Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wait a minute, Christmas is over?

Writing wrap-up posts gives me hives, so I'll just say the following about the past week. These are the moments that I wish I could capture in a snow globe and revisit in the coming months and years:
  • Christmas Eve, Jo had to be dragged to church kicking and screaming (almost literally). She spent the first half of the service on my lap or huddled on the floor with the hood of her jacket up. Then, suddenly, she was captivated by "Angels We Have Heard on High." She wanted to sing along and asked me to help her follow along in the hymnal. This continued for the remainder of the hour.

  • Christmas morning, the kids sleep later than they have in weeks. When Opie finally gets up, we go into Jo's room to wake her up. Her first words are "You could have let me sleep a little longer, Opie!"

  • My dad didn't pack his Christmas pants. My siblings and I scolded him soundly, then turned on our mother for allowing such an oversight. We suggested he turn around and drive nine hours back home to get them. He said "No." Can you believe it?

  • He did, however, bring and wear his 7 jeans. Which looked great on him. Here is how it went down (let me note for the record that my dad is 71 and I haven't seen him wear jeans in years, but he does work out like two hours a day). He came into the kitchen wearing these stylish, dark, skinnyish jeans. Me: "Wow, nice jeans!" Dad: "Pretty nice huh?" Mom: "They're '7 for all' ... nations, or countries or something." Me: "7 For All Mankind??!?" Dad (shows off label): "Yeah, 7 For All Mankind. I got them at the Saks outlet."

  • My mom could not get enough Wii bowling. She was constantly begging someone to play against her.

  • After everyone left, Jeff noted that Opie's behavior had been very good, except for a few subpar moments, including that last morning. His response: "I was a little naughty because I didn't want everyone to leave." Little scam artist!

  • The family construction project (Playmobil airline terminal, with approx 1 beeellion pieces):

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I played Santa today

BloggersGiveBack.comI felt very Santa-ish this morning as I lugged two bags and a box through the snow to help make a child's Christmas special (never mind the fact that yes, my belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly with every step I take).

A few months ago, the folks from Learning Curve gave me a Caring Corners dollhouse to review, with a special condition: I'd get one dollhouse for my kids and I to try out and keep, but I'd also get a second one to give away to a needy child or charity. Part of the toy's charm is its effort to teach kids about sharing, caring, and good deeds, hence the charitable twist on a product review.

I started corresponding with the house manager of a shelter for abused women in a town near Mayberry. It's part of a nonprofit group that manages an array of domestic abuse programs benefiting women and children. The shelter has 44 beds (not counting cribs), and right now every one is full; a mother and child are sleeping in the shelter's library this week because it's the safest place for them to be.

Unfortunately, because it took a while to coordinate the drop-off (note to self: When someone is clearly a bad emailer, pick up the phone), I couldn't bring the kids with me. Still, just having the extra dollhouse in our house for all this time gave us plenty of opportunity to talk about why we had it and what we'd be doing with it.

The coordinator who received the dollhouse was just thrilled, and noted that a dollhouse is an especially useful and therapeutic toy for a child who's experienced abuse. It breaks my heart clean in two to think of a child spending Christmas in a shelter, but I hope this dollhouse helps one little girl dream of the safe, welcoming home she'll live in one day.


I also donated a few other reviewed products: the Positive Spin holiday books, and an I Can Do That! game (since that company had also offered two toys, one to review and one to donate). Thank you, Whitney, for coordinating these efforts. It's been a pleasure to participate.


Also at the Full Mommy, I 've reviewed theater productions that may be coming to your area soon. Check them out: Magic Tree House, the musical and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


And have a very merry Christmas, if you're celebrating. Our guests arrive today, so I'll be busy chopping vegetables and serving salads for the next few days. See you next week!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

These kids are smokin'

Jeff's mom sent us a box of Omaha steaks for Christmas, which was very generous but also unintentionally funny, because let's review the guest list* for our holiday festivities:
  • 2 vegans
  • 2 low-fat/low-carb dieters
  • 2 small children
  • 1 vegetarian
  • 1 diabetic
  • 1 pregnant woman whose stomach has a mind of its own (not a rational mind either)
But just like the box can often be the best part of a gift, the OS packaging brought a half an hour of pure glee:

*P.S. My husband (the special-occasion chef in the MM household) has a whole spreadsheet of the meals he is preparing for this crew. If you have need of any festive vegan recipe suggestions, we stand ready to assist.

P.P.S. Re my last post, it looks like I probably overreacted to the NT measurement I (thought I) saw. The result was normal (although at the upper edge of the accepted range). I feel much better now. And pledge not to abuse Google any further.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Too much snow, too much information

Over the ground lies a mantle of white...

You're not kidding. In addition to the foot of snow we got 10 days ago (which mostly didn't melt), we're now in the midst of a fluffy downpour of flakes today, with more predicted for Sunday/Monday. White Christmas: check.

It's not, however, a snow day. Still had to take Jo to school this morning. She gave it her best shot by putting an ice cube in the toilet and sleeping with a spoon under her pillow, but no luck. I have never heard of those two superstitions--is it a Midwest thing? We never did it growing up in Pennsylvania.

I have to brave the highways later on for an OB appointment. My practice now has a new procedure for urine tests: BYOU. They give you a little cup at your appointment and tell you to bring it back at the next one--full. Isn't that delightful?

I had an sonogram yesterday, the nuchal translucency screening. Baby spent the whole time sucking his/her thumb and trying to shove away the ultrasound wand pressing down on its turf. Not to sound like a pro-life activist but it really is amazing to see that at 13 weeks gestation. When I got home, like an idiot I googled what a normal NT measurement is. It's almost 4 times less than the number I thought I saw on the screen. Thanks a lot, Dr. Google.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Muchas gracias, you Hip Mom, you

Far too long ago, the lovely Kirsetin gave me a bloggy award, in Spanish no less. I'm going to go ahead and take her word for it when she says that recipients "are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!" (I mean, wouldn't you take her word for it, if her word was "charming"?)

(I do like prizes though. I bought a bundle of Christmas presents and several months of upcoming book club books with recent PBN winnings.)

So hmmm ... writers that need more attention.
  • Kate from Eucalyptus Pillow recently started a couple of new blogs and a business so I guess she's attention-seeking. Right, Kate?
  • Tammie from Soul Gardening needs us to read so she'll keep posting, because I miss her when she doesn't.
  • That goes for you too, Nancy. (Uh. No pressure, though, gals.)

If there's anyone you'd like to pass this award on to, go forth with my blessing. As if you needed it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas in Mayberry

So the Santa Float came by a couple of days ago. It's a fire truck fully decked out in Christmas lights and it ferries SANTA! around our whole town, street by street, over the course of a week until he passes every single house. Here's us watching with our neighbors (at the end you can see my husband is holding the neighbor kid, who ran out of his house so fast he forgot to put on shoes).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Good night, sleep tight

Someone will probably want to revoke my Mom License for this, but I never used to check on my kids at night before I went to bed. Just getting them to sleep in the first place was far too time-consuming. I dared not risk it by tiptoeing anywhere near. The only time I chanced it was if I suspected they might not, in fact, be in their beds--hence the time I found Opie sound asleep on the floor of his room, completely bare of pajamas or even a diaper.

Lately, though, I can't resist sneaking a peek. I must have established the habit when Jo was sick this summer. Now I crack open each door just an inch or two, to see those little sleepyheads. I'd never realized Jo talks in her sleep. But nearly every night, she mumbles a little something. The sound of the doorknob turning is just loud enough to rouse her ever so slightly, but she rolls over and is dreaming again before I can even close the door. Opie, inevitably, hasn't moved an inch since I left him a few hours before, snoring slightly, with the stuffed animal du jour tucked in nearby.

