Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to School

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is rounding up Five Favorites. Here are a few of my back to school favorites:

1. JC Penney $25 Kids' Glasses

This sale goes on until Saturday. There is no catch.  Frames up to $120 and lenses included. No eye exam required. Two year warranty on breakage. Age limit: 16. HT: Ami.

2. Lands' End

So we're down to the wire getting gear school-ready. I say to one of the boys: Please try on your school pants. He hears: We are about to embark on root canal without benefit of anesthesia. Brace yourself.

Darn, if the pants don't fit.

I pull out my trusty Lands' End receipt only to discover that I ordered the wrong size. And this is a problem, see, because these slacks are not cheap. I, therefore, combine discounted gift cards and 25% off coupons and  free shipping to get $30 trousers down to a much more palatable price of about $16.

And it's hard to do that twice.

I contact Lands' End with my dilemma and fully admit my error. The ever-friendly customer service rep says, "No problem. We'll honor the sale price, and the shipping's still free." She let me order a third pair at the same low price.

For all this and more, we are willing to overlook the gross misuse of the apostrophe in the name. Lands' End rocks!

3. Old Navy Girls' Socks

I like white socks. White socks with a simple scallop. Ainsley has two pairs of John's hand-me-down socks. She has never worn them, and she probably never will. It took me twelve years to produce a girl, and she's going to look like one.

Walmart sells jumbo packs of socks that are cute and surprisingly high quality. But the package has two white, two white with pink trim, two pink, and two purple. I want white. Just white. Remember Steve Martin in Father of the Bride tearing open packages of hot dog buns so that he's not forced to buy more buns than dogs?

That would be me.

But then I stumble on an awesome deal at Old Navy: white, scalloped socks for $1 per pair.

Problem solved. I bought ten pairs.

4. Ticonderoga Pencils

They claim to be "The World's Best Pencil," and they are. Not cheap. Absolutely worth the extra money. HT: Danielle Bean.

5. Back to School shopping.

I really do enjoy back to school shopping, but this year I attempted to take advantage of the tax free weekend. This is quickly morphing into a Black Friday wanna be. Nearly all the traffic, but none of the trees or twinkling lights, and, let's face it, Christmas presents are far more fun than glue sticks and composition notebooks. Oh, and August is horribly humid, too.

Head over to Hallie's to add your favorites.

Monday, August 26, 2013

White and Nerdy

John comes running to me with a complaint to file.

"They say I'm white and nerdy," he informs me, clearly put out.

Hmmm. John's brothers and their two friends have declared him white and nerdy.

They may have a case as to the nerdiness factor. John has worn glasses since he was four. There's nothing like a pair of specs to ratchet up the perceived IQ fifty points or so.

And then there's the fact that John has spent a significant chunk of his summer reading. Yeah, that's nerdy. That he's done this at my assistance does indeed deflect a few nerdy points. And John has yet to hit his stride with math, and, as everyone knows, any dyed in the wool nerd loves math. So he's got that going for him.

But on the accusation of being white? Well, John just gets browner everyday. On our recent trip to the ocean, I doused the boy with sun scream (as Ainsley calls it).

"Mama, what are you doing?" John was perplexed. "I don't get sunburn. Ever."


Conclusion: The boy's not white, but he may be nerdy.

For the uninitiated, White and Nerdy is a song by that master of parody, that icon of American pop music, Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al first gained fame with Eat It, a take off on Michael Jackson's Beat It. My dear sister sent Kolbe Weird Al: The Complete Collection a few years ago.  We've been enjoying it ever since.

And I actually get most of it. Lasagna? It's a take off on La Bamba. Bye, Bye Mr. Anakin Guy? I recognize American Pie.  There's a song about living in an Amish paradise that gets a little too earthy for adolescent boys and a song about Santa Claus that is simply bizarre.

My really issue with calling John white and nerdy is that I am wholly unfamiliar with the song Weird Al is mocking. I'm guessing that it's White and Dirty, and I'd hate to speculate on the original lyrics any further than that.

