Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Do You Want to Get Down?

If you had been in our kitchen as I was preparing dinner tonight, you'd have witnessed Western civilization continuing its inexorable decline: one adult (who ought to know better) and two kids (who will one day be mortified) singing and dancing to "Get Down on It" by Kool and the Gang.

(I think I just heard Gary faint dead away...)

"I really like that song, Mom!" Sean said. Heh. Me, too. Just wait till we get to the Gap Band portion of our 80's musical education unit.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Weekend in Numbers, Holiday Edition

2 Number of Thanksgiving delicacies that Sean and I ate for dinner (mashed potatoes and raw carrots for Sean, mashed potatoes and turkey for me).

4 Number of hours spent at the mall on Black Friday. The mall! On Black Friday! Oh, the insanity. I hate malls in general, and I haven't been at a mall on the day after Thanksgiving in years. But at least the kids were with their dad and grandfather and not with me and their grandmother and aunts at the mall. And at least I can now say that I have started Christmas shopping.

4 Number of days without any Internet access. If I ever needed confirmation that I am addicted to the internets (I don't), the past few days made the point nicely.

8 Number of hours it took us to drive home last night. It should take no more than 6, multiple rest stops included. Still, the kids were great in the car. The only complaint we heard was Sean's plaintive question, "Are we going to drive ALL NIGHT LONG?"

221 Number of Bloglines posts awaiting me. That's a lot of boldface! I'll be by to visit soon.

846 Number of times that I wondered whether my kids were showing exceptionally poor behavior during our visit or whether they were merely showing their normal behavior, magnified tenfold by the fact that four extra people were observing it.

In short: We had a fun trip, and it's so good to be home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

As always, I have much to be thankful for. Especially this year.

We got the best news possible yesterday: the biopsy of my mother-in-law's lymph nodes came back negative. For now, at least, and hopefully for many years to come, we can be thankful that the cancer hasn't spread.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating it tomorrow. I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is it the Season Yet?

See, all you have to do is dangle the prospect of some Amazon gift cards in front of me and I start assembling a wish list.

Teeny Manolo is having a sweepstakes contest. Check it out if, like me, the prospect of free books, even if used for holiday gifts, makes you swoon.

On a somewhat related note, I haven't started Christmas shopping yet. But I have at least thought about some gift ideas. That counts, right? The first thing to do is get my kids to assemble slightly shorter lists. Right now Sean's includes a new Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader, and a rocketship. Oh, and a guitar and a new radio (note that he doesn't even have an old radio). I said to Jeff, "What, did he suddenly turn 11 without us knowing it?" Allie is insisting that she wants everything Sean wants, plus a Superman figure that actually flies. How to tell her that the elves haven't developed that technology yet?

What's on your kids' holiday wish lists?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Seven Things

Mac and Cheese tagged me for the Seven Things meme. Not surprisingly, I had a hard time coming up with anything even remotely interesting about myself, let along seven things. You'll see what I mean.

1. I like really hot showers -- even when I was pregnant. Which, I know, is a no-no. Jeff would stick his hand in the shower stream and ask me if I wanted to cook the baby. Hmphh. I also refuse to acknowledge any correlation between the temperature of my showers and the dryness of my skin. That's what body lotion is for.

2. Not that I use body lotion. I do use hand lotion, to keep the deep cracks that tend to develop in my skin at bay, but I just can't be bothered beyond that. As for other cosmetics, my daily staples are concealer, pressed powder, blush, and eyeliner. And at the end of my beauty regimen, my complexion is still somewhere at the corpse-gray end of the spectrum. I rarely wear lipstick unless I'm going to a wedding or some other high-falutin' function. In other words, almost never. I'm not sure why, but the weight of lipstick on my lips drives me crazy.

3. I have had only one real boyfriend in my entire life, and I married him. Playing the field might have its benefits, but so does recognizing a sure thing when you find it.

4. I became an aunt for the first time in 1980. I am slated to become a great-aunt for the first time in early 2008. I've always secretly thought it was very cool to have a nephew who was only 11 years younger than me. Great-aunt, though? Doesn't sound as cool.

5. I am not crafty. Or artistic. Or musical. Or athletic. In short, I can't really do anything at all that involves dexterity of any sort. But hey, I'm good at walking! I love taking long walks. After five days of taking care of the kids for 13 hours a day (give or take), my weekend walks restore my equilibrium.

6. When I am faced with a wide range of choices, my decision-making ability diminishes to a form of paralysis. I'm fairly comfortable with stasis as a result, whether we're talking about the types of dinners I make or the peeling wallpaper in the hallway. Don't make me pick out a paint color!

7. I hate clowns. I can trace the origin back to an episode of Fantasy Island that featured an evil clown. Subsequent exposure to evil clowns, such as Pennywise from Stephen King's It and the possessed clown doll in Poltergeist, clinched the deal.

If you haven't done this meme and would like to, feel free to consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Women Studies 101, Kindergarten Version

Out of the blue the other day:

"Mommy, why have there been only men presidents?"

