Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dream on, sister

Updated to add: Time to change #5--look at my shiny pretty new design! Thank you, Karen!

Kelly tagged me with the "c'mon, admit it" meme, otherwise known as the "5 goals you're totally blowing off" meme. Since I wouldn't want ignore Kelly (if you're not reading her, please start; this post is the one that won me over forever) the way I've ignored the following, here goes:

1. The body. As I explained here, this was an actual New Year's Resolution that's been utterly untouched. I have used the bike trailer a few times, but the weather's still iffy and sometimes I have extra errands to run and I have this freelance project that's keeping me up late at night and...

2. The memories. I have not printed out photos and slotted them into albums since Jo was 9 months old. The task just keeps getting more overwhelming and therefore less likely to actually be done. I have repeatedly told my siblings (who are always looking for inexpensive gift ideas) that the best present they could possibly give me would be to take my CDs, print out the pictures and shove them in an album. I'll even provide the frigging album. So far, nada.

3. The house. The closets are overstuffed with clothes that need to be sorted/donated/burned. The office shelves overflow with old magazines that should be either recycled or donated to the child care center for art projects. Toys have reproduced and taken up residence in every single room in this house and that does include the guest room, master bedroom, dining room, and each bathroom.

4. The future. Poor Opie. No college fund. Not even because of lack of funds (see "freelance job," above). Sheer inertia, this one.

5. The blog. It would be nice if all my posts had labels. And it would be nice if I went back and cross-posted all my old Blog Exchange posts here. And printed my archives regularly (or ever) to protect against Total Internet Meltdown. And if I ventured beyond the basic Blogger template. And had my own domain.

Anyone else want to 'fess up?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy baby to you (and you and you)

Some of the loveliest ladies in the blogosphere are about to deliver what are sure to be some of the loveliest babies in the blogosphere. So in their honor, here's a little unsolicited counsel (and you're invited to their baby shower--go join in the fun!).

The worst assvice I received as a new mom: "She's still not sleeping through the night? Oh, because you're breastfeeding, that's why." Gee. Thanks. Sooo helpful.

And the best advice, right after "give breastfeeding at least three weeks before you decide to stop": Pick your battles. Baby won't sleep anywhere but the carseat? Buckle him in and enjoy the ride. Toddler will only eat from a red bowl and drink from a red cup? Stock up on the scarlet and dine in peace. Preschooler wants to wear 14 different colors, textures, and patterns at once? Beam with pride at her individuality and independence. You only think people are staring at the grocery store. And if they are? Screw 'em--they obviously have no sense of humor.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This post brought to you by the letter P

Go Potty Go! is perhaps not the miracle all of us diaper-shoppers wish for, but it's undeniably cute without being cloying. Which, for a video about toilet training, is a pretty big achievement. Both my kids (the one who pees on the potty and the one who's quite happy in his Huggies) found its songs catchy and its potty-going panda stars, Paige and Parker, charming. After just a few viewings, all three of us were singing along to "Diapers Are for Babies" and marching to the beat of "Big Kid Parade" (because after all, just like the song says, two-thirds of us do "wear underpants every day").

At only a few weeks past his second birthday, Opie's not quite ready for potty training. He does like to throw back his head, thrust out his groin, and crow "PEEEEEEEEEEE!" just for the heck of it. But any invitations to sit on the potty are usually turned down, especially if he is obviously caught in the act, if you know what I mean. Still, he is intrigued by this video, which outlines all the important toileting steps--sitting, wiping, washing up--cheerfully and straightforwardly. He'll sit and watch all 30 minutes of it, which is more than I can say for most episodes of Jay Jay the Jet Plane (well, I can't blame him for that--those planes are freaky) and everything his big sister watches (so much for the electronic babysitter).

For him, and for me, this video is just the right speed. I'm not into pushing him toward the potty before he's ready, and it turns out that Paige and Parker aren't either. The DVD is a gentle introduction to the wonders of the potty chair (the animated one even looks exactly like ours) that doesn't put any pressure on kids to perform too early. We'll keep watching until we're three for three on the underpants--and probably beyond then too.

What we liked: Just about everything--the songs are fun, the characters are cute, and the production values are high. Most importantly, the message is easy to understand and kid-friendly.

What we didn't: The menu is inconsistent, which makes it a little confusing to use (it's hard to know which choice you're selecting). There is a "music video" section which allows you to just play the songs--but not all of them are included.

Who it's for: Young toddlers who are just embarking on the potty-learning train, in families who want to take a laidback, no-pressure approach.

