Wednesday, November 02, 2011

the future is now

Remember when George Jetson's boss used to call him up on the videophone to yell at him? I always cringed at the idea of answering the phone in person (8 am, greasy hair and face, Almond Joy in hand, embarrassing 80s music playing in the background). Speaking by phone hides a multitude of sins, not to mention eye rolls and blah-blah-blah motions made with one's hand. 

And although we are still largely a traditional family when it comes to phone calls, one of us (Flash, age 11) is tiptoeing into the Facetime Era. It's a really great way for him to keep in touch with old friends in our last two states of residence. 

I have no problem with Facetime on principle--when I know it's happening. Lately I have found myself mid-lecture only to notice the face of Justin or Tyler or Jaden or whomever on the side of the desk, patiently waiting for the crazy woman to wrap it up. While I'm generally annoyed in that moment (and possibly embarrassed: see greasy face/Almond Joy above), I have to admit Facetime is making me a better parent. It's as if a sort of non-creepy Big Brother camera could be recording me at any moment. I find myself thinking--breathing--for a minute before I talk to my kids. It's a good habit, I think. Now where's my dinner-making machine?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

decoupage is dangerous

I've had this sort of awful wooden vase-thing for years.  At one point it occupied a place among other botanical items and blended in pretty well.  Three houses later, it doesn't really "go" with anything in the living room (or any other rooms for that matter).  It is sturdy and was only three bucks on clearance at Marshall's and what's more I've moved it three times in as many years.  I'm not getting rid of it.  Therefore it must be decoupaged.

I found some handmade paper at Cost Plus that very closely matches the new scheme in my living room (namely, using color instead of black, tan, and white).  Picked up a jar of Mod Podge and...

Magical, isn't it? I had to trace each side of the vase separately as they don't really square up and there was a good bit of smoothing with a credit card but I'm happy with the result.

The only problem is that decoupage is so very easy and cheap.  I now see any blank surface as deficient in some way.  That lamp! Wouldn't it be so much more adorable with a paisley base? That dresser!  I'm thinking polka-dots.  That picture frame!  Super Q's forearm!  The dashboard of the car!  Most of Nebraska! The possibilities are endless.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

you wanna ride bikes?

One great thing about living in Arizona is the near constant possibility of a bike ride.  Sometimes it may be a very short ride requiring a gallon of water and several forms of sun protection but you can truly get out there and pedal almost any old time.  Today the kids and I had oh, about 8 hours to ourselves while dh worked (on a Saturday...ugh) and went to a church meeting.  The boys quickly exhausted their screen time at which point we were faced with 6 hours to fill.  Washed the car. Made pizzas. Regaled Mom with hilarious songs about Boots the Monkey getting attacked by aliens (sigh). My mood was deteriorating; half-heartedly I floated the idea of a bike ride.  The boys agreed and we were off to the bike path.  We rode farther than we ever had before and at the end we found a sweet little park with GRASS (a rarity here) and a sort of retaining pond with WATER in it (again, a rarity) surrounded by rocks just begging to be thrown in that water.

A few weeks ago Super Q and I took our bikes to the drugstore (night-time candy run).  He was very earnest and serious about bicycle safety.  Riding ahead of me, helmet slightly crooked, he indicated right turns, stops, and some crazy made-up signal for "straight ahead."  As we left the busy street and entered our neighborhood, he yelled back to me, "In the neighborhood you don't have to walk your bike across the streets! Also there's no traffic lights!"  You can learn a lot about bicycle safety from a 9 year old.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

the neighbors

Can I just take a moment and be petty? Thanks.

Our neighbors.  They didn't make a great first impression.  The first day we were here I noticed that everyone in their house from the 13 year old on up is a chain smoker.  (The 6 and 4 year olds may as well be with all those smokers around.)

The man of the house introduced himself as "John Doe, nice to meet you.  Just moving the wife out myself today, to an apartment. So are you on your own here as well?" Er, no... husband's around here somewhere, thank goodness.

The smoking doesn't affect me much (except when it wafts over to my clothesline, leaving everything with a fresh spring Marlboro scent):  it's the TAWLKING!  At all hours!  Out on the back patio, which is approximately 3 feet away from our house (gotta love the suburbs). 6:00 am?  Yes, they're back there enjoying the morning air (the husband and the wife both--maybe the apartment thing didn't work out after all). 11:30 pm?  Well, perfect time to toss back some beers and laugh LOUDLY and not put the children to bed.
We are blessed to hear every detail of their conversations--I now know exactly which middle manager at John's workplace is a ****head, information which is delivered in the worst nasal intonation possible.
 The beautiful part of it is that their dogs have no bedtime and no time inside the house.  They are free to bark 24/7.

