Thursday, December 27, 2007

Images from Christmas

We survived our trip to Atlanta and had a lovely time once we got there. I've come to the conclusion that only crazy people get on airplanes 2 days before Christmas. It took us 12 hours to get from point A to point B. And really, only 96 minutes of that was flying in the air. The rest was driving, and waiting, and waiting some more.

But...we saw grass! green grass! Well, yellow grass, really - they are having a drought down there.

Daughter D. looked lovely in a beautiful Austrian dress, given to her by her Texas aunt:

Son D loved his gift from the "santa-aunties" (opened here, before we departed. I'm not crazy enough to bring a drum set on the airplane). However, earplugs were not included for the rest of us. : )

The cats loved the ornament-less tree. And they missed us. Actually, they missed their litter box. a lot. I'm finding little cat-poop presents deposited all over the house. Oh joy!

Bottom line - it's certainly worth the hassle to see husband D's entire family all together at the holidays. The kids had a blast with all their cousins.

But next time can we take the private jet? And avoid all that "snow/ice" stuff here in Wisconsin? That slippery stuff makes traveling a bit more complicated.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Change your carbon monoxide detectors every five years.


Make sure you have two carbon monoxide detectors in your house. Even if it is a really small house.

Let's say you make the mistake of only having one detector. Let's say it somehow got to be 7 years old when you weren't looking. (maybe 8. It was purchased shortly after the birth of your first child, let's just say. And you can't believe that she is 8 either.)

Then, you will be sitting around one Winter Solstice morning at 7 am, opening your Solstice gifts (because you are flying elsewhere for Christmas and there is no way you are packing up a drum set.) Then, it will go off with the loudest noise known to man and will indicate, via a number that you don't really comprehend, that you have unacceptable levels of carbon monoxide in your house.

So, you will call the local fire station, thinking they'll say, "oh, don't worry. everything is fine. happens all the time." But what they will actually do is send a fire truck, an ambulance and a police car - all with lights flashing and sirens blaring (at 7 am) to eventually tell you that "oh, don't worry about it. everything is fine. happens all the time." You will have to explain to them the reason you have scattered wrapping paper and open presents all over the house three days before Christmas. You'll have to share that the reason for the 12 open wine bottles in your kitchen was a neighborhood Solstice party last night.

Who knew that after 5 years, a CO2 detector has accumulated so much of the stuff that it starts to think a normal amount is toxic? Not me. Who knew that you need 2 detectors just so you can have a back up reading if one goes wacky? not me.

But now I do.

And Santa may be bringing a pair of brand new matching detectors in our stockings this year, just maybe.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No wonder we're so gung-ho on public schools...

Another day, another magazine ranking of Madison as a "best place to ______" (insert: live, eat, bike, run, be organic or go to school,...depending on the publication)

This time it's Forbes and we're #2.

Personally, I don't put much weight in these rankings. I'm convinced the magazine people come to Madison in late June, (when it is beautiful) fall in love with the place, and then insert it into whatever article they are writing.

And frankly, Madison public schools, although great, have a lot of challenges and remain underfunded. The student population gets needier and needier each year as those with money flee to the suburbs. If this is the best in the nation, I daresay we are all in trouble.

But according to Forbes, husband D. and I were educated in the #1 area for education, and are raising our children in the #2 area for education. So at least that explains why we feel so strongly about public education? maybe?

I also wonder if they took out the suburbs (or "surrounding areas") from their analysis if DC and Madison would have fared so well.

At least it gives the local news something to talk about.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Talkin' Baseball

Son D. keeps picking up the newspaper: "Look, Mama! The Red Sox!" He's excited to see my favorite baseball team in our local paper.

I don't have the heart to tell him why Gagne (formerly of the Red Sox, now of the Brewers) is on the front page (the *entire* front page) of our local paper.

Husband D. was a competitive cyclist, back in the long-ago days of no-kids, no-wife, no-mortgage. Back when he could ride his bike for 3-4 hours/day and no one thought that was an unproductive use of time.

If we had a dollar for every time someone mentioned to him how "Cycling is riddled with illegal drug use," we'd be rich. Time and again, he'd assert that so many cyclists have been caught because they are actually tested. For everything - drugs, caffeine levels, you name it. Football? Baseball? They look the other way. They hand out painkillers on the airline flight home. Needless to say, he wasn't too surprised by any of the news yesterday.

....but am I a bad person if I was secretly happy to see Clemen's name on the list?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


What a difference a year makes. Last year, we had almost no snow in December. This year, it's all-snow, all-the-time. We've got 20 inches of snow on the ground right now.

I never cease to be amazed by the ability of people in Wisconsin to deal with snow. We had 6 inches of snow yesterday, but everything went on as normal. Both kids went to school. Both parents went to work. Back in DC, 6 inches of snow would have stopped all activities for at least a day.

We are off to the Capitol building today to look at the CHRISTMAS TREE. I put that in all caps because there is a group here who wants to call it the 'holiday tree.' And they are making it a big issue. I'm all for respect for all religions and would welcome any other symbols in the Capitol or anywhere.

But making an issue out of what to call something makes me a little crazy. Our world has so many REAL problems, can we just ignore some of these little ones? Sure, maybe it isn't the most politically correct thing in the world - but is it really hurting anyone?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Milk and Cookies

We got our Christmas Tree today. A beautiful fragrant Balsam. The best smelling tree of the bunch.

What we didn't realize, however, was that the scent of balsam must be very close to the sent of catnip. The kittens immediately began climbing the tree. We haven't dared put any lights or ornaments on the thing. Hopefully the novelty will wear off...but just to be safe, the kids spent the afternoon making homemade paper, completely unbreakable ornaments.

This is the week of holiday concerts and pageants. Son D's preschool has a concert on Wednesday night and Daughter D. is in the church pageant next Sunday. Much rehearsing took place today.

My favorite? Son D's rendition on "Angels we have Heard on High." He finishes each verse with:


And I am overcome with an urge for a chocolate cookie. With a creamy filling.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Internet and Obama

We lost internet connectivity for almost 4 days (on and off.) You have no idea how much you use the internet until it is gone. But it is working now.

Daughter D. asked me how to spell a word earlier tonight and I told her we couldn't look it up because the internet was down. She accepted that with no questions.

It is time for my annual minuscule political contribution of the year. Oddly, I have started basing my contributions on whatever cause Daughter D. is most passionate about at the time. This year - it's all Obama - all the time. (Is she watching Oprah when I'm not paying attention?)

She is adamant that we need a change. She pointed to a book of US Presidents and said, "They are all white men. We need a change." I suggested she may want to learn more about Hillary, but she felt that wasn't enough of a change. She pointed out that her husband was already President, and moreover, "Chelsea already got to live in the White House 2 times. It wouldn't be fair for her to live there again." (In her world, daughters live with their mothers forever.)

She's back to reading MLK biographies again. She's insistent that we need a leader who is somehow different than the people in power now. She also told me that "we need a change in how people get to be rich or poor." She concluded that "An African-American president would give lots of poor people hope and everyone would have to listen to him because he is the President."

We watched the Republican debates together. She took one look at the stage and said, "They all look the same. They aren't about change."

From her mouth to my credit card. I made a (very small) donation to Barak Obama.

On the internet, of course.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

6 inches of snow. kids in heaven.

We spent the morning building an igloo. (or part of an igloo, I suppose.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I saw this post over at Lisa's blog and was very confused. What was she talking about?

But, intrigued, I clicked on the links.
here and here and here.

I can't resist anything that combines fun, liberal views, science, and an internet google bomb. Here are mine: (italics are added)

1. Cigarettes are VERY bad for you

2. Men and Women are equal. In their own way.

3. Global Warming is real, and (by the way) it’s all our fault.

4. It’s not all relative.

5. Gin is better than Whiskey. Whiskey is better than Gin. Both are pretty bad

6. Intelligent Design might be wrong.

7. Over consumption is a serious problem.

8. The Millennium Development Goals are worthy. (Those are actually something worth linking to.)

9. Wilco is good, sometimes exceptional, but often inconsequential. But they are from the Midwest, so we listen anyway.

10. Sh*t happens (ditto for sex and death).

11. Creationism is silly to be asking about in presidential debates. (also, see 6)

12. SUV’s are just stupid.

13. The truth is worth more than an iPod.

14. On the whole, disorder increases. Every day, at our house.

15. Science, for better or for worse, is all around.

I wish the folks over at The Science Creative Quarterly the best of luck in their experiment with the truth. Most of my favorite people in the world are quirky-science-types, so I'm glad to help.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I vant to be alone

Next week, I will be doing something that I haven't done in 9 years.