Parent Bloggers Network

P.S. In the category of "what will they think of next?!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Please to explain

about the Polly Pockets. Isn't the point that they are interchangeable and you can mix and match all the clothes? So how come we have three dolls and three sets of clothes that are all totally different and incompatible? Too big/too small/too magnet-y/too rubbery?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The whole thing was kind of a blur, but at least there was cake

Last year, as I detailed exhaustively here, we held the kids' birthday party at home and did almost everything ourselves. We bought a cake and some of the food, but we made our own decorations, created invitations, devised games and activities, and assembled goodie bags. It was exhausting, but really fun to see the kids enjoying themselves. Jeff and I were proud of how the event turned out.

This year, we decided to have the birthday bash at our local children's museum, where Jeff volunteers. For about the same as we spent on last year's home party, all we had to do was send invitations and then show up. Everything else was included, from cake to balloons to goodie bags to two college-student party helpers. The kids had a blast playing in the museum, and convened in the party room periodically for face-painting, cake, and presents.

For me? Not as fun. Trying to keep track of nearly 20 kids was tiring (too many; I know, I know). Some of the parents stayed for the whole party--I'd told them it was optional--which was a blessing. But rather than enjoying their company, I felt like I was on display while I ran around trying to figure out which kid I should be following. Some of the parents who didn't stay seemed nervous about leaving their kids in my scatterbrained care--heartbreaking!

Especially during the gift-opening, I felt like a clueless guest instead of a participant. Another mom commandeered my camera and took pictures--for which I was grateful, but it still made me feel incompetent. I suggested that each gift-giver sit next to Jo while she opened that child's present, which turned into a disaster--the party-helpers and another parent had to restore the order that I'd ruined.

I guess I'll feel more and more like a spectator at these events as my kids grow older, but I hope we can strike a middle ground next year. Fun would be good. Casual would be good. Cake and margaritas will be essential. And how about inviting fewer kids and more of my friends? 'Cause it's all about me.

(Actually, it was all about her, and I think she had a good time. Which is what really counts.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

I like my toddler's butt just fine the way it is

Friday morning Opie had a check-up with the ENT. In the examining room I had this "I'm so blogging THAT" moment when I spotted the following brochure:

your WHAT?!
Upon closer examination, not as titillating as one might have hoped:

that explains a lot
Bonus: More fun with the police blotter. "A resident in the 400 block of Park Street alerted police to a squirrel that appeared to be injured. An officer consulted with a representative from XYZ Environmental Center, who recommended letting nature take its course."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A big little* dose of the funny

The other night Jeff and I had a chance to go out (!) with other grown-ups (!) for dinner (!) and to see David Sedaris perform. It was disconcerting to listen to his particular brand of humor in a place like Mayberry. This is a man who described some of the things his boyfriend does (sewing curtains, picking wildflowers) as "beyond faggy" and who called a charity he supported "something for f*cked-up children." He said he recently quit smoking and felt really bad about it, so he recruited another smoker to take his place -- a 19-year-old girl, whom he persuaded with promises of appetite suppression and attractiveness to men.

At the same time, I found it reassuring that he could draw a large crowd here (admittedly, the venue was in a slightly larger town adjacent to Mayberry; but still). I wish I could tell you the funniest parts but I did not stop laughing from the minute he opened his mouth until he stepped from behind the podium, bowed slightly, and left the stage.

But I have to tell you this one cool thing that he does. On every tour (he travels for three months a year doing speaking engagements like the one I attended) he promotes a book that he loves. Not one that he wrote -- one by someone else that he thinks is great. (If you go to his home page, you'll find a link to his "recommended reading list" in the left sidebar.) He must have spent 20 minutes talking hilariously about his latest find, The Zombie Survival Guide.

So if he comes your way: Go.

*He can't be more than 5'2".

PS: Another big funny: Sludgie the Whale (his name, not his plight).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Add my small voice

This is one of those times where I want to acknowledge what's happening and yet I have nothing consoling or illuminating to add. Our family has a personal connection to Kent State University, where four students were killed and several others injured on May 4, 1970. While the circumstances were very different -- the KSU shootings occurred during a political protest and were government-sanctioned -- the event has shadowed the KSU community for decades. I wish the VTU students, families, friends, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors peace and comfort in the aftermath of their tragedy. Someway, somehow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Put me in the zoo

Just back from a quick family trip to Atlanta. Hope to catch up with y'all soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Top secrets of a patient mother

Other moms have occasionally told me that they admire my patience with my children. And it's true that I am pretty good (pretty good, not saintly good) at keeping my cool even when the offspring get ornery. I work hard at reminding myself that they are very small and they really want positive attention. I pick my battles. I distract, I redirect, I vow that we'll all get more sleep.

