Saturday, January 31, 2009

When too many is, in fact, too many

I flipped on the television the other night and caught part of "17 Kids and Counting." the horrendous show about the Duggar family from Arkansas and their passel of children. The mother is my age and just gave birth to baby No. 18, with no plans to quit.

I'm no fan of the Duggars. I know, I should live and let live. And if they kept their life private, then I would be less inclined to comment. But once they took their family onto a cable television program, then it became everyone's business.

I have real issues with their basic child-rearing philosophy, with continuing to just have more and more and more children with very little regard to the consequences. It's impossible to have too many children, they say; "that's like saying there are too many flowers." Not a good analogy - flowers can be left in a garden, watered from time to time, and merely gazed upon for enjoyment. When you're rearing children, they need to be looked upon as individuals, not as one tiny part of a group. They need time and attention, something those kids are not getting.

They are extremely conservative; the girls wear only skirts, don't cut their hair, and they have some odd dating/courtship ritual that precludes any physical contact before marriage - not even a kiss. Which is all OK, if that's what you believe.

But my biggest gripe? Their claim that they watch "very little television." Yet they have their children on a cable show? It says exploitation to me. Obviously, they could not afford to have all these children and maintain any sort of standard of living (which includes a giant house, bus, and multiple appliances - much of which was provided through donations/corporate sponsorship), thus they are willing to prostitute out their kids to a medium they disdain in order to make a buck.


Yes, Mrs. Duggar, it is possible to have too many children. A sentiment I would love to pass on to the anonymous mother of brand-new octuplets. This woman gave birth to eight infants. And - surprise - she already had six children at home under age 7.

Even without the six children already at home, multiple births such as this are nothing to celebrate. I think it is irresponsible of physicians to allow this to happen. Yes, it can be controlled, by not implanting more than a designated number of embryos - two? three? - during an IVF cycle.

It is so dangerous for the mother and the potential babies. Women end up on bed rest, their bodies overwhelmed with trying to sustain this many fetuses. The babies are cramped, competing for space and nutrients, and often the competition is detrimental for some of the fetuses, with some taking over. The mother is on medication to delay preterm labor, and she is faced with possible organ failure (kidneys are overtaxed), heart problems, and high blood pressure.

And this is in a best-case scenario. You hear about the success cases, but you do not read about all the failed multiple pregnancies.

Women are always offered the chance to reduce the number of fetuses they are carrying. Some women refuse, likely because they are troubled by the idea of "aborting" any of their babies. But as one medical ethicist put it, this is not like abortion, as the outcome here is not terminating a pregnancy, but guaranteeing a healthy birth for the mother and any other babies. As one woman put it, after several miscarriages, she knew she had the option of carrying two or three babies to term or none - the six or seven in her would never be born.

Bobbie McCaughey, the mother of septuplets in Iowa, said she could not reduce her fetuses because it was "God's will" they be born. So, she was willing to accept medical intervention to get pregnant, but suddenly it was up to God? Maybe God didn't want her to get pregnant in the first place - you can't pick and choose when divine intervention is appropriate and when medical science takes over.

Typically, these children are born with multiple health issues. They are already premature, requiring neonatal care and a team of physicians; they must remain in the hospital for weeks, and they often have health problems throughout their lives, and learning disabilities. Not always, but often.

And who pays for this? Who paid for the team of 46 health care providers who helped deliver those babies? Who will care for them as infants, when the mother is overloaded (she already has six other children)? Who pays for the diapers, the formula? Will she expect corporate donors to kick in?

And what kind of physician allowed fertility treatments for a woman with six children? Fertility does not appear to have been an issue in the past.

I find this entire scenario beyond troubling. Medicine has done great things for people, and I certainly respect that some women are able to have families that they might not have been able to have years ago. But we need some limits and some responsibility.

One baby is a blessing. But at some point, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Movies, tolerance

I am ambivalent about the Oscars. But I still use the Academy Awards as an excuse to see a bunch of good movies.

