Friday, August 26, 2005

Pitter Patter Pitter Patter Walking Feet

At 22 months old, Ellie is 31-1/2 inches tall and 24 pounds. She is 1/4 potty trained, and she has learned to walk!!!

In June, Ellie started climbing up onto the furniture. She started spontaneously pushing a push toy around the house earlier this month. Next she made a game out of standing up on her own in the middle of the room. Then she started rushing down the hall independently at school with a reverse walker. Finally, on Monday night, she walked two steps from her LeapFrog play table to where Daddy was lying on the floor. We were both stunned. Wednesday at school she was walking independently for up to 7 steps at a time. Wow. Just, wow.

I should explain now that the only TV Ellie watches is Dora the Explorer. She is not interested in any other TV (for more than about a minute) but man does she love that Dora. Her PT likes it because Ellie stands to watch the show. Her speech therapist likes it because Ellie (sometimes) follows the prompts aloud. I like it because there are no commercials and it features a brave, adventurous heroine. For toddler TV, it's not so evil. Months ago, Ellie and I were at Target when she saw Dora's backpack, cleverly named Backpack.

At that point, she had a Dora book and had seen the show a couple of times, but Ellie wanted that backpack. I thought that a backpack for a 1-year-old who couldn't even walk around wouldn't be too useful, so I told her that I'd buy it for her as a present when she learned to walk. I had no idea that she heard and understood me, but I mentioned it to my mom on the phone this morning, and Ellie wouldn't go down for her afternoon nap until we'd gone to Target to get Backpack. And it was worth the wait. She is smitten. As am I, of course.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


OK, while I appreciate the extra comments and enjoy the flattery - false though it is - I'd prefer not to get the Blogger comment spam. Anybody have any tips about what I can do to avoid it, short of disabling comments entirely? I won't do that; I'd miss hearing from you all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Family Dining

If you were eating dinner at my house this week, here's what you would find:
  • Sunday: Spaghetti and meatballs, peas
  • Monday: Leftovers. Choose from: the spaghetti, taco casserole, sloppy joes, beef stew, or meatballs stroganoff
  • Tuesday: Mom's off at book club, leaves ham and green bean casserole for Daddy and Ellie
  • Wednesday: Tacos with all the trimmings, corn on the cob, chipotle-flavored pasta
  • The rest of the week: Thai chicken, grilled hamburgers, chicken and rice casserole, and, of course, more leftovers.
This is not often a diet-friendly house, but even so I think I'm in a bit of a comfort-food phase lately.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Where the Children are Free

A local professional theater company presented a children's matinee of Free To Be You and Me this summer. I grew up listening to this record and still love it dearly. When I learned that I was pregnant, I bought the CD for my child. Ellie listens to it regularly. My mom thought that Ellie would love the show, but I was skeptical. I didn't want to buy tickets then have to leave after 10 minutes, but I didn't think she could sit through an entire show. I also didn't want to disrupt the experience for the other mid-day patrons.

Finally, at the very last show, we decided to go. And Ellie loved it. She was enraptured for the entire 55 minute performance. Although she had her own seat, she sat or stood on her daddy's lap - in the front row - with her mouth hanging open almost the entire time. The rest of the time, she was grinning. Ellie sang along with "Brothers and Sisters," clapped along when the cast prompted us to do so, and applauded wildly along with the rest of the audience after each number.

The whole experience was perfect and brought tears to my eyes. We'll just have to do it again in a few years so that she can remember it.

In other recent news, Ellie has transitioned to the "older toddlers" room at school, a precursor to her planned move up to the "two's" room later this fall. I booked our September vacation to Walt Disney World, and in true Sarahlynn fashion I have enjoyed planning at least as much as I'll enjoy traveling. I have already read and annotated "Birnbaum's 2005 Walt Disney World Dining Guide" and made good headway on "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Children." I am especially proud of my shopping prowess here, as I've planned a 5 day vacation for the three of us for $1100. Paul's got a business meeting in Orlando, so his flight was free. Ellie and I redeemed frequent flyer miles for our flight. I bought park tickets and booked a WWW resort, and got meals thrown in for free (fall promotion). Woohoo! I know that Ellie won't remember a thing about this trip, but I know that I will, and let's be honest about who this is really for, right? Can anything be any more fun than watching pure enjoyment and wide-eyed wonder in your children? I can't imagine it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Greenscape Gardens, the neighborhood nursery, has the most wonderful quotes on their sign, alternating with notices about mums on sale.

One of my favorites was, "Greenscape Gardens, located 1/4 mile east of the speed trap," though I sincerely doubt that the county police found it as humorous.

This week's sign says: Drought Rain Delay.


After 49 hours of no electricity, we went to Boston Market for yet another meal out. It's amazing how hard it is to find plentiful vegetables at most "family-friendly" restaurants. Want green veggies at a Mexican place? Order guacamole. How about at your local bar/grill, pleasantly loud enough to mask the sound of your fussy child who's eaten out for 3 day in a row? You'll be lucky to get lettuce on your burger.

