Thursday, March 29, 2012

725. Who Cares About The Movie, Did You See The Couch?

I am not fun to go to the movies with.  It’s not that I am the type of person who spoils the ending, laughs too loud, or talks to the screen saying, “Nooooooo, don’t go in there because you’re going to get killed!”  I am sure that The Husband or any of my beleaguered movie-going companions would much prefer if I were that type of movie destroyer.  No, the real reason that I can’t convince anyone to go to the movies with me now is:  I am obsessed with set design.

Remember the plot of the cute little rom-com with Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Keanu Reeves?  No?  Me, neither.  But I can tell you all about that glorious kitchen in Diane’s Hampton’s beach house.  Antique white cabinets, soapstone counters, hardwood floors, Viking stove, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and an island that might qualify as a its own continent.  We ordered this movie on Netflix and never got through the first half hour, what with me freezing it, running to the screen then saying to The Husband, “Do you think they got their drawer pulls at Restoration Hardware?  Do you like that pendant light?  Should we get one over our sink, too?” 
Don’t get me started on “The Devil Wears Prada.”  No one really cares about Anne Hathaway’s character’s dumpy apartment, but her boss's multi-million dollar brownstone and classy art collection was swoon-worthy.  I saw the movie when it was released in theaters, then bought it the second it came out on DVD so I could fast-forward to the spot where Anne is sneaking up the stairs at her boss's house and there is a phenomenal painting of a New York City street scene, complete with taxis and blurry lights.  I covet this painting and I have grand schemes of taking an art class and copying it. 

Who has time for that though when you could watch “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”?  Another movie set in New York, another stunning art collection.  Whole chunks of dialogue go undigested in my brain due to me focusing solely on Jim Carey’s oversized oil paintings that any Art History student would tell you are by Wayne Thiebaud (he of “Cakes” fame).  I kept tugging on The Husband’s jacket sleeve, “Sweetie, do you think that is the original painting?  Or just a copy?” 
Or how about “Match Point”s enviable London loft where Jonathan Rhys Meyers lived with his new wife before he started cheating on her with Scarlett Johansson?  It featured a wall of glass and a view of the Thames River that was to die for.  The wife’s character came from a wealthy family, so that explained the high-end art collection and pricey furniture even though the characters were so young.  Being involved in an intriguing love triangle that ends in murder was never so stylish.   

Sure, Pierce Brosnan is hot in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” but you know what’s hotter?  That unbelievably gorgeous retreat Rene Russo stayed at in the Caribbean.  I was ready to pack my bags and renounce my citizenship on the spot.  No set is more enviable than one on the ocean. 
Speaking of living near the beach, who wouldn’t love the set of another fun rom-com but this one starring Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, and Steve Martin?  The moment the camera pans to the Santa Barbara sprawling estate where talented restaurateur Meryl lives, I was checking real estate web sites.  The story line was alluring, but not more alluring than that those arched doorways, soaring ceilings, and antique clawfoot tub. 

I check the latest movie listings and notice Julia Roberts is playing the evil witch in the Snow White re-do called “Mirror, Mirror.”  I most likely won’t be going to that movie:  I can't afford a castle. 
("Movie's Original Vision")

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

724. How Basketball Saved My Life

“Get yourself out of the corner!”  I hear the head coach shout to my son.  Moments later, “Take the shot, Tall, you can do it!”  Next is “Rebound, rebound, go-go-go!”  followed by “Pass it, let your teammate help you out!”  I realize that each phrase the coach calls out on the court is a valuable metaphor for my everyday life.

Get yourself out of the corner.  I had put myself in the corner many times in college, taking too many classes and working too many hours while still trying to maintain an active social life and be in a sorority.  It was too much.  When you do 20 things simultaneously, you never do any of them particularly well.  Now that I was an adult who should know better, I reflected on how many times I had overscheduled our family, overextended and made promises I knew would be hard (if not impossible) to fulfill.   I made a change:  I told The Husband the kids could play only one sport per season, no more.  No traveling teams.  No double-booking birthday parties with playdates and sporting events.  It was time to get out of the corner and have room to breathe. 

Take the shot!  Why the hesitation?  What are we afraid of?  If the possibility is right there in front of us, we must jump high and try.  I recently wrote a book of short humor essays.  After months of rejection from agents and publishers, I decided to “take the shot” and self-publish.  The book was ready to sell as of November, and I had a book launch and signing party in January.  I am not world-famous (yet), but I am proud of myself for not letting that initial negativity block me from moving forward to chase my dream.    

Rebound, rebound.  So the job is not what you thought—quit and seek a new one.  Or a family member is ill—support him and help him to get through it with renewed vigor.  When life hands you hard work that you were not expecting, sharpen the focus and attack it with gusto.

Let a teammate help you out.  I am not super-woman, and yet, sometimes I am reluctant to ask for help.  It’s okay to say you can’t do it all.  It’s okay to not live up to society’s (unrealistic) expectations.  The best thing you can do is admit you’re human and let others help you.  Now we tell the kids to make their own beds.  They also set the table and feed the cat.  They know we are all a team, and we must help each other. 

