Thursday, December 20, 2007

Too Much Little Bear!

At the risk of sounding like I have some sort of obsession with Little Bear, I need to report that I am again having an issue with this show. First, however, I should say that I need to correct one of my points from my earlier Little Bear post: Mitzi the monkey does indeed talk, so my concerns may be a little less exaggerated than I orginally thought.

Yesterday, a no nap day, O. was watching a new episode of Little Bear while I was trying to get done some of the things I would have done during the non-existent nap. As I was unloading the twelfth sippy cup and its parts from the dishwasher (still soaking wet-- even though I use the "ungreen" heat cycle and the clean dishes had been in the dishwasher for more than a day -- I HATE having to either dry off my plasticware or sit it around on the counter until it air dries. What is up with this?), O. appeared and hid behind my knee with a stricken look on his face. When I asked him what the matter was, he muttered something about a monster and looked frightfully towards our family room. I knew he was watching Little Bear, taped on Noggin, so there should not have been any Spiderman commercials to cause concern. I looked out into the living room to see if there were shadows of some sort causing a disturbing shape, but no. I wondered if the falling Christmas tree incident (another postworthy moment) was causing a postraumatic flashback.

Then I glanced at the TV screen to see a very scary looking monster bear indeed. It seems the episode I had recently taped about "grumpy father bear" involved Father Bear turning into a monster in Little Bear's imagination. While everything works out in the end, and Father Bear morphs back into the loving parent he normally is, I think the subtle fantasy/reality nuances were a bit beyond my two and a half year old. I had to go sit beside him, rewind it, and talk him through it, using words like "pretending," "being silly," "tricking" and "not real." I did not get this episode erased off the DVR immediately, and Daddy played it again unknowingly this morning. He reported that O. watched it from behind the baby swing, so I'm not sure how effective my fear remedies were.

All this after I was starting to think we were making progress on the "scary" front. We've had months of trauma related to a kindergartner in my mom's group waving a Spiderman villain around in O.'s presence, and then later appearing in a Phantom of the Opera mask. O. flees the room in sheer terror anytime this child makes an entrance, even sans mask and action figure.

I know he has a vivid imagination, as we are always discussing invisible animals that have appeared in the room, like "fumas" and "mean wolves" (actually pumas and maned wolves). One of his favorite pastimes is to pretend he has fallen into the "holes" in the carpet made by the legs of furniture, and needs a rope to be thrown to him to get out. So, I've been worried that the nightmares and a runaway fantasy life were only going to get worse.

I should say that I grew up with a younger brother who was terrified of many things -- clowns, Halloween masks, scary movies, picture taking, teenage girls (they all looked like babysitters to him) in his toddler/preschool years. We had to plot our movements carefully in malls adn public places so as to avoid meltdowns. You'd be surprised how often clowns make an appearance in everyday life -- the Ground Round was forever off limits after a balloon sculpture moment, and I mourned the loss of a place where you could go and throw your peanut shells right on the ground, for goodness sakes. I know my brother hates for me to tell these stories, but I have really been bracing myself for a life that involves scoping out the placement of a Spencer store in the mall around Halloween time, and I have not been too happy about it.

But yesterday, we had a good visit with Santa Claus, something I initially wasn't even going to attempt this year. He kept his head bowed down and wouldn't really smile for the camera, but he did manage to let Santa know that he wanted "a top and a ball" before fleeing for the post-lap basket of suckers. So, I thought, maybe we're getting a handle on this and he's starting to gain some interior self-confidence.

Leave it to Little Bear to set us back a few paces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ant-y E.M.

We were on our way to the museum over the weekend to see what else, the trains. The plan was to meet Grandma and Grandpa, as well as Uncle A. and E.M. We went despite the meteorologists' dire predictions of possible mayhem due to the first real winter storm of the season. This storm ended up consisting of two or three inches of snow and then heavy rain. While the roads WERE dicey for about an hour, we made it there just fine. And got to look at trains in relative solitude. This was good, for chancing a prime weekend time for visiting a highly popular Christmas experience is also chancing a grumpy Daddy, who doesn't really like crowds (or other people's children). Disappointingly, the permanent exhibit of trains/Cincinnati scene was closed for repairs, causing O. to despair that the "one where you push the button" was off limits. Do you think they should still be able to charge full price when half of a museum is closed?
Anyway, on the way there, we were telling O. who was going to be there: Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle A. and Aunt E.M. will be there too. You can start calling her Aunt E. if you want, because she's going to be your aunt! O. crinkled his nose at this idea. "No, she is NOT going to be a bug!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What'll we do while we wait?

