Friday, January 30, 2009


This is my "paper anniversary" writing Pook and Bug. Thanks everyone. I know you're out there; I can see your hometowns and IP addresses even if I'm not sure how to connect those to your names. I can even check out a map of readers. I tried to paste it here but it isn't to be; my online skills are improving, but slowly. Visitors have come by from Brazil and even Pakistan. I have readers all over the US and a few in Canada. Many visitors pop in accidentally (some with strange searches! What is pook and bood?) and leave seconds later, but some have stuck around. I'm glad my stories of my life and family are something you enjoy reading. I'm a prolific commenter on other blogs and those readers are my best commenters I think. I'm working on the rest of you. Stop lurking and come say 'hi'.

I feel like I know some of you from your own writings. I check in to see how Frances garden is doing and how the kids are entertaining or exhausting Mary. Seems like Harriet's life is much closer to mine now. I can see how Facebook would be appealing if it provides more of this type of contact. Home alone with kids can be confining. When I get claustrophobic I come to visit. Amazing to have made online friends, but yet I have fun talking to Asha, Erin and others whom I've never met face to face.

I put a link to this at the end of our holiday letter this year, so no one can claim that they were left out. And no one is laughing at me. With me- yes, I think you are. And that's great. Because if you're laughing with me, you understand my life and probably share some of my thoughts. It keeps me company to know that. As my kids put it: "You company me."

Happy One Year

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

frustration tolerance

Pook was invited to a roller skating birthday party. I thought nothing but how much fun it would be. I always forget how frustrating it is for him to learn a tough new skill. I think things come too easily to him most of the time. He masters most new tasks quickly and has come to believe that everything should be simple. When a new activity, usually for him a physical activity, proves to be complicated and requiring practice and patience, he quits.

He spent most of his time at the party playing arcade games. But then he became intrigued by the skating. It was cake time and then laser-tag time and the chance to skate was almost over before he traded in his shoes and decided to give it a whirl. Except the only whirling was his arms and legs as he floundered and flapped so spasmodically that his only chance of staying vertical was to hang onto me (in my shoes) for dear life.

I know I'm a bad mom for laughing. I know I should have realized that he wasn't going to be able to laugh at the situation with me. But it was funny. I had visions of teaching my father to ice skate backwards; he has the same tall, gangly build. I tried to pull myself together and to really help him, offering suggestions for regaining better balance, but it wasn't to be. He had no interest in attempting something that made him look so silly. I saw the tears in his eyes and I helped him to the carpet. Two minutes max. "I will never roller skate again" he pronounced. And he probably won't.

I wonder what has made him wary of challenges. It could be innate certainly, but I also suspect that school has helped to create this situation. He has always found academic skills to come easily; he learned his letters as a baby and began to read early. He loves trivia about science and history. His favorite subject is probably math. All of school is fun because it's easy. But for kids who find school to be a daily frustration, perhaps they become accustomed to that experience. You learn that after a struggle you gain a new skill. Pook just wants the new skill. He's unwilling to struggle to learn something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

read 'em and weep

I've been reading a ton since Thanksgiving. I raided one of my SIL's bookshelves and then felt some responsibility to read at least one of the borrowed books before I saw her again at Christmas. So I finished Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, a book I should have read twenty or thirty years ago. I have many more on that "Should-have-read" list, but I'll space them apart. Too much identification with preteen girls might not be good for me.

My parents loaned me Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama and I whipped through it pretty quickly. It was one I'd highly suggest reading since it gave me a good perspective into the mind of our new president. I was given several books for gifts, so I went for The Godmother by Carrie Adams first. It was enjoyable and I may loan it to a few friends. VB is our kids' "godmother" and might be able to offer some good discussion if she reads it.

I'd hardly paused when I was done when CD finished Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, so I picked it up. I've read his others, and this was written just as well. I can't help but reexamine our family's eating patterns (I say as I pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth) but in general, he makes me feel pretty good about what I buy and how I cook.

