Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Creative Differences

We have not even bought this house, this major fixer-upper. And some days, I think it probably should not happen.

Sometimes, I r-e-a-l-l-y feel ready to tackle this project, with its major roof and gutter repair, with all the interior restoration that needs to be done. It will cost big bucks, but wow, we would be restoring this magnificent old house to its former glory.

And then other times, I think who are we kidding - take the easy road! Buy the lovely older home than only needs minor updating, kick back, and enjoy life.

But I suppose it all depends on how one enjoys life.

We have not even purchased - not even made an offer - on this place, and already, we are in dispute over how to handle remodeling the bathroom. We haven't had any other differences of opinion because we haven't talked about other projects - only the bathroom. But it's clear that we are not in accord at this point.

In order to have a master bathroom, we are going to have to sacrifice a second-floor bedroom. Which is OK - that still leaves three bedrooms on that floor, another bathroom, and a sunroomm, along with two bedrooms, bath, and gameroom on the third floor. The issue is which bedroom becomes the bathroom. I want the front bedroom; Gary wants the back one. I want the front one because it is next to the prospective master bedroom and it is the smaller of the two rooms. Gary wants the back one only because the front room has a fireplace, and he thinks it would make a better bedroom.

I have pointed out to him that using the back room would make a GIANT bathroom. It would make the master bath across the hall. And it would put two bathrooms right next to each other, and the front two bedrooms would have to walk past the master bath to get to their bath.

Plus, I think this house needs for the master bath to be en suite. At the price this house will end up, a master suite is a must. Plus, we've had one now for more than 10 years, and I don't care to return to a house without one.

His objection? He doesn't want a fireplace in the bathroom.

Furthermore, Gary does not really remember the layout of the upstairs. We were throwing out ideas last night, and he had some suggestions for configuring the rooms that will not work - he has the doors, windows, and fireplaces in all the wrong places. I showed him photographic evidence of his faulty memory, and he is still not convinced. He's really not one to concede when he is wrong - he is more likely to offer alternative theories as to why he could be correct. Perhaps this sort of thinking is advantageous in the cut-throat world of corporate management and explains why he is so successful. But here at home, it is not helping.

So, last night we pulled out our copy of This Old House Bathrooms - an old version with Steve Thomas that we bought when we remodeled our bathroom in 1993. We always found him entertaining. When This Old House Started, it was Norm and Bob doing virtually all the work, with the help of the homeowner. When Steve came on, he was clearly just a host. He would stroll in, in the middle of laying tile, and he would lay exactly one tile. We were pretty sure the crew re-did it as soon as he left.

But the book has great ideas and photos. I was surprised at how current the photos look - the retro bathrooms look great, of course, but even the very contemporary ones still look very modern, perhaps because they were very high-end and edgy at the time.

So I'm reading the section on how to incorporate the master suite into the old house. When I run across this:

"Especially in an old house, bathroom renovation can be an all-or-nothing proposition. My wife and I once owned a lovely Greek Revival house built in 1846 and last plumbed probably in the 1940s ... The master bathroom had been installed in a sizable bedroom, the most dramatic feature of which was the large fireplace."

I rest my case. Gary is not convinced.

We are only the master bath. What happens when we have to choose tile? Carpet? Paint colors? Kitchen cabinets? Countertops? Appliances? You get the idea.

This potential restoration could be the end of us. Maybe we should start looking elsewhere.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Brethren

The cold front has hit.

For Houston, that means the weather is down in the 70s. Last night was down in the 50s - we closed the windows. Some of my neighbors told me they have never, ever opened the windows in their house. Unbelievable - it is beautiful here. They either run heat or the AC; me, I would rather open the windows on a nice day. Maybe it's my love of fresh air; maybe it's my desire not to use energy needlessly. No wonder people living in the burbs have such a huge carbon footprint.

Antonin Scalia is all over the news these days. He has a book so he has broken his silence and is granting interviews. Interesting guy. I am a secret Supreme Court junkie; I have found the court and its processes fascinating ever since taking Com Law in J School. I probably could have handled law school after that class - it was all about memorizing precedents and citing them on exams. Except that after getting a law degree one is generally required to become an attorney, which didn't interest me so much. I would have clerked for a Supreme Court justice, but as for practicing law, not so much.

But I digress. I have heard three interviews and read one with Scalia since yesterday. And he is nothing if not consistent. I am not always his biggest fan - he is much, much too conservative for my taste - but he is thoughtful and a constitutional scholar. He will not support certain laws because these issues were not specifically dealt with in the Constitution. He considers himself an "originalist," meaning nothing can be inferred if not written. So don't look for rulings on gay marriage, abortion or net neutrality - he won't uphold them, either for or against.

He is against what he sees as an "activist" court. But if the court's duty is only to uphold what is laid out verbatim in the Constitution, then their purpose is very narrow; how do we deal with an ever-changing and more complicated society? We can't have a loose patchwork of 50 radically different states with no common jurisprudence.

I just can't agree with him in all situations. Scalia considers the Constitution dead - if it ain't in there, you won't find it. I think the founders did consider the document able to evolve - why leave open the option to amend it? But I do respect his philosophy, particularly since he is consistent.