I walk over the coach after practice to thank him.  “Hey, Coach,” I say, “thanks for a great session.  Tall got a lot out of it.” 

And so did I.  
("Mom's On Varsity")

723. Accused

I have been accused of writing the same material over and over. I actually received a nasty comment from some cyber-bully, and she said, "Your blog, overall, is very repetitive." I cannot even fathom why she would say such a thing.

I have been accused of writing the same material over and over. I actually received a nasty comment from some cyber-bully, and she said, "Your blog, overall, is very repetitive." I cannot even fathom why she would say such a thing.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

720. I Want To Be The Winner

Last year, we went to our local school’s annual basketball fundraiser.  The novelty was that the faculty, not the students, played basketball against each other.  As a separate fundraiser, you could buy raffle tickets to win one of several expensive themed gift baskets which had been donated by local businesses. 

We got there early and bought 50 tickets.  The boys walked up and down the crowded school cafeteria where the baskets were displayed, weighing the merits of each prize.  After much deliberation and discussion, they set about stuffing the ticket boxes for their favorite baskets.  When the winning raffle ticket numbers were announced at halftime, ours tickets numbers were not among them.    
However, our six-year-old neighbor, Justin, did win.  He won a Lego-themed basket, with every imaginable Lego set teetering out the edge of the confines of the plastic wrap.  He smiled wide, revealing his tiny white teeth, like miniature Chiclets.  “I won,” he whispered to my sons on the way out after the game.  The hesitation is his voice indicated that he could scarcely believe it. 

“That’s great,” responded Short, “we’re on our way to go choose which basket we won too.” 
Uh, oh.  He clearly did not understand how these things work.  “Short, Honey, we did not win.  I’m sorry.”  I made an exaggerated sad face, like a clown that just got fired. 

Short still was not comprehending reality versus desire.  “You told me to pick which basket I wanted to win, and I pick all.  But I will take the Lego one,” he offered magnanimously. 
The Husband stifled a laugh.  “Oh, Short, I’m sorry.  We lost.” 

Lost was a word Short’s four-year-old brain was familiar with.  Short lost when playing soccer against Tall.  Short lost when playing cards against Tall.  Short lost when racing Tall across the yard.  Pretty much any time Tall was in the picture, Short lost. 
If you’ve ever seen one of those time-lapse photography things on the weather channel with the sky going from sunny to violently stormy and approaching hurricane levels in approximately three seconds, then you know what we were dealing with.    

“Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!” squealed Short, exposing his inner tantrum, and then flinging his compact body on the school hallway’s dirty floor.  “I am sick of losing!  I want to be the winner!” 
Other people were starting to stare.  People we’d never met, people we were good friends with, young people, old people, teacher people.  I could only pretend for so long that I was not related to the pile of tears and fury on the floor. 

“Noooooooo!!!!!” the moaning and writhing continued.  “I hate you!  It’s not fair!” 
The Husband and I exchanged a look, a look that said Get that child off the floor and out to the car as fast as humanly possible.  That’s when I remembered that we had walked to the school, not driven. 

We live one mile from the school.  A mile says Hey, walking is good exercise!  A mile says If you drive, you’re really a big wimp.  A mile says, Walking with your family is super-fun and great for togetherness time and happy memories.  What a mile forgets to tell you is that it is not quite so enticing when 25% of your group boycotts the walking component of the walking home equation.  The Husband ended up carrying our screaming child home that evening.      
Fast forward to yesterday.   

I was reluctant to attend the basketball game after what happened last year.  But, like an adventurer who goes to the Antarctic and loses a limb to frostbite but then later decides it was still overall a “fun” trip and maybe she should do it again, I thought:  What can possibly go wrong?  It might even be fun!   
The game was fun.  The cookie-buying was fun.  The raffle ticket discussion?  Not so much.

“Short,” I began quietly, “we are probably not going to win a basket.  Just know that, okay?  We are not wasting $50 this time, we’re just buying two tickets, one for each of you.  And you most likely will not win.  Remember that.” 
Short nodded solemnly, then said, “Remember how Justin won last time?  And he carried the big big big GIANT basket all the way down the very long hall and how I did NOT win?  Do you remember, Mommy?  Because I was sad.” 

He looked like he might cry now.        

“Short, I need to tell you something. The chances of you knowing someone who wins are very great. You will know one of the winners. But the chances of your number getting picked are small.”      
I leaned in and gave him a tight hug.  Then I said, “Tell you what, Short, after the 3rd quarter, we’ll leave the game early and get ice-cream on the way home.  Okay?” 

“Sure.  Okay,”  he shrugged.  He and Tall walked through the basket display area and put their tickets in the boxes.  “Remember how sad I was last time?” I overheard him say to Tall again and again, like a bad 80’s song on a permanent loop. 

