Thursday, August 30, 2012

Weird Crafts that Inspire

All of my girls like to make crafts, but 7-year-old Gwen is the craftiest. She once cut a piece out of the blanket on our bed because she needed a piece of fabric to glue on a picture.

I find crafting evidence nearly every day when I come home. Today It was this.
I normally "file away" things that look similar to this Styrofoam plate project. (Shhhh! I file them in the garbage!) But today I took time to figure out what this was supposed to be. I struggled.

A Sophisticated British Easter Hat?

An Intimidating Super Hero Mask?

A Weird Lion's Mane?

There was only one person who could tell me what It was supposed to be. Gwen. She told me it's an M. As in M, the 14th letter of the alphabet. M because it's the first letter of Mom. :) See?
The rest of the stuff on there is just to help it stand up. "What is it for," I asked. "It's a sculpture," she explained. Huh. That there M sculpture is a craft that could only come from the mind of a child!

And then Gwen showed me the other craft she made today. She confiscated a magnet that came in the mail, soaked it in water, scratched off the ad and wrote a new message. She read it, pronouncing every punctuation mark. Mom is cool!!!!!!? Then she burst into an evil laugh when she got to the question mark.

Mom is cool!!!!!?

That Gwen makes me smile! AND she inspired me to reinvent magnets that come in the mail. I used scratch paper and markers to make designs that go with my kitchen's colors. Then I cut them out so they were slightly bigger than the magnets.

I attached the designs to the magnets with spray adhesive, and trimmed off the extra paper.

Ok, I know it looks like an elementary student did these, but I was going for a crafty look. That's kind of a lie. I was going for fast.

I should seal them with a little spray poly or Modge Podge. I might get around to that one of these days, but most likely I won't. Keeping it real.You could also use photos, scrapbook paper, a design printed from the computer, patterned duct tape, or anything else that suits your style. Try it!

PS. For those of you who normally buy us Christmas presents, we could use a new Queen size blanket.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Water skiing / Walking the Dog

This is the first time in my life that I've regularly walked a dog (except when I went through my yo-yo phase, which isn't anything like walking a real dog), and I am enjoying it way more than I thought I would! Lately, I've been making it even more fun by imagining that I'm water skiing. Try it!
  • Nellie is the ski boat.
  • I am the awesome skier.
  • The leash is my ski rope.
The sides of the road are the wake. Uh, yeah. I usually ski down the middle of the road so my boat can only reach the edges of people's yards when she stops to go stinky.

I keep my elbows bent in, just in case I get an unexpected jerk. I don't always have 100% control over where or how fast we go. Sometimes I have to cross the wake in order to avoid getting tied up around mailboxes. Sometimes I lift the rope so another skier (short obstacle) can pass under. Sometimes I spin around on my trick skis to avoid getting tangled in my ski rope.

It's so much more fun than a regular dog walk! I'm not in this picture because I don't look great in a bikini. To my daughters: I promise to never wear a swimming suit while walking the dog!

On the serious side of life, I took my 11-year old daughter, Alli to a Waterloo Waterhawks ski show on Sunday. It was a special show to honor her friend and classmate, Bodee Peterson, who was killed in a water skiing accident last year. Alli misses Bodee and talks about him a lot.

Students at the University of Northern Iowa started a dance a couple years ago to do at sporting events. Around here, we call it "The Interlude". Bodee loved it. All the kids went up front to dance.

Thank you to the Waterhawks and to everyone who organized the ski show. It was a wonderful way to honor Bodee and to bring together those who miss him!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Face Paint

Here's what happens when you let your daughter paint whatever she feels like on your face.

