Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Our family's New Year's Eve tradition began on December 31, 1996. Tom and I had only moved to Flagstaff, Arizona two months before. I had taken a sabbatical from my teaching job in September when my OB put me on bedrest due to pregnancy complications. Tom, newly admitted to the State Bar, had to find a job fast and that job happened to be about 200 miles north. By New Year's Eve, I was a stable six-and-a-half months pregnant, Tom was a defense attorney, and we hadn't made friends in town yet.

We watched the clock tick quietly into the New Year with a plate of cupcakes between us. I had only recently begun to enjoy food again, after twenty-plus weeks of wretched nausea that had caused me to lose twenty-two pounds. I savored every bite of those cupcakes, every lick of the creamy, homemade frosting. And as we ate, we talked. We talked about the wild changes of the past few months and of how this new year, 1997, would be the year that we would meet our baby girl. It was inconceivable, even with the reality of my pregnant tummy between us, that we would be a family of three in just a few months. (It turned out to be even earlier than that, but we had no idea then what third trimester complications lay ahead).

I baked cupcakes again for New Year's Eve 1997, and we gave 10-month-old Bear small licks of frosting from our fingertips. There was no question but that cupcakes had become our New Year's tradition. I mean, come on, a tradition involving cupcakes? It was a no-brainer.

Our New Year's Eve has now grown to include the family of our closest friends. We order Chinese, we eat cupcakes, and after dinner the kids migrate to the family room downstairs to watch a movie or play video games. The four adults sip crazy-delightful cocktails (this year's recipe involves rum, tequila, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, YUM) and play cards or dominoes at the dining room table. There is a lot of laughter, and at some point (usually well before midnight), everyone winds up in pajamas. Adults, too.

When I first saw "When Harry Met Sally", I vowed that as an adult I would spend my New Year's Eves at a fancy-dress ball in a swanky hotel. I'm hear to tell you that I am ten thousand times happier in my own living room, in my cutest flannel pjs (oxymoron alert!), with a ridiculous rum concoction in hand, listening to four kids roaring "TEN, NINE, EIGHT..." at the TV, while they clutch sparkling grape juice in my very best crystal glasses. It's hilarious and cozy and all feels right with the world. Also I don't have to wear panty-hose or drive home. So, win-win.

Not long after midnight, the four kids begin to drop like flies - falling asleep on beds and couches around the house. This year, the grown-ups are spending the night, too, in our newly minted guest room, less for reasons of drunkenness and more along the logical lines of, "Well, you're already here and wearing pajamas, so..." We'll all go out for breakfast in the morning, and 2010 will feel well and properly ushered in.

And every year, as I eat my cupcake, I think back to that first year when it was just Tom and I and we had no clue what lay before us. I couldn't have wished for more.

Happy 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry & Bright

Have you ever placed a treat in front of a dog but not allowed them to eat it until you give the command? That's pretty much my kids in this picture. Taken just an hour or so ago on Christmas Eve, they knew that once I got a decent shot of them in front of the tree, they'd be allowed to open their Christmas gifts from Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fabulous. If you look carefully, you can see the barely suppressed gleam of manic hysteria in their eyes.

Once I finish up with this, we will begin negotiations for Christmas Morning Protocol:

What time can they wake us up? 7:30.
How about 6:30? Fine, 7:00.
6:45?? Sorry, 7:00 is my final offer.
Can they go into each others' rooms? Yes, if you're quiet.
What about watching TV in the living room? Nope.
Can they peek in the living room? Yes, but no touching the gifts.
What about stockings? Can they touch stockings? No. Peeking only.
Are we opening gifts before breakfast? Yes, but I reserve the right to pause gift-opening to fetch a cup of coffee.

Merry Christmas from Maine!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Renovations: The Photos, part 1

We're DONE. Mostly. I hate to modify "done" in any way, but there are still the odd outlet covers to be screwed on, paint dings to touch up, and wall-hangings to be hung. We'll get there, but we're taking a breather for Christmas

Update: Ten minutes after I typed this, the bank called and scheduled our appraisal for Wednesday. So, um, I guess those outlet covers are going on, like, TODAY. So much for my damn Christmas breather. Humbug.