And I send them to child care 32 hours a week. That's secret #1.

Secret #2, and it's s a dirty one: I vent any and all frustration onto my husband. Speaking of redirection... he gets it all. Kids being bratty? Instead of lashing out at them, I give it to him for not being around, or for saying the wrong thing when he is here. Someone drops/spills/hits something? I can find a way that it's his fault.

I know it's not fair, I know it's not right, and I know I keep doing it anyway.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blow that boy-child's mind

When you bring him home from school, be sure to have one of these parked in the driveway.


Add a nice big pile of gravel and some slabs of broken asphalt.

good for climbing

Follow with a healthy dose of mud.

yes he fell in it


shady baby

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter from the Apocalypse Cafe

With no family in Mayberry we were left to fend for ourselves this weekend. Yesterday a guy in a bunny suit scared the crap out of Opie at an otherwise delightful egg hunt/brunch. This morning I took Jo to church. It always makes me uneasy when I don't get hit with any droplets of holy water during the Asperges. It feels like a bad omen for the rest of the year. At the Brooklyn church where I attended Easter services for several years, the priest always approached this rite with glee, traveling the aisles with a sopping branch and a lieutenant holding an extra-large bowl of holy water for refills. He made it his personal mission to soak every single congregant.

So on our way out of church we made sure to stop at the baptismal font for a quick application of water, just for safety's sake.

This afternoon, with the temperatures barely rising above freezing, outdoor play was out; we went to a matinee. Happy Feet was playing at our local second-run theater. Tap-dancing penguins + minimal crowds + cheap tickets = best odds for Opie's first movie.

So this theater is in a mall that was reborn several years ago as a "youth mall." (Agreed, it sounds like an oxymoron.) It was meant to be a destination for teens, with various retailers, eateries, organizations, and even a charter school. It struggled along for a few years, suffering, no doubt, from the presence of a shiny new mall not far away; and then recently the building was sold. Now the movie theater is the only surviving business in the place.

Walking through the defunct mall to the theater was the creepiest. We're talking exposed wires, crumbling cement, cheap drywall partitions, broken glass and boarded windows, and to top it off, a planter containing three huge dead trees. It was straight out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. A really bad one.

So you can see why it's a good thing I'd loaded up on the holy water.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thanks to you, Opie

Thanks to you, I have a few (hundred) more stretchmarks.

Thanks to you, I have more than a passing acquaintance with sleep deprivation.

Thanks to you, I play with cars, trains, and planes. Thanks to you, I read about diggers and scoopers and loaders and dumpers.

Thanks to you, I hear a small voice say "heckicopper" and "hodsipal" and "ki'gaahden" and "I do by SELF," and tell stories about "biiihd in wadder. Catch fish! Beak! Fiiiiiiie away."

Thanks to you, my daughter has the honor of being a big sister.

Thanks to you, I've learned how much stronger a mother's love can become.

planes and trains Happy 2nd birthday. May you soar above the clouds, wherever life takes you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April showers bring birthday flowers

Five years ago I labored in vain, drifting in and out of sleep and gazing at the steely East River, until finally a scalpel and a pair of gloved hands delivered all nine and a half pounds of you into your father's arms.

Four years ago your grandmother marveled as you ate fistful after chubby fistful of Veggie Booty. We dressed you in pink and green and celebrated with your dearest baby friends.

Three years ago, you celebrated in your new house. Your favorite aunt visited and you rode your first tricycle.

Two years ago, I again labored in vain. Three hours of contractions slowed to a halt as we toured the neighborhood in your new red wagon; the pains returned just after midnight. You wouldn't share your birthday with your little brother after all. The day he was born, you brought yellow-frosted cookies to school and had your first sleepover.

One year ago you celebrated with your big-girl friends and practiced for your first dance recital.

Today you are five. You can sing and dance and write and allllmost read. You are a loving, caring, bossy big sister. You are my big girl but you'll always be my baby.

I love spring because

Monday, April 02, 2007

More meme-a-licious goodness

Is this interview thing a meme? If it is then I tagged myself by asking Nancy to pose some questions to me. And pose she did.

1. If you were forced to leave the U.S. tomorrow and go to live in another country (never to return), where would you go to live and why?
Well, would one of you lovely Canadians want to take me in? At least then I'd be close enough for my family and friends to visit. Then again, you can't go wrong with the South of France, and I do want to brush up on my French. Especially if I'm independently wealthy in this scenario.

