My Convertible Life

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To the Mom with the Screamer -- Oh, That's Me

Here's the post I wrote earlier today:

Dear Mom from this afternoon --

You were sitting in the lobby area before dance class with your screaming, crying, wailing daughter clinging to your lap, her face the color of rage. I was running late, so I missed seeing whatever brought on the trauma -- but it sounded like maybe it had something to do with her leggings.

I just wanted to tell you... what, I don't even know. But somehow I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it all stop. 

Not because she was bothering me, which she wasn't. Simply because I felt so terrible for you -- both of you -- that your Wednesday afternoon was melting down into madness.

I know that moment. The one where you're silently wrestling over the lesser of two evils: a) standing strong in the face of the fit because dammit you PAID for these dance classes and they ARE fun and she WILL go to class and enjoy it or b) tucking her under your arm and taking her fit-throwing self home because you're both just too exhausted to do anything else.

After more than six years of parenting, I'm no closer to knowing the right answer to that debate.

All I really want you to know is that I'm not judging you, that I stand in solidarity with you and that I hope you got a very early bedtime tonight.
* * *
But then I had one of those early evenings where everything is going along fine and then, suddenly, Pippi goes completely deaf to the particular pitch of my voice and she ignores every single thing I'm saying to her and loses one of her brand new gloves on the walk home and just grins while I dissolve into fist-clenching frustration.

So she ended up back in this familiar spot while I had a glass of wine and put the pizza in the oven.

And by the time I'm finally back at my computer to finish up this afternoon's post, all I can think is who the hell am I to be offering magic wand wishes to another mom?

Here's hoping that all of us have smoother days tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Singing along with "The Sing-off"

Reality TV has never been my thing. Unless you count HGTV or the occasional make-over show, I'm just not that into it. Although I will say that Storage Wars is pretty interesting -- but not enough to make me set the TiVo.

Survivor started while I was living overseas -- when I got back, I tuned in once to see what all the fuss was about and just couldn't catch on. Maybe because I didn't care about any of the people? Or possibly because I'm grossed out by the notion of eating bugs. I watched a few episodes of American Idol when a Raleigh contestant was in the finals, but that's about it. I have enough reality in my life -- when I turn on the TV, that's not what I'm looking for.

So imagine my surprise to discover that I am completely and totally sucked into a reality show this season: The Sing-off.

I stumbled onto it a few weeks ago when I was home by myself (translation: in control of the remote and looking for anything to watch other than Two and a Half Men). I started watching because I heart Ben Folds. After two songs, I was hooked.

Finally, a reality show I can enjoy. A capella groups of all shapes, styles and sizes singing and dancing their hearts out in front of judges who are genuinely talented and seem to honestly care about the performers.

If you're not already watching (and come on, admit it, some of you are), then you better start tonight -- it's the next-to-last episode and you WILL be sorry if you miss it.

And my prediction of the group to take it all? Pentatonix.

Here's a sampling why:


Think I'm wrong? Share your prediction in the comments. The show starts tonight at 8:00 on NBC.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's 5: Powder Room Remodel

A year ago this month, we started our big renovation project. Looking back, I'm so glad we did it -- but I'm also a little amazed that we survived it all.

In celebration, I'll be sharing some of my favorite things about our "new" house over the next few Fridays. Today, we'll look at an often overlooked little room: the powder room.

Ours is tucked between the foyer and the family room near the stairs. It's small and has a low-ish ceiling -- but you can see it from the kitchen and we walk past it every time we go to the front door. So even though it's not a big space, it still needs to look great.

Here's what I like best about the room...

 1. Magazine rack: Yes, the bathroom doubles as a library -- as if you can honestly say you never read in there. Plus this way I have a storage area for all our catalogs and magazines that isn't my kitchen counter (where these things used to pile up). The brushed nickel finish matches the faucet and ties in with the floor.

2. Pedestal sink: Small enough to fit the space, but still substantial enough to have a presence. So maybe the footstool isn't so classy, but I love the rectangular bowl and squared off base of this sink.

