Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Planning Your Present

Recently posts from Motherese and Tenaciously Yours have gotten me thinking about time management and paper calendars.

Right now, I have three calendars. We have a family one, a wall calendar with important appointments and social events. Then I have a calendar on my phone that I sync with my work Outlook. And most recently, I moved to a paper planner-style calendar.

I've always adored daily planners. Really, I've just adored the act of planning, of imposing my organization on life. The idea that a post-it can mean the difference between my mortgage being paid and getting a rather unfriendly second notice.

I need to see my life in living color.

So I went through Amazon and got overwhelmed. Like Motherese, I am a tactile person. I need to see and feel something as intimate as a planner. So I decided instead to hit Office Max.

I immediately got overwhelmed. What did I want in a planner? What was I trying to accomplish? I knew I didn't need a full daily calendar because I wasn't going to plan life hourly. I still use Outlook for all of my work projects, a necessity. Most of my weekly hours are taken up with those meetings, and so there's no need for me to map that out.

But I wanted enough room to write my other appointments and notes, so a monthly calendar wouldn't do.

I narrowed it down to weekly planners, wire-bound because I like to lay it on my desk or coffee table when I'm working. And it's easier for me to write when it's perfectly flat.

Nobody was more shocked than what I came home with. It's sort of a running joke around these parts.

I picked The Day-Timer Mom Planner.

Yup, the Mom Planner.

I tried to avoid it. I did. I didn't want those calendars with color coded stickers identifying who is doing what. Honestly, Wee 'Burb's days are mostly as stable as mine. She's in daycare a good chunk of it. She's hardly filling a calendar full of Girl Scout meetings or anything at 21 months.

But this planner is simple. It's got enough room to write. It divides days into morning, noon, and night for better organization.

But my favorite part? The part that tickled my organizational fancy so deeply that I was able to look past the Mom moniker?


Okay, you can't see it that well, but on the top of the right page has space for meal planning.

I've gotten away from meal planning over the summer. It's just so damn hot, more often than not we do frozen meals on the stovetop or grill whatever we have laying around.

But imposing this level of organization was more than exciting for me. It inspired me to get back on the meal-planning bandwagon.

Also? For some reason this planner started in July! So I actually was paying for a calendar that wasn't half useless. Double score!

The official Daytimer site has the planners listed as $22 but I believe I payed about $15. Either way, it was worth it for me.

So spill it. How do you organize your life? Right now I color-code my calendar. Work deadlines (including freelance) are in blue with green highlighting, appointments (doctor, hair, etc) are in red, and fun social stuff is in purple with a pink highlighter. And it's already covered in post-it reminders. The only thing that makes me happier than color-coding is lots of post-its.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Top 5 Reasons Why L.A. is Overrated

I found Ameena at Fancy That Fancy This through Kat at Tenaciously Yours and I am so glad I did! I love finding someone who is honest: sometimes, ya kind of get sick of your husband and your kid. Do you love them? OF COURSE! But do you sometimes want to smack them until they stop whining? OF COURSE! The thing is, there's never a post where you don't think she's an awesome mom and wife. Her writing is captivating and funny, self-deprecating and humble. Start with this post on being overwhelmed whether at home or on vacation. Something tells me I am sitting here relating right now as I return from my trip.

Those of you who are familiar with my blog www.fancythatfancythis.com know that I hate Los Angeles with a passion. You probably also know that I escape at every opportunity. I even welcomed a visit to Stephanie's home state of Minnesota during the depths of winter this past January! But what you may not know is why I detest L.A., so when Stephanie called for guest posts tackling Top 5 lists, I realized this was the perfect chance for me to explain myself.

The Top 5 Reasons Why L.A. is Overrated

1. L.A. is hard on the self-esteem. Some days I'll actually make an effort with my hair and clothes, maybe even slap on some blush if I'm feeling particularly energetic, and I'll feel pretty good about myself. Until I walk out of the house and run into Jessica Alba and/or Jennifer Aniston and/or one of the many other gorgeous stars that inhabit L.A., at which point I'll feel like a fat, hideous, unattractive mess.

2. The traffic is horrific. Since 99% of my day is spent sitting in gridlock traffic trying to get somewhere, there is little to no time left to enjoy what few attractions (the beach, Disneyland) L.A. has to offer.

3. L.A. is hard on the skin. You are probably thinking, "Ameena, must you complain about everything? Just put on some lotion." Trust me when I say that even a trough of Curel can't repair the damage that the dry and smoggy L.A. weather causes. I've tried. My skin still looks like crap.

4. Everything is fake. From fake body parts to fake people...L.A. is full of it. Literally.

5. The weather is overrated. Yes, I realize I am likely the only person who complains about the mild L.A. weather. But spend one Santa Ana wind-driven, fire-filled October and/or November here and you'll want to hightail it out of here as well. I guarantee it.

