Monday, August 31, 2009

Geography: A One Act

A few weeks ago Bob made the move to the Big Boy Bed. At bedtime, Jeff sits with him as Bob falls asleep so that they can enjoy quality father/son time and to ensure that our tiny, sleepy, angel does not escape the bed and run through the house pulling his clothes off while yelling, “Damn it! I am a naughty bunny! You are a pee-head! Damn! I am so crazy!” Not that this has ever happened more than 6 times.

During their heart to hearts, the guys cover the big issues.

(BOB is tucked in bed. JEFF sits, folded into the small space at the foot of the tiny Big Boy Bed.)

Uncle Matt and Aunt Tina and Baby Ruby are coming on an airplane to see you tomorrow.

Where Uncle Matt and Aunt Tina live?

They live in Chicago.

Who's from Chicago?

Uncle Matt and Aunt Tina and Baby Ruby.

Who else from Chicago?

Well... Cousin Rachel’s from Chicago. Barack Obama's from Chicago.

Barack Obama's coming on the airplane?


Where is Barack Obama?

He’s probably in Washington DC. Or this week Martha’s Vinyard, I think.

No, no. He's in Brace-el-y.

Brace-el-y? I don’t know what that is.

Brace-el-y is in Los Angeles.

Is that right?

Yes, it's next to Star Wars. Darth Vader lives in Star Wars.


Yes and that's also next to GI Joe.

OK, good night, Buddy.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Post: That Amazing Sand Thing

Odds are, you’ve already seen this crazy, amazing clip of the smoldering-super-model-dramatic-sand-painter Kseniya Simonova from Ukraine’s Got Talent. Her series of sand paintings set to music about the occupation of the Ukraine in WW2 has had three-jillion hits on YouTube. If one of those hits wasn’t you, you can watch it here. Also a classical version of a Metallica song is involved. So if you weren’t sold before…

Ukraine obviously does have talent. And we in America have Boy Shakira.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Sleeping Baby

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.
- Leo J. Burke

Friday, August 28, 2009

Theology: A One Act

(BOB and I are sitting at the dining room table. BOB is painting with a watercolor set while I am in front of the computer, blocking spam "followers" off of my Twitter account.)

Who made me?

Wow. Already? I don’t have a prepared statement for this yet.

No, who made me?


Um, God did with me and Daddy.

God? Where is he?


Can I see him?

Yes. If you know where to look.

He likes me?

More than anything.

All the time?


God is the Easter Bunny?


I really, really like candy.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


We had dinner the other night at a BBQ restaurant that, like all good BBQ restaurants, had sweet tea on the menu. I drank a ladylike gallon or so. You southern folks are spoiled and can get this elixir of the gods everywhere – and by “everywhere” I mean including McDonald’s. This hardly seems fair but then again, you people (ya’ll) invented it. Around here, no one knows what it is and I’m on my own.

I love sweet tea. Love it. Love it so much. For real, don’t get between me and a glass of that beverage or you will be mowed down. My family is not from the south but I guess the panhandle of Texas is close enough (and close enough to a Furr's Cafeteria) to explain my early history with The Tea. But this is not just about me. This is about you, and how you should be making your own sweet tea with the easiest recipe in the world.

It’s not healthy or fancy but it has caffeine and sugar and that’s why it’s good. Especially right now, at the hot end of summer.

Sweet Tea

8 cups of water
7 Lipton tea bags
Don't try to get all "interesting" with the tea flavor or it won't be right. No green tea allowed.

1 cup granulated sugar

Boil 2 cups of water in a kettle. Place tea bags in a large measuring cup. Pour hot water over the tea bags and let steep for about an hour.

Remove the tea bags and pour the tea concentrate into a pitcher. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add cold water to fill the pitcher, about 6 cups. Serve over ice.

You can get all Georgia-extra-points about it and garnish it with mint and lemon wedges if you’d like to.

Makes about 2 quarts of now-you-know-what-to-make-when-I-come-over.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You’re Welcome

Earlier this week I posted my 100th blog post. (Cue: confetti/balloons/marching band/pageant wave.) My friend Ted asked, “So do you like, take a day off when you don’t have anything to write about?” My answer was of course, “No” because I never let a little thing like lack of worthwhile content stop me. Posts with topics like that horrible thing my dog ate, my kid’s favorite sweat pants, and that cat litter I am so fond of are proof that my subject matter filter has large holes.

There are however some posts that I have written that have not seen the light of day, vetoed mostly due to their absolute stultifying dullness, and for that friends, you can thank me.

