Saturday, January 29, 2011

Making a Splash, Weekend Round-up Edition

Where to begin?

Do I share the beauty of going to an indoor water park with kids aged 9 and almost 12? Of being able to sit and read an entire depressing and wrenching and inspiring memoir all in one sitting, wearing street clothes, while my kids frolicked and cavorted in the water?

Of lifting my head from my serious reading matter to look around, ostensibly for the children, and glimpsing with pity lots of mommies of kids far younger than mine who were not yet free to say NO to the bathing suit and the enormous bucket of water pouring over their heads?

Do I share that this water park trip resulted in 2 epic telephone fights and a scheduling snafu that could have granted my eldest his wish of having divorced parents?

Do I share my opinion that chain hotel decor has come a long way from hunter green and floral by sharing this cool console table with you?

Instead, I think I'll share that for the second time in 2 weeks I was reminded of The Shining while staying in a hotel. Lest you conclude that I'm obsessed, perhaps you should see what slogan (?) Hampton Inn has decided to put inside every one of its elevators:

Seriously? Brilliant marketing, that.

But instead of dealing with a crazed murderer flashing his maniacal smile at me in an empty resort hotel, I was driven to distraction by another sort of foe:

A lovelorn teenager who parked himself on the floor outside our room as he had a heartfelt (loud!) phone conversation with his girlfriend. You know, one of those tortured, miserable conversations with pleading, sighing, and what-not?

Who needs in-room porn when your 11 year old can share, verbatim, these snippets and more with you:

"Well, I didn't know those kinds of pictures of you would make you uncomfortable."

"If you had been with any other guys before me you would understand all of this better."


At about 11:30 I had had enough. The driving, the reading, and the water park fries had done me in.

I hopped out of bed and charged to the door, wearing my tank top and undies, and decided to give him the kind of scare that would make Jack Nicholson look as cuddly as a Pillow Pet. As I angrily flipped the deadbolts, the kid jumped up and darted down the hall, narrowly missing a sighting that could have turned him off of women forevermore.

Mission accomplished.

I slunk back to my bed and climbed in with my now-sleeping daughter.

...who had decided to take her half of the bed right down the middle.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Trending Now

So I just logged on and saw that "Taco Bell Meat" was number 1 on the Yahoo "Trending Now" list that pops up on my homepage.

This is not something I want to see, because making a run for the border is one of my family's favorite activities. I do NOT intend to click the link and see what the holy heck is going on with Taco Bell's meat that would put it in the #1 spot.

Today's top ten listings range from from "Oprah's Half Sister" and "Oscar Nominations" to "Cloud Computing," whatever that is.

This made me wonder what other trends would be most unwelcome to me on "Trending Now"


"Stirrup Pants"
"Un-sterile Stirrups"
"President Palin"
"Early Menopause"
"Lohan-Beiber Baby"
"Middle School Sex"
"Blogging/Weight Gain Link"

What "Trend" would YOU least like to see pop on your screen?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wouldn't a Trip to Disneyworld Do?

So we were driving to a museum yesterday (I know, bonus parenting points!) with the whole family in the car. On the way out of the driveway, we stopped at the mailbox. When I was passing directly in front of the car, Tom took his foot off the brake and put it in park. The car lurched forward and gave my leg a little brush. The look I gave back shot daggers through the windshield.

A few moments later, Jake says, "Why don't you two get divorced?"

My heart sank, wondering whether Mom had been just a little too mean lately. Perhaps the evil glare I gave Tom when he nearly ran me over, had made him think, well, that the spark had died. Perhaps he wondered whether Dad was trying to do me in.

I mean, we've been trying to kiss and hug a bit in front of the kids, because they've asked if we "Ever Make Out," but I guess we haven't done a good job making marriage seem appealing.

Silence. Then I asked him what he meant.

He replied, "I just want us to have something new and exciting happen in our lives. You didn't have another baby, and that would have been exciting. Besides, when parents get divorced they buy you lots of stuff because they feel guilty."


Friday, January 21, 2011

All Work and No Play Makes Anna a Dull Blogger

So I'm back. Not sure if you noticed I was away, but I've been at a conference for work. I love any chance to get away by myself, so the thought of a king sized bed in a hotel room and a stack of books on my bedside table was awesome. The conference was inspiring and helpful, but several factors led to my being extra grateful to have made it out of there in one piece.

Maybe it was pulling up to the quiet resort hotel just as the winter sky grew dark. My car was the only one in a vast parking lot on the back side of the building. During the summer this place is buzzing, but in the off-season, the pace slows to a crawl.

