Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

Well, it's Friday photo blogging and I'm visually speechless tonight.

Ada had her 18-month-check-up today. In honor of that event, here's a truly disturbing picture from just over a year and a half ago:

Don't worry; it gets worse:

I get quite large when I'm pregnant. All belly. One baby in there! Who was under 9 pounds! But my Ada is definitely a girl who knows what she wants, and apparently she doesn't like to be cramped.


The poll's down. And very interesting results, by the way. Now that it's not cluttering up the sidebar . . .

Have any of you, especially those who visit Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips directly via Internet Explorer, have any access problems?

I've had a complaint and wondered if the problem is widespread, and if it has anything to do with Blogger's poll widget. (It all works fine for me and I use IE.)

While I'm talking functionality, though . . .

Does anyone else have a problem staying logged in? I've got the recommended security settings for Internet Explorer enabled, nothing extra, but I can't stay logged in to anything when using this browser. (There's no problem with Firefox.)

Most peculiarly, I cannot use Google applications together: Gmail, Google Reader, Blogger, iGoogle, etc. I can only be logged in to one at a time. It's very annoying! (And has kept me from using iGoogle at all, lately, since my Reader and Gmail feeds are on my iGoogle page.) The problem seems to be worsening over time, even though I completely changed my virus protection software and deleted all my cookies.

Very annoying. Advice? (Other than using Firefox all the time. I have different sets of log-ins that I keep on Firefox and IE, so I use both daily.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I have a difficult relationship with nature. In fact, I've often thought that the only time I'll be completely comfortable with it will be when I'm buried six feet under a bed of soft green grass, hopefully shaded by a beautiful old oak in a rolling, park-like cemetery. I like to think of kids running and playing around me, teenagers sneaking off to make-out nearby, and artists sitting on my headstone for a quiet and inspirational place to draw or write.

In the meantime, whenever I'm outside I'm terribly conscious of my surroundings, and not in a pleasant way. It's hot. It's muggy. It's cold. The sky is spitting at me. The wind is beginning to get distracting. What was that sound? Are there animals around? I'm a little afraid of pretty much every wild animal, up close. Have you seen the beak on a robin? Looks painful. Ohmigosh is that a bug?!!

You get the idea.

Still, I make an effort for my kids' sakes. I get excited by little natural discoveries, hide my fears when necessary, and even take them outside from time to time.

With mixed results. My girls enjoy being outside. And they don't seem afraid of it. But nor is Ellie particularly interested in our local fauna.

A couple of weeks ago, on our way out to the car after gymnastics, we found ourselves following a small toad.

"Ellie, look! A frog! Hopping down the sidewalk!"

The poor beast was, indeed, frantically trying to escape from us while being thwarted at every hop by an inconveniently placed retaining wall.

Ellie said, "There is is," without really looking, and lengthened her stride a little as she stepped over the toad.

Completely uninterested. Huh. Well, she was pretty tired after gymnastics.

A couple of days later, we were walking down a sidewalk next to some tall designer grasses on our way to the swimming pool.

"Oh, girls, look! A snail, right here on the sidewalk! See how he's got his shell right on his back?"

Ada was ambling over to take a look, but Ellie was closer. She reached down, plucked up the snail by its little shell, and, again without really looking, tossed it into the landscaping as she continued on her way.

Weird. Is she protecting me? Does my forced enthusiasm read as fear? Of a snail or toad? Surely not. I mean, a squirrel or dragonfly, sure. But a snail that's not even trying to touch me? Nah.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mommy Drive By

When I've read Flea's accounts of the Mommy Drive bys she's experienced, I cheer when she stands up for herself in the moment. I anxiously read the comments for more stories and feel such sadness and frustration when parents are struck dumb in the moment, unable to determine how to respond until later.

If only life were like fiction and we all either traveled with scriptwriters or had pause buttons so that we could figure out the most appropriate response to the unexpected critique.

I had a couple of mommy drive bys today, but they were the stealthy non-confrontational kind. I actually prefer confrontation. Especially when I'm already mad. But these . . . it took me hours to put my finger on exactly why I was upset, let alone how I could have reacted differently.

The girls and I went to The Science Center today. We parked on the (free!) planetarium side and took the long walk (airplanes! airplanes!) over the bridge (truck!) to the main building. After a very little while over there, we were done. Done, done, done, exhausted. It hadn't even been an hour since we left our car, but we were very, very done.