Eight things you will (probably) not be reading about except as the following list:

• Crap I have bought on eBay

• Crap I have sold on eBay

• How much time I have wasted (in hours and minutes) combing the internet for evidence of So You Think You Can Dance contestant love hook ups

• All the ways coffee kicks green tea’s ass

• The time I thought I re-tore my rotator cuff but it was really just a sore muscle from holding my book at a weird angle while I was on the Precor machine at the YMCA

• When I lost my car at the Us Festival

• Why I love TIVO

• People who have screwed me over on eBay that I have not given negative feedback to for fear of negative feedback retaliation and how I am somewhat conflicted about it

(I can feel your gratitude.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


On our trip to the pediatrician for Bob’s three-year check up, the lovely Dr. Bess explained that the time had come to start talking to Bob about the concept of private parts and who is and is not allowed to touch his.

We have had the conversation a number of times since then, and Bob gets the “approved guest list” to Privates Land that we have mandated but he seems most interested in who else has private parts. The answer “everyone” seems to be unacceptable to him. He would like specifics.

“Mama has private parts?”


“And Daddy?”

“And Daddy.”

“And Bajan and Pops and MeeMee and Daisy?”

“Yes, everyone has private parts.”

“Who else?”

As we stood in line at the grocery store, the shoppers on aisle seven were treated to this delightful discourse:

“That lady has private parts?”

“Yes, Bob I’m sure she does. Let’s use a quiet voice.”

“What about that man? He has private parts?”

“Yeah. Would you like a juice box? How about a banana? Want to look at this book?”

“What about that guy?” Bob points to a photo on the cover of Star magazine.

“Yes. Brad Pitt has private parts. How about a new topic?”

“What about the lady”

“Mrs. Pitt also has privates. Now, shhh.”

“And her too?” he asks, pointing to a photo of Britney Spears.

“For awhile her parts weren’t so private but now I think they are again."


"Let's just get to the car please." Tough crowd.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Disco Inferno

This is a story of London underground, a night of music and mayhem and leather and second-hand smoke. It is the story of Bob’s worst diaper change ever.

During Bob’s first year, Jeff’s band was on tour. The baby and I were often with him. Tagging along to shows was almost always a pleasant experience. We played with toys in the dressing room, watched the band from the wings, or found a comfortable spot in the audience.

That night in London, the band was scheduled to play in a quaint nightclub that was located in what used to be a wine cellar, back in the Middle Ages. The venue had a small stage in one room connected by a labyrinth of brick hallways leading to a separate supper club at the other end. The band played their first set of lovely folk songs to a thinky, I-love-grad-school crowd. Little Bob in his sound blocking headphones slept sweetly in the Bjorn on my chest.

After the set, we were ushered to a back room to have dinner and wait until it was time for the band to play again. When the band eventually went back for a second sound check, Bob and I stayed behind. After about 20 minutes, I was hastily escorted from the green room by the management and told that I would have to wait elsewhere since they needed the holding area for another group. During this down time, I was alarmed to find that the room between where we had been and where we needed to be had blossomed into an instant disco. Not a whisper-y, laid back, jazzy nightclub, but a strobe lights, SexyBack-extended-dance-mix, and bare chests disco. This was not the "adjoining supper club" that was described in the itinerary. Bob and I were suddenly on the dance floor.

Then Bob took a giant dump and started screaming.

I was forced to part the moist and pulsing crowd with a wailing infant (not that he could be heard above the roar of the Beyonce) as I searched for a ladies room. I followed a “WC” sign past the bar.

The bathroom was actually a men’s room, the size of a car trunk. The inside of this little closet was painted black, including the floors and Bob’s pooped up diaper smelled sweet by comparison. Shockingly, there was no diaper changing station in this tiny corner of creepy-stinky. With no other option, I spread a changing pad and 2 cloth diapers on the ground and laid my darling baby down on the filth and sewage carpeted floor. I crouched over him, trying to maintain my three-inch-wedge-heeled balance. At that moment the song on the dance floor changed to 2 Unlimited’s Get Ready For This, the bass line causing the “fixtures” in the commode to shake. There was graffiti on the wall directly at my eye level that read, “Jess is an ass hat.” As I took off Bob’s diaper, his little legs were churning and his tiny heels where flinging poo on to the walls. (To clarify, flinging more poo, on to the walls.) This situation had not been covered in What to Expect the First Year. 2 Unlimited asked again, “Ya’ll ready for this?”

As the baby and I shoved our way back through the crowd, a gentleman in a vest with no shirt was kind enough to yell above the din and inquire about the type of derelict parent who would bring an infant to a club.

I might not usually take parenting advice from a guy on ecstasy with a tribal tattoo on his face but I was feeling weepy and jet lagged and he had a point.

