Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Blogoversary - One Year

Yesterday was the anniversary of my first real blog post.

My blogoversary if you will. But unlike some more committed bloggers, there will be no give-aways or hoopla. I just want to say "thanks."

Thank you for reading my blog. I started My Suitcase Full of Tricks as a place where I could put my thoughts down, maybe make people laugh and help other parents realize that other people live through lunacy too, we survive and it can also be fun.

I didn't think when I started that anyone other than my Facebook friends and my family would read it and I was completely blown away by how supportive everyone was.

I was shocked to quickly learn that with a tiny bit of effort, blogging can introduce you to people from all over the place with who the only things you have in common are the facts that you probably have a kid or two and you have a blog...or not.

I could quickly rattle off a list of people I would absolutely be thrilled to have show up on my doorstep. If you want to know who those people are, give it a day or two and most of them will have commented on this blog post because that's how great they are to me. I think the world of them.

And to wrap up, here are a few quick facts:

  • I did 99 blog posts in 2011. I'm such a slacker. Couldn't do that last one, could ya Ali? 
  • I never wrote about poop although I used the word "poop" 4 times.
  • I never divulged my husband's name or our last name although you could probably figure it out. I didn't even use my own name for several months, but just couldn't get by without it. 
  • I only did one blog post without an image and it was my first post. It was a little love letter to my friend Ciarla who was a treasure trove of info as the only person I've ever known to have a blog. She's amazing. 
  • I still haven't gotten around to making myself a blog button. Anyone want to make one for me? I'm taking volunteers. 
  • I only guest-posted on one other person's blog. I kind of strong-armed the beautiful Rach of Life Ever Since into letting me do it. She also told me how to put social media icons on my blog and I'll NEVER forget that. I owe her a kidney if she ever needs one. 
  • I never had a guest-poster here. Too much organization for me. 
  • I actually had a short-lived freelance blogging gig that I only told a few blogging friends about. 
  • Only two people ever have asked me what the heck my blog name means. I told one of them and I don't even remember who the second person was. And I'm not telling you now, but if you guess I'll gladly confirm. 

Thanks kids! I mean it.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WTF Wednesday - The "Sex Is A New Word" Edition

I was very content to NOT do a WTF Wednesday post until last night at the dinner table when I was leveled with this little gem as my children ate their Brinner (breakfast for dinner).

Leave parenting advice in the comments section please. I need it desperately. But you already know this and have been holding back. 

Ryan: "Mom. You're not going to belieeeeve this and you're going to think it's totally odd. We were looking at a 1980's dictionary and it actually had the word SEX in it." Verbatim.

WTF?!?!?!? Please say he didn't just say what I think he said. Must be a word that rhymes with 'sex'. Oh crap, not many words rhyme with 'sex.' Hex is the only one. Nex? Wex? Plex? MAYDAY MAYDAY!

Me: "OK, hold on. Now whaaaat happened???"

Ryan: "Joe* and I were in class and he was looking up a word in the dictionary and I just saw it. (*names have been changed to protect the child whose mother may be receiving a warning call from me later this morning)

Me: "Reeeally?" I said very suspiciously. "What word was Joe looking up then?"

Ryan: Dead silence..."I have no idea."

Me: "So you're telling me that of the tens of thousands of words in the dictionary, you just 'saw' that one?"

Ryan: "Yes."

Then I got to thinking...Why did he point out that it was a "1980's" dictionary? How did he even know it was a 1980's dictionary? Did the feathered hair and legwarmers give it away?

And since I'm never one to just let dead dogs lie...because I'm the stoopidest mom in the world...

Me: "So why do you think that it's ODD that this word was in a 1980's dictionary?"

Ryan: "Because it's a new word. I've never heard you say that word EVER! So it has to be new."

The fact that I don't in fact say this word often is one that my husband will readily attest to.

I dropped it. I didn't need to be getting myself in over my head at this moment. I had three kids to which I still had to force-feed scrambled eggs.

So, my predicament: What do I do here? My fear is that now that he's aware of the WORD "sex" he's going to want to know about it. Should I prepare a few speaking points? Read a book?

