Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Postpartum Etiquette

Remind me to have an Emily Post discussion with Allie. So we can avoid conversations like this one today:

"Jen," says Allie, pointing to my nephew's girlfriend's still-swollen belly, "when is the boy baby going to come out?"

Fortunately, Jen just laughed.

Welcome, Beatrice!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oh, Right, the Blog

Lately I've been having to remind myself that I should be posting something every now and then. I appear to be in one of the numerous blogging valleys that have characterized my almost FOUR (FOUR!!) years of self-indulgent narcissistic Internet navel-gazing.

Not much has been going on. Well, within my four walls, that is. Other families have been busy, busy, busy. My nephew's, for one. His daughter was born this afternoon. I am so thrilled for him and his girlfriend, so thrilled that I will forgive them for making me a great-aunt. I haven't yet met my new great-niece, but I hope to tomorrow.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my wee brain around the fact that my nephew -- the little boy who sang "Beat It" into his Michael Jackson microphone on Christmas Eve, the ten-year-old Little League pitcher who fell prostate on the mound after his pitch struck a batter, the eighth-grader who wore out a tee-shirt emblazoned with Kurt Cobain's suicide note -- is 27, and a father.

Amazing, this circle of life thing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Club

Sometimes dinner conversation with the kids lacks a certain zip. I ask questions, the kids reluctantly give me one-word answers, we chew and swallow. Eventually Allie cries about some great crime against humanity, like the fact that there's broccoli on her plate.

Tonight, though, was like the Algonquin Kiddie Table. I started by asking the kids who their favorite authors were. Sean replied, immediately: "Chris Van Allsburg!" From there on, the names and titles flew about -- and when I thought their interest was waning, Sean said, "But wait! There are more authors!"

I was impressed with how many names the kids knew, either on their own or with a few hints.

Here's the list we came up with, in no particular order, augmented with the kids' favorite books by the authors.

Mo Willems: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny
Jez Alborough: Duck in the Truck, Fix-it Duck
Chris Van Allsburg: The Polar Express, Zathura
Cynthia Rylant: Henry and Mudge books, Mr. Putter and Tabby books
James Marshall: George and Martha, The Cut-ups
Bill Peet: The Caboose Who Got Loose, Kermit the Hermit
EB White: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little
Mark Brown: Arthur's Pet Business, Arthur's Sleepover
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods
Kevin Henkes: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum
Ian Falconer: Olivia
William Steig: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Brave Irene
Patricia Polacco: When Lightning Came in a Jar, Something about Hensley's
Susan Meddaugh: Martha Speaks, Martha Calling
Lisa Campbell Ernst: Bubba and Trixie, Squirrel Park
Doreen Cronin: Diary of a Worm, Click Clack Moo
Graeme Base: The Waterhole, Jungle Drum
Beverly Cleary: Ramona the Pest
Lynn Plourde: Book Fair Day, Pajama Day
Paulette Bourgeois: Franklin and the Thunderstorm, Franklin's Secret Club
Mem Fox: Where Is the Green Sheep?
Dr Seuss: The Lorax, The Sneetches
Mary Pope Osborne: Magic Treehouse books
Joanna Cole: Magic School Bus books
The Rev. W. Awdry: Thomas the Tank Engine
Kate DiCamillo: Mercy Watson to the Rescue
Bernard Waber: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, Ira Sleeps Over

Readers' Favorites:
From Mayberry:
Judy Schachner: Skippyjon Jones

From Kate:
Monica Wellington: Pizza at Sally's, Firefighter Frank
Nancy Elizabeth Wallace: Apples, Apples, Apples; Trees, Trees, Trees
Lucy Micklethwait: I Spy
Holly Keller: Pearl's New Skates

From Don Mills Diva:
PD Eastman: Llama Llama Red Pyjama, Sam and the Firefly

From Alison:
Robert Munsch: Alligator Baby, Stephanie's Ponytail, Moira's Birthday Party
Barbara Reid: The Party

From Liesl:
Kevin Lewis: My Truck Is Stuck

From CCW:
Allan Ahlberg: The Runaway Dinner, The Jolly Postman

From Camille:
Linda Sue Park: Bee Bim Bop
Frank Asch, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle, Donald Crews, Todd Parr

After we were done, I came up with a lot of other authors we've loved that we didn't even mention: Peggy Rathman, Kate Lum, Amy Hest, Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, Peggy Parish, Shel Silverstein, AA Milne, Jean Van Leeuwen, Steven Kellogg, Mercer Mayer....

Care to offer your kid(s)' own favorites? I'll add them to this post -- I imagine it'd be quite a cool resource to have, what with all you literate readers out there!

