Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Talking Points, Plus Hair


1) Moon Sand.  For or against?  Please hold forth.

2) I got a mani/pedi today. Usually I just get a pedicure. It was nice.  Now I want to dial the phone with a pencil like a Joan Holloway-type I used to know. Except that my phone has a touch screen so that wouldn't even work.  Fingers-OPI's Samoan Sands; toes-Kangarooby.

3) The "seafood salad" they sell in the deli at the grocery store. Terribly, terribly against.

4) We just hosted my mom and dad for a night, now they're off to the mountain house and we are heading to Chattanooga--also known as Chattaboogie, Chattavegas, Cha-Town, and Hot Buttered 'Nooga--to see some friends up there.  Back tomorrow to ready ourselves for New Year's weekend in North Carolina. All of this vacation is tiring but what is one to do?

5) Is your child into those Wimpy Kid books? Laura got the new one for Christmas and inhaled it in about an hour.  It's not Anne of Green Gables, but they are funny.

6) Here is my hair now.

It is short (of course). It is curly.  It has a will of its own and no discernible plan.  Remember the part in one of the Ramona Quimby books where Beezus gets a haircut she hates and she cries, "It's forty year-old hair!" That's how I feel about this.  It is so darn no-nonsense.  It has multiple and competing cowlicks. It gets terrible bedhead. It is auditioning to be Jane Lynch's understudy on "Glee."

7) In happier grooming news, I got the most awsome lipgloss del mundo and I have to tell you about it.  I was at Costco on the December 23 (crazy) and they had these sets of Stila lip glaze, like six for $17.  I impulse-purchased it for my own Christmas stocking.  They are the best.  Each and every color is wonderful.  I love the texture and the glossiness and the translucency.  You can't tell but in that picture I'm wearing the "Merry Merry" one.  You might need this in your life.  And I needed to share.

8) I'm submitting this post for consideration by Keely's Random Tuesday Thoughts!

9) Be sweet.  See you in a few.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Morning

laura phone

Christmas Eve as we were wrapping presents and such, Matt said, "I do have something for Laura's stocking." He had gotten me an iPhone 4 (Kaboom! It was the goal of his last minute trip to the mall), so he inherited my old iphone, and Laura stood to inherit his very basic phone. Trickle down phone economics. He had set it up for her as a pay-as-you-go phone, but with unlimited texting. She has twenty bucks worth of talking and then she can spend her own money on it.  He told her it would be for emergencies and to talk to family and her few friends with phones. It is fair to say that she was absolutely beside herself.

She and I were both surprised, because she's asked for a phone before and I told her that was something for the indefinite future.  It was very fun to see how much pleasure it gave her, and we have done a fair amount of texting between floors of the house. She texted me to say goodnight on Christmas night.

And Hank was not left out.

hank unwrapping

hank unwrapping 3

hank with scooter

And Santa saw fit to bring these children a trampoline.  He left it covered with a Christmas tablecloth because trying to get the crap Target wrapping paper (premium my ass!) to cover those boxes was not something that Santa could do.  But when Laura uncovered the boxes and saw what they were, she busted out into an impromptu dance.

laura trampoline dance

More pics of Christmas morning are here, in case you didn't see enough of this scene at your own house.  Then, THEN, it snowed Christmas day, and we stayed put and watched it fall.  It was a beautiful time and Laura opined that it was the best Christmas ever.

I hope yours was too.

Oh, so Matt got me the new iphone and also a sewing machine that I'd had in my cart on Amazon for a long time.  Then he remarked that the sewing machine was the gift for the person I wanted to be and the phone was the gift for the person I actually am.  Zing!  See if I sew HIM a new suit of playclothes from the curtains.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Minute

Matt said, "Do you think the mall is even open today? There's one more gift I want to get."

The assembled company made murmurs of amazement and foreboding, a general Oooooo, noooo.

I said, "Oh yeah, they're open.  If the gift is for me, you should go over there.  If it's not, you shouldn't bother, it will be too crazy."

Matt said, "Fair enough."

And off he went.


Are y'all ready?  We are at Christmas Defcon 1.  Welcome to my Christmas Attack Zone!  We have all the food we need, though one more trip to the liquor store would not go amiss.  Hank has had the traditional Christmas Eve haircut. All is merry and bright.

It dawned on me last week that I am hosting Christmas dinner.  We are having:

cheese grits
green bean casserole
deviled eggs
ambrosia, a warm kind with curry and brown sugar

Also, mimosas.  Simple food, no big whoop.

People are always talking about how stressed they are around the holidays, or maybe it's the stress-relief industrial complex that is telling us that, but I realized that the whole difference is whether or not you're traveling away from home.  If you are trying to transport your family somewhere and bring all your Christmas presents with you, that is kind of stressful.  Staying home?  No school to get the kids to?  Sleeping eight hours a night?  Having your nine year-old wrap all the gifts?  These things are not stressful. Quite the opposite!

Merry Christmas you people! Those of you who are into Christmas! You make this blog a source of joy to me all year long.  Thank you.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Hard Times in The Hood, Updated, HURRAY!

On Google maps, there's a little "real estate" box you can tick, and it will show you all the houses around a particular address that are in various stages of foreclosure.  It is very eye-opening.  You can zoom out and back and see all the little orange dots appear, each one representing a "distressed homeowner," as the realtors' details term them.  There sure are a lot of distressed people.

In doing this I found out that my very own neighbor, Rebel Yelling Mom--who long-time blog readers may remember--her house is going to be sold at auction.  We don't talk so I didn't know, but I imagine this is not what they wanted to have happen.

I wish we were buying a house now instead of in 2006.

And speaking of distressed people, my mind is occupied tonight with thoughts of our very own Normal Neighbor, my friend, who has to have a breast biopsy in the morning.  She is pretty worried, as you can imagine.  I believe that it will turn out to be fine, but I hate that she has to go through it, both the procedure and the anxiety of waiting for the results.  I couldn't even say very much to her about it.  I didn't want to say, "Man, that biopsy is going to hurt."  I just told her that it would most likely be fine, and it will.

I was trying to figure out if knowing me--and watching me go through all the junk I had to do in the last nine months--would be reassuring to her as she deals with this anxiety, or would have the opposite effect.  I asked Pretty Neighbor what she thought and she said she didn't know. I don't either.  Obviously I am still here and feeling great, so that's an encouraging truth, but Normal Neighbor had a front-row seat for all the difficult and downer moments along the way.  I hate that she has to go through this moment of fear.  I'll keep you posted.

Hard times all over.


Finally, edited to add: Normal Neighbor got the all-clear on her biopsy.  Before she heard, she told me that during the procedure, the radiologist told her that the mass didn't look malignant.  NN said, "But I guess they say that to everybody."  I was like, "Oh no they don't!"  During my biopsy the radiologist said, "Huh, that looks weird."  Awesome feeling, that was.  

And a bone scan I had for utterly no reason on Tuesday was also clean.  You see, one thing I like to do for the holidays is submit myself to medical testing that carries a slim, slim chance of finding anything wrong with me but that nonetheless gives me 48 hours of anxiety and gloom.  Sugarplums! Remind me not to do that again unless I have a really, really good reason.  

Now I am off to Costco (now that's what's crazy) to get a poinsettia and to open a bottle of wine actually in the aisle, right between the bagels and the rechargeable batteries.  

I love you all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa Brunch Pictures

Our neighbors and carpool buddies had a Santa Brunch this morning. It was such a fun, low-key event, and it made me feel that I need to extend myself and have more parties that require actual planning, as opposed to the "just come over and we'll get takeout and play games" kind. Anyway, a very nice start to the Christmas break for the kids. I noticed them clustered at the door and I snapped these pictures to show you.

Watching for Santa
Waiting for Santa to arrive. Hank looks so patient with his hands behind his back.

There He Is!
There he is!

Jolly Old Elf
Hank had darted behind me by this point.

Laura Hugs Santa
But Laura went right in for a hug.

Not too big for this.

