Thursday, December 16, 2010


I've always loved the music from Rent but have never seen the show. I finally got around to watching the movie last night, and enjoyed it, but I think I waited too long to see it. And at some point in the intervening years perhaps I grew up or stodgy or something.

Or was I supposed to identify with the parents? Because I totally did.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This is one of my favorite pictures from my wedding reception: Vaudene Field finishing a trip down the three-story twisty slide at The Magic House after a couple of margaritas with The Birthday Club (my mom's best friends).

And this is the way I always think of Vaudene: mouth open laughing. The memories are frequently accompanied by a twinge of pain, but it's remembered pain from laughing so hard my side hurts and my eyes stream.

Over the years memories of who gave which wedding presents begin to fade, but I still remember exactly which CDs Vaudene shared with Paul and me. My children won't know her, but they'll grow up with her music in their lives.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Burning Kansas by Sara Paretsky

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm writing about Sara Paretsky's Bleeding Kansas.

I have a bit of a thing for V.I. Warshawski, and to tell the truth I have a bit of a thing for her creator, Sara Paretsky, too. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, a group Paretsky founded, and I've heard her speak in person. All of this increased my admiration for Paretsky and her work.

So when I heard that she had written a new novel - not a mystery and not starring Warshawski - I was intrigued. Especially because it's set in Kansas. Hey, I lived in Kansas for 11 years. Now she really had my attention. (Paretsky grew up in Kansas, too.)

So I bought the book for my dad (also a Paretsky/Warshawski fan) as a thank you gift for driving to Inconvenient, Illinois to pick up my girls' new bike and saving us $150 in shipping costs.

Naturally, I read the book before gifting it. What, you don't do that? Oh. Well, I do. Just as naturally, he already owned the book and had really enjoyed it.

Which is good, because I was sort of "meh" about it.  Paretsky is a wonderful writer.  I just had trouble connecting with any of the characters in this novel, by which I mean that I didn't really like anybody.  Perhaps I was in a crabby mood that week.  But by page 200 I was caught up enough in the story that I barely minded that I didn't care very much about the characters.  Parts of the novel read a bit heavy, like a massive information dump.  Fortunately, the history was pretty interesting and I enjoyed it.  (Reading Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson prepped me by giving me background on the anti-slavery politics of Civil War-era Kansas.)

So, to conclude: if you like history, you might check this out.  If you're interested in pioneers and settlers and the history of slavery in our country, you might find this interesting.  If you'd like a picture of non-cookie-cutter politics in America's heartland today, you might check this out.  But if you're a Paretsky/Warshawski fan looking for the sort of hard-boiled Chicago P.I. page turner we're both used to, well, you won't really find that here.

(Note: this novel was new in 2008. I'm a little behind. And the Amazon reviews are humorously mixed.)

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wheel of Time

If I were going to review Towers of Midnight - which I'm not - this is what I'd say:
  • Sanderson continues to do a very good job with the imposing task he was given.
  • It's a good book, a compelling read, a solid installment in the series.
  • It's nice to see the characters finally maturing, accomplishing things, working together, and getting along.
  • However, there's perhaps a bit too much of that. I like it, but it seems a bit too pat to me.  Jordan didn't write characters standing around camp fires singing Lean On Me very often. His characters were frequently unreasonable.  And these are still his characters . . . still, we had to work toward the ending eventually and this is satisfying.
  • Sanderson is working very quickly and effectively, keeping up with his own projects while making deadlines on The Wheel of Time stuff too.  But . . . his prose lacks a little something that Jordan's had.  I like the way Sanderson brings pieces together, ties up loose ends, and gets things done.  I don't mind an occasional typo.  But the split infinitives and unglamorous grammar wore on me in this book, especially when an educated person was speaking in an otherwise rather highbrow fashion.  Minor complaint but not insignificant, to me.
  • Finally, I'd rather laugh with Mat than at him, wish the author had dialed that back a bit.
But all that's if I were going to review the book.  And I'm not going to do that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Room for Girls

makes room for a (very temporary) office for me. After all, if Ada's room becomes Mama's work space before it becomes the baby's nursery, she can't be quite as jealous, right? Here's hoping.

(At any rate, they both love the new arrangement.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One at a Time, Please!

Ada and I just returned from a few days visiting my sister, her husband, and their newborn twins.

I asked Ada to take a picture of me as I walked around the house holding the babies (my sister was getting a rare moment of sleep). Ada took pictures of nearly everything else in the house before snapping one of the least flattering pictures ever taken of me. Alas. But despite my collection of chins, I trust the sheer joy I felt while snuggling my newest niece and nephew shines through.