It's supposed to be a pretty butterfly, but Gwen admitted she messed up on it. As a nice detail, she also painted my neck green for the grass. I was thankful the paint washed off easily before I went to the grocery store and had a nice chat with a neighbor. After that, TJ asked about the splotches on my face. So it turns out face paint actually doesn't wash off easily. And also it turns out I need better lights in my bathroom.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The First Mission of the Potty Princess (The PP)

I started noticing public restrooms that were unexpectedly decorated about a year ago. I'm talking specifically about public restrooms in places where you wouldn't expect them to be decorated, like a convenience store or fast food restaurant. It makes me giggle to think about an employee or owner of a convenience store or fast food restaurant bringing in decorations. You don't get much more thoughtful than that! I started an album on my facebook page of some of my favorite public restroom finds. Some of you have already seen them, but I'll probably blog about them eventually. 

But, hold onto your hats! I have a special treat for you! I decorated my first public restroom! Oh, yes I did! I snuck in with some second hand decorations and sticky hooks. Just like my mama always taught me, I left that bathroom looking better than I found it! I didn't tell anyone who worked there what I was doing. I wanted to surprise them! Maybe they were having a bad day, and now they're not. Because maybe they were amazed that some mystery person would care enough to make their potty a better place. Or maybe they think it's just weird.

I have been searching for the perfect public restroom, and I finally found it tonight. I wanted a one-room potty for maximum privacy, a counter area and a blank or ugly pallet. I found everything on my wish list at the Pizza Palace in Traer, Iowa! We met my parents there because it's about half way in between our houses. We love their BLT pizza with mayonnaise! Yum! 

The Before

The walls may look like marble, but it's just that plastic stuff you'd expect to see in a 1970 trailer home bathroom. It needed help!

The After!

And now the fun part! I started by adding a ceramic flower, pink glass vase and some silk greens to a counter by the sink.

I added a lacy wood shelf and a cute little bunny. The shelf was raw wood when I got it, so I spruced it up with some white spray paint. I was careful not to get the spray paint on my car (lesson learned). The bunny was a dusty rose color from the 1980's when I got it. There was some actual dust on it, too, so I brightened it up with some craft paint.  

I added a banner above the full length mirror that I made out of ribbon and paper doilies from The Dollar Tree. I also made a longer one that I'll save for another bathroom. (I have my eye on the Waterloo Walgreens. Shhhhh!)

Here's the focal point! Two princess painted canvases! The one on the right has a round mirror so YOU look like the princess. Clever, right?! I used Command hooks so I didn't damage the walls and everything can be removed if they aren't 100% thrilled with the new look.
Isn't it fun to think about how the employees will react when they see their new decorations!? I hope they appreciate it, and I would love to see everything up the next time we visit The Pizza Palace. It was so much fun!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ugly Twins

Do you think you have an ugly twin? I think everyone does. Or maybe half of us do, and the other half has a pretty twin. It's my ugly twin theory.

Haven't you done a double take because you see a person who looks very much like someone you know, only one of them is significantly less attractive than the other? Something about their facial structure is the same, only the less attractive person's features are a little crooked, or maybe a little swollen. It's hard to identify what makes it so. It's fascinating.

I first noticed it in college. I dated a guy that had an ugly twin on campus. It was a small college, so I often saw the ugly twin around campus. I even knew his name. Ugly Twin was a nice guy, just not attractive. Not at all. On several occasions, I caught a glimpse of Ugly Twin and thought he was my boyfriend. I almost called out to him a couple times. I never told anyone because I didn't want them to think my boyfriend looked like that other guy. I especially never told my boyfriend. I didn't yet understand that having an ugly twin doesn't make you ugly. I did think about it quite a bit. In my head, I called Ugly Twin, "the guy who looks like my boyfriend on a very bad day." The theory was taking shape.

Over the years, I've seen a few more ugly twins. Sometimes the ugly twin isn't an ugly person on their own, unless you compare them to the pretty twin. It's relative ugliness. I also think that no one is able to recognize their own ugly or pretty twin. If you really want to know if you have one, start asking people if they've seen yours. But please don't get offended if your twin is really ugly or if you are the ugly twin. It has no bearing on your own level of stand-alone attractiveness.

I wish I could show you pictures of some ugly twin examples, but there is no nice way to that. 