I'm spending TWO NIGHTS ALONE. There will not be 3 cats jumping on my feet. No darling husband snoring next to me. No son crawling into bed at 5 am. No daughter with Harry Potter nightmares.

I'm going here.

It's a work meeting. I'm sure I'll be doing a million brainstorming exercises and team building games and all sorts of other taxing things. I'm sure I'll miss the kids and the husband terribly. I've never really been away from the whole family for more than 24 hours before.

But - I will have a bed all to myself. I may even get to use the bathroom alone. I think I will survive.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happiness is a Book Fair

Son D. and I just got back from volunteering at the Scholastic Book Fair at Daughter D.'s school. I can't think of a better way to spend a day. Some generous local businesses donated $$ so that *every* kid at the school could get a book. The kids were so excited. We were there when the Kindergarten classes came through. They were so cute.

The poverty level at our school continues to increase each year. When I volunteer at an event like this, it is so noticeable.

The kids get their free book today. They get to go back later in the week to purchase a book with their own money if they want to. I'm torn. This is when the divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots" becomes clear as day. In each class, there are 1-4 kids who can buy another book. The other 12-15 kids can't.

In the past, I haven't let her buy another book at school. (We go to "family reading night" and buy some then.) But now, she has an allowance and free choice. I'm tempted to drop off an anonymous envelope with cash so that all the kids in her class can get another book. But even if I am able to find the spare cash to do that, there are still 15 other classes.

I hear about the ever growing divide between the rich and the poor all the time. I've been hearing about it for years.

It's hard, though, to be seeing it so closely. And I still don't know what to do about the book fair money. We'll see what daughter D. recommends.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I could write a long, long list on why I get so annoyed by the website Babble. But I won't.

I will, however, write why this particular article annoys me:

Why must all these articles ALWAYS assume that everyone in the world shares their level of income? That we are all awash in Webkinz and Crocs and Heeleys, oh my.

Daughter D. is having a "no gift" party tomorrow. Not because she is at the front of any hip trend. Not because she will be donating anything to charity. She won't.

She's having a "no gift" party because one of her best friends *can't* bring a gift. A. started as our "little sister" through BBBS (one of the most phenomenal organizations in the entire world.) We've only been matched for 7 months and already she has become one of our very favorite people. Sadly, there is no extra money for presents in her world.

We talked and D decided that the best thing to do would be to have a small party and ask her other friends not to bring gifts. The other friends agreed wholeheartedly.

I have to think that showing kids that they can be good friends without *purchasing something* really shouldn't be blamed for turning charity into something "routine" or making birthdays less special.

For me, Daughter D's thoughtfulness and maturity are just about the most special thing in the world. And I can't think of a nicer gift than that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dreaming of a White Thanksgiving...

I'm quite convinced that there is a child-mood-enhancing narcotic added to snow. (It is a white, powdered substance, no?)

We got *maybe* an inch of snow yesterday. Maybe. But the kids acted like we'd just won the lottery. Son D woke up at 5 AM. He was so excited to see snow that he simply had to wake us up too. Perhaps if I'd been cooking a turkey, I'd have been glad to wake at that hour. But since Whole Foods was cooking the bird for us this year, I'd have been just as glad to sleep in. Maybe until 6.

The kids raced outside immediately after breakfast. We didn't hear from them for over an hour. (At what point can I just go back to bed? It's not like I'm supervising them...yes, we live in one of 6 neighborhoods left in the country where all the children roam free. Our friends on the coasts think we are terribly negligent...) They took their sleds and attempted to slide down one of our trees.

After our delicious meal (Thank you Whole Foods!), I broke down and took them sledding-for-real. We walked over to the golf course and found the biggest hill and they zoomed down until I was too cold for any more. (it was in the 20s all day...I know it is winter, but it takes me a while to get used to it.)

I think this is the first "white Thanksgiving" in recent memory. The kids definitely approved. Me, I'm hoping that the first flakes of the next storm fall mid-morning so I can get my beauty rest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bribery will get you everywhere

I've been trying for weeks to convince Daughter D to skip school tomorrow. She has refused. (This is the child who refers to our idyllic trip to Hawaii as "the time you made me miss a week of Kindergarten.")

Son D. and I are heading up north tomorrow to visit one of my best friends from High School. She married someone from Green Bay and we haven't seen each other since we had kids. It will be a very fun trip.

What child refuses to skip school? Mine, evidently.

So, today - which happens to be her 8th birthday - I presented my secret weapon. Book 4 of Harry Potter on CD. She's a bit obsessed with Mr. Potter at the moment and is about a quarter of the way through book 4. I dangled the chance to sit in a car for 3 hours and do nothing but LISTEN TO HARRY POTTER.

She hesitated. I saw my moment. I quickly added, "And when we get back, I'll sit and do an hour of math worksheets with you."

That, my friends, sealed the deal. And I successfully convinced my now-8-year-old daughter to ditch school for the day.

Those of you with 8 year olds - do you take the booster seat away immediately? Or do you wean yourself off it it?

Putting a child in a car without a car seat is going to feel so very strange, after all these years. (Yes, Daughter D is already as tall as many adults who ride w/out them just fine, but it will still feel strange.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

News you can Use

Due to the wonderful generosity of my parents, I get my best news-fixes on the weekends. On Saturday, my favorite magazine (The Economist) arrives. It's a slightly conservative take on the world, and brilliantly written. Then on Sunday, my favorite newspaper arrives - the Sunday Times. Decidedly more liberal, and slightly less brilliantly written...but it has a Style section which more than makes up for that.

I spend a good part of my weekend reading the conservative Economist and the Liberal Times and come up with my own wacky-middle-ground-compromise-see-it-both-ways views.

So, I should like Hillary, right? A nice centrist Democrat.

But I don't. I'm trying. But I don't.

I watched this week's debate in Vegas with great anticipation. Maybe she would "wow" me. Nope. She scared me. The minute she finished her answer on Iran, I realized that I had to find a candidate to support and QUICK. I do not want her running our country. I'd *love* a woman president - don't get me wrong. But not her.

A liberal friend and I were joking the other day that we should probably start researching the Republicans. Then we realized we weren't joking....Huckabee might send women/gay/civil/environmental rights back a few decades but he won't get us all killed in another senseless war.

I've think I've got it narrowed down to Edwards and Obama. Kuchinich creeps me out. Biden is super-smart and I like to hear him speak...but he's not presidential to me. Richardson is too slick for me and he doesn't speak well. I was interested in Gravel, but he appears to have disappeared.

If I were Edwards and Obama, I'd make a deal. I'd join forces NOW. Run as a package deal. Edwards/Obama or Obama/Edwards - I don't care.

Anyone but Hillary.

Daughter D. is set on Obama. My friends seem to lean towards Edwards.

What's a middle-of-the-road Democrat to do?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


When I agreed to be the PTA President last year, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea how much unpaid work goes into running a school.

I'd heard all the stereotypes. I've read all the derogatory blog posts on school volunteers - like this one called Volunteer Vampires.

(All I can think of when I read stuff like that is what a luxury they have to have so many helpers to be able to complain about one of them!)

Our school has a 66% free/reduced lunch population. That means that over 2/3rds of the school is on some kind of assistance. There is a heck of a lot of volunteer work to do.

Most of the work is decidedly unglamorous. It takes a lot of time. There's not much glory. There is absolutely no pay.

Last week, I was sitting in the teacher's lounge with Daughter D. She was helping me count out bunches of xeroxed flyers to put in each classroom mailbox. I was grumbling a bit. It takes freaking forever to count those darn things out and there are paper cuts galore and I got a Masters Degree for THIS? Collating?

But she looked up at me with her big beautiful brown eyes and said, "Mama, it's so much fun to help you with your work at my school" and went back to dutifully counting her papers.

Her words were like a time machine stick. I was instantly transported back to 1976 and I was sitting with *my* mother at one of those awful mimeograph machines and we were making worksheets for the Spanish lessons she was running for my school's PTA. For a minute, I swear I could smell the black dust of the mimeograph.

School volunteering may create "vampires"; It may give a new definition to the word "tedious"; It may be the worst paying job with the longest hours (other than parenthood, itself, of course.)

But evidently, it is genetic. Sorry Daughter D. In 30 years when you are stuck making copies for the PTA with your eldest daughter in a poorly ventilated teacher's lounge, you'll know who to blame.

(Your grandmother...of course!)

Monday, November 12, 2007


You can always tell when husband D. goes to Asia because I'll post every day for about 10 days, and then will fall immediately silent for the week of his return.

