Friday, May 30, 2008

Haiku Friday: Follow-up edition

We hardly knew ye,
Johnny Depp. Just a waiter
Who served you chicken

"I'll call you next week,"
she said about the job opp.
Why won't you ring, phone?

Turns out I can still
hold my own on radio
Is podcasting next?

Pete the Pineapple
lives on, as superhero --
Champion of fruit

Panther-swipe wounds still
linger, a reminder of
suburban dangers

Haiku Friday

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another trip around the sun

Happy birthday to the man of the house!

We celebrated with sushi (yes, we can get sushi in Mayberry. And it hasn't killed us yet) and Star Wars ("Daddy! Open this one! It's ALL the Star Wars in there!") and homemade mint-chip ice cream. Our niece even called and played him the Star Wars theme on the piano over the phone, in an unintentionally thematic coda to the evening.

Many many happy returns sweetie. May the Force ... well, you know.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dusting off ye olde treadmill

Blogging has influenced my thinking and decisions and changed my point of view in more ways than I can recount. Last year after the Virginia Tech tragedy, for example, Suebob suggested an excellent, thoughtful, helpful response: giving to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I immediately clicked through and made a donation. I've gained a much deeper appreciation of what it's like to face homelessness, depression, a health insurance system that doesn't help parents help children.

More frivolously, I've made purchases based on recommendations from other bloggers and tried dozens of new products for myself. And lately, I've been actually sticking with an exercise plan, and I have a blogger friend to thank for that too.

Last fall, Amy from Binkytown wrote about starting a running regimen (and in fact she, in turn, was influenced by another blogger!). What stuck with me was this: "You don't think you have 20 minutes? You do."

That's sound reasoning and it's totally true. And it's no slam to Amy to say that it's not original. I've heard the advice before, but I didn't really hear it until she said it. It still took 6 months for me to actually act on it. But now, I'm looking for that 20 minutes every day, and I'm finding it. First thing in the morning, right after bedtime, by bike on the way to or from the kids' schools, even squeezed into the middle of my working hours if that's what it takes. It's there and I just have to use it. (My secret weapon, by the way, is Exercise TV on Demand.)

So thanks, Binkytown, for kicking my butt into gear via the Internetz. And thanks, Julie P., for another Hump Day Hmm (which I also seem to be making a habit. Two in a row!).

Morning nightmare

What does it say about me that I had an anxiety dream about being late for (one of) Rudy Giuliani's (many) weddings?

Wait. Don't answer that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Radio ga-ga

I'll be on the airwaves today talking up my employer ... 3:20 p.m. Eastern time on AM800, Windsor, Ontario or streamed live.

I used to do this all the time, TV too, but it's been forever! Here's hoping I don't sound like an idiot.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Long weekends with Pete the Pineapple

On these holiday weekends I especially miss being far away from family. When I was growing up it was a given that my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousin would come over for every holiday, plus all of the nine birthdays among us. There was no thinking, no planning, just a simple potluck on our back deck and everyone banging in and out of the screen door.

Here, we have to make our own fun and sometimes we just don't have the energy to set it up, you know? Many of our friends do have lots of family around and aren't available anyway. Still, we managed a productive and pleasant weekend. Jo played with the kids next door. My husband ripped out a huge hedge, with an assist from the mini-backhoe that our neighbor happened to have rented for the day. We discovered that the same neighbor has a hot tub outside when his wife invited the kids to "swim" in it. We went to the world's cheapest amusement park (hours of fun for $5 worth of tickets).

As I sat on the front lawn this morning tearing out ground cover from where the hedge once grew (4 sale cheap free: 12 thousand pachysandra plants) I did have plenty of company. Every person who passed had a friendly comment or at least a few words of commiseration.

At the dinner table we took turns telling stories about Pete the Pineapple and his unfortunate demise (we were eating grilled pineapple at the time [oops, so much for locally sourced food]). Jo had the best twist, when she turned Pete into a secret agent who went back to the store to warn the other pineapples about the dastardly family who'd almost turned him into a tasty dessert.

