Monthly Archives: July 2009

Things That Don’t Suck

I got inspired for the title and concept from Janet, who was inspired by Sock Girl, who apparently started this idea. I hope you don’t mind if I take a stab at it too.

Today, on this turned-glorious-day, I’m going to tell you about some things that don’t suck.

Working at home, wearing shorts and flip-flops. I love that I have the flexibility to do this, pretty much whenever I want. My commute is negligible even when I go to the office, and I still have to take the kids to camp, but being able to come home gives me some much needed peace and serenity. It really doesn’t suck that I can have some alone time in my own home, even if I’m working.

I’m getting my hair cut today! I’m going to a beauty school, and it’s going to cost me $7. I’m really excited about that! I’m bringing a photo of myself from an expensive cut I had done about 10 months ago so we’ll see how well the student can replicate it.

We have a family vacation starting in 3 weeks! More details to come, but we are all really looking forward to it. We vacation with another family every year so there will be 10 of us in total. We always have so much fun together!

Shopping for back-to-school supplies. I don’t know what it is, but I love shopping for pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, pencil sharpeners, rulers and all the other school accompaniments. I am happy to have a school-aged child to use as my front in my shopping expeditions! But even if I didn’t, my employer participates in a “Backpacks for Kids” program wherein they collect school supplies to provide fully stocked backpacks to kids in our community who cannot afford it. I am happy to buy extras of everything we get to help out there too.

Ice cream. Ice cream definitely does not suck, though sometimes I wish it did. We have been eating more than our fair share of it around here. Chocolate Peanut Butter cup is my new favorite from a new-to-us ice cream stand. Ohmygoodness, they really chock it full of chopped peanut butter cups – so decadent, so yummy!

A House by another name….

Let’s see, in my adult life I’ve rented an apartment, owned a house and owned a condo. I’ve even done some of those things more than once, though always just one at a time. I’m no real estate tycoon!

When my ex and I divorced, and I was moving out and away with Krystal, I gave serious thought to buying a condo versus a house due to not having to worry about outside maintenance. But a friend talked me into giving my child a yard and a neighborhood, and in the end I agreed. I bought the house we live in now in September 2005, which just incidentally coincides with the absolute peak of the real estate market in my area. Lucky me.

It’s becoming clear to me that I am not cut out to own a house. Parenting two kids, working full time (and a dog!) are taking up all my time and energy. Finding time to mow the lawn, worry about a new roof (which it seems clear I now need), painting, siding, yard work and all the worries that go along with home ownership are pushing me closer and closer to the edge.

OK, so here’s where it gets dicey. Major brain spillage ahead:

I want to move to a warmer climate (Florida, or if I can get a relocation package through work, I’ll take North Carolina). I do not have a timeline for this, but due to external factors, we are probably looking at 3-4 years. Unless I get laid off, in which case that may accelerate things – after all, if I have to look for a job anyway, I may as well look where I want to live. Right?

Alternatively, I don’t want to have to live through another New England winter! And certainly not in a place where I have to worry about shoveling/plowing my driveway.

My roof likely needs replacing. There is a spot on my bedroom ceiling and the whole thing looks pretty ugly from the outside. In today’s buyers’ market, I’m sure I’d have to replace it before anyone would buy my place.

I need to do some landscaping in the front of my house. The mulch around my foundation plantings gets splattered up onto the ground level windows every time it rains and makes the house look dirty and dingy. I need to put down rocks instead, but man that sounds like a lot of work. Just thinking about it makes me tired.

My “lawn” is just green stuff that needs to be mowed. I’m not sure how much of it is actually grass. Lots of clover and other stuff. But it does look pretty good for 24-48 hours after I mow it. I sometimes think I should invest in some sort of lawn service to increase my “curb appeal”, but the thought and money involved don’t appeal to me terribly much.

Are you wondering yet why I bothered to buy a house at all?

Oh, and because, as I stated earlier, I bought my house when prices were at their highest, I’d be lucky to sell my house for little more than what I owe on it, provided I actually sold now. Which is one of the drivers to waiting a few years before the move south. But that’s so logical.

As is my way, I’ve done a lot of browsing online. I’ve found some condos in our area that sound appealing, and I’ve even driven by a few of them to see how they “really” look (pictures in a real estate ad can be so deceiving!). The girls have started asking, “Are we moving?” and the answer is not so easy. Probably not, at least not now, as much as I’d like to. And by “like to”, I mean to already be in a new place. The thought of actually packing and moving makes me want to claw my eyes out.

