Five for Friday.

October 21, 2016

It’s been a crazy week with parents off on business trips and vacations and staycations and all the school activities and ALL THE THINGS happening at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed. Let’s see what can be discussed from this week, shall we?

1 Early morning traffic is not my favorite. This week I had to drop the Gracie-girl off at her Stepmom’s at our usual time so she could meet her carpool to school. Then I had to drive back to get the Bee-meister Meisterburger (her new nick, natch), who was left to her own devices to finish getting ready. After an awkward ten minutes of waiting at home, I dropped Bee at school, and then sat through all. the. traffic. on the way to work. Thirty minutes makes such a huge difference in the metroplex! Instead of 20 minutes, I sat in traffic for 95 minutes on Thursday morning! On side streets! The metroplex has gone insane, you guys. But maturing ten-year-olds who can be trusted to actually get ready instead of watching cartoons are kind of awesome.

2 Not that said ten-year-olds didn’t contribute to the chaos this week. This is how my week started: flew back from New England to Texas late Monday night, got in 9:30p, home by 10p, in bed by 11p (which is seriously past my bedtime). Up and to work on time (somehow) Tuesday morning, got my Gracie after work, rushed the reunion hugs and dropped her off at the high school because First Choir Concert – and because having to get the kids back to school less than an hour after they left TOTALLY MAKES SENSE! And then while on my way to get the Bee-meister, I got a call from her school that she had tripped and fallen eye first into the corner of some shelves. Blood everywhere, her face was sliced from the corner of her eye up to her temple, there was swelling and bruising, and – once I arrived – tears. It took quite a bit to get the bleeding to stop, and then I had to decide whether her vision was blurry because Bee was holding her ice to her eye too tightly or whether her vision was smooshed. Thankfully, my Bee-girl is fine, and we only missed the very beginning of Gracie’s concert (which she performed splendidly!). I’m not even disappointed that Bee won’t be a pirate, replete with eye patch, for Halloween.

3 Speaking of Halloween! I should probably get on this costume thing, huh? This is the latest I’ve ever prepared, but I can’t seem to get worked up about it. Perhaps because I’m anxious about everything else going on in my life. Gracie has decided to go as a Starbucks drink – I need to find her white leggings and a brown tank top (to wear over a white shirt and use as the cardboard sleeve), and get some cotton batting to use as whipped cream. Oh, and some green paint to make a straw out of a wrapping paper tube. Bee wanted to be Little Red Riding Hood, but her cape tastes were $168 on Etsy, and so she’s amended her costume selection. I was hoping for Hollywood glam – fancy black sheath dress, black gloves, pearls, oversized sunglasses, a purse and an up-do. That was a non-starter. From my fancy kid, I know!! Instead, Bee asked if she could be a Pink Lady from Grease. So I’ll be looking for that outfit this weekend, too. (Seriously, I think Bee is just hoping for a pink leather jacket.)

4 My reading slump might be easing up a bit. I only read five books (or something equally ridiculous) during October. True, there were a few re-reads in there and a book that had alllll the pages, but I’m still pretty disappointed in myself. When I don’t feel like reading, it makes me a bit panicky. I am a Reader; I should want to read! But for whatever reason, I was slumping. So it helped that I read so much on vacation last week. Adding books to my “Finished” pile made me want to finally pick up some more books that I had been ignoring. With a read-a-thon this weekend (that I may or may not be doing) and Non-Fiction November around the corner, things are looking up! I might even have enough books read to post a list of reviews one of these Thursdays. I know you’ve been missing them.

5 My goals for this weekend are simple: go for a run Saturday and Sunday; buy a light for the kitchen (no, seriously – for real this time); clean the growing pile of piles in my bedroom; and finish flipping the girls’ summer and winter clothes. We got about halfway through a month ago, and the boxes have been lining my living room ever since. Captain Clutter is going to chop off my head if I don’t get a move on and get some work done instead of listing why it’d just make more sense to wait. C’mon now – after hearing all that, you know you want my weekend plans.