Most importantly, do I call Joe's Mama and give her a heads-up? (get it? Joe's Mama? I crack myself up). My husband made an unprecedented good point: We don't want her to think that Ryan taught it to her kid so let's head this off at the pass.

It didn't even occur to me until later that he probably read the definition. I just looked it up on Dictionary.com. It's pretty boring until you get to the 4th definition which is "coitus."

I totally forgot how awesome the word "coitus" is. Nobody will EVER hear the word "sex" come out of my mouth again because from now on the unspeakable act will now be referred to as "coitus." I'm calling my husband now to let him know.

SO WHAT SHOULD I DO - Leave comments!

WTF?!?!? Coitus, coitus, coitus, coitus.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Random Ali Facts - Round 2

A few months after I got on Facebook for the first time just over three years ago, there was this Facebook note thing that went around asking for 25 Random Facts about you. I'm reposting to my blog with 2012 updates. If you missed Round 1, here it is.  Random Ali Facts - Round 1

Here's Round 2 with a gratuitous 2009 photo. 

2009 Fact 6:  I’ll never tell somebody their baby is cute if they really aren’t (have I gotten you thinking). 

2012 Update: No update. This is true. Sadly not all babies are created equal and of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty is only skin deep, every rose has it's thorn...and all those other beauty quotes (OK that last one was totally not a beauty quote, but a great excuse to get in a 80's hair band reference).

I'm certainly not rude about it, I simply find something else complimentary to say and I am REALLY good at thinkin' up words. Luckily I'm not as bad as Kramer...(stupid YouTube wouldn't allow this one to be embedded). Kramer sees an ugly baby.

2009 Fact 7:  I’m a wealth of useless information. Not as bad as the kid from Jerry McGuire though. 

2012 Update:  No longer true. I'm pretty sure whatever was left of my rapidly deteriorating brain was pushed out the other side of my body along with Justin years ago. I must not have realized that at the time I wrote this. I used to know bunches of stuff. Nothing good that would impress anyone, but things like Madonna's full name, years that songs came out and lines from TV shows. 

Today, I can't even remember my own children's names, although I still do remember Madonna's. I can't recall off the top of my head where the last Olympics was, can't name one movie in the theater right now or what name P Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs is going by these days. I can't even remember where I left my keys or whether I put on deodorant that morning.

I will add here that I was able to impress my husband and brother last night with my knowledge of the John Wayne Gacy story...but that's just weird and not something to brag about. 

2009 Fact 8:  I switched to cloth napkins last year to make up for using disposable diapers. 

2012 Update:  Still only use cloth, although if you read news of a woman being strangled by a cloth napkin it will be me. My husband (who folds most of the laundry) is over it. I just came up with the brilliant idea of teaching the kids to fold them. I'm going to start taking the saying "hand are for helping, not hurting" literally. 

2009 Fact 9:  My dogs bark when I’m on work calls and always when it’s my boss. 

2012 Update:  I work from home. *Insert sounds of angels here* It is the best gig I can imagine. However, the second I pick up the phone a neighbor's dog comes into my yard, takes a crap and causes my dogs, who are watching longingly through the window, to go berserk. And the 2009 boss? He became my new boss again yesterday and I'm really happy about it. This will be the first and last time I mention him on my blog. OK, maybe once more. 

2009 Fact 10:  I still have a pair of pants at the seamstress that I dropped off in November.

2012 Update: For those of you who aren't Math whizzes, that would be November of 2008. They were a pair of post-baby jeans that I reluctantly bought from Forever 21. Yeah, not quite a place that my fat ass needs to be buying pants. It took me so long to actually get back around to picking them up that by then I miraculously fit back into my old jeans again. Rather than paying $10 for the hem on a $19 pair of jeans that I'd never wear... I left them. Yes, I realize this is stealing. It was is disgraceful and I still feel bad about it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WTF Wednesday - The "You Can Dress Him Up, But..." Edition

The only thing better than owning the perfect little black dress is being invited to a place where you can actually wear it. And can you blame a girl for wanting a picture of herself and the man she loves (I admit it) all gussied up?

And while I was doing my best to look presentable, I learned after 3 shots that I was taking pictures with Dorky High School Girl Pose Man, Vulgar Lizard Tongue Guy and Derek Zoolander's full-figured older brother stealing Blue Steel. WTF?

