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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Best of Phoenix

Around this time of year, Phoenix starts to shift from oppressive to oasis.

Last week, a friend and I were discussing the ups and downs of what I like to call embracing the cactus. She has lived in four different states, just since I have known her, and moved here just a few months before I did. She thinks it is nice, but really misses the seasons. She thinks the summer is horrendous and isn't totally convinced that Phoenix is a real metropolis. She's from Boston, so I might have to give her that one.

On the other hand, I am still pretty blown away by this place. Yes, you certainly have to admire it with caution. The heat can take you out and the landscape is a little prickly.

But when the summer finally ends, Phoenix is glorious. I have mountain views from my home office window, and soon enough, there will be a cool breeze blowing in as I sit here and type. And while our friends back east are slushing through ice and snow, we'll be hiking the hills and then hanging out in the back yard, steaks on the grill and a gorgeous moon hovering low and amazingly bright. We'll be sitting on patios, a fire crackling nearby, sipping margaritas. We'll be planning road trips and perfecting our horseshoe toss. You know, summer stuff.

We just get to do it from October until May.

Anyway, don't just take my word for it, if you need more proof, check this out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New math

Did you know that 1 + 1 = 10?

This week having two kids is kicking my butt a little. The worst of it seems to be just before dinner, when I am trying to help Girlie with her homework, and Little Guy is acting like a total two year old.

I know I should be able to guide her through second grade math, but my late-in-the-day foggy brain has a hard time focusing. There is the dinner which is probably seconds away from burning on the stove. The little boy who is determined to run circles around it all. The girl who just needs five seconds of my attention. And me, struggling to understand what the "right side rule" is referring to on her math homework. Add all of that up, and you get what I like to call the insanity hour.

When we had our kids five years apart, I thought I had it all figured out. That it would be easier to juggle them because of the age difference.

Then again I have always been a little stumped by long division.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


We are packing to go camping this weekend. We have been considering taking the kids camping for a while and when Girlie's class planned a family trip, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go.

The truth is, we haven't been camping since Girlie was born. Over the weekend Hubs pulled out our camping boxes, a couple of over-sized plastic tubs we have been lugging in and out of storage and the garage every time we moved from Georgia to South Carolina back to Georgia and finally across country to Arizona, all without opening them once.

It is strange to think of who we were back then, just a couple with a coleman stove and a cheapie tent. We sorted through everything, tossed out some of it, and made a list of what we needed to replace. Our sleeping bags have gone missing and we needed some new propane for our lantern. We had to replace the batteries in our flashlights and pick up some firewood. I did find a deck of cards, though I am not sure how much time we'll have to use them.

And while it was exciting to get ready make this trip with the kids, it also made me realize how much I miss is the way it felt to just be the two of us. I'll add it to the list, but I don't think we can really ever replace it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The forbidden fruit

So my computer is under attack yet again. I have managed to stabilize everything for now, but it is probably only a matter of time before I am going to have take it in to an expert.

I am heading off to the Apple store to do a little research and decide if it is finally time to take the plunge. We really don't have it in the budget right now, but I could really use a laptop and it might make sense to switch operating systems, rather than put any more money into my clunker PC.

I will be like Eve, circling the tree, the shiny Apple dangling, tempting a nibble.

But I won't take a bite. Not today anyway.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Something interesting is afoot

So lately I have been banging up my poor feet.

I scraped my big toe on a tile and cracked the pretty far nail back. It healed and I then did the same thing to the other foot, kicking something hard enough to leave a chunk missing from the top of my toenail. Just a few days ago, I caught my little toe on the outside door frame and cut it hard enough to draw blood and leave a little jagged line. I call it my Frankentoe.

I don't know what to blame it on. It could be the universe having a little laugh because of this post. It could be that I have so completely embraced the Phoenix lifestyle that I find myself barefoot more often than not. It could my busy brain which constantly seems to be churning around a paragraph or two.

Of the three, I like the busy brain bit. Though, settling into Phoenix isn't so bad either. Most likely, it is the universe laughing at me, and since I recently resolved to laugh out loud more often, I guess I'll just have to join in.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The dictator

Little Guy woke up channeling the spirit of Kim Jong-il this morning.

