Friday, September 30, 2005

My Baby Don't Care

I'm a big Beatles fan. HUGE. In an attempt to inculcate a similar rabid fan sense in my kids, I've exposed them to a lot of Beatles music.

As with all actions sparked by good intentions, this approach has backfired from time to time. For about 9 months, my post-work ritual would include playing the red "greatest hits" Beatles compilation. Every.Single.Night. And the discs would have to be played in order. If I started with the second CD in that set, Sean would protest loudly: "No! Love Med Do Beatles!" ("Love Me Do" being the first song on the first CD).

Even a die-hard fan will admit to growing tired of hearing the same songs every day for 9 months. Fortunately, that phase passed.

Now, as a result of my laziness in matters of CDs-in-the-car-rotation (or, to be more precise, lack thereof), we have been stuck in a Help! phase. Even Allie is in on the act. Every time we get in the car, there is no end to the "Beatles!" clamoring until I play the CD.

We've also had some semantic disagreements. Have you ever heard, for example, that famous Beatles tune "Chicken to Ride"? No? Me neither, but Sean insists that this is indeed the correct title.

Even a technologic failure hasn't dampened the Fab Four enthusiasm. I just discovered that the CD player in the car doesn't work. When I told the kids this, Sean chose to make lemonade out of this particular lemon --- "Can you sing the songs for us then, Mommy?"

Sucker that I am, I did. At least they had the good taste to ask me to stop singing after three songs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

All Our Fallen Heroes

I wish I were a better writer, good enough to depict Michael's funeral in some kind of coherent, moving narrative. Or, at least, not so lazy a writer. Right now, though, I think the most I'm capable of is a series of glimpses and impressions.

-- My previous experience with military funerals consisted entirely of those in movies and on television. I knew what to expect, but none of the images stored in my head, the ones that seemed like a cliché because I'd seen them so many times, compare to witnessing them, for someone I've known my whole life. It was all there: the mournful bagpipes, the precision of the honor guard, the presentation of medals (the Bronze Star and Purple Heart), the 21-gun salute, the ritualized folding of the American flag and presentation to the fallen hero's widow, taps played by a trumpeter unseen in the distance. But in person? My God. To say it was heartbreaking barely scratches the surface. I felt the crack of the rifles deep within my chest. I stood in amazement at the solemnity and dignity with which the soldiers honored Michael.

-- This was the first funeral I've attended at which the mourners faced a row of television cameras upon exiting the church. What an odd sensation. I don't know how Michael's family felt about all the inevitable media attention, about the public scrutiny of their grief. Here is an article about the funeral. I think the photograph of Maria, Michael's wife, and of Tony, his brother (at the bottom right of the photograph, seated) at the cemetery captures all the sorrow more than any words could.

-- I've dismissed the cynical portion of my brain for the time being so that I can merely appreciate (and not dissect) the fact that several elected officials attended Michael's viewing -- a New Jersey state senator and a U.S. senator, the governor of Delaware. They didn't call attention to themselves in any way and did seem deeply respectful.

-- Michael is buried in the same row of the same cemetery as my father, my grandparents, his father, and his brother. Only a few graves separate our family from his. During the services at the cemetery, I glanced at the ground and saw that I was standing right next to my father's headstone.

Michael truly believed in his mission in Iraq; regardless of my feelings about the war, I will always honor his memory and his great, terrible sacrifice.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Little Pitchers, Big Ears, and Slow Drivers

On our way to a great fun family dinner at a family-friendly restaurant, we had the misfortune of getting stuck behind the world's slowest driver. The speed limit was 50 mph, and this driver was doing, I kid you not, 20. In the left lane of a busy highway. No flashers, no braking to indicate possible trouble. And, joy of joys, we followed this car all the way to the restaurant.

Jeff, who is perhaps not the most patient driver in the world, was showing admirable restraint and was only exhaling loudly at the pokey pace. Not Allie. Clearly vexed at our progression, she had reached the end of her rope and shouted "MOVE!"