Oh, and if I act now (before September – so not happening) and move to a place with full day Kindergarten (which is not available in our state, but we are very close to a state where they do offer it, and which I’ve considered), I could save myself a year of private Kindergarten tuition for Belle, which amounts to no small sum.

Do I sound totally flighty yet?

And yet, I don’t want to move the kids twice. I can’t imagine, knowingly and purposely, moving now (unless we stayed in the same school district), and then completely relocating in 3-4 years. Plus, moving for a short time period like that would eat up closing and moving costs, making it financially inadvisable. There I go, getting all logical again.

I just want something to be easy.

Wearing Summer

See what Krystal made me?


Here is another view:


She got the thread/yarn (I’m really not sure what it’s called) in a kit for her birthday on making Friendship bracelets. She and her friends have been making them at camp and she is sporting 3 anklets on her own left ankle. One day last week she was home sick and decided to make me one. She had me pick four colors (from about 20 or so in the kit), and started right in. The colors in the photo appear a bit washed out (must be that super expensive camera with all the fancy settings, yeah, that’s it) but I chose pink, purple, green and white.

I think she did an excellent job, and it feels very “summer” to wear it. Which is good, since it’s about the only thing summery about this summer yet.

Awkward Family Photos

I have had a few ideas for posts floating around for the last few days, but seeing as it’s Friday, I thought I’d go light and share a site with you. Someone told me about this site a few weeks ago and I read every entry in the course of an afternoon. I checked it out again today and have been laughing ever since.

Really – please go here to check it out. I’ll wait.

Do you have a favorite? I laughed at so many it’s hard to pick just one. While I generally prefer the photos to the stories, it was an email that had me laughing longest and hardest. See if you don’t agree.

Please share your favorite from this site, or any other funny places I should check out!

And to Jim – thanks for the tip on finding my funny – I’ve been giving that a lot of practice in my head. Which I suppose makes me sound a little crazy. Nutty, even. Oh well. I may try my hand at something next week.

Finding my Funny

I love to read funny stuff. I love to laugh, whether with friends, with a movie, a book or a blog. And I think I’m pretty funny, though usually in a dry or sarcastic way. Subtle even. (Is there some missive along the lines of “If you have to tell people you’re funny then you aren’t?” If not, there should be!)

But it occurs to me that most readers of this blog probably don’t see the funny side of me. My blog tends to be a place of introspection. And while I often am in “telling a story” mode, and sometimes inject a funny (to me) thought or two, my sense of humor doesn’t really come out here.

I am wondering why that is?

At work we use an instant message application quite frequently. On any given day I have 4-14 chat windows going with various co-workers. The conversations in them range from stricly utilitarian asking and answering simple (or complex) questions, to “water cooler” type conversations about a TV show, the weather, the latest kid antics, work politics, etc. In these I am definitely very funny! Just ask my co-workers! Why am I funny there, and not here? I think it’s because of the more conversational nature of chat, versus the one-way experience I have here. I’m not a “popular” blog, and even though I know I have more readers than a casual reader just stopping by might guess based on the number of comments I get, it’s still mostly me just typing into the ether. I think I need the banter. Someone says something that sends my mind in a direction and it brings out my dry wit (she says so modestly). I can’t seem to play off myself in the same way.

I wonder if there is a place to learn to do that? I’d like to find my funny here on my blog.

Well Blow Me Over and Stick a Pig in my Eye

Krystal and Belle are both attending the local YMCA day camp this summer. It is near our home and my work and is a (relatively) affordable option for full time care for them while I work. This is Krystal’s third summer there, and Belle’s first. Despite having to send them off in jeans and sweatshirts everyday for the first two weeks, they’ve both been having a great time. Krystal has been reporting major drama with the other girls in her group (oh, I am never going to survive the teen years!) but Belle, who I was originally worried about, has been having a BALL! She loves camp!

Every Friday at the morning opening ceremony each group designates a “Camper of the Week”. The other years Krystal has attended it’s been one camper for the whole camp, but this year the counselor(s) of each group, which consists of 8-10 kids, pick a camper, so there are a lot more kids getting this honor each week. As you might expect, this goes to the camper who has been the most helpful, with the best attitude, blah, blah, blah.

Two weeks ago Krystal was Camper of the Week and I was so proud! Her certificate (with our last name spelled wrong – oh well) is displayed with pride on our refrigerator.

Tonight when I arrived at camp to pick up the girls Krystal couldn’t wait to tell me that Belle was a Camper of the Week this week! I could not have been more surprised! And proud, of course! Her certificate, which also has our last name spelled wrong (oh well again!) is there on the frig now too.

