Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I am getting weird...

I started writing a long post about the fun I had poisoning some intrepid ants who made their way onto my porch today.

Part way through the post I realized that my obsession with ant killing is getting weird and is most likely a symptom of not spending enough time with grownups.

It's hard when David is away in the summer because the days are so damn long. In the winter we can eat at 5:30 and have a bath by 6 and there is nothing strange about that at all. It's dark so it must be night. It is perfectly normal to take a bath and tuck into bed at night. Now I push dinner until six and then sit around waiting for night to fall.

This situation became too boring to tolerate tonight, so at 7:15 I asked the kids if they wanted to go to the mall. They jumped at the chance!

The object which we were shopping for has become the holy grail of children's sleepwear. Lily wants a silky nightgown. Something loose with a bit of give- something exactly like the nightgowns I like to wear. I have looked everywhere.

She's been wearing one of my short nightgowns with the straps knotted up at the top.  She loves it but I was kind of hoping to find something that fit her better. Macy's was our last place to look and once again, we found nothing.

We cut back through Forever 21 which I quite loved. If I had a wee bit of money to burn I'd buy a few things that look exactly like the pieces at Anthropologie, but I would not have to mortgage my house to buy them.

So that's my day. I killed ants and went to the mall. Just try to top that!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good news and bad news...

Regular readers might remember that the two previous summers of my life were marked by the deaths of infant birds in the exhaust vent of my bathroom. It would start with the smell, continue on with the flies and then I'd cook the rotting corpse by running the bathroom heater for 24 hours a day. It was great fun each time it happened.

This fall we thought we'd be very clever and have the entire vent covered in mesh wire. No birds, no maggots. Win!

Well, at lest  it seemed like a win at the time and indeed, until Thursday it was. Thursday while out urging my dogs to piddle already, I noticed big black ants crawling up the side of my house and on the drain pipe which leads to the roof of the former bird death trap. I thought, "Huh. Ants."

That's as far as I went with that thought, because people? I did not want to know.

As a matter of fact on Facebook (If we are not facebook friends we should be- follow the button at the top.) I posted: There are ants crawling on my house. What does this mean? Feel free to lie to me. 

I went to bed Thursday night determined to ignore what was now becoming a gnawing concern. I woke up Friday morning blissfully unaware of the army of heave-ho's moving in.

I got into the shower. I found that I was not alone in the shower. There were two ants in the shower with me and I think we can agree that this is not the sort of shower company a girl wants. I slugged them a bottle of shampoo and tried not to panic. A coincidence! It was just a coincidence. The rest of the house would be ant free!!

That was the lie I told myself until I got downstairs and saw dozens of ants on the walls, the windows and the floor. First I panicked and called my husband who is conveniently away for six weeks.

"Come home right now!" I demanded. "There are ants everywhere and I am freaking out!"

Reader, he did not come home.

I did the only thing a defenseless housewife could do. I went to the hardware store and got enough ant traps to kill every ant in my town. I set them all over the house and tried to comfort the children.

"We want to move!" cried Rebecca.

"Who would want to buy our ant filled house?" I wailed back.

We spent the day out of the house, leaving the ants to have at their poison. Saturday morning there were fewer ants, but enough to have me worried that the traps weren't working. Sunday morning we only saw three and then this morning I saw one- and nothing since.

I think I won the battle. I imagine somewhere in the hot dry earth around my house is a bunker of insect death. A pile of ants defeated by $50 worth of ant poison. I miss winter already.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What is looks like when I declutter...

I was chatting with my pal Dre today and she asked me a very interesting question. "I read about you doing a big decluttering. Does this mean you are adopting a minimalist style?"

The short answer is no, I am not a minimalist by any stretch. I like a certain texture in my home. I like bright colors and unexpected surprises for the eye. I do want a less busy look to my home and I think I have toned it down a few levels. What do you think?

I am finding the changes very soothing. I took the red slipcover off of the couch and just removed anything that felt extraneous. Amy says that on a scale of one to ten, one being minimalist and ten having every space occupied I'm now an eight. I like to think of myself as more of a six and a half. Thoughts?

