Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing Hooky

On Monday afternoon I got a wild hare to take the kids up to North Carolina for a couple of days. Mom and Dad were going to be up at their mountain house for a bit longer before heading back down to Florida, and I knew it would be gorgeous, cool weather up there. What better way to not turn on the air-conditioner in my own house, right? Also, with standardized testing over in the second grade, I figured that missing one-and-a-half days of school would not condemn Laura to subaltern status in the global economy of the future. Of course, while I was gone I got like five increasingly shrill emails about classroom stuff from my co-room mom. "End of the year party!" "Lunch or snack??" "Watermelon kabobs?!?" "Hula hoop contest or limbo??!!!!????" "Dear lord, flower LEIS for the boys or BEACH BALLS????!!!!!!111"

Yeah. So I'm back on duty now. As I was driving down into our cul-de-sac, I saw Conspiracy Guy standing at the end of his driveway. He gave us a little wave, and kind of stepped toward us like he wanted to speak, so I stopped and rolled down the window. "Hey, how's it going?" I asked. He pantomimed strangling himself with both hands, sticking out his tongue and making his eyes big. I said, "Ha ha. Busy, huh?" He then pantomimed shooting himself in the head. One hand, pointer finger extended, was the gun, and the other hand--and I have never seen this done--was what I took to be bits of his brain and skull flying away from the exit wound on the other side of his head. I took my foot off the brake and begin to roll. To complete the charade, he rocked back on one leg and stumbled sideways. Laura said, "Mom, what is he doing?" I said, "I don't know." Then I gave him a nod and cruised on up into my driveway.

Tomorrow, remind me to tell you about a conversation I had with Conspiracy Guy about the Mystery People. Believe me, if that guy thinks you're weird, you are weird in a serious, scientifically-provable way, my friend.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The A/C Challenge is ON, Yo!

Every spring I play a little game with myself. It is called Must Wait Until As Late in the Season As Possible Before Turning the Air Conditioner On. Do you do this? I am kind of miserly when it comes to cooling and heating the house. (Oddly, I have no problem spending money on other things.) I confess that it's become a test of my toughness, only in my own mind. Early this last week, I walked out my front door and heard the humming of my neighbor's A/C, for the first time this year. I thought, "WIMP! I am mas macho!" Actually it did seem a little silly, because the weather early this week was gorgeous and cool. But Mindy is kind of like a rare orchid or precious medieval manuscript--she needs stable levels of temperature and humidity or she begins to deteriorate.

For the last two years, I've set June 1 as the date I had to get to with no A/C. I will tell you how it goes. Both years we made it, and last year I blasted right through the target date without even feeling any real pain. The main living areas of our house are on the north side, and we have these mega-turbo ceiling fans, so it stays tolerable even when it's warm outside. Upstairs, at night, we just rely on open windows, fans, and stubbornness. It helps that Matt barely notices the ambient temperature of the house, and he doesn't he know where the thermostats are or how to operate them. He just removes clothing until he reaches a comfortable personal climate. I haven't had as much success waiting to turn on the heat in the fall. For two years I've tried to get to November 1, and I only made it once. A few days of taking care of a toddler in a truly frigid house, and I'm like, "Sorry Mother Earth, they don't make Uggs I can wear on my face."

And speaking of loving the earth and all, check into this: our local power company offers to install "load management" switches on your A/C units that they can control by radio. During hours of peak usage during the summer, they'll turn off our A/C compressor for 7.5 minutes out of every 30 minutes. This can happen between the hours of 2-7PM. We lived through a couple of summers of rolling brownouts in California, and if this helps prevent that, and saves us some money, I'm fine with it. (Of course, back then, we didn't know that the whole California brownout thing had been ginned up by Enron.)

So we had the switches installed on both our A/C units--I signed up online, and the installation took like 20 minutes and happened entirely outside--and now we get a $46 rebate for each switch. That is not bad. I bet a lot of power companies are doing similar things--you might be getting leaflets about it in your monthly bill. Seriously, the first summer we lived in this house (we moved in right at the beginning of July, from a two-bedroom apartment in Northern California that didn't even have A/C), I had no idea what air conditioning did to one's electric bill. I opened the bill that first month, and I had a stroke and died, and I'm blogging now from beyond the grave, because lordy lord LORD.

Actually, for this summer, I have devised the ultimate cooling-off and power-saving strategy, and it is that just as it is getting hot as absolute butt in Atlanta, around the beginning of July, we are going to go to the Southern hemisphere, where get this, it will be winter. I don't really know how they manage that, but they must be geniuses down there. Just today I bought plane tickets for us all to go to Sydney and visit my sister and her fam for a few weeks. We had been talking about going, and then yesterday, I was innocently shopping with our mother, and Amy sent me a text message: "Buy some damn plane tickets before I unleash hell, ok?" And everyone has always thought of her as the nice one. Ha! This is the person who called me to congratulate me when she saw that my Facebook friend total went over 100. Of course, she herself has just under a kabillion friends. Sweet as sugar, that one!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nature Does Not Hurry, That's For Sure

This morning I had just let the dog out, and while I was serving Hank his breakfast, Percy started barking in the backyard. I would say "barking like crazy," except that anyone who knows this dog or beagles as a breed is aware that "barking like crazy" is standard beagle operating procedure. This barking went up to eleven. Like, from how it sounded, I thought she was barking at the second coming of Jesus. Or maybe at a shark riding on an elephant's back.

