Monday, May 30, 2005

Transitions and New Obsessions

Since I've been more solipsistic than usual lately, you might be more than ready for an update on the other members of the Mimilou household.

Mr. Sean is now crib-free. Last week we finally moved him into his big-boy bed, and the transition has not been exactly seamless. The first night was the worst. An erratic sleep cycle during the preceding week (part of which we chalked up to his growing dislike of his crib) had left him eggshell fragile, and his reaction to sleeping in his bed tipped the hysteria scales. Since then, things have been better. I'm not too worried about him roaming during the night -- once asleep, he doesn't wake up till morning. Bedtime, though, will continue to be our biggest problem. Now that he's more mobile, keeping him in his bed, or at least his room, until he's asleep will require additional levels of patience on our part. So. If anyone happens to have any spare patience, let me know.

Allie's language development continues to amaze me. Most of her speech consists of actual words now, and I can usually translate even the gibberish. She has the sweetest baby voice I've ever heard. And the sincerity of her delivery never fails to make to smile: Before naptime, for example, she'll shout merrily "Goodnight, DaddySean!! Nap!! See morning!!! Bye!!! Doggie!!!" [Her best friend and in the whole wide world and required sleeping companion is her stuffed Labrador retriever.]

Which leaves Jeff. Did you know that you can DOWNLOAD music from the Internet? Oh, you did? Well, we're a little slow on the uptake around here. Jeff recently signed over his soul to the devil at iTunes. Now we have to thumb-wrestle to see who gets the computer -- me for blogging or Jeff for downloading music. "Look! I've got 39 songs for only $39!" he told me. Yes, and only 120 other songs currently marked for downloading! What are the penalties for free filesharing these days?

On the bright side, Jeff did download, at my request, two songs that make me dance around the room like a, well, mid-to-late-30's white chick who can't really dance, but still, just hearing them makes me feel weightless and happy: "Hyperactive" by Robert Palmer and "Don't Want to Fall in Love" by Jane Child.

(I think the sound I just heard was your respect for my musical taste just crashing through to the basement. That's okay. I can handle it. "Dancing Queen" is my next download!)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Individual Voice

I recently finished reading Alice Hoffman's novel Blue Diary. It was a typical Hoffman book -- dreamy tone; characters engulfed in passionate, destructive, all-consuming relationships; an outsider brought into the community fold only to be cast out when a secret is revealed.

It got me thinking about authors whose style is so distinctive that you could recognize their writing even if no name were attached to it. For me, Hoffman is such a writer. Within 3 sentences of any of her books, her signature style announces itself.

Other modern writers I could identify automatically include Louise Erdrich, Ann Tyler, Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo, and, on the lighter side, Carrie Fisher and David Sedaris.

Excluding the obvious ones (like William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Jane Austen), what writers do you find so singular in style that you could readily identify a blind passage?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

One Way That Jerry Seinfeld and I Are Alike

So jo(e) thinks I need to do the cereal meme that all the cool kids are doing. How can I resist a meme about my favorite food?

When do you eat it? And how often?
Every day for breakfast. For dinner more times a week than I'd care to admit.

How many boxes do you buy each week?
Two or three.

What are your favorite cereals?
Well, there are the cereals I eat because I am a grown-up and am trying to eat somewhat healthy foods, and then there are the cereals I LOVE but don't eat too often because of the sugar content. In the former category we have Total, Cheerios, Wheaties, and shredded oat squares (some organic cereal whose name I don't recall). In the latter category we have Apple Jacks and Honeycomb and Fruity Pebbles. See, gastronomically I'm still 8.

What kind will you not eat?
I cannot abide anything with raisins or dried fruit. Also, Grapenuts. Any difference between Grapenuts and sand is purely coincidental.

What is the secret about cereal that you don't always admit?
There have been days on which I have eaten cereal for breakfast, dinner, and a snack (healthy types for the former two meals, and something akin to Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs for snack [boy, do I miss Calvin and Hobbes]).

What liquid do you pour on your cereal?
Low-fat or skim milk.

What do you put on top of your cereal?
A little sugar, but only on unsweetened cereal. I know I have revealed myself to be a sugar-holic, but even I won't stoop so low as to put sugar on my Apple Jacks.

