Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 8

Landismom had a great question: "What's your most dearly-held dream for your children?"

Short, lazy answer: happiness and good health.

But that's so boring, and doesn't really encompass all that I hope for. While I was mulling this question over, I remembered a post that Andrea had written on her new blog, Decomposition. In the context of explaining why she set herself a New Year's goal of contributing a certain percentage of her income to charitable causes, she wrote the following beautiful passage. It perfectly describes the world I want for my children:

I want a world where people actually prosper or fail depending on their own efforts, and not their class position, race, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, etc. I want a world in which housing and food are considered basic human rights, and not commodities or luxury goods. I want a world in which a handful of people can't amass fantastic wealth for themselves by depriving millions of others of the basic necessities of life. I want a world in which our natural human environment is valued for its innate characteristics, and not just as a profit-generator; a world where we truly believe that we are just a part of nature, not above it or outside of it. I want a world where human variation is valued and celebrated, not derided, ignored, punished or "tolerated." And while I'm giving free-reign to my inner idealist, I'd also like a world where some people (police, armies) are not entitled to kill others in order to maintain a status quo that is innately harmful to human dignity, the environment, and the basic comfort of the vast majority of the species.

The world we currently have is so far removed from this ideal that the thought of launching my children into it makes me profoundly sad. I want Jeff and I to do whatever we can to make this dream a reality. And I want our kids to work toward that goal, too. Even though, along the way, we will have to confront the many, many ways in which we are complicit in the status quo. I hope we're up to the task -- Sean and Allie, and all children, deserve so much better.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 7

Danigirl asks the question that would have prompted me to use that "Read More!" button for the first time except that the instructions I found online looked too complicated to deal with right now:

"Personally, I'm fascinated by (among other things) your job as an editor - I think I've gleaned that much correctly. So, tell me about your job - what do you do, how did you get it, what background or qualifications would one need to do that job?"

Warning! This is really long: proceed with caution and caffeine.

If you'll forgive me, I'll answer the parts of the question in not quite the same order in which they were posed. (Now, if this piece were a journal article, I'd be asking the author if she'd want to reconsider reordering her responses so that they'd be in parallel with the questions. But, thank heavens, this is just a blog. We're a little bit more flexible here.)

Right after college, I got a job at a medical journal. I had fully expected an entry-level, editorial assistant position, essentially a glorified administrative assistant. This job was much worse than that. All day, every day, I called physicians to see if they'd be interested in serving as a peer reviewer for a given manuscript. Two or three reviewers per manuscript, about 1700 manuscripts per year. This was before the wide adoption of e-mail, naturally.

I hated it.

Ultimately, it was good for me, though, confronting my ardent dislike and fear of talking to other people. I did this for about a year, till luck and a marginal amount of skill landed me a series of promotions. All along I learned to edit -- how to mark up a manuscript (On paper! Using marks like these!); how to spot errors of grammar and fact and infelicitous usage; how to change wording that is wrong, leave good writing alone, and achieve the wisdom to know the difference.

On top of general copyediting, I also had to master medical jargon and usage; become at ease with biostatistics; grow adept at editing tables and figures so that they convey information concisely and in a graphically pleasing manner; and learn the intricacies of conducting medical research. (Along with way, we abandoned old-fashioned pencil-and-paper editing for the thrills of editing electronically. I can't imagine ever going back.)

I eventually left the world of strict copyediting to a supervisory position, where I managed the production of the journal and the copyediting staff. Oh, and this was all at the same journal at which I started. Apparently I kind of liked it there.

Now, in a somewhat downward shift, I'm a copyeditor again, this time as a freelancer. I contract with publishers, companies, and individual authors. It's a really cool gig for a stay-at-home mom; although I don't spend a lot of time editing right now by choice, I hope to increase my client base once the kids are in school full-time. Check back with me in a few years to see how well Little Miss I Hate to Market Myself is doing….

