Calculating Your Whine to Wine Ratio

grocery_store_tantrumAs an avid childhood fan of ‘The Brady Bunch,’ many of the story lines and lessons learned on the show have stuck with me through the years. I truly believe there are few experiences in life that can’t be related back to a Brady Bunch episode. But, as far as the delightfully terrible Brady sequels go, I remember only two things. First, Cindy carried her lisp into adulthood. (I’m not sure why Carol and Mike never sent her to a speech specialist. I mean, they had a live-in maid; it’s not like they couldn’t afford it.)

The second thing that stuck in my consciousness from the short-lived series, ‘The Bradys,’ was poor Marsha’s fate. When Marsha gave up her career to become a stay-at-home mom, her ego sustained quite a blow (sound familiar?) and she turned to alcohol for solace. She eventually dried out in rehab after getting in an alcohol-related accident with her kids in the car…a true Brady-style happy ending (Marsha’s recovery, not the car accident). To this day, I still think of Marsha when I pour a glass of wine at 4 pm hoping it will sustain me through the long hours until bedtime.

I know I’m not the only mother who, at least occasionally, reaches for a wine glass for emotional strength. As a matter of fact, just this morning I just ran across this quote from Her Majesty, Duchess of London and New York, Gwyneth Paltrow: “I drank like crazy [when the kids were babies]. How else could I get through my day?” See ladies? We’re in good company. If Gwynnie, with her team of nannies, chefs and personal assistants can’t get through the day without a little vino, is there any hope for the rest of us?

In an effort to keep us all out of rehab, I have developed this handy list of parenting situations in which you may find yourself, along with the corresponding amount of alcohol that would be appropriate in each circumstance. I must stress though, never drive when you’ve been drinking, especially with your children in the car. We owe it to Marsha to learn from her mistakes.

Example #1: Your son needs help on his math homework, but it appears to be written in another language. “How many rectangular arrays can you make of these twenty-four crayons?” Wait…is this math or art homework? Your kid, of course, has no clue what a “rectangular array” is despite having spent thirty minutes on it in class that very day. You text a friend who has a child in the same class. She is no help and neither is her kid. Your son moans, lays his head on the kitchen table and makes a point of sighing dramatically.

Appropriate response: Pour a glass of wine. Sip it over the course of the evening.

Example #2: You wake before dawn to your preschooler crying because “Blue Mousie” is just out of reach at the foot of her bed. Rather than moving an additional two inches, she yells to you to retrieve the matted, stuffed mouse. She refuses to wear her favorite dress (the one she wore twice to school and once to bed last week) complaining that it’s “too itchy.” After extended negotiations, you agree to send her to school in pajama bottoms, a Snow White costume and rain boots.

When you arrive to pick her up, she throws a fit and makes you peel her, one finger at a time, from the swing to which she’s clinging with a death grip. She’s still doing her best spawn-of-Satan impression when you get home. Maybe she’s just hungry (…said every hopeful parent since the dawn of time). Take a deep breath and make her a snack. It should preferably be a snack containing some sort of fruit, vegetable or protein, but if things continue to go south, swallow your pride and bust into the hidden Halloween candy. You still have hours to go before bedtime. If the snack fails to remedy the situation, sit her in front of the television, and wallow in feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Appropriate response: Drink one glass of wine. Yearn for another, but realize that you never made it to the grocery store today because you were combing the town for a pair of yellow tights for tomorrow’s preschool performance.

Example #3: It’s your daughter’s “busy day.” As soon as she gets off the bus, you rush her into the house to don her soccer gear and stuff a granola bar in her mouth. Remind her to bring her backpack and a pencil so she can do homework in the car. You’re ten minutes away from the house when your daughter realizes she’s missing her homework folder and one shin guard. Screw it. Let her have one bruised leg and do homework during dinner. Sit in the minivan during soccer practice so your younger kid can knock out his one sheet of homework. Unfortunately, you’ve failed to stock the car with safety scissors and a glue stick.

You return home after soccer only to discover that the dog has diarrhea. Disinfect every surface, then attempt to simultaneously make a passable meal while overseeing both children’s homework. Your husband calls to say there’s a crisis at work and he won’t be home until after bedtime. Your son gets gluestick on the shitty dog and your daughter throws herself on the floor whining that she’s “toooooo tiiiiiirred to do homework!” Realize that, next year, you’ll likely have two children playing sports and moaning about homework and one husband still working late.

Appropriate response: Drink one glass of wine and don’t bother putting the bottle away. Drink another glass while eating leftover mac ‘n cheese from the pan.

