Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A tree half-full

Today I began to dismantle the holly jolly-ness and it feels so good to put this crap away.

Little Guy managed to break tons of the stuff on my vintage tree, and I kept moving the ornaments up so that by the end of it only the top part of the tree was decorated. A tree half-full or a tree half-empty, either way there was no way to put a positive spin on the tree situation. It ended up looking looking janky. I don't know why I was so stubborn about putting it up in the first place. Really I knew better.

Maybe next year I'll put up the giant sparkly beacon of temptation again.

Maybe next year he'll leave it alone.

Either that or I'll duct tape him to the couch until New Year's.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pie in the sky

One of my holiday gifts, actually a gift card in my stocking, was a trip to the hair salon to get my hair cut and colored today. I have been coloring it at home for awhile now and going a really long time between cuts, so it will be a real treat.

I was telling one of my oldest gal pals about it. She reminded me about how it was back in our early twenties, when we both had the every-four-week appointments at one of the trendiest salons in Atlanta. Our stylist was the first to give me highlights and a much needed way overdue brow wax. I owe that woman my life.

Anyway, we thought nothing of dropping $120 or more at the salon.

"Do you remember how hair care was one of the largest chunks on your pie chart," she said.

I had forgotten about the pie chart. Back when we were first married, Hubs and I put our budget into a program from Bank of America. It was the beta version of their financial software, one of the first online programs, and we used a dial up modem. It had these cartoony buttons you could click on, then then you had to wait ages while the info loaded. We were able to assign categories to our transactions and see where the money was going.

According to the pie chart I was spending a disproportionate amount of money on my hair and we were trying to save for a house, so I started going to another salon just outside the city.

These days I don't even have to see it in a chart to tell you that a $120 hair-do isn't in the monthly budget, so today I'm really looking forward to indulging in a big piece of this pie.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finter


A recent cold snap and it is finally fall or as I like to call it, "finter" in Phoenix.

The leaves are falling from the tree in our backyard (and I do mean THE, as in the only), so I snapped a pic of the finter wonderland. In about three weeks, there will be tiny green buds and spring will arrive.

Not that I'm complaining.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bleh

I woke up with a stomachache this morning. Nope, not swine flu, but there might be another kind of pig involved. I think I have hit the ceiling on holiday snacks.

Yesterday, Hubs and his Dad hit the hiking trails. And me? I hit the goodies.

Time to detox. Seriously.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lucky Christmas



We were up before the sun yesterday tearing through packages.

I couldn't help thinking of the people who are struggling this year. There are so many without jobs. One of my friends has been out of work since April and another since this summer. And the ones I know are probably the fortunate - they have friends and families and savings accounts, a support system.

Still, I know how stressful it can be. Hubs was out of work for almost five months when Girlie was a baby. I quit working before she was born and we had to live on our savings. He got a job in November, just before Thanksgiving. It was close, but he had a paycheck by Christmas.

This Christmas we didn't go overboard and I had a budget that I almost stuck to, but I can't let the holiday pass without acknowledging that we are so incredibly lucky.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not a creature was stirring, not even a writer...

So I haven't been writing much lately.

I've been sleeping.

Something has shifted over the last month and for the first time in ages I have been getting some deliciously wonderful dead-to-the-world never thought it would happen again sleep. The kind where you fall asleep pretty quickly and don't wake up until morning. I have even experienced the elusive eight hour night, almost an urban legend, or at the very least, a suburban rumor.

For the last few years, I have suffered from horrible insomnia which has very very slowly in very very tiny increments gotten better. I went from three hours a night to five and then to a specific ritual of reading until I almost nod off, and still getting up early. I went from the couch back to my bed. I went from being awake several hours in the middle of the night to sleeping through. But until this month, I haven't been able to fall back asleep once awake during the early morning hours.

So the sleeping thing isn't great for the writing, which I normally do during those early morning hours when the house is still dark and quiet and everyone else is sleeping. But oh, the sleep is so good for the spirit! So for now, I'm recharging. And that is the best gift I could imagine giving myself this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 days and counting

Yesterday, I opened the back door and yelled,

"You two better stop fighting or I'm calling Santa!"

Oh, yes I did.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Making cookies and measuring up

The thing that stresses me out about the holidays?

It's the baking.

I suck at it.

But I try every year. I want to have some traditions to pass on to my kids, so I make three kinds of cookies. One is an Italian cookie, a dry vanilla or anise based recipe that gets dipped in sugar. Tasty and fun for Girlie to help with. One is an almond cookie, round and coated with powdered sugar. I've heard them called wedding cakes or almond balls. The third cookie alternates and this year it will be an Italian oatmeal with cinnamon and cherry juice.

While my girlfriends are banging out homemade limoncello and a croquembouche, I am toiling away at three kinds of cookies. Should be simple enough, but it never is.

I blame it on my math deficiencies. On the almond balls, for example, I had to sift 3/4 cups of powdered sugar with 4 cups of cake flour. Of course you can't sift that much flour at a time, so I measured it out in 4 batches, and divided the powdered sugar accordingly. Except halfway into it, I notice that I picked up the 1/3 cup and not the 1/4, but I've already put 2/3 of the powdered sugar in.

Then I spend a full fifteen minutes trying to figure out if 2/3 is greater or less than 3/4. By the time I get it right, I have forgotten how much flour I put in. Was it 2 cups or 3 already? And the mixture is sifted, so I can't start over. So it's the math thing, and possibly the short attention span.

The womenfolk in my family were master bakers and maybe that is what I am trying to measure up to. My grandmother's two sisters used to make handmade chocolates at easter - crosses, bunnies, and little egg nests made of coconut. They probably whipped out twenty varieties of cookies at Christmas.

My mother in law, also a great baker, says I need a stand mixer. I usually do everything with a hand held fifteen dollar whiz bang that we got as a wedding present.

Maybe the mixer would help, but I can't see spending hundreds of dollars on one just to whip out crappy cookies a few times a year. Kind of like buying some fancy skis when you spend most of the time of your every other year ski trip on the bunny slopes. You buy skis when you're good, until then you make do with the busted up rentals.

Anyway, I need to run because the oven is chiming and my last batch of crumbly almond wedding balls are ready to come out. I should start on the oatmeal next, but I'm not going to.

I'm going to take a nap instead.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Update

Being at home full time is challenging. It isn't that it is harder than having a full time job, especially during the holiday season when I see my working girlfriends staying up all night to bake and scrambling to shop for presents on the way home from work. I certainly don't miss having the retail business during this time of year. It was insane.

Sometimes it's a draw. While I'm standing in line at the post office with a wily two year old, my girlfriend is across town doing the same thing by herself, but trying to squeeze it in on her lunch hour. Still, I think I might have a slightly better deal at least during this time of year. I can at least drag the kids around and shop during daylight hours.

But I also never get away from my "work" and a Tuesday can seem the same as a Saturday.

Not today.

We all slept in until 7:45! 7:45 used to be early, but seven years into parenthood, it might as well be noon. Hubs made french toast from Challah bread and we had thick sliced bacon from the oven. Little Guy has been running around with a basket on his head and Girlie has made a sled from the sofa pillow, which means for at least two seconds, the kids are getting along. We went to Cave Creek for lunch and drove out to Fountain Hills so the kids could play in the park.

Hub's father is in town, so we've got a spare pair of hands around and as I posted on my facebook account the other day, we also have a free babysitter available. He handed me ten dollars on Friday afternoon and told me to go buy a People magazine and sit somewhere for a while, you know, alone. Tonight, Hubs and I are heading to a movie. A movie!

So for you, a bit of a boring weekend update, but for me, a weekend that feels exactly like a weekend.

It is Saturday, right?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh! Christmas tree...


This year I splurged on a new tree for the living room. I wanted something a little different with a vintagey feel. I'm not one for faux greenery, so it had to be silver or white or some such. I found a pink one, but a review said that that lights were also pink giving the room a bordello-ish glow in the evening. The silver trees all looked a little too disco shiny and the white ones a little too cheapie.

