Saturday, October 31, 2009

The 30 Day Shred, Day Two: Oh My Heck, Y'all

Whew! Jillian, my new personal trainer on the 30 Day Shred DVD, says that pain is just fear leaving your body. Reader, there is a lot of fear leaving my body today. I did the workout for the second time last night. And I swear to the lord, I can already see a little bit more definition in my upper abs. Understand that noticing this is like peering down into a koi pond and glimpsing a darting fish. It's down below the surface, but it's there.

After I mentioned this workout the other day, my friend Jane posted about it. Jane has been shredding for 30 days, and she's gotten great results, AND she really nails the tone of this DVD, so go check it out. As she says, the workout is led by Jillian, with her "two best girls" backing her up. One, the goddess-like Natalie, is doing the advanced form of each exercise, and Anita, who is a hyperalloy combat chassis made in the fires of Skynet, does the "modified" version. I can only do push-ups the girl way, so I stick with Anita most of the time.

Jane says she finds Jillian's patter to be "shockingly demotivating." It's true that Jillian is always saying things like, "I know you wanna quit on me," or "I know you just wanna turn off this DVD and sink back into your own filth." I think it depends on your style of working out, though. I don't mind hearing that, because it makes me think, "Okay, so it's normal to want to die right now." To me, it is sort of encouraging.

One lesson learned: don't wait until after midnight to work out, because you will be up until four in the morning. Last night I lay down in Hank's room for a few minutes while he was going to sleep. We have an extra bed in there. So I fell asleep, and woke up at 11. Then I talked to my buddy Erika about these conference proposals we were working on, for like an hour, then I dragged myself into Matt's office. I said, "Oh my god I still need to shred! Wah!" I threw myself down on the carpet. And he said, "I'm going to tell you a truth. There are people who are doing the 30 Day Shred, and there are people who are not. You need to decide which of those you are, and be that." Then he smiled with satisfaction at his nugget of wisdom. So I went upstairs and put on my sneakers.

Afterward I was so filled with energy, I was like, "Let's play some Rock Band! Woohoo! I wanna ROCK." So we did, and it got really late. Then Matt agreed to get up with the kids this morning. So everything worked out swell.

I do recommend this workout. Right now my quads (I have "quads" y'all, which are like muscle thingies in my legs), and my stomach muscles are pretty sore. But I'm going to take some ibuprofen so I don't feel all the fear on its way out. I still have to escort the kids around trick-or-treating, and Normal Neighbor has promised to supply beer for us to drink while we do that. It will be classy! Her beer is in cans, but she has these little koozie things with grosgrain ribbons tied around them. Adorable.

Y'all have fun tonight!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not Really Batting A Thousand: Updated

Hank woke up coughing about 5:00 this morning. I should say that Matt is much better at hearing the kids in the night than I am. I was actually awakened by Matt's pounding footsteps as he rounded the end of the bed. Now that I don't have a nursing baby, I just don't wake as easily. Anyway, he'd had a low fever a couple days ago, followed by sniffles, so I wasn't that surprised when the cough arrived. Somehow, when Hank has a cough, it always sounds terrible. Not like true croup--if you've heard that panic-inducing barking sound you never forget it--but a very harsh cough. Strange. Laura had a raspy throat late last week, so I think this is the second act of some virus. We calmed him down and had him in our bed for a while, then somehow he and I both wound up back in his room, where we slept in 'til 9.

What I did not do was show up in Laura's classroom at 9:20 to help with reading groups, as I was expected to do, and as I've been doing on alternate Thursdays. There's the problem right there, maybe? Doing something on alternate weeks is harder to remember. Not that I realized I was forgetting, because I was busy with the forgetting. And Matt certainly didn't remember because I don't tell him scheduling things until they're about to happen. Anyhoo. So Hank didn't have school this morning, and he and I stayed inside and kept it chill.

About 12:15 there was a knock on the door, and I thought, "Well whoever could that be?" Oh, it was Laura, my child, walking herself home from the bus stop. For my next trick, I had forgotten that it was a half day of school. Despite the fact that the day before was a half day. And also Friday. (Note to self: Friday is a half day.) There are two other moms walking our way from the bus stop, so it's not like she was alone, and these ain't exactly the mean streets, but still, this is not normal Beck behavior. The first words out of Laura's mouth were, "You were supposed to come to my class today." Then she said, "But because we couldn't do reading groups, I got to go to the media center and work on my story. I find I can focus much better there." Those were her exact words. "Media center" indeed. I said, "Wait, I didn't show up and so you didn't have reading groups at all?" Apparently not. So in some small way, I managed to hinder the education of children today, the education of eighteen children, when usually I just have my two to stunt and obstruct. Efficient!

Then some other stuff happened and I agreed to let Hank take a nap on my bed, instead of in his room, and he wanted me to lie down with him, so I did, and instead of sleeping AT ALL he just talked to me in this adorable croaky voice. A sample: "Mom, are you scared of me because I sound kind of like a monster?" Not too scared, I said. He went further: "Monsters don't brush their teeth." I admitted that that was kind of scary. "What do they do?" I asked. He expanded, "They don't play with toys either, they just walk around outside. And go to monster playgrounds." "Ah," I said. "Do you want to walk up to the playground later?" He said, "Yes, and I'm ready to wake up now."