We're checking out the nominated films. This was something I could not do a few years ago - when you include a babysitter, the cost of a movie very often was prohibitive.

But no more babysitters (only my daughters, who do not get the same compensation as an outsider - they need to earn their keep). So far we've seen Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon and, as of last night, Milk.

I have liked them all, and I loved Milk. Sean Penn was amazing - he was completely transformed. And as much as I want Frank Langella to win (I like to spread the awards around), Penn was really good, and I won't be disappointed if he takes home the prize.

It was moving, too, to watch the struggle for gay rights. I do not believe in discrimination of any sort, and this certainly includes gays and lesbians - how they can be denied their civil rights based on their sexuality is hard for me to fathom. There is no basis in law for denying them the same rights as everyone else - and yes, that includes the right to marry, to adopt children, to serve in the military.

The film brought this all home, along with the tragic death of Harvey Milk. It's a film that could not have been made 20 years ago. We are seeing progress, albeit slowly. Thank goodness for our children, who are being brought up to be much more tolerant than previous generations.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catching Up

Living with construction is wearing on me. I feel cluttered, messy, crowded.

But we're plugging on. I think my head will clear substantially when this is all done. Let's hope so.

Which doesn't mean life isn't busy and satisfying. It is very busy and very satisfying, while being simultaneously cluttered and messy.

(And I have a bedroom - poor Maddie.)

• We saw Alison star in the Jefferson Players murder mystery theater last week. She played Melanie, the sweet and innocent Southern Belle who is neither sweet nor innocent. She and the lawyer were clearly in cahoots and, while they were not the killers, during the Thursday performance, the entire audience voted them the guilty parties. It was fun. Even if I did have to eat Fazolis.

• Saturday night Gary and I saw "Frost/Nixon." Loved it. Frank Langells was fantastic - and the entire movie was fascinating.

• I won one game of Mah Jongg yesterday. Linda won 9. I came home much poorer.

• We have five inches of snow on the ground today. But the sun is shining, and I shoveled the walks, so no complaints here. Still not hating winter.

• Book group tonight: When The White House Was Ours, by Porter Shreve. Quite liked it.

And after those few words, I am spent. I have all sorts of thoughts running through my head, but some I can't share, and others I just won't.

Must run - nearly time for flute lessons. And I'm the driver. Let's see if I can clear my head.

First Fashion

Michelle Obama is a smart woman. Very smart - Princeton, Harvard Law.

So why are we reducing her to her fashion sense?

I hate to be this way - it's the 21st century, and we should be moving beyond judging women based on what they wear.

But we have to face facts: Clothing does say something about who we are. You wouldn't show up at a job interview in shorts, and you wouldn't wear a tux to a backyard BBQ.

In general, First Ladies have looked lovely at their husbands' inaugurations. I recall Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush both being criticized for what they wore, and it seems a little petty. These women are not fashion models. And what they wore looked fine - perfectly appropriate. Their ball gowns were tasteful, if not necessarily my style.

The only gown I can think of that I didn't like was Nancy Reagan's first one - the off-the-shoulder look was not only unflattering, but much too youthful, I thought, for someone of her age. I thought Laura Bush chose something much more dignified - and she got a lot of flack for it.

(Don't get me wrong - I have my issues with Mrs. Bush. But her clothing is not something I have a problem with.)

I like Michelle Obama for any number of reasons. And I'll go ahead and include the way she dresses. She wears some pricey pieces, and for others, she spends what I might spend - I love the black and white dress she wore on The View, though I'm not sure I'd call it a "bargain" at $150 - I'm not sure your average working woman would find that affordable. I like that she frequents J Crew, and I like that she makes a fashion statement that is a little more youthful. I'm not always a big fan of the print dresses she chooses, though I like some, but I do like that she doesn't always wear heels.