So that's how I got from being an English major to being an editor. As far as what qualifications make a good editor, I have a few ideas. I'll address copyediting specifically, for that's the area I'm most familiar with. The term "editing" could mean a lot of things -- copyediting, developmental editing, substantive editing. Each one requires a slightly different skill set.

I think all good copyeditors should have a love of language, and an invested interest in clear communication. Knowledge of grammar is important, but you can also be a good editor simply by "feel". In some ways, you either have that feel or you don't. One of the most important lessons I've learned is that grammar and usage rules are not tools with which to beat language into submission; they serve at the pleasure of the language, and the language changes. In that respect, I fall somewhere between being a proscriptivist (the rules are the rules, and that's that) and a descriptivist (the people who speak and write the language own it; there are few hard and fast rules).

I've learned that my job is to make sure that the author's message and information are imparted as clearly as possible, and that the author's tone and voice are not distorted in the process. My job is not to impose own my style on the author or to show off my knowledge of picayune grammar conventions. Copyeditors have gotten a bad rap for doing that.

Back to qualities an editor should have. A grasp of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage is crucial, of course. A high tolerance for tedium is also important -- copyediting isn't the most glamorous way to make a living, and sometimes it's pretty dull. A good copyeditor also needs to be extremely well read.

Tact is essential. I spend a lot of time querying authors, both to solicit additional information and to explain changes I have made. The nicer I am, the more easily the medicine goes down. Many authors don't find having their work edited to be an enjoyable process, so I like to make it as gentle and nonconfrontational as possible. For example, I often present myself as a surrogate reader (a sample query: "Readers might be confused by the preceding sentence because of [specific reason]. Would the following revision be acceptable? If not, please recast so that the sentence conveys your intended meaning"). Most of the time, this approach works really well.

Finally, to quote someone or other, a disdain for high wages is a requirement for any editor.

So. That is WAY more than you wanted to know, Danigirl, I'm sure. And for anyone else who has made it thus far, thanks for indulging me!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Because It's Sunday and I'm Tired, That's Why

Saw this effortless meme at Chichimama:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that cool or intellectual book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

Okay, pay attention, class! From the estimable American Medical Association Manual of Style, I give you the following pearls of copyright wisdom:

All copyright notices should be placed in a such a "manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim of copyright." Such placement applies to print and digital works. Registration and deposit of a work with the Copyright Office in Washington, DC, are provided for under the provisions of the 1976 Act.

Hey, I saw you nod off there. Wake up! Or do I have to start quoting the section on nomenclature for restriction enzymes and amino acids?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Media-Savvy Parenting? Apparently Not

We interrupt this string of unoriginal blogging for a topic of my own devising.

My kids own a plethora of Fisher Price Little People products. I hadn't realized how many until I catalogued them recently: schoolbus, farm, garage, firestation, zoo, train . . . (Hmmm. It's kind of embarrassing to see them all listed.) One of these toys came with a video featuring clay-animated Little People. I tucked it away in a hidden spot because it just seemed too promotional.

So much for my hiding skills -- it's been discovered. Sean and Allie begged to watch it, and instead of remaining steadfast in my conviction that it probably wasn't worth viewing, I caved.

On the surface, it's completely innocuous, consisting of four or five little stories featuring Little People. But as I watched more closely, my fears were confirmed: The thing is one long advertisement for Little People and their products. There was the schoolbus, the garage, the train, the zoo animals. And of course, the kids LOVE it.

Since they've watched it a few times, I've observed a curious, insidious phenomenon: Sean has actually begun playing with all those toys a lot more. As soon as he's done watching the video, he pulls out the train and plays with it. Then he gets the schoolbus and re-enacts a scene he's just watched.

I'm fairly horrified at all this. I've known that kids are easy to manipulate and that marketers exploit this vulnerability all the time. It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to see it played out in your own family room. I consider myself to be pretty media-savvy -- how could I have let my kids succumb to this?