So yelling rude things out the door didn't get her to be quiet, but it got Hank to ask, "Mama, did you say 'stupid dumb?'" Whoops. So I put on my sandals and went out to investigate. Bark bark bark. I could see nothing. Percy glanced at me over her shoulder like, "I am SO glad you're here." Bark bark. I stared and stared into the woods, looking for a deer, coyote, rabbit, Sasquatch, anything. Nothing. The hair stood up on Percy's back, and she actually inched sideways and stood behind a tree, stretching her neck around to howl, howl so loud it broke the world.

Finally, following her gaze, I saw the horror.

Eastern Box Turtle

Percy looked disgusted with me when I leaned down and picked up the turtle. I carried it up the hill and put it down close to the back porch, then I called for Hank to come see it. The dog was shut up on the porch by the baby gate, while Hank and I sat down about six feet away on the porch steps to look at the turtle. It had pulled its head and legs into its shell, but I figured that if we waited a minute he would come out again. So we waited.

And waited. The turtle did nothing. I wondered if it was completely shellshocked from the barking and the being picked up. I don't know how sensitive turtles are to trauma. So we sat. I had told Hank it was a Box Turtle, so he kept saying "Open your lid! Open your lid!" We waited, enjoying the breeze. The turtle sat, possibly enjoying the breeze. Percy scratched and whimpered softly, right on the other side of the baby gate.

A robin fussed at us from the dogwood tree, and I remembered that there is a robin's nest in the big camelia bush right by our porch. I had noticed it a couple of days ago. So by putting the turtle down and settling on the steps, we had startled the mother bird off of her nest. I said, "I'm sorry, as soon as this turtle comes out of his shell and walks for Hank, we'll be out of your way." She jumped down and started pacing in the mulch. I would have picked up the turtle and moved us all somewhere else, but I didn't want to restart the turtle clock.

The earth turned, Percy fretted, we sat. Hank said he was thirsty. I stepped over the baby gate and got some juice for him and a cup of coffee for myself. The bottom part of the turtle's shell looked like it had opened a millimeter, but it may have been a shadow. Hank mused, "Where is that turtle's mama?" I said, "Well, maybe that is the mama." He got a look on his face like, "Mom, in order for me to find that turtle relatable, it needs to be the baby, not the mama. Nothing worthy of narrating happens to mamas." So I said, "Or maybe he's on his way home to his mama." Interest renewed.

Turtle status: unchanged. I started to feel like we were upsetting an entire backyard ecosystem. Distressed mother robin, schizo-paranoid beagle, paralyzed/stubborn/snoozing turtle, inadequately SPF'd Hank, and me, in pajamas and pink snakeskin Birkenstocks. It was a majestic natural tableau. Remember that "Planet Earth" series? It was kind of like a scene from that. But with more tension. Something had to give. Hank broke the standoff by saying he needed to use the potty. I thought, "Okay, it's like in a restaurant. While you're in the bathroom, your food arrives. If we go inside, this turtle will just burst into activity."

And he did, sorta. When we came back out, he'd poked his head out that little bit, and we were able to go up to him and look at him, and I took his picture. Then the mother robin fluttered up from her nest again. She was like, "Really? You're back. Really. That's great." So I picked up the turtle and turned him over. Hank touched his shell on both sides, and even touched his little claws that were peeking out. Then I moved the turtle back to where I'd found him, because maybe he was going somewhere in particular.

Then I picked a tick off of Hank's shin, and then we went back inside and left everyone in peace.

Here ends the day's field study notes from our house. Are y'all outside playing? Have a good weekend, whatever you get up to!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern-Fried Earth Day

I love the South, I grew up in the South, I married a Southerner, the South and I get along just fine. 'Kay? And I think the old stereotypes about southern provincialism and backwardness are boring. Which in the Suburban Matron worldview, is even worse than being wrong. But. . .

One April weekend long ago, in the last century even, I found myself sojourning in Selma, Alabama. It happened to be the weekend of their annual reenactment of the Battle of Selma. So thither to the battlefield we went to see this spectacle with our own eyes. From reading their website, it looks like the reenactment has become a bigger event than it was that year. What we saw was no cast-of-thousands epic, but a few dozen reenactors, with costumes--some blue, some gray--and horses. We sat on aluminum bleachers, and an announcer on the PA system tried to tell us what was going on.

The US Civil War's Battle of Selma, in April of 1865, was part of the Union General James H. Wilson's raid through Alabama and then Georgia. He laid siege to Selma, the site of a big arsenal and munitions. The city was defended by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was already a big celebrity. The South lost, Forrest was wounded, and only escaped by swimming across the Alabama River. He lived to do other stuff like help found the KKK. I'm doing violence to a rich and complicated history here, but that's the bottom line.