Turning away from his door, I look across the hall at the room that's now (theoretically) a home office, and will one day be the new baby's room. Can it really be that one day another child will sleep right there behind that door? I'm still amazed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Random 'n' ranty

Item 1. Not so much a rant, really, as another "What's the deal with..." question. Why do kids love getting their faces painted? It takes for-fricking-ever, we always have to wait in a huge line (because every other kid at the event wants her face painted too), it smears within 10 minutes, and the kid can't even see it. Why, I ask you. Why?

Item 2, in case you missed this on Twitter. It is too important for you to miss: The best search string ever. Someone arrived here at Mayberry Mom by googling "are you down with opie pee." Yeah, you know me! My friend, I hate to break it to you, but this here is a mommyblog. If you're looking for OPP, try here. Or possibly here.

Item 3. I had the most stay-at-home-momish kind of day I've ever had. School drop-off, yoga, home briefly, school volunteer thing, church thing (me and 40 old ladies in the church basement, for real), home again to clean up hideous dog accident in basement, school pick-up, back home for small window in which I accomplished one tiny work task (only because kids were watching TV and husband came home from work early), swimming lessons, home to wolf down dinner, PTA meeting. And tomorrow? Is a half-day of school. TGIF.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Donors Choose (to continue making me weep)

Remember when I donated to Donors Choose? Yesterday I got a packet of thank-you notes from the kids who received the scissors and tape. Some excerpts:

"So, thank you again for the scissors and tape just remember it helped a lot. Sincerely, Mike"

"You know what, I was the one who came up with the name 'cut into education' that was cool wasn't it. Thanks again. Sincerely, Kenny"

"We really appreciate the scissors that you sent. Before, when we were doing a project last year in seventh grade, we had the worst scissors. (I mean that in a bad way) They coudn't cut for anything and they always got caught in the paper. This letter is to tell you thank you for the scissors and tape. Sincerely, Khalil"

"The scissors helped a lot because we had these crappy ones and they didn't even cut. And the tape, we didn't even have any, but you gave us some and now we use it for a lot of stuff. Every time I see them I think of you and I say thanks in my head. Sincerely, Sean"

Thank YOU for reading because every page view helped fund that project.

And if you are still feeling charitable: My sister is running a marathon through Team in Training. She only needs $850 more to reach her goal of $3800. If the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a group you'd like to support, consider throwing a few bucks my sister's way. She would appreciate it!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Books with a positive spin

Ever wonder how the tradition of trick-or-treating got started? Author/illustrator team Lisa and Tucker Johnson have a sweet suggestion. In their book All Hallows Eve: The Story of the Halloween Fairy, they imagine a cute little fairy named Eve who loves candy, but can't seem to produce any for herself with her magic wand.

I reviewed this book, plus two follow-ups covering the winter holidays (Christmas Eve: The Joy of Giving and Winter's Eve: Love and Lights), thanks to the Parent Bloggers Network. Head on over to The Full Mommy for the full review.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Hands down, the game my family is most obsessed with plays most often is Scrabble. I'm not even sure when this habit got started, but anytime my brother, sister, and I are together it is ALL ABOUT the Scrab. Being the Word Girl in the family, I assumed I would have a natural advantage, but that is not the case. My brother, the visual artist (and in recent years, his wife--another artist) is the undisputed champ. I talked him up so much that two years ago, one of our neighbors came over on Christmas Eve for a game just to see Steve in action (and got his butt kicked for his trouble).

Steve and his wife:
  • have memorized all the 2-letter words legal in Scrabble
  • brought a travel Scrabble set on their month-long camping honeymoon and played nightly
  • keep track of all the games they play on a spreadsheet. Data gathered includes total points scored, who played the Q and Z, any bingos, and probably more obscure information too.
I still play against them. But I go into it knowing that if I come within 50 points of their scores, I've done really well.

We also do have an alternate game in case we are all tired of getting clobbered. Syzygy is a fast-paced, board-free version of Scrabble. Each player creates her own grid of interlocking words using letter tiles. You start with 9 tiles, and when you've used them all you call "Draw!" and all players must grab another. You then continue to incorporate these new letters into your crossword; you are free to change anything you've already put down. The game is over when all the tiles are gone and one player has a complete crossword with no leftover tiles. (And then, half the fun is checking everyone's work and arguing about the liberties they've taken with the English language.)

(Gift tip: If you're shopping for someone Scrabble-obsessed, they must read Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis. Both a fascinating character study and a how-to manual for Scrabble nerds.)

If you smelled blog blast on this one, bingo! (50 points to you.) Post yours by midnight tonight and you could win a fat pile of fun video games from EA.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What would you name yourself?

I've been having an email conversation with two friends about what names we would have chosen for ourselves (as children) if we'd had the option. Two out of three of us wanted to be "Lisa." So now we're curious. What name would you have given yourself at 5 years old? Or 10?

And did you ever try to change your name or nickname? In 6th grade, I decided my name was boring and I henceforth wanted to spell it with an "ie" at the end instead of a "y." Much grief ensued in the form of kids calling me "Cath-WHY." Eventually, I did get it to stick and kept that spelling through high school and college, at which point I finally gave it up as dumb. And that's why friends and family now spell my name three different ways.

You see why Lisa would be so much easier.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

6 things Opie plans to teach his baby brother

1. How to dance

2. How to sing

3. How to quit ("You know. Like leave his job.")

4. How to DON'T play with matches

5. About stop lights, go lights, and slow down lights

6. How to play the guitar

By the way, Jo and Opie are certain their new sib is a boy. Because they have consulted the Magic 8-Ball, and not only did it say that yes, it's a boy, it also said that it's not a girl. So, totally definitive.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The story so far

Week 4: This isn't so bad.

In Denver, Julie is either psychic or takes note of my greenish tint and the fact that I don't drink any Skinny Dip. She sends me home with a huge wardrobe of maternity clothes (mine, hers, and even some of Liz's) "just in case."

Week 5: This is ... getting more bad.

Week 6: Feel like death warmed over.

Stop buttoning my pants. Unapologetically eat deli meat AND brie.

Week 7: Heartburn and morning sickness. Cruel and unusual.

Also cruel: "morning" sickness and potty-training, night-waking preschooler and vomiting dog.
[Pause to acknowledge The Boring. Aren't you glad you didn't have to read all of this in real time?]

Week 8: Way too fat and sick for just one baby.

Have totally convinced myself there must be two in there. Panicking about need for new car, crib, double stroller, and "how will I even get from the garage to the house with TWO BABIES?"

Week 9: Ultrasound! Just one (of course).

We tell the kids. They tell everyone they see including the teenage kid working at the playroom at the Y.

Week 10: Giving thanks for my whole family, even (okay, especially) the one that's currently acting like a tapeworm.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas in June

Last Christmas Eve my husband and I had one of the most profound conversations of our then decade-long relationship. Conducted entirely in whispers (we were staying at his mother's and Opie was sleeping just inches away in a travel crib), our talk touched on the experiences we valued from our childhoods, what we wanted for our own kids, and so much more. At one point, Jeff said he was sad that Jo and Opie are not growing up with lots of cousins around. They only have a few, and see them only once or twice a year.

Without even thinking about it--certainly without thinking he would ever take me seriously--I said, "We could have another baby."

I was astonished when he said, "Yes, we could." And for the first time ever, he really meant it.