When we started to sneak out after the 3rd quarter, Short tugged on my sleeve.  “Mommy, we have to check if we won or not!  Remember?”  His face was full of magic and hope mingling in an intoxicating cocktail of kindergarten delusion. 

“Short, uh, uh … this year it turns out you have to go online the next day to see if you won.”  It was not a complete lie, you could check online.  Or just read the posters right now in the hall to see if your name was there. 
Happy with my answer, Short, Tall, The Husband, and I started to walk outside.  I would delay the bad news by 24-hours and reveal our misfortune and bad luck to Short in the privacy of our own home, where he could have a hissy fit as loud and long as he wanted. 

Suddenly, my friend Rebecca ran out the door after us.  “MOV!  Wait!” 
At first, I thought I might've dropped my sweater or forgotten my water bottle.  “Hi Rebecca!  What’s wrong?” 

“Nothing’s wrong:  you won a basket!”  She pumped her fist in the air, a gesture of glory. 
Short turned abruptly to face Rebecca, then he looked at me.  “Did she say we won, Mommy?” 

“Yes, she did!  I’ll go in and get it.” 
Short was more baffled than ever.  Last year, we bought lots of tickets and got our hopes up:  nothing.  This year we bought the minimum number and mashed our hopes into the ground:  winner. 

I walked back to the cafeteria and approached a lady holding a clipboard.  She was directing other winners to their prospective baskets.  “Name, please?” she asked me politely. 
“Hi.  I’m MOV.  I’m not sure which basket we—”

“Oh, you’re MOV!” she beamed.  “Kirsti,” she called another woman over, “Kirsti, this is MOV.  MOV, you won the grand prize.  The basket is called Toys Forever and is worth $500!” 
I could feel my face flush crimson.  The Kirsti lady handed me the biggest basket I had ever seen except for on TV game shows, filled with all manner of toys and gift certificates.  Short was going to go wild when I walked out that door to where they were waiting outside.

I thanked her profusely and tried to balance myself under the weight of the basket.  Someone pushed open the glass door for me.  Tall and Short gasped collectively.  “We won THAT?” squealed Short.  Nothing this exciting had ever happened to him.      
The Husband asked tentatively, “Which one of you bid your ticket on this prize?  Is this the one you bid on, Tall?”

“No, Pop, I bid on the one with all the spy stuff.”
“Then congratulations, Short!” cheered The Husband, “You are a winner.”    

Short smiled enthusiastically.  “I want to share it with Tall.  I’m a good sharer.” 
Tall nodded.  “Thanks, Short.  I would share with you too if I won.” 

Then Short let out a delighted scream, so different from last year, “I won!  I won!  Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyy, me!  I finally finally won!” 
Yay, Short!  You are a winner.   


Thursday, March 22, 2012

719. Alternatives To Blogging

I was born blogging.  Okay, that’s not true.  It’s not like the first words out of my mouth upon greeting the doc before he even had a chance to clamp my umbilical cord were “Hey, hand me that keyboard!”  No, I was actually blogging waaaaaaay before that—in utero.   
  • “Update:  it’s toasty warm in here, but I think Mom ate sardines again—yuck.” 
  • “Status:  sleepy.”
  • The Latest:  my eyelashes have started to develop, and I think I am feeling fingernails as well.” 
  • “Question:  do you think I might have a twin in here?  or is that just a weird shadow?”
No, in reality there was no blogging back in the prehistoric dinosaur days of my youth, and thank goodness for that.  Fast forward to this century.  I discovered blogging less than two years ago when my unsympathetic co-workers at the high-end kitchen store got sick of me telling farfetched stories and one of my co-workers finally mustered the courage to say what the others had been thinking all along:  “MOV, write a blog.” 

Blogging quickly became more than a fun little diversion or interesting new hobby.  Like that left-over piece of chicken with cream and broccoli sauce that you forgot for a month in the back of the frig and now it turned into an unrecognizable space creature, my blogging addiction turned into something out of my control. 
It.  Was.  Bad.    

I would come home from working a long day at the high-end kitchen store and instead of spending time with my beloved family or at least pretending to greet them, I would dash up to the study and click the computer on, chanting “Please-be-comments-please-be-comments-please-be-comments.”  I would return from my weekly Target run, and before even unloading the red and white plastic bags full of cheap treasures, I would find myself in front of the computer clicking on “Blog Statistics” to see which posts were generating the most hits.  In the middle of a quiet dinner with the family, I would make up some elaborate excuse about how I think I left a light on upstairs again and need to turn off this instant so the cat doesn’t accidentally knock it over and cause a huge fire while we’re eating but then I would zip upstairs and forget all about the lamp while I was re-reading my latest blog post and double checking for new followers.    
The Husband is, of course, on to me. 

“Checking your blog again?” he inquires in a flat tone with the identical enthusiasm of a DMV clerk greeting his 189th driver’s license renewal of the day.
“Checking your blog again?” mimic the children in the same world-weary manner, after hearing their father say it so many times. 

So what?  Yes, I am checking my blog again if you must know.  It’s not the worst habit in the world.  What if instead of checking my blog in my spare time, I went down to the animal shelter and got a puppy each time? 

