Wednesday, August 30, 2006

a bedtime drama

I put my girls down to bed in what could be called a rather ungraceful manner. Things were okay initially, but then the 2 year-old started screaming about the kind of sippy cup she wanted which apparently needed to coordinate with the story book she wanted me to read. My girls trade-off with choosing either the color of the sippy cup or the bedtime CD. So while one child thrashed around on the floor in alarming display, the other one tried to work it all to her advantage and claim that she should get to choose the CD as well as the sippy cup color which didn't play well with the mother or the younger sister.

We got through it. I turned on the music, Peter and the Wolf was the evening selection, shut the door and went down stairs only to hear a few moments later some shrieking and yelling upstairs. I waited a few minutes and then went back up, feeling guilty because my bad mood had obviously worn off on them and now they were taking it out on each other. But actually (thankfully/gratefully/ laughingly?) they were acting out the CD. One of them was standing on the end of her bed doing the shrieking and the screaming and then I heard their conversation (program note -it helps to be familiar with the story of Peter and the Wolf in order to understand the following:)

- help! help!
-are you the duck?
-yes, I am the duck

-did you just get eaten?
-yes, I did! (more screaming).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

wanna dance?

I feel like I'm confessing something tucked away far in my past here, but my junior year in high school, I was on the drill team. You know, precision dance? sparkly sequined spandex? football half-time entertainment? That was me. I loved it. Seriously. (Of course the next year I abandonned the sparkle to move on to the greener pastures and more trendy club of cheerleading, a semi-sorry story in and of itself, but still) I was one of those dancer girls.

So last year at this time while Ben was driving cross country to meet the moving truck in NY, I was at my parents house hanging out with my sisters. We entertained ourselves by watching silly music videos on the internet and then trying to imitate them. Someone came across this one by OKgo! and it transported me back to a simpler place and time. Not really. Who ever says high school was more simple is probably lying or at least blocking some memories from their consciousness, but at the very least, if I had had my sequins laying around, I would have put them on.

More fun with OKgo! on treadmills here!

Monday, August 28, 2006

if wishing made it so

A recent observation from my four year-old:
"If junk food were good for you then we would have good food for dessert and ice cream for breakfast!"

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a tree grows in brooklyn, chapters 27-37

Everything was changing. Francie was in a panic. Her world was slipping away from her and what would take its place? Still, what was different anyhow? She read a page from the Bible and Shakespeare every night the same as always. She practiced the piano every day for an hour. She put pennies in the tin-can bank. The junk shop was still there; the stores were all the same. Nothing was changing. She was the one who was changing.
She told papa about it. He made her stick out her tongue and he felt her wrist. He shook his head sadly and said,
"You have a bad case, a very bad case."
"Of what?"
"Growing up."

She gets one last magical Christmas but in these chapters, Francie is growing up. As all of us do, she's lost the magic that makes childhood what it is. She's dissatified with the theatre because in her life things don't wrap up so neatly. She sees the cruelty of the neighborhood women to Johanna and her baby. Katie doesn't know everything and Johnny is increasingly drunk. And her encounter with the man in the hallway.

But growing up is just that, learning to navigate the disappointments, hurt, and even fear and terror.

Francie isn't the only one dealing with the realities of growing up. Johnny is too. His excursion to the ocean with his children and Little Tilly is a catastrophe on almost every level. "He couldn't figure it out - he couldn't figure it out. The songs of the sea had betrayed him." Maybe Johnny realizes what Francie is starting to see; that people laugh at those things she loves about him. But if part of growing up is overcoming then Johnny succeeds, though his success costs him his life. And it leaves Francie, Neeley and Katie something even bigger to conquer.

Friday, August 25, 2006


As of yesterday, it's official. I guess they decided that eight is enough, after all.

trial run (Ben, this one's for you)

When I shop for clothes, which doesn't happen too often these days, but when it does, I bring home the articles purchased and let them hang around for a few days with their tags still on in their bags. Then I pull them out occasionally, put them on my bed, look at them, hold them up to me while I look in the mirror, try them on, try them on again. You get the idea. I like to see how the shirt I bought will work with the jeans or skirt I already have. I want to see if I like it outside the tiny cubicle that is a dressing room (plus we all know that store mirrors were bought off some circus closing up shop. Who knows if you have the mirror that makes you look a little rounder at the edges or stretches you out a bit, thereby deceiving you about your true, fabulous figure and what you should drape it with).
Ben does not understand this. I think it drives him a leetle bit crazy.

