Friday, April 28, 2006

Yard sale sneak peak

Don't you think someone's yard sale is a sort of secret window into their little private world? Their aesthetic, the hobbies they discarded, what they think is valuable, that sort of thing? Wanna hear some of my dirty little secrets since y'all won't actually be here for my yard sale? Just a couple, mind you, since I'm in the throes of pricing and can only spare a minute.

Dirty secret #1: I opened an antique tin a little while ago that had a picture of a girl in Victorian dress walking a Pekingese on the front. Inside I found a long-dried hot pepper pod, a thumbtack, a little plastic bull that used to be attached to a cheap Spanish red wine I favored, and a wishbone. What kind of voodoo shit was that?

Dirty secret #2: I opened another tin out of the same attic box and found it still full of biscotti. That we'd bought in Venice on a trip, like, 4 years ago or something. I think I thought it would be interesting to hold onto them for someone to discover someday. Now? Ewwwwww!

Dirty secret #3: We are offering for sale no less than 42 wineglasses tomorrow! And 8 martini glasses! This is doubly shocking when I tell you that I'm only selling them because we have plenty more where that came from. These are just cabinet-clogging overflow. Drink much? Not as much as us, I bet.

That's all for now. Wish me luck with the crazies tomorrow!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It isn't just me

Sometimes I look around at my life and wonder when it became so squeaky clean. We own our brick ranch house. Our bills are paid on time and with little stress. We can afford plenty of groceries, some of which are organic and help support local farmers. We have new shoes when we need them. We can repair our cars if they break down. Our kids go to the doctor and the dentist for check-ups. We try to always be on time. We try to always use good manners. We try to keep up the yard. But believe me, I wasn't always like this. I was once an obnoxious, stinky, slutty, drink-y, financially irresponsible--no, make that reprehensible--bohemian princess of a girl who scorned everything that smacked of complacency and the bourgeoisie. Things like brick ranch houses and salaried jobs and new shoes and cars that run reliably and stuff like that. Occasionally, I still have bouts of longing for that bohemian life again and worry that we really are too complacent and tediously middle class.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I was reminded of why Husband and I live our lives like we do.

Yesterday, I picked up Sister from school. In the parking lot, a stranded parent with kids in the back seat was asking around for jumper cables. Sister asked me what jumper cables were and I explained them to her. A light went on in her eyes, "Oh yeah, I remember! That's what we needed to use on Andy's car when it broke down one time!" A little warning beacon went off in my own head at the mention of Andy, one of her father's old, fun, but not exactly responsible and mature, friends. I probed for details, without making it sound like I was as freaked out as I felt.

The details went thusly: Andy was driving Sister and her dad out to a party one night when the van WITH NO SEATBELTS they were driving broke down "in the middle of nowhere." Andy managed to get someone out to rescue them, which made Sister very relieved. They continued out to the party where there were a bunch of Sister's dad's friends, but no other kids besides Sister. There was nothing to eat but Pringles. Sister stayed up very late, "probably til midnight." (This last detail she gave me rather smugly, knowing at least THAT would make me mad. I promise I didn't let it show.)

Sigh. My Ex isn't a big partier or anything, and in fact isn't able to drink because of some anti-seizure medication he takes for his (drunk-driving, head-trauma-induced) epilepsy. He does, however, still smoke pot, and I know that Andy does whatever drugs and sucks down whatever free drinks he is offered by his many hangers-on. My Ex isn't able to drive--also because of his epilepsy--and I can only hope that Andy had the sense not to drive Sister home drunk or stoned or anything. Or if he did, then nothing happened and it all turned out o.k. so there's no point in my thinking about it.

But I grew up with very young parents who smoked pot, like, a lot. They took pains to hide in the kitchen while they were doing it, but jeez, kids aren't dumb and it didn't take us very long to figure out what they were doing. The cutting boards with smelly pot seeds rolling around and the pot plant growing in the backyard that a savvy neighbor boy identified for us one day were pretty obvious, after all, as was the unmistable smell wafting from the kitchen. Fortunately, my mom grew up and stopped smoking pot or doing drugs, and no harm done to me. The rest of my family is a different story.