This is my biggest contention with some political ideologies. I don't consider myself a Libertarian, but I certainly respect the point of view. But I don't understand how one be one can be all for protecting life in the case of abortion yet support the death penalty - feels like a contradiction.

But aren't we all just a bundle of competing ideas - I don't imagine any of us is completely consistent all the time. (Just ask my children ... )

Mostly, this peek into the mind of Scalia has given me a new appreciation for how he interprets the Constitution - a genius of a document, perhaps the most brilliant ever written in my opinion. And I love knowing that he rails equally on all his colleagues - from John Roberts to David Souter to John Paul Stevens. And his best friend on the court? Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I'll add his book to my reading list. Always good to have a little something to think about.

My laugh of the day - every day

Every day, I look forward to my dose of The Onion. My brother actually gets the hard copy in Denver; I have to settle for the online version.

My very favorite Onion story was about Antonin Scalia when he was not named chief justice of the Supreme Court. I'm not going to post it, but you can link to it here should you have the desire. A warning, though - it's not for the squeamish. (But boy did it crack me up!)

So, for today, here's my one of my favorites from the last week:

The Onion

Commas, Turning Up, Everywhere

WASHINGTON—In the midst of a crisis that may have reached a breaking, point Tuesday afternoon, linguists, and grammarians, everywhere say they...

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Big turnout at the neighborhood Earth Day festival. Which says to me that plenty of our neighborhood does, in fact, support curbside - excuse me, backdoor - recycling. We are voting on it ... we shall see what happens.

It was a fun day. I snagged five new reusable grocery bags (sent each member of my family to the booth to snatch one), and three Target shopping bags (though without the large, flat bottom, so they are not as good for the groceries). Visited with friends; got to watch a hula-hoop contest. It was a good day.

And naturally, there is people watching. I am always amazed at how many women in Texas show up for an outdoor event, Saturday afternoon, wearing shorts, capris, jeans and stiletto heels or tippy-toe wedges. I don't get it. I wore sandals; my second choice was tennis shoes. We were riding bikes; I'm thinking it's tough to ride the bike or walk in three-inch heels. But, to each her own.

Today I supervised as Alison cleaned out the pantry and Maddie cleaned out an upstairs closet. I folded laundry. Got it all done yesterday; now it's folded, and possibly even put away (though if I check the girls' rooms, I kind of doubt it). My mother-in-law told me once that I would be better off doing a load a day. I respectfully disagree - I would much rather do five loads in one day and be done - I don't care to enter the laundry room every day of my life.

(Though maybe if I had a snazzy new washing machine I might feel differently ... )

Finished my afternoon with a trip to Target and TJ Maxx. Purchased swimsuits for team practice at TJ Maxx, and a birthday card, soap, new bike helmet for the Sylvia, socks for the Sylvia, and toilet paper.

That's my weekend. Envious much?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Life in the 'hood

Out here in the suburbs, life can be a little bizarre. Everyone has to leave for work before 6 am in order to avoid the traffic. We don't allow our trash cans to be seen if it's not trash day. We like our sidewalks edged, and we will cite you if they're not edged to our satisfaction. Women actually get breast enhancement and plastic surgery.

And then there's the mass consumerism. I would describe much of what I see around me as the cult of conspicuous consumption. I'm not a big fan; I'm sort of a less-is-more kind of person in that respect. I like quality, but I don't feel a need to 1) only buy name brands or 2) advertise to the world how much I spend on everything.

I also grow tired of the attitudes around me. There is an air of entitlement, this tacit belief that if you can afford to buy a house in this "exclusive" suburban development, then you are just a little bit better than, a little more important than those who can't.

To perpetuate these beliefs, my neighborhood has its own Yahoo group, an open forum for the exchange of ideas. It is used mostly as a place to get contractor or business recommendations, find out information about where to go, sell stuff, look for babysitters.

It is also a place for those who feel most sanctimonious about their lives in this suburban enclave to voice their opinions on the evils of the world. Among the topics that get hotly debated are:

* Recycline - yay or nay (and boy does THAT one pull out the crazies)
• Girl Scout cookies for sale - which deteriorated into virtual sexual harassment when one particular board member (who has since been banned) recommended that moms lay off the cookies so that he "would have something worth staring at at swim meets and soccer games."
• Why we cannot possibly tolerate apartments being built in our school district
• Any slow-moving vehicle or stranger seen in the neighborhood - two recent examples ended up being the newspaper delivery guy and a real estate appraiser, hardly subversive characters

There was a recent thread on how dangerous the world has become and why don't we just gate ourselves in - because as everyone knows, if you just shut yourself away, the evils of the world simply vanish? Fortunately, voices of reason pointed out that a) it's not as simple as it sounds (ie, you have to be willing to maintain your own streets) and b) if we'd wanted to live in a gated community, we would have purchased houses in one.

But my favorite started this week: A parent asked if someone had an old copy of The DaVinci Code for her son to use in school. It literally hit the fan: This is required reading in school? Don't tell me schools don't have an agenda! Thank goodness my kids go to private school! and on and on.

One parent said she did not want her children exposed to the ideas in that book; there are some things she does not want her children to question. Another parent was outraged that the public schools allow kids to read books that mock Christianity.