But then I found it.

A champagne colored tree promising a soft golden glow. When I described it to one of my girlfriends, she pretended to be supportive. "Gold?" she smiled, "I am sure it will be pretty." I could tell she wasn't convinced, and I wasn't too sure about it myself, but ordered it anyway. And it was a little pricey. And I've never had a fake tree.

But then it arrived.

Fantastically faux! The color of silver when it tarnishes, shimmery, pretty, not too garish, and I'm madly in love with it. I hung some of my vintage glass ornaments on it, though I had to hold back on most of them because of little boy hands, and even so a few of my precious pretties have suffered a horrible fate.

Who knew faking it would be so fun?

Midnight joker

So I have a minivan. And it's full of cracker bits and discarded juice cups and all kinds of orphaned toys. Right now, there is a small pile of dirt in the back where a poinsettia tipped over on the way back from a grocery store. There also a can of spray paint rolling around because I've been planning to return it but keep forgetting to.

Yes, I drive the dirty minivan. Pretty much the mom jeans equivalent in transportation and it is beyond dorky.

But I draw the line at listening to kids music, so we listen to the radio or the mixed CD's my pals have made. I'm not great about keeping up with music and I don't have an IPod, so I love it when someone sends me some music.

The CD's are really good, usually a mix of things like Vampire Weekend and The Ting Tings. From my gal pal in B'more, a little Akon thrown in. And my friend from college in the ATL included some old Steve Miller Band.

Which is how I found myself explaining what a "midnight toker" is to Girlie the other day.

"Did they say that? I thought it was "midnight joker," I say, as I smoothly switch to the next song.

Same thing really.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lost my keys, maybe my mind

Yesterday, I lost my car keys at Walmart.

I rarely shop there. The sheer size of the place gives me hives. I think I have the opposite of claustrophobia. But then again it really isn't the fear of large spaces either, more like the fear of large spaces crammed with discounted maroon slippers and giant tins of popcorn.

For that reason I will never ever ever darken the door of a Costco, no matter how cheap the toilet paper is. It could be free for all I know.

Anyway, so I'm approaching my car after my once yearly venture into a gianormo store. My minivan now has a cart propped against the front bumper because after all that shopping in the giant discount store, it would be too much effort for a person to return the cart ten feet away in the car wrangler. I push that cart and mine to the cart return. I convince Little Guy to walk back to our car while holding my hand.

But, I've made it, the two year old, the megastore, the one item on Girlie's Christmas list that forced us in there, and I feel a little triumphant, really.

I pull out my keys. I unlock the car, put my bags in, wrestle Little Guy into the car using the entire weight of my body to push him into the carseat while he screams "I want to walk self! I want to walk big boy!". I buckle the clasps on the seat, toss him a toy train, which he promptly tosses over his shoulder, open the front door, and slide into the driver's seat. Whew. Can't wait to get home.

And that's when I notice it.

My key ring has fallen apart. I have the house key, I have the button that unlocks the car, but I don't have the key that will get me in between, the one to start the ignition.

I search the car, I search the area around the car, I search the lot as far away as I can walk without unbuckling the grizzly bear who is glaring at me from the backseat of the van. Nothing.

So it's back into the mega gianormo Walmart to look for my key. By this time Little Guy has lost it. He's now screaming and flailing and I'm that chick with the kid who's flipping out and everyone is wondering why I don't just leave the store.

Because I can't leave people. My car keys are gone. It is my worst nightmare.

Finally, a Christmas miracle occurs. An employee finds my key somewhere. We get back in the car. I pull away. And I swear I am never going back. Really I don't have to. Because big gianormo mega super Walmart has an even bigger website.

And you can't lose your keys surfing the web.


Dum dum

Little Guy has reached a new level in the terribleness of two, the part where you struggle to do anything, even something as minor as putting on a pair of socks. The changing of clothes, the eating of meals, the in and out of the car or anywhere, is all an extreme struggle right now. And he's into absolutely everything, so I can't sneak a minute to myself unless he's sleeping.

And wouldn't you know it? Just when I have a ton to do!

Yesterday I bribed him by letting him push the little cart at Trader Joe's because we needed shredded cheese, something I know will come back to haunt me on a return visit. And today, while mailing off a giant stack of holiday packages at the post office, I actually whipped out a small sucker. He's never even had one until now! It was an itty bitty Dum-Dum, something Girlie brought home from school last week that I happened to have stashed in my purse. When we got home it was meltdown city again, so in a stellar act of parenting, I turned on the television to calm him down. Yes, I totally rock.

He's napping right now and if you need me, I'll be hiding under my bed with a chocolate bar.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where there is smoke, there is a liar.

So it finally happened.

We were wandering around an outdoor craft show the other day when Girlie asked me if I had ever smoked cigarettes. She's only seven, so up until this point I haven't been confronted with this kind of stuff.

I answered her honestly. Sort of.

I told her that yes, I tried them, but I thought they were yucky. I didn't explain that I had "tried" them for almost four years during college and that it was actually her father, my boyfriend at the time, who thought they were yucky and convinced me to quit. I did quit, and it was pretty easy for me to do so. I was lucky in that way, but she might not be.

This was the first of many of those "do as I say, not as I did" subjects we'll talk about and I know the questions and conversations will only get tougher. She seemed pretty satisfied with my answer and the conversation moved on to whether or not she could have a pink dog puppet.

But it rattled me. I really hope she doesn't ever smoke. I worry about that and all of the other things she'll stumble over. I want to protect her from them, the kind of mistakes that won't be able to be undone or fixed with a smooch over a band-aid. I wish I could prevent it from happening, the growing up.

But for now I got off easy. She's is still a seven year old girl and I only had to buy her the puppet.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fourteen years

Hubs and I have been married fourteen years today and the truth is, I don't deserve the guy. He is everything I am not -- patient, focused, good natured and overall pretty low key, but in the best kind of way.

He is awesome with the kids, a good man in a crisis, and not too bad on the eyes. He really doesn't have any annoying vices, other than the ugly hiking socks and a slight obsession with exercise, but who can really complain about that? Um, yes honey, could you stop being so darn fit. Enough with the climbing mountains already and go lay on the couch!

He actually likes hanging around us, and will almost always choose being with me and the kids over anyone else. He isn't perfect, of course. But overall, it is pretty darn easy to be with him.

Just a few months ago, he stepped up, without hesitation, handled the Halloween thing, costumes and trick or treating, the whole deal by himself, cooked real meals for the kids, and sent me off on a plane so I could focus on my father. In little ways, he does that kind of thing all the time.

So when I think about all of the things that I may not have gotten quite right in my life, the complications with my family, the friendships that have come and gone, and my own personal quirks, I am so incredibly thankful that I got this one thing that is absolutely perfectly amazingly right.

Happy Anniversary honey!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Day in Shreds


Since we turned our file cabinet into a storage container for Little Guy's trains, I've had this giant pile of old bills and paperwork to be shredded. We are mostly paperless now and the files I need to hang on to fit into a much smaller space. The problem is, I can't file them in that little bit of space until I get rid of the mounds of stuff I don't need, which is currently stacked waist high in the office closet.

Yesterday, I decided to pull out the shredder, set it up on the counter and shred away. I thought I'd feed papers in throughout the day in between keeping Little Guy entertained. It doesn't have to be done now, and probably isn't the smartest way to spend my time just a few weeks before Christmas, but I have this idea that I need to start the new year with a clean slate. And the paper shreds make the perfect packaging materials for presents.

I got about a third of the way through the pile when it happened. I jammed too much paper in at a time and the darn thing got stuck. I turned it off, pulled the paper out, poked a pair of needlenose pliers into the scary sharp part, removed all the the debris, and then, nothing. The motor had burnt out.

This is the third paper shredder I have destroyed. Every time, I swear I'll buy the super industrial one, but I can't get over the price tag. And every time, I get a little ahead of myself, shove in more than I can shred, and torch the nice cheap one that should have done nicely.