But you know what I've learned after 11 years being married to this guy?

If you can't beat him, join him.

I don't know why it took me 8 years to realize why it is that I can't get a decent picture of my children without them making weird faces. Clearly it's a sad genetic defect passed down from their father.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It Don't Matter If You're Black or White

Two years ago we set out to redo the ugly courtyard in front of our house. It was a horrible eyesore with ragged landscaping, a broken water feature and the worst part: literally THOUSANDS of mismatched landscaping rocks.

Knowing how expensive those rocks are at the store, I decided to get two buckets and separate them one by one, black and white. It was my project as I was the insane person bound and determined to save a buck. My husband JakeRyan made it abundantly clear he was not in on it. I'll show him. 

I grabbed my hardly used work gloves (as if!) and my cushiony-garden-sit-on-thing and began picking. Plunk, plunk, plunk. Five minutes into the project I decided I needed a partner so I called Ryan, a Kindergartner at the time, to help me. 

Heck, the kid was six. There was no reason why he couldn't pull his weight and help with an easy chore. How hard was it to separate some rocks? 

"OK Ryan. You're going to help me in the yard." With this he protested because he was born lazy like his mother. After I told him it wasn't up for discussion I gave him the instructions: Put the black rocks in this bucket and the white ones in that bucket. 

"I can't," he said.

"Um, yes you can," I replied.

"No... I can't."

"Well, I'm telling you right now you're gonna."

"NOOOO... I really can't."

This fun little dialogue went on a few more rounds when finally I responded to one of his "I can'ts" with a "WELL WHY NOT?"


He was noticeably upset at this point. The poor kid had just finished a unit on MLK in school the week before and here was his own mother condoning segregation! Granted, it was rocks and not people, but he took this important lesson very seriously. 

After I gained my composure from laughing so hard and running to tell his father what just transpired, I explained that it wasn't wrong to separate black and white rocks and that what Martin Luther King fought for was only about people. I also told him how proud I was of him for remembering what he learned. 

In hindsight, perhaps what I should have been most proud of is that my 6-year-old son stood up to an authority figure for what he thought was right and didn't relent. That's my boy. 

A few weeks later, while piling into the minivan he annoyingly plopped his butt in his little sister's car seat. I threatened his life if he didn't get out. Unfortunately for him, his Rosa Parks explanation didn't go over well.  "Nice try. This has nothing to do with Rosa Parks. You're just trying to piss off your sister." 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Random Ali Facts - Round 1

A few months after I got on Facebook for the first time just over three years ago, there was this Facebook note thing that went around asking for 25 Random Facts about you.

If you were on Facebook then, you definitely got it and you probably even DID it because back then Facebook was really exciting, right? Who am I kidding? I still love snooping on Facebook. And thanks to the new Facebook Timeline I found that little gem of boring minutiae

Now it's your lucky day! Over then next few weeks. I'm posting bits of what I wrote back in 2009, 5 Facts at at time, on my blog and then giving my New and Improved 2012 updates. Heck. A lot has changed since then. 

And as an added bonus I threw in what I think my FB profile picture was at the time. Look at that baby! Aren't we adorable?

2009 Fact 1: None of my relatives could really tell you what my job is – I’m Chandler.

2012 Update: I'm still Chandler. Or shall I say, "I'm Chandler again." I was a casualty of a little reorganization and got put on what I now refer to as my little "forced sabbatical." Although I found a wonderful job right away, working in an actual office, instead of from home, nearly killed me with all the house and kid stuff. I was as stark raving lunatic. It was a nightmare. 

I was lucky enough to get hired back to my old company in a similar capacity last year. Could that BE anymore awesome? Yes, that was a Chandler reference. But still, nobody knows what I do. 

2009 Fact2: Sometimes I forget Justin’s name. Poor #3.

2012 Update: Justin who? I forget ALL of their names now. I've called Justin "Jason" on more than one  occasion (we have no Jasons in our family we just know SO many of them). I've been known to call Natalie "Maggie," the name of our dead dog. I can't remember my own name half the time so I'm feeling pretty good about myself that I have a 50% name recognition average. 