One might reasonably ask the same of the reverse scenario -- when videos inspire toys. I've certainly fallen into that trap: witness the fleet of Thomas the Frickin Tank Engine trains in our house. For some reason, though, I find that less objectionable. Is that just because I've been duped? Is there really no difference? Is the video-first-licensed-product-second just a more ingrained cultural trend?

Yeah. I think I've been duped. But at least my kids don't watch commercial TV, right? I shudder to think how easily my porous-as-a-sponge little boy would suck up all that crap. I don't mean to sound self-righteous, but the kid marketplace is a scary place. I've been wanting to read Juliet Schor's Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. Now seems to be a good time.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 6

It's Isabella's turn this time: "What did you want to be when you grew up?"

Had you asked this question when I was around 5 or 6, I'd have said, "Artist". This based on nothing but whim, apparently, for I didn't then and do not now possess any artistic ability. I think I liked art in theory at that age. Fortunately I seem to have handled the reality of my skills with grace, moving on to...

Nurse. This lasted for a few years when I was in grade school. I admire nurses intensely and wish I had the fortitude and stomach for the profession. But, no. This career goal was pretty short-lived (and I wonder why I chose nurse instead of doctor?).

Then, probably around age 13, I thought it would be cool to work in advertising. I saw myself moving to New York and living a fabulous, creative urban life. Except that I'm not creative. At all.

Writer, then? I did also fancy a writing/journalist career for a while. Writing was something that always came easily to me, and I'd gotten quite a bit of positive feedback for it in high school. But having to talk to actual people and interview them for a living? No way. If you think my aversion to talking to other people is ridiculous now, you should have seen me as a teenager.

So. About my senior year of high school, I decided on a career and field that would suit both my temperament and my abilities: editing and publishing. I know some people stumble into editing, but for me it was a deliberate choice. Since then, I've never really seen myself doing anything else. I've been quite fortunate that I found a job in my field right after college and that my interest in it has not flagged.

Every now and then I toy with the idea of switching careers completely, to something with more, I don't know, social value. For a while I was considering getting a Masters in Public Health; more recently I've wondered about becoming a social worker. Maybe I will change careers someday. For now, though, I like what I do, whether it's done in the context of full-time outside employment or freelancing.

For a smooth seque, I should answer Danigirl's question next. Check back soon for that one!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Twice-Tagged for The Fours

Thanks, Heather and Liesl. I must be among the last people on the Internet to do this.

Four Jobs You've Had:
1. Waitress
2. Data entry lackey at county Board of Elections
3. File clerk at bank
4. Substitute teaching assistant

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:
1. When Harry Met Sally
2. Grosse Pointe Blank
3. The American President
4. Toy Story (since Sean received this movie for Christmas, we've watched it almost every day -- somehow, I am not yet sick of it. That must mean something.)

Four Places You've Lived:
1. Blue collar town in New Jersey
2. Philadelphia
3. Burgeoning suburb in former farmlands of New Jersey
4. Established suburb in New Jersey

Sad, isn't it. I don't even like New Jersey that much.

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch:
1. Lost
2. The West Wing (but not for much longer, apparently)
3. Boston Legal
4. I can't think of a fourth show!

Four of Your Favorite Books:
1. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
2. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
3. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green
4. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Four Places You've Been on Vacation:
1. London
2. Hawaii
3. Charleston, South Carolina
4. Provincetown, Massachusetts

Four Websites You Visit Everyday:
1. My blogroll
2. Yahoo news
3. Weather.com
4. More blogs not on my blogroll because I'm so lazy about updating it

Four of Your Favorite Foods:
1. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
2. Cereal of almost any kind
3. Coconut shrimp
4. Lasagna

Four Places You'd Rather be Right Now:
1. Someplace warm, sunny, and adjacent to crystal blue water
2. Provincetown (if "now" could mean "in the summer")
3. In my bed, snuggled under the covers, reading
4. In my bed, snuggled under the covers, sleeping

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 5

Jennifer wanted to know "To which magazines do you subscribe?"