The next night, Bob and I skipped the show and stayed back at the hotel. We watched an Eastenders marathon and ate little cakes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: Wendi Aarons

The Smacksy Back Office

You guys all know Wendi Aarons. A couple of years ago, someone forwarded you one of those “funny” viral email things that you usually delete without opening because it generally involves real letters that kindergartners wrote to God or that picture of the darling kitten that has her paws in the air with the gun pointed at her. This time the person that sent you the email was one of those people that never forwards anything so you thought it must be good and you actually opened the email and you read it and it was funny, so funny that you forwarded it, and you never do that. And then you received it from eighteen other people including your mom who still has an AOL account and you didn't know she even knew how to forward. That wonderful, viral, phenomenon was "An Open Letter to James Thatcher, Brand Manager, Proctor and Gamble" aka The Always Letter and it was written by Wendi Aarons.

Wendi’s blog is (That’s just good branding.) She was kind enough to have me over there with a guest post on her blog last week while she was off getting her aloha on. She's a lovely hostess.

Wendi writes the funny – like her instant classic Coke-Dependency and one of my recent favorites, her short and sweet Fourth of July post. So, you should absolutely be reading her whole deal, especially since you’re old friends and everything.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Nothing

I am so busy doing nothing that the idea of doing anything, which as you know always leads to something, cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.
- Jerry Seinfeld

Friday, August 21, 2009

Remember When That Happened? Part Two

If you didn't read part one yet, consider doing that now.
To re-cap. You are locked out, trapped in your backyard, in your pajamas, you have to pee. Crazy dog and toddler son are locked inside...

You position yourself at the side gate that has a partial view of the street in front. You yell, “Fire! Fire!” at passing cars because you read somewhere that statistically, people are more willing to get involved with someone yelling, “Fire” than with someone yelling, “Help.”

Loud ranting is crack-business-as-usual in this neighborhood and cars do not stop, even those not drowning out your cries with the dulcet tones of Ghostface Killah with car stereo bass set to 10. You wait. You check on your kid by trying to get a glimpse of him through the sliding glass door. You see the dog standing with her front paws on a dining room chair, eating the breakfast leftovers from the plates on the table. You go back to yelling at passing cars. You wait. You wait. You do not pee.

A police car drives slowly down the street with the windows open. “Fire!” you yell as it continues down the street. “Fire! Fire!” 30 seconds later the police car comes back into view as it reverses up the street, stopping in front of your house. You wish you were wearing a bra. You realize that if wishes were really being handed out, a more convenient wish to ask for might be something closer to the you-wished-you-weren’t-locked-out-of-the-house variety of wish.

As the tall-ish teenage-looking cop, Officer Wilson, and his markedly shorter partner, Officer Martinez, approach you through the yard, you can hear your dog inside the house barking her maniacal "Intruders!" bark.

You explain the situation to the policemen in one crazy-lady-run-on-sentence. You don’t mention the part about how close you are to wetting yourself. You can see your own disheveled reflection a little too clearly in the lenses of Martinez’s wrap-around sunglasses. He asks if there are any imminent safety hazards for your son inside such as a pot boiling on the stove? Full bathtub? A tear stained and unbalanced mother? He doesn’t say that last part out loud, but you can fill in the blanks. You answer no. They do not ask you about the “fire.”

After testing the locks on the side gate and the security screen on the front door, they agree that picking these types of locks would be difficult, if not impossible. Martinez gives you his cell phone so that you can call your husband at work. As you would expect, your husband does not recognize the number and lets it go to voice mail. You softly curse his name and the entire Caller ID system. You call your friend Jennifer. She answers on the second ring. You explain the situation. She might have a set of keys to your house and will look for them and also try instant messaging your husband. She is a 25 minute drive away, not including key-searching time.

While you are making calls, Wilson is climbing the neighbor’s gate into their yard. He scales the fence, heaves himself over the top and lands hard in the grass. Now you and the baby-faced police officer are both locked in your backyard.

You walk with him as he surveys the windows of the house, as you have now done countless times.

“Your windows are really high up.”


“Those stained glass ones are… interesting.” Everyone's a decorator. You blame HGTV.

“It’s a rental.”

Together, you return to the front gate and see that two more squad cars have arrived on the scene, doors open, dispatch radios blaring. Martinez drinks coffee from a Starbucks cup and laughs with another officer. You don’t believe that they are problem solving your situation. You shift your weight back and forth from one foot to the other.

Wilson decides to take a look at the sliding glass door to see if he can lift it out. You explain that because everything in the house appears to have been “installed” (jerry-rigged) by someone’s not-so-good-at-do-it-yourself grandpa, you know that the sliding glass doors are in backwards and upside down. You found this out when you tried unsuccessfully to install the non-returnable sliding door child safety lock.

Your son appears at the sliding glass door waving and yelling, “Policeman! Policeman!” The dog is close behind him. Upon seeing the officer, your dog barks excitedly (Policeman! Policeman!) She jumps up, throwing herself against the glass. Her paw hits the latch and pulls it down. Click. The door is unlocked.