In fact, Ada hadn't been willing to be set down all day. She's been in an up-up-up carry me phase for a while now. Ellie is 4-1/2, and I'm trying to get her walk more, rely on the stroller less. So we were stuck, blocks from the car, stroller-less.

Ellie was not cooperative. I have always hated seeing adults pulling small children along by the arm or wrist, rather than holding their hands. I always swore that I would never be that kind of mom.

Today, I was that mom. Holding Ellie's hand when she doesn't want you to is like holding spaghetti. (Ditto putting a shoe on her foot. It's an interesting effect of her low muscle tone; you'd be amazed if you've never tried it.) Every time I let go of her hand/wrist, she collapsed to the floor, doubled over, sobbing. She refused to move on her own, and no amount of coaxing, cajoling, supporting, bribing, or threat-of-consequences-ing (no snack in the car if I count you to 3!) was at all motivational. But the girls were exhausted, no one was having fun, and we had to get back to the car.

So I held Ellie by the hand/wrist and walked. She walked along beside me, sobbing loudly, drawing attention. Not everybody stared. As we'd entered the Center, we'd passed a another mom doing a similar quick exit with screaming child, but she just had the one child, whom she was able to carry. Ada screamed and tried to climb me whenever I put her down. And she's just 1, so carrying her is reasonable. Ellie will be 5 in October, and she weighs 41 pounds.

So I walked, Ada on one hip, Ellie attached to my other hand, and people stared.

Figuring that the potty might be part of the problem, I stopped at the family bathroom near the exit. A woman was just going in with a little baby, presumably to change a diaper. She saw us, hesitated for a moment, then went ahead. And took forever. She had to be in there at least 5 minutes, all while Ellie was on the floor outside the door, tantruming. But I knew that she needed to go to the bathroom and surely this lady would be considerate and quick, right? Wrong.

While we waited 2 different women came over to intervene with Ellie. Others were staring, and I'm sure had similar opinions about my parenting but restrained themselves from coming up to us.

I moved Ellie out of the way, near a wall, while we waited. She was sitting on the carpet, doubled over with her forehead to the floor, sobbing in her pretty blue dress and white sandals, outfit per her request. Ada was in my arms, dressed identically to her big sister, fussing sympathetically.

The first woman came right up to Ellie, knelt down next to her, and starting trying to comfort her. The second woman, a little later, was standing where she could see Ellie but not me. She started to approach, saw me, and said, "Oh, I assumed she must be alone."

"No, I'm right here," I said. "This is a tantrum."

"OK," she said, somewhat doubtfully, and walked away.

That wasn't so bad. But when coupled with all the stares, plus the first woman who came back two more times to try to comfort Ellie while we waited, it all made me very uncomfortable.

If I'd know how long the inconsiderate nanny woman was going to take in the bathroom, I'd have gone into the big bathroom (despite Ellie's tearful protests that she'd prefer the little bathroom) or even gone straight out to our van and pulled out the portable potty seat.

But I had no way of knowing that we'd be waiting for long enough to cause such a scene, so we waited.

Then we marched on out to the car, mommy still murmuring reassurances to the girls, carrying one and pulling the other along. I didn't walk too fast, Ellie had no trouble keeping up with me, but the moment I relaxed my grip she just melted into a puddle on the ground. So I didn't relax until we were at the car.

Whereupon both girls got into their car seats without protest and fell asleep before we were back on the highway. At 11:30 in the morning. Way before naptime. Of course, they both woke up when we arrived at home 20 minutes later. (And, indeed, Ellie didn't nap at all this afternoon, Ada only went down after lodging a short but shrill protest.)

I have no idea why they were so tired - we're coming off an unprogrammed and relaxing weekend and a normal night's sleep, and this was a relatively short outing. Alas. All things considered, I can't think of too many things I would have done differently.

But back to the drive-by. When relating the story to mama friends tonight, I finally realized what bugged me so much about the nice lady who kept trying to comfort Ellie.

1) She never addressed me in any way, and you simply do not approach a small child who's in the care of an adult without at least making eye contact and getting a smile or nod from the caregiver.