Do you prefer cereal or other foods for breakfast?
Only cereal. I am EXTREMELY displeased when my breakfast consists of anything but cereal. You'd think I would have learned to be more flexible about this. I have not.

Do you have any cereal-related rituals or other oddities?
No, but my husband and everyone in his immediate family do -- they do not put milk on their cereal. They might drink a glass of milk along with the cereal, but for them the combination of cereal plus milk is anathema. What a bunch of weirdoes, I tell you.

Favorite cereal memories?Going on vacation to Provincetown and relieving myself of the duty to eat a responsible breakfast. These trips were the only times I would eat Fruity Pebbles for breakfast and not feel one shred of guilt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Three Things

You know that three-things meme? My turn, my turn! Thanks for the tag, Heather!

3 names I go by
Suz (pronounced with a short "u", and only if I went to college with you)
Sue (only if you're my mother or sister)

Screen-names I've had
That's it, actually.

3 physical things I like about myself
My eyes
My calves
My hair

3 physical things I dislike about myself
My hair (depends on the day!)
My knees (who would have thought that childhood clumsiness would later manifest itself in such an unsightly manner?)
My nose

3 parts of my heritage

3 things I am wearing right now
Black long-sleeved shirt
Jeans that I thought were cool when I purchased them but have turned out to be a little too flared at the bottom for someone so tragically unhip
Wedding ring/engagement ring

3 favorite bands / musical artists
Suzanne Vega

3 favorite songs
These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs
Constant Craving by kd lang
Angel in the House by The Story

3 things I want in a relationship

3 physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to me

3 of my favorite hobbies

3 things I want to do really badly right now
Rid my house of clutter

3 things that scare me
Losing my children
Losing my husband
The far right

3 of my everyday essentials
Hugs from my kids and husband
Reading the newspaper
Cereal for breakfast

3 careers you have considered or are considering
Social worker
Artist (hey, I was 6 at the time and unaware of my distinctive lack of artistic talent)

3 places you want to go on vacation
Some remote, untarnished Caribbean island

3 kids' names you like
Liesl (my favorite name ever since I first saw The Sound of Music)

3 things you want to do before you die
Travel extensively
Do volunteer work that really matters
Meet my great-grandchildren

3 ways I am stereotypically a boy
I hate to shop.
I dislike talking.
I have a rather extensive grasp of the classic rock genre.

3 ways I am stereotypically a chick
I like girly movies.
I obsess, boy howdy do I obsess, over my appearance.
I wish to please everyone and offend no one.

3 celeb crushes
John Cusack
Hugh Jackman
Orlando Bloom

3 people to play next…
Everyone has done this already, right?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Collective Wisdom

Thanks, everyone, for such insightful comments and sage advice! Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but yesterday was actually one of our better days. I even rescued Sean from a major bathtime meltdown by pretending that he was Thomas the Tank Engine, covered with coal dust and in need of a "washdown." (I'm kind of proud of myself for that uncharacteristically creative response -- the situation was giving off all the signs of a protracted tantrum.)

I had hesitated to post the preceding entry because I was a little embarrassed to admit how frustrated I get. It's comforting to hear that others also get pushed against a wall sometimes. I agree with several commenters that modeling appropriate responses to anger is very important (it's one of the big reasons we don't use spanking as a disciplinary measure). And I have also found that Purple Kangaroo's discovery -- that spending more time interacting with her kids when they're acting up (rather than trying to disengage from them) -- eliminates a lot of the tension.

You all are fabulous! Thanks again.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Anger Management

Overall, I'd say I was a fairly slow-to-boil kind of person. Outside of the current events arena (witnessing my sputtering response to the abomination du jour of the current administration, Sean will ask, with obvious concern, "What's the matter, Mommy?"), I don't anger easily.

Why is it, then, that my children bring out my inner wild-eyed, sharp-tongued harpy? Lately, it seems that I can go from 0 to freak out in less than 10 seconds. I'm really dismayed at how impatient I can be. And then there's the voice that sometimes accompanies these impatient reactions. WHERE did that come from? I'm generally mealy-mouthed and overly polite -- I never would have thought my vocal cords could orchestrate such tones.

Reactions like this don't happen all the time, I hasten to add. But when they do, I can't help but feel that I am failing my children miserably.