Or what if, instead of checking my blog, I went to the kitchen and ate a cookie each time?

Or, what if instead of checking my blog, I went to our basement work-out room and worked out for a few minutes each time? 

The bottom line is:  if I didn’t blog, I would be a dog-collecting, cookie-gorging, obese, skinny, work-out girl. 

And who wants that? 
(“Mistress Of Vision”)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

717. Queen Virgo Moved Out

I walked into the kitchen at 4:30 this morning, searching for Girl Scout cookies.  I opened the refrigerator and gasped:  there was a gallon jug of milk blocking the orange juice carton, containers of (expired) yogurt cozying up to dried out peanut butter (label facing away), and wilty lettuce keeping company with grated cheese (bag not sealed properly) and the last vestiges of mayonnaise; lemons were not in the fruit drawer, nor even in a baggie; nothing was alphabetical, haphazardness reigned supreme.  It was obvious what had happened:  Queen Virgo moved out.

This had been a long time coming. 

When Tall was born, Queen Virgo spent hours and hours and hours pairing up teeny-tiny white baby socks and ironing onesies.  It was fun for the first week or so, but then Queen Virgo decided she had better things to do, like sleep. 

A few years later when Short was born, Queen Virgo still had a vision of order and cleanliness.  Unfortunately, Short, Tall, The Husband, and even the cat had other ideas.  The Husband liked to put his newspapers in the recycle bin without refolding them first (I know—it’s a wonder we’re still married).  Tall would track mud in the back door and then wipe up the floor with a wet towel without bothering to dry the floor afterwards.  When Short was a toddler, he put his dishes in the dishwasher facing the wrong way.  The cat wandered from room to room, never so much as offering to vacuum up the excessive fur she shed.  Queen Virgo was despondent.   

Oh, sure, when the family was at work or school, Queen Virgo would scramble around trying to make the house a palace again, or at least get the Legos off the dining room table.  She would make the beds (only to be slept in and messed up again mere hours later), wash dishes, put laundry away, Windex the bathroom mirror, all the while saying, “Would anyone notice if I moved to Honolulu?”

But last night must have been the final straw.  She had washed all the dinner pots, pans, dishes, and glasses, dried them, and put them away, when The Husband walked into the kitchen with his dirty ice-cream bowl.  He chirped, “Don’t forget this one, Sweetie!” 

Queen Virgo does not respond well to being told to do a task when she thought she was already done with said task.  Queen Virgo hurled the ice-cream bowl at his head. 

No, not really.  But she left, possibly for good. 

Fortunately, besides leaving behind a legacy of perfection, she also left behind a detailed map for where the extra Girl Scout cookies are hidden.  (Hint:  they’re behind the frozen corn out in the garage’s extra freezer, obviously Queen Virgo’s final attempt to adhere to alphabetical order even under duress.) 

I’d send her a thank you note, but she left no forwarding address. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

716. Oh Say Can You See

Do you ever want to take your eyeballs out and wash them?  I do.  A lot.  I go to Costco and buy a lifetime supply of Visine, which will last me about a week.  My eyes are itchy itchy itchy which has nothing to do with me owning a cat whom I stop to pet around 100 times a day. 

Right now as I type this, I feel like I have three prickly stray eyelashes behind the actual eyeball.  They are not underneath the eyeball on the lower rim where I could reach them with minimal effort, nor just to the side where I could poke at them with my pinkie.  The rogue eyelashes feel as if they have migrated into my brain. 
“Quit rubbing your eyes so much then,” barks The Husband unhelpfully, “You do this to yourself.” 

I rub them some more, partly to prove The Husband wrong, and partly because they itch.  My hands need to be sequestered far away from my eyes, like jurors in a high-profile case.  My hands should have a restraining order from my eyes.  Hands and eyes should dutifully stay on their own parts of the body and do what they each do best:  hands can wave politely at neighbors at the bus stop, and eyes can blink.    

I’ve never been to an optometrist about my little “problem” because I know exactly what would happen:  my eyes would bother me for the week leading up to the appointment and then on the actual day would be 100% fine.  This is called the Murphy’s Law of Medicine:  whatever ailment you go in for, you will be miraculously free of symptoms when the doctor looks at you.  My insurance does not give me any kind of break in the co-pay for absence of symptoms.  In fact, I think they charge double. 
That weird rash on my leg?  Gone for two hours on Wednesday morning, starting with the minute the receptionist says, “MOV?  The doctor will see you now.”  Swollen glands around my neck area that have been bothering me for a week?  Smooth and unpuffy on appointment day.  That gray spot indicating a potential cavity on one of my molars?  Just a tooth stain laughs my dentist after I drove 45 minutes in traffic to his office for an emergency appointment.  I suck at being sick. 