So the main battle was in the city all along its fortifications; I guess what we were seeing in that field was a little skirmish moment on the outskirts. It was vague. But whatever, there were dudes riding horses really fast, and snacks, and even though I feared for my complexion, as I had mislaid my parasol, it was all very diverting. The announcer kept telling us that we were in for a treat, a "major artillery demonstration." The battle reached its climax, and the announcer warned us that we may want to cover our ears. I clamped my hands to my head just as a big tree exploded in the middle of the field. They had wired it with dynamite. Louder than hell, and dirt and wood flew everywhere. It smelled like the world's biggest firecracker.

As the smoke cleared a little, the sight of the blasted tree stump reminded me: it was Earth Day.

So that's my story of how I went to South Alabama and they blew up a tree. On Earth Day. Y'all.

Hope your day was a happy one, and lacking in flying dirt!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Suburban Matron is One, Y'all

Today is Suburban Matron's first birthday. My blog is officially a toddler! And sleeping through the night and everything. I started this blog one lovely day last April, when some random cosmic ray struck my skull and made me think of doing it. In retrospect, it's odd that I haven't been blogging since the dawn of blogtime, 'cause Lord do I love to talk. Talkin' and sayin' words, all the livelong day, that's me. I am still surprised and totally delighted that anyone besides my blood relations reads this. Bloggy friends, I wish you were with me right now so that I could share some of my bloggy birthday cake with you. Which, let's be honest, is actually a big stack of Ritz crackers.

And because of my profound narcissism, as well as the fact that Dooce did it so it must be okay, I am doing a little round-up of some of my favorite posts from the past year. Some of these are by request, some of them probably only I like, and ONE of them is my most favoritest post I ever wrote. See if you can guess which one. It recounts an incident that, even while it was happening to me, made me think, "Thank GOD I have a blog or I would DIE." So I would call these My Greatest Hits, except even typing that makes me gag on my Ritz.

So take a little time and click around. And hey, if you read here sometimes but have never commented, maybe comment and say "Hi," so I can know who else I'm scarfing crackers for. Muchas smooches, friends!

May 2008
Summer, Day 1
I went to Target and got some products for Matt's sunburn. When I came home he was sitting shirtless in front of a box fan and making terrible, miserable noises of misery.

June 2008
In Which My True Nature is Revealed
I know there are some reasons that "gated communities" are thought of with disdain, and supposedly they have some soul-deadening properties, but right now I can't remember what they are.

June 2008
Service Call
Alisa the handywoman arrived a while ago. She had a real tool belt and a flashlight and sturdy socks on. While I was standing in the kitchen telling her about the problem, I thought, “This woman is totally checking me out. I still got it!”

July 2008
Many times, Matt has arrived at a destination with nothing in his suitcase but board games and socks that were put in to cushion the board games.

August 2008
Well, That Was Awkward
So while it wasn't super comfortable to be sharing the room with Marge, neither Mom nor I minded much. Then, while I was talking to my sister on the cell phone, Marge let out a trumpeting poot on the other side of the curtain.

September 2008
Maybe a Little Less Conversation
I had just walked up to the bus stop to find only the German au pair and this grandmother. So that you can share in how I had my very life force sapped this afternoon, here is our word-for-word dialogue.

October 2008
Four Conversations with My Neighbors
And now, she's using the skin of the bear that her dead husband shot to adorn the walls of her new husband's man cave.

November 2008
We Are Not Navy SEALs: A Thanksgiving Story
Amy got into position, and I yelled, “Go! Go! Dive!” while she rolled out the door and ran around behind the car. I took off again in a spray of gravel while Amy pulled up her hood and crouched behind a tree.

December 2008
Cracking Wise
I think it's good that we didn't pursue the gifted program last year.

December 2008
Shorties Were Sipping
The kids were checking out their goody bags, and I was picking up piles of tissue paper, when a mom got right in front of me and said, "Maybe next time, the kids could all have the same toy. Some of them are unhappy with what they got."

January 2009
I’m Going To Rock Your World. With Foil.
Turns out we’ve been totally doing it wrong.

February 2009
Neighbors at Dusk: A Play in One Act
Mindy: Well, I better get in the house, because my supper is all ready in the kitchen, and if Danica's alone with it, she might take some of it.

March 2009
Things Not To Say
I'd like to make a series of recommendations.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hydrangeas. And a Decorating Suggestion.

We waited too late to prune the giant hydrangea bush, so we must have snipped off some buds. It's not blooming with the totally crazy profusion of last year, but there have been plenty of big snowball blooms to bring into the house.

Playing with the mantle.

I never get tired of that shape and that creamy color. When they first bloom, they have a greenish tint. All the blooms that had long enough stems for clustering together in big containers have been cut already. The short-stemmed flowers are left, but I like how these look put in tiny bud vases. I'm playing around with my mantle, changing it up for summer. I'm going with a silvery and white look, except for that Voysey clock, which stays around. I am a little obsessive about the mantle, and my sister will attest to the fact that I have emailed her photos of the whole tableau, and even once, yes, webcammed her, live, into my living room so she could weigh in. Also the Easter chick needs to go, but it's so fuzzy!

