Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I've enjoyed taking a little break from writing, and I plan to come back totally refreshed at the beginning of January with all sorts of tales, including our holidays, playdates, kindergarten anecdotes, what it's like having a 3-year-old in the house, more loss of teeth, roadtrips, DVD recommendations, the story of my 75-year-old mother pushing an SUV out of a ditch, constant references to Selah and "Stepping Heavenward," links to all the things I adore, my continual paean to Mark Harmon and NCIS, and everything you've come to know and (hopefully) love about Guilford Road.
As always, thank you for reading and enjoying my two wacky little girls a fraction as much as I do.
See you in the new year!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
However, first I had to drop both girls off at my parents' for a sleepover. I packed their church clothes and playclothes and clean underwear and toothbrushes and nightgowns. This was not enough for them. They also wanted me to pack their rice bags; their curlers ("so that Manga can make our hair curly for church, Mama. She'll want to, she really will!" Sorry, Mom.); their mermaids, Bluey and Elizabeth, complete with floating lilypad sprinkler fountains; both "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery;" ("Manga will want to watcht these movies with us"); Lucy's elephant named Trumpet; Elaine's new Webkin named Anna; and of course Rabbie and Catty. It looked like they were going on a tour of Europe, rather than an overnight to their grandparents who live 35 minutes away.
I got that done and headed to the mall. Craziness, I tell you. I finally found a parking spot almost at the road and walked 3/4 of a mile to the door. I found the very last Peter Rabbit set, but someone had stolen the book out of it. Here's a little plug for Penneys--not only was it on sale, but they gave me a sizable discount because of the missing book--and I paid $6.39 for what was originally $22. Then I came home and ordered the book on amazon.
In the evening, Darren and I headed out to what I have been waiting, not only for this whole Christmas season, but since April when I first heard about it: the Selah Christmas concert. I was not disappointed. This is the second time we've seen them in concert but the first time at Christmas. I've heard countless renditions of "Silent Night," but their version, part in English, part in Kituba, with their glorious harmonies...the most beautiful version I've ever heard. They sang for close to two hours; I could have listened to at least two more hours.
Then we braved the horrible weather back to our city, had dinner at 10:30 at night, and had continued uninterrupted conversation. The whole evening was the Christmas present I've been most anticipating.
Sunday we picked the girls up and heard tales of cookie baking, cookie decorating, cinnamon roll making, getting candy canes at church, and the fact that Elaine told Manga she wasn't going to pick her nightgown up off the floor. In the evening, we all bundled up again and went to our choir's Christmas concert. It was so beautiful, too. I sat with the girls in the back of the sanctuary, and they waved to Daddy who is in the choir.
So that was our weekend! I'll leave you with one of my very favorite Christmas songs that I've been listening to over and over this season...here...Enjoy!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wouldn't you know it--Monday night she came into our room crying, "I don't want to be all by myselllffffffff" she wailed and then SPLAT. She got up one other time in the night for a repeat. In the morning, she came into the bathroom looking like something chewed over by a sheep. "I feel OK, Mommy," she whispered. "I'm just fine to go to the Polar Express party at school today." Then she rolled up into a ball on the floor. So she had a quiet day at home and soon was feeling fine. I wasn't worried about Elaine because she's never thrown up once in three years.
Last night was the Christmas program, Candy Cane Lane: A Recipe for Life. Lucy was a Christmas Candy kid. Both sets of grandparents were planning to come, but the weather forecast was predicting an ice storm so I told them both to not worry about it. However, the storm was pushed back a few hours so my parents rushed over and made it just in time as the program started.
The program was so, so cute, and Lucy did a great job singing. We've been listening to the CD at home since Thanksgiving so Elaine had all the songs memorized too. We sat up in the balcony on Mrs. Blevins' recommendation so that we could see. Elaine sat on my lap and sang along with all the kids. I hope everyone up there enjoyed that as much as we did.
Here is my little Christmas Candy kid...
...and her little sister...
This next part, in my opinion, deserves a whole post of its own, but seeing as I can barely get this one done (I've been interrupted three times while writing it) here goes. Lucy and I have officially started reading this together:
As you can see, we have the version illustrated by Michael Hague. I love Michael Hague and try to collect children's novels he has illustrated. (Of course, the original illustrator of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Pauline Baynes...her version is classic. Truly lovely.) Here are a couple of Michael's (I hope it's OK that I call him that) brilliant illustrations:
Back to the text. I have to tell you, my voice was a little shaky as I read the dedication to Lucy, Lewis's goddaughter, to my own Lucy. Every word of this book is pretty much sacred to me. But I shook it off, and we embarked on her very first journey to Narnia. My Lucy is loving it. She begs me not to stop as we finish each chapter. She was dying to know what Turkish Delight is. When we had her christening party when she was four months old, I put little bowls of Turkish Delight all around for people to sample. Fortunately, I had a very old, yet unopened box, still up in a cupboard so we sampled it. It was a bit chewy but still tasty. Currently, we've just finished up the chapter where the children had supper at the Beavers' house (I challenge anyone to read that without running down to the kitchen for at least a snack).
This morning, the day after Lucy's program, we awoke to more of this (my camera doesn't convey how heavily it is currently snowing).
Lucy's last day of school was cancelled, so we're all hanging around indoors in our pajamas. Which is a good thing, seeing as Elaine has thrown up four times just this morning. Apparently, she is making up for the last three years. She has spent most of the morning wrapped in a blanket on my lap, watching Kipper the Dog.
At least we have Narnia, inside and out, to enjoy!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
She played all morning alongside me with her toy kitchen. I put together the dinner she had chosen for her party: spaghetti and meatballs (just like Frances). Then I worked on the cake (more on that later). When Lucy got home from school, she and Elaine played with (aka fought over) the toy kitchen the rest of the day.