Well, when Ben was out in Utah, my mom was in the process of redecorating her room, which left her with a beautiful bedroom set on her hands. I offered to take it of said hands and she agreed to pack it up and send it along so that I could try it out. It included a decorative pillow to go on the bed that was, uh, rather large. Ben tried to talk her out of sending it saying that it would take up an entire suitcase by itself (a slight exaggeration, and a small suitcase at that), but being the good natured son-in-law and husband that he is he hauled it all home for me in a duffle bad the size of Rhode Island, and the process began...

I got the duvet, pillow shams, bedskirt, etc. out of the bag and let them lay around on the floor and the chair for a few days. Then I switched duvet covers. Then yesterday I put on the new bedskirt and switched my pillow shams. But it just didn't quite work. It is a beautiful set, but a little too much for my smallish room (especially including the fancy pillow). I have opted to keep the shams and the bedskirt for now because I think I can find a bedspread that will work with them. Of course this will mean bringing home various bedspreads to try out with the other stuff. And returning the other things to my mom. The process continues. But really, it's great to live in a world where you can take something back!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

my universe is changing

There's that old saying that the only thing constant is change. I guess that must be so. My life has had its periods of movement and stillness, with moments of stillness within the movement and movement within the stillness. It allows for some growth and then reprieve. We moved across country at the end of August last year, and then had about 6 months of settling in. But ever since my little guy was born things seem to have not really stopped shifting around. He came March 29th. Since then there has been a constant parade of visits to receive and to make, the inevitable changes to a home a new addition brings, the unscheduled flux of summertime. It's been fun, and a little tiring. Okay, some of it has been a lot tiring and I am grateful that Fall is coming (I think some synonyms for Fall are order, schedule, and pace). But just as the summer is winding down I hear this while coming home from the grocery store.

Can you believe it!?! You thought I was kidding about my universe changing, prone to exaggeration. But no, it is literally true. They are seriously considering taking away the status of Pluto as a planet. Turns out that it's more of a lucky rock, I guess, who ended up in the outskirts orbiting a nice star, and got recognized somehow. It's a little bit discouraging, because haven't we all wanted to live that dream?

So Pluto is getting demoted. Sigh. There goes a staple from my childhood - all those pictures drawn of the Solar System. Nine is such a nice odd number which can neatly be divided into subsets of three. (Hang around me enough and you'll find I am a fan of odd numbers.) Well, I guess we'll all carry on. Ben is finally home from a three week stint in Utah and we have a few weeks before school starts. The weather is slowly cooling down. I guess I'm saying that I am still living on a planet not likely to lose it's title as such, and it keeps rotating and spinning so that life moves forward, just like it has for the last million years or so. And who knows? Maybe Pluto was getting tired of the classification it's carried around for a century, and is ready for a change.

Monday, August 21, 2006

the eagle is in flight

Well, Ben is at the airport anyway (hooray! I'll have a husband again!), preparing to be in flight, and I don't think that he has access to the internet, so I take this opportunity to report the following: That painting spree I said I wasn't going on? Whatever. It's been a semi-covert operation but besides the bedroom, I have painted the banister white, I also painted the stairwell, the hallway, the front door, and the living room... It looks good.

why I love Ben

Just as we were leaving to take him to the airport for an editing gig he had in Utah, Ben remembered something important: He needed to run in and grab his Orem Public Library card. So he did.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

one hundred ears

We read a few books, turned off the lights and then it was time for prayers. I went to help the younger one while her sister voiced her own thanks and requests. We all finished about the same time but as I tucked them into bed my daughter was upset that I had prayed at the same time she had, so Heavenly Father hadn't been able to hear her prayers. We've explained this to her before, but I reminded her that Heavenly Father can hear all of the prayers said to him and that he had heard both prayers. She pondered this for a moment and then said, "So does Heavenly Father have, like, a hundred ears?"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

a tree grown in brooklyn, chapters 11-26

I read somewhere in a parenting book once about the amazing resiliancy of children. I'd quote it to you directly, but I'm not sure where the book is at the moment but it's gist was this: The way adults handle the world is magical and miraculous to children. In the child's small realm of experience, she has no idea how a parent knows things, she just knows that they know and she doesn't. But despite the seemingly infinite disparity between childhood and adulthood the child shows tremendous courage in being willing to move forward and learn. This reminds me of Francie. Francie is a thinker, enthralled with what goes on around her, trying to figure it all out, reasoning out the why and hows of her existence. Often times it's heartbreaking as Francie has to negotiate the world she has created in her mind with the reality she lives in. But it doesn't break her soul.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The magical transformation of my child into Pigpen.
Now you see her....