And that's how it came to be that the best present of Christmas 2007 will, if all goes well, be delivered sometime in June, 2009.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Quotable Thanksgiving, starring Opie and Nonnie

Dramatis personae:
  • OPIE, a loquacious 3-year-old
  • NONNIE, his great-grandmother
  • GRAMMY, his grandmother
  • PAUL, Grammy's gentleman friend

I. Wednesday afternoon. GRAMMY has taken OPIE to visit her workplace and is introducing him to her co-workers.

GRAMMY: This is Paul. He always helps me put your car seat in my car.
OPIE (suspiciously): That's not the Paul that belongs to you.

II. Thursday morning, NONNIE's living room.

NONNIE: Opie, come here and give me a kiss.
OPIE: I can't. I haven't shaved yet.

III. Friday morning, NONNIE's kitchen. She opens the newspaper to the obituary pages.

NONNIE: Anyone dead from around here?
PAUL (not missing a beat): Not from [this town]. I already checked.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The busiest travel day of the year

And I am always one of the ones traveling, every year of the *ahem*twenty*ahem* since I graduated from high school. As a kid, I spent every single holiday at home, not just in my hometown but in our house. My mother was the designated hostess for every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July and regular old Sunday meal, and the guests were always my grandmother (who lived a few blocks away) and my aunt, uncle, and cousin (who lived around the corner). In the usual kid grass-is-always-greener way, I envied my friends who got to go somewhere and do something for holidays instead of staying home which is so boring.

Be careful what you wish for, as they say. Since I turned 18, I've never been in my own home for Thanksgiving. Not that I ever wanted to cook a turkey in my dorm room or my Manhattan studio apartment, but you see what I mean. It feels a bit Peter Pan-ish to always be the guest and never the host. Like I'm not a Real Mom (hi, Motrin!) until I've stuffed the turkey and mashed the potatoes my own self.

(The reality is that my husband cooks the turkeys around here anyway.)

Truthfully, I can deal with Thanksgiving travel, even when it's on a crazy day like today and even with two travel companions under 7 years old. They may be young, but they are experienced. Thanksgiving doesn't have quite the baggage Christmas does (in the form of gifts, for one, and more firmly entrenched traditions, for two) and I'm above all thankful that we have families who love us and with whom we will enjoy sharing a meal.

I'm thankful for all of you, too, and hope you have a wonderful day and weekend, wherever you spend it and whatever you eat.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Perfect gift for Grandpa

Remember I said I was going to get my dad seamless socks this year? I changed my mind when I saw this:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Haiku by Jo

I've tweeted a few times how much I love finding my daughter's random writing samples around the house: a list of supplies needed for building a fort ("chars, blakits, tap, bulos, sremrs"*), a copy of a thank-you note composed at school ("Thank you for lating us pic appls. An prs the appls afdr we pict the appls. the sidr was yommye!"). After years of asking us to spell out words for her letter by letter, she is finally comfortable and confident enough to invent her own spelling. I will miss this when she outgrows it (or learns to use spell check).

The other day she composed a mini-story and I just realized it is actually a haiku! A scatological one, naturally:

The monster pewpt and
fel down. That pewp totaly
mest op his plan. Ya!

And here is a picture from one of her storybooks, a retelling of the Ugly Duckling fairy tale:

Happy Haiku Friday, and happy weekend.

*chairs, blankets, tape, pillows, streamers

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Cause I'm free! ... freelancing

I've been doing the freelance thing for just about two months now and because some people have asked, here's how it's going: Pretty well. Thanks mostly to two big assignments, I'll be able to replace all of the income I would have earned at my job in the last quarter of the year.

When I had my job, I worked at home, but during scheduled hours. My boss was wonderfully flexible, but I still felt guilty if I ran to the grocery store after dropping off the kids and got home late, or spent too much time cycling laundry during the work day. Now I can do that without flinching, plus take a yoga class in the mornings, do my 15-minute school volunteer job twice a week instead of once, and so on.

Still, I am ever conscious of the not-working time. Turns out that in order to be a successful freelancer, you better be really self-motivated. (Imagine that!) I always thought I was--I was never the kid who pulled all-nighters or did her homework on the bus--but man, pushing myself to put in the time can be hard. Especially when one of my jobs has no deadlines or specific assignments. I also stink at self-marketing (hi, I own and do you think there is anything there? no) and strategic planning. I have no idea where I'm going with this or how or when.

Jo has recently come to appreciate at least some aspects of my work, however. "So people send you stuff. And you write about it. That's a good job." It is. Not as excellent as jellybean caretaker, but it pays the bills.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Will you still need me, will you still feed me?

Last night I made my son two reckless promises: That he would not die until he is a hundred years old, and that when he did, I'd still be with him.

We were listening to a Classical Kids CD called Mr. Bach Comes to Call, in which the ghost of Johann S. appears to a little girl who is begrudgingly practicing the piano. She is soon won over by the jolly old man and his tales of a busy, happy, music-filled life. At the end of the disc Bach mentions a composition that he was unable to finish, because "everyone has to die sometime."

We've played this CD probably a hundred times, but last night Opie stopped to think about that line. His face grew fearful. His voice quivered as he asked if that meant he would die. "Yes," I told him, but not for a very very very long time, when he was a very very very old man. "How old?" he pressed, and that's when I told him a hundred years (the biggest number I thought he could grasp--as it turns out, he didn't, and I had to count almost all the way from 3 to 100 to show just how far that was).

Still he wasn't satisfied, and his voice continued to teeter on the brink of tears. "But when I die, you won't be there."

"I will," I said, tears sliding down my own cheeks. "I will always be with you." Because I will, I thought. In Heaven, in memory, in some little sliver of DNA, one way or another. Unwilling and unable to explain all that, I defaulted to the simple lie. And then I perpetuated it by promising that Daddy would be there too, and Jo, and even our dog.

I know I'll break a lot of the promises I make my children, intentionally and not. I just wasn't quite prepared to discuss one of the universe's greatest unknowns right there in the dark, at 9 p.m. after a full day of solo parenting. (And you better believe I was the one who stayed awake staring at the ceiling when it was my turn to go to bed.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good enough for Grandma and Grandpa

Except for my mom, the rest of the grandparents (my dad, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and oh god, mother-in-law's gentleman friend) are very very very hard to shop for. I mean, I adore Great-Grandma Nonnie but she just turned 90 and pretty much never leaves the house. The same house she's lived in for about 65 years.

Of course, we turn to the kid-crafted gift whenever we possibly can. Framed photos, paint-your-own-pottery--the classics. A couple of years ago my dad wanted a bathrobe. (Another staple on his wish list is always "seamless socks." Thrilling!) I found one that met his specifications (he had several) but it was still such a boring present. So I thought the kids could doctor it up with little handprints on the pockets. Can you picture it, like I did, kind of subtle and oh-so-cute? Right! And can you also imagine how ugly the finished product was? So ugly I pitched it into the dress-up bin and started over with a brand-new robe.

It was such an obvious demonstration of how Not Crafty I am. The paint I bought was wrong, or my technique sucked, or something; anyway instead of cute kiddie handprints, we just had big blobs of paint. It looked like a dropcloth instead of a bathrobe. Fail! This is also what happens every time I try to follow a recipe for something that is supposed to be attractive-looking. The end result never looks like what it does in the instructions. NEV-ER.

Bathrobe 2.0 was slightly more successful. I traced the kids' hands onto felt, cut them out and glued them on to the pockets of the new robe. They probably fell off the first time it went into the laundry but my dad has graciously refrained from telling me that.

This year, he's getting plain seamless socks.

