Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I don't spend much time reading the comments on YouTube. My impression is that, unlike the blogs and blog comments I read, the level of discourse in those comment threads is slightly shy of elevated.

If you've ever shaken your head even just a bit over those comments, you'll appreciate this post at Defective Yeti. Hilarious.

(Thanks to Veronica at Toddled Dredge for the link.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Last Saturday I introduced Sean and Allie to Harry Potter. It was hard to avoid; after I had paced about the house and then pounced on the UPS delivery guy, some explanation was in order.

"So what is Harry Potter all about?" Sean asked after I told him why I was so excited about the package in my hand.

I sketched out the basic storyline, leaving out all sorts of crucial details.

"So Voldey More is a bad wizard?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, very bad."

"Is THIS Voldey More?" Allie asked, pointing to the back cover of the book. "Why does have green hands?"

"Umm, well. He kind of looks like a snake, don't you think?" I said.

I even showed them the bookshelf where all the Harry Potter books live. I think they were very impressed at the sheer shelf real estate devoted to them.

Throughout the day, the kids checked in on my progress.

"So what's going on with Harry Potter, Mom?" Sean asked at one point. "How does it end?"

"Well, Harry is still battling Voldemort, but I'm not finished the book yet."

Allie lifted the book from my lap impatiently. Her demeanor was that of a very smart person who is forced to deal with someone exceedingly dim-witted. "Look, I'll show you the end." She flipped, flipped, flipped through the pages, then turned the book over and pulled off the dust jacked. Pointing to Voldemort's face, she said, "THIS is what happens at the end of the book!"

(As it turns out, she wasn't far off!)

When I did finish the book, Sean again asked me what happened. I didn't tell him.

"I want to share this book with you when you're older, and if I tell you what happens now you won't be surprised. One of the best parts about reading these books is figuring out the mysteries as you go along. I never wanted someone to tell me what happened next."

Since then, we've seen Harry Potter everywhere we go. "There he is AGAIN!" Allie said at the book store, at the library, at the grocery store, and at the pharmacy.

I can't wait to read the books to them, but I wish that they could have experienced Potter mania in real time. I wonder if they will ever get a chance to experience a book phenomenon like this during their childhood. I kind of doubt it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Mom Behind the Curtain

Some days I sense a possible gap between my perceived credibility as an authority figure and the image my children have of me.

In my mind, I envision myself as a great big disembodied head shouting "The Great and Terrible Oz has spoken" amidst shooting flames.

Whereas my kids see a wimpy magician from Kansas who fiddles with knobs behind the curtain and fools no one.

How did they detect my secret identity so readily?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Catching Up

So, hi, how are ya?

I hadn't realized that a whole week has passed since my last post. It's been a fun week, at least:

The Blogger Meet-ups

Plural, did you see that? I got to see Liesl (and meet her adorable new baby) on Monday, and on Thursday I ventured northward to see Chichimama and Kate. I love meeting blog friends in person!

The Concert

Not plural, but that's okay. Jeff and I saw the Police this past week as well. Fabulous, and not even after adjustment for the average age of the band members (59).

The Books

When was the last time I could pluralize that word in reference to what I read in the span of a week? I did decide the finish The Post-Birthday World. The desire to find out what happened with each storyline won out over my annoyance with all the characters.

Oh, and that other book? Finished it yesterday despite the intrusions of those pesky kids of mine. Quick assessment: I recognize its flaws, but liked it very much anyway. And now feel oddly bereft at the prospect of no more Harry Potter to look forward to.

The Ballgame

Minor league baseball is so much cheaper than the major league! And much cheesier, but, to use my sister-in-law's favorite phrase, you'll have that. It helps that our team, losing the entire game, won in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run homerun.

So there you have it. My Not-So-Boring Week in a Boring Nutshell. Now, what shall we do on this rainy Monday?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To Proceed or Not To Proceed

I am about midway through The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. I found her previous novel, We Need to Talk about Kevin, fascinating; her newest book seemed similarly intriguing. The premise is a bit of a literary parlor trick: The protagonist, Irina, is in a long-term, comfortable, but unexciting relationship. Every year she and her husband dine with another couple, Jude and Ramsey, to celebrate Ramsey's birthday. One year, the year after the other couple have split up, she finds herself dining alone with Ramsey. And follows him home. And then... either kisses him or does not.

The novel then follows, meticulously, what happens after each decision. It's delicious wish fulfillment in some respects, a way to answer the question, "What would happen if I had only...?" The book is quite clever, and filled with pithy insights about fidelity and passion and compatibility. Yet I'm underwhelmed. None of the characters are especially likable; the prose, though intricate and brainy, seems to call a wee bit too much attention to itself and the writer's skill at writing impressive sentences; and the dual sets of chapters, each covering the same period of time, are kind of, well, tedious.

I do want to see how both narratives resolve, and I certainly have committed enough effort and time that abandoning the book is an unappealing prospect. Like I said, I'm half-way through. But I'm kind of bored with it, and other books are waiting in the wings (hint, hint). Should I plow through so that I do not squander the time I have invested thus far? Or decide that life is too short to finish a book I do not like? Unfortunately, I cannot see what happens with both scenarios simultaneously.

Do you give up on a book after deciding half-way through that you don't like it?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What Harry Potter Character are You?

Hermione Granger

You are a smart and intelligent person. You use your smarts to help out friends. You can be emotional at times but you always seem to be in the mood to help someone out.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

Quizzes and Personality Tests

(As seen at Chichimama's.)

I didn't even have to game the quiz to get this result! Although I bet Hermione wouldn't be frittering her time away taking silly Internet quizzes.

Anyone else busy this coming Saturday? I'm wondering just how understanding my family will be when I disappear for the entire day with a certain book in hand....