2) She was interfering with my parenting. Ellie was throwing a tantrum. I have read books about how to handle tantrums. I was consciously considering my approach and acting the way I felt was most appropriate for my child. For someone else to intervene countermanded my approach and she had no authority to do that.

If I had it to do over again, I'd step forward and reassure the woman that I was the mother and in charge, and that I was handling this tantrum the way I saw fit. If I were feeling nice, I'd thank her for her concern before dismissing her.

To close, a quote from my current favorite discipline book, 1-2-3 Magic, from Chapter 7: "What to Do in Public:"

Fear of embarrassment and public disapproval has at times made even the most competent parents forget what they're supposed to do, change their tactics, and crumble. Try to remember this basic principle: The long-term welfare of your kids comes before short-term worries about what others are going to think.

Look Into My Eyes

Once, at a restaurant, someone asked us a question indicating that she assumed we must have adopted Ellie. After all, she has blond hair, while both Paul and I have brown hair.

More humorously, after gymnastics one day a boy asked Paul if Ellie was Japanese.

A writer friend saw me out with both girls recently and asked about Ada, "Does she look a lot like your husband, then?"

Well, Ada used to look a lot like me, but she does look quite a bit more like Paul, now.

The eyes, though, the eyes are unique.

Paul has aquatic blue eyes, though the flash washes them out a little here:

He is now concerned about his unequal pupils. I tried to tell him that it had to do with their proximity and reaction to the flash, but he's now convinced that he has a brain tumor. (It was the flash. Though he did use 600 minutes on his cell phone last month . . .)

I have brown eyes. My eyes were . . . not brown until I was nearly three. They've been brown ever since, but a rather unusual shade of brown if I do say so myself. They're sort of redish brown around the pupil and greenish brown closer to the outside of the iris:

My dad has blue/green eyes, so Paul's and my kids have (roughly) a 50% chance of having light eyes.

Ellie's eyes are nothing short of stunning, even when over-exposed:

In person, they're even brighter.

Ada's eyes are the most mysterious of all. They're dark, and people often assume that they're brown, but they're not. At least, not yet.

They can be gray:

Or more hazel

And here, for no good reason, is a gratiutous shot of my hair:

As it looks a year after this nonsense:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

Paul, his dad, and brother-in-law re-screened our patio last week. It looks great, but mid-way through the project I noticed that I wasn't seeing any activity in the nearby robin's nest (see last week's pictures for comparison). It seems that the birds have flown the coop:

We actually had a great visit with Paul's family, and the girls and I are taking it easy this week, recuperating. We're also enjoying the cooler weather. Today it was mid-60's and rainy. Last week, it was hot.

In the heat, we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the park:

the swimming pool, Grant's Farm, lots of restaurants,

The Magic House,

and had some stay-at-home fun, too:

So, this week, we relax!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Work in Progress

Here are the first 250 words of a short story I'm working on (in very rough first draft form). This story shares the same main characters as the novel I'm still writing, a first for me. Actually, I have ideas for quite a few novels and short stories involving these folks. We'll see how that goes!

This story is called "Et in Arcadia, Ego." It reflects my love of the great outdoors.

Clara was crying freely.

“I think I’m going to die!” she said to her husband.

Clara and Jonathon lived in a quaint little town, but one surrounded by a large urban area, not farmland. Of course she’d smelled a pig farm before, but never from quite this close-up, never quite this poignantly, pungently.

“And if I don’t die, I’m going to kill Denise!”

Their friend since high school, Denise now worked in sales. The fact that she was very good at her job was evidenced by the fact that Clara and Jonathon were actually crammed into the back seat of her new Volvo convertible, suffering along winding country roads on their way to spend the day at Denise’s dad’s farm. The otherwise spacious back seat was crowded because Clara and Jonathon were separated by their baby’s car seat.

“I can’t believe we’re subjecting Carrie to this. I’m sure she’s losing brain cells with each breath!”

Actually, Carrie seemed quite content with the hot wind blowing across her face, despite facing backwards and being sheltered by an enormous sun hat and tiny sunglasses.

Jonathon laughed, which made Clara smile. She was not usually so melodramatic, but being silly could be fun. Jonathon leaned his head back against the head rest and let the wind toss his feather-light brown hair. It was actually kind of lovely being out on such a perfect fall day, Clara thought as she watched her baby and husband basking in the sunlight.