Hydrangea Time!

Speaking of white, this brings me to the Suburban Matron decorating Tip o' the Week: get some tacky crap, spray paint it white, and enjoy the transformation to total chic. For example, that white clipper ship up there. Here it is again.

A Thing I Spraypainted White
It was made by Syroco, which made metric tons of terrible "home accessories" during the 80's and before. If you were a kid and your mom went to a Home Interiors party or some such, chances are there was a lot of this for sale. I got alerted to Syroco by the crafty Nicole at Making It Lovely. Go look at her finds. She gave me the idea to buy this awful plastic junk off of ebay, if it's in a shape you like, and then coat it with glossy spray paint. It is cheap, cheap, CHEAP, and then you see Anthropologie selling the same thing for ten times the cost.

So "syroco" is a good search term on ebay, and it will bring up similar things that aren't necessarily by the same company. Here's another piece that I love.

Another Thing I Spraypainted White

This little Federal mirror was originally a terrible faux bronze-colored plastic. But it is perfectly lovely in white, over a little table in my entryway. It works in part because of the scale. Which brings me to another tip: if you are going to have an obvious reproduction or adaptation of an iconic piece of design, play with the scale. Have it be either tiny or huge. That way it's kind of witty and interesting, and not just ersatz. You dig? Just one matron's opinion.

I paid about ten dollars for the ship, and I think $12 for the mirror. That is a steal for a convex mirror. A search of ebay right now brings up some interesting things. There are some sconces on there that would look truly expensive if you painted them--it's a set of four. They'll be sold by the time you click, but take a look.

I'm torn about what to do with these babies. They are from 1966, and the finish is in excellent shape. But I can't decide if I love or hate them.

I got them thinking I would paint them and hang them in the kids' bathroom. But then I thought it would look too cluttered. I can envision a room in which these would look great, just as they are. But I do not have that room in my house. Do you see a future for these? Either painted white, or some other color, or just as they are? The finish is so mint that it pains me to paint them. Maybe. They're just not quite. . .right.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Congratulations are in order, friends! In this house, on this day, Hank went poop in the potty. We are beaming with pride. I think what made the difference is that we are all home on a weekend for the first time in many weeks, and Matt and I were both talking about the whole issue to him. And Laura took it upon herself to make him a sticker chart. She made a line for number one too, so he could experience some early success. (I don't know where she gets it, but she has some pedagogical genius.) After a few false tries, he came into the house and asked for me to leave him alone in the bathroom, and then the deed was done. We hugged him and high-fived him and gave him a skittle, and then an airplane wrote his name in the sky, and I don't think that was too much, do you?

Yesterday I was laughing, because he asked me if he could take a drink into the bathroom to sit on the potty with, and I thought that might relax him and get him to linger. So I said, "Sure you can." He said, "Okay Mom, I want a popsicle and some hot chocolate."

I don't know if I would be able to manage those two things on the toilet, and I don't even think a popsicle is really a drink.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Week in Frenemy Playdates

Before Laura got out for Spring Break last week, I happened to run into Frenemy Neighbor, and I said, "So, are you guys taking a spring break next week?" As you may recall, her daughter P is homeschooled now, except for the couple of days a week she spends at a homeschool center (it's a lot like a school). She said they were, so I thought, "Great, L loves to play with P, and surely if they're on spring break too, we'll fit into their carefully-managed schedule somewhere." So then. . .

Monday: I text Frenemy Neighbor. She likes for me to text her rather than call her, as she explained, because if I call her, her daughter will know that Laura's mom called and that she has been invited to play, and if a playdate doesn't fit in with FN's plans, P will have to be told no, which creates a problem. Alright. So I texted her, "Would P like to get together and play?" She texts back, "Maybe later. P has to finish some schoolwork." I text back, "Oh, thought y'all were on break." She texted, "We are, but we still have schoolwork." Um. . . ??? Later that afternoon, Laura did go up to their house for some basement karaoke, which staved off her imminent death from boredom, so that was a good outcome.

Tuesday: Frenemy Neighbor texts to ask if P can play at our house while she runs some errands. Certainly, I said. While the two girls are playing, Pretty Neighbor drops by with her daughter and preschooler son. She settles her pregnant self on my couch, and we dig into a nice chat. Hank and her little boy dig into Legos. Now the three girls are playing together, except P doesn't really like to play in groups, and she keeps devising ways to pull Laura away from her other friend, F. When they propose all getting on Webkinz, with Laura and P in one room and Pretty Neighbor's daughter in another, I decide to do some parenting: "Nope, no computers. I want all three of you to go play out back." Laura and F happily agree, and P says, and I quote, "My mother won't allow me to play outside, because it's too cold."

Okay, it was chilly, it was probably in the low 40's and sunny. But I am of the opinion that if a child wants to play outside and will dress appropriately, it is never too cold. I mean, this is Atlanta--we're not going to be pulling her out of a snowbank. If they really get too cold, they'll come inside, right? Do you have a policy on this?

So I said, "Alright, but no computers. Find something to do." So they played hotel, with F and P as guests in separate bedrooms, and Laura as the overworked chambermaid.