On the sidewalk outside my door stood an enormous bird, the size of a turkey, dismembering another bird. I had to pass by to get into my room, and when I did, a swirl of gray feathers enveloped me as I made a frantic dash to the door. I hoped no guts followed me in.

Safely inside my room I wondered, "Did that really just happen?" This was the evidence on my doorstep:

The resort complex was enormous. For 2 1/2 days when I wasn't in the conference area with other participants, I was in a alone in an empty wing of the hotel. Not sure why I was separated from the rest of the group. It could be because I was traveling alone and requested just one bed. It could be to make me easier prey.

Several times I got lost trying to find my room in the labyrinth of hallways that seemed to stretch on forever, yet I never saw another soul.

I wondered if anyone knew I was there. I wondered if anyone would hear my cries if I needed help. I wondered why I never bothered to exercise and how I could manage to get winded merely walking down long empty corridors.

Every horror movie I'd seen in the early to mid-80's came rushing back to me. Why hadn't my parents supervised what I watched? Were they just so happy with the advent of the VCR and an electronic babysitter that they didn't care that a whole generation of kids was gorging itself on Damian, Jason, and Michael Myers?

I realized as a forty-something mom I was no teenage ingenue, but I was a woman, alone, separated from the flock and that, just as much as being part of a horny make-out couple, is the kiss of death in any horror movie.

When I saw a housekeeper back in the main section of the hotel I asked her how many rooms there were. "Over 650 she replied." More like 666, I thought, as loneliness set in and a new snowstorm swirled outside my window.

Summoning up the courage to watch reality tv, finish my books, and luxuriate in this spectacular bed, I tried to shove all thoughts of "red-rum" and Jack Nicholson out of my mind. It wasn't easy, but with prayer, cable, and Diet Pepsi, I persevered. I kept a close eye on the outside (dead bird) door and the hallway door.

I was pretty much at peace.
But when I woke up on the 3rd day and found that we were "iced in," I got out my scraper, got my middle-aged rear on the nearest highway, and headed home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Latest Hang-up

I've been feeling noticeably unproductive and un-crafty lately, but a quick lee-tle project today has put a spring in my step.

I repurposed a thrift store bulletin board that I had previously spray painted black, topped with fabric and added a little trim to. It was languishing in my basement gift wrapping station because frankly, if something can't be thrown in a gift bag, I'm not that interested in "wrapping" it.

A change of location to this vanity nook in the bedroom, and now I have a fun place to display my necklaces, tangle-free. I used cute push pins with typewriter symbols on them that I already had.

I am so excited! From the collection of vintage jewelry boxes also on the vanity, you can see I have no shortage of space to hold jewelry, but I just love this fun and funky board!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner?

I would like to know why my husband, who simply could NOT wake up to the sound of crying babies, or a fire alarm (when I almost burned the house down boiling LICE combs), shoots out of bed at the earliest "glug glug" of a dog about to vomit. Then he engages in the quick and fruitless boxer-clad, skinny-legged dance of trying to shove a towel under the dog's mouth in the hopes of catching projectile vomit. Priorities, people, priorities.

I got to ponder this a lot this week because I failed on my job of keeping tabs on the dog this week. It's bitter cold out. We don't have a fenced in yard, which no one else in the family considers a problem. I put her out hoping she'd pee quickly while I sipped tea in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I forgot about her, and when she dragged her bloated-bellied self back into the house 45 minutes later she had found a vat of grease to consume. Because apparently some of our neighbors are running an Arby's out of their carport or something.

You may wonder how I know about the grease, but it became abundantly clear the first 8 times she threw up in the next 3 hours. As I cleaned and cursed, I marveled at how a dog could sense that our beloved but long-neglected cleaning lady had come back, for the first time in two months, that very morning. I had planned on basking in the joy of new-found cleanliness for another month or two, or at least until I could scrape up enough money for her to come back. By the time the first night of vomiting was over, Miss Carmen's clean house was no longer. I took daytime vomit duty, and Tom took the night shift.

Not to be outdone by Shadow the Retching Dog, a member of the local rodent population, driven indoors by the chilling breeze, decide to traipse through our kitchen junk drawer that very night. I'm not sure if he was too happy to find the rulers, lip gloss, safety pins, birthday party prizes and cell phone chargers, but hopefully the Juicy Fruit gum fortified him somewhat. Constant crapping must use up a lot of calories.

Two days later, the dog got into OUR trash, which was also my fault, although the neighbor boy who let her out by leaving our door open (in January!) seems somewhat culpable. This latest round of vomit yielded a 3 1/2 inch plastic needle. We are somewhat grateful she survived.