Later in the afternoon, I dressed them in their party dresses, and our family began to arrive. Both sets of grandparents and Lucy and Elaine's Tia and Tio came. Darren had made an appetizer platter of crackers, cheese, sausage, vegetables, and dip, so the party began. Then we had the spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and bread. Elaine had one or two mouthfuls, then got up from her chair and came over to me. "I am ready for my cake!" she whispered loudly. "Well," I whispered back, "we'll have cake when we're done eating supper." "I AM done eating my supper," she replied.
Finally, it was time for her cake. As early as October, she told me that she wanted a Peter-Rabbit-Mr.-McGregor's-Garden cake when she turned three. Ooh-kay. I figured a Peter-Rabbit-Mr.-McGregor's-Garden cake had better be carrot, so I made Alysa's-soon-to-be-world-famous carrot cake. It is the best you have ever put in your mouth. Phenomenal. My mother-in-law said that her mother made the best carrot cake in the world but that this one had it beat. Thanks, Alysa!
For better or worse, here's what it looked like (design courtesy of Hello, Cupcake!):
Elaine seemed pretty happy with it...
After we had our cake, she announced to everyone, "It is time for my presents!"
Oh my. From Lucy, she got the "Let's Go Fishin'" game, which they have played and played almost non-stop. From Tia and Tio, she got a Tinkerbell movie and a stamp art set (which she is very into these days). From MiMi and PaPa, she got the Little People castle and the Little People princess and carriage (a huge hit), some winter boots, and an outfit. From some friends, she got a cash register to go with her groceries/grocery cart, Wonder Marker coloring books, and a mini-Webkinz. From Manga and Packa, she got dishes for her kitchen, a flannel nightgown (and matching one for Lucy), and some money for her bank account. All in all, a pretty good haul.
So, that was the third birthday extravaganza! Elaine is very happy to officially be a big girl.
Here are both girls right before bed...so cute I can't stand it. :-)
Friday, December 12, 2008
I am your parent and you are my child
I am your quiet place; you are my wild…
The first sounds I hear every day are the pit-pat of pajama’d little feet running into our room and then a gravelly voice, saying, “Hi Mama!” I squint, and there she is, my little tootlebug with the big blue eyes and the two deep dimples, peering over the edge of my bed. “I wanna eat breffuss,” usually comes next.
As of today, a three-year-old is in the house. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The other day, I put her in her new timeout area, which is on the bed in the guestroom. I forget what heinous crime she had committed. She was up there for about ten minutes, and everything was quiet. “Poor little thing,” I thought. “She’s all worn out and has fallen asleep.” I went up and carefully opened the door. She was sitting there, nonchalantly putting pennies in between her toes with one hand. In the other hand, she held a three-year-old bottle of gripe water I’d forgotten in a drawer. She looked up and said “What IS this stuff, Mom?”
We've all been practicing the songs for Lucy's Christmas program, which is next week. The grand finale is a big birthday cake for Jesus and a song. The lyrics are, "Happy birthday, happy happy birthday, come and celebrate the birthday of the King!" Elaine throws her head back and sings at the top of her voice, "Happy birthday, happy happy birthday, come and celebrate the birthday of Meeeeeeeeeee!"
Relations between her and Lucy have been…I believe the word is volatile…of late. One minute they are playing and giggling together, the best of friends. The next minute there is screaming and wrath aplenty. The other day they were going at it in the car, Elaine pushing Lucy’s buttons and Lucy letting her buttons be pushed until she was almost in tears. Finally Elaine looked at her and roared, “YOU’RE DUST SUPPOSED TO IGNORE ME!”
As December 12 dawns again, I think back three years ago to that little baby who had been ever-so-deceptively quiet in the womb, yet burst out impatiently in a 4-minute delivery, so fast the blood vessels in her eyes burst. That should have been a pretty good indicator for us what we were in for. Her personality has burst into our rather sedate little family, and we have never been the same since. We are definitely not able to ignore her.
And so today as we approach her adventurous third year, what do I want to say to Elaine Frances? I guess just that I am her parent; she is my child. I am her quiet stroll through the neighborhood; she is my roller coaster ride.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love you so much, sweet littlest girl.
Happy 3rd Birthday!
Monday, December 08, 2008
I can't remember the last time I've not been at work on Monday, so here are some random happenings and photos from today.
First off, a riddle. What do a Polly Pocket doll, a Glad plastic container, a corkscrew, a pizza cutter, and water have in common?
Yeah, I have no idea either (and something you can't see in the photo, she is wearing her precious red rubber boots with her pajamas).
The next picture is a little horrifying. Lucy lost her first tooth on her birthday, exactly six months ago yesterday. The tooth next to it was loose too--it still hasn't fallen out, even though she can completely rotate it around in her mouth. Then her two top front teeth have been loose since at least September. One of them is so loose that I now call her Snaggletooth. When her teacher helped her into the car this morning she whispered to me, "Just pull that tooth out!" I said, "She won't let me near it." She was wiggling it on the way home, and we went over a bump so it began to bleed. That was worth at least an hour of drama. But she readily agreed for me to photograph Snaggletooth (and trust me, it looks even worse in person).
When I was a little girl, my grandma had these two very cute white china elves that climbed up her candles. I don't know whatever happened to them, but I've always wanted some. Last week I won these on ebay--this guy has a little friend who now resides on my other candlestick.
Lastly, I picked up Elaine's pictures that I had taken a week or so ago. I'm really happy with how they turned out. These are photos of pictures so they don't quite do them justice.