So there you have it! Five things from my crazy, busy, no-good week. Or at least five of the ones that were fit to print. Here’s to a happier, calmer Friday, and one that flies by so we can get this weekend going already!

A short, crazy, busy, restful weekend.

October 18, 2016

I was dreading this weekend. Some of you know how high my anxiety has been lately; seriously, it’s been at peak pestiness. My Ex had to travel out of town this week for work, convoluting kid coverage (thanks to their awesome Stepmom and to Jeff for stepping up), Jeff’s brother is in town this week, and the girls have eighty thousand activities this week. And on top of all of that “everyday” stress, my phobia about flying meant I was utterly convinced that I was going to die while trying to get home. I don’t think they make sedatives strong enough.

But! One of my favorite uncles was getting married and is happier than I have ever seen him. A girl doesn’t hide from getting to see family marry the love of their lives.

So I didn’t make up excuses. I took a deep breath, had a drink or two at the airport, and boarded the plane. And you know what? My weekend was a very lovely, very necessary time-out.

Kim and Rhi and I giggled over every little nothing. I got to see my gorgeous home state in the middle of Fall – something I haven’t had the pleasure of in many years – and was astounded at how I could have taken that for granted. I felt moments of true peace that helped balance out the crazy, which in itself was worth the price of tickets. We took a trip to the Book Barn, which is heaven on Earth, where I found many books about the history of my hometown, and quite a few romances that look like they will be amazing to Mystery Science 3000 my way through. I got to see a few friends Saturday night that I didn’t get to see this summer, and we laughed our way through several bottles of wine, bags of chip, and every card in the Cards Against Humanity set. That night made my heart sing with love for my friends and reminded me that I will get through this rough patch and be okay again.

But by far, my favorite part of the weekend was the wedding. Spending time with my cousins (and aunts and uncles) is always my favorite part of going home. We grew up close to everyone, seeing them every weekend when they stopped over for a cup of coffee or tea, and cousins and my sibs and I ran amok and plotted so many adventures that I could book on those alone. Not everyone was able to make it for the wedding (a few cousins were traveling abroad), but catching up was still fun. Especially with the several jokes and side conversations and trying to avoid everyone’s eyes at different times so we didn’t get yelled at. We were that table.

And hanging with my cousin Hillary and her girlfriend Emily after the reception… Let’s just say I’m already plotting how to get them down here for an extended visit. I think they’ll hate Texas, but they’ll love our adventures! Dueling piano bars, laser tag, Irish nachos, oh! and I’m pretty sure we’ll get kicked out of the Perot Museum. They’re idea of “hands on” and our idea are going to be slightly different. Just a guess. You know – for this list of adventures I’m already scheming. (Also, Hill, I stole some of your pictures. Don’t sue me for copyright infringement!)

A wonderful weekend that was a great timeout from most of my responsibilities at home. And now I’ve hit the ground running with choir concerts and cheerleading tryouts and huge meetings and deadlines at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeNamed and all kinds of fun. Wait, wait – I meant “fun.” If you can think of a scheme that will get my cousins down here to help me cope with it all, you will be my absolute favorite!

Five for a New Englandy Friday.

October 14, 2016

Morning, constant readers! It’s been a busy week with very little posting, so the challenge will be containing myself to just five items, but I’ll try my best.

1 I’m writing this morning from home. One of my favorite uncles is getting married this weekend and so I journeyed cross-country for a mini-vacation. It is killing me that the girlies are still in Tejas – as luxurious as traveling alone always feels, it feels wrong to be home without them. No one was there to hold my hand as I flew home (and I was feeling my phobia about flying), and indulging in vacationy delights isn’t quite as exquisite when I don’t get to share the joy with my honeys. I even stopped to listen for what the girls might be getting into upstairs at Kim’s last night before remembering it was quiet for a reason.