Now you don't!

Also my sweet babe is channeling Linus with his blanket and the sucking thumb. And it's not beneath my oldest to pull the football out from me. I guess that makes me Charlie Brown. It's a good life.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

whole grains; a.k.a. being yourself

When I am too tired or too busy (read lazy?) to cook something decent for dinner, I have a multitude of quick fixes that I prepare. Sadly, most of the meals I actually know how to make fall under this category. My ultimate quick-fix is oatmeal. Even in the middle of summer, as long as it's not hot enough to cook it outside on the porch.

Oatmeal is quick & easy to make (you just need water, oats, milk and a little brown sugar, and seven minutes). It's healthy (I like to keep an eye on my kids fiber intake). It's filling (if I can get them to eat it all, which they will if they're hungry, then I can usually avoid the "I'm hungry because it's bedtime" syndrome). And it allows for individuality. Yes, you read it right. Individuality.

My girls are close enough in age that my youngest thinks she is four and my oldest sometimes tries her darndest to act like she's two. They are almost 21 months apart. They have many similar interests and can often be found doing the same thing. I'm glad they enjoy doing the same things, but I also appreciate when they can choose something different from the other and each be okay with it. (Code for: you are not twins and even if you were, it's important to be yourselves!)

So here is where the oatmeal comes in. One likes raisins in hers and one does not. They both emphatically request their oatmeal be prepared as they like it and have no inclination to follow the other into the world of raisins/no raisins etc., etc. And I like that. Because they are going to be orbiting each other for the next 18 years or so and I want them to be able to share things without being competitive, and to be involved with different things while being supportive. So if oatmeal is where that starts, we'll eat oatmeal.

Monday, August 14, 2006

oh, the indecision - part 2

If I were going to go on a painting spree right before Ben came home, which I am not, of course, but if I were it certainly wouldn't start with painting the banister (which is a dark, dark brown) white. Because that would be a real pain. It would involve priming and even then, multiple coats of paint, and special brushes to get in the little divets and whirls of the wood. Also it would be so time consuming that I would either have to completely ignore my children for a day, and then sigh when I realised that someone's cute new t-shirt I just bought had paint on it, or I'd have to stay up half the night painting and then be grumpy the next morning. Also I would be totally paranoid about the carpet on the stairs since as of Saturday it's brand new. So what I'm saying is that it wouldn't be worth it at all. No. Not at all. Would it?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

a tree grows in brooklyn

When I was in college I used to go upstairs to the bookstore where all the textbooks were kept. I would head to the English section and peruse all of the fiction that was going to be studied in the upcoming semester. Then sometimes I would pick out a book that looked good, buy it, even though it wasn't for any of my classes, and read it. The first time I did this I ended up with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. How I love, love, love this book. It really is an amazing work, and a million wonderful stories woven together to create a beautiful tapestry about the Nolan family, but especially about Francie.

Daring Young Mom is hosting a late summer read of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is posted more than a day late, and probably a dollar short, too, but if you want to catch up and read along you will not regret it. Here is the reading schedule if you're interested!

Chapters 1-10 Saturday, August 12th

Chapters 11-26 Saturday, August 19th
Chapters 27-37 Saturday, August 26th
Chapters 38-45 Saturday, September 2nd
Chapters 46-End Saturday, September 9th

saturday miscellany

It is a beautiful day here in Westchester. Really lovely, with a hint, just a teeny touch, of a reminder that Fall is on it's way. Ah. I love Fall the best of all! And this is what is nice about New York. In the West I always consider August the boiling point, but out here, apparently that is not the case. So although we have had some pretty yucky weather the past few weeks, I think that this week has made up for it and I repent about what I said about the month of August (except for the vacation part), for today anyway.

We are waiting for the carpeter to come. Not the carpenter but the guy who lays carpets. Our landlady is thankfully replacing the carpet on our stairs, which is a huge blessing because I think that carpet has been there since about 1957. Also it's pink. My girls want to know what the carpeter will look like. Just like a regular person, I think. Has anyone out there had experience with non-personed carpeters? Just wondering.

I have been bleaching things like a maniac today! My whites while doing laundry, the girls squeezy bath toys (because they get kind of slimy on the inside in this more humid climate), some sippy cup parts (as good as new!), a rug, the grout in my shower, and inadvertently, a few small spashes on my pants. Whoops! I changed into my around the house pants after that, but small damage already done. For me that is an inevitable part of dealing with bleach, however. I forget that bleach can really bleach and I have a few articles of clothing that subtly bear the mark of this truth.

