This year we got our Big Summer Trip out of the way early on. We had a family reunion with most of Mister’s family out in San Diego. Mister’s Mother turned 80 this year and we all got together to celebrate. We rented a bunch of condos right on Mission Beach and had such a lovely time. The weather was in the 70′s the whole time and we hardly knew what to do without sweat running down our backs constantly. The ocean was mighty cold and it took the kids a while to get into the water.

San Diego Hildie (1 of 1)

I have been begging Mister to please let us have a trip to the beach for years but he finds the beach boring and much prefers traveling to cities where there are piles of things to do and see. But how could anyone hate this? Although the mornings in San Diego were a bit chilly, I liked nothing more than to sit on the balcony outside our bedroom and read a good book before everyone else woke up. Mister gave me a Kindle for our anniversary which was on the first day of our trip. I’ve resisted Kindles for many years but as I’ve entirely run out of bookshelf space, I’m having to rethink my view on e-readers.

San Diego Mission Beach Panorama

 

San Diego Bella Ada Beach

 

The place where we stayed was especially nice because it had a large outdoor terrace right on the boardwalk that runs along Mission Beach. The boardwalk was constantly full of people walking, biking, skateboarding and generally being completely fascinating.  We also had a lovely fire pit on the terrace that we sat around every night. It’s so fun to watch the cousins hang out now that they’re all getting older and the age differences don’t matter as much as they did when the kids were young.

San Diego Cousins Fire

Here is perhaps the most magical wonderful thing about this vacation: there were no bugs. None. Zero. I had completely forgotten that it’s possible to actually be outside in the evening without mosquito repellant. I guess it’s the strong winds coming off the ocean or whatever. But I was blessedly itch-free for a whole week.

Naturally we couldn’t go to Southern California and not hit Disneyland. We haven’t been there in forever. And we haven’t ever gone with cousins. We had a few issues with rides being mysteriously “shut down” off and on all day. It turns out Kim and Kanye were there for North’s birthday. And because they are the most special people in the galaxy, they didn’t have to wait like us rabble. No sireee, they got the whole ride shut down so that they and their cheesy entourage could go without waiting.

San Diego Disney Teacup

 

I made T-shirts for some of the younger cousins. They all requested their favorite Disney character. (Stitch? Really?) I’m truly proud that there wasn’t a single Princess.

San Diego Disney Cousins

We had Grandma’s birthday dinner at Ariel’s Grotto one night and were disappointed that they only do characters at breakfast and lunch. If you go for dinner you won’t get to do a conga line with Minnie Mouse and Pluto but you will get tickets for VIP seating at the cool evening show, World of Color. We enjoyed the show immensely (although I think the girls were secretly disappointed not to see Belle). Normally I hate crowds and all that stuff, but if you have a nice spot already it makes everything so much better.

Hanging out with Grandpa is the best of all, though.

San Diego Grandpa

 

 

Because we were in San Diego with so many relatives, we decided it would be nice for India and York to be able to go through the temple for the first time with their grandparents and aunts and uncles.  What a great experience! And that San Diego temple is sure impressive. (But, honestly, our little San Antonio temple is much, much prettier on the inside.)

San Diego Temple Kids

 

San Diego Temple Grandp

 

We had a remarkably great time on our trip. Most of the cousins are teenagers and older and we had all the single people stay in one condo together. It was the best idea we’ve ever had. Not only did the parents like it but so did the kids. Arabella and her cousin Daisy never get tired of having lots of time to hang out. And the trip was blessedly free of drama. When was the last time you could say that about your family reunion?

San Diego Arabella Deisy

Do you want to know the most incredible thing of all? We had all suitcases unpacked within one day of getting home. It’s a miracle!

 

 

 

 

York just graduated from High School over the weekend. It was . . . how shall I put this? Less than interesting?  I’m certainly glad he graduated.  I know high school was a big pain and we are very proud of York for making his four years there a success (he was voted Most Talented and Class Clown. Guess which one I’m more proud of?). But there are very few more boring events than graduation. Do we really need several perky girls talking about how fantastic they are and how their futures are going to be so awesome!!!!!!?(And yes, it was all girls in York’s grade. Out of the top ten students, only one was a boy. Naturally.) These are probably the same girls who wouldn’t dream of talking to most of the kids in their grade only a week earlier.