Example #4: In a moment of weakness, you volunteered to chaperone your son’s second grade class field trip to the zoo. You’re running late because, well, you have kids. You drop your daughter off at her school, then try to determine whether you have time to pick up a much-needed cup of coffee since you left your to-go cup on the counter at home. As you pull into the Starbucks parking lot, your son starts whining, “Nooooooo, don’t stop heeeerre…I’m gonna get the last seat on the bus and have to sit next to someone stupid!” Remind your dear child that we don’t call people stupid and promise him chocolate milk if he’ll shut the fuck up (in much more sweet and motherly words of course). Get to the drive-thru, take one look at the line and acknowledge that you’ll never make it to school on time if you stop. Abort the mission and head for school. Your son now starts wailing because he wants chocolate milk and continues until you screech into the parking lot at school and drag him onto the bus by his elbow.

In the ape house, the boys loudly discuss daddy ape’s “wiener” while every mom within earshot glares at you in disgust. Three of the five kids entrusted to you run off (your son leading the pack) and disappear into the reptile house while you’re standing guard by the men’s room waiting for the other two to emerge. Despite these incidents, you’re successful in returning all the children safely back to the designated meeting spot outside the zoo gates. You now have a splitting headache from caffeine withdrawal and the incessant boy chatter (and burps and fart jokes) still ringing in your ears. At this point, your son realizes that you didn’t make a stop at the gift shop before exiting and throws an epic fit. The entire episode is witnessed, of course, by the class room mom. You know…the one with the perfect highlights and angelic children? Repeat after me…”I will never volunteer to chaperone a field trip again. I will sell things, I will make cupcakes, I will help grade homework, but dear lord, NOT another field trip!”

Appropriate response: When you return home, polish off a bottle of wine by yourself. Fall asleep on the couch at 8:43 pm while watching an episode of ‘Castle’ you’ve had on the DVR for the last two years.

Example #5: Your daughter is in rare form. Nothing is going right for her today and it’s all your fault. This morning, she is devastated to find out that you washed her black skinny jeans with the gold pattern on the pockets instead of her black skinny jeans with the studs on the pockets which are OBVIOUSLY the ones she NEEDS to wear today. Are you TRYING to ruin her life?! She, of course, misses the bus because she has LITERALLY NOTHING to wear! Your formerly sweet daughter silently mopes the entire ride to school. You drop her off and briefly consider just continuing to drive until you run out of gas in a small town where you’ll start a new life under an assumed name. You shelve that thought, though, when you think about your younger daughter who’s not a teenage asshat yet and still needs you.

That afternoon, your left eye starts to twitch when you hear the middle-school bus lumbering down the street. You hold your breath wondering which of your daughter’s personalities will be returning home today. Unfortunately, it’s the evil one again. You make the mistake of asking about her homework. She grunts something unintelligible, pulls textbooks and notebooks out of her backpack and dramatically drops them one-by-one on the table. You ignore her theatrics and encourage her to head to her room and get started so she’s not doing homework all night.

Not two minutes pass when you hear her screech, “Get OUT of my room! Mooooooommm…I can’t do homework with this BRAT in my room!” Your younger daughter manages to gasp through her sobs, “I. Just. Wanted. To. Show. Her. My. Wiggly. Tooooooooooth!” You calm her down and suggest she stays as far from her hormonal sister as possible. You poke your head in the demon-child’s room and remind her that she needs to be kind to her sister or she won’t be going to her best friend’s sleepover next weekend. She responds by wailing, “Mooooooommm…you DON’T understand! She ALWAYS comes into my room and I can’t do my homework. It’s NOT FAIR! Why do I have soooooo much homework and she has like four math problems? And, I can’t even think because I’m LITERALLY starving!” You back out of her room quietly in hopes that she’ll be so busy ranting, she won’t even know you’ve left.

Your younger daughter spots you in the hall, tiptoes over to you and says, “Um, Mommy? You know that project I told you about yesterday where we’re supposed to do a report on a book and then dress up as the writer and give a speech about the book and the author’s life? Well, it’s due tomorrow.”

Appropriate response: Screw wine. Grab the tequila.

Friday Favorites

Because I really should have skipped law school and become a personal shopper instead, MommyEnnui will have a new weekly feature starting today. In Friday Favorites, I will feature a random selection of my favorite things…five favorite things to be exact because, well, it’s fun to say. Feel free to comment with a few of your favorite things. I may just include them in a future list.