Other highlights of the trip (for Ada) included the giant hotel bed and a trip out for ice cream.

The babies are doing great. And I keep reassuring my sister that they will start to sleep eventually. One of them has already broken the 6 pound barrier, and once they get a little bigger they'll be able to go longer between feedings!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Ellie has a couple of friends who are two years older than she (nine). Their mothers have been talking about bras lately. Bras! I'm still talking about overnight pull-ups! So not there yet.

But apparently we are somewhere else. We've never made much of the whole boy/girl thing. We don't watch a lot of princess movies, we don't ever talk about our friends' sons as "boyfriends," we don't tease the girls about "flirting" or otherwise try to sexualize them and their young relationships.

Nonetheless, they live in the world and Ellie definitely has her first crush.

Fortunately, she has it in perfectly appropriate 7-year-old style. She pokes MJ, her dance teacher's son and an assistant teacher in her ballet/tap/tumbling class, to show her interest. He's a good sport about this. She talks about MJ a lot. When I woke her up for school last Tuesday Ellie sat bolt upright in bed and said,

"It's Tuesday! I have dance today! I'm going to see MJ!"


But my favorite is the bit that happens outside of dance class. "Wait, Mommy, I have to go back to my room to get Pretend MJ." Pretend MJ comes with us much of the time, and always needs to be led by the hand. I like Pretend MJ quite well.

Pictured: Ada, Ellie, MJ (and a couple of teachers)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ten Years

I neglected to mention it on the blog, but a couple of weeks ago Paul and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years is a long time!



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writers Write

Here is the sentence I worked on - in my head - for an hour last night while awake with a sick child.

"As it turned out, Tuesday morning’s breakfast buffet at the Sugar Maple B&B was far more deadly than usual, though it took quite a while for anyone to notice."

I'm still waffling about the first bit and keep taking it out then putting it back in. They're unnecessary words. So they should go. But I like the tone and voice they suggest.

Obviously I tend toward verbosity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Financial Planning

On television commercials, the kids settle in to watch a movie while mom steps into the kitchen to procure snacks. As the popcorn pops merrily in the microwave, she pays bills with a couple clicks of the mouse and is ready to rejoin the family before the opening credits.

This is not my experience.

Paul does most of the online bill paying, but it seems that due dates fluctuate, banks fail to notify of new bills or error messages, scheduled payments are delayed due to technical glitches, some accounts refuse to participate with online bill pay, etc. I'm not suggesting that we go back to the dark ages of mailing checks around town, nor yet the stone ages of hand delivering bills (well do I remember driving around town with my mother, doing just this).

But certainly things could be a whole lot easier than they are.

For example, budgeting software. Quicken and Money are costly, PC-based, and don't do quite everything I want them to do.

Mint is free and fabulous. Paul and I sit down for budget meetings on opposite sides of the dining room table, each of us with a laptop. One of us has the bank account open, the other has Mint, and we zip through the month's expenses, categorizing and reconciling as we go. (Actually, we each have both windows open so that we're both following along, but one of us takes point with each application.) We can do this anytime, from anywhere, because Mint is online (rather than stored on one of our hard drives). It automatically downloads information from our checking and savings accounts, our credit cards, our student loans, our retirement plans, etc.

Weekly emails tell us our net worth and it's fun to watch this number fluctuate as we pay down debt, increase savings, and our investments go up and down. As you can imagine, it was a real hoot when the real estate bubble popped and we watched the value of our house plummet sixty thousand dollars. Whew.

But we were really unhappy with our bank so we switched to a local credit union that's absolutely fabulous in every way . . . except that they won't work with Mint. So our choices are:
  1. Move to Quicken and pay a not-insignificant-amount for decreased capabilities (i.e. we have to sit near the PC and only one of us can manage the data at a time) and the lower-end models don't track investments as well as budget stuff.
  2. Stay with Mint but manually enter dozens of transactions each month from our checking and savings accounts. Shudder.

Neither option sounds ideal to me. How do you manage your household budget?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Less Globe Trotting, More Home Making

I didn't have the weekend I planned for. My youngest sister had twins a couple of weeks ago and I've been longing to meet them. So I washed the car and filled it with gas. I sorted baby clothes into two stacks: "Ellie and Ada's clothes their little brother could wear," and "This really might be better for my new niece." Paul washed the clothes and I stacked them up with a few other "gifts" and books to return.

I checked the weather forecasts and put together a list of fun things to do with kids in my sister's hometown. I selected a bag of "trip food" and prepped the girls on new baby etiquette. Surely we were all ready to go!