The arguments went downhill from there - posts from people arguing that the schools are pushing propaganda, posts from others espousing the right to read what they want.

Mostly, I am bugged by the lack of tolerance. One woman got off on a tangent about the book Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, saying that it's not appropriate for kids because of the language. Another parent said Tom Sawyer has been banned (not true as far as I know), that kids can't wear t-shirts to school that say Merry Christmas, carry a Bible, or pray (not true, not true, not true), and that kids need to be protected from such radical ideas.

I should point out that The DaVinci Code was not required reading - it is part of a unit on modern fiction and the student chose the book from a list. All the parent did was ask if someone had a copy of the book. And mass hysteria has ensued.

I read The DaVinci Code. It is fiction. And it's not even great fiction - sure, it was entertaining enough when I read it, but it's not all that well written. And I know it's not necessarily true - it's based on myths that have been floating around for years, but that doesn't make it fact. (Gary said he felt it was pretty clear from about the second chapter that Dan Brown has a huge axe to grind with the Catholic Church so it was hard to take him seriously.)

But I am not going to shield my kids from books that might be controversial, that might make them engage in ... critical thinking. My mother read everything I was reading, and she never once told me I should not read a book (even when it was Flowers in the Attic). Reading encourages dialogue, prompts discussions.

As one level-headed person on the list pointed out, this year kids have read books about rape, double suicide, accidental gun shooting, communism, and multiple gods. Do we really want to discourage kids from reading Oedipus? To Kill a Mockingbird? Huckleberry Finn? The Catcher in the Rye? What are we to do? Burn all the books? Instead, let's encourage our kids to open their minds. A little thinking never hurt anybody.

My children will be allowed to read The DaVinci Code. They will also be allowed to read The Golden Notebook. And The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. All of it. And I am happy to discuss all of these ideas - and more. We're kind of big on the exchange of ideas - the more they question, the more they learn.

Is it any wonder the suburbs drive me nuts?!?!?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shiny toenails

I got a pedicure this afternoon. Sure, I should have been working. Or cleaning out some closets. Or looking at invitations. But instead, I sat in a massage chair and got a pedicure.

My toes look marvelous. My work awaits.

As does grocery shopping. Not to mention some laundry. Ah well. There's always tomorrow.

The contractor is going through the house we are considering RIGHT NOW. I mean at this very moment (5 p.m. eastern, 4 p.m. central). I am anxiously awaiting the verdict ... hope Helen calls me as soon as they're done and doesn't feel the need to, oh, feed her children or something trivial. Priorities, please.

American Idol tonight - the Idolists will be singing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber ... which should be interesting. To say the least. Alison pointed out that it would have been entertaining to have Amanda still there this week. Would have loved to hear her gutteral, gravelly take on Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.

And that's about it - all I have for today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Renovation, restoration, and cash - oh my!

All our discussions keep coming back to this house.

Yes, it need serious work. But I've contacted the roof/gutter people, and my dear, dear friend is going to walk through with the contractor, who is going to tell us where we can add a master bathroom upstairs.

Helen and I have envisioned a beautiful, ensuite master bath that will incorporate a fireplace into the plan - it sounds stunning. We'll need the contractor to tell us if it's feasible. Gary is not sold on this idea; he is picturing a different bathroom .... I'll certainly keep his opinion in mind, but I think Helen and I have a differnt plan - !

The rooms are huge in this house - and full of charming old house details, such as pocket doors, French doors, woodwork, and fireplaces (four of them).

Is the wallpaper not lovely? And circa 1989? It is nearly as hideous as the wallpaper we inherited in another house ... which wasn't hideous so much as just not my taste. And a bit much - every room had two papers and three coordinating borders - a little phooey for my taste.

What can I say - I am not loving wallpaper these days. But that can be changed. Not easily - I will be stripping wallpaper well into 2009 - but it can be changed.

The kitchen needs some work. The floor is vinyl (gotta go), and the cabinets need to be updated. Why not - if we're going to consider going in this deep, let's just go all the way. It will be time to renew the Old House Journal subscription and go for the reproduction cabinets. Note the wall of windows - they overlook the backyard. Nice feature.

I'm getting chills just thinking about it. It's been a long time since we've done serious work to a house, but we really love older homes, and I would enjoy the chance to bring this house back to its former glory.

The foyer is huge - larger than the living room in the house where I grew up. The little balcony on the right was apparently built for the original owner's harp. It will be perfect for a string trio. For all those occasions when one has need of a string trio.

Gary and I have brainstormed - little things like, we'll devote the entire kitchen to cabinets (probably include an island with a breakfast bar) and perhaps break the wall down into the family room (back parlor) and have the eating area there. It will work - it has definite possibilities.

Now we just have to get the quotes and bargain the price down so that we can afford the house and the restoration. Wish us luck - lots of luck.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

House Hunters

We had a fun weekend looking at future home possibilities. We definitely plan to return our old neighborhood, Historic Highland Park. But we would also be happy to move to the next neighborhood over, Historic Ninth Street Hill. Both neighborhoods have mostly turn-of-the-century homes - Victorian, Queen Anne, Stick Style, Craftsman - with the occasional mid-century house thrown in. It is perfect for us - great architecture, great location, great friends.

