you might feel a little lonely because you don’t know anyone, but it’s okay. I just wanted to tell you that a lot of kids will probably feel that way. Maybe you’ll even feel like you just want to come home.”

Laura listened to me and then said, “Or maybe I’m going to love it.”

That shut me right up, and I said, "Yes! Maybe you're going to love it!" I had this whole list of worries in my head, but they weren't her worries.

This is how I've learned from being her mom. She just never seems to dread a bad outcome, or she doesn't let fear keep her from trying things. The first time she was going to try out for swim team, at barely six years old, I was trying to give her a way out, saying, "You know, if you want to wait 'til next year to try swim team, we can just go enroll in another swim class for this year instead." I was worried that by suggesting swim team to her, I had set her up to be disappointed or embarrassed if she wasn't ready. She just said, "Well, can't I just try out, and if they say I'm not good enough, I'll just take more lessons?" Oh, well I'm glad one of us is the mature one.

I realized that we have limits in our heads--limits to what we think we can do or be, and if we're not careful, we put those limits right on our kids. I'm not kidding when I say that this was a huge learning moment for me as a parent. Another learning moment: say no to Floam.

So I wasn't surprised after her Open House the other night to hear Laura say, "I think it's going to be another great year."


In Hank news, that little stinker can climb out of his bed now. (He still sleeps in his crib.) For the last several days, instead of hearing him call, "Mama, I'm AWAKE!" every morning, he just appears at my bedside and begins ordering breakfast. It's kind of nice, actually. It makes him seem like a big kid now.

And he takes himself to the toilet now, too. People, it is AWESOME. I feel like, "All those months and years of nurturing you, little bud, and now this, THIS, is success!" Just in time for him to start nursery school next month.

So I guess my work here is done. Excuse me, I have to go to my room now and cry forever.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eating the Pantry

A series of rash pronouncements have been made. The first came Friday night after I got home from a big grocery shopping trip. I was astounded at the food already crammed in our pantry and freezer. I said to Matt and the kids, "What if we just don't buy any more food in August? Like nothing except fresh milk and some produce? Let's see if we can eat what's here for three weeks." Matt was like, "Cool." It had the ring of a bold experiment to him. Laura said, "Is my life going to change in any way?" I said, "No, honey, it won't."

Then this morning, Matt took it upon himself to clean out and reorganize the pantry. I know. I walked right up to him in the kitchen and told him how hot he looked. When he was finished, he sought me out and said, "New rule: everything in the pantry must be visible. Nothing can be hiding behind anything else. I have to be able to see all the labels." I was like, now I'm totally Sleeping with the Enemy and I don't think I can swim that far. And he was all, huh? And I told him about the label thing in the movie and he was like, well maybe that guy wasn't all bad.

So I come out to the kitchen and there's a big array of boxes and pouches of food sitting out on the counter, not in the pantry at all, and I'm like, "What's this?" And Matt says that stuff won't fit into the pantry under the New World Order, and that we have to eat it. Not eat the exact stuff on the counter, not before everything else, but we have to eat some combination of the stuff on the counter and the stuff inside the pantry before we can put anymore in there. If we're eating the pantry, he said, this is how we do it.

Rewind: Last night I had pan-fried a couple of steaks. And they were not very satisfactory. I dunno why. I can grill my way around a steak, and I like them cooked on the stove too. But I didn't have the heavy cream and wine to go the whole steak au poivre route, so I improvised a little, and they wound up tasting kind of minute-steaky. Also maybe because they weren't the cut we usually get. But whatever, we had a lot of steak left over and neither of us was excited about it.

So come evening he says, "How do you feel about this steak?" and I was like, what can we do with it that will totally disguise its unlovely flavor? And we briefly discussed stroganoff, but I realized that that sounded gross too. He seized two packets from the Countertop Gallery of Extra Food, and said, "Let's make these instant mashed potatoes and cover the steak with it." And I was like, "What are those and who bought them?" We wound up making a kind of shepherd's pie affair with the steak cut into tiny pieces, frozen peas, shredded cheese, lots of pepper, and a can of cream of mushroom soup (the foundation of Southern cooking as I have learned it), all topped with the mashed potatoes and baked. It was definitely edible. We agreed that it reminded us of when you're a kid and you mix everything on your plate into one big pile. No doubt I will have a contract for a cookbook soon, so look for that.

As we ate, Matt commented that this was way better than the night two weeks from now when we have to eat the box of instant pad thai. Sweet Lord. Seriously, isn't it like there are food items in your house and you have no idea where they came from?

