Saturday, December 30, 2006


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 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


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.


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.