2 That being said, I am trying my best to enjoy myself, in spite of the alone time. Drinking in the Fall color outside, listening to the wind blow through the leaves, having to dress in layers of shirts and sweaters (because 40°) while cuddling with a book under the heating vent – it’s a special kind of heaven that I missed more than I thought. And it’s been more restorative to my mental health than all the intense therapy I’ve demanded these past few weeks. I need to visit home in the Fall more often.

3 One of the downsides to being home in New England instead of “home” in Tejas is that I’m going to miss my Gracie-girl’s first “real” dance. There have been a few dances before, in elementary school there’s a sock-hop every year, and a few dance-type family events at their church, but nothing as official as Junior High Dance. To say I’m excited for her is and understatement! She sounded a little less enthusiastic – like maybe she wouldn’t go – but I’m hoping it’s just nerves and that her friends talk her into it. I remember the crushing nervousness and fear I felt, and I don’t want boo to be scared into not participating like I did when I was her age. I told her that I was so overwhelmingly nervous for the first all of my junior high dances, but it becomes old-hat once you go to a few and know what to expect. So my fingers are crossed that my baby girl says to hell with nervousness and just does it. Even if I have to bribe her from across the country. Heh.

4 Thanks to the memory vault feature on Facebook, I was reminded that today is the three-year anniversary of when I found our red-haired border collie and drove practically across the entire state of Texas to see if she’d be a good fit for our family. Remember how I conned the shelter – already stuffed to the brim – to not only stop Fenway from walking the plank, but to keep her for another week so I could bring the girls back the next weekend to fetch our pet and surprise them? Best. surprise. ever!!! Fenway might be a giant pain the ass sometimes, and I really wish her bladder wasn’t so leaky or her heart so needy, but I can’t imagine our lives without our beautiful puppy!

5 I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but I did still use my traveling time wisely – I whipped through Dave Arnold’s Kids of Appetite while on the plane.  My expectations were high – Mosquitoland was one of my favorite reads last year – but KOA just didn’t grab me the same way. The characters didn’t feel fleshed out the same way that Mad Madam Mim tore into my heart. The most nuanced character was a dead guy, and while I’m not saying that invalidates or wastes the effort, I wish Arnold had done more with the people who were flying around the story. It felt like too many people doing too many things, creating a rather frayed story. A better editor may have helped. The story was good enough to make me read every word and it kept me busy for a three hour flight, but I’d wait for the paperback. 3 of 5 stars.

So there you have it! I hope everyone has an absolutely lovely weekend, even if it’s not going to be as fun, adventurous, or home-y as mine.

Orange you glad it’s Fall?

October 11, 2016

Looks like somebody agreed with my post yesterday. I woke up to a knock knock joke waiting on my kitchen table.


Indeed, little punkin. Indeed.

Okay: I declare it Fall.

October 10, 2016

I have a wedding to attend, a destination wedding (for me) back home in New England. Here in hell Tejas, we’re only flirting with cooler temps. Back home, Fall is the real deal. The “cooler temps” we’re throwing our windows open to in the early mornings and later evenings are the high temps for New England. And so I turned my eye towards what clothes I had tucked away.

It was just what I was afraid of – a lot of my clothes were worn out at the end of last season, or were ruined in some form or fashion, and I was planning on picking up a few things. Which never really happened because StitchFix went from sweaters to blouses and somehow skipped over long-sleeved weather entirely.

So I put on my big girl pants and went shopping. I just wanted a shirt or two. But then there was this huge sale and I got all this from Old Navy:


I ended up with three sweaters, a tank top, a flannel, two blouses, two cardigans (shoosh), a long sleeve tee, a pair of pants, and a necklace – all for less than half of what I’d pay for a StitchFix box.

I might have to force the “Fall” issue a little longer here – it will be in the 80s most of this week, in the afternoons at least – but at least I have an entire season’s wardrobe ready for when it finally arrives.