I scanned back through my photo files until I lost interest and ran out of caramel corn to munch on. Turns out, I have no decent "before" picture of my living room. I attribute this to the fact
that I hated my old, cramped living room so much that I rarely took pictures there and to not having made nearly enough caramel corn. What I did find is this charmer of a photo taken in October, after we had scraped the ceiling clean and begun to pack things up. It gives a completely accurate idea of the total lack of space.

And do you see that little scalloped trim thingy above the built-in shelves? That made be want to strangle bunnies on a daily basis. I am not a scalloped-trim kind of gal (but I'm not judging if you are).
Same room (to the right of the framed partition), late October. I call this phase Early Sledgehammer. Although Mid-Mental Breakdown would also be correct.
And our living room today:
There are still major decorating tweaks in order. I haven't decided on window treatments yet, nor bought an accent rug for the center of the room, nor hung anything on the walls. But notice how the furniture is not jammed cheek-to-jowl along the walls? This, to me, is heaven.

This is our front door and dining area. The kitchen lies to the right, and although it was outside the scope of this renovation, we did refloor and repaint in there. I'll be refinishing the cabinets in January whenever I damn well feel like it. So you might see some pictures of it then.
This is the view when you walk in my front door (glider and window are in the master bedroom):
The living room lies to your right, the dining area/kitchen to your left. See the taupe-colored (and my! how beautifully painted!) wall in the foreground? That used to be the back wall of my house. The addition we built includes the hallway, the girls' rooms opening off either side of the hall, and the master bedroom/bathroom at the end.

Tours of the girls' rooms are coming up later this week. A tour of the master bedroom will occur when I finally get all the laundry folded and put away. As in, don't hold your breath. But maybe if the stars align and someone brings me more caramel corn. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The First Snow Day

The first snow day of the year is pure magic. It's a gift of a day, with no demands other than to relax and enjoy (and snowblow the driveway and keep the woodstove stocked, but the under 13-set is consummately unconcerned with such trivia). I knew a storm was moving in Wednesday, but figured at best it would mean an early release day for the girls.

"Or they might just make it a snow day, right Mom?" Bug pestered, despite my telling her repeatedly that "no, they'll probably have you go in for the morning."

At the 6:00 am alarm, I fumbled for the remote and turned on the living room TV, which was still residing in my bedroom pending, you know, a living room. (Since remedied! Stay tuned for finished construction pictures soon! Fine, SOONISH. We all know how I operate).

Both girls wandered down the hall and piled onto our bed as we watched the scrolling school cancellations at the bottom of the screen. And watched. And watched. Aaaaaaand watched.

Twenty minutes later, and I still hadn't seen a single familiar district number. Weird. Until I suddenly realized that I had no idea what district number I was supposed to be looking for, since our state had completely restructured and consolidated the school districts this past summer. I had a vague memory of newspaper articles that I'd skimmed over in July, while looking for the tide charts before going to the beach. I began to wish I'd actually read one.

I scrambled through the slag pile of lunch menus and school memos, hoping something had a district number on it. Finally, in complete frustration, I Googled, "What IN THE HELL district number is Town X, Maine?" And found it. No joke.

"SNOW DAY!" I told the girls. Bear immediately dove back into her bed and slept for three more hours like the teenager she nearly is. Bug ran to the computer to email the news to her Nana in Ohio.

After a late breakfast, we baked Christmas cookies, then wrapped presents, while the cats tiptoed delightedly through piles of tissue paper and ribbon.

Around lunchtime, once the snow was really beginning to pile up outside, we geared up and headed out to sled in the backyard.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Cards

Scene: Yesterday afternoon. I am feverishly writing out Christmas cards, which Bear then slaps a stamp and an address label on. Bug is writing a book report across the table from us.

Bug: Mom, how come people just put the kids' pictures on Christmas cards?

Me (thinking because most moms would require a professional stylist and and the photo stylings of Annie Liebowitz before they could produce a photo of themselves that they would be willing to ship off to all and sundry, but squelching that because I am determined to raise girls who do not have body image issues): Uh...because the kids are who really change from year to year. That's who friends and family want to see!

Bug (looking at me appraisingly): Well, you didn't have highlights last year, and you probably got a whole lot more gray hairs.

Me (apparently unable to completely mask my look of shock)

Bug(soothingly): But they're all covered up by the hair dye, Mom.