You are free.

It’s 10:45 AM. Someday, perhaps a year or two from now, when you have moved out of this house, out of this neighborhood, this might make a good story but right now you have some peeing to do.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remember When That Happened? Part One

It’s 9:30 AM on a Tuesday. You are, as per your elegant usual, at home and wearing pajamas. You sort of have to pee but you can hold it until you after you drop off an armload of towels outside in the laundry closet on the back patio. Arms full, you use your left foot to shut the sliding glass door closed so that your 20 month-old son will not be able to follow you down the stairs. You move quickly. It’s colder out here than you thought.

You glance up the stairs and see your boy waving excitedly at you through the glass. Then, with a horrible “click” sound that echoes through your entire flashing-before-you life, you realize that your charming son has just locked you out. You slow-motion run back up the stairs just in time to see him take off down the hall towards his room. The pounding on the heavy glass door and repeated yelling of “Bob! Bob! Bobby! Let Mama in! Bob! Hey Bob!” is ignored. The dog wags her tail sweetly at you and then follows Bob down the hall.

You are still living in the old house, the house with the insane security features because it is wholly necessary in your just-inside-the-border-of-super-crap neighborhood. The Spanish style bungalow has 12 windows. Six of the windows are impenetrable, 1970’s stained glass monstrosities. The other six are higher than 9 feet from where you stand on the ground and locked. The fence surrounding the backyard is 10 feet high. The one gate out of the yard is locked with a deadbolt that can only be opened with the key that is inside the Target diaper bag sitting on the couch. You are not only locked out of your house, you are locked inside your backyard.

There will be no help from the neighbors. The people living to the east and west are at work. The neighbors in the creepy apartment building in back are sleeping off last night’s beer bong follies and would not call 911 if their own meth lab were on fire. (Proven.)

You notice that one of the bedroom windows is open a few inches. You speculate that you can scale the wrought iron fence next to the bedroom window, push back the wooden shutters, and pry the window open and pull yourself up and in. Your plan stops just short of the knowledge that you have little to no upper body strength.

You are now hanging off of the side of the house by one hand. Your silky, now sweaty pajamas not providing great traction as you try to heave yourself up to the window frame. You are becoming increasingly more aware of your need to pee. You are getting shivery.

Suddenly, this all strikes you as very funny. You get the giggles for 20 seconds but then pull it together, assess the situation and immediately start crying. You then laugh and cry simultaneously. You have a foggy recollection that this might be the definition of “hysteria.” Your son arrives in the bedroom and seeing your tear-stained face in the window, yells, “Mama! Mama!”

“Bob! Bring Mama her keys. Bring Mama the diaper bag. Or the phone. Bring Mama the phone, Bobby. Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob.”

You realize that he is attempting to climb on the rickety, flea market bed side table to get a closer look at “funny, funny, Mama!” in the window.

“Bob! Get down!” He turns and runs out of the room and back down the hall, the dog trots behind him. You drop back into the dirt with a thud.

You decide against peeing in the yard for fear of being watched/photographed/videotaped by the cat-condo-in-lieu-of-blinds guy in the rear building. (Plausible.)

Continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Family Tree: A One Act

(11:15 AM. BOB and I are walking home from the park.)

Uncle Dave is my wife and also Daisy is my wife and we are married?

Uncle Dave is our friend and Daisy is your dog.

Adam from the park is my nephew?

Adam from the park is your friend and you do not have a nephew.

Mama is my married wife and also my horse Wallace is my sister?

I am married to daddy and Wallace is a nice horse doll.

Teddy is married to Daisy and I am also having a wife with Kelly from my summer school who is my wife and I am her grandma and daughter-nephew.

I don’t know even know where to go with that.

Grandma Sylvia has grapes? She is grapes, Grandma Sylvia?

Great Grandma Sylvia. Great not grapes.

She is great, grapes-grandma Sylvia.

Yes she is.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I’ve written a little before about our old neighborhood. It had its charms, (freeway close, Toys R Us and good bagel bakery adjacent) and its not-so-charms (everything else). Most notably, there was a lot of police action. The sounds of sirens and helicopters circling overhead were hourly occurrences.

Last fall we moved 16.9 miles and 3.4 universes away to the place we live now. Our new small-ish town is best described as sleepy. I mean “sleepy” in a handful of Ambien with a vodka chaser kind of way.

There is a local newspaper here that comes out every Wednesday. Eight swell pages filled with Senior Center Pancake Breakfasts and Junior High Track Meets. My favorite (obsession) section is the small column on page six reserved for “Weekly Police Activity.”

This week’s highlights:

(Insert Law & Order "doink doink" scene change sound effect here.)

