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.