Monday, June 30, 2008

Bedtime non sequiturs

  • Mommy! Where do rabbits live?
  • My favorite large construction machine: is a forklift.
  • Later can we go to the airport?
  • Mommy! Did you know, that in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's uncle's name is Owen?
  • My fire truck is not sleeping.

And that's just one night's worth.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The t-shirt that changed my life

Well, not really. But when I was maybe 8 years old I had this white tank top with a row of buttons down one side, in ROY G. BIV order. Next to each button was its color's name in English, French, and Spanish.

Oh, how I loved it! Reading the words, trying to say them aloud, running my fingers down the row of buttons so they made a little clicking sound. I'm sure it's no coincidence that I ended up learning both French and Spanish later in life.

Your sartorial madeleine?

Photo: Paperfairys

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My new summer cocktail

The one thing about enduring the neverending winter around here is that when summer comes, it's goooood. Clear, sunny, warm but not too hot, very rarely humid. So we just want to be outside and celebrate every minute.

At book club the other night my friend Theresa introduced me to what's going to become my signature summer drink. We were sitting outside at a waterfront restaurant which got me in the mood to order a gin and tonic. But Theresa showed me the light: the gin press. Ahh! Lighter, sweeter, and très refreshing.

Then, just to prove what a good friend she is, when I appealed to her the next day after I couldn't find a recipe online, she found me a video of a cute bartender doing a demo. The trick is that the drink is more commonly made with vodka.


Edited to remove embedded video -- sorry, that was annoying the way it played automatically.

Monday, June 23, 2008

20 lousy pairs of scissors

Last fall I promised to take my BlogHer ads earnings for the academic year and donate them to a teacher through DonorsChoose. So it's time for me to report back on the teacher I chose.

I searched the DonorsChoose site for projects in New Jersey (where my kids would have attended public schools if we hadn't pulled up stakes and moved to Mayberry) in the amount I had to give. It's not a lot, but that's the idea behind DonorsChoose--individual donors supporting individual teachers in small efforts that make a big difference to students.

Possibilities included:

  • We have over 100 books in our classroom library. Unfortunately, we do not have a place to display those books. They are currently sitting in crates and boxes and my students have to sift through them to find the book or dictionary that they need. This is time consuming as well as damaging to the books.

  • My classroom is extremely noisy due to the old chairs squeaking on the floor. I've tried to minimize the noise by cutting up tennis balls and placing them on the feet of the old chairs, but it isn't solving the problem. My students already have a disability in that they have difficulty processing oral language, and the noise just adds to this problem. I need a large carpet which would reduce noise and make a more conducive learning environment.

  • My kindergarten class is filled with 25 eager and excited learners! However, during literacy centers, their enthusiasm is starting to fade because of the lack of interactive materials that are available. I want to create a center where students can use a multi-sensory approach to phonics practice. At this center, my students would have fine-motor practice by rolling play dough into a thin layer. The children will then use uppercase and lowercase letter molds/cookie cutters to punch out letters to complete different tasks.

  • Our school started a wonderful reading program for students at home. We supply the books and the students read at home every night. However, it is becoming harder to supply the students with enough materials on their reading level. My students love to read and read at least 1-5 chapters per night. They are reading through all the books in our classroom.
In the end I decided to fund a project for Mrs. C's classroom of 6th to 8th graders with special needs:
Since the first day of school this year my students have been complaining about
my canister full of ancient scissors. They are constantly asking to borrow the
"teacher scissors" which have mysteriously disappeared on more than one
occasion. If we had a class set of "teacher scissors" my students would be able
to really create the masterpieces I know they are capable of creating. We would
also love some tape to proudly display our work outside of the classroom.
Can you believe that? Scissors and tape. It's so simple that I want to cry. I'm not going to get into the politics of education reform and funding, but can we all stop and think for a minute how ridiculous it is that a teacher has to beg for basic supplies like these?

