Archive | July, 2012

Sneaky Aunt Patty

My mother is one of five kids in a military family, so they had a LOT of great stories about growing up. But my favorite were always stories about Aunt Patty.

You guys know Aunt Patty because she makes THE BEST BROCCOLI SALAD KNOWN TO MAN, but there is so much more to her. Mostly, this: she is the sweetest, most kind soul that has ever walked the earth. She speaks in a melodic tone which makes her a hit with children, and she smiles all the time.

These things make it incredibly easy for her to be DEVIOUS.

First, before we go further into the story, Aunt Patty sent Tony this book a month or so ago and I wanted to share it all with you. She swore by it, and Bryan laughed and said that all this hippie nonsense was going to get Tony beaten up. WHICH  MEANS I WAS A FAN OF PROVING HIM WRONG.

It’s called Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

It basically helps kids visualize the concept of kindness. “Filling someone’s bucket” can be done by a smile, a good deed, or a kind word. Although I didn’t find it particularly enthralling, Tony loved it. We read it nightly, and pretty much eighteen times a day, he’d do something really sweet and say, “Yep, I’m a bucket filler. How full is your bucket now?”

He took it to school for Friday show-and-tell, and when I picked him up that afternoon, his teacher stopped me dead in my tracks. “I LOVE THAT BOOK,” she gushed. I noted that all the kids – twenty four and five year olds – were diligently heads down and coloring. What are you guys drawing? I asked.

“We’re making thank-you cards for our teacher!” they shouted.

“They wanted to do this for me,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

“We want to fill her bucket!” they shouted.

And not a day has gone by that some kid in that class has come up to me to talk about their bucket. Seriously, I am gobsmacked at how this resonates with young children. I’ve since bought a book for the teacher (she’s been on vacation and I’M DYING TO GIVE IT TO HER!), and I think probably every Pre-K classroom should have it. It’s pretty great.

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BACK TO AUNT PATTY’S DEVIOUSNESS.

Aunt Patty was passing through on her way to family further south, and she stopped in to spend the night at Mom & Dad’s house. She had asked, before she left her house, to eat dinner at a specific restaurant that night with the whole gang. Mom, obviously, agreed. But made it clear that Mom would be paying.

The gauntlet had been thrown.

Aunt Patty INSISTED she pay. Mom said, “NO, IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS WILL YOU BE PAYING.”

Aunt Patty sweetly said, “Okay.”

When all nine of us gathered at the german restaurant that night, Aunt Patty darted inside and hugged some man that we couldn’t see very well. “That’s my friend William!” she exclaimed, when she finally joined us at our table. “We went to school together, years ago! I can’t believe he’s here!”

Mom looked puzzled. “I don’t remember a William.. what was his last name?”

Aunt Patty tilted her head, “You know, I don’t remember. He came in midyear, so I don’t even think he was in the annual! But it turns out, he’s the manager here! Isn’t it a small world?”

We all agreed that was really cool! It is a small world. What a bustling melting pot Huntsville is.

We had a fantastic dinner, and I kept smiling at one of the managers because I had worked with him at a Ruby Tuesdays YEARS ago. He was my age, but he was pretty smart, and I was glad to see him doing so well. Couldn’t remember his name, though.

After we finished up our desserts, a couple of hours later, Daddy asked for the check. The waitress smiled and said it had been taken care of. “William treated us!” Aunt Patty exclaimed.

“Wow, really?” we all asked. “That was really kind of him!”

“Yeah, send William over so we can thank him,” I told the waitress.

“NO, DON’T,” said Aunt Patty. “He’s.. probably busy.”

We all looked at her.

“OKAY, fine,” she admitted. “It was ME. I wanted to pay, so while I was driving, I called and asked to speak to the manager. His name was William, and I explained that I was going to pay for our party, but I couldn’t get up and go to the bathroom or anything because then y’all would know what was I up to. So I got him to play along that we were old high school friends and then I went and hugged him so y’all wouldn’t suspect anything and then the waitress slipped the check to me under a napkin and..”