As we were walking up out of the cul-de-sac, Laura on her bike and the dog on her leash, Conspiracy Guy's little girls rocketed out of their house to see where we were going. I told them the playground, and they ran back into the house. A second later, they were back saying their dad said they could go with us. Of course they could. Was someone else parenting? Then they are always allowed to go where that is happening. Not to bitch out here. They are good company for Hank, so off we went. Gorgeous blue sky, crunchy leaves, perfect temperature. Then after they played, I let them run all over the tennis courts while I chatted on the phone with my friend. I am pretty sure that their tromping around wasn't an approved activity for the courts, but whatever. I kept them off the nets. And then I got us all home in one piece.

And now this has turned into a narrative of my day. Did you sign on for an itinerary post? So then Matt got home from playing basketball, and he took over putting the kids to bed, and I went and bought a copy of that 30 Day Shred DVD. Then I put on my tennis shoes (I hate wearing tennis shoes and the ones I have are ten years old, I'm not even kidding.) Then I shredded. 29 days to go. There is a weird feeling in my stomach, I think it is my abdominal muscles packing to leave.

Then I mentioned several times that I had just worked out, though I had to talk kind of loud to be heard over Matt popping popcorn. Then we watched 30 Rock.

So I kind of forgot some important things, and I didn't accomplish a whole lot besides, but it was not a bad day as they go. I'm hoping Hank is well enough to go to school in the morning, because it's their costume parade day, and I told him he could wear the Boba Fett mask with his knight costume. Anyway, I hope you're all stretchin' and survivin' out there.

Updated to add, in response to questions: The 30 Day Shred consists of one 20 minute workout every day. During that 20 minutes, you're moving the whole time, going through cycles of strength, cardio, and abs. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about this as I shred more. I don't know what "shred" means in this context. Perhaps "shredded" is like "ripped," which is what I think the kids are saying to mean "having well-defined musculature." I dunno.

Also, Hank officially has croup. He sounded so bad this morning that I didn't send him to school in his costume (sad trombone), but instead took him to the doctor. She said his lungs are perfectly clear but yes, that cough is croup. She didn't tell me to go home and calm the frack down or anything. She's good that way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's a Lot of Look

Laura's Costume, Round 1

Here is Laura on her way to a party a little while ago. Her original intent for this pink tunic thing was that she would be a ninja, but she didn't care so much for the little daggers, as she deemed them not quite as fabulous as a long blonde wig and a parasol. So I am not eager to use the word "geisha" in describing my 8 year-old daughter's costume, but I think that's what she's achieved here. She says she wants to get a black wig before Saturday night, so that will eliminate the confusing Hannah Montana element and perhaps lend greater thematic coherence.

Let's go back in time, shall we? All the way to 2006.

Ballerina/Fairy? or Fairy/Ballerina?

I loved that costume. Every bit of it was Gymboree, which as I've lamented, is not the thing anymore. But I must say, I do really enjoy seeing what she comes up with.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Someone Else's Family Portrait

Here we all are at Matt's brother Chris's wedding last week. Click to embiggen. That's Robin, the bride, looking gorgeous in the center there. When she walked down the aisle, I thought, "Regal." This is the entire family on Matt's mother's side: Matt's mom, her two brothers and their wives, children, and grandchildren. The only person missing is Matt's granddad, who is 93 and eagerly awaiting a copy of this picture.

I am amazed that the photographer got us all looking more or less in the right direction at the same time. (And that she got us to put down our wine.) Those of us near the ends got a little fish-eyed by the lens, but not too bad. One of our friends saw this on flickr, and said, "If this were Project Runway, Laura's designer would win." I laughed. She does stand out, doesn't she? Hank and Rosalind (the little girl in red, sleeping) both conked out during the ceremony. Hank moved over to my lap during the vows and fell asleep in my arms, totally missing the kiss, and my favorite part, Chris's sweet promises to Robin's little girls. It didn't even wake him up when tears spurted out of my eyes. Remember how Olive Oyl cries in Popeye? I looked like that. Then, it was crazy how neither of those three year-olds could be awakened. They were like floppy newborns. Hank just barely opened his eyes for this shot.

When I saw this picture, I thought about how every time someone shows me a big group portrait, it seems like it comes with a story of what everyone was doing right before the picture was taken and the exact state everyone was in--drunk, teary, ecstatic, dress hem held up with tape, whatever. I like hearing that stuff.

Here's the happy mother-of-the-groom and the boys.

Those ties (and Robin's dress) are J. Crew. Love 'em. Hurray for weddings, group pictures, and men in matching neckties!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm Not Exactly Sure That's True

The two little daughters of Conspiracy Guy just appeared at my door to play with Hank. They stepped into the house, and took one look around at my black feather wreath and paper Halloween garland that Laura and I put up on Saturday night. Also my big jack o' lantern candle and Hank's little witch bears that he carefully placed on the table in the foyer. The older girl said, "Halloween celebrates dead people." Sigh.

She went on, "We're going to have lots of decorations, but they're going to be happy decorations." Okay. Hank was standing there like, "I don't know if you noticed that this bear is dressed like a witch, yet it remains a bear at the same time, and what could make me happier than that?" I said, "Well that sounds fun. So are you going to a party at your church instead of trick-or-treating?" That's a popular choice around here, so I figured that there was a "fall festival" in their future. Laura is going to one with Frenemy's daughter. But she said, "Oh, we're going to trick-or-treat, but we're not having Halloween decorations." Okay. Seem a little wishy-washy to you?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not So Blah

I have been feeling kinda blah today, I don't know why. Possibly because I took a nap when Hank did, and that doesn't always work for me. However, the rest of the world seems to be doing its darndest to be awesome as usual.