One of my aunts was a heroin, and then a methodone, addict for decades before it killed her (indirectly, but the story is too awful to recount just now). Another of my aunts was a pothead and a big fan of the barbiturate family before she died last year of cervical cancer. My dad, with whom I haven't spoken in a few years now, is a pothead to this day. My brother is alternately a heroin addict and a crystal meth addict.

On my Ex's side, his dad had such a problem with alcohol, became such a mean drunk when he imbibed, that his wife forbade him to ever, EVER drink again after a few years of enduring it. My Ex, as I mentioned, nearly killed himself in a drunk driving accident. And there's more of this running very strongly in both of our families!

I have to confess that at one time in my life I did plenty of heavy drinking and a dizzying array of illicit substances. I had fun, but I also did some really stupid stuff. When I really think about it sometimes I marvel that I never killed myself or someone else. I stopped doing drugs long ago because it got old and I got old. It stopped being fun and it wasn't worth the risk anymore. I grew up, and it became important to me to be able to say with conviction to my children that drugs are stupid and dangerous, especially given our family genetics, and they should steer completely clear of all of them.

We live in a town where drug use among even middle school kids is pretty common, to say nothing of the high schools. (Both high schools are in the top 100 in the country academically, but the kids are way too precocious from what I can tell.) Given our environment and our family histories, why the hell would my Ex feel like it was o.k. to bring our little girl to an adults-only party where I can assure you there was drinking and pot smoking at the least? How hard is it going to be for us to talk to Sister about drugs and have any credibility at all if he does this shit?

You know what? It's going to be really, really hard.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Coming up for blog air

Whew! One busy week on top of another has me struggling to squeeze in blogging lately. Last week was Bean's first birthday party, as most of you already know, and it was such a baby-and-kid mob scene that neither Husband nor I took ANY pictures. Not one! Fortunately for posterity, we had two very kind friends who did snap some photos and post them on their Flickr accounts for us to glean, but I'm unsure of the feasibility of posting someone else's pictures from Flickr. Perhaps someone else knows?

But here's my current week in brief before Bean wakes up:

  1. I'm beginning to slowly wean Bean. Last night I officially ended her final evening feeding, the one that she wakes at 10:30 or 11:00 for and definitely does NOT need. I had been shortening this feeding for the past week til it was down to just a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, nixing it altogether made Bean very sad indeed, and she cried off and on from 10:30 til midnight. Hopefully tonight will go better.
  2. I'm in the process of making a wedding cake for a friend getting married this weekend. It's her second wedding and it's to serve only 50 people, so it's not too big. Still, though, it's keeping me busy. The bottom and top tiers are going to be chocolate-almond torte filled with chocolate-rum ganache. The middle tier will be orange pound cake filled with both lemon and lime curds and rum buttercream piped in such a way that it will be fetchingly stripey when it's cut into. I'm frosting the whole thing with rum buttercream and decorating it with a whole mess of edible fresh flowers. It should be fun, and I'll definitely take pictures of it to share.
  3. We've rescheduled our yard sale for this weekend! In fact, we're having it on the same day that I need to have the wedding cake done, so THAT should be fun. Hopefully the crazies won't call me again. And I guess I need to get around to pricing things, but I don't dare til Husband goes through all the boxes and gets his chance to tell me, "But you can't sell that! I like that! We need that!" This will annoy me, but I'll try not to be TOO much of a heartless hard-ass.
  4. I need to get out into the yard and turn over the dirt in the little garden space I'm allowing Sister to plant all on her own this year. I say "little," but in fact this space is pretty big. I'd say about 12 feet by 6 feet or so? Have I mentioned that doing any kind of soil-amending in our yard is both necessary and back-breaking? It's solid clay, I tell ya. A neighbor of ours once dug up a chunk of clay so pure in her yard that a potter friend threw a pot and fired it in a kiln without it exploding! In case you don't know, that is some serious clay.
  5. What else, you ask? Isn't that enough?! Jeez, y'all...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Party bloopers