I go to the bathroom and splash water in my eyes.  Water water water.  I am a fish.  My beleaguered eyes have gone from pink and mildly irritated to red and demanding to talk to a manager. 
“Sweetie, you should lie down,” says The Husband with a sigh.  I do as instructed:  I lie on the bed with a cold, wet washcloth rolled up over my sore eyes, eyes that have been working too hard at doing exhausting things, like seeing. 

A few minutes later, The Husband forgets all about my eye situation.  He walks in the bedroom, flips the lights on full bright, and says something I might have been known to say to him once or twice in the past, “Sweetie!  You have to read this thing I just wrote!” 

Monday, March 19, 2012

715. I Hate New Blogger

I check my blog approximately 12,000 times per day.  After almost two years of writing in this space, I know the subtle nuances of my Blogger software.  I know how to add a link, and how to add a photo.  I know how to check for comments, and how to edit a previous post.  I am feeling pretty smug in my superior knowledge of all that is computers.  I am Bill Gates. 

One bright morning (a morning that started out with the sun singing happy energizing songs and blowing air kisses to neighborhood bunnies gallivanting by), I had the misfortune of noticing a new teeny-tiny microscopic itty-bitty box next to where I sign in for Blogger.  The box said helpfully, “Try New Blogger now?” 

I was suddenly Alice in Wonderland in Pandora’s Box.  Hmmm.  New Blogger, what is that?  Would I like to try it?  If I try it and don’t like it, surely I can go back to the way things were, right? 

Webster’s dictionary defines try as “To taste, sample, or otherwise test in order to determine strength, effect, worth, or desirability.”  I like Webster’s.  Webster’s is good at clarifying things for me.  
When I go to the mall, I try things on.  I might try on a pair of $500 Manolo Blahniks, but I never actually buy them.  I might try on a sweater that is two sizes too small, but then I hang its stretched out fibers back up on the hanger and scurry out of the changing room without making eye contact with the salesgirl.  Even Baskin-Robbins doesn’t force me to buy a pint of Chunky-Banana-Brownie-Mint-Rainbow-Madness after I innocently try a taster spoon of it and spit it out. 
New Blogger has a different philosophy than those places.  New Blogger operates on one principle and one principle only:  commitment. 
I clicked on “Try New Blogger now?” and was instantaneously transported to the jarring continent of New Blogger, a continent that did not come with a map, passport stamp, nor free bag of stale pretzels. 

“Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” the computer cackled, “You will never get out of this place alive!”

I desperately searched for some sort of button, an escape hatch if you will, that would lead me back to the comfy safe worn-in fuzzy slippers world of Old Blogger.  I’m sorry, Old Blogger!  I wasn’t having an affair with New Blogger!  I only let New Blogger buy me that one drink, and then I gave New Blogger my phone number, but it was for business reasons!  We never even kissed, I promise!
My two years of devotion to Old Blogger evaporated in that one millisecond when my hand guided the mouse up to that innocuous little box and right-clicked on it.
Did I say it was like Pandora’s Box?  I meant Dante’s Inferno and the nine circles of Hell.  Using New Blogger is like going to sleep as one person and waking up as someone else in an entirely different country and not speaking a word of their language and not recognizing the unattractive person lying in bed asleep next to you.  Only it is more disconcerting than that. 
What was on the right is on the left.  What was up top is gone.  The font is different.  Blank lines appear in the middle of your text for no reason.  The screen you think you should click on takes you to the wrong place.  I wander the convoluted underground subway system of New Blogger without the local currency, crying.
In a fit of desperation, I Google “How to get rid of New Blogger,” but almost every single response of the 47,600,00 (I guess I am not the only person this has happened to) involves re-writing HTML code and getting a Master’s degree in Computer Science.  I don’t have that kind of time. 
Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell is betrayal.  The 8th is fraud.  I am tempted to open up my window and push the computer out.  But that would be the 7th Circle of Hell:  violence.  (The 6th Circle is alcohol, but it might be permissible given the circumstances.)    

In the end, I resign myself to my fate:  I am married to New Blogger with no chance of divorce or parole.  Until one day, five years from now, I will notice another little box beckoning, “Try New IMPROVED Blogger?” 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

714. Design Weekend 4--The Toy Room

Welcome to Design Weekend!  We call this the "Toy Room" for obvious reasons.  Here is the finished product:

Toy Room
Now for the blank slate, the Before: 

Boring, but fixable!
Next, I will show you the inspiration photo: 

Magazine photo inspiration
My inspiration photo is obviously more about the color story, turquoise and lime green.  It is meant to evoke summertime, fun, the outdoors, the beach, tropical weather.   