Monday, May 23, 2011

More meaningless nonsense...

Remember back when I used to update this blog everyday? Me neither, and yet I am sure that for the first year I diligently wrote daily posts chronicling the fascinating details of my life. Lately I have been in survival mode. Survival mode was instituted about two weeks ago when David left for the first leg of an eight week long business trip.

Tips for surviving eight weeks of solo homeschooling parenting:

1. Lower hygiene expectations. Who cares how you smell? The dogs will only love you more if you stink.

2. Stock up on ice cream and coffee. I cannot possibly overemphasize this.

3. Encourage the children to ignore you. Ex. "I will give you a dollar if you go away."

4. Spend time looking into the eyes of gorillas. This one may only apply to me.

That's pretty much my entire survival strategy. Brilliant, eh?

In unrelated news I spent the month of May decluttering my house. The basement is significantly less horrible than it was. The attic now has a play space for the kids. I even went through the junk drawer and purged it. The trick to a tidy house, I am learning, is to own as little as possible. This is not that thrilling of a discovery for a person whose favorite pastime is junking. However, life is not without suffering and so I am learning to live a less junk filled life.

The children and I spent the winter planning a garden. It was going to be wonderful! There would be flowers and vegetables and butterflies flitting around. That was before we realized that there would never be sun in the northeast again. Everything is damp and cold. The rhododendrons which usually are in full bloom by now are closed up tight.

I feel I should also mention a few pet peeves of mine.

1. Asking if my dogs are "toilet trained". Of course they are not toilet trained! They're dogs not monkeys! Are you asking if they are house trained? Why yes, they usually are. Thank you for inquiring into the bowel habits of my dogs.

2. Gorillas are not monkeys. They just aren't. If you are at the zoo and I am standing there and you say to your child, "Look at the monkeys!" I will interrupt with barely restrained fury and say, "Actually, they are apes." And then Rebecca and I will roll our eyes at your stupidity.

3. Caterpillar poop. It's everywhere and since it's been raining it's wet caterpillar poop. Unacceptably gross.

There you have it. Everything you need to know.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hard choices...

This morning my alarm went off at 6:45 am, a decidedly ungodly hour for a woman who lists "sleeping late" as her main motivation for homeschooling. I was out of the house by 7:30 so that I could fetch my pal Heather and take her to the hospital for hip replacement surgery. She is shockingly young for this sort of surgery, yet her hips have ceased to function as ball joints and needed to be replaced.

We enjoyed a lovely ride to the hospital imagining all of the delicious drugs she would get to enjoy as part of her bionic convalescence. I was back in my town by 8:30 so I swung by the pediatricians office for a copy of Rebecca's medical forms and then I went to CVS for assorted sundries. I was back home by 9:15, a time of the day when I can most often be found laying in bed and checking my emails on my iphone.

Once home I hollered to the children to get downstairs, it was time for school! We did two hours of school work, a load of laundry and the dishwasher was emptied- all by 11:30! Incredible!

My productivity did not end there! I took Rebecca to dance class, returned my very, shamefully overdue library books, dropped off two bags of clothing rejects at goodwill, did more school work with Lily, did more laundry, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned out the pantry, organized my batteries and screwdrivers and made a proper dinner.

I think that I have some strange sort of post wardrobe, early morning, PMS, pollen overdose induced OCD. There was a moment at about 6:30 pm when I contemplated putting a fresh coat of paint on the dining room table, but I felt too much like a productivity junkie to do it.

It bothers me that the key to getting more done might be getting up early. That's just not a reality in which I want to live.  It's like the time I went on a walk wearing sneakers. They were so ugly, and yet so bouncy! My feet were happy, but my eyes recoiled at the sight of my sneaker clad feet.

These are the unhappy choices with which we are faced. Tired and productive? Comfortable but ugly?

I'll be sleeping until 8:30 tomorrow and wearing flip flops. Baby steps people, baby steps.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My new life has arrived and a poem of some relevance...