The last time Laura met Santa, four years ago.

Hank unwrapped a little Automoblox car. Those are cool.
I hope y'all are having a good weekend!  We are going to take the kids to the movies tonight.  It feels like vacation is starting.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lots of Living Will Be Required

Four-Year Olds
They are all adorable but mine is the best one.
This week's slate had two chorus performances (Laura's and Hank's), two class parties, two doctor's appointments (mine), and all the swim practice we could cram in. Plus lots of driving, cooking, trying, caring, and giving a damn. No more than anybody else is doing.  Just the usual stuff.  I really enjoy all the kid-holiday-running around stuff, even when the room mom of Laura's class sends me the following email:
Thank you for taking care of the paper products for the Winter Holiday Party for Ms. D’s class.  Please make sure the products are holiday themed and please have enough plates/naps for both the pizza and cookie decorating. 
Oh! You want the holiday party paper products to be holiday themed! Wait, so the NASCAR-themed plates I have left over from our wedding wouldn't be appropriate? And by "please have enough," you mean that every child should have plates and napkins?  In other words, please remember to DO WHAT I SAID I WOULD DO? Take a chill, room mom. I got this.

And, as Carrie said on Twitter, God forbid the little darlings should have to wipe frosting off their chins with plain napkins.  But I love all of it.

Here's Hank's preschool Christmas program.  He is the middle row, fifth from the right. Unlike last year, Hank sang every song and seemed to know the words. The whole thing was totally charming.  The program was in the chapel of the preschool's church. I snapped a pic before any of the kids came in because I really admired their decorations.  Simple and striking.  Those white cut-out banners are a pretty touch.

Hank's School's Chapel

Hank Coming In
Processing into the chapel, needing a haircut.
Matt and I left straight from Hank's show and went to my oncologist's office.  I hadn't seen her since before I had my radiation, so it was necessary to touch base with her.  Everything was totally fine, but I told her that I was having a some anxious feelings and imagining that every ache and pain was a disease recurrence.  Then I detailed a few aches and pains for her.  She told me to chill and that this is to be expected, especially given that I'm finished with all the treatment now and trying to get back to a new normal.

I told her that I just needed some strategies for dealing with uncertainty, even though the odds are very, very in my favor, and she said that the best thing for us all is to just come to terms with our mortality.  Yes, she said that.  I laughed, it wasn't what I wanted to hear, even though I know it's true.

Matt and I remarked later that it reminded us of that joke:

A man goes to the doctor, and the doctor tells him that he is very sick.  The man asks whether there is anything for him to do, surely there must be something?  The doctor says, well, you could go to the spa and get a mudbath.  The man said, "Oh, you think that will help?"  The doctor says, "No, but you should get used to dirt."

So that was a good visit, I guess.  Let me repeat that everything is fine and the only thing in peril is my cognitive framework. You know how it goes.  And tomorrow is the honey-bunny gynecologist.

Then I went out in the freezing rain, only I didn't know it was freezing yet, and bought supplies for a craft I was supposed to do with Hank's class party today.  By the time Matt and I went to bed last night, having sipped the last cocktail, karaoked the last Christmas song, and chatted the last chat, they had closed the schools (and Hank's preschool), thus rendering my craft efforts moot, but not before I had given twenty wooden craft sticks two coats of tempera paint, glued magnets to the back of them, and cut out twenty tiny felt stovepipe hats.

But I love all of it, I really do.

Please have a nice evening and use caution when moving about on the roadways. xoxox-B

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Ornaments

Echidna Ornament
Have you a jolly echidna on your tree?
When my parents were in Australia last month, I asked them to bring me two things: Christmas ornaments and tea towels. They delivered.  We have this sledding monotreme up here, and also this pretty star.

Sydney Ornament

Grove Park Inn ornament
Matt gave me this one on my birthday.

One day I will have a tree that is decorated in one of those elegant, monochromatic color schemes, like you see in magazines.  Maybe celery green glass balls with white accents.  But today is not that day.  Hodgepodge is the only scheme we know how to pull off.  That's a scheme, right?

O Christmas Tree

Speaking of hodge and podge, the fat Santas are on duty.

Fat Santas

They're the first thing you see when you walk into the house. ELEGANT.

Have you finished decking your halls?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Class Auction Baskets: What Works

This morning was a Santa Breakfast at Laura's school.  I took her up there because her chorus was performing and there were a bunch of related holidayish festivities like a craft fair and a book fair.  Also, the auction baskets: Every year each class designs a themed basket of stuff to be auctioned during the morning, silent-auction style. It's a fundraiser; people donate things for the baskets, which tend to have themes like "Family Game Night," "Tennis," or "Go Green" or something.  This morning the baskets were all arrayed in the hallway for everyone to inspect and write down bids if they wanted.

Now, when I was the room mom of Laura's class a couple years ago, the auction basket gave us some little headaches.  Or maybe it was my co room-mom who was giving me a headache.  Yes, it could have been that.  Anyway, based on that experience and what I've seen the last few years, here is what I think works and attracts bids:

1) A fairly homogenous basket, with lots of similar things, or items of a single brand that people like and know the value of.  For example, one basket that I actually bid on this morning was a Vera Bradley basket.  It had several different bags and accessories, all Vera.  People see this and know that they can get a lot of good gifts out of that.  Ditto with a basket there that was all Scholastic books and another that was Lego sets.  Well-loved brands, lots of gift potential, instantly appealing.

It isn't that the stuff has to be expensive, in fact, by planning and strategic shopping, you could come up with the Lego basket or a great toy basket and be able to auction it at a profit.  Scholastic has great online sales where they practically give those books away.  But the basket items need to be things people recognize, like, and would want to regift.

2) A basket that offers some exclusive experience.  One bundle contained three lessons with the tennis pro at someone's club, as the guest of the member who donated it.  This was a draw because it's not something you could really buy, unless you were going to pay to join that country club. Also, a "Blue Ridge Mountains" basket had a free weekend at somebody's cabin in the Smokies.  There were pics of the house, it was gorgeous and would have been bucks if you were going to rent such a place.  Actually, one year I asked Mom and Dad if they would consider donating their mountain house for the class auction basket, and they were like, "Um, would that lead to strangers using our house?"  And I was like, "Yes," and they were all, "We'll pass."  But I think it's still a good idea if feasible, and don't you love how I'm so generous with other people's possessions?  I didn't see any this year, but in years past, parents who were yoga instructors or dog groomers or heck, I don't know, divorce attorneys also bundled their services into the auction baskets.

3) A basket with a single coveted item.  One of the baskets had an iPad in it.  I kid you not.  It was "apple" themed, and it had an iPad, an Apples to Apples Jr. game, and some actual apples.  When I left the school the bidding was up over $600 on that.  Now I'm not sure of the economics here.  I get why someone who was in the market for an iPad already would maybe want to get one in a way that raised money for the school, but how did the donator come by this iPad?  I mean, how is this a profit situation for the fundraiser? Maybe it was one of the few Black Friday iPads?  Maybe the class pooled their $$ and bought it, thinking that the buzz of it would net them more than they paid?

Another class was auctioning a Big Green Egg grill/smoker thing.  I have no knowledge of this, but apparently they cost like $700?  However the donor came by it, it was bringing in the bids.

4) Gift card baskets.  A couple of classes had little Christmas trees with various gift cards hanging on them, in different denominations and to different places.  These are hot because, again, people see them and think, there's a bunch of stocking stuffers right there.  AND, these make smart money sense for the class, because gift cards are easy to acquire this time of year without actually buying them.  If you keep an eye out for deals where you get a gift card for buying something else, this could be a painless way to come up with auction items.

What doesn't work:

1) Baskets with lots of little ticky tacky junk that nobody would really want and that obviously came out of somebody's white elephant stash.  Wrapping it in pretty cellophane doesn't disguise this fact.  I'm looking at you, Santa Snuggie, or weird jellies from the misfit food aisle at TJ Maxx.  People have to be able to look at the basket and know the stuff has real value.

