Monday, February 27, 2006

Also Not Really Cute, At All

"But I just wanted to taste them, Mommy!"

Cute/Not Cute


Sean: "Mommy, did you know John is my best friend? When he comes over my house, I'm going to tell him he's my best friend and that Daddy is my best friend also. And I'm going to show him how I do a somersault."

Allie: "Mommy, Leroy is MY best friend" (Leroy is our neighbor's dog. Allie has never actually met him -- just seen and heard his raucous, incessant barking.)


Allie, offering me a plastic teacup and saucer: "Mommy, do you want some tea party?"


(Preface: We went to McDonald's last week, not to eat but to play at the indoor playground. Sadly, this has made an impression.)

Me: We're going to the diner for breakfast tomorrow.
(Next day) Sean: Oh, wow, we're going to McDiner for breakfast today!

Not Cute

...After a mighty struggle to get pajamas on, taking both the pajamas and the diaper off and running around the upstairs, shrieking "I don't WANT jammas on! I want to go HOME!"

Definitely, Positively, Absolutely Not Cute

Scribbling all over the LCD monitor with purple crayon.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, Part Something or Other

Whew! Good thing my Internet deprivation lasted but a short time. Any longer and I might have actually taken up knitting or something.

I still owe you some answers, huh? Today we call on the lovely Gina. What's your question, dear? Oh, right:

Using the complete works of Charles Dickens as a resource, how do you feel about the rise of the miliary-industrial complex in post WWII America? OK, well, if that is just a bit too involved, how about one of your proudest moments? (excluding the births of your children)

Well, Miss Smarty Pants, I COULD answer the first question if I really wanted to. Since we all know I'm the lazy sort, though, let's skip to the second.

I have two moments to share -- one professional and one personal. Neither is particularly noteworthy, but what can I say? I live a quiet life.

In 1995, my boss, mentor, and very close friend died of a heart attack while jogging in the early morning hours before work. He was 41.

In addition to dealing with my deep grief I was also thrust into a tumultuous situation at work. Our staff was already smarting from the burden caused by two unfilled positions; now, it was essentially up to me, another editor who had even less experience than I, and one brand-new editorial assistant to sustain the editing and production of our twice-monthly journal.

I had only the most tenuous grasp of how to do my boss's job. I knew I needed to assume a leadership position -- something I'd never done before and was quite scared of. Somehow, the three of us managed to keep everything afloat for 6 months, until a new managing editor was hired. We missed no deadlines and made few mistakes; no readers or authors would ever know how flimsy the operation of the journal was for a while. I'd never worked so hard or put in so many hours at work. And mourning all the while.

The next year I had another chance to face down a fear. On our honeymoon in Hawaii, Jeff and I decided to visit Haleakala, a dormant volcano on Maui. At sunrise. And then ride bikes down the mountain.

Which would have been utterly delightful were I not completely terrified of heights. Even while gingerly gazing out a window of a tall building, my stomach churns and I'm beset by dizziness. Why I thought a bike ride down a freaking 10,000-foot-high mountain would be an enjoyable part of our honeymoon itinerary is to this day still unclear.

Not to mention the fact that we'd have to get up at 3:00 a.m.

Watching the sun rise across the crater of the volcano was truly awe-inspiring.

I couldn't really enjoy it, though, since I was in the throes of a near-panic attack over the bike ride looming ahead of me. I even contemplated asking the tour guide if I could ride back down the mountain in the van in which we drove up.

But I persevered. I was the second in the line of bikers, right after the guide (Jeff was at the end, of no help to me once we started). I tried to look only at the switch-backing road in front of me instead of at the precipice to my side. I said to myself, "It's never going to be any higher than this; from now on it's only going to get lower."

I didn't hyperventilate, I didn't crash, I didn't fall over the side. I did, however, ride so slowly at some points that the guide had to pull us all over for the express purpose of telling me to stop braking so much.

Once we got closer to the ground I was much happier.

I'm still afraid of heights, and I'd never attempt that bike ride again. But I'm pleased with myself for not backing out of a scary situation.

(Hey, I told you I lived a quiet life!)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Technical Difficulties

Can you see me twitching? That's the withdrawal symptoms kicking in.