The beaches here are gorgeous. If only it didn’t take hours to get to them.

I hate to be so negative so I'll end this guest post with the one major perk Los Angeles offers: LAX is the second busiest airport in the country which means that if I can maneuver my dry-skinned self through the horrendous traffic and the sea of fake people surrounding me, I can hop on a flight out of here at the drop of a hat.

So I guess L.A. isn't so bad after all...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

Hard as it was, cutting myself off a bit from technology for two weeks was oddly liberating. For the first few nights, I didn't know what to do. I read a book. And caught up on my magazines. I actually talked to my husband. It was odd.

I just want to thank everyone who guest posted for me while I was gone, you'll be getting one more tomorrow too. I also want to thank those of you who came over here, commented, and even joined my site! I'm thrilled to have you all here.

There were a million great things about my vacation to Cape Cod. I had tons of amazing fresh food, I met Sparkling over at Lia Sophia Tomgirl (can I tell you, it's so awesome finding out that someone you think will be super cool and easy-going is actually that in real life?), and I had an amazing new drink called PainKiller that was just about the most magical thing I've ever tasted.

But one of the best parts? Really spending time with Wee 'Burb and getting to know her as the little person she's becoming at 21 months. I had no clue just how much she's learned at this new daycare.

So my parents have an outdoor shower and I decided to take her out and see what she thought. She had an absolute blast playing in the water, but she didn't want to climb all the way in. So I tried to figure out a game to play to get her to stick her head in the water and wash off the shampoo without squealing like a piggy off to the slaughter.

So I start randomly singing the hokey pokey, figuring I'll teach her.

Apparently I was a bit too late. My child, not even two, started turning her little white naked baby butt around, clapping when I said "that's what it's all about" and then screeching with pure delight as she dunked her head in the water.

She spent the rest of the weekend turning around and clapping and yelling "pokey" until someone sang the song.

She also knows how to count in both English and Spanish, is proficient in "if you're happy and you know it" and is learning her colors.

How is it possible to fall more in love with this kid every day?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Top 5 Seriously Random Closet Finds

So, Ryan over at The Woven Moments is the only person who responded to my post about period polish saying she would TOTALLY wear something with Menstruation in the title on her fingertips. Is it weird I liked her more after that? I relate to most of her posts, but this post about the terrible twos starting much earlier had me nodding the whole time. Go check her out for some TRUTH.
I was recently (inexplicably) motivated to clean out my toddler’s closet.

Wait, wait. Before you roll your eyes and wonder why the hell Steph let me guest post, let me explain.

Before my daughter (blog name Pumpkin) was born, this room was an office-slash-guest bedroom-slash-place-to-throw-stuff-where-no one-would-see-it.

You’ve got one of those, right?

When Pumpkin was born we transformed the room into a nursery. The room got painted, furnished, and decorated. The closet got ignored.

And now, almost two years later, that closet was calling to me. Beckoning me. I spent hours going through boxes, bags, and piles.

And now I give you, my top 5 favorite random closet finds.



We made the digital music switch about five years ago. But in this closet, I found enough CDs, CD binders (remember 3-ring binders? Yeah, me neither.), and CD binder sheets to make 19-year-old-me cackle in Eve-6-and-Third-Eye-Blind delight.

I wracked my brain for a new use for these CD binder sheets. Ironic coasters? Waterproof toddler mattress pad?

Destination: Donate Pile. May they make some archaic music lover very happy.


Think of the tasks left undone! The appointments never scheduled! Tragic, really.

This is a perfect example of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. My darling husband (B) is a brilliant problem-solver type who struggles with organization. And writing things down. And remembering to do things because he hasn’t written them down.

So here I come, Miss I-Can-Totally-Fix-You-By-Teaching-You-To-Be-More-Like-Me, and buy him a day-planner. Which he promptly throws away when I’m not looking loses.

So I buy him another.

And another.

Changing tactics, I bought him a journal. So he could write about his FEEEEELINGS about being disorganized. (I realize I need help.)

Eventually, I decided to stop badgering him and just accept the lack of organization. He has a whole room in the house that he can trash enjoy. It has doors that close and lock when anyone (ANYONE) comes over.

So it’s no surprise that I found the unused day planners when I cleaned out the closet. They are about as useful to my husband as the CD binder sheets are to me.

Destination: Trash Pile (outdated planners) and Donate Pile (sad, empty journal)


Oh! The cheesiness of young love!

Most love letters are, well, LETTERS. Leave it to me to create a handmade valentine, complete with glitter.

Shut up. I was an elementary school teacher. I was 22. I was in love.

Destination: Memory Box. Because my kids will definitely want to make fun of me for this someday. And let’s be honest, I deserve it.


Box of Illegal-Smelling Awesomeness

Remember smoking? I do. Fondly.

