Monday, June 30, 2008

Quiet, Interrupted

I am fairly certain I heard screams and yelling coming from the neighbors today. This is notable not because we don't yell - quite the opposite - but because I didn't think my neighbors did. In fact, I didn't think it was allowed in uptight-superficial land.

Not all of my neighborhood is uptight and superficial. I know some people who are, in fact, very genuine. But the general vibe of the subdivision, with our well-manicured lawns, freakishly clean houses, and driveways free of unsightly pick-up trucks, is that we are all perfect, all the time.


We've been reminded that No Fireworks are allowed, per our deed restrictions. But some of the residents are apparently ignoring this warning. Doesn't really bother me - it is the week of July 4, so it's to be expected. And to be honest, I quite like to watch the impromptu displays on the fourth and on New Years. But if letters are sent out for grievances as serious as visible trash cans, then I hope these people are cited for their infractions.

Maybe I'll call them in. A little parting gift from me to my misbehaving neighbors. Am I that mean? What do you think?!?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A house is not a home

Nice weekend around here. Didn't do much - just hung out by the pool. Went to dinner last night at Cafe Red Onion. Thought about going to the drive-in, but it was late so we didn't make it. Which was actually OK with me - I'd seen one of the movies and didn't really want to see the other - I know WALL-E is getting great reviews, but I'm thinking now that my girls are older, I can get a pass on animated films.

(I'm really holding out for the next big summer movie: Mamma Mia. Opens July 18, and the girls and I are totally jazzed. We'll be knee-deep in boxes, and while it doesn't have to be the 18th on the dot, I am going to make time to see this. I'll have to see which friends I can scrape up to go with us. Helen? JoAnn? Christine? Could be a party. I've got ABBA on in the background, getting me in the mood.)

We are enjoying the last few days in our Houston house. And I do mean enjoying, because we like this house. Then again, we have liked all our houses. We loved our very first house back in Peoria, and we love this one.

It looks remarkably like every other house in the neighborhood, which is a slight drawback - when we first moved in, I was shocked that the girls didn't get lost walking the dog or coming home on the bus - the neighborhood tends to have a bit of a Stepford-esque quality.

The family room is great - it's where we spend all our time. When we're not in the pool.

The kitchen is moderately high-end. No restaurant-grade range, but we've got the stainless/granite look going on. Though the orange kitchen walls were not a hit with all who looked here. I love them; I'm not a big fan of the bland neutral walls.

Dining room, which is much too small. As is our living room (not pictured). But our bedroom is giant - go figure.

I do love the master bathroom. The closet is huge, too. Can you believe someone commented that they did not like this tile? How is that possible? We think it is fabulous.

The afore-mentioned gigantic master bedroom. What do they think we need all this space for - what do they expect us to do in here?

My favorite hang-out spot - the backyard pool. Makes the summer (and Houston in general) bearable.

I like all of this. But I'm not too sad to leave - we will get all of these features in the next house - nice kitchen (as soon as I get the contractor started - !), master bathroom (same deal), pool, master bedroom with fireplace, much nicer (bigger) gameroom for the kids, with more privacy (ours is too open to the main floor, so the noise tends to carry over).

It's just a house, and after owning five of them, we know that there is always another house. Always. It's having my family there that makes it home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It Ain't All Bad

When we moved to Houston, there were some aspects of life in the big city that intrigued me. I really am an urban kind of gal - I love life in the city. Amng my favorites are New York (where I've only vacationed, never lived), London (lived there for a semester in college and know it well), Paris, San Francisco, and Washington DC (visits only). With these cities, when I've been there, I've been in the heart of the city - enjoying mass transit, walking, the sights and sounds. Here in Houston, we've been relegated to the northwest suburbs, so the big-city feeling eludes me, by a good 30 miles.

Houston is actually quite the cosmopolitan place. And there are some of those benefits that I'll miss. Such as:

• Baseball: I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I enjoy an occasional game. And I do like to check out MLB parks. We've seen several games here, and I like Minute Maid Park. Like most new ball parks, it is designed to look like an old park, but with all the amenities of a new one (more food stands, more restrooms, most seats are decent for seeing the game). On Friday nights, they have fireworks after the game. Only two slight oddities: the giant Halliburton display when you walk in and the dome - when it's closed, you are watching baseball indoors and in air conditioning. Which is weird. But it is hot here, so I can let that one slide.

