Monday, May 30, 2011

Head over Heels

By: Jennifer Huffman | Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011
Napa Valley Register

Our middle daughter had been begging for her first pair of high heels for a while now, but as her eighth-grade graduation got closer, her high heel campaign became a full-on assault.

I tried to convince her she didn’t need to wear high heels, but she wasn’t having any of it. The girl wanted heels and she wanted them bad.

I was still holding my ground about heels when a letter arrived from school about the eighth-grade graduation dress code.

Shoes with heels two inches or less are acceptable, it said.

The two-inch rule was apparently the result of an incident at a past eighth-grade graduation, which may or may not be an urban legend of the middle school set.

As the story goes, one year a student wore a pair of extra-high heels to the school graduation ceremony. Going down the aisle to collect her diploma, she teetered… she tottered… and then she fell.

Thus the two-inch heel rule was born, effectively crushing the high heel dreams of all eighth-grade girls to follow.

My daughter triumphantly waved the letter at me. Resistance was futile. We headed to the mall for shoe shopping.

First of all, finding a pair of high heels under two inches is harder than it sounds. There are a lot of high heels out there, but most of them are two and a half inches or higher.

At Macy’s, she picked up one pair of heels.

I like these, she said.

Eyeing them, I could tell they were probably too tall, but I knew better than to ask a teenager to take my word for it.

I pulled out a tape measure.

My daughter held up the shoes.

The verdict: Two and a quarter inches.

I think it would be OK, my daughter said confidently.

Not so fast, I said. The previous week another eighth-grade mom told me the tale of her own daughter’s high heels. Just a smidgen over two inches, she took the shoes to the school principal for inspection. The principal must have had her own ruler because, alas, the heels were rejected.

School rules, I said. Two inches it is.

We moved on to a shoe store called Waltz.

Waltz was filled with shoes in every color, pattern and heel height. There were the tallest, spikiest heeled shoes I’d ever seen, let alone worn. There were cute little flats and shoes with flowers, leopard print, gems and rhinestone dangly bits.

This was the Jersey Shore of shoe stores. It was the gaudy cousin of Payless Shoe Source. Better yet, most of the shoes at Waltz were priced at $25.95 or less.

This is the place, I told my daughter. Get over there and pick out some shoes.

She circled a row of three-inch heels.

I held up the tape measure.

She rolled her eyes.

After a few more minutes, she picked up a pair of faux patent leather heels with a peep toe.

Those are cute, I said.

Measure it, she demanded, holding the shoe out to me.

They were two and a quarter inches.

No good, I said. They might be OK for church or a school dance, but not for graduation, I said.

She sighed a heavy sigh.

After much frowning and arm folding, she tentatively picked out another equally cute pair of peep-toe shoes. Out came the measuring tape. This time we had better luck. They were one and a half inches tall.

Perfect, I said.

I like them, she admitted. If I can’t have that other pair for graduation, these are nice, she said.

I silently said a prayer of thanks to the shoe gods.

Brightening a bit, my daughter carried her box to the register.

“Do you want to buy a second pair for half off?,” the helpful salesgirl asked.

My daughter looked at me with puppy dog eyes.

I looked back at her. Our almost–high school girl was growing up, heels or not.

Go get them, I said.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Newsroom goes retro

Kelly at work brought in a vintage typewriter and us reporters dove into some old school "technology"

One of the reporters who has been with the paper since the 1970s declined to try out the typewriter.
I've used one before, he said.

I'm thinking I want a pink one!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Driving Miss Annabelle

Actually, it's the other way around. Annabelle is the one driving me. In a car that is.
Our oldest girl recently got her permit which means now we have to spend six months practicing driving.
We started in school and church parking lots. She is hesitant but motivated.
A few days later we graduated to quiet residential streets. Her confidence building, she asked to drive to Grandma's house. We made it there in one piece.
My goal is to get her highway ready in one month, before we leave to take her to her summer art program in LA. I'm thinking Highway 5 is the perfect long stretch of freeway for a 17-year-old to practice going more than 30 mph.
She'll get the driving experience... and I'll probably get more gray hairs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Big game

I took Annabelle to a friend's house for pre-prom photos the other weekend and this is what we found. Apparently the hosts are big game hunters. They had over 75 different animals, including pelts and full sized creatures.
The only animals I didn't see was a a rhino, elephant and giraffe. They had almost every other African animal you can think of.
I take that back about the elephant. They had replicas of elephant tusks on display. The real ivory is back in Africa, the host said.