When I first quit smoking, I faced a seriously uphill battle of cravings for nicotine. The gum never appealed to me; I wanted to smoke. A friend recommended the nicotine-free cigarettes.

I immediately ordered a carton.

The problem? Well, when you pull a big bright green box out of your pocket that has the words “Ecstacy” written on it, you tend to get some questions.

But the sideways glances really start when you light up and everything starts to smell like pot.

I found no fewer than six packs of these babies in the closet that day. Sigh.

Destination: Trash Pile but only after seriously considering smoking one out back, then reconsidering because I live next door to a cop.


Hands down the best part of cleaning out this closet was finding the old pictures. And with that, I introduce you to my husband, B. The Scottish stone mason.

I'm completely overwhelmed by caption possibilities here.

I wish I could have a caption contest for this picture. My entries would be:

“I take my re-enactments very seriously.”

“Stop pretending you don’t love these bloomers.”

“This is me sniffing the air of my own awesomeness.”

The truth of this picture is pretty great. B was an extra in HBO’s Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning mini-series, John Adams. It was filmed near our home in 2007.

B got to rub elbows with Laura Linney (swoon) and even got to be in a scene with Paul Giamatti. You can view that scene here…but you totally can’t see can baaaaarrrrreeeeely see B.

Destination: Memory Box. Because we are still waiting for HBO to send B his little gold statue. Any day now....

This is Stephanie and I am totally initiating a Caption Contest. I don't know what the prize will be, but I really am dying to see what people write.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top 10 Ways I Knew I Was A Mom

I kind of want to write my own Top 10 list for why I love Rachel at Life with Baby Donut. Not only is she a prolific commenter, she's also an amazing support person on Twitter. Also? She's not afraid to ask for support when she needs it, something I respect in a woman, especially a mom. Check out this post on blogging insecurities for an example of her honest writing and reaching out to others.

I believe there comes a time when every woman who has a child looks at herself and thinks “Oh my gosh—I am such a mom!” Now you’d think going through a painful labor and birthing a child would be that defining moment. Or perhaps even breastfeeding and ending up sore and in pain. While those moments certainly point to mom-hood, there were actually a few other, subtler ways that I knew I’d arrived.

Here I present the top 10 ways I realized that I was a mama:

1. I picked a giant booger. And it wasn’t mine.

2. I can tell if a diaper is full simply by scent.

3. I let my kid lick my face. I don’t allow anyone, including my dog, to do that.

4. “Ssshhhh” has become the most often used word in our house.

5. I typed up a spreadsheet comparing the price of diapers between different stores. (I realize this also makes me a nerd.)

6. I wear zero makeup. This is a big deal!

7. I googled the words to “Pat-A-Cake.”

8. I can eat, hold a baby, do a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher at the same time! With only 2 hands!

9. I can no longer leave the house in less than 30 minutes.

10. I make sure most everything in my purse can be used as a chew toy in an emergency.

There you have it. What was your defining moment?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top 5 Horrific Fashion Choices that I have Personally Donned

Everybody, meet Mads at La Petite Pancakes. Her Today in Tweets always make me laugh and wish I commented more on her awesome Tweets when they cross my path. Speaking of commenting, Mads is an awesome blog commenter, and always has something fun or insightful to say. Also, if her pug doesn't make you just want to squish its little face even more, then I can't help you. Please read her immediately.
I would like to say that my fashion “dont's” have been largely attributed to passing trends. If only! I so wish my worst nightmares were pictures of me in acid washed jeans or big 80s hair.

But no.

The majority of my faux pas have all been self-discovered “gems”. Things I thought were totally cool, but nobody else would touch with a ten foot pole.

Some examples:

1) Monotone colors. As in, yellow tights, yellow sweatshirt, and a giant yellow bow in my hair. I did this every day for the entirety of 1st grade. And yes, my big yellow bows were pretty similar to Princess Beatrice’s. Hot mess.

2) The single thick braid. I’m not talking about braiding my whole head of hair. No, no, that would be too cute. I’m talking about wearing my hair down with one large braided chunk hanging off to the side. I wasn’t following a junior high fad, I simply thought it was awesome. Add this to the fact that I frequently wore pajamas to school. Who allowed that?!

3) Hemp necklaces. This would have been cool in high school if I was a pothead, but alas, I was not. Instead, I made them in “art club” and sported the stinky thing around my neck every day. I was also in “earth club”. No really, I wasn’t a stoner. Really.

4) Bracelets from my wrist up to my elbow…on Both. Arms. Horrific.

5) Leather mini skirt. I bought this for a Halloween costume and continued to wear it out and about town. I watch women on “What Not to Wear” reuse costumes as “normal” clothes all the time, and I am sad to say I was one of those women.

I’m oh so sorry that I don’t have any pictures. We could all share in the hilarity and mortification.