The advent season has gotten me thinking about waiting, and has caused the above line to run through my mind more often than is pleasurable. Back before O. was a fan of television (was there ever such a time?), his dad and I would try desperately to get a half hour or so more of sleep in the 6:00 hour on weekend mornings by turning on the TV in our room. I'm afraid Blues Clues sunk more into our subconscious than our son's, as I still catch myself singing the music from the "waiting/patience" episode. "We gotta wait, wait, wait. What'll we do while we wait?"

It's been a year of waiting for us. Mostly, waiting for N. to arrive. I found out I was pregnant soon after New Year's, then had to wait through the winter, spring and summer months for her to arrive. We made it through record breaking heat and pounds (mine), and almost a month of being dilated enough to qualify for an epidural. Thankfully, her actual delivery into the world lasted a mere three hours -- we had spend so much time waiting, we were hardly prepared for her arrival, and didn't decide her name until nearly an hour after her birth.

We also embarked on a remodeling project of our lower level at the start of 2007 -- our contractor acted literally offended when we said we needed it done by O's birthday at the end of April. "How slow do you think I am?" he sputtered. He was painting the door frames the same day I was carving mini loaf pans of cake into a birthday train. We got so used to waiting for the basement to be done that O. still acts surprised when he's allowed to go down there to play.

For O., it's been a year of waiting for trains. Not at the station, though we did make an illfated trip to the local railroad when Thomas came to visit. Riding on the inside of a square passenger car looking at cornfields just really wasn't the thrill we had envisioned. More like riding in a car without a car seat. A bonus, to be sure, but not an up close and personal moment with Thomas. No, the waiting for my toddler boy has been for it to be "Christmastime" -- not for Santa, not for presents, but so that he can get his "big train" out to put around the Christmas tree. The "big train" is a real live model train, like the ones on the displays in downtowns and museums -- more a dad or grandpa toy than one suitable for a two year old. J. got a little carried away at the train store last year, and because I grew up with a train platform at Christmas, and the Lionels from my own parents' childhoods, I went with it. O. LOVED it from the moment we unpacked each car from its own box. He knows we have a steam engine (Grandpa's is a diesel), a flat car, two boxcars and a caboose, he has learned how to run it all by himself, and is amazingly careful with it. "You can't run it too fast, or it will jump the tracks, and you have a problem."

We did get it out for a time during the summer, and run it in a ring on the basement floor (this was a moment when the waiting for N. was getting a little unbearable for everyone). But the fake smoke smell is a bit too much for August, it really does take up most of a room, and because it is prone to damage, it has to be guarded carefully around children more used to Thomas and GeoTrax, so playgroups in the Small World are a no no when it's up. So, it's been in its box in the basement, a real torment anytime we have to venture into the storage area for something else. "There's my big train, Mom. Is it Christmastime yet?"

We made it through Halloween, Grandpa's birthday, the arrival of visiting cousins, N's baptism, and Thanksgiving. (This listing of important dates started in early October and was rehearsed at least once a day). So, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the waiting had gone on long enough. O, noting me carrying a load of turkey napkins and plates to the basement said, "Mommy, Thanksgiving is over? Is it Christmas now?" And the big train was brought up from the basement and took over the living room and O's life. He wakes up in the morning and after naps asking to play with the train. We monitor smoke levels, test the horn and bell, and now that the tree is up in the center of the track, make sure no ornaments are in our steam engine's path.

Best of all, Grandpa has also put up his "big trains" at his house, so the railroading doesn't have to end when we go on the road. And come Christmas evening, we'll be heading to "Grandma Choo-Choo"'s house in Cleveland, where an entire train table of Thomas and friends awaits.

So what do we wait for now? Well, ever since the introduction of the advent calendar, the arrival of Santa Claus. "And Santa will bring the presents for under our tree tonight!" "No, bud, not for twelve more days" -- and we count the remaining pockets again, and again later that afternoon, and later that evening, etc. etc.

We're also still waiting for N. to sleep through the night, if you're wondering. And to take a bottle. And for O. to go on the potty. Happy 2008!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Kiss for Little Bear

Speaking of playing in the snow, we have recently discovered my own childhood Little Bear books, illustrated (and written?) by Maurice Sendak. This is due to O.'s great current fascination with the animated series, which I'll admit is less grating, and more gentle, than many of the other offerings on our DVR rotation. I was reminded today of Little Bear making his mother give him more and more articles of clothing to go outside and play in the snow, until he remembers he is, after all, a bear, and ends up happily sitting outside in his bear suit. A great happy image.