Huh. Guess she's been paying attention when I drive after all.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

September 1957

I am a mess when it comes to remembering dates. Birthdays may or not bubble up to the surface and receive their appropriate due, but anniversaries seem to fall into the big-pit-of-irretrievable-data portion of my brain. Each September 14th, for example, comes and goes without my remembering that it's my parents' wedding anniversary. My father died 20 years ago, but still somehow my sister Kathie manages to remember each year and call my mom on that date.

I forgot again this year. So, in an attempt to make some level of recompense for my date-addled brain, I thought I'd take a moment here to acknowledge the happy confluence of their two lives. Looking at their picture takes my breath away -- they were so young (my mom was 19 and my dad was 22), so beautiful, so in love. I wish with all my heart that I could tell both of them "Happy anniversary" in person. And that I will remember to tell my mom next year.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Word from Your Hostess

I love when bloggers participate in the comments section. I'm a fairly lazy blogger, though, and I've just never been able to get my act together to do it myself.

Till now!

In an effort to bring you a livelier, more participatory Mimilou experience, I've decided to dip into my own comments on a regular basis. I won't be anywhere near as gracious a hostess as Phantom Scribbler, say, or Running2Ks, but I'll give it a whirl.

In fact, I've even applied this new-found enthusiasm retrospectively, starting with the Games without Frontiers post.

See you in the little periwinkle box!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two Things That Made Me Smile

At preschool pickup today, I arrived in time to see Sean and his class walk from the playground into the school. They were pretending to be a train as they struggled to stay in something that resembled a line. Above all the other kids' voices, I could hear Sean gustily shouting "Choo! Choo! Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!" He was clearly the most enthusiastic car in the train.

And as we were leaving, Sean turns to me and says, "I LOVE preschool! I can't wait to go back tomorrow!"

I needed that today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A little news story about Michael. I had said that he was in the Reserves, but he actually served in the National Guard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

War Hitting Too Close to Home

Why is one death in Iraq so much more painful to me than the thousand that preceded it?

This morning I found out that my parents' best friends' son was killed in a car bombing in Iraq yesterday, along with three other Marines. He was 36, the father of a three-year-old girl.

I'm crying as I write this.

When we found out that Michael was being called up to active duty in July (he had served in the Marines when he was in his twenties, and then the Reserves), my family shuddered. If any family deserved to have war pass them by, it's his.

Michael's parents, Irene and Tony, lost their fourth son, Danny (my parents' godson), at age 2 to Reyes' syndrome. A few years after that, their third son, Patrick, was diagnosed with cancer. He survived. Twelve years ago, Tony died of cancer.

Surely, Irene and her family had sustained their fair share of tragedy. Or so we thought.

How could this have happened? I can't make any sense of this. I am so sad, and so fucking angry. And ashamed that it has taken one death this far along in this immoral war to shake me so profoundly. How sheltered I have been, how complacent and isolated.

No more.

Nothing to Report

Time flies when nothing exciting seems to happen. We had an extremely quiet weekend, quiet, that is, except for the shrieks emanating from Sean whenever he heard the words "How about you use the potty now?" I'm not sure what this is all about. His grandparents were visiting this weekend, and I wonder if the extra people around made him reluctant to leave the fray for such indignities as bathroom duty.

It was one of those weekends where I had really wanted to do fun-for-the-whole-family activities and wound up barely leaving the house. Several fall festivals were taking place, but their hours just weren't conducive to families with a child who naps from 12 to 2. And then there's the cognitive dissonance of attending a fall festival when it's 90 degrees Fahrenheit out.

My one outing was a pretty fruitful one. A neighboring town has a huge library sale each year. It's considered a Big Event for the town. Oh, what a haul! This had to be the best library sale I've ever been to. I bought 20 books for me and 4 books for the kids for $14. I had wanted more kids books, but the crowd was so thick around those tables that I could barely reach my hand in. And I didn't even scratch the surface of the fiction tables. (Iliana, I did in fact think of you while I was at the sale! You would have loved it.) There's something really invigorating about seeing so many people scrambling over one another to find books.

