Sunday, August 29, 2010

That Bar of Soap Birthday Party

Well, sometimes you start a story and life intervenes and then it's a week later. Thanks, Amy, for popping in to post while I was in California. More about that trip in the next post. (Ha, see what I did there?)

When last we were together, Laura had just returned from a Frenemy family birthday party with a full sized bar of Ivory soap in her goody bag. This was a source of great entertainment in my house. My mother-in-law's eyebrows went up into her hairline, and I thought (for the eleventy hundredth time), "Thank the SWEET LORD I have a blog."

You guys were geniuses at coming up with party themes for which the bar of soap would be fitting: scrimshaw party, bath products party, green party, etc. But I knew that the real theme of the party was Absolutely Last Minute and Cheap as Hell. Check it out.

Now, the party was a Sunday afternoon. That Thursday night, I had gotten a text from Frenemy. Obviously she had sent it to a group. It said:
Would ur daughter be avail 4 a surprise bd party 4 P? Either Fri afternoon or Sun aftnoon? About 1 hr. Thxs.
Yes, this was Thursday night. You may recall (if you are a very, very attentive reader of this blog), that last year Laura missed P's birthday entirely because Frenemy texted us Friday night to plan a Saturday afternoon pool party, and we had gone to the mountains. It was a bummer, they are good friends.

So I texted back and said Sunday afternoon would work better. Then she texted back on Saturday morning:
Hey Moms! The surprise party will be 2:30 Sun @ my house. I'll hav door unlocked. When we arrive jump out with "SURPRISE."
Okay, so this was a sort of self-service surprise party. Then she left me a long voice mail asking if I would show up and go in with the kids and supervise them until they got there. I texted her back and said I would be happy to. It was just going to be Laura and two other little girls from our street, because P doesn't have any friends, because FN will barely let her breathe.

So at 2:20 on Sunday we were all ready. I'd pulled a cute present out of the gift stash (hurray gift stash! I don't know how I'd kept my own kids from finding those Zhu-Zhu Pets) and Laura decorated the wrapping paper. We set out and took Hank with us because Hank makes a party. On the walk up there, Normal Neighbor texted me. She said, "What is the deal with this weird plan? Should I come over there?" I said, "Yes, please do." She said, "Do you think FN will be late? I don't want to sit in their house for 30 minutes." I told her I was sure they'd be on time.

Oh ho! Normal Neighbor is no dummy.

Fast forward to 2:45. The four kids are in their places, having scoped out the best spot to hide. I text Frenemy, "We are ready!" She texts back:
We are running 15 minutes late. Thxs, it took us a little long @ lunch because we went 2 different restaurant. Thxs.
They were already fifteen minutes late, so I wasn't sure what this did to their ETA. I told Frenemy to give us a two-minute warning and I told the kids to stand down. I considered browsing in the fridge.

At 3:00, they roll up. We've now been waiting the exact half hour that Normal Neighbor predicted, and Hank has practiced yelling SURPRISE one hundred dozen times. But we hid, we waited until P walked in the door, and then we yelled "SURPRISE" one more time. She was really surprised and delighted, so I felt that it was time well-spent.

Then came the bar of soap.

Hank and I had stayed a few minutes more, long enough for Hank to have cake, and then we went home. When Laura came home later, she was clutching a recycled plastic bag from Justice. It contained the bar of Ivory soap, a little yellow highlighter pen, a pair of Halloween socks, a pencil, and a ring pop. And friends, it wasn't even a pristine bar of soap. You know how you get the big multi-packs of eight or so soaps, and then the ones in the middle have their wrappers all messed up from being stuck to the other bars?

It was like that.

So I asked the natural question: Did everyone get a bar of soap?

No. The story developed that Laura had actually traded to get that bar of soap. The other bags featured, as their centerpieces:
  • a pair of Christmas earrings
  • a fishing lure shaped like a rubber fish
  • a wooden ruler inscribed with the Golden Rule and the name of a local Baptist church
Laura's first bag had contained the fishing lure, and she horse traded her way to the soap. My girl! And at this moment the soap is being used in the kids' bathroom.

