Quote of the day, pumpkin-style.

October 31, 2014

The scene: The girls asked for a scary jack-o’lantern this year, and so I tried to summon what little left I cared about Halloween in order to make my girlies happy. As moms do. I came up with this:

Jack1 Jack2

Bee walked out from the front room and saw the finished product.

Bee: Whoa, Mom! He’s wicked!
I smiled, because high praise, right? But then she ruined it.
Bee: But he kinda looks like Elvis.
Me: What? How?!
Bee: His eye mom. It’s kind of Elvis. Squinting.

Well, alrighty then.

And it’s not even my house.

October 29, 2014

The craziest thing happened yesterday. I got an email mid-morning asking me if I had heard about the break-in at my Ex’s. Uh…what?! My sister, all the way from Connecticut, happened to see a social media post from the girls’ step-sister venting about the thugs who broke in to her parents’ house. With a little online investigating, I quickly recognized the Ex’s house and texted him to make sure everyone was okay.

Because it wasn’t clear when exactly this had all gone down. Was it at night when everyone was asleep? The thought alone sent shivers up my spine; being woken by the security alarm is one of my greatest fears. Did the break-in occur during the day? Stepmom works from home – did that mean that she had scared them off? Was there a confrontation? What the man?!?!

The good news is that everyone is indeed okay. The Ex and Stepmom were out at a doctor’s appointment and came home to find a strange car parked next door. They walked into the house and interrupted the burglary in progress. Bee said the perp then flew out the back window he had smashed in. They made off with just a few things – jewelry, passports, kindles, etc. – but hadn’t yet gathered up everything they wanted. How in the world they managed to gather up anything is kind of crazy – there are four dogs at the Ex’s house! Thankfully all of the furries are okay, They thought Bee’s kitty was missing, but she was eventually found cowering under Gracie’s bed.

I’m so thankful that Stepmom wasn’t working from home when the idiots decided to smash-and-grab. I’m thankful the police responded as quickly as they did, and that the Ex had the presence of mind to snap pics of their car and license plate. I’m glad the girlies weren’t more affected by events. I was prepared for 1,001 questions last night. Bee, especially, still has trouble from time to time feeling secure at night, alone in her bed, when the house has gone dark and quiet. I remind her that we live in a brick house (a holdover from The Three Little Pigs), that we have a security system, that we have a dog who will bark if a stranger approaches the house, that we have strong locks on our doors and good neighbors who are always out in their front yards, keeping an eye on things. I remind her that bad guys want an easy house to break into – not a house like ours with so many systems in place designed to keep them out. The thing is, her dad had all of those same protections. So I was very much dreading how I was going to soothe Bee and make her feel safe again. (Gracie was easy – I was just going to use statistics and BAM! it would’ve worked.) Thankfully, the girls were just adorably outraged, not afraid. I’ll take indignant any day!

Hopefully the thugs will be caught soon and this horrible sense of being violated will disappear quickly. Feeling this vulnerable is horrible. Placing your faith in the unseen, the Universe, that things will work out and be okay, it can be terribly daunting at times. But some days, it’s just what you have to do.

That’s not service.

October 28, 2014

I thought I was doing great. I had found Christmas dresses super-on-sale, and had ordered them. In October. I was so far ahead of the curve it wasn’t even funny. It only took one year (and now I don’t even remember which it was) for me to be without outfits for the girls heading into December for me to learn that stores sell out fast.

So this year, I did what I’ve done for the past several years: I stalked Children’s Place until they posted to their fancy holiday boutique, and then I stalked them some more until the dresses went on sale. It’s where I’ve purchased the girls’ dresses since Bee was two. I wasn’t super-crazy about them, but I liked them well enough. And at $20 a piece, I liked the price plenty. There was no way I was going to beat that. Plus, the styles were something I thought the girls would adore. So I ordered them.

This, for Gracie:


I’m not crazy about the fake lace top, but it’s a bit steampunky, and Gracie looks so good in grey. A little edgy, a little sophisticated, just like my girl.