Does your school do this? Let us hear what you think and what works where you are.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Have Doctor Fatigue, If That's A Thing

The last couple of weeks I have been running around having follow-up check ins with the people who took care of me during my breast cancer treatment.

First I went to see the radiation oncologist.  It was strange driving back down there for a quick one-off, weeks after I'd gone there every single day for 28 visits.  Oh my Lord, did I really do that? Typing it makes me tired.  So that was a quick stop, she just took a peek at where I'd had the radiation and pronounced it great-looking.  My rectangular boob tan has mostly faded.  She said to keep doing whatever skin care regimen we were doing and I said we would.  That regimen was:  Pure aloe (not the weird hybrid aloe lotions that contain alcohol), massaged in nightly by Matt, and almost never wearing a bra.

I've kind of gone back to the bra.

Then I went to see the oncologic surgeon who did my mastectomy.  I had never noticed, back in the bad old days of going to see her for those first times, that her office has an amazing view of Atlanta.  I just never saw it.  But this time I sat in the waiting room and admired it fully.  This doc is super competent and talks about a hundred miles an hour, and she awakens my congenital need to appear to be the bright student.  So she had her turn at admiring my rack.  Then she started making plans for the future, namely, that she wants to see me again in March and then yearly for MRI's, mammograms, and ultrasounds.  Here you should picture the balloon that is my mood slowly leaking air in a sad, spluttering way and coming to rest on the floor.

She is all diligence and caution, wanting to follow me and maintain proper surveillance.  She talked about that.  And it's like, there is no way to tell her that I hate the sound of this and that I never want to see her again.  I could feel the pain of my cognitive framework being hammered into a new shape.  Here I am thinking of myself as cured and moving on, someone who won't have to deal with this again, but she thinks of me as high risk and someone to keep a close eye on.  And I want her to do that, I want her to do her job.  I just don't want to be anywhere nearby, you know?

I am thinking of myself as cured and I would like it if everyone would get on board with that.

Then, early this week, I went to see Dr. Hottie McTrottie the plastic surgeon, so she could check how I'm doing post-radiation.  In this office, the whole narrative they're dedicated to is that of restoring looks and function, of making you over after all the bad stuff has happened, so they don't tend to be such downers.  Also, as I've mentioned, their robes are nice, thick terry-cloth, way nicer than at the other docs'.  I mentioned this to the radiation tech one day--that the robes were nicer at the plastic surgeon's--and she looked at me and said, "This ain't the plastic surgeon's."  Yep, got it.

So Dr. Hottie was all, hey! Lookin' good!  Let's finish the reconstruction in April!  Keep on keepin' on!  And they took more pictures of me--bad, bad lighting--and then I bought some Latisse.  You see, my eyebrows and eyelashes have never totally bounced back from chemo and they're pretty sparse.  So this will be a fun experiment.

Next week I'm going back in to see my medical oncologist.  I guess she's the quarterback of this crew.  At that visit I suppose I will get a feel for what the follow-up will be like for the next few years.  They do bloodwork at each visit, and maybe I'm due for another scan? I don't know.

I'm feeling a lot of anxiety around all of this.

Then late next week I'll go see my gynecologist, the one who went to our college and is kind of cute.  Really cute, actually.  It's normal for a gynecological patient to bring the doctor lunch, right?  And maybe a mix tape? I mean, I don't want to seem weird.

That's what's going on with me.  Because we need to talk about me some more and the adventure of my sensibilities.  Thank you for being a listening ear, friends. It means a lot to me. xo-B

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Guess That Does Sound Pretty Fun

The New York Times has a cute wee story about the unusually cold temperatures we're having down here.  It starts with how dumb Georgians are (we have to be told to dress warmly--we're like turkeys who drown looking up at the rain) and then it meanders through a conversation with someone improbably named "Stooksbury" and then it ends with a man who has made a machine called the South Georgia Redneck Snowmaker.  

I shit thee not.

We can't have an entire discussion of the issues surrounding the drought and probable cold winter in the Southeast without paying a visit to the South Georgia Redneck Snowmaker.  

It is made of "spare septic tank parts."  

Now I'm thinking that the South Georgia Redneck Snowmaker sounds like a cocktail we need to invent, stat. I bet it has Kahlua in it.

So yes, cold.  Yet today I chaperoned Laura's class field trip to a historic farm. Farming, it seems, happens outdoors, and even the parts that happen inside are not what you would call toasty.  When I greeted Laura at the history center, she yelled, "Guess how many pairs of pants I'm wearing?"  Answer: 3. But it was sunny and calm, so no problem, except now that I think of pants, I was visually assaulted by one of the most terrible pairs of mom jeans you can imagine.  

The kids didn't need much chaperoning, you see, so while they were making candles the moms just stood around and eyed each other's outfits. 

Going on the field trip meant I had to drive down to Buckhead in rush hour traffic.  My, everyone on the road at that hour is so busy and important!  It's in the way they drive, they simply ooze importance, ooze it all over the road.  But I was busy too.  I was busy trying to open the little containers of half-and-half with one hand and add them to my drive-thru coffee, and then I was busy dribbling the half-and-half down the touch screen of my iPhone, and then I was busy wiping the phone with a sock I found between the front seats.  It wasn't a child's sock, it was Matt's.  Mysterious, helpful sock.

And goodness, here it is almost Thursday and I'm just sticking my head in to say hi.  I had a birthday this week! Matt said, "What do you want for your birthday?"  I said, "Well, I kind of want an iPhone 4 but I don't know if this is the best time to get one." (This was before the half-and-half and the sock.) And he said, "Hmm, what would you like that is, you know, cheaper than that?"  So he got me a plant.  A Norfolk Island Pine, which you can only find in nurseries this time of year because they're sold as "Living Christmas Trees."    

I had said, "I would like a Norfolk Island Pine to go in that corner." And I pointed at the spot where the yucca had just finally died.  He said, "What happened to that plant?"  I said, "It died."  He said, and I'm serious, he said, "Why did it die?"  

It seems I'd wandered into an interrogation of my plant-nurturing abilities wrapped in a discussion of my birthday.

I said, "Why did it die? It got old."

We talked about it and I realized, as I told him, that what I want for my birthday isn't really stuff, because I tend to buy stuff for myself. I said, "What I really want is a surprising gesture of love."

I am making myself sound impossible to live with, but you know what I mean. A surprising gesture of love. Something you don't plan and execute yourself.  You know you want it, ladies.

So last night after the kids were in bed, he cooked us a little dinner for two, with wine and flowers.  And cheese.  (We had already had a cake and karaoke evening over the weekend.) And then the two of us watched Midnight Run. There were so many moments between Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin that reminded me of our love.  Like when Charles Grodin insists that he is afraid of flying and he makes such a ruckus that they get kicked off the plane, and then as De Niro leads him away in handcuffs, he smiles.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

These Are Some People We Miss

Grace, November 2010

My parents got back from Australia this week, and Mom's camera was filled with pictures of Amy's three kids. I think that is mostly what they have down there in Australia: Ava, Nate, and Grace.  There was a blurry kangaroo in the back of one shot, and a tiny piece of the Sydney Opera House, Russell Crowe's shoulder, and a sliver of the National Health Service. But mostly it was these three.  They are the main attraction.

Ava, November 2010

Mom got such pretty pictures that I thought I would share. Here's Ava, now an unbelievable 7 years old.

Nate, November 2010

And Nate, the Dude.  A deep thinker. He has mused on more than one occasion that "Jesus has lemon powers." 


And Grace again.  The Boss of the World. Our cousins.

That's all I got for a quiet Sunday.  I have to go to the store and buy more white lights for the tree and try to avoid buying the ones that don't have end-to-end plugs, like who would ever conceive of such a stupid product?  Are they for people who only want a tiny amount of Christmas joy? 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Tacky Do You Let Yourself Get for The Holidays?