Me: Thank you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We Interrupt This Home Renovation to Bring You an Anecdote Which Illustrates What a Moron I Am.

I love me some Facebook. I grew up in a military family, and moving every three years or so did not leave me with a lot of friendships that made it to adulthood. Still, I frequently thought of those childhood friends and wondered what became of them. When I joined Facebook, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of them had been looking for me, too. I had fun plugging in those long-ago friends' names and sending off friend requests. Even more fun was when when friend requests popped into my inbox. I'd click and find myself looking at a name I hadn't thought of in years, but one I'd written on countless notes, waited until Mr. Albrecht's back was turned, and then passed over my shoulder.

Until the day I clicked on the "You Have 1 Friend Request!" message and found myself staring at the name of a dead girl. I froze.

Stacy Carter.* We had lived on the same cul-de-sac in Tucson and gone to the same high school. She was a year ahead of me in school - tall, with curly strawberry blonde hair and a body straight from Playboy. She dated an older boy (in retrospect, most likely a dropout), who would roar up to her house in an old Camaro and sit there revving the engine until she came out the front door and strolled languidly down the front walk. She was light years more sophisticated than me, and I watched her with envy, trying to imitate her sultry walk in my bedroom.

One day as I walked home from tenth grade, she overtook me on the sidewalk and slowed her pace to mine.

"Hey," she said casually, like it was no big deal to walk with me. Like we were already friends.

"Hey," I said, "What's up?"

"Oh, everything pretty much sucks," she said, rolling her eyes, "You know?"

"Yeah," I said, although I didn't, and the only sucky thing I could really come up with was that my mom was making me re-clean my room after school because I hadn't done a good enough job the day before. I doubted that Stacy Carter gave a shit.

"My boyfriend got totally wasted again last night and passed out at this party in South Tucson? And I was stranded there and didn't know anyone, and I can't drive a stick, so I couldn't even take his keys and leave. I was totally late getting home, and my stepdad is PISSED. I'm grounded, like, forever," she frowned, "And I'm flunking Algebra. Again."

Like I said. I had nothin' compared with that. Stacy Carter did not want to hear about my incompetence with a dustrag. We walked the rest of the way home and chatted about mundane topics like school and clothes.

We never became close friends, but she always smiled and said hi when we passed in the halls. Once in a while, we'd wind up walking home together. Once she graduated from high school that May, she lit out with her boyfriend. The next year I heard she was pregnant. The next year, a neighbor had heard that she was working as a stripper and into drugs. A couple of years later, she had another kid and word on the cul-de-sac was that she was trying to clean up her act.

The next time I heard her name was six years later when my mother mentioned in a phone conversation that she had died of ovarian cancer, leaving behind two young children.

When her name showed up in my Facebook inbox, I figured that some sicko was using her name to send out friend requests to the people from my high school. I considered sending the sicko a message, calling him on it, but in the end just clicked "ignore." The less contact with psychopaths, the better. It's a personal motto that's served me well.

Several months later, I finally found a good friend I'd been looking for for years - Kathy Grenier.* We sent many messages back and forth, catching up on all the years since high school. In one of them, I asked her, "Hey, who was the blonde girl that used to eat lunch with us junior year? I cannot come up with her name."

"Stacy Carter," she sent back.


Suddenly it dawned on me. Stacy Carter! The sweet sophomore with long blonde hair and smiley blue eyes who used to sit on the wall with us at lunch! I was her pianist for a vocal audition! She came to my birthday party! Of course!

And my neighbor was ... Stacy ROGERS. Oh, crap.

Have you ever sent a Friend Request along with a personal message that essentially says, "Hi! Sorry I ignored your friend request. I thought you were impersonating a dead girl. My bad."

I have.

*Names changed to protect people who probably don't want to be associated with me, even on the internet.**

**Because of me being a moron and all. ***

***I'm done now.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Warning: Home Renovation May Be Hazardous to Your Reflection

As enamored as I've been of my shiny new master bathroom, with its icy blue walls, light sage-and-blue striped shower curtain, and gorgeous brushed-nickel oval mirror, it's been a long while since I've taken a good hard look at MYSELF in that mirror. Today I did.

Girlfriend's lookin' a little rough around the edges, I must say.