• Entertainment: Houston has fantastic theatre - from local groups, like the Alley and the Texas Rep, to big touring companies. You can see anything here that you want - this year we had, to name a few: Jersey Boys (loved it), Putnam County Spelling Bee, Drowsy Chaperone, and Spring Awakening (saw it on Broadway - loved it). I didn't even mention the plays. The opera is amazing, and the symphony is wonderful. We get all sorts of big-name concerts. I could gush with superlatives. But it is all top-notch - this is what you get in a city with 4 million people. You get the best. I am spoiled.

• Houston has a great museum district - from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Arts Museum to the Children's Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences, the museum district has it all. There's the Holocaust Museum, the Menil Collection, the Health Museum, John C. Freeman Weather Museum, the Czech Center Museum, and the National Museum of Funeral History. We've got it covered.

• Restaurants: Sure a lot of them are chains, but many of the chains are good (Pappadeaux, La Madeleine, Cafe Red Onion). And we have lots of options. We have eaten at some excellent non-chain places, including Shade in the Heights. Problem? The good ones are sooo far away. Sigh.

• Montrose and the Heights. Cool parts of Houston with lots of quirky shops, cool houses, fun people. The gay areas. Love them.

• More than one UU Church: I've never before lived in a city with more than one - it's an interesting phenomenon - UUs that you don't know. It's been great for Alison - she is very involved in YRUU. For us, a drag - we live so far away from all of them; on Sunday morning it's one thing, but on a weeknight, it would be more than 30 minutes. Can't do it. I'm back to cursing the suburbs.

• The beach: I love the smell of the beach, lying on the sand, how warm the water is. Love it. I remember Galveston, from my childhood, as being sort of icky. Not so - we've had some nice days there. I love the ocean - I'll miss the proximity.

• Summer: I do miss winter - I do. But I love summer just as much. And if we had actual winter, then I think I would be OK with six months of summer. I love wearing sandals and shorts; I love swimming and the beach. This is the opposite of Kiel, where we had what felt like 11 months of dreary February. I need a balance. But I do love the summer days when they're here.

• Schools: True, the schools are big and impersonal. And I don't always like the attitudes. But I have to say, with my kids, there has been very little anxiety here. My girls are good students who do not misbehave. For them, school has been a breeze. In Lafayette, there was always one issue or another. Oh well - life shouldn't be too easy, right?

• Famous Texans: It's been fun living in the home state of Ann Richards, LBJ, Molly Ivins. They're all gone, but their words live on.

• 9/80: We have major traffic here. So Houston Mayor Bill White encourages the 9/80 initiative: employees of participating companies work 80 hours over 9 days thus getting every other Friday off, easing the traffic on Fridays. Gary's company started participating this year, and it has been great - he still works from home those days, but no commute, and he is free for lunch. I'll miss it. But we'll get that time back every day, so no loss here.

• River Oaks: When a movie opens, you can find it in Houston on opening day. Usually, the movies I want to see are at River Oaks. It's a little art deco film house in River Oaks, where the streets are lined with trees and mansions. They tore down part of the shopping center last year, much to the dismay of historic preservationists. But part of it remains, with this jewel of a theater. It's been divided into three screens, but they show the best of the best, all the indy films, so we frequently make the trek. A 25-minute drive, but so worth it. Don't know how I'll recover from this loss.

• Shopping: Houston has EVERYTHING - and some of it is at my local mall. People here complain about the quality of Willowbrook Mall, but compared to the Tippecanoe Mall, it is great - full of stores I will have to drive to Indy to access. They just got a Mac store - ! I love the Container Store, The Woodlands Mall is great (Pottery Barn), and the new outlet mall has an Ann Taylor outlet, which has lured many precious dollars away from me. IKEA. The Galleria is the mall of all malls, surrounded by very high-end shopping centers - they have every designer my humble means could dream of, and then some. (Let's face it, I'm not really going to buy Mahnolos or Carolina Herrera.) The problem, of course, is that most of this is a drive for me - I just cannot drive 30 minutes to pop into the Container Store and pick up a few items. Figure in traffic, and it makes the drive to Indy seem almost doable.

