Thursday, December 20, 2012

To Feel Yourself Beloved on The Earth

Hank just got home from school, and I surmised that his teachers had hugged him goodbye for the Christmas break, because he smelled deliciously of different, overlapping perfumes. I was snorfling all over him, enjoying them, and I said, "Your teachers must have given you hugs!" And he said, "Yeah, and Mr. Russ did too."

Mr. Russ is the school bus driver. And that's closer than I ever thought I would get to old Russ. But still sweet.

How are y'all? We are still here. The news from Newtown took away my impulse to blog the last few days. I just didn't want to add any words to the situation. And all of the things we had going on this busy, December weekend seemed too light. Trifling. You know. I appreciated this post by Lecia, where she talks about her feeling of reverence in her ordinary days, and also this one by Elle, where she's thinking about bell hooks and MLK and a world perspective. Lots of things to think about. We stayed quiet around here, and I think everyone else did too. Traffic into my inbox all but ceased. We went about our business.

I know we've all read lots of people on our fb feeds and elsewhere talking about hug your children, that they hugged their children extra tight, etc. That's a parent's reaction to this, of course. But it made me realize, you know, I already revel in these kids every day, I truly do. I am drinking them in every minute, and couldn't enjoy them more. I wrote about it one time. I will never fear that I've missed any opportunities to love them, and I know they feel it.

On Monday morning, I walked Hank all the way up to the door of his school, kissed his face, and watched his shaggy head until it bobbed out of sight. I thought how we are all just doing our best, and hoping for the best.

Now the kids are home until January 7. I hope you are well. On Dasher!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Mean, Kids Will Believe Anything: Kindergarten Gingerbread Hunt


Every Friday a different mom comes into Hank's class to do some kind of cooking activity with them. My day was approaching and I was low on ideas. It might have been Bloody Marys if the teacher hadn't come to the rescue. She had it all figured out.

I went to the class in the morning and read that Gingerbread Baby book to them. Then I pulled out the supplies I'd brought, and using a big sheet pan we got from the cafeteria, I shaped a big gingerbread man. The kids loved watching this. We gave him a few rudimentary decorations--eyes, mouth, buttons--nothing too fussy. Then we took the big pan to the cafeteria, where the lunch ladies were already our confederates.

We handed over the big gingerbread man to them, exhorting them, "Please keep a close eye on him! And whatever you do, don't open the oven door too early! These guys are very crafty and quick!" They promised that they would guard him carefully, and then they slid the pan into the big industrial oven. The kids watched this as carefully as if they were UN nuclear facility inspectors.

We went back to the classroom and read the next in the Gingerbread Baby series, Gingerbread Friends. As we finished, one of Hank's teachers came running into the room, the sheepish lunch ladies right behind her. "You guys! You'll never believe what happened! The good news is, your little cookies are ready, but the big one that Hank's mom made got away!" (She had pre-prepared little individual men for them to decorate, and the ladies bore them in on a sheet pan.) "He's running loose in the school, he could be anywhere!" she said.

The kids absolutely erupted. One little boy clapped his hands to his forehead and said, "I knew this would happen!" They were all on their feet and ready for action. A few ran out into the hall and peered in all directions. After a few moments of complete frenzy, the teacher drew their attention to a little card that had been taped outside the door. As you might imagine, it said "Run run run, as fast as you can..." and it had a little rhyme with a clue for them to solve.

The clues were pitched right at their level, and the clues led us from the classroom, to the gym, to the nurse's office, to the library, to the front desk, and finally, right into the very heart of darkness, the principal's office.

The teacher appointed Hank to go up to her desk and politely state our business. The kids all crowded around and he said, "Um, Mrs. B, we are looking all over the school for our gingerbread man who got away, have you seen him? He is brown?"

The principal was actually chewing when the class came in, and the cookie man was lying right there on her desk. She had partly covered it with a piece of paper, but the sharp-eyed kindergarteners spotted him.

It was so hilarious. They were kind of outraged with her! She said, "I wanted to eat him for breakfast!" And one girl goes, "You should eat breakfast at home." Like, please lady.

So maybe now the kids believe that baked goods can become sentient and develop volition, but that it's okay to eat them anyway. I don't know. But it was the cutest dang thing!

I'm off now to eat a special lunch at school with Hank, part of an absolute parade of merriment that is unfolding over the next few days. Are y'all hip-deep in this stuff now? I love it all. xoxo

Friday, December 7, 2012

Everybody Needs A Little Encouragement

Two days ago the kids and I were driving in the car. Laura mentioned that all of the eighth-grade girls are toting around sacks of flour, pretending they're babies, and they have to care for them for a class assignment.

I asked her if the boys were doing that, and she said she hadn't seen any.

I said, "Well that's dumb, I mean, men have to care for children too. It takes two people to make a baby."

From the back, Hank piped up. "No no, the moms can make the babies but the dads have to encourage it."

I carefully and gently reached across to the passenger seat and placed my hand over Laura's mouth, and she slid down in her seat, shaking in silent laughter. I said, "Well that encouragement is very important."


Today is my birthday! It has been going just swell. Matt and I had lunch out. While I was tucking into my pineapple mojito, his conversational opener was, "Here's one way I've become a douchebag."

And then it was something about LinkedIn. But I thought, I will never stop being entertained by the people in this family and the things they think of to say.

We are getting a sitter and heading out tonight, and then next weekend, Matt got us tickets to an Australian Open Wildcard tournament here in town, the finals day. Sweet! We're so very sporty now!