It's hard to believe she'll be three years old this week. Here's one last picture-- this is her right now, playing that her mermaid and assorted Polly Pockets are swimming in the kitchen sink. [Note the footwear].
Thursday, December 04, 2008
A number of years ago, my obsession was at its peak. The company I was currently working for was restructuring, and I needed to find a new job. Part of my severance package was that I received outplacement counseling in the form of a really cool job counselor named Judy. We met in her office and hit it off immediately. "What would be your ideal job?" she asked. "Working for Bill Kurtis," I said promptly. She burst out laughing (in a nice way). "I'm serious, Judy," I replied, "I have borderline stalked the man already." Then I explained how I had, er, aggressively gone after the company that published his book "We Interrupt This Broadcast..." I had sent my resume to Kurtis Productions. I had (ok, this is where the possible stalking charge comes in) found out about a private event at the WTTW studios in Chicago where he was making a special presentation and crashed it.
I found another job soon after with Judy's help, but for at least a year after that she would send me little clippings about Bill Kurtis and his doings. And of course told everyone else about her wacky client with the Kurtis fixation.
This week in the Chicago Tribune, I saw this article and planned my little blog post about it. I thought I might write it on Tuesday during my lunch hour. Normally I work from home on Tuesday, but this week I went into my office because I had worked from home on Monday instead. When I got in, I saw that I had a publishing meeting scheduled at 9:30. That seemed a little odd, because usually only my boss invites me to meetings and this was from a vice president. But I saw my colleague Jim's name on the invite as well and didn't think much of it.
I went to the meeting room, and the other meeting participants were already there with the exception of Jim who was working from home that day. Then I saw the human resources woman with a stack of blue packets sitting there as well. The vice president came in and said, "Hi. Well, you probably know this isn't really good news. I am now going to read to you." And he pulled out a script and read to us. "Due to the dwindling economy and educational cutbacks in this state, [this company] has lost significant revenue. Therefore, your jobs are being eliminated. Your responsibilities end here today." Then he looked up and said, "Sorry" and walked out.
The HR woman handed out our packets and told us what to do next. She asked us to please not say anything to anyone because these same meetings would be going on throughout the day--we were only the first group (I found out later that by the end of the day, almost 1/3rd of the company had been let go). Somehow I walked to my next meeting, but my legs were shaking so badly I'm not sure how I made it. I got through that one without hearing a word she said, but I did notice on her whiteboard in large red letters: PROJECTS: JOB RIF. Yeah, I guess they were really trying to keep that confidential.
After that, I met with my boss. She was shocked and outraged. The decisions were made on a much higher level that hers; she assured me it was not a performance issue; that essentially Jim's and my names were pulled out of a hat. I asked her if she minded if I said goodbye to all my co-workers (or what? I'd get fired?), and she said sure. I went around to each of my team members whom I have enjoyed working with for years. They are all my friends. I hated putting them in that position because...well, because. Each of them was pretty devastated as well.
Then I pulled out the white cardboard box I had been given and began to pack up my things--coffee mug, hand lotion, pictures of the girls, drawings they had made for me to hang in my office. I erased my whiteboard that gave my schedule. I turned in my security badge and my laptop. Then I left the place where I have spent close to a decade of my career.
I went to pick up Elaine from daycare. Of course they weren't expecting me at noon and wondered why I was there. I told the director what had happened and explained that as of now, I would be withdrawing Elaine. The center where I have entrusted my girls for five and a half years with people I have greatly appreciated and they have absolutely loved...gone. We'll never see them again.
It was like, I woke up with my regular life I've always had and was coming home with a completely different one. One that I didn't choose or want.
Elaine fell asleep in the car on the way home, which was fortunate for me because I didn't feel like talking. I've been involved in reductions in force before at previous companies, but I always knew it was coming so I had time to mentally prepare, and I always had gotten a good severance. This time...nothing. No warning. No severance. The human part of me felt like the place where I had poured my professional life into for the past almost nine years had just tossed me into the garbage without a second thought. They read to me from a script.
But instead of just staying alone with my thoughts, I pulled out my iPod and clicked on King James. "God is in control...even when I'm suffering," he boomed over the car speakers. "And if you're sayin' 'Everything's just rockin' over at my house, man,' well, that's not good news. Because the Scripture says that who the Lord loves, He chastens. What I mean is, all His kids are gettin' it. All His kids are going through hard times. Sometimes the number one tool He pulls out of the chest to work on our faith is suffering. Whatever has come your way that has surprised you or shocked you, GOD is at work in that. He's working working working for your good. That's a great spot for an amen, isn't it?"
Then he said, "So, it's time to get your eyes off your spouse, get your eyes off your children, and your finances, and your career, and your health, and get them back on the Lord. Walk by faith, not by sight. Love the PROMISER, not the promise. We're so focused on, "When, God, when? When are you going to help me? And how, how, how, how? When instead we should be asking ourselves, WHO? Who promised? GOD promised."
I felt a wave of peace wash over me. God gave me that job. He had every right to take it away. And I thank Him for both of those things: the giving and the taking. He's going to work it for my good, (great spot for an amen!).
So, now I am home. I was not due for any leave over these holidays, and now I get some. I finished decorating the Christmas tree yesterday with Elaine. Lucy and I went outside and made snow angels. She and I are going to have our special Mom/Daughter weekend we've been looking forward to for the last couple of months (Darren and Elaine are gone for the weekend). We're going to eat popcorn and red velvet cake, watch Anne of Green Gables, do a little Christmas shopping, and a lot of Christmas baking.
And in all of it, I'm not just going through the motions either. I'm walking by faith, not by sight. In addition to peace, I've gotten joy as well. God is in control.
