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


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


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.