Which is, now that I think about it, exactly where I go wrong with most things.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Where there's smoke...

So last night I asked Hubs to start a fire on our fireplace after the kids went to bed.

We had one of those busy December weekends packed out with events, some of them fun, and still managed to knock a few things off the to do list. Hubs got the lights up outside which is no easy task considering that there are no outlets out front and he had to rig something from the garage and restring the lights a billion times to keep the fuses from blowing. I started sorting my stuff to ship and picked up a few gifts at a couple of the craft fairs that ran this weekend. I didn't do any baking, but we did decide which cookies we wanted. Hubs had race on Saturday and felt pretty good about the results. To celebrate, I made shrimp and grits and cornbread for dinner Sunday night and Girlie put on a puppet show afterwards. Crazy weekend, but a pretty good one overall. We also got a large load of firewood delivered, so I really wanted to relax after all of the hustle and bustle and chill by the fire with a glass of wine, and maybe get some writing done.

What I did instead was test all of the smoke detectors in the house (there are five ear piercing alarms, all in working order) and confirm that the extinguisher under the sink works. Yep, something went wrong and even with the flue completely open, smoke poured into the house, set off ALL of the alarms, and did I mention that the kids were in bed? So relaxing.

I ended the weekend huddled in my chair under a pile of blankets, windows open to air the smoke out, fan on high, watching the last episode of Mad Men, too cold to even reach for my glass, lamenting the fact that, in this case, where there's smoke, there WASN'T a fire.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dating while parenting


So the Mr. and I had a date the other night. Dating while parenting is like driving while on a cell phone. You think it should be easy enough, talking and driving, but you don't realize that the entire time you are seriously impaired. Almost so much so, that you shouldn't even be trying to do both things. But you do.

It was one of those nights when it seemed like a herculean effort to get away. Little Guy is hitting the fantastic two year old thing where he likes to scream noooo in your face every five seconds and Girlie had spent the previous hour crying over spelling practice, which is usually a breeze, but Oh Lordy, the horror of spelling celebrate without an S and fudge with a D. I decided to make pancakes for the kids to eat so the sitter wouldn't have any trouble and ended up pouring almost half of the bag of blueberries into the batter by accident after which they would barely stick together. And I was out of batter and down to the last drop of milk, one egg, no bread in the house, no time for a shower... that kind of night.

But we managed to get away. Really, we peeled out the driveway, and then finally it was just the two of us alone. We ate spicy Indian food and laughed and talked and drank a few beers, and I'm thinking boy do I like this guy.

And I sure hope he asks me out again.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hung by the chimney with care


I started decking the halls yesterday. Every year as I hang Little Guy's stocking, the felty snowman one, I think about how close we came to only having one child. When I was pregnant with Girlie, I picked out the Santa stocking from the Martha Stewart collection. I decided to pick up the snowman so we'd have a matching set for our second child.

After Girlie was born, I was certain I wouldn't have another baby. It wasn't the pregnancy or the birth, I had a pretty easy time with both. But taking care of a baby and raising a little person was completely overwhelming. And what a shock that was. I had been, up until that point, a multitasking overachiever. I don't think I had really ever experienced overwhelmed. But there I was. So I told Hubs, really, this was great, but we're not doing it again. And for five years I stuck to it.

But still, I held on to the extra stocking tucking it into the box where we store our holiday stuff. I didn't think we'd ever use it, but I didn't get rid of it either. Then, after five years and a huge change of heart, Little Guy was born and the snowman stocking finally found a purpose.


I can't get no satisfaction... no no no

Hubs and I were tucking into bed a few nights ago, and all indicators were there for a decent night's sleep. It was actually early for once, and we threw an extra quilt on the bed, so we were warm and cozy and finally, after a week of sleeping in a hotel room with both kids, relaxed.

But I had something on my mind.

"Hubs," I whispered, "are you awake?" He mumbled something that sounded affirmative, so I continued. "Do you think I am a happy person?"

The question was the slippery stepsister of the do these pants look too tight inquiry, a minefield to be avoided at all costs, and especially in the dark with precious sleep mere minutes away, but I caught him off guard and half asleep, so he indulged me. While we were visiting a friend over Thanksgiving she asked about me being at home or maybe she didn't ask, more likely that I brought it up. She's a lawyer and counting the days until retirement, so the fact that I am unhappy about not working is a complete source of amusement to her. As the discussion continued she said something that gave me pause. "Some people just aren't programmed to be happy." Um, okay. Whoa.

I grilled Hubs. Am I one of those unhappy people? Admittedly I tend to be a little cranky, this is mental momma, but unhappy? I certainly don't see myself that way. Could he remember how I'd been when I was working? Was I saying the same things then?

He had been in on the original conversation and assured me that it wasn't happy as much as satisfied. I do tend to be the type of person who likes a big thing looming on the horizon. I thrive on personal achievement and having my own thing. The problem is that I also like a pretty clear path to that thing. A plan. So if I knew for sure that I would only be home for two more years and if I felt confident that going back to school to get a masters was the right choice, or I had a pile of money waiting for the right time to open another store, or I knew that getting a writing job was as simple as applying for one, then I might be more satisfied with where I am now. The looming thing would have a solid shape instead of being this vague future concept. Right now there are a ton of unknowns, so yes, I guess I am a little unhappy with that.

Finally, the conversation ended and Hubs drifted off to sleep about two seconds later (how does he do that?). Of course, I was awake for awhile, rolling the happiness thing around a little longer. I am not exactly miserable being at home with the kids right now, but it doesn't feel like a fit. I really wish it was, but the truth is that I am probably never going to enjoy it as much as I should. And not being able to count on the next thing causes me all kinds of aggravation.

However, it is a relief to realize that satisfaction and not happiness is really the issue. I think I am a happy person.

Still, being satisfied might be even harder to achieve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo NoMo

So last night I completed my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. I did not make the ultimate goal of 50,000 words, but finished up at 30,015. In the end, the trip out of town for Thanksgiving killed me. The week before we left I started losing ground and once we hit Georgia, I just couldn't put the time into it. I' m not sure I would have made it either way, but I might have finished closer to 40,000 if we had been at home last week.

Still I feel pretty good about it. I wrote that much during a month that I also flew to Georgia and back twice, a month where Hubs was gone almost the entire time, and a month when I had other writing due. I wrote it at the crack of dawn and on stolen time with one eye on Little Guy and the other on the keyboard. I wrote it though I went into it completely unprepared and pretty much flying by the seat of my pants. I wrote it on a broken keyboard. And after reading it over, some of it isn't that bad.

So it's over for this year. But next year I will try it again.

And maybe I'll make it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Souvenirs

We made back home to Phoenix, but not without a few new things so I thought I would share.

Little Guy came back with a hacking cough and and fever. The first night home he slept from 4:00 PM until 6 AM the next morning. We did get to watch the Georgia - Georgia Tech game without him running around, but I didn't sleep a wink thinking he would wake up in the middle of the night. He also brought back the time change and this morning woke up a the lovely hour of 4:45 AM, though I was already up trying to hammer out a little more towards NaNoWriMo goal before tonight's deadline.

Girlie came home with the same cough, but luckily no fever. She also came back with an assortment of itty bitty pets and other shrunken barbiesque bits of bribery that I will be sucking up in the vacuum for months to come.

I came home beyond crabby, sleep deprived, and behind on all of my writing, though in all fairness, I am not sure I didn't leave with those too. I also came home with a few extra pounds, and it was a good thing that they didn't weigh me along with our two giant suitcases or I might not have made the flight.

Hubs came home with a slight pinch in his neck from all of the crap we had to haul through the airport, including the car seat, a stroller, Girlie's bag, a small backpack, and two computer bags.

So there you go, the crappy souvenirs from a cross-country holiday trip to Georgia. No grits, no peach preserves, not even one of those Georgia On My Mind t-shirts.