So while I'd like to say I've been crafting and decorating and generally making the world a more aesthetically pleasing place, I've been cleaning up mouse poop and vomit and watching a lot of late night tv.

And I'm guessing you won't be knocking on the door of Chez See anytime soon for a dinner invite.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hippy New Year

I've seen a lot of comments by friends on Facebook and read a few articles in the paper about how annoying it is to regular gym-goers when, in the New Year, gym Newbies show up to start a workout routine.

The first few weeks of January are marked by Newbies: hogging favored treadmills, forgetting to wipe sweat off of equipment, and talking loudly on cell phones. I'm sure the list goes on, but since I haven't been inside a gym in, ummm, a while, I'll let it stand at that, or ask you for your 2 cents.

Let me just say, out of heart-felt consideration for long-time fitness devotees, I have decided to sacrifice my own well-being and forgo breaking my years-long exercise fast.

Am I considerate, or what?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Free Movie Tickets from Honey Nut Cheerios

I eat Honey Nut Cheerios every morning. If I don't them, I get grumpy (-er). You can get free movie tickets by using codes from inside your Honey Nut Cheerios boxes. 2 boxes= one free ticket!

Just make sure they are the specially marked boxes that clearly state "Free Movie Tickets" all over the back. It's super easy to claim your ticket. You just enter a code online and print the ticket on your printer.

Tom and I tried this and got free tickets to see "How Do You Know?" on our anniversary. Yes, we are classy and confident enough to use free tickets on a big night out. At least we didn't go to our favorite restaurant-- Taco Bell.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pillow Talk

My daughter whispered in my ear tonight that she loves hugging her teacher because she's, well, "soft right there" (pokes Mom swiftly in the boob).

This made me smile because it made me think a bit about hugging. You see, my mother was rather generously endowed in the breast area, and her ample bosom made for some really great hugging. You kind of eased into the hug, ran the risk of disappearing for a while, and hung on as if clinging to a squishy life raft of goodness

I remember as a kid wondering how I'd do as a mom. I wasn't thinking about nurture or discipline, and cup size was far, far from my mind. I was primarily concerned with the arenas of fruit and vegetable cutting. I admired my mom's deft skill with a paring knife. I wondered, would I be able to carve perfect v's in apple slices to rid them of their seeds? And making carrot sticks? That seemed way too hard. Fortunately, I've mastered the apple...and the carrot sticks? Well, bagged baby carrots came along just in the nick of time.

But what about hugging? The years I was breastfeeding were the only time I had "Oh my goodness they are so big I cannot see my feet!" boobs. For the babies they were a means to a meal, and to Tom they were pretty much off limits. "These are WORKING boobs-- back off!" Before and since, I've had more of a marble in a tube sock thing going on.

So, do I feel like a mom when I hug? Of course I do, because I am one, even if my hugs may not have the same near-suffocating quality my mom's did. And moms come in all shapes in sizes from AAA cups to FFF. Some moms do not have any breasts anymore, and they are no less motherly for it. We are THE mom our kids are supposed to have. I like to tell my kids what my mom told me, particularly when I'd gripe about something, "I'm the best mom you'll ever have."

But back to hugging: my friend Kris told me, just last week, "Anna, hugging your mom was like hugging a pillow. Hugging my mom was like hugging a board." I'd like to think that wasn't all about size, but more about her willingness to be huggy in the first place. And I hope I've got that. What my hugs might lack in bosom-itude, I make up with an extra squeeze, a grunt (umph!), or a pat on the back.

And during this time of rampant New Year's Resolutions, if you are worried about a little extra padding here or there, just remember the joy that softness can bring with a cozy squeeze or a squishy lap to sit on (I've definitely got one of those!).

For as we said in my house growing up, "Men are nice, but there's NOTHING like hugging a WOMAN!!"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

On the Bookshelf

Since I've already admitted I am an antisocial bookworm on visits to my in-laws, I thought I'd share with you some of my Christmas reading:

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

A period romance in the style of Jane Austen with a bit of the Brontes thrown in. Yes, there should be an umlaut over Bronte, but who knows how to do that? I devoured this book and enjoyed recognizing the elements so familiar to Austen's novels.