I hope y'all have a good evening planned. xoxo

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let's Oil Up

So, the rubbing of petroleum products on my face.

One effect of living in a suburb, where everything is so conveniently arrayed for my vehicular consumption, is that when I need to go somewhere that's more than five minutes from my driveway, I get kind of huffy. On Sunday I set out to take Laura to her book club meeting, and then realized the little girl's house was like eight miles away and I was all LET THIS CUP PASS FROM ME. I mean, eight whole miles?!? There be dragons.

But I took her down there and then since I was so far, I didn't go home, I went to Trader Joe's, which, Trader Joe's on a Sunday in December, wow, I've never seen that many Obama supporters in one place in metro Atlanta in ever. I went to fetch a bottle of evening primrose oil capsules, as the wise Elle suggested. I have been having dry, irritable skin lately. I can't think what has changed in my personal ecosystem, except that the weather got colder (though then it got drastically warmer). It's like I'm inflamed, but I lead a pretty anti-inflammatory life, I think. With my kale and my sardine-love and all. I'm turning 40 this week; is this what 40 is going to be like?

So there is so much going and coming and wind blowing and working out and sweating and wiping my face that I was just feeling like I wanted some kind of thick protective layer on there. One day last week, in desperation, I rubbed aquaphor on my hands and then put it all over my face.

You see, I come from a long line of southern women for whom Vaseline is like penicillin. It is just a good place to start. You administer the vaseline and then see where you are. "Put some vaseline on it" was a common, common prescription in my grandmother's house. So white petrolatum is like home to me.

And you know, I don't know if that stuff leached into my brain or anything, but it did make my skin feel supple and it gave me a nice shininess. Funny, you spend your teens and twenties not wanting to look shiny, and now, I'll take shiny just great. I think oil is our friend.

So what are you guys using to keep yourselves fully oiled and in smooth working order? I feel I've gone beyond one of those normal lotiony moisturizers. I have one from Origins that I like, but it's the Dr. Weil mushroomy one and Matt calls it "Not Tonight, Honey." Is there some essential oil y'all are smearing on yourselves?

Do tell. xoxo

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nostalgia for The Immediate Past

Well, it didn't turn out to be such a shabby month of blog posts. I tell you though, halfway through the month, I would click back to last November's 30 posts, over there in the left sidebar, and think, "People should just read these again. There were some good ones in there." The time Matt tried to fix the toilets, the time Hank said the f-word, no the other f-word, the time I fixed the garbage disposal, the post about my health insurance, all worth reading again. IN MY HUMBLE OPINION.

But this month was fun too, blog-wise. It had its moments. I don't know, it's too soon. I'm sure in three weeks, I'll be all, remember that stuffed swan I bought in Tennessee! Golden Age! What was it Sir Philip Sidney said in his 1579 Defense of Poesy? Something about how the world is brazen, but bloggers make it golden. That was it, I think.

It is a golden age, truly. And in this particular golden age, Matt and I just ended the day by spending fully twenty minutes discussing how we both, at different times and unbeknownst to each other, heard a woodpecker tapping on our front door frame. It tapped exactly as if it were trying to gain entry into the house, but didn't know quite how knocking or doors work, being a bird. Yes, we had a lot to say about this experience. What we each heard, what we thought when we heard it, what we did next, how we noticed the bird--obviously this was a rich vein that needed mining, and it made excellent pillow talk.

In my recounting of events, I finally opened the door and the bird said, "What the FRACK. I've been knocking for HOURS."

Thank you for reading so diligently these thirty days. Looking forward to more golden times for all of us.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lady Time

Today was a whole, whole lot of lady socializing and a complete disaster eating-wise but at least I managed to not volunteer for anything. As I will explain.

This morning my tennis team had a match at our home court (I brought a mixed baby greens salad with mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and walnuts, which is not exactly cutting edge but it completely disappeared). I was planning on going and having lunch with Matt after, but my partner T and I didn't get to start playing until 11, and then it took us three hours and three sets to finally lose to these tall, friendly women who made very few mistakes. It's kind of surprising that we took one set, actually.

Anyway, so I didn't get to go eat with Matt, and instead spent nearly all darn day with my morning tennis team. Everybody on my team lost their matches. Those girls were just really good. And as we were leaving, their captain said, "Well you guys definitely get the award for the nicest team in the league." I said, "Well, thank you, that might be some consolation." They also praised our hostessing. Sometimes I think we should disband as a tennis team and start a catering business, because our bench is really deep in that area.

Then Hank had his lesson up there after school and so it was lather, rinse, repeat with some of the same characters. By this point we had all half-changed our clothes.

Then, a mere two hours later, I went to a get-together and bunco night for my Sunday tennis team, to celebrate our semi-successful fall season. I took cut up apples and chocolate dip, because I was tired. This was at our captain's house. I like her house, because while her taste is not really the same as mine, she doesn't have a lot of stuff in there. There are empty spaces, and it feels very clean and spacious that way. I could swap out some of her things in a jiff and be happy with 90% of her stuff. (What a nice compliment that would be to give her! "I would be happy with 90% of your stuff!" I can be an ass sometimes, on the inside.)

This, again, was much of the same cast of characters as the morning, with some new additions. By now, everyone was fully showered, blown out, and wearing their boots. There was sangria.

