Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Suburban miracles...

The past few days have been rather trying for me.

First, I lost my keys.

The loss of my keys made me very, very cranky. I tore the house apart looking for them- under the couch, in all the bedding- I even checked the freezer. No keys. More specifically, no expensive-to-replace-automatic-door-opening key fob.

In the midst of the great key loss, another tragedy befell our family. The dvd player in the car stopped working. There was sound, but the screen was black.

I understand that many people drive their children around town without a movie playing.

They are better people than me.

I talk to my kids all day long. They talk and talk and talk.

I count on the car to give me some quiet. I listen to the radio, think private thoughts and check out from the children for a while. It's my happy time when I recharge and prepare myself for the next wave of chitchat.

So between the constant "Where the hell are my keys???" freak out in head and the incessant babble of the children every time we got into the car- well, my crabbiness had reached epic proportions.

But then lo, a suburban miracle occurred. As I was driving the kids to the pool ("Mommy, will the water be warm? Mommy, when will the next Harry Potter movie come out? Mommy, want to hear me burp?") I had a sudden thought about where my keys might be! As soon as we got home I looked and there in the dog drawer, in the dog walking fanny pack were my keys. Hallelujah! Let this be a lesson to good people everywhere that a fanny pack is never a good idea.

I was so happy.

But then, it got even better. Lily and I got into the car and on a whim she opened up the screen to the dvd player. The screen, which has been black for a week, the screen which Toyota quoted me $450 to replace was suddenly functional again! We drove in ecstatic silence.

Keys and silence. All my dreams came true.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How not to junk...

Yesterday was one of those crazy days where David and I found ourselves with about four kid free hours in the afternoon. He had just finished up a huge deadline and wanted to spend time with me.

"What do you want to do?" he asked. "You choose!"

Well, I did a crazy thing. I took him junking.

I took him to Urban Renewals first. The last time we were there together, Lily was a baby. I think that David had blocked it out because somehow he had forgotten that junking includes shopping for clothes.

"I didn't know that junking meant clothes." he said as he filled a cart with jeans and shirts.

"Don't you read my blog?" I asked rather pointedly.


He then tried to convince me that he absolutely would wear the pleather pants he picked out and look, they only cost 7.99! Some men handle turning 40 by buying a convertible. My husband wanted $8 black pleather pants.

After prying the pleather out of his hands David announced that he was hungry, so we finished up our purchases and went to the restaurant next door.

He ordered a cocktail and a cobb salad. I stuck with seltzer and nachos because I know that mixing alcohol with junk is not a good idea.

After lunch we went to the Goodwill store down the street. David went off in search of jeans and I made my way through the store. After about 15 minutes he appeared in the dressing room. Five minutes later he announced that he was tired, he was done shopping and he had a headache.

Unless I wanted to go make out in the fitting room.

Which I did not.

David found a chair and sat himself down in it while I finished shopping.

We learned so much from our outing together.

1. David can only go to one junk store in a day.

2. Never have a cocktail halfway through junking.

3. Pleather is not the answer to 40.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Proud to be...


How are you today?

I am fine, though very tired because we went to a party Saturday night and I am still tired. That's how lame I am. I stay out until 11:30 one night and 48 hours later I am still wrecked.

The party was to celebrate our dear friends Carola and Horacio who became American citizens last week.  There was dancing, and merriment and good cheer.

They have completely adopted American humor.

Our pal Geoff led us in a sing along of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America".

Geoff felt that they could not call themselves real Americans until they had sampled that uniquely American delicacy- the twinkie.

They were game!

We also learned a few things about our own family.

Rebecca looks about sixteen when she wears her contacts. Yikes! 

Lily can do this crazy hip hop helicopter dance move! (Big shout out to Lauren at the Dance Place who is Lily's hip hop teacher! Holy moly, the kid rocked!)

We also learned that I love holding sleeping babies. (Shout out to Carlene and Geoff for making such a sweet baby and sharing him with me!)

The most important thing we learned is actually something we already knew.

That we are blessed to have so many friends and so much love in our life.

 Congratulations again to our newest and most favorite citizens. America is better for having you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I hate basketball...

