Saturday, December 30, 2006

Emblematic

My mother is not a sentimental person. I've never doubted that she loves me or is proud of my accomplishments, but she's not given to poignant pronouncements or romantic gestures.

So I was deeply touched and surprised when, at my bridal shower, she gave me two huge, elegant photo albums she had compiled, holding three generations of family photos. If you come to visit me, I will eventually find some reason to make you leaf through these large books, because I think they are amazing.

Page 1 of 4 The final pages of volume two are labeled "Reprise." They contain pictures of me from throughout my life. In each one, my nose is buried in a book. The theme emerged as my mom pored through the hundreds of photos she chose from to create the books. When my brother married two years ago, his book ended with pictures of him building and creating with blocks, Legos, and other materials (he's now a sculptor).

I sometimes wonder what pictures will end up best representing my kids' childhoods. As of today, I know what I'd choose for each of them.

Pass the markers
The artist at work

Homemade gnocchi

"I cooo-keeng!"

What picture will you choose for your child?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Why we need a very very small bungee cord

I'd like to think that if I'd had children of only one sex, I would've beat back stereotypes to buy them toys meant for the opposite sex. As I commented on one of Kristen's recent posts, Opie did get a play kitchen this Christmas--and more than one of my acquaintances commented that they'd love to get one for their sons, too, but their husbands "wouldn't allow it." How depressing (and downright dumb) is that?!

But I'm not sure how aggressive I would been if I'd had to constantly row my own little non-sexist boat against the ever-rising tide (really a tsunami) of pink goodies for girls, or trucks-'n'-trains for boys. Now that I do have both a girl and a boy, I've realized that one of the many benefits to this arrangement is that they play with each other's toys without prompting. Jo has quite eagerly watched Opie's new "Truck Monster" DVD several times since Christmas, and she's also been spotted racing his soft plastic cars down their new track. Last summer, she happily consented when we insisted that her new two-wheeler be of the non-sparkly variety (so that it could eventually be handed down to her brother).

Meanwhile, Opie recently has taken an interest in Jo's baby dolls. He's far more likely to change Bitty Baby's clothes than his sister is, or to give a dolly a bottle or feed her with a tiny plastic spoon. Then again, he also likes to play Dolly Death Drop. He perches an unsuspecting baby on the top of our puppet theater (photo here) and then cackles with glee as he makes her plunge to the floor below.

That certainly wasn't the intended purpose of the theater, or the dolls. But I'll give him points for creativity--and remember that it's my privilege, and my responsibility, to raise both my boy and girl to know that there's no such thing as women's work, or men's. There's just work, and we should all pitch in and do it together.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What I learned on my Christmas vacation

I might actually be able to live on a vegan diet--if christmas cookies were allowed, and if I had full-time kitchen help.

An adult's gift can be more annoying than a child's, if your husband receives a didgeridoo.

My brother and sister are the only people who can consistently make me laugh until I cry. This weekend we revisited past favorite tunes such as the Music Facts Rap ("Bach was born in Eisenach/In sixteen eighty-five ... Ludwig/Beethoven/born in Bonn/had the crazy middle/name of 'von'"), an allegedly Pennsylvania Dutch song called Vas Ist Das ("Vas ist das, mein son, vas ist das vas ist das? Das is mein hat-racker my father dear...") and our elementary school song. We even had a special song just for grades K-2: "We are the primary division/The primary division/We are the primary division/We work and work and work/And then we play." Catchy!

When it comes to adult:kid ratios, 7:2 beats 1:2 or 2:2 any day of the week.

A toddler who is so excited by his bounty of trucks and plastic fruits and vegetables that he refuses to eat all day ... will not sleep all night.

I'm still working on catching up with all of you. Hope everything is merry and happy where you are.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The poor man can't get a moment's peace

He's making a list and checking it twice By popular demand (OK, by one person's demand), I give you: the family heirloom Santa in the Outhouse.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

As mushy as a cocoa-soaked marshmallow

Ho ho ho I am all warm and Christmassy. The tree is up, most of the presents are bought, and we're all looking forward to the arrival of Grandma, Grandpa, and the aunts and uncle this week. And I have so many reasons to feel merry and bright. A tiny sampling:

  • One of my blogging friends, whom I met for the first time at BlogHer this summer, sent me a holiday card--a real one in the mail. It really surprised and touched me. I will return the favor when my cards arrive in "3 to 10 business days."

  • The way Opie has started saying "Oh, man!" with perfect inflection and for entirely appropriate reasons. And the fact that he recently spent one entire nap clutching a large plastic spatula.

  • The way Jo says "lemontine" for clementine. And the picture she drew yesterday, described thusly: "This is the ocean, and here is the boat. This is the flag. I mean the sail. It's a dentist boat because this [pointing to the image on the sail] is a tooth."

  • Mamatulip's hilarious hematoma (not Christmassy. Just funny).

  • Mayberry moment #4: The Santa float (above). The fire department decks out a truck, then spends a week of evenings driving on every single inch of road in town playing carols and wishing everyone a merry Christmas. You can't really see him (sorry for the lousy picture--he took the corner by our house pretty fast), but Santa's on board too, waving at all the kids.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

You can pick your friends...

Bad: Your daughter picks a huge booger out of her nose during her bedtime story. You send her to the bathroom to dispose of it.

Worse: Hours later, you grab a Kleenex from the bathroom box and discover that same booger carefully preserved in the corner. Of a tissue that has not even left the box.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Someone throw out a life preserver

holy crap! ...'cause the grandparents have gone totally overboard.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tour de Tree

Since I made such a big deal about my Rules for Christmas Tree Decoration (see my blog exchange post here if you missed it the first time around), I thought I'd share a small sampling of some of the ornaments on our tree. There's no picture of the tree itself bcause we did a lousy job choosing it this year. The trunk is as crooked as a $3 bill and the branches are all lopsided.

Still, it makes a fine backdrop for these:

She's still not getting that Ariel Talking Salon
A Santa made out of a starfish, purchased on some beach vacation.


Shout-out to Tertia
A beaded doll from a trip my parents took to South Africa.

Cock-a-doodle doo!
Foreground: A rooster my mom bought in China symbolizing Opie's birth in the Year of the Rooster (there is one for each of us); background: A glass ball hand-blown by my brother's art-school roommate.

I'm not kidding about this
From my paternal grandmother's collection. She collected outhouses. Somewhere we have a tabletop outhouse featuring Santa with his pants around his ankles.

This isn't the only trash-picked item on the tree
Trash-picked from the dump on Martha's Vineyard.

What he did in retirement
Needlepointed by my paternal grandfather.

Dig that 70s groove
Left: A cloth doll made by one of my childhood babysitters. Right (hard to see): a porcelain German Shepherd that looks slightly like our mutt.

Cheep cheep!
Hand-made by my sister-in-law Amy. These little guys were the motif from their wedding, appearing on the invitations, place cards, thank-you notes, and (in 3D) on the cake. She made a set of these for everyone in the family the Christmas they got married.

I heart NY
A memento of our NYC days. The only toddler ornament casualty so far: Opie thought it was the real thing and took a bite.

Anyone know where I can get a blue 2005 version?
Not-overly-corny Baby's First Christmas.

The only copy of that portrait we have, since we were too cheap to buy the package
Top: Stained glass from the gift shop of the museum around the corner from our house. Bottom: "Stained glass" on yogurt lid from day care.
*
Don't forget Her Bad Auction--today through Sunday!

Monday, December 11, 2006

All I want for Christmas is (are?) a few good links

Just to make sure that my two or three readers that may not know about these sites get the memo:

Her Bad Auction
Visit Her Bad Auction (brainchild of Kristen and Julie) this week for an online raffle featuring fabulous prizes. Proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada in honor of Her Bad Mother's nephew, Tanner.

Ask Moxie and Parent Hacks both have lots of excellent holiday advice (including one submitted by yours truly on PH). So does Scholastic.com which someone you know just may have had a hand in preparing.

And for fun: The inimitable Tracey put together a rockin' holiday music mix that I plan to run on an endless loop from now through New Year's. Or maybe Valentine's Day.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Wishful thinking


Both by luck and by design, Jo has had very little exposure to TV commercials until recently. She loves TV (Julie will vouch for the fact that "Nemo fish?" was her most commonly used phrased from 18-24 months), but she watches commercial-free channels and DVDs for the most part. However, a new infatuation with Blue (as in Clues) prompted us to start recording the show for her on a channel that does have advertising.