I'm a somewhat reformed magazine junkie. Right now I subscribe to just two: Newsweek and Brain, Child. That doesn't feel like quite enough, though, especially since the latter comes out just four times a year. In between issues, I have to fill my appetite for thoughtful articles on parenting with blogs. Oh, the sacrifices!

In my heyday, about 2 or 3 years ago, the magazine stacks were perilously high: I subscribed to Newsweek, Parents, Child, Entertainment Weekly, Utne Reader, Mother Jones, and Book. I whittled the prescriptions down one by one for a few reasons. Lack of time, guilt over all that paper accumulating in my house, guilt over my own personal inadequacies (I couldn't read an issue of Utne or Mother Jones without wanting to fling myself from the roof of my consumer-goods-stocked house, and rather than, you know, make myself a better, more progressive person I just turned off the tap), annoyance over the chirpy tone and consumerist focus of the two commercial parenting magazines (hey, I'm entitled to be a bundle of contradictions), and poor business performance (I loved Book magazine and was so disappointed when it folded).

I am feeling the need for another magazine. Any suggestions? (Forget The New Yorker. As much as I'd love it, there's just no way I'd have time to read it.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Arts and Culture, Take One

Now here's a scenario for you:

Say a friend invites you to go to the fancy-pants art museum. With all four of your collective kids in tow, ranging in age from almost-4 to 1. Your response?

a. "Wow. That sounds a little overwhelming. Maybe we could try that when the kids are a little older. How about we go to (local children's museum) instead?"

b. "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? I'd rather pull my fingernails out one by one."

c. "Sure, that sounds like fun! What time shall we meet there?"

Yes, of course, I chose "C". (Let's just leap right from the hypothetical that you knew darn well wasn't hypothetical to what actually happened.) I like to live dangerously, you see.

My trepidation over this excursion was based primarily on well-established precedents with Allie's behavior in public. Sean I wasn't too concerned about, but Allie is often the reason why even trips to the grocery store have to be cut short.

My friend has a membership to the museum, and her son, who is Sean's age, has become quite enamored by the armor and medieval weaponry rooms. So that's where we started our visit, and really where we could have ended it. Sean seemed enthralled by all the shiny metal; I don't think he had any idea what they, or the spears and lances, were for, though. He'd never even seen a weapon of any kind before this, and I had a hard time explaining them both accurately and in a peace-fostering manner. Fortunately, Allie had already tired of her stroller and was raising a fuss, so we couldn't linger.

From then on, at least one of our children made it clear that what we were doing at any given point was suboptimal. Sander was afraid of the dimly lit reconstructed 15th-century temples, Sean was displeased that he wasn't allowed to pick up the small stones that surrounded the tea house, Allie just wanted out of the stroller, now. It turns out that shrieks from a 2-year-old reverberate quite nicely in a museum with lofty ceilings!

After a brief attempt to look at the pretty Impressionist paintings, we surrendered and went to the cafeteria. A cranberry muffin that my kids spit out, some jello for Sander, and all was well with the world. When Sean began pushing the stroller around the cafeteria, proclaiming "Look out! Here comes the trash truck!", I knew it was time to leave. To round out our visit, Sean, umm, aimed poorly in the bathroom. Luckily, I had extra clothes with me (see, every now and then I am a prepared parent!).

I can't say the trip was a complete disaster. The kids behaved like, well, kids; Jen and I both knew that we weren't going to be spending a leisurely morning admiring the artwork! Behavior issues aside, it was a good introduction to a world I know very little about. I'd love to learn about art along with my kids. We may even try the Sunday morning preschooler programs that the museum offers.

And if some day we can enter an exhibit room without the security guards visibly tensing up, so much the better!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 4

Liesl asks "Got any pets, and if so, which are your favorites?"

No pets, alas. Nor any prospects for one.

I love dogs -- just thinking about this question makes me wistful for the dog I had growing up, the sweetest German-shepherd-plus-doofus mix in the world. And I'd really like to adopt a greyhound someday. The only way that would happen, however, would be a change in my marital status from married to single.