Wednesday: A painful death from boredom looms over Laura again, and all of her other playmates are busy. The weather is also warmer. So I text Frenemy Neighbor, and lo, P comes over, carrying, as she always does, her own water bottle and her cell phone. The girls play happily. A couple of hours later, Frenemy is knocking on my door. When I greet her, she says, with annoyance, "I called P's cell phone to tell her I was coming but she didn't answer!" I shrug. P's phone is on my dining room table, and nobody has heard it ring. I imagine that P will be reprimanded for not having her phone on her person, because I've seen this happen before.

There you have it. Oh, and in addition to Pretty Neighbor's daughter, L played with a couple of other friends here and there with no friction and no weirdness. Frenemy Neighbor is the epicenter of the weirdness.

Sure, this is all kind of trivial, but you know me well enough now to know that that's just the stuff I like to tell you about.

Have a great weekend, y'all! The weather here is gorgeous, I'm cleaning up my back porch for company, and the hydrangeas are blooming. I love that hydrangea bush so much that I want to make out with it, but it's kind of polleny.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Parenting Flashback: The Coke Baba

I don't think that she has ever actually denied this--the woman is nothing if not secure in her parenting choices--but here is proof, ocular proof, that my mother gave me Coke in a baby bottle.

Coke Baba

Is this practice familiar to anyone else? Sometimes I wonder what things we do now that will be seriously outmoded to our future children. I certainly remember my little sister (and maybe my brother) getting coke babas, but by then the carefree 70's had given way to the 80's. It is amazing that I have all of my teeth, and that they're in good working order. By the way, do you like my poor man's scanner?

And look at that pillowcase! I wish I had those sheets today. Also, giant rubber pants, check. Hereditary crazy hair, check. Raggedy Ann, check, and she's still around.

You know what I just learned? In Photoshop, you can correct redeye in a photograph of a photograph. You know what's weird? Correcting your baby self's redeye in a photo of a decades-old snapshot. Seriously, it's a strange feeling, kind of like when one of your hands goes to sleep and you touch it with your other hand.

This is my Funky Foto Flashback for Bex, who calls her meme "the most underrated on the internet." I totally agree, so go check it out over there. Or hang around and 'fess up to the Mountain Dew and strawberry smoothies you make for your kids.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still Working on That Big Boy Thing

My attempts to potty train Hank opened with his declaration that the big boy underwear I got him was "evil and bad." We have made a little progress since then, with Hank using the toilet for number one regularly, whenever we're at home. I've been sitting him up on the big potty whenever he says he needs to go, and then helping him get down. But yesterday morning, while I was up in my room getting dressed and Hank had gone downstairs ahead of me, I heard the downstairs toilet flush. A flushing toilet is not a good sound to hear when there is an unsupervised toddler anywhere near it. Like, what did he put in there? I went down to investigate, and Hank appeared, unencumbered by pants, and said, "I took off my diaper and peepeed in the potty!" And he had. Since that time, he insists on being in the bathroom by himself, and standing up to pee, just like a dude. He doesn't want me to watch him, which is too bad, 'cause it's totally adorable. But he doesn't know I can stand around the corner and see him in the mirror. After a successful tinkle, I let him pick a skittle out of a glass mug I have up in the cabinet. Probably he will continue to need candy after peeing when he's in college. I hope this doesn't cause a problem.

Number Two continues to elude us. I have heard reports that he has used the toilet for #2 a couple of times, once for Laura and once for my mother-in-law, but I have seen no evidence of this. He steadfastly asserts that he CANNOT poop in the potty and indeed, that big boys do NOT do that. This is in spite of my putting him on the toilet when I know he has to go. A bigger bribe, like the promise of a little chocolate rabbit or his own iPod does not move him, so to speak. So it has been two days since he had a BM, because he's not wearing his diaper at home most of the time. I think we're in a standoff. I even tried letting him sit on a potty chair in the sunroom, of all places. Sometimes I know he has to go because he'll say, "Put my diaper on!" No dice, bud. I just know he can do this, but he'll wait me out until I have to diaper him for a nap or something, I predict.

So, what have you guys done at this point? Anyone have a really determined kid like this? My friend Pretty Neighbor told me about her trick. She said that with her daughter, she put her in a pull-up, and started by letting her go in the diaper while sitting on the potty. Just to get her used to going in the bathroom. Then, and my mind just doesn't work like this, she cut the back out of the pull-up, so the kid still felt covered, but the #2 went into the potty. Then she was okay with having no diaper at all. It worked for them. I just don't tend to go to these tricks, because so far, we've been pretty straightforward with our kids about these things rather than engage in all kinds of parental judo. But maybe I'm just not talented in parental judo. Any input is appreciated.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Guess the Nuts Were a Tip

This morning, Hank and I were snuggled together in the sunroom watching Dora. It's how we start our day. Outside it grew windier and more blustery. On Dora, Diego made a guest appearance and brought an animal. Hank said, "It's a chinchilla," about ten seconds before Diego identified it. I was all amazement at this, because I didn't know what a chinchilla was until I was 30 years old and I'm still not sure I get it, when suddenly I heard a loud popping sound. When Matt came downstairs a few minutes later, I said, "Go out front and see if that tree fell down." I was thinking of a big oak in our front yard that has been ailing ever since before we moved in. It has a big crack in it and the trunk is hollow. It's also aimed squarely at our neighbor, leaning ominously toward Mindy's house.