Culinary superstar: coming soon to a TV near you.

October 5, 2016

As many of you heard, we have a newly elected Student Council Secretary in residence. I am so proud of my Bee-girl! She has just bloomed this last year and is poised to take over the world. And I’m going to do everything in my power to help her. (In return for the tiny favor of eternal benevolence from our future ruler.)

One of the ways I can help is to keep our Queen Bee motivated. She can only stay in Student Council if she keeps an A/B average – something that she’s maintained since late last year, but is by no means guaranteed. So we add some incentive. It’s something I’ve always done, and Bee remembers. She asked the other night if we could look for some gymnastics classes if she had As and Bs on her report card next week. Bee used to take tumbling and gymnastics with the Redheads in second and third grades. But the classes were smack dab in the middle of Saturday morning, meaning we couldn’t really plan anything else for our day, or else we had to miss a class that we paid for, show or no show. So I wasn’t really very keen on signing back up. But I needed to do something.

So what I did was I schemed. I schemed and dreamed, and thought, and let my imagination run wild with ideas. Maybe instead of gymnastics, I could find cooking classes. Maybe Mommy & Me classes. Or, hey, maybe we could run those classes! Maybe…

Maybe Bee could teach some cooking classes.

Don’t ask me how I made the connection; I couldn’t tell you. I thought about how the girls love watching their YouTube stars post videos, and follow vlogs about this and that, and how much fun they have posting Musical.lys. They’ve become adept at all the terminology and lighting and scripts and their creative little selves just explode with ideas. What if I tied that to Bee’s love of cooking? What if I let Bee host a cooking vlog? I mean – !!!  I’m not crazy about her face being out there where people can see it – there’s a lot of crazy in this world – but if I made her understand why I’m concerned and sign off on anything that gets posted, this could be amazing!

I floated the idea to Queen Bee and told her we needed her dad to sign off on the project. If he said no, then it was absolute – and I would understand. If he said yes, then she would need to keep her grades up. Her dad or I could step in and halt production at any time for any egregious behavior on her part, or any disastrous grade. But if you saw my Bee-girl’s face… That look! That look was the look parents live for. I had handed my baby the moon.

And her dad said yes.

We won’t start off on any kind of schedule, at first. We might work up to weekly or every other week, depending on how smoothly it goes. Bee will need to pick her projects, research whether we have the ingredients or will need to purchase them at the store. She’ll need to write out a “script” to follow (more or less). Will she talk about the best places to find ingredients? About budgeting? What about design and formatting – will she have the type of show where ingredients are pre-measured and set aside in bowls, or will showing kids how to measure ingredients be part of the video? Is there a time limit that she wants to aim for? Or will each video expand or contract to fit her recipe? So many questions! So much room for fun and creativity!

I am so excited for my girl. I am so proud of her for working her tail off and getting her grade to this point. I’m happy that she knows her own heart and what makes it sing. And I’m wicked excited that I get to work on a project with her and have some quality mother/daughter time – other than lounging on the couch and watching Jane Austen movies, because my Bee-girl is always good for that!

(Gawd, now I don’t know who will cry more if she loses her A/B average – her, or me!)

Here’s to your new, fancy-fantastic chapter in your life, Queen Bee!

A bit of bad news, electionally speaking…

October 4, 2016

…And it’s that I embarrassed myself and threatened the school administration for nothing! Bee won!

(Okay, yes, that was sort of sneaky and low of me to trick you like that, but it’s what our newly minted Student Council Secretary would have wanted. I know, because that’s how Bee broke the non-news to me last night that results hadn’t been announced. She’ll be so tickled that I used her joke.)

A few of my insiders let me know as soon as the results were published, and so now I’m here, as promised.

Bee was angling for a sushi date if she won, but I think she’ll be just as pleased to find the new Raina Telgemeier graphic novel waiting for her on her pillow…

Now! Here’s hoping this isn’t the only bit of good election news that goes our way!

About to be THAT mama.