It all started with Lily deciding that she wanted to play basketball. We were visiting my in-laws. They have balls and a hoop and Lily was quite taken with aiming and throwing and dribbling.

So cute.

Being a take charge kind of mother I signed her up for basketball at the local rec center and then set about researching hoops for our yard. They were expensive. How expensive? At least four carloads worth of junk expensive. I turned to craigslist. A little less expensive, but nothing was available in my area.

I turned to my town's listserv:

"Dear A-List,

My baby wants to play basketball but I am too cheap to buy a new hoop. Does anyone have one that they are done with? I'd be happy to take it off your hands!

Cheap Shiny Red Mama"

Sure enough I got a response! A family in my very town was all done with their Lifetime basketball hoop and I was welcome to it. All I had to do was come and fetch it.

Excellent! I dropped Rebecca off at her sewing class which was to last two hours (you will understand why I am mentioning this as the story unfolds). Then I ran home, picked up David and Lily, a handful of tools and went to the home where our new basketball hoop awaited us.

I noticed a few things straightaway.

It was big.  It was tall. It was heavy.

The base was covered in cobwebs, spiders and termite mud tubes. Still, it was sturdy and it was free.

David and I got to work figuring out the best way to disassemble it so that we could somehow get it home in our minivan.

Lily made this job pleasant by maintaining a constant stream of questions and observations.

"Can I help? Can I hold the wrench? Is that a spider? Look at that spider! Is that a termite? Can I use the screwdriver? I want to hold the screwdriver! Can we turn on the car so I can watch a movie? Can I climb on the car? I think I need to use the bathroom. Can I poke the spider? I'm hungry. When can I turn the wrench? Why is this taking so long? I need to use the bathroom. Can I use your iphone?"

It was great. And by great, I mean that I offered her five dollars to pretty please stop talking!

We removed a bunch of screws and nuts and it helped sort of. The big problem, the problem that really was making me want to cry, was the 500lbs of sand that was in the base of the pole. It quickly became apparent that we were going to have to drain the sand before we were going to be able to move the base.

What to do with the sand?

I had a few reusable grocery bags in the car so we began filling them. The bags filled very quickly (Win!).  The bags also had holes (Fail!).

This is how we found ourselves in the driveway of a family we did not know, dismantling a hulking 12 foot piece of equipment and spilling sand all over the driveway.

"I really need to use the bathroom!" Lily announced.

We rang the bell and the very kind Mrs. Basketball Hoop allowed us in to use the bathroom. I also asked her for some garbage bags for the sand, which was really becoming worrisome. It was spilling everywhere and more and more it was looking like this entire hoop thing was a big mistake.

She graciously gave us the bags and we went back out just in time for Mr. Basketball Hoop to come home and further witness two witless suburbanites with tools battling sand and an eight year old who would not stop talking.

Thank god Lily took pictures.

Here I am laying on the driveway holding a nut in place with my wrench while David used a socket wrench.

Here is David, trying to manage the sand. Notice the sand on the driveway? Isn't that what you want to come home to? Two idiots dumping sand all over your driveway?

It was about this time that David stood up, stumbled and dropped his iphone causing the glass to shatter. It was also about this time that we noticed some dark clouds gathering above our little project.

We had finished scooping up most of the sand just as it started to pour. Quickly we began to argue about the best way to get the pole into the car. Finally we shoved it in the best we could, tied down the back hatch and left. Our clothes were soaked, our car was full of sand and all Lily had to say was, "I didn't get to help at all!"

It had now been two hours and twenty minutes since I had dropped Rebecca off at her sewing class.

We were late. We were wet. Lily was belligerent.

We picked Rebecca up, deposited her at her dance class and returned home where we proceeded to extract 500 lbs of sand, a cobwebby base, a hoop, a backboard and ten of the twelve pieces of hardware which we need to reassemble the whole mess. It is now lying on our driveway where Pugsley immediately peed on it. It is right next to my clothesline with the two loads of clean laundry that I neglected to remove before it started raining.

I cannot fathom how we are going to put this thing back together. I need to go back and look for two screws that we somehow left in the grass along with my dignity.