The carpeters are here! And they look normal to me!

Friday, August 11, 2006

iron will

We're having a standoff in my house right this very instant.

The issue? What else would the issue be at 9:51 p.m. on a Friday night for the two year-old but bedtime? Tonight she has pulled out all the stops; she was hungry, she would have been thirsty but she had a sippy cup full of water with her, she had to go to the potty. This last one I usually give into because we are potty-training and I like to encourage, you know, going potty. I said okay, but that there were no potty treats left for the day. Well, she came down and went "wet" and then back to bed. But she wasn't done. Ohhhhhohoho Noooo.

She climbed in bed, I tucked her in and then she said that, oh yeah, she "forgot to wipe." Which was not true. She forgot to flush, yes. But the toilet paper was in the toilet.
I would have laughed at her, but I am about ready for bed myself, and so not really in the mood to be humored by her diversions. As of this moment I think she is on my bed. I fervently hope that she has fallen asleep, bored from following me around and watching me picking up and putting things away. I have tried to make it as boring as possible for her. We'll see who wins this round.

Okay, who am I kidding? She has won because she is still downstairs. I will carry her upstairs and go to bed. And if she doesn't come down any more tonight, then I will have won, too.


One of the guys Ben is working with right now has some connection to a health something-or-other company and apparently they have really, really good water. Yes, water. Ben has been drinking a lot of it and promising to bring some home so that I can taste it.

Water does have a taste. Some water is good, some not-so-good. In France, world capital of bottled water, I came to prefer Evian or if I had to, Vitelle was okay. And I detested some sort of diet water that was available. Yes, indeed, water for those on a diet. Maybe living in France has made me a water snob. So be it. I have been looking forward to drinking this water.

But here's the thing. A few dozen guys with a crazy idea to blow up the skies has made my drinking this water impossible. No liquids or gels allowed past the gates at the airports.
I guess I could have Ben try and pack up the water, but that seems a little silly. And it would probably just contribute to the delay time everyone is experiencing. I hope they take all that toothpaste, shampoo and makeup they're collecting to homeless shelters or something, because there is going to be a lot of it.

We're one month away from the 5th anniversary of September 11th. It really seems strange to think it's been five years. What a surreal thing. What a surreal thing that some stranger over in the U.K. has made it so that my husband can't bring me some water.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The scene: a practially all white room with some pictures of Nemo & Co. pasted to the wall.

The suspect: a seemingly nice lady who is smiling at you, putting cold metal things on your chest, lifting you up and laying you down again, squeezing your tummy, and chatting away with your mom.

The other suspect: your mom.

The crime: after being so nicely complimented on how great you look and how well you are doing you receive a very sharp stab into your right leg which is quickly followed by a similar stab to the left. You cry out in protest! What was that! Except you seem to recall that this has happened before. Yes! This has happened before! Let the flood gates open, let the tears rain down and the screams echo forth.

My sweet babe is getting to the point where it's not the shots that are the most horrible part of going to the doctor. It's that I would actually stand by and allow the shots to happen.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

dance party!

Two things you should know about my oldest daughter are that 1) she loves to play "school" and 2) when she is excited about something her whole body moves and shakes with joy and well, excitement. The other day she informed me that at her school that night there was going to be a dance party where she was (said with all the arm moving, hip grooving a four year-old can muster) "gonna hafta sugar-shake, sugar-shake, shake! shake! shake!" What?

Yeah. I guess it's time to get out our disco ball.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

oh, the indecision

I'm painting. Right now it's my bedroom. Ben is out of town working and so I am painting my bedroom. In my family that is the tradition. The husband leaves, and the wife gets out her palette and brushes and power tools. Yes, also in my family, it's the women who want and own the power tools.

If you've ever watched any of those design shows on cable, you know that paint is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to freshen things up and make a change. IF you know what color of paint you want. I want a warm white. How many different versions can there be? How many, indeed. More than you ever want to know. I've had paint chips taped to my walls for days. I've bought the small samples and applied them. The analysis....too yellow, too gray, too green, too pink... and yet, it is a version of WHITE. And once on the walls it will be rather, well, white!

Since my early days I have been plagued by indecision. Take picking out some make-up, for example. I have literally stood looking at different blushes and eyeshadows, lip pencils etc., for hours. No kidding. You can ask my sister who was there, sitting on the floor and sort of sighing pathetically everytime I turned to ask for an opinion. It's the little things that make the difference, folks! The devil is in the details! I am very color sensitive. Picky may be another word for it, but whatever.