For the inaugural festivities, I thought she looked fantastic. I really liked the ensemble she wore to the concert on Sunday - that was a winner. It was such an appropriate, classy look, that it left me wondering what she would wear on the big day.

I admit, when I first saw the sparkly gold sheath, I was not certain. But after a second glance, I became a fan. I liked the color, and the style is very flattering on her. I also liked the touch of the green shoes and gloves.

(Last year, I bought a sparkly coat of my own, to wear to a formal event. The saleswoman told me I could wear it anytime - the sparkly look is "in" for daywear. I repeated this to Carol and Kitty at the inauguration party we attended, in defense of Michelle as we were making up our minds. They both said they were fairly sure the saleswoman had pulled a number on me. Doesn't matter - I have yet to wear it during the day. But I can now pull out Michelle as my role model when I do.)

So after scoring on her daytime choice, I was anxious to see what the would wear for the balls. And I have to say, I was a little disappointed.

I like that she chose a little-known designer, 26-year-old Jason Wu. I like that she did not spend a fortune ($1500 - once again, not a bargain for your average American, for in the world of high fashion, a steal).

For me, it was a little too "girly." The train was too long (he stepped on it while dancing) and a little too "romantic" and phooey looking. I would have chosen for her something a little more fitted, a little bolder color, a bit more sophisticated. However, this isn't the Oscars. I am glad that she did not wear black.

Mostly, I am glad that is clearly being her own person. She looks fantastic, and the girls are cute as can be. She is a different kind of First Lady, and I am so glad we have her in the White House for the next four years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome, Mr. President

It was a day of celebration, if ever a day for celebration was.

Around 300 people gathered at the historic downtown Lafayette Theater where we could, on the big screen, watch Barack Obama make history.

It would have been historic to watch anyone sworn in - only 42 other people (all man, by the way) have ever taken this oath of office. But it was so much more - he is, of course, the first African-American president, sworn in just days after the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., who did not live to see his dream fulfilled.

But it was also a day of mass celebrating, for the entire country, as watched the dawning of a new era - one that brings change, promise, and hope.

President Barack Obama entered office following the most unpopular president in history - George W. Bush's disapproval ratings were as high as 68 percent (according to polling date from CNN, the Pew Foundation, ABC/Washington Post, and NBC/Wall Street Journal). Obama comes in with approval ratings as high as 80 percent - and for someone who won this election with just over 50 percent of the vote, that says something about the country's expectations and attitudes toward this man.

Yesterday was all about celebrating. This is why we gathered with friends to watch this historic occasion, why my children all watched it on live television in the middle of the school day, why 2 million people made the trek to Washington DC. They knew they would not be able to get close enough to see, that they would be watching on giant television screens, standing in the cold for hours. But they just had to be there, to be part of that electric atmosphere.

(Incidentally, District of Columbia police reported no arrests yesterday - amazing.)

I've heard rumblings about the amount of money spent on inaugurations. And it's true - they are pricey. But I think it is important. First of all, few people ever achieve this high office. And for them, I think a little celebration is in order - they deserve to have their family and friends there to watch them cement a place in history. Plus, the money comes from private donations, and it's hard to believe that people would donate that money for any other purpose.

There is also the issue of the peaceful transfer of power, something not trivial and not to be overlooked. In 1993, Bill Clinton rode to the inauguration with the man he defeated; Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan did the same. All was civil; no gunshots were fired, no troops intervened, and the old and new presidents sat down for coffee together before making the trip to the Capitol. Together.

But I also think it's about us. I wanted to watch the pomp and circumstance. I wanted to watch the new President and First Lady walk the parade route; I wanted to watch the parade and the balls and the pageantry. And clearly, 2 million Americans felt even more strongly than I that this was their day, and they wanted to see it first-hand.

I was pleased that my children watched these events unfold at school. I remember sitting in history class in ninth grade, watching Ronald Reagan's swearing in. These moments are important, regardless of whom one voted for - I watched Bush sworn in, then Clinton, and even W. It's part of what makes this nation great.