Jeff does not do pets. Of any sort. Oh, he claims that he could tolerate some fish, but really, what's the point of that? And I doubt he'd ever willingly accede to even a fish. When we got married I told him that I was willing to overlook this major character flaw, even though it will be ON HIM when we must crush our children's dreams of a pet like so many thin-skinned grapes.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Blogger Playdate

Guess what? Guess what?

I got to meet Amy yesterday!

As some of you probably know, she's visiting her parents on the East Coast, within driving distance, it turns out, of me! Even a high-wind, torrential rain storm did not deter us.

You'd probably infer from her blog that Amy is just wonderful, and she's even more so in person. Funny, down to earth, easy to talk to, and so sweet and gentle with her kids. Also as I suspected, Isaac and Vivian are adorable. AND they eat blueberries and cranberries, willingly, for snacks. As a parent with kids who champion an "all-grain, all-the-time" diet, I find this nothing short of miraculous.

We spent a lovely morning and part of the afternoon hanging out while the kids played. Sean and Isaac really hit it off, and Allie and Vivian played right next to each other with no disputes at all! Once we moved from the basement/playroom to the upstairs, though, Allie's gold star for behavior became tarnished as she ran completely amuck through Amy's parents' house. For better or worse, that is my girl. Still, even with a kid:child ratio of 4:2, we did manage to keep the chaos to a minimum.

It was so cool to meet one of my favorite bloggers in person. Such a shame we live on opposite sides of the country! Though I guess we'll always have Delaware.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 3

Nancy wants to know: If and when you get a chance to read the newspaper, in what order do you read the sections/articles?

First off, I love newspapers. If we ever move to electronic-only delivery of news I will weep bitterly. For me, the material medium matters. The sheer tactile and visual pleasure of spreading out the paper on my kitchen table and reading it while I eat my breakfast? Words can't describe. Or at least a writer with my limited ability to wax both metaphorically and non-tritely can't.

Now, on to my more or less systematic approach to the content. I scan the front page first, and take one or more of the following actions upon reading the headlines: quake with anger, roll my eyes in disgust, mutter under my breath, or pontificate out loud. And then I promptly set aside the hard news for the fluff. Yep, I dive right into the lifestyle/entertainment section. Must-read stops along the way include the gossip column, the advice column, health and science columns, and comics. Those are always last, and I must read them in a certain order (from least favorite to most favorite). The last two I read are Boondocks and For Better or For Worse.

(I can't believe I revealed the preceding paragraph to the great big Internet. Ah, well. It's not like I had a reputation for trenchant commentary on current events.)

Having sated my lust for pop culture minutiae, I skip lightly among the local news section (starting with the columnists), the business section, and, finally, the main section. I admit that I do not always read the national or the international news in depth -- sometimes the headline scanning that I do initially is the extent of my important-news consumption. It depends on how gloomy I'm already feeling that day.

To make the product and process seem that much more ephemeral, I toss the whole thing in the recycling bin at the end of the day and start over again the next.

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part 2

Corndog asked:

1) Why Mimilou?

2) Drummer jokes?

3) Pineapple on pizza - nummy Hawaiian delight or topping from Hell?

1. Ah, yes, why Mimilou? It's an underwhelming story. When I started my blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I originally called it Ephemera, and for reasons unknown I decided to give the URL a different name. After extensive deliberations (lasting about 60 seconds), I chose Mimilou for the URL. The name is an amalgamation of two of Allie's babyhood nicknames: "Mimi" is short for "Screaming Mimi", so-called because Allie had colic and for 3 months spent the hours from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. every single night screaming her head off. "Lou" is from "Chickie Lou," which I believe my sister Kathie came up with.

A few days later, I decided that it would be less confusing for readers if my blogname and URL were the same thing. I know, the hubris! I had two readers (my husband and my mom) for about 5 months because I told no one about the blog, I didn't comment on anyone else's blog, and I didn't list my blog in any directories. This may prompt the entirely valid question of why I even bothered, but given my own personal inadequacy shtick (copyright 2005 by Phantom Scribbler) it's not too surprising.