Instead of a bunch of boring speeches, how about an elaborate musical number, complete with a rotating stage and ostrich feathers? Now that would be entertaining!  And instead of just announcing the grads (all seven million of them), how about pre-recording each one introducing themselves with a little personality and verve, like they do at the beginning of the Miss America Pageant?  (“Representing the Lakeline Villas Apartment complex, my name is McKenzie Kay Larson!”)

Nowadays they have the graduates wear medals and tassels of different sorts. I guess it’s so that the kids all feel better about themselves, like it’s the Olympics or something. One of the medals means “I’m graduating!” For real. You get it just for showing up. As if the cap and gown didn’t tip everyone off.  Sadly, nobody knows what all the different accoutrements mean. There’s no explanation in the program. All I can assume when I see a graduate walk by with a bunch of medals and tassels is that she must be a really high-strung, Type-A person.

Naturally York couldn’t find his mortarboard when it was time to leave for the graduation. I asked him if he had it earlier  and he said, “no, my gowns been lying on the floor all week and I haven’t seen it.” Oh, super; wrinkled shiny polyester. But he had a cap by the time he walked across the stage so he must have found it. Or maybe they have extras for just such an occasion.

Because graduation ended at almost 11:00 pm (don’t even get me started!), we were pooped and York was antsy to get on with his Marvelous Future, he agreed to pose for one–and only one–picture with us. Naturally he used his his-ultra fake smile that he reserves for all the most important occasions.

York Graduation

 

Let me include one of his senior portraits where he looks a whole lot better. If you know us in real life, you’ll be getting your announcement soon! I like to wait til after the event (just kidding, I didn’t get them done in time.)

York grad serious-1-2-Edit

 

As you probably know by know, we’re Mormon. And one of the rites of passage for Mormons is going on a mission when young adults turn 18 or 19 years old (it’s strongly encouraged for boys–being the fools that they are–but optional for girls). Part of the reason is to tell people about Jesus and all that traditional missionary sort of thing. Part of it is to help them learn to get outside of themselves and serve others; community service being a huge part of missions. I can’t think of many teenagers who don’t need a big fat dose of “you’re not the center of the universe”. Part of a mission is just to help kids learn to work hard, do what’s right and solidify their belief in Christ and all that’s good in the world.

Missions are paid for by the missionary and his family. It’s pro-rated by the church so every missionary pays the exact same thing ($400 per month) whether he’s living in Tokyo or a tiny village in Guatemala. The prospective missionaries do not get to chose where they will serve. They go where the Church needs them. Physical, mental and emotional  considerations are taken into account and church leaders prayerfully decide where each prospective missionary will go.  It’s always a total thrill to open the letter (referred to as “a mission call”) to find out where in the world the missionary will be going. It’s always a big joke that you’ll end up going where you don’t want to go. Or to Idaho, which is laughed about as being the lamest place to serve a mission. Although everyone I know who has gone on a mission in Idaho has absolutely loved it. But Idaho and Utah are always the butt of everyone’s jokes.

India and York have both decided to go on missions (in common Mormon parlance it’s referred to as “serving a mission”).  The paperwork and preparations take a couple of months and India had planned to go before York. But she ended up studying in London last semester and it was just too big of a pain to get everything done while she was overseas. So it ended up that York and India turned their paperwork in at the exact same time once India got back. Due to the huge amount of prospective missionaries, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll get assigned at the same time.

 

But they did get their calls at the same time! We invited a bunch of friends over to watch them open their calls. And here is my super high quality collage of the happy event. Before you watch it, let me tell you that India was kind of hoping to stay in the U.S. She was also a little nervous to learn a foreign language.  York wanted to go anywhere but Africa. Why, I don’t know. He just really, really wanted to go anywhere but there.