Don't think I didn't check Kurtis Productions for job openings first thing though. I'm just sayin'. He needs me, people. He just might not know it yet.
Monday, December 01, 2008
So, remember when I got really sick in October and vowed to re-examine my life and my priorities? Surprisingly, I'm sticking with that. My schedule this Advent season is not crammed and cluttered. I have a few select things going on that I am so looking forward to: Elaine's birthday, Lucy's school Christmas program, a Selah concert on the 21st (I'm a little bit giddy about that one!). Other than that...I'm home with my family, decorating, making Christmas treats, listening to Harry Connick, Jr. I've declined Christmas parties without a particle of guilt. The word is serene, my friends, serene.
Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love traditions. This Saturday we kicked off Advent a tad early with Darren's yearly tradition with the girls of going out to the Christmas tree farm to cut down the tree. There are horse-drawn wagons, Christmas carolers, cider donuts, and Santa Claus (they were too afraid to sit on his lap though).
Here they are, posing with the tree they picked, sporting some of the worst bedhead you've ever seen.
And here they are in the Christmas store with Daddy...
We got the tree up on Saturday night, but we'll be doing the lights and ornaments within the next couple of days. Yesterday after church, the girls were supposed to be having their "quiet rest time" (the interpretation of that varies between them and me). They put on their pajamas and robes, I put their warm rice bags on their feet, and made them each a cup of tea. They sat on my bed and were watching "Beauty and the Beast." Doesn't that sound lovely?
Until we discovered that Elaine had riffled through some dresser drawers and found an extremely old (but still spreadable) tube of Desitin (the white kind of course rather than the clear). For some completely inexplicable reason, they covered themselves from head to toe with it, and their clothes, and our bedspread, and the floor. Oh, and of course smoothed it through their hair. Haven't we been over this with Vaseline, I ask you?
I acted a lot more outraged than I really was. I bathed them and washed their hair and had to go out to the store to buy baby powder to sprinkle in their hair since I had thrown all of ours away after Elaine was potty trained. While I was gone, Elaine had to sit on a chair in the dining room and Lucy had to sit in the boring guest bedroom. As expected, Lucy was totally devastated and Elaine was completely unrepentant. I told them that in addition because of their heinous deeds, we wouldn't put the ornaments on the tree that afternoon (which we couldn't anyway because Darren doesn't have the lights on, but they didn't know that).
And so Advent dawned...to this!
And yesterday at church, a friend gave me one of the coolest gifts ever. Actually, a disclaimer: she's my secret sister. Yes. I know. The whole secret sister thing is completely dorky. But...it's still fun. And whoever it is? somehow hit on my complete love of traditions, because look what I got that she MADE.
Then, for each evening of Advent, there is a reading to do together and Christmas carols to sing (with an accompanying CD she gave me).
And the best part is this...an ornament to go with each day's reading to put on the tree!
Lucy and Elaine were so excited and looked over each one of the ornaments. They can't wait to start tonight before bed. This is exactly the type of thing I love to do with them. I predict many happy memories made, fighting over the ornaments and who gets to put them on the tree, in the years ahead.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday night I went out with my blogger buddy Ann-Marie. We talked for approximately 5 hours over dinner about church and college and marriage, then came home and emailed each other with things we'd forgotten to say. Friday after work, I met my friend Julie (we've been friends since we were four) for dinner and Christmas shopping. We talked for approximately 6 hours about our work and our families and funny stories from high school and how my 70-ish parents inadvertently ate at Hooters.
Saturday I had a completely clear schedule in which to drop off our shoeboxes, grocery shop, clean out my refrigerator, and then spend three hours cleaning out the girls' room. I cleared out all too-small clothing and shoes, toys they weren't playing with, and a box each of books and dolls that could go to the basement. By the time I was done, my family came home. I was excited to see them until I realized my kids were different.
Lucy was obdurate about pretty much everything and had a sassy attitude. Elaine had somehow gotten croup and was just cranky and miserable. Sunday went downhill from there. I kept Elaine home from church. Everything, every single little thing, was a battle with her. If I said No in even the most pleasant voice, cue the wails, tears, and stomping feet. When I had cleaned out the refrigerator, I spent a lot of time washing and slicing carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and grapes and putting them in separate containers, which I marked "snacks." I taught Lucy to read that word and said that when she is hungry, she's welcome to take from any of those containers. Elaine ate all the grapes in one sitting (an entire Tupperware), then was discovered having scattered the cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes all over the floor and was lobbing the tomatoes back up on the refrigerator shelves and laughing an evil laugh. It sounds sort of funny? Except...not at all.
I spent the rest of the afternoon on blurb.com, putting together a book of this blog, with photos, for a Christmas present for my parents (I've gotten up through September so far), while simultaneously watching "The War" on PBS. In between was our own personal family war, punctuated with tantrums, thumping, yelling...it was so awful that I don't even feel like recreating it on here and trying to make it humorous. Because it wasn't.
Elaine was the worst I've ever seen her. After bathtime, I had to force her, struggling and kicking and screaming, into her pajamas. Who knows why. She never has a problem any other night putting them on; usually it's a happy time. But last night? It was one of those times where I actually uttered the sentence, out loud, "One of us is going to win in this scenario. And it's not going to be YOU."
At the end of the evening, while Lucy and I were trying to read, Elaine climbed up with us (I thought to settle down, oh how wrong of me) and ended up grabbing the side of Lucy's face until she screamed in pain. Where did that even come from? I was pretty much ready to call Father O'Malley for an exorcism. I was so, so angry. I made her lie down on her bed because I didn't even know what to do with her. She lay there, punctuating the air with hoarse, angry squawks until finally everything just fell silent. Lucy and I finished up our book, she got into bed, and I checked on Elaine. She had scooted under her covers and was fast asleep...worn out with wicked, apparently.