Did I mention? It's a murder mystery and the tone changes right about here.

Time for Dinner

This is how dinner works at my house. Every once in a while, I sit down with a cookbook. I have a bookshelf dedicated to these and don't like to reuse the same books too frequently, so they're in constant rotation.

I make a list of several meals that sound good to me, copying ingredients onto my shopping list (which is divided by section of the grocery store). I shop. I prepare dinner. We all eat together when Paul gets home from work.

This system works for us.

Our goal is to eat out one counter service/take-away and one table service meal per week, though we sometimes exceed our budget on food. Food, for those who don't know us well, is where our family likes to spend money. We all loooooove to eat; it's our favorite hobby. But this summer we've been trying to do more of our over-eating at home, rather than from restaurants. (Thank you, unexpected second car payment.)

I do solicit requests for dinners, and Paul cooks when he's home (and the vast majority of all breakfasts) but I get bored, trying to decide on new recipes to try that we'll all like. And I get bored with grocery shopping. And I get bored with dinner prep that lasts longer than about 30 minutes.


Some girlfriends and I went to Time for Dinner tonight, and I think I'll be going back! Friends of mine have been before, but I never thought I'd enjoy the experience. I did.

Here's how it works. Every month, there's a new menu. You go online and choose which dishes sound interesting to you, and you schedule a time to go cook. (It can increase your pleasure to go with a few friends, and maybe bring along a bottle of wine.)

At the appointed time, you show up bearing a cooler or laundry basket for transporting food home. You pay and are handed a sheet listing each dish you've chosen to make. You wander through the dedicated food prep stations, creating each of your meals with the pre-prepped ingredients helpfully laid out for you. Then you wander away, leaving clean-up to someone else!

Each dish goes into a plastic bag, then into the freezer, but not until you've labeled it with the prep instructions. They have thought of everything!

Our meals for the next few weeks include:
Apple Butter BBQ Pork
Asian Chicken Stir Fry
Beef and Andouille Burgers
Beef Kabobs
Caribbean Salsa Chicken
Chicken with Artichoke, Lemon and Goat Cheese
Corn Casserole
Honey Ginger Salmon
Pork Tenderloin with Confetti Corn
Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Quiche (tomorrow night)
Venetian Mac and Cheese
Triple Chocolate Brownies

Since I chose to prepare more dishes than time allowed, they even helped me! (And would have done it all for me, if I'd ponied up an extra $35.) Everything looks delicious. And I made it (some of it) myself! And the cost is comparable to what I would have spent on all those fancy groceries.

I'll have to let you know if it feels lame to eat food from plastic bags every night. I'm thinking maybe not, but that might be because I'm trying to do all this mom stuff and writing stuff and class stuff and summer stuff and visiting family stuff and I'm loving short cuts right now!

Also, check out the new poll (right).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Doctor

The family is all still here (yay!) so tonight I have two quick lists in lieu of a more thoughtful post.

Reasons I should go to the doctor:
  • The fourth toe on my left foot sorta hurts. And has for a few months. There's maybe something unhealed or infected way under the skin in the cuticle area. But it's not getting any worse and doesn't look bad . . .
  • I've got this red bump on my left thigh. It's maybe an infected/ingrown hair and doesn't hurt but I don't like the way it looks. It's been there for . . . maybe 5 years or so?
  • I was a sunscreen-free lifeguard for a long time. I should probably be checked out by a dermatologist, for a baseline reading, at least.
  • I have plantar fasciitis (my feet hurt) and it's been quite a while since I've been to a podiatrist.
  • My insurance company likes this kind of thing.

Reasons I don't go to the doctor:
  • All these things seem pretty minor.
  • I don't actually have a doctor, other than my OB/GYN. (I keep meaning to get one, but . . . )
  • I'm really about to lose some weight, and then I'll feel better about going. cough.
  • It's not worth going while I'm pregnant; I have an OB for that. And it seems like I've been pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or fat for much of the last 6 years. There was a window, after I finished nursing Ellie and lost weight, but I was trying to get pregnant with then Ada and soon succeeded. Oops.
  • I have little kids and scheduling time without them is a challenge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

I went into the front room to check my email the other morning (shortly before swimming lessons, hence the undressed children). When I returned to the family room/kitchen a few minutes later, I found Ellie in her booster seat, quietly reading a book . . . and Ada in the middle of the kitchen table:

Ellie and Ada at the splashpad at Kirkwood Park last weekend, shortly before Ada was run over by a small boy on an even smaller bike:

Our patio robin is trying again with a new trio of hatchlings:

Rejecting the (lamest of the) 21st Century

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that someone at the pool asked me if Ellie and Ada were my grandkids. Ah-hem. But what really makes me feel old is when new stuff catches on that I just.don't.get.