Lots of posturing, unpredictable behavior, and no no no to everything, including the stuff he really wants to say yes to.

I had a great idea for a post, but that will have to wait, because I am deep in the trenches, delicately negotiating a non-proliferation agreement.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laugh track

I have noticed that my kids laugh way more than I do.
I have a sense of humor, but I definitely lean more towards the serious. And while I might smile or even chuckle a little, I think there are times when I make it through the entire day without laughing, really laughing, even once.
So I have been trying to let go a little and give in the giggles.

And really, if I am open minded about it, there is so much to laugh about around here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yes? No.

Everyone knows about the yes man. He'll tell you whatever you want to hear. In business, he seems like a great employee, loyal to the core, obedient without question. But we all know the other side of the coin. The yes man is usually unoriginal, rarely truly productive, and probably never going to be promoted. The yes man will do anything to be agreeable.

You may be less familiar with the yes mom. She also seems to be awesome.

Yes, you can have a third helping of candy.

Yes, I will shuttle you to dance and gymnastics and soccer and horseback. On the same day.

Yes, I will turn around and go back to the house to pick up your stuffed turtle keychain that you absolutelypostivelymusthavebecauseMadisonhasthesameone
andyouarebestfriendsandyouhavetomatch, even though it will make me late to my event.

Yes, to pretty much everything.

I am so not a yes mom. I am mostly a no mom. I feel pretty certain the yes moms operate under the misguided notion that their kids actually have to like them. Not that I don't occasionally squeak out a yes, but I don't do it just to make my children happy at any cost. Of course, the yes moms kind of ruin it for the rest of us, but I am willing to stand my ground when necessary. As such, I am probably not a favorite among the kids that have yes moms. When I respond with a negative, nope, uh-uh, sorry Charley, not gonna happen, their little jaws drop in surprise.

And do I care?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kickin' it old school

Check out this fantastic set of lockers I scored off craigslist for our office and art room.

It was dirt cheap and solved a ton of storage issues. I have compartments for all of my office things and individual nooks for all of Girlie's craft supplies. She has a place to hang her backpack, and somewhere to keep her Girl Scout stuff between meetings. Best of all, I can put locks in on the sections that I need to keep Little Guy out of.

And when Hubs asks me where the business sized envelopes are? I'm all, behind door number seven baby.

He usually waits until I turn around before rolling his eyes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A dingo ate my baby!

Well, not exactly, but a virus did attack my computer.

Yes, I have a recent back up, but I also have a short story contest deadline looming tomorrow so the timing is massively inconvenient. Looks like we got it from the New York Times website and we're not the only ones. I won't link you to the article about it, for obvious reasons.

I have my system mostly disabled and I am in the process of cleaning it up now. Fingers crossed that everything is fine.

** UPDATE **

If a dingo had in fact eaten my baby then let's just say I chased it into the Outback, clubbed it over the head with a large stick, and am now in the process of making a lovely fir jacket from it's hide. Which is another way of saying, my computer is fully restored and I have now resigned myself to reading an actual paper.

(Please note: No live animals were harmed during the making of this post. All references to animals are purely fictional and solely for the the amusement of a certain mental mother.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

The day the towers fell coincided with my first doctors appointment after I found out I was pregnant with Girlie. I was seven weeks along at that point and still pretty nervous. I knew I was pregnant, but nothing about me had really changed yet and it just didn't seem real.

My appointment wasn't until 10:30 AM so I had been lingering over my morning coffee watching the end of the Today Show when the news broke. I wasn't dressed yet and I sat there glued to the couch until I finally had scramble to get dressed and dash out of the house with barely enough time to make it to the office.

It turned out that the doctors office decided to cancel the remaining appointments for the day, and I was the last patient to be seen before they closed the office. It was all anyone could talk about, the doctors, the nurses, the receptionist. We all watched the news as the nurse checked my blood pressure, as I stepped on a scale, as I had blood taken, as I was shown to the examining room. It was impossible to believe that those two enormous buildings had disappeared, and yet, there it was.