But so glad to be back.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nobody puts baby in a corner

So the circus is rolling out today, but another circus of sorts has arrived. The symphony guild is hosting a debutante ball tonight and all of the girls are at our hotel practicing with their escorts. I heard them receiving instructions from the coordinator in one of the ballrooms as we were heading to breakfast. She reminded them that the presentation of each couple is a very very very serious affair. On our way back a few of the gals were hanging out texting and surfing the net on their phones in the hallway, white fluffy crinolines on over jeans, high heeled dance shoes already on their feet. Later tonight they'll be decked out in ball gowns.

I had no idea our hometown still had debutantes. I do know that the deb society was around when I was a teenager, and I was just as surprised by it then, when my mother and I stopped in a local department store to try on prom dresses and found that one of the dressing rooms, the only empty one, was reserved for debs to try on dresses. I stood there clutching the dress of my dreams, while my mother insisted rather loudly that we be allowed to use the dressing room. It was the "nobody puts baby in a corner" moment of my teen years, except instead of some hot guy, it was my own mother dragging me to the dance floor. Years later I found out that the dress I purchased which was a white flowing gown with a sequined bodice, was also a deb dress. The girls wear white to the ball put on for the final presentation as they are launched into society. I must have looked so ridiculous to those women at the store with my white gown and irate Italian mother.

So we're at the nicest hotel in town which hosts everyone from circus folks to debutantes. And that pretty much sums up my hometown.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

That I'll be home in two more days and that home is a place where the sun shines every day. That my husband and I are a team, sometimes the should have made it to a bowl game but lost to the only 0-10 team in the conference kind of team, but a team nonetheless (and hey, did you see our line up for next year, we're so coming back). That my kids are cute, because sometimes the cuteness is all that saves them from an ad on craigslist. That pumpkin pie, stuffing, and buttery rolls only make it into rotation once a year and that the holiday season doesn't last a moment longer than December 25th. That I am almost done with my holiday shopping. That even though Hubs will wait until the last minute, he'll probably go to Anthropologie, and really he can't go wrong in that place.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let them eat cake

So my Dad is finally home from the hospital after two months, and that seems like cause enough for a celebration. When it comes to food, we never go conservative around here, so my mom comes home with not one, but two cakes for four adults and two children.

The first cake was a chocolate and coconut cake that my 87 year old grandmother loves. It had a beautiful frosting magnolia covering almost the entire top of the cake.

The second one is a chocolate on chocolate on chocolote giant thing, called, and I kid you not, Death by Chocolate. My mom kept saying anyone want a slice of this one? Death by chocolate? She was completely unaware of the irony, but Hubs and I kept making eyes at each other, and I had to work hard to hold back the giggles.

I just hope she doesn't offer any to the hospice nurse when she stops in later today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The circus came to town

Staying in a Marriott in our hometown and congratulating ourselves on making the trip fun for the kids and little bit for us too. The breakfast, cartoons in bed, and a heated pool, pretty much qualifies as top fun for them. Last night Hubs and I orderd shrimp Po-boys from a place across the street and talked the bartender into a couple of beers to go. Not too bad.

Then this morning we noticed the crowd. Yep. The circus folks just checked in.

This should be interesting.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When life gives you grapefruit

Last year around this time we started noticing that we had fruit growing on a tree in our backyard. It turned out that we had a giant grapefruit tree and it came as a total surprise. We ate grapefruit for months marveling at the fact that we could just go out back and pick it. I should tell you that neither Hubs nor I have a green thumb, so gardening has never been an option for us. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. I can't even manage to keep a small potted herb alive for more than a few weeks. And yet, Phoenix gifted us with a full grown tree even we couldn't kill.

I noticed that the grapefruit is back, though not ready yet. It looks like in a few months we'll be eating grapefruit again. It won't be a surprise, so Phoenix will have to up it's game a little. I have a feeling it will though.

We haven't been disappointed yet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gifts

This morning I woke up with gifts on the brain.

I've been blogging mini gift guides over at The Swank Co., so if you get a chance take a peak. She has a great site with tons of fantastic gifts like my favorite, this vintage wine stopper. The stopper is lovely to include with a bottle of wine, but is substantial enough to give on it's own. A wine stopper can be such a no never mind kind of gift, but this one has a story and each one is totally unique. I have given it for birthdays and Christmas, but also as a house warming gift, and as a congrats for a new job (opening new doors). I am not being compensated to say this in any way, I really love the wine stopper that much, almost as much as wine itself and that's saying something.

Speaking of opening new doors, I am also going to be blogging over here a few times a month. I have my first piece going up Friday and then a small blurb about a Thanksgiving stuffing contest next week. Last week I sold a short essay to be published at a later date. Little things are happening.

These gifts, the writing assignments, have all come along at a time when I really needed them. The last month, worrying about things with my Dad and how we're all going to navigate the holidays and then the time after that, has been like opening a box to find that you have received a homemade Christmas sweatshirt. It doesn't seem to fit, you don't want it, but you can't return it either.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stressed

Some sappy, and I'm going to just say it, probably southern woman, coined the phrase "Stressed is just desserts spelled backwards."

What does that mean exactly? That I should, as a general rule, eat more dessert? That dessert will make everything better? That if I look at the stressful event another way, I will suddenly find the sweetness? Right.

In a few days, I'm leaving town to head back to my hometown for Thanksgiving with Hubs and the kids. My Dad will be home from the hospital when we get there, although only just, so we'll have to see how he'll do. I have a few small writing things to wrap up, a craft project at Girlie's school, the kids stuff to pack, arrangements to be made, plus Hubs out of town until late Friday. We leave Saturday morning. Oh, and did I mention that I have all but abandoned my efforts at NaNoWriMo?

Turning it all around, trying to see the lava cake, but not having any luck.

Stressed.

I am, however, squeezing in a tequila tasting tomorrow night. Tequila isn't anything spelled backwards, but we'll see if a little spirit of the agave can straighten things out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mini me

Girlie has never been one to transition into new situations readily. As a toddler, she would stand at the edge of the playground watching all of the other kids play and if there was too much activity, as in get these crazy two year olds away from me with the shrieking and the running, it would send her over the edge and we'd have to leave pronto. When she started preschool she cried every time I dropped her off. She was also the only kid who cried when I picked her up. At age four, I took her to the Curious George movie, her first, and we had to ditch the movie after only fifteen minutes because she started crying when the monkey got separated from the man with the yellow hat. I assured her that he found the monkey eventually, reminded her that she'd seen the PBS shows, but nope. She was almost five years old before she set foot in a bouncy castle. The bouncing! The screaming! How could that be fun? She is seven now and isn't nearly as sensitive, but unfamiliar situations can throw her a little. She thrives on predictability and order.

From the moment she was born I think I have always identified myself with her. People say she looks just like me, a mini-me, and at one point we even kind of had the same haircut. So whenever this stuff comes up, I blame myself. I worry that I have passed my own crazy control issues on to her. Which is silly, of course, because she is part me, part Hubs, and a little bit of that magic that makes us each unique individuals. She is no more a miniature version of me, than I am of my mother. And I am so not my mother.

So a few weeks ago, the Girl Scouts had a backyard camp out and I knew she wouldn't be into it. I asked several times, and she considered it, but then said no. She agreed to go for the evening, but then she wanted to come home. I decided not to push it. I was heading out of town so I couldn't go with her and if she did go and then have a change of mind, Hubs would have to get Little Guy out of bed to pick her up.

Last night we were talking about Girl Scouts and the pre-campout fun and I asked her again why she didn't want to go. I reminded her that we had all been camping a few months ago and she'd loved it.

She said she didn't want to stay overnight because camping in someone's back yard was just weird. Why would she camp in a yard when she could just come home and get in her bed where she knew she'd be comfortable? She has a point.

Smart girl. Maybe exactly like me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pacy addict

For the last few weeks we have been dealing with an addiction problem. Little Guy has always loved the pacy, and I don't generally have a problem with it. But recently it had gotten to the point where he had it in his mouth constantly and he was talking "around" it.