Eating the Pantry continued at nighttime cocktail hour, when Matt suggested we take drinks up to our bedroom while we put away laundry. I know. He looks hotter by the minute. So I said, "But we're out of vodka." Only I kind of wailed it. No matter, we googled the ingredients on hand, and discovered that indeed, tequila, orange juice, and grenadine make a Tequila Sunrise. I've never had one of these before, and sassy molassey, it's good. Tastes like the polícia will be showing up soon.

So that's what's on the menu here. I'll let you know how we go.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meet My Next Victim

Ikea Yucca

I am sorry, twenty-dollar Ikea yucca plant.

Ikea Yucca

You drew the short straw. Good luck to you, sir.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ask Suburban Matron: Guest Room "Relations"

Okay y'all, this one has me questioning everything that I understand about hospitality. A dear reader writes:
Dear Ms. Matron, here's a question that's been bugging me as we make our summer rounds of visiting family. I read in some magazine at the nail salon, maybe it was Redbook, that two-thirds of people think that it's NOT OKAY for their overnight houseguests to have, um, s-e-x while staying with them, like not even in the guestroom. The people they interviewed who were against it said things like, "I don't want to think about that going on in there," or just "It's rude. Gross!" And even more people said they never did it while staying at someone else's house, especially if they were staying with family. Without getting too personal, let me just say that this rule had not occurred to me! What do you think???

Mrs. Newlywed

Congratulations on your nuptials, Newlywed! And let me add that this is the reason that I always reach for Us Weekly or People at the nail salon. They're not likely to lay weird booby traps of etiquette-guilt. Because I'll say right up front that my first response to this was, speaking as a hostess, I don't care what people are up to in my guest room, as long as it doesn't set fire to the house. Opening your house to guests does not come with the power to regulate their intimate behaviors. And speaking as a guest, I think the guest room is a private space, as long as we're not creating a disturbance. If the mister and I have ever stayed at your house, just put your hands over your computer screen right now, but it certainly never entered my mind that business time, behind closed doors, could be bad guest behavior. That said, an overnight stay at someone's house is not the night I would choose to debut, like, my circus trainer/trapeze artist roleplaying fantasy. If such a thing were in my mind.

So have I missed something in the rulebook of hospitality? What do y'all think? If you feel inhibited from pursuing your amorous interests when staying at someone else's house, what does that feeling stem from? And if you would prefer that your guests don't get busy, tell us why. Did you have a really bad experience with guests that left you filing a claim on your homeowners' insurance? We are all ears.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Waterfall in Vanuatu

If you are needing a vacation from the photos of my vacation, you might want to skip this post. I understand, I do.

While Matt and I were staying in Port Vila, Vanuatu, one day we went to the Mele-Maat Cascades. We didn't know what to expect, but I thought it might be something like this.

Which is what I'd promised you guys. I swear that Matt did purchase that shirt (I'm sure you'll be seeing it.)

But it was so much better than that. A guide showed us the way to walk through a beautiful jungle, up to the falls. We saw wild ginger.

Wild Ginger in Vanuatu

And breadfruit.
Breadfruit in Vanuatu

You could never go hungry in this place, as long as you like breadfruit. It is everywhere. Combine it with coconut, and wonderful things happen. Our guide said that the falls are owned by his village, the Mele people. We asked how many people lived there, and he said over four thousand. We were like, "Whoa, we wouldn't call that a village, we'd call that a town." He said that they're one village because they have their own chief and their own dialect, so that makes them a village. According to him, only the capital qualifies as a "town," and a city is somewhere like Sydney.

At Mele-Maat Cascades

On the Way to the Top

I took this along the trail up to the falls. I swear, the place really looks like this, like part of a ride at Disney World. Every place we went kind of messed with my mind this way. Matt and I were discussing the way that, when you've spent your whole life seeing copies of a place--like every restaurant, theme park, or Disney tableau that is trying to look like the South Pacific--when you actually go to the real place, you can't believe it really looks like that, that you're really there. And it reminds you of every copy you've ever seen. But about one thousand times better.

Base of the Falls
At the base of the falls, there were ropes you could hold onto to climb up to the splash pools. When we got to this point, we were giddy, like kids. To get to be in that scenery, and to swim in the water and look up at the falls, which were so different from any falls I've ever seen, was totally magical. One of the best things I've ever done, or seen, or experienced on any trip.

Mele-Maat Cascades

See the creepy face in the cliff? And here we are, not quite the so, so romantique picnic couple, but having a blast.

Matt and Me

The water felt wonderful. I didn't bring my camera up this far, but some cheeful Australians snapped this of us with their waterproof camera. Pretty much anywhere you go in that part of the world, there are some cheerful Australians right close by. Just look around when you need them. These particular cheerful Aussies actually followed through and emailed us the pics they took of us after they got home to Wagga Wagga. (Or I think it was Wagga Wagga.) Nice folks.