My hair is in desperate need of my stylist/colorist, with a solid inch+ of roots showing and a style that could best be described as "let's get this trainwreck into a ponytail and under a baseball cap ASAP." We won't discuss the fact that the roots are also peppered with gray to an alarming degree. Or the two rogue gray eyebrows I found. WTF? I'm 38.

There was a smudge of green paint ON MY BRA. A bra which surely (yes, yes definitely) has been washed since I painted green in the living room. And even if it hadn't ... how'd I get it on my bra? The mind boggles.

My face looks tired. I am tired. I don't remember being this consistently tired since I had a newborn. The other night after my shower, I was drying off and noticed an enormous smear of paint down my right arm. Like, say, eight inches long by two inches wide. For the life of me, and I stood there awhile and thought hard, but I couldn't remember if I'd washed that arm. And rather than get back in the shower, re-wash, and delay bedtime by another 15 minutes? I got in bed and figured I'll catch that arm tomorrow. Hopefully. That's tired.

I've definitely put on a few pounds during the renovation. Our diet has been erratic at best. Takeout pizza, quickie meals of microwaved hotdogs (eaten standing up, even), cereal, more Diet Coke with Vanilla than you have ever even conceived of, and let's not forget my standby coping device: panic-eating. I get a phone call saying that, oh BTW, the flooring cost about $1600 more than you thought it would, putting you way over your flooring allowance. I dip straight into the Mint Milanos. I may be paying you $1600 more than I planned, overpriced flooring company, but as I chew viciously on this cookie, I am pretending it is your neck. Ha. Who's the loser now?

(I would also like to mention that my gym membership has not done my figure on single whit of good lately. This may or may not be related to the fact that I haven't technically been to the gym in two and a half months. But still. I strongly feel that you should get, like, a 300 calorie per day credit, just for having the gym membership. Because it shows that you have the intention to be healthy, even if you're not really strong on the follow-through).

I guess we all know what my New Year's resolution is going to be, right? In the meantime, I've booked an appointment with my hair stylist for next Friday. And I'm absolutely having her dye my eyebrows, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Disney Brings Out The Crazy In My Family

When you take my family, which has a sharp appreciation for all things funny, and plunk them in the middle of a theme park whose very atmosphere encourages silliness.... you end up with your camera's memory card stuffed full of images like these:

Uncle Awesome and his patented expression of Wacky Disney Fun:
Cap'n Tom of Starship Command (with Lieutenant Squeakypants):
Bear (in the background) shows how she feels about being ignored by her favorite Disney character:
And just for variety, my father and I, we scoff at the whimsy:
Do not, I repeat, do not take my husband to Extra Magic Hours when you can stay in The Magic Kingdom until 1:00 am. He is not to be trusted and is likely to frighten small children.
Who needs all the stereotypical smiley vacation pictures? For this picture of Bug and Tom (who do not tend to be morning people), taken before breakfast on one of our last mornings, I simply said, "Show me how you really feel this morning."
But not all was silliness and fun. There were some deadly serious issues to be dealt with. Namely, my hair. Despite a gently worded reminder to the state of Florida, the humidity was NOT under control during our visit, and I got to walk around looking like a 1987 Jheri Curl commercial. This photo was taken in the morning. Overall volume inflated by about 180% by dinnertime. Except for the day I got doused with water on Splash Mountain, and my hair had to air-dry as I strolled through the park. That day was more of a 1500% volume increase day.
Next time, I will skip packing the hair products and flat iron and take an assortment of hats.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Please Explain This To Me.

When you send a kid (Bear) to school on the day of the school's H1N1 vaccine clinic, and they refuse to give her the vaccine because they say she has a temperature over 100 degrees (which they take three times to verify)...

Would you not expect them to send that kid home from school? Or at least call me to let me know?

Nope. I found out when I picked her up after school.

I'm baffled.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traditional Thanksgiving Notsomuch

Two days before Thanksgiving...
Bear, who has complained of a headache on and off throughout the afternoon (which I initially chalk up to a lame ploy to convince me she should lay around and watch unlimited TV), suddenly announces, "I feel AWFUL." A sharp glance at her shows me that she is unnaturally pale and listless-looking. A hand to her forehead confirms. Fever. Super.