For Bee:


Not my style at all. In fact, I’d rather not buy it. But I liked it more than my other options, and Bee would fall for the girliness of it – the red floofy flowers and the bubble hemline. (In fact, everything I don’t like. But as Bee keeps pointing out in aggravated tones, her style doesn’t have to be my style. Point. But I’m paying.) So since she would like love it and it was so cheap, I went ahead and ordered it. The dresses and another $100 of uniforms and things to tuck away for Christmas. Because you might as well when you’re paying for shipping.

The order arrived just a few days later. I had the outfits laying out so the girls could try them on right away, and that’s when I got my first clue that things might not go as planned. Gracie fell for Bee’s dress and Bee fell for Gracie’s dress. Because: my life. Somehow I convinced the girls the world wouldn’t end if they wore the dresses I had picked out for them. Because don’tcha know the girls have finally separated in sizes: Gracie has finally moved up into 10-12 or kids’ Large sizes, which means they can’t just swap clothes. (This is important later.) So they try on the dresses and…yeah, not so much. Gracie’s steampunk dress came way to close to the top of her thighs, affecting a 1950’s cutesy doll look. And Bee’s dress wasn’t much better. So Bee tried on Gracie’s dress – the one she liked better, anyway – and it fit nicely. So I had one thrilled 8-year-old and a dress-less 10-year-old. No matter. I’d just exchange it.

Everyone who thinks that’s what happened, raise your hand.

See, the holiday dresses aren’t offered in-store. It’s Children’s Place’s clever trick to make you order online and drive you mad with all the returns. I called Customer Service to see what we could work out. I just needed to exchange the red bubble dress from a size 8 to a size 12. Customer Service had trouble understanding me at first, but eventually explained that they couldn’t perform an exchange. I would need to return the dress, then they could credit me back what I had paid. Then I could order the dress I wanted in the new size. Two problems: they expected me to pay for return-shipping, and the dress was $12 more than I had paid. So I would be out $10 for shipping, and then another $12 for the same dress, and if the dress didn’t fit, I’d be out another $10 for another round of return shipping. Potentially $40 for the pleasure of shopping at their store, with no dress to show for it. Yeah, so not going to happen.

I kept my cool and played the helpful,-but-concerned customer. I pointed out how much money I had spent and the fact that I just needed a size-exchange; couldn’t something be worked out? The agent eventually found a coupon to reduce the cost of the dress to what I had paid before, but couldn’t address the shipping cost – the one now, or potentially the one I would incur if the second dress didn’t fit. I asked if I could return the dress in-store. I could not. I asked if an exception could be made if I ordered the second dress right then on the phone – nope. Did the stores have inter-store mail that could be used (surely something could be arranged) – except it couldn’t. I pointed out how I was losing money on the deal and asked where the incentive was to shop at their retail establishment, especially when every other retailer offered no-hassle returns or returns in-store. She offered nothing. Not even a coupon on a future purchase that would both ensure I recaptured the $10 I’d pay for shipping and guarantee them additional revenue. I was so disappointed in how little Children’s Garden worked with me to resolve the issue. I even wrote a concise, but clear and polite email to Children’s Garden explaining my predicament. I haven’t received a response.

I hated to do it, but I finally told the customer service agent that if she or a supervisor couldn’t work with me to resolve the issue that I would return the dress on my dime (as I had no choice) and would not purchase a replacement dress from their store, since I had zero confidence that I would find something that worked without incurring further cost. I would also no longer be buying anything from them online, since I was no longer sure that I wouldn’t have to send it back, or even in-store since I was so dissatisfied with their customer service. It hurts, because I’ve practically clothed my children in nothing but Children’s Place since they were little. But what is the incentive to keep doing so?

So. We’re down one holiday dress and one clothing retailer. Take one guess which one bugs me more.


Quote of the Day.