Yesterday Amy and I made our way into the hallowed streets of Cambridge to pick up the wardrobe of my dreams. I can honestly tell you that there is no one better to take along when there is IKEA dismantling to be done. She has her own set of allen wrenches and she knows how to use them.

Like an elite troop of Navy Seals, we went into the sellers third floor apartment and quickly assessed the best method for dismantling the wardrobe. Within twenty minutes we had taken it apart and were carrying to my car.  The wardrobe never knew what hit it.

We completed our mission making about seven trips to my car in the rain and thunder. We were calm and confident. Once home we enlisted the help of David and lugged it up the stairs and reassembled it.

I was so excited to start my new life at a person with a proper closet that I could barely sleep last night. I kept imagining my clothes hanging neatly in the wardrobe. I could see my small desk tucked into my attic nook. These may be the dreams of a suburban middle class housewife, but they are all I've got.

This morning I woke up, downed some coffee and got to work.

This is what my closet/attic nook looked like before. The shame. The horror.

Do not ask me how many of these things I actually wear. Fashion can be fickle.

Emptying the closet was awesome! Light poured in through the window, welcoming me into my new space.

This is my new office nook.

Lovely isn't it? It will be so wonderful to have a place to hide from the children take care of bills and paperwork.

Meanwhile, I did a searching and fearless fashion inventory of all of my clothes and made tough choices. Only the things which I really love and don't make my butt look fat got to go into my new fancy wardrobe.

 It will stay tidy- I just know it!

You know what's interesting about IKEA furniture? The least substantial part of the piece is often the most critical to its stability. When Amy and I were putting the wardrobe together we toyed with the idea of not putting the back on. The back is made of glorified cardboard and tacked into place with tin brads. It seemed completely insignificant right up until the moment when we put the doors on the wardrobe and watched it tilt to the right. The wardrobe was extremely wobbly. This led me to make the following observation.

"The back of this wardrobe is like a William Carlos Williams poem."

So much depends 
The flimsy
of the rain soaked 

Now that I have spent Mother's Day cleaning and rearranging I need to shout out to the great moms in my life. My mom Lorette taught me everything I know about whipping a room into shape in record time. My stepmother Andrea is always happy to brainstorm decorating ideas with me and my mother-in-law Ellen brought my wonderful husband into the world. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without this great ladies! Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

My new life!

I think that I have probably mentioned it here, oh about a few billion times that I have no closets. My closets are feeble imitations of closets designed in a time when clothes were a luxury in which people did not indulge. My lack of closets is like a pebble in my shoe, grating on my poor psyche day after miserable day.

I have spent nine years trying to figure out a way of improving my personal closet situation and a few months ago I was struck by a lightening bolt of organizational inspiration. I would acquire a wardrobe from IKEA to put in my nice big bedroom and then use my tiny closet/attic nook as an office area.

The only thing that slowed me down was the price tag. The wardrobe I had in mind cost more dollars than I had sitting around so I started to check on craigslist every few days. For weeks I'd look and not find anything quite right. But then yesterday a craigslist miracle happened. This wardrobe appeared on craigslist for $20!

Tomorrow we are going to pick it up and bring it home. Once it is here my life will be complete. I will lose those last ten pounds, my cellulite will melt away and my dogs will stop shedding. The perfect life will be mine, I just know it!

I will be taking lots of "before"pictures of my great closet experience, so that you too will be able to witness the transformation of my new life thanks to cheap used IKEA furniture.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The great purge of 2011!

All winter long crap has been piling up all over the house. The worst areas are the basement, the attic and my future hoarders Rebecca's room. This weekend I spent many long and ugly hours hauling things out of the basement. I tried to be as ruthless as possible. The Little Mermaid birthday party supplies from Lily's third birthday- gone! The ten empty kitty litter boxes- gone! The slipcovers to furniture I no longer own- gone!

I put a lot of great stuff out on the curb and most of it was picked up by neighbors who know good junk when they see it. I also have a big pile to go to the consignment store next week and I am happy to say that while the basement is still a miserable pit of despair, it is slightly less horrible today than it was last week.