The day before Thanksgiving...
Our hardwood floor is being installed, to an accompanying soundtrack of nail guns and a massive air compressor machine thing-y. On a scale of "loud", I rank it somewhere between being inside one of those compactors that squeeze old cars into tidy little squares of metal and a sonic boom, except nonstop all-day. The kids have the TV volume in my room turned up to 40 in order to hear it. It is exactly as nerve-wracking as it sounds. My cats are both having a psychotic break under my bed. I'm pretty sure they'll both have some level of PTSD by the time this home renovation s over.

Bear is full-on sick, with a chesty cough, sore throat, and low-grade but persistent fever. Bug mentions a "scratchy throat." I call the friend whose house we always go to for Thanksgiving dinner. Shouting over the nail gun's KA-POW, I tell her we're a no-go this year due the kids impersonating crop-dusters, except with viruses instead of pesticides. She understands and sounds fairly grateful that I'm not exposing her kids to whatever mine have.

I hang up and realize that I have nothing in my pantry that resembles Thanksgiving dinner. I flirt with the idea of a Chinese food Thanksgiving. Are Chinese restaurants even open on Thanksgiving? Mild panic.

The guys who are installing our hardwood floor are certainly handy with a nail gun and seem nice enough, with a level of charm you might characterize as being somewhat "rough around the edges." They are, however, most certainly not the kind of strange guys with whom I would leave my sick daughters while I go to the grocery store. (And, no, there actually aren't ANY strange guys with whom I would leave my sick daughters. Or healthy daughters, for that matter).

I call Tom and persuade him to come home for lunch, while I hit the grocery store.

I pull into a packed-full grocery store lot and realize that I have just become one of the people I enjoy mocking every year: the moron who buys their Thanksgiving dinner groceries the day before Thanksgiving. Freaking karma.

Before I go to bed, I manage to paint the stairwell in preparation for tomorrow's stairway carpet installation, make homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, and a big bowl of chocolate mousse for my non-pumpkin-pie-eating crew. I go to bed feeling like I'm ahead of the game.

Thanksgiving Day...
I awaken to Bug coughing like a seal with tuberculosis. Fabulous.

After breakfast, I install both kids in my bed watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the basement, I put the final coat of polyurethane on our dining room table, which I've been refinishing. In between checking on the kids and forcing them to sip liquids, I begin sanding and priming the dining room chairs. (Because the table looked so good refinished, I decided it would make the chairs look like crap. And I certainly don't need chairs with an inferiority complex).

At 2:30, I put the chickens in to roast. Did I mention that my non-pumpkin-pie-eating family also hates turkey? Because God forbid we be normal about anything.

I return to the basement and put a coat of paint on the chairs. I silently curse the person who invented spindle-backed chairs.

At 4:30, I pull the chickens out and make the side dishes. We eat:

Roast Chicken
Roasted, Spiced New and Sweet Potatoes
Whiskey-Glazed Carrots
Homemade Cranberry-Orange Compote
Jellied Cranberry Crap from a Can for the Picky People
Mousse au Chocolat, with whipped cream

Twenty minutes after dinner, I return to the basement and put the final coat of paint on the dining room chairs while the kids watch "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in my room.

Around 9:30, exhausted and liberally covered in paint, but feeling not unlike a rock star, I hobble into my bedroom to take a shower.

"Hey, Mom!" Bug greets me brightly albeit croakily, nestled snugly under my quilt with her head on my pillow, "Are we putting up the Christmas tree tonight...?"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Disney: The Magical Highlights

Our family Christmas gift from my parents this year was a trip to DisneyWorld.

The girls were super-psyched. Not only did they get a week at Disney, with their grandparents (who joined us there), but they got to escape the omnipresent construction mayhem at our house. For an added dramatic fillip, it snowed four inches the day before we left. They gleefully packed their flip-flops and sunscreen.

We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort, where each building was themed for a different style of music. Ours was Calypso, providing my father with the ideal opportunity to sing every calypso song he could think of. Let's just say that he knows a surprising number of them.