My Internet access is currently not accessible. I've yet to have a chance to sort it out; if all goes well I'll have some time later today. Right now I'm stealing a few moments and DSL time at my mom's -- she is away for a few days, and my sister and I are splitting checking-on-the-cat duty.

Be back soon, I hope!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Riddle Me This

How many times must I say "Please do not take toys from your sister without asking her if you may have them" before the male child might actually LISTEN?

It's beginning to dawn on me that the answer is "you can't count that high."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Answer Key

I won't hold you in suspense any longer. Here are the answers to Sunday's quiz.

1. Uh oh Chongo! From Danger Island, one of the mini-shows that ran on The Banana Splits.
2. And now time for a very short book. From The Electric Company, whose availability on DVD brings me great joy.
3. Would you be mine, could you be mine? From Mister Roger's Neigborhood, of course.
4. Zoinks! From Scooby Doo, before the shark-jumped Scrappy Doo era.
5. Tune in next time for the continuing story of a quack who's gone to the dogs. From The Muppet Show.
6. The ladybug 12 at the ladybug picnic… From Sesame Street.
7. Send today, send right away… From Captain Noah; perhaps it was unfair to include this since apparently it was broadcast only in the Philadelphia area.
8. Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition… From The Land of the Lost. Amazing that Chaka and the good Sleestack guy knew how to speak English.
9. Nuthin' up my sleeve … Presto! From Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of my all-time favorite kids' shows.
10. Let me tell you a tale, a very scary tale about two boys who went surfing one day… From Sigmund and the Seamonsters. Quite a relief that the little boy from Family Affair found gainful employment for a little while.
11. They learn with their friend Doug; I'm his helper, Emmy Jo… From New Zoo Revue. I totally wanted Emmy Jo's white go-go boots.
12. Come on give it a try, we're gonna teach you to fly high… From Zoom. I was besotted with those kids, their striped rugby shirts, their rope bracelets and shoelessness.
13. He is a boy, a very special boy, powered by propeller shoes… Marine Boy. Turns out this is one of the first shows using anime. For me, the show was all about the mermaid and her crystal ball.
14. Guitars, and sharps and flats… Josie and the Pussycats. (Can you sing the song now?)
15. Well you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true… Simon and the Land of Chalk Drawings, as seen on Captain Kangaroo. (Jennifer, I think your lyrics are correct; I sang them to myself as I read your comment.)

Bonus: Lori and Judy dare to face any criminal anywhere… From ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, an apparently extremely short-lived Saturday morning show featuring a young Deirdre Hall. I loved this show and wanted to be DynaGirl in the worst way.

There you go! Do any of the ones that no one answered now ring a bell?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Oh, How I Wish

Allie saw this little photo on the computer today. "Look! It's Mommy and Daddy!"

Umm, not exactly. But how nice that at least someone sees a striking resemblance!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sharpen Your Pencils

For your weekend dose of Mimilou, I thought I'd try something different. I've shamelessly stolen this idea from Overread and his fabulous music quizzes. Instead of popular music, I've written a quiz designed to pluck the nostalgia strings for those you who watched too much children's TV in the '70s.

Not that I did. No siree. I just read all the time.

So. See if you can identify the TV show for each item. The phrase might be a catchline in the show or part of the show's themesong. Some are probably really easy; others perhaps less so. I'll impose one of Overread's rules: no Googling allowed! (Of course I trust you all completely.) And it might be fun if you wrote down your answers without reading other responses first -- that is, if anyone actually takes the plunge. Somebody humor me, 'kay?

(For my Canadian friends, I apologize in advance if some of these shows weren't actually shown in Canada.)

1. Uh oh Chongo!
2. And now time for a very short book.
3. Would you be mine, could you be mine?
4. Zoinks!
5. Tune in next time for the continuing story of a quack who's gone to the dogs.
6. The ladybug 12 at the ladybug picnic…
7. Send today, send right away…
8. Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition…
9. Nuthin' up my sleeve … Presto!
10. Let me tell you a tale, a very scary tale about two boys who went surfing one day…
11. They learn with their friend Doug; I'm his helper, Emmy Jo…
12. Come on give it a try, we're gonna teach you to fly high…
13. He is a boy, a very special boy, powered by propeller shoes…
14. Guitars, and sharps and flats…
15. Well you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true…

Bonus: Lori and Judy dare to face any criminal anywhere…

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Questionable Parenting Decisions

Yesterday included a few particularly cringe-inducing decisions.