What’s your worst self-discovered fashion “gem”?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Five Bucks and Five Minutes

Are you guys sick of me constantly quoting and referencing Kat from Tenaciously Yours? I just find her writing so relatable and her blog is as welcome to me as my glass of wine at the end of the day. One of my favorite recent posts has her going on a dive bar date with her new husband. So if you aren't reading her by now...what's WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? At least enjoy her guest post and give her some love.

When Stephanie was looking for guest posters, I was like...obviously. So here goes, kittens. Get ready to hang on for the ride.

I'm a die-hard shopaholic, fashionista and wine bar-lover. But I like to keep a busy schedule so,  nine times out of ten you'll find me running around the cities like a chicken with my head cut-off. Or you might just find me running. The realities of a 24-hour day aside, I'm definitely the girl who believes that little luxuries can make the biggest difference.

There's something to be said about otherwise mundane things that can make you feel happy. Pretty. Worth it. Things that take less than 15 minutes. But just long enough that you have to set it aside for yourself.

I'm also That Person who is totally guilty of saving things for A Special Occasion, and then never finding an occasion quite special enough. So little luxuries save me from stockpiling.

1. Red lipstick.
This, is most assuredly a luxury that doesn't lend itself well to over-thinking. Red is BOLD. For those who keep their eye color and skin tone in-mind when selecting an appropriate color palette for clothing and make-up, it can be overwhelming.

My advice? Next time you're at Target, just grab a tube. You're going to want to think about the situation. Keep it rational. But do yourself a favor, and don't do that. Because thoughtfulness is what has kept you from bringing that tube of lipstick home before today.

And yes, it's okay to choose the brand/color of red that's on sale (you bet your Birkin that's what I did). Ease into the situation.

2. A DIY mani-pedi.
I have a sneaking suspicion that half of the people who read this today will look down at their hands and realize that no, they haven't painted their nails in the last two weeks. Me too.

Even when I know I finally have enough time to make it happen, I find something else more Useful and more Productive to fill that space with.

But there's a certain amount of catharsis that comes with looking down at your mitts and seeing color instead of chips. A glossy shimmer instead of a hangnail.

If you're the type of person that does a basecoat and a topcoat, dispense with both of them. This is about a quick fix so that you're not That Friend at happy hour.

3. A new magazine.
Yes, this means that you have to read it when it hits the newsstands instead of in the month/week it claims it's published for. You get bonus points if it doesn't contain any recipes. Because as much as I love a good cooking magazine a la Cooking Light or bon appetit, they mean Work. Which is exactly the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish.

4. A mug of tea.
If you're the kind of person that owns an espresso machine with a milk frother, then please feel free to disregard the following message. For the rest of the group, we continue.

Because it's time to spring for that box of tea that costs $5 at the store instead of $3. The kind with the nice paper wrappers that you would never, ever consider buying for yourself but you would be more than happy to offer-up to guests. The kind of tea that feels like an escape instead of a chore (let me tell you, Green Tea is ALWAYS a chore for this lady).

5. Fancy sweets.
I was just going to call this one Ridiculously Expensive Dark Chocolate. But then it occurred to me that some of you might be into salted caramels...or something like that.

If all else fails (since I tried to keep the other four options calorie-free), we turn to the pantry. Not because we're feeling emotional, but because delightful things come from That Place. So break out that treat that someone else gave you as a hostess gift. Because it has a shiny wrapper, and a lovely provenance.

Before you eat it, put it on a saucer. And get out a cocktail napkin. Because this is 90% experience and 10% reality.

What is your little luxury of choice?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summertime and the Livin’ is Good? Top 8 reasons Summer is toooo long

Let's thank whatever deity you believe in that Melissa over at The Literal Mom joined the blogging world this year. A veteran of "top" lists like this, The Literal Mom is also an awesome supporter of other bloggers, featuring guest posts by other mommy bloggers on various topics, both important and funny. Please run to her blog now and offer her thanks for all she shares, especially right here.

1. Summer becomes winter. In other words, you reach a point where you can’t go outside. Why? Too hot to go out, too sweaty to have fun, too many mosquitoes.

2. Pool food makes you fat. “Hi, I’ll take fried with a side of fried. And ice cream for dessert.” Abandon the pool for the state fair? Makes you even fatter. We now have deep fried Snickers at our state fair. Delicious – even IF it’s heart attack on a Styrofoam plate.

3. No matter how much stamina you start with in June, there’s a tipping point, about now, where entertaining your children for 13-14 hours a day is impossible and listening to them entertain themselves with “I’M BORED,” arguing and fighting is even worse.

4. 1000 calories of ice cream per week guarantee a 3 pound weight gain by week 9. That’s math my 4th grader can do. But it’s self-control I apparently can’t do.

5. GOOD LORD, where did the routine go?

6. Back to School shoe shopping is more painful than a root canal. Or maybe more painful than being drawn and quartered. Tarred and feathered. Sliding down a razor into a vat of alcohol.