Pretty Neighbor and I recalled that, at our last tennis bunco night, which was in June and therefore fell into the blogging lacuna, I had volunteered the two of us to decorate the club house for the 4th of July and oversee the 4th of July bike parade. Our tennis friend, and the neighborhood social director, was complaining about how her kids aren't even little anymore and she needs someone to take on more of the kid activities in the neighborhood, and somehow it possessed me to gesture toward PN and say, "This seems like something you would be really good at." I know! And then, perhaps because the sangria and my tight jeans were making me dizzy, I didn't see the death glare Pretty Neighbor was giving me and wound up basically committing the two of us.

And THEN, though she did not bring this up tonight because she is too good a friend, I planned an impromptu trip to D.C. for the 4th, leaving Pretty Neighbor to be the master of ceremonies all by herself.

BEST FRIEND EVAR. I apologized profusely when I realized what I was about to do. Or as much as I could apologize through my hysterical laughter of shame. But we did the flags and everything before I left and then PN oversaw the bike parade and all was well. Okay, why am I telling you about something that happened in June? Because tonight, back at the scene of the crime, Pretty Neighbor said, "Just keep your mouth shut." And I did!

So then there was lots of lady hollering and chatting, and Normal Neighbor unveiled this cheese dip she had baked in the middle of a loaf of bread, and I only had eyes for that thing, and then I had a conversation about the fifty shades books, and then I didn't win any prizes, and we were home by 9:30.

Now it is 11:30 and I am IN BED, which, 11:30 in my house is like still the shank of the evening, but I need to sing with the larks. I hope you have enjoyed this impressionistic journey through my lady socializing. You basically now know what it was like to be there. xoxo

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We Builded That

Y'all, today I paused while smearing a thin layer of Aquaphor all over my face to think, "I really need that dang blogroll back." Remember how over on the right I used to have a long list of blogs? Somehow, during the GoDaddy debacle and domain loss, that went away. I have no idea why. Like, a magic donkey stopped turning a wheel and that list vanished into thin air.

As a result, I am a really bad blog friend. If I don't see your link on facebook or twitter, I am missing things. This came home to me tonight when I spied a picture on Beth's instagram feed that said she'd given herself a gel manicure at home and had blogged about it, and I was like, wha? I need this information RIGHT NOW INSTANTLY. Then I went over there and there was stuff all about a cute spider web she made from an embroidery hoop, and I had not noticed it before Halloween because no blog roll! So many missed opportunities.

So, if you used to be listed over there OR if you hang around here and want to be listed over there please let me know in the comments! We can rebuild her! Then I'll go back to being basically on top of everyone's developments and I will be a better blog friend. Okay? And if your blog isn't obvious from your little blogger profile, leave a link! Let's get this barn raised!

And if you see me and I am glistening all over, it is the petroleum products. xoxo

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Probably Not Worth It

The other day, I sorted through a massive amount of Laura's outgrown clothing, and separated them into three piles: Donate, Consign, Ebay. Actually there were two ebay piles, one for spring/summer and one for now. I've kept a lot of this stuff around for too long because I thought I could sell some of her outfits and make more money than I would from consignment, but as you may know, selling clothes on ebay is kind of a pain, because it involves a whole lot of washing and neatening and photographing for pretty small amounts of money. She has some of the cutest things, though, and some still with tags or never worn.

Back in the day--even a few years ago--you could do pretty well with better children's clothes in very good condition. Or "excellent used condition (EUC)," in the ebay lingo. I happily dressed Laura in a lot of of gymbo and Hanna, then resold it, and I remember it seems like you could get up to half of what you'd paid for the things new. It was a nice biz. Dressing her was a hobby, and ebay was too. Then I took a long break from reselling anything. Laura stopped wanting to dress in matching outfits. I started a blog. The world moved along.

So lately I've stuck a toe back into ebay and it looks like that market--children's clothing both new and used--has gotten super saturated. Like, lots of auctions ending without bids or with only an opening bid. I think there's just so many people reselling, and retail stores are basically giving things away in the first place. I did manage to sell a bunch of Hanna thick cotton tights--like seven pairs--for thirty-something bucks, so I thought I would list a few more things, but it's not looking too good.

The other day I sold a Gymboree velour jacket and yoga pants set, size 10. It was barely worn, and it sold for $7.49. I remember selling a similar set for $20 a few years ago, but okay. It's better than the zero dollars it was earning sitting in a basket. So I shipped it out last week. Tonight I got this message from the buyer via the little automated ebay messaging system:
Was a little disappointed to find out the pants are a size 12 and not a size 10 to match the coat, but they both look to be in EUC. Hodge Podge sizes are hard to resale :( 
Okay, whoops! I did sometimes buy L different sizes in bottoms and tops because she's always been so tall. I'd looked at the size tag in the jacket and not thought to check the pants. My fault, but I was a little annoyed by this note, though, because there is no question or request about it, it's just a complaint. It is unclear what would make her happy. And yes I know it is in EUC, I said it was. Also, I was surprised she was buying it to resell again and not for a child to wear. But I dunno. And the little frownie face. Please. So I sent back, "Hi, I'm sorry, my daughter must have worn those at the same time and I forgot there was a size discrepancy. Do you want to return?"

Returning something that you paid seven dollars for is a super duper PITA, so I am guessing she will say no, she'll keep it. Which then, am I supposed to apologize some more? Give her a partial refund? I have always shunned the way of the partial refund, and it's never really been an issue before. But that's what I think her message is angling for. She didn't say, "Your listing was wrong, I'm sending it back." She said she was "disappointed," to which I'm supposed to say...? Gah!