Working_Hands1. O’Keefe’s Working Hands Hand Cream
I have to give a shout-out to my dad and step-mom for introducing me to this amazing hand cream. I’ve tried so many different creams, cuticle oils and even moisturizing gloves looking for something that would heal my dry, ragged cuticles, to no avail. That was until I tried O’Keefe’s hand cream. This stuff truly is magic! Also check out O’Keefe’s Healthy Feet Moisturizing Foot Cream. Ad Man swears by it.
leather_baggu_bag2. Leather Baggu bag
I’m a huge fan of Baggu’s ripstop nylon reusable bags. They come in lots of fun colors and patterns, are practically indestructible, fit tons of stuff, are machine washable and fold up tiny so you can carry a bunch of them in your purse or stuff them in your car’s glove compartment. But you know what I love even more than Baggu’s reusable bags? This luscious version they’re now making in leather! Isn’t it gorgeous? I soooo need one. Ad Man, are you listening?

Fiona Bra by Moving Comfort? - Blush/Crimson3. Moving Comfort sports bras
I’m a 34D which makes it difficult to find supportive sports bras that aren’t absolutely hideous. When I started a running program a while ago, I made do by either layering two tank-style compression sports bras or even ran with my hands across my chest at times trying to keep those babies from bouncing me right off the treadmill. Then, I discovered Moving Comfort bras. I’ve since worn a couple different styles from Moving Comfort and they’ve all been wonderful. They’re cute, supportive enough for high impact sports and don’t squash your boobs beyond all recognition.

A_for_Abigail4. A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women by Lynne Cheney
After you’ve gotten over the shock of me recommending something written by a member of the Cheney family, hear me out. This is a fantastic book that celebrates a diverse group of history-making American women. Every girl will be able to find a hero here. Honorees include founding mothers, artists, scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs, journalists, educators, feminists and sportswomen. Biggie and Smalls love this book and I so wish I’d had one like it growing up.

duralex_picardie5. Duralex Picardie glass tumblers
Duralex’s Picardie tumblers are a French design classic for a reason. They come in a wide range of sizes from a tiny juice glass to a tumbler that’s perfect for a decadently large, ice cold beer. When Biggie was transitioning from a sippy cup to a “big-girl” glass, I bought the small size tumblers for her. Duralex uses tempered-glass, so they’re perfect for kids, they hold both hot and cold drinks, and can be thrown in the dishwasher or microwave. I brew hot tea directly in a large size glass and then dump in a bunch of ice to make iced tea. I also love that the bottoms are completely flat, so you don’t get an annoying puddle of water in each one that you have to dry when unloading the dishwasher. It’s the little things that make me happy.

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?

girl_homeworkI’ve discussed my feelings about homework here before and it has become a bit of a recurring topic here and on the MommyEnnui Facebook page. A friend just sent me this fascinating article written by Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post and now I’m even more convinced that homework is a waste of time. A number of studies have shown that homework is virtually useless in increasing grades and test scores. Instead, it adds stress to children’s lives, causes conflict between parents and kids and keeps children from exploring new interests and engaging in active, creative play.

I know I’m not alone in this; I have many friends who feel the same way. However, I also know that many parents still believe children should be given homework, some even complain to teachers that their kids aren’t being given enough homework.

I’d love to hear your responses to the above article. What are your reasons for supporting or not supporting homework? Should math be treated differently from other subjects? Does your opinion change when a child gets to middle school? How about high school? I know we have a number of teachers here. What are your thoughts on the subject?

If you, like me, are convinced homework is an “unnecessary evil,” what do you think parents can do to change policies in our kids’ schools?

The Rathole Next Door

swank_bhead_houseI know I’ve mentioned before that we live in an affluent neighborhood in Atlanta called Buckhead. The houses in much of the neighborhood look like this one. However, we like to say that we live on the wrong side of the tracks in Buckhead. Or, “Buckhead adjacent,” since it reminds Ad Man and me of living in Los Angeles where any structure within 10 miles of Beverly Hills is referred to as “Beverly Hills adjacent.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love our neighborhood and the homes are far from cheap. Well, I should clarify that they are not “cheap” unless you moved here from San Francisco like we did. (We spent the first few days of our house search running around all giddy yelling, “Holy crap! They’re giving houses away here!”) The difference is that the McMansions being built amidst the 1950s ranches in our neighborhood are far smaller than the legit mansions just minutes away.

When we were in the process of buying our home, there was a house next door that appeared rundown so we asked neighbors about it. We were told that the house belonged to an elderly couple who were poor health and didn’t have family living nearby. People in the neighborhood pitched in and took turns mowing the couple’s lawn. We thought, “Now, that’s the kind of neighborhood we want to live in!” But, by the time we moved in, the house next door was empty. Well, not empty, exactly. It was still full of furniture and personal belongings and curtains were hanging in the windows, but the elderly couple had moved in with their daughter a few hours away.