Suburban Sunset


We walked up to the top of our hill to look at the sky tonight. Matt pronounced it a "6" on the cul-de-sac sunset scale, and I guess I have seen much nicer ones, but a 6 is perfectly respectable. Also, there is this tree. I seem to post a picture of it every year.


I raved about it in last year's post, so I'll just say, rock on maple. You get up every morning and represent, and for that, I salute you.

Did y'all have a good weekend? Matt and I went to a costume party on Friday night, hosted by Pretty Neighbor. My pictures did not turn out (PN, do you have one?), but if you take the Matt half of this pic from last year:

Grown-Up Costumes

And add me wearing this get-up:

Heading to the Burlesque Party

Then you've got the scene. Unlike last year, when we were Seafaring Criminals, we didn't match at all, and just about every other couple there did. Princess Leia and Han, Spider Man and Wonder Woman (were they an item in the comics?), Sexy Nun and Lecherous Priest, the Balloon Boy parents (really), another sexy nun/priest pair, Elvis and Priscilla, etc. We love dressing up, and it was really fun. There was wine, and loud music, and a karaoke machine, even though the tipsy, melancholy Spiderman would not relinquish the microphone.

I'm also in the running for the Most Slackerish Guest award for the snacks I brought to the party. Pretty Neighbor asked if I could bring an appetizer, nothing fancy, and I said sure. I had grand plans to make this shrimp thing from a Weight Watchers recipe. That didn't happen, but everybody loves mozzarella cheese sticks, right? And they were 2 for $5 at Publix. I'm keeping it classy. I put them out on the table, and when I came back, they were almost all gone. Then, get this, someone else brought in a batch. And there were pigs-in-blankets. Yes!

There was some kind of drama unfolding on the porch as we were leaving, but we had to get our babysitter home by midnight. I'm hoping to get filled in on the deets by Pretty Neighbor. We were invited to another party Saturday night, but we decided that pizza, a pitcher of cosmos, and Beatles Rock Band sounded like a good idea instead. I guess this means we are old.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In the Mountains

Fall in NC

Hank and I took a 24-hour trip up to the mountain house this past week. My aunt Maggie was there, and I never get to see her. She, my mom, and I stayed up late, late, late talking about ancient family history. Like all the way back to the 1970's. Then, since the house was full, I slept in the same bed as Hank, and he poked his toes all up and down my ribs exactly like he did before he was born.

That picture up there is my view from the couch in the sunroom. I am pioneering a photo technique I call "lazy perspective." What views can I capture without leaving my seat? These right here.


Hank at the Mountain House

Mom's Purple Glass

So much more restful than running around, kneeling and such. I highly recommend it.

I was counting on lots of fall color up there, and it did not disappoint, though Dad said he thought the trees were a little past their peak. I don't know, there was still a lot of green. And it looked pretty good to me. According to the fall foliage map at, it was peaking right then. I am beginning to wonder if this whole peak leaf color time thing is like the four-hour tantric orgasm. Possibly unattainable, and everyone experiences it differently, so just enjoy the peak you're having.

October from the Deck

Fall Color at the Mountain House

Mum's the Word


There's my cousin Patrick and his girlfriend Jessica. They built the fire and kept Hank from falling into it. Hank ate two "smushmellows" and got them on every surface of his body. That was a good time. I had two s'mores. I find that one is not enough, don't you?

I do love it up there, and sometimes with a super-short visit, the fun is more concentrated.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Summary Judgments

I have opinions to share.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: I'm only half-way through this book, but I love it. Love. It's a detective story, the plot unfolds in both the past and present, and it's set in Sweden. These are a few of my favorite things.

I saw Zombieland: Funny, but no Shaun of the Dead.

The new season of "30 Rock:" Thank God it's back. "It's tennis night in America!" And Will Arnett is a scene-stealer.

The new Mika album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much: I think he's a genius and I love several songs on this. I don't know why Mika is not bigger in the US. My sister says he is huge in Oz. Maybe this record will really do it for him here.

Those Dr. Scholl's gel inserts for high-heeled shoes: They don't really work.

The Errol Morris multi-part article series, "The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock," that's running in the New York Times right now: Fascinating. I think part 5 of 7 is running today. The stuff about how Walker Evans staged some of the photos in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, or more particularly, the methods of scholarship and analysis on display here, are impressive. Errol Morris is the guy who made all those great documentaries, like Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. This series really sucked me in, a must-read.

The new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol: One of the dopier things I have ever read.

Honeycrisp apples: Are the best apples.

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood: I just started this (I'm not monogamous when it comes to books). I don't know why I'm reading this, since it concerns the death of a child and this is total self-torment. But it is making me want to get back into knitting. "Back into" meaning that I think the world needs to see more things like those two potholders I made that time.

Glamour Magazine: When Domino died, my subscription got converted to Glamour. It is terrible and I don't like to leave it lying around. Its whole depressing vision of femininity and of male-female relations is not something I want to inculcate in my daughter. I am just not the Glamour demographic anymore.

That new online magazine by the Domino people, Lonny: Have you seen this? Very appealing and fun to look at. Also I squee'd because in the photo spread of Eddie Ross's house in the premiere issue, I saw that he has spray-painted white the exact tacky, plastic, Federal-style mirror that I did. He totally copied that from me! RIGHT?

Wine: I've always been more of a cocktail person, but I'm beginning to reconsider.