I went back downstairs and just felt like putting my head down on the table and bawling. What a horrid day. And I really don't have any Bible verse or spiritual insight to put on it. Just...really bad. Definitely not one to put into my blurb book.
But today is new, and the first snow is falling, and it all seems fine. So far.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
If I'm going to cover such an extensive and fascinating topic as mysteries on the blog, I'm going to have to split it between books and movies. I hope at this point I'm not just talking to myself because I actually love getting book and movie recommendations off other people's blogs. Today I'll just do books and save movies for another day when I don't have much to say. So...here goes:
Top 5 Favorite Mystery Authors (in no particular order)
1. Agatha Christie. I have to list her. She's the queen. And if you haven't read her books, you really should. The first one I ever read was "Pocketful of Rye" when I was 10 years old. I was hooked. My personal recommendations: "Nemesis," "By the Pricking of My Thumbs," "The Pale Horse," "The Crooked House."
2. P.D. James. The current queen. She's close to 90 I believe and just released another novel on Tuesday. Her tortured police inspector/poet Adam Dalgliesh has been solving murders since the 60s. My personal favorite is "Original Sin" (since it takes place in a publishing house, natch). Also worth picking up are the few Cordelia Gray novels.
3. Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell. If you're not familiar, that's actually the same person. Under her real name, Ruth Rendell, she mostly writes police procedurals--the excellent Inspector Wexford series. However, writing under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine, she is stellar. The best. In fact, her books are so good, I order them from amazon.uk so I can get them six months earlier than they're available in the U.S. The BV novels are more psychological in nature. She also takes a topic of interest and does loads of research on it, which I love. For example, "The Blood Doctor"--the story of an MP in the House of Lords, Martin Nanther, at the turn of the 21st century as his position as a hereditary peer is being abolished in Parliament. He is writing a biography of his great-great grandfather who was the physician to Queen Victoria and who did a lifelong study of hemophilia. In addition, Martin's wife continues to be unable to carry a child to term and continually has miscarriages. My personal favorites, in addition to "The Blood Doctor" (and this was extremely hard to narrow down): "A Dark-Adapted Eye," "The Brimstone Wedding," and "Anna's Book."
4. Elizabeth George (not to be confused with the Bible study lady): EG is an American who writes British mysteries--the Lynley/Havers series. She has written probably 12-14 of them, each between 600-800 pages long. Then she leaves you hanging and makes you wait 2-3 years until the next novel. Near the end of my pregnancy with Lucy I could rarely sleep, so Darren kept buying me more EG mysteries--most of which I finished in about a 6-week period. He would routinely get up around 3 a.m. and come into the baby's nursery where I would be sitting in the glider, reading Lynley and Havers. Some, of course, are better than others--I started with the 5th in the series, "For the Sake of Elena," because I picked it up at a used book sale--but I recommend starting at the beginning to get the entire thread.
I saved my favorite for last:
5. Anne George: Anne George wrote eight mysteries, comprising the Southern Sisters series. They are, flat out, the funniest books I've ever read. The mysteries are quite good, but nothing mind-bending. However, I reread this entire series at least once a year just because they're so much fun. The main characters are Patricia Anne (the narrator), a retired English teacher, and her crazy sister, Mary Alice, who has been married and widowed three times by men each twenty-eight years older than she is and incredibly wealthy. They are lifelong residents of Birmingham, AL. There are a whole host of supporting characters who appear throughout the books and about whom you always want to know what happens. I lent them to my dad who returned them later with the comment, "I laughed like a fool." It's not imperative to read them in order, but it's much more fun. The first one is "Murder on a Girls' Night Out."
I'll leave you with an excerpt to whet your appetite. Mary Alice has just bought a country/line-dancing nightclub called "The Skoot-n-Boot." Unfortunately before she could open for business, the previous owner was found in the bar's wishing well with his throat cut. Here, the sheriff is questioning Mary Alice, Patricia Anne, and Henry Lamont, the bar's cook:
“Bonnie could tell you more about that. Bonnie Blue Butler.”
The sheriff looked up from his notes. “We’ve already called her. She’ll be in soon.”
“Interesting name, “ I said.
“She swears she was conceived during the burning-Atlanta scene in Gone With the Wind. Must have had a tremendous effect on her parents,” Henry laughed. “May be true.”
“Casablanca caused one of my kids,” Mary Alice said. “You know, when she’s getting on the plane and looking back at Humphrey Bogart. That just does me in. Late movie one night.”
Sheriff Reuse cleared his throat loudly. We all looked at him. “Please. I’d like to continue.”
“Go ahead,” Sister said, having a hard time getting off the subject. “The other two were just vacations or carelessness or something.”
A good disciplinarian, the sheriff used the old schoolteacher trick of being totally quiet and still for just a moment too long. None of us moved.
“Mr. Lamont,” he said, “do you know of anything unusual that has happened here in the last few weeks? An argument Mr. Meadows might have had with someone? Anything that comes to mind?”
A dead body in the well, I thought. That’s pretty unusual. But I kept my mouth shut.
Happy mystery reading!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here and here and here and here and here and here!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Wake up! I’m still talking about the cold here. We’ve now entered the season where I can’t wear my wedding and engagement rings anymore, otherwise they’ll fall off. (I know, get a ring guard—I’ve already been told.) This worked to my disadvantage last Friday after work when I stopped to fill up my car. A man approached me and offered me a free newspaper (those of you who know where I work know exactly what newspaper I’m talking about). I didn’t want it, but I didn’t want to be rude either, so I took it. Then he sort of snatched it back and said, “You can have this on one condition: if you marry me!” Oy. I was all, “There might be some legal difficulties there, heh heh heh please get away from me.” Then he proceeded to take me a prisoner of conversation at the gas pump and determine where I live, where I work, which schools I went to, and how I got accepted into them.