7. Too much TV starts feeling like child abuse. Like watching their brains turn to goo before your eyes. See #1 for why too much TV starts happening. What do YOU define as too much TV? I define it as when the breaks in between TV watching become shorter than the TV watching itself.

8. No matter how much you’re DONE with summer, the end means a new chapter in your lives. A new milestone reached. And my friends, watching your kids grow up is hard. Gratifying, but hard. Excuse me, I need to go have a good cry now.

What surprises you every summer? What makes you look forward to fall?

The Literal Mom talks about all kinds of fun stuff at www.literalmom.com. Come on over and check me out. Become a subscriber and let’s go through the journey together. Why? Because together, we are stronger. Hope to see you soon. Thanks, Stephanie!

Monday, August 15, 2011

More to Life Than a Cow Creamer

I found Life as a Wife through an awesome Twitter #commenthour and have enjoyed getting to know her and her awesome family through her Tweets and her adorable blog, Life as Wife. Some of my favorite posts are her musings on her husband as a man and father, including this one on how her baby is just like daddy and a letter to daddy from his son that made me cry. Please join me in saying hello and a big thank you for guest posting for me while I am on vacation.

Stephanie in Suburbia never fails to make me laugh; between her live-in-roommate and smarty-pants wee' burb, the chuckles are endless. Of course, I am preaching to the choir because you people are reading her blog and must like her too!

Recently she reminisced about her experience creating a wedding registry and the corer that almost ended it all. To be honest, I had no f-ing idea what the heck a corer even was before her post. I should have known but alas, I did not. Why? Because the hubby and I planned our wedding in three days and I was worried about silly little things like him getting kicked out of the Army for sneaking to the next county to marry me. (For the record, his chain-of-command was none the wiser and he served an amazing three years of service.

I may not covet a ceramic cow creamer but there are a few things that I am not sure how the heck I have survived without. So, without any further bs-ing here are the top five things every newlywed couple should have put on their registry.

1.) A sturdy serving platter: Every new wife needs a beautiful serving platter. During that first year when you burn every meal you will eventually catch your poor hubby mumbling under his breath, use your platter to hit him in the back of the head. The heavier the platter, the better.

2.) Blender: Eventually nothing will sound better then a margarita and having a blender will be a lifesaver (your husband's that is!) The loud noise also works well for drowning out the noise of the game that will be playing on T.V. (A vacuum works as well but I wouldn't recommend registering for one because then you will be expected to clean.)

3.) Monogrammed coffee mugs: Monograms may be the only way you remember to spell your new last name because trust me, your hubby will only think you scribbling out your signature is cute so many times. Really anything from monogrammed towels to a doormat works well.

4.) Comfortable and stylish bedding: The trick here is to register for bedding for both your marital bed and guest room or pull-out. Why? So when his snoring gets unbearable or he hogs the covers you will have somewhere comfy and cute to crash!

5.) Beer keg cooler: This item will serve two purposes. For one - major brownie points with the husband and the other? Look at number three for a reminder.

I blame this all on Steph because before her post, I didn't really care that I didn't have monogrammed, his-and-hers mugs or a blender with over 100 speeds. Don't worry though, I made up for it when it came time for Little Man's baby registry.

What do you wish you had registered for? If you've done a baby registry, were you traumatized by the wedding experience?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Weeks Ahead

I want to mention that I will be having some amazing guest posts coming up in the next two weeks. I know what this means for some people. I know sometimes when I see a guest blogger, I skip the post. It's not who I came to see. It's not the headliner, so to speak.

I hope you don't feel this way about the bloggers I've chosen.

Here's the truth. A few weeks ago, we instituted "take a break" with Wee 'Burb. Like a time out, but less punitive given she's 20 months. It was more about having her step away from a situation and calm down.

It works like 50% of the time. Or to quote Anchorman, "60% of the time, it works all the time."

Which is to say, sometimes it serves its purpose and she just sits and gets distracted from whatever it was that was making her frustrated enough to hit someone. Usually me.

I started thinking about this in my own life, about how great the idea is, really. To sit somewhere with no distractions and just reset.

So that's what I am doing.

Initially, I wanted bloggers to cover the week that I was out. And then I got such great submissions, I decided to go ahead and take the week before, too. To prepare for the weeks ahead. Where I will be traveling with my family and a toddler. Where I will be unplugged for 7 days. Where I will hopefully reset a little bit.

Nothing will change here. I'm still the same old Stephanie, blogging about inanities and showing pictures of my kid.

The truth is, I chose these bloggers because they are funny, sweet, sentimental. They are all so worth reading, I am proud to have them here. I really, truly hope that you go and read each and every one of them.

And I truly hope you'll be back when I am.

Wishing you all the breaks you need!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Life as a Luddite. Part Deux.