I know it is not cool to sell something as one size and have it turn out to be another, but this is my blog and I'm complaining to you anyway. Argle bargle! Details! I think my lifeforce may be too drained by the whole ebay enterprise, and given that the bottom has fallen out of the market, I'm going to take it all to consignment.

Anyway, 99 problems. Any of y'all still doing the ebay thing?

Monday, November 26, 2012


Hank with Peach
This guy, Hank! 2 years old.
Big bite!



Hank loves fruit. I mean, he loves fruit, he always has. I sometimes find apple cores or banana peels upstairs because he has sneaked up there to eat his fruit in private. Maybe it is tastier if it's clandestine. As though I have ever denied the child fruit.

This afternoon, right after school, he asked for a "regular banana and also a banana cut up with little dabs of peanut butter." I clarifed that he wanted to eat a whole banana, and then have a banana with peanut butter. He means for me to pipe the PB out of a baggie like I do. I said, sure, eat the banana and then you can have one with peanut butter. He protested that he wanted them together, but I was firm. So he ate a banana. Then he said, and I kid you not, "Mom, now let's move on to the little dabs of peanut butter." Oh, indeed. Let's move on. So I cut another banana into little circles and then piped the peanut butter onto them and he will never move out of the house or marry.

A bit later, his little friend from around the corner was visiting. Hank led him into the kitchen and said, "Would you like a tangerine, which is a small orange?"

If facebook hadn't existed it would have sprung fully into being at that moment, that's how fast I updated my status. I had to share my pride in both his politeness and his considerate desire to explain completely. I mean, what if his buddy had been put off by the exotic citrus terminology? "Do not be dismayed, friend, by 'tangerine,' it will be familiar to you as an orange, though somewhat smaller and less acidic."

And for some reason, as I sit to write to you, before I go to bed, that is the moment from the day that I wanted to tell you about.

I hope you found something memorable in your day. xoxo

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Just Try Not To Look Weird

wide shot
Do I not have any puffier clothing in which to be photographed?
We are back home in Atlanta tonight, somewhat grudgingly. It was such a good relaxed time up in the mountains, I kind of didn't want to leave. I mean, it's basically ideal--I'm almost embarrassed--because whenever we're up there with a grandparent, we're minimally responsible for the custodial care of our children. Grandparents are up early, they're making breakfast, they're dispensing pearls of wisdom. Everyone is happy and I can keep to my preferred sleep hours, 2-10am.

6:15 is gonna come early tomorrow morning.

This morning before we all went our separate ways, I herded the family outside for Andy to take our picture. I need something to put on Christmas cards. When we had first awakened this morning, I said to Matt, "I need to get a picture for Christmas cards," and he goes, "We don't have a picture?" And I'm like, no. And he's all, I don't believe you? And I'm like, it's complicated but just put on pants. I mean, Reader, is there anything less rewarding than explaining to a man why you need a certain picture of the family at a certain time in a certain way? But we got some good shots, and then tonight I was messing with different xmas card layouts, and I showed one to Matt, and he goes, "Well I look like a sad troll, but sure." So I picked a different picture even though I looked fractionally hotter in the sad troll one. Compromise!

kids photobombing

Lots going on this week. A couple get-togethers with friends, for which I need to bring food, and a tennis match, for which I need to bring food. And several things I'm forgetting right now. And tomorrow Hank has to bring a Christmas stocking and "24 like items" to school. I think the teacher is giving them little goodies every day in December? I have a bunch of Smencils to send, which used to be cool. In 2011 they were the new silly bandz. Don't know if they still are.

Good luck with your reentry. Right now I must to bed. Sad trombone!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shopping Small

Nichol's House Antiques in Sylva, NC, where more is more.

Betty with wildlife
Today we went in different directions. Matt took the kids to see Wreck-it Ralph, their second viewing, and Betty and I drifted down to Sylva's Main Street to stimulate the local economy. Actually I spent zero dollars, but I offered crucial moral support as Betty navigated through the purchase of a set of coasters, a dish cloth, and a vintage lace tablecloth. We were digging through an entire sideboard full of table linens, with the proprietress helping us, and we kept finding things that were pretty but not quite right. Of one, a little oblong linen piece with french knot embroidery, I said, "Betty, you could put this on your piano." Betty thought and said, "There is a fine line between pretty and little old lady." Then she and the other lady laughed and high fived each other in generational solidarity.

This store is set up in an old house, with each room containing its proper things: bed linens in the bedroom, more masculine stuff in the study, etc. Lots to wander around and look at, and I always appreciate their maximalist approach to Christmas decorating. There is a unified sensibility to the place that makes it feel almost like someone's actual house.

I was sort of looking for things for my nieces, but I don't think that tween girls have the proper appreciation for a punch bowl resting on a pedestal made of antlers.

I blame Taylor Swift?

We remain here in the Thanksgiving mountain citadel. All of the leftovers are almost gone, so we might have to move on soon. You? 


Friday, November 23, 2012


At Deep Creek.

We didn't do much today and we didn't start that until after lunch. It was gray and wintry-looking here, without actually being very chilly. Matt and the kids and I headed to Deep Creek, our favorite summer tubing spot, to walk in the woods. I like this time of year for a hike; with no leaves you can see so far through the woods. You can see the shapes of the ridge tops and hills. When we got down to the river, we kept marveling at how different it all looked with bare trees. Or different-yet-familiar, like it had been remodeled. Let's just open up this space here and get some more light in.

