Friday, November 30, 2007

Product review features Quentin Tarantino

As my kids get older and busier (okay fine ... as I get older and shed brain cells) I have come to the grim realization that my method of scribbling a few notes on a wall calendar and hoping for the best is no longer cutting it. I've forgotten important events, double-booked playdates, and missed RSVPs far more times than I really care to admit. So what do I do?

Enter Day Runner's new family matters line of goodies, which parachuted in to save my butt. Read the full review at the Full Mommy to find out more and learn how Mr. Tarantino plays a part. And happy Friday! I'll be reading all 744 of your posts as soon as I can block out some free time on my new calendar.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That's my little rainbow boy

OPIE: Where TJ's two moms? [TJ is the neighbor kid.]
ME: One of them is right over there.
OPIE: Where TJ's TWO moms?
ME: She is at work.
OPIE: Okay. *wanders off*

Sunday, November 25, 2007

File this away for next year

Crisp apple-scented roast turkey with cider-Calvados gravy

I've had it twice this month (actually, six or seven times, if you count the leftovers) and it is SO. GOOD.

(Why twice? Because two weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband, apparently weakened by the presence of so much fowl in the supermarket, decided he needed to roast a turkey. So he did. It was excellent. Yes, he rocks in many ways ... but that also meant that there was an entire weekend in there where I had to be on 100% kid detail because he was up to his elbows in poultry. It was worth it though.)

Don't skip the gravy, either. It's the best part.

And here is Jo's summary of the trip, entitled "Jo New York Book."

A Turkey Dinner on Thanksgiving.
And a Tea Party.
And a Dinosaur Museum.
And spin on the Whee Chair.
And P.J.'s Secret Hideout Place With Toys.
And make a Paper Penguin.

Hope you all had a terrifically tryptophanic weekend.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Over the river and through the woods

... to a loft in Brooklyn we go.

This is one of two turkeys Jo made this year. The other one was the classic "write what you're thankful for on the feathers" turkey. Her responses were frankly run-of-the-mill: My mommy, ice cream, my daddy, chocolate, my brother, my puppy. I was more entertained by some of her classmates' responses: police and "fire figh," Jesus and God, and especially (all on one bird) bricks, vans, and wheels. Yes. This is a kid who's thinking things through.

Happy Thanksgiving! See you next week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life-us interruptus

"Approximately 156" is the number of:

a) diapers I change in a month
b) times this fall we have raked our yard
c) pieces of Halloween candy still lurking in our pantry
d) times per day I am interrupted by my children

If you guessed D, you win (and I suspect your tally is similar). By 2 p.m. Saturday, my vaunted patience had long since been exhausted by the constant demands--many of them perfectly reasonable and age-appropriate--which interrupted my shower/pee/meal/sentence spoken/sentence read/chore attempted. I spent the next several hours snapping at everyone in my path for the slightest infraction. It really wasn't fun.

Sunday was better because I fled the house in protest to go shopping. Only to be interrupted by my husband reporting that he "didn't know" the snacks in the plastic bag hidden on top of the fridge were to be used for class snack this week.


At least they are funny.

1. OPIE, to JEFF, who is trying to set an example for a certain reluctant potty-trainer: Are you going pee with your penis?

2. JO: Wakes up at 4 a.m. and comes into our room. But first, she makes her bed, complete with artful arrangement of two stuffed animals resting on her pillow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I provided tissues

I think she still misses himRoger: strange old coot
Jowls, limp, cranky attitude
Eyes crossed, heart mighty

When we lived in the city, like real city people we had a dogwalker. He came once a day to dispense biscuits and walkies to the dog and lots of opinions to the humans. That's if we happened to cross paths, which we'd do our best to avoid. Roger was one of those people who'd just plunk down on a kitchen chair and rattle on about who knows what, oblivious to any signs that we were ready for him to move along. It was only the other "animal children" on his route that kept him from staying parked for hours. Once I came home from work early to take something to the post office and discovered he hadn't yet arrived. As I gathered my things I heard him huffing up the front stairs of our building. Like a total coward I actually sneaked out the back door just to avoid being waylaid.