Updated to add: My teacher already sent a lovely thank-you note this morning (Tuesday):

You would not believe how excited I was today when I opened my email and
found that my Scissors That Slice proposal had been funded. Even though it is
summer break I will see a few of my students at our Summer Book Club in a few
days and I will be able to share the good news. The students will be ecstatic to
hear that we are getting new supplies, just for us! Before school ended we would
check the Donors Choose website at the beginning of each day to see if anyone
else had sponsored us! I can't wait until next fall to work with my students to
make beautiful projects with our new scissors and tape! Thank you so much for
your kindness and generosity! We really do appreciate it!

Updated to add again:


Friday, June 20, 2008

Just suck it up and go to the pool

Yesterday afternoon my kids really wanted to go to the pool. Since I was already feeling peevish and whiny I refused. We actually have a really nice community pool here. It has an enormous shallow end with lots of fountains and sprayers and other fun stuff; it has two water slides, a huge grassy area, a big sand play area, a snack bar, and halfway decent locker rooms. It's a five-minute walk from our house. Of course, the kids love it (anyway I think that's a Little Kid Law, to love any and all swimming pools).

But yesterday I just wasn't up for changing the clothes and slathering the sunscreen and packing the stuff and blah blah. And I especially wasn't up for the post-pool herding of two children into the showers and back home (where I'd immediately have to move right into Dinner-Books-Bed mode).

So I brought out all my home-based water ammo: Let's play with the volcano sprinkler! How about you guys can spray each other with hoses! I'll blow up the little pool! They grudgingly agreed to the little pool. Which I then spent TWO HOURS trying to inflate with a bicycle pump. (Two hours, because I had to keep stopping to a] prevent myself from keeling over and b] check what mischief Opie was up to wandering around the house/yard by himself. Apparently, according to my husband we do have some kind of electric pump but all I could find was its tormentingly empty box.)

Of course the kids lost interest way before the pool was ever inflated. And my arms fell off and now I really don't look good in a bathing suit even if you do overlook my stretchmarks and smushy belly.

And so the moral of the story is I should have just taken them to the pool that didn't require inflating, mommy suit and all. Especially after last weekend's visit to The Waterpark Capital of the WORLD (where people wander all over wearing next to nothing and believe me, some of them need just a little more something), I have come to terms with my tankinis and swim skirts. When I go to the pool, I accessorize my post-kid body with a couple of cute kids and that means a lot.

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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ah. Retail therapy.

I am sorry to be setting such a horrible example for telecommuters everywhere, but today during an annoying conference call I bought a bag on Etsy (read nothing into the fact that it's described as a diaper bag; I just liked it). That reminded me that I needed to get the next book club book. Which eventually led me to remember that I wanted some shoes.

(While on Zappos I noticed their list of most popular searches--right under the search box. The first item is "shoes." Srsly?)

I'm just sad that I'm being slowly, inexorably pushed out of a job I once really liked. And when the going gets sad, the sad go shopping, I guess.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pretty pictures (and they're not even of my kids)

I've seen this a few places, most recently at Magpie's, and loved the results.

To make your own, answer these questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your Flickr name?

Type your answer to each of the questions into Flickr search.

Using only the first page of results, pick one image.

Copy and paste URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.

Details & credits on mine:
St Catherine's - Abbotsbury, Dorset, 2. extra cheesy salami and mushroom pizza:), 3. Little Artist, 4. llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam, 5. Paul Rudd - Bowery Ballroom, NYC - February 4th, 2008 - Pic 3, 6. 1/3 parts Pimm's cup + 2/3 parts bokeh =, 7. Balcony with a view at Tsagaralono (3 km from Fidakia, Evritania, Central Greece), 8. My Personal "Russian" Doll (Matrioshka), 9. Patterns..., 10. Cup o' kids, 11. i can taste summer! a.k.a. childhood summer! a.k.a. childhood reminiscence! a.k.a. those were the good times!, 12. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

I am doing the unthinkable

Something I even ranted about on my blog: Hosting a sales party.