Beer: Still a highly situational beverage for me. This past weekend, I found myself about to drink a beer out of a can in public. I could hear my father's voice in my head, telling me that he didn't like to see a lady drinking beer from a can. Not ladylike. Then Matt appeared at my side with a plastic cup for me to pour it into. We are one flesh.

"Mad Men:" Oh sweet jeebus, you ARE watching this, aren't you?

Ah, that was very cleansing. I recommend that you think about doing a blog post just airing your feelings about the things you're reading, eating, and viewing. I for one would like to know. Share!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Well, I've once again fallen far short of my goal of waiting until November 1 to turn on the heat. I wonder why I think that's a reasonable goal? Probably for the same reason that Cool Hand Luke thought he could eat fifty eggs. It just seemed like a nice round number.

The temp must have dropped a lot while we were gone this past weekend. We dragged ourselves into the house on Monday night and it was 55 degrees inside. So on came the heat, during the night anyway. And now it's Ugg mornings and cardigans. But I am so stingy, the thermostat is set on 65. Where do you put yours?

I'm about to head up to the mountain house with Hank for tonight and tomorrow.  There are some extended family peeps up there I want to see.  I need to leave Laura here for school.  And I guess that, like the dictator of some shitpot totalitarian regime, I don't like to spend more than one night in the same place.  Cheers, y'all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some Whatever-Happened To's

Lawsee me! I am behind on some wedding posts, having now attended two out-of-town nuptials these past two weekends. I want to thank my sister for such awesome guest posting, and for not wrecking the place. Also, her post is proof that the suspension I received in high school really is on my permanent record. When I think of that now, I remember that the day I spent at home, in disgrace, besides being my 16th birthday, was the day I found out I was a National Merit finalist. It took the sting out. I skipped Chemistry to pull off that caper, and it was the beginning and end of my life of crime. But alright, so only actual seniors are supposed to be in the senior picture. I see that now, Society.

Wedding-y travel posts are forthcoming, but I wanted to duck in and offer a few updates on matters that may be of interest.

1) My relationship with my housecleaner Fabienne: it's an alternate Tuesday once again, so Fabienne came today, even though I didn't know she was coming until she appeared at the door. We got back from Boston really late last night, so I neither remembered that it was her day, nor straightened in preparation. Anyway, she broke my Red Wing console bowl today. She was vacuuming and she knocked a little table over. You can see the bowl behind Laura in this picture.

Laura Loves her Outfit

She came upstairs and found me to tell me the bad news, but the funny thing is, I had just heard the noise, and I knew exactly what it was. So I had a moment to process this fact, grieve, and compose myself before she poked her head in the doorway. She offered to pay for me to replace it, or to look on ebay for one herself, but I couldn't see making a thing out of it. Accidents happen.

And anyway, how do you put a replacement value on something that you found, and liked, but which isn't rare or precious? The bowl was from around 1955, and designed by Charles Murphy, who did a lot of Red Wing. RW was mass-produced; there's a brown one like this on ebay right now that would cost only $30 shipped. So it's not a monetary loss, really. I just liked this happy green color. I told Fabienne, "Don't even worry about it. Not a big deal. It will give me a reason to hunt for something else." Mild bummer, but I must admit that the Machiavellian in me thought, "Not making a big deal out of this will pay much higher dividends than the cost of that bowl. She may even feel indebted to me. She'll be more careful and will think of me as magnanimous, without my having actually been magnanimous." Wheels within wheels, people. That's my jam.

2) My pumpkin-stained table: I emailed Crate & Barrel about it, and they contacted someone at corporate, who said, "Yep, you're gonna want to sand that down and rewax it." I presume I need to sand the whole table top, so the finish will look uniform. I haven't decided yet whether I could do that myself or if I should go pro.

3) My Frenemy and Me: This isn't closing an open loop, but it made me laugh. Yesterday, as we were traveling home, Frenemy emailed me and said,
"I have a friend who has about a hundred pairs of brand new women's shoes he wants to sell. Would you be willing to help him sell them on ebay? He just moved back to town and is a good friend of mine."
I couldn't decide whether to go with, "I would rather take a beating" as a response, or the simpler, "Oh, HELL no." She knows that in the past, I've sold stuff online. So I just thanked her for thinking of me and told her that no, I couldn't take that on right now. But I'm thinking, who is this guy who just moved to town with a hundred pairs of new women's shoes? And what is his history with Frenemy? And is there anything about that proposal that could be less appealing?

I may submit this post to Keely's Random Tuesday Thoughts, as it is somewhat lacking in a strong narrative thread. But that's what I've got going on today. Just trying to get back in the groove. Here's some love from me to you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We've Replaced This Blog With Folger's Crystals...Let's See if Anyone Notices.

Hi, loyal SubMat readers! It is I, Amy, sister of Becky. I'm guest posting here today, cause Becky and her crew are in Boston for Matt's brother's wedding. She emailed me and was like, Yeah. I'm gonna need you to blog for me. Cause I'll be off being fabulous with my exciting life and all my travels and you'll be home in your pajamas. She may have said it differently, but whatever. Who can resist that heartfelt plea? So here I am. I don't mind keeping an eye on her place so much, cause she has better snacks and an XBox. And she's only 2 miles from Super Target, whereas I live about, oh, 8,000 miles away from one. No, really.