Wow. A whole new world opened up to her--and no one asked me for her passport either. Now, not only does she beg for "shows" constantly, she specifically requests the ones with commercials. When Jeff asked her what ads were for, she informed him that they "tell you what you want." Indeed! She "wants" everything she sees (unless it's "for boys"--which I find even more annoying and frustrating than the gimme-gimmes).

So for several weeks I used the tried-and-true tactic of saying that she could put whatever it was she was begging for on her Christmas wish list. I'd follow up by reminding her that Santa (or more likely, Grandma and Grandpa) would bring just a few requested items. After hearing this response from me repeatedly, she finally asked for pencil and paper to make her list...during a commercial break. I had to pause the TV each time a desired item was advertised, and wait while she wrote it on her list. I dictated most of the letters, but she copied some of them directly off of the TV screen. Let's just say that if I actually kept a scrapbook, this would be going in it. Oh wait, that's why I have a blog.

I have managed to talk her out of a few misguided wants. One was a doll that eats, then produces a dirty diaper. OK, so we've all had dolls that peed, but I draw the line at pretend baby doll crap. When she said she wanted it, I reminded her that she doesn't often play with the dolls she does have--and that if she wants to change dirty diapers, she could help me with the real thing. Before too long she agreed that the doll wouldn't make such a good addition to her list after all. It's a baby step (har har) toward thoughtful consumerism, but I'll take it.

(By the way, those colored-in circles between each word are her interpretation of me saying, "OK, now leave a space and the next word starts with...")

(And also, over my dead body with the Ariel Talking Salon enter this house, through the chimney or otherwise.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Everyday poetry, heavy on the parentheses

I heard this wonderful poem on the radio yesterday; it was at 8:45 a.m., after I had:

changed a diaper;

negotiated two picky children into their clothing (since when does a 20-month-old boy have an opinion about what he wears? Why is the adorable corduroy shirt with tiny embroidered bulldozers and backhoes met with a vigorous shake of the head and an emphatic "DunYIKE it. DunYIKE it. DunYIKE it Mama!");

prepared and served waffles with peanut butter (the toaster kind--I'm not insane);

combed snarls out of tangled hair;

located shoes, coats, hats, and mittens and applied them to uncooperative feet, arms, heads, and hands (it was all of 3 degrees outside);

herded same hands, feet, etc. down the driveway, into the garage and into car seats ("I kime, mama. I kime!");

3 minutes later, shuffled children out of car and into school (lost one mitten in process; returned by parent arriving after us);

after lengthy drop-off (involving emptying and filling of cubbies, trips to the nursery, the preschool room, and the bathroom), traveled to nearby store;

returned Christmas decorations deemed unsuitable by husband;

secured only available pair of 18-month size snowpants (which don't match coat, which doesn't match mittens);

stopped at drive-through for a chai tea latte;

arrived at home to savor desk job.

***

I know am very lucky to have the job that I have (I also worked hard to get it) and the pretty good work-family balance it affords me. I know I've also been very lucky to have gotten to this point without dealing with a lot of crappy jobs along the way. I've never waitressed or worked retail (I told you I was a princess) or dealt with an obnoxious boss. Even in high school I worked in an office. I did have a paper route, but I liked it because I listened to my Walkman while I delivered, and (importantly) my brother handled the early morning papers on the weekends, and I did the afternoons during the week.

The only job I really hated was a weekly babysitting gig I had in New York when I was in my early 20s. The house was dirty and messy. I was afraid to eat any of the food. The mother's slightly weird brother would come in and out while I was there. And the kids were monsters. I could not figure out how to make them listen to me or refrain from beating each other up or go to bed when they were supposed to. Eventually I just gave up and left them in their room and hoped they'd drop in their tracks before their mother came home.

So I can't really enter Debbie's shitty resume contest. But you should. Because awesome prize! And also, we all want to hear your scary stories.

***

Second contest alert: Kristen's Support a Mom Contest: Expectant Mom Edition. Nominate your favorite blogger-with-bun-in-oven and you both win.

***

To answer your questions about the Shrimp-Free Party: I didn't get drunk...just one glass of wine, because otherwise narcolepsy sets in and that's not very festive. No photos on Flickr! My blog is still subrosa here in Mayberry, so I can talk about my neighbors!

And I would use that anesthesiologist again, actually. Despite his frat-boy demeanor and his apparent pyromania, he has the best bedside manner of any doctor who's ever cared for me. At a time and place when everyone in the room was focused on my baby (which of course was as it should be) he was the only one paying attention to me. He held my hand and very calmly talked me through the whole operation (c-section after umpteen hours of labor), and made sure I knew exactly what was happening and why. And that was after I threw up on his feet.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spared! (sort of)

Scene: Chez Mayberry Mom, Saturday morning, 9 a.m. Jeff and I have just finished planning out the day, to include grocery stop to pick up All-Important Shrimp.

PHONE: Brrrrrrrrrring!

MMom: Hello?

Nice Party-organizing Lady: Hello, this is NPOL...[pleasantries, weather, blah blah]...just checking in about the party tonight. Did you get the shrimp yet?

MMom: No, I was going to go later today.

NPOL: Well, don't. The budget is tight and we already have a lot of food, so we decided we don't need the shrimp after all.

MMom, weight lifted from shoulders: OK!

NPOL: Thank you for all your help!

MMom: Um, sure. See you tonight.

NPOL: See you tonight! Thanks again!

***

It actually gets better, though. Went to the party, it was lovely, food was delish, jazz band comprised of high-schoolers ($250) surprisingly good. Anesthesiologist who officiated at Opie's birth was there, told festive holiday tale of how he almost blew up his house last Christmas by burning 25 ft of bone-dry pine garland in his fireplace--the explosion shattered the doors and sent shards of flaming glass throughout his living room. Glad I didn't know this before he administered my epidural. Also in attendance, world-famous sex (or is it gender)-reassignment surgeon who just happens to live and practice right here in Mayberry!

But today (the day after the party)? Thus far? Three more emails. Two with spreadsheets. Only 363 days until the next gala!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Red

This month, my husband and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date. We'll also celebrate the first anniversary of our new baby's conception.

Both anniversaries I might owe to the color red.

When JP asked me out 20 years ago, we were still in high school. There was a dance the day after Christmas. (Actually, they called it a cotillion, but that sounds fancier than it actually was! Maybe the parent organizers thought we'd all act better if they gave it an important name. It didn't work.) I was the new girl and decided to give this seemingly shy, geeky guy a chance. What did I have to lose? He was nice. He didn't seem bothered by the fact my dad wanted to talk to him first. And I got a red dress out of it.

My stepmother took me shopping for the dress. The fashion then for a typical prom-type dress had a dropped waist, a full skirt and puffy sleeves. The dress we found was plain, but the beautiful Christmasy color and the ever-so-slightly shimmery fabric won us over.

Apparently, it won JP over, too, because he asked me out again. As I got to know him, I realized he wasn't as geeky as I thought. Smart. Kind. But shy? Yes. I was outgoing enough for both of us, however, and we were a regular couple for the rest of high school.

Nineteen years later, after 11 years of marriage, I was looking forward to having an intimate Christmas with JP when I stumbled across beautiful red lingerie. It was unlike anything I'd ever worn: red lace with clusters of glitter placed in a pattern that made you think the glitter was actually rhinestones. It was fancy and seemed just right for Christmas. Anyone married for 11 years knows you try different things to keep those flames of romance going, so a week before Christmas, that little red outfit helped me fan those flames!

Little did we know that lingerie also happened to have a hand in giving us a baby! The way I tell people: we weren't trying, but we weren't not trying, either.

So, 20 years in the making, our baby is now here. It will be our first Christmas together as a family! And we have a special new Christmas stocking for our little guy in . . . red.

--Damselfly started blogging about her pregnancy at Growing a Life and is now making sporadic new-mama posts about her 12-week-old boy. We've swapped places today, so please go check out my entry there--and don't miss the rest of the red- & green-themed blog exchange posts. You'll find all of them by clicking on the pretty pink button at right.

Green

Originally posted at Growing a Life as part of the Blog Exchange.

I can be laidback about some things (see: dog hair on floor, presence of; vegetables in children’s diet, absence of). But there are Rules about Christmas Trees, and they cannot be broken, at least in my house. (Whatever you want to do at your house is cool with me, especially if you are serving Champagne and eggnog.)

1. None of this artificial business. The tree has to be real. Yes, I know I will be picking up needles, and probably finding them in my son’s diaper too, long past Valentine’s day (oh, and they have to be short needles – not those long silky kind). Yes, I know it’s a hassle to wrestle it on top of the car, through the front door, and into the tree stand. I know there are fake trees that look very real. But you will never, ever, ever convince me to have one in my house.
1a. Corollary: Proper scheduling. Fake trees can go up anytime, but a real tree must be purchased, decorated, and disposed of in a more reasonable time frame. There is no need to follow the lead of the department stores and put up the tree in October. It should go up on or about December 10 and be out on the curb by New Year’s Day.