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Would Happen If I Just Kept Typing?

I am trying not to distract myself from the work at hand.

Clearly I am not trying very hard. Even an accomplished multitasker like myself cannot perform any actual work while typing in the Blogger composing screen.

I even put the kids to bed a little early tonight to afford myself more time to work. They apparently were wise to my motives, for they popped out of bed far more frequently than usual.

It's as if they know their mom has once again overcommitted herself and that their father is ON A PLANE TO PARIS AS WE SPEAK*.

Okay, they actually do know about the Paris bit.

What was my point here? I don't think I have one, as a matter of fact. My sole purpose in starting this post was to procrastinate. And having done that, I guess I'll stop wasting your time as well.

See you next time, when I just might have something to say. Hey, it could happen.

*Please forgive the All-Caps of Envy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That's Not My Bag, Baby...

... But chances are you if you look hard enough you'll find it here.

Because we are overrun with bags here. I just took stock. In Bag Central, I mean, the laundry room, we have:

* Pool bag (stuffed with towels of varying stages of dryness, practically empty bottle of sunscreen, and one of two sets of swim goggles [the other is always missing])
* Beach bag (awaiting a trip to the beach with a tube of expired sunscreen and size 9-months swimmy diapers for that infant we no longer have)
* Camp bag for Allie
* Camp bag for Sean (if I ever had my act together these would be prepacked the night before; that's happened once so far)
* Camp lunch bag for Allie
* Camp lunch bag for Sean
* Library bag (just about too small for the groaning load of books we haul home each time)
* Church bag (books to occupy Allie through the sermon if we're lucky)
* Swim class bag (on hiatus for the summer)
* Backpack for Sean (Should I be a tightwad anticonsumerist parent and have him use the same one for kindergarten that he used for both years of preschool? Should I give in to his plea to carry a character backpack instead of the woefully unadorned one I selected two years ago?)

The best part? Except for Sean's backpack, we didn't pay for a single one of these bags: they're all conference give-aways that Jeff has procured over the years. So I feel a little less guilty about the plethora of bags. At least we're putting them all to good use, right?

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I am a rule follower. I have never liked getting in trouble, have never pushed the envelope just for the sake of pushing, have rarely done anything that anyone could hold up as an example of even slightly rakish behavior.

During high school, for example, I managed to plow through those troublesome teenage years without attending so much as one rowdy party. (Whether this was a function of my lily white moral code or just my pathetic social status is up to debate.) I studied all the time, got good grades, was always well behaved ... in short, not someone you'd actually want to hang around very much.

But then there's the unsavory underside of this goody-goody persona -- in some respects I had what might be charitably described as an attitude problem. This mostly manifested itself in circumstances that might require school spirit, like pep rallies. Amid a crowd of cheering students, you'd find me hunched over in the bleachers, arms folded, rolling my eyes and wondering just how long I had to endure this painful display of misplaced exuberance. I suppose it stemmed from my dislike of the worship of athletes and the cheerleaders (I haven't outgrown it either, although now it's morphed into a gender issue for me: why should I get so excited about male baseball players, say, when few people on the planet would ever get even remotely excited about a group of female [insert any sport] players?).

Similarly, although I always follow the rules, I resent being told what to do. Hate it, actually. And here's the rub. I feel this way even if the advice jibes with my own beliefs. If it doesn't, well, don't get me started.

Say someone is out there pontificating about the most sensible, ecologically, earth-friendly, socially conscious consumer choice. I'm still there in the bleachers rolling my eyes, thinking, "Yeah, whatEVER." Same thing with parenting advice. I'll deliberately use a noncontroversial area here: reading. I'm fanatical about reading to my kids, and I think it's really important. But when I hear others proselytizing about reading, I think, "Oh, shut UP for God's sake." Another example: During certain sermons at church I sometimes want to get up and leave in a huff.

Of all the vestiges of youthfulness that perpetuate in adulthood, this is perhaps not the best one to cling to. I think, however, that my reactions depend in large part on the mode of delivery. The more sanctimonious the tone, the closer I come to a stomping-around, black-clad teenager. The more convinced the person is of his or her righteousness, the more I want to deflate that puffed-up balloon.

Most of the time I'm able to separate the messenger from the message. And just like when I was growing up, I am a sucker for a guilt trip. So there's no real danger of my meek rule-following self becoming a true malcontent. Just don't expect me to applaud at a pep rally.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Few Travel Notes

Despite packing a large bag of toys, what your kids want to play with most of all when they visit their grandparents' house is the toys their father played with as a child. The Fisher Price schoolhouse, garage, and Sesame Street house, circa 1974, are still in mint condition and entertained the kids for four days.

The Pittsburgh Zoo is amazingly inexpensive (cheap tickets, FREE parking) and fun. Despite its limited scope, the animal habitats are creative and seem relatively humane, for a zoo. Want to root your prone-to-wandering-after-15-seconds kids? Meander by the elephants' paddock while the elephants bathe. We were all transfixed by the baby elephant and its mother as they spun and rolled, splashed, and tackled each other in the deep water.

Fireworks on July 3rd are sparsely attended and lacking in flamboyance. However, they also appear to lack the sonic booms that you had feared would render your daughter a howling, ear-clutching banshee. So, thanks, I'll take the minimalistic approach over ear damage and hysteria.

And this observation, post-travel;

Looking for a rib-tickling reading experience? Try this classic. It's my favorite picture book from my childhood, one I'd pretty much forgotten about till recently. I read it to the kids this morning -- we were all HOWLING with laughter. Allie found it so suspenseful that she covered her head with her blanket on the second-to-last page.

For all the U.S. folks out there reading, hope your Independence Day was similarly fun!