Okay, so if you're not insanely bored with my first saga, here's the rest of the story.

As I said, giving up my data plan was hard enough. I wasn't going to give up texting, and luckily (?) my bills wouldn't be reduced by making that particular sacrifice.

Scott suggested I find a pay-as-you-go/no contract phone. Because Verizon doesn't offer great trade-in value for phones and doesn't give credit for phones after your initial contract, I had to find something affordable.

The only requirement I had was that it have a QWERTY keyboard.

Um, yeah, apparently that was a tall order. The cheapest phone there that met my, apparently, difficult requirement? $80!!

I barely paid that for my Blackberry.

So I did what any resourceful girl would do...I went to eBay.

This was not any easier. I found so many great deals with a label attached later saying "Bad ESN" or "use for parts."

I had to Google everything. Apparently, a Bad ESN means someone (probably) stole it and Verizon has a stopgap where you can't use it.

I finally found one for $50 that said it was usable and also that I could return it in 7 days if need be.

My confidence in Verizon had waned by this point, so I was afraid need may be. And that fear turned out to be quite founded as I entered Verizon and had the guy look at me, puzzled. "Does anyone still use this phone?"

And I stood there, looking at him, feeling like a complete tool. As soon as I said I got the phone on ebay, he laughed. So I told him I was going to go out and buy a phone. He recommended against that. Apparently Verizon recently changed its policy and pay-as-you-go phones no longer work with people who have contracts.

My only phone option? $130. And I would still have to upgrade my contract.

So I left, feeling totally helpless and depressed.

Did I mention I went to a Verizon that was near other errands, so 30 minutes away from me?

I get home and pack up the cell phone to ship back the phone when I realize the guy at Verizon had kept one of the cords. Thank God for my friend Lola who lived nearby and brought it to me, for I was near a breaking point.

I take one last stab at contacting the seller, letting him know I was about to write some negative feedback. He was apologetic, assured me there was nothing wrong with the phone. After some discussion, he called Verizon and got it worked out. It had to do with not fully deactivating a phone number.

I went in Wednesday morning and VIOLA! New phone!

I miss my data plan so much. I miss it when I'm standing in line and want to comment on what somebody is wearing or saying. I miss the little "CHING CHING" when I get a new mention on Twitter. I miss the reassuring "DING" when I get e-mail.

But still? I know it was the right decision. I know I'll get used to it soon. As soon as I can speedily start texting again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lousy with Louses or Balding Gracefully

On Wee 'Burb's first day of her new daycare, I saw the dreaded note on the door. Parents of the center daycare will know what notice I am speaking of.

It's the infectious disease report, usually a one-page note letting you know one of the rhesus monkeys your toddler has been sharing spit-laden toys with has come down with some sort of plague.

Given it was her first day there, I didn't pay much attention until I caught another look at it.


When I was growing up, lice was like herpes. Every girl dreaded getting it, and we all avoided talking about it as long as possible if we got it.

For half of my life, I had hair down to my butt. Thick, beautiful hair. Thick beautiful hair that I didn't want to lose.

For you see, my first experience with lice was when it made its way through my elementary class, somewhere around third or fourth grade. The dreaded note came out and my mother did her usual check, and all was clear.

The next day I went to school. There were two girls, sisters, who I was sort of mildly friends with. Inasmuch as I was friends with anyone at that age. I was painfully shy and withdrawn.

Anyway, we'll call them the M Sisters.

The M Sisters were on the playground, being actively avoided by the other kids. I approached and then took a step back.

The M Sisters were BALD! Their newly shorn pates shining brightly in the sun. The M Sisters were possibly the whitest kids in our school. They were borderline grey. Their naked scalps were nearly transparent.

You guys? They did NOT have lice!! Their mom just freaked out so much given this was the third or fourth outbreak of lice, she took preventive action. By shaving their heads.

From that day on, any time a letter came home about lice I would sob hysterically while my mom checked me, positive that my luscious locks would be shaved as soon as one of those egg sacks was found.

Thank God it never happened (and my mom assured me years later, she NEVER would have shaved my head).

But to this day, when I see the word "lice" I immediately grab my hair protectively, positive someone will show up with a razor and leave my scalp exposed.

Do you think shaving a head is kind of crazy? Have you had to deal with these infectious outbreaks? Has your child ever been Patient Zero on any of these? Do you admit it? Are you itchy now just thinking about it?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Where I Start to Think the Amish Have the Right Idea

Ok, more than slightly more expensive. $30 a week more.

To say I have been concerned about where this $30 was going to come from is rather like saying there's a possibility the words "goddess" and "tiger blood" might be used in the Charlie Sheen roast.

We figured out some of it will come from the fact that Scott has cheaper insurance at his new job. While Wee 'Burb and I will stay on mine, him getting his own will save us a decent amount of money.