Well, we’re off the preschool shortly, and I have to interrupt the fashion show of winter wear that Sean's been putting on so that we can find something suitable for today's warm weather.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Games without Frontiers

Allie and I were playing a rather one-sided version of Miss Mary Mack the other day. I have no idea what you call a game like this, one of those arms crossing, hand-clapping, chanting kinds of games. I hadn't done Miss Mary Mack since I was a child, but I had no trouble remembering all the words or the hand motions. My version goes like this: "Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, with silver buttons, buttons, buttons, all down her back, back back, back…"

Allie's contribution to this game is to put up her hands and laugh at me while I do all the chanting and hand and arm motions.

It got me thinking about all the other childhood games I used to play. Are any of these games still around, I wonder? Has the change in the dynamics of childhood play (to scheduled playdates and far more limited freedom) affected the types of games that kids play?

I'm also curious about the regionality (hey, I can make up words if I want) of the games I played. Were they limited to a specific geographic area? To just a certain period of time? Jeff, for example, grew up in a town only about 30 minutes away from mine, but he hasn't heard of a lot of the games I played. Which brings up another question -- are some of these gender-specific?

Here are some of the games I played. (Note: I grew up in South Jersey in the seventies.)

Red Rover (I don't know how this game was played; I just remember the catch phrase "Red rover, red rover, come over)
Red Light, Green Light
Mother May I (kind of like a combination of Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light)
Coming Up to Greenville (an aggressive game we played on the school playground, involving taunting, and then physically pulling the person selected to go to Greenville)
Baby in the Air (involved throwing a ball in the air and guessing a color that someone else had thought of )
Jump rope games: Chase the Fox, Blondie and Dagwood, Teddy Bear, Chinese jump rope
Freeze tag
TV tag (truly lame version of tag in which you could not be caught if you squatted and shouted out the name of a TV show. If you were unlucky enough to be It during this game, you'd never catch anyone.)
Jail break (Aggressive version of tag, rife with opportunities for bullying)
Huckle buckle beanstalk (kind of like I Spy plus Hide and Seek)

I am really interested in hearing if anyone else has heard of or played these games. If not, what games did you play as a child? To make this interesting from an anthropological perspective, please also let us know where and when you grew up. And if you normally just lurk here, I'd love to hear from you, too! Really!

Ready, set, play!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Random Cuteness Part Whatever

Since Allie doesn't seem to get as much attention in this here blog as her brother, I thought I'd share the following observation she made.

One of my favorite Allie pronunciations is of "cantelope." She calls it "clabalope." And last night at dinner, she told me, very distressed, "Mommy, clabalope ru-in!"

Well, yes, dear, that's what happens when you pulverize a melon with your fork!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First Day of Preschool

Success all around. Repeat, success all around. By which I mean no tears from son or mom or dad, no clinging, no separation anxiety. Dropoff was a bit more rushed than I had wanted it to be because we were 10 minutes late. Sean gravitated immediately to the sand table, gave Jeff and me quick hugs, and that was, unceremoniously, that.

Although details are sketchy (if this boy is going to be the muckraking, save-the-world rabble-rouser that his mom so wants her children to be, he simply must beef up his reportorial skills), the following appears to have occurred today:

1. There was a truck, and other kids were playing with the truck, so Sean couldn't play with the truck.
2. He had animal crackers for snack but did not like the apple juice.
3. He used the potty.
4. He sat in a circle and sang a song (but doesn't know what song it was).
5. He played outside on the slides and in the sandbox (in case the quart of sand that I dumped out of his sneakers wasn't a big enough clue).

One of the things I hadn't considered is that Allie and I will now have whole mornings together. Sean gets dedicated mom time each day while Allie takes a nap, but Allie doesn't usually have me to herself. This will be a good thing, I think, once she gets over the odd sensation of not having her constant playmate around. To mark our first morning together, we moped around a bit, read several books, threw an enormous tantrum over the fact that her doll's shoe did not fit her foot (okay, okay, that was really just Allie), and went to Gap (to return the misguided birthday gift) and Trader Joe's (for such necessities as almond butter and garlic pita chips). Not high-quality quality time, but we'll find our groove, I'm sure.