Still, he found other ways to dispense his wisdom. Three-minute long voicemail messages, say; or his daily notes reporting exactly what happened during the walk. Not just what the dog produced, but anything they saw or people they met. Once there was a page-long tale of a "Young Girl" who accused Roger of not picking up after our dog. He defended himself by pointing out that the "feces" she had indicated were not fresh, since they were no longer warm. To prove this, he wrote, he made her touch them ("I provided tissues," he noted). I'm sure the Young Girl was sorry she ever tangled with Rog.

If only I'd saved more of those notes (or had a blog back then). We did preserve the final missive. Here it is, with only a few identifying details changed.

Well here we are! Down to the final walk. These past four (almost) walking F. have been good. She will be missed. The years go by as quickly as a wink. It was good to work with you & I tried my best.

Of course I knew Jeff from the times at [his former address] when he would take care of [a friend's dog/fellow Roger client] & I would travel down to walk the canine

Please enjoy the new page of your collective lives in [Mayberry]. I am very happy for you also especially Jo who will have a chance to attend good Public schools when she is ready.

Until we meet again


I do wonder about him still. If he's still shuttling up and down the Boulevard with his animal children, living with his cats, complaining about his landlord, his neighbors, and most of humankind. I hope so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

18 miles of books

Shopping the Strand, 1938 New York's famous bookstore, The Strand, is celebrating its 80th anniversary with The Strand 80, a list of its customers' 80 favorite books. I've read over 50 of them (yes! go double literature major) and several are among my personal favorites. I discussed it a bit with a friend and she pointed out these are not necessarily meant to be classics -- they are popular picks. Of course, many are undisputed classics (Les Miserables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment, Homer's Odyssey). Others might more commonly be called pop-culture phenomena (The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter).

That led us to wonder, though: What makes a classic? Obviously a work that can stand the test of time is often called a classic. If you can read a book written 50, 100, 200 or more years ago and find that it resonates with you today, then that's classic. There have to be more criteria than that, though. What do you think?

By the way, there is exactly one picture book on the list: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go on, I dare you

When The Dangerous Book for Boys came out earlier this year, I was unmoved by the "but what about the girls?" outrage. Maybe because the kid population in my household is evenly split between the pink team and the blue team, so I have my own little stereotype experiment under my nose every day; but I don't have a problem with a book declaring itself "for boys."

Still, it seemed like an awesome resource, so I was pleased to review The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz. Much like the boy book, it's really less about danger and daring than about those tidbits of information, instruction, and inspiration that your girl might not pick up in school or at the playground -- but that are really cool for her to know.

For the full review, visit the Full Mommy!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Merry Christmas! Have a rock and some sticks!

best gift ever, 2002 I confess to being overly laidback about the toy recalls up to this point. So far, the only recalled products we have are several of the Thomas trains and accessories. We opted not to return them, out of laziness since our kids don't put anything (except thumbs and pacifiers, sigh) in their mouths anymore.

But this week's news that the CPSC only has one person testing toys (link via WhyMommy), and that a hugely popular toy may be laced with a date-rape drug? OK, that got my attention. So I'm participating in today's blog blast on toy safety, a joint effort of the Parent Bloggers Network and the Consumers Union.

As it is, I am constantly looking for ways to discourage relatives from giving my kids so much stuff (I know, cry me a river). I rarely buy my children anything (for special occasions or just because) because their grandparents and other family members are so generous. I mean, one sent a big box full of stuff for Halloween! Wasn't the door-to-door begging enough?

I hope I can use this toy disaster as a way to encourage the family to buy fewer, but more meaningful (and, hello, safer) gifts for us all. We already have far, far more than we need. At the same time, I know that giving is just as much about the giver as the receiver. I don't want to deny the grandmas the great pleasure they get from shopping for the kids.