Stolen Vehicle
Tuesday, 6:00pm. Victim lets suspect borrow vehicle temporarily. Suspect is late returning vehicle.
(doink doink)

Friday 2:00pm. Victim leaves wallet at a friend’s (suspect) house and suspect takes victim’s credit card and attempts to make an unauthorized purchase but is denied.
(doink doink)

Suspicious Activity
Tuesday 9:00pm. Victim has front door open for ventilation and screen door is locked. Suspect knocks on screen door and inquires if “Stacy” is home. Victim says that there is no one named "Stacy" that lives there. Suspect leaves on foot.
(doink doink)

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Learning Curve


Our kid Bob has mastered peddling a tricycle. We have witnessed him racing ("racing") across the back patio many times. During my recent daily rounds to straighten up the backyard, I have come upon what appears to be evidence that he can not turn and has yet to learn the reverse peddle maneuver.
Or maybe he just doesn't want to.





Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: Slow Motion Laughing Babies

You must go to Paul Jury’s blog Paul’s Ponderings and see the brilliant Slow Motion Laughing Babies.
Or the delightful The Post That Got Me Banned.
Or the insta-classic "Funky Cold Medina" and "Wild Thing" Are the Same Song.

All funny and all just the tip of the hilarious iceberg. (You know I mean it because I am generally opposed to using the word “hilarious” in a non-ironic way.) Paul posts lots of good stuff.

Mr. Jury is a teacher, a writer, and a director. He produces content for Funny or so you may already be familiar with his body of work and not even know it.

Go do laughing now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Haiku

It takes a village / And by "village" hope they mean / "Buttload of TV"
- Alana Reynolds @momku

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Not To Do: Dropped Call

You did this:
After her dermatologist appointment, your wife calls you at work from her cell phone and mentions that she has been diagnosed with a little bit of vitiligo. (Patchy pigmentless skin spots.) As she drives through Eagle Rock, the call breaks up and cell service is lost.

Don’t do this:
Due to the bad phone connection, you do not hear “vitiligo” but rather “impetigo.” Instead of calling your wife back, you do immediate "medical research" on the internet, limited to looking at hundreds of photos of lesions, open sores, and horrific pustules. You panic, certain that your wife will now have to move to a modern day leper colony.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Not to Do: Bags

You did this:
When you finally break out of your Facebook trance long enough to glance up at the time displayed in the top right corner of your MacBook, you will notice that it is 4:52 PM, a startling eight minutes before your in-laws are due to arrive. You will run, frenzied, through the house and “clean up” by jamming all visible stray objects into two Hefty Steel Sacks, one for dirty dishes, one for everything else. You will not have time to take the bags to the garage so you will hide them by shoving the bags into the mostly empty dryer. As the car pulls into the driveway you will adjust your awkward ponytail and pat yourself on the back for leaving enough time to put on a bra under your pajama top.

Do not do this:
The next morning, in a haze of too little caffeine and too many Wiggles singing, “Miss Polly Had a Dolly,” you remember that the shirt you would like to wear today was part of yesterday’s laundry. Because it is still sitting in the dryer, you turn the dryer on to spin out the inevitable wrinkles. It takes you just one slow motion, fraction of an instant to register the miserable crashing sound coming from inside the dryer as the discordant swan song of three juice glasses, one Pyrex lid, one bucket arm of a Tonka remote control front loader, two cereal bowls, and one Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Phone.

It is impossible to replace the bucket arm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vegetable Landing: A One Act

There is a hold over from Bob’s baby days where on occasion he will still request/demand (tomato/tomahto) to have his vegetables “airplaned” into his mouth with daddy’s assistance. I am all for anything that gets the brussel sprouts in.

(6:45 PM. Dinner time.)

Into the airport!

(Flying a spoonful of peas towards Bob’s open mouth.)
Alpha bravo foxtrot six five two niner. Bob Airport Tower, please reply.

Into the airport! In! In!

We are encountering some turbulence. Are we cleared for landing at Bob Airport?

In now! Touch down airplane!

(The pea loaded spoon “lands” in Bob’s mouth. Bob chews. Stops abruptly.)

Everything alright, Buddy?

The airport burped.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


We Rosenbergs (Man/Woman/Child/Canine/Feline) are a hairy group. I could vacuum our home daily and still tread on a thin carpet of fur, even in the tub. I do not vacuum daily but what I’m saying is, I could and it wouldn’t help much.

Consider this, future houseguests: There is always, and I mean always, the classic, suspect hair clinging to our soap. You have no way of knowing which man or beast it originated from or which region of their body. That’s the sexy guessing-game we play at our house. Want in? Ditto for our butter dish. There. I said it.

