Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Costumes

The Girl went as Cinderella.
The Boy went as a Biologist (a.k.a. a Naturalist).

Thursday, October 30, 2008


This morning, The Girl's first words were, "Is Grandma here?"

We are, in fact, picking Grandma up at the airport this afternoon, which means that The Husband and I will be the equivalent of chopped liver for the next five days. Bully for us! We get to sleep in . . .

In other news, last night, for the first time, I joined in with the intermediate tap class at the dance studio. I made it through half the class until they started doing turns, which I haven't really done since I was 13. Typically, I've been in the "adult beginner" class, which is just the teacher and me. I tried to tell myself that since I'm 40 now, I didn't care what the cool teenagers in the class thought about me. That is easier said that done when you're doing cross-the-floor exercises and you're last in line, and the fat-free teenagers are staring at your 40-year old butt as it shuffle-ball-changes across the room.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Four Oh

This week, I'm just hanging out being forty. Had the b-day on Monday and am grateful for life and all that it holds, including, of course, all of the in-laws that are at my house throughout this week.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In Your Satin Tights, Fighting For your Rights

Recently, The Girl asked if there was a Superwoman or Supergirl. I said yes, and then Wonder Woman came up.

Be it known that I used to watch Wonder Woman everyday after school when I was in the sixth grade. So I said to The Girl, "Yes, there's a Wonder Woman! I can show her to you!" So we went online and I found some clips on You Tube. Later, I found full episodes on, and The Girl has now seen two episodes (the pilot and the one about Baroness Von Gunther, the latter being her favorite). The downside to this new viewing habit is that Woman Woman has guns in it. Wonder Woman, herself, does not use guns, but the bad guys do, and there has been more gun-and-bomb talk in our house as a result.

The upside, however, is that The Girl now likes to dress up like Wonder Woman (in her American flag dress, accented with paper bracelets, a paper tiara, and a rope to serve as her "golden loosa") and says things like, "I'm so powerful! I can save people!" This is such a nice change from "I'm so beautiful! I'm going to marry a prince!" At this point, I'm feeling okay about the trade off.

All this aside, there is something else very interesting I've discovered by watching these old episodes. First, the patriotic and pseudo-feminist rhetoric is fascinating. Second, I think Lyle Waggoner has been lurking in my subconscious as my Platonic ideal of a man (despite the fact he is a bit bumbling, sort of like Red Crosse Knight who always needs Britomart to bail him out of trouble). Third, the theme song is hilarious, and it rocks. Here are the lyrics, and you can have a listen for yourself!

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
All the world's waiting for you,
and the power you possess.

In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White and Blue. [oh no you d'int!]

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
Now the world is ready for you,
and the wonders you can do.

Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth. [patriotic AND peaceful!]

Wonder Woman,
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.
All our hopes are pinned on you.
And the magic that you do.

Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold, [a lot of Nazis in the first season]
Change their minds, and change the world.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
You're a wonder, Wonder Woman.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clutter and Cleaning (or Not)

Some of you have read my previous posts (which I still don't know how to link to) about the fact that I love my house and how I didn't even covet the mansion that I visited in Bel Air. But on Monday I went to a house that I now covet (Hi, J.N.!). It was clean and clutter free. It had a modern style with natural materials. The inside blended with the outside. It had simple lines, built-in bookshelves, and great details. It had a water view. I loved it. And when I came home, my house seemed small, dusty, dirty, cluttered, and kind of lame.

So now I'm dealing with this. A great step would be to de-clutter the house. I bought a book on clutter last spring, and it's a good one. But I just haven't gotten around to purging. When can I find the time?

Not only that, but it seems that I just do not know how to keep the house clean and tidy. With four people in this house, including two young kids, I just don't know how to do it. Perhaps some sort of system would help. In the "olden days," I think maybe people cleaned on Saturdays before doing anything else. Mopped. Beat the rugs. Etc. In fact, when I was single, I cleaned on Saturdays while listening to Morning Edition and NPR. By 1:00pm, I'd have a clean house in which to read and relax. Easy peasy.