So obviously, this has to be the most half-assed attempt at goody bags ever, as it seems to have involved Frenemy cleaning out the junk drawer in her office. The thing is, there is no law that says you have to do goody bags at all. A little cake and ice cream, a few games, and they're good. So why cobble together this collection of crap? It is classic Frenemy, that's all I can say about it.

And the last-minute nature of the party actually hurt my feelings a little bit on her daughter's behalf. I don't know why she couldn't plan something ahead of time? She has one child and she knows when her birthday is. Yes, I am sure she is busy, but other people are too. Everyone is busy. I don't get it, my kids talk about their upcoming birthdays for months, doesn't her child? P is eleven; she knows when her birthday is too, I'm guessing. And I'm no Power Mom, but I can manage to pick a day and time and invite other children a couple of weeks in advance. We had Hank's fourth birthday on my last day of chemotherapy and it was great. So how busy is she?

Not to get all busier-than-thou.

So THAT is the story of the bar of Ivory soap and how it was the perfect accompaniment to the whole thrown-together party. I mean, what the chuck?

I really wished you all lived here so we could have this conversation in person, with hand gestures and shrugging.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Left us hanging by a soapy thread

Well, she's done it again. Becky's off to California for a few days. (This is Amy, by the way.)

I called her a couple nights ago. "What are you doing?" I asked. (Which is code for Why haven't you blogged?) "Watching Mad Men," she said. "Mom--would you pause that?" "Hey--I didn't know Mom and Dad were there," I said, surprised. "Yes," Beck answered, "I'm seeing our parents behind your back."

After I got over the shock and betrayal, I learned that Mom and Dad had come to ride herd on Hank and Laura because Becky had to go to California for a few days. That can happen, you know. The sudden urge to fly to California. Perhaps it's the guacamole?

Not to worry, though! She's flying home on Saturday, and when I talked to her today, she thought she'd be able to check in and update us sometime before then. It's a good thing, I told her, cause we all need to know what the deal is with the Ivory Soap. You can't just throw that out there and then leave.

I would never do that to y'all. I'm the responsible one. Or wait, maybe I'm the guilt-ridden one. I can never remember.

Anyway, just wanted to put you at ease. Becky is just fine, and all is well at the SubMat household!

Now, Beck--resume your post!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Raced Right in To Tell You

Laura just came home from Frenemy Neighbor's daughter's birthday party. Her goody bag contained a full-sized bar of Ivory soap. Discuss.

I'll be back to tell you the whole story of this party later but right now I'm laughing too hard.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Date Night Y'all

Matt's mom has come to town to stay a couple of days, and this is the first weekend we've been home in forty forevers. We knew would get a chance to go out tonight, so Matt's proposal was these things in this order:

1) Go eat at the new taqueria near us, the one that has made our lives complete with its amazing chipotle-tamarind sauce.
2) Then go see The Other Guys. I have a soft spot for Marky Mark.
3) Then go to the gym for some late-night gymming. This could involve actual working out, reading on the pool deck, or just sitting in the hot tub. I think I could muster a half-hour on the treadmill and that would take the place of shredding. We'll see.

Be good and I'll see y'all tomorrow.

Friday Ended Twenty Minutes Ago

But Friday night keeps rocking on. What did y'all do tonight?

My short answer is that I did nothing. The long form is:

1) I chatted with the mother of a friend of Laura's. She came to pick up her daughter from a play date. I noticed for the first time what lush, thick hair this woman has. Ah, hair.

2) With hair still on the brain, I made Laura submit to a sock bun. Do you know of this sock bun magic? Oh sock bun, where were you when I needed you? The bun looked cute, but note: an orange striped sock isn't optimal for blonde hair. Maybe a tan sock next time.

3) I ate waffles with Greek yogurt and maple syrup for supper. So did Hank. Laura and Matt ate taquitos from Trader Joe's. You will all want to subscribe to my upcoming food blog. It will be so slatternly.