So then I got to thinking of what I could write about that is truly Beck-worthy. Which made me think about writing and saying memorable things. And then that got me thinking (sorry, a bit stream-of-consciousness here) about phrases or sayings that become part of our vernacular. Whether in the context of your own family, or the culture at-large.

One of the privileges of being a mom is coming up with those little jewels, those sayings that make your children roll their eyes and grumble under their breath. Our own mother was a master at this and Becky and I have been inspired to carry on the tradition with our own kids. Beck and I have always said that one day we will write a tell-all book about our growing-up life. We'll talk about our spur of the moment road trip to Graceland, and about the time that as a junior, Becky got suspended for sneaking into the Senior Class Picture. We'll really play up the time we lost a bet during Trivial Pursuit with our dad. And how the agreed-upon consequence was him walking us into the backyard on a freezing night and plunging our arms into our icy pool. There's nothing like a father's love. Especially when it can lead to hypothermia. That's all goin' in the book.

And for the title and chapter headings, we'll choose from our mom's rich variety of signature sayings. We've narrowed it down to two for the title. It'll be either If You're Bored You Can Sweep the Driveway, or You're Thirsty Because You're Talking Too Much. Let's pause and admire those for a moment. Mom, you're a true craftswoman.

I don't play at that level yet. But I find that I am already able to annoy or embarrass my children. The other day as we walked through the mall, my 5 year old Ava asked for ice cream. For various sensible, mom-ish reasons, I told her no. She said, "Tell me why." Which made me think of that Backstreet Boys song.
Remember the one? Instead of "I want it that way", I sang, "Because I said sooo." Then, as you do, I made her sing the chorus' "Tell me why?" several times while I amused myself by making up a song. And because I want to share my gift with the world, here it is:

Tell me why?
I am the mom here
Tell me why?
Let's get tha-at fact clear
Tell me why?
Ice cream is a no-go-oh-oh
Beee-cause I said so.

I am pleased to say that I achieved near-pubescent levels of eye-rollage in my daughter. But I know I've got some growing to do. Life is a journey, after all. So, please. Share with us your go-to phrases, your best stuff. Or even what your mom used with you. Because what is the Internet for, if we don't use it to help each other? It takes a village to antagonize a child.

And don't worry. Becky will be home soon, and back to serving up the blog-ariffic anecdotes, observations and neighbor stories we've all come to love.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

That Was Some Expensive Magicalness

First let me say:

Disney on Ice tickets for 4: $44

Parking: $15

Pizza for 4: $22

Hank shouting, "Mama, when will they stop SKATING?": Priceless

So I scored these $11 tickets, thanks to a deal that Carrie at Frugalista told about, and the seats were really great.  I was close enough to notice that the same skater played both Aladdin and David from Lilo and Stitch, and that his rippling abs were real and not special effects.  Though they had a very special effect.  Oh, I crack myself up.  Anyway, good seats.  And I was not that surprised by the cost of parking and snacks, 'cause that's how they getcha, right?

What I was surprised by were the prices for Disney souvenirs.  Talk about JACKED UP.  Of course they were hawking all manner of gewgaw and gimcrack, and you had to run a gauntlet of the stuff to get to your seats, but I could not believe the prices.  Little beanie baby-sized plush toys were $12.  A lemonade in a souvenir cup was $10.  Even Laura was like, "That is a lot of money for that."  God knows what the fancy-shaped cups of snow cone cost.  A plastic sword was $22.  You know those balloons that are shaped like Mickey's head?  They had a bunch of them on sticks.  They were $15, I shit you not.

Everything was about 3x what you would expect the "already-overpriced amusement" rate to be.  Like, it's been a while since I've been to Disneyland/world, but the crap in the parks doesn't cost that much, does it?  I mean, I'm not against souvenirs.  And I'm all in favor of indulgences. But buying that stuff would have been like helping someone mug you.  After Laura said, "Are those fish hats free?" and I said, "Ha, nope," she didn't even ask for anything, and Hank wasn't really aware of the stuff.  

Yet people were buying things right and left, it was totally amazing.  I thought,  "Does anyone's kid not have enough of this stuff at home?"  Maybe not.  I know that we have every species of light-up Disney princess barbie, and they did not cost $22 apiece.  So now I've decided that the ticket sales are probably nothing to the tour company.  The stuff is how they getcha

That said, we had fun.  Laura and her friend were really into it.  Laura said, "I feel bad for all the kids who didn't get to see this."  And Hank was certainly spellbound, even if he wanted them to be still for a minute, and he said, "This makes me a little nervous."  I think it may have been the lights and the screaming, oh my lord the screaming.  He loved when the toys from Toy Story came out, though I felt for the person in that piggy bank costume, skating on all fours.

Has everyone already been to a Something on Ice?  This was a new one for me.  I was going to title this post "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," in homage to the late great David Foster Wallace.  But I would totally do it again, only next time I'll take the Marta train down there.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three Facts

Facts about me, that is:

1.  I am about to journey with three children into rainy downtown Atlanta to see "Disney on Ice: Celebrations," at 7:30 on a schoolnight.  We'll be leaving as soon as rush hour gets properly underway.

2.  Ever since I spent a lot of Sunday wearing high-heeled shoes (wedding pics coming soon), the bottoms of the two middle toes on my right foot have been numb. Also a portion of the ball of that foot.

3.  This morning in the shower, I guess I had a lot on my mind, because I only shaved one armpit.

So that's what I've got going for me.  Only one of these makes me think, "I am crazy." How are you guys?  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marimekko Winner Revealed!