Somehow, the Benign Dictatorship model of parenting that I unofficially championed has not quite worked out as planned. I had thought that if I were kind and sweet and benevolent, always phrasing my requests politely (and firmly as needed), my children would follow my directions. But when confronted, for example, with a 3-year-old who laughs in my face when I am reprimanding him for shoving his sister, I find myself thisclose to exploding.

Now that I'm home with them, the near occasions for losing my patience are obviously greater. Since I don't want my kids to think of me as Tripwire Mommy, I'm working on a roster of coping mechanisms. I do find that counting to 10 before I speak helps the impatience dissipate a bit; sometimes, I even walk away for a minute before reacting.

I'm curious -- how do you handle those moments when your kid(s) push you to the edge? It happens to you, too, right? Right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why exactly did I think it would be a good idea to take both kids to the garden center by myself today? I suspected things were getting out of control when I temporarily lost sight of Sean amidst the shady annuals, and that impression was confirmed when he climbed into a huge display of shepherd hooks. Did you know that they make a surprisingly loud sound when they fall to the floor en masse?

Let's just say that I feel a deeper kinship with Phantom Scribbler and Amy, both of whom have been gritting their teeth over their sons' behavior of late.

To remind myself why I keep the munchkins around, here's a cute little exchange Sean and I had yesterday. Context: Jeff was away for a few days on business.

Sean: Where is the van? [Yes, we have a minivan. Stop snickering.]
Me: It's at the airport parking lot.
Sean: Oh. When is Daddy coming home?
Me: Tomorrow after dinner.
Sean: Oh. How will the van get home?
Me: Daddy will pick it up at the parking lot after he gets off the plane.
Sean: Oh. Daddy will carry the van home, and then I will see him!

It's a good thing he's so cute.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In case you were wondering, I'm giving this stay-at-home/work-at-home gig two thumbs up.

I'm enjoying it a lot more than I had thought I would. There are definitely moments of pure frustration, but overall, I'm pretty happy. I'm still trying to find a better rhythm to the working part of this equation -- right now, I work two days a week at home, but that doesn't seem to be quite enough time to finish any given project. So I find myself squeezing in work after the kids go to bed and on weekends, times during which I am not accustomed to activities such as thinking. I have to patiently sit by while the two sides of my brain wage their recurring battle:

Lazy side: Sleep!
Dedicated professional side: Edit!
Lazy side: No, I'm tired. Right after I read 40 of my favorite blogs, I must go to bed.
Dedicated professional side: Umm, excuse me, but do you recall that enormous manuscript we agreed to edit? Suck it up, sweetie.

The urgency of the deadline determines the victor. Tonight, for example, I sit comfortably and view a deadline that is 2 weeks away. Lazy Brain wins!

Yes, yes, I know, the stay-at-home part of the equation needs to be addressed as well. Stay tuned! The next post is coming right up. (Assuming you define "right up" as "sometime between Thursday and Saturday".)

Monday, May 16, 2005

The house is so quiet. The immediate post-bedtime period always is, but it seems especially so now that our four houseguests have departed. (Who, by the way, were Jeff's parents and sisters.)

The big event this weekend was my brother-in-law's fiance's wedding shower. I hadn't mentioned this beforehand on the infinitesimal chance that she reads my blog -- unlike MK's shower, this one was a surprise. It was a do-it-yourself event; even with the 8 (!) bridesmaids it took a huge amount of work to pull together. I think it all paid off; G was surprised, no major hitches occurred, the housewares industry was amply supported. Quite a nice shindig, actually.

As I've mentioned, I love when my in-laws come to visit. Our kids are their first grandchildren; to say that they dote would be a rather large understatement. And for the duration of each visit, Jeff's sisters become the stars in Sean and Allie's firmament. My role, in turn, becomes that of the hired help. My attempts at hugs are met with such touching statements as "Not right now, Mommy. I'm playing with Aunt J"; if I dare sidle up to Sean on the sofa, I hear "No, no, no! I don't want to sit next to you. I want to sit with Aunt N." Warms the heart, truly.