I hope your weekend was much better than Pete's.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Iceberg summer

And no I'm not referring to these upper midwestern climes we now enjoy. Actually, summers here are beautiful, with sunshine and temperatures in the 80s for much of July and August. After winters that go on, and on, and on and on, we enjoy and appreciate our summers and spend as much time outside as we can. Mayberry has a totally kid-pleasing community pool, with a huge shallow end, two water slides, a sandbox, a lawn, and the all-important concession stand. We're also not above ruining our new grass with a blow-up kiddie pool of our own and even one of these monstrosities (purchased on end-of-season clearance thx). Yep -- we are big consumers of the Little Swimmers 'round these parts.

We have fun. But it's nothing compared to the adventures my husband had when he was a kid. His aunt and uncle had a lake house (a 20-minute drive from their ... non-lake house) and he and his brother and cousins would spend every day of every summer there, just generally goofing off and having a good time.

My favorite lake story is this, and it's totally of the moment because we are currently obsessed with all things Star Wars in this house. (Tip, BTW: Pool noodles make excellent, cheap light sabers.)

Anyway (get to the point young Jedi) one day Jeff and his brother and his brother's friend Marc found this big piece of styrofoam. They immediately decided that it would make an excellent iceberg and it should go on the lake. The next time they came to the lake they brought every single Star Wars figure they owned -- i.e., hundreds -- plus a bunch of spacecraft and airplanes. Then they spent an hour painstakingly setting up a huge battle scene on the styrofoam iceberg.

Their masterpiece complete, they floated it onto the water.

You know what happens next, right?

It floated too far out, and Jeff's mom wouldn't let them go after it. They threw rocks at it, trying to shift the current to send it back toward their dock. Instead, they ended up breaking it and sending all their guys to an even swifter watery death. Some clung to the edge for awhile, but with no rescue crew in sight eventually they succumbed to the inevitable drowning.

For the rest of that summer and all the next, Jeff and Mike and Marc hoped against hope that Luke or Han or Lando would wash up on shore and be returned to them. It never happened, but the story lives on.

Tell your summer story for this weekend's blog blast. May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A stroll on the other stride

Now that the weather is (kinda, sorta) springlike, the park across the street from my house is busy once again with walkers and strollers. There is a teensy, tiny, ancient, Asian couple that does at least three laps every day, like clockwork. There are the requisite dog walkers. There is a woman who pushes a child in a wheelchair, fast. I know she's doing it to get a workout but sometimes it looks as if she is trying to run away from what must be a stressful daily grind. Or, I think to myself, maybe the child loves the feeling of flying, and his mom pushes him as fast as she can to grant him that pleasure, that freedom.

Of course there are the other mommies too. There must be a new moms' stroller-cise class meeting nearby because the Snap-N-Gos and the huge travel systems come in big clumps at mid-morning. In waves of two and three and four the women pass my window, pushing and chatting and willing those postpartum pounds to drop off.

When Jo was a newborn I'd drive to Hoboken (just down the river from where I lived, but more gentrified) to stroll with the mamas there twice a week. I loved having something to do, someone to talk to, store windows to peek in on my way back to the car. The other moms were friendly and we were all in that same new-mom boat, figuring everything out.

I always felt just outside the circle, though. I didn't live in their neighborhood and I didn't frequent their other haunts, share their pediatricians or breastfeeding groups. I wouldn't run into them on the street on days we didn't stroll together. And unlike almost all of them, I'd be going back to work soon. Once I did, I only rarely had the chance to see any of these new friends again, and by the time I left the area two years later, I'd lost touch with them all.

Seeing the moms walk by my window again now makes me wistful for those days, even though I'm happy with where I am and what I'm doing. I like working, I like having children big enough to walk and talk and feed themselves, I have good friends (online and off).

Thinking about what used to be or what might have been or what still could be doesn't mean I'm regretting the way things are. It just means I might like to walk a different route once in a while, to see what it's like.