I staged an intervention and began coaching him on getting rid of it. He still has it for naps and bedtime, but during the day, it has to be put away. During the first few days of detox, he became an expert excavator and would find old pacifiers under the couch, behind his bed, and God knows where else. I would find him hiding with the contraband pacy in his mouth. It was aggravating, but also pretty sweet. I really felt for him. Poor Little Guy. Of course there were many tears and tantrums, so poor Momma too.

After several weeks, he is now free from the bondage of the pacifier and I am happy to report that the pacy does not seem to be a gateway to thumb sucking.

In case you were wondering.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pest control

So I am deep in the trenches of my crap fest of a novel, almost at the halfway point for the 50000 word goal and I am very anxious to get through the next week's worth of writing. It is, apparently, the point at which all writers get stuck and getting through it, the murky middle, is a right of passage. I am just about at the point that I put aside (abandoned) my previous work under the guise that it I need to rework it.

Writing 2000 words a day isn't the problem. Writing 2000 words that connect to the previous 2000 has proven to be a bit of a challenge. So I have to keep going, writing even when my inner critic is flailing around desperately trying to get me to delete the last four sentences, and possibly the entire document while I am at it. All of the advice and encouragement that has been sent out during the NaNoWriMo contest boils down to one thing.

Keep going.

Which is why, yesterday, I wrote a sentence about rats. Rats that can't sleep.

Anyway, to get the writing done with the two year old, who now requires constant supervision like being a stay at home is a full time job or something, and the seven year old, who needs help with a science experiment, yes there are flames involved, and the husband out of town, and the writing assignment, remind me not to pitch things I haven't written yet, I am having to re-prioritize, and by re-prioritize I mean ignore things.

Last night I sat up folding the three loads of laundry that had accumulated on the dryer because we had no underwear and I have gotten to the point that I only do the dishes once a day, after dinner. The re-prioritization is probably the reason I am getting through it, but also why I now have ants in the kitchen and an exterminator coming by this afternoon. I have had ants before and it can be a total nightmare if you don't jump on it, so I am hoping the exterminator will be able to bait them and get rid of them quickly.

Unfortunately, he'll have to leave me with the rat problem.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The key to my crazy

Little Guy is in destructo mode again this week and my brand new laptop has fallen victim to his hijinks. For the most part, I have been careful to keep it away from him, but I got busy the other day and left it on the kitchen table. Usually, he just runs up to it and pounds on the keys. I wind up with few extra letters in my document, maybe a word or two of gibberish, but then the whole point of participating in NaNoWriMo this month is the word count. So really what's the harm in it?

Except this time, he decided to pry one of the keys completely off and in two point nine seconds, my new laptop looked like this:

And, no, the key will not snap back on.

If I were feeling inclined to put a positive spin on it, and I'm not, I might say that at least it is the windows key, which I never use. For now, I can get by without it. We'll order a new keyboard and I should be able to fix it at home. It could have been worse, he was one key away from the space bar.

But still. Really?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A gift

I was out of town on my birthday so the gifts have been trickling in over the last week or so. This is totally fine by me, I love to draw the party out and milk it for everything turning 37 is worth.

The other day one of my girlfriends gave me a pair of really nice knives for my birthday. I hugged her when I opened the box and told her I loved them. My friend said that she picked them out because she knew I needed them and would never splurge on nice ones. She had a point, the last time she had been over, I spent way too much time sawing through the lime slices for our Coronas.

Then I said, "Wait, am I the kind of woman that squeals over kitchen knives?"

As I said it I realized that I didn't even know what that meant anymore. All of the stuff about who I am and who I want to be has turned out to be such crap. In the past, I have wasted too much time not investing in the things I really needed because of it. Who am I? Really, I don't think I have decided, and it might be awhile.

So yes, I will give you the evil eye if you try to peg me as one of those wifey types happy at home making soup. And then I will head home to chop veggies like a human chopomatic.

But don't try to call me out on it, I have some really sharp knives.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When we lived in South Carolina we had a friend who left her Halloween pumpkin out so long that I snuck over one night and topped it with a Santa hat and we all had a really good laugh over it.

Apparently, our pumpkin didn't stand a chance of lasting until Christmas in the desert. A few days ago, I heard a thud against the front door and peeked out to find that our "snowman" had toppled over. We don't use the front door that often, and like my harassed friend, I had completely forgotten the pumpkin was out there. As I picked it up, something really gross oozed out and I had to make a dash for the trash bin.


And just like that the pumpkin snowman had to hurry on his way. So that's it, Halloween is officially over, and I am taking this as my signal to toss out all of the leftover candy with it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Flu is the new black

Is it just me or have you noticed that swine flu is the new go-to excuse for everything?

Can't come, don't want to, didn't finish on time, or forgot something for your kid's school? No worries! Just mention that you've been feeling under the weather and you are officially excused. With all of the paranoia about the H1N1, no one is taking any chances. And I'm hearing it everywhere.

It's official, flu is the new black.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Back in the water

Today Hubs is heading over to Tempe for an open water swim in the lake.

He had a pretty bad experience at his last triathlon. During the swim he got kicked in the face and his goggles flew back over his head. As he was pulling them on someone swam over the top of him and he went under and swallowed some water. He has five triathlon's under his belt, and tons of practice swimming, so it wasn't the first time he had been kicked or swam over, but something about this time felt much worse. Maybe the succession of one event right after the other in a short period of time or just the fact that he was in the middle of the lake at that point. He felt himself start to panic a little and it took a few laps to regain himself. At one point he considered quitting, something he has never done, but he was finally able to pull it together and continue. He was, after all, already out there and the effort to swim back would have probably been almost the same as just going through with it anyway. He told me the whole story and I was surprised to find out that the fear of the water can overtake you unexpectedly, even when you have had some pretty solid success with swimming in the past.

I can relate to that feeling just a little. Keeping my fingers crossed that he has a great swim.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Write Write Sleep Write

As I mentioned a few days back I am participating in National Novel Writing Month, and by the end of the day I will have 10000 words written towards a 50000 word novel. So far it has been going pretty well, but I can feel myself starting to tire out. They say week two is the hardest and I can see why. I did not take an organized approach, so I am more or less writing free form from an idea in my head. Next year, if I do this again, I plan to work from an outline. I did decide to chunk the writing up in such a way that I would have the option to easily break it up into several short stories if I am unable to tie the theme together towards the end.

I have been getting up extra early, and with my other writing (which includes the piece for my class, the real live actual paying assignment, the blog posts for the retail store, this blog, and the permission slips for the field trips that Girlie seems to be taking on a weekly basis at school) I have been going to bed a little later than usual too. So I am surviving on less than optimal sleep which seems to be a reoccurring theme for me.

Reoccurring enough that my story or novel, if I dare to call it that, is based on a series of people all suffering from insomnia. I figure the sleep deprivation will contribute some very authentic writing. Notice how I combine my research and writing into one task. Brilliant, no?

Anyway, the idea is to take these very different people with the same problem, tell their stories individually, and then weave it all together. Oh, and there is a conspiracy theory pandemic thing too because it turns out the government is actually causing the insomnia, but I am going to wait to write that later in the month when I am really good and exhausted, maybe even slightly delirious.

By my estimates, looks like I should hit that part of the story sometime around Thanksgiving week, when we'll be crammed into a hotel room in Georgia after a cross country flight with the kids. Paranoid dark conspiracy sleep deprivation novel? Yep, I think I'm going to nail it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Not a snowball's chance in...


...well, you know.
So anyway, this is how we do a snowman in Phoenix.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tired all week with an 80% chance of tired thru the weekend...

I came home feeling a little overwhelmed, so I wrote a new to-do list first thing. Hubs has a ton going on at work and is going to be gone pretty much the entire month, including a marathon week next week that doesn't end until Sunday. He leaves tomorrow and don't ask me where he'll be, because I will tell you not here, and not here means I have to squeeze in everything without a second pair of hands. He is back late enough on Friday for it not to count and then not here again first thing on Monday and that is pretty much how November is looking.