This crafty confession brought to you by Parent Bloggers Network and Klutz, publishers of very fun craft books and kits for kids. Fun because kids can play with them all by themselves. Seriously, I love them and not just because I used to work for Klutz's parent company or because they are sponsoring a blog blast with darn good prizes. See for yourself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Name that character

I've seen this a couple of places and couldn't help starting to mentally fill it in. So here it is. Probably a lot more fun for me than it is for you. Uh, sorry!

1. ROCK STAR NAME: Miss November Volvo

2. GANGSTA NAME: Chocolate Boot



5. NASCAR NAME: Carl George

6. STRIPPER NAME: Lavender Kit Kat

7. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: Philips Phoenix

8. SPY NAME: Summer Lilac

9. CARTOON NAME: Apple Cardigan

10. HIPPIE NAME: Granola Cherry

If you want to play, here's how:

1. first pet, current car
2. fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe
3. favorite color, favorite animal
4. 2nd favorite color, favorite drink
5. the first names of your grandfathers
6. the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy
7. 5th grade teacher's last name, name of city that starts with the same letter
8. your favorite season/holiday, flower
9. favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now
10. what you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree

Monday, November 10, 2008

Actual transcript of message left on my cell phone

(by my children at 7:30 p.m. while I was out and they were at home, ostensibly getting ready for bed)

Jo (aka Bossypants): Okay, now you can talk.

O: No, who was THAT talking?

Jo: That's just a girl. Now talk.

O: Hi. Hi Mommy.

Jo: Okay she's not going to be on there. You're leaving a message right now.

O: But I'm trying to tell you something. Why isn't she talking?

Jo: Excuse me for a minute. One second. [To O: She can't right now. She's busy with someone. You're leaving a message.]

O: I'm just leaving a message. Ummmm...

Jo: Put the phone to your mouth so she can hear you. Otherwise the only thing she's going to hear is [...]

O: I'm just leaving a message because I'm leaving a message and I don't want Daddy to be by me.

Jo: Ask her if she can come home and do something with you.

O: I'm just leaving a message. And now there's a message.

Jo: He just wanted to ask you if you can come home and do something with him. When you get home please wake him up and do something with him. Bye-bye!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

One sucker down, one to go

What with all the appendecto-mania this summer I never recorded another big milestone: We are now a Nuk-free household. After all my hand-wringing, all it took was accidentally (we really didn't do it on purpose, except maybe in the Freudian sense) leaving the Nuks behind on our Fourth of July weekend trip to Grammy's house. That was four nights of "we left the Nuk in our car at the airport, remember?" and somehow Opie fell asleep each night without it. I don't even remember it being that difficult.

When we came home, we stashed the car Nuk before it could be seen and never brought it out again. Done and done. Color me shocked, especially since we couldn't have picked a worse time to break that habit--almost as soon as we returned from that particular trip, I left for a business trip on my own and then right after that we went to San Francisco, kicking off three weeks of hospitalization, disruption, and aggravation. And he was seriously fine the whole time. Once in a great while he'll say "I miss my Nukkies" and we'll agree and reminisce about the good times we all had. And then move on.

Now, the thumb is another story, especially now that Jo has lost her two top front teeth. Anticipating yet another stern lecture from the dentist, we ordered these thumb guards, which we've been using for about a week now with a fair amount of success (by which I mean she is able to fall asleep with them on; but the minute she wakes up she extricates herself and we find her on the couch slurping away).

So Monday we go to the dentist (aside: genius over here scheduled her kids' dentists appointments for three days after Halloween) and I am already on the defensive. Instead, we get the best hygienist ever. She told me that yes, Jo has a cross-bite, but it's not necessarily related to her thumb habit. And she said that she should go to the orthodontist after all 8 of her front teeth (4 top, 4 bottom) fall out and grow back in, which "may not be until she's past 8 years old." I wanted to kiss her on the spot for buying us two more years!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How to be a boss employees actually like

Recently I was talking to someone who works in HR about how I recently left my job to go freelance. By way of explanation I said "Well, my boss left, and after that ... you know." (Eloquent!) Of course, she did know; she says she hears this all the time in her work. It got me thinking about why it was that I loved S. so much. (We're still in touch, as she is now my editor's boss over at my About site, but we don't talk every day anymore.)

First, she was a great communicator. Clear, constructive, funny, friendly, open. Another editor I once worked for would return copy with the words "pls fix" scrawled at random in the margin (fix what?!). Not S.; she could tell you just what you needed to do, in a way that made you feel quite capable of doing it. She would also share everything she could with us about what was going on elsewhere in the company. While she was discreet when she needed to be, she didn't see any value in withholding information just to bolster her authority.

She was also a great protector. She shielded her staff from pointless bureaucracy, ugly people, useless meetings, and waste-of-time tasks. When she left ... oy. Then we really knew just how much she'd done for us.

Not surprisingly, S. was motivating. Because it was so clear she cared about us (see items 1 and 2 above), we naturally wanted to please her. She made it easy by offering plenty of support and trust--like embracing my idea to telecommute from 1000 miles away. She knew how to praise our successes and gently help us fix our mistakes.

Lastly, she could drink me under the table any day of the week. I miss that lady.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Opie sez: Obama winned!

That's what he announced to his preschool class as soon as he walked in this morning, and his teachers responded with great enthusiasm.

I wanted to wake the kids last night so they could watch Obama's speech, but I know better than to mess with a sleeping child. We can watch the speech together today, online, and marvel at it all. At 3 and 6 years old, Opie and Jo are old enough to know that Mommy and Daddy were "cheering for" Obama, but not old enough to really grasp why.

They are also not old enough to understand why this is such a historic moment, and I don't know if I can or will explain it. Should I describe racism to children who haven't been spoiled by it? Who have friends of all colors and creeds and think nothing of it? By not confronting the issue, do we defuse its power, or feed it?

Images from, where--if you are very very very patient--you can see front pages from newspapers all around the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Opie sez: GO VOTE!

Don't let this little boy down. Get out and vote! If you want an endorsement, I have one in my sidebar. But even if you're supporting That Other One, vote! (Find your polling place.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

C'mon. Who doesn't love Monday mornings?

Forget Fridays--I love Mondays. Weekends are fun, they're busy, they're sometimes even productive, but they are in no way relaxing. This Saturday and Sunday I cooked, cleaned, laundered, and folded. I played Legos and assisted with a first-grade scrapbooking effort. I went to the ice rink (twice), church/Sunday school, the grocery store, and our local, poor man's Target, all with at least one child in tow. (This is what's exhausting about more than one kid, when they outgrow strollers: The shepherding. I say "Stay by me" until I am blue in the face, and yet one is always mysteriously missing.)

But Monday! Ahhh, Monday. On Monday morning everyone leaves. I finally get a little peace and quiet. Of course I have the laundry to finish and dishes to wash and work to do, lots and lots of it; but I can do it without being interrupted hundreds of times in a row. That right there is a luxury, one for which I am grateful every single week.

Edited to add: I am amused to note that Julie from a little pregnant posted similarly (although much more funnily) today.

Friday, October 31, 2008


That is what my husband calls the characters I would call "trick-or-treaters." And a few stopped by our house tonight. We gave away about 10 bags' worth of candy and were down to our last three tiny boxes of Dots (I didn't buy those!) when time was up. Our favorite Halloweener was dressed as a "killer banana." He wore a banana suit with a bloody hockey mask and carried a big scary knife. One of our friends' kids came by dressed as a ninja. My husband disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a slice of sweet potato carved into a throwing star. He so crafty!

Look out! Killer bananas!

Boo haiku

Four hundred ninety-
ninth post. How scary is that?
Happy Halloween!