3. Wall color: Because the rest of the downstairs walls are painted in more neutral shades, the red is fun in the tiny room. And it coordinates perfectly with my favorite cover print from The New Yorker magazine.

4. Molding details: Not just crown molding, but molding that accommodates the lower ceiling (because of plumbing from upstairs) and makes it beautiful above the doorway. Only a fabulous finish carpenter would think of such details.

5. Tile floor: We used the same tile from our new hearth, in the adjoining room -- it looks like slate, but is actually tile with tiny mica flecks that make it silvery sparkly. Not so warm on the feet, but it hides every speck of dirt and adds a little flair to a very small space. Also notice the fancy register cover.

What's your favorite touch in your powder room? Or what project are you planning to improve this small but essential room?

Check out the rest of this series...
- Part 2: Dining Room
- Part 3: Family Room

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Love Letters

My dad still uses the mail. You know, the write with a pen on paper U.S. postal service lick the envelope stick on a stamp drop it in the box kind of mail.

It's one of the many things I love about him.

I started getting letters from him when I went away to college -- that was pre-email (ahem) and pre-free-long-distance-on-my-cell-phone (cough) days, so mail was a primary communications tool with my family. But even now, when he's got email, cable phone and texting at his fingertips, I still get the occasional envelope in the mail box from my dad.

More often that not, the envelope contains an odd assortment of newspaper and magazine clippings. Occasionally, one of them is a wedding announcement for someone I knew in high school, although those have become less frequent as I've gotten older. Sometimes it's just something quirky that caught his attention. Or it's something relevant to a part of my life or recent conversation we've had.

The recent pile you see here includes a photo feature about fathers and daughters, an op-ed about Mitt Romney, an op-ed about Art Pope and The New Yorker and a spotlight on a local restaurant owned by my college roommate's family. Always a hodge-podge.

The articles are generally interesting or at least a little trip down memory lane. But what really makes me smile when I get a collection in the mail is knowing that on any given ordinary day, while he's sitting at the table reading the paper and eating his morning bowl of cereal, my dad is thinking about me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Capture the Everyday: Sign of Fall

This is from last year. But I love it too much not to share it.

We were walking home from the bus stop and he was just neck deep before I could even stop him. The sheer bliss on his face actually made me forget (for a moment) about the laundry and the bath that would be required later.

Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo
Capture the Everyday is about getting you to capture those everyday moments in your life! Each Tuesday, Melissa at Adventuroo will issue a simple challenge to capture something that’s a part of your daily life. You can post just a picture or add some words to go along with it. You’ll have a week to get it done and then she’ll issue another. It’s a quick, easy way to start capturing those little parts of life we sometimes take for granted.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday's 5: Trade-Offs

When Junius was a baby, I thought he would be this tiny, needy, helpless (and adorable, but still exhausting) bump on a log forever. And I was terrified.

I looked at my friends with toddlers and school-aged kids and longed for the day when my child wouldn't be attached to me in such a literal way.

Of course, as it turns out, those early days quickly disappeared. Sometimes I miss the baby days, but I also enjoy the advantages of not having an infant in the house. Now that I've got a 6-year-old and an almost 4-year-old, life looks really different.