Now I've been petty on the internet.  I'll have to post a lovely craft next time to make up for it.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Arizona primer

We're heeeeere! In Arizona!

... we've actually been here for 7 weeks, so maybe it's too late for exclamation points and everything.

So an incomplete primer for you on living in the desert.  Bulleted for your enjoyment.

  • It is actually sunny 99% of the time. FOR REAL.  (Here I add the disclaimer and acknowledgement that, yes, I grew up here.  But haven't lived here for any real length of time since 1990.  So it's all so fresh and new!)  No gray skies yet!  I wake up every morning to a clear, crazy-blue sky.  It's so bright!  I greet the morning with optimism and verve!  And by 1:00 pm I'm a little sick of the sun.  It's 106* outside, the kids are on hour 2 of xbox, surrounded by the detritus of several trips to the kitchen --Otter Pop wrappers, spoons with traces of Nutella on them, abandoned bowls of Cool Whip (!)--and I'm googling "free indoor playgrounds NOT chuck e. cheese's."
  • Everyone's thirsty all the time.  I have never, NEVER, seen so many Circle K stores in my life.  Every .5 miles, no joke.  Not to mention the occasional QT store, which has Sonic-style ice AND fantastic chocolate flavoring to add to your Coke Zero.  They also sell hot mac n' cheese for the kiddies.  It's like a crack house.  dh once went back for FOUR refills in one day.  (We are aware that the man needs help.)  At first I wondered, "Why all the convenience stores?"  Why not just keep water in your car?"  The answer to that is that the water in your car is also 106*. 
  • We are thirsty and occasionally bored but trying so very hard to get along so we can do things like go see "Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" with contraband Walgreen's candy from Mom's purse.  Sometimes we need a reminder:

  • When "Kitty Galore" is over and chores are done and xbox time exhausted and I'm saving the pool for very last I might attempt something crazy like try to teach the boys some Chinese.  We don't have a whiteboard...

  • We also don't have any grass at all.  We miss our giant deck and grass in Michigan, not to mention a high of 85*.  Not to mention tons of friends and cousins.  
  • We do have lots of family not too far away (hallelujah!).  We got to see them all a few weeks ago and it was glorious! 
I think I've sort of abandoned the primer idea so no need for bullets.  There's just one more thing.  A lovely, wonderful book to recommend.  Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I've read (and adored) her other books and this one is beautifully written like the others, full of detail and real emotion.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the vandal

In the past few weeks of endless, laborious, detailed cleaning (house is now on the market!) I have discovered that the 8 year old is way into graffiti.  He has always commented on it and admired it as we drive along the freeway in Detroit; apparently he has been practicing it at home.  I found it on the underside of the top bunk (written for his brother to see):  "I smell like poo."  "I wear titey witeys."  Some sort of unidentifiable words are written in silver Sharpie on the outside of the house.  More silver Sharpie all over his skateboard:  "Goofy" (his preferred method of riding the skateboard), "Caroline" (the much older girl he has a crush on), and "Wow" (his sarcastic response to just about everything.)  Found some drawings on the ceiling of the car (not sure if those will ever come out), under the kitchen table, and on cereal boxes.  I actually caught him with a can of spray paint in the garage the other day... he was going to paint a piece of cardboard leaning right next to the car.  Hoping he ends up like Banksy and not in juvi.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

my heart is full

"My heart is full today."  People are always saying that when my church congregation meets.  And today it's true for me. My heart is absolutely bursting with a tangly nest of emotions. So proud of my children, yet annoyed that they aren't a little more sensitive to all of this ridiculous cleaning I'm doing now that the house is on the market.  So sad to be leaving Primary (our children's ministry) but also a little relieved at lessened church responsibility.  Sad to leave our extended family here but glad to see more of the other extended family members in Arizona.  Already missing the glory that is Michigan in the summertime, but a little annoyed at still needing to use the heater in May.  