So I will be getting up extra early to get my Nanowrimo writing done and then I will knock out the list around the kids schedule. It seems like a pretty long list, including a real live actual paying writing assignment (woo hoo) and I am already pretty tired. I think I was up at what would be 2 AM Phoenix time to catch an early flight back from Georgia.

So, as I glance at my list, what alarms me is not really the length of it or the relevance of what I have listed, but the frequency with which I will have to refer to it, just to remember what I am doing.

That kind of tired.



Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thirtysomething

Today is my birthday and I am not usually the type to worry about getting older, but recently it occurred to me that thirty-seven is a full twenty years from seventeen. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be seventeen again. Ever. But twenty years?

The show Thirtysomething was a hit during the late eighties and though I was a little too young to really follow it, I must have caught a few episodes here and there. I remember being annoyed by several of the female characters, especially Hope and sometimes Nancy. There was always so much self involved drama on the show, but the women especially got to me. I resolved that wasn't going to be one of those women when I had a family.

A few weeks ago, I caught an NPR interview with several members of the cast discussing the twentieth anniversary of the first episode of Thirtysomething. I couldn't remember which actors went with which characters, so I came home and looked up the wikipedia synopsis on the program. Then I stumbled on this:

"Hope is a writer and stay-at-home mother who struggles between her desire to be at home with her daughter, Janey (and later son, Leo) and her need to work. Due to her feminist views, she sometimes feels like a sellout for having become a homemaker."

Uh oh.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pjs, pancakes, and pumpkins

Today I am feeling pretty good. Despite the fact that I am supposed to be on a plane to California this morning. Despite the fact that I got a ticket last night on the way home from writing class. Despite the fact that the situation I am heading for back home is going to be pretty tough. I feel okay.

Since I am going to miss trick or treating, I decided to make today all about hanging out with the kids. This morning, they are pretty irresistible. It was cold last night, and Hubs had them both in footie Pjs. They hung out watching cartoons while I made blueberry pancakes.

The cool weather is hanging around, and later this morning we are heading to a pumpkin patch. On the way home, we'll stop somewhere and try to find a copy of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. And I am hoping to coax Hubs home from work a little early to carve our pumpkins.

Today is one of those days when it is so easy to see that I am a lucky lucky girl.

Pjs, pancakes, and pumpkins.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dad

Yesterday my father had some surgery and the results were not what we hoped for. My mom called to give me the results and then we had a conversation which included the words hospice care.

She said hospice but my brain initially processed it as rehab. He has been in the hospital for a few weeks and and the doctors had already warned us that he would need some help before coming home. A few minutes later I realized that she said hospice, that she meant hospice, and that hospice means something different entirely. She still hasn't talked to him about it and we don't know if that means at home or in a facility.

So I canceled my plans to attend a writing conference hosted by Sun Magazine this weekend and scheduled a flight to Georgia instead. I'll get to spend a few days with my Dad and we'll talk.

And maybe afterwards I will write a few things.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Say cheese!

I have been very lazy about including photos on this blog lately. We have three digital cameras, our original camera, one from the office, and one that Girlie got for Christmas a few years ago.

Three cameras, and often, not one good picture.

It seems like the batteries are always running out on all three cameras at the same time and of course, they all use different batteries and different rechargers. If I am lucky enough to grab a camera with power, I find that I have forgotten to remove the memory card from the computer (where I had been downloading hundreds of crappy pictures) and pop it back in. And don't even get me started on the composition of the photos. I cut off heads, pick bad lighting, and manage to make anything with dimension look flat. I really think it's me, because nine times out of ten, a picture taken of me looks bad too. Like I took it.

While the writing comes easily enough, capturing the image to go along with it seems to be an enormous effort. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I believe it. Maybe two thousand words. Or an entire novel.

I need an official blog photographer.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't spend it all in one place

Today I am sitting here looking at a check my mother sent me for my birthday. For $25. It's sweet, really, and it's not that I expect more, but I wonder if I might be getting too old to get a check from my mommy. For $25.

I have plenty of time to consider this because this is another morning of waking up at the crack of dawn just to spend over an hour running an antivirus scan on my crappy crappy piece of (deep breath) desktop computer. As soon as I drop off Little Guy at preschool today, I will be heading somewhere and I will be spending some bucks. With everything going on, I have been ignoring the fact that this computer is on it's last leg and sticking my head in the sand has caused me to become ridiculously unproductive. I need a laptop really really bad.

Much as I want a MacBook, I will probably end up with a new PC laptop. Then I will have the clunker wiped clean and rebuilt from scratch after which I will load some really bad ass malicious software tools on both of my babies. We'll see where that gets me.

Saturday is my birthday, so I could call the new laptop my birthday present. Except that I was already calling my trip to the Sun Magazine writing conference in Big Sur the present. Oh, and I think I told Hubs the U2 tickets could cover my birthday too. And the vintage owl cookie jar I scored on ebay. And then there's the check. For $25.

Thanks Mom. And yes, I will treat myself to something special just for me, but I will spend it all in one place.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Opinions are like, well, you know

Last week I went to the U2 concert, along with half of Phoenix it seems. The rest of the week I kept running into friends who had gone.

"You went?"
"Me too!"

And then,

"I thought the Black Eyed Peas rocked."
"Weren't the Black Eyed Peas horrible?"
"The Black Eyed Peas were fantastic, totally disappointed in U2 though."
"It was incredible, Bono was beyond."
"It was okay, Fergie was better in person that I thought she'd be."
"So glad we went."
"So glad the tickets were free."

And I would catch myself every time, trying to decide if there was something I missed. Was it good? Was it bad? What were they seeing that I hadn't? Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when I see just how different they are, just how much a single experience can vary, it makes me wonder whether anyone else's opinion, other than my own, is really important all all.

You see I loved the concert. I thought the Black Eyed Peas were great. I thought U2 were awesome. I had a really great time, a worth every penny kind of night. And I guess I am right about that. For me.

I don't know, what do you think?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Left or write

Sometimes, writing involves a careful negotiation. The words must be coaxed out. The writer delicately asks permission to use them. With excruciating precision, the words flow into sentences which form paragraphs and pages.

Other times, the process is less elegant. The words are demanded and then beaten into submission. They come together quickly and organize themselves into perfect rows. And just because you told them to.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Art appreciation

So today I am heading to Girlies school to do an art presentation. I volunteer with a program to supplement art education in the classroom. Because of the budget cuts, the kids only get a half year of art class, so the rest of the time a small group of parents fill in on a rotating basis. We present a famous piece of art, talk about the artist, and do a project. Pretty simple stuff.

The thing is, I am not an artist, not that familiar with art history, and a little intimidated by the prospect of grabbing the attention of an entire class of second graders. Give me a room full of adults any day, but little people? They scare me. But I do it, because I feel very strongly that art is an important part of developing a whole person. The program is pretty organized and the school provides most of the materials. While it is art, and I am the type who can barely draw a stick figure, we are talking elementary school art, so I think I can handle it.

We're looking at Van Gogh's The Starry Night. I will talk about the painting, and Van Gogh himself, and then another mother will lead a related art project. I decided to make star shaped sugar cookies, because every kid loves a cookie, and if my presentation is a little boring I'll just whip a cookie out. Hey, kid! Look, a cookie! Anyway, I am working on the cookies and reading over the materials when Girlie mentions that they will be having a substitute teacher the day of my presentation.

And that the substitute is last year's art teacher, Mr. B.

Fabulous.

Then I called the other mother to confirm the head count and found out that we are combining classes. So I'll have sixty kids instead of thirty.

Outstanding.

Which is why I am up at 5 AM to bake a second batch of star cookies. For sixty kids. And preparing to impersonate the art teacher. While he watches.

Maybe I should have just volunteered to correct the spelling tests.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

i love U2

Hubs and I just left the U2 concert.

U2 people are my people, but somewhere along the way my people started getting old. I swear there was actually a woman using a walker. Okay, maybe she had broken her leg or something. And she looked about 50ish. But still.