2. Which living person do you most admire, and why?
It's pretty boring to say "My mom." But, my mom has accomplished so much and she's a great role model. Plus it's cute to see her as a grandma.

3. What is your favorite thing about Mayberry? Your least favorite?
It's hard to choose among wonders like 5-cent parking meters, ice-fishing, cheap car insurance (if you live in New Jersey, don't ask. You do not want to know), friendly neighbors, a big old house. But I'll go with the neighbors.

Least: hands-down, distance from family and friends. All that money saved on car insurance goes directly to Northwest Airlines.

4. If you could learn any skill or craft in the world -- without concern for time, money, or natural abilities -- what would it be?
If I can also suspend natural laws, then how about the skill of eating whatever I want without gaining an ounce? As a consolation prize, I'd take being able to cook innovatively and with pleasure, so that I wouldn't dread the coming of the dinner hour each day.

5. What is your fondest childhood memory?
I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but I loved watching my dad perform. In the summer his band played at a coffeehouse with an outdoor patio on Sunday afternoons; and in the fall they'd play at a hotel after our local college team's games. Since these were kid-friendly venues, we'd often get to go watch. That sparks another memory: listening to the roar of the crowd from those games from our yard, less than two miles away. We could identify a touchdown even before we heard it announced on the radio.

OK: I am readying my reporter's notebook ... who wants some questions next?

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Yesterday Ry and I attended the funeral of the 23 year old son of a co-worker. He had been crossing the street in a crosswalk with friends and family and was hit by a car. He was flown via air ambulance to a trauma centre and passed away there surrounded by his family. He was happy, in university persuing a degree in physics, had a beautiful girlfriend, a job. He had dreams of having a large family of his own one day. Of a great career. What more could a mother ask?

His 4 siblings and his mother and father all spoke at his funeral. It was standing room only and people were packed in right to the doors. The overflow, lobby and hallways were full. There was not a dry eye in the house. His family all read him letters that they had written to him. His father closed with "and as I signed every card I ever wrote you, your one and only Daddy." That's when I lost it. His mother thanked God for the privilege of being his caregiver for 23 1/2 years. As I stood at the back of the funeral home holding Ry in his carrier, swaying and bouncing, kissing his head, looking into his beautiful loving eyes, I could only cry. Cry for the parents who raised this wonderful young man and lost him. Cry for the mother who, for 23 1/2 years felt the amazing and indescribable love that I have only experienced for 4 months. Selfishly, cry out of fear that my baby will grow up and one day be hurt. I know it will happen. I hope it's closer to a scraped knee than a car accident.

I worry. I inherited it. My mom worries. My grandma worries. I wonder if I will ever have a day in my life that I don't spend time worrying about the people I love. Is it simply the fate of a mother? Am I wasting my time when it's all in the hands of God or the universe or however you want to think of it? I enjoy my life immensely. I may enjoy it even more if I didn't worry, but I can't help it. It's not debilitating, but it does go overboard at times when I dream of the horrible things that might have happened when someone is late or not answering the phone.

As I type this, I realize that this post doesn't even come close to describing how I felt or, more importantly, how this family felt yesterday. I can't put it into words. Someone more talented at writing than myself may be able to, but I have my doubts.

I do know this. You have no idea how much your mother loves you until you become one yourself. I would endure any pain or torture to save Ry from it. Without a thought. Gladly. With privilege. It wouldn't matter what it was, how much it hurt. For him, anything. Even while pregnant I loved him immensely, but it was nothing compared to the feeling that came over me when I held him in my arms. It grows more powerful every day. How do you describe the love of a mother?

Eternal. Physical. Overwhelming. Soul-deep. Heartbreaking. Ageless. Timeless. Undying. Passionate. None of those words do it justice.

How do you describe the love of a mother?

I would love to hear it. One word or an essay, it doesn't matter. I want to know.

Nicole blogs about whatever strikes her fancy at Much More Than a Mom dot com. She's a mom, wife, daughter, sister, fur-baby mama, friend, teacher, geek-in-training, fitness instructor, personal trainer, workshop presenter. She knows a lot about very little and very little bit about a lot. She pretends she doesn't care what anybody thinks, but secretly cries in the bathroom if somebody doesn't like her. She is also the founder & senior editor at The Opinionated Parent, where one of her favourite things to do is give stuff away. She's visiting as part of this month's Blog Exchange, for which we've all chosen our all-time favorite post. Read mine at Nicole's place today!