I realized that the inauguration was approaching quickly, so I started carrying Obama's The Audacity of Hope with me everywhere I went so that I could finish it before January 20. I did, but only barely. It was much slower to read than his memoir, but since it seems to contain all his goals and plans for the next four years, I even worked my way through the parts on foreign policy.

I thought I was picking something lighter when I went for more fiction, but Talk Before Sleep is anything but an easy read, at least from an emotional standpoint. I should have listened to my mom's warning on it and at least had tissues nearby. She and some friends lived through this same scenario a few years ago as they had an old friend died of breast cancer too.

In addition to my own books, I've just finished The Wizzard of Oz with both kids. There is a series of "illustrated classics" at Pook's school library and I wanted to introduce Pook to them. This one went over well; while they both liked the story, Bug held on because of the pictures on every page. I told them we'd rent the movie now that they've heard the book. Then hopefully they'll both go for some of the others in the series. I want to be sure they don't reject books just because I've suggested them.

I'm on a roll. I started reading over lunch instead of squeezing my food next to the computer on the kitchen desk. I began reading while Pook read for homework. CD and I started reading for an hour or so after putting the boys to bed. I've also carried books with me to lots of doctor appointments recently. The habit had been broken for years and it isn't quite fixed since I seem to get many magazines behind for every book I pick up. But as the kids become more independent and enjoy spending time of their own with books, I'm glad I can spend more of my own time doing the same.

I'm not sure what's next for me. I have a stack waiting on my bookshelves.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

pretty alot

We went bowling today with the boys since it looked like we'd have yet another wet weekend. As the grand bowlers we are, our combined four-person score for the first game was less than 300. I won't be any more painfully specific.

The boys played with gutter guards, but they wouldn't let us all play on the same lane; gutter guards are only for kiddies with eight pound balls or less. I was disappointed. I've only bowled a half dozen times and each time with kids, therefore with gutter guards. I highly suggest their use if allowed!

Bug sent a few balls down the lane that we thought might not make it all the way down. We blew hard to give the poor ball some help. I once saw a child's ball get a backspin and start back toward him. I've seen several simply stop part way to the pins. We all improved after having some pizza. Or rather, three of us did. Pook got to play 20 frames while Bug played video games without tokens. (Don't knock it; it's cheaper that way and he can play all he wants.)

When we left the bowling alley the sun had returned. On the way home we saw that baseball tryouts were happening down the street, giving me hope that spring will come. The cherry blossoms next door are wilted and dead however. They'll live on as my new screen saver.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

yes, we will

My children don't see anything unusual about Barack Obama becoming our president. They assume that some families have one mom, some two, some have one dad, some two. They know so many interracial families, so many friends adopted from other countries, that they don't look twice. This is how it should be. Each generation should take the improvements of their parent's generation and improve upon them further. That means that we should be making progress as a nation. He didn't say "Yes, I can" he said "Yes, we can". I'm going to need to think about how my family can help.

on a roll

My boys will be great marriage partners to someone some day. Right now they both want every available toilet paper tube to use for art so they're actually changing the rolls themselves.

Here are my top ten reasons why my kids will be good partners and dads someday:
10. They change the toilet paper rolls.
9. They put the seat down and even close the toilet seat (well, usually).
8. They can make up songs on the fly.
7. They notice when I get a haircut.
6. They know good chocolate when they taste it.
5. Their love for power tools extends to the mixer.
4. Pook can make origami out of a restaurant napkin.
3. Bug shows great tenderness with his stuffed animals and dolls.
2. They understand my need for hugs and snuggles.
1. They actually allow me to put my freezing cold hands on their bellies to warm up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

unique me

I'm back to blogging about my hurting foot which is still hurting after seeing three specialists. It is currently wrapped up in tape with some foam pads encouraging me to feel like I have wrinkles in a pair of thick socks to put weight on the foot differently. I can live with this for the week if I must. Unfortunately, the doc also asked me to skip yoga for a while. Then, additionally, I'm supposed to keep the tape dry all week. I googled "keeping a cast dry" and went with the plastic bag and tape around the top method this morning. I'm feeling crabby about this.