As I write this, I'm wearing a shirt that says, "MEET ME UNDER THE Mistletoe."  Or that's my best rendering of the shirt's typography.  It's written in those fuzzy letters like on 1970's little league jerseys, bright white letters on a green shirt.

When he saw it last night, my dad said, "Ah, did you pay money for that?"  I said I had.  He said, "That doesn't seem like you."

He's right.  I don't really have holiday-specific clothing and I certainly don't have clothing that speaks in actual words.  Yet I found myself in Old Navy one morning this week, and somehow I became owner of the mistletoe shirt and a waffle knit top with a reindeer on it AND, help me, a t-shirt that says "I've been nice."  Or really it says, "I'VE BEEN NICE."

I'm embarrassed.  But at least I didn't buy the "I've been naughty."  If that had happened, you would know that the pod people had seized control of my body.  Or that I'd been Imperiused.


And also, since I'm telling y'all everything, today I formed the thought, "It might be nice to have some Christmas earrings."


And do you know what I think is going on?  I think this is about not having my hair.  I don't have my long hair to be my decoration (except in dreams I still do). Hank and Laura both have various Christmas events in their classrooms, and with my no-nonsense Rachel Maddow hair, I somehow feel the need to jazz it up a little.


Are you doing this?  What are your aesthetic boundaries for this season?  Even in other areas of adornment, I feel myself being pulled in a different--okay let's just say more tacky--direction than I go in non-holiday times. Witness the two pillows I have that look like fat little Santas.  I do not usually decorate with dolls.  And if I could afford one of those retro tinsel trees that is, say, bright aluminum, with the rotating color wheel, I would be on it like stink.


We haven't gotten our tree yet, but we will this weekend.  We're easing in.  I have a Christmas tablecloth out and I switched to my Christmas bedding.  Yes, you would not meet me and think, "This girl has Christmas bedding."  This is what I'm talking about.

(It is the Pottery Barn "Swedish House" pattern and it sold out instantly and I had the duvet cover but I had to fight, like Hunger Games-style fight, for pillow shams on ebay.  Give me that Euro sham or I will shank you.)

By the way, if you DO wear a shirt that says, "I've been naughty," I am sure you are just quoting the wearing of the shirt and aren't actually wearing it so you are adorable and it totally works.


And you didn't think I would post this without linking to this sweatshirt?

Snooch to the nooch,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A New-to-Me Rug

Hank, November 30

We were at my revered mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving. It had been a while since I'd been there. I admired one of her rugs and said, "If you ever get tired of this, I'll take it off your hands." She is like me in the sense that her feelings for a household object can turn on a dime.  She said, "You can have it, I am trying to get rid of some things, and it is more you than me. I think it is too Native-American for me." It's a kilim from Turkey. But I knew what she meant.  She is more the Aubusson type.

So we brought it home and I am loving it in that spot.  I like the dark rug in the light-colored sun room, and it helps ground my couch, now in its winter plumage.  Do you find that you want to change up your décor from season to season?  I like having a bare floor in the summer, but it's a nice change for fall to have something lying there besides the dog.

And somehow in my system of decorating beliefs, the kilim rug and the tartan blankets totally go together.

Here's another pic that shows the rug better.

New-to-Me Rug

Speaking of things from far-off places, my parents are returning from Australia tomorrow.  They've been gone for a month, down there visiting my sister, who continues to live 8,000 miles away from me in selfish pursuit of her own life.  Amy, don't you know I need you to come over here and look at my rug?

I am glad that Mom and Dad will be back on this side of the world.  We are used to seeing them every couple of weeks, either here or up in the mountains.  I know they are sad to leave the other grandchildren, but I have two here who are very fetching.

The only downside of their return is that we'll have to give them their iPad back.  That's what Hank is so engrossed in above.  It was nice of them to leave it in our care.  iPad, you will be missed.  And Dad, I owe you $18.97 for the iTunes purchase of Plants vs. Zombies, Smallworld, and an episode of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."  Sorry about that last one but we canceled our cable and I had to find out what the deal was with Phaedra's baby because there was no way that chick didn't know how far along her pregnancy was.  Please.

Anyway, rugs, iPads, hurray for generous grandparents!

It is raining here with the raining.  It rains therefore I blogs.  Please enjoy your day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who You Gonna Call?


While we were in Chattanooga at Matt's mom's for Thanksgiving, we got a bunch of things down from the attic and unearthed this decades-old Ghostbusters outfit. Matt's grandmother made it for his younger brother Andy.  It came complete with proton pack and ghost trapper thing.  It was like a little Christmas for Hank. He wore the coveralls for two days and ate Thanksgiving dinner in them.

In among the attic stuff were some baby clothes of Laura's that I had given Betty to store when we lived in a tiny apartment.  Two big bins of things that just seemed too good to get rid of at the time.  I sat down to sort through them, and oh, the memories they brought back.  I kept very few things in the end: the little smocked corduroy dress she wore on her first birthday, her first bathing suit, a soft little jacket, and maybe a couple more dresses.

There were no bad memories associated with any of it, so I don't know why it should have made me so sad, those old clothes.  It made me feel that those times are gone and they won't be back.  It isn't like I want another baby, or not really, I just want those babies again.

Back in the summer when my friend Erika was visiting, I gave her a pair of Hank's outgrown sandals to put on her toddler.  Then I forgot I had done it.  The other week she texted me a picture of her little boy's feet in the sandals, and the message said, "Your heart goes on."  I laughed because it was true. I think I must have said something like, "If you can use these, my heart will go on," and she knew what I meant.  Isn't that what we're feeling when we give away a child's hand-me-downs?  If you can see another baby wearing your baby's old clothes, then somehow that past isn't as past.

Here are a few more goofy pics from our Thanksgiving Day.  At dinner I spoke to Hank and Laura and asked them if they would consider staying 4 and 9.  Hank was willing, but Laura said no.  So unobliging.

Laura Setting Table

Laura with Turkey Leg

Hank with Green Bean


Hank was busy cutting his roll with his butter knife, and he asked, "When you cut something with a knife, does the sharpness stay in the food?"  I thought that was such a strange question.  It is kind of blowing my mind.  I might not have captured exactly how he worded it, but we knew what he meant.  We reassured him that it was safe to eat his bread.

I hope you all had a nice holiday, if you had one.  Other non-US Anglophone friends, I hope you had a nice Thursday!  xoxo-B

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Travel and Intergenerational Cultures of Grooming

As many of us set out to visit family this holiday season, I offer this:

You know how when you go visit your grandparents, there are cleansers, lotions, and grooming products in their bathroom that you have never heard of, known of, or seen for sale in any retail establishment?  You get in the shower, get wet, and find yourself confronting a completely foreign array of cleansers, lotions, and unguents?

Matt and I have a name for those products.


As in, "Honey, your hair looks kind of, um, different."

"Yes, I had to use the grampoo."

So as you hit the road, don't forget to bring your own toiletries.

But don't worry about bringing a box of Kleenex because the bathroom closet at your grandparents' is stuffed with them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Date Night, Sporty Spice Edition

Matt's mom came and took our kids away. They are out of school all week, so she whisked them up to Chattanooga this morning to be with her for a few days. Matt and I will head up there on Wednesday, but for now, we are childless.

My house is giant. And quiet.

It seems limitless, the things you can do when you don't have kids at home. I could nap. Think deeply. Think shallowly. Watch the leaves fall while eating toast. Have some part of my body professionally groomed. Assemble a vacuum cleaner.

So far today I've accomplished three of those.

But the possibilities are all enticing, no?

And tonight, yay! Matt and I are going downtown to see the Hawks-Celtics game. Matt is a big Celtics fan, though he doesn't often get to see a live game. He was reluctant to spend money on decent seats, but I knew how much he would enjoy it, and he basically never buys himself anything, so I pitched a fit until he agreed to go. And I get to go too.  I think it will be fun and a different thing from any other date night we've had.

I have rarely been to a professional sporting event, but I am ready to enliven it for everyone with my color commentary.