October 27, 2014

Last night, after a long weekend from which we were about to escape unscathed, I walked out of the scrap room to see Bee kind of squatting with her arms out, hands up, fingers splayed, like she’s juggling an invisible watermelon or two.

Me: Bee, what are you *doing*?
Bee: I’m trying to move the chair. From far away. *With my mind!!!*

And then I swear to god she taps her fingers together like she has an evil, evil plan in mind.

Me, slightly terrified: Okay, well, either go practice your telekinetic powers in the living room, or go to bed.

No, I didn’t check on the chair this morning. Because if anyone were going to start displaying scary superpowers suddenly and without warning…

Five for Friday.

October 24, 2014

Goooood morning! No, I’m not really that awake – but we did hear some good tunes on the radio this morning and that makes all the difference between faking-awake and just grunting at whoever talks to you. So as I warm up to the thought of one more day before I can sleeeep in (for all that’s lovely and holy!), let’s see what we’ve got going on…

1. I shouldn’t have worried that the Readathon would cause me to miss my step – I’ve finished three more books this week. Nope, wait, four if you count the read-aloud book the girls and I finished. The read-aloud book was Kate’s Book by Mary Francis Shura. Meh. They liked it, though. Think Little House on the Prairie, but much shorter, and less poetic. Then there was Bird Box, the debut creeptastic tale by Josh Malerman that I devoured in just three hours. Even in the dark. Even though it was about the dark. Because I cared more about what happened at the end than I did about sleeping. THAT GOOD! Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison went completely in the opposite direction. I can see why it won award for non-fiction, her essays were incredibly thought-provoking and certainly made a person examine how she engaged with the world, but let me just say it might not be a good read for a person in pain, ironically enough. And last one was Two Boys Kissing, YA king David Levithan’s popular title from last year. (Last year? Maybe the year before.) It was…okay, I guess. Underwhelming from what I’d heard of it and other works. I’ve found I’m pretty picky about Levithan, so you may entirely disagree. Love that LBGT fiction is so much more accessible, and I smile widely every time I see that hott hott hott picture of the boys, kissing, on the cover. YES. So that was my reading week.

2. The weather here is driving me nuts. It’s supposed to be 90-flippin degrees this weekend. How am I supposed to sing around the firepit with the girls when the weather won’t cooperate?! All you need to do is wave the marshmallows in the air and they’ll melt! In an act of defiance, I did finally pull the rest of the girls’ shorts out of their dressers, though, and finished installing their jeans. Jeans and shorts don’t both fit, and they’re choosing to wear jeans to school. Because the air conditioning is too cold. Harrumph.

3. Speaking about grouchy weather-related things… You know what you also can’t do when it’s 90 degrees outside? Get into secret Christmas mode. Yes, I know I’m insane. And no, I don’t do Christmas from October on. It’s just that when I’m having a particularly rough day, what cheers me up is to sneak temporarily into Christmas mode. It lifts my spirits, I feel better, and then I go back to normal Halloween mode. But you can’t sing Christmas carols alone in your car when it’s 90 flipping degrees out! I can’t even secretly paint my toenails Christmas colors! CURSE you, universe! So I made chocolate chip cookies instead.

4. So far my planner is working out very well, indeed. I’m staying on top of my To-Do list, I actually dragged it out at the dentist’s office yesterday and entered my appointment when I made it – LIKE A GROWN-UP. I have blog ideas creeping into the notes, projects sneaking in, and everything is pretty much groovy. Except I feel like I might need a color-coding system. Annnd everyone who knows me knows that “might” is a decoy word in that sentence. But I’m not sure how that would work and whether I could drag around all the pens I’d need. How would that work exactly? What do you guys do? Tips? Tricks? Hacks? Help!

5. Bless Ed Sheeran’s little red-headed heart. I have a hard time taking the kid seriously. I mean, he’s what? 12? 20? Is he even old enough to drink? Killer hair, yes, but I just…can’t. His songs, though, have begun creeping into my brain and I find myself singing the hooks over and over at random times. Need a fun earworm for Friday? Go listen.