That said, I think second inaugurations should be scaled back - way back. No balls, no parade, no excessive hoopla. You had the party atmosphere the first time, but I think the rest is a bit of overkill; it might be more appropriate to not repeat some of the pageantry.

We cheered when we saw the Clintons and Carters; we cheered when we learned that Obama had officially become president at noon, regardless of whether or not he had taken the oath. We cheered even louder when Bush boarded that helicopter and left.

Mostly, we just cheered. I was among friends, and we felt an intense kinship and camaraderie. We laughed and cried, hugged and cheered.

It was a great day - one of those days when you really feel proud to be an American. As I listened to the eloquent words spoken by our new president, I saw the image of the United States changing. This man (who, as he pointed out, is the son of a man who, a mere 45 years ago, could not have been seated in some restaurants) will bring us to a new place. We will, once again, become a country that other countries around the world respect. He spoke of treating all people as equal, of dealing with the challenges ahead, of ushering in a new and different attitude. No more torture, no more wiretapping and detainees. Stem cell research will be funded, and low-income women will have access to reproductive health care.

It's a new day. I am so proud to have been here to see it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Messy Desk

The mess has creeped back into my house.

Just before Christmas, we entertained Gary's office group here, at our house, with snacks and drinks. And I have to say, this place looked pretty good. All things considered, anyway - we are living with extra furniture everywhere, a hideously ugly and small kitchen, construction debris, and general chaos and confusion.

Yet I pulled it together (I say "I" because, let's face it, our girls contribute as little as is humanly possible in the way of housework and basic tidying, and Gary has another full-time vocation). I had this place looking pretty good.

Even my desk here in our downstairs office looked good - no clutter, no mess, no accumulation of mail and school notes and papers and random bits of miscellany.

Fast-forward, and my desk has lapsed, yet again, into an unspeakable state. It looks horrific. I would take a photo and post it, but I hate for anyone to see how, well, horrific it looks. As it is truly horrifying.

I like to think of myself as a tidy person. But considering what my bedroom, kitchen, and office look like at this moment, I'm not sure I can legitimately make that claim anymore. (Though my bathroom is very orderly.) I like to blame it on all the work we have going on; I think I'll be milking that excuse for the next year. Maybe two.

I swear it will all be different when the remodeling is done. Whenever that is.

In any event, I should, right now, be tidying the afore-mentioned untidy desk. But I'm not. This morning I had my usual morning stuff to do, then later Gary and I made a trip to the hardware store, where we picked up light fixtures (two for outside our new backdoor and one for the third floor computer area - previous owners took that light with them and we hadn't bothered to replace it until now). We looked at floor tile and back splash tile and kitchen light fixtures and, as I anticipated, we agreed on everything - we are compatible in that way, in that we have similar taste. Similar good taste - well, good taste is relative and somewhat subjective, but it certainly does cut out the conflict when we tend to gravitate toward the same colors, textures, and styles.

And now? When I should be desk cleaning? Well, I made a phone call to check in on a friend, I answered some much-delayed e-mail questions, and I am now going to go throw a load of clothes in the wash. I need to make sure Daughter No. 2 is ready to go to swim practice. And I need to go finish rearranging the sweaters I took down from the shelf in my closet, in an attempt to make additional room for Gary to stash some of his stuff away. (Apparently, I am hogging too much of the closet space. Which is silly - we have five closets in our bedroom, plus an armoire. I need to find some space for my husband.)

The desk will be here when I finish all of those tasks. If not - well, tomorrow is another day.

And, from past experience, I know it will just get messy again. Kind of hard to get motivated in that case. But I will.

Right after I finish these other tasks. I swear.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Gary

Happy Birthday, Gary!

I am - for once - at a loss for words. How do I tell someone who means this much to me to merely "have a terrific birthday"?

I am not even sure where to begin.