And, that is exactly how it has remained for the past seven years. We’ve met the couple’s daughter and her husband a couple times, and they’ve made a show of removing a stack of boxes every other year or so, but as far as actually doing something with the house, they’ve always appealed to our sympathy. They live far away, they both work and have kids, they’re dealing with her father who has dementia (the mother has since passed away), etc. They’ve alternately claimed that they were going to renovate the house and move in and, more recently, tear it down and rebuild. My requests for a timeframe always go unanswered.

front_door_trashWe and other neighbors have been more than patient. Others would have firebombed the damn place years ago. Instead, we’ve watched the house, which is on a large piece of property in a great school district, deteriorate to the point where it will no longer be salvageable, even if taken down to the studs. Imagine this…the home (which we’ve come to refer to as the Boo Radley House) has been un-air-conditioned and unheated for seven years. In Atlanta! Things are gross in the summer in Atlanta even with air-conditioning. We’ve complained to the city and it was condemned at one point a few years ago, but the homeowners just hired a yard service and had workers do some cosmetic fixes. That was apparently sufficient for the City of Atlanta.

Other than keeping the grass mowed, the house is again in a deplorable condition. Workers who were in the house years ago reported that it was infested with rats and covered in mold. And, to think, it’s right next door. Delightful, huh? It’s always a fun topic of conversation when we have guests over for the first time. Anyway, the reason I tell you all of this is because I HAVE HAD IT! I’ve decided to take on the owners of the house and the city like it’s my full-time job and I want to keep you updated on my progress (or lack thereof).

So far, I’ve done a bunch of research about the city codes and the Office of Code Enforcement records, which is the most I’ve used my law degree in the last eight years. I’ve also gathered documentation between me and other neighbors and the city, our city councilman, the code enforcement office, the homeowners and others. I’ve written a letter with the advice of a friend-of-a-friend who held a high-level position in the city and knows how best to get the attention of the people who might actually do something to help us. I’ve taken photos of the falling-down house and I’ll be walking around the neighborhood getting as many people to sign the letter with me as possible.

If all of the above efforts don’t work, I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. Stay tuned for updates. If any of my lovely readers has advice or a contact in the City of Atlanta Office of Code Enforcement, please let me know!

Lock Me Up and Throw Away the Key  

list_insane_asylumThis list of reasons one might be committed to an insane asylum in the late-1800s is one of my favorite things. It comes from West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane which still stands and is open for “Heritage” and “Ghost” tours. Huh? If I were committed to a creepy insane asylum, that would be the very last place I’d choose to haunt in my afterlife. I’d choose something more like the Bora Bora Nui Resort. Yep, I would haunt the shit out of one of those little villas set literally on the ocean. I should mention that the asylum also hosts Zombie Paintball and and a drag show, both of which sound a hell of a lot more fun than being spooked by pissed off, long dead lunatics.

Reading through the list of reasons for committal, it’s clear that I would have been a long term resident at my friendly neighborhood insane asylum if I were around in the 1800s. This is, of course, presupposing that I’d survived the Salem Witch Trials prior to that. Let’s peruse the list, shall we? I suspect a good number of us would have been potential patients at the asylum. Right off the bat, I’m screwed:

Intemperance and Business Trouble.  I’ve been known to imbibe an alcoholic beverage or two in my time and anyone who reads this blog knows that, despite my license to practice law, I’ve earned approximately zero dollars over the last eight years. If that’s not business trouble, I don’t know what is. While I wouldn’t necessarily draw a causal connection between intemperance and my business trouble, both of these character flaws exist simultaneously so I’d have to plead guilty on this one.

I clearly have a Hereditary Predisposition to insanity. Thanks a lot, Mom. I would also be remiss if I didn’t blame my grandmother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. You’re all a bunch of crazies, but I love you.

Ill Treatment by Husband. Check. Um, here’s an idea though…perhaps they could have thrown the husbands in the asylum, not the long-suffering wives!

I don’t think they could get me on Imaginary Female Trouble. All my female trouble has been based firmly in reality. I am, however, clearly suffering from Hysteria (i.e., “female trouble”), an Immoral Life (see Intemperance, above), and Laziness. I’m also guilty of Using Medicine to Prevent Conception, Menstrual Derangement, Mental Excitement and, worst of all…Novel Reading!

Overaction of the Mind would be a yes; Overstudy of Religion, a definite no. I have been accused of Political Excitement, especially since moving to the South. For some reason, I was considered very calmly political when I lived in Berkeley, California. I can also be Bad Company at times, just ask Ad Man.