1. To save my sanity from yet another viewing of Toy Story, I could have simply suggested watching another video we already own. I could have, gasp, suggested playing a game or doing something, you know, active. What did I do instead? I purchased Toy Story 2. Wait, it gets better. Midway through the movie, Sean starts crying; he tells me that he doesn't like the movie. Further prodding reveals that he's frightened of the Emperor Zurg character (who was only mentioned in the first movie). End of movie. Back to Toy Story 1.

2. At dinner time, you may have overheard one clearly desperate mother cajole her children with this unsanctioned-by-the-experts statement: "You can have a piece of Valentine's candy if you eat some fruit with your dinner" (vegetables are never an option unless they're buried in a muffin somehow). Yep, there I was, fortifying the foundation for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits. But you know what? It worked.

And look, it's only the morning of the next day. An entire day in which to make additional ill-considered decisions! Ahh, life and its endless possibilities.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Someone Shared the Love

Hey! Somebody out there must like me just a little bit -- I've been nominated under two categories in the One Woman's World Share the Love Blog Awards. Thanks so much to whomever it was; you must have intuited that I've been feeling like a little speck in the blogosphere lately!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This One's for Archival Purposes

Games the kids like to play:

I Spy: Sean is pretty good, but Allie just doesn't quite get it. "I spy with my little eye … something that is THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE!" or "I spy … something that is blue." And then, after we've exhausted every possible blue item in the room, we ask her what she spied: "I don't know…. I mean, something that is GREEN!"

Simon Says: Oh, how Allie loves this game. Her face lights up with each command. Particular favorites are "Simon says jump" and "Simon says fly like an airplane" (we all run around the house with our arms outstretched). Mommy's favorite is "Simon says go to sleep" -- we get blankets and snuggle on the couch, making loud snoring noises.

Huckle-Buckle Beanstalk (hide an object and have the kids try to find it): Again, Sean has gotten the hang of this, although he does tend to choose the same hiding space over and over again, but Allie is still a little young. The best part is hearing her say "hucky bucky beanstalk".

Hide and seek: Sean gets so excited when it's his turn to hide that he bursts out of the hiding space as soon as he hears my footsteps: "Here I am!" Always followed by a huge hug. And Allie tags along after Sean, usually not even bothering to hide but rather serving as a beacon to the general hiding area.

Train game: This is one they created themselves. They clear out every blessed piece of cookware in a few kitchen cabinets and wedge themselves in. "Bye, Mommy. We're going to Germany." (It's always Germany.) They have appropriated some of Jeff's business cards as train tickets, although instead of using them for themselves they distribute them to Jeff and me. Once we have our tickets, they can go on their trip. Game ends when they try to fit into the same cabinet and tensions erupt over the too-close quarters.

Playdough smash: We've made some ourselves (great fun!) and use the commercial kind (I love that smell). Sean creates a mound out of the playdough and smashes his trains into it. Other trains come along to rescue the train that's stuck. Simple but apparently quite engaging -- he can play this game for literally an entire hour. The only participation required of me is to supply voices from time to time: "Okay, Mommy. Now you say 'Gordon, you are a MESS!' Now say 'You can pull him out, Percy!'"

What are your kids' favorite games?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Rambling On...

I was going to write a proper, even topical, post tonight, but then Amy went and wrote it for me. Unbeknownst to each other, Amy and I must have been in a Valentine's Day mind meld.

So. Instead, I think I might forsake you all tonight. Jeff is out of town (again), the kids are asleep, and I will indulge in an old indulgence -- reading material that does not generate its own light source. A book, in other words. Woo-hoo! And if I can ever finish plowing through its somewhat turgid prose, I'll let you know how it is.