But now? There is always crap everywhere. Cleaning takes much longer, and The Girl has dance class on Saturday mornings so that's out. Plus, if the Husband and I aren't dividing and conquering on the weekends in order to prep or grade papers/exams, then we like to play and go on outings with the kids. Not clean. Perhaps that's the problem?

The stuff, the stuff! I can't even deal with the mail, let alone the laundry and the dust. When did I last mop the floors? Do not ask. Why is the kitchen ALWAYS a mess even after I just cleaned it? I know it's entropy at work, but I do not know how to successfully fight this physical law.

So far, I am NOT a good enough housekeeper. Any tips, dear blogosphere?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Morning Surprises

This morning, The Boy awoke at about 5:10am. As for me, I had not set my book down and turned off my light until midnight, so I was tired, and I knew my husband was, too. The Boy started talking at 5:10, so I went in and told him that it wasn't morning yet, so he needed to go back to sleep. I went to the bathroom and heard him talking again, so I went back to his room. He wanted his blankets fixed. I fixed them. I got back and bed and heard (horror!) The Girl, who was now awake, start talking to The Boy. Okay, both kids are awake. Code red. I went back in, feeling a bit panicked.

Me: "You just can't get up yet. It's not morning. You need to be quiet."

The Boy: "But I want to talk to [The Girl]. I hardly ever have the time to do that."

The Girl: "But I'm awake!"

Me [ignoring the claim that The Boy never gets the chance to talk to his sister]: "Okay, but I'm going to have to turn off the monitor in our room*, and we haven't done that before, and we won't be able to hear you call for us. So when it's light out, you'll have to come wake us up, come knock on our bedroom door, and I don't want to hear you screaming and calling for us. You'll need to come get us."**

The Boy and The Girl [somewhat weepy]: "Okay."

So I headed back to bed, fully expecting that I would never fall back to sleep and that I would hear them start arguing or screaming for Mommy or Daddy within four minutes.

Wonders of all wonders, I fell back asleep and woke up at 6:45 when I heard them making happy noises and gently knocking on the walls outside our door. I was stunned. I mean, it's difficult to express how amazed I was. My husband got up with them and asked what they had been doing. The Boy said, "Trying to figure out a way to avoid this happening again." Apparently, his solution involved strings, doorknobs, and other various contraptions. I'm not sure which part of the scenario he was trying to avoid or subvert.

Nevertheless, I was so impressed with their early a.m. independence. I think they actually stayed in their beds the whole time. Probably talking and staring out the window until they saw sunlight. I wonder if we can pull this off again the next time they wake up earlier than we would like. I doubt it.

But maybe a lot of children get up in the morning and play independently while their parents snooze. Could this be true? If so, we need to push this agenda.

*We still use monitors because, despite the fact that our house is small, it's fairly solid, and we can't hear them very well if they call to us in the night.

**Our kids are not in the habit of coming to get us in the morning. Rather they call us to them, and then we all go to the living room. This has the added bonus that they never come into our room at night. In fact, I can't really remember a time that either of them has, independently, gotten out of bed and come to knock on our door (many of you probably think this seems weird, and I don't know why it's this way, but this is just how it's all evolved). So this morning's activities were totally new for everyone, and I wasn't sure how it would all transpire. I really imagined that a lot of crying and screaming would ensue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We, the FID (Family in Debt), are being crushed by the OFID (Other Family in Debt). As indicated in a previous post*, our FID and the OFID decided to try to spend money only on necessities (loosely defined) this month.

When the matriarch of the OFID called yesterday to guiltily confess that they had gone out to breakfast (gasp!), it became clear to me that our FID is failing miserably in comparison. The husband from the OFID, apparently, has not even been buying BEER! Whaa?