2. This is my living room, not the Sunset Strip. White or colored lights are both acceptable, but there must be no flashing. Lights must be small, plain bulbs, not huge reindeer or chili peppers or any other funky shape. Ornaments should most certainly not require batteries to power lights, music, fog machines or any other "special" effect.

3. Ornaments must be one-of-a-kind. No generic packages of 12 multicolored balls or 24 icicles or 6 of those weird upside-down ice-cream cone thingies. (I will make an exception for candy canes—if they are edible.) Ornaments should be fun, interesting, homemade, acquired for a reason or received as a gift. They should commemorate vacations, new babies, new homes, hobbies or jobs. And no tinsel!

4. Decorating is a family affair. Everyone must go together to pick out the tree; everyone must help drag the boxes of ornaments and other goodies from the basement; everyone must help put the ornaments on the tree. And everyone must listen to Bing Crosby’s Christmas album.

5. Enjoy it! Every night before bed, turn off all the lights except the ones on the tree. Squint a little so everything’s all twinkly. Admire, and go to bed dreaming of Harry Connick, Jr.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

And a spammy, smelly holiday to you too

Our neighborhood has a fairly swanky holiday party each year--cocktails, catered hors d'oeuvres, live music, kid-free. The first year ('04), we got the invite and read the part about how much it costs to attend, thought "WTF?" and didn't go. The next year ('05), we grasped the concept and knew more people, so we went and enjoyed ourselves. I checked off the box on the RSVP card that said "willing to help with next year's party."

So. A few weeks ago one of the nice ladies organizing the shindig called and asked me if I'd buy the shrimp for the party. I said sure and she said she'd email me the relevant details.

I am not kidding when I tell you that I have now received no fewer than 15 emails regarding this purchase, some of which have contained attached Excel spreadsheets. God forbid I should lack the most up-to-the-minute detail on how many people are coming, the state of the budget, and whether or not I knew I also need to buy toothpicks. The party is on Saturday, so there are surely more to come.

And guess what? I can't stand shrimp. It is right at the top of my list of Foods Least Likely to Eat Ever Ever Ever.

I'm still looking forward to the party. I'll just eat more cookies and stay as far away from the fishy stuff as possible.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Belated, but no less sincere

Or, "What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation"

A certain link in my sidebar notwithstanding, I love my mother-in-law. She is very sweet and generous and of course she adores my kids. She is utterly devoted to her large family and her friends. She can even be coaxed into some gentle snarking about my sister-in-law (her other daughter-in-law). We spent this holiday with her, and I am thankful for:
  • Uncrowded airports and indulgent baggage handlers. Arriving at the airport at 4:30 a.m. on the Busiest Travel day of the Year had its benefits. We sailed through security (after dumping our sippy cups... I thought I understood 3-1-1, but evidently not) and the kids were amazing. Opie befriended all the workers on the tarmac by eagerly waving from the window of each and every plane we were on. (And I am grateful that we, and all our friends and family, traveled safely.)

  • Food I did not have to cook, even if it was offered to me a minimum of 100 times per day. Despite his mighty protests, Jeff's mom, grandmother, and aunts made everything. Jo helped wash the potatoes and I set about half the table. That was it. (And I am grateful that we always have plenty of food to eat, even if the kids won't always actually eat it.)

  • The new shower nozzle thingamajig attached to the bathtub faucet in MIL's bathroom. Still no actual shower stall, but at least I can wash my hair while sitting in the tub now, instead of using the utility sink in the basement. I am not kidding, this means a lot to me. (And I am grateful for all the comforts of home.)

  • My son's voice. He now requests his favorite songs at bedtime ("Suh-shiiine!" "Moww-ten!" "Muh-keys!"), going so far as to demand only the first verse of "You Are My Sunshine" (which if you read the lyrics, makes good sense. Who knew the song was about infidelity, or Louisiana?). This he accomplishes by saying "Suh-shine" and then singing "haaaap-eeeee." (And I am deeply, profoundly grateful for my two little rays of sunshine and their dad, and for our good health.)

  • The very endearing way all the aunties claim the kids--their great-grandnieces and nephews--as "our" whenever they are mentioned: "Did you see our Liza made the honor roll?" "Our Landon loved that toy, remember?" And the way they follow every compliment with a "God bless him": "He's a beautiful child, God bless him." (And I am grateful for four generations under one roof, and for all our family far and wide.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Life in lists

Things I have done this week instead of posting, all of which I am pretty proud (except maybe the laundry):
  • a shitload of laundry, and I use that term deliberately
  • written and submitted a draft of this article, thanks to help from friends inside and outside the computer
  • updated this page, which involved tampering with ASP code, and did I mention I was a double major in French and English literature, and thus my major accomplishment in college was learning how to read a novel really fast?
  • cooked at least one meal that did not involve reheating or dialing
Things my toddler has recently dunked in the dog's water bowl (not including his hands):
  • Plastic bottles borrowed from adjacent recycling container
  • Net bag full of bath toys
  • Vinyl measuring tape (of the kind used for sewing, don't know how that got into my house) much prized by his sister
  • His sneakered foot
  • His bare foot

Things I am embarrassed to admit I have never done (thus revealing me to be a total princess, athough at least I am not afraid of bugs) :

  • change the oil in a car
  • operate a lawn-mower
  • drive a car with manual transmission

Things I have deemed a serving of vegetables for a small 4-year-old:

  • a smiley-face of ketchup
  • the dusty green goodness of Veggie Booty
  • 4 baby carrots accompanied by enough melted butter to set them afloat
  • the amount of tomato sauce that can fit inside a mini, shell-shaped piece of pasta ("Look, Mommy! I made a burrito!")

Friday, November 17, 2006

Freaky Friday

Still swamped, but this deserved a post--an ad (see if you can guess what sort of business it's pitching) in a local publication featuring the following "poem":

Amanda asked for fuller lips
Kristin wants less around the hips
Bob requested fewer wrinkles
Susan wished for thinner ankles
Morgan--cellulite reduction
Amy--liposuction!
Dana--permanent makeup around the eyes
and Mary wants to fit in a smaller dress size
I'll give the center a call and get gift certificates for them all!

Now, subject matter aside, hello? do they think they can try to rhyme "wrinkles" and "ankles" and get away with it? And did no one see that they could have easily fixed the meter in line 6 by changing "Amy" to "Angelica"? C'mon, guys, make an effort.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drowning

In work and, well, crap. Of the toddler variety. Turns out the Target Barf was the harbinger of things to come, and Opie pooped his way into a get-out-of-daycare-NOW pass yesterday (when they said "It's up to his neck" they weren't kidding). Naturally I'm swamped with work right now, including the article several of you were good enough to help me with.

So posting will be light. But I want to be sure to mention a project that three of my favorite bloggers are collaborating on: a friendly debate on feminism tonight on Blog Talk Radio. Follow the link for details--it's free and easy to listen!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Strange things are afoot

1. As I've already commented several times throughout the 'sphere, Opie threw up spectacularly right in the middle of a trip to Target yesterday. He was completely fine all day, then puked all over himself, the cart, my coat, some of our merchandise, and the floor in the greeting card aisle. After I cleaned him up and changed him into new clothes (which I of course had to buy at Target and dammit why do they squash all the racks of toddler clothes so close together that you cannot fit a cart in between them? Why?), he then puked again, in a smaller way, at the food court (sorry fellow diners). Then he ate some chicken nuggets and apples and drank some milk and was once again completely fine and slept all night.

2. Jo's fish committed suicide (pescicide?) by jumping out of its bowl and landing nose-first on the table below. Jeff found it there, dried out but still vertical. Thankfully before Jo did, and it's been duly replaced by a new fish that frankly doesn't even look much like the old fish, but she still hasn't noticed.

3. Tonight my kids watched and loved an episode of Lawrence Welk on PBS. They actually cried when I turned it off so we could eat dinner.

*

Points to whomever can complete the movie quote referenced in the title and note its provenance.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Someone please take away my license before I commit a mommy drive-by

I don't think I actually would have said anything, because I am not very good at confrontation. But it was all I could do to keep from fixing her with an icy stare.

"Look at your jeans! What are you doing all the time? How am I supposed to
keep your pants clean?"

"Stop that. Listen to me. Settle down!"

"I can tell just by looking at this that you went too fast. Look how sloppy
this is!"

"No, you're doing it wrong. You need to pay attention!"