Hey y'all, thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment on my Marimekko tote giveaway. I put all the numbers in the little random number generator at Then I had a nagging thought. I said, "Hey Matt, did you say something about how the random number generators on the internet are not really random?" He said, "They're random as far as you know." And I was like, "Don't toy with me." And he went on to explain that they are "random enough, just not random enough for encryption." And there was more but isn't he hot when he talks like that? So, the random-enough result was number 10, which is Kate! Hurray, Kate! Email me your address at suburbanmatron at gmail.

I should clarify that this is not the Kate who is my sister-in-law, for those of you who are alert to the Suburban Matron family circle. That would be nepotism! Or, since nepotism technically, linguistically, means "favoritism towards nephews," I always have a hard time using that word when I'm talking about women. I know, dumb. So let's say it would be some kind of funky Nepotism For the Ladies. But it's not.

Thank you for playing! I feel like a real blogger and all when I do these! Look out, Pioneer Woman.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ugh, Bad Pumpkin, Bad!

So after my children, I think my favorite thing in this house is my dining room table. It's the Big Sur from Crate and Barrel. Santa brought it to me last Christmas, and by Santa I mean two burly guys with a truck. But it was Christmas Eve, and I have been merry and bright about this table all year. I've loved it, dressed it up, and rubbed beeswax on it. And then, while we were out of town, my painted pumpkin exploded on it. Now the table is stained. You see, it doesn't have a varnish or poly coating, it's just a waxed, natural finish. So look.

Matt's mom called me Saturday morning to tell me the news. It must have happened during the night, and the mess sat on the wood for a while. She tried to clean it up, but it has soaked in. This stain starts in the middle of the table and runs off the edge. I am really, really bummed. I can't think of anything to draw the stain out of the wood. Maybe sanding it down and rewaxing it? Anyone have any wisdom? It is such a big area. Besides the stain, the finish is so beautiful; I don't know if I could get it to look that good again.

And it is all my dumb fault. I didn't mean to leave that pumpkin inside for so long, but in the rush of getting ready to leave town last week, I just let it go. I don't know if the pumpkin being painted could have made that happen? Like maybe it couldn't breathe? But once in Kindergarten, Laura painted a pumpkin all over, and it lasted a long time. Just to be safe, if you're doing the painted pumpkin, enjoy it inside for a couple of days and then move it out to the porch.

I'm thinking of emailing C&B and seeing if they have any advice. I would take it to a furniture expert to be sanded, maybe, but moving this thing is not trivial. It is really bombproof and weighs a ton. It's also eight feet long. I don't know if those people make housecalls. Sigh. Any ideas you have would be appreciated.

Matt and I got back from California tonight, and we are beat, but we had such a wonderful time. Pictures (and giveaway winner!) to come soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Few Things I Forgot About Santa Cruz But Now I Remember

1. On a weeknight, after a certain hour, everyone on the street downtown is drunk.

2. Every ten feet or so is a place to get really, really good tacos.

3. There are some cute things in Urban Outfitters, but you should probably leave them in the store.

I do love this town. Matt and I got in really late last night and stayed in a No Tell Motel down by the boardwalk. It's the off season, and it's a ghost town down there. Today we got busy doing nothing. That was Matt's plan. He said, "What if we spent a day doing nothing instead of doing something?" So we strolled. I had a margarita at lunch. We saw a movie in the middle of the day. Truly, it is a decadent and heedless life we're living.

Right now we're both getting a little work done, which I guess is something. We're staying with friends tonight, and then heading up the peninsula for the wedding later this weekend. Pictures to come. I hope y'all are keeping it casual.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Marimekko Tote Giveaway

Looky loo. Did you know that Marimekko has done some products for Avon? Why neither did I, until I saw this.
It's the Avon Crusade Tote, in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it costs ten dollars. Could you die? Because I died twice, once at the cuteness and then again at the price. Avon's website says that 100% of the net profits, or $6.24 per bag, will be donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which seems to be a for-real and sizable foundation.

The product listing doesn't say this, but that's Marimekko's Unikko print. It's their most recognizable pattern, and it's been around since 1964. Usually, when Marimekko sells tote bags, they don't cost $10. And what are two of my favorite things? Marimekko and purses. (I don't have a post to link for "purses," because for reference, please see my entire blog.) Anyway, you know I was on this like white on rice.

I've been using this as my purse for a couple of weeks. It's kind of nice to carry around something I don't mind dropping on the ground, frankly. I want to share the joy, so leave a comment on this post telling me about your purse. Because I am sincerely interested, and I don't know why I've never done a post just about this very thing. And I will randomly pick someone, scout's honor, and I'll send you one of these honeys. Anyhoo, if you're interested in clicking that link and doing some Christmas shopping, you should know that they're not super heavy-duty bags. Nothing like, say, those LL Bean canvas totes. They are much lighter weight--they must have stuffed the one in the picture. I don't know how many years of use they will provide, but gosh, ten bucks and a good cause.

Leave a comment before Monday night, and I'll pick a winner then. Matt and I are heading to California today, to Sam Clam's Disco (am I the only one who loves that joke?) and environs, and we'll be back Monday. We will be attending a wedding, which I'm sure you'll hear and see more about, as you will probably see photographs of every hotel bed we sleep in, 'cause apparently that's what I do. I am a river to my people.