There you go! I am now officially one task closer to the end of my day. If only Task #2 didn’t involve a mountain of email. Oof.

Something shiny to focus on.

October 22, 2014

Last Wednesday was report card pick-up night. I’ve come to dread report card nights. I love, love, love the ability to chat with teachers and get a really in-depth idea of how my children are doing. I like that they can put a face with the neurotic notes I send to school, hoping those notes seem slightly less neurotic in future…but I dread report card nights all the same.

It’s Bee. Gracie might have a small clause of censure buried in all the very predictable words of praise, but she’s a straight-A student (usually), and even her stumbles are, as I’ve said, predictable and easily correctable. Bee, on the other hand, continues to be my special snowflake. Don’t get me wrong – Bee is absolutely dazzling and I have fallen in love all over again with the person my girl has become at eight-years-old. But as a student…well, Bee has some issues. And for a mama who watches her struggle each night over homework and sees her try so hard to understand concepts and try to do better, it’s utterly heartbreaking when she doesn’t get the grades she so desperately wants. I’m sure I looked a bit like Bee-girl herself, dragging my feet and looking glum as I forced myself into the school.

Thankfully, news was a bit better than I had hoped. Bee isn’t failing any classes (HUZZAH! my heart yelled!, and um, maybe my mouth yelled, too). She has only one C, in reading (because spelling doesn’t count), and some “Needs improvement”s in areas she’s not allowed to have them, but mostly Bee’s report card was filled with lovely, glorious Bs. That’s rather stellar for Bee-girl. I had a lovely, honest discussion with Bee’s teachers about her personality-type and why I shouldn’t panic about all of the redo’s and failing grades on tests and struggles. Bee isn’t quite doomed yet to a life of minimum wage and limited opportunities. But she does need to focus more and practice always. These are things I know. But I did hear from both teachers that Bee’s reading has improved and all of the hours we’re logging practicing those skills are paying off.

Here’s where the “something shiny” comes in. Another common theme with adorable Miss Bee is that her confidence is a bit lagging. If Bee doesn’t get something, if she reaches the point where she feels defeated, she shuts down. Nothing gets in, nothing gets better. She cries and pouts and it’s all I can do not to shout at her to quit acting like a two-year-old. Ahem. But it’s because she has no faith that she can get around what she just doesn’t get. She has no confidence in her learning abilities. So she needs that confidence. She needs to participate in something she’s really good at, something where she’s not following along in her sister’s shadow. And that thing, my friends, is gymnastics.

Bee’s a kinesthetic learner. Her grace and connection with her body is absolute; a trait neither her sister nor I share. She excelled at dance the summer she took classes. She’s picked up all sorts of gymnastic moves from J. and N. across the street. She’s begged for lessons. But money is tight and our schedule is very nearly tighter. But sometimes you need to make sacrifices for important matters. Important matters like education. And confidence.

I told Bee that if she can get all As and Bs on her report card, her dad and I would find the money and the time in our family schedules to take her to gymnastics. You guys, you have never seen a face light up quite like Bee-girl’s! This is the right incentive. I might have to freelance every spare moment I have, but I will find a way if Bee does. And the bait seems to have worked, too – Bee’s teacher walked out to Stepmom’s car on Friday during pick-up to tell her that Bee was the only student to score 100 on the spelling test (WHAAA?) and the poetry test. The poetry I’m less surprised about – it’s fragmented, marches it its own beat, and is dancy and sparkly, just like Bee-girl. Of course she gets that. I was so proud!

So here we go. We’re all in. Either this is going to be the moment when Bee drills down – so far, so good – or when her spirit is crushed forever. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting on Bee. And finally, she is too.

This better save an awful lot of sanity.

October 21, 2014

You guys – I did a crazy thing. Yes, I know: that’s not that extraordinary. But this, this is really crazy. I bought a planner. An Erin Condren planner. Told you – batcrap crazy.

