Thursday, June 30, 2005

Whiny McWhiner

I'm in the middle of The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell, and I'm thoroughly enjoying her witty, offbeat essays. Since I'm a charter member of the "Do You Want Cheese with that Wine" club, one passage resonated with me:

In my self-help universe, when things go wrong I whisper mantras to myself, mantras like "Andersonville" and "Texas School Book Depository." "Andersonville" is a code word for "You could be one of the prisoners of war dying of disease and malnutrition in the worse Confederate prison, so just calm down about the movie you wanted to go to being sold out." "Texas School Book Depository" means that having the delivery guy forget the guacamole isn't nearly as bad as being assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald as the blood from your head stains your wife's pink suit.

I am forever trying to pull myself back from the ledge by making similar comparisons. Most of the time, it works. And when it doesn't, I foist my complaints on the blogverse as a purging method. Lucky you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Manolo's Shoe Blog This Is Not

Just like the Wicked Witch of the West, I have been in hot pursuit of a pair of silver shoes.

(Related tangent: Like most kids, I suspect, I had seen the movie version of The Wizard of Oz several times before reading the book. When I did read the book, I was flummoxed and annoyed over what I considered a major betrayal: "Silver shoes? Where are the RUBY SLIPPERS?" Anyone know the reason for that switch? Was it just the fact that red sparkly shoes would look better in Technicolor?)

Did I mention that I will soon be donning another bridesmaid's dress? I'm in my brother-in-law's wedding in July, and the bride has requested that we wear silver shoes with our red dresses. I hadn't had much luck -- the silver shoes I've seen tend to be on the, ahem, gaudy side, with more than a few achieving a Trifecta of tackiness: metallic spike heels, rhinestones, and clear plastic, all in one convenient package!

Just this short of despairing that I'd need to spend $75 if I were to have a pair of classy silver shoes, I zipped through yet another mall today before going to pick Sean and Allie up at my sister's. In the last place I looked, I found a reasonably nonflashy, elegant pair at a good price. You know where I found them? Sears. Really. Where one's grandmother might buy her shoes.

Oh well. I have a feeling that my shoes won't exactly be the focal point of the day. I think the gorgeous bride might catch a smidge more attention. (As will the adorable ring bearer -- especially if, as I'm envisioning, Sean decides that he'd rather run through the pews at the church, yelling "I don't want to!", instead of walking carefully down the aisle...)

Seeking Validation as a Technological Fallback

Dear Readers,

Did you know that my hit counter is NOT working? And hasn't been working since yesterday evening? You might not realize this about me, but I do not function well in a blog vacuum. I am more or less a slave to the hit counter, and its ongoing on-the-fritzness is driving my batty.

I came up with a brilliant idea -- if you leave a comment saying that you were here, I'll know someone was visiting! (No obligation, of course.) I'll post a note when Bravenet gets its act together and fixes its counter.

Kind regards,

A Clearly Desperate, Validation-Seeking Blogger

UPDATED: I've installed SiteMeter on a trial basis -- since it seems to be actually, you know, working, it already has a leg up over Bravenet! So you don't have to leave a comment, unless you'd like to just say hi for no real reason. I love comments as much as I rely on my hit counter!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Yes, We Did Have Fun, But...

I whisked the kids through the bath-story-bed process extra early tonight because they. have. worn. me. out.

Since Jeff is away this week (in Merry Olde England this time), I have been seeking to fill my dance card. You know, lots of Enriching and Fun Activities to keep boredom and stir-craziness at bay.

Today we went to a petting zoo and, after collapsing under the weight of what surely was 150% humidity, went swimming at my sister's house. All the while we had tantrums, we had whining, we had sibling-on-sibling squabbling, we had the pushing of all my buttons. There are simply no more buttons left to push. Bedtime was the only solution.

Now, buttonless, I am seeking the comfort of my couch, M&Ms, and Middlesex.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

To the City, the Big Big City*

My Wee Suburban Ones took their first trip to the city yesterday. To visit Jeff at work, we took car, commuter train, and double-stroller -- a multivehicle approach that I strongly advocate to achieve maximum exhaustion.

Sean LOVED the train. I know this because he kept saying "I LOVE the train!", in between observant, enthusiastic commentary on the ride itself: "We're slowing down!" "Here comes the tunnel." "Look! There's another train!" "That's the horn, Mommy, it says beeeeeeeep beeeeeeep!"