Finally, I left the office, with a prescription for prenatal vitamins and some fuzzy pictures of a tiny blob growing inside me. The pregnancy was real.

The devastation was real too. And even harder to comprehend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learning about discipline

We've been having trouble with backtalk from the seven year old girl. I haven't really taken it seriously and lately I have noticed that it seems to be getting worse. I'm a little at a loss for how to approach it, so I picked up a little expert reading on the topic.

The fix seems easy enough. Swift and consistent response, no tolerance for it, sticking to your guns, etc.

Until I got to the part where I am not supposed to have a reaction.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Long Way Through

Hubs and I have been watching the DVD series Long Way Down. It is a documentary style film capturing a motorcycle trip that Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman took from Europe down to the tip of the African continent. Earlier this year we watched their first trip from England to New York, called the Long Way Round.

It has been fascinating to watch the two friends negotiate borders and breakdowns, riding a motorcycle thousands of miles, just to achieve a lifelong dream. They take a surprisingly bare bones approach to the trip and both of them have a meltdown at some point. Most of us don't have the luxury of taking a few months off to bike across Africa, but I'd like to think that if I had my chance I would grab it.

Okay, maybe not on a motorcycle exactly. But there is something to be said for taking some risks and making yourself completely uncomfortable in the process.

This weekend, I made the monumental decision to start over on my book. I finally nailed the beginning and then realized that the voice wasn't going to work with the direction I had originally been planning to take the main character. It kills me to toss thousands of words. For a few days, I kept trying to rework what I had. I am sure I will be able to salvage some of it, but really the best approach is going to be to just start writing from the new voice I am hearing. I felt such magic when I finally wrote the first few words of it, literally had a physical reaction, so I know I am making the right choice.

It isn't easy. I have to get up just before 5 AM to get any good writing time in and sometimes the kids wake up early anyway.

But at some point I am going to complete a novel, even if it is the long way through.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hidden treasures

I was shopping a second hand store the other day, looking for kids books and a decent Thesaurus, when a framed painting propped against the wall caught my eye. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the paper backing had been torn away just a smidge. Apparently, someone was hoping to find a Van Gogh hidden behind an amateur painting of a french bistro. Of course, the picture wasn't a masterpiece, not in that sense anyway.

For some reason, it really bugged me. Why are we always looking for something better than the thing right in front of us? Couldn't the little painting just be enough?

Then again, I did put the painting back. It really wasn't very good.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Life is a shake of cherries

Yesterday we took the kids for a hike in Payson, Arizona. We couldn't afford a weekend away since we're saving for a big trip to southern Utah in October, so we decided to take a day trip. It felt fantastic to get out of the heat in Phoenix for the day and the hike was pretty nice, despite Girlie's frequent protests that it was too hot, too long, and her legs were hurting. I might have felt a little sorrier for her, but the litany of complaints started about 100 feet into the hike.

Little Guy wasn't complaining since he spent most of the time in a pack on Hubs' back. We all managed to push through it and Girlie picked up the pace once we reminded her that the faster she went, the quicker the whole thing would be over. The hike was 2.7 miles, ranked as moderate, and had a few tricky places. I was pretty proud of Girlie for making it, though we played down the difficulty the entire time. At the end, she collapsed to the ground and declared that she couldn't make it the final five feet to our car.

Ah, the drama. I have no idea where she gets it.

On the way home, we stopped at a dive called the Beeline Cafe for burgers, fries, and cherry shakes. The food was delicious and the run down restaurant might just be the best kept secret in Payson. Over patty melts, Hubs asked me to rank the hike on a scale of 1 to 5. It was hard to separate the overall experience from the amount of "coaching" we did to complete it, but I told him I would give it a 3. Just as we were leaving the restaurant, Girlie told our waitress that the food was the best meal she had ever eaten. She grabbed my hand and said it was the best day ever.

And that is just how it goes with kids. You struggle to rank the experience by the mile or the hour. But, occasionally you order a cherry shake and the whole thing seems like a 5 out of 5.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Yesterday was one of those days.