I only wish they knew what was causing the pain. One of the pinched nerves went away with the cortisone shots but it wasn't the one I'd noticed and which was causing pain. The other spot "shouldn't" be causing pain the places I have pain. So they're experimenting on me.

I am feeling an uncomfortable feeling I've now had several times. I am unique. We all think we're unique, but deep down we know we're much like everyone else. And when something goes wrong, we assume the problem will be able to be diagnosed because it will have happened to someone else at some time. After all, there are a lot of patients out there. Someone else must be like me.

The first time I felt this was when I burst out with hives. The cause of their appearance was never determined and the cause of their disappearance six months later was also never clear. Then I started puzzling doctors by trying to find out what had been going wrong with my skin. I'd had horribly painful, sensitive skin during each pregnancy. Since I'd been (typically) hormonally unbalanced I attributed the problem to hormones. Until it came back after my appendectomy. Skin trauma! Until after it came back randomly and never completely went away. I have a cupboard full of drugs which probably made no difference in the situation. I have upwards of ten doctors who have no clue what is going wrong. I am not happy to be Unique Me.

The hives haven't been back, fortunately. The skin pain is under control, basically. But what about my foot! I don't even pay the plumber until the toilet is fixed. Must I keep paying doctors when the results so far have been nil?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

plus one

My birthday was yesterday and in accordance to the generous sentiments in the card from CD ("Birthdays are mandatory... but growing up is optional") I have added a year only to my chronological age. Still, it's better than the time in my twenties when I accidentally added two years and didn't realize it for months. I tend to equate my birthday with The Holiday Season, so Halloween gets the ball rolling and I add another year to SisterMD's age and to my own. Only that year I added it again in January. Now I have no need to know my age. I have Pook and he'll dutifully remind me if I lose track. He's obsessing on the fact that everyone in the family is an even year old right now- except him. I guess we slighted him somehow when we made the plans to do this. Luckily for him, Bug's birthday comes in about three weeks and will change the math.

I had a very low key birthday, but I wouldn't have changed it really. Well, I did regret asking the kids for an argument-free day because I should have known that was too much to ask. I met a friend for coffee and a scone and we caught up for almost two hours. At home, I got Pook's cooperation to bake my cake- grandma's gingerbread cake. He's doing well with recipes. As long as he keeps the teaspoon and tablespoon clear and can read my writing all he needs is help reaching the high cupboards. We'll keep working on the teaspoon issue; it became a barely-rescued problem when he tried to use the long lost bread machine on Sunday. But all turned out great and were inspiration to him to keep at it.

I could have chosen to eat out, but on a weekday that just becomes a tired kid issue, so I chose my favorite simple menu instead. I bought a lovely t-bone and we had baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob (that we'd frozen over the summer). A glass of Beaujolais Nouveau and it was all pretty great. Bug even asked for extra meat (he's refused most meat recently).

I didn't get the rain barrel I'd asked for, but I might go get it myself. The kids gave me a deluxe pepper grinder and CD gave me a stack of books. I got lots of books at Christmas, so I'm going to need to hunker down. Not torture in this weather! My mom sends me three months of flower bulbs for the house (we'll have buds on #2 anytime now) and also included a pair of earrings. My MIL gave me a fancy salad spinner. I think the coolest is from SisterMD who has agreed to knit me a sweater of my choosing. I'm unsure which of the patterns to choose still, but I'm leaning toward this or this in some combination of bright pink, white, navy and green. Too preppy? I'm hoping for a candy stripe feel. All depends on what yarn she can locate I suppose.

All in all, a reasonable birthday for one of those unexciting birthday years. Time to start planning Bug's 5th. He wants to take some friends to a movie. We'll see what's available and work from there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A flat minor

What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?
Sorry, couldn't resist. I heard that one in a radio commercial yesterday.