We arrived at our restaurant for dinner the first night and found Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fabulous casually waiting outside. Wrapped up as we've been in The Construction Project That Ate Our Lives, we had no idea they'd been vacationing in Florida the previous week. My parents secretly arranged for them to spend the first days of our vacation with us. We were thrilled to see them. (This is further proof that I'm the most oblivious person ever. Apparently my mother had nearly let the secret slip several times. I had no clue).
Bear and Bug dragged Nana and Papa along on all of their favorite rides. Papa kicked major intergalactic butt on the Buzz Lightyear ride. And let the record show that he was a very good sport about riding Bug's all-time favorite ride, It's a Small World. That ride with its dolls of all nations and endlessly repeating song has never bothered me until this visit when our boat got stuck in the last room of the ride for a good ten or twelve minutes. At which point I really, really needed someone to make the infernal singing STOP.

Bug prided herself on being quite the driver on the Tomorrowland Speedway and was especially difficult to live with when one of the ride operators handed her a Speedway Driver's License. She seemed to feel that this was some sort of special recognition for her driving skills.
I chose not to mention the fact that they seemed to be giving them out to all the kids.

See this? This is the face of a child who momentsbefore sweetly cajoled me into riding The Teacups with her by saying, "I just want to ride with you, Mom. I don't want to spin them at all." ...then proceeded to maniacally spin me into a nauseous, dizzy grave. If I'd been able to tell which of the three Bears I was seeing was the real one, I probably would have throttled her.
Our very last night, we went to Hollywood Studios and saw The Osborne (no, not Ozzy) Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The millions of sparkling lights were originally displayed in this family's Little Rock, AK yard (and can you imagine being their neighbor?). It was much more impressive in person, as the lights were all coordinated to blink and twinkle in time with Christmas carols.

And yet, for my kids, one of the most magical experiences of all ... drumroll, please ...

SWIMMING AT NIGHT! Nothing says "Florida vacation" to them like being able to slip into their bathing suits after a day at the park and hit the pool. Add to that the fact that the resort had an enormous inflatable movie screen set up poolside playing one of their favorite movies and mugs of hot chocolate sat beside their towels on a deck chair. It doesn't get much better than that. For the record, while they swam I sat on a deck chair wearing jeans and a fleece, drinking hot chocolate and thanking God that they're old enough to swim without me being in the pool with them.

Thank you, Nana and Papa! We had a wonderful week and left with fantastic memories of time together. We returned to The Rubble Zone refreshed and ready to dig in for the last few weeks of construction.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Move! That! Bus!

It snowed today. Huge, wet flakes that whirled stubbornly down until the still-green grass finally relented and accepted a light covering of white. The sky was gray, the trees barren, and the air raw.

I hummed "In the Good Ol' Summertime" as I ironed my shorts, pulled out my flip-flops, painted my toenails, and carefully selected my most flattering (OK, fine, least non-flattering) swimsuit.

Why? Because tomorrow, we are heading here:
(Pictured: random, non-us people who had the bad luck
to be walking in front of the castle
and who now get to be on my blog.
Sorry, random people! I'm sure you're very nice).

And to answer your next question...NO, the construction project is not done. Not. Even. Close.

Status report: Living room has bare drywalled walls and ceilings, no trim, and no flooring. There is a gaping hole where the fireplace will go. A boarded-up section of kitchen where once there were stairs. Sad, shredded bathroom walls that once were covered neatly (though unattractively) in tile.

I have suggested (gently, but with undertones of true pleading) to my contractor that it would be great, really really awesome even, if we were to come home and find the project completely finished à la Extreme Home Makeover. Even the parts I said I would do, like the painting. Bus rental and dramatic presentation optional. He just laughed nervously and broke eye contact, so I won't be exactly counting on it ... just hoping.

Lest you think us even more moronic than we are, I feel the need to explain that the Disney trip was planned, booked, and paid for long before the home renovation. And even once the home renovation was conceived, the project was going to be done by the end of the summer. Well, September. Okay, beginning of November. Well, certainly by Thanksgiving. And all along, I've smiled serenely and told friends that I didn't really care how long the renovations took, as long as we were finished by the first snowfall. So, uh, today pretty much shot that all to hell. The bottom line being that we could all use a break around here.

My parents are flying Bear, Bug, Tom, and I down to DisneyWorld (and meeting us there!) as our Christmas gift this year. Having just carried many thousands of armloads of STUFF from the kids' old bedrooms to their new ones, I am personally thrilled that this Christmas gift is taking the form of a trip and not of more STUFF. Also? As exhausting as this construction project has been, my version of heaven has been modified to something like sitting on a bench near a palm tree while bathed in warm sunshine. I think I can make that happen. I might even be able to eat something yummy on a stick at the same time if I'm feeling ambitious.