It was amazing to see how his eager mind filtered this brand-new experience -- one that for me, who used to take the train every day to work, is unremarkable and routine.

Allie took it all in stride; I suppose it was just her age, but who knows? Perhaps she was merely determined to be blasé and cool in the face of Sean's excitement. Nonetheless, I was impressed that she stayed on my lap during the whole train ride.

Things got a little more complicated when we got off the train. Sean was pretty freaked out by the swarms of people at the station, and the din and chaos of the city streets sent him into a small panic. He clamored for me to carry him during the entire 8-block walk from the train station to Jeff's building. I felt just awful for him. I hadn’t realized how frightening a downtown area -- with all its noise, traffic, and crushing presence of humanity -- can be.

Once we arrived at Jeff's work and Sean saw his Daddy, he calmed down. He and Allie turned on their mega-watt charm for Jeff's coworkers, and even refrained from running down the hallways until right before our departure! I enjoyed seeing Jeff interact with his kids in front of his colleagues -- it allowed them to see firsthand what a great dad he is.

We felt brave enough to face a lunch outing, and this time, Sean was as cool as a cucumber on the city streets. The trip home went smoothly, too; Allie slept on the train, and Sean was once again fascinated by the ride.

My parting observation -- lordy, it is difficult to navigate public transportation and the downtown area of a Major U.S. City in a double-stroller. Feel free to chide me for being a major suburban wimp, but I felt ever-so-grateful that my car was waiting for me in the parking lot.

* Now I can't get that rather grating Peter Gabriel song out of my head.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rescind My Teaching Certificate, Please (If I Had One, That Is)

You all know that potty training has been one big flop after another. But there are other, smaller, items on the toddler curriculum that also have me stymied. How exactly does one teach one's child to:

-- Spit (toothpaste)?
-- Pedal a tricycle?
-- Drink from a straw?

Sean goes through the motions when it comes to spitting out the toothpaste, but nothing actually emits from his mouth. I compensate by putting the smallest amount of toothpaste possible on the toothbrush and hope that he doesn't succumb to fluoride poisoning.

Sean loves to ring the bell on his tricycle. Oh, yes, sitting and ringing the bell are his favorite tricycle activities. He seems interested in moving the tricycle himself, but he just can't coordinate his leg muscles to achieve that fluid, constant motion necessary to pedal.

When presented with a straw, Sean dutifully follows the example set by his parents, but in the reverse of the spitting exercises, nothing actually enters his mouth. He does think straws are pretty funny, though.

I'm sure that if I were more creative or a better motivator I would have figured out how to teach these things by now. It's a good thing I'm not getting paid for this gig.

Scene from the Library

Sean: Hi!
18-month-old girl: (Stare)
Sean: This is my friend Mommy. And this is my sister Allie. She loves hugs. (Proceeds to hug Allie and then tackle her.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

New Value-Added Sidebar Feature!!!

In a completely unoriginal upgrade that I am nonetheless touting as if it were significant, I've added two categories to my sidebar over yonder. The first is for books I'm currently reading, and the second is for books I've recently completed. I am hoping that stating this information publicly will shame me into reading more quickly and refraining from falling asleep after digesting but a single paragraph.

Wish me luck. Middlesex is due back at the library in 2 days, and I'm only a third of the way through. Has anyone read it? Is it worth finishing?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Holiday Road

A quick glance at my calendar for the next few months has confirmed that we will be handily contributing to the tally of road warriors this summer.

After what has seemed like months of staying perfectly still, we have three upcoming trips: to Jeff's parents' in Pittsburgh, to the beach (immediately following Jeff's brother's wedding), and to my sister's in Boston. Now that the kids are a little older, I am no longer overcome by dread over the thought of a trip. I think that both the drives and the sleeping once we arrive will proceed more smoothly than in past trips.

(I have probably just doomed these trips irrevocably.)

I'm especially looking forward to the visit to my sister's house. To give us some perspective on how long it has been since we ventured to New England, I told Jeff that the last time we were there, my nephew had bunny wallpaper in his bedroom. He's 8 now.