 

So they’ll be going to adjoining missions in Sao Paulo, Brazil! How crazy is that? They both will leave on September 9th to go to the Missionary Training Center in Brazil. If they get their visas in time; that is the big question mark right now. The Brazilian consulate in Houston seems to be one of the speedier ones, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

I remember when I had little kids. There was nothing quite like a Friday afternoon when I would anxiously count down the hours until the babysitter would arrive and then I would be FREE! I didn’t even care where I went as long as no children came with me.  I remember scrambling for a babsitter and wishing there were some way I could just find out who was available instead of calling a dozen girls every single week. (This was before texting, obviously, because I’m super old and so are my kids.)

Mister and I have always gone on a date every week. Always. Because if we didn’t have regular reconnect time, things would get ugly. There would be much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I would get pretty upset too (ba-dum-ching). We always fit it into our budget because if you think babysitters are expensive, couples therapy and a divorce cost a wee bit more.

Then came the glorious time when our kids were old enough to take care of themselves. Gone were the days of laying out pajamas and trying to make our house look a little more presentable because for some reason I feel the need to impress a 14-year-old neighbor girl. Now I could just shout, “have some cereal for dinner and be in bed by 9!” while we walked out the door. I thought my life was home-free and I saw years of leisurely weekends in my future.

Oh, how wrong I was. Having teenagers makes the weekends crazy complicated.

Instead of going out with my husband, I am now chauffeuring children to and from parties and get-togethers.  It’s possible to beg other parents for rides sometimes, but the more kids you have the slimmer the chances of finding rides becomes.  Sure, Sally’s mom would be happy to take my daughter to the birthday party. But could I bring them back home? And what do you know, it’s also my turn to chaperone the dance! And then there are the times when a bunch of kids end up at our house and I find myself making cookies at 11:00 at night because I can’t just let a pile of hormonally-challenged adolescents go hungry.

Let’s not overlook all the productions and games they have too–one of which will always be on a Friday or Saturday night. If they aren’t playing in the football game they will be cheering at it or playing in the marching band or singing the National Anthem. And of course we must go and watch and be supportive because what kind of crappy parent doesn’t watch and cheer from the sidelines? You want your daughter to end up pregnant? Or on drugs? Because that’s how it happens! When parents don’t show up wearing blinged out t-shirts that say “band mom” in Curlz font, they’re asking for it! Ok, not really, but that’s how it feels.

Maybe the kids have a jazz ensemble concert or a chess tournament or a drama awards banquet. The list of things that teenagers do is eternal.

Some weekends we scramble to find a movie that will start after 7:45 and be done by 10 because that’s the window we have after, say, dropping Arabella off at her friend’s house and picking up Finn at the bowling alley.

As if this weren’t bad enough, we now cannot go to sleep at a decent hour on the weekends either. I used to have all these fantasies of going to bed early once I didn’t have pesky kids needing a drink of water every five minutes. Yeah, that’s never going to happen. Because now I have to wait for kids to show up when their curfew is over. It doesn’t matter how tired we are, we’ve got to stay up and wait. Mister and I are fond of playing a charming game called, “who is more tired”, the loser of which gets stuck on sofa duty waiting for children to come home, hopefully without car accidents being involved. This is even more nerve-wracking once the children have driver’s licenses. We are just positive that they will die before the night is over. If they don’t answer their cell phones it’s because they are dead in a ditch. If they are late it’s because they are at the Emergency Room. Probably the police will show up at any second to break the bad news.

Basically by the time Sunday rolls around we are physically and emotionally exhausted and the fun weekend we had in mind never actually materialized.

Yes, we didn’t have to pay a babysitter anything, but I’m just about to the point where I’d like to pay my kids to spend a quiet weekend at our house.

No, no, I’m not the one getting a job. Mister likes to tell me I ought to start winning the bread around here, but I’m much too good at being a stay-at-home mother. It’s time for the children to start looking for jobs!  India has just returned from college in London (I kept meaning to write about that and now she’s already home) and the boys are running out of spending money. So now comes the fun part of filling out applications and trying to figure out how to make the most money with the least work (isn’t that the eternal struggle?).