[cowers in shame]

Apparently I have been living in suburbia too long because I finally succumbed. In my defense ... I got suckered into this by going to a party at Jo's teacher's house. How you gonna say no to an invitation from your child's teacher, for an event held just a few weeks before the end of the school year? And then, at that party, how you gonna be the fifth person in a row to pass on hosting your own party?

I know. You're going to grow a spine, that's how.

Maybe next time.

So tomorrow night it's my turn to be the shill. I was frankly embarrassed to send out the invitations and I mostly limited them to other mothers from the kindergarten class. But now that the party's almost here, I'm secretly excited. I love to have people over and I don't get to do it enough. It helps that it's MY event and therefore my husband will not be helping with the preparations (although he will be on kid duty). Every other time we have a party or even just invite another family over for a kids-included meal, he gets so panicky about how everything will look and taste and possibly be ready in time. He makes entertaining far more stressful than it needs to be.

When I'm running the show solo--like with this party, or when I host book club--I go for super easy and I do not worry for one second "what anyone will think" like he does. These are my friends and if I keep the wine flowing, they will not care that all the food I am serving is storebought. (When our book club read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I served rice crackers, edamame, and miscellaneous frozen dumplings and egg rolls--and everyone is still raving, especially the woman who'd never had edamame before that night. There is nothing easier than throwing a bag of soybeans into a pot of boiling water!)

So tomorrow, it's wine, cheese, wine, crackers, wine, cookies, wine, and cheesecake, with a few corny games and catalogs on the side. It won't be that awful. I promise.

Photo by Swamibu.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy belated

We were busy spending the weekend at The Waterpark Capital of the WORLD so I didn't have a chance to observe Father's Day with the traditional tie power tool blog post. (I also forgot to bring the gifts and cards I did buy along with us so they have yet to be bestowed.)

So here's my overdue salute to the one who rides the rollercoasters, rescues the fish from the garbage disposal, mows the lawn, cooks the gourmet meals, makes up the silly songs ... and never poses for pictures.

And to the one who flew the biplane and plays the banjo and just came out of surgery half an hour ago, too. (He's doing well.)

Card from someecards -- a site I highly recommend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A rose is a rose, and all that stuff

When people compliment you on your child's name, do you believe them? I always wonder if they are just being polite. We get lots of comments about Jo's name, most of them very nice with the occasional "oh, that's ... different!" or "oh, that must be a family name!" accompanied by an overly bright smile. Those I know are fake. The rest I usually believe are legitimate, but maybe they're lying too. I don't care because I love her name, but who doesn't like a little external validation now and again?

Opie's name is way more common (way way, much to my chagrin; husband prevailed on that one) and we get many fewer remarks. When we do, it's "That's my nephew's/friend's/neighbor's name" and not much else. The nickname, on the other hand, gets a lot of attention. And even a whole entire blog named after it.

Edited to add: I really don't have any qualms about Jo's name, or take any fake comments personally ... I'm more wondering what your take is! On Jo's name. No, just kidding. Your kids' names, and reactions thereto.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Aww, baby's first pun!

GRANDPA and OPIE are playing with one of OPIE's many many toy planes.

GRANDPA: That's a biplane. I used to fly one of those! And this one is a jet.

MOMMY: [! Are you really that old?!]

OPIE: This is a biplane. It's taking off. Bye, plane!

The end.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

They came, they saw, they primed and painted

After more than three days with two extra adults in the house, I'm ready to move to a kibbutz or some other communal living situation. Sure I enjoy privacy but damn if it isn't nice to have extra people around to cook, clean, play pretend, and the like. Plus we have time for extracurricular projects:

Jo's new room color,
with (a sop to the 6-year-old girlie) one pink wall;
and Opie's new color(s), chosen to complement his "baseball guys"
and his two auntie-made quilts.