As difficult as these long stints of single parenting are, the return to a happy smiling family of four has its own challenges.

Basically, we run through the seven dwarfs of emotions...

The minute he returns we are both DOPEY with joy - it's amazingly wonderful to be reunited and see each other and the kids are ecstatic. Daughter D gets a little BASHFUL. She sometimes has a bit of trouble with the transitions.

The dopey-happy stage lasts about a day. Then we move quickly into SLEEPY. He's fighting a 14 hour time difference jet lag and the fact that he just traveled for 24+ hours with little to no sleep. Me, I've been alone with kids for almost 2 weeks. I don't sleep well when he is gone, so I'm bordering on sleep deprivation lunacy when he returns.

SLEEPY quickly morphs into GRUMPY. Two sleep-deprived parents. Two attention-starved kids. You do the math.

Fast on the heels of GRUMPY comes SNEEZY. Someone gets sick in the week after he returns. Always. (leading to a repeat of both SLEEPY and GRUMPY.) Eventually, one of us will end up at a DOC for some relief.

Eventually, we catch up on rest and our sniffles go away and we are all HAPPY again.

Just keep me away from any poisoned apples, OK?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A good day for NPR fans

One of the highlights of my week is "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."

I've never seen "Dancing With Stars" or "The Amazing Race." I can't tell you who is on "American Idol" or "Survivor." But I can name every single "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" panelist. I love them all.

I'm a card-carrying NPR geek, and Wait Wait... is simply the best NPR show. Ever.

So imagine my glee when I discover that Peter Segal has a blog!

And there I learn that there is an article about him:

And I even got to hear the end of his piece on All Things Considered today that cut out due to technical difficulties.

One of these days, I'm going to call into the show. Then, not only will I have Ari Shapiro on my answering machine - I'll have Carl Kasel too. Really - what more could a girl want?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Look Ma, no Cavities.

I went to a brand new dentist today.

The good news is that I have perfect teeth. 39 years, and still no cavities. Ever. I was feeling awfully proud of myself until the dentist told me that really, it is only because I have less of a certain kind of bacteria in my mouth. Everything about my teeth is just peachy, according to my new dentist. She loved my teeth.

But my gums, oh my gums - they aren't living to the high standards set by my teeth. My gums are trying hard to get attention by creating "pockets." Pockets of what - I have no idea. marbles? air? who knows? All I know is that when they poke said pockets with pointy metal sharp instruments, it is not so fun for me.

So, they are recommending a "Sonic Care" Toothbrush. I've always assumed that those $100 toothbrushes are a marketing scam. (I'm in marketing. I get that most things are marketing scams.) But if helps me empty those gum pockets, maybe I should try it? Are they worth it?

My other alternative is to sit down and have a talk with the teeth: "Teeth, maybe you could just get a teeny cavity, so that the gums don't feel like they need to overcompensate for your ridiculous over achievement by acting up with their silly pockets?"

Yeah, that ought to work. Me thinks I'm out $100 for a fancy pocket soothing toothbrush.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Silver Lining

Why does it take 12 hours of continuous vomiting for me to just chill and relax my standards a bit?

I've been single parenting for 9 days. I was attempting to do it while maintaining the same rules/standards/whatever that I do when my husband is home. (My incredibly helpful, supportive, dish-doing husband....nothing like 9 days of doing your own dishes to make you appreciate your spouse!) No TV; Daily exercise; organic vegetables; clean house; Get to work on time; Volunteer; Everything.Perfect.

You know what? I can't do it.

Today, I let the kids watch 2 hours of TV. (My daughter normally watches about an hour/week.) They saw SpongeBob SquarePants for the very first time. I served
crackers and banana bread for lunch. No vegetables or fruits to be seen. I canceled my "Big Sister" activity for the day.

Husband D has been traveling to Asia 3-5 times/year for the last 5 years. I've always tried to manage our life on my own while he's gone. But today - today, I found a sitter to come help this afternoon. In 8 years, I've never done that before. We have sitters for dates - or when I need to work - stuff like that. I've never hired a sitter just so I can have a break. It feels positively decadent.

Everyone I know is working so hard to make sure our children have the ideal childhood. The best schools. The most stimulating toys. The healthiest foods. The most enriching activities.

And we are all raising lovely, well-behaved, well-rounded, intelligent little creatures.

But you know what? SpongeBob SquarePants is really funny! Maybe a little decadent mind-numbing good-for-nothing time-wasting sprinkled in with all that enrichment is good for us.

Maybe the "best" childhood is the one that doesn't always focus on doing what is best all the time...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Misery Loves Company

At least it's not just us?

I guess I can't complain that I spent the day scrubbing my house with bleach. They had to scrub a whole school!

Friday, November 2, 2007


Son D goes to a home daycare once a week, while I go off to earn a meager living. This week, he was the ONLY child at the entire daycare who did not get a horrid stomach bug that involves copious amounts of vomiting and diarrhea. As I picked him up yesterday, yet another child was vomiting. (Leading to the fastest daycare pick-up in the history of time.)

I have become a hand-washing drill sergeant. Every three minutes, I bellow "Everyone! To the sink! Wash your Hands!" I'm rubbing tea-tree oil on anyone who stands still. (No, I have no idea if it really works to boost immunity, but it SMELLS like it does. That's good enough for me.)

Today, we are going to a neighborhood birthday party. Most of the kids who will be there are those who fell ill this week.

What are my chances of making it through the weekend without vomiting and diarrhea?

'tis the season, I suppose.

Barfing stared at 2 pm (including 3 times in the car! fun!) and is occurring approx. every 20 minutes.

Diarrhea came at 4 pm.

My dear husband is in China.

I have a huge proposal for work due at 5 pm. Had to cancel the sitter I had arranged so I could work all afternoon....

I sit at my computer and type furiously for 15 minutes, and then run to get barfed on, clean up, head back to the computer for furious typing. Repeat.

This has not been my most fun day ever. Back to the work typing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

White Witch and Edmund

Happy Halloween!

And yes, I did dress up as Manny Ramirez. But that photo won't be shown. I look a bit scary in a braided dreadlocky do-rag hairstyle, it turns out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Change of Seasons

Yesterday was the last group o'soccer games. It was one of those beautiful autumn days - sunny, but a little chilly with the smell of fall in the air.

Both kids did great. The best moment of the first game was when Son D was barreling down the field with the ball and seconds before he got to the goal, he stopped, looked around and passed the ball to a teammate who hadn't yet scored, so his friend could get a goal. Soccer comes easy to son D, so it is nice to see him picking up some sportsmenship in the process.

The best moment of the second game was when Daughter D scored her VERY FIRST SOCCER GOAL EVER. I was cheering so loud for her, you could probably hear me halfway across the country. In a split second, I became one of those parents I don't really like very much. She blew through everyone and ran right past plenty of teammates to whom she could have passed the ball....Screw "sportsmanship," - she GOT A GOAL! Her very first one!

Yes, I am a hypocrite. Yes, my children will require years of therapy to determine that I parented them differently due to birth order, gender, personality, and the rest. They can send me the bill.....

Next week, we move on to ice skating. We are doing a 7 week session of lessons at an indoor rink around the corner. From soccer to skating in less than a week. Must be that season known as 'fawinter" here in Wisconsin. You blink, and there is snow on the ground.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Nothing else. Just "yeah RedSox"

...that and I promised the kids I'd dress up as Manny Ramirez for Halloween if the Sox won before Wednesday.

I guess I'll be looking for some black thick yarn tomorrow to create my flowing locks.

Obligatory Pumpkin Patch photos

I just realized that it's not going to be dark for Halloween this year, due to the daylight savings time switch-a-roo. Wouldn't you know, the ONE year that I actually get my act together and find glowsticks and flashlights, I might not need them?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Then and Now

Because I am a masochist, I watched a replay of the 1986 Mets - Sox game 6 of the World Series while I was making dinner. (Did you know there is a tv station that only shows old games? ESPN classic? I had *no* idea until I was flipping through the channels tonight and saw *gasp* Jim Rice.) So I watched.

I remember that game like it was yeterday. I was in my freshman year at a college outside Boston. Most of the other students were from NYC. Or so it seemed that night. all I can remember is Sinatra's "New York, New York" BLARING from all the other dorms on the Hill the minute the game ended.

I haven't watched that game since the live version in '86 and i have to say, watching it again: IT WASN'T BUCKNERS FAULT. There were a whole slew of other things that went wrong that inning. He was just one piece of the puzzle.

Gee, 20 years of blaming him, all for naught.