I don’t think I’ve ever had Bad Whiskey, but whiskey has definitely been bad to me. I am pleased to report that, as far as I know, I have not suffered from either Bloody Flux or Brain Fever. Neither of those symptoms sounds like a good time.

As for the rest of the first column, I admit to Business Nerves and Congestion of the Brain. I’m sure I displayed both to a few judges in Los Angeles County courtrooms. I’m safe on the rest of the symptoms in that column, but I’m not going to make any promises that Desertion by Husband won’t be forthcoming.

I definitely have Domestic Affliction and Domestic Trouble, but again, why do I have to go to the insane asylum while the real culprits, my husband and children, get to walk free? Actually, I should throw our puppy Birdie in there, too. Am I the one who barks at my own tail and pees on the kitchen floor? I think not.

Not sure what Excitement as Officer means, but if it involves a sexy policewoman’s uniform and stilettos, I can’t absolutely rule it out. A girl’s got to keep the home fires burning, if you know what I mean.

Yes to both Fever and Jealousy. Suppression of Menses? Hell yes! Shout out to my IUD! Time of Life? Well, this one depends on context. Is it like, “Woohoo…I’m having the time of my life!” If so, then I’m sure that’s occurred in one 4 am Chicago bar or another when I was in my 20s. If instead, it means “The Change,” then no, not yet, but check back in five to ten years. I’m sure I’ll be plenty deranged by then!

asylum_buildingI think we’ve sufficiently covered Uterine Derangement and Women Trouble. Add those to Hysteria and Menstrual Derangement. Jeez, you’d think getting one’s period was like catching the Black Death back then! Hmm…I wonder what the gender was of the person who wrote up this list. Such a mystery. I guess we’ll never know.

Do you think Shooting of Daughter had to be an actual shooting or would merely contemplating be enough? I’m going to read this literally and say no, I’ve never shot one of my daughters. Not even during a homework meltdown.

Gathering in the Head is one of my favorites. I’ve spent many years in my head, but as far as I know I’ve always been alone in there, so I think I’m OK on this one. And, if Greediness means hiding the good chocolate from your children and eating it after they go to bed, then I’m greedy as hell.

Grief? That’s a topic for another blog post. Let’s just say grief is the only thing on this list that’s actually gotten me close to requiring hospitalization. Speaking of which, today is the 12th anniversary of my mom’s death. I’d like to believe she’d be MommyEnnui’s biggest fan if she were still here. Thanks for the twisted sense of humor, Mom. It’s serving me well.

Hard Study could have gotten me committed to an asylum a few times during law school. Instead, I went with outpatient therapy and tequila. Rumor of Husband Murder? Much like Shooting of Daughter, this one depends on who’s spreading the murderous rumor and whether empty threats count. As for Seduction and Disappointment, I’d refer you back to the same Chicago bar in my 20s. I’m sure this one was checked off back then.

And, finally, Dissipation of Nerves. For this one, I looked up dissipation and found a number of interesting definitions: “breaking up and scattering by dispersion,” “wasting by misuse,” or “a process by which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work.” Considering the fact that I spend much of each day gathering in my own head, Dissipation of Nerves could be my middle name!

Well, there you have it. I would have been the ideal candidate for commitment to West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane if I were around in the 1800s. The good news is that pretty much every one of my female friends and a good number of the guys would be committed with me, so at least I’d have company. Imagine all the fun we’d have drinking, being lazy, reading novels and just generally living an immoral life. Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

How many reasons would you have had for being locked in the insane asylum?

My Journey From Love’s Baby Soft to Chanel No. 5

my_frag_bottles_0914

My summer scents and year-round favorites

As I’ve mentioned here before, I have a bit of an obsession with fragrances. This fascination began when I was young and realized that smelling certain scents brought on a rush of vivid memories like nothing else. To this day, I can’t smell Ivory soap or sulphury well water without thinking of my grandmother and long, summer days spent running wild on her farm in Indiana. My father will forever be tied to the scent of cigarettes and Aqua Velva aftershave (thankfully, he quit smoking many years ago). Anytime I smell oil paint, linseed oil or spray-mount adhesive, I’m transported back to college where I studied art and design. Some smells immediately send me into funk of homesickness from missing California.