Anyway, that's why Mimilou is called Mimilou.

2. I don't know any drummer jokes! However, if you want to see some sparks fly, you should see Jeff's reaction when his brother, a trumpet player, makes some disparaging comments about drummers not being real musicians.

3. There is only one type of pizza for my laughably limited palate: plain. No pepperoni, no sausage, no mushrooms, no peppers, no broccoli, and absolutely NO PINEAPPLE. But I'm weird that way.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Noncompetitive, Till I Win the Game

Even with our company, this was a pretty low-key weekend. Not that this is a bad thing. Most memorable moment: two rousing rounds of the music version of Scene It (a DVD-based trivia game). Jeff and I totally.wiped.the.floor with our competition. Between the two of us, it seems we possess an embarrassing amount of useless pop-music knowledge.

I'm not a competitive person, but even I am amazed at the spirit of giving that Jeff's little sister Jamie shows during games. She's always helping out the other teams, even if it's to the detriment of her own. This does not always make her the most popular person in the room.

To wit: Jeff's parents were in third place, and benevolent Jamie decided to give them a little assistance. One trivia question's answer was The Doors. As Jeff's parents were tossing out incorrect answers before the timer went off, Jamie whispered loudly "Ding dong! Ding dong!" Jeff's dad picked up on the clue and answered "Oh! The Doors!" The other game players promptly dismissed that answer and contemplated removing Jamie's question-reading privileges. When Eric Clapton was the answer to another question, Jamie's clue, much more blatant this time, was "His son died when he fell out a window." Blatant but ineffective -- they still didn't get it. Thus solidifying Jeff's and my formidable lead.

I think next time we may not be allowed to be on the same team together.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Looks Like I've Got Some Homework To Do!

Wow! You guys sure know how to keep a girl busy. Thanks so much for the terrific questions. At this rate I won't have to come up with a topic of my own for at least a week.

Since we're having visitors this weekend (Jeff's parents and sisters), I'll answer an easy one now. The rest, alas, must wait till next week.

Suzan (Hey! So good to hear from you!) asked: "Chunky peanut butter or smooth?"

Smooth, definitely. I suppose that I am not fundamentally opposed to chunky peanut butter, but I just can't imagine introducing a new texture to my beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The one concession to change I've made in the past few years is a switch to natural peanut butter. Talk about an adjustment period. I love sugar-laden commercial peanut butter, oh yes I do. But with time even a sugarholic like myself was able to get used to the natural stuff.


Well, the house is clean at last (thank goodness my in-laws visit frequently; how else would we be sufficiently motivated to clean every room?), and I am heading off to bed. Have a good weekend!

An Exchange Over Breakfast, and Reader Participation

Allie trod on my foot in an eager dash toward her highchair this morning.

"I sorry, Mommy. I stepped on your foot."

"That's okay, Sweetie."

"It's okay. You can get a new one!"

"Oh, really?"

"Yes! For your birfday!"


I am running low on inspiration for blog topics. Since I know a good idea when I see one, I'm unabashedly copying a request I saw in one of Chichimama's posts from awhile back: Ask me a question, any question. Anything you want to know about me? I mean, there are things you want to know, right? Other than, of course, "Why can't you come up with your own darn content?"

Interrogate away!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This Post Has No Real Reason for Being

I had every intention of working tonight. But since one of the more junior members of the household apparently absconded with my pica ruler to points unknown and is currently unavailable for questioning, here I am.

So. Dum dee dum dee dum. (In case you're wondering, the preceding interlude should be read with the inflection of Peter Gabriel in "I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)".)

Oh, I know! An anecdote to tide us over till a real topic strikes me.