My first job was at Pier One Imports when I was 16. I spent my days arranging throw pillows and restacking baskets. I felt terribly grown-up, especially when I had to take someone’s charge card. Back in those days we had to put the card on a slider machine that would make an imprint. We’d give the bottom copy to the customer and keep the top copy.

credit_card_swiper

It felt like playing shop like I’d done a million times as a little girl, only this time I had surly customers that were actual humans, not Raggedy Ann. Once I had a customer make so many purchases that there was no room on the counter and I had to do the card slider on a stack of crates near the check out stand. Only I forced the credit card thing back and forth so violently that the top crate tipped over and out fell a huge stack of bowls. Every single one broke. I didn’t have to pay for them, thank goodness.

I also only made $3.35 an hour. Chances are you made $3.35 as well since this was the minimum wage for about fifty years.  Payday was the only time I liked having a job.  Who remembers the sheer thrill of receiving a paycheck that was over $100? I felt like the richest person in the world.  It sure beat babysitting which generally only paid $2 an hour if I was lucky. The really cheap people would pay $1.50 and hour and they generally had the most dreadful children of all. Nowadays my girls make much more than minimum wage babysitting.

I hated babysitting. Just hated it. I’m still not very fond of other people’s children, truthfully. I love my own but find other people’s kids annoying and problematic.  But babysitting was the only choice for a 14-year-old girl. It’s still the same today.

York, in true Ferris Bueller style, got the exact job he was hoping for and started today. Finn and India are still looking but both had interviews this week.  Mister is finishing up a Masters degree at the University of Texas and will probably be switching jobs or looking for something new soon too. So basically it means that all I do is help the people around me fill out applications and resumés. it’s as scintillating as it sounds.  But my job is to make my family self-sufficient and doesn’t self-sufficient children sound like the best thing ever?

 

BBW

Remember being a young teenage girl and realizing that you might just maybe, possibly smell bad?  One day you’re spending your babysitting money on Wacky Packs and Hubba Bubba and the next day you’re riding your bike to the drug store to buy some Love’s Baby Soft, because what if you stink? What if that’s the real reason no boys like you???  Those early teenage years are brutal as your mind discovers dozens–nay, hundreds–of bodily flaws it hadn’t known about six months earlier. Body odor, whether real or imagined, is one of the easiest to solve. The shape of your nose, the ability to “pinch an inch” on your stomach, or the ever-growing colony of blackheads on your nose might be tough to get rid of, but smelling good is a no-brainer.

So you shouldn’t be surprised when your thirteen-year-old daughter wants to stop in at Bath and Body Works when you’re at the mall. You haven’t been to that store in probably a decade since you decided once and for all that you do not like to smell like fruit. You don’t really mind the idea of visiting Bath and Body Works until you realize your daughter will be smelling each individual item in the store.  Not just Cashmere Glow lotion, but Cashmere Glow hand sanitizer, Cashmere Glow Shimmer Mist, Cashmere Glow Shower Gel and the Cashmere Glow scented candle.  This will then be repeated with every single scent. At first you are game, washing your hands in the little sink and trying out a matching lotion. But pretty soon everything starts smelling too sweet and too cloying. Being the good mother that you are, you still gamely smell everything that your daughter holds out to you (“ooh, that’s nice!”, said in your most enthusiastic voice possible). But inside you want to run away. Quickly.

But Bath and Body Works has formulated their store to be hypnotic to the female consumer. Once you get over the initial fight or flight response, you begin to be lulled by all the flowery packaging and colorful shelves.  The smart and pragmatic woman inside of you is thinking, Sheer Cotton? What exactly is that supposed to smell like anyway? Your lizard brain, however, is saying Flowers. Cotton. Pretty. Yes.

Before you know it the “buy 2, get 5 free” sign seems like a really superb idea even though you hate shower gel and never use it. Why stop there, though? Who doesn’t want a butterfly-shaped plug-in that makes your house smell like a giant cupcake?  And why not buy the enormous three-wick candle? Because, really, don’t you need more Love & Sunshine in your life? Yes, you think tearily, I do need more Love & Sunshine. I really do. Or maybe you just need an Oahu Coconut Sunset. Even though that name makes zero sense it registers on some primal level. Hawaii, coconuts, beaches, happiness.