On Monday when I got home from work with Elaine, Lucy met me in the driveway. “You’re probably going to be mad, Mom. Try not to get too upset,” she said. “What about?” I asked. “Mrs. Blevins sent home all these paper bags, and you’re supposed to make Indian vests for the whole class out of them.” “You’re joking, I know,” I answered. “Daddy put you up to this.”
Then we walked into the kitchen to see the huge pile of bags on my kitchen counter. Does the woman not read this blog? Apparently not. Shocking. But did she not see the pathetic drum I made last week? Why why why why oh why would I be the one parent out of the entire class selected to make 23 brown paper Indian vests? (And there’s a pattern, people. A PATTERN I have to follow.) When I picked Lucy up from school on Tuesday, Mrs. Blevins said, “That’s ok, right? The Indian vests?” “Oh sure!” I chortled. “Not a problem!” She answered, “Well, I thought it would be ok because you said it was better for you to do stuff at home since you can’t really come in the classroom to help out.” I said that? When did I say that? That does not sound like something I would ever say. Does it?
Then today I took Elaine to get her picture taken for her third birthday. It was about time because here is the last time she had her picture taken by herself:
When Lucy was her age, Darren took her in around Christmas. He called me from Penneys. “There are about 30 absolutely fantastic shots of her. I can’t even pick. You need to help me.” He was right. Every picture was frameable. With Elaine, I was just hoping for one. Not that she’s not a cute girl, in my opinion. It’s just that, whenever she meets someone she doesn’t know, or that’s she met only once…or three or four or eight times…actually, really anyone outside her immediate family, she puts her arm up over her face like she’s Princess Diana running from the paparazzi.
I had a long, repeated talk with her about how it's ok to be shy but not to be rude. And how a nice lady would take her picture, I would be with her, and she needed to be friendly and smile. It took her a little while to warm up (the arm came up in front of the face at first), but then she did beautifully. Every so often, her face would fall and she would say sadly and quietly, "I want my mommy," so she would come over to me, I would cuddle her and tell her what a great job she was doing, then she'd go back and take a few more pictures. Apparently it was so draining for her. Fortunately, by the end, I had a lot to choose from (and Penneys is running a 50% off sale!)
As a reward, I took her to Subway in the food court and let her pick out an M&M cookie. It cost $.53. As I rummaged around in my purse, I realized I had only $.26. I sheepishly handed the lady my debit card. "Oh, don't worry, it's on the house." When I protested, she said, "Honestly, it's no problem!" I was so embarrassed, like Elaine and I were taking charity and would soon be in a Lifetime movie called the "Christmas Cookie Miracle" or something. We pretty much just took the cookie and ran. No more Subway at the mall for us.
Now we're home, and she decided she'd like to watch The Waltons because Lucy is at school all day today. As for me...I've got twenty-three vests to make out of paper bags.
Friday, November 14, 2008
So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that when I found out Lucy had to have a homemade Native American instrument for school, I was markedly unenthusiastic. Why am I going out to work to pay for private education if they can’t make a dumb Indian spirit rattle for the Thanksgiving parade during class time, I ask you?
There were what seemed to be pages and pages of instructions for rain sticks and rattles and drums. Kill me. The drum had the shortest amount of instructions, so that’s what I picked. Plus we had two partially empty oatmeal containers on hand (you know Elaine was going to need a drum too), so I dumped the remaining oatmeal into a Tupperware and we were good to go.
First there were elaborate directions on how to take brown paper and temper/treat it so that it resembles bearskin for the drum cover. Yeah, not this little gray duck. I just had Lucy and Elaine draw on brown paper with markers, then we crumpled it up. I haphazardly measured it to go around the containers and taped it with Scotch tape.
“The top of the drum doesn’t feel right, Mom,” said Lucy. So I took a serrated knife and tried to trim the edges. That unfortunately loosened the bottom from the cylinder. More Scotch tape. Darren came in at this point. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Making a s-t-u-p-i-d Indian drum. Where is the packing tape?” I asked. “I buy packing tape every single time I mail a package so we should have approximately 78 rolls of it. Where is one of them?”
“Are you going to put a string through those drums so they can wear them around their necks?” he asked.
I made an exasperated and despairing noise at him that I’m not sure how to spell here. Why was he trying to add an additional step to my Purgatory? It was like part of my soul withered and died. And was cut up and fed to hyenas. “Dad,” said Lucy reprovingly. “She’s only 39.” [And no, I did not make that up.]
He got some twine and fixed both so that they had strings. Here’s Lucy’s in all its glory:
For a little while, she and Elaine marched around, beating their drums to George Winston music. If you’re familiar with George Winston, you know that he plays quiet, mellow piano music. Probably what I’ll play in my room at Shady Pines. Not exactly drum-friendly. “I wish I had a rainstick instead,” Lucy said gloomily after a few minutes.
Here she is with her drum:
“Mom, it doesn’t sound right. I don’t like it,” she said.
“Lucy,” I answered, “the only thing that matters is that you have some instrument to be in the parade and march around the school with. How ’bout, ‘Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me’?”
“I get to march around Lucy’s school?” Elaine shouted.
Lucy continued to grumble and complain about her drum and how only boys had drums and all the other people had rainsticks and she wants a rainstick, so finally I sent her up to her room to sit on her bed for complaining and being ungrateful.
You see how crafts bring disunity and discord to my family even?