However, I'm finding myself questioning the world of Little Bear. The line between his fantasy and real life are pleasingly blurred in the animated show, with him happily living out his imagination by say, meeting a mermaid in his bathwater. But, in what is clearly his real existence, it is strange who can communicate and who cannot. Talking cats, ducks, hens, snakes, owls, yes. But Tutu the dog and Mitzi the monkey? Only yipping and hooting. And when Little Bear found a baby deer in the woods, his experience returning her to the wild was as much an encounter with the alien as mine would be. Mother and Father Deer just looked back over their shoulder at the Bear family when they recovered their lost fawn -- no chatting about where she'd been. To add to the confusion, when Little Bear finds a robin egg in the woods, Mother Robin is as chatty as they come. I know, I know -- talking animals require the suspension of disbelief to begin with. But am I wrong to require some consistency of the rules here? I'm only partially kidding about this -- it really kind of bothers me. Help! I've resorted to analyzing children's programming in lieu of true texts.

Mom says we needed powdered donuts

This is really a post for Uncle A.

Today was our first first snow, and while I can no longer hope for snow days, (something I was able to do well into adulthood, thanks to my job teaching high school English -- the rituals surrounding the hope of a snow day among teachers is a definite postworthy topic) I can go outside to play in the snow. O. ran to the window this morning and proclaimed that the snow was "EVERYWHERE!" So, soon after breakfast, we started the process of getting all the clothes on necessary to play in our Cincinnati snow -- blades of grass still poking through the whiteness. It was a scene out of "Christmas Story" trying to get both kids into their snowsuits/hats/mittens/boots, and involved at least three trips up and down stairs to get all the requisite items. Fortunately, O. had an attention span for the snow play, so we weren't right back in two minutes later. He enjoyed filling his bucket with snow and making "sand castles" and making tracks in the snow with his bubble mower. We also chased Scout around with "snowbulbs" (they really DIDN'T look like balls, I guess). We have not yet mastered the snow angel. Finally, when cheeks were very red and noses were very runny, we headed inside to peel off the wet clothes in the laundry room, and I got to make O. his first post-snow hot chocolate, complete with a small side cup of mini marshmallows, and a twisty straw to drink it from. O. reported "I like hot chocolate. I like to bubble it. See the tower of bubbles?"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Is that a good idea?

Or, more happenings in the world of O-speak:

In the car, Daddy is singing one of his favorite Kindermusik songs, after the track has ended. ("Go Round the Mountain tony-diddle tony-diddle tony-diddle eye day", for those of you in the know and interested) O. says quite emphatically -- "Daddy, that song is over. Don't sing it."

I'm singing to N. on the couch, first Patty Cake which draws no notice from O. playing with his dump truck. Then I start in on Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the dump truck stops in its tracks. "Hey, that's MY song."

After finding his toy pliers, the latest necessary "in the bed while he goes to sleep" object, after they have been missing for several naps and nighttimes. "Okay, put my pwiers on the bed for in the morning time."

Finding a book that has "mysteriously" been "lost" for a while under his bed, O. says, "Now here's the deal. You find the shapes, and then you draw them. That's how you do this one. Vamiose!* We go down on the couch and do this. That's the deal."

On the phone to Great-Grandma, hours after a shopping expedition to Kohls wherein we looked for new slippers as a Christmas gift. "Great Grandma, we bought you something!"

At Ruby Tuesday, to the waitress as we are trying to get our check to leave before N. wakes up. (Yes, I now have one of those babies that stays under the blanket in the car seat during meals in restaurants, like an extra piece of luggage, rather than a squalling extra appendage to my body. Who'd have thought it?)
"I am still working!" He then gives her the very evil eye, complete with raised eyebrow, and looks protectively at his plate of chicken and fries, from which he has only eaten ketchup for the half hour we've been there.

"I am going to put toys in my dump truck and drive them. Is that a good idea?" Sure, and thanks for asking. Except I didn't realize this meant dumping the entire contents of a toy basket into the dump truck, with anything that wouldn't fit spilling out into a pile around it.