Then Ada threw up. And Paul's cold didn't go away as expected. In fact, Ellie started smearing snot around her own face, too, dadgummit. And my sister - new mom to not-quite-5-pound-babies - worried (naturally!) that I might be incubating something less than wholesome myself.

As it turns out, I'm still well. But it's good that we didn't make the trip anyway, even though I'm finding it nearly physically painful that I haven't been there yet!

Since no one but me was 100% well and we had already cleared our schedule, we had a wide open weekend ahead of us. We did leave the house a few times - no one was sick enough for quarantine once the magical 24 hours had passed from Ada's digestive distress - but mostly we stayed home.

I ruthlessly culled the girls' rooms of large and non-essential toys, relegating most of their stuff to the basement playroom. I already replaced the usual residents of my drawers, shelves, and hangers with seasonally appropriate (if too large) maternity gear. Now I just need need to dust everywhere and then it's time to have the carpet cleaners over for a long overdue visit.

And after that - bunk bed time! Fortunately, the girls are excited about becoming roommates soon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Yes, I Voted

Or, at least I "row-voted."  Apparently my explanations about the merits of a representative democracy leave something to be desired.  I thought Ada was pretty clear - up to and even including the spelling of the word "vote" - until she hopped out of the Cool Cool Car and asked, "We're going to get in a boat, now?"

Sadly, voting's not quite that cool.

I take Ada with me everywhere, but apparently it's been a while since I last took her with me to my polling place.  Thinking back, my mom was here in August, she was in preschool during the primaries and probably last November, too.  I don't remember the last time I voted with assistance.  Certainly it was before the current era of Many Questions Ada.

In November 2008 I must have taken her with me.  But at that point she was only 1 year old and had a slightly embarrassing habit of screaming "Daddy!" whenever she saw a picture of Senator Obama.

She really wanted to help me press my selections on the touch screen today.  I did not let her physically participate, though I did hold her up so she could see what I was doing and I explained the process as we went along.

We both found the judges bit rather boring.  And now we wait with bated breath. 

Monday, November 01, 2010

My Costume

I already posted pictures of the girls in costume from last week's Boo at the Zoo, so today I'll share my own Halloween costume. Many thanks to Paul who handled the rather tricky iron-on portion of construction.

Ada is fond of putting her hand on the baby skeleton and introducing her little brother to all we meet. Ellie prefers pointing to individual bones and naming them. "And this is the collar bone . . . "

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween

From my two original and strong-minded little girls: a slice of pepperoni mushroom pizza and an Adelie penguin. (The former because it's one of her favorite dishes and the latter because it sounds like Adelaide. Of course.)

Seen here with cousin Abby, aka Princess Aurora, aka Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty.

Why, yes, they did choose their own costumes this year! (Pics taken at Boo at the Zoo.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


And soon they'll be roommates, too.  I'm so glad my little girls play together.

They pop bubbles.  They play with dolls.  And they dance their little Angelina Ballerina mice off to bed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Handsome Is as Handsome Does

I've had some problems with this pregnancy.  I've been sick and I've had complications and it's just not been easy.  But I am feeling better this week.  Still, every time I think I can finally relax and just enjoy the second trimester, something alarming comes up.  And yesterday I spent a couple hours in the doctor's office getting checked out.  (Everything is fine. But notice how obscure I'm being just to avoid saying "blood" or "bleeding." Oops, messed that one up.)

I left messages for Paul and my mom after my appointment and ultrasound yesterday, letting them know that I'm back to "taking it easy" (which means avoiding many fun things) but that the baby looks great and I check out OK, too.

My mom texted back asking if her grandson is adorable or handsome.  I think it's a little early to tell, but you be the judge.  (For the record, he's right on schedule for four months along at a grand total of 8 inches long and 8 ounces heavy. And he waves at the camera.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Religion and Politics

So there's an election coming up and a post on politics is inevitable for me, don't you think?  But perhaps my topic is a bit unexpected.

This is where I come out in support of Christine O'Donnell.  Sort of.

Not her politics or her beliefs about sexuality or her honesty (finances, education) or her character or her fitness to serve as a U.S. Senator. 

It's the witch thing.

Liberals have jumped on O'Donnell's admission that she "dabbled in witchcraft."  (She's also a former Catholic, liberal, and she used to be pro-choice.)  They seem to believe that this history will discredit O'Donnell with the religious right.

Maybe it will, but maybe not.  After all, Evangelical Christianity is about being saved.  About turning from darkness into light.  Accepting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior and being Born Again.  A fresh slate.  Perhaps you remember our 43rd President?  Many did not hold the "sins" of his "youth" against him because he repented.  And that's huge.  The importance to evangelical Christians of being saved cannot be over-estimated.