Non-Biologial Twins
There are also twins where people simply look very much alike with the same level of attractiveness. I once was on jury due where the suspect had been seen stealing a truck. The owner of the truck chased him down and held him until police arrive. The suspect tried to blame it on another guy in the area that people said looked just like him. And who was wearing the exact same clothing. We found him guilty.

I will give you an example of my niece, Rebecca, who looks very much like a Anne Hathaway. Don't you think? Let me know if anyone is looking to hire an Anne Hathaway impersonator.

And I can't see it myself, but I've been told my non-biological twin is Jessica Alba.

Cross-Cultural Twins
There are also cross-cultural twins where people of different ethnicities look very much alike. Here's an example from Meet the Fockers, where Greg becomes convinced that Jorge is his Hispanic love child.
I have wondered if I have Hispanic, French or African look-alikes. Do you think I do? Once when I was in the Walmart, and a woman I didn't recognize came running up to me all excited. I couldn't understand what she was saying because she was Bosnian and thought I was her Bosnian friend. That's how I know I have a Bosnian cross-cultural twin. Too bad I wouldn't recognize her if I ever saw her because of that thing about not being able to recognize my own twin. .

How it Happens
I'm not a DNA-iologist, but maybe there are only a certain number of facial features and to certain number of ways to combine those features. Maybe God is playing a giant, complicated game of Mr. Potato head.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Most Embarassing Moment

Q. What’s your most embarrassing moment?

A. There are plenty of possible answers: the time I got on the wrong airplane, the time I wore two different shoes to a conference with my new boss, the time my 2-year old daughter left the house to wander around the neighborhood when I was asleep on the couch, or the time I ripped my pants when I was at a tradeshow with Eric Stromer. Here’s me and my friend Kelly with Eric Stromer on that day.

He was (is?) a semi-celebrity for being a DIY expert on some reality shows. The picture is from the waist up because my shirt is untucked in order to cover the huge tear in the side of my pants.

Of all my embarrassing moments, there is one tale of woe that stands out. It requires no exaggeration nor creative writing skills to make it sound funnier than it really was.

I was in my 20’s and had just gotten a nice promotion at work, which meant I was added to the invitation list for a dinner party at the president’s house. The president of our company, not the white house. It was a pretty big deal to me at the time. It was just getting dark when I headed out.

Mr. President's house was in an upscale, countryish neighborhood with windy roads, and acre-sized lots. I drove past the house and turned around so I could park along the road, like I saw other people were doing. I’m not a very good parker, especially when I’m nervous. I wanted to get my car really straight in line with everyone else. In doing that, my right tires went off the road and a little into the yard. Not a big deal, except the ground was saturated from rain. My tires got a bit stuck, and I couldn’t back up. I drove forward a little more to get some traction and tried to gun it to get back out. I guess I did this a few too many times and ended up stuck in the middle of the front yard. I mean, all the way in the yard.

Bob was the next guest to arrive. You couldn’t know a nicer guy than Bob. I got out of my car and said, “Bob?” He was flabbergasted and said, “Ann? WHAT are you doing??” Bob took control. He told me how to steer the car and pushed me out. I thanked him profusely as we walked into the party together. We agreed not to tell anyone what had happened. My car had been in a part of the yard that couldn't be seen from the house, so I was relieved that no one would know. 

Act II
Bob opened the door for me, and we walked in the house. Everyone looked right passed me with confused and concerned expressions. I turned around to look at Bob in the light, and he was covered in little brown specs of mud. It was even on his shiny noggin. Bob tried to downplay it, but we had to explain what I had done. Someone got him a towel and directed him to a wash room. That’s what you call a bathroom in a fancy house.

I was shaken up, but determined to stay under the radar for the rest of the evening. I listened more than I spoke. I chose a small glass of white wine with my dinner, even though I prefer red. White seemed like a safer choice. A confident guy sitting across from me at the dinner table chose red. He spilled his wine. But he was so graceful and quick with the spill and the return of his glass that no one even noticed him spill. I've never seen anything like it! What people did notice was a puddle of red wine on the white table cloth around my dinner plate. I didn’t even defend myself.