I took down all the Christmas decorations today. I always find this to be a dispiriting yet emotionally null process, best accomplished with ruthless efficiency. Sean made the job marginally more fun by taking several ornaments and concocting elaborate play scenarios for them. I couldn't quite follow it all, but some of the ornaments lived in a tin, others tried knocking on the "door" of the tin, climbed the wall of the tine, fell inside the tin, and played hockey with the ornaments in the tin. Or something like that.

He also rediscovered our R2D2 ornament. Oh, yes, we really do have one. And a Millenium Falcon ornament that lights up. (Each year Jeff expresses hurt feelings over the fact that these ornaments wind up in less-than-conspicuous parts of the tree.) Sean has never seen Star Wars or played with any of the Official Licensed Products, but I fear those innocent days may be ending. He LOVES this ornament.

After Jeff came home from work, he showed Sean some Internet photos of R2D2, along with sound clips so Sean could hear R2D2's beeps. I think Sean was a little disappointed over R2D2's mode of communication. "But can you make him TALK, Daddy?"

All the while, Allie was hovering next to the computer, chirping "Is that Me-Too-Me-Too, Daddy? Does Me-Too-Me-Too talk, Daddy? I want to see Me-Too-Me-Too!"

As Sean was falling asleep, he turned to me and said, "Well, as you know, Mommy, I really like R2D2."

There you go, George Lucas. Another convert.

Monday, January 09, 2006

De-Lurking Week Is Here!

Sheryl at Papernapkin hath decreed it, and thus it shall be: It's National De-Lurking Week! Once a single-day affair, now a week-long festivity.

So if you lurk, I'd love to hear from you. Just say hi! Or tell me how you find my site. Or anything, really!

I'll be screwing up my courage, too, and de-lurking on sites on which I am the most passive of participants.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


(Or: Neil Peart, Watch Out)

After a 1.5-year hiatus, we are once again a fully functioning percussionist household.

When our basement flooded in July 2004, we had to have it re-finished, a project that just wrapped up last week. ("Had to"? Well, perhaps not. "Really, really wanted to"? Yeah.) Among other things, this meant that Jeff has not been able to play the drums in over a year and a half. And that I've had drum cases in my bedroom for 17 months too long.

He missed drumming, to put it mildly. But tonight, joy of joys, the basement walls vibrated once again. The drums are back.

So it's going to be a little LOUD around here. And although I tend to like quiet-as-a-church mouse decibel levels, I am thrilled that Jeff is finally able to play again. I think he's a terrific drummer; I love watching him. I'm in such awe of anyone whose two hands and two feet can do four different things simultaneously!

Jeff's fan club has also grown by two: When Jeff started playing this evening, Sean literally jumped up and down. "Look at him GO!" he shouted. I hate to use this cliché, but his eyes were actually sparkling. Allie seemed both overwhelmed and excited by the noise.

Sean couldn’t wait to take his turn on the drum seat (excuse me, "throne," as Jeff tells me it's called). Oh, the banging that ensued! The glorious banging! The kids' dinky plastic drum is one thing, this wine-red well-stocked set quite another.

Allie took her turn next. Jeff's hands enveloped Allie's small ones, guiding the sticks over the drums -- the result a more gentle sound than Sean's Animal impersonation.

I think it's pretty cool that the three of them will have this musical touchstone to share. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Sean or Allie decides to take lessons someday. It seems to be a family tradition -- Jeff's grandfather also played the drums (professionally, even).

My role in all this? To flick the basement light switch if I need someone's attention.

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Year's Blahs

I haven't seriously made any New Year's resolutions in a long time. I don't seem to have the tenacity to follow through with any of them, so I've learned that the best strategy is simply to bumble along with life. I see self-improvement as a fluid, lifelong process anyway.

Still, this year I've been taking stock of this stretch of my life and have come up with a list of things I'd like to do or do better. They are so breathtakingly pedestrian that I can't believe I'm sharing them: eat better; exercise (sadly, I can't even put "more" after that because were it not for chasing after the kids my muscles would be atrophying); be a more patient and creative parent; increase my charitable contributions; organize and pare down all the crap under which the foundations of our house will surely crumble…

We shall see. I've been feeling so melancholy lately that any effort toward improvement seems unrealistic. This bothers me quite a bit because there is no earthly reason for my feeling this way. Everything in my life bespeaks my incredibly good fortune.