...and this has been my first Hump Day Hmm. Taken terribly literally, but I think Julie will forgive me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disproportionately pleasing

(With a nod to Bub&Pie for posts of this genre)

1. Pulling up a whole dandelion, without breaking the root

2. Little boy in red rubber boots, jeans, and no shirt

3. Strange bedfellows from song shuffling (tonight: Red Hot Chili Peppers followed by Music Together)

4. Giving the bottle of salad dressing a vigorous shake

5. Coming across weird tableaux created by little kids (currently: fire truck ladders carefully positioned in front of entertainment center, so that teeny firemen could rescue victims hiding inside DVD player)

6. So You Think You Can Dance? this week!

7. The first gulp of iced tea of the day

8. Swistle Baby Names. Why do I find this topic endlessly fascinating? But I do.

And you?

Monday, May 19, 2008


I always thought it would be very cool to have a carnivorous plant. I mean, how excellent is that? It's a plant, it's entertainment, it keeps down the insect population in your home. Triple winnah. But apparently, the Venus fly trap requires more care than your average houseplant. For starters, you have to know to "Never, never, never feed your fly trap hamburger."

Seeing as how I have never managed to keep a single plant alive ever (I'm not kidding. Thumb=pitch black), it really wouldn't be a good idea for me to take on a plant that's temperamental and might bite off my finger if I made it mad.

That's why the pretend Venus Fly Trap from the Discovery Channel Store is a good idea, and why I reviewed it today on behalf of Parent Bloggers Network. Come find out more about what we thought at The Full Mommy.

Also, pls note that speaking of bugs, am heroine and stereotype-buster. Last week a kid brought a spider into my daughter's classroom after school and the teacher and other mommies were freaking out. I helped him corral it into a small, clear container with a magnifying lens on top so he could observe it for awhile and then dump it outside. Oh yeah. My kid is totally going to be at the top of her class now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Only across the street

I grew up in a smallish college town (one that's since grown considerably). There wasn't much to do, of an evening, unless you were possessed of a fake ID and a really short skirt. So once we'd seen whatever movie there was to see we would always end up at a Roy Rogers downtown. It was on one of the main drags, the street that separated town from gown. We'd get a couple of orders of fries and sit in a booth up front, next to the huge plate glass windows that overlooked this street and the campus on the other side of it. I can't remember ever seeing anything of interest, except maybe the one time our state representative was at the fixin's bar and it turns out he wasn't a hair over 5 feet tall.

And that was inside the restaurant. Outside, even though everyone in our little world passed by at some point, still nothing ever happened, or at least that's how it feels when you are 16, right? Across the avenue, on the campus side, there was a low stone wall that ran along the sidewalk. As Roy's was our preferred hangout, The Wall was where you could always find the kids from our district's "alternative" high school, the one for kids too bored or stoned or smart or unconventional or disruptive to attend the regular program. Never, of course, the twain would meet; we thought they were weird and they thought we were bourgeois and you know how those high school rules are, about who you can associate with and who you most certainly cannot.

If you're lucky or wiser than most you realize how foolish this at the time or shortly after. Of course it took me closer to 15 years, mostly because I stopped thinking about high school within minutes of moving that tassel on my mortarboard. Then one night when Jo was a baby I was on a message board, doing that new-mom thing. Suddenly another mother and I realized that we'd grown up in the same place at the same time, but we'd never met because she was a Wall person and I wasn't, and neither of us would've ever considered crossing the street to meet the other.

And I sort of thought by writing this I'd now arrive at a neat conclusion about how motherhood brings unlikely people together (and so does the Internets). Which I do think is true. But mostly I just felt like telling the story about the street and how it looked from my side then and how different it looks now. Not nearly so wide.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hope, springing eternal

Lessons of the week:

1. When one door closes, another one just might fly open.

2. Keep yer dang resume up to date! Lest you spend more time combing through the nethers of old CDs trying to find one from 2003 than you do just rewriting the thing from scratch.

Seriously, this is embarrassing, I have not needed a resume for more than a decade. I've been at this same job for over 7 years and I got this one and the one before that by following someone from a previous job.

You guessed it! I've decided to go to medical school.