On my way out of the party, I apologized to Mr. President for getting my car stuck in his yard. I told him to let me know if there were any damages. I offered to pay to fix Mr. President's yard. I later found out that he had to do some resodding, but he politely never mentioned it to me.

The Encore
I realized I’d forgotten my purse at Mr. President's house when I was almost home. I had been one of the first guests to leave, so I went back, assuming there would still be people there. There were no lights on in the house. Obviously my purse was the last guest in there. I almost turned around and went home, but the thought of Mr. President carrying my purse into work was worse than ringing the doorbell. Holy schmoly, Mr. President was wearing a robe. 

When I got home, TJ asked me how my night was. Oh, fine. It was just fine. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Case of the Clarinetist

Some things run in the family. In my family, it's the perfect jaw structure of a clarinetist. Jealous? 

Three Generations of Band Girls

Note: If you know my tiny little sister, you know it’s super hilarious that she played the trombone. 

Another Note: I suspect that Gracen's band instructor somehow overlooked the great clarinetist in his midst, but at least a saxophone is in the same family as the clarinet. He was close.

Isn't clarinetist a nice word? It makes you sound all fancy and slender, like a ballerina. I might start using it when I meet people. "Very nice to meet you. I'm a clarinetist. And you?" 

Alli found out yesterday that she’s our newest little clarinetist! Yay, Alli! Luckily, Emma decided not to be in band this year, so we happened to have an extra clarinet at home. Instruments are expensive, my friend! And as an extra bonus, we also have the books she'll need for the next three years. Every penny counts!

I should tell you that I really, really hated playing the clarinet. One time, I asked my parents nicely if I could quit. But mostly I was not so nice about it. And then my dad would tell me the story about how he wasn't allowed to be in band, and he had to sit outside in the hall and do homework while everyone else got to make music. I appreciate a lot of opportunities my parents gave me, but the opportunity to play the clarinet is still pretty low on the list. It's not a skill that comes in handy. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water in a bad way remembering that woody saliva that gets trapped in the back of your mouth while you play. You other clarinetists know what I'm talking about. So it’s only fitting that I grew up and had to invest in a clarinet. I bet that made my parents pretty happy. It always comes back around, doesn't it! 

Most instruments these days come in vinyl cases. We bought a well-used, but completely refurbished horn in an old-school hard black leather case. It was showing some wear. New clarinet cases are about 50 bucks. No way. I'd rather have a pair of jeans than a cool clarinet case! Here’s what we started with before I got creative.

First, I cleaned it up with some Goo Gone. Then I took a black Sharpie marker to the chips. Next, I cut a sheet of peel and stick vinyl to the size of the area I wanted to cover on the case. I found a zebra pattern online to use as a guide. I looked for a pattern that was equal parts black and white. I used a pencil to freehand a pattern on the back of a sheet of peal and stick vinyl. I cut out the stripes. I used every other stripe on the front and back of the case, so one side of the case is the reverse of the other. Here’s how it came out! 
 Better, right?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Ole' One Leg

My mixer's name is One Leg. Because she only has one beater. I read half of a book around the time my beater went MIA, called "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo. It's one of the few books I started reading, but didn't finish. It didn't hold my interest overall, but a character named One Leg sticks in my head. One Leg is a mother in a slum by the Mumbai airport. She has one leg. She is a prostitute. One Leg frames her neighbor for burning her, but she actually did it to herself. After I stopped reading the book I found out that it's a true story, which disturbs me. Anyway, I cannot help thinking about One Leg from the book whenever I use my poor little mixer. I didn't think One Leg, my mixer, would work very well with one beater, but she still mixes away just like Ole' One Leg from the book was able to do her thing. Please don't mock or underestimate my mixer nor the One Leg in Mumbai. One of these days I might buy new beaters. Only I probably won't.