Matt's mom and then my parents will be staying here with the kids and dog. We are maxing out our grandparent support for this one, so if you have any extra grandparents, please send them over. Seriously, our parents are too good to us. Mom and Dad, I'm sorry about all those extreme phone bills, and the years of sass, and the time I left your good suitcase in Rome.

Posting may be lightish the next few days. I'm trying to guilt my sister into guest posting for me, but she is a tough nut to crack. Y'all have a good end-of-the-week.

PS: I don't know what all this weirdness with the FTC and bloggers and free stuff is, though Lawyer Mom is trying to elucidate, but FTC, I bought this bag with my own money that my husband earned while I was tending our children and managing his life, and nobody is giving me any kickbacks on it, so are we cool? Tx!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Which I Administer the White Glove Test

As a housekeeper, I swing from pretty good, to indifferent, to negligent, depending on the task. It's funny, though, how when I'm paying someone to clean my place, I morph into that big British lady with the beehive hairdo on "How Clean is Your House." The one who wears the lab coat? She lives in me. My housecleaner Fabienne was here today (oh blessed alternate Tuesday, thy name is Wonderful). She is a single mom, has a thick Hungarian accent, and is very sweet. She's also does a really good job cleaning. Really good. Except for ONE little thing. She doesn't seem to dust the tops of my dresser and chest of drawers.

I know, someone please organize me a telethon. It's just funny because, when I first met her we did a walk through of the house. She wanted me to tell her what I wanted done (everything) and what was really important to me (all of it, right?), so I did. We stood in my bedroom and I gestured around. I told her that I'd gotten a one-time cleaning service the week before, like one of those Happy Maids things, which I didn't like doing because yes I have read my Barbara Ehrenreich, but it was an emergency. Or I didn't say all of that. But I did say these words: "They didn't dust the top of my dresser, and that makes me crazy." She clucked in sympathy.

So while I've had Fabienne since June, and it's a happy relationship, I am UNABLE to stop myself from coming into my bedroom after she leaves and running my hand along all the surfaces. I don't have a lot of stuff on my dressers. I'm okay with some clutter in other places, but not there. Just a lamp, a few books, and whatever kid debris has alighted there. So after I've groped all the flat surfaces, I stare at my palm and scrutinize whatever I've turned up. A jeweler's eyepiece would come in handy here. Like, hmm, definitely a little gritty, with some actual dust. But that CFL lightbulb and the panda Webkinz have been moved. Did she just straighten? Or dust properly? Or maybe she ran a dry cloth over everything? Since I don't have the forethought to do this before Fabienne comes, I'm in an epistemological gray zone. What counts as dusty and what as cleaned? Reader, I know you're screaming, "Well just MENTION it to her." Yes, but this is hard. If I say something, she'll know that I'm feeling up the furniture as soon as she's left the room.

Also, it's really not a big deal, right? Because there's that feeling of ambivalence--the slightly apologetic posture you assume when you're having another person clean for you. I know people who say they feel "guilty" having someone else clean their house. I don't feel guilty at all--I feel like Fabienne and I are in a mutually beneficial relationship. I think she's got a pretty good business going. (Sidenote: we should all start cleaning houses--around here it is kind of hard to find someone to take you on. I talked to four women, including my old housecleaner, who didn't have space in their schedules for another house, even as a regular thing.)

It isn't that I think, "Ooh, I should really be doing this myself." It's not guilt that she's doing a job that would otherwise fall to me, or to Matt and me. It's something to do with the fact that it's our private space, and I'm asking her to enter it and sort it out, for a living. Like, if I owned an office building and I paid cleaners, I don't think I would feel one way or the other about it. But, with your house and your private life, something inside you always thinks, "Are we too messy? Are we messier than her other clients? And oh dear, I just realized the kids left all those crayons on the floor of the book room and she's going to have to pick them up." I will say, though, that over and on top of that slight apologetic feeling is a bigger happy feeling. Like, thank the lord for you, Fabienne, and do you mind that I'm hugging your legs?

So I do a fair amount of straightening before she comes. If you have a housecleaner, do you do this? I don't want her to have to contend with stuff all over the floors of the kids' rooms--Laura keeps her room tidy. Or to have to walk around laundry baskets in my room. I do wonder what the optimal amount of straightening is. I have heard of women doing an entire cleaning before the cleaning lady comes. But this is not me. Definitely not me.

That is all. Thank you for listening. It's hard out here for a pimp.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Messy Marvin

It's fall, but somehow we were wearing shorts all weekend.  And the ice cream truck came around. In October. Now, I haven't seen the ice cream truck in our neighborhood more than twice before, ever, so seeing it in October was a surprise.  Such a surprise that I thought, "Who is this weird ice cream truck guy?"  And I don't know if this is helicopter-parenting paranoia, or just smart, but instead of handing Laura some money to get treats for herself and Hank and the neighbor girls while I watched from the front door, I went down into the street with them to supervise the transaction. I just thought, "He could grab one of these kids." And get this, when I got down there, to his van, the dude looked like a pedophile, straight from central casting.  It's hard to explain.  Forty-ish, white, slightly pasty, with an obsequious, even juvenile, demeanor.  Am I terrible?  It's just what I thought.  I am a big Gavin de Becker fan, so there it is.

And when he was gone, I said to Laura, "Don't you ever go near that truck.  If you see it again, come and find me.  We don't know who that guy is or if he's nice."  She said, "He was okay."  And I said, "We absolutely do not know that.  He didn't seem that okay to me.  And kids have been snatched off the street by ice cream trucks."  (Okay, I don't know if that last part was true, but I wanted to let her know what I was talking about, and I think it made an impression.)  So there's that familiar parenting feeling of, am I keeping my kids safe, or scaring them and adding a tinge of menace to normal childhood things? And haven't I managed to make a nice Sunday seem shadowed by danger?  The moment passed.