I didn't think it really had fallen down, but indeed, the sound I heard was the tree cracking even more, so that now roughly half of the diameter of the trunk was still actually attached to the ground. Holy crackamole! Matt announced that he was going to Home Depot "to get some chain." The whole tree rocked in the wind, and I had visions of our tree falling on Mindy's house and our homeowner's insurance refusing to pay because the tree had been dead. Matt corrected me, "That tree is NOT dead, it has leaves on it. Take some pictures of them." So I commenced taking pictures of the partially-dead tree. Then I went in the house and googled "emergency tree service," and "oh god our neighbor will sue us please help." Actually, Mindy and Ron seemed pretty chill about it. Matt had spoken to them, and Ron said, "Well, if it falls, it falls." "When did they get all Zen?" I wondered. And I also googled "chinchilla," because seriously, how does Hank know that?

I got some tree people on the phone and they said they'd be here in an hour. I really love dealing with small businesses for this reason. Just like when we needed emergency locksmithing. When you need help quickly, I think a mom-and-pop is the way to go, because they want the business, and the people who do the work will also be answering the phone. I spoke to an older gent, and he reassured me, "I just need to go pick up Rod and we'll be there directly." Good enough. And by all means, bring Rod.

Now Matt was back with some yellow strappy things to splint the broken trunk. I was all, "Don't even touch it! Let's just leave it alone," like it was a bomb that would go off. But here he is checking out his handiwork.

Matt the Tree Surgeon

I shouldn't have doubted him, because when the tree man arrived, he was highly complimentary of the straps. The older tree guy had a cigar clenched between his teeth the entire time he spoke to me. Later he replaced it with a cigarette. But he said they'd get the tree down. Here it is after they cut off the broken part. Doesn't it look like a great fairy house? Farewell, old tree.


And there's Rod up in the tree, taking the limbs off. I pulled up a chair to the dining room window and watched this like it was a matinee. Also visible in this pic is neighbor Ron's Hummer, waiting to be crushed by a tree.

Tree Dudes
It was exciting, and there were tense moments, but they got it down. Or older guy and Rod did. There was a third man there who did nothing. Finally after a few hours of tree removal and cleanup, older guy came into the house to settle up. I thought this would be a straightforward and brief exchange in which he would tell me the fee, I would give him a check, and we would have brief pleasantries. Noooo. Instead he started to tell me two interleaved stories, prompted by his asking me what my husband did for work. When I said he was a computer game developer, Tree Man said that his son was studying for an IT job. I remarked that it was good work, and Tree Man said that his son had a criminal record, "like 95% of people," but that since it was drugs and not theft, he wouldn't have any trouble getting a job. Then he launched into a discussion of how most cops and DA's have drug problems, which he knows because he hunts with them. There was a parallel thread about some unidentified people selling their software company and how their product was "better than Google, or I don't know what they were calling it in those days," and how they made a killing and are only 26 and party all the time on their 3.5 acres, and can you believe that. I just made those two stories sound so much more cogent and interesting than they actually were. It took him forEVER to get all that out, while I leaned against the counter trying to look polite, and deferential to his elder status, but not too encouraging. At times, he paused so, so long that I feared that he might lose his thread altogether and circle back around to the beginning.

Finally I asked him what the damage was, and he said, "We'll let you go for 750. It should be more, but I'll say 750 if you'll let me try some of these nuts here." He gestured toward a big, two-pound jug of Emerald cocoa almonds. Reader, do you know how good those things are? So of course, I said, "By all means, help yourself." He reached into the jug with his unwashed, earthy, tree wrangling hands. I said, "Why don't you take those with you? Do you need a snack in your truck?" And he said, "I think I will."


So finally I paid that raconteur and waltzed him and his nuts to the door, and listened on the porch to a few more minutes of explanation of the DUI system and many other facets of human existence that I had not heretofore considered properly. Then he and Rod left, after diagnosing what was wrong with my azaleas, and promising to come back and put in some knockdown roses for me. Actually, that last part was really useful.

So, delicate tree removal and cleanup: $750. 38 ounces of Emerald almonds: $20. Not having our mostly-dead tree crush our neighbor's house: priceless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Strange Clientele

I no longer freak out over the weird google search terms that lead people to this blog. (I will only say, dudes in the UK, I am not that kind of "matron.") I've come to realize that it is a weird world, and the internet is an especially weird part of it. But these three referring searches made me laugh, coming one after the other as they did:

"7 things not to say when meeting peoples after a long time"

"how do I make feistive cupcakes"

"freeballing in school"

I've left them in all their misspelled, semiliterate glory. Actually, that first one sounds like a post I would have written. Or that I should write, peoples. Taken together, I think they outline the full contours of this here bloggy project.