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz

This memoir by a woman who finds out about multiple infidelities after her husband dies was very well written, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I was fascinated by it, but I had a hard time figuring out why she married this creep in the first place. Oh, and if Tom decided to go over to a female friend's house for "coffee" every day while I watched her kids and mine, I don't think I'd be okay with it.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

This novel chronicles a Senator's wife as she grows and changes following her husband's public admission of infidelity. I enjoyed the humor and the mother/daughter relationships in the novel, but I didn't love some of the predictable elements.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This British novel shows how two worlds collide during a horrific encounter on a beach in Nigeria. It was beautifully written and has dual narrators. I liked the character development, the suspense, and the way the narrative worked backwards and then forward again. I bet there will be a good movie based on this one.

The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence by Gavin de Becker

This fascinating non fiction book reads almost like a novel as de Becker explains how we ignore the survival instincts we have been given. This book investigates violence of all kinds-- with strangers, in the workplace, and in relationships. It shows how we waste our time and our instincts worrying about dangers that aren't really there. I plan to read"Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe and Parents Sane."

Next up:
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet Spy by Eric Metaxas about the German theologian who was executed for his role in an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.

Have you read any good books lately?

Take Me Home, Country Roads, Part Deux

Just got back in town!

This is a re-post from January '09 because when it comes to trips to the in-laws, I'm nothing if not predictable, and if there's ever an excuse to include a pre-40 year old photo of myself, I'll take it:

Sorry for the blog silence. I’ve been holed up in a house w/ 7 kids, 6 adults, one dog and a hermit crab for the past 6 days. I’m kind of glad I couldn’t blog at my in-laws, because I would have come off as a raving lunatic, or at least more of one than usual.

I needed to get back home and get a little perspective before filling you in on my week. See how happy I look in my own kitchen?

Trips to the in-laws always seem to go like this: I work myself into a lather packing for the household. Laundry, pack, schlep, laundry, pack, schlep. When we get there, my first strategy is to hide out in a back bedroom reading books 24-7. This is not to protect myself from them, but to protect them from the raging b-rat I become every time I’m there.

I find myself cringing at everything anyone does. I play a little game in my head called “That’s where Tom got that annoying habit.” I feel rebellious. If they are talking politics, I feel like yelling, “I voted for Obama!” If they extol the virtues of health food, I rip open a bag of chocolate and strap on my feed bag.

Underneath my rolling eyes, moaning and groaning, I think what I’m doing is trying to punish them for not being my family of origin. As if to embrace them fully and their way of doing things will somehow negate my experience of “family.” The thing is, ever since my mom died, twenty years ago, my family hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses, so why am I comparing, and judging, and punishing these kind, lovely people who have never been anything but good to me?

But still.

By day 2, I feel the need to flee. Unfortunately, I’m 7 hours from home and have never bothered to plot an escape route. The idyllic country setting begins to feel more like a curse than a blessing. I have no idea how to get to a main road. Perhaps if there were a Target nearby, I could indulge in a little retail therapy to make it through. No dice. Snowfall doesn’t help either.

Low thermostat? Annoying. Boring local newspaper? Ugh. Tennis magazines? No thanks. By day 3, I’m lethargic, as if overtaken by carbon monoxide. Everything is in slow mo. I sleep as late as possible, ignoring the chipper “Well, look who is up!” by other members of the household. I keep my Christmas pj’s on as much as possible.

The kids are having a blast with their cousins, and Tom is loving catching up with his parents and siblings. By day 4 Tom is offering me a one-way plane ticket home and out of his hair. The nerve. I rally. Our anniversary is pretty good. We go to a nice dinner and a movie. That night, I roll over in my twin bed uttering a “Night Ricky,” to his “Night Lucy.” Romantic in an old fashioned kind of way.

Day 5 really picks up. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I start to socialize. I drink wine. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier. I ring in the New Year with a smile on my face, even though my night is spent in yet a different house with 10 kids, 6 adults, and I’m on an air mattress mere inches away from a cage containing a dead guinea pig. The people we stayed with were pet sitting for the holidays. Someone had a much worse vacation than I did.

On Day 6 I start to think about whom Jake will marry. Will he bring home a girl so witchy and judgmental that I’ll have to walk on eggshells around her? Will I have to apologize for my mere existence? Will the way I breathe bother her? Will she play the “A-ha!” game inside her head? Will she fail to recognize what a fabulous person I am?

Chastened, I spend my last few hours there being the daughter-in-law I should have been since the beginning. To my in-laws—I’m sorry for what I’ve put you through for the last decade and a half, even though most of it just played out in my mind.

To Tom, I’m glad you come from such a dear family, with kind parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I know I’ve said this to many guys in the past, but I think this is the first time I’ve said it to you. And I mean 96% of it: “I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.”