And the one that broke my heart: "You are six and a half years old! You should do better!"

Six and a half. This child was only six years old and for 30 minutes straight, I listened to his mother scold him, belittle him, and ignore his desperate attempts to get her to lay off the homework critique and throw him a little positive attention, for pete's sake.

For the entire 30 minutes that we shared a waiting room, I struggled mightily with my overpowering need to judge this mom. Maybe her boss yelled at her today. Maybe she has a chronically painful or terminal disease, or her kid/spouse/mother/sister/best friend does. Maybe this kid is a holy terror and responds best to a firm hand and tone of voice. Maybe he's a genius and she's trying to help him reach his true potential. Maybe she is having one of those days where she wants to ship her kids back to the cabbage patch and only take care of herself for awhile. Maybe it's just none of my damn business.

I knew there could be many explanations for her behavior, and his. If I were a better person, I would have smiled at them both and said something like "Mondays are hard, aren't they!" to defuse the tension. But I couldn't summon the generosity to do so. I buried my nose deeper in my book and waited for our shared sentence to end.

And I still feel bad about it. I guess in the end the one I judge the most is myself.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Can this marriage be saved?

No, not mine. It's doing OK. Amazing what sleeping through the night 80% of the time, vs. 0%, can do for a couple.

I'm writing a magazine article and I need some input from, as we say in the biz, "real women." If you have anything to share, I'd be grateful. I won't use any names, blog names, or other identifying info; you can comment under your name or anonymously, or send me an email to mayberrymom2006 AT yahoo.

The story is about common problems or situations that can leave you feeling like your marriage is in a rut, or worse:
  • worrying about money
  • an unequal distribution of housework and/or child care
  • feeling more like roommates than lovers
  • holding back on expressing your feelings
  • not spending enough "quality time" together

I'm looking for comments or anecdotes to illustrate those scenarios, and also for any solutions you've found to address them: budgeting for a weekend getaway (or a cleaning service!); doing something new together; etc.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. Is anyone else pronouncing the word "NaBloPoMo" in your head like it rhymes with "Giacomo"? Just wondering.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Not as easy as A, B, C

I've written before about how much I like my kids’ child care center. I think the curriculum is a pretty good balance of academics (letters, science, etc.) and what I consider more important preschool stuff, such as learning to cooperate in a group, developing independence, outdoor play, and messy arts and crafts projects.

So I was kind of surprised to find out that the center is soon going to be offering an early reading/phonics program for 3, 4, and 5 year olds (for an extra fee). From the promotional brochures, it seems like the program will be age-appropriate and fun for the kids. Jo loves to write (I dictate the spelling; she recently composed a shopping list of three items: TOAST, MINTS, and GUM). She is starting to connect sounds in words with the right letters, so I think she would enjoy the reading activities.

But I know she doesn’t need it. She’s learning everything she needs just by listening to stories, singing songs, coloring, and talking with us, her friends and her teachers every day. I’d rather just have her keep doing that. There are also studies that show pushing kids too hard too early in academics can be damaging.

I’m torn, though, because Jo might feel left out if lots of the other kids are doing the reading sessions and she isn’t (it will be a pull-out program, where small groups of kids are taken aside or out of the room to participate). Plus it’s hard to turn down the chance to give your child what seems like a leg up! I'm probably going to leave it up to her--tell her about the program and see if she wants to do it. If she does, we can drop out if she's not enjoying herself (we only have to commit, and pay for, a month at a time). But she's only 4. What would you do, wise Internets?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Love Thursday: Yo to the bro

I've LT'd my sister and my half-brother, so now it's my, um, whole brother's turn. As with my sister, there are lots of things we don't have in common. He's a vegan, a long-distance runner and bicylist with like 0.1% body fat, an artist and sculptor who's also extremely handy with any and all tools. He rehabbed a 100-year-old rowhouse a few years ago, with almost no professional help (it's in South Philadelphia and will be for sale next year--in case you're in the market). He's married, but he and his wife have no plans to have children. He wears long-sleeved, plain t-shirts and Gramicci rock-climbing pants every single day (OK, substitute "jeans" for "rock-climbing pants" and we do have that in common).

When we were kids, he was forever building with Legos. I can still hear that scraping sound of him digging through a plastic bin for whichever brick he needed next. He also had a group of stuffed animals that included a walrus named Wally and a tugboat (seriously) named Tuggy.

Later he got much more creative. He now has a master's degree in fine arts and teaches at a university. You can see one of his pieces in TB's Gallery of the Weird (he won me a prize!). His art is conceptual, but not in the chocolate-smearing, performance art kind of way. I usually describe it as "science for art's sake." He keeps all kinds of statistics, tallies, and records, and then turns the data into art. For example, several years ago he kept track of little old ladies that he saw on the street (his criterion was "anyone who looks like she could be my grandma"). Then he took a map of Philadelphia, made pinpricks in all the LOL locations, and mounted the map on a lightbox, so little points of light shone through. He also included a speaker with a recording of him saying "Little Old Lady, 4th and Market... Little Old Lady, 10th and South..." This piece was on display on the side of a gallery for several months.

He does a lot of biking. He and his wife are out on their tandem most weekends. He's done a cross-country (USA) trip, a summer-long circuit around Europe, and a halfway-around-the-world journey that started in Portugal and ended in Singapore (but skipped some hot spots in the middle). On these trips, he'd routinely go 50 to 100 miles a day. He and his wife did a month-long camping/biking honeymoon (which for me would totally be grounds for divorce, but they loved it).

Another of his art pieces developed out of a bike accident. He was mountain biking and wiped out, resulting in a huge scab on his shin. He took pictures of it every day and traced the outline of the scab. Then he turned the series of drawings into the blueprint for a 3D "Scab Mountain" by layering them on top of one another. The base of the mountain, which he made out of some kind of black resin, is the scab at its largest point, and the tip is its size just before it disappeared.

See? Weird. But kinda cool. And certainly creative.

On the road again

P.S. Oh, and his wife is awesome and makes a great sister-in-law. Aside from being a biker/swimmer/yoga whiz and vegan chef, she's an illustrator and graphic designer who sends cards of her own design for every holiday and birthday. She's also sold her work to Hallmark and a lot of British clients such as Boots). She'll patiently draw cats and dogs for Jo for hours and spent a good deal of our beach vacation this summer chaperoning Jo in the pool.

They'll be here for Christmas. We can't wait.

An Open Letter (or Four) to the Trick-Or-Treaters:

Dear Group Of Boys,

While I appreciate that you were celebrating walking door-to-door asking for candy this Halloween, I must say that it wasn't much in the holiday spirit.

One of you never even got off your bicycle. Another had two bags ("this one is...uh...my cousin's"). And yet another one of you, instead of saying "trick or treat!", chomped gum in my face, rolled your eyes, and said, "yeah....", while sticking out a half-full grocery bag.

And you didn't even dress up? And you were all at least 15 years old? And none of you said 'thank you' or 'Happy Halloween'? Come on!

Believe me, kids, I only gave you candy for fear that you would see where my purty new car was parked and return later to harm it if I didn't. Next year? I'm buying stale candy corn JUST.FOR.YOU.

Old And Grumpy,
Chase


Dear Impatient Kids,

Guess what? You can ring a doorbell once and, in
most cases, the homeowner will actually hear it! The first time! For reals! If
it's been only .0053 seconds, there's really no reason to ring it again. And
again. Honest.

And, a special note to the handful of kids who rung it
constantly until I actually opened the door? You can freakin' bite me. Thanks.

Annoyed and a Little Deaf,
Chase

Dear Little Girl Dressed As "a dead bride!",

I fear for your parents. But...cool eyeshadow.

A'Skeered,
Chase


Dear All You Kids,

I hope you like your Red Hots because if I would have
bought chocolate instead, it would have been gone, stuffed deep into my
cavernous mouth before those annoying boys could have even keyed dirty words
into my car door. Sorry, yo.

Gettin' Flabby,
Chase

Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!! Next year? Mmmmyeah...prolly turning off my porch light and munching on all the candy myself. Woot!

This post was written by moi, Chase. I'm a 31-year-old single mother of beagles who lives in Oklahoma and dances the Tango nearly as good as Jerry Springer does. You can find me (and Mayberry Mom today!) at www.tastetheworld.org. Come say hi sometime! :)

It's the 1st of the month, so that means it's Blog Exchange time! Visit the BE HQ for links to all the participants and info on how to join in next time.

An open letter to anyone throwing a sales-pitch party

Originally posted at Taste the World as part of the Blog Exchange.