• Friends: I doubt many of them even read this (I generally share this blog with friends from out of town), but there are some very special people I will miss. And they cannot be replaced.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

10 Things I Hate About You

Upon our return to Houston, the newspaper headlines greeted us with news of two children murdered and the bodies burned by their father. Then I read about a teenage girl killed in a drive-by shooting while she slept in her bedroom; her sister was injured. This follows a year in which a college student was murdered by her ex while home on spring bring, in which a couple beat their toddler daughter to death and stored her corpse in the garage, then set the container afloat in Galveston, in which a man beat to death his stepdaughter because the 3-year-old was having potty-training accidents, in which a 10-year-old unidentified corpse of a 4-year-old was finally identified. And let's not forget the skinheads who beat and sodomized a Latino kid for looking at a neighbor girl wrong, nor the 13-year-old girl who stabbed a kid to death to impress a gang.

Yeesh. Big city life - except that we live in the suburbs, and a lot of this occurred not in the city, but in the burbs. It's just all part of a big picture. Bottom line: Living in Houston, in the suburbs, is not where we want to be. Lucky for us we're moving. So I thought I'd share my Top 10 List of things I won't miss about Harris County and the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Keep in mind that this is a general list - just a recap of random things I hate about living here. Not that there aren't some good things, but for today, let's concentrate on being contrary, shall we?

10. Traffic: Houston has the worst traffic I have ever seen in the United States. I won't say that I've ever seen because we rented a car in Greece, and my god, that was terrifying. Italy wasn't a lot of fun either, but we left the driving there to the cabbie. And in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC, there's reliable public transportation. Here, it's just about volume. Gary's commute time is god-awful. And he car pools, so they can use the HOV lane. It's best to avoid the roads between 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.; makes getting around tricky. Thank goodness the radio gives frequent traffic updates so you know what's in store. I've just never seen the cars move so slowly. And, when you're in the HOV lane, it's shocking to see how many people are not using it - they are driving themselves. But that's another gripe - see #3.

9. Driving time: Not to be confused with traffic. Houston is the sixth (down from fourth) largest metropolitan area in the country, and it is 600 square miles - in other words, it is huge. So it takes forever to get from one place to another. We are 30 minutes minimum from everywhere: church, shopping, baseball, theater. And that is without traffic - see No. 10 above. Driving is grueling; I avoid it all costs. Makes my days a little dull. Thank goodness for Netflix.

8. Weather: I thought I would be OK with abandoning winter; I thought I would love the six months of summer and six months of shoulder season. But I was wrong. I truly miss those chilly winter days, when you bake cookies, make homemade soup, wear sweaters and cuddle in front of the fireplace. Nope, here we are wearing capris in December. And it's weird. I know, I know - my first 10-degree day will jolt me back into reality. But I think I'm a four-seasons kind of gal. I like my winter wardrobe. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.

7. Humidity: Once again, a separate issue than the weather. The summer here is not only hot, but muggy. The air hits you in the face like a blanket when you walk outdoors. Houstonians deal with it with energy usage: Pools, air conditioning, running the parked car for 30 minutes while waiting for your kid. I shudder to think of my carbon footprint here. But really, I am concerned about my bad hair - you try controlling the frizzies ten months a year. Again, something I can live without. Sayonara!

6. Chain stores and strip malls: They surround us. I haven't seen a free-standing, independently owned business in weeks (unless you count my time on vacation. Or McDonald's). Every strip mall looks the same, feels the same. Diversity, where are you?

5. Giant schools: What can you do when you have 100,000 kids in your school district? Deal with it. But wow, the schools are gigantic. My children's teachers barely know me; the principal has no idea who I am. I miss our little neighborhood school where the principal knew every child by name; I am overwhelmed by a grade school with nine of every grade level, a high school with 4,000 kids. Read the reports about violence in high schools and they all point to large schools as being contributing factors. Now you're terrified, too.

4. Y'all: I know. Still makes me cringe every time I hear it.

3. Texas arrogance: It's a giant state, with egos to match. A friend from Indiana who went to college here laughed and said Texans act as if everything north of here is like Nebraska. (And I'm from Nebraska.) You can even buy mugs that say: "I'm not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I could." Please. Lots of people don't worry about recycling because Texas has plenty of potential landfill space. Energy usage appears to be someone else's problem; Texans want everything BIG. I'm sure this attitude stems from the fact that Texas was once, in fact, its own country. But a separate Texas Pledge of Allegiance? Come on, people, there are 49 other states. And they all have something to offer. (Well, perhaps not Kansas. Or Idaho. But really, all the others have redeeming value.) Texas isn't even the biggest. Get over it.