I actually met Ad Man in my second year of law school while on vacation in Los Angeles, staying with mutual friends. We quickly fell in love and I was heartbroken when I had to return to Chicago at the end of my visit. We traded t-shirts so we each had something that smelled like the other. (Sixteen years of marriage later, however, I gag when I have to put his workout clothes in the washing machine!) I kept that t-shirt carefully sealed in a plastic, zip-lock bag in hopes of capturing his scent indefinitely. Sadly, it faded within a few weeks. To this day, my memories of our early relationship are inextricably bound with various LA smells…the scents of salt water, eucalyptus trees, dry desert air, night blooming jasmine, bicycle grease, the mix of freshly squeezed juices at the Beverly Hills Juice Company and coffee roasting at King’s Road cafe.

love's_baby_soft_bottleI was a confirmed perfume fan from a young age, counting Love’s Baby Soft, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Anaïs Anaïs as teen favorites. However, it was actually my mother’s death and the subsequent birth of my daughters that set me off on an olfactory treasure hunt. My mom wasn’t a big scent person, but I do remember her going through phases of wearing Gloria Vanderbilt and flirting with various Avon perfumes. When my mom died, I found myself wishing she’d had a signature scent so that I could track it down, envelop myself in the fragrance, and feel her presence again. That yearning along with my very real fear of getting the breast cancer that claimed my mother’s life and leaving behind young children, led me to seek out a signature scent for myself as a way of providing that connection for my daughters.

I started off seeking a light, clean musk that people would relate to me without consciously thinking “perfume.” I wanted something that could reasonably be the natural smell of my skin, but better. For obvious reasons, perfumistas call those types of perfumes “skin scents.” My friend M from law school always smelled so good and it didn’t occur to me for quite some time that she was wearing perfume. The scent seemed to emanate from her pores. I asked her years later what the fragrance was and it turned out to be a, very inexpensive, Cuban, baby perfume called Para Mi Bebe. I tracked it down on Amazon and ordered a bottle. It was still beautiful and brought back clear memories of law school (good and bad), but I found I couldn’t wear it because it was seared into my brain as M’s scent. It was eerie…like trying on someone else’s skin. So, my search continued.

Photo: Tena Keefe

Photo: Tena Keefe

Luckily, early into my explorations, I discovered samples and decants. Otherwise, I would have gone broke buying full bottles of perfume searching for just the right one. (To make matters worse, it turns out I have very expensive taste. This, of course, did not surprise Ad Man one bit.) Many perfume companies and retailers give out or sell small samples of their perfumes so buyers have the opportunity to experience the full range of a scent and judge its longevity and intensity before making a purchase.

Decant companies and individuals who sell decants have extensive selections of different perfumes and sell anything from a small sample to a few ounces of a fragrance decanted from its original bottle. Decants allow you to own a large number of different perfumes without having to pay for a full bottle that you might not ever get through, especially if you have a sizable collection. And, when I say sizable collection, you have NO idea! I’d say I own about twenty full bottles of perfume and hundreds of decants and samples. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but in the world of perfume fanatics, mine is an extremely modest collection. Pictured here are some of the drool-worthy collections owned by perfumistas I’ve since gotten to know across the globe.

After trying a number of different samples of skin scents, I decided on a lovely one called Musc Bleu by an Italian perfumer Il Profumo. It is a soft, clean musk perfume that makes a perfect everyday scent. Mission accomplished, right? Well not exactly. I quickly realized that there are occasions on which one doesn’t want to smell sweet and soapy. For instance, there are times when I want to smell enticing and sexy as hell. There are also cold, winter days when I crave the feeling of woody, spicy warmth and humid, summer days in the South when I prefer a scent that’s icy, green and citrusy.

Photo: Victor Wong

Photo: Victor Wong

I came to understand why someone might “need” a diverse selection of perfumes for different seasons, events and moods. It’s a rare perfume connoisseur who considers one scent to be his or her signature and wears it year-round. I’m reminded of the time, before we got married, when Ad Man sat me down and informed me that he would be needing eleven bicycles. That sounds like madness for someone who isn’t a cycling junkie, but he went on to list each one of those eleven bicycles: a road bike, a mountain bike, a fixed-gear bike, a beach cruiser, a BMX bike, a track bike and I can’t remember the rest. Believe me, anytime my darling husband balks when I tell him I need a new perfume, I remind him of this conversation.

Through the search for my “Holy Grail” scent, I discovered thousands of other people just as infatuated with scent as me. That’s the beauty of the internet. How else would I have ever met so many others who share my obscure hobby? Perfume lovers are a generous bunch who love to share their knowledge about our mutual passion. I’ve learned more from my perfume forum friends than I ever could just poking around on my own.