Yet another reason for me to hate them.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here they are, ready to shop:
Target's Dollar Spot is the greatest place to buy stuff. We shop there year-round, but at Christmastime, they fill it with the stocking stuffer gifts, which are perfect for the OCC shoeboxes. The girls had a blast picking out little wooden puzzles, finger puppets, jump ropes, Hello Kitty merchandise (we assume little girls across the globe love Hello Kitty!), hair bands and barrettes, coloring books, and crayons. Then we hit the travel toiletries section and stocked up on bar soap and toothbrushes/toothpaste. At the checkout, we picked up bubble gum and Lifesavers. And of course we made sure to get a small doll for each box.
The next day we wrapped and packed the boxes.
When the boxes were packed, we gathered around and put our hands on each of them and prayed for the little girl who would receive them.
I hope that besides honoring Jesus and bringing some happiness to two other girls somewhere in the world, that my girls are learning the joy of selfless giving. Not once did I hear them bicker (well, with the possible exception of who was going to sit where in the cart) or say they wanted some of the toys and candy for themselves. "We got toys for dat little girl who doesn't have none!" said Elaine. And that gave me happiness too.
Here's a little something else that brought me joy. Here's a new feature at our Target. Check it out:
It's a security bike. Look more closely:
Is that not the funniest thing you've ever seen? I mean, does it have lights? A siren? Wouldn't you just give anything to be there when some poor unsuspecting shoplifter tries to take some of the Isaac Mizrahi line or an iPod out of blue world (and if you know Target like I do, you know the electronics section is called blue world), and the Target security guard fires up that puppy to ride to the rescue in the name of assets protection?
Joy. It really is in the littlest things. You just have to know where to look.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Lucy has sucked her thumb since...well, forever. I'm sure she did it in utero. Then--enter Rabbie into her life. Alysa and Maddie gave her Rabbie when she was only a few weeks old. Lucy's thumb and Rabbie made a potent self-calming combination. We are convinced this is why she has always been such a good sleeper too. She utterly rejected any sort of conventional pacifier; she had one built in. Whenever she would fuss as an infant, we would hunt around for Rabbie and tell her, "Find your thumb!" Instant success.
As for Rabbie, he's the fifth member of our family. He's become almost like Where's Waldo? He appears everywhere Lucy is.
Here she is, looking at him lovingly (a note: he began life as an adorable rabbit. My dad now refers to him as "the sewer rat"):
Here he is at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding with Lucy as the flower toddler:
Here he is at the grave of Paul Revere:
Here he is at Lucy's first Christmas program (she is singing "Away in a Manger" and Rabbie is standing in as Baby Jesus):
If you could peek in this pink bag, you could see him here on Lucy's first day of pre-school:
Here he is now:
I never worried about her stopping the thumbsucking habit because all the psychologists and child experts I read said that children will stop on their own, and any attempt by parents to get them to stop will only make it worse. So I did nothing. Thanks, psychologists. Now I have a 5-year-old dedicated thumbsucker with an overbite.
I first gently gave reminders to remove her thumb. I tried limiting Rabbie only to bedtime. I would remove her thumb from her mouth every night when I checked on her. I asked if she would consider wearing mittens to bed. We tried sucking on tic-tacs instead. Nothing worked.
Now Lucy is beginning to get her permanent teeth. As I write this, she has one bottom tooth and her two top front teeth loose. The dentist says there is a chance they will grow in straight if she stops sucking her thumb. So I did some more careful research of products. Most seemed destined for failure, with the exception of Mavala Stop. I ordered a bottle, and we tried it. (Then shattered that on the ceramic tile floor after two applications and had to order another bottle.) The taste is so wretched, there is no way you would put it in your mouth for even a moment. Lucy hasn't sucked her thumb since we started applying it. She has, however, had a hard time getting to sleep most nights. And one night I came in to check her, she was crying quietly.
"I miss my thumb!" she sobbed.
Then came the day when she wanted to watch a movie and said, "I guess I don't need Rabbie with me for the movie if I can't suck my thumb."
This is what I've wanted! I'm so proud of her! It looks like this habit is broken, thereby possibly alleviating Darren and me of extensive orthodontist bills in our future. Plus, she's a big girl now. She's five, and it is time to put away things from when she was a baby.
But...a little part of me way down inside is so, so sad.
I'm going to miss this:
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday morning was kicked off by Elaine stomping into our room, crying. "Mom! Mooooommmmm!" she sobbed. "What?" I asked groggily, lifting my head from the pillow.
"Lucy has spoiled this day!" she bawled directly into my ear. Let me tell you, it is quite an accomplishment to already spoil a day by 6:30 a.m. But they got over it, and by afternoon were completely happy with each other. It was our first real cold day of the season--snow flurries and everything--so when we got home from church, we changed into warm clothes and all got under various blankets in various rooms with our various rice bags heated in the microwave.
By around 5 p.m., I could see that Elaine was about to fall asleep so I scooped her up and put her in the tub. That woke her up, and then she had a little Mommy time while we read awhile. These are the books she picked out for me to read: "Peter Rabbit" (her favorite) about a naughty rabbit, of course. "Tom Kitten," about a naughty kitten. "The Tale of Two Bad Mice" (or as she calls it "Hunca-Munca"), about two naughty mice. Are we seeing a thread of continuity here?
After that, Lucy took her own shower (by the way, can I just say how much I am loving that a) both my kids are completely and totally potty trained and don't need me in that area at all, b) both kids can buckle their own car seats, and c) Lucy can take a shower by herself if need be. [Insert Aretha Franklin's "Freedom" here]). Then she put her pajamas on, and we read several chapters of The Bobbsey Twins "Wonderful Winter Secret." We are currently big Bobbsey Twins fans at our house. I asked Lucy if she would like to take the book with her today so that Mrs. Pope could read a chapter to her after school, and she said, "Oh no, Mom. This is our special book. If Mrs. Pope read some, then you would miss some of the chapters!" I just love that girl.