Friday, May 20, 2011

First high heels...

Allie got her first pair of high heels this week. She has been begging for heels for a while now, and with 8th grade graduation coming up, she launched an all out campaign for heels.

The only problem is that her school specifies that any heels for graduation must be under 2 inches. She compromised with this black pair (1.5 inches), but I also agreed to buy her the taupe pair (2.25 inches) -- to wear to church and dances ONLY , I said.

She wore the taupe heels to church last Sunday.
"They gave me a blister," she said. "But I don't care."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Custom Converse by Annabelle

Here's a better pic of the Converse Annabelle customized for her prom. I'm thinking we can put her to work in a factory somewhere painting shoes to pay for art school.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Feeling flush

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
May 16, 2011

I used to think we were a green-friendly family — that is, until we visited something called the David Brower Center in Berkeley.

We Huffmans had headed down to the East Bay city for a college meet-and-greet with our oldest. After parking the car, our daughter headed for the check-in table in the building lobby and I headed for the bathrooms.

I opened the door to a stall to find a toilet bowl filled with brownish-colored water. Ewwwww. Was there a problem with the plumbing? Or worse, did someone forget to flush? Then I noticed the sign. Toilets use collected rainwater, it said.

How clever! Is this a green practice that we could implement at our house? Could the girls be trained to put pails under the gutters and downspouts to collect rainwater and then carry it inside without sloshing water all over the carpet and making a mess? Would a potty filled with rainwater stop the dog from drinking out of the toilet?

Instead of the usual toilet handle, there were two buttons to choose from: Half Flush and Full Flush. This required some thought. Should I go for the full flush or half? I don’t want to waste water. Or is it better just to do the full flush, just in case a half flush doesn’t do the job?

At our house we have three toilets, which means on any given day there are three times as many chances that one or more of them may get stopped up and need plunging. My husband grew up on a ranch, so he knows not to overwhelm a septic system with TP, but we have city girls. I think they see a big roll of TP and just pull away.

I happen to be a good toilet plunger. The main reason is that, unlike my husband, I don’t get grossed out when plunging is required. A mom who has changed 6,000 diapers isn’t afraid of a clogged toilet.

So anyway, there I am, debating full or half flushes in the David Brower Center. Half or full. Half or full.

I couldn’t help myself. I pushed each button twice, just to compare the flushing power of each. Yes, I am guilty of wasting water.

Meeting my husband in the hallway, I told him the full and half flush story. He looked at me with a smirk.

“I used a waterless urinal,” he said.

Whoa. He had me there. I couldn’t top that.

Now that I had fully investigated the bathrooms, we headed to our meeting room, where we found a spread of muffins, cookies and other treats.

A carafe had a sign on it. Organic, shade-grown, fair-trade coffee, it read. I thought of my package of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee sitting in my freezer at home. Somehow I doubted it was organically farmed on a shady hillside by happy El Salvadorian coffee pickers paid a fair wage. Guilty again.

The green-ness continued. Next to the coffee was a bowl filled with brown sugar crystals and a container of agave extract. No Sweet-and-Lo here, people. Paper plates and cups were made of brown unbleached fibers. Instead of bottled water, there was a glass pitcher of water with lemon.

All this recycling was making me a little self-conscious. I had a plastic water bottle in my purse. What if I wanted to throw it away and tossed it into the wrong recycling bin? Would the Berkeley Recycling Police descend on me, clap those plastic (surely recycled) handcuffs on me and throw me in Recycling Jail? I imagined as punishment that I’d be forced to attend a Recycling Offender Program, which would include pop quizzes on plastic recycling numbers and timed recycling-sorting events.

Even worse, what if the art school that was hosting the meeting saw me with the plastic bottle? This could reflect poorly on my daughter.