Costume pictures to follow later, but here's 2007 and 2002 through 2006. I'm coming to terms with the fact that this year's storebought race car driver costume doesn't hold a candle to last year's "stick guy." He could have gone as the naked chef, I guess.

Here's a Blair-Witch style video of the outdoor decorations I tweeted about. (None of the stills came out.) At about 30 secs you can see the whole thing and then turn it off.

Happy Halloween. May your pillowcases be full!

Haiku Friday

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The story of a small Singer sewing machine

As I have mentioned, Jo is a bit of a dilettante. Like most kids, she's a sucker for anything new. Last Christmas, she got a finger loom which she loooooovvved for about two weeks (and even that was a very long run) and has since almost completely ignored. She'll beg for a toy or a game or a book with the tenacity of an e-mail spam overlord and then blow it off almost as quickly as she receives it. She's taken a incredible range of extracurricular classes, from music to art to tumbling to (most recently) ice skating, but the only one she's stuck with consistently is swimming.

Her most recent prized possession was a toy sewing machine we picked up at TJ Maxx for $12. It's pink and plastic but it really works. So for a few days Jo was a busy busy seamstress (mostly just making seams with no practical purpose). And after that, of course, the little machine sat and gathered dust.

What I wonder is how much of this is my own doing. See, the sewing machine--like many other hobbies she might try/stick with--requires intervention from me: helping her thread the needle, find fabrics to work with, follow instructions, etc. And you know, there is a reason why I don't own a sewing machine myself. I am just not interested! So if Jo asks me to help her, I will; but I'm not going to go out of my way and say "Psst! Hey kid! Wanna sew?"

So I don't think I am actually suppressing my child's interests. The question is whether I am doing enough to encourage them. I like to think I am allowing her passions to shine through (she is only six, after all!). But as we've established, I'm pretty good at rationalizing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

8 is not enough

It hasn't been all sweetness and (crazy overexposed) light. But it's been pretty sweet.

Happy 8th anniversary!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Front, back, micro, macro

Even though I have a perfectly good, dedicated home office space, every day I work at my dining room table. I sit in the seat that allows me to look through the living room and out the front windows, to the yard and to the park across the street. Just outside the window is a plant called a Tree of Heaven, which my sister the horticulturist informs me is called "Tree of Hell" by those in the trade--because it can be invasive and is nearly impossible to remove or kill.

It's pretty, though, isn't it?

Our back yard is dominated by two towering trees--a shagbark hickory (on the right below) and an oak (at the bottom of the frame is our garage). These are two of the many reasons I wouldn't trade living in an old house.

Yes, that's a lot of leaves. But here's what we learned from our neighbor: Just crunch 'em up with a lawnmower and leave them. Forget raking!

Thanks to Jenny from Nyack Backyard for inspiring this post! It's a front door/back door meme started by dlyn. If you want to join in, just step our your front door and snap a photo, then do the same in the back. Leave your link at dlyn's.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shopping list: 1 bichon frise, 1 kitten, 1 rabbit ...

At some point in kindergarten, every time Jo went to the school library she would only check out totally boring nonfiction books with some variation on the title Caring for Your Pet ____ or All About [Dog/Cat Breed X]. These were dry as dirt earnest, detailed manuals published by the likes of the ASPCA and the American Kennel Club. Not exactly my idea of soothing bedtime reading, but who was I to interfere with my child's interest in books/science/companion animals?

In the months since we have come to discover that the kid had an ulterior motive. She filed away all the details and used them to craft her master plan. And now, once a week or so we hear "When Folly dies can we get a bichon frisé? And then, you know bichon frisés get along with cats so we can get a cat? Or a rabbit, and also a guinea pig."

After she tried this a few times and I responded with horror at her blasé attitude toward the death of our beloved pet, she amended her request thusly:

"When Folly dies, it'sgoingtobereallysad, and then can we get a bichon frisé?"

We've had this dog since before the kids were born and they really do have a sibling relationship. By which I mean a love/hate kind of a thing. She tries to steal their food and they freak out. Then they feed her their leftovers right off their plates. She grabs their toys, they grab hers. They play together intensely for awhile and then ignore each other intensely for awhile.

She's over 10 years old and she has a heart murmur. She sheds, she barks viciously at the vacuum cleaner, she sometimes refuses to go outside and then has accidents in the basement. And when she's gone, it'sgoingtobereallysad.

(Photo is from 2002 and is one of my all-time favorites.)

This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by Burger King Corp.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Further adventures in firefighting

The best part is she didn't even tell us she did this. We only found out from the pictures. Even then she just acted like it was no big thang.

And I have to say, for a photo taken on a disposable camera by an 8-year-old, I rather like it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jo = Teh Awesome

I am grooving on this little girl this week. To wit:

1. Last night she voluntarily, cheerfully, and capably washed a huge sink full of dishes. I may still have to remind her regularly to take her plate to the sink and put her pajamas in the drawer, but did I enjoy having post-dinner clean-up cut in half, at least just that once? I did.

2. For the past few days she has been giving Opie "homework assignments" after school. She dot-to-dots letters and numbers for him to trace and then gives him a letter grade for each page (ranging from A+ to Z-). He loves it.

3. She was one of two kids from her school chosen at random to spend the morning at our local fire station. She was so excited you would have thought she'd won the lottery. She got to slide down the pole, have lunch from McDonald's (no firehouse chili?!), and be driven back to school in an honest-to-god fire engine. She tried on the gear and reported that the helmet was so heavy she couldn't walk in it. And one of the firefighters nicknamed her "Crumb" because she was the smallest kid there.

(crummy souvenir photo)

Monday, October 20, 2008

A mile-high high

If you've been to Julie's, you know we've been to Julie's this past weekend. There was much eating (thank you Kyle!), musical beds, walks around the neighborhood, cooing at the baby (OMG the baby. He is edibly cute), an intense game of Taboo in which Nancy's name was invoked (how else could I explain "hat trick" without saying the word "hockey"?), and not nearly enough picture-taking--partly because I left my camera at my brother's overnight. (Ask Julie about how he returned it on his motorcyle, fully decked out in leather and chains.)

Once again, Jo and Tacy picked up without a moment's hesitation and didn't leave each other's sides, awake or asleep, for the entire length of the visit. Neither did Jo wear any of the clothes we brought for her, preferring instead to raid Tacy's closet. I don't know if it's the fact that they spent so much time together as infants (nearly every day from three months to two years) or the fact that we parents do our best to encourage their continuing relationship, but these girls have a strong bond that's now weathered four years apart. I hope it never breaks.

Goodbye Denver--we'll be back as soon as we can.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

I haven't been through my reader yet today (*twitch*) but I know from Twitter that many of my favorite bloggers are participating in Blog Action Day today. Magpie, PunditMom, and Ilina are making donations based on the number of comments they receive today, so go forth and comment, please! (If you're doing this too, let me know and I'll link you up.)

Last year I donated my BlogHer Ads earnings to Donors Choose. Any suggestions for a recipient for this year? I just read about Jewish World Watch's Solar Cooker Project in Darfur. A $30 donation provides a refugee family with solar cookers and training to use them. This helps curb deforestation and also saves women and girls from making dangerous trips to gather firewood (they risk getting raped every time they venture out). Thirty bucks!

I also want to help at home. My grocery store collects donations for our local food banks right at the checkout (the store prefills bags of supplies, I pay for it, then it goes straight the food bank). With food prices skyrocketing and everyone feeling squeezed, I remember how very lucky we are and I buy one of these bags each time I'm at the market.

The problems are so huge and diverse and intractable (how do we fix Darfur / Iraq / Afghanistan / Haiti? how do we fix health care? how do we fix crummy schools and evaporating jobs and foreclosed homes?). What I don't want to do is let this overwhelm me into inaction. One local project and one international one? That's doable. And every little bit helps.