Do you want to know how many of these parties I’ve been invited to in the last month? Do you? Too bad, because I’m going to tell you anyway: More than 10. That’s five toy parties, one jewelry party, one “home d├ęcor” party, one paint-your-own pottery party, one handbag party, one clothing party, and one skin care/makeup party.

Give me a break!

Even if I wanted any of this stuff, who actually has the time and money to attend all these events? Not me. Look, I want to support my friends, and if this is the career you choose to pursue, then I’ll try to help out. IF you’re selling a product I might consider buying, and IF you actually know me. Please don’t send me an invitation because I’m a friend of a friend of your cousin’s neighbor’s co-worker.

I can easily see how if you’re a stay-at-home mom, or a retiree, or someone who can’t work due to a disability, this all sounds like an ideal way to pick up some extra cash. But think about who you’re picking up that cash from. It’s usually people just like you.

I think that’s what bothers me most about this kind of business. It’s built on the idea of recruiting you to go out and recruit more people to buy from you, or better yet to sell for you. So you’ve got to constantly be on the prowl for new victims. As one promotional website puts it, “go out with the idea of making a million friends instead of a million dollars.” Yeah, right. Trust me, those million people are not your friends. They are probably dreading your next invitation.

It’s a sweet deal for the people at the top of the pyramid, huh? They have no overhead, because their salespeople (and their friends) are offering up their own living rooms as the selling floor. They don’t have to recruit new reps, because their salespeople do that for them too. That same promotional site also says, “Do you enjoy sales? If not, that's great, because you don't have to be a salesperson in order to succeed. This is a business of sharing information, and there are great tools that'll help you present the products/services and business to your candidates. All you do is work with those who are interested.” What a load of crap! You’re not working with “those who are interested”—you’re working with those who are too nice to say no.

As for me: No more Ms. Nice Girl. Instead of shopping in your home, I’ll shop in my own—online.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So cute you might puke

or, a Halloween Retrospective:

I'm a court jester
Little pumpkin with a little pumpkin (2002)

Let's get rolling!
My duckling and Julie's ladybug (2003)

Quack or treat
There's that duck again (2004)

Abracadabra
Hey, that princess fairy turned my baby into a lion! (2005)

We're all about the recycling
Dancing fairy and zeee-ba (2006)

And one puking pumpkin. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

In which we go a little bit (more) country

Yesterday we made our third annual pilgrimage to a local farm that pulls out all the stops during the fall harvest season. They have a corn maze, hayrides, pick-your-own apples, a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo (Jo: "I don't want to feed the animals because I don't like how that stuff [antibacterial gel] tastes on my thumb"), a playground, and two shops.

I don't think this is such a good idea
Opie wasn't too sure about the hayride

Dunk your head, Mom! There's a branch coming!
But Jo liked it

Headin' out to the back 40
And they both gave a "yee-ha" to the fake wooden tractor.

Princess Haybale
Jo was the queen of all she surveyed

Sunny boy
But a sunflower was more Opie's speed.

Now for the important part: Lunch!
Boy with brat Girl with brat
Brats with brats! (That joke just never gets old.)


And the dessert course.

On our way home, we passed this fine establishment.
See her latest post--she's crazy, not crabby
Maybe there's a Rocky Mountain franchise coming soon?

This post brought to you by Izzy's Blogging Declaration of Independence (especially item #2). Because what's more all-American than caramel apples and freedom of blogging?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Love Thursday: Sister Sue

I consider it a great blessing, or stroke of luck, or credit to my parents, or all of the above, that my brother and sister and I get along very well and enjoy each other's company. I mentioned this in my 100 things (in the top 10, no less) but I thought Love Thursday merited a little more detail. So I'll talk about my sister this week (ladies first) and my brother next.

She is four years younger than me and at a totally different place in her life--she's single, no kids, and just finished getting her second bachelor's degree because she finally found a career that's perfect for her (horticulture and gardening ... I, on the other hand, have not one single plant in my house because I can't keep them alive). She's lived in the San Francisco Bay area for many years, but just moved cross-country for a year-long internship at a prestigious botanical garden. She's a vegetarian, driver of a biodiesel-powered Volkswagen, and an avid environmentalist. She can knit (and has made lovely hats and sweaters for my kids). We have pretty much none of the above in common but we are still very close.

She adores my children (who wouldn't, duh) and has made many a 3,000- (when we lived in NYC) or 2,000-mile trip to see them, including spending a week of spring break here in Mayberry when she could've been on a beach or a mountain somewhere relaxing (the idea was for her to be here when Opie was born, but he didn't cooperate). She finds the coolest kids' books you've never heard of at used book stores, and when we all vacationed together in San Diego last spring, she made a special trip to the library to stock up on stories for the kids. She is gifted at flower arranging (she worked Napa Valley weddings for the past few years) and did all the flowers for my brother's wedding and Jo's baptism.





So she is talented and smart and caring and I wish she didn't live so far away. And she's hott, to boot.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My own personal genius

I don’t remember when or why I learned this, but as a child my IQ was tested and found to be quite high. As in technically, I am a genius (and I certainly don’t mean “technically” as in “I could configure a LAN in 2 minutes flat” or “code my own pages using nothing but Javascript? No problem!”--I mean “based on the numeric scale assigned to my score”).

Now of course this was a test administered more than two decades ago (umm, probably more like three) and it was designed to measure only book-larnin’, or at least the aptitude for it. And it’s true, I found school easy, right up through college. I was a dutiful student, always did my homework--hello, goody-two-shoes oldest child--and stayed organized. I never pulled an all-nighter. I always got As and Bs without too much effort. (I also knew my limits. I was supposed to take calculus my senior year in high school, but managed to substitute Spanish instead.)

But I often wonder how much any of that, and especially my so-called genius status, has helped me in the real world. Shouldn’t I be some hotshot lawyer, billing $1000 an hour? Or a Pulitzer-winning novelist? Or an entrepreneur brimming with fantastically marketable ideas? Or a diplomat who could broker world peace?

The problem is I don’t have the ambition to match the brains. Which begs the question: Is that really a problem? I’m happy with my mommy-tracked, part-time career and its attendant (i.e., low) salary. I’m proud of what I do even if it isn’t important or life-saving or lucrative. But am I shirking some kind of duty by living this way? Is it my responsibility as a Smart Person to use my powers for the greater good? Am I wasting my brain?

I guess by making the choices I’ve made I’ve answered my own question. And it’s probably one that everyone struggles with from time to time, “genius” or no.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Super surprising

In a recent, rigorously controlled, peer-reviewed, double-blind study (OK fine, it was a poll on People.com), more than 35,000 people revealed which of five superpowers they would want. They chose among the following abilities:
  1. Stopping time
  2. Reading minds
  3. Flying
  4. Painting the future (apparently you have to watch the show Heroes to know what this means)
  5. Cheating death

The winner by far was: mind-reading (36%). Huh? I cannot think of anything I would want less. Have these people not heard of a chick named Pandora? If someone has something good to say, they'll probably say it out loud. If they have something not-so-good to say, why would I want to know? Yes, I'm as voyeuristic as the next person (why else would I read so many blogs?) so I can see the appeal of reading random strangers' minds. But knowing other people's unfiltered thoughts about me is a huge downside.

But stopping time? Now that's something I can get behind. The possibility of a month--even a week or a day--in which I don't have to prioritize, to decide which of the 5 or 10 or 20 things on my list (both fun and not-fun) will have to be set aside for later? That sounds pretty incredible to me.

What would you pick?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's a matter of natural security

JO: At school we were drawing pictures about fall. So I drew leaves with chlorophyll coming out. Because that is what happens in the fall.

ME: Wow, that is interesting. What does chlorophyll look like?

JO: Well, It’s green. And that’s all I can say about that.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Three is the magic number

1. Earlier today I realized that my VPN is finally working on my laptop. Excellent news because now I can work (the real, money-earning job) from anywhere in the house. Even better, I do not have to haggle with the impatient, heavily sighing IT support guy who has told me in the past: "We don't support personal computers" (Dude. It stands for virtual private network. That means everyone who has one is putting it on her personal computer.) and "You'll just have to bring it into the office" (Again, dude: I live 1000 miles away. Will you be sending a private jet to fetch me and my problematic laptop?).


2. This morning I ate four breakfasts (smallish, but fergod'ssake) between 5:30 and 10:30 a.m. and was still ravenous by 12:30. If that is what one 45-minute Pilates class does for me then it's a good thing I have no interest in running a marathon (or even a 5K).