Edited to add: I don't want to give the impression that my kids knew all these authors -- they knew a lot of them, but often they knew just the books, after I supplied the author. And in a few cases they just nodded in recognition when I supplied author and title...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Those Were the Days

Sean's class is starting a unit on music. His teacher told the kids that one day, when they're teenagers, they'll flop down on their beds and listen to music in their rooms.

"Well, I used to do that," I said.


"Yep! I'd come home from school and go right to my room to listen to some music. Except I didn't have a CD player."

"What did you listen to, then?"

"It may sound hard to believe, but I didn't have a CD player when I was in highschool. Or an iPod. Or a computer. Or a DVD player..."

"Or even a bed!" Sean interjected.

"Okay, no, I did have a bed. It was only 22 years ago." Does he think I'm so old that I predate beds?

I explained that I listened to music on a record player that was part of a stereo. Which prompted a discussion of what records were, anyhow. And then a field trip to the basement archives, where we examined a real live album.

"So I'd sit in my room, like this," I demonstrated a teenager-like slouching position, "and I'd listen to the first side of album, and I'd read all the lyrics as the music played. I'd get up, flip the record over, and listen to the other side. I'd spend hours doing this."

Sean was kind enough not to comment on the surfeit of free time that I seem to have had as a young teenager. Some day, though it's hard to imagine, he'll be doing the same thing, but most likely on something other than a black disc of vinyl.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reminds of That SNL Sketch

Jennifer at Faking It was kind enough to bestow on me one of them fancy blog awards.

(I can't help but think of Phil Hartman whenever I hear the word "Sassy"!)

Thanks, Jennifer! It's a nice lift -- especially since I'm feeling dowdy and dull instead of sassy.

I, in turn, offer this up to anyone reading this. You all are a breath of fresh air!

Monday, January 07, 2008

From Her Kitchen to Yours

Like any good cook, Allison knows the importance of a well-organized kitchen. She carefully assembles all the cookware she needs before beginning a recipe.

What would necessitate such copious use of kitchen gear? Why, Allie's signature dish, creamy custard, of course!

Unfortunately, this meticulous approach does not extend too far past the prep stage. Putting everything back in its proper place is a much more hodge-podge affair:

What this kitchen needs, apparently, is a more competent scullery maid.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Combing the Debris

Jeff and I have begun to attack some of the random piles of clutter that threaten to take over our house. It's been quite satisfying.

I've emptied a closet, filled bags with clothes to be donated, and excavated several toy bins to pluck out abandoned toys for a future garage sale and reunite long-lost toy siblings (who knew that Duplo blocks were lurking in every room of the house, including the bathroom?).

Jeff has been wielding the shredder as if on a grim mission. As he fed old receipts into the shredder, he observed that the big fat envelope of receipts seemed demarcated somehow. "You can tell where I put in the receipts," he said, gesturing to crisp, flat pieces of paper, most likely placed in chronologic order, "and where you did." The mangled, crumpled receipts were clearly my handiwork.

"This one is my favorite," he said, presenting a receipt wadded up into a ball.

Hey, at least I saved the receipts in the first place. I consider that a triumph of organization in and of itself. And did you see that clean closet?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

...And A Happy New Year

To resume blogging exercises, I have to limber up gently. So this will be short -- I don't want to pull a muscle or something!

We had a splendid Christmas. I just love the ages of my kids right now; if anything could shake my feeling that Christmas can be a hollow exercise in commercialism, it is their excitement over the holiday, and their belief in the magic of it all.

We spent Christmas Eve at my sister's house, Christmas day at ours, and then we visited Jeff's family for a few days. We'd been on the fence about going out there because Jeff's mom has been wiped out by her treatment, and the prospect of hosting two noisy, disruptive children (even ones she adores) was something she had to consider carefully.

In the end, we all decided it would be okay -- with the provision that the kids be on their best behavior. I think the message sunk in; Sean and Allie had only one squabble in three days! My mother-in-law looks more exhausted and drawn than I've ever seen her, but she was quite gracious despite the upheaval we tend to bring about. She has just finished a month of daily IV treatments, and now is starting the three-times-a-week regimen of injections. She's hoping that the lower dose she'll now be receiving will be less debilitating than the IV version.

We got home on Sunday night, and yesterday we all actually went to a New Year's Eve party! Lots of fun, especially for the kids. Jeff and I are unaccustomed to going out on New Year's Eve -- okay, okay, unaccustomed to going out, period.

Now, today, New Year's Day, I hope to relax at least a little bit. There are quite a few new books I need to read!

Happy New Year!