I have hair of the too long and apparently quite powerful variety. Its strength has been tested. The dog has on occasion, (perhaps mistakenly) ingested my hair. Evidence: We have spied her hopping nervously through the yard being trailed by what appears to be a floating poop. Upon closer inspection (always a good time) we see that the poop clod is actually dangling daintily out of her pooper by one, long, ribbon of my glorious mane. Those strands are strong. That’s just good genetics everyone.

When I referred to the dozen or so large-ish dust/hair bunnies that were found hiding under the couch as a “kitten farm” small Bob promptly started naming the “kittens.” We frown on this behavior.

My gorgeous-genius husband is uber-hairy in the tradition of Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, and the Geico Cavemen. Jeff will tell you that the disappearance of hair from the top of his head has been inversely proportional to the rapid spread of hair on his everywhere-else. At one point in his late-twenties he attempted the trendy “clean look” with a little overly zealous man-scaping down there. He describes the result as looking like he was wearing a bear suit with a hole in it.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Week After National Simplify Your Life Week: Order in the House

Still life with blocks.

National Simplify Your Life Week was last week. Had my life been simpler, I would have found this out last week by opening the email telling me that last week was National Simplify Your Life Week. So time to get simple, belatedly.

I love the whole simplicity deal so much that I spend a lot of time on it – and by “on it” I mean reading about it on the internet. On occasion I will try to actually employ some simplifying principles into my life. A few of my simplicity experiments have been great like the filing system thing, and that whole deal with the garage organization, and inbox zero. I am realizing that I do pretty well with the simplification systems that I can control myself. When it comes to getting the other mammals in the house on board, the simplicity gets complicated. I must adjust my expectations accordingly.

Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project listed the 27 most important rules for keeping your house in order. I couldn’t get 27 deep into the simplicity (it’s only day 1) so here are nine of the rules in action (or inaction).

Never buy “souvenirs.”
I suppose our daily outings to the park where we return with every rock, leaf and feather that can be jammed into the pocket of the jogging stroller might qualify as souvenirs. Once transferred to the backyard, they are then defined as “landscaping.” On travels outside of the neighborhood, we call souvenirs “instruments of persuasion” and would be lost without them. (One overpriced magnet trucks set bought at an LAX gift shop = eight uninterrupted minutes of quiet 3 year-old in Alaska Airlines coach row 14.)

Somewhere, keep an entirely empty shelf or drawer.
This seems like an interesting concept but I don’t understand what it will really buy me. Perhaps it's some type of feng shui principle? Also an empty drawer is just college roommate speak for, “Jason and I broke up.”

Strive to keep surfaces bare. Put away kitchen appliances you don’t use every day; don’t cram stuff onto every ledge.
On my kitchen counter, sits my Kitchenaid Mixer Pro 450. I use it twice a year, on average. It weighs close to 30 pounds. It looks super cool and makes me feel like I can cook better than I can just because I have one, like the guys that drive the giant trucks to convince you of how large they are in the masculinity department. It will stay where I have planted it. The other stuff crammed onto my ledges I like to think of as “still lifes.”

Get rid of newspapers and magazines as soon as possible. Never keep a newspaper overnight, and never keep a magazine for more than two months—unless you find a positive joy in keeping an orderly collection.
There is no positive joy, nor orderliness to the teetering stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines that I have shoved in the bottom of the china cabinet. Their express purpose is for intermittent perusal to inspire me to feel like a failure in the homemaking department. Maybe these can go. I also possess 2 years worth of back issues of Real Simple. Yes, I get the irony.

Use dimmer switches.
I’m not sure how this relates but if I can hide the emptied contents of the giant Legos basket by dimming or even better, turning off the lights and handing our guests tiny flashlights to get around the house with, we might be on to something.

Storing a thing means you don’t need to use it. So before you squirrel something away, ask yourself, “Do I really need to keep this?”
I will take this advice as permission to leave the Christmas/Hannukah/Easter decorations up all year. We’re going to be that house. Merry Sukkot/Halloween everyone!

Keep your keys in the same place each day.
This one we do. Keys are always by that deal on the thing by where the phone is. Unless they are in that rock-filled pocket in the back of the stroller, or inside the piano bench or in the dog’s bed or in that purse I haven’t used since Tuesday or in the kid’s playroom at the YMCA.

Every night before bed, do a tidy-up to put away everything that’s out of place.
On many days that, pre-night night tidy-up would be an all-nighter.

Don’t hoard huge quantities of things that you could never use up: binder clips, rubber bands, clay pots, florist vases, plastic grocery bags. Give the rest away.
Ok, so who wants my stash of plastic grocery bags?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: Badass of the Week

Today’s Smacksy Sunday Link is Badass of the Week. Like previous smacksy link fave The Memory Palace, this week’s link is a history lesson wrapped up in great storytelling. These are stories of courage, guts, and crazy, featuring profiles of supreme badasses and a few well chosen four letters words. There are some obvious varieties of badass (Bruce Lee, Darth Vader), and then the less obvious - but-then-when-you-think-about-it-are-so-obvious varieties of badass (Leonardo Da Vinci, Harriet Tubman) and they are all fascinating.