We are also considering canceling cable. The challenge we have there is I have an older Tivo without Hulu, so it would become effectively useless with over a year left on my contract. Also, my Comcast deal, thanks to all their insane screw-ups, lasts until January. So there's no immediate need to cancel.

The other easy place to cut back? Our cell phone bills. Because Scott was working on a side business, and his old job gave him a generous stipend for cell phones, we have 3 lines on our cell phone plan. To cancel the third line, we'd have to pay $300. Or we can continue to pay the $10 a month the line costs for a year.

I was a journalism major, but I believe my math works out where that's a no-brainer.  

Did I mention I loathe cell phone contracts?

Anyway, so that wasn't an option. I told the guy we were desperate, what could we do to lower this bill?

He said the saddest words I ever heard: you can cancel your data plan.

The thing is, a year ago when I found a phone I loved, I was told I had to have a data plan and I was put off. What the hell was I going to do with all of these applications? All the complications?

Um, spend half my day on Twitter and e-mail people while standing in line, of course!

But I'm willing to be a team player here, so I said I would give up my data plan.

The catch? Because, let's face it, there's ALWAYS a catch.

My phone was not compatible with no data plan. It was, in other words, far too good for the simple plan I was now trying to reduce my life to.

So I got a list of compatible phones after the dude condescendingly asked me: "does anyone have, like, a basic phone you could use?"

Yes, all my friends and family have cell phones laying about. Piles of 'em.

I grieved for the loss of Internet at my fingers and began searching for a phone crappy enough to allow me to just, you know, talk on the phone.

Oh, and text. I text a lot. And that's not part of my data plan, so I didn't need to give that up.

People? I have to draw the line somewhere. And if I can't e-mail people while waiting for my Starbucks, then I damn sure am going to text them.

Since this is getting a little bit long, I'm going to make the second part of this drama another post.

Are there cuttable bills in your life? How often do you review your budget and bills?

Friday, August 5, 2011

How Selling Used Clothes is Like Internet Dating or How I Got Married and Bought a Skirt

Recently, to aid my ailing closet, I have been trolling eBay. What I noticed was some of the items up for sale were items I was preparing to donate.

So I did a double check and pulled out some of the nicer brand items to see if I could make a little eBay money.

I sat on it for about a week and then finally decided to dive in. After all, what could it hurt? eBay has some nice no-nonsense deals for small sellers like moi. I only pay if my item sells, and even then it's a relatively small portion of what I make. And anything I made in the end was more than I would have made if I donated, right?

As I put my items up, I began to realize something. This is EXACTLY like Internet dating.

Allow me to illustrate.

1. People over-value themselves. When doing some eBay comparisons, I was shocked to find some people trying to sell items for only a few dollars less than I could find new in a department store. Similar to some of the men I came across on Internet dating who demanded women be financially stable, white collar, working women while they advertised themselves as white collar salesmen and turned out to be a lawnmower salesman at Sears. Or women I knew who refused to date divorced men despite having a few divorces under their belt. Be reasonable, people! Play in the right league.

2. People want the details...all of them. I made a rookie mistake on eBay and did not post the measurements of the items I was selling. Huuuuge mistake! I got three or four e-mails a day asking for specifics. Similar to when I was Internet dating and men asked outright for multiple pictures in obvious distrust that the ones you posted were current and accurate. I learned more is more in this scenario.

3. The details don't always sell it. I gave measurements of a shirt to a woman who asked on eBay. She told me that "no woman is THAT big." Granted, it was a shirt I had grown out of, but I thought that comment in bad taste. Much like an e-mail I got that said "oh, okay, I see you do keep yourself in decent shape. Many women don't and just put up pictures that don't show them as whales." Or when I found out the white collar lawnmower salesman's dream job was to sell electronics at Best Buy and I kindly told him things would not be between us.

4. Sometimes people don't read the details. I got a comment from a woman telling me the measurements I had put on a shirt on eBay were incorrect. She told me those were clearly for a large size shirt. The item I was selling was a size large shirt, clearly marked in my post. Just as in my Internet profile it was clear what my age range was and yet 40-year-old men contacted me daily to let me know they loved my smile.

5. Rejection is part of the game, you have to put yourself back out there. So the first round of eBay? Not so hot, people. I sold one shirt out of 5 items. Because it was free, I went ahead and re-listed my items and so far have sold two more. It hurts to see how many people are watching you and not bidding, just like it hurt to see over 30 people had viewed my profile and I had nary an Internet dating e-mail.

But hey, the money I earned on eBay bought me two new skirts so far. And that Internet dating thing? Yeah, it kind of worked out. Thanks to Yahoo personals, I've been married almost three years now.

Are you an eBayer? Any advice for the buyers OR the sellers? Did you try Internet dating?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Period Polish and Other Inspirations

So, some of you may recall mine and Lola's obsession with naming nail polish.  To say our picks were slightly out there is like saying Jennifer Anniston has slightly bad luck with men.