But I've been noticing lately that there are good and bad sides to having kids who are getting older and more independent. So for those of you still wandering in the hazy exhaustion of newborn-ness, here are five trade-offs that you have ahead of you.
  1. Reading: 
    The Good: Now that Junius can read he can better entertain himself and Pippi. He's also better at answering my questions because he has access to a lot more information.
    The Bad: Now he can read everything -- including speed limit signs (which may or may not correspond to the speed of my car), event announcements (that I wasn't planning on taking him to) and other less appropriate material. It's like baby-proofing, but different.
  2. Clothing:
    The Good: Junius gets himself up every morning and gets dressed before waking us up -- he's our school day alarm clock. And now Pippi is old enough to dress herself, too -- great that the only person I have to dress in the morning is myself.
    The Bad: There's no telling what they'll come up with. For Junius, it's probably red gym shorts with a different-shade-of-red t-shirt. For Pippi, well... she could go through as many as four (ahem) unusual selections in one day, usually involving something a) sparkly, b) pink, c) flouncy, d) too big/small or e) all of the above (see photo).  
  3. Eating:
    The Good: My kids can make their own breakfast now, reach the snacks in the pantry and fix juice out of the fridge -- again, one less chore that falls on my plate.
    The Bad: They're making their own food choices sometimes without asking, meaning they're fixing Chex Mix for breakfast or eating the last banana that I needed for smoothies.
  4. Time:
    The Good: Because Junius really is our household alarm clock, it's very helpful for him to be able to tell time. It's also nice to tell him that a friend is coming over at 4:00 and have that actually mean something.
    The Bad: It's a lot harder to convince him that it's time to go to bed when he can look at the clock and tell that it's only 6:15.
  5. Television:
    The Good: So it's probably not our most stellar parenting move, but we've discovered that we can sleep in a little on Saturdays now that the kids are able to work the TV (including the TiVo) on their own. Hey, I still remember sitting in front of the test pattern with my brother on Saturday mornings waiting for cartoons and I turned out okay -- trusting that my kids will, too.
    The Bad: If we're not up with them, then they're choosing their own programming -- which is often the Disney channel (and I'm sorry, but I think most of those shows are terrible) or occasionally something less-than-kid-friendly from TiVo. 
As they say, the grass is always greener... If you've got a newborn, what older stage are you looking forward to? Or if you've got older kids, what mixed blessing of the future should I be worrying about now?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Late Night Adventures in Parenting

"Mommy? There is gooey on my finger."

That sentence is not something I really want to hear at any time of day. But especially not coming from my child at 4 a.m.

So I grab my glasses from the nightstand and fumble my way into the bathroom to find Pippi standing beside the toilet. She's holding her finger up in the air, her pull-up and pajama pants around her ankles.

I grab a tissue, wipe her hand and reach to pull up her pants. And that's when I realize what was on her finger.


Somehow, even though she's been waking up dry for weeks, tonight she has slept through pooping in her pull-up and didn't realize it. That is, until she stuck her finger in it.

Ick ick ick.

And yet, somehow she's so sweet about it and appreciative of my help and just happy to have some quality time together in the middle of the night that I can't get mad at her. I wipe her bottom, scrub our hands, find a clean pull-up, get her pajamas back on and carry her to her bed.

As I'm tucking her in, she says, "I love you, Mommy. You are the Best Mommy Ever." Then she smacks my hand with one of her noisy little kisses and grins at me over the edge of her blanket.

Melty hearted, I drag back into my bed, fluff my pillow and settle back in toward sleep.

Except that Pippi isn't done yet. And that's the roller coaster of motherhood. One minute I'm all weak-kneed in love with the girl. The next minute she's wailing for me from the other room and I'm wondering why she hates me so much.

An hour later, we were finally both asleep.

One more hour and we're starting another day. One more crazy ride.

Photo: Self-portrait by Pippi has nothing to do with the story except that I thought it was funny.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

Full credit for this recipe goes to Ilina at Dirt & Noise.

She was pinning all these great pumpkin recipes last week and I had this pumpkin sitting on my counter from The Produce Box (not the jack o' lantern pictured here, of course -- but I'm still very proud of my first-ever carvings). So I asked her for an easy but tasty recipe recommendation.

Here's what she sent:

Pumpkin Soup

small cooking pumpkin (or substitute butternut squash)
olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons apple sauce
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup pulp free orange juice
splash (or more) dry white wine
pinch cinnamon
1-2 teaspoon paprika
1-2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream

Roast pumpkin and cook until soft. Scrape out seeds and reserve pulp. On medium heat, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until slightly browned in a dutch oven. Add apple sauce, chicken broth, orange juice, wine and give it a stir. Turn heat to low. Mix in pumpkin and seasonings. Simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and whisk in the cream. Use an immersion blender or puree it in batches (though this step is not necessary). Serve with bread and garnish with fried onions and cashews.