What are you doing?

PS Don't forget FreeRice. I just donated 1000 grains and learned two new words ("vaticinate" means "prophesy" and "raddled" means "worn out").

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday miscellany*

One of our neighbors--the kind of guy who keeps a TV in his garage and watches NASCAR on it all weekend, and I think that says a lot about a person--has put up an Obama yard sign.


Jo learned this song at after-school care:

We will, we will
Rock you
Sock you
Flush you in the toilet
Hope that you enjoy it!

As well as:

Made you look, made you look, now you're in the baby book!

I confess I missed these two in my own upbringing.


We did our annual autumn pumpkin patch/agritainment excursion this weekend. The trees are gorgeous. Whenever I see beautiful fall leaves I always remember the banquet director from our wedding reception. Since our wedding was in the fall, he made sure to note that the dining room overlooked a wooded mountain, the better to showcase the fall foil-age.

*thanks to Leighann for the title

Friday, October 10, 2008

Confession time

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I think--right now--that I have a favorite child. I love Jo utterly; this summer's events brought that home like nothing else could have. She's funny and sweet and affectionate and generally well behaved. I love to spend time with her and am so proud of everything she can do (and wants to do and tries to do).

But Opie, at least lately? It's like he's made out of candy and Champagne and ice cream all rolled into one. Even when he's being a typical 3-year-old pain in the butt I can't stop thinking about how much I adore him. I don't know if it's a mother-son thing, or a youngest child/baby lust thing, or something else entirely. He's smaller, snugglier, and, well, just kind of cuter than his sophisticatedly 6-year-old sister. He still makes hilarious, nonsensical pronouncements (the other day he reported that he'd had tacos for lunch and they made "all the babies in my tummy really sick." Duly noted, then, no more tacos, and also, I'll alert the media). I can still carry him around on my hip and at bedtime, he says "Mommy, dance me a wittle" and rests his head on my shoulder.

Anyway, I defy you not to fall for a guy like this (10 seconds):

Please tell me I am not crazy. Well, except for letting my child out in public wearing the jetfighter print shorts with the striped polo and bright red boots. Or for letting him use the patio table (where we, like, eat and stuff) as his stage. Okay fine.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'm a Mother of Intention!

I'm over here today pretending I'm a pundit! (And making zero mention of the presidential candidates. In case maybe you need a break from "that one" and that other one). Visit, read, comment, please!

Mothers of Intention at PunditMom

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Aiding and abetting my junior scientist

My husband thought I was completely nuts when I allowed this:

Yes, we literally played with fire. For the record, we learned that paper and toothpicks are flammable, but grapes and spoons are not.

Refrigerator update below.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I am trying to see the bright side

... of the fact that our refrigerator died over the weekend.
  • We do have a spare refrigerator in the basement, and a chest freezer.
  • My husband moved everything down there.
  • (I later paid him back by being the one to find a disgusting dog accident and clean it up.)
  • My husband also cleaned behind and under the fridge after I asked him to move it for me so I could do it.
  • We haven't had to throw away any food yet.
  • I will probably lose 5 pounds from a) all the trips back and forth to the basement and b) the deterrence factor of said trips.
  • The repairman is on his way.
  • If the fridge is salvageable, it will be the cleanest it's been in years, since I'll scrub it sparkling before I refill it.
  • If it's not, I just read that October is the best month to get a good deal on new appliances.
  • It's not yet cold enough to keep our perishables on the porch.

[grudgingly] I guess I feel a little better. Anything I forgot?

Update, Tuesday: After $62 and the removal of two handfuls of dust and a magnetic dart from inside the bottom of the fridge ... it works fine. My husband is mourning the loss of his stainless steel dreams.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Haiku Friday: Feeling my age

Sand through the hourglass
Technicolor leaves drifting
I am old as dirt

The other day at the dinner table Jo started talking about adjectives and nouns. Jeff and I immediately burst into song: "A noun's a special kind of word! It's any name you ever heard, I find it/ Quite interesting, a noun is a person, place, or thing."

Somehow during the same conversation it came up that she wanted to wear last year's kitty ears with this year's "rock star" (NOT Hannah M., thankyouverymuch) Halloween costume. This caused another outburst from the parental units and some quizzical looks from the children.

Thanks to YouTube, we were able to show the children what on earth we were talking about. So I guess them there modern conveniences do have some value.

I can only hope that Jeff and I prove to be like our betta fish, who has dodged Death twice in his four-month stay with us (accidental visit to the garbage disposal; dumped on the floor when bowl broke) and is, in Jo's words, "a really good liver."

Haiku Friday

Sidebar: Yes, my first grader is learning about parts of speech. And geometry. Rock on Montessori with your geo solids and your 3D grammar symbols.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fabulous & free: Flip Ultra

Our whole family loves our little Flip Ultra video camera--super easy to use and upload (see below). So I am super excited that we have one to give away over at The Full Mommy. We have an updated look and we're celebrating! Email us to enter.

And here's some secret footage shot by Jo back when we first got our Flip. A repeat here on the blog, but worth it.

interview with a potty

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I love your blog!

The news is all GLOOM! DOOM! World! Ending!

And yes--pretty much true. But let's put that aside for a moment and talk about the fact that Kimberly loves my blog. So, happy thoughts! Thank you, Kimberly.

And now I get to say which blogs I love. Which seven blogs I love, which as you can imagine is not really possible. Seventy-seven, I could do.

So here are the most recent additions to my reader, because if they've earned a spot there then I must love them. (And if you're not listed, that just means I already loved you.)

Dirt & Noise. A few good rants about Sarah Palin and I was sold.

It's Lovely! I'll Take It! Click over there. You will not regret it.

Motherhood in NYC. Marinka? Is very funny.

Nyack Backyard. Vicarious gardening!

Total Mom Haircut. She taught Martha Stewart a thing or two about blogging.

The Wink. I know, everyone already knows about Amanda, apparently except me.

And my 7th spot (since I always have to find a way to cheat on every meme) goes to all the mom bloggers participating in the Donors Choose 2008 Blogger Challenge. Thanks for supporting such a great cause!

Fine print:
  • You can put the award picture on your blog.
  • Link to the person who awarded you.
  • Nominate at least seven other blogs that you love.
  • Put up links to those blogs.
  • Leave messages with the blogs you nominated.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Overthinking the yard sign

The McCain-Palin signs have started to pop up around our neighborhood. There are a few Obama-Biden ones, too, but not as many.

I'm on record as being a strong Obama supporter. So what am I waiting for, with the sign? I think about this all the time when I'm biking around town. I've gone back and forth 100 times about whether or not to get a sign.

It's not that I'm ashamed to proclaim my choice. It's not that I'm afraid someone will steal my sign, like Magpie's. It's not even that I don't want to be perceived as a stark raving liberal (which, let's face it, I am).

It's not that I don't want to be confronted. In fact, my fear is that I wouldn't be confronted, that I wouldn't have a chance to explain why I think Obama is the best choice for our country. The fact is this is a small town. Many of my friends and neighbors are staunch Catholics. For them the election revolves solely around the abortion issue.

What about the death penalty, I say. What about the war? What about the poor, the homeless, the immigrants? These are all high priorities for the Catholic church as well. What about the fact that unless you're a millionaire, I'll bet you that million that your taxes will go up in a McCain administration?

That's a lot to fit on one little yard sign.

This still feels like a big fat rationalization to me. But I did put a sign up on my blog.