But nothing I could come up with would be nearly as sick as this.

According to their web site, STRANGEBEAUTIFUL creator Jane Schub took "inspirations (sic) and references range from the vampiric gradations of a healing bruise; the moody rusts of menstrual blood; sooty, phantasmal India ink; the profile of a gray blue Heron scooping fish against a background of gooey river runoff and the apocalyptic color palette of Medieval Flemish paintings. Visceral and private, each shade cloaks the finger in an aqueous film of color for an effect that is strange, beautiful, and impossible to forget."

Yes, you read that right. Menstrual blood. Because one wishes to be reminded of that time of the month on date night. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's a specific day of that time of the month. The polish is reportedly called Menstrual Last Day.

Lola's and my animal noises are looking a might normal now, eh?

What's the weirdest marketing you've heard recently? Would you wear something with the word Menstruation in it on your nails? Or anywhere other than the obvious parts?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Daycare Dilemma

Wooooh boy have things been interesting around here as far as Wee 'Burb has been concerned! Last week I alluded to our daycare dilemma.

In early June, I got notice from my daycare provider that she was going to have to have surgery and would be out for at least 6 weeks. Her surgery was scheduled for the end of June!

Last year, this woman was my savior. Tired of paying astronomical prices for infant daycare at a center, a spot opened up in the home daycare across the street. I couldn't believe my luck! A neighbor we knew who already loved my kid, and who also provided everything but diapers. Including formula!!! We figured out we were saving $80 a week.

That figure stayed in our minds for awhile. When I started to realize that Wee 'Burb's development was lagging. When she came home begging for her favorite cartoon, one I had never heard of before in my life. When I realized that Wee 'Burb was the only one not participating in art projects or other curriculum-based items. When the daycare closing at 4:45 meant I had to pick her up every day, couldn't make plans during the evenings.

She was taken care of, she was loved. She went outside twice a day, and I could see she was having a blast. But she was one of 5 kids for one person, and she was the youngest. She was doted on, but I felt maybe not focused on, if that makes sense.

In addition to my suspicions that Wee 'Burb's development wasn't being prioritized (understandably so), there were the constant absences. While I knew the provider had 10 paid days a year, we didn't often get a lot of notice. There was the sump pump disaster, which meant she couldn't go for two days. There were mysterious illnesses (ultimately leading to the aforementioned surgery). Of course I couldn't blame my neighbor, which almost made it more annoying. How can I be mad at a woman whose basement has just flooded for the second or third time in weeks?

But she didn't offer backup care. So we either had to essentially pay two people for one day of care, or I had to quickly rearrange my schedule to have Wee 'Burb home with me.

So, some dissatisfaction was brewing, although I couldn't bring myself to really research other centers because a) I love my neighbor and b) Wee 'Burb loves my neighbor.

But when she approached me about the surgery, I had no choice. There was no way I could keep Wee 'Burb home with me for 6 weeks. To say my current work situation is tenuous is rather like saying Jesse James has a concerning track record with women. I can't afford to have Wee 'Burb yelling "ELMO" on my conference calls right now.

Scott's co-worker recommended a place nearby that had more of a preschool focus. Similar to a Montessori, but without the official label. We went to check it out and to say we fell in love was an understatement.

Along with only 10 other toddlers, with two teachers, Wee 'Burb would learn Spanish twice a week, participate in Music classes the other three. They would spend an hour a day each on gross motor and fine motor skills.

And when the time comes, they would gladly participate in any potty training method we choose.

The kicker? What sealed the deal? Date night.

One night a month, FOR FREE, they would keep my kid until 9 p.m. FOR FREE!

The cost was the problem. $30 more a week is no small deal for us right now. We discussed and debated and then threw up our hands.

Within two weeks of being in this daycare, Wee 'Burb was walking like a pro, climbing stairs, marching in place, trying to sing her ABCs (it goes something like "A B B BEEEE"), and sleeping on a cot (we still have her in a crib at home).

I felt like the choice was made for us. Every instinct told me this was the place for Wee 'Burb.

I thought finding the extra $30 a week was going to be hard. But the worst part? Telling my neighbor.

I brought her flowers and brought Wee 'Burb with me as a cuteness reinforcement. I discovered there's no card titled "Sorry for kicking you while you're down, but we're going another way."

I explained to her about the development issue (she was aware that we had consulted with a physical therapist) and she was so great about it. She admitted she had been considering downsizing or closing. And so far I think the relationship has been just fine.

Every day I get a report of Wee 'Burb's progress at her new daycare. She's playing dress-up, excelling at Simon Says, even learning about hula hoops. I know I made the right decision, even though it was a tough decision.

But how can you put a price on this?

What have been your tough decisions lately? How do you deliver bad news? Do you just rip the Band-aid off or plan it for weeks like I did?