Its feeling of community is something I have missed while living here in status symbol land. And, while the neighborhood is, for some people, very desirable, not everyone loves it. And the market is down. Which means houses for sale were relatively plentiful and the prices are good.

We looked at this house, an 1888 two-story stick style. Charming - lovely kitchen that looks old but is new, nice three-car garage (a find in an old neighborhood), and one of the cleanest basements I've ever seen. But it lacks a second bathroom upstairs (though there is one in the finished third floor). And the backyard is not very private.

This house is just two houses from where we used to live. While the interior is really lovely, it has no backyard - well, relatively speaking. So, while the inside is stunning, the lack of outdoor living space is - not to mention room for the dog - is a big negative. Plus, we're not sure about moving in just two doors down from our former address.

Then we looked at this house, which at first seemed like a real possibility: a duplex with amazing features - beautiful woodwork and built-ins, three-car garage, game room with a banquette circa 1960. We thought maybe we could restore it to single family ... exept that it was built as a duplex, and to change it would destroy much of the character. The very beautiful dining room (it is fabulous) is on the second floor - I don't want to dismantle these apartments. Better to let someone rent them out - we would have loved a place like this when we were renting.

Which brings us to the real contenders. We are thinking hard:

This house does not photograph well, but it is beautiful inside. Nice rooms, lots of space, fantastic backyard with a pool. Lots of parking, alley access. Great finished third floor ... and one of the girls would have to use part of it as a bedroom. Needs new kitchen and some bathroom updates, but it could be done. Great master bedroom with ensuite study and fireplace.

Wow. That's all you can say. This house sits right on the Highland Park triangle - it is a focal point. It is an amazing Queen Anne-style house, with nearly 5,000 sf, six bedrooms, and a stunning foyer with staircase (and musicians' balcony - !). The three main rooms downstairs (front and back parlors, DR) are just amazing. Tons of space. It could be the neighborhood showplace.

"Could be" being the operative words. The house needs a ton of work - and I am surprised, because we know who used to live there. The wallpaper and paint are about 15 years out of date (and, in addition to being, um, not our taste, are showing lots of wear); the kitchen needs a rehab. There is one full bath on each floor, which means the second floor needs another bathroom. But it's not as easy as it sounds - we know we'll have to sacrifice a bedroom, but two bedrooms have fireplaces and one is over the foyer - ie, no plumbing. The sunroom, which backs up to the obvious MBR, has the back stairs, so you can't close it off. We would also need closet space.

The third floor has two bedrooms and a huge open area that would be a great gameroom for the kids. Plus a full bath (with hideous wallpaper). But the entire area needs to be redone - new carpet, new paint, as what is there is so ugly it's sort of disconcerting. (Plus, the house still has lots of odds and ends in the closets - that sort of thing really creeps me out.)

But, I've saved the best for last: The house clearly needs a new roof and new gutters. As in, yesterday - there is water damage. It may need a new furnace, and the garage needs work. I'm seeing $$$ ... and the house is overpriced, with the word that the current owner may not be up for negotiating.

But the backyard is nice, and the location is prima. Such a dilemma.

The girls are OK with either of the last two - they love the last house, but they also understand that a) it needs a lot of expensive work and b) we may not be able to negotiate a deal, even if we want to.

We are thinking hard ... plus I heard a rumor about a house that may be available ... but as we have not seen it, I'm thinking I can't worry about it too much. We'll sleep on it again tonight and see if we get any sudden inspiration.

I'll be dreaming of roofs and gutters, stripping wallpaper and a newly remodeled kitchen. All in the most beautiful neighborhood I know.

Almost perfect

The weekend, that is. It was as close to perfect as they come.

We spent Saturday and Sunday in Lafayette, Indiana - a whirlwind visit. It felt like being home again ... and soon enough, it will be.

Gary has accepted a job that will take us back to Lafayette. When we made the decision, we felt it was the right thing to do. After the weekend, we had, I am convinced that it will be the right thing for our family.

We've been in Houston for two years. There have been some good things about Houston, but there are more things that are hard. I could detail them, but I'll save that for another day. While we've lived here, I have tried to be positive. And there are some good things that have come from living here - which I can also detail at another time.

In balance, however, we are ready to go back to the Midwest. We will return to the neighborhood where we lived before - a neighborhood we called home from 1995-1998 and again from 2000-2006. The tree-lined streets are full of century-old houses; it is walking distance from downtown. The country club - with swimming pool, restaurant, and nine-hole golf course - was behind our house; the girls could ride their bikes. Everything that was important in our lives was a five to 10-minute drive.

Including, of course, great friends. They were out in abundance this weekend - we were feeling very loved. The kids hung out with all their friends, as did Gary and I. We went to church this morning and were welcomed with a warmth I have not felt for a long time - well, certainly not here.

It was a good feeling. We will leave Houston a little sad, but a lot wiser. The girls - and we - have made some friends here, and it will be tough to say goodbye. But I look forward to starting a new chapter, back in the "older" neighborhood we have come to love, among friends we cherish.

Going home. It's a good feeling.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

For fun

Courtesy of a blog friend -

You can only type ONE Word!
Not as easy as you might think. Now copy into your blog, change the answers to suit you and post it. It's really hard to only use one word answers.