2. HOAs: As in, Home Owners Associations. I know, they exist in other cities. I've just never lived in a subdivision that has such a militant one before. My dad recommended a book about HOAs and the issues people have with them - I will definitely be reading it. The HOA is our only defense against the lack of ANY zoning here - seriously, it's true. But they go to the extreme. They patrol the streets, looking for infractions. Even neighbors around me that seem to love it here complain about the pickiness of the HOA; people have gotten letters for: parking a truck in their driveway, loading their camper for vacation in their driveway, having planters with no flowers, putting their trash out too early, not edging their sidewalks, having visible trash cans. One neighbor applied to put up a swingset in the backyard; their request was denied because they did not include a scale drawing of what the swingset would look like in the yard. Their response? They put it up anyway. My realtor moved into her place and put a potted plant in a flower bed to see how it would thrive before transplanting it; she got a cease and desist letter - Welcome to the neighborhood, huh? Oh, yeah, and our HOA consistently refuses to institute curbside recycling, even though 65 percent of neighbors want it and are happy to pay for it. Grrr. Another "won't miss." (The new house? No HOA. No way, now how.)

1. Suburbia: As in, conservative attitudes • lack of diversity • gas-hogging SUV-drivers • houses that all look the same • energy wasting • conspicuous consumption • cliques more nauseating than high school • self-importance • paranoia over unwanted subdivision interlopers (ie, "undesirables" - the poor, the ethnic, anything outside the box, like Democrats) • too new • too sanitized • too phony • too artificial • too much money • too far from the city • too far from real life. A bad fit for us.

Give me a day - I'm sure there is something I'll miss about Houston. When I think of it, I'll let you know what it is ...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Home again, home again ...

The girls and I got home last night. Visiting Colorado was tons of fun, but it is always good to come home.

Colorado was:

My brother - tons of fun, very cool
His girlfriend, Barbara/Barb/Barbie - also very fun
Royal Gorge/Boulder/Rockies game/Garden of the Gods
Beautiful weather, no humidity
Fort Collins
The new kitty: Zorrita de Bobadilla aka Dona Catalina Zarzarossa, the lusty feline of Andalusia (we just called her Zorrita)
She is about 10 weeks old and ... ADORABLE
Bowling, swimming, Yahtzee, Arrested Development
Eating out
"Good clean fun"

And now we're home. We arrived to good news: We sold our house. Yay! Got a decent price - less than we were asking, but quite a bit more than we paid for it. Happy, happy, happy.

Today I have been doing laundry, catching up. I have a million things on my mind, so I'll have to go for now.

I'm exhausted, but it's nice to see my husband and missing daughter (Alison was at camp last week). And no more keeping the house clean ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Live from Denver

Here we sit, Sylvia, Maddie, and I, with my brother John, at Coor's Field, watching the Rockies play the Cleveland Indians (the Rockies are behind, 2-1). We've been to Royal Gorge and Boulder; tomorrow we head to Fort Collins to see John's girlfriend, Barbara.

This is the life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Catching My Breath

We're home - for two days - so I am scrambling to do laundry and keep things together, pay bills, relax, breathe. Sigh.

Missouri was actually not completely unenjoyable - ! Usually, I find it painful. My in-laws mean well. But they are ... different. They live their lives very differently than we do, and it can be trying to be around them for a long time.

They are completely unaware of this. They have no idea. Yet, at the same time, they have many words to say about living so close to Gary's grandmother. We love her, but wow, she would drive anyone crazy. But my in-laws see no similarity in the situation. She can be unbearable, but they are just as accommodating as can be.

Before I go further, I should say that they are good people. They mean well; they have good intentions. But they live at a very different level than we do. Conversations are about how well the garden is growing, discussing how the cousins/aunts/uncles are doing, what's happening at church, and how good dinner was or will be. The election was broached - briefly - and my MIL put the kibosh on that conversation - too controversial. No opposing viewpoints allowed.