Sigh.

Pull up a chair, kid. It's a long story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Lust, or Just Plain Folly?

Our library was having a book sale. There aren't too many events that bring out the greedy shopper in me, but a library book sale is at the top of that short list.

Allie and I spent an enjoyable half hour or so browsing through the books. She'd pull out books that interested her and present them to me for my opinion. I was feeling benevolent and even allowed her to place three princess books in our bag.

I could tell she, too, was feeling the rush, the glee, at finding a gem amidst the rubble of books. Emerging from underneath a table, she proudly held a book aloft: "Look, Mommy! THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS! I don't believe it!" (We are die-hard Magic School Bus fans around here.)

I was having my own moments of discovery: Ooh, more Amelia Bedelia! Little Bear! Beverly Cleary! Pippi in the South Seas! Should we try Junie B Jones despite the somewhat negative buzz I'd heard? Sure, why not? It's only 50 cents.

(I remember the days when I never even approached the children's book section at the library sale. Now I focus primarily on kiddie lit, with a swift sweep of the grown-up tables if time permits.)

With our books selected, I pulled out my wallet. The prices at the sale are cheap, but $2 was not going to cut it.

I looked at the clock. Thirty minutes till we had to pick up Sean. "Okay, Allie, let's go get some money," I said. I dropped off our books at the checkout station, and we proceeded to our car. In the rain, of course. From there we drove to the closest ATM, pocketed our cash, and drove back to the library. I was carrying Allie, the poky preschooler, at this point. Through the rain, did I mention?

Huffing and puffing from my jog across the parking lot and down the stairs, I retrieved our books. Just in time to hear the person in front of me say, "Who do I make my check out to?"

Oh. They take checks. How about that.

*******

Postscript conversation

Allie: What are these books?
Me: Just some chapter books I bought for when you're a little older.
Allie: Oh, we can read them in case we grow up?
Me: Yep, just in case.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good Vocabulary = Rice

You simply must check out this site. Here's at least one instance in which frittering time away on the computer might actually do some good.

Let's not discuss the fact that past level 41 or so, the apparent paucity of my vocabulary is humbling.

(Thanks to Bub and Pie for the link.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Repertoire

Nora Bee at Whopping Cornbread tagged me for a "what songs do you sing to your kids" meme. I have to say that I don't sing to them very often these days. We sing together a lot -- they are cultivating quite the taste for 80's music. One particular favorite is that Journey chestnut, "Don't Stop, Believe It". (Don't try telling Allie that the title is actually "Don't Stop Believin'".)

However, I still get all misty when I think about the songs that I sang to the kids when they were babies. In fact, I wrote a post about it a few years ago, back when the only people reading my blog were Jeff and my mom. If you'll forgive the recycling, here it is:

*********

Jeff has requested that I record, for posterity and as a handy reference guide, the list of songs that I sang to Sean every night for his first 18 months and still sometimes resort to singing on particularly restless nights. I don't sing as much to Allie because she tends to be engaged by rather than soothed by singing.


Do Re Mi (from The Sound of Music) (no link because you've got this one down pat!)*
Rainbow Connection (from the Muppet Movie)
I Will (The Beatles)
Somewhere over the Rainbow (from The Wizard of Oz, like you didn't know)
My Favorite Things (from The Sound of Music)
In My Life (The Beatles)**
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young)
Tom's Diner (Suzanne Vega)
Somebody (Depeche Mode)***

I chose these songs on the basis of a few criteria: 1) they are relatively easy to sing (no really high or low notes for my sadly limited vocal range to stretch toward); 2) I know all the words; 3) the tempo is relatively slow; and 4) the lyrics are at least somewhat child-friendly.

* A relatively new addition to the list. Often, this is the only song we sing. Sean knows all the words, or at least a facsimile thereof. He calls the song "Do Mi Mi".
** Position number 6 was originally occupied by "Eleanor Rigby." I excised this one when Sean became older because the lyrics are so grim. No need to encourage melancholy in a 2-year-old.
***This is an optional song, reserved for the almost-asleep state. The lyrics, although pretty darn positive for Depeche Mode, are still a little too adult for full consciousness.

************

Thanks, Nora. That was fun! I'll leave the tag open to anyone who wants it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

At the End of the Day

Not in the sense of the trite business-speak cliche. No, I mean literally, at the end of the day. Any day, this one including.

I find that by day's end I have no patience left. It's as if I start each day with a full glass of patience. Throughout the day, the patience drains steadily out of the glass until there are just droplets left.

Droplets that are supposed to sustain me through bedtime. They never do.

Snippy Mommy arrives on the scene around 7:35 each night. Her friends, Sarcastic Mommy, Frazzled Mommy, and Why-are-your-pajamas-not-on-yet-I've-told-you-five-times-to-put-those-pajamas-on Mommy, sometimes show up shortly thereafter.

I do not like these personalities at all. And I imagine that my kids aren't overly fond of them either.

