Monday, November 26, 2012

The Perfect Christmas Gifts

I love Christmas catalogs - love, love, love. I love them more than infomercials and the "As Seen On TV" aisle at the CVS. I never buy any of the stuff, because I don't want to be seen carrying something silly out of the store. (Well, there was the shakeweight, but we won't talk about that.)

Since we moved, I haven't gotten any Christmas catalogs. It turns out, they've all be going to my mother-in-law's house, where we briefly forwarded our mail in between the rental and our new house.

On Saturday, my mother-in-law delivered all the junk mail that had accumulated over the past few weeks, including a pile of Christmas catalogs. I was in heaven.

I spent most of the evening gasping and texting pictures to my mom and sister, threatening to buy them the items for Christmas.

Here are some of my "OMFG what the hell were they thinking" gifts.

Light-up Thomas Kinkade Bannerettes - buy two because he's dead and they are extra collectible.

I actually have family members for whom this would be a good gift. I'm looking at you, Uncle T.

Bottles not included. I suppose you'd have to drink 8 bottles of wine to think this was a good idea.

I just can't even. A shower curtain with deer. So you can take target practice while washing your hair?

Well, we are in Texas. 

B, Ella and I all think these are awesome. But we all also agree that Campbell would be on his way to the ER about 15 minutes after opening them. 

Faux jeans with faux rips and faded spots. 

This was actually the one that started it all. I threatened to the monkey and all the outfits to my sister. Shockingly, Ella didn't want one either. 

Faux jeans for the ladies. 

Nothing says "Klassy with a K" like wine in a shoe.

I sent this one to my friend Amy just in case she needed a gift idea for her husband. She asked if it came with a flap. I'm guessing yes.

In case you can't read the caption, you put these on the dash of your car (or truck) and they spin when you stop, start or turn. I just can't even. Who thinks of these things?

People out here in the suburbs take yard decorations very seriously. But I think these might be against deed restrictions. 

Because nothing says Christmas like gnarly zombie feet.

Happy shopping everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My new mortal enemy

A few weeks ago I started a new writing job that I love but that is giving me no end of nervous breakdowns. This past weekend I worked through an entire bag of candy corns. The writing is incredibly challenging and I'm learning a lot. And I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I'm not even sure I'm actually allowed to talk about it. My editor probably also cringes every time she sees an e-mail from me.


One of the things I have to do with this writing job is make sure my content hits a specific Lexile level. I'm sure any readers in the education field will know all too well about Lexile levels.

For those who are lucky enough not to be in the know, a Lexile level is a mystical, magical number that measures the readability of a text. It's strictly computer algorithms based on the length of sentences, the number of words in a sentence, and the frequency of certain quarter words.

The free Lexile analyzer available online will only analyze manuscripts that are saved as a .txt file and that contain fewer than 1,000 words. Everything I've written for this new job has come in between 1,100 and 1,200 words. This means I have to break each manuscript into two pieces and save them individually as .txt files and then submit each one separately. It is a pain in the ass.

Adding to the fun is the fact that I just don't have the hang of writing to specific Lexile levels yet. People keep assuring me that I'll figure it out quickly, but I don't believe them. I spend a lot of time tweaking the passages I've written, shortening and lengthening sentences, putting in or taking out longer words. Most of the time I miss spectacularly.

This Sunday I spent way too much time trying to get  my passages just right. I had to hit a Lexile level of 1100-1180. My day went like this.

Passage 1= 950
Passage 2=1200
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 1=1300
Passage 2= 800
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 1= 1150
Passage 2= 900
Passage 2= 1000
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 2= 1200

I tinkered with that particular piece so much that it was unreadable, and I had to scrap it and start all over again. Sadly, it took me a few more tries to get to the right level.

I think I'd be better at hitting Lexile levels if I understood the logic behind them. But there doesn't seem to be any. It doesn't look at the content or meaning of what you submit, just the numbers, and as we all know, numbers are not my friend.

For the next few weeks, if you need me, I'll either be in my closet eating candy or cursing at my computer.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Waiting for her wings

Lily is in Ballet Austin's production of The Nutcracker again this year. In the days before the auditions, she was very blase about the whole thing. "I'll probably just be an angel again." On audition day, all the girls got crowded into one room to wait for their turn. I think you could have powered a small city with the combined energy of 80 anxious ballerinas. I fled the room because the noise was overwhelming.

When the director walked into the room, the girls were instantly silent, and they all put on their very serious ballet faces. Then they walked off to the theater without us, looking like the pros they are.

Last year I was a wreck waiting for the cast announcement. And this year, I wasn't much calmer. Ballet Austin e-mailed the cast list instead of making everyone drive downtown, and my heart just about jumped out of my chest when announcement arrived.

Much to my relief, Lily's name was on the list. There was a lot of excited jumping up and down when I showed Lily the e-mail, but not quite as much as last year. "I knew it. I'm an angel again." I reminded Lily that being in the Nutcracker was a big obligation in terms of time and money and told her that if she didn't want to be an angel, she didn't have to be.

She quickly reassured me she wanted to be an angel.

This past Sunday I had to drag Lily out of her sickbed and take her in for official photographs. I may have gotten a little weepy watching her get dressed up. The girls were all helping each other with their belts and halos while the moms stood around and took pictures. They all just looked so sweet.

Mom, the loops go on the side. Because there's a snap in the back for the wings that needs to line up. Duh."

I have to go now, mom. Stop taking my picture.

Last year Lily's debut in the Nutcracker got lost in the chaos of moving. I was frantically packing and unpacking boxes in between trips to Palmer to drop her off at the stage door. We made it in time to see one performance, but just barely. 

This year, however, she is in four performances over two weeks, and we can make a big fuss. I can't wait. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The decorating gene

You know how I said I lack the accessory gene? It turns out I lack the decorating gene, too.

In a few weeks, we will be mark our first anniversary in this house, and other than the smudged paint and stains on the carpet, there's not much here to indicate that we haven't just lived here a few weeks.

The only artwork on the walls is there because knittergran hung it last Christmas, right after we moved in. There aren't any pictures of the kids hanging or even displayed on tables. All of the rooms are the same color the builders left them. The house looked better back when we first saw it and it had been staged by professionals.

I want to create a picture wall in the dining room. I really do. And I've even pulled out all the pictures I had up at the other house; they're sitting in a box in my room. But when I think about hanging them, I think about how I need to update all the pictures because it's been three years and the kids have changed a bit. And then I think about how I'd have to go through all my albums online and then actually order prints of the pictures so that I could frame them. And then I think about having to go to the store to buy frames.

And that's when I walk away in dispair at ever getting anything done.

We went to a housewarming party for some of B's clients a few weeks back. Their house was perfect - cool artwork, great colors, personal touches. I asked the wife how long they'd lived there. When she said that it had only been two months, I wanted to cry.

We still don't have any kind of window treatments in most rooms. Runnerdude hung blinds in our bedroom a few weeks ago - a mere 10 months after we moved in. The kids' rooms have curtains only because knittergran took over.

I need to hire a decorator, but I don't want it too look like one threw up all over the place. I'm not an over-decorated kind of person. Maybe I need to bribe several family members and friends to come in and fix things.

Or maybe I just need to accept that I will never have a fancy house.