Until relatively recently, visits to my sister's had been a summer staple since she moved to Massachusetts 22 years ago. I have scores of fond memories of those trips, and I'm eager for Sean and Allie to begin their own memory trove.

One aspect of those visits we won't be able to re-create is our annual trip to Provincetown. My sister and her partner owned an adorable house in P-Town for several years, and they were incredibly generous in letting friends and family stay there throughout the summer.

Have you ever been to a place that literally restored your soul? That's Provincetown for me (and Jeff too, I think). There isn't just one aspect that I can single out. It's more the study in contrasts -- how you can dip into the hustle and bustle of Commercial Street at one moment and then lose yourself in a solitary walk along the dunes the next; how you can laze about on a calm, clean beach (so different from Tacky Shore Town-a-rama in my state), see the sun set over the ocean (the only place on the East Coast where that's possible), and mingle with drag queens and families during a single walk.

Just being able to visit a place where same-sex couples can freely demonstrate their affection without fear of ridicule makes me feel that all is not lost in this world.

My sister and her partner sold the house a few years ago. Even though it will be a little more complicated than before, I do hope to take the kids to Provincetown some day.

Oh, dear. I don't want to end this on a glum note -- I really am downright cheerful about all the traveling ahead of us. And if anticipation and reality don't intertwine as neatly as I'd hoped, well, at least the kids are young enough that they won't remember the details!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Zoo Trip

Can you believe today was our first trip to the zoo as a family? We had wanted to do it last year, but Allison's hate-hate relationship with the stroller at the time provided little incentive for such a trek.

Jeff would want me to state at the outset that he was not 100% behind this idea because the possibility of tantrums ruining the outing was rather great. And when we had to park a million miles away from the zoo on a side street in a bad neighborhood (and still had to pay for the privilege!), our fun family day trip started out on a grumpy note.

We all cheered up soon enough, and had a great time, even though we apparently did not get the memo about Take Your Tattoo to the Zoo day. I can't recall the last time I'd seen so much body art.

The kids seemed to really enjoy the exhibits -- Sean loved the tortoises, the "deer" (that is, the opaki), the lemur (his first comment upon seeing this animal was "Look, it's Zooboomafoo!" -- no, he doesn't watch too much TV, why do you ask?), and the polar bear. Allie liked the condor, so much so that when we were leaving that exhibit, she waved enthusiastically and shouted "Bye, duck!"

A small disappointment was the complete lack of lions and tigers, which had been a big selling point during my motivational speech this morning ("We'll get to see BIG lions and tigers! Won't that be exciting?"). All the carnivores are on vacation until their new home at the zoo is ready, sometime in 2006. Sean did enjoy looking at all the construction equipment, though, and he was unfazed by the lack of actual big-game animals.

Of course, I can't let a perfectly positive outing go unbesmirched by a melancholy thought. I have to confess that zoos make me very sad. I support zoos' conservation efforts, yet I can't help but think that zoo animals should be in their natural habitat (if such a thing even still exists). With the exception of the otters, who always look like they're having a ball, the animals seemed bored and unhappy. Or am I just anthropomorphizing here?

Sheesh -- I wish I could just turn off my brain for just a little while. Anyway. It was still a great day. If you're interested, here a few photos (new Flickr account -- let me know if you can't see the photos).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Help Save Big Bird (and Unbiased News Reporting While We're at It)

Since when does thorough, careful, unbiased news reporting and good-quality, noncommercial children shows equal "liberal bias"?

If you're so inclined, please mosey on over to and sign a petition asking Congress not to cut funding to PBS and NPR.

More info available here.

Thanks to Scrivener for the link.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Potty Misery Loves Company

Just wanted to let you all know that Julia has saved you from having to answer my own desperate plea for potty training help. Although her experience isn't exactly the same as mine, it's darn near close enough that the comments she's been receiving are exactly the type I was going to solicit.

Sean's basic response to my efforts thus far is essentially "Leave me alone. I want to play. I don't want to pee in the potty, and your asking me every 37 seconds is getting really annoying. So henceforth I will ignore you." Sticker charts, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder underpants, special rewards for a completed sticker chart -- none of it has had a lasting effect. He uses the potty when he feels like it. Period.

Preschool, with its students-must-be-potty-trained dictum, starts in September. By my calculations, that leaves us 2.5 months to whip up at least a semblance of bladder control.