OHMYGOSH, we all said. YOU ARE CRAZY.

Then I remembered that guy’s name that I worked with. Will.

You see Aunt Patty in the upper left hand corner there, mysteriously growing out of my father’s head.

She is crazy devious. You have to admit her skills are impressive.

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Standby for the Mary Poppins Drop

Can we just talk about the Opening Ceremonies for a minute? Now, I know that Beijing spoiled us last time with an AMAZING, GORGEOUS show – and of course, we all know that all performers were spot-on because they probably faced flogging or execution or something – but .. Friday night’s ceremonies were just .. weird. I am no anglophile, but .. I am fairly well-read or whatever, and I was just .. it was SO WEIRD.

I likened it to finding one YouTube video that you intentionally wanted to watch and then clicking the top Related Video for the next two-hour wormhole. IT MADE NO SENSE. The giant Voldemort! The big baby head! Kenneth Brannaugh, the tallest hobbit of them all! Cruella DeVille! What in the holy hell, London?

So I was trying to convince a four year old and a twelve year old that No! This is really cool! Just .. hang on, it should get better if only .. no, really, wait just a minute and THANK GOD, Rowan Atkinson was there. Mr. Bean saved the night, in my opinion. And then I hop on Twitter to proclaim that this man might just salvage the ENTIRE Olympics, and I noticed no less than five people remarking on how terrible PeeWee Herman looked at the Olympics.

I GIVE UP, HUMANITY. YOU WIN.

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Very In-Depth Reviews of Stuff I’ve Bought Lately.

I don’t know why, but I wanted to have a more in-depth version of Stuff I’ve Bought Lately, and with these very specific products. I DON’T KNOW WHY.

But when the urge strikes, might as well go with it.

I mentioned how taken I was with the Brookstone BioSense Memory Foam Pillow in a recent Stuff I’ve Bought Lately, but at the time, I hadn’t bought it. I was just coveting it from afar, hoping someone would love me enough to buy it for me. SPOILER ALERT: THEY DON’T. So I went and bought one myself.

Guys, this stuff is made up ground up baby unicorns and leprechaun farts, because it is that magical and awesome.

Now, this pillow has not so great reviews online. Which makes me sad. But I also think it’s for a very specific kind of sleeper. This pillow is very HIGH. It is soft and supportive, but it does not collapse as, say, a down pillow would. For this reason, I think my husband? Would not like this pillow. He likes soft pillows. I, on the other hand, would sleep on two phone books stacked up on top of eachother if it kept my head in line with my spine. I am also rarely a back sleeper – I prefer my side or stomach.

So basically, if you notoriously stack pillows (I would – no lie – sleep on two or sometimes three pillows), this may be a great pillow for you. Also, it breathes easily and stays cool, so I don’t find myself waking up in the night to rearrange to find a “cool side”, which is something I didn’t realize I was doing until I bought this pillow.

Now, for most folks, this is not the right pillow. But if you’re like me, this is AWESOME.

I saw this in the store a week or so ago and did a double take. Did this look what I thought it looked like? Is this a drugstore Wen? And, y’all, IT TOTALLY IS. It’s apparently pretty new as I couldn’t easily find it online, but it’s called L’Oreal EverCreme Conditioning Cleanser. And it’s a one-step process for hair.

Now, I’ve reviewed Wen and I actually stopped using it after about six or seven months. 1) the cost was just pretty crazy. It was great for conserving color and my hair was in much better condition, but THE COST. 2) I don’t remember the other reason. So I was curious to pit this against the standard.

I’ve now used this for over a week and here’s what I think: it’s pretty darn close to the real thing.

I do have some drawbacks however.

  • There are no specific directions for use of this product. Only because I’ve used Wen before do I know that for best results, you section off your hair in quarters for application and then comb it through. I don’t even think it says that much on the bottle.
  • There is very little product in the bottle. You’re easily going to put 2-3 pumps in each quartered-section of your hair .. maybe more if you have really long or thick hair. This bottle may not last very long as a result.
  • The pump itself is not good. It’s a struggle to get product out.