Two Campers of the Week.

And one of them was Belle.


Eat What You Have

I am a terrible meal planner.

When I lived alone I virtually never planned dinner for myself. I’d get home from work and feel hungry, so I’d eat whatever I had. This often consisted of nuking a plate of tortilla chips smothered in salsa and cheese (a damn tasty snack, but not so nutritious as far as meals go), or angel hair pasta with frozen veggies and Parmesan cheese. Only angel hair would do because it only takes 3 minutes to cook – when I’m hungry I’m hungry! In fact, those are the only two things I can think of that I made with any regularity. Sometimes I’d get on a kick and buy lots of good food with the best intentions of eating and cooking better, but that never really panned out, or not for long anyway. I thew a lot of good food out because I just never got to it.

I’ve been parenting for over 7 years now and on the one hand I’m happy to report I’ve never served my kids tortilla chips for dinner, but on the other, I’d say we only have a meal I’ve planned more than an hour or two in advance once or twice a month. I know I have to feed them every night, but somehow it doesn’t really dawn on me most of the time until we’re all in the car on the way home at the end of the day and they are clamoring to know “what’s for dinner????”

Tonight was no different really. Except Krystal was home sick for the day so when we were leaving to go pick up Belle she asked that dreaded question (What’s for dinner?) and so I pulled open the frig. I took out whole wheat pizza dough we’d gotten at Trader Joe’s last weekend, some zucchini and summer squash I’d bought a week or so ago and never got around to grilling (the girls love it on the grill), and some leftover broccoli that I had grilled, but we hadn’t quite conquered the leftover part. I announced we were having pizza.

Originally I had planned to grill the zucchini and summer squash, but since I had no other reason to fire up the grill I decided to roast them instead. I cubed them and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic cloves and put them on the bottom shelf of the oven. The pizza got covered in tomato slices from our container tomato plant and chopped leftover roasted broccoli and cheese. When it all came out of the oven 10 minutes later the kids said it looked like a restaurant.

It was all really tasty too. The entire pizza got eaten. We do have some leftover veggies, but those will probably get eaten tomorrow. I’m really happy that I was able to make a very tasty meal out of what was already in my refrigerator, which also included using up quite a bit of food that in a few days I would have had to throw out.

Eating what you have is the easiest way to save money on food. And making it healthy will keep the doctor away (just say no to tortilla chips for dinner!).

What My Kids are Learning from Michael Jackson

Before June 25th my kids never heard of Michael Jackson. And why would they? He hasn’t put out an album in years, and he’s been mostly out of the public view for their entire lives.

They didn’t hear about his death from me. While I was aware of it from close to the moment it was confirmed publicly (since I live on the Internet, pretty much), it wasn’t something I even thought to mention to them. But they heard about it at camp and seemed to pick up on the enormous public interest and media frenzy right away. They wanted to know who he was and why he was famous.

So I pulled up Thriller on YouTube (I thought they’d be scared, but they understood it was a “movie”). They had a hard time reconciling the Michael Jackson in the Thriller video with the current version of him. Belle kept asking why he looks like a woman now. Krystal was curious about the changing color of his skin and shape of his nose.

My kids are Asian, living in a mostly Caucasian world. Even at their tender ages they’ve been targets of kids pulling their eyes into slits to make themselves look like them (News Flash: When you pull your eyes into slits you just look like you pulled your eyes into slits – you do not look Asian in the slightest. Also, you look ridiculous. And racist). Krystal in particular has said more than once that she wishes she looked like me. When she says this, she means she wishes she were not Asian. “I don’t want to be Chinese and American. I just want to be American.” This makes me sad to hear, and I hurt for her. Obviously I think she is beautiful just the way she is. I happen to think she is physically beautiful, but she is also pretty gorgeous on the inside too. But kids never want to hear that and she has dismissed my praise as “Of course you think that, you’re my mom!”

And so when they see someone like Michael Jackson deliberately changing his looks so drastically, I cringe. I cannot speak to his claim that he had a skin lightening disease. I’m not a doctor and frankly it’s not really any of my business. Regardless, his features have been radically changed through plastic surgery, and he no longer looks like the same person he was in the 80’s. I wish he had been happy with his looks. I wish that for him, since I have to think he must have had a lot of self-hatred to make the changes he did, but I also wish it selfishly, for my kids. For my kids whose looks do not fit the “norm” and who already sometimes wish they looked different. Krystal and Belle have both said about MJ that “he should just be happy with how he looks”, and I’m glad they can say that. It’s the longer term message that might seep in when no one is looking that conerns me.