This is why I hate basketball. And spiders. And socket wrenches. And most especially why I hate sand.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We started school this week. Last year when we decided to homeschool it was a rather sudden decision and we ended up making it up as we went along.

This year is different because I was able to plan ahead and work on striking the right balance between time at home and time spent participating in activities.

I'll be honest with you. I was more than a little nervous about how this year was going to go for my big girl. This summer so many of her friends were busy in camp and didn't have much time to get together. I think she was a little lonely. Then she talked to some of her friends who had started middle school last week and who were excited about their new school. She got a little weepy. She missed her friends.  What if it was all a big mistake?

Monday started off with a bang when I got the time wrong for her ballet class and dropped her off just as the class was ending. (Fail.)  Happily, I was able to redeem myself by dropping her off at her video production class on time. (Win!)

Yesterday featured her first Girl Scouts meeting and field trip which she loved. So many big girls! No little sisters and their talking teddy bears! Win! Win! Win!

Today featured a park playgroup that included a kickball game full of big kids that went on for hours. Hours! If you have ever witnessed children at recess trying to play kickball only to have it end after ten minutes because it's time to go inside then you know the deliriousness that this game represented. And there were new friends from Girl Scouts there! Win!Win! Win!

Then, after lunch we went to another park playgroup and people- the fun continued! More Girl Scouts friends! Warrior Kitty play! Little sister too busy being chased by boys to interfere! Win! Win! Win!

On the way home Rebecca told me that it had been the best day of her life so far and that is when I started to get weepy.

I've written before about the powerful feeling of parental relief.  Worry about your child gnaws at you, steals into your gut and settles itself in for a long stay.  My worry about Rebecca had become a near constant companion. I knew that homeschooling was a good fit for her academically and even socially, but I could not help but fret about her. Would she find her place in the homeschooling world? Would she find people to talk to and laugh with?

When she told me how happy she was today and how excited she is for this year, a wave of relief washed over me. I could feel it physically, like a anvil had been lifted from my heart, like an unwanted visitor had finally left.

Relief is exquisite- and I hope I don't need to feel it again for a long time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How to Junk in Eleven Easy Steps!

Sometimes folks who read my blog or hear my junking stories ask me, "How do you junk?"

It's a funny question to me because as you know, junk is my life.  But I have been promising to write this for months, so here goes!

The Shiny Red Houses Guide to Finding Great Junk

1. Find places where there might be good junk.

Let's say that you live in Durham, NC and you want to do some junking. The first thing you can do is turn to your good friend google and search "Durham, NC thrift stores". When I tried this google search I came up with quite a few!

Rescued Treasures Gift Shoppe
Everything But Grannies Panties (This might be the best name for a junk shop ever!)
Salvation Army
Faith Thrift Store
Another Man's Treasure

These are just a few- I found this map of about a gajillion million shops. It makes me want to take a road trip!

2. Once you've decided where to go make sure you have your supplies. Chocolate (to prevent junk fatigue), coffee, water, a tape measure and CASH! I emphasize CASH because some junk places won't accept plastic and you do not want the heartbreak of not being able to purchase your treasures because you didn't bring any CASH.

3. Do not take your kids. Seriously, especially if you are a novice and especially if you have boys. I take my girls junking because they can appreciate the fun of clothes shopping, if with a limited attention span. I have yet to meet a boy who will junk without being convinced that the junk shop will kill him dead on the spot. So just don't bring them. You can bring a friend, though sometimes a friend can be a distraction. You will have to decide if you can chat and junk at the same time.

4. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that can be easily removed. Trying on shoes when you have to keep lacing and unlacing sneakers will kill the junk joy. Clogs and flip-flops are ideal. Not every junk shop has a dressing room. Wearing a skirt will enable you to try things on underneath it. Wear a cami top under your shirt or sweater so that you can try things on over it without having to get completely naked.

5. Try not to have a specific item in mind. Junk is all about serendipity. Maybe you'll find a bag full of the best quilt fabric you've ever seen, but more likely you'll find an ottoman you didn't know you wanted but is perfect for the living room. See what the junk gods have put before you and look for the hidden treasures.