Now we need to work on that tardiness issue.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Techie Question

I'll preface this request by saying that I did, in fact, do about 3 entire minutes of research before taking the easy way out.

I think I've found an image (not a photo of myself) that I can use to adorn my own sparkling witticism comments. Trouble is, I have no idea how to go about using it. Can anyone help me figure that out?


On the Mend

It seems that the worst is over -- we had a quiet weekend as Sean recuperated from his end-of-summer illness. He was feverish and lethargic for most of the weekend, but other than throwing up on Sunday morning hasn't had too much GI upset.

Yesterday was Jeff's birthday. It's been a bittersweet day for the past 4 years; it marks the anniversary of a horrific tragedy, but it's still Jeff's day, too. And Jeff is generous about allowing us to extend the celebratory period to encompass his entire birthday week. This year Jeff had wanted to spend the afternoon at a local historical park, but with Sean's illness we thought it best to stay close to home. Sean was well enough last evening that we could still go through with the little outing I had planned -- dinner with Jeff's brother, his wife, and a friend at an actual restaurant without children. My nephew babysat (and, apparently, earned his money since Sean had a few messy potty accidents!).

It's a good thing that the dinner worked out, for my actual present was a huge dud. Jeff can be a little hard to buy presents for, and this year I was stymied. I settled on a fall jacket, an idea that worked well in theory. After tearing through the mall with Allie on Sunday, though, the only remotely passable jacket I found wasn't even something I liked. Nor, apparently, was it Jeff's cup of tea. At least Gap has a good return policy.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Not for the Faint of Stomach

Sean is a sound sleeper. The kid is unperturbed by thunderstorms, his sister's crying, his parents' repeated attempts to rouse him from an impromptu afternoon nap.

Last night, we added another thing to the list of things he can sleep through: excessive vomiting.

Around 10:00 last night I went into Sean's room to check on him, only to discover that he was covered in vomit. As were the pillow, blanket, sheet, mattress pad, bedframe, wall, and adjacent carpet. And there was Sean, completely zonked out and oblivious.

Both Jeff and I found this very disturbing -- if Sean could sleep through such a violent gastrointestinal eruption, what's to prevent him from choking on it? When he was younger and something liked this happened, I chalked it up to his being a baby. But shouldn't throwing up wake him at this point?

After a quick shower, which made him shiver like a newborn, and scouring of his bed and room, he was able to return to sleep. The rest of the night passed peacefully. Unfortunately, the rest of the night ended at 4:30, when Sean informed me that it was time to get up. And so we did (yawn).

He seems okay so far today, but he hasn't felt like eating anything. I hope that the worst is over -- at the least, he doesn't seem to remember last night's trauma that well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Preschool Launch

All summer, the start of preschool has loomed over us as the Official Potty Training Deadline. Fortunately, by mechanism of some miracle or other, Sean is still doing well in that department, so today at preschool orientation I did not have to throw myself on the mercy of the teacher ("Please! He's SO cute! And smart! Can't you just overlook the Huggies and not tell anyone?").

I wasn't sure how Sean would be today. Clingy? Shy? Interested? Turns out, he was Prince Charming toward the teachers, ignored the other kids (granted, the class had been split in two for the orientation, so there weren't that many other kids there), and LOVED his classroom and all the toys and activities. The train table and ample supply of Thomas trains sealed the deal. His teacher seems a little shy and low-key, but kind.

Sean accepted my departure from the classroom to attend a parents meeting with nary a backward glance. I hope this is a sign that when school starts for real on Tuesday, he will be so interested in playing that he won't mind when I leave him. This will be the first time I've ever left him in the hands of someone he's not related to. I've gotten so used to reports of Sean's development from my sister, co-parent, and fellow Sean idolator Kathie that it will be eye-opening to hear about it from a neutral third party.