BUT. Dude, you’re paying $6 vs. the $45 I was paying per bottle. And I’ve seen the same results from it. If you have dry, curly, or color-treated hair (or, like me, ALL OF THE ABOVE), this will be a savior product for you. Also, I took a shower yesterday using this product and the shower took me five minutes total. (I did not shave, but STILL.)

I don’t have very specific feelings for this product, and that kind of makes me sad. Although I’m a huge fan of the PerriconeMD No Foundation Foundation, my outdoor running had me actually .. looking .. tan(nish)! It was weird! So I delighted in that and decided to buy a little something with color to it and live it up with the Mabelline Dream Fresh BB Cream.

(Then I promptly got bronchitis and have not seen the sun since.)

Anyway, I bought this in Light/Medium which is what most people wear over the winter. I know that. But this is my Summer-And-I’ve-Never-Been-This-Dark shade. It’s an okay product, but everyone had been going so ga-ga over bb creams (beauty balms, for the uninitiated) that I kind of expected more. But it’s basically a liquid foundation with some SPF in it. It’s not nearly as heavy or drying as I find most foundations, so I can actually wear it, but I don’t feel dewy or perfect in it. Meh. Just meh. Would not buy again, honestly.

This is not something I’ve bought lately, because I haven’t bought one. YET. I borrowed my mom’s Haan FS20 Steam Mop this week when I finally got tired of being sick and was convinced that my house was part of the problem. (Pro Tip: Do not steam clean floors while you’re running a fever. YOU WILL DIE.)

Anyway, I took this bad boy home and cleaned and sanitized the kitchen and all bathrooms. I would’ve loved to have gotten our living room as well, but Momma Is Sick, Kids. But it was SO easy to use, incredibly lightweight, and BOY HOWDY does it get nice and hot. I think my experience would’ve been improved with two pads (I just took one with me for the trial run), but my floors are STILL squeaky-clean (seriously, OUR SHOES SQUEAK) days later. I want one.

Q&A Time: Does anyone own one of these? It’s a Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum and y’all, it looks SO AMAZING. And it’s gotten insanely good ratings online. Since we have three dogs and two cats (and two boys), this may take precedence over the steam mop. But I thought I’d ask if anyone had any first-hand experience.

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Do My Morals Govern My Wallet?

I remember when I was in middle school, there was this new drink to come out. It was bottled – like, in real glass! – and had delicious fruit flavors that sounded exotic, like kiwi watermelon. I wanted some SO BAD. Everybody was drinking it. They even had facts under the pop-top lids, so you were LEARNING while you drank it! I would envy my friends as they would show up with these bottles at school, and I would have my stupid Diet Pepsi or whatever.

It was called Snapple, and my mother wouldn’t let us buy it, because she had heard that the parent company had ties to the KKK.

Now, you can go check that out and see that, obviously, it wasn’t true. But in 1991, we didn’t have Snopes to guide us in the way of urban legends, so my mother stuck to her convictions. Now that I’m old enough to have to make the same decisions, I’m really kind of proud of her. Her money would not go to support things that she didn’t believe in.

Now I’m staring into the belly of the beast, and I’m just not sure how to feel.

The Boy Scouts of America

Last week, the Boy Scouts of America – which, is to be noted, is a privately-run group – reaffirmed their stance that they would not welcome or accept gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered scouts or leaders into their organization. They feel – and have been open about it – that the LGBT lifestyle is not reflective of what they believe represents their organization.

For whatever reason, we’ve never had either of the boys mention anything about Boy Scouts. I don’t know if it’s just not big around here locally or if they just didn’t know such a thing exists, but I’ve asked Bryan frankly what we would do if they did ask to join.

Bryan mentioned that Jack is of an age that we can discuss openly with him why we’d hesitate to participate with the organization, but also noted that we send him to a private Christian academy. His curriculum is just as .. traditional as the beliefs touted in Boy Scouts, and yet we pay for him to attend there and be educated in those beliefs.