Despite this flaw in the logic of attacking O'Donnell's previous religious practices, there's a much greater problem with the approach and it's the same problem with "attacking" Obama by suggesting that he's Muslim.  Use of religion as a vilifying personal characteristic suggests that there's something terribly wrong with being of a particular religion.  Is that really what liberals want to say?

Liberals did crow about O'Donnell's comments regarding witchcraft, just as they enjoyed her filmed comments about the evils of masturbation.

But of course the ones most excited about O'Donnell's revelations were the media, and not because they're "liberal" but rather because this sort of sensational story is news, baby!  We tune in, we listen, we talk about it.  In short: it sells.  We're buying it. 

And so nothing will change and instead of talking about substantive issues related to the direction this country should go, we're talking about a political cartoon in which O'Donnell's limousine is drawn as a broom parked outside the Capitol.

Happy voting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


one Angelina Ballerina 7th birthday party.  With the help of some wonderful kids, their parents, and my own family: Paul, his sister, Ann, her husband, Rob, and my parents (in town for the event).

Ellie wanted to invite non-ballerina boys in addition to ballerina and non-ballerina girls, and she wanted an Angelina Ballerina cake.  As our theme we chose the episode "Two Mice in a Boat," in which English ballerina mouse Angelina is partnered with a pirate-loving boy mouse named Sammy for a boat designing contest.  They can't agree on a theme - princess or pirate - and hijinks ensue.  In the end, they're forced to compromise and and work together, of course.

So we too started out dividing into teams to decorate cardboard box boats with paint, glue, flowers, flags, etc.  Much fun and mess was had by all.  They got pirate tattoos or ballerina glitter (or both) then whacked at a ballet slipper-shaped pinata.  We opened presents - the first time Ellie's been willing to do that! Still, being Ellie, she generously handed most of her presents back to her guests - then headed back outside for games.  Each child popped a balloon to reveal his or her task (e.g. dance a pirate jig, spin like a ballerina ten times. etc.).  Then they played Pirate Pirate Princess, a game that bears strong resemblance to Duck Duck Goose.  They wound up with a little Pirate King (Simon) Says.  And - finally! - it was time for cake and pizza, the highlights of the event.

Ellie had a great time.  And I love love love love love making her happy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkins and a Birthday, Must Be October

Pumpkin picking . . . and not one photo of the field itself!

7th Birthday, Take 2:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Found Moments

This morning we all overslept.  I got to wake up both girls, probably for the first time ever!

Paul headed out for doughnuts while I soothed the girls out of bed, towards the bathrooms, and into clothes.

No one was stressed or rushed, the girls enjoyed their doughnuts and sausages (because today was rescheduled birthday day) and everyone got out the door to school on time.

Only Mommy and Daddy didn't have time to shower and dress.  So Paul came back from dropping Ada at preschool and met me on the front porch.  We sat outside together for thirty minutes with our mugs of coffee, sharing a doughnut.

We chatted, we felt the fresh breeze on our faces, we enjoyed the neighborhood's changing leaves.  It was glorious.  Then we came back inside and got ourselves ready to face the day.  We were running a little late, but it was totally, absolutely, easily worth it.

Glorious autumn.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Birthday that Wasn't

Today, Ellie turned seven years old.  Seven!

Unfortunately, it did not go as planned.

She was so excited about her birthday.  She planned her birthday breakfast: doughnuts (a family birthday tradition) and sausages (that's all Ellie).  For her birthday lunch she requested that I bring some broccoli cheese soup to school.  I was to be her guest reader in class, and she chose Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Collandro for the event.  For special snack to share with her friends, we chose s'mores (last weekend's camping trip and summer grilling with Nana and Grandpa up on the mountain still fresh on our minds).  We packed graham crackers, chocolate bars, and "toasted" marshmallow fluffy spread for her classmates.  For dinner she selected spaghetti, red sauce, meatballs, corn, and garlic cheesy bread.  After Ellie went to bed, Paul and I decorated the kitchen table area with festive birthday fare and settled plans for the next day.

Then she woke up.  And she didn't feel well.  This happened a couple more times overnight and in the morning she tried to be excited but just couldn't maintain the necessary energy.  She couldn't stop coughing and bringing up phlem. (Yuck.)  She ran a low-grade fever.  She has been telling us for a while that she doesn't feel well, but couldn't describe the problem or any pain.

"I'm not very well, Mommy."

"Does your head hurt?"

"No, my head doesn't hurt."

"Does your throat hurt?"