1. Where is your cell phone? off
2. Where is your significant other? work
3. Your hair? blonde
4. Your mother? efficient
5. Your father? academic
6. Your favorite thing? family
7. Your dream last night? vanished
8. Your favorite drink? wine
9. Your dream/goal? writing
10. The room you're in? office
11. Your hobby? films
12. Your fear? tragedy
13. Where do you want to be in six years? undetermined
14. Where were you last night? home
15. What you're not? sure
16. Muffins? heavy
17. One of your wish list items? purse
18. Where you grew up? Missouri
19. The last thing you did? work
20. What are you wearing? capris
21. Your TV? HD
22. Your pets? pest
23. Your computer? Mac
24. Your life? complete
25. Your mood? busy
26. Missing someone? friends
27. Something you're not wearing? jewelry
29. Favorite store? Loft
31. Like someone? always
30. Your summer? soon
32. Your favorite color? varied
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
35. Who will resend this? blog
36. Food Sushi
37. Favorite word Vergangenheit


(Apologies to those who do not watch American Idol.)

She is gone!

I refer, of course, to Kristy Lee Cook, that annoying pseudo-singer who stayed much too long on American Idol. Cheater Girl - girl who sang the same song twice in auditions. Sang it once, sang something else and did not get sent through immediately, so she went back to the first song "because it worked for me." That should have been a clue - if you can only sing one song well, then you aren't that talented.

But we're rid of her now. Yessss. I would be equally happy, at this point, to say goodbye to Brooke (boring) and David Archuleta (annoying kid who looks like he's 14, and every week has that gosh-shucks-golly look on his face). I like David Cook and Jason, but that's just me.

I laugh when I read some comments about who goes and who stays. Bottom line, it is a popularity contest. It is called American Idol, not America's Best Singer. It is all about personality, looks, sex appeal, and charisma. How they handle the stage is part of the deal. Doesn't matter if you can sing if you can't perform.

And apparently, it's all about how you appeal to little girls, those between 11 and 15. They're doing the voting.

I also squeezed in part of the debate last night, but it's getting old. Those two have been in 25 debates - there is not that much left to say.

Much to do today - later!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Heard a news story yesterday that says Katie Couric is leaving CBS - the Wall Street Journal report may, in fact, be true.

Network execs are not happy that she has "performed" better, citing her $15 million annual salary.

But really, what did they expect? For her to perform miracles?

I'm not a big fan of Couric; after her years on morning television, I did not think she had the gravitas to do the evening news. On Today and in other interview programs, I heard her ask some of the stupidest questions ever. CBS hoped she would pull over a younger demographic, but the fact is, evening news has changed over the years. Today I heard a report about these broadcasts - they are down 20-30 million viewers over the last two decades. But let's face it - we live in a different world than we did in 1980 or 1990. By the time you get home at 6.30, you already know the name of Eliot Spitzer's "friend"; you've heard about the plane crash or the stock market. Thanks to the Internet, no one has to wait for anything.

I think it was a lot to place on one person's shoulders. She'll get the blame - and at $15 million a year, she deserves some - but you can blame the changing times on one person.


Believe it or not, I do not like to complain. I do it here - it's my blog - but in person, I don't care for it. I avoid confrontation - it's not worth it to me. But as I sat at Sylvia's soccer game, I was seething.

It's a rec league, meaning all kids should play the same amount. (If this were a competitive league, this would all be different.) But the other night, the play was decidedly uneven. Not just my child - there were a couple of other girls who barely played.

The coach is a high school student. At the beginning of the season, several parents complained that she was not taking it seriously enough - she was on the sidelines giving the girls piggy-back rides. Monday night, the game was against a team her friend coaches - a good-natured rivalry, but a rivalry, none the less.

During most of the game, I sat quietly. But toward the end, I was annoyed. So, egged on by Kerin (she is a baaaad influence on me), I finally decided to say something. (Kerin has had her own issues with the team this year, but rightly so - thus she was thrilled to send me over to say something.)

Which I did. The coach immediately apologized - in a glib way - which led me to believe she knew exactly what she was doing. She became very defensive, saying that with four subs it's hard to get all the girls in to play (not true); she said it's tough to keep track of who has played. Let me tell you, I've been watching kids' soccer since 1996. It is not tough to know who has played; it is not tough to keep track. And it's your job - learn how to do it, and do it right.

I sound mean, but if I don't advocate for my children, then who will? Maybe she'll think twice before letting a few kids monopolize the field next time.

As for me, I'm worn out for the entire week after that. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Break time!

I am in a cleaning frenzy ... today I tackled my bedroom closet. I got rid of six or eight pairs of shoes. They are shoes that never deserve to see the light of day ever again, yet, for some unexplained reason, I am sad to see a couple of them go. They were, at one time, very chic.

Mostly, ridding my closet of the offending boxes made room for the shoes I've purchased over the last couple of weeks. What is it with women that makes us think we need in the neighhorhood of ... well, I'm not going to get into actual numbers, but I'm sure some of you (Tammy) know what I'm talking about.

And it's silly, really, how many pair I wear day to day. But should I need shoes to go with any black outfit - dressy, casual, summer, winter - I am ready. Trust me.