My samples and decants

My samples and decants

In the last couple years, I’ve been sniffing samples, reading about the art of perfume making, and learning about the science of smell. (Interestingly, scientists don’t yet know exactly how our noses identify different scent molecules.) My friend S shakes her head every time I add another perfume book to my Goodreads list, but I find it all fascinating. I’ve also been saving for, buying and being gifted with an array of fragrances. It continued to bother me, though, that I’d gone in the exact opposite direction of my goal at the beginning of this adventure. Instead of discovering the one scent that would be my signature and comfort my loved ones, I’d confused their poor noses even more!

That was until recently when I had the girls with me at Neiman Marcus which is, in my opinion, the best place to peruse fragrances in Atlanta. We sniffed some new releases and chatted with Mack Jones, sales associate extraordinaire. After lingering around the Maison Francis Kurkdjian counter with Mack, we moved on to the classics at the Guerlain counter. Biggie and Smalls tested perfumes until they were scented all up and down their arms and each held a bouquet of paper tester strips. We talked about our favorite smells; chocolate chip cookies, newly sharpened pencils and puppy breath ranked high on all our lists, and each made our pick for the prettiest fragrance. We didn’t buy anything that day and I’m sure we drove the other sales associates crazy. What they probably didn’t appreciate, though, was that they’d gained two perfume fanatics and customers for life.

eli_garden_0511I, on the other hand, gained something even more valuable. I’m now able to rest easy knowing that I’ve passed along a curiosity about, and a passion for, fragrance to my daughters. When I’m gone, they’ll have a myriad of scents to remind them of me, and not all just in perfume form. I hope they will pick up a handful of topsoil and smell its sweet, loamy odor and enjoy the sharp, green scent of tomato stems and leaves and remember our attempts at gardening in the steamy Atlanta summers. I want them to smell the warm smokiness of logs burning and think back to reading books by the fireplace, the whole family snuggled in pajamas on a winter night. The girls will each have a collection of my perfumes to enjoy as well since, as Ad Man likes to point out, it will take more than one lifetime to use all the fragrances in my collection by then!

A few notes:
1. Two wonderful decant companies in the US are Surrender to Chance and The Perfumed Court. Ebay is another good source for fragrance samples and decants.
2. My favorite online source for perfume shopping is LuckyScent. If you live in, or will be traveling to Los Angeles, be sure to visit their boutique Scent Bar. Both have an amazing collection of high-end designer and niche scents.

The Back-to-School Curse

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Still Life with Dog and Sick Kid

Things have gone from bad to worse at the MommyEnnui residence. I don’t know why it always catches me off guard when things go horribly awry at the beginning of the school year. I really should write, “Don’t celebrate yet! The shit’s about to hit the fan!” in my calendar on the first day of school every year.

I already knew last week was going to be difficult. It was the second week of school, we have a new puppy and Ad Man was scheduled to be out of town for several days. That meant that I’d have to get two sleepy, stubborn kids up at the crack of dawn, supervise their morning routine, make lunches and have the girls ready to get on the bus at about 5 minutes past the crack of dawn. I also had to simultaneously get a sleepy, stubborn puppy outside to go potty, somehow convincing her of the urgency of the matter, and then keep her from chewing on the children while they tried to avoid getting ready for school.

We managed to do it, despite a few mini-meltdowns by Biggie and Smalls over the outfits they’d picked out themselves just the night before and complaints about their breakfast which would have been deemed disgusting and inedible no matter what I put in front of them. Surprisingly, Birdie cooperated, contentedly spending time in her crate when I couldn’t follow her around at every moment. I tried not to make eye contact with her for fear of breaking the trance.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. This was the first week of homework for Smalls and, borrowing from her sister’s playbook, she cried, whined and ended up doing a half-assed job of it each afternoon. Biggie, on the other hand, was delighted that for once, her sister was the drama queen. She took advantage of the rare opportunity to be the “easy child” by being excessively cooperative and pleasant. Both girls have gotten really good at capitalizing on the other’s foul moods. Generally, it’s Biggie throwing a fit and Smalls smiling sweetly at me, saying, “I love you soooo much, Mommy!” These kissing-up skills should serve them well in their careers someday.

When Smalls got off the bus the next day complaining of a headache and stomach ache, I assumed she’d just developed an allergy to homework. I told her to go lay down in her room if she wasn’t feeling well. After about a half an hour of helping Biggie with homework, I realized that Smalls still hadn’t emerged begging for snacks and began to get concerned. I discovered her asleep in her room with the covers over her head, soaked in sweat. Yep…she was running a fever. At this point, I ran outside, shook my fist in the sky and yelled, “Noooooooo!!!” OK, maybe that part only happened in my head.