4) I played some Xbox Lego Harry Potter with Hank. I think that series might have jumped the shark. All the different spells you can cast--so fussy and getting farther from the pure Lego joy of smashing some things and building other things.

5) I stressed out about some stuff without doing anything about it.

6) I read a spy novel in Hank's room while he fell asleep. If 1959 called and needed me to run some agents in the GDR, I could step right into the job, I am not even kidding.

7) I hid from the weather. It is such a crazy thunderstorm here, and I think I was traumatized by our most recent tree unpleasantness. I went into Matt's office and said, "A tree is going to fall on our house. Don't you think?" He said, "Well, there is no tree in any position to fall on one of the kids' rooms." This closed the matter, as far as he was concerned. There are, however, a number of candidates for falling on the sunroom. I became superstitiously convinced that it was going to happen, and I pictured myself lounging on the couch watching tivo at the moment of my death by tree-fall. This isn't like me; I never worry about long shot stuff like this (ha!), but I went and sat in the dining room until the storm passed.

8) Now it is quiet and our house is in one piece. Matt has made his nightly stovetop popcorn, so all must be right with the world.

Signing off. Mwah!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The 30 Day Shred, Day One. Again.

Remember the hazy days of late 2009? Those were innocent times. President Obama's approval rating was above fifty percent and I began doing the 30 Day Shred workout dvd. Several of you started doing it too. Sometimes I shredded with Matt, sometimes with Pretty Neighbor in her basement.

If you weren't around then, there was much self-congratulation, ostentatious sweating, and asking people if they wanted to feel my glutes.

I hit it hard from October through December, then somewhat spottily after a looong Christmas break, then not at all since my mastectomy at the end of March. I would say that since recovering from surgery, then through having chemotherapy, I have been active, but I haven't been doing a regular workout.

I was also counting calories through that time, and I've kept off the weight I lost, but I'm definitely not as strong and fit as I was. Pretty Neighbor has never stopped shredding. Girlfriend is, yes, shredded.

Then yesterday Matt announced that he is the new Exercise Captain for both of us. I said, "Okay, I wanna start the shred again." I really do think it is a good workout: it's quick, it's tough no matter what your fitness level, and I know it gets results. So we moved the coffee table out of the way in the sun room and the whole family shredded. We did the level one workout. Hank slacked off somewhat but the rest of us gave it all we had.

Twenty four minutes after we began, it was over. I lay on the floor and said, "It wasn't that bad." Then I crawled to the couch and stayed there while Matt put the kids to bed and I watched an episode of "Sarah's House." That's my cool-down.

The funny thing is, I think I'm in better shape now than when I first started the workout back in October. It could be because I'm twenty pounds lighter, or it could be because I remember the moves and the whole thing just doesn't feel as hard. The biggest losses were cardio stamina and upper arm strength. The arm strength comes and goes really fast, in my experience.

So we're back on the Shred Wagon, friends. Anyone want to join in? I had also forgotten the feeling of righteousness I get after I've worked out. Self-satisfaction is my drug of choice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BlogHer 2010: In Which I Tire of My Wig


I know, another post about the BlogHer conference. I mean, move on already, you've been back for a week! I know, this is the last one. I just have some snips and snaps to share.

In addition to my ladies up there, Keely, Jenni, and Gretchen, I got to meet:

kim tracy prince
Kim Tracy Prince, total sweetheart.

casey and keely
Casey, as hilarious as you'd think.

carrie kirby and me
Carrie Kirby, the Frugalista, I've been reading her since I started blogging.

One upshot of all this photo snapping and seeing myself in photo after photo was that I became heartily sick of Codi. Codi is fine but she never changes. She is always just sitting there being a wig.