“How would we address that hypocrisy?” I asked.

Bryan sighed. “I don’t know. I guess it’s up to us to educate him in diversity.”

So there’s something to be said there. It’s up to us as parents to show the kids what a colorful tapestry we are as human beings, but .. it feels incredibly exclusive to participate in a group that doesn’t acknowledge all the threads.

I was especially moved by the recent flux of Eagle Scouts returning their medals to the Boy Scouts of America, because they feel that the recent affirmation of exclusion is counter-intuitive for what they stood for. I also didn’t realize how much weight an Eagle Scout award carried, and just how important it is for it to be returned.

In summation, we haven’t had to cross this bridge. But my boys are still young, and there’s still enough time for one of two things to happen: they could want to join the Boy Scouts, or they could discover that they are gay. Both of those things could happen. And I hate that one completely negates the other.

Chick-Fil-A

Just as I had never been affected by the Boy Scouts of America and their stance, the recent affirmation of Chick-Fil-A’s similar stance has shaken us to our core. We eat there weekly, to be frank. Bryan grew up dining at the original Chick-Fil-A, actually called The Dwarf House, because his father worked overnight at the Atlanta Airport and the Dwarf House was open around the clock. When we visited Atlanta in March, we took the boys there so they could go through the little, dwarf-sized door.

And I have similar ties. A couple of our local Chick-Fil-As were owned and managed by my BFF’s dad when we were in high school. Needless to say, there were always trays of chicken at every occasion. Their chicken tastes like home to me. I know that sounds silly to say, but seriously! A lot of my friends worked there in high school and college, and we still know folks who work there.

This is the subject Bryan and I cannot agree on.

(Mostly because I cannot settle on any one opinion.)

There is the one hand, where I feel that exclusion is not okay. I am very much not a fan of Focus on the Family, which is an organization that backs traditional marriage, but in a fire and brimstone manner.

But then – there is the other hand. In which Chick-Fil-A does so much right.

Chick-Fil-A gives millions of dollars in scholarships to its employees that are starting college. They donate to MULTIPLE charities year-round. They donate food to emergency workers like no one’s business. They provide books in their children’s meals, instead of some crappy plastic toy that I’ll just end up throwing away anyway. They use high quality products, which make me feel better about driving through. They believe in customer service like none other I’ve seen.

They do so much right. And I’m sad that this is such a large wrong.

But here’s where Bryan and I had lengthy discussions. Bryan pointed out that Chick-Fil-A’s mission statement has always started in a religious manner. They are closed on Sundays, to allow their employees time to worship. They have never, ever hidden who they are. So this recent admission by founder Truett Cathy that he is “guilty as charged” when it comes to backing traditional marriage is not a surprise. It is not new.

They are also not tasked with shaping young men into upstanding citizens, as are the Boy Scouts.

They are tasked with deliciousness. And on that, they deliver.

Yesterday, the Jim Henson Company announced that they would be severing any ties with Chick-Fil-A. They announced that any backlogged payment that came from Chick-Fil-A would immediately be donated to GLAAD. To be honest, that was what lowered the hammer for me. Jim Henson has been my moral beacon for many, many years.. his message of inclusion through puppetry shaped a lot of who I am today. It’s not easy being green, as Kermit says. It’s not easy being different. So we should love everyone in their various shades of green.

But – doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t exclude those who disagree with us? I’m speaking to inclusion, of all people, and doesn’t that mean that I should preach tolerance? Doesn’t that mean I should have an open dialogue in my home, with my progeny, to explain what we believe to be fundamental truths?And that we still acknowledge and love those who don’t necessarily agree with us?

I DON’T KNOW.

(Of course I know.)

As has been said, the front lines of the civil rights movement was the lunch counters. Where you spend your money matters.

I stand with Jim Henson and Kermit.