All is quiet at the Sugarmama ranch just now. It's the calm before the party storm tomorrow. I mean that quite literally, I'm afraid. It's supposed to rain buckets and thunder and lightning tomorrow, beginning right around the time that our first guests arrive. Husband is in a panic because, as I think I've mentioned, there will be 9 older kids here along with 5 1-year and younger kids. I'm thinking it's just time to go hit the movie store for a stack of DVD's. There'll probably be some running around, but movies ought to work to keep them still at least while they're eating. And an inside party just means I don't have to knock myself out getting the floors spotless, right? There'll be muddy, pine-needly tracks all over it in short order anyway, so why stress? (said through a steely, tight-lipped smile)

No, my bigger concern just now is that I finished repainting the window shutters on the front of our house yesterday. Now, everyone who knows me in real life knows of my love affair with the turquoise and aqua color family. My kitchen is painted aqua, Bean's room is painted turquoise, I have turquoise sandals, jewelry, etc. 'Why not take it outside, too?' methought to meself. And so I took it outside and had a lovely time painting the shutters a pretty, Robins' egg sort of turquoise blue. The contrast between that and the orange-y brick of our house was pleasing indeed while it was 12 inches from my face. But once I finished and fairly skipped to the curb to get a good look from the What have I done?! You can't believe how garish it looks! Like blue eyeshadow heavily applied on the innocent lids of our house! Ack! So goes another painting mishap here at the Ranch, my third after a year of pink-beige bedroom walls that I initially thought looked serene and vaguely Japanese but in fact looked like cheap foundation after awhile. I painted our shutters once before, too--a weird purplish-mauvey-beige color that matched the brick, but clashed with all the plants I ended up planting in front of the house. (Don't look at me that way! These things matter!)

Anyhow, the shutters will remain turquoise for the next couple of years at least, til I can't stand it anymore and the memory of what a pain in the ass it is to haul our extension ladder around and jam paintbrushes into hundreds of shutter louvre cracks fades completely. Until then, please say how much you like it when you see them, okay? I'll pretend not to notice your steely, tight-lipped smile if you do.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

3 days shy of 1

This photo was taken just a few days before our darling Bean turned a year old. Isn't her springtime splendor splendid? And her Papa dressed her, frilly socks and all!

But I am a sorry Mama. It was yesterday that Bean turned a year old and I didn't even blog about her or her birth or any of those mama-blog topics! Maybe 'cause she's a second baby and while her birth was a wonderful, remarkable event to me, I don't want to bore any of you other mamas out there with all the details. (6-hour labor, very intense, pushed 4 times, lustily crying 8#6oz baby Bean emerged--that's all y'all need to know, I think.) Or maybe because I was so busy getting the house ready for her big bash this weekend. And when I say big, I'm talking 9 older kids, including Sister, and 5 other kids in the baby range, including Bean. I think that puts the kid-to-adult ratio at about 1:1. But barring thunderstorms that would force everyone inside our small house, it should be a good outside time. In fact, I find myself kind of looking forward to that chaos. (Though I'll thank you not to quote me on that once I drag my sorry, tired ass back to this blog post-party, okay?)

Hope you're all enjoying some spring weather the likes of what NC is getting right now. Happy weekends to all of you!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Now is the time

The other afternoon 2 of my closest friends came over to visit because both of them took the day off from work and had kids to entertain and I invited them. Now I've known these 2 ladies since before I could drink legally. For about...holy crap, for about 16 years now! (Damn!) We get together fairly often, I'd say. One of them--I'll call her Queen B--has a daughter a year older than Sister and they've gotten to where they play together just beautifully. The other some of you will already know as Mommygoth. Her Miss K is 5 months older than my little Bean, and we both have high hopes that they'll be good friends, too, once they're both old enough not to snatch coveted toys out of the other's hands and steal sippy cups that don't belong to them.