It turned out, I had my darling Smalls home with me for the rest of the week and through the beginning of this one. We spent long days watching High School Musical, High School Musical 2, Camp Rock, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, Princess Protection Program, Freaky Friday and much, much more. If I see one more Disney Channel star, I’m going to lose my freaking mind!

After 2 trips to the doctor, 2 strep tests, 1 mono test, lots of poking, prodding and pleading for a prescription for antibiotics (that would be me), it turned out that it was just a really nasty virus. Ugh…virus. That word dreaded by parents everywhere because it means you are officially powerless to do anything but wait until the virus is damn good and ready to release your kid from its evil clutches. Poor Smalls was stuck with the thing for 6 days.

Oh, and how could I forget the best part? On Fever Day 2 while Ad Man was still out of town, I had Birdie out to attempt a walk. This time, she took a few steps then planted herself on our neighbor’s uphill yard refusing to leave. I ended up carrying her down a set of uneven steps and twisted my ankle so badly I was sure it was broken. I hobbled home carrying the dog (who’s 20 lbs. now, by the way) and immediately iced my ankle while watching it swell up and turn purple. So, there I sat crying with a erratic, potty-training puppy, a sick child and a husband in Texas not returning my texts or calls. Because, you know, that’s how we roll here at MommyEnnui headquarters.

Without access to my absentee husband, I turned to Facebook for support. The best advice came from my friend S who recommended “B.R.I.C.E.”…bourbon, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Many other friends offered their sympathy and asked if they could do anything to help. Those from far away generally just said they were looking forward to a blog post about the whole debacle. So, this is for you heartless bastards.

On the morning of Day 7, I limped to Smalls’s room to check her temperature. Suddenly, the heavens opened up and rays of golden sunshine pooled on her IKEA rug. (Now that I think of it, that could have been dog pee, but I digress.) Once the room cleared of fluffy, white clouds and angels’ wings, I was able to focus on the thermometer stuck in Smalls’s ear which clearly read 98.6! (That’s 37 degrees Celsius for you Europeans with your fancy metric system.)

My joy overflowed, but after 6 days of vegging on the couch watching TV in her pajamas, Smalls was a little less thrilled with the idea of dashing off to school. Regardless, to the school bus she went! I celebrated by sitting on the couch acting as a buffer between Birdie and the furniture, quietly drinking my tea, and watching something (anything!) other than Nick Jr. I actually left the house to sit in a coffee shop with other adults and begin this blog post. I grabbed some groceries and headed home to the dog. It was a wild day of freedom.

Throughout the afternoon, I hatched big plans for the next day. I was super excited to finally get back to my favorite morning hot yoga class. I laid out my clothes and put all my gear in the lovely, as yet unused, yoga bag my step-mom gave me months ago. I planned to finish this post and finally get it up on the blog. I was also going to make one of the zillion tasty recipes I’ve posted on Vegetarian Mamas recently but hadn’t been able to make with a new puppy and sick kid all up in my grill. I crawled in bed that night knowing that Ad Man would soon be home and feeling optimistic for the first time in a long time.

Same Couch, Different Kid

Same Couch, Different Kid

The following morning, I awoke with the sun…and the whining dog and the prodigal husband attempting to pry the children out of bed. When I stumbled out into the kitchen relieved to see Smalls still looking perky, Biggie moaned, “Mommy…my head hurts.” I held my breath as Ad Man stuck the thermometer in her ear, glanced at it and then turned to me with a look of such pity, it sent me into a complete psychotic breakdown.

I don’t remember much after that other than hearing Ad Man’s faint voice from far above the deep, dark place to which I’d sunk. I’m pretty sure he said, “I’ve got to go to work…you know, that place where people praise and throw money at me for a job well done. How’s that law degree working out for you? Oh, by the way, I have to go to San Francisco for a couple days next week.” Or something like that.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

mommy_ennui_ALS_ChallengeMommyEnnui took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this weekend. Well, actually, I did it twice! After the first take, Ad Man realized that my iPhone had run out of recording space mid-splash. Of course, he was more than happy to douse me with ice cold water again the next day! If you’d like to see the video of take 2, wherein I get bonked on the head with a big ice ball, click here.

The purpose of the Ice Bucket Challenge is to raise awareness of ALS. If you’re not familiar with the devastating disease or want to know more about the Challenge, click here. I have, in turn, challenged two of my favorite blogger friends, Joanna Pritchard of Poppy’s Style and Kris Willcox of Rhapsody in Cool. I’m counting on you, ladies!

Puppy Ennui

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I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from puppy postpartum depression (“PPPD”). I just called Ad Man because I was lonely and feeling frustrated by doggy parenting and ended up crying on the phone like an effing lunatic. I’m now sitting at … Continue reading