I have also worked in Sylvia's room today. I decided to bit the bullet and get rid of all the clothes she does not like (even if I do) and all the stuff of her sisters' that I'm thinking she might grow into. It's gone - filling the hallway, at this moment. I have to go through the other girls' rooms before the trip to Goodwill or freecycle.


Took Sylvia shopping over the weekend. We passed some store in the mall, a men's store. She asked what it was, glanced in, and said, "I think the clothes there are a bit more sophisticated than Abercrombie."

What a kid ....


American Idol tonight. GET RID OF KRISTY LEE. Please. We were sad to see Michael Johns go - he's not great, but he's better than the chick from Idaho. Be gone!

Johns sang "Dream On" by Aerosmith for the week of "inspirational" songs. Odd choice. It came on in the car the other day, and I asked Gary if the song inspired him. Yea, he said. To take a bong hit.

And on that note ... Sylvia's closet awaits ...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This, that, and the other

Sylvia won her soccer game yesterday. Yay!

It was of critical importance that her team win. Because the parents on the other team were .... I'll be nice. They were less than pleasant.

Apparently, they did not like where our team's parents had set up our lawn chairs. So, the first words out of their mouths were that we needed to move, because "this is the way they always did things."

Small stuff, I know. It set the mood for the game.

But our girls won. It all evens out in the end, huh?


My friend Tammy e-mailed me - she was speaking at the retirement of our high school Home Ec teacher and wondered if I had any funny anecdotes.

(Does Home Ec even exist anymore? Alison had FACS - Family and Consumer Science. No idea what other schools call it.)

My first thought was, "None that is appropriate." Then I thought harder and remembered:

- Naming the sewing machines in 8th grade (Bernice the Bernina, LaWanda)
- Marcy Bothwell finishing a dress on dress-up day, and Mrs. Pearl telling her she would get an A if she wore if for the rest of the day. She wore it - I assume she got the A.
- Reading a found copy of The Hite Report (we were totally intrigued).
- Robert Burk pulled out one of those latch-hook rugs when we had a unit where we had to be working on something. Anything. He said his older brother had worked on it, and he was pretty sure both of his younger brothers would work on it as well. It had Snoopy and Woodstock on a light blue background. Wonder if anyone every finished it.
- Making aprons - all the guys bought camouflage fabric.
- Discussing contraception - the look on Skip McCaulley's face ...
- The same Skip McCaulley asking a guest speaker with a small baby - with plenty of hmms and pauses - about whether or not you could have intercourse during pregnancy. A totally legitimate question, and he had trouble getting it out. Her response was yes, "but you can't be bouncing off the ceiling or anything." You can imagine the class's reaction.
- A discussion on why people get married. Several people gave reasons: Finances, want to have children, society expects it, etc. Then Gina Naylor says, with a defiant tone in her voice, "They just might happen to be in love." Cue lots of laughter.

I forgot to mention Coach Mullins supervising our class one day when Mrs. Pearl was gone. He passed the time by breaking into the kitchen's stash of frozen french fries (stored in the Home Ec room's freezers) and eating fries all morning. That was a worthwhile day, for sure.

Wonder if any of that made it into the retirement talk.


Attended a retirement dinner with Gary Friday night, for one of his colleagues. Whom I had met but did not really know. The dinner was casual, at a golf course. The food was marginal (buffet with chicken, corn on the cob, potato salad, cookies for dessert). The 35 engineers in the room could not get the power point up and running. People in his office clearly do not moonlight by attending Toastmasters.

My neighbor (he works with Gary) could not get a sitter and didn't go. Didn't miss much.


Yesterday Sylvia and I got to do a little shopping together - the other girls made better plans, so she and I got to spend the afternoon together.

For me, it was about the shoe sale at Macy's. I got three fantastic pair for less than $100, in pink, black (very dressy - event coming soon), and coppery-colored sandals.

For Sylvia, it was about new spring clothes. I asked her where she wanted to shop, and she chose Old Navy. (I would never have gotten off so cheaply with the other girls - we would have had to hit someplace much more high-end.)

Sylvia and I had a wonderful time. She was very patient while I tried on shoes (though she loves trying on all the high heels) and was totally delightful. I loved watching her try on clothes.

Such a nice day. She's a great kid.


And last night, Gary and I got to go out to dinner and to the movies - this is what happens when your kids are old enough to make their own plans every weekend. We went to the Cajun place for dinner (coconut shrimp and sweet potato fries, seafood crepes and jambalaya - mmmm).

Then we drove down to River Oaks to see Snow Angels. I love River Oaks - it is our "art house" theater, and they always, always have the movies I want to see - generally as soon as they come out. It's in a charming little Art Deco-esque shopping mall (part of which was recently demolished, much to the chagrin - no, outrage - of historic preservationists - sigh), an actual movie theatre that has been refashioned into three small cinemas (the balcony is now its own screening area) and a little bar area. We love to go there.

The movie was good - heavy emotional fodder, very reminiscent of films like The Ice Storm. Good performances. We are still anxious to see Under the Same Moon and The Counterfeiters; with our kids' schedules, we likely will.