The blogsman behind Badass of the Week, Ben Thompson (aka Amazing Ben), describes himself as “a full-time corporate wage slave who spends most of his free time writing about things that he thinks are badass.” And that is sort of badass in itself.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Window Shopping: A One Act

(11:45 AM. BOB and I are driving home from the mall.)

I really need the wooden cookie set from the toy store at The Grove.

We were just window-shopping, Bob. We were only looking, not buying today.


Yes, Pooch?

Window-shopping is too hard. I can’t do it anymore.

I understand.

Do you? Do you understand?

I really do. (Beat) Why don’t we put the cookie set on a list for Santa?

It’s Christmas now?

No, but we can make a list for later.

Mama? Can you call Santa and tell him that today is Hannukah?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Charming Potato Salad

My gluten-free saga continues.

What I have learned of late:

When a tan, be-yoga-pantsed lady in the Gluten Free aisle at Whole Foods tells you that a certain frozen brownie product is “amazing,” remember that a real brownie may not have passed her lips since the dawn of Hammer Time and therefore her taste in what is “amazing” is completely suspect.

If you plan to eat quinoa this week, you will have had enough by Tuesday.

Lots of stuff (everything good) has gluten in it in some form. For example, most popular brands of mayonnaise contain the gluten thing. How dare they?

It is summer and a summer requirement for me is potato salad. I lifted this easy and good enough that you almost-don’t-miss-the-mayonnaise recipe for potato salad directly from the Karina’s Kitchen website. (Except for the my-two-cents parts in italics.) You normal folks should like it. (I tried it out on Jeff, Bob, Uncle Jerry, and Miss Ilene last week and no one appeared to spit it out into their napkin. Ringing endorsement!)

It’s even safe for the vegans, if you’re into that. But really, if you are into that, cut it out already.

Champagne Vinegar Red Potato Salad

1 bag of ripe and firm Red Bliss potatoes - about two pounds
1 medium purple or red onion
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Champagne vinegar (The Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader’s is great.)
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Tarragon - fresh, snipped, or dried (I believe fresh tarragon is the key ingredient here.)
Heat a large pot of fresh cold water to boil. Add some sea salt.

Wash off the potatoes; leave the skins on. Cut the potatoes into quarters or bite size chunks. Put them into the water and simmer until fork tender - about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice the onion.

Drain the potatoes well and pour them into a large bowl. Add the onion and lightly mix. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten the potatoes - about 1/4 cup or so. Drizzle liberally with the Champagne vinegar and toss. Taste test.

Add more if needed. Don't be stingy.

Season with sea salt, cracked pepper and tarragon. Mix well with a wooden spoon. I like to soften the shape of some of the potatoes, but not all. I prefer my potato salad with some definition.

And now you have a choice. You can serve it warm - which is divine. Or cover and chill it. Once chilled, taste test for seasoning adjustments because the chilling process dampens the flavors a bit.

Serves 4 to 6 of your favorite people.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Her Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard

Last summer we attended the sold out LEGO® DUPLO® presents Day Out With Thomas at the Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton, California. This was one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s Bay Area gigs on his North American tour. If you have not had the pleasure of attending, it is an $18.00 per person, plus service fees, non-refundable, rain or shine, chance to ride the “real” Thomas steam engine and meet the lovable but irascible Sir Topham Hatt. If none of that means anything to you, you are my new hero.

After a lovely ride through the redwoods in an open train car packed with the under-seven set and their families, we went to track down Sir Topham Hatt. When we arrived at the greeting area we were told by one of Topham’s handlers that he was taking a break but standing in for Sir Hatt was Fifi of "Fifi and the Flowertots." A guy in a large flower suit waved frantically behind him.

(I am guessing it was a guy as I have been told by those in the know that the majority of “head work” - that’s what wearing the costumes with the giant heads is called in the business – is done by men because the heads are heavy and unwieldy. If you’ve got a few minutes, my tiny friend Kim can tell you an excellent story about almost dying on stage while attempting to tap dance inside a Tweety Bird costume and why even petite Tweety is a man’s job.)


We do not get the Sprout network with our basic cable package so I had not heard of Fifi or her Flowertots. Apparently, like Hasselhoff, she has a real Euro following. It was past Bob’s naptime and we couldn’t wait for Topham Hatt and the big creepy flower plushy seemed lonely and desperate so we took a quick (blurry) photo with the her/him. As we were leaving, Fifi handed us a DVD.