Kidding! So I don't know much about the baskets-ball, but I have new boots to wear and I like to go places at night.

Date night!

I hope you are having a nice pre-holiday Monday.

You have my love,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just A Pilgrim, Partially Obscured

Pilgrim Partly Hidden by Pole

Sometimes, we feel we deserve the starring role but others just don't seem to agree.  They see us as more of a line filler, hand clapper, turkey trot corps member type.  Oh well, there is still dignity in doing our little part.

The preschool Thanksgiving feast was Thursday, and the four year-olds sang five (!) songs. This was the best picture I could get of Hank in action, without stepping on a lot of Tory Burch flats.

Then Laura came home from school and said that the roles had been assigned for the big fourth-grade Lewis and Clark musical they put on in January.  She was hoping for a big speaking role, or a part with a singing solo.  She does have a lovely singing voice and Lord knows she doesn't mind attention.

So the parts got passed around, and the music teacher asked her to be Sacajawea's understudy.  She was disappointed, because although she wasn't entirely sure what an understudy is, she got that it wasn't like getting the part of Sacajawea.  I said, "Come on, don't you think Sacajawea is the most important part, and that the teacher asking you to the be the understudy means she thinks you're one of the best in the whole group?  She could see that.  And she is looking forward to having to learn Sacajawea's part.

In a show that is performed exactly one time, though, I'm not sure that the understudy has a great chance of getting on.  But as a another mom pointed out to me, it will be cold and flu season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We Finally Canceled Our Cable

We have sometimes intended to shut off our TV service over the last few years but it has never quite happened.  In fact, the last time I meant to cancel our cable, I just switched from Comcast to U-Verse and added more channels.  Wha?

So what made me finally cut the cord?  I think several things came together.  We have Netflix instant streaming through our xbox, and the kids get most of the TV entertainment they have from there (or all of it, in Hank's case).  Netflix keeps adding more and more stuff that's streamable.  We never get actual discs in the mail anymore.  

Actually, sometimes I've felt that having easy access to cable and network TV has kept me from watching better things on Netflix.  Like, after the kids go to bed, I'll mindlessly watch an episode of "House Hunters" instead of mindlessly watching "Damages" on Netflix, which is way better.  

Somehow, my having finished my Ph.D. also made me want to ditch the cable.  It seems like I should be ready to watch more TV without guilt, but it's happened that there are now so many more things I want to read for pleasure, and TV is getting in the way of that.  

And, finally, we played with an xbox Kinect the other night, and I said to Matt, "I want one of these."  He was like, "Ugh, it's all too much with the stuff."  I said, "How about if we cancel the cable? And he was like, "Deal."  I made the mistake of letting that slip to Laura, so everyday since then, she's asked me, "Did we cancel the cable yet?"  The girl wants a Kinect.  

Matt was into the plan because he always loves to save a dollar, and he watches literally no TV besides the Celtics.  

The only sad part of losing the cable and the shows we'd recorded with our DVR is that now I need a way to preserve my "FRINGE" fame.  Did y'all know I was this famous?  Last week my name was written into the screenplay.  See here!  The writers of that episode, "6955kHz," are two friends of ours from college, and they gave us a heads-up to look for a surprise in that episode.  I thought it might be like, my name is given to one of the characters, but it's never spoken and would only appear in the credits.  But no!  Lance Reddick (who, to me, will always be Mr. Abadon in "Lost," said my full name, and then all the characters were like, Becky this and Woomer that.  It was such a trip, I was giggling for two days.  

I thought the actress who played me really got to the emotional core of my character.  That part where the short wave radio transmission gives her amnesia and she pulls a knife on her husband? OMG, that's exactly what I would have done!  And my TV husband Laird Woomer (our friend Glen said it was going to be "Matthew" but they'd had a Matt he week before) was a total hunk and obviously deeply in love with Becky.  Fame! So I had it saved on my DVR to show my parents when they get back from Australia, but now I'll have to find it online somewhere.  


So that's what's going on here.  Have you guys cut the cords on your TV already?  I mentioned it on facebook and everybody was like, "OMG, you are so two thousand late, none of us has watched TV on an actual TV since Howdy Doody."  But I never claimed to be a digital pioneer.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Crying Part of The Day

Warning, someone cries in this post but it is not a child.

Like I told y'all, Hank was sort of sickish on Thursday, then Friday morning he rallied, and then Friday afternoon he got warmer and droopy-eyed, and he said his ear hurt again. I scooped him up and drove right up the road to the CVS Minute Clinic. I had never thought to go there before, but a couple of people said it was a good quick alternative.  And at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, I didn't think the pediatrician was a feasible thing.

Let's put it mildly and say that Hank did not want to go to the doctor.  He kept saying, so earnestly, "Look, I'm all better!"  So I spent a lot of parent trust capital on telling him, this will not take too long and nothing bad will happen.  By the time we got to the CVS, he was resigned.  We checked in at the little computer and we were sixth in line. Whoa, where did all these people come from?  But I didn't know how quickly it might move, and we sat down to wait.

Hank played Angry Birds on my iPhone for a while.  As we sat there, I could tell his fever was going up.  He said, "Mom, I'm one hundred percent fine!"  I gave him a drink.  He grew more sluggish.  Then he sat in my lap.  Then he fell asleep.  The nurse practitioner would call each person in and give apologetic smiles to everyone waiting.

We waited an hour and ten minutes.  It didn't even seem that long, to me.  You know how, sometimes when you're doing something for your kid or waiting for something your kid needs, the passing of time barely registers?  I just sat there in the chair, leaned against the glass-doored cooler, and held him.

Finally they called us in.  I woke him up to walk into the room, where he immediately climbed up on the vinyl bench and lay down.  The nurse's assistant took his temperature, and it was 103.  She glanced at the nurse and took it again.  103.  The nurse said, "Oh, when their fever is 103 or higher, it's an automatic refer-out. We can't treat him."

I just looked at her, like I didn't understand what she was saying.  Because I didn't.  She actually reached up and took a binder off of a shelf, and looked up the relevant policy.  "Yes, I'm sorry, it's 103.  You have to take him to urgent care."

I said, "You can't even look in his ear?"  I was kind of in shock.  They were apologetic.  I said, "How long is urgent care going to take?"  That sounds like I was irritated, but it was an honest question, I was totally confused and tired.  There was some hemming/hawing.  The nurse phoned the urgent care down the street and reported that they had only two people waiting.

I said, "Okay Hank, we are going to have to go to one more doctor."  And he pleaded, "Oh mom, can we go home for just a little bit first?"  And I started to cry.

It surprised me, and it certainly surprised the other two women.  I have been in a lot of doctor's offices this year, and I've gotten some bad news at different times, but I never cried in someone's office, not one time. Not the first time.  Until I was in the dumb CVS with the feverish and miserable Hank.  I just felt like he had been so patient and trusting, and what I had told him about making one stop had been a lie.  I hated it.  I would indeed have taken him home, except by then I was actually worried about him.

I said, "I could have dosed him up with Tylenol when we checked in here an hour ago, and then his fever wouldn't have been 103 right now." And they acknowledged that this was the case.

There's one lesson learned.  I understand why they have that policy, but I think that they might post it somewhere in the waiting area so that people do not wait over an hour with a sick child who then cannot be diagnosed or treated.  They then gave me a $5/15 coupon.

So I took Hank by the hand and we left the office.  I'm sure the people in the waiting area looked at my face and wondered what terrible event had just befallen us.  I walked straight to the shelf and got some acetaminophen and made Hank eat it, then I paid for it and some Gatorade at the back counter.  The always-odd pharmacy clerk who rang me up pointed out to me that she had swiped a CVS card and saved me $1.99.  I thanked her and told her I didn't know where my CVS card was.  She said, "Yes, if I hadn't done that it would have cost you $1.99 more."  Then I killed her, killed her dead with a terrible glare from my terrible eyes and I left the whole store a smoldering ruin.