Rocky Horror was the midnight movie. As we were walking out the crowd was gathering, and I was disappointed to see average looking folks. But once outside the door, the characters were there in full force. Thank goodness - they (meaning my daughter) may call me old and frumpy-ish, but back in my day, no one, and I mean no one, worth his or her salt would have appeared at Rocky Horror in anything less than some sort of get-up. Maybe we weren't all Mageneta, but we dressed up - I, at least, made an effort to look trendy and avant garde.

Take that! youth of today.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So much to say ....

I read a report today that Katie Couric will leave CBS much earlier than when her contract expires in 2011. While neither she nor CBS would flatly refute the claims in the Wall Street Journal, both downplayed the report.

I would not be terribly surprised if it were true. The ratings are not good. And, to be honest, she bugs me. I was never a big fan of hers on the Today Show, and I am not a big fan now. I watch CBS because I've been watching it my whole life. But you have to remember that Walter Cronkite was the anchor when I was growing up. Now, 25 years later, not sure what my excuse is.

And Kathie Lee Gifford is back on TV, on Today. Good grief - as if anyone wants her back on the air. Tom Shales of the Washington Post said she is a bit tough to stomach: "Maybe it's her assumption that her life is every bit as important to us as it is to her. But that would be categorically impossible."

I have a bunch of stuff I could - and will - share. But right now I want to go and curl up with my book. I spent 90 minutes on the phone this evening with one of my favorite friends; I spent Monday afternoon on the phone with another dear friend. Met a friend for lunch today. I need to do something productive ...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I am in a bad mood today. Not sure why - just am.

Gary threw out a plant that Sylvia had brought home from school. She is crushed. To be fair, she should have put it somewhere where it would not confused with trash. But that husband of mine equates effort with results - the means justify the ends. I know he thinks he is helping when he tidies up ... but he isn't. And today, I'm really not about A for effort.

I remembered to take middle child to her flute lesson; I remembered that the eldest had to babysit at 6.15. But I forgot that the youngest had Brownies at 6.30. Poor Sylvia.

I hate that. I hate forgetting. I am constantly forgetting orthodontist appointments, to mail bills, birthdays.

I can remember what I wore last Tuesday; I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every day for 16 years. I can remember who sang what in which order tonight on American Idol. But I cannot remember to take my child to the orthodontist.

That's my day.

But speaking of American Idol ... they were all b-o-r-i-n-g tonight. Paula was about to fall out of that dress - it made me uncomfortable just to look at her. And I had a hard time getting into the "inspirational" song choices. It's not that kind of day for me.

Please, please, please, vote off Kristy Lee. Along with, oh, EVERYTHING, she is really bugging me.

I hope it's just a blip - I actually had a very productive day today, getting lots of stuff done.

I think I need to go to sleep. After Stephen Colbert - then I'll feel better.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Happy Birthday!

As I did not manage to make it to the mailbox, I need to acknowledge a couple of birthdays:

Happy 12th Birthday to Emily, my one and only niece. She celebrated over the weekend by getting an electric guitar. We have a little something for her, which will be mailed tomorrow (it's always nice to spread the birthday cheer out over a few days ....)

And also celebrating are dear, dear friends Helen and Richie. Richie turns 14 tomorrow; as Helen celebrates today, we can assume that she is one day older than Rich. Or something like that.

I have mentioned Helen here before. But, as all good things, she is worth mentioning again. We have been friends since the day 14 years ago that I moved in three houses down from her. It was a chilly January day, and she welcomed me and my two daughters into her home to meet her and her two children. Alison and Claire became the best of friends; Maddie and Rich continue to acknowledge one another's presence (though they did play together when they were small, sharing a babysitter for quite some time).

Since then, we've added Scotlyn and Sylvia to our respective broods, and they, too, became best friends. I've also added three subsequent addresses. Yet she is still there for me.

I miss living just doors away from her; I miss having her to talk to and hang out with. Go to dinner with; discuss the important moments in life with. We still do plenty of chatting over the phone - how lucky we are share AT&T as a mobile carrier. We agree on almost - almmost - everything, which is almost scary - I know I can count on her to share my distaste for Celine Dion, Brooke Shields, Kirstie Alley and Kathie Lee Gifford. Yet she would be the first person I would ask to see Elton John in concert. When I have an issue with moody teenagers, she is the first person I call - she has either been there or knows she will be soon. She knows that it is perfectly reasonable to expect your 16-year-old to pay for the gas in the car and complain about how life is not fair.

It is because of her and her sense of humor that I have survived parenthood - of this I am sure. Plus it's fun to throw the husbands into the mix - if you take her husband out to dinner, he can be incredibly entertaining.

I consider myself lucky to have a lot of good friends in my life - and as I mentioned yesterday, I am hearing from them in a host of e-mails this week. It makes me feel very loved. Helen is right at the top of that list - I am lucky to know her.

I look forward to meeting her for lunch one of these days - soon!

Yet another reason the suburbs drive me nuts

So. We have a yahoo group in our neighborhood. People post questions, comments, suggestions, many of which are useful.

Then there are the comments that help no one. People who bitch about every little thing. There is also one smart-ass guy who posts sardonic comments that do not move the discussion forward. Ever.

Today was one of my, um, favorite types of comments - the type that either verge on elitism or paranoia - maybe both. Today's was someone freaked out by seeing an unfamiliar car. The resident went so far as to follow these people (three teenage girls) and ask exactly what their business is. They told her it is not illegal for them to park on a public street. The resident said that as far as she is concerned, it is.