When I was in college, my father jokingly gave me the rundown on whom not to date: Don't date pre-med students, but only those who have been accepted into med school. No pre-law students - they're a dime a dozen. No teachers or liberal arts majors; no engineers, as the jobs are too high stress.

He then was serious with this advice: Look for someone with good character, he told me. The rest will fall into place.

He was absolutely right. I fell in love with the man with good character. And it has paid off - I have a husband who treats me well and is good with our girls. He has an excellent job, does not spend money foolishly, and makes good decisions related to our finances. He is honest and caring. And he is a great father, which is worth mentioning twice. He is handy around the house; he likes to watch sports but also likes to watch foreign films with me. He likes to fish and bike, but he also loves to visit museums or see Broadway shows with me.

In other words, he is perfect for me. Even if I do have to pick up his dirty clothes off the floor. Several times a week. It's a small price to pay.

Happy Birthday. And just remember: I'll always be younger than you.

Number crunching

Have you ever:

- Bought something you did not need that you probably should not have spent the money on?
- Spent much more on a major purchase than you planned (house, car)?
- Spent more on house repairs/remodeling than you planned?
- Lived to not regret these expenditures?

The answers? Yes, yes, oh yes, and yes.

Our first house cost $40,000 back in 1990. Even then, it was not a lot of money. We sank quite a bit into it, but we made it all back when we sold it five years later. Our second house cost somewhat more. Then, on house No. 3, we had a limit a very high limit, for us - on what we could spend ... which we exceeded by $10,000. Then came the house in Houston, where I didn't feel so bad about it - the house looked like a very, very expensive place, but because we were out in the suburbs it was actually much less.

(Though it was odd, too, as people got the wrong impression - my uncle visited and, upon entering, said, wow, this must have cost $600,000. It made me cringe and want to tell him how much we actually spent. Then I worried that my in-laws would think the same thing. We didn't ever tell people, but I don't like that people think we would really spend that much on a house.)

So here we are on house No. 5. We spent less - quite a bit less - than the Houston house. But we are doing a lot of work. Bunches of work. (Which is wearing on me - we are looking at six months of remodeling so far.)

Today we sat down and finalized our plans. Meaning, we made the decision about which kitchen cabinets to get.

Now, I am somewhat of an expert on remodeling. I am, A, living through this project and B, we have done the major old-house-rehab before. Additionally, I have watched many, many hours of HGTV and This Old House. Plus we used to subscribe to Old House Journal - what other qualifications are required to be an expert?

In any event, I know how to do things right (read: I have watched My House is Worth What, so I know what the real estate experts will say). I know that kitchens and bathrooms are where it's at, that you do not want to own the most expensive house on the block, that you do not want to leave some rooms undone.

Thus, armed with this knowledge, with this expertise, I sat with Gary and we finalized our remodeling budget. I hate to cut corners on a job this big; I do not want to look back and think, oh, we should have gotten a different counter top or backsplash - things that are way too pricey to change. It's one thing to paint a whole, to change cabinet knobs, but a whole different story when it comes to tiling a floor.

So we looked at prices and numbers and made final decisions:

- Slate floors
- Slate backsplash
- Granite tile countertops (though they look like solid granite)
- Undermount kitchen sink (though it does raise the price of the countertops, as the inside edge around the sink must be finished)
- And ... for the cabinets: We are going with Zinn.

If you are from here, you know the significance. Zinn is *the* name in kitchen cabinets. When you read the real estate listings, they are always sure to mention "Zinn kitchen." They are custom, completely designed for your kitchen, made locally. You choose the door design, the wood, the finish. They will install the hardware you want and come change it if you don't like it. They design every element of your kitchen.

Yes, they are more expensive. But their prices include installation and, because designing cabinets is a service, they charge no sales tax. So when you look at their prices vs. others, the difference is not as significant as you might have thought.

Plus, they are guaranteed - if something should break or need to be fixed, they will do it for us forever.