In the car, I got busy soothing Hank and explaining how we had to just go see one more doctor, one more place and they would give him medicine to make him feel better.  Yes, honey, I know you feel fine but I don't think you really are fine. (He did not feel fine.)  He said, "Mom, why were you crying?  Would you please stop crying?"  I told him that I had felt frustrated but that everything was totally okay and that I was sorry that it scared him. He said, "That's okay, Mom."

So we get to the urgent care place and we get back into an exam room pretty quickly. The guy who took our history was pretty good and he listened to what I said.  Hank's temp was still 103, but was starting to perk up, even that fast, from the Tylenol.  Then the doctor came in and kind of overreacted to the 103 number.  She retook all of the same history and asked me the same question a couple of times without hearing my answer.  I told her, "Yes, whenever our family gets a cold virus, which most of us have right now, it seems that Hank spikes a fever that lasts about 36 hours."  I was not that worried by the high number--to me the number, especially with a rapid onset like that, is not the worrying sign that I look for.

She looked him over and said, "Both his ears are red."  By then he was active and talking.  She said, "He looks good, but the numbers don't look good."

And here's where the visit changed for me:  She said, "Would he let us draw his blood?"

I didn't like that question or the terms in which it was asked.  Like, well do you need to take his blood?  Because if it is necessary, we will do it.  Is it necessary or not?  Tell me that you need it and I will make it okay.  But by asking that question in that manner, I felt that she was willing to exploit the fact of a child's good-natured compliance with being in the doctor's office, for uncertain necessity.  If Hank had been raising hell the whole time instead of chatting up the medical assistant, that issue would not have been raised in that way, I don't think.  And I didn't think they were equipped to do a blood draw in the painless way they do at the children's hospital.  This unfolded in my head in about half a second.

I said, "Well is there a good reason for you to do it?"  And she said, "Why don't we just treat him for the ears and see how he does?"  I said, "Yes, let's do that."  She went away.

I always have great relationships with doctors, both mine and my kids.  But the scenario had shifted into one where I felt I now had to put myself in between Hank and the staff there, like, to protect him, ironically.  This may have been an overreaction in itself, but I was in a fragile state.  Hank, though, was rapidly becoming more fine.

The doc came back in and said, "They can do a CBC with just a finger stick, can we do that?"  I said okay, and Hank was not thrilled when that happened, not at all, but he recovered once he had a giant band-aid.  His temp was down to 101 and he was watching Clone Wars on the little TV.  We waited some more.

The doctor came back in and said his white count was 13, which isn't that elevated if at all, and would he let them give him a shot of rocephin in the butt?  At the word "shot," Hank began to very clearly say that he does not like shots.  And my face must have told her that I didn't either, and she gave us a prescription for Augmentin and told me to bring him back in the next day if he wasn't better.

By the time we got to Publix to get the prescription filled, three hours after our odyssey began, Hank was way chipper and only I was left feeling slightly bruised by the afternoon's events.  The experience in CVS was a real low point.

Another bit of useful info: Augmentin is not one of the antibiotics that Publix gives out for free, as it is compounded of birds' nests and wizard's tears, and in fact it will cost $61.  But one dose of that and he was put right.  He went on to have a brilliant weekend and we are all getting over the crying portion of the day.  The day started with Laura's lovely curls and ended with a thankfully-more-comfortable Hank, with a lot of living in between.

Surely nobody is still reading this but if you are, thank you, I think I just needed to tell someone all that.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Authentic Eighteenth-Century Curls

Laura as Sybil Ludington
Sure they are!
On Friday morning, Laura's fourth-grade class put on an American Revolution Wax Museum, for which each kid was assigned a character.  They had to research their person, write a short speech about their notable achievements, and then come in costume ready to do their spiel whenever anyone approached them.  Laura was Sybil Ludington, who, as Laura could tell you, is remembered as the female Paul Revere, though, as Laura would also tell you, Sybil's midnight ride was twice as long as Paul's, AND she was only sixteen years old and rode forty miles wearing a skirt.

Kind of awesome, really.

We know a lot about Sybil Ludington in this house right now.

Coming up with colonial costumes, two weeks after Halloween, was, as we say in the South, a total PITA OMG WTF?  Like, by the time anyone could focus her attention on this, Party City and similar retail costume clothiers had turned their businesses into Christmas emporia with not a Betsy Ross lace cap to be found.

That's what I was tense about: the headwear.  Laura had this old dress-up dress that we used as a base, though Laura complained that "the crushed velvet makes me look too rich and I'm supposed to be middle class."  Yes dear, you are entirely too rich.

Then we added the long faux-leather vest, which was actually a "child's pirate vest" we found left over at Party City.  Our concept for Sybil was that she was wearing her ordinary day dress and then, when it became clear that she had to go muster the militia, she threw on some of her father's riding gear and set out that minute.

We added the gloves because it took the look away from the sort of pirate moment we were starting to have.

But I knew the way to clinch "colonial" would be to add a bonnet or one of those Mother Goose lace caps.  I could not find one, and nobody had one to lend.  I tried to improvise something with a tea towel, and we started to venture into Mary and Joseph territory.

So somehow Laura and I came up with the idea that if I curled her hair, it would seem costumey and appropriately eighteenth century.  I mean, all girls in early America had these ringlets, right?  I'm sure there is an American Girl movie that says so.  And anyway, I think it's more authentic than a bonnet because only grown, married ladies covered their heads all the time.  Or so sayeth the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and that's authority enough for me.  I got up at 6:45 and went to work with the curling iron and the hairspray, and she was SO IN LOVE with herself when I was finished.

Anyway, the whole event was super cute, even if those fourth-graders are Olympic-level mumblers.

And there was a very not-African Phyllis Wheatley there.  Also, Laura's friend Patrick Henry was so cute I wanted to pin him to my jacket.

Patrick Henry

Declaration Gang

Laura's 4th Grade Class

And in other Laura hair news, the cutest barrette arrived in the mail from Beth.

Laura with Barrette

Peace Barrette

Beth has a cute Etsy shop where she sells these handmade felt barrettes.  Thank you, Beth! Check her shop out if you need something for a little girl. Laura loves this barrette and it is totally in line with her sartorial commitment to peace.

That is what's going on with Laura's hair.  She was so eager to keep these curls that she hasn't bathed all weekend.  Delightful!

I hope y'all had a great Saturday and Sunday.  More soon. xo-B

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Total Pushover

A slight cold has been stalking our household.  Laura started up with a cough last night, and it sounded kind of harsh, but I thought there was also some hamming it up involved.  As though she were looking for a Victorian fainting couch to throw herself onto.  After a while, all the coughing really did seem to irritate her throat and increase the coughing. You know how it goes.  I made her drink lots of liquids and then gave her some cough suppressant at bedtime.

This morning at 6:30 she appeared in the gloom at my bedside.  "Mom, I'm still coughing and my throat is sore."

"Okay," I said.  "You can stay home today. Go back to bed."

If you guys have anything to ask me and you think I might say no, 6:30 is a good time to ask for it.  I will agree to whatever if it will make your face stop making noise.

Then 8:00 rolled around and Hank climbed into my bed.  He said, "Mom, my cheek hurts," and then dozed off again.  I thought about that and then dozed off again too.

By 9:00 we were working on getting Hank ready for preschool.  Laura had taken her own temperature, reported it to be normal, and was in her room dressing an American Girl doll.  I should have made her get ready for school right then.  But I was dealing with Hank, and he was putting up some resistance, saying he didn't want to go to school, and complaining of his cheek pain.  I couldn't see anything wrong with his cheek, inside or out.  I took it to be a fictional complaint manufactured in response to the awareness that his sister was staying home.

I got him fed, dressed, and actually in the car, and he was still a little whiny.  Usually by that point in the day, he has realized the inevitability of school and has gotten with the program.  But he continued to droop.

Then at our first red light, he said that his ear hurt.  It dawned on me: "cheek pain" could equal ear pain and/or sinus pain.  Hmm.