Our very large mistake: When we got home, we watched it. With Bob. And he wanted to watch it over and over and over again. And then more after that.

As a writing veteran of "Big Bad Beetleborgs" and "Sweet Valley High" (buried deep, deep, so very deep in the resume), I obviously can not claim to be a snob when it comes to kid's programming. Fifi is a stop-motion animation, forget-me-not flower who is known for being forgetful. (Get it?) There are the requisite good guys and other guys with bad behavior and we learn a lesson and the usual deal. The whole package is brought to us by the "Bob the Builder" guy. And dear Lord I wish I had never seen it.

Fifi is also a singer, and the Flowertots, are her band. There is one song in particular that Fifi rocks out on that is like a red hot needle piercing your soul with its awfulness. The rough interludes that they pass off as music on "Barney" are like Rogers and Hammerstein, by comparison. There is no point in trying to explain it further when the work speaks for itself.

Turn up the volume on your computer. Click here and then click the link that says “Milkshake.”


And the moral of the story? "Milkshake makes everything OK!"
Note: I always smile when I am terrified.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Today You Are Not a Man: A One Act


(12:25 PM. BOB and I are driving home from the library.)

I am a man?

You are a boy. Someday, you will be a man.

I am a grown up?

No, you are a boy right now, not a grown up.


No. Not now, many, many years from now.

(We travel another 30 seconds in silence.)

Am I grown up now?! Now am I one?! When am I grown up?!

You are a grown up when you buy your own coffee table.


I want a coffee table.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Things I Didn't Know About Parenting: Batteries

Before Bob was born, I had a lot of ideas about parenting and how this was all going to go down. I had read a few books and I knew a couple of babies and I really thought I had a handle on it. I figured anything else I might need to know I could pick up along the way. (By “along the way” of course I mean “on the internet.”) Now think of the strongest word you know for the word “wrong.”

As it turns out, the stuff I actually did know about parenting would fit on a medium size Post-It, and the stuff I had yet to learn about parenting would fit on, by comparison, the rest of the universe. I have also found that there is a sub-category of things-I-didn’t-know called I-don’t-live-in-a-closet-yet-I-never-even-knew-that-this-was-a-thing things. One of my new lessons: Teeniest Batteries.

Lots of fun books and toys are powered by oh-so-tiny Teeniest Batteries. Also called “button cell” batteries, these are the type that are apparently used for hearing aids and watches. Having never changed my own watch battery and having yet to employ a hearing aid, these batteries were foreign territory for me. I had no idea that the constant pursuit and procurement of these little overpriced specks of necessity would become an Amazing Race episode wherein I would be challenging traffic laws while speed-touring the Target/Walgreen’s/Thrifty/K-Marts of the greater Los Angeles area.

Things to know about The Teeniest Batteries:

Each Teeniest Battery is the size of a men’s dress shirt button and are in the price range of a mani/pedi.

There are many different types of Teeniest Batteries and each battery has at least five other alternate names, for example the AG-13 is also known as the L1154, A76, LR44, PX76A, or the GPA76.

The Teeniest Batteries have an extremely short shelf life. One battery is good for only two weeks of intermittent use of Play-a-Sound Potty Time With Elmo.

There are many varieties of Teeniest Batteries and the exact one that you need for the toy/book you have is frequently out of stock and did you try the Big K on San Fernando? And yes you did and they were out of stock there too.

The many models of Teeniest Batteries all look deceptively similar and their reference numbers are engraved in a microscopic head-of-a-pin sized font on the side of the battery that will alert you to the fact that your eyesight is going and that perhaps that hearing aid isn’t so far off after all and why didn’t you have kids when you were still in your early 20’s?

Teeniest Batteries are easily, irretrievably lost between the seats if you try to perform an emergency battery change for the Play-a-Song Tunes for Thomas while sitting in your car in the parking lot of Rite-Aid against an audio back-drop of a small-ish boy screaming, “I want it, want it, want Thomas right now! Hurry Mama!”

Note: Changing out and installing Teeniest Batteries requires the use of Teeniest Screwdrivers. You do not have these in your toolbox. You will have to buy them. Somewhere. Godspeed.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Smacksy Sunday Link: Extreme Craft

Our friend Garth Johnson is a fascinating artist, teacher, and blogsman. He also has a gorgeous-genius wife, a beautifully cataloged record collection, and makes a mean Frito Pie, but this is not about Garth, it is about Garth's blog. Garth describes his blog Extreme Craft as a compendium of art masquerading as craft, craft masquerading as art, and craft extending its middle finger.

You don’t have to be a craft-y type of person to love this blog, just a liker-of-cool-and-unusual-and-funny-things type of person.

I know you are because you are super awesome like that.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Luggage

In America there are two classes of travel - first class, and with children. - Robert Benchley