Along with others ushering their kids out the door into school for the first time, I am excited and nervous and a little sad at this latest chapter. Sigh. My little boy, now with backpack and cubby.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

If You Need Me, I'll Be Over Here, Picking Up the Pieces of My Broken Heart

It was the usual bedtime scene: Jeff had finished reading Sean and Allie their bedtime stories, and I kissed Sean goodnight before putting Allie to bed. And as usual, I said, "Good night, Sean. I love you."

Usually Sean responds in kind: "I love you too, Mommy."

Tonight the script changed.

"I don't love you, Mommy," he said. And not once but twice, in case I had missed it the first time.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but my ego is still smarting from the blow. And with my numbers in the polls this low, I think I need a better press agent.


Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind and supportive and wise comments about my to-blog-or-not-to-blog dilemma. I think my compromise approach, for the time being, will be a concerted effort to keep a lid on my usual excessive whining.

I'm truly thankful that I've found such an engaged, thoughtful bunch of people in the blogosphere, both those who visit here and those I visit. It makes me hopeful for our children's future.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Upon Further Consideration

I just don't know. Is it appropriate to blog about my insignificant life right now? I was even thinking about taking down the preceding post until some other time. I don't want to appear uncaring. I also don't have any reserves left to write about the hurricaine aftermath -- should I just lie low for a while?

Bzzzz ... Thunk

To distract myself from the hell on earth in the Gulf region, I'm focusing on a completely unimportant series of domestic events.

You might recall that every year my house becomes Motel 6 for carpenter bees (their motto: Your House---It's Not Just for Breakfast Any More). This year we decided to get tough. An exterminator told us that the bees were tunneling through the fascia board along the roofline but not the wood that holds up the house. He suggested that we replace all the fascia board with a plastic-vinyl material that bees cannot penetrate. This sounded like our best bet, since the bees have been impervious to any other attempt to eradicate them.

Last week, the fascia board came down. We were aghast at how extensive the bee infestation was. Just one 3-foot section of board contained about 15 bored holes, each hole the entrance to a tunnel the bees created for nesting purposes. From just one of those holes, about 25 bees emerged. (They are no longer active at this time of year, but like sleeping giants awakened, they were TESTY at being disturbed.) Here's a picture of one of the boards. I must confess to being a little impressed at the near-perfect circles.

A few stray bees have been circling about, looking aimlessly for a wood surface in which to find purchase. We're concerned that they might next attack our deck, but for now we have seen no signs of that.

I'm hoping this is the end of the story, but as in any good horror movie, we may not have heard the last of the bees. Last night a carpenter bee mysteriously appeared in our family room. We think it might have come in through the chimney and fireplace. I told Jeff that the saga should now be called "Revenge of the Carpenter Bee: This Time It's Personal."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rage against the Machine

Still not feeling up to posting. Others, though, are expressing my feelings of rage better than I could:

From Bitch, PhD

From Psycho Kitty

From She Falters to Rise

From Scrivenings

From Phantom Scribbler

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Postponing the Trivial Post I Had Planned

I don't have many coherent thoughts about the aftermath of Katrina. Taking my emotional temperature yields high degrees of sorrow, rage, incredulity. And a pervasive sense of complete hopelessness.

Although I rarely watch TV news, I think in times of crisis, the immediacy of television can be more powerful than static images and text. And I think it's the least I can do, to bear witness, to make sure I do not just go about my daily life as if nothing has happened.

And yet once again I'm reminded of why I don't watch TV news. Couldn't the networks for ONCE stop using devastation and horror as a tool with which to grab higher ratings? I don't CARE about your exclusive coverage. It's craven, despicable, to toot your own horn now.

Today I received an e-mail from Move On with a link to a site, Hurricaine Housing, on which you can offer housing for people who have lost their homes. They prefer that the sponsors live within a reasonable driving distance of Gulf region (about 300 miles). If you might be able to help, check it out.

As for me, I did one of the few things I could: donate to the Red Cross. It seems too small a gesture.

Edited to add: The generous, insightful duo who write at the blog Been There have offered their site as a clearing house for anyone who might be able to contribute children's clothing or toys to families hit by Katrina. Go here for more info.

Another addendum: Some relief distribution centers in Houston might be able to use donations.