2009 Fact3: I still cry all the time over losing Duke and Maggie.

2012 Update: We lost our two dogs suddenly within two months of each other starting back in December 2007. It SUCKED. I still miss them and have pictures of them in my house. Their ashes sit in pretty boxes on a shelf and Duke's blue whale squishy toy has become part of our home's decor. Due to a small rhyming issue, poor Bruce sometimes gets called Duke. Writing that, I realize that our family has a problem remembering names. 

2009 Fact4: I had really crappy grades in High School and College. Although I have the same job as someone who graduated in three years and is a lawyer. Joke’s on her!

2012 Update: Obviously those grades couldn't have a 2012 update and I have no intention of working on a Master's degree to redeem myself. However, I have a new view on how horrible it was that I never worked harder in school. Ryan has the same attention issues I did and it pains me to see him struggling with that. He's my academic clone and it scares the bejeezus out of me. Natalie has no interest whatsoever in learning anything and it's really challenging. Justin? Who knows?

2009 Fact5: I married my polar opposite – a fishing, accounting, nail biting, pressure cleaning at 10 p.m., neat freak.

2012 Update: Still married to him of course. Still very much my opposite, but now we can add "hunting" to the list of things he does that I don't. I haven't eaten red meat in 20 years. I'm perfectly fine just buying their meat at the grocery store. No need to dress up in camo and shoot it yourself, I say. 

I love him dearly although he's often the butt of my jokes. He doesn't mind. Last night we were at family's house playing Just Dance 3. He didn't want to do it, but we begged...and begged...and begged. He kicked his sister's butt in a very *interesting* rendition of Take On Me. Not once was he bothered by the fact that I was taping him on my phone, not even after someone yelled "you know you're going to be on your wife's blog in about 8 minutes." 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WTF Wednesday - The "Why That's Fabulous!" Edition

Real Simple magazine has dubbed this week "Be Nice On The Internet Week." OK, I'll play along. It's only a week. 

They suggest swapping out the acronym WTF's usual meaning with "Why That's Fabulous," which totally went along with my planned post. 

My neighbor knocked on my door to invite the kids out to ride their bikes. 

"Natalie. Go upstairs and put on some sneakers! Hurry!" Five minutes later she came out like this. 

Sneakers, yes. Also, teal eye shadow, bright pink blush in rosy little circles on the wrong part of her cheeks and perfectly applied pink lip gloss.

And so I say "WHY, THAT'S FABULOUS!" Because it really is. I love that this kid is completely her own person. She's self-confident and willing to take risks. And at home I allow it. Am I going to love this when she's in high school? Probably not, but right now she can wear anything she wants to ride her bike as long as she's wearing her helmet.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Things Florida People Do When It Gets Cold Out

All it right in the world again. We survived and I'm still alive to blog about it. Praise the Lord.

It is no longer freezing in Florida. No, not literally freezing. By my Floridian standards, anything below say...60 degrees is brrrr, bitter cold.

It was "cold" here in South Florida for five whole days. Five days IN A ROW!

And because we're all friends here, I'm going to let you in on an embarrassing little secret:  People who live in Florida don't know how to handle themselves when it gets cold. We get all in a tizzy. It's the end of the world. And we don't have appropriate shoes.

So I thought I'd make a list of things Florida people do when it gets cold for my northern friends: 

1. Talk about it - Due to the urgency of the issue I was standing in the driveway last Sunday afternoon anxiously waiting my husband to pull up. "We need to talk," I said very seriously. I think he assumed I was divorcing him. "It's supposed to go into the 30's tonight! I hear there's a frost warning for MIAMI! That never happens. Are our life insurance policies payed up? Do we need snow tires? We need a strategy. No time to waste." Some of this might be an exaggeration.

2. Break out our sweater - Yes, you read that right. "Sweater," singular. Unless you have lived in the north at some point in the last decade, you really have no need for more than one or two sweaters. Mine is a 2003 Old Navy pink cable knit number. We aren't guaranteed many days to wear them so we whip them out on Day 1 so we can get our money's worth. And then we gripe about not having enough warm clothes to wear the other four cold days. 