Regarding his blanket (which really deserves its own post) --

  • Finding it in the basket of clean clothes I am folding: "My blanket is clean? I am so happy, oh I am so happy!" A happy dance and an extended period of rubbing of his face into the satiny side ensues.
  • Wrapping it about his shoulders: "I am the king!"
  • Wrapping it about his waist: "I am all dressed, now."
  • Putting it on his head, so that one point protrudes from his forehead. "I have a snout. A tooth. Grrrrrrr..." He then proceeds to poke said snout/tooth into his sister's forehead.

*AKA: "vamonos", courtesy of Dora -- have I mentioned we watch a little too much TV around here?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So, what was this supposed to be?*

One of the interests listed on my profile is "improvisational cooking" and it's something I am a bit prideful of, I must say. Though my dedication to my grocery store is fierce, I'm not the type to shop for a couple of items every other day or so. I'm not sure I could make it on a small fridge, European marketplace type shopping routine. I like to load up my pantry and make do for weeks at a time if I can. When I was growing up, there was a term for this type of grocery run. "Are you going for a 'big load'" we would ask? If so, my father was often involved, we went to the grocery store where you had to bag your own, and my brother and I had the job of unpacking bags onto the countertops, in an organized way (cans here, boxes there, fridge stuff close to the fridge, etc.) and my mom would put it all away. H

Having a toddler who requires milk and copious amounts of fruit has put a cramp in my pre-children style of filling the freezer with meat and frozen entrees, but I still tend to work from a "big load" type of grocery getting. I'm also not that great at planning out menus, so every day tends to include some type of "what shall we have for dinner" conversation. My husband has yet to EVER answer that question with an actual suggestion, so mostly I have this conversation with myself, peering into the freezer and/or lazy susan cupboard. This is where the improvisation comes in. Say I want to have meatloaf, but I'm out of breadcrumbs. Crackers will do in place. But that's logical, you say. Crackers are a fine substitution. I agree. But sometimes I get a little off the beaten path when it comes to the subbing.

For example, I recently really wanted to make this curried cranberry chicken dish I love. I knew I had chicken, and I knew I had a bag of cranberries. No problem, right? Well, I forgot that this dish also required a can of Rotel tomatoes. I instead used half a giant can of tomatoes and part of a can of diced green chiles. Also, only a palmful of craisins -- no problem, I'll just up the amount of fresh cranberries. Oh, crap. No chicken broth either. (this is a strange lack in my cupboard -- I usually have at least three of those giant boxes). A search of the back of my spice cabinet unearthed chicken boullion. Certainly not the low sodium ingredient called for in my Eating Well recipe, but chicken-y and liquid-y nonetheless. I did not have coriander, but I think cloves are a similar flavor, so I just used a little less. I also for some reason recently dumped my bag of rice into a glass container, thus ridding myself of the directions for how long to cook the rice. I'm not even sure if it's basmati, brown, or regular white rice, which would all require different cook times. Guessing worked out fine, though the rice was a bit sticky. All in all, it was a tasty meal, though I always forget that when the recipe says "50 minutes hands on time" it really means it, and it took me far longer than I had budgeted to cook this, and required N. to scream in her swing a little bit while I accomplished some of the tasks.

The improvisational meal is a mental challenge for me each day, and usually I win. However, I can tell that I've had guests and have been cooking a lot of big meals lately, because yesterday, I was completely flummoxed by the ingredients available to me in refrigerator and pantry. I actually had to head to the store just so I could make a lame leftover turkey nacho concoction. I had committed in my head to making it, thinking I had a lime and a can of refried beans, but alas, those were not where I though they were. So it was off to the store for just those few ingredients. Yesterday, I lost.

By the way, I get this tendency toward substitution naturally. Last week, my mother told me that she was making my grandma's butterscotch cookies, which she was hoping she might finally get to taste right. But, she didn't have any walnuts, so she was going to use pecans instead. And because she's worried about trans fats, she was using butter instead of margarine (or oleo, as Grandma calls it). They actually taste really good, I think.

*this is what J. says about once a week when I produce a new meal for dinner, knowing that there is no way I've actually followed a recipe faithfully.

The Small World is growing bigger soon!