But like I said, you're off the hook, unless, of course, you want to make me feel better about having a 3+ -year-old who doesn't feel any compelling need to abandon his diapers, ever.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I'm not especially enamored of driving. But lately, I've been looking for excuses to get in the car, especially without the kids.

I know, I know, this is doing nothing to wean me off my dependence on foreign oil, but really, if this was in your CD player, you'd be eager, too.

I love listening to David Sedaris read his own material, so I usually borrow the audio version of his books from the library rather than the print version. I've been so knocked out by Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim that I think I might even buy the print version -- it's hysterically funny in parts, and, surprisingly, for Sedaris, touching and nuanced in others. Thankfully, there aren't any fiction pieces in this collection of essays (or at least not that I've listened to so far) -- I tend to find his forays into fiction too misanthropic and unpleasant for my, ahem, delicate sensibilities.

A kid-free car optimizes my listening pleasure, for I don't have to worry about them overhearing language that is probably not entirely appropriate for the toddler set. When driving with them yesterday, I made the mistake of turning on the CD player in the midst of an essay about Sedaris's brother, Paul, who I'd known from previous books is a connoisseur of elaborate and inventive profanity. Later today, I'll have to drum up a reason to run an independent errand so I can see how the essay -- concerning Paul's wedding, officiated by a psychic and attended by a canine flower girl -- ends. And where can I drive after that to hear the next essay? Road trip, anyone?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Life of the Mind

Lately I seem to have been stuck in an endless kvetching loop when it comes to Sean. That simply won't do, since there is so much endearing and amazing about him these days. One thing I'm especially struck by is his 3-year-old imagination. I love to watch him engage in make-believe play and see how he can take any object and transform it into something entirely different, sometimes credibly and other times fantastically:

-- A yo-yo becomes an extension cord affixed to, variously, a leaf-blower, a saw, and a hedge-trimmer. He "plugs" the end of the yo-yo string into the deck railing, and he very carefully wraps the string around the yo-yo, announcing that he has to wind up his extension cord and that we have to stand back.

-- The vacuum cleaner attachment turns into a leaf blower, too, and he uses it to clean off his "roof"---the landing on the steps. It's always his roof, by the way. He's quick to point out that anyone walking up the stairs is treading on his turf.

-- Some of the most elaborate pretending occurs when he is re-enacting scenes from a Thomas video. For example, he'll take his blanket, with its fleecy white underside, and transform it into a snowbank. Train after train will crash into the snow, requiring rescue from one of the other trains. Then all the trains will pull into Tidmouth Sheds, usually represented by a pillow set on an angle against the end of the sofa.

-- The calculator becomes a telephone, the large key that operates our mechanical doorbell becomes a jackhammer, a large cloth napkin becomes a superhero cape (you should see our fearsome trio of superheroes -- Super Sean, Super Allie, and Super Mommy), a plastic cup used for rinsing during bathtime becomes a fishbowl and, mysteriously, an ice cream cone.

I sometimes just sit by quietly and watch him play. It's always fascinating.

I am the least creative and imaginative person I know; I wonder if I did the same thing as a toddler? If so, where on earth did that capacity go?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Whatcha doing next weekend? Mieke would love it if you'd swing by the old gigaplex and see something near and dear to her heart.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Quick Update

Oh, last night wasn't so bad. Sean was only up from 10 p.m. till 4 a.m., then up for the day at 7:15. The good news is that he was in amazingly high spirits during that extended nocturnal jaunt. The great news is that he is still feeling a lot better today.

Mom and Dad, though, are propping their eyelids open with toothpicks right now.

Thanks for all the well wishes!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

'Tisn't the Season for This, Is It?

If I ever needed confirmation that my children 1) seem to be attached to each other and yet 2) feel that each alone warrants my sole attention, I received it today.

My sister called me around 1:00 this afternoon to say that Sean had been crying since lunch, gasping out "I want to go home!" and "My ear hurts!" between sobs. I quickly deduced that he might, in fact, have an ear infection. (Pause for applause at my keen sleuthing prowess.)

He was inconsolable during the car ride home. Once at home, he hurled himself into his bed and pleaded with me to lie down next to him. As soon as I was settled in Sean's bed, Allison, quite fed up with all the attention Sean was receiving, pitched herself onto the floor and launched her own bout of hysteria. Any attempt on my part to console her was met with heightened sobbing from Sean. At last, he fell asleep, and I was able to nurse Allison's bruised ego until it was time to go the doctor's.