Boston Market is good and it's fast; it's close and it's not too expensive. Ellie and I scarfed down green beans, corn, and spinach. Paul, apparently immune to a craving for vegetables, had a meat-heavy pot-pie with a side of stuffing - with gravy, natch.

We got home after dinner, tired and a little sticky, beginning to feel that this pattern of eating out and having no electricity at home would be our new life. At 50 hours post-blackout and counting, suddenly, the world got brighter for just a moment. Not more lightening! A positive sign!

Paul started giving Ellie her bath, once again by the light of the hurricane lamp, while I tried to read by the waning light at the bedroom window. Slowly, I became aware of a dull roar from just outside and below my window. Is that. . .? Could it be . . . ? I looked into the bathroom and exclaimed, cleverly, "Hey! It's bright!" The power was back on, the air conditioner whirring away and drying out the carpets. Glory, glory! Even better, Paul cleaned out the frig while I attempted to put Ellie to bed.

If Ameren would give us a $100 voucher for groceries, I'd insist that we came out ahead for the week. It was fun, being without power for a while. Sort of a mini-adventure. And I went to bed at a reasonable hour 2 nights in a row!

Monday, August 15, 2005

In the Darkness

It's been nearly 48 hours since the power went out. It's not been so bad, really. The weather has remained pleasantly overcast and not unbearably hot. This time of year, the sun doesn't set until Ellie's bedtime, so there's light enough to play. My mom once gave us a hurricane lantern to use in just such an eventuality, so I can read for an hour or two after Ellie fights her way down to sleep. We're all drinking lots of water and I'm getting more sleep than usual.

On the other hand, the humidity is incredible. Everything in the house feels damp and nothing ever dries completely. Catalog pages ripple and curl. We don't want to open the refrigerator or freezer - though at this point I really think the food is a lost cause - so we're eating out every meal. Tiny mosquitoes and spiders slip through the screens, and I see the evidence even if I can't find them in the dim light.

At least a dozen times a day, I start for the computer to look something up or book our upcoming vacation, then turn away in frustration. Overall, I am not missing the power very much. I am enjoying this little adventure. At least we still have running water.

On the other hand, I dislike the uncertainty; I wish I knew how long this would last. And I am very frustrated about the food. We are spending a lot of money to eat out for every single meal while a full week of groceries slowly spoils in the house.

Monday, August 01, 2005


During my (continuing) fiction-related hiatus - I'm barely spending any time at the computer and haven't even been responding to email! It's freeing! - I've been reading a lot of fantasy and it's got me thinking about the genre.

When all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer hype started, I sneered and ignored it. First, the name. Buffy?! Vampires?! Second, the movie starring Luke Perry. My feminist sensibilities suggested that I would probably hate a movie with a pretty young female lead called "Buffy" screaming and being chased by vampires. Third, the little bits I saw of the TV program included some really bad acting and ridiculous special effects.

Years later, when I did end up watching the WB and UPN series regularly due to persuasive peer pressure, I was amazed. Yes, there was bad acting. Yes, there were bad special effects. Yes, there were lovely young women getting kicked, punched, and thrown around by large men. But man, Joss Wedon was doing some interesting stuff. There's a lot more room for creativity and flexibility in a genre that's less rigorously defined, with fewer immutable lines, and this show contained some really ground-breaking stuff that was different from anything else on television.

I've long felt the same way about fantasy fiction. Oh, yes, there is some incredibly bad stuff out there marketed as fantasy. Some people (and some publishers!) will buy anything with swords and dragons, it seems. But there are some treasures in the refuse heap. There are some richly developed worlds, written quite well, revealing amazing amounts of research into cultures, religions, military campaigns, and yes, fashions, around the world.

For many of us, reading is escapism. I love to lose myself in a good story, immersing myself in the world the author creates. That's no more real if the fantasy is of Jane Austen's creation or C.S. Lewis's. I'm no more likely to find myself in 19th Century English society than I am to find myself in Narnia. But both journeys are wonderful escapes from my daily life, and both make me yearn for what will never be, in a most wonderful way. Just because it isn't "realistic" doesn't mean it isn't a good story, and well-written.

I don't know what would be a good introduction to fantasy literature for the skeptical. I started very young with fairy tales, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Joan Aiken, and so many many more. When I was a teenager I discovered Orson Scott Card. Some of what he does is just wonderful. He likes to write series novels, though, and his creative ideas always end up faltering out, becoming sermons that bog down the plots as each series progresses. I am not comparing modern fantasy to the classics in the English Literature canon. But I do recommend Margaret Weis (Death Gate Cycle) and Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time) as engrossing series reads.

Certainly, reading really good fantasy is a better summer pastime than reading one of those many pink-covered books about lipstick and fighting over men that litter the prime real estate at chain bookstores this time of year.

I think it's good when adults maintain a sense of wonder. I think it's healthy to suspend disbelief. I love that intelligent grown-ups are dressing in robes and drinking butterbeer. I'm glad that most of the highest grossing movies of all time are fantasy movies.

Next time I'll tackle video games. Won't that be exciting?