Once the kids have settled in for the night (an important distinction from their merely being in bed), I can feel the glass of patience starting to refill. So apparently I just need a small emergency reservoir to tide me over through the last hour of the day.

Anyone know where to find one?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Boy Is Flat

Perfect for the ghost town that is the blogosphere on a Saturday (anyone else hear The Specials singing -- "Aaaa aaaa, nothing but a ghost town..."? No? Just me and my stockpile of eighties music memories?): video clip time!

Here is Allison "reading" Flat Stanley, complete with a very busy index finger. Forgive the indulgent post -- I just love listening to Allie reconstruct stories that we've read.

video

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Perspective Wand

The other day I was talking to my sister about Allie's preschool issues (yes, that again. I know, I know).

"I just wish," I said, "that there were a parenting magic wand that I could wave in front of her to make it all better."

Long pause, as I realize how lacking in perspective this might strike my sister, who has borne more heartache and wears more emotional scars from raising her now-adult sons than is fair.

"Of course, if there were a wand..." I said feebly.

"...mine would have been worn out a long, long time ago," she finished, laughing.

Some reminders are worth hearing over and over again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Up Close and Personal

One of my most cherished books from childhood is not a classic. In fact, I'm pretty sure no one else has heard of it. The main character was a girl named Suzanne. It featured her mom, her dad, her two sisters, her dog, and her two best friends. And a bee that they all chased across Suzanne's home town, right to her very own house.

A book about me, of course!

As a child, I thought it was nothing short of magical that an actual book told a story about me and all the important people in my life. The illustrations cleverly hid all faces, and I would spend hours trying to figure out which set of legs belonged to me, which to my friend Chris, which to my friend Colleen.

Since becoming a parent I've wanted to find a similar type of book for my kids. And then, like a gift from above, Amy at Binkytown reviewed a customized kid's book on her blog. I commented on that post, and lo and behold the publisher contacted me (little old me, for heaven's sake, proprietor of this tiny blog) about reviewing one here.

Serendipity at its best.

I ordered one of Printakid's personalized books for children for Allison. On their website, you choose the book (there are several options), the age level (preschool or elementary school), and then a host of features to customize it to the child: skin tone, hair color, eye color, hair length, names of parents and friends. The interface was very easy to navigate, and the book arrived about a week after I placed the order.

It's a full-color, hardcover book. I chose "In the Kingdom of Nevernight," a story about an intrepid princess who embarks on a quest to find the colors missing from her kingdom. (I wanted Allie to see a princess who does something other than sit around and wait for her stupid handsome prince to save her.) The cast of characters includes Princess Allison, Suzanne the Queen (ahem), Jeff the magician, and Sean, the head of a band of nomads. I especially liked that, unlike the low-tech book from my childhood, the image of the princess herself could be roughly tailored to some of Allie's features.

The book is everything I hoped it would be, and I can't wait to see Allie's reaction to it.

But wait I will -- till I receive Sean's version. The wailing and whining that would ensue if only Allie received a personalized book are too terrible to contemplate.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ostrich

Jeff is convinced that I am attracted to the dark side. If there's a depressing book or movie, he feels, I just naturally gravitate toward it.

This reputation was solidified in his mind when I voiced delight over opening The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon one Christmas morning.

Another example? I loved the movie version of The Hours (also one of my favorite books), which he dismissed as so overwhelmingly depressing as to lack any merit.

But even I have my limits.

Last night, Jeff asked me if I had any interest in watching Blood Diamond with him. "No way," I replied. "Too depressing."

Allow a moment to visualize Jeff's incredulity over that statement.

"Too depressing for you? With all those books you read?" (Unsaid: Like The Hours?!)

"Yeah, but I can handle the personally sad. Anything about Africa just sends me into the suicidal abyss."

So there you have it. Despair and hopelessness apparently are all well and good on a small scale; ratchet it up to the level of children forced into rebel-led gangs (thanks, Imperatrix, for the clarification!) in Africa and I just want to bury my head.

What about you? Do any types of movies or books turn you into an ostrich?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

So They DO Listen to Me Occasionally

I admit that I have certain verbal tics, phrases that I use over and over again without even realizing it.

My kids appear to have picked up on a few of them.

Earlier this evening Sean was bugging asking me about what he could have for snack. I was trying to steer him away from yet another piece of Halloween candy. And I was on the phone. So I told him that we'd discuss it in a little while.

About 15 minutes later, I was still on the phone. (My kids are never ones to let that interfere with their pressing concerns.) Sean approached me, and said briskly, "Okay, about this snack discussion...."

It's a little disconcerting to hear him sounding like a 38-year-old.

Allie made me smile in self-recognition today, too.

I don't remember what the exact circumstance was, but it could have been anything, really -- getting in the car, brushing her teeth, eating lunch, putting her shoes on -- just an ordinary activity or plan that she did not feel like participating in. "No, I'm NOT doing it, and that's the deal."

I just hope that I don't sound quite so snotty when I tell my kids what the deal is.