Bug likes classical music. He was in the car when I switched from public radio to a classic rock station and from the backseat he protested. I've no idea what was playing but I switched back for him.

This isn't really new. They hear plenty of classical music at home and in the car, but they also have been exposed to jazz, bluegrass and other musical styles. We took both boys to a "Petting Zoo" at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra when Bug was only two. He was enamored with the string bass and the tuba. He's been saying that he plans to play the tuba ever since. He has a preference for the low notes which could be genetic- CD plays the baritone saxophone, although they may have only heard him perform once. He'll even sometimes cover his ears when a soprano soloist at our church sings (yes, embarrassing).

Sometime before the holidays I noticed Bug freeze in his actions when the William Tell Overture came on the air. I watched him and the totally absorbed look on his face and then asked him what he thought might be happening. We galloped around the house together while we listened to the rest. Since then he's taken to asking us "What's it doing?" when he hears a particularly interesting piece of music. I had fun telling him the story behind "The Nutcracker". CD took the opportunity recently to compile a disk of music with a lot of drama for him.

Unfortunately, he's also decided that good music requires everyone to stop what they're doing and concentrate. Yes, my bouncy son wants us all to "SHHHH!" and sit quietly. I tried to tell him about the lyrics of "Twinkle Twinkle" while he listened to "Mozart for Toddlers" and he shushed me. I've never seen him so intent on something and so still.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

puppy love

I'm in love. And he loves me back. I snuggled with him until he fell asleep in my arms. His name is Buster. He is a tiny, soft, black, part-lab with very small paws who licked my hand and immediately rolled over so I could pet his belly. When I picked him up I was hooked. No barking. No jumping on me or the kids. No whining. No dog smell. But I can't have him. He is the new addition to our friends' home.

We have no pet. (Sorry Clark, but as nice as you and Clarks #1-21 have been, as long as you and your roommates are still swimming around in a fish tank, I find it hard to get close.) I have allergies, as did my mom, so we didn't have furry friends in the house when I was growing up. There was a gerbil phase.... I married Yoko when I married CD, so I did live with a cat for a while, despite the sneezing. She was already 17 years old when we met, and lived almost four more, dying when Pook was a baby. But fish, gerbils and even Yoko are just not comparable to a dog.

I've thought about getting a dog for our home. Since I never wanted to have more than one family member un-potty trained at a time, we never considered it seriously. I worry that we'd get attached and then discover that I couldn't breathe well with it in the house long-term and we'd have to give it up. But, everyone in our house is potty trained. And I do have a fenced back yard. And we do have a two story house with all the bedrooms upstairs. And Buster is so sweet. There could be other dogs like him. For now, I'm puppy dreaming.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


We sit at a red light for a while and get tired of waiting, so we blow the red out and it turns green. Sometimes we have to blow on it for a long time, sometimes we just need to get in sync (which might happen to be when Mama sees it turning yellow in the other directions and quickly says "1, 2, 3 Blow!") Regardless, both boys have been doing this task for me for years.

"How does that work?" Bug asked me yesterday.
"Oh, it doesn't really matter." I brushed it off.
"I want it to matter."

I think Bug is very confused right now by magic. We have Santa. We have red lights we blow green. We have a new magic kit that he can perform himself by hiding a little foam fish in his hand. We have an old magic kit that Pook uses (and I've told Pook to not share his secrets). When Bug asks me for the impossible and starts a tantrum, I've been telling him that I can't make the impossible happen; I'm not magic. It's no wonder he's mystified.

I explained to him that what he does with the magic kit is a magic TRICK. I asked him to tell me how he'd turned one fish into two, and he remembered what I'd taught him from the direction book. Then I asked him if the people like Daddy and Pook, who had seen his magic show, thought he had done real magic. "Yes" he agreed. "Do they need to know how the magic worked?" "No" he reluctantly agreed. "Do you need to know how the traffic lights turn green?" "I guess not."

