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?

Sunday, August 5, 2007


OK, it's official. We have now spent more time debating the pluses/minuses of adding another pet to our house then we EVER spent considering adding a child. (Either the first or the second time.)

We (OK, "I") started thinking about getting another pet back in the winter. Our cat is getting old. We adopted her from the humane society as an adult cat, so we aren't sure exactly how old she is. We *think* she is about 13. She's not in great health - nothing is wrong, but she is starting to act a lot older.

There is a pet store down the street that takes in rescue kittens. The kittens roam freely through the store during the week. So, let's say you drop in with a 7 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. They will immediately be surrounded by 20+ kittens within an instant. The kittens crawl all over them, lick them, play with their hair. It's kid heaven.

So, obviously, I have convinced the kids. Every time we go in there, they demand we take 4 of them home.

We brought our older cat to the vet this week. The Vet gave us the thumbs-up to get another cat. She recommended a young male. (Our cat is female)

The pet store is of two schools of thought. One of the employees - an older woman - has basically told me point-blank that she won't sell me a kitten. She said we'd be pushing the older cat "out to pasture" and we'd basically kill her. She said she could never do that to an older cat. (Although later I found out she has 12 cats - at one point, didn't she have to add one???)

The other employees at the pet store are recommending that we get TWO kittens. They think that two kittens will amuse each other and stay out of the older cat's way.

So, our options are:

None (voted for by pet store employee #1 and perhaps Husband D.)
One (voted for by the vet)
Two (my preference - and the rest of the pet store employees' recommendations)
Four (what the kids have requested)

...but if I do start adding cats now - will I end up as a crazy old lady with 12 cats who works in a pet store and won't sell someone like me kittens?

It's a possibility.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

If you are one who prays...

Read this:

Read the whole blog, actually. She's a brilliant writer with a beautiful family...and inflammatory breast cancer:

And it sounds like she could use prayers from all over the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

You know you are really bad at Basketball when...

...You play basketball in the driveway for 30 minutes before you notice there is a rather large wasps' nest in back of the basketball hoop.

Daughter D. finally got a ball in, and about 20 wasps came furiously out to let us know they didn't appreciate the disturbance to their habitat.

The previous 29 minutes of play were blissful. The ball went nowhere near the net.

Son D. lectured me, "Mama, you gotta get your head in the game!"

(Any other families of 7 year old girls counting down the days until August 17?)