Speaking of books and especially of Peter Rabbit, I have an absolutely fantastic book recommendation. Growing up, my mom always made our birthday cakes (actually, she still does). But when we were little, she did wonderful things like elephants and rocket ships and Raggedy Ann and once for my brother, an entire train with individual, decorated cars. Since my mom set the bar pretty high, I guess I figure that decorating my child's birthday cake is something I should do. However, my fine motor and artistic skills are, shall we say, maybe not my strong points. Fortunately my girls aren't too discerning yet, but I'm always looking for ways to do things better.
Then...ta da! This book (published by the very company where I work! Buy it! Please!):
I just got my copy last week (I believe it has been featured on the Today Show). "Hello, Cupcake!" is written by a food "stager"/designer and photographer. First off, it's just a blast to flip through the pages. But the absolute best part is that really the only things you need are a zip-loc bag and candy readily available at the grocery or gas station (gas stations sometimes have the most comprehensive selections of candy). Not to mention--this book is THICK. It's not some little magazine with 5 or 6 ideas. It's also a springboard for your own creativity; the ideas are definitely adaptable. The chapters are broken down by event and various holidays. I think my personal favorites were the fishbowl cupcakes and the sunflower cupcakes, but it is so hard to decide.
Elaine has been saying for weeks now that she wants her birthday cake to look like Mr. McGregor's Garden. I've been figuring out how in the world I can make this cake and WHERE in the world I can find marzipan to fashion into tiny vegetables. I do love where I live, but I don't have the easiest time finding things such as rosemary and escarole. I was beginning to despair of ever finding marzipan. Enter stage left..."Hello, Cupcake!" There is a detailed vegetable garden fashioned entirely out of candy readily available at my area Super Wal-Mart. I cannot wait to stay up all night the night before her birthday and do this cake.
So, if you're looking for party/cake ideas, this book is a veritable jackpot. Go forth and purchase! I'll be posting pictures when the time comes...
Friday, November 07, 2008
She went on to remind me about '50s day every day this week. Yesterday when I picked her up from school she said, "I need a costume, Mom, you know, for tomorrow for '50s day." I am all about scrounging around and using what we have at home for costumes. In pre-school, there was a dress-up day practically every other week. Remember, I am the one who famously sent Lucy dressed in a stethoscope and her pajamas, which I convinced her were scrubs, for community helper day. So I said, "I know what you can wear. We'll roll up a pair of your jeans, and then you can wear a white t-shirt and your white gym shoes."
"No!" she said, with a note of panic rising in her voice. "I need a poodle skirt and top! I can't wear jeans and a t-shirt! That's what BOYS will be wearing!"
I don't know, something about that just raised some compassion in my heart. This girl needed something to wear for '50s day. So, we headed to Target. Wait--we headed home to take care of something first. The previous night as Darren and I were turning out the lights downstairs and getting ready to head to bed, we noticed with shock, shock I tell you, that someone had drawn on the walls. In more than one place. Naturally we assumed it was Elaine, since that's pretty much something she would find delightful, but then we looked closer. The drawings were perfectly executed stars (Stars of David, not pentagrams. Can we be thankful for this?)
When confronted, Lucy confessed. She didn't know what got into her except that she didn't have enough paper. You know, because the several reams of printer paper and the 17 coloring books we've picked up at each trip to the post office aren't readily at her disposal. I pointed out the lameness of that excuse and handed her the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Then we had a little talk about how the bank owns our home and how Daddy and I work hard to pay a little something every month on a 30-year mortgage. And how we expect a 5-year-old to know better than write on the walls.
Then we headed to Target. [A side note: Darren and I were so outraged and disappointed that our lovely, mature daughter would write on our walls. Then I remembered the time in grade school, waaay after I should know better, that I thought it would be ever so hilarious to fasten the little hook and eye lock on the attic door while my brother was up there looking for something. When he tried to get out, he didn't realize the door was locked; he thought it was stuck and threw his entire scrawny frame against it. The door burst open, ripping a piece of the door frame with it. You know, the 80+-year-old original wood door frame. How we've lived to tell the tale, I'm not sure.]
Anyway, we found some things at Target that make a perfect costume and can also be worn separately. When we got home, Lucy couldn't wait to try it all on. She danced upstairs and shouted, "Come and help me get dressed in my '50s costume, Mama!" Then, I heard a little voice behind me. I turned to see Elaine standing only in her jeans, with her shirt off, "Where's my costume?" she asked sadly.
Ohhhhh. We went upstairs together to help Lucy. I knew Elaine couldn't be pawned off with the usual assortment of dress-up clothes that they wear on a semi-daily basis, so I searched in the closet and brought out a Christmas jumper. "How about this?" I asked brightly. "Look at this darling little Christmas dress. It's got sparklies on it! And a Christmas tree! And two Scottie dogs!"
"Dat is NOT a costume," she declared mutinously.
Fortunately, a friend recently gave Lucy three absolutely beautiful and very fancy dresses--all taffeta and net and beading. I grabbed one of them that had a little matching jacket. "How would you like to try on this gorgeous princess dress?" I asked. Her little face brightened like the sun. Now THAT was an acceptable costume.
Here they both are--
My little '50s girl...(with the requisite poodle of course)
And Elaine, who also went to my closet and found some suitable "cloppy shoes" to go with her outfit. She doesn't look happy or anything, does she?
Happy '50s Friday to all!