3. Panic about what the kids will wear - Some Florida kids have coats. Those kids also have cousins who live in the north and gave them a big bag of hand-me-downs. For the rest of us, we don't want to actually invest in coats, so we layer. Dress those kids in a long sleeve shirt and two sweatshirts, shove them out the door and hope for the best. OR in our case, just send them to school with a coat that is a size too small so it appears to the teacher that you're not a dead-beat parent. Also involved here is the readjusting of car seat straps to accommodate additional clothing bulk and arguing with them about why they aren't allowed to wear flip flops.  

4. Make a fire - Despite the fact that it is hotter than Hades here for the other 360 days of the year, some people in Florida still have fireplaces. My father has been known to make a fire as soon as it dips into the low 60's and enjoy the crackle of the logs while sitting in shorts and a t-shirt. We've got the fireplaces and we'd be damned if we're not going to use them. Same for fire pits. Same for my husband JakeRyan. Notice it's cold enough for a fire, but not to require the kids to put on shoes.

5. Post to Facebook about it - I think we do it to make sure our northern friends don't think we're a bunch of spoiled pansies. It's our "See, we can hang too" or our "Just because we live in Florida doesn't mean we're not gangsta" post. But statuses like "Brrrr..." and "Woo hoo, I can wear my UGGs now!" aren't helping the cause. P.S. Nobody in Florida should own UGGs (or anywhere for that matter.)

6. Take photos - ...and then post to Facebook. Yes, we get it. There's ice on your car. "Look! My child owns a coat..." It's cold weather AND a Kodak moment. 

7. Make your kids sleep in your room - OK, this is probably only the Suitcase Kids. Their rooms are in the front of the house and for some reason no amount of heat warms them up. Ironically, their tent is an igloo (or as Justin calls it, an "egg roll"). I can't bear the thought of them kicking out from under their covers and being cold. 

But as I said, all is right in the world again. The weather has gone back up into the 70's and we can go on with our lives. And do things like this again. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WTF Wednesday - The "Really Trippy Dream" Edition

"Ali Dreams" never make sense. Ever.

Stick with me here...it involves a giant flying purple potato.

I had this really trippy dream where I dreamt that Devo (you know, the Whip it Good guys from the 80's) got really old, but they were still wearing their red Devo hats on their now-gray hair. In my dream they were wearing black short-shorts. Scary. They were sporting black socks pulled up to their knees of their skinny old man legs and they had on knee pads even though they weren't roller skating or anything. My dreams make no sense. Why would old men need knee pads for no good reason??? 

And instead of whipping something reeeal good, they were singing some crap about "working it out" and their eyes were bugging out of their heads. Then they were shaking like they were being electrocuted which makes sense because there were sparks flying everywhere! Oh my gosh I hope they're OK. Are they being electrocuted by their red hats? Are their brains being sucked out?

Then suddenly there were these bizarre monster-like creatures dressed as superheroes dancing to the Devo music as they watched it on a giant pink TV. One of them only has one eye. I always have bizarre monsters in my dreams. Monsters must like terrible music. Explains a lot. 

One of the old Devo guys was actually playing an accounting calculator or maybe a cash register strapped to his arm instead of a real musical instrument. Weird! It must have been the sushi I ate playing tricks on me. This is freaky.

Oh no! There's the dancing super-hero monsters again! Ahhh. Why won't the monsters leave me alone? 

HOLY MOLY! The geriatric new-wave one-hit wonders then turned into flying potatoes and shot through the roof the giant purple potato they were flying in and were now zooming around piecing together giant disks that turn out making an enormous red Devo hat like the ones they're wearing in this dream. I am clearly deranged to have my brain make this stuff up. It's terrifying! 

WHOA! Suddenly, the flying Devo potatoes put the giant hat on a freakin' MOUNTAIN and the mountain grew a FACE! Oh wait, it must have been a volcano because it started spewing ice cream sprinkles. SPRINKLES!

And then I woke up.

And of course, by "woke up" I mean "realized that this was an actual episode of Yo Gabba Gabba" and my kids were watching it.


I have long believed that Yo Gabba Gabba is a social experiment to see how horrible and annoying they can make a show and have parents still let their kids watch it.