October 4, 2016

No, we don’t know anything about Bee’s election. I’ve thought we would hear something every day for the past week, so I’m quite possibly going to get myself arrested when I call the school and demand they release the results under FOIA…or anything else that’ll work! It’s unconscionable to allow those kids to work so hard filling out essays on the application, making posters, writing – and delivering! – speeches and then promising results day after day after day…

I will tell you this, Gentle Readers – when I know, you’ll know!

Five for Friday.

September 30, 2016

Well today is already off to a fast and rocky start!

1 Today Bee should find out the results of the Student Council election. I’m all aflutter for her! She is pretty confident she’ll win, and I was torn between shoring up her confidence in this one thing, and warning her not to be too disappointed if she loses. Because at this point, she’s so sure, it will destroy her. But I held my tongue, gave her a hug, and wished her the best of luck. Being her mama who believes in her absolutely won out. I’m with her!

2 We found a babysitter whom we absolutely adore. We met her last night at a Barnes and Noble and chatted and then canceled all of our other interviews. It’s great to have someone who seems absolutely at ease. She’s the middle of seven children, she has a little girl, and she’s been nannying since she was a teenager. So she’ll be fine, whatever the X-man throws at her. So now we can enjoy our baby shower in peace, without worrying about the homefront – or worse, having to cancel on the second baby shower. We’d have been ex-communicated as friends!

3 Which lead to a bit of craziness this morning – last night when we went out to meet Babysitter Lady, I let Jeff throw his work phone in my purse so he wasn’t carrying two of them (he has a work phone and a personal cell). Naturally, we never thought of his work phone again. Until I was pulling into work this morning and saw a text that he had sent right after I left. So I put my seatbelt back on and texted my boss and co-workers that I’d be a little late. Only five minutes into my reverse commute, Jeff said not to worry about it – he’d come get it from later. Which – HOORAY for not having to drive back home and back to work again! Though I feel bad – I forgot, too.

4 At least I look cute today. I have on my black and white polka dot blouse from StitchFix, jeans, a wide red belt, chunky silver tear-drop shaped drop earrings, and black pumps. I have zero fall clothes – something I usually never notice. But this StitchFix thing has made me pay way more attention. Add to that the complication that it’s Hot Fall right now, so my clothes must look a little autumnal, but be breathable because holy heat, all the time. I’m going to sit down with my closet and see what sort of Fall I can pull out of it this weekend.

5 Maybe I’ll do that tonight. Gracie has a choir camp tonight from 5-10p. Bee’s eyes lit up when she realized she could have control of the TV and play room without her sister yelling about what she wanted to watch or do. And Jeff will be Crossfitting and then getting the X-man. Which leaves me. I’ll either be Fall Outfitting…or working on a top secret Christmas project for Kim. Mwa ha ha…

I hope you have fun plans for the weekend! Let me know what all you guys are up to!

Book reviews: One ridiculously good story in a week of predictable books.

September 29, 2016

First, I have to send out a GOOD LUCK, BEE!!!! into the universe because today is the actual StuCo vote. I thought it was yesterday, but yesterday was “just” speeches. Today is the vote, and it’s possible I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear who won. The suspense is killing me! But I know my girl will do well.

Now – on to books! It wasn’t the best week in reading…

book192To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey (2016, Little, Brown & Co., 432 pages, library hardcover). I was so looking forward to Ivey’s new release. Her first book, The Snow Child, was one of my Top 10 read the year it was published. Bright Edge had some of the same magical realism to it, but it didn’t feel the same. The journal entries made the characters harder to empathize with. It was much easier to get into the head of Sophie, Colonel Forrester’s bride, but try as I might to read just for her voice, the story was overwhelmingly dark and weighty. It was like reading Gulliver’s Travels mixed with a history textbook. I was hoping for something more like Oregon Trail or Island of the Blue Dolphins mixed with Snow Child. I’m sure others will rave about Bright Edge and I won’t be surprised when it ends up on the Tournament of Books long list (if not the short list), but it just wasn’t for me. 2 of 5 stars.