Then you spot Country Chic. Oh yes, that’s you all right. You’re humble and approachable in a Country sort of way. But also chic and stylish (wearing three-year-old capris qualifies as chic, right?). So that sounds perfect for you. Even though “country” in reality means Walmart and trailer homes not charming cottages and antique barns.

You’re eyes are darting madly by this point; yes, an Endless Weekend is pretty much your ideal. Wait, that would mean the kids are home every single day. Scratch that; no Endless Weekend.  Paris Amour. Now that sounds more like it. Paris, the City of Lights, the City of Love. That overpriced city where people are rude and the métro stinks of urine and everything costs way too much. And lets face it, you can find cuter things that say “Paris” at Target than in France. No, forget it, you’ll be passing on Paris Amour.

You reach for the next scent, Mad About You. Oh please. You’ve got to be pretty desperate to think that your lotion has feelings for you. Keep going. Amber Blush? Twilight Woods? The English language is starting to take a shape of its own. What do all these words even mean? A haze is washing over your mind as well as your nose. You aim towards the door, temporarily blinded by the shiny silver covers for the hand soaps (“Oooh, I must have those . . . .”).

Fortunately at that moment your daughter has finished her purchase and is jauntily holding her bag full of Velvet Sugar sweet nothings. You grab her arm and steer her out of the store, never so happy to smell the stale, piped-in air of the mall. And then you look down and notice something. A bag in your hand. What? How? You don’t even remember getting out your credit card. And so the endless cycle continues: each birthday and holiday, some woman will receive a gift purchased at Bath and Body Works. I didn’t mean to buy it, your eyes say as you watch your friend open her present, it’s just that Shimmer Mists were on sale, the Midnight Pomegrates were calling and I couldn’t say no.

We live in a cul-de-sac which in real-estate terms is the equivalent of living in a wonderful dreamland. I don’t know why. When you live in a cul-de-sac there is never enough parking. We, and our guests, are all left to wonder do I park against the curb like a civilized American is supposed to? Or do I park face-in, like the spokes of a wagon wheel? Usually nobody can decide so if you pull into a cul-de-sac on a busy night, you’ll see cars crammed every which way. Which is frustrating and dumb. Especially for the kids who were told that living in a cul-de-sac would be dreamy because they could play without anyone running over them.  Apart from the thousands of people who took a wrong turn in the neighborhood and need a place to turn around and, hey look, there’s a cul-de-sac!

We also have kind of a steep driveway so we decided we out to put a big cement slab in our backyard so the kids could play basketball and ride bikes without being run over by the teenage boy next door who drives 80 mph while checking his text messages.  Our backyard is quite big but very awkwardly-shaped (thank you again, cul de sac!), so pouring a big pile of cement on one side of our house will use up space that has otherwise been reserved for broken gardening equipment, dandelions and misplaced flip-flops.

A neighbor of ours just built a cement pad in his backyard and gave us the name of his cement guy. The cement guy came over and gave us a quote and we thought it sounded ok so we hired him. Within a few days we had a bunch of guys building supports and getting ready to pour our cement. Only we had to fix all the broken sprinklers first. And you know that they were all broken, right? Every single one.  Mister fixed most of them, but I was left doing the last one by myself and let me just tell you, the glue for PVC pipes dries in about a nanosecond. And if you haven’t gotten the pipe pieces just right, you’ll have to cut the whole thing out and try again. And then you might still not get it right. Which means cutting out another larger section of pipe and trying once more. Let’s just say that after a couple of hours I had crossed “sprinkler repair person” off of careers I might pursue once my kids leave home.

The lucky day for the cement pouring finally came. I had expected something like Rolly from Bob the Builder but we had a full-sized cement mixer pull up in front of the house and a bunch of guys showed up, tromping around in big rubber boots. There was a little machine that showed up as well, kind of like a cross between a small dump truck and a zamboni. This little machine was mean to haul the cement from the truck into the backyard. Wheelbarrows are so yesterday, apparently.