“Mother drank from plastic bottle. Seemed clueless how to recycle it. Application: rejected.”

Eating my chocolate muffin, I felt bad for using a brown paper plate AND a paper napkin. I could have just taken a napkin for my pastry. But no, I had to take a brown paper plate too.

Writing this column, I Googled the David Brower Center. Not only does the center have its own website, the building itself has its own website, which among other things, shows you how much energy and water is being used hour by hour.

I checked the date we visited. Sure enough, 227 gallons of water were used that day, more than twice the amount on a typical Saturday.

Next time I’ll only flush once, I swear.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prom Night...

Our girl goes to the prom!
May 14, 2011
(Shoes designed and painted by Annabelle)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pre-prom pics

Our oldest girl is headed off to her first prom.
Here she is trying on dresses at a local dress lending library.
(I wasn't thrilled about a strapless dress until I saw how cute it looked on her.)
That dress library is the best thing ever!

Instead of the yellow Converse, she will be wearing all white Converse with her own designs drawn on them.

Will post pics this weekend!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mom's Day out

Us Moms need a day out every now and then. Here's our Mother's Day 2011 at Jack London State Park:

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New shoez.

These are my new favorite shoes. Target, $16.99, on sale. I got them in bronze as well. Yeah spring!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

If the dress fits...

Napa Valley Register
| Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011

When our oldest daughter announced that she was going to the junior prom and needed a long dress, I knew right where to look.

Last year, I wrote a story about a prom dress-lending library at the Napa County Office of Education where any Napa County student can borrow a dress for no charge. Greene’s Cleaners even cleans the dresses for free. And for this mom, nothing is sweeter than free.

I called up Nancy at the NCOE, who gladly invited my daughter and a friend to come check out the dresses at their office on Imola Avenue.

Driving over, I gave a prom dress pep talk to the girls.

Try on as many dresses as you can, I said. You never know what you’ll like, or what will fit. Don’t worry about hems or straps. I can do some basic alterations if needed. Think about the shoes. Do you want to wear high heels or comfortable flats?

It was hard to stop talking. I don’t know who was more excited, me or them.

Arriving at the office, we found our way to the magic dress closet. OK, so it wasn’t really a magic closet; it was a copy room. But inside it was magic. On six or seven rolling racks, next to stacks of paper and office supplies, was a feast of fashion. Hundreds of dresses in every color and size. Jackpot.

I think even they were surprised at how many dresses there were to pick from. One started in the blue zone. Another started at the all-black rack.

My eyes went straight to a pink princess-style ballgown covered in rhinestones. The skirt on this dress was made of tulle and easily four feet wide. Oooooohhhh, I said.

Mom, that is too much, my daughter said.

Yeah, she was probably right.

What about this sparkly stretchy number in deep blue?

Mom, that looks like something you’d see on Star Trek.


I showed her another sparkly dress, this one in deep gray with abstract splotches on it.

Mom, that looks like it has a constellation on it.

I looked at it closer. She had a good point. A white blob/spot on the middle of the dress did sort of look like a constellation.

I saw a multi-colored dress from Nordstrom with the tag still on it. Hmmmmm, this might look good on me. Maybe I should borrow it.

On second thought, maybe not. This is not a mom dress library. This is a prom dress library.

I tried to play it cool as the girls quietly looked, but it was hard to keep quiet. So many dresses! So many choices.

I like this one, my daughter said.

She was holding up a light green and blue gown with crystals on the skirt and a simple strapless top. Mentally, I added straps to the bodice.

Try it on, I said.

Closing two racks around her, she slipped the dress over her head and then peeked out.

I like it, she said.

I stepped over to take a look.

Oh wow. There she was. Our girl who we normally can’t get out of jeans and a sweatshirt was wearing a prom dress. Not only that, a really cute prom dress. One that fit her perfectly, even without straps.

Wow, I said again.

Look in the mirror, I told her.

Yeah, I really like it, she said.

I like it, too, I said. I clasped my hands to my heart as I looked at her.

I looked down at her feet, where her yellow Converse sneakers poked out from under the hem.