And on this day, Mother's Day, my heart is full of conflicting feelings about this work I do.  Sometimes I think if things were just cuter around here--like Nie Nie's house, with super chic lamps and pillows--there would be a happier vibe.  Sometimes I think I need to loosen up a LOT and let things get dirty and chaotic more often.  There are days when I love mothering and I feel like we're really a happy family.  More often I really worry that I'm messing up my kids and modeling undesirable habits and behavior (Diet Coke on the breakfast table, anyone?)  I take comfort in the fact that each day I can tweak my mothering and hopefully improve.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

breaking down

So we had an incredibly fabulous spring break in AZ.  Checked out our new town, swam in some pretty cold water, ate out more than we have for months, soaked up the sun and extended family love.

Returned to a very long to-do list, including some tasks that require some skills I do not yet possess (reinstall an earlier version of Windows, drill a 3/4" hole through metal, stand on a ladder on STAIRS to paint a super-tall wall, determine the cause of an unnerving clanking sound in garage door).  The to-do list keeps growing because everything keeps breaking around here (sliding glass door, computer, hot water heater, car, aforementioned garage door).  Actually some of these things have been broken for awhile but we've ignored them because our house was not about to (deep breath) be put on the market in MICHIGAN.

Meanwhile the 8 year old is seriously missing his dad.  Spontaneously sobbing.  Doesn't want to go to school.  Doesn't want to eat sometimes.

Meanwhile the 11 year old is turning into a 13 year old (!).  Extremely fond of talking back VERY LOUDLY.

Meanwhile I'm trying to hold it together. Mostly succeeding (with one now-famous slip in which I uttered the s-word (shut up)).  Looking forward to normal life again.

Monday, February 28, 2011

pinch me

I. Am. Moving. To. Arizona. 
And I can't believe it.  2 months ago I had visions--nightmares--of months of unemployment, desperation for any sort of job and ending up in North Dakota.  Instead dh ended up with 4 offers (the result of lots of late nights spent tweaking resumes and cover letters).  One of them was here in Michigan.  I assumed we would take that one and forget about moving across the country again.  After lots of prayer we came to the decision to leave our home here and accept a job in Tucson.  Although I really struggle with winter weather and some other aspects of life in Michigan, this decision was extremely difficult for me.  I worry about the impact of another change of schools and friends on my boys.  I hate leaving the supportive net of uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents (dh's family).  At the same time I so look forward to seeing my parents and siblings more often.  I feel that this is the right path for us to take.  And if that path is lit by 276 days of sun per year and has the occasional taqueria alongside, so much the better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

cool things to distract me from Major Life Changes on the Horizon

I'm not as oddly peaceful today as I have been of late.  The reality of moving again is seeping in at the seams a bit. The thought of the many, many details and days of hard work and time apart from my dh can be downright paralyzing.   Add to that a tremendously huge decision we have to make about where to move (we are extremely fortunate to have two offers).  Sometimes a girl just needs to give her brain a break and fill it with items more interesting and/or relaxing than moving quotes and carpet remnant stores:

I love love love this new album by my all-time favorite band, The Innocence Mission.  You can listen a little at that link.  It's exquisite, uplifting, and comforting.

If I were as talented as Amy Karol I would make my own plaid coat like she did.  I can't imagine making a coat!  At this point I can't imagine making anything as the tension on my machine has gone haywire, but still.

I have spent a fair amount of time dealing with snow this week.  Snow on the order of 10" or so.  How long does it take to shovel a driveway full of snow, you ask? (2 hours, not counting the time spent digging two different teenager's cars out of the huge pile of slush left by the snowplow on our corner.   My hands were freezing and the task seemed insurmountable but the shoveling itself--the repetition, the unbroken sea of white--was sort of relaxing, much like tending a Zen garden probably is.  The absence of demanding children may have helped there.

Seth Stevenson's take on Disneyworld is very very funny.

... and that's about it.


Sunday, February 20, 2011


Below is a by-no-means comprehensive list of overrated things.  Feel free to add your own.

* snow.  I mean, it's beautiful when it falls on cedars and everything but when you have had 3 days of upper 40s and your driveway totally melted, 3" of snow in 2 hours is just... discouraging.

* change.  Have I mentioned that I'm ready for some kind of stability here?  Things have been unsettled for so long that the kids don't even want to whine about it anymore.  They routinely stonewall our attempts to talk about moving.  Smart kids.