It's a start.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bend it like (Victoria) Beckham

(I've been learning a lot about SEO lately. I should probably include some pictures of David Beckham in his skimpy briefs to bring in a coupla more page views.)

So today was my last day of work. More accurately, it was my last day in the employ of a big ol' company (and not to sound dramatic, but it feels like I'll never, ever, ever be a salaried employee again). From now on, I work for ME. While I have editors and oversight at my new gig, my day-to-day tasks, how much I work, and when I do it is up to me. If I work more, theoretically I'll be paid more. Which translates, for me, into "if I goof around all day on Twitter while my kids are at school, I'll be staying up much later than I'd like to catch up on writing."

This is scary. For the past couple of months I've been juggling both jobs (oh and a few other freelance writing gigs thrown in for good measure) and it's meant a lot of burning the candle at both ends. While the kids are at school I work, unload the dishwasher, work some more, fold the laundry while on a conference call, work, write a blog post, work, etc. I take 5 or so hours off for kid pick-up, play time, dinner-bath-bed, and then it's back to working again until I roll into bed, by midnight if I'm lucky.

I know this is the new reality for so many of us. Forget balancing work and family; we stretch and contort and juggle family and home responsibilities with not just one job, but several. Blogging is a quasi-job (I just "earned" $200 from Parent Bloggers Network for my recent blog blast post!) too. The lines between "work" and "family" are so fluid they've become nearly invisible.

I wouldn't trade the flexibility I have now--the ability to run to school to help out for 15 minutes at 11 a.m., or to stop working at 2:30 p.m. and start up again at 9, or to file a story from anyplace in the world with an Internet connection. But there's something to be said, sometimes, for leaving work at work. And when you work at home, you just can't do that.

Image: Not-David-Beckham demonstrating the patented one-armed push-up ice-cream-eating technique.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pop, swap, sweet!

I know it's been all blasty, prompty, memey around here lately but I have to do this Mix 'n' Match, Pop 'n' Swap (warning, links to headless dolls! But they do seem to be a good solution to the typical Polly Pocket Problem) one too (via Parent Bloggers Network):

Because that picture just needs to be shared.

It's hard to get a good look at the socks but they're red with a yellow windowpane pattern and navy trim. Of course.

My kids pick out their own clothes every day and I pretty much never make them change. I won't let them wear jeans to church or swimsuits to the grocery store, but I will let them wear whatever wackjob color/pattern combinations they come up with. I will let them wear pajamas under (sometimes over) their clothes if that's what gets them out of the door smiling. I will let my toddler boy wear a tutu with his tool-emblazoned long johns.

Choose your battles, mamas. Choose your battles.

Monday, September 22, 2008

V-Motion = Junior Wii?

When the Parent Bloggers Network asked me to review VTech's V-Motion Active Learning System, I said "It's like a baby Wii! Send it over right now!"

Click over to The Full Mommy to find out whether it lived up to my wildest hopes and dreams.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Corndog with cheese

What can't I live without as a mom, ask to Yoplait Kids and Parent Bloggers Network?

I'm going to have to go the totally corny route and say other moms. Other moms have taught me what to carry, what to buy, and what to ignore. They've taught me what to wear, what to sweat, and what not to. They've lent me baby gear and dropped off meals in times of crisis. They've kept me company on long stroller sojourns and on trips to the mall squeezed in after bedtime. They've kept me sane at the playground or cooped up inside when there's two feet of snow on the ground. (I am so much better at spending long hours with my children when I have a peer of my own at my side.)

They've reminded me over and over that I'm not alone. And while I loved my Boppy and my Bjorn and even my breast pump, while I'd never want to give up my bike trailer or chai tea lattes or the DVR or god forbid the Internet, I think I could get through just about anything if a fellow mom was there to hold my hand.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stock up on snuggles

I went to Back-to-School Night at Jo's school yesterday and completely ignored the principal's friendly speech as well as just about everything else that went on. Why? Because the sweetest little budgie baby was in her mother's lap just inches away from me. Who wants to listen to some gray-haired man talking about parking lot policies when there is an adorable, barefooted, cooing infant in the room?

I mean, come on. There is a reason why actors don't want to work with kids or dogs. This little girl had the entire crowd in the palms of her bitty pattycake hands.

There is so much to love about a new baby: those impossibly tiny toes, that fuzzy head, those adorable oohs and aahs. When my children were tiny, I think I loved their snuggliness the most--the way they burrowed into my neck; the way their heads fit right under my chin; the way their bottoms rested just so in the crook of my arm.

Kristen and Rebecca, wishing you lots of sweet snuggles with your new little girls!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Show-tune haters, click away now

You don't have to be an Obama Mama to appreciate this, but you probably do have to not loathe Broadway musicals.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sharing the news

On my way to and from Jo's school I pass the hospital where Opie was born. A few days ago a fluorescent pink sign appeared in one of the windows, facing the street: IT'S A GIRL! It made me smile each time I passed.

When Jo was born, I had a c-section after many hours of labor. By the time my OB ordered the section, I had no problem giving up on the idea of vaginal birth. (I believe my exact words were "I don't care how you do it. Just get it out so I can have a drink of water!") After Jo was delivered, I was a basket case, given that I'd been in labor for nearly two full days without eating or sleeping. I was in no shape to call anyone to deliver the biggest news I'd ever be able to share. (AND they still wouldn't give me any water. Boy was I mad.)

I realized later that that was one of the things that made me the saddest about the c-section. I hadn't realized how badly I wanted that big Announcement Moment, where I got to tell family and friends about our baby girl. Instead, Jeff had to leave the room to go make the calls--since we'd told everyone hours and hours before that the birth was imminent, and our mothers were starting to completely lose their minds.

When Opie was born, I again had a c-section preceded by labor, just not quite so much of it. I recovered from the surgery more quickly and was able to make a few phone calls. No giant posters or candy cigars or clever websites--just a few spoken words, but it felt amazing.

Did you do anything special to announce your children's births?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vanity unfair

I don't get vanity license plates. I mean, not like "what is the deal with vanity plates," but like I see them, and then spend precious minutes trying to figure out what the hell they meant.

BHAPIE: This one lives in my neighborhood and I swear to you, it took me a year to determine what it means. I couldn't get past "bha-pye" (rhymes with pop-eye). No. "Be happy!" I'm not happy--I just wasted a year of my life on your dumb license plate.

STAUPL8R: Stop-lighter? Stop-later? Staple-a-tor? Stay up later -- now why would I want to do that? I don't get enough sleep as it is.

ICNCYDU: I see Nancy Drew? Inky dinky doo? I can see why, do you? Well, no, I don't. I have no idea what you're trying to express, here.

DCK HTR: Duck hunter? Dock heater? Dick hater? WHAT?

I'm thinking if you have such an important message to get across, maybe spring for a bumper sticker or a magnet or something. PLZ?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The eleventh of never

Seven years later
I still cannot live today
Like every other.

I have a hard time knowing how to be today. It feels wrong to ignore the anniversary, but I don't know how to observe it meaningfully either. I've always found it odd that other cities around the country (including the small town that neighbors Mayberry) have 9/11 ceremonies and memorials. I guess everyone felt their country was under attack that day. But even though I was there that day, I didn't lose anyone close to me, so any remembrance, anything I could offer, feels false and disconnected, like those memorial observances hundreds of miles away.

Instead, today I'll choose to be grateful.

For the doctors and nurses who healed our daughter this summer, and for the insurance that paid for all but $500 of the nearly $100,000 cost.

For the men and women who teach and care for my children every day, who help them learn and grow.

For the sturdy old house that shelters my family and me.

For my own health and that of my husband and children and parents and siblings and mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.