The first couple of loads went down OK but then the zamboni dump truck got stuck in the grass on the side of the house. Even though we live in a place that has been having a drought for a few dozen years in a row, the ground on that side of the house stays perpetually damp. And under all that grass was a big sloshy pile of mud. The dump truck zamboni spun its wheels and ripped up a bunch of grass. Then it slid around and knocked down the gate into the backyard.  And then it got stuck. It spun it’s wheels and sprayed mud everywhere and refused to budge. Mister stood on the porch and shouted helpful suggestions to the workers who spoke approximately three words of English.

The cement guys eventually got the zamboni dump truck out of the mud only to have  it smash into the rest of the fence and knock it over. And then it got stuck again. The whole thing looked some sort of fake-hilarious scene from a romantic comedy. Only with a languid guy leaning on a cement truck, yelling in Spanish.

At this point Mister had to take a chill pill (literally) and I started to worry about all the cement. What would they do with it? What would happen if they couldn’t get it into the backyard? We offered wooden boards to help the little zamboni get some traction (helpful for about five seconds and then those too were covered with slippery mud).

Mister finally suggested we throw some kitty litter on the mud to see if that helped. It did! A tiny bit. So I drove wildly to the grocery store to load up all the kitty litter I could find (just the cheap stuff of course. No need for $20 rose-scented products.)  We tossed kitty litter all over the ground and the zamboni dump truck was able finally dump it’s load of cement and retreat, defeated, to the front yard.

By this point my boots were caked with filth and the side of our yard was utterly destroyed. The entire fence was lying on the ground and a big fat sow would have been in heaven at the sight of all that mud.

The man with the cement truck left–to do what with all that cement I can’t even imagine. It’s not like he could just pull up at the corner and offer to pour cement in some stranger’s driveway.

The cement guy apologized profusely and put the fence back together fairly well. The ground dry out some more and he has promised to come back and finish the job. But so far he has remained elusive. We gave him his last payment when the cement truck showed up because that’s usually the straight-forward conclusion of the job.

Now we have a bit of a cement slab and several nagging children who want to play hopscotch in the privacy of their own backyard.  What will happen? Will we get ripped off or will the nice cement guy come back when we’ve had a few more days of hot sunny weather? I will keep you posted. In the mean time I leave you with this picture; I especially like the way the shed looks like it’s about to fall off a little cliff.

Concrete mess

I thought by now I’d be tired of Pinterest. But because there are infinity cool/pretty/clever things out there, I still remain powerless once I log on.  I spend a lot of time looking at decorating and house decor. Not everything is groovy, though. There are lots of things that I just hate. Things that are so dumb I don’t know how they remain popular. In no particular order:

White sofas. They are everywhere. Every room in every magazine seems to have at least one white piece of furniture. I understand that there are people out there who have nothing better to trouble their minds about than worrying every 20 seconds that their sofa is getting dirty. I don’t understand these people at all. Not one tiny bit. I can’t imagine the amount of stress that a white couch (or chair) would add to my life. Even if it’s a machine washable slipcover. Haven’t these people ever heard of chocolate milk? Or husbands who like to lie down with their feet up? Or brand new dark jeans? Or pets with dark hair? Or just dust floating through the air?  I have had people with white sofas swear they’re not hard to maintain. I have one word for these people: liars.

Dumb Sayings. It’s really popular to have words incorporated into your decor. I have a few signs and sayings around various rooms in my house. They’re phrases that are really special to me.  But at some point this word trend is just dumb. For instance, this sign that I saw at Michael’s last week:

IMG_1573

Home. Of all the words to pick, that’s the best you can think of? Like you’re not going to know where you are unless you have a sign proclaiming it? Like your friends are going to come over and be like, “oh, I thought we were at the dentist’s office but I can see from your sign that we are in a home.”  Duh.  This is even dumber than “live, laugh, love”, another silly and meaningless phrase (“hey, I forgot to laugh today but that doormat just reminded me. So haw haw haw.”)