I had a girls outing planned in the evening and needed to make an appetizerish dish to take along, so I scrounged the contents of my cupboard and decided to make rosemary pinenut popcorn. I put Little Guy down for a nap, whipped up the dish, and congratulated myself for coming up with something so inexpensive and chic. As soon as Hubs got home, I threw on my go-to Michael Kors sandals and dashed out the door to meet my girlfriends.

I got stuck in traffic, but no worries, good music on the radio for once, so I settled in and started to feel a little smugmommy. You know, that feeling when you imagine that you actually have it all together. That despite the craziness of it all, the fledgling career and the two wacky kids, a gal like me might actually be able to pull off a stylish entrance, just like I would have back in the days before the bambinos.

That's when I looked over to the passenger seat and realized that I left the gorgeous bowl of gourmet popcorn and a bottle of wine sitting on the dining room table.

So I stopped at the gas station for beer and Cheetos.


Thursday, September 3, 2009


You know those discount grocery cards? The ones you cannot shop without, because the price of a bottle of juice goes from like $3.00 to $9.00 without the special card?

I refuse to register for them.

I am not usually the conspiracy theory type, but it makes me crazy to think that some grocery store executive can pull me up in a database and run a report showing that I buy Fig Newmans and baby carrots every week. These days, Big Brother isn't a government hack, instead he works for Cascadian Farms, and he can probably tell if you are a little backed up, because you just bought that extra high fiber cereal again.

But of course, I am a bargainista and I still want the darn discount.

So I pull up to the checkout, ask for the card and the forms, inch Little Guy towards the magazine rack, and then while wrestling a copy of the Star Magazine out of his hands, I say ever so sweetly "He is a real handful today. Can just I bring this back in with me?"

And then I never fill out the form, but I whip out that card every week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not so sharp

I attended a Parent Teacher Group meeting at Girlie's school last night. The group is made up of a shockingly small, but dedicated set of mothers and teachers. When I pulled into the parking lot and noticed how few cars were there, I thought I might have gotten the date wrong or shown up too early. Or too late, like I did on curriculum night. But that's another story.

Hubs and I made the decision to put Girlie in public school when we moved to Phoenix. In Georgia, we had her in a fantastic private school, but we practically had to sell non essential organs to pay for it. Since the school system here has an open enrollment policy, we were able to hand pick her elementary school and I feel like we made the right choice. This year there have been so many budget cuts that the school has to be really creative with money. The PTG plays a big role in getting extras for the school, so I figured that I should volunteer.

The meeting went fairly well until it digressed into a 15 minute debate over an industrial pencil sharpener. Both sides had good points, (pun intended) but for some reason they felt the need to repeat themselves, as though saying the same thing multiple times would suddenly change things. After a few minutes of it, I stole a glance at my girlfriend who wasn't making eye contact because she was busy trying to check her watch. Finally, the group moved on and I managed to sign up to help with a few things.

Unfortunately, the sharpener discussion needs more research and will be brought up at the next meeting.

We'll take it year by year, but for now I still feel like we made the right choice to go with public school. Still, last night I really missed the pretentious privilege of private school, where someone would have whipped out a checkbook and scribbled out a personal check for ten industrial sharpeners, just to end the discussion.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Half Ironwoman

Hubs is signing up for a half Ironman in California this spring. The race is comprised of a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride, finally ending in a 13.1 mile run. I don't know why they stick that last .1 mile on, but, whatever, it isn't even the full Ironman and it's still a bad-ass race. He'll have to step up his training a little, particularly on the bike since the course has a killer hill at around mile 30.


Well, I'll need to get in shape too. It just happens coincide with Girlie's spring break, so we'll probably spend the week on vacation in California after the race. There will be umpteen hours of planning and packing for the various warm, cold, cloudy, rainy, foggy, muggy days we are sure to experience during the end of March. There will be beach chairs and coolers to haul through the sand, all while sucking in my stomach until I can't breathe. There will be kids to wrangle into swimsuits or zip into sweatshirts. There will be half jammed corks to wrestle from bottles of wine once the kiddos are tucked in for the night.

Yep, if I am going to be ready. I'd better start now.

Think I'll work on that cork thing first.