Then, his clincher.  He said, "Can I sit in your lap?"  He has never asked that in the car.  I said, "Baby, I'm driving."

He said, "But I'll be careful."

"That won't work, sweetie."

He said, "But I just NEED SOME MAMA TIME!" and burst into tears.

Okay, one second and one illegal U-turn later and we were on our way back home.  No problem.  It is not in me to refuse a cri de coeur like that.

After the car was pointed the other way, Hank perked up something considerable.  He continues to seem draggy, but says his ear doesn't hurt.  I will still probably take him to the doctor tomorrow.

Laura has made amazing strides back towards wellness this afternoon.  I guess she is having a mental health day, really. Which is fine with me, she never tries to get out of school.  She's more conscientious than I am.

If you guys have anything to ask me and you think I might say no, ask to sit in my lap.  While I'm driving.

Wishing you health,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Don't Think We Are Four Loko Material

Scandalamitous beverage events:  I had never heard of this Four Loko drink until three days ago and here it has already been banned by an entire state.  Saturday, we went up to the mountain house, and our in-the-know friend Sloan produced a can.  It was tall and purple, and it featured the words, "Contains Alcohol" as a prominent design element.  I was like, "Wah?" and he was all, "We picked this up on the way, it's been banned," and I was like, "Okay, I'll try it."

Banned, baby! Like Lady Chatterley's Lover!

The gist is that it's a caffeinated energy drink that's also 12% alcohol, and it costs $2-$3 for a 24 oz. can.  College campuses are freaking out about this and several teenagers have ended up in the hospital.  I guess the theory is that the caffeine keeps you so alert that you don't realize how screwed up you're getting, so you stay up and drink instead of falling asleep the way nature intended.  And it's cheap, so cheap it's like, loko.

Night fell at the mountain house, and Sloan popped open the huge can, poured a little into four glasses, and carried them to the table.  We picked them up and eyed them like we were at a wine tasting.  I was already thinking that maybe we weren't cut out for Four Loko, with our little bistro glasses.

We took a swig.

Someone started moaning.  Oh my God it started like an injury and then got worse.  Everyone began talking at once.

"It tastes just like Dimetapp from when I was a kid!"
"It's really bad, right?"
"I'm not young enough to drink this."
"I'm not poor enough."

Upon sipping, the initial impression is merely cough syrupy, then in the middle things start to get strident, and then the finish rolls around, and it's like a grape boot stamping on a human face forever.

And oh, the terrible sweetness.  I had to fight several hummingbirds to finish my ounce of liquid.  I think only Sloan and I actually drank our tiny portions of the stuff. Matt poured his out and made a real drink. And Becky (another Becky!) took two sips and got jittery.  I think that could have been the Red  #40, though, even more than the caffeine.

Matt summed up what we were all feeling when he said, "I just have no desire to eat or drink anything ironically anymore."  Yes.  I remembered that there is a name for that phenomenon.  The great Douglas Coupland calls it "nutritional slumming":
[The eating of] food whose enjoyment stems not from flavor but from a complex mixture of class connotations, nostalgia signals, and packaging semiotics: Katie and I bought this tub of Multi-Whip instead of real whip cream because we thought petroleum distillate whip topping seemed like the sort of food that air force wives stationed in Pensacola back in the early sixties would feed their husbands to celebrate a career promotion. (page 120) 
I had forgotten that there was a Pensacola reference in Generation X. Awesome.

It's possible that our crowd was doing it wrong, because this guy drank a bunch of Four Loko and liked it and had a hilarious evening.  We just played spades and then got in the hot tub and then went to bed.  It seemed like we were having a pretty great time, if not actually Loko in the strict sense.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We Have A Lot to Process

Today when I picked her up from a playdate, Laura pulled a little plastic bag out of her backpack. "Look what I got."  She gave me a look that I couldn't read. It was kind of wide-eyed and foreboding with a touch of nine year-old theatrics thrown in.

I looked in the bag.  It was an Always maxi pad sample, a tiny deodorant, and a little booklet.  "Ah," I said.  "Look at that."

She said, "We watched a video.  All the girls got called out of the classroom, and we said, 'Are we in trouble?' But we went and watched a movie.  And one girl said she had to go back to the classroom because it was too much for her.  And we got to ask questions and got goody bags."

Then I remembered having gotten a letter about this event.  It said that the fourth-grade girls would be watching a video and having a discussion about puberty, led by the school nurse. We could opt out if we wanted. I read it and then kind of forgot about it. My two kids together bring home a ream of paper a week, and I am pretty much scanning for things I have to do, you know? Like last Thursday, my preschool carpool buddy dropped Hank off and said, "You and I are trouble for not sending in our decorated turkeys."  I was all, "Our whosiwhatford?"  She goes, "Yeah, it's a piece of yellow paper they brought home.  Or it's not really yellow, just yellowish and the whole family is supposed to decorate it." I was like, "Oh for the love."

So I forgot about the puberty discush.  But when she brought home the maxi pad, I was ready to fully engage.

I asked, "So what did the video talk about?" and "What kinds of questions did people ask?" and stuff like that.  I always try to avoid leading the witness. She told me the video was called "Always Changing," and she gave me a pretty comprehensive play-by-play.  I thought she had known more about this stuff than she in fact had, it seemed like some of the whole period thing took her by surprise.  How many times does that happen in life, that your kids know less than you thought?

I said, "So that was a lot of information for you to take in.  What did you make of it?"

She said, "It was horrifying."

I think what she was was a bit embarrassed.  And nervous, maybe. She kept talking, and then I talked, and she talked some more, and it was one of those absolute parental decathlon moments where you're listening to their words and also what's behind the words and trying to be sure they're informed while reassuring them that life is not changing overnight.  All in the time it took me to drive one mile in light traffic.  We can both talk fast.

I guess maybe I should have told her all this already, but it had not come up.  Or actually, that's not true, it had come up and she had never pursued it, and I don't believe in answering questions that are not being asked.

And horrified or not, she was also quite interested, because after we got home, Matt's mom arrived, and Laura sat her down in the dining room and told her all about it.

Then I noticed that this whole video/booklet/sample bag is a Procter & Gamble thing that they bundle up send out to schools.  The letter had said as much.  I went to their website and watched the video.  They have one for fourth grade and one for fifth grade, girls and boys.  I have mixed feelings about that.  On one hand, I remember, fondly, my friends and I poring over a little booklet put out by the Tampax people when I was a girl.  Though I don't think we were in fourth-grade, and I don't think it came from school.  Of course, by that time I'd read Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, thus earning the equivalent of a Ph.D. in menstruation theory.  I think I got good information from the little Tambrands book when I was a kid, and the "Always Changing" book Laura brought home was well-written, engaging, and age-appropriate.

Thought I couldn't resist saying, "Ew, a pituitary gland, gross!"

But in the middle of the booklet, right after a discussion of appocrine and eccrine sweat, was a two-page layout detailing the fine Secret family of antiperspirant/deodorant products, with a little picture of each of the seven (!) kinds of "protection," in scents like "Cocoa Butter Kiss," "Rockstar Rose," and "Va Va Vanilla."  I didn't realize that deodorant products were being packaged and marketed with such an eye to tween appeal, I guess I am way behind.

Does my nine year-old really need to decide between "clinical strength" and "invisible solid" at this point in her development?

I just pointed it out to Laura and said, "Look, this is an ad. The people who made the video also want to sell you their brand of deodorant.  This is a lot of good information, but they're also making it seem like needing 31 flavors of deodorant is a normal part of growing up."  She got it; I mean, critical media studies is like a key part of modern parenting, and these kids get it.  Children with even glancing exposure to television and the internet know they are being sold to, hard.  I do not think that commercials are poisonous, not at all, I just think it's something to point out and teach awareness of.

But it made me think, how difficult would it be for a schools to come up with a non-branded, purely educational unit on puberty and development and use that?  I know it wouldn't come with a snazzy goody bag.  But we are not talking about a lot of content: a twenty-five minute film and a discussion session.