Alli came home from school Friday and said kids with summer birthdays could pick any day to celebrate their birthday by bringing treats to school. Alli wanted to celebrate right away, so we made cookies yesterday. I had just seen the perfect recipe on one of my favorite blogs, All Things Thrifty! Brooke calls them "The easiest lemon cookies you will ever make." The main ingredient is a cake mix, and Brooke said you can use any flavor. Alli chose Funfetti and Strawberry. They were a big hit! Apparently Alli was chased from the school by kids wanting more of those cookies.

Cake Mix Cookies {Easy Peasy, just like Brooke says!}

     Cake mix - any flavor
     2 eggs
     1/3 c. oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients with One Leg until well blended.
Roll dough into balls and put on greased cookie sheets. I had help from Alli, Gwen, and our neighbor, Kayley. They would be happy to come to your house to help with your cookies.
Bake 10 minutes and cool. Brooke dusted her cookies with powdered sugar. I didn't have powdered sugar, so I just used sprinkles. I bet her mixer has two beaters, but it all comes out the same in the end...yummmmmy!
P.S. If any of my relatives that normally give me Christmas gifts are reading this, one idea for 2012 is new beaters. Don't tell me you're getting them though because I love surprises!

P.P.S. One Leg and I are available for school assemblies or other events. She has a very inspirational story about never giving up. Just email me to make arrangements. To clarify, I talking about the mixer, not the prostitute.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eyebrow Threading

I was in a mall yesterday with TJ, Teen Queen Emma and my sister-in-law, Amy Jo. We stopped at a mall kiosk and talked to a lady about eyebrow threading. She said it hurts less and lasts longer than waxing, so Emma decided to give it a try. The lady wasn't sure how a young girl would take it. That didn't make sense to me because the lady had just told us it was less painful than waxing. Hmmm...

Emma decided to give it a try. The lady used a regular thread, like what you sew with. She twisted it, held it with both hands and her mouth, and zipped it along the skin to pull out a line of hair. It's pretty slick! A few people even stopped to watch, which is something you have to endure when you get your eyebrows threaded in the middle of a mall.

Here is Emma with her left brow done. She said it didn't hurt much.

After seeing Emma get through it, I decided to get mine done. I tried not to be a wimp, but it sounded and felt like a duck push toy with floppy leather feet was being driven over my brow. Seriously, this is the image that was in my head while I was in the chair.
Photo from here

I'm sure I said, "Ouch" or something along those lines because Amy Jo leaned over me. Here's how the conversation went. I swear I'm not making this up!

     Amy Jo: Does it hurt?

     Me: Yes!

     Lady: (very serious with a heavy Indian accent) No ma'am.

     In my head: Why is she telling me it doesn't hurt when it does hurt?
     Amy Jo: So it does hurt?

     Me: Yeah, it does!

     Lady: No, ma'am. It doesn't.

     In my head: I am a wussy!

     Me: Well, I guess it's not too bad.

I don't care what anybody says. I will tell you the truth. It absolutely does hurt to get your eyebrows threaded. Here's me trying not to cry. I had to hold my skin tight for the lady to get a good rip. She is also using both her hands and her mouth to hold the string. It must have been a pretty big job.

Here's what I looked like after. Get a good look because I'm not going to do that ever again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Meet Nellie!

We've had Nellie for about a month, but she's already become part of our family. She's a 15 month old Labradoodle, a cross between a lab and a poodle. TJ has been wanting a dog for a while, but I was nervous about the responsibility.

I think TJ forgot about Alli, the Rottweiler, we owned for about a couple weeks shortly after we got married. We now have a daughter with that name. Is that weird? When we tried to introduce Alli the dog to Boswell the cat, Boswell chomped down on my arm, causing an infection that required medication. We kept Alli in our room while we went to work. I came home over lunch every day to let her out, and every day she had pooped right in the middle of our bed. Not cool, Alli. We quickly found her a nice home without cats.