The doctor quickly confirmed the ear infection (thank goodness for the "quickly" part, since Sean continued the pyrotechnic display in the doctor's office), and prescribed some anesthetic drops plus an antibiotic for use if the infection doesn't clear up soon.

On all these trips to and from the car, I carried Sean in my arms. Allison, who normally prefers to provide her own locomotion, took great offense at this. At one point she wrested her hand from mine and staged a sit-in in the middle of the parking lot. I never realized how heavy Sean was until I had to hold him with one arm while trying to pull a determined Allison to the safety of the sidewalk.

Sean fell asleep, sweaty and completely spent, as soon as we got home at 4:00. And is still asleep as of this writing (a record, I believe). I do hope he feels better soon -- it was just heartbreaking to witness him in so much pain.

After her brother went to bed, Allison was clearly at a loss without him -- she wandered about, flitting from toy to toy and book to book with even less attention span than usual. She asked, over and over again, "Where Sean?" When I told her that Sean was asleep, she was indignant: "No! Sean awake!" And then she'd march toward the stairs so that she could make it so.

With Allison in bed by 8:15 and Sean already asleep, it's like we have the night off. I am deeply suspicious, though, about the length of Sean's slumber tonight. We're fully anticipating that Sean will rouse himself at 2 a.m., expecting breakfast and an episode of Caillou to start his day.

Edited to add -- 10:00: Well, he's awake now, as chipper and happy and WIDE AWAKE as can be. Should be an interesting night!

Monday, June 06, 2005


My neighborhood playground seems to have a lot going for it -- it has lots of fun equipment (safely embedded in wood mulch of the appropriate depth), it's surrounded by an expansive field and what passes for woods in this slice of overdeveloped suburbia, and it's a quick walk from our house.

What seems to be missing are children.

Almost every time we go to the playground, we find ourselves alone. It's kind of spooky. Every now and then another set of young kids might be there, or perhaps a few adolescent girls hanging out on the swings before they depart to the woods (I really don't want to know what goes on back there)..

Sean and Allie don't seem to mind -- they have a lot of fun no matter who is there. I am on the fence. Although with time I have grown more comfortable with the various skills needed to socialize with others, I am still, at heart, shy and introverted. Striking up conversations with strangers, even those with small children in tow, makes me feel like all my flaws are glowing radioactively. Like the general problem I seem to have with speaking. I can cobble together some reasonably coherent sentences when I'm writing, but in conversation I leave the impression that English is not my native language. When you combine this with the difficulty inherent in conducting any type of social interaction while simultaneously saving two toddlers from plunging off the playset -- well, you get the picture.

But. Still. Aren't playgrounds supposed to be teeming with kids? I read other bloggers' accounts of all the people they've gotten to know at the playground and am rather envious of the convivial atmosphere. Perhaps things are looking up, though. On today's excursion I actually met a fellow SAHM with kids around the same age as mine. She seemed very friendly, and I think we might meet up again some time. Maybe that's the ideal situation for me -- a small group of kids and parents that can make the playground a friendlier place but won't drain my limited social reserves!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Writing as Therapy, Not Necessarily as Agent of Change

I just returned from the grocery store. I wrote this entry almost a year ago, yet somehow my attitude hasn't changed one whit. Writing about it was therapeutic, but grocery shopping still ranks as one of my least favorite chores.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dysfunctional Wardrobe

You know things in ye olde fashion department are getting pathetic when you discover, 30 minutes before you need to leave the house for a rare appearance at your book group, that your three pairs of capri pants are unwearable: Pair #1 is dirty, pair #2 features a risque rip along the seam all the way to the knee, and pair #3 is missing its crucial button. Not to worry, you think, just use a safety pin for pair #3.

Tiny problem: There is not one single safety pin in the house.

Fortunately, your babysitter (Hi, Mom!) is a functioning adult, unlike yourself apparently, and thus owns several safety pins.

Fashion disaster averted. Notes to self: 1) learn how to sew; 2) buy some safety pins, for heaven's sake; 3) maybe, just maybe, consider refreshing your wardrobe.