As I snapped this picture, Hank was reaching into his pocket for a little bag of skittles he'd saved from the movie the other day and brought along. We laughed remembering that the last time he'd walked this trail, he was about two-and-a-half, and he'd had candy in his hand then too. It was February, and he'd been given a little Snoopy Valentine that contained exactly three pieces of chocolate. Even though he was a toddler, he made the journey carrying that heart box in his hand, and he rationed the candy as he went. While we all stood around with no snack and no candy, he would pause, sit carefully down on the ground, and have a chocolate. He had one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. I remember that he was so little, he was still wearing a one-piece outfit that snapped up the legs. He was potty-trained then, but just barely, and I remember several breaks to "go pee pee like a bear." Today he said he remembered that day, but I think he just remembers our recitations of it.

As we walked today, the kids wanted to do riddles and puzzles, so we dredged up every one we could think of. Laura solved the Riddle of the Sphinx but was completely stumped by, "What state is tall in the middle and round on both ends?"

Then there was leftover-eating and hot tubbing. Another highlight: I took the pie tin containing the last piece of pumpkin pie into the sun room with Betty, closed the door to children, and and had a long catch-up session on the entire extended family. As we talked, I finished my piece and ate every remaining morsel of pie, mashing the crumbs with my index finger. When I was fully up to speed on all goings-on, the plate was clean. All's right with the world, but we are sad to see that pie go.

What is up in your domestic citadel? Are you still in holiday isolation? I have not even bought anything online. Asceticism! xoxo

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We Really Excel At This

The basically doing nothing, that is. I didn't even put on shoes today. Pretty sure that on the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had Squanto over to eat party mix and half-watch all the Lord of the Rings movies.

Did you have a nice day? I rolled out of bed about nine. Betty and Andy were on their way. I had no food prepared, but my eleven year-old wanted to be put to work. I lined up all the supplies for her, and she made two pumpkin pies, then an apple pie, then cut up the potatoes for eventual mashing. Then she made the grape salad. I was like, who says holiday cooking is stressful? She was so happy to be in charge of something, and she's gotten pretty capable.

And of course we had this can of cranberry jelly. Our turkey was organically raised on grass and taught to read by nuns, but we also gotta have the Ocean Spray. Hank thought it was a candle. I admit, I love that stuff.

While we were cooking, Hank was out shooting at things with his homemade bow and arrows, happy as the grass is green. He had practically come to my bedside in the morning, brandishing a long stick that needed to be cut into arrows. Then he was after me to find a sharp knife for his daddy to whittle them with. He would be a very good producer or project manager. He figures out who can do what for him and then he makes it happen.

It was sunny and cool up here today, and we read, chatted, and drank a bottle of champagne while we waited for the bird to finish. All the food was good, even if I forgot to put any turkey neck in the gravy. When I pushed my chair back from the table, I was seized by some kind of stupor, lay down, took a two-hour nap, and then roused myself with thoughts of pie.

While I slept, Matt got in the hot tub with the kids and then watched The Rescuers with them. Then we all played Settlers of Catan, and now everyone has gone to bed. Matt is stretched out asleep with his head in my lap, and Aragorn is trying to hold Helm's Deep. I'm blogging on my phone, and I would sit here forever except that I might have to go to the bathroom in a minute. Now you know literally everything.

I hope you're having a good time, wherever you are. You're not out shopping, are you? If so, tell us what you got. xoxo

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why Didn't You List That Among Our Assets in The First Place?

We just got to the mountain house a little bit ago to spend Thanksgiving. My parents aren't here, but Matt's mom and brother Andy will join us tomorrow.

The house has been empty, so earlier today I called Mom to see what pantry staples might be here before I hauled bags of flour, sugar, and cornmeal across state lines. She said that they'd pretty well cleaned everything out before they left for the season. Okay, so I loaded a huge red plastic tub with absolutely everything I need to make two pies, sweet potato au gratin, grape salad, and cornbread dressing. Also: wine, fruit, crackers, milk, etcetera.

I arrived to cupboards that were far from bare. I was pleased to find: Vodka; pie crusts; and five (5) opened boxes of ice cream cones.

And that is how Debbie rolls.

I think it's going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.

I need to go because Percy is barking at something that probably is a bear. Maybe it will eat her. xoxo

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Summer Flashback: Ate at Joe's

During my lengthy summer blog hiatus, we got to go spend a week with Matt's family at his brother and sister-in-law's lake house in Western Mass. Chris and Robin were awesome hosts. This was a week of many new scenes for us, and we loved it all: The lake, the perfect temperatures, and the pretty little towns. One day we went to the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, which is well worth seeing for all the Saturday Evening Post covers alone. Then we went to the Joe's Diner that you see in several Rockwell paintings from the 50's. It's in Lee, and if Robin hadn't taken us there, I never would have noticed it. It is a tiny hole-in-the-wall place. But guess who was there? The actual Joe, seen in this painting.

"The Runaway," 1958.
The Runaway
My runaways, 2012. With the authentic Joe!
kids with joe
Joe was quite happy to pose with the kids. Recreating the painting was his suggestion.
Kids Eat at Joe's
Cousins: Laura, Kay, Hank, and Abby

The museum is on a really pretty piece of land, and they've moved Rockwell's studio there from in town. That was my favorite part. It's a cute little house that looks like a barn. This was a great outing to do with kids, because they really get down with the whole illustration thing. The museum had a neat scavenger hunt of stuff for the kids to find in the paintings.

rockwell kids
Outside Stockbridge

Laura in Rockwell's studio
In the studio. L, Abby, and Kay compare two different versions of "Mosaic."
Hank in Norman Rockwell's Studio

In Norman Rockwell's studio

Hank wanted to be sure everybody saw his pirate flag, which was actually from a Howard Pyle exhibit at the museum and had nothing to do with Rockwell. But you know, yarr!