I grew up on an acreage with outside dogs. We didn't have good luck. Sergeant, the Collie, was a big ball of cockle burs from exploring the countryside. He also liked to hold kids' arms in his mouth. It didn't hurt, but we got tired of having slobbery arms every time we went outside. One day Sergeant bit one of my mom's piano students hard enough to draw blood. That was the last day we saw him.

Then there was Jesse, our sickly, clumsy German Shepherd. She once survived getting hit by a car. It hit her right in the tail. She had to have part of it amputated and then wore a rubber blue cast on it her tail stump for a while. Another time, Jesse got lost in a dust storm. A few days later, my dad saw her playing in a yard about 10 miles from where we live. He knew it was her because of the blue cast on her tail. We found out teh family had adopted Jesse from the Animal Rescue League. Dad drove us by the house so we could all see her (from the car). I don't know if he thought it would help us to know that Jesse was happy with another family, but my sister, brother and I threw a big fit. The next day my dad went to the house and got our dog back.

When I was in high school, my sister and I went to the Animal Rescue League to pick out a new dog. We walked by a pen in the dog area with a big sign that said "Stray." Inside was a HUGE boar! That's a male pig for you city people. We thought it might be fun to bring home a boar, but he wasn't ready for adoption yet. We got a Husky. I don't remember his name because he ran away and never came back. Next was a little black dog named Amos, who also ran away. We were fine when he left becuase he had fleas. Then there was Bucko, a German Shepherd/Doberman, who was surprisingly aggressive. I think he was the one that chewed some of the wood siding off our house.

Up until now we'd never had a "good" dog that didn't have some kind of personality defect. But now we have Nellie, and we lucked out! She is extremely sweet! We love her!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top 5 Things in Our House that Mysteriously Disappear

Here's a list of the top five things that disappear and sometimes even magically reappear in my house. I don't really think it's magic. I think it's my kids.

5. Hangers. This one is more of a shortage than a mysterious disappearance. It may be related to my procrastination in cleaning out closets. I could solve the problem by reclaiming hangers from clothes that we no longer use. Hmmmmm...we'll see.

Primary Suspect: Alli's Closet

Since I'm talking hangers, I'm going to explain one of my "systems." I have invented three main systems to help me function at home: Majors/Minors, Matrix Packing and MHR (Minimum Hanger Requirement). I'll tell you about the first two some other time, but this is like a good time to explain MHR.

I have three levels of hangers. I wish I could throw away all of my Levels 1 and 2, but I need to make the most of every hanger in the house. I do buy more, but it never helps in the long term. To make the most of my hanger inventory, I assign minimum hanger requirements to all of our clothes. I can use a higher level of hanger than required, but I can't go below the minimum. These rules are not made to be broken.

      Level 1: Metal, like from a dry cleaner
  • Scrubby T-Shirts belonging to anyone except me

      Level 2: Plastic without strap holders
  • Scrubby T-Shirts belonging to me
  • Shirts with small collars that won't slip off the hanger

      Level 3: Plastic with strap holders
  • Wide-necked or sleeveless shirts or dresses
  • Jackets
  • Tank tops. I admit that my tank tops have contributed to the problem. I will go count them...Ok, it's 22. I have 22 tank tops plus a couple in the laundry. That's 2 packs of hangers. Oh, boy.
4. House Phones. The reason we still have a house phone is for convenience, but it's not very convenient when someone calls, and I can't find any of the three phones. I have a terrible sense of auditory orientation, which is a term I made up to describe ones ability to locate an object using your sense of hearing. Every time the phone rings, I run around in circles trying to detect the direction of the ringing, but I hardly ever find a phone in time.

Co-Suspects: Alli and Gwen

3. Pillows. Four sleeping pillows belong on my bed. Two for me and two for TJ. I get four to myself when TJ is out fighting fires. Sometimes we only have two pillows, which is annoying. And then, mysteriously, one night, we will have six or seven pillows. One of TJ's best quotes ever was, "I see the pillows have returned." Indeed. It's really weird and unpredictable.