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Health and Gunky Lungs

I still have gunk in my lungs. I am tired of having gunky lungs. I woke up yesterday feeling a little better, but then I did a bit too much yesterday and I’m feeling like I have rocks in my head again today. I am ready to get out. I haven’t run in weeks due to this cold, but I’m not near ready yet. I feel like this is making me a fat ass.

Part of gunky lungs is that all I’m hungry for is really spicy or really sweet. I’ve had ice cream almost every night because it feels good on my throat. Oh, also, I crave really sour. I’m just not wanting anything solid or healthy or whatever.

My sick food is always coconut soup and curries, and I’ve been indulging a little bit in that. AndreAnna’s got a great recipe for coconut soup, but it looks too complex for my current stamina level, so it’s mostly just been me making Puss-n-Boots eyes at Bryan and begging him to go get some for me.

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I’ve been trying to write meaningful posts in my head as I’ve been sick, but I had, like, actual writing deadlines for places other than this, and then my creativity is completely sapped when I get back here. I can tell you that I’m trying to put together my thoughts regarding the recent stories of Chick-Fil-A and the Boyscouts of America reaffirming their “traditional” stances.. but I’m not sure I truly have a complete theology around it yet. We are a houseful of boys, though, so I feel like I should be ready. Because it’s coming.

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I’ve had three cans of this today. Because it’s tart and fizzy and it makes me feel better. I’m pretty sure it’s not as healthy as I want to believe it is, though.

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My sister is getting married in two weeks. I haven’t mentioned it much here because it’s all kind of coming together last minute and to be honest, she doesn’t like having a fuss made over her. If it were up to her, we’d all just watch a YouTube video of them signing the papers at the courthouse and then leave her the hell alone so she could take a nap or something. (.. this, actually, sounds very nice to me too.)

But because we are Italian, something must be done. At the very least, a meal with alcohol. This time, we are working to NOT intoxicate the children because we learn from our mistakes.

We spent a .. goodly amount of time yesterday “crafting” for the wedding, which basically means we were stealing ideas from Pinterest and only following them sort of as we slapdashed our way through it. The best part of this wedding is that we purposefully chose a “rustic” theme, which is code for, “No, it’ssupposed to look like a drunk hillbilly made it”.

If nothing else turns out well, I am just excited because Jenni and I are having hair and makeup done. We are not the type to splurge on stuff like that, so this is extra special fancy. I might even get an updo, y’all.

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On a very polarizing topic – health care in America – my big corporate company is making two large changes in insurance this coming year. 1) we now have to make paycheck contributions (I know; we are INSANELY fortunate that until now, the insurance that covers my entire family has been $0 out of my pocket) and 2) they are mandating that we have health screenings.

Now, there are folks who feel that the health screenings are bad, and are meant to prevent folks with pre-existing conditions from getting good coverage. But our screenings are administered by a third-party and are homogenized into one big ole “here’s the health of your employees” pie chart or whatever, so I don’t mind them. Also, I am healthy, so there’s that.

We had a blood draw to determine our cholesterols and glucoses and whatever, and dude, I ROCKED THOSE NUMBERS. I mean, I was OFF THE CHARTS GOOD. Even my glucose – which I was worried about, since I’d had OJ prior to the test even though I was supposed to fast – was really really good. But my BMI? Was in the obese category.

THIS MAKES ME CRAZY. I run three times a week. I am really very good with my diet. I cook for my family using coconut oil and fresh vegetables and organic meats. I drink a LOT of water.  I am not as small as I have been pre-kids, but I am strong.*

But because there’s this stupid indicator of BMI that calls me obese, I will be called three times a week by some health coach who wants to help me “improve my health”. Dude, I’m okay. I’ve got this. (Now, if you’re THAT concerned, you may pony up or at least cover through insurance the funds to have lipo peformed all over my body. That’d be fine too.)

* All of these things are true when I am not sick. When I am sick – aka RIGHT NOW – all bets are off.

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Tony decided to create a portrait of me.

Y’all, I think he nailed it.

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