Is it seasonal? I do hate winter, with its endless gray and chill. Or is it just that I'm whiny in general? Often, my response to my "woe is me " propensity is simply to read the newspaper. A quick glance at the headlines confirms that I have nothing, and I mean nothing, to legitimately complain about. These reality checks definitely curb my whining, but they also do little to propel me to action. I feel small and hopeless in the face of so much human suffering, and other than writing a check my tendency is to hide from it all. Which, of course, fuels my glum attitude.

I even feel guilty for writing this post because I think it indicates just how small-minded and provincial I am. I don't suppose that's a startling revelation to anyone who reads my blog, though.

There's no hope for any semblance of a conclusion to this post because Sean and Allie are now screaming at each other over who gets to play with the pillows on my bed. Best go tend to that escalating conflict, instead of say, reading about the conflict in the Congo.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

More Random Linguistic Cuteness

Setting: Just ended a cell phone call to my sister.

Allie: Who you talking to, Mommy?

Me: Aunt Kathie

Allie: You call her on your cellaphone?


Setting: One of our seemingly endless Christmas song marathons.

Sean: Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to slay...

Which puts a whole new spin on the Santa myth.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to Normalcy

Well, that was a busy week or so! We got home last night after a rain-drenched but otherwise uneventful drive back from Jeff's parents. Now it's time to resume our regularly scheduled life. The perfect way to so is to be late for preschool because the child who is not actually attending preschool refuses to put on her shoes. Try it sometime!

A few days after Christmas, visitors from the North arrived -- my sister and her family. We didn't do too much except eat and enjoy each other's company. Sean and his cousin Jeremy, who's 8, bonded a bit more like Crazy Glue than perhaps Jeremy would have liked, but he was a terrific sport in response to Sean's constant chatter and demand for his company. And Emily, 11, is both growing up (as evidenced by periodic retreats to a private world hosted by her new MP3 Player) and still a child who likes to play with her little cousins.

Which brings me to the Furbies, the unofficial mascots of the visit. Have you seen these toys? They look like the un-demonic Gremlins, and they can respond to a limited set of spoken commands. At any given time, you'd see one of us, children and adults alike (sometimes with not a child in the vicinity), hunched next to one of Emily and Jeremy's Furbies, saying things like "Hey Furbie! Sing me a song" or "Hey Furbie! Are you hungry?" Completely ridiculous, and addictive.

We all exchanged presents one sublimely chaotic evening. I can't remember the last time we were all under the same roof at once -- my mom, my sisters and I, our spouses, and all our children. We also celebrated my nephew Gary's 25th birthday. Gary's a pretty stoic young man, and even he was visibly moved by having all his family there to sing Happy Birthday to him.

It was heavenly.

But that wasn't the only nearly unprecedented event. The next night, Beth, Kathie, and I went out. By ourselves! Hard as it may be to believe, we’d never done that before. Age and geographic distances can conspire against you in that regard, I suppose.

We all went ice skating at an outdoor rink next to a river. I tend to dislike both the cold and physical activity, but it was so much fun! Even after I fell not once but twice. Oh yes, I, the Graceless Wonder, wiped out spectacularly. The first time backwards, the second time forward. My tailbone is still smarting. Ego seems to have mended itself nicely.

If I had more time and were in a slightly more introspective mood, I'd expound about the symbolism of my sisters helping me up from my first fall. Here's the short version, though: One on either side of me, solicitous and kind and caring. As they have always been throughout my life.

Beth and Jo-Ann's visit seemed too short. As they pulled out of our driveway, Allie was sobbing at the front door: "I don't want them to go! Come back!" That summed it up for me, too.

In the previous post, I suppose I committed myself to a photo gallery, huh? Well, here's a small one!