The other thing that struck me was how *small* the players were 20 years ago. Even the powerhouses were small. I remember Mookie as being enormous. But compared to Manny or Ortiz today? He's teeny. Is it the steroids? Or all we, as a society, just bigger?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On the radio

Somehow, my east coast dad was on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning! Due to that pesky time zone difference, we missed it live, but luckily it's on the web and we are listening now. (who knew when they said 8 am to him, they meant 8 am Eastern Time??)

For all the relatives who'd like to listen it is here:

(today's 7 am Joy Cardin show)

You can use my email address and my zip code to download it. (I don't know my WPR member number..sadly...)
kpnelson (at)

Son D is sitting on my lap, completely engrossed even thought he doesn't have a clue what his grandfather is talking about. He keeps saying, "that's grandpa Jack!" and wants to know how all those people in Milwaukee know him. (It's a call-in show.) He also is asking "Who's Katrina?" and "Why is grandpa in an institute?" and "Why aren't they talking to Nana, too?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fair Weather Fan

Excuse me while I become completely unproductive for the next 10 days, obsessing on the many ways in which the Red Sox can somehow lose the world series. (and on how the Democrats will manage to lose the next election....could these things be related?)

To be honest, I haven't watched a whole regular season Sox game for almost 11 years. True fan, huh?

But every year, when post-season comes around, I am sucked right back to my childhood in New England. I turn right back into that geeky girl who could name every single Sox player in the '78 season, including what position they played and their number.

There is a car in our neighborhood with the license plate "Rice08" Every time I see it, I say to myself, "No, Rice was 14. Yaz was 8." Eventually I figured out that it is just a Republican unhappy with the current choices. (The "Bush/Cheney" bumper sticker gave it away.)

I suspect those of you who really follow the Sox must think of me the way regular church-goers think of the folks who only show up on Christmas and Easter.

And in 2007, you'd be right.

But in 1978, I was right there with you.

My favorite Red Sox player, ever.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lucky 13

According to Wikipedia, the proper gift for a 13th wedding anniversary is Lace.

According to the appliance-gods at our house, the only possible purchase allowed to commemorate our upcoming anniversary is a BRAND NEW DRYER! It was delivered today.

Yes, the "hanging on by its last leg" dryer finally go so annoying that even I could not stand to use it any more. It took 2 hours to dry a small load. It made noises that are not otherwise found in nature. Seriously - you had to leave the house when you put clothes in the dryer. Human ears could not listen to that sound. Dogs would run away. It was time to send it to the great appliance recycling place in the sky.

The new dryer is unbelievable.

I know I shouldn't be so excited about an appliance. I realize that getting giddy over the fact that our washer and dryer now match (and look pretty!) is a bit silly. But I can't escape the fact that somehow, I've evolved into an odd creature that gets great satisfaction from the whole laundry process.

13 years ago, we moved into an apartment with a laundry room in the basement. I doubt I noticed the brand of the washer or the dryer - never mind the features. We were young and in love and had places to go and people to see. We had not yet realized how much of life and love is experienced in the mundane everyday details of things like laundry.

It's pretty easy to marry the guy with whom you want to dine in Paris or snorkel in the Bahamas. But marrying the guy with whom who you want to sort socks? That's a whole different ball game. Somehow I've ended up with both - and now if I could just find a way to sort socks with him in Paris, I'd be set.

...and I wonder if this new dryer has a cycle for lace?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Please don't make me vote for Hillary

Raising WEG had a brilliant post on all the reasons she doesn't want to vote for Hillary.

Every morning, I look in the paper to catch the story that she is losing her lead in the polls. But, alas, I don't find that story. All I see is her lead increasing. I don't get it.

No one I know is excited about her. I have friends who are enthralled with John Edwards. I have a mother who is downright giddy about Obama. I have relatives who love Kucinich. (note: Spell check tried to change that to "Zucchini" the way I originally spelled it.)

I have friends who are excited about Fred Thompson and even one who adores Guiliani.

But no one I know says, "Gee, I can't wait to campaign for Hillary!"

Why not?

I don't think it is because she is a woman. We are a pretty feminist bunch, my friends and I.

I don't think it is because of her husband. In general, we all seem to agree that he was an above-average president (all things considered.)

Although we don't agree with all of her positions, they aren't *that* far off from our core beliefs.

Aren't I supposed to be her "dream" demographic? I'm a centrist Democrat, who occasionally even supports (gasp) Republicans. I'm a woman. I'm married with kids. If I'm not excited about her, who is?

According to USA Today's Candidate Match Game, I should be cheering for Gravel. (With Dodd 2nd and Obama a close 3rd.)

So two questions:
1) Why do we dislike her so?
2) Who are these people who are putting her at the top of the polls? Where are they? What are they THINKING????

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why is it...

that even though I am the ONLY one in my family who does NOT:

1) have a soccer game tomorrow (10, 2, and 4 pm thank-you-very-much)
2) own a pair of Adidas socks that go up to my knees
3) own a pair of Adidas cleats (that hurt if they step on mama's bare toes....)
4) have a crush on Hope Solo
5) have a special soccer ball

...that I am the one who gets the moniker of "Soccer Mom"

Is it the mini-van, I wonder?

But just to keep it real, could I at least be referred to as "She-who-finds-&-washes-all -the-soccer-uniforms-late-Saturday-Night" Mom?

That would be a bit more accurate, seeing that I can't play soccer to save my life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Go read this blog

One of my friends has started a blog called "Solve 4 Biggies"

He proposes to solve the following four problems by a phased-in tax shift from income to energy (less income tax...more energy tax):

1 - Global warming

2 - Dependence on
foreign energy

3 - Trade deficit

4 - Pollution from non-
renewable fuels

We disagree on #3. I remain steadfast to my belief that free trade makes the world a better place. (We just need to re-distribute some of the gains, that's all.)

My favorite post so far was called "Stop the Madness"

It's worth reading.

And this one scares me.

Personally, I've always had a fondness for Pigovian taxes. So I think it's a great idea.

I've read articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist arguing for a carbon tax. I have to admit that I haven't heard candidates from either party discussing such a thing. Is any discussion of "taxes" taboo during a primary season? Or am I just missing relevant debates?

Regardless, go read "Solve 4 Biggies" - you won't be sorry. He doesn't have an RSS feed yet...but I'm working on that! : )

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I got to see a lot of the lovely city of Milwaukee today.

And somehow, I managed to finish. It was the longest, hottest, slowest, hardest marathon I've ever run. Today's high in Milwaukee was 87 degrees. It was cooler at the finish, near the lake, or I'm not sure I would have made it past mile 24.

There were marathons in Chicago, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities today. The heat was unbearable in all three cities, but worst in Chicago. A Chicago runner collapsed and was pronounced dead - so tragic.

But I kept it really slow and walked a lot and kept hydrated (but not too hydrated - a very fine line these days.) I cramped up a lot from miles 19 - 24, but managed to somehow keep going. (stupidity? stubbornness?) But I was very careful. I passed a lot of runners on the side of the road with IVs. It was a tough day.

Of course, it was probably toughest on husband D. who got to navigate a strange city in the heat with the little D's, all whilst providing race support. He's amazing, that husband D.

Me, I just listened to my iPod for 5 hours while people tell me how good I looked. ("lookin' good" appears to be the universal marathon spectator cheer.) And the Lake Front marathon is a beautiful course. Not a bad way to spend a day, really.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Visualize a cool autumn day...

This is not the weather forecast you hope to see the weekend you attempt to run a marathon (that quite frankly, you haven't really trained enough for.)

"85 degrees" and "marathon" and "chance of thunderstorms" are words that shouldn't be strung together.

And this was the best one I could find. You'd be surprised how many weather sites there are out there. One had 87 degrees on Sunday - I rejected that one right away. That won't do. Another had the lightening starting on Sunday morning. Again, that won't do. Running 26.2 miles in lightening does not strike me as a smart thing to do. (although running that far in hot weather isn't always a walk in the park, either.)

So, I'm sticking with this particular forecast. It only gets up to 84 on Sunday and the lightening doesn't start until late. I suppose I could live with that. But isn't Wisconsin supposed to be chilly in October? Aren't we supposed to be dragging out our snow pants about now?

I'll keep neurotically checking the various forecasts for the next 2 days. I bet I can find one that is 83 degrees and no lightening at all.

updated: I didn't realize when I linked to that weather graphic that it would change and be updated. So, this morning, I was thrilled when I looked and saw that the lightening has been pushed to Monday. That's progress. Now if we could just lop 20 degrees of the temperature, we'll be good to go.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

When politics get in the way of policies

Great posts/articles here:
angry pregnant lawyer

The Progressive


I don't get it. I simply don't get how anyone (Democrats and Republicans alike - but especially our current President) could put political reputation/perception ahead of a plan to provide health insurance for children.