The woman in front of us kept pulling up pics of her kids on her iphone and the husband pretty much sat through the entire show. I think even they high-fived each other about scoring some cotton candy, and not because they were stoned.

But once the music started I didn't even notice. I actually got pretty emotional during a few of the songs, like the one Hubs sang while we hiked in Italy and the one that was a huge hit the year we moved away from Atlanta. U2 is my soundtrack.

I am pretty sure that the misty-eyed melodrama qualifies me as old too, but maybe not. Either way, I think am okay with it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Too tired for a title

Today I am showing up here, but it is one of those days when you start off in a slow jog and then give up before the first corner. I am walking the rest of the way, dragging along really, and I am only doing it because I have already taken off and don't have a choice.

It seems that over the last few weeks I have forgotten how to fall asleep and it is finally catching up with me. It all makes sense really. My mother-in-law has been here for two weeks, so I have been busier than usual. The vacation was fun and somewhat relaxing, but I never sleep well away from home. And through all this, my Dad has been in the hospital. Last night I got some not so good news about him and stared at a dark ceiling until, well, I don't want to know how late it was.

Today I am puffy eyed and cranky, but I have to make lunches and get the kids off to school. I should try to squeeze in a shower and respond to a few emails. I need to get a big check in the mail and fold two loads of laundry. Instead of sitting at my desk to fine tune my piece for class this week, my mother-in-law and I are heading to the Heard Museum. It should be fun, but I have a million other things to do, so I am going to have to force myself to slow down and enjoy it.

So I am showing up, because I made a commitment to myself that I would. But that's it for today. That's all I have.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo

Next month I am going to challenge myself to really crank out some writing.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo, an online contest to write 50,000 words, the equivalent of a 175 page novel, in 30 days. This means I will have to get down 1600 words per day. Obviously, the concept is all about quantity and not quality, and you don't write a brilliant debut novel in one month, but the idea is to force yourself to be creative and keep moving. Sometimes, actually most of the time, I find myself stuck, trying too hard. So instead of laboring over every step, I am going to try the marathon approach.

At the very least, I should have some decent material at the end. And if it all sucks, well then at least I have gotten a large volume of crappy writing out of the way.

And that will free me up to get to the good stuff.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A bright idea

I was doing okay on the weight thing, just a few extra pounds from the summer, nothing major.

Then I went on an outdoorsy hiking vacation and managed to come back hovering on the brink of disaster. I thought I was totally fine. I mean, we were walking around every day, outside and all. I had on hiking shoes and sporty clothes. I was looking like the poster girl for fall fitness. Yes, I did spend every evening marooned on the couch reading a stack of great books with a large pile of pistachios and a couple of bars of dark chocolate, maybe a few glasses of wine. But surely a brisk walk in the fresh mountain air would be enough to prolong the pudge?

Wrong-O.

Anyway I am heading away to a writing conference in a few weeks and I want to be comfortable. Not that anyone cares except for me, but it would be nice to be able to zip up my fancy jeans. And still be able to breathe. So I am going on the Bright White Diet.

Haven't heard of it? Well, let me fill you in.

A few years ago I went ahead and bought the official dentist version of the teeth bleaching stuff. This involved taking a mold of my teeth and making a special plastic mouth piece to put the bleachy stuff in. The problem is, I am usually too lazy to use it and so for the most part the investment has not paid off. When we got home from our trip I noticed that my teeth were looking a little dull (wine and chocolate?), so I dug out the kit and popped the plastic pieces in my mouth. Then I plopped myself in front of the DVR to catch up on my shows. A few hours later, I realized that I hadn't eaten a snack.

Bing-O.

So now I have the perfect solution. I get whiter teeth and cut back on the after dinner munchies.

The Bright White Diet. Genius. I should totally take this on on the road, maybe get one of those little carts at the mall.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Home, home not on the range...

We spent our last day in Zion National Park today. Hubs was totally in his element. I always wonder if he missed his true calling as a resident Park Ranger. I can almost picture us as a little ranger family.

The hiking I could totally hack, but then again the vault toilets would probably do me in. That, and I look really dorky in a sun hat. And they don't have a Trader Joes. So, maybe not.

Anyway I have read all the books I brought and ate way too much chocolate disguised as trail mix so it is time to head home.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

wilderness blog

I am writing this from the remote corner of the kitchen in a remote cabin in a remote part of Utah.I have to lean way over the counter and point the blackberry just so to get a signal. If I stand up too fast I will literally knock my head on the underside of a pine cabinet so I have to hunch over and the light isn't so good. If I even reach for my wine glass I will probably lose the signal again.

But I am blogging! How cool.

Next I am going to google 12- step programs for blog addictions. Not that I have a problem or anything.

Reading list

We read to both kids every night. Sometime last year, Girlie moved on to chapter books. This couldn't have come at a better time, since Little Guy also started asking for multiple stories at around the same time.

Lately, we have been reading through the American Girl series with Girlie. The American Girl books are pretty fun to read and it is really cool to watch Girlie get so engrossed in the twists and turns of the plot. Hubs and I take turns reading to Girlie, though not on a regular schedule, so sometimes he and I will catch up on what we've missed.

"Did she find the horse?" I'll ask.

"Yes, but they haven't heard from the father in a few weeks," he'll reply.

"Oh, no."

The conversations about the books we are reading to Little Guy go a little differently.

"Fire Piggy again," Hubs will complain. Little Guy is really into Richard Scarry and Fire Piggy is really called Richard Scarry's Busiest Firefighters Ever. It follows four little pigs named Snozzle, Squirty, Sparky, and Squirty as they inadvertently put out a fire in someone's barbeque. This cracks Little Guy up every time.

"Ugh. I read it three times before his nap." After the millionth read, I'm not so fond of Fire Piggy. Somehow, I don't mind the Dr. Seuss as much. I think I have memorized a fair number of them and the sing song rhyming slips me into an altered state where I can usually think of other things while reading.

Not in the dark! Why are my heels always so dry?
Not in a tree! Seriously, I could sand wood with them.
Not in the car! I really really need a pedicure.
You let me be! I should totally blog about this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Little boxes


I had a dream about the little bungalow we bought when we moved back to Georgia the other night. In my dream, it was enormous on the inside and the rooms kept going on and on. In reality, it was a teeny place, barely a three bedroom. The closets were so small, that in one of the bedrooms, the hangers had to be placed in on an angle. We ended up selling it before Little Guy came along, but for a while it was just the two of us and our baby girl, and it was perfect.


A few years after we got married, we lived in a tiny apartment where there were always cat fights echoing in the back alley at night. Some crazy lady left food out, so it became the city cat hang out. Still, we loved that place because it was super cheap and centrally located in the hipster part of Atlanta. We could literally step out of the front door and be in a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop within two minutes. It had one bedroom and the only closet in the entire place was off of the living room, but somehow, it was perfect too.

Don't get me wrong, I love the house we are in now. It isn't huge, though sometimes it seems like more than we really need. Still there is a part of me, that looks forward to the time when the kids are out of the house and Hubs and I can cozy up in a little place again. I don't know where we'll be, but I can totally picture it.

Small and perfect, just like it used to be, except maybe with a little more closet space.




Friday, October 9, 2009

Sock it to me

We're off to southern Utah for a week. We are going to spend some time hiking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, and I am looking really forward to a little time away. The weather is supposed to be amazing and the leaves should be at peak season for peeping. No camping this time, we rented a house with bedrooms for everyone. In between the parks, we'll pick pumpkins with the kids, roast marshmallows over a bonfire, and try to spy some Elk. I've packed some books and can't wait to just chill.

As I type this, Hubs is busy packing the car, humming an upbeat tune. He hasn't had any time off for a while and has been on the road for the last two weeks.

But really, I know that he is most happy because he packed these...

The worlds ugliest hiking socks.