Here is the floorplan of the room: 

Now I will fill you in on some details.  The room is in the attic space of our house.  It is a standard height ceiling though.  Here are some changes we made: 
  • Installed air conditioning (in the entire house).  Therefore, the beadboard ledge or shelf on the far wall under the window houses the AC duct work for the ceiling of the rooms below (the two bedrooms). 
  • We made the small closet on the left side of the floorplan bigger. 
  • We removed the large closet to get more floor space. 
  • We had a carpenter install deep shelves (right side) that actually go into the eaves of the house. 
  • The paint is by Benjamin Moore (I should have a frequent buyer plan with them) and the turquoise is called "Tropicana Cabana."  I cannot remember the name of the lime color, but if you are dying to know, I can look it up later.  Mention in the comments if you want. 
  • We chose to do all the trim work in the same colors (the turquoise and lime) so as not to draw your eye away and distract.  NO WHITE TRIM (except the door frame). 
  • We wanted to add big windows, but Mr. Mastercard said absolutely not.  Mr. Cash said, "Why not give the illusion of a big window by taking the blinds all the way to the ceiling?"  This way, you just assume the window goes all the way up! 
  • We added six recessed lights (and took down the one in the center of the room and ended up using it in the basement bathroom).  
  • We installed wall-to-wall carpeting over the linoleum floor.       
  • The vintage poster is from eBay. 
  • The couch:  it is a couch from Ikea that we had to build from scratch in the space (because no normal size piece of furniture like a couch or even large squishy chair would fit up the narrow stairs).  The couch is actually white.  I had bought this fabric when we decided on colors, and I had a local fabric store give me the name of a seamstress that makes slipcovers.  I adore that fabric!  It is one of my favorite things in the room.   
Okay, time for more photos!  Here is a Before from the other side of the room (taking the photo standing by the window): 

There is that closet we got rid of.  The adjacent room is my study. 
And here is the After: 

Spacious, without that closet!
All right, let me tell you about this side of the room.
  • That is a magnetic chalkboard paint on the left.  The kids can draw on that wall! 
  • We got those cork squares from Home Depot and adhered them directly to the wall with rubber cement or glue or something and had the carpenter do a custom frame around the whole thing to look more like it is hung up than part of the wall.  Let me give you a close-up of that: 
The kids have a lot of artwork from school.  This is a nice spot to display some of it. 
Now for a close-up of some decor items in the room.  Here is that eBay vintage poster: 
We actually had this from our last house, and the colors ended up working for this room!
Okay, one more.  This is a neat watercolor my step-mom made for Short when he was born.  It is in the Toy Room, but in our last house it was in his nursery. 

She is a great artist!  This is watercolor. 
That is everything.  This room was a lot of fun to do, and a cheery place for the kids to play, especially if the weather outside is less than ideal.  You will notice we have NO television nor any kind of electronic games in here.  This was a conscious decision, as I wanted a spot that was for creativity and imagination play.    

One last look: 

Thanks for stopping by! 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

711. When Healthy Is Not

Lately I have heard a disturbing amount of first-, second-, and third-hand reports of devastating injuries, injuries that said individuals sustained while doing something that is so-called “healthy,” like exercise. Several incidents claw their way to the forefront of my brain, so let’s examine them more closely.

Incident 1: The Husband. A few years back, he decided it was part of his “bucket list” to run a marathon. He trained carefully and intentionally for close to a year, with no injuries or problems. The day of the race, he chanted his mantra Drink water, drink water, drink water, and proceeded to over-hydrate himself to a dangerous level. He finished the race, came home, then had me call 911 to retrieve his listless and waterlogged body. One ambulance, four paramedics, one overnight hospital stay, and five saline IV bags later, the doctor signed his release papers and told him he was forbidden from ever running another marathon.

Incident 2: The Neighbor. One of my neighbors (like me, she also writes a blog), a life-long runner, was training for a marathon. She blew her knee out while training, to the point that not only could she not participate in the race, she was forced to have surgery.

Incident 3: The Brother-In-Law. He was riding his bike (he wore a helmet), something he does every day of his life, in a dense neighborhood in San Francisco. A driver of a parked car opened her car door without looking and, yes, brother-in-law crashed right into it, breaking his arm. It was not a clean break, and it took months of rehab to regain use of it.

Incident 4: The Friend. Blew out her ankle coaching her kid’s basketball team. Surgery is scheduled.

Incident 5: The Friend’s Husband (yes, same friend as above). Blew out his knee playing a pick-up game of basketball with his friends. Surgery is scheduled.

Incident 6: The Husband’s Co-Worker. Fell four stories onto a concrete floor while fake rock-climbing in a gym (her gear malfunctioned). She was wearing a helmet, which saved her life. She broke her back in three places, which surgeons repaired, and they told her she is lucky she will be able to walk again.

Incident 7: My Dad’s Friend. Dropped dead of a heart attack while playing racquet ball. He was 58, and was playing against his best friend (who happened to be a paramedic). A defibrillator was on site (they were at a gym), and his paramedic friend used it on him, to no avail. The ambulance was there in three minutes. Nothing helped.

Incident 8: My Mom’s Employee. She was jumping on a trampoline with her kids, felt something weird with her back, and collapsed. The ER doctors told her she broke her vertebrae. As this just happened a few days ago, she is currently in the hospital awaiting surgery, and in the meantime has developed a blood clot.

Incident 9: The Co-Worker’s Daughter. One of my co-workers just told me how her daughter was smashed in the face with a baseball bat by another team member (this was unintentional), and she ended up having to have her jaw wired shut to make sure her teeth were okay.