I met Jenny the Bloggess, who famously wears "confidence wigs" to these conferences, though this year she went with a fake ponytail, which was cute as a bug. I was starstruck. Anyway, she was as friendly as could be and she complimented my hair, and I was all, "Thank you but it's a wig because I had chemo this year and I'm going to be fine but I'm totally sick of this hair." To her credit, she did not say, "OMG, what can of worms have I just opened?" Instead she told me that I need several wigs. Six, she said. So I guess I am doing this wrong and I need more wigs. They can't all cost as much as Codi though. I need to track down a source of fun but cheap wigs. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

I am also growing to embrace the hat look more. It feels less fussy. And anytime there will be sweating involved, I leave the wig at home. In NYC, it occurred to me that a bald lady doesn't attract the attention on the streets that she does in my burb. It is really hard to attract attention in NYC, there is one of everybody there. So one day of the conference I declared to be wig-free day.

me outside moma

Bald girl in the ci-tay! More pics of the whole affair are here. Oh, and Gretchen showed me that little Hipstamatic app for the iphone. I like the snaps it takes.


hipsta me

The cafe at MOMA was very good, and not really expensive, considering. Thanks to Femme Follette for that pro tip.

And this impressed me (last pic, I swear):

stokkes at moma

The high chairs at MOMA are Stokke Tripp Trapps. I like all the different colors they have. And these are much cleaner than the one at my house. That's what impressed me--that a high chair can be clean. Maybe they have a lot of beagles that lick them, I don't know.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

BlogHer 2010: Bedscapes


I take pictures of hotel beds. I just think they're interesting. Actually this one isn't all that interesting. It's nothing to this one, for example. And one of these has a man in it. Ooh, and this is the place I most want to stay again. But anyway, here is the perfectly adequate room I shared with Keely and Jenni at the Hilton in NYC.

new york hilton bedscape

Keely took this picture from our window on the 34th floor. I couldn't stand that close to the window because I figured the glass would probably dissolve and I would plummet to my death.


Here is the conference tote bag and some of the swag it was filled with.


gift bag

sausage alarm clock!

Yes, that is the storied Jimmy Dean alarm clock of BlogHer 2010. I saw this and thought, "Oh no way am I taking this home."

Then I thought, "Laura."

And sure enough, she loves this thing and got herself up for school all last week with it.

Shine on, you crazy sausage clock.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogher 2010: A Higher Point


Yes, that would be a picture of Gretchen and me totally nailing it. At the Friday night party at the BlogHer conference, they had karaoke with a live band. I didn't know that singing to a big crowd with a live band was on my life list, but it so was. In fact I'm going to write down my life list so I can cross that off. So much fun! I knew Gretchen could sing, and I myself am a dedicated living room karaoke artiste, so I begged her to get up there with me. And she said, "Okay, but when we're up there you have to sell it. Are you going to sell it?"

I think we sold it, or I did my best. It was a little tricky because we couldn't really hear ourselves. Fortunately, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" is not a demanding song. Everyone said we sounded good. Were they lying? I don't care because it was pure pleasure. And after we belted out the last chorus, Gretchen yelled, "Thank you New York!" So many flavors of awesome.
When I spent all of eighteen dollars on that dress at Target, I didn't know I'd be making my world stage debut in it. And another girl at the party had it on too. D'oh.

I seriously could have sung all night, until I'd driven everyone from the ball room.

And look at Gretchen! Look at her selling it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Pretty Much Sums up the Exact Situation of Our Family

Regular readers may know my dad, from my comment section, as Camp Papa. Yesterday my sister and I got this email from him. He writes:

Hold everything! Evan [our genealogist uncle] may have found an ancestor of mine who served with General Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox, during our Glorious Revolution. That would mean that you and your daughters, and all your female descendants forever, could join the Daughters of the American Revolution!

You're welcome.

PS: Also, you are inbreds because your mother and I share a common ancestor from the first half of the 18th century.

Dad, hereafter to be called "Father"

I wrote back and asked if the DAR gives out stuff, like, bonnets or tea cozies, and Amy said that all I think about now is swag.