These are not just cabinets - the Zinn people are artisans. These cabinets will be a work of art, just for us, for our house.

Clearly, I have totally bought into the whole Zinn sales spiel. But it's all true - trust me. Or just talk to anyone who has ever had a Zinn kitchen. Which I have - back in our first Lafayette house. It was old, from the late 60s or early 70s. The cabinets were very simple, and they only looked slightly dated (the finish was a little shiny). But no one had ever changed them - the cabinets were very sturdy; they were a quality product.

It's all falling into place. It's costing us for sure; we will spend as much adding 520 sf as we spent on an entire house (and we're talking house No. 2, not the first house). We are spending more than my friend just spent on her dream house, a lot more than my in-laws entire house is worth.

And we still need to refinish floors and paint three rooms. Install a new garage door. Rebuild our deck.

But it's what we want. We will end up with an 1880 house with fantastic woodwork, three fireplaces, and living room built-ins; we will have a four-room master suite with bathroom, dressing room, fireplace and five closets. We will have the old house charm of a formal dining room but a fabulously updated eat-in kitchen, a third-floor game room and four bedrooms.

In short, it will be the perfect home for our family. Which is all anyone could ask for.

Winter days, cheery days

Yeesh. It's not as if this week has been that busy. Busy enough, but just a normal week.

Except that we had two extra days off. Snow days. Or, more accurately, cold days. The radio said 21 below zero at 6 a.m. Friday. The airport only reported 15 below, but at that point it hardly matters - cold is cold. I was more than happy to stay inside for the day.

(Though the girls were bored. Thursday was a novelty, but by Friday, they had had enough of being cooped up at home. By noon we were back into positive temps, so a trip to Target and the mall seemed in order.)

Last weekend we hung with friends, and tonight we are headed out again. Not sure just what tomorrow holds, but we'll find plenty to do on our five-day weekend.

Winter has not dragged me down yet - despite the frigid temperatures, I am still enjoying this part of the year.

How's that for some optimism? I guess it's just that kind of day - the kind brimming with sunshine (literal and figurative), happiness, and lots of positive vibes. Maybe the anticipation of Tuesday's goings-on has me keyed up.

Whatever the reason, I'm just enjoying my ebullient spirits. Cheers to all - three days and counting!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

100 Things

I am lazy today. Once again. So, courtesy of a blog group member, I have the following list of possible accomplishments. Something about this feels like braggadocio, but it doesn't appear to be stopping me. I guess because I have not done *everything* on this list, so I can claim some humility.

RULES: There are 100 statements and you capitalize the ones you have done. Grab it and play for yourself!!

4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
7. BEEN TO DISNEYLAND (does Disneyland Paris count? or Disneyworld in Orlando?)
8. Climbed a mountain (I've climed on a mountain - not really the same thing)
9. Held a praying mantis
13. Watched a lightening storm at sea
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (No regrets here)
17. WALKED TO THE TOP OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY (can't do it anymore!) (People have added that caveat, yet I have done it - twice - 1974 and 1992)
22. Hitchhiked (Once again, no regrets ... though, do you count being picked up when you're stranded for car touble? Hmmm)
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
31. Hit a home run (does the Wii count?!?)
36. TAUGHT YOURSELF A NEW LANGUAGE (well, I had the help of a tutor and textbook)
37. HAD ENOUGH MONEY TO BE TRULY SATISFIED (It's cliché, but money is not everything)
42. Seen Old Faithful Geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
46. Been transported in an ambulance (another non-regret)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkleing
55. Been in a movie (only the home variety)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. VISITED RUSSIA (I"ll do one better: It was the Soviet Union - can't do that anymore)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
62. Gone whale watching
67. BOUNCED A CHECK (well, we have overdraft, fortunately)
68. Flown in a helicopter
71. EATEN CAVIAR (interestingly, whoever typed this first misspelled caviar - wonder what that signifies)
74. Toured the Everglades
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (and have no desire, to be honest)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (how sad is that? Though I did see Canyon de Chelly, which is, reportedly, just as lovely, just smaller)
80. Published a book
83. Walked in Jerusalem
85. Read the entire Bible
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (and once again, no desire)
89. Saved someone's life (I have taken care of my children for the past 17 years - does that count?
90. Sat on a jury
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit (another non-regret)