This has been another postcard from Vanuatu. If you haven't already, and you get a chance to go swim in a waterfall, any waterfall anywhere, please do so at your earliest convenience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Snipes on a Plane

Last night I boarded my flight in LA to come back home from my weekend trip. As I inched back towards my seat in 999A, I saw that another lady was already seated in the row. My seat was the window, and she was in the aisle seat, so I did that semi-apologetic gesture that you do that means, "I need to get in there, please." It has a smile and a nose-crinkle accompanying it--you know the one. I think I also said, "That's me," while I pointed to my seat.

She moved her knees ever so slightly to the side. I waited, thinking she was just going to take a moment to compose herself before she pulled up out of the seat. A second passed. She said, "Ma'am, ma'am, come on!" Like I was the slowest person on earth.

I said, "Oh, I thought you were going to stand up."

And she said, "I don't have time for that." ("I don't have time for that." She didn't have time for that, y'all.)

"O-kay," I chirped brightly, as I climbed over her.

Guess who got a good faceful of my new Gap Long and Leans?

Isn't it amazing when sometimes you really feel the love that surrounds you?

Then a hipster guy got in the middle seat, serving as a buffer. Then I, the hipster, and that total bitch flew away from the setting sun, three children of the universe, each carrying our own dreams, fears, and wishes into the purple night. Also we watched Star Trek.


Matt met me at the airport at midnight. The kids are down in Pensacola with mom and dad, so it felt like the old days. We came home to a big empty house. We're looking forward to a few days of good work time, and to getting to go out at night without a babysitter. And night is the only time I'll be stepping out of the house, because it is hot as blazes. Hope y'all are well and that you're feeling the love.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hey Neighbor, We Can See Your Baby

This is totally freaky.  I am in Los Angeles, having arrived today to spend the weekend visiting my friend Erika and slurping on her new baby.  He is five months old and nearly edible in his cuteness.  Erika has a newfangled baby monitor with video.  I swear, even three years ago, when Hank was born, these weren't common, I don't think.  The little night vision camera is trained on the baby's crib, and when she puts him down to sleep, we thrill to his every movement and snurgle.  The night vision makes his crib mattress and jammies look white, and the whole visual reminds me of those ghosthunter shows on cable where people run around a house in the dark, and everything looks sort of scary even though it is basically normal.  

My friend tipped me off to the fact that if we switch channels on the video receiver, we can see into the crib of a baby girl two houses down.  This is so strange, and funny, and cute, and potentially creepy to me.  Her name is Lily, and she is about the same age as the baby of the house here.  My friend has met the parents (they are new in the neighborhood), but hasn't talked to them since she discovered the Lily channel.  What makes it so uncanny is that the two crib scenes are nearly identical. In fact, you can really only tell the two shots apart by the camera position. Erika's baby favors more close-up shots, and Lily has a slightly wider angle. But Lily's bedding looks white too, as do her jammies, and the babies don't look all that different by night vision.  When Erika discovered this, she thought she was seeing her own baby, but that the camera had been knocked askew.  

I have heard of people picking up other children and other broadcasts on their audio baby monitors, but somehow the addition of the picture is a whole 'nother thing.  Strange, right?  It's such an intimate scene from a stranger's house, but it's not really individual or unique, exactly, because both baby channels show pretty much the same programming.  At around 7:30, when Erika had just put her baby down to bed, we said, "Let's see if Lily is in bed." So we flipped over to her channel, and she was crying. We were like, "Oh no! Lily's upset! What's going on? Are they sleep-training with the cry-it-out method?"  Erika's husband, a more ethically-sensitive soul, said, "Don't spy on Lily." Erika said, "But it's out of love!"  Fortunately, some disembodied hands had just reached into Lily's bed to pat her and pick her up, so we felt relieved as we switched off the video.  All was quiet on the baby boy channel, and we went about our business.

A few minutes later, I said, "I have to check on Lily." I turned on the monitor, and she was in her crib crying again. Poor Lily! And poor parents of Lily! Again, thankfully for us spectators, the hands reached into the frame and picked the baby up, along with her blanket. After Erika and I switched off the video, we mused, "What sleep training method is this? In CIO (cry it out), do you actually pick up the baby or just go in and pat her? Maybe they're freestyling it? Is this Ferber? Weissbluth? Pantley? WE NEED TO KNOW."  We wanted to take a bottle of wine over to their house, but that might have been weird. Probably, definitely, would have been weird. 
This situation just captures the imagination, you know?  Now it is late at night, and both baby channels are quiet, thank goodness.  This could be the future of reality television, though, because it is oddly riveting.