As you see, I'm relatively young and hip. I know how to separate words in a sentence with periods for emphasis. I blog and am not afraid of YouTube. I've tried messenger and think it's largely a useless time-suck, but I'm OK with that. (I think much the same thing about the telephone. Your mileages may vary.)

But Leetspeak? LOLCATS? Twitter?



No, really, never. This isn't like blogging where I spent months frustrated that some of my favorite bulletin board posters were spending less and less time on the boards because they were blogging and reading blogs, and then jumping on the bandwagon myself; quitting all discussion boards cold turkey and starting this blog a couple of months later.

(In that case, I was mostly frustrated because I missed the company of some e-friends, as if a face-time friend started hanging around somewhere else instead of our usual spot. After a while, I decided on a change of scenery and ditched The Spot myself. And eventually I started running into several old friends from The Spot around new digs, Le Blogosphérè. Blogging is a very useful medium of communication for busy folks because one can read and write whenever and the posts are more static than in most electronic media (e.g. messenger, Twitter, discussion boards) and more public than email.)

I honestly don't get the appeal of Twitter. I understand what it is and how it's used (especially for businesses) I just.don' Two main things: "micro-blogging" isn't my preferred form (to write or read) and also the subscription options. I think we spend far too much time contacting each other remotely anyway (cell phones, emails, texts, etc.) and should be dialing back on that and focusing more where we are in the moment rather than who's on the other end of the damn iPhone.

Egads, I'm a dinosaur!

Second, LOLCATS. Kill me now! First of all, I don't much care for cats. And if I did have a cat, I'd care a heck of a lot more for my own cat than for pictures of other people's cats. (I'm much the same way about my own dog and my own kids.) But I have no problem with people sharing pictures of their cats. Just don't email them to me unless I know you and your cat.

But lolspeak? Nooooooo! How is this cute? Why is this accepted by people who otherwise demonstrate signs of being older than 11? I don't like baby talk for babies, either, and even if I did I wouldn't post it on top of pictures of my (amazingly beautiful and adorable!) girls and submit it all over the internet. Ugh.

Finally, Leetspeak. 1337! Can I sit at your lunch table now? As an adult, I'm quickly irritated (me? never!) with things that smack of exclusivity for the main purpose of, well, just being exclusive and isolating, the whole in vs. out dynamic. It's so very junior high in the 1980's. I sat at that lunch table, and I've left it far behind, thankyouverymuch.

I'll let Wikipedia speak for itself, here:
[Leetspeak] is now also used to mock newbies, or newcomers, on web sites, or in gaming communities.
The term is derived from the word "elite"
often it is seen in situations where the argot characteristics of the system are required, either to exclude newbies or outsiders in general.
Unrelated annoyance: Another common feature of Leet is over-exclamation, where a sentence is postfixed with many exclamation marks.

No, thanks.

Please feel free to step on up in comments and defend yourself and your love of Twitter, lolcats, or l33t.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Is Why I'm in Two Book Clubs

I'm too tired to write much tonight. My parents-in-law arrived today for a week long visit (to be followed by Paul's sister, her husband, and their adorable baby for a long weekend). Yay!

But we were up very late last night, preparing. And I still need to create a grocery list so that I can shop in the morning. So, just quickly, then:

One of my book clubs recently discussed A Thousand Splendid Suns at its annual mother/daughter meeting. Afterward, everyone decided that a lighter read was in order for the next selection.

I just got the email listing three choices from which to choose our light, frothy, frilly, fun, beachy novel:
1) high school shooting involving multiple deaths and injuries
2) woman discovers husband is having affair (also involves her involuntarily being committed to an institution and threat of losing custody of their child)
3) heartbreaking love story beginning with adultery and ending with multiple murder (including that of children) based on a true story.


Good thing my other book club is reading David Sedaris this month.