The big anniversary soirée was Saturday night. The room was nicer than I expected. Props to my SIL - she did not have a lot of venues from which to choose, and this room was quite nice. It was a warm 72 degrees in there the entire evening (not so good for the three men in suits) but really, quite nice. A few highlights should give you an idea of how it went:

• Venue calls on Thursday - providing champagne for toast tricky and expensive. Can we bring it ourselves? (Yes, but why you didn't tell us this in, say, December when the room was booked is curious.)
• We worked out a rough timeline for the evening: Cocktails/gathering 5-6, dinner at 6, presentation, toast, dessert. My SIL says, I told them we'd eat at 5.30. ?? 5.30? You must be joking - that is outrageously early to eat, and 30 minutes is not enough time for socializing. She called to change it, and they'd already scheduled dinner for 6. Naturally. My SIL has no event-planning savvy.
• Power point was flawless - great animations, thanks to my girls, great photos, all organized with commentary and quiz questions. Perfect. My SIL shows up with the projector ... which will not hook up to our Mac laptop. We have only USB inputs. (Gary swears we have that adapter at home, but I still don't see it.) We transferred the power point to his work laptop, which was unable to read all the photos we had dropped from a disk into iPhoto, but we were able to salvage them from his parents' computer. But the animations did not transfer (version difference in power point), so we had to settle for lame second-best quiz animation. Small problem, all told.
• SIL finds decorations, including little confetti 50s, in Kansas City. Arrives on Friday without them. So we drive to Hallmark in Festus, park the car, look up, and we are parked in front of party store - how fortuitous is that?? Found just the confetti we wanted. Perfect! Arrive to decorate and are told, No problem, just no confetti. Sad ....
• Invitations say 5 p.m. People arrive at 4.35. I just don't understand. Bar refused to serve til 5 - fair enough, we said 5. Can't people read? Gary's parents didn't even get there til after 5.
• I won't even get into the fashion nightmare. But I will say this: I know it was a summer event. I know it's Festus, Missouri. No tie was required.But I think you can do better than jeans, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. Really.
• Power point was a hit - my girls are very clever and creative. They did a nice job. Gary did a great job as MC.

My girls looks beautiful - when we get photos, I'll post one - they were so cute. My husband looked pretty good. And I had a great dress and shoes - must have been great, because my feet were killing me.

All in all, the event went well. And they deserved it - not everyone gets to celebrate 50 years of marriage. We'll be doing something along these lines in 2011 for my parents, though I imagine it will be somewhat different.

Congratulations, Joyce and David Mueller, on 50 years of marriage. Here's to you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's 11.26 p.m.

I spent much of the day uploading CDs to my iTunes. My husband, ever helpful, said to be sure and use his Mac account. That way we can all share all the music. So if I bought anything, be sure to buy it on his account.

Well. He was wrong. WRONG. I cannot, from my Mac account, access his music. Grrr fricking grr. I cannot tell you how ticked off I am. (I am trying very, very hard to type this without all the obscenities I used today when encountering this problem.) I can go to his account and sync my iPhone from there, but then I can't access any of the old music on my account. And our music accounts are not identical.

So, I am re-loading a bunch of CDs that I spent hours - hours - uploading once already. If anyone knows how to fix this problem, PLEASE let me know.

Why the iTunes/iPhone pandemonium? Because tomorrow we fly to Missouri to visit my in-laws. We are attending their 50th wedding anniversary party. Attending, planning, and financing. And I have done most of the planning. Why me? Good question. Because I knew my husband would not have time. And I thought it should be nice. My husband has only one sister, and she planned a party for their 40th anniversary - we were getting ready to move to Europe at the time. It was a picnic in their backyard - meaning pork steaks on the grill and a crowd of people in their too-small house. Which my MIL had to clean to get ready for a party given for her. I was afraid that, left up to my sister-in-law, this event would be at a Knights of Columbus or AmVets hall - you know the type, with exposed insulation in the ceiling, icky bathrooms, and food served in disposable aluminum trays.

I was hoping for something a little nicer - actual tablecloths and napkins, food served on plates with real silverware. My SIL found a decent place. I took care of the invitations. And was informed that 1) the event would start at 5 p.m. (OK - don't want to be out too late, I guess ....); 2) the menu is fried chicken and roast beef (guess, just guess, the side dishes); and 3) his parents want to collect canned items for the food pantry at the door (nice gesture, but sort of odd).

I guess I envision a party a little differently. I was hoping for a different vibe to the evening. My husband - who has been busy, but is more than willing to tell me what I'm doing wrong - says, you know, they're not that sophisticated. No one will care. But I want it to be nice. Don't they deserve that much?