Hank and I and a lot of dogs are off to the mountain house. Shall we reconvene next week? I just wanted to pop in to say that I hope you all have a very feistive Easter weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Daughter-Dog Exchange Program

You know how your hands are constantly reaching towards your children, to touch, feel, and squeeze them? Those kids need frequent tweaking, adjusting, and patting. It's fun to just love on 'em, as we say in the South. I gather that some people feel that way about dogs too. Like they, the dog lovers, delight in petting and scratching and showing affection to their animals. They just enjoy touching them. I think that is beautiful and healthy, but I am not that person.

This morning, Matt's mom Betty took Laura off on a spring break trip to Boston and Providence. In Laura's place, she left her Springer Spaniel, Buddy, to stay with us until they get back. He is a lot younger than our dog. Our beagle, Percy (who is a girl--my brother named her after a Florida Gators wide receiver) is sort of middle-aged, very low-maintenance, and possibly suffering from low self-esteem issues. I think if she could characterize her relationship with us, it might be:

Hey, I know that we've all made choices that have led us to this point, and maybe it's not exactly how we pictured our lives turning out, you know? Why don't we just live together as roommates? I don't need much. Just keep it kinda mellow, notice me sometimes, and I'll need to be let out to bark at the rabbit scourge. Thanks and see ya around.

Buddy the Springer Spaniel is a big boy with a broad back, a sort of Prince Valiant hairdo, and a freckled, earnest face. I think if he could talk to me, it would be more like:

Oh, HEY, what up? Wait, YOU like to sit on the couch? I love to sit on the couch! AND you like popcorn? That's like my favorite thing! OMG, so funny, we are like twins!! Awesome, we should do this more. Say, do you, like, need your feet right now, 'cause I'm gonna put my butt on 'em.

Matt remarked that having Buddy with us is like having a dog. I'm not sure I would say the same for Percy the Beagle, Daughter of Time. So it will be interesting. This morning Betty and Laura left at 6:30 to get to the airport, and Buddy made a mournful circuit of the house, looking for his mistress, before coming to my bedside, putting his face right next to mine, and whining in the pre-dawn gloom. I patted him and petted him, but clearly I wasn't doing something right. So he walked down the hall, shouldered Hank's door open, and looked for Betty in there, whining all the time. Hank was only too happy to wake up and talk to him. Grumble. So we were all up early, Hank and me and a lot of dogs.

So maybe it's the sleep deprivation, but it was very hard to not title this post "Doggy Styles." Restraint, people. That's what I have. Restraint and decorum out the whazoo.

Have a lovely Thursday.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blind Date

Has it happened to you that you've seen someone you know only slightly, or only know of through a mutual acquaintance, but it's someone you've barely ever spoken to, and that person has said, "Oh, I read your blog! I love it!" when you never dreamed that she would even would care that you had a blog, or would care to read it, and then after the thought, "Oh, that's so sweet! How flattering!" comes the thought, "Oh dear, I am so much less interesting than my blog." So you want to hug her around the neck for expressing her appreciation even as you're thinking, "Prepare to be bored, honey!"

You still with me? Right. But looky loo, internets! I met The Stiletto Mom last week, and SHE is even funnier, warmer, and more charming than her blog. Bitch.

Stiletto Mom et Moi

I kid! I was thrilled to get to meet her. She came through Hotlanta for work, and I got to to have dinner with her. My first bloggy blind date! Y'all, I straightened my hair for her. That's how excited I was. When I was walking up to the restaurant, I saw a very dejected woman, hunched on a bench, angrily smoking a cigarette and obviously waiting for someone. I could tell she was waiting because she kept checking her phone and then huffing loudly while looking up at the sky. I thought, "Um, is that Mary Anne? 'Cause she looks REALLY different from what I expected." Total blind date panic moment.

But of course it wasn't Mary Anne (she lets me call her Mary Anne, y'all). The real Mary Anne was totally adorable and waiting at the bar (duh). And she even had on the embroidered jeans from this post. That was weirdly exciting, like if you met Abe Lincoln and he was wearing his big stovepipe hat. Okay that's the worst comparison ever, but you get me. Maybe more like if you met Jon Armstrong, aka Blurb, and he was wearing Crocs. The jeans are way hotter, of course.

And we had such a nice time! I am amazed at all this woman has got going on, and she still finds time to have such an active blog life. She has been blogging for less time than I have, but somehow she knows everyone and everything. We talked nonstop for like three hours, and we could have gone on for many more. There were several things I didn't get to ask her, mostly about clothes, boys, and the Twilight books.

Seriously though, I want her to post over here about some of her suburban matronly experiences. She has room mom war stories that would turn your hair white. And so much to say about work/life balance and marriage and parenting and more. Mostly I just wish she lived closer, and I'm beginning an active lobbying campaign in that direction. It is so fun and different to meet someone you've been following from afar. I would love to get together with more of my blog friends, so anybody else passing through? I tried to get Mary Anne to agree to start a blog feud with me, but we couldn't really think of anything controversial enough to disagree about. Maybe next time?