Athletic Sex in Gotham

Let me start by apologizing to all the people who've come here recently after searching for "athletic sex" or even "crazy athletic sex" and found only this post. I assume you didn't find what you were hoping for, and I apologize for wasting your time.

Thinking of writing and wasting or not wasting time, I thought I'd post a quick review of the first week of the Gotham Writers Workshop in which I'm participating this summer. First of all, I am enjoying the online class experience. The first "lecture" didn't knock my socks off (reading the lectures will take some getting used to) but I enjoy the Blackboard functionality, and this is my first experience with it as a student (rather than as a marketeer educating sales reps and demonstrating educational products directly to customers). Second, I like the other students (at least, what I know of them so far) and think they'll be a great group to work with. I look forward to reading their pieces and getting to know them a bit more.

I like the deadlines and accountability, and I'm using the weekly homework assignments (which go just to the instructor) to work on a short story featuring the same main characters as my novel-in-progress. I'm using the first two chapters of the novel as my two big class workshop pieces.

I haven't gotten instructor feedback yet, but most of my student colleagues have weighed in on my first chapter. Unfortunately, many of them didn't follow the detailed critique directions (including the directive to post some unique praise or criticism!). On the (huge!) plus side, they loved it! Most of the feedback has been glowing. Which makes me happy and motivated and might be worth the price of the class right there.

Deadlines/accountability + positive response to work = happily writing Sarahlynn.

The first and second people to respond talked about my opening scene, which has been driving me crazy and I couldn't figure out how to fix. After reading their comments, I had a big CLICK moment and I knew what to do. Yippee. I just wish some of the subsequent commenters had focused on other weaknesses in the work; I know there must be some!

(On the other hand, they loved it! They loved specific things about it! The had really flattering things to say about the writing, dialogue, pacing, mystery elements, and characters. Have I mentioned how great this feels?)

Now when the instructor weighs in with some more detailed critique, I'll be bolstered, ready, and eager to hear it. Hit me.

So far, so good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

PCUSA Bloggers

Some friends and I recently started a new blog, PCUSA Bloggers (where blogging is decent and in order). (That last aside is an inside joke for Presbyterians.)

Our intent is for this to be a Presbyterian community with a wide diversity of viewpoints represented from both contributing writers and readers/commenters. Currently, we have two pastors, two elders, and one lay member as contributors, though I expect that number will grow and change over time.

And, of course, one does not need to be Presbyterian, or even Christian, to read and participate in the discussion!

This is still a start-up operation - and we're tweaking the template - so please check in periodically to see what we've added in the way of new features and content.

End note: There is another unofficial PCUSA Blog, but the administrator there is no longer active, the email link is dead, the site/template cannot be updated, and there's only one remaining active contributor. I've talked with that contributor regarding my concerns about the site's original intent and he's agreed to start posting others' material as well as his own. (I am excited about that development, because I've been suggesting discussion topics for quite a while, but would still like to build a community with more direct contributors.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

We had an excellent Fourth of July last week. We took the girls to a parade in the morning:

Then headed home for lunch and naps. During the afternoon we cleaned up around the house:

Then we had a few friends over for a casual BBQ. After we'd eaten ourselves silly, we piled into cars and headed over to Kirkwood Park for an amazing fireworks display:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sexism Sells -- But We're Not Buying It

Well, this isn't what I was planning to post tonight, but I couldn't watch this without sharing it.

Via the Sisters in Crime July newsletter.

Sexism Sells -- But We're Not Buying It

When You Grow Up What Will You Be?

I was right; today was hard. And it's not looking like I'll be perfectly well rested tomorrow, either. Alas.

But I'm going to choose to focus on the positive tonight, instead. This is going to be one of those posts where I catalog the wonderful things my children are up to (in this case, Ellie) probably interesting nobody but myself (preserving for future reference) and possibly others who know my children well and follow their lives from afar, like their grandparents.

Ellie's been obsessed with a book they read a couple of weeks ago during beach week in summer school, called There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell. I could not find this book anywhere, so I ordered it from and surprised her with it today. It was like Christmas in July! She carried that book around all afternoon and wanted it read over and over and over. It was the only bedtime story she wanted her daddy to read, tonight, too. So cute.

I love her developing preferences. I also love that she started independent swimming lessons this week and is doing great! She's going into the water without me and without complaint (all those trips to the pool in June really paid off) and is participating appropriately with her class. Yay!