6. Take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back and enter the shop. Get a cart so you don't get shoppers arm. I find that the best way for me to take in a store is by examining one area at a time. In other words, I don't look at the store as a whole. I get overwhelmed. I start with housewares, and row by row I work my way through.

7. Have fun with color, texture and style. This is where junking is a complete blast. It allows you to try different looks and styles without making a huge commitment. Think you might like some turquoise in your kitchen? Grab that turquoise vase for 1.99. Put it in your kitchen and see if you like seeing turquoise there every day. Want to see if you can pull off skinny jeans? Get them at Goodwill for 3.99 and take them out for a spin. The point here is to stretch yourself a bit. Creep outside your comfort zone. Keep an open mind. See what your eye is most attracted to. Fill up your cart. Don't worry if it doesn't seem to make sense. In the immortal words of the Talking Heads, "Stop Making Sense."

9. Come home and demand that your family admire your junk. Try on the clothes. Make them guess how much everything cost. Laugh at them when they guess wrong.

10. Blog your finds so that I can see too! I will absolutely cheer you on!

11. Get in the habit of trolling some shops. Junking really does require a bit of practice. You'll develop your sense of what you like and what you don't. You'll get to know which shops to go to for clothes and which to go for to find housewares.

I hope this helps spread the joy of junk to junkie newbies!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fall arrives at Shiny Red Houses...

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns!" George Eliot

I don't know how it happens that September arrives and suddenly the air is cool. The sun is warm and yet the air has changed. The light changes too and everything feels different.

We put away summer today. The creeping shadows and the brisk breeze require deeper colors and warm fabrics. The girls were excited to see fall arrive in our house.

"It's fall!" they cried to each other.

And so it is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Free and weird...

The girls and I have been relaxing on the cape for the last few days with my folks. Mostly we have hanging out and on this trip we are avoiding the beach because we are all done with that.

Sand. Wet towels. Sunscreen. All. Done.

Today we engaged in the most precious of Cape Cod rituals. We went to the Dump. At the Dump, there is a Gift House filled to the brim with Free Junk.

If I lived here I would be a Gift House junkie. I'd put the kids back in school and sit outside of the Gift House lying in wait for people to bring in their cast offs. I'd pounce on the good stuff and eventually get arrested for being a public nuisance.

You won't be surprised to learn that I found a few things.

First, I found this bag which I love with all of my heart and soul. But not as much as I love my dogs. But almost.

The label says that it was Made in Italy for Harrison.

Someone put this groovy lion zipper on it. I love it. I have no idea why.

The other thing I found is a mystery and I am turning to you, dear internet to tell me what the heck this is.

It seems to be a tree which is being climbed by two happy dolls. They each wear a smile and a backpack. They are hand stitched.

The tree which they are climbing is hung with clothes and other assorted items...

a broom.

a club,

a pan flute,

a dress,

a halter top,

and a roast chicken engaged in an unnatural act with a carrot.

Has anyone seen one of these before? I love the colors and all of the small clothes, but I am desperately curious to find out what this is.

That's all I have for today. Tomorrow we return to the House of Squalor and Dog Hair home. I will vacuum animal hair, the children will bitterly complain about our scratchy line dried towels and I will contemplate the grocery store.

Maybe we should just stay...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Don't panic!

Well folks, Hurricane Earl is descending upon the poor people of Boston bringing....rain.

That's pretty much it. In fact, I was so confident that today's storm was going to be a bust that I went and did some hurricane junking.

The actual truth is that I needed to be away from my children for a little while. Sometimes a mother just wants her babies to leave her the hell alone.

I went over to Urban Renewals which is in so many ways, my happy place.

I was very restrained and concentrated on not filling my cart with incredible treasure worthless cast offs.

I did spot a beauty for 2.99 that I Had To Have. I mean it. It needed me like Bobby Goren needs me.

This dollhouse is about 50 years old and yet, it is in amazing condition. No rust. No dings.

I know, you may be thinking that I am developing a dollhouse obsession. And you might be right. However, this dollhouse will serve the purpose that my original dollhouse was supposed to serve.

A holder of craft supplies! I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for some cuter containers to hold things inside the dollhouse.

There you have it. Junk. Rain. Happiness.