*  facebook.  I'm not sure what I think I'm going to see but these days it's mostly an update on everyone's sicknesses/their kids' sicknesses.  I include myself in this trend.  It would help if facebook had a separate posting area for sick updates, kind of like the separate waiting area at the pediatrician's office.  Boring posts about coughing/vomiting go here.  Funny stuff goes here.  Uninformed political rants, here.  Anything about American Idol can go here where it can be blocked with one simple click.
*diet coke with lime.  Does not compare to Diet Coke with an actual lime wedge.  I'm snowbound, though, so I'm officially a beggar and not a chooser.

*sunday dinner.  My husband's grandmother introduced me to their tradition of popcorn, cheese chunks, fruit and juice for Sunday dinner.  Although I do enjoy large chunks of meat/bowls of pasta from time to time, it's nice to be verrrrrrry laaaaaazy sometimes.  When I feel ambitious I might make some spinach dip or something.

* kale chips.  I know the blog has been freakishly kale-centric of late (my sil keeps me well-stocked).  Kale chips are the kind of thing that health articles tell you to eat instead of Doritos.  ("Craving something crunchy?  Try this easy recipe! ") Health writers of the world, kale chips are not Doritos, no matter how much ranch dressing mix you dump on top.

Monday, February 14, 2011

oddly peaceful

Sometimes a horrible sinus infection can really put things in perspective.  We're headed for another major change in employment and likely another move.  Just as I was getting very agitated at the prospect, I was hit hard by 5 days of mucosal nastiness and the requisite attendant vomiting (was that too graphic? sorry!).  I emerged with an improved attitude. I mean, worrying about unemployment and moving is nothing compared to worrying about unemployment and moving while hanging one's head over the toilet at 3:00 am.  Right?

The last time we did this (a mere 2 years ago) I was not taking it well.  Couldn't sleep or eat much, crying at unexpected times, migraines, eye twitches; the works.  This time I have promised myself to Keep It Together.  I came across a quote that runs through my mind all day:

The boat in the harbor is safe; but that is not the purpose of the boat.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

kale love affair

So my sister introduced me to an actual winter vegetable--kale--that I have enjoyed in salad, a breakfast skillet with potatoes and bacon, and, now... a smoothie!  The 8 year old found the recipe in Real Simple (because he reads stuff like that).  We tweaked it a bit and it turned out really well.  Probably more vitamins than the gummy-vites I just bought (taste just like gummy bears... poison control, here we come).

kale-apple smoothie

3/4 cup chopped kale, ribs and thick stems removed
1/2 banana
1/2 granny smith apple, washed and cubed
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup lemonade


Saturday, January 29, 2011

the worst librarian in the world

So it has been months--months!--since I've been to the library to troll for new reading material.  I owe them $35.00 and, partly out of laziness and partly out of a desire to spend that money on nice groceries (hummus, havarti, avocados) I have not stopped by to pay the fine.  They sent out a sort of half-hearted "hey, you owe us money, chump" email a few months ago and then gave up.  (I should mention here that our library is slated to close in July. Yes, I am a horrible person for witholding my $35.00.  And, yes, I used to be a public librarian myself.  Prepare a noose.)

Anyway, moving beyond my irresponsibility and on to the delirium tremors.  My frequent-flier mile funded magazine subscriptions are up for renewal.  I'm not sure if I can renew them with miles (haven't bothered to find out--see above-referenced laziness).  Although not always applicable to my current situation (Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler, anyone?), I did enjoy the occasional pointless peek into the lives of the tanned and well-traveled.

At any rate, I am fresh out of things to read.  Just finished both John Grisham novels poached from my mom.  (John Grisham!  Anyone who knows me will see this as a clear cry for help).  Have read and re-read all of the books on my shelf except for some boring stuff from a Western Civilization class and The Year of Magical Thinking, which I consider a beach book because reading it in any other context makes one want to curl up and sob.

Now that I am employed, sort of, I think I'm ready to swallow my pride and pay up.  So what should I read?  I have a tiny list going:

*  At Home, by Bill Bryson
* The Mind's Eye, by Oliver Sacks
* Faithful Place, by Tana French

Any other suggestions? Preferably something great but not terribly new so I don't have to wait for my turn in the dreaded hold-shelf line.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

things I am sick of, in no particular order

* cold extremities
* generic Diet Coke
* getting punched by two year olds, even if they are cute two year olds
*worrying about money
*corollary to the above:  worrying about dh finding a new job
* people who tailgate on icy roads
*hearing about people with the name "Kardashian" (who are these people? why are they famous?)
*the same authors being interviewed on npr, just on different shows