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.