Temporary bitterness notwithstanding, I'm thrilled that my kids have such a terrific extended family, on both sides. It's not an experience to which I can readily relate. I did have a wonderful relationship with my grandparents, but now that they are deceased, there isn't much left: my mom has just one childless, unmarried brother, and I am not too close to my dad's family (no specific falling out ever occurred -- it's just that they have always lived far away from my immediate family and that we haven't seen them much since my father died).

Did you ever have one of those posts that ended up in an entirely different direction that the one you intended? And one for which the reader would need a roadmap to follow? And you want to post something, for heaven's sake, before your 5 readers abandon you completely, so you post a disjointed mess anyway? Sorry! I'll claim post-party exhaustion and call it a night.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Even before I was pregnant with Sean, I harbored fond visions of taking my kids to storytime at the library. Fostering a love of reading, supporting the library, strengthening our community ties -- oh, it will be wonderful, I thought.

Since my library has storytime for toddlers only in the morning and only during the week (and don't think I didn't fume over that perceived slight against working mothers), I couldn't take Sean until I stopped working. This week was our inaugural session.

I was a little concerned that Miss Busy Bee would be the rate-limiting factor here. Last week I asked one of the children's librarians about bringing a 19-month-old to the 3-year-old storytime. "As long as she's not disruptive, sure," she answered. "Oh, she'll be fine," I said, thinking, instead, "Well, that rules us out."

I decided to attempt it anyway, and stuffed the diaper bag with a variety of small toys to distract Allie from the larger appeal of running hither and yon, shrieking. Turns out that I needn't have worried about occupying her for the 45-minute session. We left after 5 minutes.

Sean took one look at the group of kids sitting in a semi-circle around the storyteller and decided that he wanted no part of it. That's not too surprising -- I had expected some initial reluctance. With my usual clumsy stroller-navigation skills, banging into chairs and tables along the way, I managed to steer us all toward the back of the room (where the other parents were sitting). I sat on the floor with Sean and tried to engage his interest in the story. No dice. "I want to go out THERE!" he kept shouting, pointing to the main children's room. "I want to get a TRUCK book! I don't WANT to listen the story!" I knew where things were heading; Sean the Implacable would not be swayed. So we left.

By now, you’d think I'd know better to tone down such lofty expectations. But I'm not giving up my dream -- just call me Don Quixote. We will try again next week.

(Not that sporadic posting is anything out of the ordinary here at Mimilou, but I have out-of-town guests this weekend and won't be around much. See you all next week.)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Book Roundup

It's been a while since I've written about books. Ones I've read, even. Here are my most recent conquests:

Fluke: Or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

This was an experiment on my part. I'd never read anything by Moore before, and for a while this seemed like a relatively straightforward albeit offbeat novel about whale researchers in Hawaii bedeviled by saboteurs. Then, about midway through, when the protagonist is swallowed by a whale and discovers it's not a whale at all but actually some kind of lifeform-based ship, I realized that we weren't in Kansas anymore. Overall, not an unpleasant way to spend several hours. Moore's writing is wry and often funny; the book's absurdist elements remind of Douglas Adams a bit.

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Several months ago I read Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. After Grealy died in 2003, her best friend, Ann Patchett, wrote this memoir. It's a remarkable testament to the power and limitations of friendship -- how demons can literally consume you despite the support and love of dozens of friends. Apparently there's been some controversy about Patchett's book; Grealy's family considers it to be an opportunistic attempt by Patchett to cash in on Grealy's tragic life. I don’t know about that, but I would recommend this book without reservation. Just read Lucy's first so that you can see what all the fuss is about.

Good Faith by Jane Smiley

I love Jane Smiley, but this book was far less inspired and compelling than many other books she's written. It's set in the early 1980s, just as that decades' wave of greed and amoral capitalism is swelling to its peak (although I wonder, has that wave truly crested?). A small-town real estate agent, by all accounts a nice, bland, ethical guy, gets caught up in a huge development scam. He's lured by a smooth-talking former IRS agent given to spouting Gordon Gekko-esque soliloquies on every other page. One of the biggest flaws of the book is this character; he's so transparently unbelievable that I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief that any of the otherwise supposedly intelligent characters in the book would be fooled by him. Then there's the dialogue, which seems to exist solely to explain the real estate market and the workings of the Savings and Loans of the time period. I guess it's comforting to know that even Jane Smiley can stumble from time to time.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Read this book! Read this book! Now! . . .Okay, are you done yet? It's so deliciously good -- dark, witty, sad, complex, plus a mystery or four to bind it all up. I don't want to say too much because I wouldn't want to spoil any of the book's multiple surprises. Let's just say that this book lives up to the potential of Atkinson's amazing first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, in a way that her second and third novels did not. If you have read Case Histories, let me know. I'd love to discuss this with someone in the know.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Good grief, have things sunk to such subterranean depths that I am posting a quiz result?