We 3 ladies sat out on my porch under warm, sunny skies. We sipped sweet iced tea like the good Southern girls we are, and we got caught up on each other's lives in the little interims between kid supervising tasks. Then at one point Queen B said, "Damn, we sure have a mess of kids now!" We all looked around and realized how many of them there are. And suddenly I realized that this is the life and the home I've always wanted to make for myself. Since I was young, I have wanted one of those homes that people feel comfortable in, where things are lively and comfy, where there's tasty food and drinks, and where people feel relaxed and tell jokes and stories and hang out. Now, I'll grant you that my friends and I used to have much more time to hang out without worrying about getting dinner started or kids in baths or homework done. But that was in crappy rental houses, with people who were bad for us for one reason or another. I think this is really it now. This is that life. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Date night at home

Husband and I had fabulous social plans for this Easter weekend, but we ended up having to cancel everything because of Bean's unexpected Saturday morning diagnosis of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. No, this is not the same as hoof and mouth disease--that's something cows get. Bean's virus is very yucky, causing her to have big blisters on the soles of her feet, in her diaper area, in her mouth, and even a few on her little fingers. According to the doctor, it probably peaked yesterday when the big blisters first broke out, and this is probably the reason why she's been sleeping so horribly lately. Her throat is sore and her little feet hurt, poor kiddo. The rash seems much better today and apparently we're allowed to be around other kids again as of tomorrow. (So don't worry, Pie Maker!)

Husband and I stayed home last night and grilled a big hunk of red meat and some marinated vegetable skewers. We drank gin fizzes made with my very delicious homemade sour mix. We dragged Bean's high chair onto the back porch and took it all outside while the sun set and the yard darkened. And we talked.

I don't know about y'all, but it seems like good conversations with my dear spouse are very few indeed these days. We're so busy with everyday life that the space and time seldom open up for them. But our evening yawned wide open last night and we got to just talk to each other. All about a couple of bands we both like, about our house and all the planting I'm doing, sunrooms versus screened porches, living in the country versus living in the suburbs, and more. It was so nice, plus the gin fizzes made us both pleasantly smiley and sweet and earnest.

It carried over into today, too, though we've been busy with cranky baby care and various house-related projects. Husband made us omelets for lunch and we talked about having another baby. We've known we would for awhile, but we've decided that in another 6 months or so we'll start trying. That way, Bean will be about old enough to be moved out of the crib and into a big girl bed with a railing. She'll be nearly potty-trained. I'll have a bit of time between weaning her and getting pregnant again so I can have my body to myself for a little while. I guess it's possible that I'll get pregnant right away and have to be hugely with child during the miserably hot summer, but then again I'll be 36 and it may not happen right away.

So in the not-too-distant future, this will be a 3 child household. Crazy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I won! I won!

Our family keeps a gallon-sized glass jar in the closet to collect change. It takes about 3 years to fill it and so far we've filled it twice. Husband recently had the brilliant idea that we'd start having a family contest. Whoever could guess the amount closest to what was actually in the jar when we took it to the change-counting machine at our local credit union would win all the money and get to do with it what he/she wanted. If Sister won, she would be allowed to spend 10% of it on what she wanted and would have to put the rest of it into her savings account. (This rule avoids her buying any of those ridiculously huge, ridiculously overpriced stuffed animals at our local toy store. $100 a pop for those damn things, and she obsesses about them everytime we walk in.)

Yesterday, Sister and Bean and I went to the credit union to dump the change into the machine. I got Husband on my cell phone while we girls watched the tally rise on the computer screen. passed $300, then...passed Husband's guess of $350,....then stopped at...$372.48. Woo-hoo! Only $4.48 over my guess of $368! I won! Though--oops!--I tried not to be too ebullient since Sister was standing there all disappointed and we WERE in a bank with complete strangers all staring at me wondering why I was all gleeful and why my baby was heading out the front door and no one was stopping her.