And, speaking of indulgences, I've jumped on the Johari Window bandwagon that I've been seeing. It's one of those personality-type thingies, this time with audience participation. Here's your chance to let me know just what types of attributes you'd ascribe to me. (And, no, I checked -- "Desperate for external validation" isn't one of them.) Happy clicking!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Blogging for Annika

I'm a bit of a johnny come lately on blogging about this, but on the off chance you haven't heard, here's my bit: At age 5, Moreena's daughter Annika has already undergone two liver transplants. And now a third one is looming on the horizon. And their health insurance unexpectedly expired.

Moreena and her husband will be setting up an account with the Children's Organ Transplant Association. If you're interested, Phantom Scribbler and Andrea are organizing a fundraiser. Andrea's volunteered room on her site to serve as a clearinghouse; I'll be putting a button on my sidebar, too.

I've been following, quietly, Annika's story for a few months now. I've cried more than a few times -- it's heartbreaking. And Moreena's writing is so graceful and thoughtful, it just blows me away. If you haven't read her blog, please stop by. And help if you can.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Allie Goes for a Car Ride

Setting the scene: Allie and I have already staged the Great Shoe Battle and the I Must Put My Own Coat On, Don't Tell ME It's on Upside Down Conflict, and participated in the newest track and field event, "Run around the Yard While Mommy Chases You." Not yet had our fill of drama, we've also squared off in a round of Carseat Détente.

Okay, now we're on our merry way.

"Mommy, is dat ice cream store open?"
"Why those kids getting ice cream cones?" (Yes, it's February. I wouldn't want ice cream cones, either.)
"Where the ice cream truck? Is it sleeping in the garage?"
"Why we stopped? Mommy, Go!"
"Go, Mommy!"
"Why that car carrier carrying a truck?"
"Oh, it's a TOW truck?"
"Go, Mommy!"
"Oh. Why is dat light red?"
"Mommy, can you sing Wheels on the Bus and Twinkle Little Star and Thomas and Bob the Builder and Wheels on the Bus and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and ABCs and Baba Blacksheep and Wheels on the Bus?"
"No, no, no! The horn on the bus goes honk AND BEEP!!!"
"No! Not 'driver on the bus'! Do 'lights on the bus!'"
"No, Sean, don't sing ABCs! Sing Wheels on the Bus!"
"The sun! The sun! AAAAHHHH!!"
"Sun! Get out of my car, sun!"
"I don't WANNA close my eyes. Make sun go away!"
"Okay, now I sing. 'They two they four they six they eight, shunting trucks and haulding freight…"

Seven minutes down, ten to go…

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Answers . . .Part 9

Chichimama posed a thought-provoking question: "What preconceived notions that you may have had about being a parent/your parenting style have proven to be accurate or inaccurate?"

I had all sorts of ideas about what type of parent I'd be: kind, loving, tolerant, patient, polite, slow to anger, empathetic. . . A lot of these characteristics have held up to the rigors of product testing. But others, perhaps not so much. I wrote a post last year describing something I am, unfortunately, still struggling with: patience. This paragraph kind of sums up a pre-child theory that hasn't really been borne out by the evidence:
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.

I'm still working on this. Maybe I will always need to work on this.

As for what's proven to be accurate -- well, I think I am kind and loving. But even though I knew I would love my children, but I had no idea how much. I don't think there are words to describe this deep, passionate, consuming love. It's more powerful than anything I'd ever experienced before. Which makes my impatience with them all the more vexing to me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Appearances to the Contrary, Did You Know I'm Still 15?

I may have mentioned that my sister watches Sean and Allie on the 1.5 days a week that I work. She also watches a few other children. One of these, through a very strange coincidence, is the daughter of someone I went to high school with.

Have I also mentioned that I was quite a geek throughout school, always on the social fringes? If not, I bet it comes as no surprise. This girl (woman, now, of course) was the complete opposite -- beautiful, athletic, popular, and (whispering) not very nice. Not to me in particular but just in general. I was too faint a blip on the radar to even warrant attention.

Of course, Allie and her daughter are, like, best friends. Who'd have thought?