And I will try to let him enjoy them. Bleh.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dry Heat Shmy Heat

People often make cracks about the heat in Phoenix. A favorite is the snarky, but it's a dry heat right? And the truth is, when it is 110 degrees, dry or not, it is very hot. But once the temp drops, the dry heat thing usually works in our favor. 98 is bearable, 97 is pleasant, and anything under 95 is downright fantastic.

Anyway, fall has arrived and the weather has been phenomenal this week in Phoenix.

Let the gloating begin.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My hero

Little Guy is starting to have quite the imagination.

He dug up this vintage hard hat from a collection I used to have (don't ask), promptly stuck it on his head, and ran around the house saying he was a fire fighter. He kept asking for a hose, so I made him one from an old paper towel holder that I found in our recycle bin and some fuzzy green yarn.

And of course, he played with that darn antique makeshift craft gone wrong set-up for a solid week!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The way the cookie crumbles

Yesterday another favorite lifestyle magazine bit the dust.


Sure, most of the material was heavy in over-the-top uber-cool haute Mama fantasyland, but then again, Parents, with all of its cute crafts and happy Mommy stuff seems just as unreachable to me. Cookie was stylish, well-edited, and gorgeously photographed, more of an art installation tribute to motherhood than a parenting guide.

Along with Domino, it will be missed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Been there, done that.

I went to the Wonderland exhibit produced as part of the Phoenix New Times Best of Phoenix on Friday night and it was just what the doctor ordered for my post-retail pre-writer career funk. While I was there, I met a gal who has a couple of businesses in town and after a brief chat, I remembered why I should be counting my lucky stars that I sold my business last year. Not that she isn't doing well, but it is just crazy hard to keep it all going and the economy is pretty much squeezing every last drop of fun out of it right now.

Anyway, at one point I am nibbling a cookie, chatting with a few friends and a couple of new artsy types, telling some story, when I notice it. My girlfriend is nodding along, stifles a yawn, and then she says "Oh yeah, I read that on your blog."

Oh snap!? My blog is stealing my best material! And I don't think I have enough cleverness stored up to be interesting online AND in person.

So what to do? Introduce a time delay? Make stuff up? Cozy up to complete strangers?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Can I help you?

I almost applied for a job at Anthropologie yesterday. I miss working that much.

I miss my store. I miss the buzz of retail just before the holidays. I miss talking to people over the age of seven. I miss putting on cute clothes and chatting up shoppers. I miss obsessively rearranging displays. I miss stacking the tissue paper under the counter. I miss the delicious smell of a new box of bath products. I miss giving myself 100% discount at the register. I miss the drama of managing twenty-somethings and the subsequent relief that I am no longer one of them.

I miss making money doing something I love to do.

I miss making money, period.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Madam Chairperson, You may now have the floor...

Is it weird to say that I am in love with a chair?

Okay, not a chair, but an entire set. Weird?

Since I found my dining room table a few years ago I have been on the prowl for the perfect dining chairs. The ones I had went with my old table and were all wrong. I kept them slip-covered for awhile, and that was okay, but not great. My dining room table is turquoise, and like most of us, the table's greatest virtue is also it's biggest hang-up. So for the last two years I have struggled over what to pair with a fantastic turquoise table without going too cliche or too country or too modern. I needed something eclectic and stylish, but not over the top. Something that would allow the table to stand out, but not in a sore thumb kind of way.

After much research and many hours of prowling online, I had something in mind and was describing it to my good pals Cyndi and Jeremy from laboratory5. These guys are crazy talented artists and they make their entire living, supporting themselves and their two kids, from art and art related projects. How cool is that?

Jeremy collects mid-century furniture and occasionally even sells a few pieces when he can bear to part with them. He leads me to his studio where he plucks from what I swear was a pile of wood, my dream chair. He had recently purchased a dilapidated mid-century dining set just to get his hands on a small bar cabinet. The chairs were a little banged up, but he said he could repair and refinish them. He then threw out a ridiculously wonderful price and I pretty much cried (okay, maybe not full on tears, but my eyes were a little watery, though it could have been the sawdust).

Anyway, I brought four of the six chairs home yesterday
and I am in a full swoon!


Behold the perfect vintage modern chairs!


I know I should have waited for the entire set to be ready before I snapped a picture, but I just couldn't wait to share them. Because I am in love, and love makes you do crazy things. Now that the chair issue is resolved, I feel like I can move on to more important things. Like obsessing over the perfect dining room rug.

I wonder what else Jeremy has stashed in that workshop of his?



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reality Bites

Last year I finally gave up on the MTV reality show, The Real World, after coming to terms with the fact that I am almost twenty years older than most of the cast, and really, the show has all been pretty much the same since the first Las Vegas season filmed over ten years ago. So, when I need a little dose of fake reality, I watch: Top Chef, Rachel Zoe Project, and Project Runway. I also dabble in a little Real Housewives, but only Atlanta because I used to live there. Earlier this year, I was following Jon and Kate, before the hate, but have given that up for obvious reasons.

I love the two fashion shows for the clothes and the creativity. Though Rachel Zoe is a nut job, she has an eye for what she likes and the balls to ask for it. I can relate to the fact that she is a total conflict avoider, while at the same time insanely opinionated. Project Runway is always good for a little drama, but the design process is what keeps me hooked. I love watching the designers make the clothes appear like magic and Tim Gunn's arched eyebrow really works for me.

Which brings me to Top Chef, and the real point of this post. Are you still with me?

This season, the women are dropping off the show like crazy and I can't help but compare how the sexes are managing the competition and stress. I have yet to see a guy burst into tears on the show or rattle on during the monologues about how he is feeling about his work. The dudes, despite various levels of skill, seem mostly focused and confident. I think it is natural and maybe almost expected, for women to constantly question ourselves and our motivations. Sometimes, as a result of our proclivity to sensitivity, we get in in our own way.

So lately, when I find myself getting sidetracked by my inner dialogue, I picture myself in a chef's jacket, slicing and dicing, juggling pots and pans, and everything sizzling away, time running out, but I am not rattled. I am completely focused.

So there you go, life lessons from a reality show. And they say television is bad for you...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White after labor

So forget about the whole white pants after Labor Day rule, the statement should probably be amended to say no white pants (or skirts, tops, and shorts), after labor.

Because once you have kids, you will invariably look down and find anything from a tiny sticky bit of goo to an entire shoe print, toddler size 8, on your white pants. And really, you can forget about black too. In some ways it is almost worse, the crusty stuff really stands out on a dark surface. I will think I made it through the day smudge-free, only to find two smeary handprints on the back of the shirt, as though I have been mauled by a monster child begging for another cookie.

Which is why I am seriously considering an entirely beige wardrobe or maybe something in a lovely shade of goldfish cracker.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A happy camper

Hubs and I took the kids camping in Northern Arizona this weekend and it was actually pretty fun. The trip was organized by some of the parents from Girlie's class.

I am not the most outdoorsy gal, but I do find it pretty relaxing to be outside. The weather was perfect, sunny and 70's during the day, and mid-30's at night. We were prepared for both, so the dip in temperatures wasn't a problem, and it was nice to hang around a fire first thing in the morning, drinking my coffee. Despite the howling coyotes, and a couple of rednecks, I even managed to get some pretty decent sleep, the second night anyway.

Little Guy was a big challenge, but we worked around it as best we could, mostly by alternating who was in charge of chasing him. Girlie was in heaven, running around with her pals from school, finding secret hide-outs in the woods, and munching sandwiches with dusty hands. Both kids were able to embrace a certain free roaming wildness that cannot be achieved elsewhere. Hubs got to do some man stuff, chopping wood by hand and dragging rocks into a circle for our fire pit.

As for me, I think there is something about camping that speaks to my competitive side; me against nature, with me coming out mostly on top, scrambling eggs and sausage on my Coleman stove, boiling water on the fire, determined to make a strong cup of coffee no matter what.

Still, with that said, maybe the best part of camping is how much it makes you appreciate the comforts of home. No shower was more cleansing, no dinner more delicious, and no bed more comfortable, than the ones from our first night back.