Don’t worry, she said. I’ll wear different shoes.

I looked at her again.

No, I said. It’s perfect. All of it is perfect.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Read my (royal) lips

Here's a link to a story from today's SF Chronicle. I'm no lip reader but even I thought William told Kate she was beautiful at the altar. Awww. So sweet.

Tina Lannin, a professional lip reader who was born deaf, caught the private whispers during Friday's royal wedding that television microphones couldn't capture.

Lannin, who has worked for seven years as a forensic lip reader for police forces and media outlets with O'Malley Communications, picked out comments from Prince William, his bride and Queen Elizabeth II in a partial transcript. Her assessment couldn't be verified.

10:20 a.m.: Prince William: "Looking forward to it." To Harry, "Shall we go in then?

Prince Harry: "Sure, everyone has arrived."

William (to bishop): "Make sure everything's alright. It's beautiful the way it is."

10:25 a.m.: William to lady in congregation: "You look very pretty, very pretty."

10:55 a.m.: Michael Middleton to Kate Middleton as they left hotel: "You OK?"

11:00 a.m.: Pippa Middleton to sister Kate: "You look amazing."

Michael Middleton to Kate Middleton as they entered Westminster Abbey: "You OK?"

Kate Middleton to her father: "Yeah."

11:05 a.m.: Kate to bishop before walking down the aisle: "Yes I suppose so ... I expect I'll be worn out today. Thank you."

Harry to William: "Right, here she is now."

William to Middleton at the altar: "You look lovely ... (unclear) ... You look beautiful."

William joking to Michael Middleton: "We're supposed to have just a small family affair."

12:00 a.m.: Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip: "It was excellent."

Prince Philip: "Yes?"

12:15 a.m.: William to Kate Middleton: "All right?"

Kate Middleton: "Yes."

William: "Wish I was out."

Kate Middleton: "I'm beginning to find (unclear)."

William: "Yeah, all right." Hands bouquet to Kate after they climb aboard their carriage, "Here you are."

Kate Middleton: "Thank you."

Kate Middleton: "Now, are you happy?"

William: "Yes ... (unclear conversation) ... wave to everybody."

Queen, outside abbey: "I wanted them to take the smaller carriage."

Camilla, duchess of Cornwall: "It all went very well."

Queen: "Very well."

William, in wedding carriage: "I don't think you should bow quite yet. I think you should just bow your head, OK?"

Kate Middleton: "OK."

William: "I hope I remember. ... It's mad, it's mad! Oh my goodness it ... really loudly here (unclear) these people are clapping."

Kate Middleton: "Did they?"

William: "I think so. I went out here the first (unclear)."

Prince Charles, in separate carriage: "Yeah it looked nice."

Camilla: "Yes, but you have to know how to do it."

Kate Middleton to William, in wedding carriage: "You look happy."

1:30 p.m: Kate Middleton, on Buckingham Palace balcony: "Oh wow."

William: "All right? You'll be OK?"

Kate Middleton: "Oh, I'm fine, thank you."

William: "Yeah! Yeah! There's a lot of people down here." To pageboys, "I know but look up there as well." To his bride: "OK? Look at me, let's kiss, OK."

William, shouting balcony: "Harry! Your go!"

Kate Middleton: "What's next?"

William: "They want more time I think."

William, shouting across balcony, possibly to Camilla: "You could have brought up (unclear) as well."

Camilla: "Oh, very heavy."

William: "Just do a bit of everything. Do you like the balloons (unclear) they go up in the air."

Kate Middleton: "Look at these people."

William: "I want to see the plane, I think I'm (unclear)."

William to Harry: "OK."

William to pageboys: "... to stop them coming in here, to stop them coming in this side, I mean it's hard."

William to Kate Middleton: "One more." The couple kiss for a second time. "That's it, come on!"

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Attack of the wedding dress dolls!

It's barely been two days but there are already a number of royal wedding dolls for sale online. Check it out:

I don't need a Princess Catherine wedding doll, but as a Barbie girl I can't help but look. Maybe Mattel will do a Princess Kate Barbie and Prince William Ken! Now THAT I would buy!