Thursday Thunks

1. Do you tend to have a guilty conscious? Oh yeah. Sometimes I say my middle name should be guilt. I can manage to feel guilty even about things that can’t possibly be my fault. Like when a cop car drives down my street – are they coming for me? Even though I’ve done nothing wrong….

2. Do you still have your wisdom teeth? Nope, they came out just before I got braces. Impacted too, so I had to have actual surgery (in the hospital!) to have them out.

3. Peanut Butter – creamy or crunchy? Creamy, baby, all the way!

4. Get up off your butt. Take 5 steps. Which leg did you start out on? I just tried this 3 different times, and it was the left, two out of three. I’m guessing this is because of my military background (Left, Left, Left-Right-Left). But who knows.

5. What color is your favorite kitchen utensil? Do I have a favorite kitchen utensil? I guess it would be my chef’s knife, which has a black handle and a typically silver knife blade.

6. Did you watch the Michael Jackson memorial/funeral? No, I was working. It’s not quite that I wasn’t interested, but I have a strong aversion to feeding the media frenzy surrounding it all.

7. Do you know anyone who graduated from high school this year? No, not this year, but I do know several who will graduate next year.

Were you invited to their graduation party? Did you go? N/A

8. White with black stripes or black with white stripes? I believe a zebra is black with white stripes. But other than that I have no idea what you mean.

9. If we were to call your 6th grade teacher, what would they say about you? I’m sure most of my former teachers would describe me as your typical goody two shoes kid who was smart as a whip and that they expected I would do more with my life.

10. Can you draw a perfect circle? Perfect? No, but why would I need to?

11. What was your favorite scratch & sniff sticker scent? Gee, I must confess I have never given this a whiff of a thought.

12. What does your sibling do for a living? I have no living siblings. My sister worked at Burger King (she called it the BK Lounge) when she was in high school.

13. How many light switches and electrical outlets are in the room that you are in right now? And this is interesting why? One light switch and 6 electrical outlets. I think. I might have missed one behind a piece of furniture.

14. Do you know sign language? Only a few signs, like more, cat, socks, butterfly, thank you, you’re welcome.

15. Do you step on cracks in the sidewalk? Yes, if that’s the way my stride goes. I don’t go out of my way to step, or not step, on them.

16. And the sheets on your bed look like….? They are light blue (the ones on there now anyway), and are wrinkled. That’s all.

17. What is something that everyone else has, but you don’t? Patience. Time. Freedom.

Reading Rediscovered

In my pre-parenting days I was an avid reader. Mostly popular fiction, but I liked to think I was more literary than say,  my mother, who seems to read a lot of what I call romance novels. My favorite authors include Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, Pat Conroy, Elizabeth Berg, Barbara Kingsolver, John Irving, John Grisham, Nelson DeMille and many more I’m not going to hunt down right now. I visited my local library frequently, putting books on hold, picking up new ones, returning read ones, and the librarians knew me by name and sight. I didn’t have much of a social life, but I could always entertain myself.

Now that I’m a parent I read to my kids constantly, of course. As they get older we get to explore chapter books that I actually take some enjoyment from as well. We’ve read Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty and Misty of Chincoteague, which I read as a child. But we’ve also read books written since that I’ve enjoyed as much or more than they have such as Frindle and Holes. Right now we’re reading Three Cups of Tea, based on a true story.

Since becoming a mom, my own entertainment has drifted towards television. What with investing in Tivo, and later transferrring to Comcast’s DVR service, I’ve become even more TV obsessed. Last year’s writers’ strike had me joining Netflix, and I got to see a lot of series I’d missed the first time around (Six Feet Under and Arrested Development being highlights).

When my favorite shows had their season finale’s in May, I had nothing to watch. A lot of nights I’ll put NESN on and catch the Red Sox game while I sit with my laptop on my, well, lap, but even that gets old.

Then I learned that one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg, had a new book out. I requested it from the library. It came in, and I read it. A friend on Facebook posted about looking for book recommendations, and I wrote down all the books people suggested and looked them up. A lot of them sounded good to me (and some were by authors I love that since I haven’t read for pleasure in so long I hadn’t known about!). When I returned the first book I took out a few more. I am now 2/3 through The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb and am really enjoying it. I missed reading. I’m glad to be doing it again.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even cancel the DVR service?

Nah, let’s not get drastic.