3. I had my performance review today and my boss told me that our big boss, who recently called me "Kathleen," agreed with all the nice things she said about me, "and he was particularly impressed that you took the initiative to go to BlogHer." So thanks for planting that seed, Julie! You can take credit for my $1200 raise (yes that's gross, and it's for the whole year).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sometimes grown-ups are boring

I started writing a "post" recapping our grown-ups' weekend in Chicago, but I was so bored writing it that I decided you would not want to read it, and I deleted it (because adults always know what's best and get to make the rules).

So we had a good time. It turned out to be "no big deal" leaving the kids for the first time since Jo was 21 months old (and Opie not yet "with us"). I wasn't really gone long enough (like 36 hours) to miss them. My mother, who had three kids in less than four years and was until recently the president of a large state university, was totally nervous about being "in charge." She came armed with new clothes and books for each child, enough stickers to completely recover my couch, and a special "badge" for Jo to mark her status as Grandma's Very Important Helper. But everything was fine including Opie who "slept through the night" two nights in a row which he never does any other time.

Our hotel room was one of the "smallest" I've ever seen. All it needed was an ice sculpture and some shuffleboard courts = instant cruise ship. Everything was mounted on the walls to conserve "space," and the "bed" was so small that my (average-sized) husband couldn't stretch out all the way without his feet hanging off the end.

First stop: Japanese food, something we can't "exactly" get much of in Mayberry. We soaked up the scene and the sake. Next stop, back to the "cruise ship." The sleep was "blissful," it's true, but our neighbors' TV blaring at 7:30 a.m. wasn't, so much. After brunch with some "friends" it was all about the shopping. My final haul was two pairs of shoes, a bunch of socks, a necklace, and a fall coat with a (fake) fur-trimmed hood (because if I am going to live in the frozen North I might as well look the part). We also bought the world's heaviest wedding gift which we will probably have to "hand-deliver" to the recipients in Washington, DC because that will be cheaper than UPS.

Saturday night we had dinner with one of my "oldest" and dearest friends and her husband at a fancy restaurant* that was definitely not "family-friendly." Mostly because you would not want to drop $20 on an "appetizer" that no kid would touch with a ten-foot chopstick.

Sunday morning I split early to get home in time for Grandma to jetset off to D.C. ("dammit! why didn't I give her that gift to drop off?!") for some dinner meeting. Even though I had to leave at 8 a.m., driving solo (chai tea latte) in hand, was the final luxury in a weekend of same.



*This post's "annoying" punctuation brought to you by said restaurant's menu, which was chockablock with unnecessary quotation marks and "irrational" use of bold and italic type. For example, and I "quote":

Salad of Organic Beets, Heirloom Tomatoes and "Upland" Cress, "Easter Egg" Radishes, Cracked Hazelnuts, Kohlrabi and Great Hill Blue Cheese

Whole Roasted "Dressed" Squab with Black Mission Figs and White Peach "Jam", Cipollini Onions and Crisp Potato Cake

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I am not a cat person

...in any way whatsoever. In fact I'm not even a dog person and there is a dog sitting a few feet away who's been living with me for five and a half years.

But have you seen these two sites I've been wasting time I SO do not have on, whose only link is their catness?

Come Inside, Kitty and Cats That Look Like Hitler (check out Best Kitlers #10 and 17).

Off tomorrow for my first-ever since-kids weekend away with the husband. Also known as Opie's first-ever weekend without Mommy or Daddy. I'm trying not to think about the fact that we're leaving on Friday the 13th. Or that I just accepted a challenging freelance job with a two-week turnaround.

Be back soon... I hope.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Just throw in a walker and some coupons for the Early Bird Special while you're at it

I had my annual eye exam the other day. While there's no actual physical pain involved, I hate these visits almost as much as dental cleanings. First of all, it seems so inefficient. Is asking me 100 times "Is this one better? Or this one?" (when most of the time I want to say "Who the hell knows? They all look exactly the same") really the best way to determine the proper prescription? I can't believe modern technology has not come up with a better way to do this.

Second, I always feel like I am getting ripped off. It's like being at a used-car lot, with all the little extras and special offers and just-in-case ploys. I have decent vision insurance, and still always walk out of there at least $200 poorer—and I haven't bought new frames in 5 years.

At this visit, an additional insult was added to the injury. Apparently my close-up vision has deteriorated to the point where I now need bifocals or at least reading glasses. Naturally I chose the reading glasses because gah! bifocals?! I can't even go there.

And it is your fault, Internet. Apparently spending 8-10 hours a day in front of a computer screen is not so healthy for my baby blues. So from now on, I'll be armed with these. Please don't call me Granny just yet.

*

The NYC trip went well. The bonus weekend add-on with the in-laws was important to do, but exhausting. Once again I'm so over traveling with kids, though, and am dreading Thanksgiving already. Missed you all—I have 300+ posts to read so I won't be able to comment much. Hope to be caught up soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who says New Yorkers have attitude?

Posted near the mailboxes in the building where I'm staying:

UPS: You rang yesterday, I buzzed you in and then you never showed up with
the package. If you come today deliver to super. I Will Not Chase You
Down!!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bon voyage

My brand-new laptop took a nose dive off the tray table during a turbulent moment.

The airline lost one of my bags--the one containing the booster seat I purchased especially for the trip.

I managed to reserve a rental car from the one company that didn't actually have a counter at the airport. We had to be ferried to a "convenient location" "nearby" to get our car.

I forgot all the cute jewelry I wanted to wear (which I rarely take out in Mayberry, because what's the point?).

Women all over SoHo are wearing leggings and skinny jeans.

... But I'm in the city that never sleeps, and I left the boy who never sleeps at home with his daddy. So it's all good.

(I do miss the little punkin. But his sister is a much more relaxing travel companion.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blog ads: Here to stay

Ever since advertising on blogs became a possibility for your average blogger instead of just on professional sites, people have been for or against them. However, mostly I found there was an ambivalence until the day that Heather at dooce.com decided to help draw in enough income to support her family by changing her site's design to allow for intense advertising. All of a sudden people spewed forth incredible venom over her ads in particular, but ads on blogs everywhere in general too.

I don't get it.

I run ads on my own blog and I don't even understand how it's bothersome. I'm not like geocities; when you visit my blog you won't be overwhelmed with pop-ups or pop-unders. There's no music or obnoxious audio embedded in my ads. I even currently use a three-column layout for the simple fact that I can have my content on the left, my sidebar info next to the content, and all my ads in the far column. People don't have to really take notice of them if they don't want to. I run Blogads where I can make the choice as to whether I want something shown on my site so if I disagree with the principle behind the product I can veto it. I also use Google Ads and Ad Brite. As soon as I get the papers filled out and sent off, I plan to run the BlogHer network ads.

What's the big deal?

I don't charge a fee for anyone to read what I write, because frankly, I don't write anything brilliant enough to warrant that, and I wouldn't want to do that even if it were possible. However, I do share my life with strangers on the internet. I post pictures to make my site interesting (and also because I'm like that crazy person at the grocery store who pulls out a wallet full of kid pictures, I just happen to do it in the virtual sense), I try to remember things that will be of interest to write about, and I try to inject my posts with emotion so that people reading it will either laugh, nod with understanding, or maybe even cry.

If I can share that much of myself -- and although there are certainly things you will never read about on my site, I am very open -- I don't think I'm asking too much to expect people to understand that I'm willing to put ads on my blog on the off chance that it will bring in a bit of pocket change for me. People tolerate ads in between segments of their television shows (assuming they're not using tivo or some other PVR), we flip past ads in our magazines, we drive past them on the highway. I don't write my posts with my advertisers in mind. What I write now is still the same thing I wrote about pre-ads. I don't write specific posts in an effort to attract new ads. I haven't actually had anyone use my blogads in quite some time (that just occurred to me now; what's up with that, do I smell?) and that's fine. If I get advertisers, great, if not it doesn't matter.

Personally, I applaud Heather. I doubt my site will ever skyrocket to her level of popularity so I'll never be paying my bills and feeding my family because of the ads that run on my blog, but if she can actually do that? Well, dammit, I say GOOD for her. She deserves it; no one is forcing her readers to click through on the ads, no one is forcing her readers to visit her site at all. They go because they like her writing, because they care about what's going on in her life, and because you can usually count on at least one gut-busting funny entry somewhere on the front page. If she can draw in that amount of readers because of the intimacy she offers to them, then she absolutely deserves to have the compensation for it if advertisers are willing to pay her for it.

If you don't like ads, you don't need to run them on your blog. But I don't think they're going away. People once hated blogs too, saying they were fluffy versions of the old online journals. Blogs are quite obviously more than just a passing fad, and I think the same will be said about ads too. Just avert your eyes to the left when you visit my site and you'll never have to worry about seeing advertisements, because I certainly don't foresee removing them.