Primary Suspects: All of the Girls

2. Hairbrushes. Do you know that Veggie Tales Song, "Oh, Where is my Hairbrush?" I sing that song almost every day, but I'm not as cheery as Larry the Cucumber.

Primary Suspects: Those of us with hair

This does not include T.J.
1. Eyeliner. This is the disappearing item that inspired this post. I have bought 3 sticks of black eyeliner in the past few weeks, and I have none in my makeup drawer. I'm over my bright green eyeliner phase, but it's all I've worn for the past week because my black eyeliner is gone again.

Primary Suspect: Princess Gwen

Secondary Suspect: Teen Queen Emma

Alli, TJ and Nellie the dog are not interested in my makeup.


If you read yesterday's post on Words with Friends, mayacom has responded and we are working on our game! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Word for Friends

I didn't really know what Words with Friends was until yesterday. It's Scrabble that you can play on your phone. I downloaded the app yesterday and started a game with TJ. Fun!

If you don't have any friends who want to play Words with Friends with you, you can ask the app to initiate a game with a random player. Tonight, one lucky player named mayacom randomly initiated a game with me. I don't know this person, and they don't know me. We can't communicate in any way, other than playing the game. I wasn't going to respond until I saw my letter choices.

E  N  P  E  I  S  P

I couldn't resist. I got a double word score on it and everything! Mayacom hasn't responded yet. I'll let you know if they do!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My First Public Bath - Atsui!

This is a true story that happened when I was 15 yeas old and spent the summer in Japan. My host brother and I took a trip to Hiroshima and stayed in a hotel with his great aunt and uncle, who spoke no English. I only knew a couple phrases of Japanese. At the hotel, my host brother told me that we were going to the baths. Luckily, there were separate baths for men and women.

The Aunt and I went into the public bath room. Two women were already sitting in the bath, which was about the size of a cubical. Opposite the bath was a wall of shower heads similar to what you'd see in a swimming pool locker room. Only no one was wearing swimming suits. By watching The Aunt, I figured out that we needed to take showers before getting into the bath to enjoy a good soak. I kept my eyes carefully fixed on the wall in front of me while I took a shower. Suddenly, I felt something on my back! It was a scrubbing brush! The Aunt was scrubbing my back with a scrubbing brush! I stood very still and tried not to panic. When she was finished, I politely bowed and said thank you in Japanese. I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable, which is ironic because that was the most uncomfortable I'd ever been in my life. She smiled and then held the brush to me, inviting me to scrub her back. I was left with only one option...scrub! The Aunt was extremely short and round. I was mortified. She indicated that I was not scrubbing hard enough. I really did try to do my best.

Finally, The Aunt motioned to the bath. I was incredibly relieved to have made it through the shower process. The Aunt slipped into the bath and sat down in the water up to her chin. I put one foot in the water and yanked it back. I have never, never, never felt water that hot! I knew I must somehow get into that bath. There was no other choice. I blocked out the burning pain, and got one leg in. Now I was standing with one leg out of the water. Not good. My leg was burning, but I took a deep breath and pulled the other leg in. Tears leaked. My heart pounded. Every instinct said to get away from the water. Even though I couldn't speak their language, The Aunt and two polite strangers knew I was in a pickle. I tried to make a joke of it and said "Atsui", which means "it's hot" in Japanese. Then I covered my mouth and giggled, just like they do.

There I was, a 15 year old American girl, standing thigh-high in a near-boiling bath, facing three Japanese women, and physically unable to sit down. Believe me, I did not want to be standing there like that, so I was trying pretty hard to get in that water. After several attempts, a few covered-mouth giggles and a couple atsui's, The Aunt showed mercy, and we left. I looked down and saw that my legs were burnt bright red like a sunburn where they had been in the water. Atsui!