I, on the other hand, have purchased electric toothbrushes for the kids, new cups for the kids, and I bought a potted plant this weekend. We bought pumpkins. I'm sure I also bought some unnecessary groceries since I haven't quite figured out the difference between necessary food and luxurious food. And my husband spent last weekend partying in the city with his Rocky Mountain buddies buying who knows how much food and booze. And he bought something he's apparently ALWAYS wanted because he found the chance to get it at cost. That item? A helmet-cam that also works underwater--good for kayaking, dirt biking, motorcycles, whatever.

(We've got some great underwater footage of the kids acting out shark attacks in the tub. If I figure out how to do it, I can post it for you.) And I have had to spend at least $300 on the dog. The dog.

And next week I turn 40. And I think we'll go out on a date this weekend and spend some money on dinner and maybe a movie. And I want a present. Luxury? It's my 40th birthday, and I can just hear Suze Orman telling me to get real and honest and that if I want to truly be a grown up, I should celebrate my 40th birthday at home eating Ramen noodles watching a DVD I rented from the library. Like THAT'S going to happen.

So I think we'll have to have a "do over" next month. But, of course, next month I travel to PhD City in the U.K., which will NOT be cheap. At all. And I'll be lonely, so I'll want to spend money eating in nice restaurants rather than dank holes in the wall. I have a particular charcuterie in mind. I could eat there every day. Jars and jars of olives in the windows. Cheeses in open on the shelves, and a great in-house casual dining. Ah. Heaven. But, yes, a luxury.

But there are also things I have not been buying. I canceled my gym membership (finally). I've downloaded free yoga that I really like. I have avoided the local bakery. I have only been to my local coffee shop once (today). We have hardly eaten (or ordered) out at all. I clipped coupons and used them last weekend. I studied the grocery store sales for the week and went to two different stores in order to get the items I needed on sale (they are very close to each other, so I didn't have to use extra gas).

The upshot? I'm still in the red for the month. But the good news is that I've become much more aware of the various ways in which the money slips through my fingers. Now, the trick is to get a list of all of my husband's expenditures for the month, put them together with mine, get him on the same page with me, and try again. I'm sure we'll be sufficiently shamed and scolded when we compare notes with the OFID.

I welcome all tips for reducing my spending and increasing my (and my husband's) discipline.

*Can someone PLEASE tell me how to insert links to previous posts and how to label posts for hotlink archives? I have not been able to figure out how to implement these features.

Busy Mommying

I've been short on kidcare, so I haven't had time to post or work. But it's been great to have so much fun with the kiddie-poos. It will also be great to really dig back into my research in a few days.

This is the life: research and family. What a nice combo. It will get much more stressful when I add teaching (and actual dissertation writing) back into the mix.

But for now, life is a joy.

If only someone would keep my house clean. Deep down clean. And spotless. Then I would feel at peace.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Spice of Life

I have a headache. And a burst vessel in my eye, which is not so lovely (and which I did not know about until a friend saw me at the school Carnival and said, "Why is your eyeball bleeding?")

I don't know if I'm exploding vessels because of the difficulties I've had making my travel plans to PhD city in the UK, or if it's from trying to read so much, or if it's from trying to (in fifteen minutes) make both a whale and Wonder Woman accessories out of paper before rushing to my son's school Carnival.

As for PhD City, I had planned to take the trains to-and-from London (after flying to London) the Sundays that will bookend my week in said PhD City. Turns out the train schedules suck on Sundays, so I had to shave a day off each end of my week in PhD City, pinching my time there. So now I will have a full day in London, but it will be on Sunday, and the British Library is closed on Sundays I think.

As for the reading, I haven't done enough of that because I get distracted by blogs and politics, which also could my making my eyes bleed.

As for the Carnival, I volunteered at the Bear Pick Pocket game for my son's class. He liked the fishing pole game best. They closed the Bounce House line two kids in front of us (much to my Girl's--oh, I mean Wonder Woman's--dismay), and we ate cold spaghetti, brownies, lollipops, and popcorn.

And hubby is out of town, so, if I can manage to stay awake long enough, I plan to to watch a chick flick that I got from Netflix while I have my nightly dose port and chocolate.

Variety is, indeed, the spice of life.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm Not Sure How I Feel About These Results--Especially Since They Seem DEAD ON!