So that's what we're dealing with. I'm not sure if the inbreeding increases or reduces our gentility.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blogher 2010: The Low Point

I have several posts inside of me about the BlogHer Conference, which in case you don't know, was a big shindig of bloggin' ladies that took place in New York City this past weekend. It was a really great time, so it's odd that I'm starting off by telling you about the low point, where I looked into the abyss of my soul and found tuna staring back at me.

To contextualize this, it's good to know that the conference could be called SwagHer. I didn't really understand the scale of the freebie giveaway situation. I guess I had heard vague tales last year of somebody elbowing a baby in the face to get at a table of free Crocs. She became known as the Croctomom, I believe. As time goes by her infamy grows.

Anyway, I knew there was some kind of marketing "gifting" element to the proceedings, but I had no idea it was such a big deal. There was a big expo area where marketers set up booths and did their thing, trade-show style, making their pitch and giving out goodies, but then there were also these private gifting suite things, a couple of which I visited, a few of which I only heard about, and many more that were super top secret and held in undisclosed locations. I never even got wind of those until after the fact. It all adds up to mountains of swag. And this is not to mention the free stuff the hotel staff put in our rooms when we were out. One day it was a Mr. Potato Head, rock! Hank has loved on that potato head like nine ways since I've been home.

I also got jeggings. JEGG-INGS, people.

They are sort of like pants.

Anyway, none of this was the low point. In fact, the jeggings were one of the higher points, because they inspired me to shout, "JEGGINGS!" anytime the spirit moved me, spontaneously, while strolling the boulevards. I said "JEGGINGS!" kind of a lot, truth be told, much to Keely's chagrin. She does not approve of JEGGINGS! as a word while I maintain that the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary are busy readying its entry into the lexicon.

I can't show you a picture of the JEGGINGS! because I can't put them on until winter. They are like being swallowed by a superheated denim boa constrictor.

No, the low point grew out of the phenomenon described so well by Gretchen today:

If you attend the BlogHer Conference, you will get a big buttload of free shit. Some of it is good shit. Some of it is just shit. But when you're faced with a situation where strangers are handing you massive quantities of free shit, a strange phenomenon occurs. You WANT it. ALL of it. MORE of it. You want those Assets cheap Spanx. You WANT those Zhu-Zhu Pets.
Actually I did want those cheap Spanx and battery-operated hamsters. They were great. But you know how when you're a kid and you're trick-or-treating, you reach a point where you know there is plenty of candy in your plastic pumpkin, and you know you will never even eat it all, but there's that last house on the street just sitting there with its porchlight on, and you just can't stop yourself from hobbling up to the door in your homemade Princess Leia costume and ringing the bell. Because you know that if you ring the bell, they will open the door and give you candy, and you just can't leave that candy there in that house when it could be in your plastic pumpkin.

That's what the BlogHer swag is like.

You just can't leave it there, at first. Because some of it is great. And then you know how when you actually do eat a lot of candy and then you feel a tiny bit disgusted with yourself?

That moment came too.

For me it was in one of the expo spaces, at a booth for purveyor of canned fish. Let's say that the company is called the Pork of the Orchard. Most of the booths involved a little chat, listening to a little sales pitch, and handing over a business card in exchange for some free stuff. The Pork of the Orchard had some whole multi-stage process dreamed up, wherein I fended off a dude who wanted to interview me? Video me? I wasn't sure. Then I handed over my card, then I had to answer a trivia question about the history of the Pork of the Orchard's advertising campaigns, then I spun the prize wheel. By then I already hated myself completely. Then I was given this:

The measuring cup, not the penny. It was so underwhelming that it was like a bracing splash of cold water in the face. I was like, "Oh good grief, what are we doing? The shame! The humanity!"

It holds just one half cup. If you were making, say, a pound cake, you could get a repetitive motion stress injury.

We all had the same reaction. Jenni said, "We are nothing but swag whores. Cheap ones!" And we all felt that we had gone too far somehow. We were chastened, we instantly dubbed it The Low Point, and our tide had turned. We went from naive to jaded to penitent inside five minutes.