SCHIP is NOT a federal health care program. It's NOT socialized medicine.

The "S" in SCHIP - that stands for STATE. The *states* run the program - not the federal government. And under SCHIP, the children are enrolled in private health insurance plans.

I heard Bush's speech today and I was so disappointed.

He got facts wrong over and over again. He claimed that the bill would allow families who made $80K to get coverage. That's simply not true. If you look back into the process of crafting the bill, you will see that New York, in fact, did propose this. But it was rejected and didn't make it into the final version. The truth is that this new bill actually put in stronger limits for whom the states can cover.

He also claims that it will cost too much money. This is a very short-sighted argument. The May edition of Pediatrics
has a study which calculates the true costs of children who don't have insurance. After you add up the lack of preventive medicine and emergency room visits, we certainly aren't saving any money as a society.

HR 976 is a Bi-Partisan bill. The house passed their version 360-45. In the Senate, it was 68 - 31.

Warner *and* Webb voted for it.
Specter *and* Clinton voted for it.
Hatch *and* Feingold voted for it.

If you can get that group to agree on anything - that in itself, is a minor miracle.

Our body of government created a bill to provide medical coverage to children that will save the country money in the long run. It's not perfect. But it PROVIDES MEDICAL INSURANCE TO CHILDREN.

And the President vetoed it because of petty politics. Sometimes I wonder how that man sleeps at night.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cleaning House

Lots of interesting posts about house cleaners out there today.

A. loves her newly found cleaners.

Laura at 11D
feels guilty.

Raising WEG lists a bunch of good political/social reasons why she won't hire a cleaner.

If D. and I both worked full time, we would have a cleaner. Hands-down, I would get over all of my reasons why I don't. Life is too short to spend your entire weekend cleaning. I'd hire a cleaner. Immediately.

But one of the big reasons why I'm *not* working full time is so we *don't* have to outsource big portions of our family life to other people.

I think we are one of 3 families in my entire neighborhood who clean their own houses. I'm not kidding. We are definitely considered odd.

We tried it. We had cleaners for about 5 months after son D. was born. It was nice. But it wasn't for us.

First, really what it was - truly - was a way for me to avoid expressing dissatisfaction that I was doing most of the cleaning at the time. But you know what happened after the cleaning ladies came? My kids ONLY saw females cleaning. In their minds, men didn't clean. At all. So we lost the ladies, and managed to work on an equitable division of labor in the house. Now, the children see that men clean too. Men clean lots.

Second, the chemicals. I clean with non-toxic stuff bought at the local Co-op. I don't use the chemical-laden stuff. The cleaning ladies used chemicals and more chemicals. I don't want that toxic stuff in my home.

Third, one of our big philosophies in life is that "life is messy" and "you mess it up - you clean it up." A home that is perfectly clean 100% of the time is beyond our ability. But...we all clean up what we mess up.

Fourth, we all work together to clean. My kids scrub toilets. They mop floors. They vacuum. They dust. Not well - don't get me wrong. But we do it together. They think it is a blast. While other kids are growing up with a vision of cleaning as this horrible chore to avoid at all costs, our kids actually think it is fun.

Fifth, the cost. It just seems silly to pay that much for cleaning - when it is so easy to do yourself. (IF you have time.)

And finally, human beings need physical movement. I'm not going to say that cleaning your house is an enjoyable way to get fit. It's not. But it is manual labor. For me, it is good. I like being active and doing things. I was with a group of mothers at the park. They spent the first part of their conversation comparing/complaining about cleaning ladies. The second part of their conversation was "Oh, if I could only lose 5 or 10 pounds." I held my tongue. (us non-overweight marathon runners are not allowed to comment on anyone's weight. ever.) But in my head, all I could think was "hey - maybe if you did your own scrubbing, you'd tone those arms a bit..." I didn't say it. But I thought it.

The one thing I hear over and over again is how hiring a cleaning lady gives people time to "do something else that matters/is more enjoyable."

I get that. But to me, working together to make our home a clean place - as a family - is a really great way to spend our time. Letting a stranger do that intimate job just felt really odd to me.

But, in full disclosure, this is one of my favorite books.

And I couldn't do anything without the robots. Life without Roomba and Scooba...oh, I can't even imagine.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


We just got back from a fabulous 4-day trip to the DC area for Husband D's high school reunion. My parents met us at the airport with two cars. They took the kidlet Ds to their house on the Eastern shore for the weekend.

Husband D. and I took the other car to their Northern VA house and spent 4 glorious days alone:
-Speaking in complete sentences.
-Not wiping anybody's butt.
-Staying out in bars until 1 am. (and I hardly even drink...I just stayed out because I could.)
-Wandering through Old Town, Chinatown, (really any-town)
-Eating meals without ketchup.
-Sleeping past the sunrise.

Pre-reunion...taking a photo of ourselves. (Did I mention that we were ALONE? For 4 days? No one to take the requisite "pre-big-event" photo.)

Son D dressed in his full German Soccer kit on the way home in honor of the women's world cup victory. We don't know why - but Germany is his favorite team. No, we aren't German. He's never been to Germany. We ate at a German restaurant once, though. Must have made an impression.

The cats survived without us.

I have a whole 'nother post about Hope Solo, but it will have to wait for another day because I'm beat. We've had the kids since 9 am today. That's exhausting. It's back to reality for me...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No child gets ahead

It's a rare day when I agree wholeheartedly with the Cato institute. Their catch-phrase is "Individual Liberty, Limited Government, Free Markets and Peace"

They wouldn't exactly endorse my "health-care-for-all" position...but we might be able to find common ground on my "if-you-want-to-get-married-why-the-hell-should-the-gov't-stop-you?" belief.

Strangely enough, I think I agreed with just about everything they wrote on No Child Left Behind.

I've only had a child in the public school system for 2 years, so I'm no expert. But my initial impression is that the biggest result of NCLB is that school districts have uniformly dropped their standards.

The only thing that seems to really matter is to achieve a large percentage of "proficiency" within a district - so let's teach everyone the test. If it's not on the test, it just doesn't matter. And while were at it, let's drop what we require to be "proficient."

The larger number of mediocre students - the more recognition (and money) the district gets. Hurray!

Is this our goal? To actively produce mediocrity?

If the Cato Institute succeeds in creating a world of free markets, we are going to be in big trouble if we're the nation that supplies the mediocre workers.

All together now..."You Want Fries With That?"

So, I'm with Neal at Cato: End 'No Child Left Behind' and let some of our children get ahead, instead.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

If it's Sunday, it must be Soccer

All three of the D's are on soccer teams. They all have games on Sundays.

Son D. is a fabulous soccer player. He's on a team of other fabulous soccer players. they have a fabulous coach and a solid team of many players. They have regular practices and cute, custom uniforms.

Daughter D. seems to have inherited my VERY SENSIBLE fear of balls barreling towards her at 100 mph. (Hey she's in U8 now, they can kick hard.) She only has 4 people on her team, total, so they don't get much rest. (It's 3v3 and the other teams seem to have 10+ people.) None of the team members are particularly proficient in the game of soccer. They are great kids and someday they will be, but for now, they resemble the Bad News Bears of soccer.

I know that I should swell with pride when I see son D. score goal after goal. And I do, really, I do. His team regularly scores more goals than I can count. He scores a lot of them.

But my *true* moments of great-mama-bursting-pride occur when daughter D. goes anywhere near the ball. I think she missed 2 or 3 goals tonight. But she kicked it! Tentatively, yes. In the wrong direction, occasionally. To the wrong team, often. But she kicked it!

Today, her team only got one goal. The other team seemed to get hundreds.

I've always got a sore spot for the underdogs. (Hey, I was a Red Sox fan for most of my life...this winning thing - it's still a bit foreign.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eating local. (in September, anyway)

Our CSA farm has a blog! They are calling it a "flog" (farmer's blog):

Big news on the blog too - soon we'll be able to get meat straight from the farm too.

As long as they don't name the chickens on the blog - that could seriously turn me back into a vegetarian...

It strikes me as odd (in a good way) that my children are growing up knowing exactly where their food comes from. Are we going back in time? Is it like that everywhere? or just in the Midwest?

Of course, this is my perspective in September, when food is plentiful. We'll be back to buying strawberries grown in Chile in January, I guarantee it.