We did insist on the full bar (SIL thought just beer would be sufficient ... we said No Way); I am working on table decorations, the slide show (the girls were a huge help), and the music. When I sent my SIL a list of suggestions/questions, she was impressed by my party planning skills - perhaps I missed my calling.

I do love a nice wedding.

Maybe I should have just stayed out of it. I don't know .... I'm just concentrating now on getting my iPhone in order for the flight. I am tired ... and I'll only be more tired before this is over.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Not the Year of the Woman. Yet.

There will be no woman in the White House this year.

In some ways, I am sad. I supported Hillary Clinton, and I was prepared to support her all the way. I gave money, and I gave time. Sure, I had some minor reservations - no candidate is perfect, and the candidates that I really, really like usually have no chance of being elected. But I could embrace her and work for her.

In part, I was willing to work for her simply because of the symbolic nature of her campaign. Here it is, 2008, and the United States has never had a woman president. We've had two Secretaries of State, and we only just got a Speaker of the House. Yet other countries had women leaders decades ago: Israel, Great Britain, Germany, even Pakistan.

When my grandmothers were born, women could not even vote - less than 100 years ago. When I was a girl, it was almost unheard of that a woman would run for this office. And as late as 1992, the United States Senate had only two women members - Nancy Kassebaum from Kansas and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. Currently there are 16 women in the Senate, though that constitutes a mere 16 percent, while women make up roughly half the population.

It's high time that women everywhere feel as if they have an equal voice in government. Which is why I was able to whole-heartedly support Clinton in her race for the White House. I wanted my daughters to see a strong woman play the same game as a man - I wanted them to see that she is just as smart as men, knows her policy, and is just as prepared for the job as a man.

I did not, however, want them to witness the blatant sexism with which she was treated - the comments about her hair and clothes, the horribly sexist rhetoric (that I won't repeat here) that greeted her, rhetoric that had little to do with where she stood on issues and everything to do with the fact that she was female. I did not want my daughter to hear her lambasted for staying with her husband and simultaneously criticized for not leaving him; I did not want her castigated for being too involved in her husband's administration and then have it said that merely being in the White House with him "didn't count." She was too hard if she acted like a man and too soft if she showed any emotion. She couldn't - and didn't - win no matter what she did.

She did it all with grace, and I am proud that my daughters were able to witness the first woman to be taken seriously as a candidate. I have felt all along that, as a Democrat, I would win with either candidate - Barack Obama's run is equally historic, and it will be with great pride that I will cast my vote for the very first African-American presidential candidate. But I can't help feeling a little sad that, once again, women have been put in their place. People cannot say that sexism didn't play a part in this race - every time someone laughed at the comments or drew a political cartoon that depicted Clinton with huge thighs, the message came through loud and clear. And it's not something I, or other feminists, will forget.

I will support Obama; no question for me, he is the candidate for whom I will vote. But I want my daughters to know I am settling for second best. This will, once again, not be the year of the woman. I just hope my daughters don't have to wait a lot longer to see what my grandmothers never did.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wife Swap

Got an e-mail from a mom on my daughter's soccer team. She is going to be on Wife Swap, so they are re-creating a soccer practice to film for the show. Did all the girls want to be part of it?

I decided to pass. I don't my child to be part of what I consider to be an icky reality show. Survivor I see as harmless; I like American Idol. There are others that, while I don't watch them, seem fine, if that's what you're into: Amazing Race, the Bachelor.

But Wife Swap seems yucky. A wife is much more than the one who pays bills, takes care of the kids, does the cooking and cleaning. How can you trade wives? Are they doing one another's husbands, too? Ugh. And how do the kids feel about "trading" their mothers?

This woman can do what she wants (I really don't know her) - that's her business. But I decided not to let them use my child. I am not that enamored with the idea of being on television.

What would you do?

Houston = Hot

It is hotter than blazes here. Over 90 degrees (that would be hotter than 33 C) every day.

Which is why one needs a swimming pool in these parts. It's not a mere luxury - it is a necessity. Otherwise, we would never, ever want to go outside - our backyard would be rendered useless for three months. As it is, we spend a ton of time out there. Which is how I can justify my purchase of so many brightly colored plastic eating implements.

(They are so worth it, by the way. We have cups with stripes and cups with polka dots - pink, orange, green, and sky blue - which coordinate with the four colors of plates. We have serving dishes, salad bowls, and ice cream bowls. We have a relish tray and a platter for burgers or brats. We have huge water cups with charming little creatures on them. We have plastic animals to tag your drink. And to tie it all together, we have a tray, and we have baskets for silverware and napkins.