Incident 10: The Child. My younger son, Short, broke his arm last summer while at the playground sliding down the slide. His neon orange (waterproof/ swim-worthy) cast was on for six weeks.

I am strangely absent from this gruesome injury list. I do not like ambulances, hospitals, doctors, and dialogues that begin with “not sure about your recovery process.” I cringe when I accidentally nick my leg while shaving, and I pop a Tylenol if I have a particularly painful hangnail.

So instead I sink into my very comfortable couch, inhaling yet another sleeve of Girl Scout cookies while watching House Hunters, and marvel at my genius approach to fitness.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

709. Happy Cleanaversary

The Husband and I celebrated 12 years of wedded bliss on Monday. To say that he is a great guy and that I am happy I married him is an understatement. Every evening when he comes home from work and walks through that door, I think to myself how lucky I am, mostly because I have a lot of quirks and am not sure how anyone could stand to be around me for 12 hours let alone 12 years.

One of my quirks is maintaining the illusion to friends, family, and complete strangers that our house looks like a beautiful museum at all times, with every piece of furniture dusted, every stray clump of cat fur vacuumed, and every dish washed, dried, and put away. Of course we do not live a messy life with papers strewn about, papers that someone else inflicted on us, like the school, the mailman, or The Husband’s job. No. Our lives are neat and organized with everything put away or at least looked at and decided about immediately. We do not let papers languish on the front entry table, the coffee table, the fireplace mantle, or the kitchen counter.

We would never do that. To do that would make us slobs, lazy slobs who do not care what other people think. I am a lazy slob who cares very much what other people think.

I want the illusion of perfection, the image that the Architectural Digest photo crew might be stopping by at any moment to photograph us for their June cover.

As you can imagine, I had to clean the house before the sitter came over.

I got off of work at 3 PM, which was just in time to race home before the kids got home. As soon as they arrived, I handed them a snack and scooted them in the yard to play. Next, I put on my apron (a souvenir from my days at the high-end kitchen store) and began to tackle my messy house.

I spent the next three hours washing dishes, dusting the dining room, making beds, deep-cleaning the bathroom, scooping up all offending papers in the living room and front entry into several large shopping bags (to be hidden in the master bedroom on the other side of the bed next to the window), shoving shoes in the closet, until suddenly, miraculously, our home had the appearance of looking semi-clean, effortless, comfy, and casual. This was a vast improvement from mere hours before when various bugs were on their cell phones, placing collect calls to their spider cousins, asking them to move in with us. Dust bunnies had morphed into something slightly larger, like, say, dust elephants or dust dinosaurs. The surface of the bathroom sink could only have been described as “fossilized.”

But no more. The house shined, maybe not enough to be on the cover of Architectural Digest, but possibly on page 232 of Architectural Wannabe in a quarter-page article about living with kids and pets in harmony.

I put on my black skirt and my best red sweater, the outfit I reserve for special occasions, and sat down on the couch to survey the scene. I was pleased with the cleanliness level, but I was more pleased with the fact that The Husband had fed the kids dinner and gotten them in bed already. We were ready for our dinner reservation.

The phone rang. The sitter gave some lame last-minute cancellation excuse (“My dad just had a heart attack and we’re at the hospital”—okay, fine, I guess that was actually an acceptable excuse). I did the only thing I could:  I asked the sitter if her dad would want to recuperate later at our house. It was nice and clean.


Monday, March 12, 2012

706. Why Being A Mom Is Harder Than Being A Kid

When Tall turned three, he went off to preschool for two hours, twice a week. Up until that point, we had been together all day, every day.  Now I could hardly bear to be apart from him.  I was at home with his sweet little baby brother, but I was still obsessed with wanting to know my genius Tall’s every move. Did he keep the sweater on like I told him to? Was he learning to use scissors and glue? Was he the best in the class at glittering? Did his peers respect and admire him, and consider him a leader? Was his teacher impressed with his super-advanced vocabulary, with him stringing words together like “more cake,” “big truck,” and “gotta poop”? Could he write his entire alphabet in upper and lower case, and could he do it easily in Russian and Japanese, too?

Five exhausting years later, I don’t really care.

Let me amend that: I do care, I just don’t care quite as much as his teachers think I should.

My sons’ teachers do a fine job. We are fortunate to live in one of the top public school districts in the country, with off-the-chart teaching scores in every subject. I have volunteered in their classrooms, so I know the absurdly high quality of education my sons are receiving. Which is exactly why I don’t spend 25 minutes reading the “Weekly Wrap-Up” sheet that comes home with Short, the one that says they are learning about ecosystems and the history of China and color theory.