Milk comes from Larry the milkman straight from local cows.

Cheese is from Farmer John.

Veggies are from Harmony Valley. (link above...)

Fruit is from whichever vendor at the farmers market we get to first.

It makes eating packaged food a weird experience. Don't get me wrong - we eat as many frozen pizzas (and corn dogs, and chicken nuggets, etc) as the rest of the world. And Twizzlers. Can't forget the Twizzlers.

But I can't buy fruit or veggies at the grocery store in the summer/fall any more. They taste so bland and blah compared to the stuff straight from the farm. Our milk delivery has been suspended for 2 months while they work on the plant and the kids do nothing but complain about supermarket milk (even the $6 organic kind!)

It's a lot more fun to serve food from grown by (or delivered by) a friend. long as the chickens stay nameless...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Race Relations

The other day, the kids were playing with the Playmobil jail. They enacted a robbery of a jewelry store. The police caught the robber and put her in jail. (She escaped, of course.)

All was well and good until I noticed that they had picked the black playmobil person to be the robber. I called husband D over - horrified. "Where did we go wrong,?" I asked. We send our kids to a school where whites are a minority. We are on our third "little sister" and all of them have been African American. We are an equal opportunity household in every way possible. (to the best of our ability.)

Was it because we moved to a neighborhood with a country club? Was it because our neighbors are all white? What did we do wrong?

Then, yesterday, Daughter D. asked me a question about race and perception. (Really, she did. It was almost like she was scripting a segue for me...) I brought up the Playmobil incident and asked why they thought that they had chosen the black playmobil for the robber.

The kids answered in tandem:

"We didn't chose the black playmobil, mama, we chose the one with the most jewelry. She had earrings and a necklace and a bracelet too. None of the others had jewelry. Since she robbed the jewelry store, she had to have jewelry."

Sure enough. She does have a lot of jewelry.

Maybe I've just been reading too much about the Jena Six - a truly sad and tragic case, from all sides.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Birth Day

I ran into a good friend at the farmer's market yesterday. She remembered son's D's birthday well because she was the first person to meet him (other than us parents.)

I looked at her quizzically - I honestly didn't remember her being there. But after a moment, my memory sprang back. Minutes after son D was born, I sent husband D to get daughter D. I was alone in the room with son D and he was sleeping. I decided to take a shower. (why? I don't know.) While I was getting in the shower, I fainted. Evidently, I'd lost a lot of blood during the birth. A nurse found me.

My friend worked at the hospital, in HR, and she was the only name/number I remembered so they paged her and she dropped everything, came up and took care of me. I was in all my glory - bleeding, naked, leaking milk, and still un-showered (I fainted before I could get clean, darn it.)

Really, I forgot that whole thing until I ran into her again yesterday. I swear there is some mechanism by which you only remember the positive things about the birth of your children. I am known to proselytize on the glories of natural childbirth. I've claimed that the good hormones are so strong, you recover instantly from the pain.

Now I'm thinking that it probably hurt like hell and I just don't remember it...

Either way, I'm so glad that son D. and I made it through the blood, sweat and tears 5 years ago today.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The best laid plans

I'm supposed to do my last "long run" before the Milwaukee Marathon tomorrow - a 20 mile jaunt through our lovely city.

So, I was planning an early (& large) dinner, followed by a quiet evening and an EARLY bedtime. Say, 9 pm.

At 6 pm, Skimbleshanks the kitten swelled up like a balloon and started having seizures. He'd had his first set of vaccinations this afternoon, and the emergency-24-hour vet we called said it sounded like a reaction.

So, I threw the kittens into the cat carrier (they asked us to bring both, just in case) and raced to the other end of town to the emergency vet clinic. I learned many things on my drive over. First, it is not smart to put a puffed-up-seizure-prone kitten in the same cat carrier with his healthy brother. And second, puffed-up-seizure-prone kittens poop. In the cat carrier. And it stinks. It stinks up the whole car.

When we got there, they gave poor Skimble a million shots. Steroids, Antihistamines, etc. And we waited for him to un-puff. After an hour, they told me to go get dinner and come back in 45 minutes because he was still all swollen and they couldn't release him.

I couldn't eat. The one thing I can't do when I'm stressed/worried/anxious is eat. I'm not sure why. (Someday I will make millions on my diet book, "Just Worry, Be Skinny")

But I could shop - and I, shopper extraordinaire, managed to find the one mega-pet-warehouse store on that side of town that was open until 9 pm! Got them a new blanket (to replace the pooped-on one) and some not-really-needed cat toys. To make myself feel better. Normally we shop at those little, over-priced independent shops. But dire circumstances such as these call for mega-store shopping. (Besides, the independents all closed at 7)

By the time I returned to the clinic, all was well and Skimble was set to go.

So here, I sit at 10 pm, scarfing down a quick dinner of something frozen from Trader Joes and licorice. Lots of licorice. (Licorice has carbs, right?)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mommy, what do you do?

Saw this at APL (who saw it here, I think...)

According to this quiz, (and we all know I can't resist a quiz!) My top careers should be:
1. Communications Specialist
2. Professor
3. Management Consultant
4. Economist
5. Researcher
6. Political Aide
7. Adoption Counselor
8. Corporate Trainer
9. Market Research Analyst
10.Foreign Language Instructor

My current job is a combination of numbers 1,8,and 9. But what I wanted to be when I was a kid - my whole life until I got to college - was 11. I would have made a darn good Librarian too.

And then I'd have an answer for my kids when they asked, "Mommy what do you do?" Seriously, they think I sit at a computer and type all day long on the days when I go to work.

Actually, now that I think if it - they aren't that far off...Is it too late for my Librarian dream to come true?

But sadly, I don't think a part-time Librarian job would support my Banana Republic/Ann Taylor addiction.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


As I was putting son D. to bed tonight, I realized that my BABY is going to be 5 in five short days. How did that happen? Five-year-olds aren't babies.

But then he started whining about how he wanted to open his presents tomorrow. He didn't want to wait 5 days.

Yep, there's still some baby in that kid yet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The more things change...

A letter came home in the backpack today to let us know that they are creating a new mixed-age 2nd/3rd grade class. Evidently there are too many 2nd graders and not enough 3rd graders.

I just got back from the PTA meeting and our 2nd grade Daughter D was waiting up for me to get the details. She is now sobbing in her room - terrified of the prospect of being in a new class with a new teacher with (gasp) third graders.

I kept telling her that it would be OK. She got moved into a combined 1st/2nd class last October and it worked out wonderfully. (Although technically, she had the same teacher, so she didn't move physical classrooms - the 2nd graders came to her.)

I hope, hope, hope that we get to stay with this wonderful 2nd grade teacher we have this year. But I also know it will work out if she does get moved. We survived it last year - we'll survive it this year. (Someone please tell me how to transfer this confidence straight into my seven year old?)

At least this year, they are doing it in September. It was hard to move things around in October last year.

But really, couldn't they have sent the letter home the day AFTER my PTA meeting?
: ) It's hard enough to run these things with happy parents, you know?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

39 and holding

Every year on my birthday, I do the same exact thing. I head down for the basement storage unit and find the one pair of jeans I've held on to for the last 20+ years. A pair of Guess jeans circa 1986, complete with tapered legs and zippers at the ankles. Every year, I try them on. And so far, every year they have fit (except for 1999 and 2002 when those pesky pregnancies got in the way.)

I figure if I can still fit in the jeans I wore in high school (no matter how un-stylish they may be,) how old can I really be?

This year, however, we made the mistake of going downtown for lunch. Big mistake. You see, tomorrow, our fair city is hosting the "Ironman." That is where people swim for a long time, then bike 112 miles, and then, just for kicks, run a marathon. All in the same day. It's absolutely insane.

Now, I run marathons. I run lots of marathons and other events. I ran 18 miles last weekend. I will run 20 mile next weekend. I still fit into the same jeans I wore when I was 17. You'd think I'd be reasonably confident in my physical fitness. And I am. Until I run into those Ironman Freaks. My god - they have no body fat. They are 100% muscle. They are super-humanly fit. And this weekend - they are EVERYWHERE. You can't turn a corner without running into one of them.

Luckily, the rest of the day was so wonderful that I forgot all about my feelings of inadequacy in comparison to my Ironman brethren.

We had a fabulous lunch. But I kept fixating on the voice at the next table. I couldn't help myself - it was such a familiar voice. NPR junkie that I am, I knew that it had to be someone from radio. Sure enough, it was Michael Feldman (host of NPR's "Whaddya Know?" - and he was very nice and didn't even mind my interrupting his lunch to tell him I was a big fan.