* * *
It turned out delicious -- plus I'm super impressed with myself for being able to say that I made pumpkin soup from scratch. But I do have a few notes to go along with the recipe.

Not knowing how to roast pumpkin, I googled it and came up with this solution: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the pumpkin cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Turn cut side down and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Place in oven and roast until skin is golden brown and the pumpkin is tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Next time, I think I'd use less orange juice -- unless maybe I had a bigger pumpkin. Don't skimp on the spices -- they're yummy. I did use my immersion blender because it makes me happy and makes the soup smooth and lovely. And sadly I didn't have any fried onions or cashews in the pantry, so I just crumbled Saltines into my bowl -- the saltiness is a nice balance to the soup flavor.

Junius didn't like it, but Pippi did -- so that makes it a win at our house.

Now go show Ilina some blog love (remember what we talked about on Friday?) and then leave us a link to your favorite pumpkin recipe here in the comments.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday’s 5: Ways to Make a Blogger Happy

After weeks of crazy schedules combined with just generally being slack, I finally got back to reading some of my favorite blogs yesterday. Trying to catch up on friends (both the ones I've met and the ones I only know online) reminded me of one of the things I like best about blogging: community.

We have a great group of bloggers in my area who get together now and then -- I'm lucky to be a part of a group of smart, interesting ladies who like writing and appreciate my grammar geekiness (that's two of them in the photo with me at last year's blogging conference). But beyond that, I love the virtual community that exists online through blogging.

It's knowing that I can leave a comment on a blog about a friend's terrible day. Or discovering that a long-lost friend is enjoying my random stories. Or finding a new writer with a mutual love of precise language and snarky stories.

If you have your own blog, you probably already know all of this. But if you don't (or even if you do), you might be reading blogs without thinking about what's happening on the other end of the screen.

So, in case you need some tips, here are five ways to make (or keep) your favorite bloggers happy:
  1. Leave a comment: The only way we really know that you read a post is if you leave a comment. And despite what you might think, most bloggers aren’t just writing to “hear themselves talk.” We actually want to have a sort of conversation with you. Share your own related story, post a reaction or just leave some words of encouragement.
  2. Share a post: Read something that catches your attention? Email the post to a friend, link to it on Facebook or tweet about it. That's the beauty of posting all these stories, jokes, rants, recipes and recommendations online -- it makes them easy to share.
  3. Suggest a topic: Need advice? Just want someone else’s perspective on something? Tell your favorite blogger and see what she (or he) can do with it. 
  4. Click a link: Most blogs will have an archive or labels or tags of some sort to categorize old posts. Unless you’ve read every post since a blog was born (hi Mom and Dad!), you might have missed something great. Pick a category at random and see what comes out of the archive.
  5. Subscribe: There are multiple ways to follow most blogs – “like” them on Facebook (or use the Networked Blogs app), subscribe by email, follow on Twitter or add them to your RSS feed. That way you never miss a post.
Now let's test what you've learned -- leave us a comment with a link to one of your favorite blogs (other than mine, of course) and let's share the love.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Warning about Halloween Masks

This is what my son's face usually looks like:

Nearly always smiley and happy. Often silly or goofy. Occasionally grumpy or frustrated. But blessedly, almost never stern or evil.

So that's why his Halloween costume was so disconcerting this year.

With that horrible, hard plastic Anakin Skywalker mask on, we couldn't see his smile. And with the way the cut-outs were shaped (or maybe just because the whole thing was so weird), we couldn't even see if his eyes were smiling.

Every time I looked at him, I got sad and worried. It was like some sort of creepy glimpse into a future teen-aged Junius who sulks around, refuses to smile and dyes his hair.


So let this serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of you moms out there. Next year, don't let your babies grow up to be kids who wear angry masks as part of their Halloween costumes.