---Sherry is a work-at-home mom of two in Canada who does indeed run ads while she blogs about the Chaos Theory in her life, although she will never be able to put a down payment on a house because of the money she makes there.

You can find me at Sherry's place today, taking the opposite side of this debate on blog advertising. For this month's Blog Exchange, we're doing a series of debates on issues that matter. Visit the blogroll to find the rest of these op ed pieces. And if you'd like to participate next month, send an email to kmei26 at yahoo.com.

The blog ad debate

Originally published at Chaos Theory as part of the Blog Exchange; our assignment was to debate opposing sides of a topic with our partner. NB: If I had enough traffic to sell ads, I'd totally do it.

Why do you blog? For hits, for comments, for notoriety, for a steady stream of virtual pats on the back? If so, then bring on the ads. It’s a win-win: You’re even more motivated to bring in visitors, because they bring dollars with them. And your advertisers are happy, because you’re the ideal vehicle for their messages. They don’t care whether you’ve connected with your readers, whether you’ve helped someone by sharing your experiences, whether you’re a damn good writer. Just bring in the eyeballs, that’s all they ask.

But if you’re like most of us—if you blog out of a need to process what’s happening around you, or hone your writing skills, or keep some kind of a grip on your memories of what your children or pets or coworkers do all day—then what’s with the “buy-it-now” business? Yeah, I get that it’s nice to pick up a few bucks for doing something that you’ve been doing for free. I get the whole “If you’re paid to do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But who are we kidding here? If you calculate the hourly rate, wouldn’t you be better off flipping burgers? Are blog ads any more of a moneymaker than those “make millions stuffing envelopes from home” scams?

Generating enough traffic to attract ads means blogging often, and well enough to convert at least some curious clickers into faithful visitors. And there’s no way I can argue against that. And sure, what’s the harm in a few extra text links, or a promo in your sidebar? Ads are everywhere these days, from eggs to airport luggage carousels; most of us are pretty savvy at tuning them out. No one’s forcing your readers to click. (Although you will have to find extra time to manage your advertising, lest you let slip an ad that you or your readers find insulting or offensive; make sure you factor that in to your net profit.)

But let’s forget the reader and focus on the writer. Because once you’ve taken that step, once you’ve crossed that line into commercialism, what you post is going to change. You will never again write without thinking “I wonder if this will be a popular entry… Is this going to turn off any of my readers? Maybe I should change the title or delete this paragraph or…”

And also: “I haven’t posted yet today. Gotta get something up or my stats will drop. There’s nothing I feel like writing about… I have to come up with something… What am I going to do?” And suddenly your fun hobby, your therapeutic outlet, your means of connecting with like and unlike minds around the world—suddenly it’s just another job.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Love *Thursday: 3 Little Words

I didn't have a heart-bursting, knee-jellying moments the first time I saw or held my babies. (Maybe I was just a little strung out from the 44 hours and 20 hours of labor, respectively, followed by the frosting on top known as a C-section each time; but I digress.) I'm not very good at baby book-keeping and can't remember details of milestones like first smiles and teeth. I haven't printed and album-ized any pictures of the kids since way before Opie was born.

But I do remember with crystal clarity the early dawn when I held 20-month-old Jo on the couch, trying to coax a few more minutes of sleep from her. And instead of sleeping, she said "I wuv you, Mommy." Talk about melting my overtired heart.

And now Opie (*because of whose sleep strike this entry is a day late) is doing it too. A week o so ago I was carrying him down the stairs. When I said "I love you," he replied "ah-luh yoo!" and rested his head on my shoulder to show he really meant it. Now it's like a party trick--I keep making him do it over and over. My very own Mama's boy!

However, if he wakes up at 10 p.m. and stays awake for 4 straight hours again, then we're going to have a very different kind of talk.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

As a courtesy to the next passenger

...we suggest that you use your paper towel to wipe out the basin.

You know that sign in airplane bathrooms? I have a few more I'd like to have printed up.

1. As a courtesy to the next parent arriving in the baby's room after dark, we suggest that you remove toys from floor in the vicinity of the crib, and always be sure the backup pacifiers are properly stowed in the designated area for easy access.

2. As a courtesy to the next patron in the drive-through lane, we suggest that you confirm that your car is indeed in "DRIVE" and not "REVERSE" prior to leaving the window.

3. As a courtesy to the next patient, we suggest that after you pee in a cup and test your urine, you throw the cup in the garbage and not leave it sitting atop the toilet paper dispenser.

P.S. We can't believe we have to spell this out.

P.P.S. Eww.

Share yours in the comments!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

At least now we have a spare

Lesson learned: Prior to spending $30 on a replacement remote control, do a toddler mindmeld to figure out where original remote has been safely stashed.

pitched in the pitcher

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Love Thursday: Nannies, babysitters, friends

I've written before about my mom and how I feel lucky to have grown up as the child of a working mother. A few Thursdays ago, Mary Tsao wrote beautifully about how much her kids' caregiver, Rosa, means to her and her family. I still remember all the babysitters we had as kids, and the wonderful relationships we had with them. I never felt that they were replacing my parents. Instead, I felt blessed to have another special person in my life, caring about me. Other kids didn't always have that!

Denise was my very first babysitter, when I was just a colicky babe. She came to my wedding, and my sister is named after her.

Sue let us watch People's Court every day, but she also played Rusty the Bailiff to my brother's Judge Wapner without any hesitation. She designated special "color days" every week or so, when we'd wear green clothes, eat green foods, and do green things like climb trees or make frogs out of green felt. She made us a deck of Old Maid cards featuring people we knew and odd characters from around town. When she got married, my little sister was her flower girl. When her son was born, we doted on him like he was our own special baby doll.

Carol made us waffles and ice cream for after-school snacks. Sometimes she even made funnel cakes. It was like having the county fair in our kitchen every day.

Ghislaine was a French au pair whose father was descended from royalty and owned a hillside in Savoie, an apartment in Paris, and another in Nice. She was only with us for four months (we inherited her from another family that was going through a divorce) but 25 years later, our families still keep in touch. She and her husband and sons actually came to Mayberry to visit just a few weeks after Opie was born.

After cutting her teeth on me and my siblings, Rosemary went on to become a preschool teacher and eventually directed a child care center. Several years ago, she came across an article I wrote for the magazine I used to work for, remembered me, and sent me a note filled with fond memories of our family.

I think I love Love Thursday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Your child might be a binky addict if

...upon being instructed to stow his Nuks in the crib so he can go downstairs for breakfast, he cheerfully complies; but only after first looking you in the eye, taking a long, deliberate drag on the Nuk in his mouth, then switching to the backup Nuk in his hand for another long, eyes-closed pull.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who doesn't want to use the word "apothecary"?

--No cause for alarm, said the apothecary, once he had rejoined his friends,
Monsieur Binet has given me his guarantee that precautions have been taken. No
sparks will fall. The pumps are full. Our beds await us.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, p. 123 (Penguin Classics edition, translated by Geoffrey Wall)

The lovely Bubandpie tagged me for this meme: Tell us the 5th through 8th sentences on page 123 of the book nearest you. Since all the books around me have an average of 32 pages (and one sentence per page, if that), I defaulted to my nightstand and this month's book club book. Since I haven't gotten to this page yet (and it's been at least 15 years since the last time I read this book), I can't offer much in the way of context. But beds awaiting sounds good anytime, doesn't it?

I tag Binkytown, Jamie, and Lady M. However, you have a choice. B&P also did a second meme, naming her top 10 TV characters of all time. So do that one if you'd rather. I didn't 'cause I'm lazy like that, and 'cause I got bogged down in debating Carter vs. Ross and how can you choose just one Brady child?

Like I said... beds await.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I thought I dropped out of the rat race

Instead, I think I’ve just become an honorary soccer mom. This is a crosspost from my work blog … italics for the stuff that was censored out of that post.

Monday: Kick-off session for religious education. Jo will be attending Sunday school for the first time (the conversation in which she asked Julie whether Tacy would be going to Sunday school too was priceless). The meeting started at 3:45. I figured I’d stop working a few minutes early, get to the church around 4, and not miss too much. Naturally I was in a conference call from 3 to 4 p.m., forcing me to interrupt a roomful of people at 3:55 at stammer “uh, I have to go now, talk to you all later.” If there is a way to be subtle when you’re on speakerphone, I haven’t found it.