book193White Nights in Split Town City, by Annie DeWitt (2016, Tyrant books, 300 pages, library ebook). Maybe I was just in a crummy mood, but I hadn’t figured it out yet. White Nights was another book I just couldn’t get into. Jean’s mom splits (bet you didn’t guess that) and so Jean is left behind is a dusty, beat up town, trying to figure out how to grow up – when all she really wants to do is hide from the world in the fort she built with her best friend Fender. Meh. I feel like I’ve read this story a hundred times by pens more descriptive and catchy than DeWitt’s. 1 of 5 stars.

book194World of Ink and Shadows, by Lena Coakley (2016, Harry N. Abrams Books, 352 pages, hardcover). Gracie-girl got this in one of her OwlCrate boxes. I was looking forward to finally diving in – the story is about the four Bronte siblings and how they got their story ideas for their early (unpublished) childhood works by actually traveling into the books with the characters. It sounded so Thursday Next!! Alas. The magic just didn’t feel the same to me. Perhaps if I was more of a Bronte fan? But that can’t the case – I adore the Thursday Next series and her first book is about Jane Eyre. So that’s not it. Something else was off for me, though not for everyone else – the book is rated pretty high. Just not for me. 2 of 5 stars.

book195Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston (2016, Dutton Books, 248 pages, library hardcover). I couldn’t put this book down. It was what made me realize that no matter how big the slump, no matter how grouchy my mood, if a book is that good, I’m going to know. I won’t throw it aside because I’m not in the right mood. Exit made me ignore my children, it was that good. In fact, I ordered the hardcover, it was that good. I’m going to read it aloud, even though there are some fairly heavy topics: sex, rape, consent, gossip, social media, abortion, high school bullying, PTSD. But I think my kiddos can handle it, with the proper talks from mama as we go along. And the topics are something important for my girls to know. Gracie’s in junior high – she needs to know the dangers of accepting an open drink from someone who isn’t in her absolute inner circle. (How sad is that?) She needs to hear for the millionth time that I’m here for her, no matter the circumstances. I also want all of you to know that in all of my reading – and I average 200 books a year, mind you – I have never read a book that handled the topic of PTSD (and fear and coping) in teenagers so gracefully. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay if you can’t cope, or if coping means taking a “time out” from what you think you “should” be doing. Seriously, you guys – all of you – read this book. Even though there are cheerleaders. Heh. 5 of 5 stars.

book196The Things We Wish Were True, by Marybeth Whalen (2016, Lake Union Publishing 276 pages, library ebook). Annnnd we’re back to books I feel like I’ve read a hundred times. This was a story about a small, idyllic town with a bunch of secrets, and a bunch of cheating grown-ups. That pretty much sums it up. Sigh. 1 of 5 stars.


book197A World Without You, by Beth Revis (2016, Razorbill Books, 284 pages, library ebook). Yes, I know this is going to sound incredibly stupid, but I really thought this book would be a winner because there are multi-colored strings across the front, just like the Jandy Nelson books, and yes, I know that’s a ploy and it worked, but I couldn’t help it. The story wasn’t very Jandy-ish – it was about a boy with delusions he could travel in time, which is what he wanted to do to escape his boarding school and go back to when his best friend was still alive. I love that there are more books and stories available with characters dealing with mental health issues… I just wasn’t that into this one. It didn’t feel different to me. Nothing grabbed me or held me captive until I finished. I didn’t care about Bo (though I did feel bad about his crushing loneliness). Maybe it’s because I have access to so many other similar stories and am incredibly picky. Who knows. But this just wasn’t the book for me. 2 of 5 stars.

Here’s hoping the reading week ahead holds something catchier. I know I have two winners – Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite, but I’m saving those for my plane reads that I’ll need in two weeks! Such a temptation though!