And tonight, our neighborhood had a huge block party. Tons of kids and adults with fabulous food and great conversation. It was so fun that I completely forgot that our children normally go to bed at 7:30. We *all* left the party at 10:18 pm. Yes, almost three hours past bedtime. Tomorrow, there will be hell to pay. But tonight - tonight I thoroughly enjoying my last year as a "30 something." Next year - the big 4-0. (and no - I will NOT be doing the Ironman!)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Week one. Grade two.

We made it through the first week of school. Despite putting our daughter on the bus in tears every day this week...

There were a lot of changes this year for her: new principal, new teacher, new bus driver, new rules at school, new bus route (this week - a ONE HOUR bus ride home!) And finally, due to the boundary changes, less friends at school. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing unmanageable. But, when you are seven, these can be big changes.

She *begged* us to drive her to school and go in the classroom with her. We said no. On the very first day, I followed the bus and quickly ducked in the classroom with her supplies - but that was it. I didn't stay. She burst into tears. I hugged her quickly and left the room.

Each day, she said she couldn't do it. We told her she could. She said she was scared. We hugged her and told her we loved her but that she still had to go and do this scary thing.

It's so hard. I want to do all the scary things for her. But we can't. I've read about the "Helicopter parents" and I can see why they want to move into their child's dorm room with them. It's hard to watch your child get scared. I get that. But I never want to be that parent. Our thought is that if we start fostering small steps of independence now...hard as it the time she is 18 there will be no way in hell she would ever consider letting us accompany her to her college orientation!

We managed to luck out for the third year in a row and get a PHENOMENAL teacher who "gets" daughter D. Even after only 4 days, I can tell that she has found herself another "remember all your life" teacher. Three years in a row. What are the odds?

Oh, and son D? He ran into his Pre-K classroom with a huge smile on his face and didn't even turn to say goodbye. These kids come from the same gene pool?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School - buzz, buzz, buzz

This year the first day of school was brought to you by....

The Mosquitoes.

I have never seen so many mosquitoes in my life. Evidently, having two weeks of torrential rain and flooding followed by warm, sunny beautiful weather is just the recipe for a bumper crop of the little buggers.

Because of a brand new bus schedule, we ended up being outside for 35 minutes waiting for the bus. Son D. now looks like he has the chicken pox. The bug spray? Not so effective.

Inside the elementary school, there were children, teachers, parents, school supplies, signs welcoming the children....and.....MOSQUITOES. Hundreds of them, flying around.

I've never seen anything like it. I wonder if they mosquitoes will participate in circle time? I imagine that art class with mosquitoes might be interesting. They might add a new tone to music class, I would guess.

Overall, the first day went very well. Daughter D has a wonderful teacher who didn't think it was silly at all when D. burst into tears at the thought of spending 5 *whole hours* without her brother. (They've been together all summer, it's going to be a tough transition for her.) Other siblings fight like cats and dogs. Mine - they burst into tears at the prospect of being apart. I'm not sure which is better.

More photos can be found here:

username: myfirstname
password: mylastname

Monday, September 3, 2007

The economics of Fabulous

At dinner last night, Son D turned to me and asked, "Mama, what does 'imported' mean?"

My eyes lit up - finally, someone in my family who is genuinely interested in the economics of global trade! I envisioned evenings by the fire, debating NAFTA with my second-born.

I launched into an explanation of world trade, giving specific examples where possible (i.e. why Daddy spends so much time in Asia...)

After I concluded, I said, "So what made you ask that?"

He replied: "Well, Sharpay uses towels imported from Turkey. And she's fabulous."

High School Musical Two wins again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kittens, kittens, and more kittens

OK, the kittens are so stinkin' cute. I can't stand it.

And yes, stinkin' is an appropriate adjective here. I should have realized that when you triple the number of pets in your house, the stink will go up by a power of at least 12.

They are named. But the names changes daily.

Kitten #1: (claimed by son D)

This one started out as "snowy." Son D. paid no attention when I tried to explain that the kitten looked nothing like snow. Finally, it evolved into "Homer." My sister lives in Homer, Alaska - where it snows a lot. Son D. thought he could keep the concept of snow alive by naming it after a place with snow. In the end, he proclaimed that both the kittens must be named after major league baseball teams and anointed this one "Rocky."

Until tonight. At bedtime tonight, he told me that the kitten's real name was "Spot." And that shall be his name.

The adults in the family want to name this kitten Pongo (he looks and acts like a Dalmation) or Adidias (he also looks and acts like a soccer ball.)

Kitten #2 (claimed by Daughter D)

He started out as "Harry" because of the smudge on his nose. She thought he looked like Harry Potter. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that it was more of a smudge and for a few days, he was "Smudgy"

When the baseball pronouncement came from little brother, he became "Cubby." That name has stuck.

Until tomorrow morning, when she wakes up and finds out that her brother has abandoned the baseball naming scheme.

Why are we letting our children name these pets, anyway? If Daughter D. had her way, her brother would have been "Cinnamon" or "Tallulah"

And finally, proof that we don't fit in here in Wisconsin....

Someone asked Son D. if he wanted to name his Kitten "Lambeau" and he answered, "What's Lambeau?"

Really, we can't help it. We don't watch football. If he gets beat up in elementary school, maybe Spot will protect him.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Everywhere we turned this week, we seemed to find bad news.

Let's see:
-Our CSA farm flooded and lost $300,000.

-Our daycare provider learned that a lot of her possessions destroyed in the fire won't be covered for various fine-print reasons. She also discovered that she lost every single photo she had. They were all destroyed. She's not doing well.

-Daughter D. had horrible nightmares every night about fire. Bedtime has been a chore, but I can't blame her. It's scary stuff.

-A tragic accident occurred nearby, and a seven year old boy got to witness the death of his mother and sister. I didn't manage to hide the coverage from daughter D. - it occurred right around the corner from our old house and she recognized all the photos. We expect lightening nightmares to begin any day now. I think the boy might be a friend of my "little sister" - they live in the same block. I'm hoping we can find something to do to help.

-And finally, my PTA Prez. duties have started for another year. If I another parent contacts me to complain about something mundane and trivial, I will scream. This week, people in our community have lost homes, businesses, farms, and lives...can we just agree that the world won't end if your brilliant child is placed in a mixed age classroom??? (Or can we at least agree that I am only a Parent...and can do NOTHING about it?)

So, what else can one do, but get kittens?

If the password is working on the link, it is:
username: myfirstname
password: mylastname

Kittens make everything seem OK. They are adorable. Perhaps the world needs more kittens. (Although I daresay the Humane Society would wisely disagree with that sentiment.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

School supplies

I have spent the better part of the last 2 weeks searching in vain for a "3 pocket folder" for D's school supply list. I've seen 2 pocket folders - even 8 pocket folders - but ne'er a 3 pocket folder.

It's right there - on the list - a 3 pocket folder.

Finally, someone suggested that perhaps they simply left out an "s" and it was three separate pocket folders.

Ah, that makes sense.

So, I read with laughter the trials of another school shopping parent - a mother from overseas, transplanted to the Midwest.

Good to know I'm not alone in school shopping confusion.

At least we are set on scissors. This time of year, Husband D. becomes a rock star around here. (He's an engineer for a company that makes scissors with orange handles...a very popular man in late August...)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

High School Musical Theater

Most of my formative years were spent either rehearsing, performing, or listening to musical theater. My sister, childhood friends (including Diva Mom) and I were even in an actual group called "Kids Musical Theater"

I always loved the idea that you could instantaneously burst into song and dance whenever faced with a problem or difficult situation. I had no real talent to speak of, but I practiced hard, and anyone with 12 years of piano lessons under her belt comes in handy in a musical theater cast, even if she can't sing or dance particularly well.

I still remember the first time I saw Annie. Or heard the soundtrack to Godspell. I remember seeing Carousel in an outdoor theater. And Grease in the movie theater. Don't get me started on Oklahoma, South Pacific, or A Chorus Line. I love them all.

And so, it is quite fun to watch my own children's fascination -- No, make that Obsession - with High School Musical. We watched HMS2 tonight (recorded from Friday because we were out of town) and they sang along to every song. Our trip required 9 hours in the car. Hence, we listened to the sound track 8 times. My poor husband.

Daughter D. burst into sobs when Gabriella broke up with Troy. I tried to explain to her, "Hey! this is Disney. They'll get back together!" but to no avail. She sobbed until they actually *did* get back together.

Yes, it's hokey. And sappy. Not particularly well-acted. Very Disney-esque.