Thank you for indulging me in this nostalgic look back at July. It was just a simpler world then, you know? xoxo

Monday, November 19, 2012

In Which I Win at Flea Markets

swan pillow
Noble. And Dignified. Like Louis!

Yesterday morning at my brother and sister-in-law's place, a movement arose to venture out to a local flea market. This flea market promised many delights. "They have pigs and goats!" Kate said. I was like, "I'm in." And Laura was way in. She loves looking through junk even more than I do. Hank wasn't feeling that great, he had a cold, so I threw Matt a lifeline and asked him if he would mind staying home with him. One thing I've learned about Matt in seventeen years of marriage is that he would rather be kicked straight in the throat than go to a flea market.

So we made our way up and down and looked at everything. Laura was in high spirits, because she knew it was a virtual certainty that money would be spent on her. And after I shook my head to a counterfeit North Face jacket and some disgusting cowboy boots, she lit upon a little doll chest with a cut glass knob. Mom found a Russel Wright cream pitcher for a quarter. It's exactly the same as the cream pitcher I found last year--the kind that's supposed to sit on a matching sugar bowl. WHERE ARE THE SUGAR BOWLS? Katie bought a little piece of needlepoint and some Amish cheese. Dad bought a green army blanket that must be the missing piece in his surely now-complete army blanket collection. I didn't see anything I wanted. I eyed a Frankoma serving tray in the shape of Texas. If it had been in the shape of a state where I'd ever lived, I might have bought it. But nah.

Finally we were on the way out and I saw that stuffed swan guy sitting on the ground. It tinkled some key of memory somewhere--I remember seeing patterns for these animal pillows in the fabric store when I was a kid. I turned this one over and he was clearly home stuffed and sewn. And he has a little label that says, "Wild Swan." I looked at the man in the booth, and he held up one finger. I was like, "Oh for one dollar, this is ALL MINE." Laura cheered me on. When I rejoined the rest of our group with this bird under my arm, I'm sure it was the least surprised they've ever been. I said, "I had to get this, I can't really answer any questions about it." And Kate said, "Yeah, I don't know why, but that's just you all over."

On the way home, we wondered what Matt would say when he saw my special find. Dad went with, "Really?" And I predicted something like, "Well I'm glad we got THAT finally." But when I walked in and placed the swan on the coffee table, what he actually said was, "Oh no, no, no, no, no!" Dad goes, "Nobody had that in the pool." And Matt closed his eyes for a minute. I don't know if he was tired or what. And then when we were packing the car to go, he insisted on calling it a goose. And that's just hurtful! A goose, really.

So I don't know, like my owl lamp, I couldn't just leave it there. I love animal motifs, but I am also trying to rid our house of clutter. Which makes this purchase an odd move. I may decorate it for Christmas and stick it under the tree. Or I may put it under the covers on Matt's side of the bed tonight. Or in the driver's seat of his car. So many fun possibilities!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ghosthunting in The Country

dave in graveyard
My brother, the graveyard, the haunted church, and my unblogged dog Percy.
We just got back from our weekend at my brother Dave's new place in Giles County, Tennessee. I mentioned before we left that they arrived on Bee Spring Road, their new environs, to find that the abandoned church right across from where their driveway lets out is said to be haunted AND there is some kind of southern Sasquatch, the Beast of Bee Spring, roaming around. So, lots to take in! And I just have the neighbor with the possum as a pet. I'm feeling shortchanged right now.

Bee Spring Graveyard
Dave's land abuts the graveyard; his house is up behind those trees.
Seriously, the minute they were finished signing the documents at the house closing, the previous owners said, "Okay, now we can tell you about the Beast of Bee Spring." And Katie says they were laughing, but not like "oh ho ho," like, nervously! Dave says he thinks they were nervous because they hadn't disclosed that this church and graveyard is actually something of a local tourist attraction, and they maybe should have? I don't know, I think it's all very fun, but maybe it will wear thin.

Before we went there this weekend, I thought that the church was said to be haunted and people showed up there on Halloween. But people are stopping by there every day. Both days we were there, out walking around, we saw people hanging out down there. And one couple my mom and dad had seen there three separate times. These people were "ghosthunters" or some such, and they were telling Dad all about the fancy detecting equipment they were going to bring back to monitor the ghostly happenings in this little church. Apparently a big thing to do is to take flash photos through the windows at night, and then see figures in the weird light effects. And then record ambient noise? Not sure.

church interior
I peeked through the window to catch a glimpse of the spooky spooking, but nothing doing.
bee spring ghost
Caught this spectral apparition. Proof!
Okay, but here's where it gets interesting. I was confused about the two competing and overlapping supernatural stories going on: The church is haunted AND there's a Beast of Bee Spring out here, living off the land? Why are there two freaky stories about Bee Spring when most places have none? Is there some legendary connection between the Beast and the haunting of Bee Spring Church?

Well, we spent a long time walking around the graveyard and admiring the headstones. The graveyard was begun in 1815, and we were surprised to see several grave markers of people who had been born before the Revolutionary War. I know that is commonplace in the northeast, but not so much down here. The kids were fascinated by it, and we all lingered a long time, getting a feel for what families were represented there. Then we noticed this family plot.