I did not yet splurge on the wine and martini glasses ... but I will ... )

Alison and I spent our afternoon in the pool. The other two had plans, but the two of us did our version of swimming, which means we floated around, talked, and listened to the great music coming from the outdoor speakers. Then we hightailed it inside to tidy up and vamoose in order for perspective buyers to check out the property.

I know, I know - you're wondering how I can stand to leave this fantastic backyard. Easy - our next house will have a pool - ! - and we will be remodeling enough inside that I will have everything there that I have here.

And even better - my best friend will live just doors away! And other friends will be nearby. We will live in an urban area (if you can call a city of 85,000 people "urban"). We will be able to walk places, to enjoy the city (as it were). No more HOA breathing down residents' necks, citing them for every infraction. We'll be returning to life the way we like it.

I've gotten off track - hours and hours of cleaning will do that to you. It's just been a good day. Even though I had to spend money replacing our pool pump - our two-year-old pool pump - and even though I lost out on a potential fun vacation (I'm still mourning the idea) and had to vacate the premises for two hours. It's all good - cause I know life is just going to get better and better.

Sigh of contentment. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Let the Good Times Roll

The girls' swim coach looks like Hayley Mills.

Not the attractive adult Hayley Mills. Not the cute little kid Hayley Mills. But an adult with all the unattractive features: the bug eyes, reddish hair, freckles, and buck teeth.

I don't really know this woman, so the comment on her appearance is not judgmental - I"m just stating what I see, as I might if she closely resembled Isaballa Rosselini. Nor is it a condemnation of her character - she may be a very nice woman. I'm merely commenting on what I see. A grown-up version of Hayley Mills.

And it has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. Which is about how fun summer is. I have felt GREAT the last few days. And I realize it is because the girls are home with me.

Living out here in the subdivision from hell, I have felt isolated and under-busy. I am under-employed and do not have nearly enough to do. In short, my days are long. So now that the girls are home, I have energy and plenty to do. Everything is more fun when the girls are around. We swim every day, we hang out, we talk, and for the last three days - three whole days! - it has been great fun.

It has also been expensive. Yesterday we went to the mall ... $$$$$ ... (but the girsl look fabulous) and today we went to Target. I had four things on my list; I'll let you guess what the cart held by the time we were done. But it was fun. Just not something I can repeat every day. Or every week, for that matter.

We have fantastic new dishes to use outside - since our entire summer revolves around life in the pool - and we have new swimsuits. It is early June, which means swimsuits are 50 percent off in Houston. Mine is fabulous, and reminds me of why women flock to the pricier brands. I got a very beautiful Ralph Lauren suit at half price, and I must say, it is the most flattering suit ever - it would have been worth it at full price, which, mercifully, I did not have to pay.

So, with new swimsuits, a clean house, and very trendy plastic flamingo and dragonfly-covered cups, we are ready to hit the pool. Just need to update my reading collection and all will be perfect. Life is seeming awfully good right now.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sex and the City

Checked it out last night. Tried on Friday night, but we had not purchased tickets ahead of time and were not up for the later showing ... no dice. Last night we made it to the 8.30 show. I'd say the reviews are pretty accurate. Which means that it plays more as a two-hour-plus season finale and less like a film.

I liked it - but I liked the television show. I liked it because I am interested enough in the characters to find it entertaining. But as a film, it doesn't have a lot to offer. The story is OK - ultra-predictable, as we called every plot development (the few there were) in advance. And the film was light on what the series was built on: Witty dialogue amongst four smart single Manhattan-based women who live their lives as strong women - i.e., not being defined only by men.

Nonetheless, I liked it. And as for a couple of the major storyline endings (which I will not spoil for you here), they were right on. All in all, enjoyable for me (and for the annoying Carrie/Samantha/Charlotte/Miranda-wannabes seated around me, cackling, yakking, and dressed to kill). But probably not if you didn't watch the television show.


We popped into our local Cajun place to have a credit card problem fixed. They were so nice about it that we ate for free - not what I was after (really just wanted the card credited the proper amount), but much appreciated.


Showed the house today. It is frighteningly clean and tidy. Photos tomorrow; no one is allowed to touch ANYTHING. Should be a fun night at our house ;)