Karate-Chopped Pillows. This trend came out of the clear blue sky a few years ago. The first time I saw it I actually said out loud, “what in the world?”  See, we used to have this pug named Anna. Anna’s favorite thing was to sit up on the back of our sofa and lie as close to our heads as possible. If she could have made out with us, she would have. Unfortunately, when Anna would manage to get her lazy butt off of the sofa, all the sofa pillows would have a giant dent in the top of each one. It drove me insane in the membrane. I couldn’t have cared less that there was pug hair everywhere (pugs shed like you would not believe), but those messed up pillows made me lose it. So imagine how perplexed I was to see that there is a style that makes it look like pets have been sleeping on every single cushion. This is now a thing. Why? WHY iS THIS POPULAR? I think it’s ridiculous and I don’t care if Joanna Gaines* shows up at my front door and demands that I karate-chop my pillows; it’s never happening. (Bonus points in the picture below for karate-chopped pillows AND a white sofa! Too bad there’s no chevron as well; then it would have been everything I dislike the most.)

Karate Chopped pillows

 

 Open kitchen shelving. Oh how pretty it looks. There is something that makes my heart skip a little beat whenever I see a kitchen with open shelves instead of boring cupboards.  But then I remember that I actually have plastic cups. And bowls. And a bunch of mismatched mugs which I happen to be quite fond of. And several sets of dishes that are packed into the cupboards because that’s how kitchens are: full of stuff.  Maybe if all you have in your kitchen is a charmingly curated collection of vintage milk glass, then this would work for you.

open shelving

 

Or how about this? It looks so wonderful! But it is just a disaster waiting to happen. I can hardly wait until some three-year old tries to get those pretzels down for a snack.  Let’s think about this: who would keep their flour and sugar in a glass jar on a super high shelf? It makes no sense. (Truthfully I have this pinned on my Pinterest Board–me and ten trillion other people–but it’s totally a pipe dream. Like I might as well wish for a dog that scoops his own poop.)

Open pantry

 

 

My final pet peeve is  storage-less side tables. They could be anywhere but I find it particularly vexing in the bedroom. What the heck? Don’t you have any earplugs? Or chapstick? Or a pen? Where do you put these things? In the case of this room below there’s barely enough room on the top of the side table, what with the orchid and picture frame and superfluous alarm clock. There’s not even space for a box of tissues, but maybe I’m the only one who ever has a runny nose.  If a side table doesn’t have drawers it’s dead to me.

dumb side table

 

I know I must sound crotchety and old. Kind of like the decorating version of an old lady who says she only wants sensible shoes. But I’m right! I don’t care that every catalog I get in the mail has open shelving and side tables with no storage whatsoever. They’re wrong, I tell you! Wrong!

 

*Joanna Gaines is the main decorating lady on the HGTV show Fixer Upper. It’s a really good show filmed right up the road in Waco. I have only watched a few episodes thanks to a Fixer Upper marathon that was on TV the last time I stayed at a hotel. Someone really needs to invent a cable system that only has HGTV. I would be a very happy girl. BTW, I went to Joanna’s shop, Magnolia, last week. It was very cute but verrrrrry tiny.

Kimmel Austin

In case you missed this little detail, I live in Austin, Texas. Right now in Austin it’s SXSW. Which, for those who live under a rock or are just over the age of 60, is a super-mega-gigantic movie/music/gaming/computer festival that lasts for a week and a half. It also transforms our rather small downtown into a raging cesspool of traffic, drunks and weirdos.  Everybody calls it “South By” (emphasis on the first syllable). It sounds semi-pretentious but “South by Southwest” is a redundant mouthful.

Mister is into the movie scene and because of his job as a video producer has employed pretty much every actor in the Central Texas area. So it’s always fun to see what the tykes have been up to. Also, it’s pretty fun going to see the movies when the directors and several of the stars are right there in the audience. He always gets a platinum pass which allows him first dibs on every event. And there are about a jillion events going on all over downtown at every hour of the day and night.  He manages to get fed several meals a day for free just by attending the right parties and get-togethers.

I am rather non-impressed with the entertainment industry. I don’t like how important they find themselves. At this point in my life I find it incredibly annoying how hard they try: to look good, to be “unique” and “edgy”, to pretend to be so much more awesome than they really are.  At one point I would have cared a lot too. But now I am old. Make that Old with a capital -O. And I know this because I crave authenticity. I really want people to be themselves and get rid of all the crap and façades. Just be who you really are, man!