John and Ainsley, my children blessed with older siblings, have musical tastes Tim and Kolbe could not have fathomed at ages six and four. Ainsley can sing, oh what's that performer's name, the young one, blonde, belts out "Call me maybe"? Tim and Kolbe knew all the Thomas the Tank Engine songs and had the theme to Winnie the Pooh memorized. I'm almost completely ignorant of current pop music and, contrary to cliche, ignorance is not always bliss. I overheard Ainsley singing, "I've got the moves like Jagger." Jagger? Would that be Mick? I may laugh at my four-year-old trying on platform shoes, but ain't no way my precious sunshine gonna have the moves like Jagger if I have anything to say about it. She does have the moves to Gangnam Style and this, too, gives me pause. I've seen a tiny bit of the video, like once, and walked away with the sinking suspicion that I wasn't quite getting it. Suddenly I'm feeling like the clueless Rebel Without a Cause.
father in

And all this plays on my vanity, big time. Ainsley's back in pre-school, no doubt teaching the "moves like Jagger" to her classmates, some of whom are innocent oldest children, pure as the driven snow, and completely mystified by Gangnam style.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Favorites

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is rounding up Five Favorites. Here are a few of mine.

1. This exchange that so perfectly captures Ainsley at four:
Dave: Would you please sleep in your own bed?
Ainsley, flopped over the bed and wailing in dramatic fashion: Everyone is in this bed! No one is in that bed!

2. This exchange that so perfectly captures Tim, at fifteen, suffering through Pride and Prejudice for the first (and mostly likely last) time:

Mr. Darcy:  In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. In declaring myself thus I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends and, I hardly need add, my own better judgement. The relative situation of our families is such that any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly reprehensible connection. Indeed, as a rational man I cannot but regard it as such myself, but it cannot be helped. Almost from the earliest moments of our acquaintance I have come to feel for you a passionate admiration and regard which, despite all my struggles, has overcome every rational objection; and I beg you, most fervently, to relieve my suffering and consent to be my wife.
Tim: So that's how the dude gets chicks?

Surely no one will notice the comics artfully hidden behind Jane Austen.

 3. This picture that captures John at six:

4. This picture that captures me at forty-nine:

Chewable calcium/vitamin D supplements to replace the chalky, horse pills I formerly attempted to choke down on an irregular basis. HT: Costco.

5. This picture that captures what we've done fairly often in a year with rainfall fifteen inches above average.

Head over to Hallie's to add your favorites.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pelee Island Sunrise, Sunset

While I like these pictures, they fall short of capturing how truly beautiful both these scenes were. Better camera and better photographer needed.

What's interesting about the first shot is that I've rarely seen a colorful sunrise over Lake Erie. Sunsets are spectacular, but mornings are typically hazy. I like the birds in this shot (I first thought they were specks on my keyboard). There's a freighter to the right of the sun that looks like land.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Favorites - The Home Sweet Home Edition

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is rounding up Five Favorites. One week after our month-long sojourn came to an end, I am reflecting on all the things I've enjoyed this past week.

1. Zinnias.

Where have all the flowers gone? Answer: nowhere!

 I typically return home to a flower bed that resembles a dried up patch of tumble weed. I did one last mulch and weed effort before we left town for a month, and we returned home to more flowers than weeds. Yeah!

2. Piano music.

Fifteen-year-old Tim has been playing piano non-stop since our return. Do you know what Tim said to me the other day? You'll never guess.

Thanks for making me stick with piano.

I should go record this in his baby book. The schlepping, the endless Time to practice!, the crowbar I employed to get him out of bed in the morning during that really unpleasant season we tried piano lessons before school?

Worth it, worth it, worth it!

He now loves playing. Loves it! In the midst of my many, many, many failures in the realm of parenting teenagers, I score one humble point.

Thanks for making me stick with piano.

I may have to cross-stitch that one something or maybe not but still . . . Huge. Just huge.

3. Papa's tomatoes.

My father-in-law must break gardening records in two areas: produce per square foot and taste. Modest-sized garden, enormous crop year after year of the most flavorful tomatoes I have tasted anywhere, ever, amen.

4. Back-to-school shopping.

And it's not just 'cause the kids will be out of hair soon.

No, really.