The Guffey family plot
guffeys 2

We noticed that this husband, wife, and two children had all died on the same day: April 29, 1909. We thought, a fire? Some horrible violence? Then Dave had a thought. "Oh," he said. "In 1909 a tornado came through here and destroyed the church. It was a bad storm, and people died." We thought, hmm, maybe these people were victims. Later, back at the house, we googled it and confirmed that yes, this was the date of a deadly series of tornadoes that touched down all across the area. Fifty people were killed in this little part of Tennessee alone.

Then Dave and Kate filled in a part of the Beast's lore that I'd missed: The story is that the Beast of Bee Spring locked a lot of people in the church and set it on fire.

So, did the destruction of the church by the 1909 tornado somehow transmute into a story of the church being burned down by the bigfoot monster? And did people die in the church when the tornado hit? I don't know, that day was a Thursday and the storm came through the area at midnight. So it seems unlikely there would have been anyone there. Unless they took shelter there? This is just me wondering aloud. But that detail of the Beast's story is kind of chilling to me, not because I think there's really a beast, but because we can so clearly see the fingerprints of some story-maker on it. I mean, it's not vague stuff like, the Beast steals from people's gardens and leaves footprints, and whatever. It's such a specific and, well, monstrous thing. Who started saying that, and why? If we subscribe to the notion that stories, folklore, and legends serve some purpose for the community in which they circulate--what we called "cultural work" in grad school--what work is carried out by this terrible story?

One funny thing: Dave reports that some of the people he's met who were hanging out waiting for ghosts kind of made light of the haunting, like they didn't really believe it, but spoke of the Beast of Bee Spring with real awe, like, "Oh yeah, now THAT's the real thing here." What in the hecks?

Is anyone still with me? Am I overthinking this? Anyway.

matt and hank
It's a pretty place.

The spring
Drinking from the spring of Bee Spring.

In the older sections, many of the stones are all wonky or broken or illegible.
Late this afternoon, Dave, Dad, Matt, Hank, and I walked up to the top of the ridge overlooking the church, across from Dave's house. Dave said to me, "This feels like the beginning of a novel, our moving here. 'Young family from the city moves to the country and finds itself in the middle of a hotbed of family secrets, ghosthunting tourists, mystery, and local legend.'" I agreed and said that, in the plotting of the novel, the story of the Beast would be revealed to have been made up and put around by someone as a cover for some crime or terrible deed. I had been envisioning this notional novel as a comic, fish-out-of-water story, but we talked about what the secret deed could have been, and things turned kind of dark.

And I guess the main truth is that we all just love to hear and repeat sad, strange, or dark stories. Saturday night, we had a big bonfire after dark. As I told Matt, this is the most middle-of-nowhere place I have been in a long time. It makes the mountain house feel almost suburban. I mean, at the mountain house, you are fifteen minutes from a bookstore that serves wine. On Bee Spring Road you are just a good ways from absolutely anything. The stars were incredible.

Anyway, at the bonfire, my mom told the story of the house her great-grandmother grew up in. The house was an old place in downtown Lanett, Alabama, and her great-grandmother and all her aunts and uncles always swore up and down it was haunted. Mom says they told the same stories about it all their lives--strange screaming, sounds of dishes breaking, mysterious lights, cold patches, etc--and never changed the stories and never wavered. Dave and I remembered hearing about it as kids, and so Mom told Laura. She was transfixed. And then she was so scared, she slept on a couch in the living room because she didn't want to go upstairs by herself.

Out by the fire last night, I told Laura I would pay her one hundred dollars to make her way down the driveway in the dark--a driveway that meanders for like a quarter-mile before it gets out to the road--and then go to the spring and wet her hands, then come back to the house and show me her wet sleeves to prove she had been there. She told me that she would not do it for a million dollars, and I think she meant it.

What about you, are you brave or scaredy? A few things that go bump in the night are always fun, I think.  It was a great time. We loved our visit and I look forward to many more. If you have read this far, I kiss your face!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Group Pics

mom and me
Ma and me. My hair has gotten long all the sudden?
The weekend is demanding enough without having to read a bunch of words. So I will give you a few pictures instead. We had a really good day rambling around my brother's new place, and later I'll have to tell you about how this haunting of the little church across the road and the local Bigfoot is like Totally A Thing all around here. But Saturday night is no time for narrative.

gabe climbing steps
Gabe clambering.
laura in backyard
Laura bouncing.
living room
Kate and Dave have a tall, pretty living room. Love.
Kitchen conversation.
Gorgeous and warm here today.
boys on porch
Dudes al fresco.
Don't know where the baby was for this shot.
My sister-in-law is like a 33rd-level Wizard of Lunch. We came back from a walk and she'd put the baby down for a nap and prepared a huge meal. Which we ate gratefully. The End. I hope you had pleasant and satisfying times today. xoxo

Friday, November 16, 2012

Into Green Acres

Baby Gabe is working hard, but he wants to know, are you?

My brother and sister-in-law, formerly of Capitol Hill, Washington DC, have lit out for the territory, leaving their city life and buying a house on 39 acres in the country outside Huntsville, Alabama. So far outside Huntsville, actually, that they are in Tennessee. The house is a beautiful, barely lived-in cottage that was custom built by two gay guys. Ideal. There is a cave entrance on their property, lots of deer and turkeys, a haunted church across the road, and a legend about a Bigfoot-style monster, the Beast of Bee Spring, who stalks the area. So, basically perfect. This local Bigfoot has a devoted cult following of people who assemble at the church every Halloween to wait for him to manifest, like a redneck Great Pumpkin.

I am very excited to visit.