My mom thinks his interest in Santa and magic has to do with his interest in costumes. If he remains Bug when he's in a Spiderman costume, perhaps other things aren't always what they appear either. And I think that believing in things you can't see or understand is ok. Suspending reality can be fun. It can also be very confusing to a four year old. I guess I'm interested in seeing where he goes with all this. I could sit him down and explain it all, but I'd rather let him try to figure it out on his own.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


It is very weathery today. The kids noticed it on the way to preschool as very dark low clouds blew at a dramatic speed, revealing patches of bright blue and white above them. It has rained at least twice since then and the sun has shown itself for the first time in weeks. We've had warm weather, I can't complain about that, but it has been damp since school let out for break. If we could at least accumulate some serious rainfall and improve the drought I would complain less.

The kids want snow. I'm not exactly against snow, but I prefer to enjoy it from the comfort of an armchair while holding a mug of tea and a good book. I love seeing the red hoods of the boys coats against the white of an Indiana snow. I love seeing their pink cheeks when they come indoors. My favorite color is the color of the snow at sunset; I painted the nursery Pook's room playroom that color. I loved showing the kids how to catch snowflakes on their tongues last winter here in GA. I loved seeing them attempt a tiny snowman. But do I want snow? No way. Atlantans can't drive in the stuff so the city shuts down. No thanks.

Instead I'm getting spring fever. I know it is early even here, but look at what I found today!

daffodil leaves

winter daphne

my neighbor's cherry tree

the sky today
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

gourmet eaters

My children are young gourmets. They will eat chicken nuggets, but they are also willing to eat grouper with tomato, basil, capers and olives. While they're happy to eat a piece of chocolate wrapped as if it were a miniature $100 bill, they seem to prefer the Ghirardelli that Santa (perhaps mistakenly?) shared with them. They will eat a lunch of Kroger brand medium cheddar, but they have discovered that they really love goat cheese with cranberries and cinnamon.

CD and I were discussing the pros and cons of this. We wanted them to be good eaters. I was not. I learned to eat when I spent a year in Europe and had no money. I discovered that free food = good food. I also put on about twenty pounds because cheap food is not often healthy food. (And also because wine and chocolate and cheese and bread were the staples of my diet that year. In some order.) We had both read Michael Pollan's books and had started to expand our meals to include more local produce at about the time Pook was born. We quit eating in front of the tv and started sitting in the dining room. We encouraged, and sometimes insisted, that he taste our food as soon as he started on table foods. Bug took naturally to our plates and never much cared for the bland baby foods. (He tasted a medium salsa: "It 'picy. I have more?")

We are glad that they're willing to try new foods. But why must they always like the expensive stuff? For New Year's Eve, we went to dinner at Benihana's. We knew it would be exciting for the kids, watching the chefs prepare the food at the table with all the stunts they perform. We also knew it wouldn't be cheap. Sure enough, out come the menus and I immediately hear, "I want shrimp!" from the reader. They loved seeing the chef catch the shrimp tails in his coat pocket and atop his chef's hat and the meal was a fun experience, if pricey.

They tried all sorts of seafood while we were at the beach last summer. I think they've never had lobster, which is probably for the best. Let them save something for a later age. We bought artichokes once, just for fun, and they've been asking to have them again. (I think they both considered it a convenient vehicle for eating melted butter.) A little while ago I watched Pook eat a Ghirardelli raspberry square, tiny bite by tiny bite, enjoying every morsel. I'm glad he knows good stuff when he gets it, but he better not get used to getting it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

and suddenly...

Where there was a crowded space, there is a school desk. Where there were joyous lights, there is a lamp. Where there were gifts, there is an old laptop and piles of second grade work and books. The ornaments are boxed up. The lights are tied with string. The angel is tucked into bubble wrap. The old-fashioned metal tinsel I bought several years ago has been returned to the jar. The tree skirt is folded. The stockings have been packed, leaving candy deposited in four bowls on the microwave. Only one box remains open and it will be added to the attic soon. The tree itself is in the backyard. It will live on to become part of a tepee or fort.