Wrong! The whole event involved me rushing frantically from one room to another (sometimes hurrying behind the very accommodating nun who was trying to run the meeting), toting Opie on my hip and trying to make sure he didn’t bite the eraser off the pencil he was chewing. I couldn’t decide whether the eraser or the point was the lesser of the two evils. Worse, the meeting concluded with a prayer service in the church, which I was not at all expecting (the kids’ clothes were dirty, Jo’s hair was tangled from her nap, I had on jeans ... and then there was the toddler who had no interest in sitting quietly on my lap listening to the priest). Jo insisted on sitting in the second row (I wasn’t about to argue the point with her in the middle of the aisle, since we were the VERY LAST people to enter the room) and of course had to use the bathroom halfway through the thankfully, fairly brief service.

Tuesday: Urgent errand 1 (after school): Drive to neighboring town to buy tap shoes, size teeny, because no local stores have them in the proper size; 1,000-mile trip to friend’s house to try on hand-me-downs proved fruitless.

Urgent errand 2 (lunchtime): Mommy needs a bikini wax because Opie starts swimming lessons Saturday. Why am I always getting bikini waxes for stuff like kids’ swimming lessons and birthday parties, instead of trips to Fiji or a secret, highly lucrative career in stretchmark fetish films?


Wednesday: One of Jo’s friends is having a party. It’s actually a toy shopping party. Did someone say soccer mom? Since moving to Mayberry I can’t escape the shopping parties… make-up, purses, kitchen utensils, books, clothing… no *wink wink* pajama parties yet, though.

Thursday: Dance class! Jo can’t wait to twirl and tap. Parents are only allowed to observe on the first day, so after this week Opie and I will spend the class time at a nearby playground, at least until it gets too cold and snowy. Like around October 1.

Friday: Jo slept until 8:45 a.m. Maybe I should run her this ragged every week.

If this sneak preview is anything like what the elementary school years will be like (and I think it is), I’m glad I have a few more years to get ready. Seriously... I'm pretty scared.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Love Thursday: Brother from another mother

For reasons that aren’t mine to share here, and that aren’t necessarily my business, and that I don’t even completely know anyway, I have three half-siblings that I never knew. My dad and their mother divorced when they were very young, well before I was born. Although my dad supported them financially, he was never part of their life.

I’ve always known this—I don’t remember when I first learned it—but it was rarely discussed. So of course I asked myself What are they like? and Do they wonder about me? and Will we ever meet? It was baffling because I believed then, and still do, that my dad was an excellent father. How could he have agreed to something like this? What kind of circumstances led to such an awful result? I’ve never wanted to ask for an explanation—never want to make him face those days again, or to feel like I was questioning his love for me or them.

The youngest of the three, my brother C., stayed close to my grandmother and uncle. A few years ago he contacted my father. He was going through a divorce and looking, I guess, for support and advice as he went through the same trauma that had torn his own family apart when he was only a baby. They gingerly began reconstructing a relationship, first via e-mail, then phone calls, and finally a real visit. My dad met the son he hadn’t seen for 40 years and the four grandchildren he’d never known.

Then this summer, a series of lucky coincidences separately brought my brother, sister, and me (my full siblings, the ones I’ve been stuck with all along) to the Western town where C. now lives. We each had the chance to finally meet him.

We loved him. We loved his girlfriend. We loved his kids. Once, twice, three times, they welcomed us—in my case, my whole family, plus an additional family of four!—with easy, effortless hospitality and affection. The kids called my brother “the brother from another mother” of the title. They called my sister “Half-Aunt Susan.” (Unfortunately, that’s where their creativity ended and I didn’t get a cool name.) C. is fun, smart, successful, and clearly a great dad. His girlfriend, S., has developed an amazing relationship with C.’s children. The kids, who range in age from barely 6 to 15, are universally good-natured, clever, and well behaved. Which I honestly find incredible in a group that includes two teenagers, not to mention the difficult divorce they’ve been dealing with, if you’ll excuse my grammar.

So I love my new big brother. I’m sad that I won’t see him and my nieces and nephews often. But I’m doing my best to celebrate the gift of reconnection and forgiveness we’ve all been granted.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Jo and Tacy Show


This picture was taken no more than 20 minutes after we arrived chez mothergoosemouse (after 11 p.m.). And it pretty much sums up the weekend. The girls, who hadn't seen each other in over two years, picked up right where they left off and had a wonderful time. The moms and dads did too. And the toddlers beat each other up and generally tried to be destructive. Fun for all!

Also, Julie, sorry about the puddle I left on your carpet. It's from my heart melting and oozing onto the floor when Tacy looked at Jo snoring next to her and whispered, "My best friend is still sleeping."

More pictures over at MGM.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'll never forget, and I don't want to

Everyone has a September 11 story. Mine isn’t, by any stretch, as dramatic or tragic as so many others. I didn’t lose anyone dear to me or suffer physically that day. But I did witness it, some of it without the filter of a television screen.

Everyone has a September 11 story. This is mine.

That morning, I took the bus into the city. The route hugged the cliff above the Hudson River on the New Jersey side. I could watch the skyline for several blocks. The sky was a gorgeous, cloudless blue. No smoke or fear marred it yet.

I descended underground, first through the Lincoln Tunnel and then down through the bus terminal to the subway station. I overheard someone say something about a plane and the World Trade Center. Like everyone else, I figured it was a Cessna that had gotten terribly off course. I got onto the subway like it was the ordinary Tuesday it had started out to be.

Climbing up into the light at Houston and Broadway, I smelled the smoke immediately. Like so many others around me, I stood gaping at the Trade Center buildings, both now gashed and spilling smoke.

My office was on the 10th floor with huge, south-facing windows--an old cast-iron building, classic SoHo. I shared the space with just five or six co-workers; most of the rest of our group worked a floor below us. For a half-hour, maybe more, we stared out the big windows at the scene just blocks from us. Phone service was already spotty, but a few friends e-mailed to check on me. I'm fine, I said. I'm far enough away.

Suddenly the first tower started to sway, then tumbled and was gone. All of us screamed and burst into tears. One of the men fell to his knees and sobbed. I'd never seen anyone do that before. No one said anything for several minutes, as our shoulders shook and tears fell onto the industrial carpet.

Seeking the comfort of a larger group, we soon went to the ninth floor, with the rest of our department. Most of us gathered in a conference room and started watching the news. When the second tower fell, a pregnant woman fainted. I was pregnant, too; 11 weeks. No one knew yet. My morning sickness was still so bad that I crunched my way through a baggie full of dry cereal while watching CNN in that conference room--the only way I could get through a day, or even an hour, was to eat nonstop. I'm sure no one noticed, but it felt horribly disrespectful, as if I thought I was at the movies with a tub of buttered popcorn.

The rest of the day passed in a haze of confusion and phone calls. On that day and the next few, I must have spoken to almost every friend and relative I had. We all felt an urgent need to connect, to reassure each other that we were okay. I stayed in the office for several hours, because our company recommended we do so for our safety. Anyway, there was very little transportation available; the subways had been shut down, busses were packed to the gills, bridges and tunnels were closed. My only chance of getting home to New Jersey was to walk 50 blocks north to the ferry terminal and try to catch a boat.

Instead, I went to my friend Kara's apartment, in Stuyvesant Town near 14th street, 20 minutes away. I walked alongside people who had been so close to ground zero that their clothes and faces were covered with ash. I slept on Kara's couch and in the morning walked a few more blocks north to my obstetrician's office for a check-up. As I walked, dozens of garbage trucks streamed southward, ready to begin clearing the debris. There were few fire engines or ambulances. As we'd learn later, it was too late--almost no survivors, or even intact bodies, were found after the towers fell. The city was papered with photographs of the missing and pleas from their families, but they were all gone.

I didn't go to work that Wednesday or Thursday. Our offices were in the part of the city that was shut down to all but emergency traffic. We came back in on Friday, but no one did any work--and not just because all our phones and computers were dead.

In the weeks that followed, I saw and smelled the acrid smoke every time I arrived in the city in the morning. I had nightmares about terrible things happening to my dog (I believe she represented my unborn baby girl). I cried when I passed a firehouse in mourning--they all were.

To this day, I haven't been back to ground zero. It's hard for me to believe that it's a tourist destination. I know that the vast majority of those who visit do so with awe and reverence, but I don't think I could bear to see t-shirt vendors and people snapping pictures of their friends, arm in arm in front of the hole.

After the attacks, the New York Times published brief tributes to each victim. For months these profiles appeared in the paper--at first several pages of them every day, then fewer and fewer until each life lost had been somehow remembered. Five years on, the blogosphere has made a similar effort. I'm sorry that I don't have my own tribute to post (I can't explain what held me back from doing so) but I urge you to read others as you are able. It's one way to feel we've given this day the respect it deserves.

Thank you for reading.