"No, my throat doesn't hurt. I just feel yucky. I'm not well."

Well, the seven of us living in this house at present have passed around a nasty and long-lived cold and vicious cough.  I suffered through it for nearly two months (!) and I certainly felt yucky much of that time.  I thought Ellie's problem was a combination of the cold and wanting a break from school.

Today, with a fever and the violent cough she couldn't control, I knew I was wrong.  I took Ellie to the pediatrician, who sent us to the ER, where the pediatric nurse practitioner looked in Ellie's throat and found it full of impressive pus pockets.


So Ellie's back home, happier but still sick, and on antibiotics for strep throat.

October 11th has been rescheduled for this Wednesday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Drunk Driving

St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin was arrested in August on suspicion of drunken driving.  Other drivers called 911 to report an "erratic driver."  An officer responded and pulled over the local celebrity, who refused a breathalyzer.  (Booking photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

This story wasn't immediately of special interest to me, other than my obvious concern about drunk drivers on the same roads I travel.  Where it got interesting was in the discussion following the article, where respondants seemed split between certainty that McLaughlin would get a special treatment/a slap on the wrist and confusion over what he really did wrong.

These comments are representative of the latter point of view:
  1. He was drunk, so what, he didnt kill a puppy, DUI's are a revenue stream plain and simple.
  2. Looked like he had a good time. I agree, how can something be a crime without a victim?
    Checkpoints amount to an illegal search.
  3. Drunk driving is not a crime. In order to have a crime, you have to have a victim. Who is the victim in this case? I thought so. Oh, so you want to start criminalizing POTENTIAL crimes? God help us all.
  4. Anyone who drinks has probably driven home when they shouldn't have, so I would not claim otherwise. I don't know this guy or his drinking habits and I don't think most of these people do either. Could it be he was out with friends and went over his limit by one or two?
  5. Could've happened to anyone after a glass or two of wine in this spread-out town . . . 

Every now and then I'm confronted with evidence that others see the world very differently than I do . . .

Friday, October 08, 2010

What I've Been Up To

Family photo:

Apple picking:

And all church family camp (with running water and heated cabins):

(Both good photos of Paul, the girls, and me courtesy of brother-in-law Rob!)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Post-Racial Society

Most people don't think they're racist.

And of course many people think that racism is so over

Because I occasionally have poor impulse control I click over from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch news story to its discussion tab.  And I'm always disgusted by what I find there.

For example, this morning's news brought word of a man named Lavell Collins who was shot and killed in the city of St. Louis last night.  No picture accompanied the story.  But perhaps because of his name or the neighborhood in which the shooting occurred, the five immediate responses to the news were:
  1. Are they sure it is not another case of suicide, or assisted suicide? That seems to be very prominent in North St Louis it appears from all the deaths of fine, upstanding young men.
  2. More thinning of the lowlife herd in NStL. It is long past time for St. Louis to DO something pro-active against the proliferation of lowlife violent crimes.
  3. Was he on his way home from church or had just delivered groceries to his elderly grandmother? Just another day in the neighborhood..... lalalalalalal
  4. Draw a line east-west down the center of the City. "Separate But Equal"! That's the solution.
  5. WONDERFUL,MAGNIFICENT,SPLENDID,BEAUTIFUL!These are just some of the words I use to describe my feelings when I here great news in the morning.This is how you thin the heard,just hope these lowlifes don't find out that this makes most white people happy or they might quit the destruction of their own kind.

But those comments and the many many just like them on news sites across the country are not racist.  They can't be.  Because racism no longer exists.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I really do intend to blog again.

Eventually. I have no real excuse. My schedule is a little different than it used to be, with Paul's sister, her husband, and their three-year-old living with us now. :-)

I'm freelancing during some of my "free" time.

And of course there's my ongoing evening sickness.

Which is not all bad!

I mean, it sucks and I'm so ready for it to be gone, but I'm looking for the silver lining, here. I'm not losing weight like crazy and the baby's not in danger and I'm getting plenty of nutrition, etc.

But I did discover that all of my old maternity pants are way too big so I went out to buy myself an under-the-bump pair of jeans to tide me over until the giant over-the-bump tent pants fit again.

The next day I returned them. And tried on two more pairs before I realized that I'm a few sizes smaller than I thought I was. Hip hip hooray! (More accurately: smaller hips, smaller thighs, hooray!) Granted, these are elastic waist maternity pants. But they're still "boyfriend" jeans and they're still a size I haven't worn in lo these many years, since way before I started having babies.

Maybe I'll even feel well enough to go out for a jog tomorrow.  If I do, I might reward myself with a "running for two" tech shirt.