Paint is sort of mysterious and enigmatic. Choosing paint also falls into these categories. You are given millions of colors, hues, and tints to choose from. You choose a color you like, but that really does not tell you what it's going to look like en masse, what it's going to do to your environment.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and went with Colonial White. Which was the wrong choice. A little too grayed and green. Now I'm thinking Cream Puff or Edelweiss. And I'm leaning toward the latter because I've always been a fan of The Sound of Music. But as "cheap" as paint is, I really am on a limited budget. So wish me luck on getting the right color this time!

Saturday, August 5, 2006

it's bedtime!

As many families do, we have a nightly tradition of reading together before bedtime. I will be perfectly honest with you and say that I wish I looked forward to it more than I do. The thing about bedtime reading is that my girls want to read through an entire bookshelf worth of books.

My two-year old carries in as many books as she can possibly manage and sometimes more. Think small child carrying the leaning tower of Pisa to her room and you get an accurate picture.
Love of books? Maybe. Sleep distractor and bed procrastination tactic? Definitely. The stealth and subterfuge required to not read all of these books is another post altogether.

Reading books to children has been a revelation to me of sorts. I've written a few children's book manuscripts for writing classes and stuff, and I bet that there is maybe one that I could stand to read to my kids on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of splendid books out there with some length and it's good and even fun to read them with your kids. Children need to develop attention spans that last longer than say, a flash of lightning. That said, if you are writing books for kids and you want to make a killing, make them smart, funny for both kids and their parents, easy to read aloud, and not too long.

Maybe it's just me. It's quite possible I am a whimp, but at bedtime I do much better with the short and/or snappy stuff (clever wording, good rhymes). Also books with a quiet bedtime theme are good. I read them at the end in a quiet voice to get everyone ready for the lights to turn off. So, I'm open to suggestions of good bedtime books for very small ones. Some of my favorites are The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear (that's just one title), anything by Sandra Boynton, Goodnight Moon, some Dr. Seuss stuff, Don't let the Pigeon drive the Bus!, and Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems are pretty funny too.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

les grandes vacances

In France during the month of August, everyone goes on vacation. Everyone. Summer vacation is a national past-time. Whatever you might say about the French, you have to admit that you are jealous of the way they can just stop working and do something else. It's not laziness. It's just the ability to work hard and then stop. You know, joie de vivre and all that. Here in the good ol' U.S. of A that's not so much the case. And it's really not the case here in NYC. People head in to work early and get off late. If you have children you either put them to bed at late hours, or never see them.

I'm sure you've heard about the wonderous, amazing, fantastical heatwave we've been experiencing here, along with the rest of the Northeastern portion of the country. Whoowhee! 101 in Central Park today! It's tough in the winter when it's too cold and icy to take the kids outside. But it is a million times worse when it looks nice and sunny outside (which it is sunny, and nice looking) and you have to try and explain to your cranky child that the park is a no-go because they may melt and evaporate away. In the winter you can have them run laps around the dinning room table to get the excess energy out. In this weather, you want to keep e v e r y o n e a s s t i l l a s p o s s i b l e (shhhhhh) because the air conditioners are already at maximum capacity just trying to keep the room 'cool' at 84 degrees and any movement in the house causes a 3 degree rise in temperature.

So really what I'm saying is that I think we should adopt August as our own national vacation month, since nobody really feels like doing anything right now anyway. Let's borrow the idea from the French and all come back in September.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006


This post is for two amazing people who today are celebrating the 33rd (right?) anniversary of their marriage (by attending a family reunion. wahoo). They are the parents of eleven and the grandparents of 3 1/2 (grandchild 4 will arrive in November). Both are talented and exceptional in their own ways; intelligent, diligent, creative. They also may qualify as slightly crazy (is this insanity the result or the cause of the eleven? the jury is still out). They are people to emulate. As number one of the original crew I say that I love you, and I'm glad you're my parents! Happy Anniversary.

My mom (Nana) with my kids....

And my dad...

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

julia child, I am not

According to my 4 year-old, dinner tonight was delicious! It consisted of steamed frozen corn and broccoli, some small red potatoes boiled in the microwave, tomato slices and ranch dressing. Some yogurt on the side.

It hit around 100 degrees here today and there is some humidity which is supposed to increase like crazy tonight. Our air-conditioners are working fine and we avoided going outside. And I was not going to bake or cook anything that required more than 8 minutes use of an appliance that can double as a radiator.

So, lucky me! It was simple (I am all about simple, simple, simple meals), it was healthy (there wasn't too much ranch on those veggies), the girls ate it, and the kitchen is cooling down nicely. Lemonade, anyone?