Fall Popsicles


Laura organized the little kids into an elaborage cul-de-sac game called "Minitown."  They drew a town with chalk, and they each had a house.  Here they are at the Movie Theatre.  The movie is that Laura tells them the story of Aladdin.
Laura Having School

Or, she told them half the story, then she got tired and told them to come back tomorrow and pay another dollar to hear the rest.  At Laura's feet is the admission she's collected.  Minitown had its own currency: leaves and acorns.  Everyone was rich as could be.  When you bought something at one of the stores, like a gerbil or a plant, Laura would come and draw it in your house.  It was a lot like an MMO game, without the need for computers or the monthly subscription fee.  Laura said, "Mom, do you know why it's called 'Minitown?'"  I said, "I think I do."  And she said, "It was founded by Charles Mini."

So all in all, a nice summerish-fallish day.  Then last night, all through the night and this morning, it poured rain (more rain? really?) and washed all the chalk away.  Goodbye, Minitown.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Has A Button

I have a new button over there, on the left. It is as cute as a . . .well, you know. Keely helped me figure out how to make the little form with code you can grab. She sent me a screen shot of her html widget (doesn't that sound so naughty?) and I slavishly copied it. When I got it to work I felt like I'd been given an honorary degree in CS. Though I don't think they really give those out.

You can copy the code under the button, then in your blog layout, you can "add a gadget," then click "html/javascript," then paste the code into the box, and Bob's your uncle. It's not like you have to. Just if you're into it. I won't be hurt if you don't. I'm not sure why buttons are a thing, but I don't make the rules. So really, you should just take the button. Why are you rocking the boat?

What are y'all up to? I think I might be on the hook to take the kids to a corn maze this afternoon. It didn't happen yesterday, 'cause Pretty Neighbor rescued us with a cookout invitation, but today might be the day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Notice Anything, Um, Different?

No, not my new bra, not this time, but THANK YOU.  I got a new header up there!  I decided that I had reached the limit of my scrappy scrapblog skillz, so I sought some professional help to class up this joint.  I found Alma Loveland, who is awesome, and can do basically anything.  Take a look at her portfolio.  I find myself wanting to commission all kinds of stuff from her.  Like a tattoo? I swear, her patterns are so lovely, I would do it. 

I was going to wait until Sunday or Monday to debut my new look, but she emailed me the file tonight, and I am terrible at delaying gratification.  This we knew.

Also, coming soon, to a sidebar near you, a button. A shiny Suburban Matron button that you can take home to your blog! Or I hope you will.  Seriously, if at least a few of you don't take a button, I may weep softly to myself.  More on this later.

Happy Friday night, my friends!    

That Polish Pottery at TJ Maxx: What To Look For, Illustrated

Remember how, a few weeks ago, I was griping about how TJ Maxx always has loads of the same Polish pottery on their shelves, and they've had it for years, and I have to scooch it aside and peer around it to look for my Denby? 'Member that? And then in the comments, an astute reader, Meghan, pointed out that people love that Boleslawiec stuff, and it's highly sought after, and can be very expensive. We agreed that there must be differences in quality--that some of what is labeled "Boleslawiec" was very fine and some was a little humdrum. Then I looked into it and found out that Boleslawiec is a town in Poland where they've made pottery since forever. So, as with porcelain that's called "Limoges," Boleslawiec denotes a region rather than a specific factory.

Then the other night I was taking a turn through the dishes at my local TJ's. My attention was captured by this:

Two sugar bowls, but not alike in dignity. Both have "Boleslawiec" backstamps. But which one catches your eye more? The one on the right is decorated in really only two colors--the cobalt blue and the green. The one on the left has a lot of color--more than shows up in this picture I took with my phone. It just looks intricate and busy in a good way. Here are the bottoms:

The one on the right has the big "B" mark that I've seen before on the stuff in TJ's. It says, "Boleslawiec" and "Hand Made." The one on the left has a little castle image, and it says "Unikat" ("unique"), and it has a style or pattern number hand-painted on. Also it has a blue sticker in addition to the white TJ's pricetag, which in TJ's land, can mean "This item is a little better." (If you ever find something with a purple tag, snatch it up and carry it around the store with you to keep anyone else from getting it, while you decide. Also, call me, because I want to hear about it.)

And look at this backstamp, on a little bowl. In addition to the little castle image, it has the artist's signature, and the style number.

But all those are secondary details. Just look at it. Look at the bowl and the pitcher compared to those plates over there. Intricate designs, vivid colors, and the decoration covers the entire piece. That's what we want. They just look like the work of someone's hand and eye. The green and blue plates cannot compete.

And for the record, the good stuff doesn't cost that much more than the humdrum stuff, in TJ land. That pitcher was $19.99. And the bowl was ten dollars. The cute sugar dish was a couple bucks cheaper than the boring one, because it is smaller? This is the magic of TJ's--they don't always know what they have. I didn't buy any of this. Now let us praise my restraint.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone has the obsessive level of interest that I do in this stuff, but if you like to go thrifting and discount shopping, I think it's fun to train your eye to recognize the real steal. Thank you for scrolling and happy shopping! (I wonder if that pitcher is still over there?)