I'll be seeing you in a little over a week. I plan to be relaxed and slightly tan in a nice, glowy kind of way.


PS - Dear DisneyWorld, Do you think we could skip the horrendous food poisoning this time? I'd be truly grateful, and trust me, so will the resort's housekeeping staff.

PPS - Dear Florida, Please get a handle on the humidity levels before Saturday. I'd like to have one set of Disney vacation photos in which I do not appear to have attached shrubbery to my head.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


(Please insert the sound of a seatbelt buckling. Thank you).

It's not that I don't want her to grow up. Let me just put that out there.

It drives me nuts when I hear other moms whine, "I just want him to be my baby forever." or "Why can't she just stay little and cute?" Because life doesn't work that way. My ultimate goal as a parent is to raise my child to be a completely independent, self-sufficient, contributing member of society. I am proud to watch my kids learn independence. I don't equate my own self-worth with how much I do for my kids, but rather in how much I am able to help them learn to do for themselves.

But the other night, as I watched Bear dress for her school dance, something was bothering me. I couldn't nail it down. Was I turning into one of those pathetic keep-her-my-baby-forever moms? I mean, Karma's a bitch and all. It would be just like Her to have me turn into one of these women I've devoted years of sarcasm to making fun of. (Yes, it's a dangling preposition. Deal with it. I'm ranting here).
It's really not even that I'm not looking forward to parenting a teenager. I used to teach high school. I like teenagers. I like watching them figure out who they are and helping them to work through those tough choices that ultimately lead to them developing their own beliefs and sense of self.
And it's certainly not about me feeling old. I'm more comfortable with who I am at thirty-eight than I ever was in my twenties or, God forbid, teens.
No, what it is, when I delve way down to the root of the matter, is that while I expected her to grow up, I was in no way prepared to have her start looking like a teenager. Holy smokes. I am equal parts proud and slightly nauseous when I look at my lovely, graceful girl.
Does that make sense?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween was a bit of an afterthought around here this year. We have been slightly preoccupied with trifles like obtaining, oh, plumbing and walls. Which is why two weeks ago, it suddenly dawned on me that we should probably figure out costumes. Also why Tom and I were desperately rummaging through boxes labelled "Halloween" for the kids' trick-or-treat bags exactly one hour before we were scheduled to walk out the door.

We managed to pull it together sufficiently to head out into the wild, windy Halloween twilight accompanied by a ghost and a "tavern wench" (according to the tag on her straight-from-Target costume).
Once I pushed aside all of the seriously iffy, slit-to-the-thigh witch, nurse, and French maid costumes, Bug had four costumes to choose from. One was a gorilla suit. I'm pretty sure she chose this one for the nifty lace-up bodice. I was equally sure that she had no idea what a "tavern wench" was. Nor did I know how to explain it to her. ("Uh, like a Hooter's girl, only four hundred years ago," I pictured myself saying to her). Luckily, she didn't ask.
I was disconcerted that when I asked her to give me a pose "in character", she cocked a shoulder at me and smoldered alarmingly at the camera. I made a mental note to send her to a convent as soon as she hits puberty.

(Disclaimer: that is is glitter hairspray and not dandruff. She wanted you to know).
For Bear's character shot, she gave me her boilerplate gaze of Adolescent Pathos.
I told her that if I post one more of those on this blog, someone is going to assume we're beating her and report us to Child Services, who will come and take her away to a group home WHERE SHE WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAVE A CELL PHONE OR NAIL POLISH.

So she agreeably gave me this:
Happy Halloween, all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Beirut in the 80's? Or my living room yesterday?
Another view, equally war-torn:
This week is the worst of the worst, as far as construction chaos goes. Tom has had a hard time getting past the rubble, the omnipresent dust, and the mounting expense. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel - whee! In contrast, when we were dealing with on-again/off-again plumbling, it was me that was Freaking. The Hell. Out. Tom was all, pee in a bucket? Sure. Whereas I was scrabbling through the yellow pages frantically booking a hotel room and hollering for the girls to pack their overnight bags.

The secret to a good marriage is that both spouses are not allowed to lose it at the same time. I believe the Great Electrical Fire Panic of 1998 illustrated that neatly.