And after a few weeks of accident after accident after accident until I thought I might go crazy, she surprised me today by taking care of a major potty need all by herself. With no mess! This has never really happened before. Although she usually manages her own potty schedule, she still needs help undressing, getting onto the toilet, wiping, washing hands, redressing, etc. And she didn't quite complete all those tasks on her own, today, but by the time I realized that she was in the bathroom, the critical bits were finished. Wheeeee!

We had the best discussion yesterday, by the way. She started singing a Dora the Explorer song about what you want to be when you grow up (for some crazy reason, I bought her the 44 tune soundtrack for her second birthday. "I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map!") so naturally, I asked her about it.

"Ellie, what do you want to do when you grow up?"

I want to work!

And drive!

Drive to work!

In Daddy's car! By myself!

How cute is this? How perfectly preschool! This child has special needs? Where?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tomorrow's Gonna Suck

I'm taking a class through the Gotham Writers Workshop this summer, and the course went live today. That means that midnight was the first time I could log on and view course materials, including workshop schedules and critique due dates.

At 11:48 pm, I got a "Gotham Class Late Notice" informing me that I'd been chosen to go first and my piece for workshop was due before July 8th (yes, the first day of class) so I was late. Sigh. Not an auspicious beginning.

I should not have been surprised, then, by what happened when I tried to post my first chapter.

I went through and carefully edited a file to upload, making sure that everything was exactly as I wanted it. This took over an hour. I saved the document several times, because I'm careful like that. Then I closed the document so that I could upload it.

And when I clicked "Browse" on the Gotham BlackBoard site to find my document, it was nowhere to be found. I checked my whole computer; there's no record of the file. I tried to wake Paul, but failed.

Well, I guess my plans for 2:30-3:30am, previously involving some sleep, have changed.


(Update: found it, buried in an invisible internet temp file. Everything else I'd planned to do tonight (like figure out who keeps trying to log on to one of my credit card accounts) will have to wait until tomorrow. Off to bed.)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cold Sores

I don't get cold sores. Neither do Paul, either of our girls, or anyone else in my family (mom, dad, sisters).

Apparently, this is somewhat rare, as most Americans do get cold sores.

It's not the end of the world, but cold sores aren't great things to get (see below).

It freaks me out (and frustrates me) when people with cold sores put their mouths (and sores) close to my children. This weekend, we hung out with a good friend who had a cold sore. This friend is great with the girls, babysits them, etc. And kept kissing on them this weekend.

It really bothered me, but I couldn't think of a way to bring it up without sounding like an ass (though I kept washing their hands and wiping them down with antimicrobial wipes, probably uselessly). Since it still bothered me the next day, I sent a brief email, as light and jokey as I could make it, requesting that this friend not kiss my kids with a fever blister.

I mentioned the situation to another friend, who seemed nonplussed. "It just never would have occurred to me that cold sores would be a big deal," she said.

Huh. Maybe this is just me (and the rest of my family) who takes this seriously?

A little general information on cold sores:
  • "Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both virus types can cause lip and mouth sores and genital herpes."
  • They're very contagious, and can definitely be spread by kissing (and sharing cups and utensils).
  • Symptoms can include pain, fever and malaise, sore throat, and swollen glands.
  • The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores cannot be cured. After you get infected, the virus stays in your body for the rest of your life.
  • It can be worse in people who are immuno-compromised. Ellie doesn't have the best immune system in the world.
  • Scientific American asks: Does Herpes Cause Brain Cancer? "The deadliest and most common type of brain cancer has a strange bedfellow: cytomegalovirus, a kind of herpes present in about 80 percent of the U.S. population."

I'd love to hear your opinion: was it rude of me to ask this of my friend? Am I completely nuts to not want this virus for myself and my kids?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Friday Photo Blogging

Last summer, all four of us went to the Missouri Botanical Garden once. There was a downpour and we got soaked. I mean really really soaked. Translucent clothes, saturated underwear, the works.

The girls and I went back a couple of times on our own and had no problems.

This summer, the four of us chanced the Gardens again, this time for a Niki night.

And, of course, it poured and we got soaked to the skin. It's a good thing we don't mind a little water!