The School Supply Circus

I have an issue with school supplies. Let's start with those yellow #2 pencils. I'd rather get a root canal than sharpen a box of yellow #2 pencils! No matter what kind of sharpener I try, the lead breaks, pulls out, or it somehow sharpens crooked so you have a wooden point instead of a lead one. Do they sell presharpened pencils?

My main problem is with the folders and notebooks in both Walmart and Target. Call me crazy, but I like my kids to have a set of matching folders and notebooks for each class. Also, unless teachers specify colors, I want my girls to have the cutest designs. It's something I can afford to do in order to boost their popularity. Oh, I know being popular isn't necessarily the best thing and also that kids don't get popular based on their school supplies. But it can't hurt. Have you heard the song Popular from the musical Wicked? You should see it if you haven't!

Back to the topic. The merchendising geniuses at Walmart and Target are not meeting my needs. For one thing, the folders and notebooks are in separate sections of the school supply circus. So you start by gathering up the cutest folders. There really are some darling designs out there. Then you risk your life pushing through grouchy parents and whining children to get to the notebooks. You search for notebooks to match the cute folders, but there are no matches. Frustrated, but not ready to give up, you pick up some notebooks decorated with other cute patterns.

Now you have one arm full of folders and one arm full of notebooks. You shoot a reassuring glance to your cart that is patiently waiting at the end of the aise because between 8am and 11pm from August 1 - 15, no carts can fit into the school supply circus. You head back to the folder section and put away the cute, but useless folders. You try to put them where they belong becuase you don't want to contribute to the chaos of the school supply circus. You are classy like that. You look for folders to match the notebooks. Guess what. It might take you a few trips back and forth to believe it. Let me save you some time. THERE ARE NO MATCHES.

It's an impossible matching game, even if you go early. Last year, I lowered my standards and settled for solid colored glittered notebooks that coordinated with patterned folders. This year, we bought plain colored supplies and customized them with scrapbooking paper and spray adhesive. Ta da!

Did I wow you? I'm not 100% sure the spray adhesive will hold up to my 8th grade daughter, but I will deal with that later. I'm done.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Love Grows Here

One day this summer, I came home and found this in my yard.

That's how I knew Emma, our thoughtful 13-year-old, had been at the neighborhood garage sales. I asked her if she'd bought something for the yard. Her eyes lit up! Of course I sweetly told her how much I (opposite of) love it! It's so (not) beautiful! Emma told me she saw it and knew right away that it was perfect for me.

I actually do love things for my yard, but I lean toward glassy, funky things. It's a fine line between cool yard art and cheesy scalloped wooden signs with faded ribbons. Some people are unable to detect that line. It's like when you try to be so specific with the sweater you want for Christmas, almost to the point of feeling guilty. And then you get the sweater that technically matches your request, only it's a cheap Kmart version instead of the nicer-looking one you had in mind. You smile and say it's EXACTLY what you wanted!

A few days later, Emma asked if I really liked my Love Grows Here sign. Like a good mother, I gushed about how cute it was. Emma laughed and said, "You know it's a joke, right?" Oh thank goodness!! I left it up in our yard as a symbol of our shared sense of humor. TJ never mentioned it.

I was thinking about my friend, Kelly, who is getting married in a few weeks. Where more does love grow than in the home of a newlywed couple? It's like this sign was made for her! I snuck over to her house on my way into work this morning. But guess what happened! As I was getting ready to turn on her street, she was sitting in her car right there at her corner. I panicked! I looked right at her, and hoped she hadn't seen me. I turned down another block and backtracked to her house. I jammed the sign into her yard, snapped some pictures, and literally skipped back to my car.

Then I got a text:

     Kelly: Forget something?!
     Me: Nope. Secret mission

When I got to work, she said Tyler was home when I was there and was watching me out the window. Oopsy-doopsy! Luckily, Tyler is a good guy and refuses to spoil the surprise.

I think it adds a nice pop of color to her house, don't you? I hope she enjoys it as much as I have.