And we are going over there tonight, just for the weekend. Yay! I haven't seen Gabriel in forever, or not since August anyway.

I am packing our things and we will leave as soon as Matt gets finished playing something called Whirlyball. I don't know, it's a company team-building thing, and it involves bumper cars and lacrosse sticks. And people think computer game development is not a real job.

Leaving town means I had to turn down an invitation from my tennis friend T to go see the new Twilight movie with her. Which I totally would have done, but it will have to wait. Oh Edward!

What are y'all up to? Have a good Friday night and I will check back in with you tomorrow, unless I meet the Beast of Bee Spring first.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


When the weather turns cool, I am very vulnerable to buying things. It is like no other time of year, and I mean, before we even get to Christmas shopping. When it is chilly, that is, when it is actually chilly inside my house, I start to fantasize about things that have magical warming properties. Things made of cashmere, down, fleece, etc. Of course, I have a complete winter wardrobe. I have these things. (Remember our mantra: I already have nice things. I already have nice things.) But around this time of year, I find myself wondering if three pairs of ugg boots are enough, and whether they make sheepskin shorts with the fleece on the inside that I could wear, like lederhosen-meets-Sundance, with a turtleneck over a pair of thick leggings.

Because that would be the most fantastic outfit ever. Truly! No really, I'm serious.

Matt came downstairs the other day to find me still wearing the teeny spandex shorts I had worked out in, with the addition of a pair of fleece legwarmers pulled all the way up to my thighs, leaving my shins bare. He said, "You know, there is another kind of clothing that would cover all these parts of your body." I also had on uggs and a cashmere cardigan, only the cardigan was too big so I'd belted it with the sash to my bathrobe which happened to be in the laundry room. It was a special look, it's a pity I didn't take a dozen self-portraits and put them on instagram.

But also, shopping. Every fall I fight the urge to rebuy things I already have because I like them and they work so well. Do you feel this urge?

Anyway, I found something this season I didn't already own and it is everything I hoped it would be. Fleece-lined leggings. They are only ten bucks and they combine the toastiness of fleece with the not-real-pantsiness of leggings.

I do not seek to relitigate the Are Leggings Pants question. I know there are strong feelings on both sides, but I feel that if you are wearing a longish top, and tallish boots, what happens in the middle is your own private Idaho.

Okay, so I'm loving the leggings, and they are taking the edge off my shopping jones. Other things I do when it's chilly: drink coffee all day long. And the other day I was at Cost Plus for some reason with my parents and my dad made me buy this German spiced wine. I'm having a mug every night. I'm having one now.

Stay warm my friends. xo

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Swim for Your Life, O Human Child!

ursula's lair
Ursula's Lair
Our thoughts and takeaways from watching multiple, multiple middle school performances of Little Mermaid:

Laura is one of the black-clad Poor Unfortunate Souls up there, but it was basically impossible to photograph her because dang Ariel was always standing in the way. And Laura was in the back because she's tall, the light was greenish and dim, and the souls were constantly, like, writhing. After a couple of shows, I was like, "Laura, scoot up front! Elbow some of the other souls out of the way, but subtly!" But she didn't.

laura soul
There she is, the one who's almost in focus.
laura chef 2
Her other incarnation.
There were two casts of lead actors, but Laura and the other members of the corps were in every show. And there was a lot of girl talent in this group! Both Ariels were truly great singers, I couldn't believe they were twelve and thirteen years old.

two ariels

flounder 2
This little girl who played Flounder just totally killed it.
Pretty costumes.
So the girls were awesome, but you know who was not awesome? The boys. All of the boys seemed like maybe they were bribed to be on stage, and maybe they had been. It was hilarious. It was like probably they'd never spoken English sentences before. Or worn clothing, or talked and moved at the same time. Discussing it later, Matt said, "You know, science has yet to devise a use for the middle school boy." And I had to agree. Bless their hearts!


The shining exception was both little boys who played the crab, especially this kid here. He had it together and he even did the Jamaican accent. But observing the general dearth of boy talent, I understood why the high school's production this fall was Little Women.

During the show week, a rumor was circulating that next year's play would be Aladdin. We thought, hmm, that would be fun, but it needs too many strong male leads. Matt was like, they should just do it with all girls, and I was all, is there something that has even more girls than Little Women? Laura mentioned Annie. That might do the trick.

The other thing that cracked me up was the tizzy the entire cast was in because Ariel and Prince Eric actually kiss on stage. Look at this picture and look at the kids in the background. (There's Laura in the back right.) Not a single one of them is in character at this point, they are all reacting to their classmates kissing for real on stage. Six shows, they were like this. And when Laura talked about it, she was like, "OHMIGOD!" Oh man, so funny and kind of sweet.

It was a fun week. Having a teeninsy role to play was just about perfect for Laura. She loved being part of something bigger, but with no actual pressure. She also loved being fussed over and getting into her costumes.

laura big hair
We liked the big Poor Unfortunate Soul hair.
Our final takeaway--Matt's and mine--was that we do not think we are raising an actress. Laura, we feel, only wants to play the role of Laura. Which can be very appealing, and I can imagine other parts in this show she could have done well in. She is not afraid to stand up in front of people and do things. But actually acting like someone else? I can't see it. I suspect that she will find, though, that in many life situations, acting like yourself is enough. Also showing up, being cheerful, and working the hair.

I hope that you have enjoyed this journey under the sea. If for some reason you do not yet feel like YOU sat through five shows of this pageantry, the set of flickr pics is here.