Looks like it.

you are steelblue

Your dominant hues are cyan and blue. You like people and enjoy making friends. You're conservative and like to make sure things make sense before you step into them, especially in relationships. You are curious but respected for your opinions by people who you sometimes wouldn't even suspect.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life is brighter than most people's. You like the idea of influencing things for the better and find hope in situations where others might give up. You're not exactly a bouncy sunshine but things in your world generally look up.
the html color quiz

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ding, Dong the Bells Are Gonna Chime. . .

Oh, it was a great day. All the pieces assembled themselves gracefully -- from my semi-observer/semi-participant viewpoint, it was a smashing success of a wedding.

Can you indulge me for a moment as I wax rhapsodic about the dress? It was perfect for MK, both her svelte frame and her personality. All that elegant, gorgeous beading on the bodice was duplicated on the train, like so:

Just as pretty from the back Posted by Hello

Divine, simply divine. I had seen pictures of the dress, but I just about cried when I saw her walk down the stairs wearing it for the first time.

The actual crying took place during the ceremony. As expected, I got quite teary-eyed when MK and her father walked down the aisle. At the outset of the vows, I was fine, I tell you, completely composed. Funny how composure can shatter with a few simple emotion-choked vows from the bride! Thank goodness for waterproof mascara. (Yes, I did plunge off the frivolity cliff and had my makeup done. A lot of effort was spent to make my face look "fresh and natural". As opposed to its unadulterated state, which I freely admit bears more than a passing resemblance to the complexion of a corpse.)

MK and D's path to the altar was a little, shall we say, circuitous. They've been friends for 18 years, and it wasn't until about 18 months ago that they decided to explore a more-than-friendship relationship. To paraphrase MK's sister's toast at the reception, if you flipped through the dictionary and came across the words "patience" and "persistence", you might see D's picture next to the definitions. It's really been amazing to witness these two friends discover each other all over again.

Their joy on Saturday was infectious. When MK and D entered the reception room for the first time, MK looked positively buoyant, swooshing down the staircase with more than a little theatrical flair. And I will never forget D boinging about like a gleeful pogostick to Smashmouth's version of "I'm a Believer."

The husband of one of the bridesmaids remarked to Jeff and me that this was the best wedding he had ever been to, including his own. My wedding aside, I tend to agree with him. (Completely off the subject, after hearing about his plans to visit his family in India with his two small children by himself, I can't in good conscience ever complain about traveling to see Jeff's parents again.)

A few days before the wedding, MK said that she had a hard time seeing past the wedding itself. "What, that whole marriage thing?" I replied. "Worry about that later."

And now that "later" is here, I can't help but feel sad. MK didn’t just get married -- she's also moving 3 hours away. For the first time outside of college, she won't be a 15-minute drive from me. I'm already regretting the number of times I had to decline an invitation to do something with her because of the kids, the number of times I could have rearranged things or gotten a babysitter. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond happy for her and D; I just wish, like the spoiled youngest child that I am, that her new life would unfold in close proximity to mine. But 3 hours isn't exactly a cross-country distance, now is it?

In closing, jo(e) had asked if there were more photos of the event. I realize that I probably shouldn't post anything else so publicly without asking MK's permission (and she's a little preoccupied with her honeymoon at the moment), but I will put together an Ofoto page and e-mail the link to anyone interested. If you are, just leave a comment (or e-mail me-- the address is on the About page).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

All righty then, you ask. How was the wedding? In a word: Fabulous. I'll write more later, but just wanted to share a photo. I'm the one not wearing the spectacular offwhite dress. (I'm hitting "publish" before I regret posting a photo of myself for the first time...) Posted by Hello