And no, I don't watch What Not to Wear, why do you ask? I do have a sister and good friend who do, and they're both very happy to tell me that I should stop wearing ridiculously large, shapeless clothing. But I don't wanna!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Are They Better Mothers?

What am I doing wrong? Why am I so bad at this?

I used to ask myself those questions and wonder why other moms had everything so much more under control than I did. Scheduled children. Toys all picked up before Daddy came home. Sometimes, children fed and bathed and ready for bed when Daddy walked in the door in the evening to kiss them goodnight and maybe read a story or two.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that that's not the life I want, the way I want to raise my children, the relationship I want my children to have with their father.

How do they do it? I am frequently worn to a frazzle when Paul comes home from work (an event I'm often looking forward to by concentrating hard on the second hand, wondering if the battery is dying or something). Toys frequently carpet the house, dinner remains unmade, and children need to go potty or have their diapers changed.

At least that's how it used to be. Now I have more of the answers.

Did you know that it's actually easier to do all that routine stuff (straightening, cooking, eating, bathing) sometimes? Did you know that it can be harder to fill long, cranky afternoons with undesired free play or programmed activities? Unscheduled time leaves more room for potty accidents, sibling bickering, messy toy box explosions, and boredom to set in. And scheduling activities for late afternoon cranky kids can be even more of a problem.

In our house, mornings are for field trips and other fun activities. Post-nap-time is a time for whining and picking fights.

"Hey, kids, pipe down for a bit. I'm trying to write an email." I'd feel like a pretty rotten mama for saying that. It might be different if my kids were, say, 17 and 20.

But, "I need you to go play in the other room for a few minutes; I'm busy cooking and it's getting really hot and dangerous in here." Who could feel guilty about that? What can be more important than preparing a nutritious, delicious meal for the children?!

I'm not talking about 4-hour gourmet prep sessions, but cooking can actually translate to a few precious moments of alone time. Ahhhh.

And early eating forestalls late afternoon whining. Baths are just plain fun. Perhaps those other mamas don't have it more together; they're just keeping their shit together in a different way than I am.

I always cook dinner during the afternoon now, and I've moved snack time to 4:00 to push off our family meal until Paul gets home at 6:00. The girls and I also pick up toys together in the late afternoon when everyone's getting cranky. If they get bored with that and bail to play in their own rooms, I get a double bonus: the ability to pick up efficiently and in peace, plus the possibility of a few minutes to myself if I finish quickly!

I am not bad at this. It just took me a little while to find the strategies that work for us, both for the natural rhythms of our lives and for the time we like to spend together as a family, eating dinner and playing before bed.

It also gets a bit easier as the children become older and more self-sufficient.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I (Briefly) Lost Ellie Today

A couple of months ago, we had trouble with Ellie running out into the street when she was supposed to be loading into the car. We coped with that using a variety of techniques, most effectively praising her for stopping at the end of the driveway to look both directions, which made her so happy that she'd come back when we asked her to do so.

I thought we were through with all that.

She did it again today, while I was bringing a load of library books and diaper bag out to the car. Moreover, she encouraged her little sister to come out into the street with her.

Naturally, I dropped the bags and snatched up Ada. We live on a very quiet street, and as there was no traffic anywhere around, I strapped Ada into her car seat before going after her Ellie, who had continued on down the block. She is 4-1/2, after all. She does know how to look for traffic and she was wearing a bright red shirt so she was hard to miss.

Before I started kindergarten, on the advice of her parenting books my mom had me walk to the grocery store, buy a gallon of milk, and carry it home (that was heavy!). But times are different now. And Ellie is . . . Ellie.

Less than a minute later, I was looking for her. Up the street: no Ellie. Down the street: no Ellie. Into the T-intersection 100 feet or so from our driveway: no Ellie in either direction.

She doesn't move very fast. Down the storm drains: no Ellie. I wasn't very concerned, honestly. I know our neighbors, no cars had come by, she had to be near.

She was. She had gone up to a neighbor's house and was peering through the front door, but she had not responded to my calls.

I considering not letting her go into the library as part of her punishment, but decided that would be more of a punishment for Ada and me. So she lost access to her dolls for the rest of the day (in addition to a 5-minute time out and NPR on the way to the library). Those who know Ellie know that this was a serious consequence, indeed. No dolls! All day!

We've been having some serious defiance issues lately. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.