No, I'm not pregnant. Yow! But we do have wonderful news to share. O. and N. are getting another aunt (for real, I think they already think she is one)! My brother and the other E... got engaged over the weekend, and we couldn't be more thrilled. It is a joy to see my little brother SO happy, and he's been blessed to find such a smart, successful and beautiful woman to share his life. We can't wait to watch their love story unfold.
Congratulations to both of them, and welcome, E.M. to the family!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Elf

Santa recruited some new elves that look amazingly familiar. Check them out here!
Thanks to my friend Jen for sharing this site!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just a Little Bit (observations of life in the small world)

O, this morning, on the first dusting of snow on the trees and roofs:

"It's not winter all the way, just a wittle bit"


Looking at Daddy's broken toe, purple and swollen, after Daddy explained that he bumped into something and it just snapped

"Did a crab snap it?"

N. has found her hands, and has started to suck on her fists, and hang onto my shirt like a koala bear when she eats. She also has a way of putting her hand flap over her forehead after eating, as if she is so satisfied, she just has to rest a moment and enjoy it.

Control Yourself

I really thought I had gotten over my control freak tendencies a long time ago. After my encounters with the outside world over the last week or so (has it really only been a week since I last posted?), I'm afraid I've just tightened my circle of experience to such a small world (HA)that I'm mostly able to control it, and thus don't realize what a freak I'm being.

The first of those encounters was what should have been a routine furniture delivery. I should have been suspicious after the purchasing process was surprisingly simple, including our decision making process. We decided to make the leap into dining room furniture, in anticipation of two large family functions in a week's time at our house. The hand-me-down table with unsteady leaves and tiny folding chairs just weren't going to cut it for the ten plus people we were planning for sit down meals at N's baptism and Thanksgiving. We found something we liked, and were assured on time delivery was no problem. The saleswoman practically acted like we were being silly for worrying about it being there for the events.

So, we prepared the dining room for the arrival of the furniture a couple of days in advance. I planned my day around the undetermined block of time when the furniture would arrive. Then the calls from the store started. It seems two of our pieces did not make it on the truck. Could we reschedule another day for delivery? Okay, if it was before the weekend. Fine. The chairs were brought into the house, and although they seemed to have grown much larger than they were in the store, no problem. Then the delivery guy asked me to come out to the truck. Seems there was some problem with the table. Sure enough, it was quite damaged. Put it back on the truck. Arrange ANOTHER day for delivery. Now, we are cutting it quite close to the arrival of company -- table scheduled for delivery hours before the first of said sit down dinners. The day before arrival of china cabinet and buffet, another phone call. The cabinet has been damaged, can we arrange for another delivery day? ARE YOU SERIOUS?? Isn't this your company's job, to deliver furniture unharmed?? Up until this point, while inwardly furious, I had been trying quite hard to maintain an air of "go with the flow, this will all work out" despite the number of calls it was taking on my part to get any satisfaction. Finally, after enlisting a store manager, we were able to get delivery of all pieces of furniture in time for the event. Did I mention that there were also stickers applied to the front of every one of the fine wood chairs that did not come off intact? The delivery manager assured me that he would "personally put something on the truck" that would take care of it on the day of our final delivery. The fact that J. was at work for over an hour with GooBGone while I prepared dinner on the eve of N.'s baptism tells you how serious that promise was.

But, eight people ate dinner in my new dining room, three hours after its completed arrival in my home. I made it myself, despite a bout with mastitis that developed that morning. Control freak, who?

The ill fated other encounter with the outside world was the scheduled photo shoot with the children that was supposed to result in not only a set of two month portraits of N., but also a cute Christmas card of both O. and N. that I could just pop into envelopes and send out. This all seemed so easy in my mind. You know, after the trips to two different stores with J. in tow to obtain the requisite holiday outfits -- reindeer sweater for O., red velvet jumper for N . and the haircut for O. that involved me holding him on my lap and getting covered in his shaggy discarded curls. And the wrestling with both children to get them fed, dressed and transported the forty five minutes to my mom's house so she could accompany me to the photo shoot. Easy, I tell you. I can handle all this. What I can't handle was N.'s decision to be fussy for the first time in a week, and fill her diaper at exactly the beginning of the scheduled time, or O's decision that he was NOT getting his picture taken, even if it meant no candy, and no toy browsing in Target afterwards. He was willing to scream to show he meant it. We got five terrible shots of N., one decent one, and zero shots of the two of them together. A hard sell and one hundred dollars later, I was able to leave the studio with what I hope are some pictures of her babyness so she won't feel like a neglected second child.

So, we staged a photo shoot in Grandma's living room later, and you'll be seeing the results in the Christmas card I'll have to crop, choose and order for myself. See, it always works out better when I do it myself. Control freak? Or realist? You be the judge.