I'm so excited! What should I spend it on? More day spa treatments? A shopping spree at Ann Taylor Loft? Buttloads of fancy perennials for my backyard? Local artwork? A load of rocks to line my front flower bed? What would YOU spend it on?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Husband has been making small noises lately about buying another house in a few years, something bigger to accommodate a third child we want to have without kids having to share rooms. Plus I know he wants a place to unpack all the precious stuff he inherited from his folks. There's still quite a number of things crammed into a storage unit that will stay there for the indefinite future. For Husband, there's also the issue of wise investment. Adding onto this house doesn't make economic sense in that we'd be unlikely to recoup all the expenses of an addition if we sell it down the road. We've lived in this house for about 3 years now and are otherwise quite settled and happy with both the space and with our neighborhood. I keep telling him I don't want to move, but I don't think he realizes I'm serious.

I'm probably one of the few Americans out there who really prefers just enough house and no more. We have no rooms we don't use in this house--no formal dining room, no "family room" that is in addition to a den (a pairing I've never really understood under one roof anyway), no guest room, no bathroom that doesn't get heavy use. Sure, I could use some more closet space, but who couldn't? And our neighborhood is one of those where people actually walk their kids to school, and everyone pretty much knows who everyone else is, even if it's just enough to say "Good morning." For those reasons alone, it's hard for me to feel motivated to move.

But the biggest reason of all is my garden. Husband's only foray into yardwork is maintenance--mowing the lawn, the occasional pruning (which he's slacked off doing for the last year since I give him such hell about not doing it right), picking up sticks and pinecones, that sort of thing. I, on the other hand, have planted literally hundreds of perennials, bulbs, and shrubs. The more I plant, the less likely I am to give up our little home without a big fight. I'm not sure that Husband understands how much this means to me, and I'm also unsure that I can articulate how much. He may very well believe it's just plants, and we can dig up and take with us anything really special, or we can always just plant some more, in some other yard surrounding a bigger house.

Shouldn't your home be more than just an investment? Does the emotional investment not count for something? To me, this little place of ours is nothing short of my own little Eden. I just don't want to live anywhere else right now. Period.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Out of the weeds

Okay, I think I'm over my funk now. No, really this time. I was in a bad, bad place for most of last week and was avoiding blogging because I was pretty sure everyone would be utterly sick of hearing me whine one more time. But I'm back!

I was a total bitch to nearly everyone in my household for the entire week--the dog, Sister, and especially Husband. It got to the point where I was having visions of my behaviour causing us to divorce because I just couldn't figure out how to stop it. It was that bad. I guess it was just a bunch of things happening all at once, though none of them sound terribly dramatic. There was the sleep-deprivation piece of the puzzle, because Bean has been sleeping oh so crappily lately. (Husband was up from 2:30 til 3:30 last night, bless him.) I was sick or maybe having some godawful allergies, and just that on its own was making me hateful. Husband began having the same thing and was equally cranky. Sister was in rare form, just sensing that I was on that edge and could be messed with to great, dramatic, yelling effect. And as a result of her sleep problems, Bean was a little hellion on top of it all. Try explaining to a baby that if she would.just.sleep she'd be fine. It doesn't work. I tried it.

Oh, and I neglected to mention that we cancelled our damn yard sale Saturday, but only after I spent one entire day gutting every closet and kitchen cabinet we have and piling up great quantities of things into boxes all over the house. Husband came home that evening saying that they were predicting sever thunderstorms throughout the day Saturday and thought we should cancel. I wasn't totally convinced since the chance of rain was only 60% and for chrissakes, honey, LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I've got piled up here! But we did indeed cancel it. Arguing about it was going to end up with us yelling at each other so I caved. The weather Saturday? About 5 minutes of rain at 9:00 a.m and no more til late afternoon. Sumbitch.

Here I am now, though, and feeling back to my old self. Long overdue nookie with the spouse has worked wonders, as has actually going to the gym for the first time in almost a year. Shoving all those boxes of yard sale stuff up into the attic has helped because nothing pisses me off more than visual clutter in my house. I made an oatmeal-apple cake with cream cheese frosting yesterday and ate giant chunks of it right off the platter. Oh, and gardening chores are piling up which makes me cheerful rather than miserable. It's beautiful here again, the pollen has been washed down into the gutters in great, yucky, yellow puddles, and I have summer blooming bulbs to get into the ground while Bean sleeps. This is more like it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No time!