No. Not really. But there may be some changes afoot. Good ones. Can't write more now, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wordlessly up to no good

If you linger at the dinner table while the children are out of sight ... they might decide to play "firefighter" by emptying the contents of the coat closet onto the stairs.

(He is finally interested in his Vincent boots. But only as fireman gear.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Speaking of obnoxious

It's me, deciding to do a random-things meme by telling you about things that have annoyed me in the past few days! And cheating on the number of things too!

The woman driving her huge SUV slowly alongside her daughter, who was riding a bike on the sidewalk.

The boss's boss who called all the content on my site (at work) "meaningless bullsh!t." Yeah. The content that I'm 90% responsible for and have spent the past 7 and a half years creating.

The alumni magazine which reported: "He owns a credit-card processing company and she sits back and enjoys the luck of her birth."

The 8-year-old who informed me: "I am the smartest one in my class. And the best athlete" and then proceeded to list all of his many stunning accomplishments for 10 solid minutes.

The TV commercial which gave the world the song "Walk of No Shame." Actually, I include that because it's obnoxiously funny, not actually obnoxious.

Thanks for the tag, Mandy! If you've got something to get off your chest, well, consider yourself tagged too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy with just a teensy side of guilt

That's how I'm observing Mother's Day, because isn't that what mothering is all about? At my request Jeff took the kids out for the day, an extended dance mix of outings and errands designed to give me some time alone to putter around. So far, a little yoga, a little laundry, a long shower, a little Sunday Times, a little blogging while I wait for photos to upload to send to the grandmas.

I didn't necessarily need the time alone to happen today of all days, and I do feel kind of bad that I've kicked my own kids out of the house on a holiday which I wouldn't celebrate if it were not for them. But we had breakfast together at the diner and we'll have dinner together later and I'll happily take on the whole bedtime routine because my husband will be worn out by 7 p.m. And I won't mind at all.

Photo from the kindergarten Mother's Day party.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Never too young for happy hour

I first took Opie with me to New York when he was 6 months old. In the week we were there he mastered sitting up, practicing on the one small rug found on the sealed concrete floor of my cousin's loft.

He also visited his first Lower East Side bar. Whenever I come to town it's always an excuse for a happy hour outing with my friends at work. My cousin/nanny had some other commitment that night so she delivered the baby to me at work (plus, duh, always have to find a reason to parade a cute baby through the workplace) and he accompanied us all to the bar.

At six months, he was a fairly cheerful guy but only if he could maintain contact with one of a few trusted caregivers. I was, of course, at the top of that list. So after a long day of being forced to hang out with my cousin instead of me, he was not interested in any further separations. But after a few drinks (most of them of the "tap water" variety) I did need to use the restroom.

I had, at that point, mastered peeing with a baby on my lap (because desperation is the mother of ... more desperation). But I didn't think my skillz would carry over into the dingy stall in a bar. So I handed Opie over to a coworker, a very lovely and capable woman, and headed downstairs.

Bars are loud, right? Even when it's only 5:30 and there aren't that many people there. The music is pumping and people are talking and there's huge ventilators whirring out white noise and traffic flying by just beyond the front door.

Do you think that was any match for one six-month-old baby? No. I could hear him screaming all the way down in the basement, from inside the ladies' room. Little man was not having a very happy hour.

Dude, the LES is so over. Next time take me to Greenpoint.

The thing is, I really tried, with both my babies, not to not do things because I had a kid. I took Jo to a friend's child's birthday party that was a two-hour drive away, by myself, when she was two months old. Everyone there was astonished but I really, really wanted to see my friends, and my husband couldn't go for some reason, so I packed up the baby and got on the road. She slept all the way there and back.

Maybe I was overconfident or lucky or stupid or all of the above as a rookie mom but it all worked out. As it did with Opie at the bar, once I'd quickly washed my hands and hotfooted it out of the restroom. And as I hope your new-mom outings did too.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bloggy schadenfreude

Confession time: Are there blogs that you read purely for impure reasons? Not impure as in all about the bangability, but as in you read them to make yourself feel superior? Or because you are spying checking up on on an old colleague or ex?