Yes, Grandma and Grandpa put down their crackberries, picked up some brushes and rollers, and helped us give both kids' rooms a makeover. Opie is still grousing that he doesn't LIKE brown, but I do and I am the one with the credit card so I won that particular fight. The fish (see pink wall) had a near-death experience--accidentally poured down kitchen sink into disposal--but was recovered and now is back in its rightful home. As are Grandma and Grandpa, who we'll miss very much, but they have businesses to run and banjos to play so we'll see them again another time. And a month from tomorrow we leave for San Francisco!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The snack to end all snacks

Recently my husband quizzed Jo about most tradeable lunchbox items. We were surprised to learn that the hierarchy went something like:

Ice cream [unclear how this is a packable lunchbox item, but whatev] --> trumped by Chee-tos --> trumped by Fruit Roll-Ups.
And then, the very next day (I'm completely serious), Parent Bloggers Network contacted me about My Fruit Roll-Ups. It turns out that along with personalized M&Ms and Kleenex boxes, now you can customize your sticky flattened fruit-flavored snacks too!
To find out what we thought--and win your own carton--head on over to The Full Mommy (where there are other giveaways underway, too).
The wonder-Grandma is here and as befits a woman of her stature, we're making her help with home improvement projects, yardwork, and kid-wrangling. See you in a day or two.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Relax, schmelax

It turns out you can take Grandma out of the office, but you can't actually get her to stay out. After two years of retirement (which included a lot more meetings and conference calls than shopping and shuffleboard anyway), my mom is going back to the salt mine. Next month she starts a one-year position, doing what she did before but at a different institution.

I don't know what took her so long. I was surprised when she retired the first time, because she absolutely thrives on 18-hour days and 3-foot stacks of briefing materials. When she told me earlier this week that this gig was probably happening, she gave me some BS about "making a difference" and "worrying about the economy." Finally I got her to confess that she's bored.

I hope she finishes the mommy job I delegated to her a few months ago ... printing and album-izing six years' worth of photos of my kids. Yes, I handed her a stack of CDs and told her to go to town. Wasn't that enough for her to do? Along with gallivanting all over the world? Apparently not!

I really like working (if not necessarily my particular job, at the moment) but I can't imagine doing it voluntarily at age 67. I only wish I had half the passion that she does.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Kindergarten closing time

Time for you to go out, go out into the world.

Turn the lights up over every boy and girl.

One last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

I'm sorry for the cheese. But it's not every day your baby girl graduates from kindergarten.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The summer reading list

I'm not sure how I escaped it, but I don't remember ever having a summer reading list when I was in school. Not that it mattered, because I read all the time (you know, the walking-up-and-down-stairs-with-nose-in-book kind of kid).

Now, of course, I can't walk around with my nose in a book anymore, not least of all because I am always carrying something else--child, laundry, stray toys--or because I'd trip over something (child, laundry, stray toys) if I weren't paying attention. I do always have at least one book in progress, but it may take me weeks to finish it during stolen moments.

This summer, I'll be reading these for sure (they are book club picks) and probably squeeze in a few others as they pop up. (I just read Friday Night Knitting Club after my mom passed it on. Eh; but the funny part is the author succeeded me at a job once. My mom had no idea!)
What's on your wish list or bedside table for this summer? (If you need ideas, this is kind of fun -- a list of city-, region-, and state-wide "one book" efforts.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Weekend earworm

Not my pachysandra. But it felt like this much when I was planting it.... or ear spider, I guess, was "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive replant pachysandra" (with apologies to Sir Walter Scott). After we pulled about 100 miles of it out of our front yard, we gave away 200 miles to every neighbor we could strong-arm into taking some, and still had 300 miles of scrambled, snarled roots to unravel and transplant in the backyard.

That pretty much sums up the weekend (snore. I know), along with a little list I started called "Alarming independence, Opie":
  • unbuckles car seat while vehicle is traveling 65 mph on highway
  • reaches weedkiller on garage shelf, uses it to "clean" tricycle
Tempered, I'll admit, by "Welcome independence, Jo":
  • puts Opie down for nap: reads book, snuggles on chair, leaves room with stay-in-your-bed! admonition
  • reads self to sleep, including switching off the light
  • assists Opie with five a.m. drink of water request, without waking parents
Huh. I now sound like I paid far more attention to my groundcover than my children, at least in the past 72 hours. Well sometimes that's just life in suburbia. OK? OK?