For my work and the colleagues with whom I share it.

For my friends online and off.

And I pray that those who don't have these blessings may one day know them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Well, it IS a series of tubes ...

Today at the playground Opie hopped onto the sand digger and announced: "I'm makin' a website!"

Well! So am I. My new site is live and I'd love for you to take a look: I am the new Family Fitness Guide at I'll be blogging there a couple of times a week and posting new articles at least once a week. I would love any and all visits and feedback!

I've had quite a spotty relationship with fitness over the years, so the irony of this is not lost on me. As a kid I was a skinny (one might even say "scrawny" or "weak") bookworm. It wasn't until I tried yoga in my late 20s that I realized I could actually enjoy exercise. For the first time I loved working hard and really sweating (this was bikram yoga--everyone would be literally standing in a pool of perspiration by the end of the 90-minute class). I loved seeing those incremental improvements, being able to balance for just a tiny bit longer or reach my nose just a little closer to my knee or twist my spine just that much more. Then I got pregnant and was too sick and tired to get up early and sweat. Then I had a baby and couldn't make a two-hour commitment more than once every six months. Then I moved to Mayberry and there's no Bikram here.

Still, I took a (non-Bikram) yoga class this morning, in honor of my new (and reduced) work schedule and my new status as Fitness Advocate.

It felt really, really good. Almost as good as digging a really good hole and finding a brand-new website at the bottom.


Also in honor of my new site, a wee giveaway: If you can find the photo of my kid and another blogger's on the site, email me--mayberrymom2006 @ yahoo--and tell me where it is. First person to get it right gets my copy of Sleep Is for the Weak. (I'll buy myself a new one when I go to a signing.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sleep is for suckers!

1. My review of mom-blog-thology Sleep Is for the Weak is up today at The Full Mommy.

2. Speaking of sleep, my son is trying to kill me. No matter what we try, it takes an hour to put him to bed. An hour of hands-on shushing, corraling, returning-to-bed time. It just seems to take him that hour to wind down enough to fall asleep. Short of drugs (which believe me I have contemplated), what else can we do?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Blog to Fight Diabetes

My friend and Full Mommy collaborator extraordinaire, Leeanthro, is hosting a big giveaway at her site to raise funds for her Step Out Walk to Fight Diabetes.

So many of our kids and adults are affected by this condition, which has no cure and requires a lifetime of care and attention. It runs in my family and my sister's boyfriend was diagnosed with Type I (juvenile) diabetes just last year in his 30s.

Please consider making a donation or spreading the word! Enter by September 15.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

10 commandments of dishwasher use

1. I am the automatic dishwasher; thou shalt not have any other gods before me, and believe that a five-second spin under the faucet is my equal.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the dishwasher in vain, and curse it for not unloading itself.

3. Remember the dishwasher and keep it holy; thou shalt not run it during the dinner hour.

4. Honor thy father and thy mother, and learn to place your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and not under the couch.

5. Thou shalt not kill your meltable objects by placing them in the lower rack.

6. Thou shalt not cheat by running the dishwasher when it is not full.

7. Thou shalt not steal space through inefficient loading.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness by claiming disposable items are meant to be washed and reused. And that includes 100-to-a-box drinking straws.

9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, if it has two dishwashers instead of one.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, who unloads the dishwasher in a more timely manner.

This post may possibly have been inspired by the people in this house with whom I share a dishwasher. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yeah, I'll take dying in my sleep, thanks

Occasionally our neighbors gather for a summer potluck. There is an older man who always attends; he's more than 90 and lives alone--and a bit lonely since his wife died several years ago. He's always in good spirits at these events and basks in the attention of kids and adults alike.

At one such party, he started choking on a hunk of meat. Luckily for him, there were several doctors in attendance. One of them Heimliched the man and he was soon fine again, although those of us who witnessed all this were shaken.

As the party drew to a close another neighbor said goodbye to Mr. G., giggled, and noted "Glad you are OK! That would have been an awful way to go, after you've lived this long!"

Oh yes, she did.

Jen's post inspired Magpie's which inspired mine. Are you next?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Grade 1, Day 1

(Here's last year's, for comparison.)
We were almost late this morning, due to preschooler freak-outs including:
  • I wanted to see you in your PAJAMAS! [to me when I went into his room already dressed]
  • No you CAN'T come out of MY ROOM!
  • My shirt is TOO BIG!
  • NO! Don't put your arm around me. Jo! I put MY ARM around YOU!
  • NO bike trailer! NO silver car! ONLY THE BLACK CAR!

In the end he rode in the silver car (Daddy's) and then the bike trailer. So there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Speaking of Labor Day

Jo: Did it hurt when your babies came out?

Me: [saying] Yes. But it was worth it. [thinking] Please don't make have The Talk right here in the bathroom at day care.

Jo: I'm not going to have any babies when I'm a grown-up. I've been through enough as a kid!

Friday, August 29, 2008


I really like Obama. Here's the thing: I want a president who is intelligent and thoughtful. To me that is far more important than what kind of experience he has or doesn't have or even what his specific plans and ideas are. I want to be confident in him as a person, to trust that he will seek out the information and advice he needs, weigh it carefully, and make smart decisions. I believe Obama will do that.

I'm impressed that McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, even if is all calculated to win him votes (and I don't disagree that the Democrats did the same). I wonder if he'll win over some undecided women or former Hillary supporters by doing so. But he might also lose some hard-core Republicans.

And also, for the record, I am really over Jennifer Lopez spouting off about training for a triathlon "because she wants her babies to be proud of her." AS IF.

Agree/disagree/opine on your own in the comments ...

ETA Sunday 8/31: The more I think/read about Sarah Palin, the more I feel like Tree does.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gut-busting and gut-boosting

It's a little eerie how these PBN products have dropped into my life so serendipitously this summer. First we had the Hanes underwear so perfect for a tender little waistline, and now we have Yoplait yogurt: another must-have for a post-infection, antibiotic-crammed little gut. We needed to rebuild the healthy bacteria in our 6-year-old's body, and yogurt is the perfect choice. The only problem: Too much sugar, and we'd undo all the goodness of yogurt (hello, digestive unpleasantness).

Review (and giveaway!) over at The Full Mommy today.


And! I'm guest-posting over at Mrs. Chicken's. Click over if you want to hear about my idyllic childhood. Thanks to my lovely hostess!

Lady of leisure (ha)

After months of hemming, hawing, ranting, and raving, I quit my job last week. It was so hard to snip that final thread. I've had this job since before my kids were born, before we moved to Mayberry, before I got married. I've been through 8 bosses in my 8-year tenure, and only one of them (#6) was worth staying for. When she left, I knew things would change, and probably not in a way I'd appreciate. Still my heart sank at the thought of voluntarily leaving a job that allowed me to work in my chosen industry, part-time, from home, 1000 miles from the office.

But sometimes telecommuting isn't enough, you know? So, the end, I gave my notice. I'll still be there (well, here/there) through the end of next month, but having one foot out the door is awfully nice. Meeting request? Decline! Annoying task? Forward! Old email I never did follow up on? Delete! Yoga class during business hours? Don't mind if I do!

I have some freelance work lined up--including developing a new site that'll be live in a few weeks, so I'll share it with you then (because my paycheck depends on its traffic!). I'm not going to give up working altogether. As I've often said, a big reason why I work is to justify sending my kids to child care. Not to pay for it, but to validate my need for them to be out of the house at regularly scheduled intervals. So they'll do their thing, I'll do mine, and we'll meet back up again for our usual end-of-day R&R. Which usually involves neither resting nor relaxation, but we like it anyway.