Blogging can open minds, but it can close them too. There are a few in my reader that are there because they get a rise out of me. (None of you, trust me--no one that's ever commented here, and I'm certain they're not reading either.) No matter what these people say, I'm going to disagree and think they are foolish. Reading them is nothing but a boost to my own ego.

On other blogs, I'm strictly a voyeur. Of course all blog-reading is in some way voyeuristic, and if these people are putting it out there, they've agreed that it's mine for the viewing. But if I read your site regularly and I comment, if you know I'm there, I'm now at least friendly, if not a plain ol' friend. If I read my nutty former co-worker's husband's blog to find out what she's doing, because I just think she's weird, then that's ... embarrassing. Same goes for a another ex-colleague who has a lame blog of her own, slapped up to promote a book; I only read it to mock it.

I try to cut myself off, on the grounds that this kind of entertainment really isn't worth any of my limited time or brain cells. That only works some of the time. It's no worse than reality TV, right? At least bloggers aren't subject to the whims of editors and producers who have only a commercial interest in their life stories. (Well, unless they're on the Today show.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How to write a confusing review

Over at The Full Mommy today I'm reviewing Were You Raised by Wolves? by Christie Mellor, author of The Three-Martini Playdate. I had trouble deciding whether it should be shelved under "humor" or "how-to" but really, it shouldn't matter (unless you're actually running a book store or library). It's a funny, witty book that also gives step-by-step instructions for making a bed, washing dishes, and boiling an egg.

Go, see what I mean. Thanks to Parent Bloggers Network.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Speaking of good deeds not going unpunished

"Speaking of" is Jo's new catchphrase. Typical usage: "Speaking of poop, I really have to go potty right now." Even then, I still find it funny.

Yesterday I took the bike and trailer to do the afternoon pick-up. It's one of the leading strategies in my struggle against carbon emissions, high gas prices, and my own muffin top. Win-win! So I have Jo in the trailer and am carefully walking the bike around the roundabout by her school. Somehow--I couldn't begin to reconstruct how this actually happened--I tore two huge gashes in the back of my right ankle with the gear of my bike. Recall that I wasn't even riding the bike at the time, but walking it. For safety's sake.

I'll spare you a photo but it looks like a panther took a swipe at my Achilles tendon. The best part was I then had no choice but to get on the bike, pedal it over a bridge and continue on to pick up Opie. From her vantage point in the trailer, Jo provided helpful commentary such as "Mommy, that is really gross" and "Now the blood is dripping into your shoe."

This afternoon, no bike. My excuse is that Opie desperately needs a haircut. He's starting to look like the world's shortest Beatle.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Second-born, but never second-best

The second one is different and exactly the same.

The second one is harder and easier.

The second one is predictable and surprising.

The second one is more work and less work.

The second one is a thorn in the side of the first one, and a partner in crime.

The second one strains your family and strengthens it.

The second one is worth it, Mrs. Chicky, HBM, and Mrs. Chicken. I promise it is.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Haiku Friday: They probably wore Birks

Liberally stickered
Prius parked at NPR
event. Ahh, my tribe!

Jeff and I went to the This American Life live event last night and saw the aforementioned vehicle in the parking lot, right next to another car that bore a bumper sticker reading "Somewhere in Texas, a village has lost its idiot." Here in Mayberry (and in the neighboring, larger town where we were) we are much more likely to see huge "W'04" decals. We had to laugh at the cliché of it all.

The show itself was charming, containing clips, outtakes, and previews from the TAL television show, as well as discussions with host Ira Glass and the show's producer. It did strike me as I watched how much listening to or watching that show can be like reading a really excellent blog. You get a peek into someone else's life, usually with a host (the reporter/producer for the story) that is articulate and wise and expert at drawing out the essential quirks and nuances of that person's world.

You can listen to free podcasts of the radio show or pay $2 each to download past editions of the TV show.

Haiku Friday

BTW, speaking of peeking into someone else's life, I finally saw Johnny Depp the other day. In a framed photograph on the counter at my dry cleaner's, next to a newspaper article about how the cleaners laundered the costumes from the movie while it filmed nearby. So that's like, one degree of separation, right?