Can't...seem blog...

I'm having a hard time fitting it all in this week, y'all. Between preparing for a yard sale this weekend, fending off crazies who look up my phone number to ask if they can come look at our stuff early, and sending Sister back to school this week--on top of dealing with a baby who appears to have forgotten how to sleep through the night AGAIN--I'm wiped. I'll try and be more regular with my posts and commenting soon, but it may have to wait til after Saturday.

Miss y'all! I'll be back soon!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Day spa redux

Has it REALLY been that long since I last posted?! Crap! Sorry, y'all. It's just that I've been half-dead, trying to entertain Sister on her spring break while dealing with a little sick Bean. I'm back now, though, resisting the allure of a gorgeous, warm spring day outside for just a minute or 2 longer.

I woke up a very shiny, fresh mama this morning. Daylight Savings be damned! I went to bed an hour early last night and the compliant Miss Bean slept in a bit later than usual, so I am rested at last. Not to mention that I had my spa appointments yesterday. Here's my review of my treatments at Skin Sense Day Spa in Raleigh, NC:

Instant Ahh Massage: Eh. So-so, but mostly because 25 minutes is just too short to really relax for me. I should've sprung for the hour-long massage, though the whole butt-rub makes me all nervous. I know! I know! Of course they're professionals and they've probably seen far worse cellulite than mine. But still.

Herbal Body Wrap: This was my first ever body wrap, and I must say that I thought it was a complete waste of my stepfather's gift card. What's this "detoxifying" business about anyway? What the hell "toxins" are they talking about? It's not like I sprinkle mercury on my yogurt in the mornings, or add rat poison to my tea. I don't buy it. Plus, even though I am so not claustrophobic, being wrapped tightly in heavy, wet cloths DID begin to freak me out there towards the end after I'd basted awhile. Mentally, I knew I could free myself if I needed to. But I was scared to try in case I couldn't.

Skin Balancing Facial: Facials are my all-time favorite spa treatment. In my opinion, you get the most bang for your buck with a facial. It's always worth the money. Bonus: the facialist or aesthetician or whatever her job title is was a dead ringer for Patsy Cline. Also? I have never had someone giving me a facial be so positiviely gleeful about "extracting" the shit clogging my pores. She was practically rubbing her hands and cackling with anticipation once she turned that bright light on my face and got a look at my disgusting pores. I almost thought she should be paying ME for providing her with so much dirty fun.

Peaches and Cream Pedicure: Called that because they put this stinky stuff in the foot bath, I guess. But it was a lovely pedicure because they had this gigantic vibrating chair and trashy magazines to read. Now usually I don't read magazines while I'm getting a pedicure because I figure that if someone's willing to scrub my gnarly feet I should at least converse with her. But this kind soul encouraged me to read them and I loved her for it.

Bitchy Receptionist at the Counter Afterwards: When I asked what was the standard tip for these services, the smiley, sweet receptionist replied breezily, "Oh usually 15 to 20% is what most people do, or a specific dollar amount. Basically, whatever you feel about your services." I said, "Okay, just put 15% on my card, then," only to be greeted with an icy frown. She was quite terse with me after that. Did she not just say 15% was appropriate? I mean, it's not like my services were stellar or anything. Very nice, but not over-the-top exceptional. I routinely tip 20% for restaurant employees who make $2.13 an hour, or for the woman who does my hair when she really nails exactly what I was asking for. But I feel fine not tipping pretty good day spa employees 20% as a matter of course, knowing they make a lot more than $2.13 an hour. 15% is a fine tip! Bee-yotch.

All in all, though, this was worth doing. I got to leave the baby at home with Husband for a luxurious 4 hours, and my stepfather's gift cards covered almost the whole bill. It was damn nice to have a break.