Meanwhile, we had a lovely time at all of our family events -- O. played with his cousins like a prince, even without naps, N. endured the water and scented oils of her baptism like an angel and let lots of people hold her without screaming.

But this morning, when it was just the four of us, all four of us in our bed, it felt like a good day to be back in a small world.

Friday, November 16, 2007

That's the kind

Yesterday, while waiting for Daddy to come home, with dinner mostly prepped and ready for last minute stirring and serving, and O. playing with his "car rug" I thought I might be able to get in a few minutes of the free rice game whild holding N. Unfortunately, the computer radar perked in O's head.

O: Are you looking at pictures, Mommy?
N: No, not right now.
O: I want to sit on ur lap.
Me: I'm holding N. right now, bud.
O: I can sit on THIS leg.
Me: Okay, fine.
O: I want some candy.
Me: You can either sit on my lap, or you can have candy. I can't do both.
O: Yes, lap AND candy.

He proceeded to prove to me that this was indeed possible, but standing on my leg, reaching across his sister and the counter and pulling the basket of remaining Halloween candy over to us. I pulled the closest package out, a fun size peanut M&M.

Me: Here you go -- these are M&Ms.
O: M&M's??!!! (mixture of glee and wonderment)

I hand him an orange one. He pops it in his mouth, leaves it there for a second, then pops it back out, rolling down his pant leg leaving an orange trail.

O: That's not an M&M!
Me: Yes it is -- it has a peanut in it. You like peanuts. Try it.

I pop it back in his mouth. I'm so used to getting this child to eat food, now I'm prodding him to eat candy?? This time, he spits it out, and it lands on my mouse pad, rolls across the desk.

O: I want a real M&M!

I give in and hand him a few from a previously opened package.

O: Oh, yes. You know what I mean. THIS is the kind.

Then he climbed down off my lap.

O: Mommy, I want to watch a show!
N: Not right now, bud, it's almost time for dinner.
O: Mommy, no fussing!

And that's how it goes in the half hour before dinner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Not to put too fine a point on it

So, the new season of Project Runway starts tonight! I've missed Tim Gunn "making it work" -- his makeover show didn't quite cut it for me. Tonight's premiere got a poor review in the paper, but it seemed to be more beef with the challenge than the potential of the designers for entertainment, so here's hoping there is some interesting drama waiting to unfold.

While you're at your television viewing tonight, I want to put a plug in for Pushing Daisies. If you're trying to cram in as much original (scripted) programming as you can before the writer's strike really starts cramping your television style and we have to watch something like "The Farmer Takes a Wife" reality style instead (you think I'm joking, but no: look), I'd put this on your DVR.

Pushing Daisies is not for you if you have little tolerance for "cute" or "quirky" Sometimes I even think it's trying too hard to be sweet and strange. I mean, one episode was centered around crash test dummies and had a dandelion decorated theme. Ned, the main character with magical abilities, gets on my nerves a little, but maybe if my life had been formed around touching corpses and handling rotten fruit all day, I might be a little strained too. Chuck is just a little too happy, but she did get brought back from the dead. Actually, it's the supporting characters that hold interest on this show for me. I love Chuck's aunts, his private eye partner in (solving) crime, and most of all, Kristen Chenoweth's character Olive. She bursts into song all the time, just as I imagine Kristen Chenoweth doing in real life, and one whole episode was a nod to her amazingly small stature, imagining her with a past life as a jockey! The whole show is colored with vivid technicolor, like something out of Oz, and though it's all a bit TOO much -- a village made of retired windmills and an jeweled eyepatch on Swoosie Kurtz -- the show won me over forever when they devoted about 10 minutes of an episode to simply setting up a scene where Olive and one of the aunts could sing They Might Be Giants "Birdhouse in your Soul" in the backseat of a car. I'll overlook some of the ridiculousness for the chance at another moment of pure TV enjoyment like that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Free Rice

Hey, check this out. A fun way to spend a few free minutes (if you're a dork like me, anyway) and it's for a good cause. I could seriously have a problem with this site if I I'm not careful.

www.freerice.com

Let's go Krogering

You know those people who tell the same story over and over again, to the point where you can recite some of their same lines? When it comes to grocery stores, I think I am that person. I always realize I have climbed up on my soapbox a little too high when I hear the line "I just can't stand checking out my produce in the same line as people buying underwear" come out of my mouth.