Oh, and in addition to straightening my hair, I put on eyeliner. Mary Anne, all for you, honey!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Two-Pairs-of-Shoes Evening

Late last week I sent out a distress call, seeking guidance with an important footwear choice, and you guys talked me through. I won't keep you in suspense any longer: I went out wearing choice number one, and carried choice three in a giant purse. That purse was like the mother ship. In addition to the more comfortable shoes, it held a satellite party clutch that got sent out on the actual party missions. I thought the best way to tell about the burlesque party would be to share the tweets I would have composed if I actually used Twitter. (I got that idea from Messy Mom.) It was a great time--I swear, people have more fun at costume parties.

Heading to the Burlesque Party

If you're going to wear a cheap feather boa: buy 2 and entwine them. One isn't feathery enough. You'll want more fluff, and 2 is just right.

I get to wear my grandma's old, jet bead and clip-on earring set. Never had occasion to before. Plus my real pearls, plus some pretend ones.

Do nice department stores sell fishnets? 'Cause Party City's look like macrame projects. Good enough tho. They have red, black, white, pink.

As I'm leaving, Dad gives this advice: If your car breaks down, DON'T get out and stand by the road. Call me and I'll come get you.

Too late to rent a tux, Matt bought one. With all the trimmings. I ask how much it cost, he says, "Money dollars and schmoney schments."

Matt's New Suit

And he looks completely great. I love those pants with the side stripes. He went for a "small full break," for you Sartorialist readers.

Jane and Kelly and Me

Everyone looks fabulous. Matt keeps bringing me drinks, and I just met the Icelandic Kid Rock. He's more polite than our Kid Rock I think.

The Icelandic Kid Rock

Our friend says she's wearing her "second-favorite corset." 'Cause her favorite is topless. No worries y'all, I told her how awesome she is.

Mark and Jane

A tall Finnish girl asks me to tighten her corset. I realize I know exactly how from watching Gone With the Wind.

Party Girls

Only two bathrooms for this party. I think two girls are in one doing coke. Or maybe just drinking a coke? Dunno but it's taking forever.

Ooh, floor show is cute. Some of those girls are dudes? Pasties are hot. So are ruffled panties. Kelly has pics.

Feet were feeling fine until this moment. Time to change shoes. Good thing I stashed a huge purse under the table. Must now hobble there.

I am on stage with several other ladies, doing a kick line. Not sure how that happened. There is no photographic evidence of this.

Sassmouthing the Photographer
I traded my headband for a mask. And during my big can-can number, I lost my drink. Surely for the best. I love everyone. Time to go home!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Which Shoes? Help, Quickly!

Hey Friends! Need your help! We are invited to a party on Friday night--like, tomorrow--that is Burlesque-themed. I know, let's just bracket the fact that it might turn out to be a terrible disaster, and assume it will be really fun. I had never heard of such a thing, but here's the invitation.

In tiny letters there at the bottom, it says, "Mademoiselles, do not forget your feathers and corsets. Messieurs, please bring your top hats and vests." Ahem. Well, I'm interpreting this in more of a burlesque flapper direction, because I am not really equipped for wearing a corset. But I have a cute Nicole Miller dress that looks basically like a slip, or like an old-fashioned nightie. I probably won't have pictures of the whole ensemble until after it's all over, but I need help picking shoes. I was in TJ Maxx last night dithering among the high heels, and I realized that this is the reason I have a blog--that I was not alone and could seek your collective input. So I got to work photographing my top three choices and pretending that it was normal to be photographing one's feet in a discount store.

So picture this: the dress is black silk, in two layers, with spaghetti straps, knee length, and ivory lace on top and at the hem. It is shaped like a slip. I thought I would go with fishnet stockings (why not), and probably oh god a feather boa. Color to be determined. Any other accessory ideas? I'm hoping to steer a course that avoids stripper or dominatrix.

Please excuse the poor photo quality. Turns out it is difficult to find a good angle from which to photograph your own feet. Choice 1:

I really like these and they are not uncomfortable. I think the black and tan, spectator-pump quality gives them a look that would go with the period-dress thing. But I wonder if they're too normal. Like, I would definitely just wear these in normal life.

Choice 2:

These are higher than any heels I have ever worn. I think they are cute, but they may be just too much from an alternate reality for me. They're not as uncomfortable as they look, though. And when I put them on, I was like, "Oh, I get it about high heels!" They do do something to your legs and booty, let's be frank. Not sure they would go with the dress and stockings, but maybe if I got a red boa? I can't even believe I'm typing that.

Choice 3:

Okay, what these have going for them is that they are a comfortable low heel, and I think they look the most flapperish/period of all the choices. But are they a little witchy looking? And I don't know if they'll be flattering with the dress, the way that strap comes right across the ankle. I don't know.

Full disclosure: I bought choice one and three, but I can take them back. I left choice 2 on the shelf, but I can go get them. What do y'all think? Or do I need to just start over?

So, should be fun, no matter what my feet look like. Heck, with mom and dad coming down from the mountain house to stay the night with the kids, and actual adult fun happening, I could have a great time in white Keds. Matt is wearing a tux. And Kelly has an adorable outfit that I'm hereby encouraging her to blog about!

Any input is appreciated! I am sure that I will update you on how it all turns out.