Mister occasionally drags me out of the house to a movie he thinks sounds like something I’d be interested in. I have to wait in the pitiful “general admission” line which might as well have a sign that says “losers stand here”. He gets in first and saves me a seat while I wait there knitting and eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations. Yesterday’s foray into SXSW was a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel show. We were required to stand in line in the sun and heat for two hours which made me peevish beyond belief. I was ready to throw in the towel but I held on and it actually ended up being really fun and interesting. (Listen, I may complain about all this stuff but when I go out, I do it with enthusiasm. Because nothing is more annoying than self-conscious people who won’t cut loose.)

Mostly I stood and watched all the hipsters around us. And I saw them with their silly clothes that are supposed to be ironic but mostly make them look like rejects from 1989. A few years ago I would have felt super self-conscious like I wasn’t cool enough to stand outside and wait in a dumb line with all the stylish people.  This year I came straight from taking York to the oral surgeon to get his wisdom teeth out. I didn’t really care if my shirt was awesome (although it was St. Patrick’s Day so I did make sure it was green), or that I had trendy shoes or edgy accessories.

This year I feel fine with who I am. Am I thin? Heck no! I’m fatter now than when I was pregnant. Am I stylish? Not if you consider the fact that most of my clothes come from Steinmart or Costco. Is my hair awesome? Well, I’m 44 but I don’t have any greys so that fact alone makes me drip with pride. (Take that, all you people who must get your hair colored!) My hair is not super styling but I think it generally looks pretty decent.  I do have nice makeup so I have that going for me. You can wear awesome sunglasses and overall shorts (yes, they’re back) with high-heeled booties, but if you haven’t got on an attractive shade of lipstick, you really aren’t all that.

So I guess I’m really a grown up now. Or maybe I’m an old fogey. I don’t know. But I have to echo the sentiments of Jasper who announced after looking at everyone meandering around downtown Austin, “who are all these awful people?”.

 

Have you been hearing all the brouhaha about the movie American Sniper and how the US military referred to the people in Iraq as savages? I don’t even watch TV and I keep hearing about it. To me this is very interesting because I’ve known loads of Iraqis. I grew up in Detroit which has the largest Middle Eastern population outside of the Middle East. When I was very young we lived outside of Detroit in a town called Dearborn which was (and still is) the seat of the Ford Motor Company. My dad was an engineer at Ford (or as he called it FoMoCo).  There is a huge Arabic population in Dearborn. Much larger now than when I was growing up. I spent hours watching the Arab TV stations out of sheer fascination (let’s just say their home decor and clothing styles were quite a bit different than most of the Anglo people.)

When I was five we moved just north of Detroit. You know that Eminem movie called Eight Mile? Well, we lived just off of Nine Mile.  This area is where a huge number of Iraqis lived. When I was in high school I worked for an Iraqi dry cleaning business and then at an Iraqi frozen yogurt shop. The Iraqis owned most of the party stores around Detroit (party stores are a cross between a liquor store and a small grocery store. Like a 7-11 with a really huge selection of alcohol and some fruits and veg. You know how 7-11′s always have a little donut case? In party stores that is replaced with a baklava case.)

I went to school with Chaldeans and worked with them and the same thing happened that always happens when you spend a lot of time with someone who you initially think is “different”: you find out you’re pretty much the same. Except Chaldeans have about three hundred times more cousins than I do.

Most of the Iraqis are Chaldeans which means they are Christian (almost always Catholic although we had a few in our Mormon ward in Detroit). As Christians they have been the victims of the horrible Muslim regimes in Iraq. Interestingly, most Iraqis were Christian until the advent of Islam. Most arabs in Iraq came from other places in the Middle East. It is the Chaldeans and Assyrians who are the true Iraqi natives.

So, no, I can’t get on board with calling all people from Iraq savages. There are many ethnicities, tribes and cultures in the Middle East. It’s not right to just lump everyone together. I will, however, make an exception for the arabs who are killing Christians. I have a hard time finding a better word than “savage” to suit them. Maybe we could try bloodthirsty minions of Satan.

In case you’re interested in really finding out more about the Chaldean culture and history in Detroit  (I LOVE learning about other cultures), here’s a longish video for you. I thought it was pretty cool.