I know I'm not the only one with this devotion to the topic -- My friend MEP has similar concerns, as you can see here. The grocery store debate is a common conversation topic in my playgroup, one with clearly drawn lines of preference. I think I have mentioned my own attachment to my grocery store previously, and my need to live in proximity to it. In fact, that was one of my early dissatisfactions with my home when we moved here. The closest grocery store at that time was a 15 minute drive, which does not sound far until you are in the middle of a recipe that calls for a can of Rotel tomatoes and your pantry is out of them. You cannot rely on the JP's gas and food market for this kind of item. Beer and milk yes, produce and real food, no.

Anyway, I am a true devotee to Kroger. Maybe it is that I grew up shopping there, but any other grocery store does not truly feel like a grocery store to me. The store layout may vary slightly from store to store, but I generally know where to look for items in any Kroger store, and I am truly delighted by almost all of their store brand items. (their frozen waffles are a distinct exception, and I am currently working through two boxes of them due to a sellout of Eggos on a recent 10 for 10 deal. Yuck) I will admit, there are different levels of acceptability from Kroger store to Kroger store -- the one I had to shop in for a time after moving here does not have some of the more "gourmet items" I love, like Tikka Masala simmering sauce or the brand of roasted red peppers I favor. Their produce also was lacking, no broccolini in sight. However, I chose to shop there rather than the Meijer right across the street from it, despite Meijer's superior produce section. I get inside one of those super stores and glaze over -- am I supposed to be in grocery mode, or browsing for table linens? There are hamsters for sale here, for goodness sakes! One aisle over from the yogurt! It just doesn't seem right. Also, perhaps because of the size of the store, I find they only have perhaps three brand choices, rather than five or six, so often they don't have quite the kind of maple syrup I like. They way they package meat is off putting to me, and don't even get me started on the unwieldiness of their "toddler driven" car carts. Kroger's are much more maneuverable. So, preach to me all you want about the money I would save if I would shop there, I just can't do it.

And luckily, the grocery store that chose to build just a three minute drive from my home is my dear friend, K-Roger. It seriously changed my life to have it this close. And because it is a new store, it is chock full of the more trendy items, like pomegranate juice and soy yogurt and flatbread. Shopping there feels like home.

Yesterday, due to an unanticipated closure of the library on our normal storytime day. (I didn't think about Veteran's Day affecting the library), we found ourselves in the vicinity of Meijer, and I have to begrudgingly report on a couple of benefits of this store. First, they had winter squash in the frozen vegetable aisle, something I had searched for at Kroger the week before. It was also Meijer brand, so perhaps they have begun improving the selection of store brands here while I've been boycotting??? There was also a good selection of Thanksgiving paper plates and napkins, something surprisingly difficult to find. And O. does LOVE riding the horse at the end of checkout, for only a penny a ride.

However, I had gone into this store to buy bread and salad -- that's it. I left with an $83.00 bill, most of it non-food items, like amaryllis bulbs. And we had to browse every toy aisle before leaving. I was even tempted to buy some new underwear, but really -- NO.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's practically the South Pole around here...

What with N... dressing like a penguin for Halloween, and then the following conversation of this morning...


Me (noticing a large wet spot on O...'s pajama pants) -- O., why are you all wet?

O...-- (no answer)

Me -- Did you pee in your pants?

--I should note here that he was wearing a diaper, which means there had to be a LOT of peeing going on here in order for this spot to occur. It also means that since he had already been up for a half hour without a diaper change that this large wet spot is not entirely his fault--

O. - No answer

Me -- Buddy, why didn't you tell me you needed to go? Isn't that uncomfortable? I sure wouldn't want to have my pants all wet like that.

O. -- Mom, you just have to waddle. You know, yike a penguin.

Yet more proof that we are making very little progress on the potty training front around here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I've got to get into that...

I want to recommend the book I've been reading lately. Well, not so much reading as browsing, which I've discovered is the only way for me to get any reading done right now. It's More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. She is a librarian, and must be a great one, because this, her second book, is a collection of her recommended reading, complete with descriptions and groupings that make sense. I read her first (just Book Lust, of course) a year or two ago, and got some great titles from her.