So yesterday, I had a lot of work to do and wound up not getting a chance to shower before leaving to pick up the kids. I looked like a complete slob -- sweatpants, sweatshirt, no makeup, frizzy, misshapen hair. And I was running late, slated to arrive at my sister's just at the time a certain other parent might be picking up her child.

Who cares, you say? Why does it matter after all this time? I'm an adult, way beyond the pettiness of high school? Well, re-read the title of this post. At the core I am some ways still that insecure.

After panicking a bit in the car ride, I came up with a plan to escape unseen. I assumed that I'd get there first. If she arrived while I was still there, I'd just dart upstairs to have an impromptu chat with my nephew Ryan (who was probably going to be at wrestling practice, but that's not information everyone need be privy to). Then I'd come back downstairs after she left. Perfect!

Now, the anticlimactic ending: I picked up the kids and left, encounter-less. (Disappointing from a compelling-narrative perspective, but a huge relief in real life.)

I am shaking my head as I type this -- how could I have come so far in life, have so many things to be proud of, and still feel like a teenager? At least I've learned one lesson: when I'm going to be late picking the kids up, I'll at least put jeans on.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Y'All Are So Wise, and Another Dip into the Reader Mailbag

Thanks so much for all the words of encouragement and support on my whiny post! It was just what I needed to re-gain some clarity about parenting and life and stuff.

Since I am a little pressed for time today, I'll take advantage of my ready-made blogging fodder and answer another question.

From Rachel: What is the first book you remember loving (whether you could read it to yourself or not)?

Great question! For me, it's Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever. I spent innumerable hours poring over this book and listening to my mom and sisters read it to me. It consists of a zillion little stories and illustrations, all of which seem to have been burned into my brain. This is also the first book I read by myself (age 3 or early 4) -- I distinctly remember sitting on the couch, no adult in the vicinity, and painstakingly reading a one-page story. I still recall that feeling of triumph.

I still have my copy of the book, and my sister Beth also bought Sean and Allie their own copy this Christmas. Sean has taken to the book, too, and after getting over the excitement of introducing him to this beloved text, I have to admit being a little disappointed over the quality of the stories. The illustrations are still adorable, but the writing? Blechh. "Pedestrian" is the kindest adjective I can come up with. Oh well. I realize now that it's the images that really stood out for me. In fact, they are as comforting to me now as they were when I was a child.

When Sean and Allie are older, I'll be eager to hear how they answer this question!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Move Along, Nothing to See Here Except Some Prodigious Self-Pity

Did you ever find yourself reading a post on someone's blog and have the stunning realization that you are complete failure as a parent?

I'm probably just overly sensitive for myriad reasons. Still. Here's what happened. Rebecca wrote a lovely, charming post about her a grocery list her daughter wrote with her dad's help. It's adorable -- Rebecca posted a picture of it.

And so, with my own particular brand of pathologic solipsizing, my heart sank. Her daughter just turned four; she's a little older than Sean. And she can write all the letters needed to form a grocery list. Sean can write, with help, his name. That's it.

I'm not sure why this glaring discrepancy in ability has brought all of my inadequacies as a parent into such sharp relief, but I've found myself in a bit of a funk over it. If I were a better teacher, he'd know how to write every single letter. And his numbers. And he wouldn’t still get confused between a lowercase "n" and a lowercase "u." And he'd be able to draw something, anything, that resembles a real-life object. With a great deal of prompting he can draw a face, but he loses interest after one rendition. Then it's back to scribbling.

And I'm sure if I were a more diligent dietitian or more enthusiastic cook, Sean would eat more than four foods. He'd have a better complexion and not have that bleached out, translucent look of someone who's never been exposed to the sun.

I'm sure Allie would know her colors if I were more persistent in teaching her.

They'd be happier, smarter, and more engaged if I spent a lot more one-on-one time with them. If I could use my imagination better. If I were more patient. More organized. More industrious. Less lazy. My kids would have more friends if I weren't such a loser and could be more sociable.

I know I should be looking, instead, at all the wonderful things that my children can do. I'm not sure why I don't focus on the good instead of heaping blame upon myself for the negative. It's not productive, I realize. And certainly sounds self-pitying at best. Sorry about that -- maybe some posts should just stay in my head.