Is it just that it's so easy to use P&G's?  And it's free? Is their material of such a high quality that it is worth the in-school advertising?        

And then I wondered, is this information being given to kids earlier, i.e., at a younger age, because children are reaching puberty earlier, or because the corporate profit-motivation is to create brand-awareness earlier?

I didn't really blink at the four pages of different maxi pad products at the end of the booklet, because that seemed more on-topic, and it even made me nostalgic for my Judy Blume days.  But the Secret deodorant thing seemed obtrusive.  What do y'all think?  Are your elementary schoolers hearing about this stuff already?

So yes, we have a lot to let percolate in our little brains.

After we talked, Laura said, "Okay, the only man in the whole world who can know about this puberty issue is Daddy."

I was like, "Oh, naturally."  I assured her, no other male could even comprehend such a phenomenon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Day I Am An Adult

Because I was at Costco this afternoon, and I purchased 100 postage stamps.  Yes, just like that.  "Madam, here is my 43 dollars and change, I would like to purchase the power to mail one hundred things, please."  All through my twenties and early (okay and mid) thirties, it was a hand-to-mouth, devil-may-care, one book of stamps at a time existence.  Honestly, I never knew where my next 20 stamps was coming from.  Sometimes I bummed them from people.  I did whatever I had to do, piecing together the postage from random old sheets of stamps, two-cent ones, thirty-seven cent ones, I didn't care. Then online bill payment came along and I practically never needed stamps at all.  But the good times don't last, do they?

Actually, I still don't need stamps that often, so what I've purchased is basically a lifetime's supply of franking.

Franking.  That's really what it's called.

And they're those Forever stamps (in a lovely holiday evergreen pattern), so I expect to make money off of this deal as postal rates climb.  I am all about the long play.

Also at Costco: I had it in my head that I needed to get Laura some of those off-brand Uggs they have there. Now, she hadn't asked for them, but when the weather turns chilly, I want to cover the world in Uggs.  Everything I see looks like a foot needing a boot to me, like when Sylvester looks at Tweety and sees him browning on a tiny rotisserie.

You see, the weather has only just gotten coldish here.  Every year I set a goal of waiting until November 1 to turn on the heat in our house, but I've never made it.  Until this year.  We haven't needed the heat yet, I'm pretty sure because of something that Al Gore did, but the last few mornings, I am weakening as it hovers around 60 in the house.  The family has already gathered around for Ugg Day, the ritual encasing of my feet in shearling boots.  We shall not see those feet until late March.  So my thoughts have turned to warm things and making warmness, and Laura's possibly chilly feet seemed like a perfectly good reason to drive over to Costco, and Hank and I set off.

Their selection was somewhat picked over, but Hank, my shopping wing man, held my purse as I crawled inside the tower of boxes looking for the right size.  I had to re engineer the pile so it wouldn't topple onto us, and every box had to be turned a different way.  Hank kept offering to move or lift things for me.  Then I went around to the other side of the aisle--you know how they have everything stacked warehouse style--and tunneled through a bunch of Fruit-by-the-Foot cases to get to the back of the boot stack.  Hank said, "I'll move those foot snacks for you Mom."  I swear, I see in him the beginnings of gallantry.  He always wants to be my strong helper.

So I was very occupied with helping him help me, bending down, and examining every frankin' box of boots, and realized, too late, that I was treating all of the other patrons to some major coin slot.

Oh well.

What else went on since we last spoke?  Just matronly things.  I've taken Laura to her new swim team practice thrice, I have prepared a number of adequate meals, and I have generally done the things necessary for basic family survival.  Also I had a rich inner life.

Tomorrow morning we are going to dash up to NC to meet some friends and stay Saturday night at the mountain house.  Should be freezing at night up there.  But that won't bother us, because of our ugg feet. Yes I got Laura some and I got myself another pair too. Yes I already have some, oh stop it. I am a grown woman with much postage.

Back in a flash, lovers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Made This: Table Runner from Vintage Travel Tea Towels

tea towels runner

I did not make up this craft idea, but for the life of me, I can't remember where I saw it.  What you do is grab a few vintage tea towels that you like, not worrying if the widths don't match up (in fact I prefer it if they don't) and use them to make a quick, no-sew table runner.


blackpool towel

This is a great solution for you if, like me, you have a little problem with vintage textiles. The problem being that the average human lifespan is only 76 years and that's not long enough to enjoy all the vintage textiles I own.  So making a table runner is one way to get them out of the drawer and let them breathe.

I don't know if this look would appeal to everyone. Maybe too eclectic? It might depend on your dining room.  Or you could use more delicate, ticking strip, pastel, or embroidered towels to go in a sort of Cath Kidston direction.

I got a bunch of these vintage tea towels on ebay (search "vintage tea towel lot"), these are all from English tourist attractions.  I think I paid about $25 for seven towels, and most of them are heavy Irish linen. Not too bad.  My favorite part is that they're somewhat quirky.  Like this Cornwall towel (the brown-edged one) that celebrates someplace called the Lizard Peninsula.

helston furry dance

Who could forget that night we whirled together in the Helston Furry Dance?

goonhilly downs

And then climbed the fence at Goonhilly Downs and made out under the big satellite dish thingie?

Truly, the tea towel really makes me want to visit this Lizard Peninsula.

Anyway, this is super easy if you are so inclined.  First I spent a few minutes laying out the towels and choosing which ones I liked together.  My table is 90" long, and I used four towels.  Then I ironed the fold lines out of the towels and used some of that fusible binding tape that you iron (Stitch Witchery is one brand) to stick the tea towels together.  The only even slightly tricky part is making sure you line up the towels so that your runner will go straight.

tea towel runner

I think it will look cuter with the table set, but I wanted to show y'all the pics.  Next I might do one with the Australia towels I brought back from our trip down there last year.  I have a towel with wombats in teacups that makes you want to die.  Cause of death: cuteness.

As a crafter, I tend to gravitate towards things that are easy and a little bit wonky. This fits the bill on both counts. Maybe a lot wonky. Honestly, I'm too close to it to judge.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tricks and/or Treats

Hank and Laura

How was your Halloween night? Here are my yellow Power Ranger and my Manhattan Party Witch. A "Manhattan Party Witch" was nothing I'd ever heard of until Laura announced that it would be her costume, but it does sound like a very fun thing to be.

Face Paint

Matt painted her face. He also went with me to the fall festival at Hank's school on Thursday, prepared to do my face-painting duties, then we got there and saw how a) low the standards were, and b) that there were two other moms assigned to paint faces who sort of knew what they were doing.  So he withdrew and let me practice my pumpkin blobs and spider blobs to the general toleration of all the children.  Only one child threw up and only one child got a nosebleed in the bounce house, but I don't know that my face painting was to blame.

Say "Ahh"

We were up at the mountain house this weekend, arriving home just in time to carve pumpkins and get suited up.  Laura was excited because she was going to go trick-or-treat on Normal Neighbor's golf cart. Hank was just excited and incredulous that trick-or-treating is real in this, the best of all possible worlds.

Suited Up

Hank and Laura


Hank's Gang

After Laura got whisked away on the golf cart, Hank got invited to ride with some other littles on bales of hay in the back of our neighbor's truck. So I was left standing in the cul-de-sac, waving to him, and then Normal Neighbor offered one of the K(C)athies and me a beer, and then I walked home.

Candy Counting

After Hank was delivered home, he pulled every piece of candy out of his bucket, one by one, and said, "I got this, and I got this, and I got this . . ."  I heard that at one house, a man had asked Hank, "And which Power Ranger are you?"  Hank paused.  "The yellow one," he said.  He did not add, "Duh!"

Then I watched that new AMC zombie show, "The Walking Dead," with our friends David and Michael. It was meh.

Did y'all have a good night? I know I am a little late to the party, but seriously, I thought they would strip me of my mom-blogging credentials if I didn't get a Halloween post up.

And oh, hi November, I didn't see you there! I guess you may as well come on in.