I’ve tried planners before. When I started here at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed, they bought me a very nice leather DayTimer, and then (because they were all the rage) a Palm Pilot. I used them a little, but not really enough. I even picked the DayTimer back up a few years later and gave it another go, but I had problems writing everything down. I couldn’t make it a habit. I had Outlook at work to keep my day nice and tidy, but when it came to integrating my work schedule and personal schedule? Checking in after I left work? Whoops. I had the same results when I tried to use my wedding and pregnancy planners. I’d start off with the best of intentions, only to find the rest of the planner was gloriously untouched. Clearly planners were not for me.

But then this past month happened. Things at work were crazier than usual – I know because I was using my long forgotten Lamaze breathing to get through the day. Added to that, I had eight bagillion things going on in my personal life, and there weren’t enough sticky notes and lists in the world to keep me afloat. It was bad. I was anxious all of the time, trying to keep track of everything. Never had lists failed me so hard.

And then a friend posted about her planner that had just arrived. Her personalized planner, filled with all sorts of goodies and add-ons. She went on about how excited she was and generally, well, unknowingly sold the product to me. Before I knew it, I was on Erin Condren’s Web site, looking to see what the fuss was about, watching promotional videos and checking out the different covers I could choose. Before I knew it, I was daydreaming about all of the ways I could track the craziness governing my days. I’d have one place to look to keep track of to-do lists, appointments, deadlines, meal plans…

But I’m not the kind of person who uses a planner. I’m a curious mix of old-school physical lists (and sticky notes – don’t forget the sticky notes) and 21st century technology. I might use sticky notes to remind me about a doctor’s appointment, but I keep my running grocery list in my notes section on my phone. Could I actually use the planner enough to justify the absolutely INSANE price?

I gambled, in a moment of weakness, on the answer being yes. I picked out my covers, chose my personalization, and added a few extras, like the rubber bands to keep the planner tidily closed, and the wire clips to keep things like invitations attached instead of loose-leaf. I know I’m going to migrate towards some sort of color-coding system before long, but…

Good god, what have I done? Yes, I’m still having moments like that, despite the fact that I know several people who use these planners and adore them. Mostly I’m gobsmacked by how much money I put down on a binder. A ridiculous amount of money, when you consider I could have purchased a notebook and calendar for $2 at Walmart. My yankee heart is crying tears into my empty pocketbook. But another part of me – the part of me that rather enjoys color-coding and list-making and sanity-keeping – is relishing in all the possibilities.

So let’s see. Let’s see if we can make this experiment work and turn the tide of anxiety. At least now, if things go well, I will know exactly how many things I’m supposed to be doing, all at the same time.




Final thoughts on this weekend’s #Readathon.

October 20, 2014

What an experience! I feel like my first #Readathon really was like a rearders’ holiday: the great commotion and anticipation leading up to the day, the absolutely insane atmosphere the day of, and then then oh-my-gosh where’d-it-all-go-ness right after. Given that, I wanted to capture a few thoughts about my day while they’re still swirling around.

Reading: The actual reading was a little different than I thought. I anticipated more time in the trenches when it felt like I was slogging it out. The “ugh – more reading” feeling didn’t hit until much, much later than I thought – maybe about 4ish? That’s Hour 10, people. I can do ten hours of reading without feeling it. Hunh. In fact, I kept wish I had more time to sit and “just” read! Between letting the dog in and out, the mini-challenges, social media, and cheering, there were blocks of time when I spent more online than I did in my book.