The funny part is, what was I hoping to get at the Pork of the Orchard booth? Did I need to have a meaningful interaction with this company, or any interaction at all? Not really. So what was I doing standing there? My plastic pumpkin was already full.

Of course that did not stop me, the next day, from chasing down a lady for some Weebles.

More to come, dolls.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bad Educational Choices

For the moment my BlogHer pictures are still resting comfortably on my camera. So I will clear my throat by telling you this:

OMG. This morning I had a front porch convo with my neighbor Conspiracy Guy. You know, the slightly crazy, slackerish stay-at-home-dad whose daughters, my Foster Children, are at my house all the time?

I do mean all the time. They are here right this second.

So Conspiracy Guy had some news to share. It is this:

He is homeschooling this year. His girls are entering Kindergarten and 1st grade, but he is keeping them home, as he explained, to save the $14,000 in tuition to the Wingnut Academy they attended last year, as well as the gas money he spent in transporting them to and fro.

Let me pause to say that I know there are countless top-notch parochial and private schools in this country that do an awesome job of molding young minds. Wingnut Academy is not one of those.

I also believe there are many homeschooling parents who are doing excellent work and turning out brilliant little omnivores of knowledge. I know some of them. Reader, Conspiracy Guy will not be one of those.

Am I being judgmental? Yes, and totally right. Having interacted with this family for four years, I am pretty sure that he will not put in the time, gumption, and wits required to do a good job at this. It is a bad choice. Is it a worse choice than the Wingnut Academy? Yes, I think it is.

And because I can take a sort of joking tone with him, during this little discush about tuition and money I said, "You know, the local public school is excellent, free, and they pick up on the corner." I wrapped this in a big smile. He acknowledged this but said that, so far, his mother-in-law and I were the only people who took a dim view of his plan. So I think that was his way of telling me to shut up? Which is okay, I know it is not my bidness.

Or is it? I mean, education being the cornerstone of a free society and all. You know, like how Whitney said the children are our future?

So that's what's up in the hood this morning. I carried this bit of intel to Matt and he was like, "Oh dear. No." I gotta tell you, it feels good to be back in the swing of things, "things" being, in this case, bearing witness to the poor life choices of others.

BlogHer reportage in the soon-ness.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tumped Over

Do you know this word "tump"? I suppose it's a combination of "tip" and "dump," with an added connotation of accidentalness and indignity. Anyway, it's what happened to me when we went tubing on Monday.

Erika and Me
Erika and me. We kept urging Matt to crash the car into these tubes.

Our friends Erika and Ted went up to the mountain house with us, so of course we took them tubing at Deep Creek, one of our favorite things to do up there. And as usual, my tube was bungeed to Hank's. (A large percentage of my posts this summer contain the words, "My tube was bungeed to Hank's," which I think is a sign of a good summer.)

Anyway, I was floating along, my back facing downstream, and I never saw how it happened. One instant everything was fine and I was dry and in possession of sunglasses and a bottle of diet Pepsi, and the next instant I was upside down underwater with my tube on top of me. No more sunglasses or Pepsi. Or as we say in the south, Coke. I clawed my way out from under my tube, ready to lunge downstream to rescue Hank, but he was sitting in his tube, perfectly right-side up, wearing his life jacket. He was drinking his lemonade as he said, "Why are you doing that, Mama?"

It didn't hurt while was in the process of falling out and getting back in, but now I keep finding bruises on my knees and ankles. All's well that tumps well, and we had a fabulous time. And fortunately my straw hat stuck on my bald head.

Floppy Hat

I love it up there. I could go every weekend (and I nearly do). Here's to mountain time with friends. A small sampling of pics:


Hank and Me

Devin Reading



Kids in the Car

Devin and Hank

Hank going over the gate

Hank on Deck

And a few more are here. Now I'm off to do some last minute things before heading to BlogHer tomorrow. Woohoo! Will keep you posted. xoxox-B