I love buying fresh supplies. Clean slate and all that. I love buying things I know will excite the kids. Buying eleven-year-old Kolbe accessories for his first locker. Finding a Justice League notebook I knew would make six-year-old John smile.

The price tag for all this gear? Not one of my favorite things.

5. Antibiotics!

On our drive home, my throat started to burn and my glands started to swell. I was sick, sick last week and now feel great. If I can just remember to finish the antibiotics now that I'm feeling better.

Head over to Hallie's and add your favorite things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Subtitle: Adventures in Rock Polishing

Did you have a rock tumbler as a kid? Or, like me, did you just wish you had one?

Some childhood dreams do come true. I am now the owner of a rock tumbler. Or Kolbe is. He got one for Christmas last year, and we're now getting around to using it. The rock tumbler came with detailed instructions, but they omitted three rather important steps:

Step 1: Build a detached garage.

Step 2: If Step 1 proves impossible, invest in high quality ear protection.

Step 3: Negotiate lower rates with your power company.

The process of transforming these rough rocks into polished gems is Loud and Long.

We first took kids gem mining last summer, and, oh, was it fun. Hokey, yes. But also fun. And not wholly and completely a racket. There really is a Sapphire County, North Carolina, because sapphires really are in them thar hills. This summer I took the little people to Cherokee, North Carolina, while Dave was white water rafting with the big guys. Let me just admit from the get go that I was fully prepared to dislike Cherokee. As we entered the town, we spotted a sign for Totem Pole Loans. And then there was Tomahawk Quik Mart (or Title Pawn or Quik Lube). Lots of tee-pees and souvenir shops galore!

John, of course, was mesmerized by it all, curious to know if Native Americans really exist, and oh so disappointed to hear that cowboys and Indians really don't fight anymore. Oh, the perspective of a six-year-old boy!

Let me state for the record that most of Cherokee is actually lovely. As we drove through town, I spotted a gem mining operation. Pan 'Fer Gold, the sign invited us.

We were game.

John and Ainsey stood on their little stools and panned away. They unearthed all manner of interesting gems. Ainsley's lode included an enormous, rough amethyst.

So here's the drill: You "mine"; you take your haul into the store; a "gemologist" helps you identify your finds and tries to talk you into having a few of them finished into jewelry quality stones.

The guy seemed nice enough. He identified all of John's treasures and then moved onto Ainsley's. He looked at her stash and quickly said, "Let's just wash these off first."

He pulled her tray under the table and back up again a few seconds later. Though I couldn't prove it in a court of law, I swear her large amethyst had been replaced by a much smaller one. It all happened so fast, I didn't respond. And then we left. And I debated whether to go back and say something. And then I thought, "Kelly, get a grip. You came so that the kids could have fun, not to bag an amethyst."

I looked back at the place. Pan 'Fer Gold. Got to love the apostrophe that indicates neither possession nor omission. And then there was the sign as you entered the "mining" area. Apparently, John and Michelle Jones of Somewhere, Georgia, had Panned 'Fer Gold and uncovered an 1,100 carrot (sic) Amathist (sic).

So said the sign.

And I was really going to get into it with these folks?


We drove to a gorgeous park on the Oconaluftee River. It was a cool, sunny day. John and Ainsley spent an hour runner through sparkling water, collecting more "gems", and searching for shark's teeth. John was sure he found a few.

"'Shark's teeth," he yelled.

He claims to have found a few in Lake Erie as well.

And that's the real treasure I find when I spend time with these kids of mine. Their sense of wonder is so refreshing, so sweet, and, as I know too well, so fleeting. Rocks, sea glass, crescent moons, birds' eggs, fire flies -- truly, they love it all.

In 12-21 days we will have a cupful of  polished gems.  I am grateful to say, I have a houseful of unpolished ones.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Shaken Not Stirred

When the big boys have been watching James Bond, and the little people have been playing with stuffed Peanuts' figures, we end up with Ainsley adopting a faux-English accent and delivering memorable zingers such as this one: You've had your last martini, Double-O-Woodstock! 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Redford

Our month-long whirlwind of adventure has come to an end.