Excuse me?

This is one of my issues with living here, this holier-than-thou attitude that surrounds us. People here really are convinced that they are just a little bit better, a little more deserving than the proletariat. Because we can afford to live in this "special" subdivision, we should not have to rub shoulders with those we deem inferior. We don't want "those" sorts of people going to our schools, living in any proximity to us, cavorting with our children.

And we certainly don't want them driving down our streets. (Even though, last I checked, there are no laws against that.)

The resident who freaked out did not recognize the car nor the girls. Plus, she pointed out, they had that "goth" look - meaning, naturally, they must be bad. Had they been dressed in Abercrombie, would she have reacted in this way?

Some days, I really question why we live here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Let the sunshine in

We had a cold front move in this weekend - "cold front" were the words used on the weather, I kid you not. Which means it is down in the 50s at night, 70s during the day. As the humidity has ended, I am a happy woman. No more frizzy hair; no more air conditioning. Yet I can continue to wear sandals.

All is good in the world.

And I do mean that, about all being right with the world. I got the house straightened up over the weekend; I've had a flurry of e-mails from some good friends in the last few days. We baked pizza last night, which I love to do.

Life is good.

This week: The agenda is full. I have a hair appointment (of critical importance); I have lunch with a friend/former colleague - this I am really looking forward to. Friday night is a work-related social event for my husband, but I'll be tagging along. There are various and sundry other little things going on, all of which will keep me busy. No time to be idle. Phone calls and appointments to attend to, e-mails to answer (I'm a little lazy at the moment, but working on catching up).

I sat outside and worked on the patio this afternoon. It was lovely. There are times when working at home is a drag; I am really just not motivated enough some days to be productive. But today I rather enjoyed sitting in the sunshine. I know, work on a Sunday. But this is the price I pay for goofing off yesterday.

We watched All About Eve last night, celebrating Bette Davis' 100th birthday. What a great film - that Anne Bancroft is sooo awful. I love it.

Details to attend to for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary - I am the designated planner, as my husband is a) too busy and b) not to be trusted with such details. I'm assisting my sister-in-law - it's better this way. Trust me.

But really, it's OK. Life is good.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Summer already?

We turned the air conditioning on Tuesday. April 1. I cannot believe it. But when it's over 80 F and humid, you do what you have to do.

This weather. I like that I can wear sandals. I don't like the aforementioned humidity.

I also don't like the unflattering fashions that are out in full force - I was horrified by what I saw at the supermarket today. I know it's warm, but come on - some clothing is in order.

Big weekend - no particular plans. Alison will be gone, and tomorrow I will attend Maddie's band competition. After that, who knows? Some organizing, some tidying up, some sorting through closets.

Wheee - I do know how to have a good time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


This morning, I thought I might be seeing things. I went to get Sylvia her breakfast, and the milk had a decidedly green cast to it. Thought it might be the light, the reflection inside the refrigerator. But no, the milk was green.

She drank water with her breakfast.

And Alison and Maddie had a good laugh when they got home. They didn't even mind when I said they would be drinking the rest of that gallon of milk.

I needed to get out of the house today. Specifically, I wanted to check out the new outlet mall. It just opened this weekend, so I figured I needed to go see what all the fuss is about.

The suburbanites must be in heaven. It's a big outdoor mall, filled with the latest and greatest in brand-name fashion. And if there's anything people around here are fond of, it is name-brand anything. We drive our named cars to our named subdivisions, wearing our designer jeans and shoes, entering our houses filled with the latest from a series of particular catalogues and boutiques. If it comes from Pottery Barn, it must be better than the identical item from Target.

We are big fans of the conspicuous consumption.

The outlet mall is nice, I have to admit. It's outdoors, which is a plus, though it's not quite as lovely and trendy as similar malls I've seen (Tucson has a particularly lovely one), and as it's an outlet mall, it does not have shops like an Apple store or Williams Sonoma. The "designers" are mid-level, stores like Cole Haan and Michael Kors, Gymboree and BCBG. But I enjoyed looking in the windows, checking things out.

I had heard stories of the crowds in the Coach store over the weekend. I didn't go in, but I glanced in the window - the store was packed, huge lines. Not sure just what sorts of discounts and prices were going on in there, but I'm not sure it matters. The Coach bag is emblematic of class, a badge of honor for the bourgeoisie. People here would stand in line for hours at the thought of scoring a deal on this label.

It is, after all, all about the labels. You're no one if you aren't wearing/driving/carrying a brand that identifies you.

As if I'm above the afore-mentioned hysteria - I've had my head turned a time or two (did I not spend time scouring Loehmann's in NYC?). Today I settled for a stop in the Ann Taylor outlet (I know, I know - I was there just yesterday), where I found amazing deals. And if you spent more than $300, you got a huge discount.

Or so I was told.

Now that Sylvia and her friend are done working on their salt dough landforms in the kitchen, I need to go supervise the clean-up. Must get ready for Idol - Dolly Parton tonight. Ick - I have to listen to nine (count 'em, 9) Dolly Parton songs, which feels like a torture ... but maybe we'll get rid of Cheater Girl. Fingers crossed ...