I get hourly emails from the Spanish teacher, letting me know which vocabulary words we should be practicing at home as well as the conjugation of irregular verbs. Daily, the Director of Extracurricular Activities feels compelled to send home a multi-page list of things I should be doing with my child, such as complicated science experiments involving empty soda bottles, vinegar, and dry ice, or building historically accurate paper mâché models of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or researching the origins of the Latin American political systems.  The Room Mom sends a note home that she needs me to bake four dozen nut-free, gluten-free cupcakes for the school bake sale fundraiser.  The art teacher wants us to craft detailed origami doves over Spring break, and make our own Play-Doh in 15 different colors, and she sends home a helpful recipe for just this purpose. Tall’s teacher reminds us to review complex math strategies every morning at breakfast.

Frankly, I’m tired.

The school's goal for mom

I wake up at a normal hour and get my kids ready for school. This involves multiple wardrobe disputes and editing. Jeans are deemed “too itchy” and the color red (which only yesterday was appealing) is now considered “what girls where” (to emphasize the point, Short calls attention to the fact that I, a girl, happen to be wearing a red t-shirt). Corduroy is “too hot” and cotton is “too plain.” Green is “yucky” and “only people on TV wear orange.” Oh, how I long for uniforms.

After the wardrobe dilemma is resolved (this only takes 20 minutes, an improvement from the previous day) I make breakfast. The boys are still too little to get it for themselves for the simple reason that they are not tall enough to reach the bowls or get the cereal out of the cupboard (note to self: redesign kitchen so that everything is accessible to someone under 48 inches in height). After breakfast, we have to have an argument about the merits of brushing teeth. The children inform me that they don’t mind if their teeth “rot out of their head,” since they are all baby teeth anyway. We compromise by brushing teeth with just water.  Hey, I rationalize to myself, it's better than nothing

Next, we spend 10 minutes locating shoes that match each other, backpacks, and coats that are not completely covered in mud. Usually about this time, I remember that I have to pack Short’s lunch because he refuses to eat the school lunch (unless, of course, it’s pizza day). We have to leave for the bus in two minutes, so I am dashing around the kitchen, chopping up apples and carrots, and chanting to myself “Don’t forget his juice box, don’t forget his juice box, don’t forget his juice box.”

I forget his juice box, and we almost miss the bus.

As you can imagine, this does not leave much time for math “strategies,” unless the strategy is: Can our little family get out the door in only one hour like normal people? (No.) Could we possibly get out the door in two hours? (Still no.)

And where, pray tell, is The Husband in this equation? He is strategically absent, pretending to “get ready work” by engaging in such time-wasters as “taking a shower,” “enjoying a cup of coffee,” and “reading the newspaper.” He is not chopping carrots.

After school is no better. The kids get out of school at 3:35 PM, and their bus deposits them at our stop around 4 PM. They play outside, we eat a snack, and then (the horror!) they might want to play with their Legos and cars for a while. If the Spanish teacher found out that we called cars cars and not coches like he advocates, he would be livid. If the Room Mom found out that we were not baking allergy-free cupcakes for the bake sale, she would immediately drive over here and search my pantry for the ingredients and pre-heat my oven herself.  If the Director of Extracurricular Activities knew that we tossed our old plastic bottles in the recycle bin and did not save them for her recommended science experiments, she would call Child Protective Services.

Sometimes, because I am a very bad mommy and want to get dinner made, I will let the boys watch cartoons on TV, or play Club Penguin or Lego Games on the computer. This (obviously) was not approved by the Director of Extracurricular Activities.

My sons also play sports. A few times a week, Tall must go to his basketball practice or games, which gobbles up more of his afternoon time. It’s a wonder he ever learned to read, what with all this time we waste on frivolous things like fun and exercise.

Tall is in second-grade, which means he has homework.  He sits at the dining room table for three hours working out the quadratic formula and derivatives and anti-derivatives. As a “hands-off” parent, I do not offer assistance with this, mostly because I have no idea what a quadratic formula is.

Then he settles in with a short novel, like War and Peace

Later in the evening, we eat dinner, take baths, put on pajamas, and read stories. This would shock their teachers to know, because it is not leaving much free time for building exact replicas of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


The kids go to sleep and I finally take a moment to rifle through their bulging backpacks, looking for stray permission slips or overdue library books. I retrieve their latest artwork and hang it on our kitchen bulletin board. I glance at the bushel of papers the school sends home, and I wonder which Stepford mommies actually do all the things the school tells them to. Do I know any of those mommies? Do they ever sleep? 

Don't the kids do enough at school already?  Can't the schools do what they need to do in their allotted eight hours without trying to control my limited time, too?  Why am I feeling this intense pressure to do more-more-more when my kids are already doing so much? 

I suppose I could be studying up on what the school wants me to do while my sons are in school all day, or I could be making the damn cupcakes, but I work part-time, and if I am not working, I must wash eleventy-seven loads of laundry, go to the grocery store, run errands, or attempt to clean the house. This doesn’t always happen either. Sometimes I collapse on the couch and give in to the decadent pleasure of eating frozen Girl Scout cookies while watching back-to-back episodes of House Hunters.

I always feel guilty afterwards. But not guilty enough to make my own Play-Doh.

*didja laugh?  then click over HERE and vote for me as a funny blogger!  (need to vote every day)