While I already miss everyone we visited, I could kiss the red earth of Georgia.

The older I get, the harder time I have sleeping in a strange bed. This year 4:00 A.M. turned into the witching hour. I was wide awake, no matter how late or early I had gone to bed, no matter how exhausted I still was. While at this stage in the game of life, I strongly suspect hormones are the principal culprit, my endocrine system had assistance:
- Nate, my nephew, woke up with swimmer's ear at about 4:00.
- Jasper, the dog, wanted to get into my room at about 4:00.
- John, burning up with fever, threw up at about 4:00.
- Jasper, the dog, wanted to get out of my room at about 4:00.
- John, still burning up with fever, threw up again at about 4:00.
- Ainsley, sleeping on the couch, woke up and climbed into my bed, thus disturbing John who moved to the bed across the hall. Ainsley was delivering energetic roundhouse kicks in her sleep, so I joined John. Ainsley realized I was gone and moved across the hall to join us. John felt crowded and left taking the comforter and all the pillows. I staggered across the hall to commandeer a pillow and some sort of blanket and in the morning discovered not one item or person was in its original room. All at about 4:00.
I usually sleep like the dead at Dave's parents' house. Not so this trip.  One night -- at about 4:00 -- I adjusted the covers which shifted the bed skirt which activated this monstrosity:

Sunny day, everything's a-okay! in loud, harsh, electric guitar chords reminiscent of Prince.

The real beauty of this guitar?

1) I bought it. Yes, I did. At the consignment shop across the street, I shelled out $1.81 for this baby.

2) It has no off switch.

I took it from its hiding place under the bed and stuck it in a new and better hiding place in the living room, hoping that the cats would not activate it once more. I then stumbled into the kitchen trying to locate a) my glasses and b) the sleep aid my mother-in-law had kindly left out for me should the need arise.

It had arisen indeed.

But, see, this was a prescription bottle, and the drug was not one I recognized, and pharmacists the world over, I'm convinced, note Generic for fill-in-the-blank  in script far too small for any mere mortal over the age of forty to read. 

So there I stood -- at about 4:10 -- shining a light onto the bottle, sitting at the computer trying to type the name of the medicine to see if this was, in fact, a perfectly harmless sleep aid or Lipitor or Celebrex or Viagra or who knows what.

It was fine. I surprised Dave by sleeping until 10:00, something I have not done in ten years, I'll bet.

My eyes continue to be the source of both consternation and amusement. I've shared before my dilemma about my eyebrows when I'm out of town. (Yes, yes, yes, file this under First World Problems). This year I thought I'd just carefully use a razor to keep the brows in check. People do this, you know. People with better fine motor skills than I possess. I guess it worked fine until the evening I got a touch distracted. I looked in the mirror and gasped. I lopped off half my eyebrow! I quickly tried to part my hair the opposite way and then attempted to train a curly tendril to camouflage the botched brow. No luck.

It's only an eyebrow. Surely, no one will notice.

So we're now home and have access to good lighting and a magnifying mirror, and I have half an eyebrow!

Surely no one will notice? Surely you're dead wrong.

Not notice? They're gawking! Gawking, I say!

Maybe it was the post-trip exhaustion, maybe the pain of re-entry, the bags, bags, bags under my eyes and covering every. last. surface. of this house, maybe it was the smell in the kitchen that made me wonder if we had left a potato in the pantry to ferment for weeks on end. 

I don't know. 

Instead of crying over shorn eyebrows, I started to laugh. And I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. I rolled on my bed clutching my stomach and laughed until tears ran down my face. 

If it's Tuesday again, this must be Augusta. 

And it's so very good to be here. With or without intact eyebrows.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Five Favorites

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is rounding up Five Favorites. Here are five of my favorite pics from our trip. The pickings are slim because my rugged camera is now a duct-tape special, and it's a challenge to focus and go Click! while holding four double A batteries in place.

I see a new camera on the horizon.

The tops one's a repeat, but here are my favorites:

Love this!

My boys in grandma's basement, AKA The Monastery.

This boy loves his sister.

The view from my bedroom window.

A feverish John on his sixth birthday.