(Sidenote: If you call 911 because you smell something weird and burny in your townhouse, and ask the dispatcher if he could just please send one guy out to check the wiring because it's probably no big deal? They will send a minimum of three enormous fire trucks and an ambulance. And when it turns out that your electrical fire was a skunk that sprayed right on your front porch rendering a smell so evil and potent that it was unrecognizable as skunk? They will all laugh their asses off at you).

In other news, the cats are enormous fans of our new "wall-less" concept. Mittens, in a move straight from Ringling Brothers, enjoys jumping straight through the wall, down into the basement, completely foregoing the stairs. They remain unimpressed, however, by the many workmen in stompy boots swarming through the house and interrupting their naps.
Today the drywallers are scheduled to come. I'm heading to Starbuck's and a friend's house for the morning. When I get back, I will have WALLS.

Friday, October 23, 2009

If You Give a Kid a Sledgehammer... will make her very, very, VERY happy. Especially if, after you have handed her the sledgehammer, you point her toward her old bedroom wall and tell her to "have at it." Bug delightedly complied.She lined up her first shot quite carefully, did an experimental tap-tap on the sheetrock with her hammer, then turned to me to say, "Whatever you do, don't show these pictures to Grandpa. He would FREAK OUT." Then she took a mighty swing and buried the head of the hammer in the wall with a resounding ker-CHUNK.

(Hi, Grandpa! Look! She's wearing safety glasses and leather gloves! It's all cool).
She was slightly proud.
After her first success, she caught on quickly and happily moved from room to room leaving sanctioned destruction in her wake.
Within thirty minutes, her old room looked like this as Tom reached into the holes made by Bug and pulled down the old wallboard:
By the end of the day, he had finished with walls and was pulling up the flooring. Light switches dangled whimsically from the ceiling by their cords. The newly exposed subfloor showed evidence of old water damage not disclosed to us by the previous owners.

Supposedly this whole space is going to be a beautiful living room with bamboo flooring in one month's time. At this point, I'm taking the contractor's word for it and trying not to hyperventilate.
Later in the day, I walked into the house to discover that Tom's parenting philosophy apparently involves allowing the preteen to use power tools. (extreme ennui courtesy of preteen spotting me with a camera). It was one of those mothering moments where you just keep on walking and think determinedly about fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers and not at all about severed fingers or trips to the emergency room.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


We've shifted our belongings from the main house out into the addition. ALL of them. Meaning that, in addition to the pieces that belong in each bedroom, (like beds) you also have the odd coffee table, bench, wing-back chair, and sofa crammed in. It's very Early Flea Market.

Here's a peek at some of the painting I've done over the past month. The kids each got to choose the design scheme for their new rooms. I retained full veto power just in case someone voiced a desire for all black walls or a reproduction of Guernica painted in their room.

This is Bear's room. Since she got all new bedding and curtains for her birthday in February, she was pretty much stuck with the same color scheme of teal and brown. Luckily, she still loves it. She mixed it up a little by having me paint polka dots on the one brown wall. They came out cute, but dear GOD is it hard to get the edges just so on all of those little dots. I took an entire day just to perfect them, and I'd like that mentioned in my obituary some day.
Bug wanted something "bright and sunshiney" and "like a summer meadow". She found a picture in one of the many painting propaganda handouts at Lowe's and asked me to reproduce it. One wall of her room is yellow, three are pink, all with wacky Spongebob-esque flowers. It's whimsical and energetic, much like Bug. She adores it.
For the master bedroom, I wanted something serene and peaceful. I used a soft sage-y green with white trim, and dark wood blinds and ceiling fan. The adjoining master bath is a pale glacier blue. The carpet is NOT pink in the bedrooms, but a soothing light taupe. I don't know why it photographed that way.
For that matter, I don't know why I photographed this way either, but here I am in all my paint-splattered, non-lipsticked, slightly-manic-from-paint-fumes glory.
My part is done for now. Tom is busy demolishing walls and ceilings in the old house. Once Mr. Awesome Contractor does his magic in there, I'll have more painting to do. That's still a month away, and in the meantime I get to enjoy my new bedroom and catch up on the past month's worth of DVR'd shows. While wearing lipstick and real clothes. It's like heaven.