These are strangely arbitrary. How about, marched on Washington? Volunteered for a political candidate? Stood up for something you believed in? Addressed a local governmental body on an issue, on the record? Confronted injustice in your community? Been a whistle-blower? Spent more than you should to attend a concert? Paid more than you should for a fabulous item of clothing? Sneaked a purchase into the house?

I didn't go back and count - no need, as I'm not keeping score. Not sure if this list is something to be proud of, or goals to which should aspire.

For now, it's just a little mental exercise on a cold Sunday morning.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

And again, with the quick blogging

I'm not very focused of late. I'm a little sidetracked, a little distracted by stuff.

You know, life. Things to do. Tasks and errands and kids and the like. So I am having difficulty getting in the mood to write properly.

I hope I can settle down soon.

In the meantime:

• I almost regret comparing Ann Coulter to a tranny. I meant no disrespect to transsexuals.

She has, apparently, released yet another book, which contains her same ranting and raving, repackaged under a different title. I'll pass, just as I've passed on all the others - when she needs publicity, she'll say something really outrageous and I will read the coverage. That's enough Ann Coulter for anyone.

• Yes, Roland Burris is a case. But he should be seated in the Senate. If he meets the Constitutional requirements - which it appears he does - then he should be sworn in; I don't think the Democratic Congressional leadership has it in their power to deny him. Besides, he didn't actually do anything wrong. Don't blame him.

• Nice parting shot, Mr. Bush, in denying the Obamas the use of Blair House. The White House had said the presidential guest house was "unavailable" when the Obamas requested to move in ten days early so that their children could start school. Turns out, the Blair House has one overnight guest in that time: former Australian prime minister John Howard. Blair House has 119 rooms and 35 bathrooms. Surely some compromise could have been reached; as it stands, the Obamas are staying in a reportedly very nice hotel, but it is outside the White House security cordon, thus the extra security is costing the government.

I know, Blair House is still the prerogative of the president. But it seems a bit petty.

January 20 cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Quick bits

• Roland Burris is something else, no? He is pretty full of himself. Clarence Page said Roland Burris is Roland Burris's biggest fan. And that Burris said he would do "anything" to get that Senate seat. Which he did.

• Only 14 days left in this administration. Counting down.

• Laura Bush wears lipstick that is too dark.

• Ann Coulter looks like a tranny. Please feel free to spread that rumor.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to School

All the girls were up early today, back in the routine, heading out the door for school.

They all seemed to recover from the trauma.

And they weren't alone - apparently two little girls in Washington DC started a new school today. I heard some gripes that this was not news and got too much coverage. But I figure it deserves at least the same amount of air time as Paris Hilton and her jail escapade.

My day was good, too. I secretly enjoy a few hours to myself every day. I can enjoy myself though May.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


"You might think all my Webkinz are just thrown into the basket," Sylvia told me. "But I have them all organized." She then explained to me how they are sorted by type of fur - hair - not quite sure what you call it on a Webkinz.

She has just recently organized her closet - all her shoes are sorted and on shelves.

Who wouldn't love a girl like Sylvia?

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Once upon a time, I used to get the catalogs from Coldwater Creek and J Jill. I used to flip through them, thinking the clothes were stylish and attractive, and I even imagined myself pulling out the credit card and ordering a thing or two.

I never did it. Mostly because I don't order out of catalogs much - I prefer to see things and try them on. But I always thought the clothes were nice.