But it's Musical Theater! And my kids love it! I'll take what I can get from this generation. Perhaps I can sneak a little "Day by Day" into their iTunes "HSM/Hannah Montana" playlist....

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I've been involved with some iteration of the Big Brother/Big Sister program for almost 20 years. (Man, does that make me old or what?) I'm on my third "little" and she is delightful.

Before I had kids, I had no fear. I'd walk through horrible neighborhoods in DC, letting my 8 year old companion steer me away from the street corners where she knew the drug dealers worked most often. Occasionally, she'd see something she didn't like, and we'd duck into an alley and come out on another street. She was street-smart, that kid. I don't recall ever feeling scared.

Now, almost 20 years later, and living in the relative safety of the MidWest, I have discovered fear. When I dropped my Little off last night, I was scared. To get to her apartment, I had to walk through a group that, to me, looked like a gang. They had a nice car in a part of town where no nice cars really are. They were calling each other "nigg@rs" and "bitches" and had at least 10 cellphones between them. They also had baseball bats and a lot of really nice jewelery. I took a deep breath, walked through, dropped her off, and walked quickly back to my car, thanking god I had left the kids at home this time.

Am I turning into one of those racist wimpy middle-aged mothers who are afraid of everything? Or has motherhood changed my fear-o-meter?

Hopefully, I'm just over-reacting and being silly and seeing things where none exist.

But her father is in jail, and we aren't sure exactly what for.

Laura at 11D wrote today about the rise in urban violence

I don't know if you can blame it solely on parenting. I know that my Little's mom is just as good a mom as I am. She just has no job, 5 kids, no husband, and (possible) gangs outside her apartment. I think that if we can fix poverty in this country, we can fix violence.

The catch-22 is that where there is poverty, there is violence. And for me, a new-found fear.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to school

In the spring, one of the local papers did a ranking of all the area elementary schools, by 3rd grade test scores. Daughter D's school was second to last, of all the schools

For us, that's no big deal. A good percentage of the population was taking the 3rd grade tests in a language they'd only been exposed to for 3 1/2 years. I took 7 years of French lessons, myself. And if I had to take a series of standardized tests in French - I'd flunk. So, the test scores are a bit misleading. For us.

But as the "back to school" discussions in the neighborhood start, and we realize, once again, that we are the only family on our entire street (or block, for that matter) who goes to public schools, one does start to wonder...hmmm....would a school with higher test scores be a better place?

I discovered a writer named Penelope Trunk when I was researching my job-sharing proposal. She lives in the city that I do and writes about career/work/balance, etc. Some of the time, I think she is completely full of hot hair (this woman blogs about her marriage problems! Frankly, I don't want to read that!) But yesterday's post resonated:

She's writing about college, but for some reason, our elementary school came to mind to me. There is a huge focus on helping others at the school. Not because the people who go there are more altruistic. There is just a lot of poverty at the school. I have come to the conclusion that you just naturally help more when you see the problem every day.

Occasionally - very, very, very occasionally - I"ll have a split second moment of thinking "OH NO - D. isn't being exposed to Japanese and Calculus in 2nd grade! She's not being challenged!"

But reading things like this confirm my belief that the generosity and empathy and general view of the world she is exposed to on a daily basis at her current school will be the best preparation for her life to come.

Either that or she'll resent us forever for not being exposed to Japanese and early Calculus.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I went into the house today. It was chilling. I've never been in a house destroyed by fire before. I guess I'm lucky that this hasn't touched my life before now. First - the stench. It's unbearable. Second - *everything* seems to be destroyed. Even the things that didn't touch fire are completely ruined by smoke. Third - did I mention the stench?

In the interest of privacy, I will continue to use the term "daycare provider" instead of a name, but really, this is someone whom we consider part of our family. When our old house flooded the day after we put it on the market, and husband D. was in China - guess who came over and helped clean up the water in the basement until 1 am? That would be "daycare provider." I could give a thousand other examples of things she has done for us. We don't have any family nearby and she has become our extended family. She spends Christmas with us. She bakes the kids their birthday cakes every year. She knows their favorite foods and their deepest fears. She knows what books they've read and how to make them laugh. She's their second mother - their surrogate grandparent - their favorite aunt - all rolled into one.

After we went to see her yesterday, we headed up to the Wisconsin Dells for a company outing. The kids spend the day on water slides - in wave pools - eating ice cream - on bumper boats - you name it, they did it.

Later that night, I asked son D. what his favorite part of the day in the Dells was. His answer? "My favorite part of the day was seeing 'daycare provider' before we left."

She's that good. Multi-million dollar amusement parks pale in comparison.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Yesterday, our kids and all their friends were happily playing at their daycare provider's house.

Today, that house was engulfed in flames. Luckily, there were no kids there (she is closed on Friday afternoons) and our daycare provider managed to get out safely. A fire started in the garage and spread quickly. The garage and 2 bedrooms were destroyed. What used to be her car is now a bunch of ashes. They said the flames reached 30 feet in height.

I just got back from her house. My clothes smell like soot. I can't get the picture of what used to be her house out of my head. You can see right through it now. Where there used to be a garage - there are just ashes attached to beams. It's disturbingly frightening.

She's the safest person I know. Not only does she have smoke detectors - she has *heat* detectors, not to mention carbon monoxide detectors and 20 different "fire plans." She has whistles by every window! This woman is prepared.

And yet, half of her house was destroyed in 30 short minutes.

They don't know what started the fire. It was something in the garage.

I keep thinking, "What if this had happened yesterday..." but I can't go there. Thank god it happened today and no one got hurt. Yesterday, 3 babies would have been sleeping in those bedrooms.

Guess who is going to come up with a family fire plan tomorrow? And buy a smoke detector for the garage? And do all those other fire safety things I've been meaning to do for the last few years?

And our poor daycare provider - she's lost everything. They said she has to get rid of just about everything because of the smoke damage. I know that they are just things, and she's lucky no one got hurt, and insurance will take care of almost everything....but still. That's hard.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


One of my deepest darkest secrets is that I have a message from NPR reporter Ari Shapiro on my answering machine at home. It's from September 2005 and I still haven't erased it.

It wasn't even for me. My "Master of Disaster" dad was visiting when Katrina struck and every reporter in the entire world wanted to speak to him. Immediately. He was doing interviews from our front porch.

My mother was adamant that he stop working and pay attention to the grandchildren instead of the reporters. Me, I was all: "But Mom! Ari Shapiro! On my Answering Machine! Ari Shapiro!"

I've always had a "never actually seen him before, but think his voice is nice" crush on Ari Shapiro. So, I can't bring myself to erase it. Sad, isn't it?

My parents are currently on a 3 week whirlwind tour in Europe that involves cycling through Croatia and boating on the Danube. (Yes, I have cool parents. Their last big trip involved weeks of trekking through Nepal. I am decidedly the most boring person in my family, by far.)

My impression was that they are a bit unreachable. So, imagine my surprise when I was doing my daily reading of the Washington Post, and saw my dad quoted in a front page article today:

Dad, I can't help you out with this one. I don't currently have any crushes at all on any WaPo reporters. But if Ari ever calls again, I will totally defend your right to work on any vacation, ever. I promise.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Broken Line

Daughter D's school practices the "above the line" behavior practices made popular by Corwin Kronenberg.

The school came to the PTA at the beginning of the year, wanted to buy 300 "Above the Line" plastic bracelets to hand out to the kids after they "earned" it from good behavior.

I thought that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard of. Who needs more plastic crap from China? And does the world really need another plastic cause bracelet? But I was outvoted by the other parents, and we got the bracelets.

Guess which child wore her bracelet EVERY SINGLE DAY since she earned it? I'll give you a hint - in the entire school - only *one* child cherished that plastic bracelet above all other possessions. She slept in it. She wore it every day. She wore it for swim meets. In the lake. On her bike. Never took it off. The other kids brought the bracelets home and promptly lost them in their sea of other stuff. But not this girl. She never let it out of her sight.

Yep, that would be daughter D. - the one and only daughter of the PTA president who announced that these were worthless pieces of cheap plastic to all the other parents and teachers.

Do our children actively attempt to make us look like idiots or does it just work out that way?

And today - approximately 300 days after "earning" her cheap plastic Above-the-Line broke. It completely snapped in two.

Words cannot describe the devastation. I could lose my wedding ring and not be that upset. (Honestly, I was about to offer said wedding ring in a trade for the broken cheap plastic bracelet, if it would calm her down!)

So, how much of a complete hypocrite will I be if my first order of the first PTA meeting of the year is to make sure we get a reorder of those bracelets in, pronto?