Social media: Cheering is the absolute BEST, you guys! The lists were a little long, so I didn’t get to “hang out”, per se, and really get invested in any new reading friends, but I did hit all 70 people sent my way. I ended up breaking it up so I would cheer for this section during one break, that section during another, but I think it all worked out. I also spent a goodish amount of time answering tweets, and posted a few updates to Facebook so the fam could keep up with how I was doing (they are not twitterers). I felt compelled to write an update or two for the blog, just because I had nattered on about it so much last week. And by the time I had done all of that, I really didn’t have any time left for mini-challenges. I participated in the first one or two, just because I was awake! and reading! and DOIN’ IT ALL! But by the third hour, I realized I was going to have to jettison some things overboard if I was going to, you know, actually read. So the challenges were sacrificed. I felt bad; I felt like I was missing out on a big part of the online party, but I knew it was necessary.

Snacking: Most people talking about the readathon also talked about their snacking plans and I totally bought in! I would pick up this! and that! And have this fancypants treat for lunch! and… well, none of it really happened. I did treat myself to some poached eggs and hash browns, and later splurged on take-out sushi for dinner, but…that was it. No snacking on all the snacks for me.

The Wall: It was Hour 17 for me. I was exhausted, despite my frequent breaks to hop online, my phone call with my sister to break things up, and the quick trip outta the house to grab dinner. I had read three books already and was trying to push through my fourth and I just. wanted. to sleep. It was a great book (Wonder, by R.J. Palacio); the pace was quick, the voice was catchy, the plot was interesting… I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I tried jumping jacks, I tried a hot bath, I tried chatting online. Finally I gave in, dragged a couple books with me into bed, and read there.

The Results: Sometime after 1 a.m., I fell asleep. You could say I failed to hit the 24-hour challenge. And I did. But you know what? It’s FOR FUN. So it doesn’t bother me so much. I read for most of ‘em. I read four books. In a single day. I met some amazing people online and had a wonderful time. I felt so accomplished on Sunday. It was lovely.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I would probably make sure I got more sleep the night before. My experiment in staying up late two night in a row didn’t work because I am apparently an old woman who can do no such thing. Heh. And I might pace myself better in the early hours. Other than that, the entire thing was incredible. I can’t wait for the next one!

#Readathon Update: Hour 14!

October 18, 2014

I cannot believe we’re already on the downhill side of this day! I know the going will get tougher as it hour grows later and I want to sleeeeep. But I feel like I’ve barely read at all! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve moved around so much, or because I spent a goodish amount of time cheering. But these past thirteen hours have gone by in a blink!

I did feel a bit done with reading about four o’clock this afternoon. So I stretched, made some tea, started some laundry and settled back in. Not long after, Kim called, so I stopped to talk to her. Then I called in a to-go order and ran to get some sushi and edamame and calamari. (Reading books while eating sushi with chopsticks? I feel like I’m playing “grown-up” – it’s divine!)
So now I’m rejuvenated and ready to plunge back into storyland. I’ll sink back into the spell of Wonder and finish that off shortly. And then I have a scary – SCARY - read by the name of Bird Box that everyone has promised will keep me awake all night.
14 hours. Three books. 900+ pages. And just a little over halfway done with the #Readathon. Not bad at all!

#Readathon Update: Hour 7

October 18, 2014

Good news: I finished another book! David Gillham’s absolutely phenomenally written¬†City of Women, about a young Berlin wife who becomes part of The Cause and smuggles Jews out of Berlin during the height of the war. Oh, and has lots of sex that even Stephen King described as “hot-hot-hot”, which is all kinds of wrong, and yet, is not entirely inaccurate. Five of Five stars to the book you guys. Really – it was character rich, complicated, plotty and twisty.

Bad news: You guys, the book destroyed me. I was a mess of nerves for the second half, waiting to see what would happen. Then, the ending (which, really, isn’t anything you’re thinking) just gutted me. Loved some parts of it, accepted some parts of it, and thought other parts were just all kinds of wrong. The story is great – I just am emotionally drained. And it’s only Hour 7! Who cares that I have 800+ pages of reading done! Who cares if I wanted to get more accomplished! My heart is saying no mas!!!

So I’m going to go do some cheering for my #readathon peeps, make some hot tea, and find a lighthearted book to read in a hot bath. Not a bad plan.


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