That is some F*#@ed Up $hit.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Fancy Nancy Birthday Party Fit For My Girl

You're here for Fancy Nancy Birthday Party ideas, aren't you. Well Welcome! Read on :)

Several weeks ago I threw my daughter a Fancy Nancy birthday party for her 5th birthday.

I had so much fun doing it that I wanted to share it here on my blog. Why??? You're right - this is totally not an Ali post. Because frankly, it was a lot of fun to do and it was pretty easy. And also I'm REALLY proud of myself.

I believe in throwing your kids at least one good party YOURSELF. Kind of like earning a Mom Badge. This was a lot of work that I did over the span of several weeks, but totally not over-the-top. This Fancy Nancy birthday party was really do-able for a regular mom and I didn't blow the budget.

These Fancy Nancy birthday party ideas can be adapted to any party for a little girl who is totally frou frou.

We invited a dozen girls (no boys and even kicked her brothers out).

I wanted them to have a special event where they could feel grown-up and...fancy.

On the invitation (customized by someone on Ebay, just search Custom Fancy Nancy birthday party invitations), I wrote "Natalie will be wearing her most exquisite ensemble. Feel free to do the same." Translation: Don't show up in shorts.

First, I gave out goody bags when the girls arrived to get them all gussied up for the soire (that's a fancy word for "party"). Inexpensive bags from the dollar store with a few beaded necklaces, a boa and a tiara in each.

Being a Pinterest junkie I found the following and made them all myself.

  • Tissue paper pom-poms - All over Pinterest, I YouTubed instructions for making them. They take a while and a little practice. However, if time is precious for you, buying them makes sense. Believe me! I got my sister and sister-in-law to help. 
  • Feather boas - Warning: you will have feathers all over your house for weeks, but a Fancy Nancy birthday party wouldn't be the same without them. 

  • Dress up - I bought a wardrobe rack at Walmart for $15 and hung every single princess dress and tutu Natalie had from it and let the girls mix and match. They could put them on right over their clothes. I was worried that they wouldn't do it, but they all really got into it. However, they eventually took it all off.
  • Bracelet making - I bought kits from the dollar store and each girl made one. Easy!
  • Paper on the table - An Ali original. Tape craft paper from a roll (or freezer paper) to the coffee table and set out a bucket of crayons. They love it and it saves your table (or covers it up if your kids have destroyed it). If you look at the photo below you'll also notice that her brother came home and wrote "you stink" on it. 

Don't go nutty. Kids are kids and they don't eat anything weird...just make regular foods fancy. And as Fancy Nancy would tell you everything is fancier with a frilly toothpick. OK, I admit I made my own frilly toothpicks with curling ribbon, but that was the only crazy thing I did. I promise. 
  • Pink lemonade - I froze ice cubes with lemon slices in them
  • Chicken nuggets - BJs frozen section
  • PB&J cut with fancy cookie cutters 
  • Mini Corndogs - BJs frozen section
  • Rainbow fruit skewers (huge hit)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Pretzels
  • Cupcakes - I normally do cake, but this party screamed *cupcakes.* Ordered pink ones at the grocery store and put my own cherries and pink sugar on them. Tip: I didn't want to buy a nice cupcake stand because I'll never use it again. I found a paper one at Hobby Lobby and decorated it. 

We used the dining room table and added a few extra chairs. I saw lots of great table settings online with huge centerpieces, but this party was for short people so I kept the centerpieces the same way. 

The big thing about the table was that I couldn't get over the idea of NOT having real teacups. I went to Goodwill on a whim and found real China ones (Mikasa, etc.) for less than $1 each. I did have to go to two Goodwills to get all white. I skipped the saucers and used doilies instead. 

I went on YouTube and found an easy way to fold napkins so I could put the fork in and use it as a place card too. 
  • Plastic table cloth (I used fancy ribbons to tie the ends)
  • Paper plates, flatware and napkins 
  • Wrapping paper down the center of the table like a runner
  • Dyed rice in the candle holders (directions on Pinterest) - I forgot to light the tea lights
  • Silk flowers - I really wanted fresh, but it would have blown the budget
  • Jewels - Dollar store rhinestones that I flung all over the table. It needed a little extra oomph. 

And I also might have bought a fabulous prom dress worthy of only a Fancy Nancy birthday party while I was at Goodwill.