Do you face this issue? What do you do about it?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Peace be with you

I just found out a few days ago that my uncle will not be coming to our family's Thanksgiving celebration this year. This is the uncle that I grew up with -- who is my godfather; who lived a block away; who could and did fix anything we needed; who told jokes with punchlines like "I left my harp in Sam Clam's disco" and "Silly rabbi, kicks are for Trids!" and offered milk by asking if we'd like a glass of "Chateau le Meyer." (Mmm, Meyer Dairy ... but that's another story for another post.)

He can't come because he is under house arrest after his second DUI. He has an ankle bracelet and can't leave the house except to go to work, nor can he have any alcohol in the house. The good news is that the punishment seems to be working. He hasn't, as far as anyone can tell, had a drink in a few months and he is seeing a counselor for the first time in his life.

I'm hopeful. I had been very concerned about him. For several years he had been in a downward spiral, existing on little more than coffee and cigarettes during the day and alcohol in the evenings. He lost a part-time job, one he very much enjoyed, when he showed up drunk. In his regular work, he builds houses so I worried about injuries on top of the possibility of car wrecks and disease. His wife tried to help and got nowhere.

Of course there's no one reason why anyone becomes an alcoholic. In his case, I speculate that it was a complicated soup of genetics, unresolved grief at the loss of his parents, perhaps an undiagnosed learning disability that caused him to do poorly in school and lack self-esteem.

I also believe that post-traumatic stress from his time in Viet Nam was involved. His brother (another uncle, whom I barely knew) also served and also suffered in the years that followed: abandoning his family, bouncing from city to city and job to job; eventually dying of cirrhosis and cancer in a VA hospital.

This post was inspired by today's Blog Blast for Peace. Because in the same way that I worried, and still worry, about my uncles, I worry about those soldiers, sailors, and airmen serving today, and about the repercussions that they and their families will experience for decades to come. Just like those commercials that proclaim "Depression hurts everyone," so does war, and in so many hidden ways.

For today, I am thankful that my uncle may be, just may be, healing. I hope he finds peace and comfort, and I hope the same for all victims of war.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's a toddler's prerogative to change his mind

up to no good Tonight's meltdown: Wanted to sit in a high chair (which he hasn't done since he was about 12 months old). High chair unavailable; booster chair (which he also hasn't used in well over a year) not an acceptable subsitute. Chair with a pillow? Nooooooo! Phone book? "Want Daddy make a high chair!" Ended up switching seats with his very patient sister several times before finally succumbing to the booster.

Last night's: Wanted to listen to Jo's book in Jo's room. NO! NO JO'S BOOK! Okay then. Back to Opie's room. NO! Want Jo's book! Okay, let's go. NO! NO JO'S BOOK! Okay then ... and so forth. Finally Mommy decided NO JO'S BOOK.

Can't wait for tomorrow's Indecision Tantrum!

Monday, November 05, 2007

8 is enough ... to fill our lives with looooove

Julie tagged me for this Crazy 8s meme and who am I to say no to a woman who is about to give birth any second?

8 things I’m passionate about:
1. My big girl
2. My little boy
3. Old houses
4. New books
5. Food (but only eating it. Not shopping for it or cooking it.)
6. Family
7. Friends
8. Blogging (if only based on time spent!)

8 things I say often:
1. I just need a little snack.
2. Time to go! We're late!
3. Give Mommy a kiss.
4. No, no candy right now.
5. No, we're done with TV for today.
6. Yes, I'll read that to you.
7. I'll just check my email.
8. Crap! Is it 2:45 already?