Imagine my surprise when, today, I wandered into both of these stores. Our favorite mall in Indy has both of these stores, so I thought I should have a look, see if those post-Christmas sales had anything to offer.

I did. They didn't.

(I know - second trip to Indianapolis in two days? The girls had Christmas money to spend, and our mall here is disappointing (read: no abercrombie. Abercrombie & Fitch, yes, but that's not what the younger two like). Though Alison decided she'd rather shop at Hollister, which was not available at this particular mall. This is what I get for having daughters with my taste.)

I was stunned at the clothes I saw. They were pricey. But more importantly, they were ugly. And old. I saw a perfectly hideous blouse in J Jill - it was made of four semi-coordinating fabrics with an eyelet-like appearance in pastels, and it retailed for $149. And it wasn't even marked down. Who would wear such a thing? I had to drag Maddie back in just to see it.

Coldwater Creek was worse - pricey items, lots of jackets and sweaters in oddly bold colors. And I'm fairly certain I was the only woman in there still menstruating.

And I haven't even gotten to the worst part yet: Chico. I had never heard of this store - and the mannequins in the window, clad in their matching tank tops with open blouses, should have tipped me off. But no, I had to go in and look. The clothing featured the same shocking colors and embroidery. But the sizes were such that I didn't understand them. 0? 1? 2? We finally figured those must indicate the number of decades past 50 you are.

Needless to say, I did not make any purchases. (And my husband dared to suggest that some of the pants looked OK - since when do I wear plum-colored corduroys?)

Lest you wonder what lures me to this mall, let me assure you, it does have good stuff: Brooks Brothers. Ann Taylor. Banana Republic. Apple. Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn (where we researched sofas). Restoration Hardware. Nordstrom's.

I considered a jacket in Ann Taylor, and finally deemed it too expensive. And then found the perfect dress in Banana Republic. Scored quite a bargain.

And the girls? They hit the mother load at abercrombie, then ventured out to Limited Too/Justice and Pink.

Our sad little mall is yet another of the downsides to living in a smallish city. But I can deal. I save money, and it makes the trip to Indianapolis just that much more exciting.

Which I am already planning. This time, without the girls. Or the husband. It's better that way - trust me.

Friday, January 02, 2009

One down ...

We took a little road trip tonight - we traveled south on I-65 to the art cinema at Keystone in Indianapolis, the nearest place that is currently screening Slumdog Millionaire.

Excellent flick. Just excellent. It was toss-up between that and Milk. Milk is still on the list. Which also includes Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino, The Reader, Frost/Nixon, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Not necessarily in that order.

There is one thing about Houston I miss: the availability of limited release films. The River Oaks Theater was just over 30 minutes from us, and we could be guaranteed to find whatever we wanted to see. Here in medium-sized midwestern town/small city, I can find Twilight and Four Christmases, but none of the independent films we prefer.

This is what I get for trading in the rat race. But it's OK - now I will drive 60 miles to watch a movie about the drudgery of life in the suburbs, rather than living the experience day after day.

It's totally worth the trade-off.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Welcome, 2009!

A reviewer the other day mentioned a film that is one of the decade's best.

Decade's best, I thought. How can we determine what is the best of the decade when the decade is only half over?

Which is when it hit me: This decade is, in fact, nearly over.

Life spinning by. This is what happens as you get older. I blink my eyes, pause for a moment, and it's six months later. My children are no longer the infants and toddlers who once kept me busy, but middle and high-schoolers who challenge me on multiple levels.

It also means that this construction job that has taken so very long will feel like a mere blip on the year when I look back in six or eight months.

I'm not big on sharing resolutions or plans for the year - some things are best kept to oneself. But I do feel, and share, the air of promise that hangs over us. With a new president, a new administration, in the White House, there is hope and optimism for this country. A new year brings a lot of possibilities, unfulfilled potential, and I am anxious to see what will happen.

Here's a to prosperous 2009. Not just for me, but for all - all Americans, people the world over.

Peace, all.