Yesterday I took the kids to Old Sturbridge Village for Homeschool Day. We had a complete blast- it was everything that is great about homeschooling. We learned a lot, made some new friends and got to enjoy a beautiful day outside. While there I received this email from David:

Subject: Rebecca's Room

Holy $hit, what a disaster! The frog tank is black!

I had been planning on tackling her room anyway, but it was funny to hear it from David, who usually does not notice that sort of thing. First I had a long talk with Rebecca. We talked about things; the keeping of things, the letting go of things, the not needing to keep every single thing you have ever looked at or touched. Then I sent her for the garbage bags and we got to work. We sorted through every one of her possessions and I am very proud to say that she got rid of a lot. Once we started it actually seemed to get easier for her. Once we had hauled bags to the trash and bags for goodwill, we were able to rearrange those things which she kept. We washed the floor, vacuumed the rug and declared it clean. She was very, very happy with her tidy room. How long will it last? I will keep you posted.

I will be tackling the attic this weekend. Plan on hearing swearing and watching the accumulation of garbage bags on the curb. Also, please send chocolate.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Birthday bloodshed!

You know, there are a lot of jaded twelve year olds in the world. They are too cool to care about things beyond their cell phone and pop music. They flip their hair and roll their eyes and make you want to smack them.

Rebecca, who turned twelve yesterday, is not that kid. She unselfconsciously gets excited about animals- especially primates. She reads about them, plays games about them and chatters about them. When I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday she did not hesitate.

"I want to go a zoo with chimps!"

This request is why our family spent the day at Southwick Zoo yesterday. It was the closest zoo we could find which housed chimps. We began practicing our chimp calls last week. We perfected the "hoot" and the "ahh" sounds and were ready to make some new primate friends.

When we arrived at the exhibit we began making our calls.  The chimps completely ignored us. We hooted louder. The ignored us more completely. They played with each other and groomed. The baby frolicked around. The looked happy and healthy and wonderful- if not too cool for our overexcited calls. We watched the chimps for a while and then went off in search of some animals with whom we could interact.

We made our way to the tiger exhibit. The tigers were sleeping right at the edge of the fence, just four feet away from us. There was a wood fence, some grass and then a tall wire fence. Lily stood on the wood fence and dangled Teddy over the edge. At this movement one of the tigers opened an eye. When Lily started swinging Teddy back and forth he opened the other eye and stood up. When she began to swing him faster the tiger got into pounce position and was ready for fun!

It was at this moment that I warned Lily not to drop Teddy over the fence and just as the words left my mouth, Teddy fell to the grass and the tiger tried to catch it. The tiger hit his fence with some frustration and we devised a rescue strategy for Teddy. David ended up climbing the fence and reached over to retrieve Teddy who took his adventure in stride. "The tiger story will help me pick up babes." Teddy is a  bit of a cad.

After that near tragedy we resolved to be more careful with wildlife. In spite of this resolve, we were once more dealt a terrible blow. It all happened in the petting zoo. The petting zoo which is supposed to be a joyful place full of squeals of happiness and laughter was instead the scene of caprine induced bloodshed.

When they saw the sign for the petting zoo, the girls ran right in. I decided not to go into the arena because as I told David, "Goats are the devil's animal." The goats seemed to love my children. The followed them around and ate all of the corn which my children offered. Knowing my affinity for anything lactation related, Rebecca called over to me that the baby goats were suckling her fingers.

"It's so cute, mommy!" she cried.

It was then that her joy soured as I heard her utter, "Ouch! He bit me!" By the time she came over to me blood was pouring down her finger and was headed for her arm. She tried to be brave and did not blame the vile beast which drew her blood. A zoo keeper said, "Not again!" and brought over an antiseptic wipe and some bandaids. Rebecca held her hand in the air for a long time before the bleeding stopped.


Happily, the goat injury was the last calamity to afflict our happy family. Rebecca opened presents, received birthday calls and had steak for dinner.

When asked about her day, Rebecca declared, "It was the best birthday of my life!"

Happy Birthday, baby girl! You are the best!