I don't know about you, but I get a little overwhelmed in the library/bookstore/Amazon if I head in there cold, with no titles to get me started. I often find something good, but tend to go with the sure thing, rather than a risk of my own. So, the next Elizabeth Berg novel, rather than the intriguing looking paperback on the 3 for 2 table at Borders, because what if it's really bad? Though I am much more free with my reading choices now than I was when I was teaching or in grad school, I still have to be choosy, due to my limited down time and self imposed book budget. The library is even worse, what with the alphabetical sorting and very little marketing going on there. But Nancy Pearl seems to have solved that issue, and as we seem to have some similarities in reading tastes, I now have a good list going to add to my Amazon wish list. (By the way, anyone else having issues with the Amazon website as they are "remodeling"? Seems very slow to me, and shut down Internet Explorer twice for me last night)

Better yet, I have also discovered a website that is helping me deal with another of my book dilemmas. There are some books which I really don't need to own, and as I mentioned, I've tried to budget my book purchases a little more in the last couple of years, and make more use of the library. O. really likes to play with the pretend cupcakes and dinosaurs in the children's area, so we're there every week or so anyway. But, every system I've tried to keep track of titles I want to read has fallen through. I even dedicated a little book to it, as well as trying to keep track of what I read. I never had the book with me though, and didn't need the extra weight in the giant purse, so I had it on various old calendar pages or to do lists, also never around when I needed them. Then I stumbled upon Good Reads, a website that allows you to type in titles -- they have most everything I've tried -- and shelve them in categories, from "currently reading" to "to read" to "couldn't get through it." It's supposed to be a networking site, where you review books and share info with other readers, but so far, I'm just using it for myself. I entered a whole pile of "to reads" yesterday. We'll see how it goes...Maybe in a couple of years I can actually read a whole novel in less than a month, and I'll have need for the list!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Shoebilee

Speaking of my home, I'm going to have to admit one of my downfalls when it comes to housekeeping. There are many, but the worst revolves around shoes. Back when my husband and I lived together in a much smaller house, he once came upstairs and said "Nine. The number is nine." Mystified, I asked him to elaborate. He just pointed me in the direction of the landing at the bottom of our stairs. Lined up in neat rows were nine, yes nine, pairs of my shoes. This was not the emptied contents of my closet, but rather, the accumulated shoes from probably only one week of kicking them off in various places around the house.

I have gotten quite a bit better at this habit of cluttering the house up with my shoes, partly due to my attempt to keep my floors clean by takings shoes off at the garage door when entering the house. (one of the aforementioned downfalls is that I only scrub the floors when there are visibly disgusting stains) I share this story because this morning, I did a quick cleanup of my downstairs, moving various misplaced items back to where they belonged. This sweep included four pairs of my own shoes. But it also included two pairs of my daughter's shoes. She, by the way, is nine weeks old.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Welcome to the small world

Back when I was a young idealistic teacher, I talked to my students a lot about this mythical place I wanted to live someday -- a little house in the woods, filled with books, dogs and maybe children. There would be a garden out in the back full of my favorite flowers, and a porch with a swing where I could sit with those dogs and kids and read the books. There was also a window seat with lots of cozy pillows, I guess for when it was too cold outside to sit on the swing. I'd always be having deep conversations with the friends that stopped casually by for the tea I always seemed to be drinking. The point of this story was usually aimed at helping my students write better and with more detail, but really it was about teaching them to have dreams about where they wanted to be someday, no matter how big or small that dream was.

I never really thought I'd get that house in the woods, because let's face it, who's going to traipse through the woods to drop by, and I'm too attached to my grocery store to live that far away from civilization. But the other day, my husband and I discovered an unintended benefit of the backup camera on our minivan (what does this tell you about the life I've ended up living??) It lights up our dark driveway when we back down it at night. I said something like "yeah, since we live in this deep dark hole in the woods..." My husband then threatened me with the idea of moving, which is always guaranteed to get me to stop complaining about our house, yard, and/or neighborhood, because he knows the thought of packing anything practically makes me vomit, much less putting everything I own into boxes. So, no more talk of the lack of street lights, sidewalks, neighborhood pool and young families for me.

The truth is, my home is quite similar to that mythical place in the woods -- we have mature trees on three sides of our house including an enormous oak, a family of deer that often passes by (my son and I chased Bambi and his mom all the way down our street on a walk one day, with him shouting "come back here, we have to rescue you!"), and the calm quiet of a house as isolated as you can be smack in the middle of the suburbs. I can't grow any of the flowers I want (too many trees), my son doesn't really have much of a yard to play in, (too many trees and a hill down into a creek), and I don't have a swing (no front porch). But, there are bookshelves in every room except the bathrooms. And while we only have one dog, there are now two children that provide deep conversations over tea and apple juice every day. I'll have to start recognizing that this small world I'm living in is the one I asked for, after all.