8 books I’ve recently read:
1. Beauty Confidential, Nadine Haobsh
2. The Boy in Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
3. The Lion King souvenir program (both my son and I have this one committed to memory)
4. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
5. The Last of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez
6. Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
7. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
8. (several months ago but I'm still inordinately proud) The Count of Monte Cristo, Andre Dumas

8 songs I could listen to over and over:
1. Hey, Julie (Fountains of Wayne)
2. Almost any Christmas carol or song
3. When You and I Were Young Maggie Blues (Grandpa)
4. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
5. More Pretty Girls Than One (Lyle Lovett)
6. Any 80s/early 90s R.E.M.
7. Inch By Inch (That Baby -- if my daughter is singing along)
8. Love Shack (B-52's)

8 things that attract me to my best friends:
1. wit
2. smarts
3. shared experiences
4. well-placed swear words
5. comic timing
6. good grammar
7. kid-friendly homes
8. parenting style

8 things I’ve learned in the past year:
1. All the words to every song on the Lion King soundtrack
2. That annoying cliquey stuff among girls starts in kindergarten
3. To do my own pedicures
4. Who Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Miley Cyrus are
5. That turkey slices and cookie cutters don't mix
6. That I will never catch up on everything I want to read, as long as I live
7. That every Catholic church has a relic inside its altar. I've been in 12 million churches and I never knew that. I don't know why I find it so fascinating, but I do.
8. I should go to bed earlier, but I never do.

8 of my peeps I think should do crazy 8s if they haven't already:
1. I am shy
2. about tagging
3. so if you feel
4. like 8-ing it up
5. go for it!
6. makes good
7. NaBloPoMo
8. fodder.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You're high maintenance, but you think you're low maintenance

I am not particularly a girly girl when it comes to hair, makeup, and all things beauty. While it's true that I can't bear to leave the house without a bit of makeup, the operative words are "a bit" (concealer, eye pencil, mascara, done). I have my hair highlighted every four or five months, but I don't wear perfume ever. I own both daytime and nighttime moisturizers, but both of them came from Walgreens, not Sephora.

So why did I want to read Beauty Confidential when Parent Bloggers Network offered it for review? Head over to The Full Mommy to find out.

And don't miss my other post today, below: It's Blog Exchange time, and we're itchin' for a fight.

Well, spank my ...

I am not a spanker.

(Just a clarification for you Googlers: I am talking about disciplining kids here.)

There are no scenarios in which I can imagine hitting my kids on purpose. As a parent, my two biggest responsibilities are to keep my children safe from harm, and to love them unconditionally. If I strike them, either in anger or in an attempt to teach them a lesson, I have failed in both those responsibilities. Even if that lesson is an important one (don't run in the street; respect your elders; calm down now). Even if I just tap a diapered bottom. Even if I count to 10 first.

Sure, I want them to obey me. I want them to be well behaved. But I don't want to achieve those goals through intimidation and anger. I want to help my children learn values, so that they behave because they know it's the right thing to do. I want them to feel good about themselves and their decisions. If they're obeying the rules simply because they fear a whuppin', they haven't learned the skills they need to make good choices later. And once again, I've let them down as a parent.

I'll admit this all sounds mighty hippie. Like in our house we all sit around and talk about our feeeeeelings instead of doing anything. Like we are those ineffective parents who sit on the sidelines and feebly call out "No sweetie! Let's be nice to our friends!"

Let me assure you that we do discipline our children. We remove privileges, we use time-outs, we are consistent and firm. We allow natural consequences to make their own points. And nope, these strategies don't always work, so sometimes we get frustrated.

But we don't hit. I would be livid if anyone else laid a hand on my children, so why would I ever think it's okay for me to be the one delivering the blow? I read a post recently in which a mom said that the only time she ever spanks is if her child intentionally hurts another person or an animal. Where, oh where, is the logic there? "No hitting!" [whack!] "You know you're not supposed to hit!" [smack!] "This is what you get when you hit!" [slap!]

Yeah. That seems effective.

Do I sound a little more ... provocative than usual today? That's because we're debating! Today's Blog Exchange is a series of arguments on hot topics. So be sure to click over to Webkittyn Warbles for the flip side on spanking -- she does make a good case. You can also visit the BE site for more juicy debates.