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Joan!

You are a Joan -- "I need to succeed"

Joans are energetic, optimistic, self-assured, and goal oriented.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Leave me alone when I am doing my work.

  • * Give me honest, but not unduly critical or judgmental, feedback.

  • * Help me keep my environment harmonious and peaceful.

  • * Don't burden me with negative emotions.

  • * Tell me you like being around me.

  • * Tell me when you're proud of me or my accomplishments.

What I Like About Being a Joan

  • * being optimistic, friendly, and upbeat

  • * providing well for my family

  • * being able to recover quickly from setbacks and to charge ahead to the next challenge

  • * staying informed, knowing what's going on

  • * being competent and able to get things to work efficiently

  • * being able to motivate people

What's Hard About Being a Joan

  • * having to put up with inefficiency and incompetence

  • * the fear on not being -- or of not being seen as -- successful

  • * comparing myself to people who do things better

  • * struggling to hang on to my success

  • * putting on facades in order to impress people

  • * always being "on." It's exhausting.

Joans as Children Often

  • * work hard to receive appreciation for their accomplishments

  • * are well liked by other children and by adults

  • * are among the most capable and responsible children in their class or school

  • * are active in school government and clubs or are quietly busy working on their own projects

Joans as Parents

  • * are consistent, dependable, and loyal

  • * struggle between wanting to spend time with their children and wanting to get more work done

  • * expect their children to be responsible and organized

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grasshopper Abduction

I'm currently reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods, in which he suggests that today's kids are too distant from their natural world and that such detachment might affect them negatively in a number of ways. He makes a number of interesting observations and arguments. And he speculates a fair amount (but he admits to the speculative nature of some of his points).

One of the most interesting ideas I've come across so far is that we "criminalize" the ways our children play in nature. In essence, he suggests that we've become so PC about the environment that we don't really allow our kids to play in it (He doesn't use that exact language, and I'm conflating his points a bit, but that's the gist). For example, kids learn about rain forest depletion, and they learn about endangered species, and they learn about global warming. So, to them, the environment becomes this big, inevitable apocalypse that they learn about when they're reading books inside. Then, when we tell them to go outside, we "criminalize" their exploration. We say, "Don't climb that tree, you could break a branch." "Don't touch the butterfly, you'll kill it." "Don't walk on those plants; they could die." And so on.

On Sunday, I took the kids to a local nature preserve to have a picnic and check out the fauna (and flora, I suppose, but they are way more into fauna). I should preface this by saying that my son LOVES nature and the creatures that exist in nature. On Sunday, he even said, "Mommy, Why is nature so nice?" And his love of nature leads him to want to bring it all into the house, even the fauna. But when we go to this nature preserve, I always say, "You can't touch the frogs here. They are endangered. And we can't touch the turtles. Here, we just have to look." He begrudgingly accepts this and is very good about following the rules.

However, this Sunday, he did happen to find grasshoppers. And I let him chase and catch the grasshoppers. As he was doing so, along with his little sister, an older couple came along to picnic and do some bird watching. They were very friendly, but they suggested several times to my kids that they should not hold onto the grasshoppers. Well, my kids were each intent on bringing a grasshopper home (which would mean holding them in their hands for a mile ride in the stroller). The older woman told them they should leave the grasshoppers there with their families where they could be happy. I think she really wanted me to tell my kids that they could not take the grasshoppers home.

But here's my thing. They are grasshoppers. Locusts. My kids were going to bring two home. Is this a big deal? Louv points out that when John Muir was a kid, he used to shoot at seagulls. But that didn't mean he would turn out to be destructive in nature. And I doubt he upset the gull population in any radical way. In fact, Louv suggests that by really being IN nature--whether it's through hiking, fishing, or collecting bugs and reptiles--our kids will be more inclined to protect it when they become adults.

So I have decided that I will let my kids climb trees, and I won't fret too much about a broken branch or two (I mean, how many trees do people cut down to build their big houses with the nice views of nature? And then they don't want kids to accidentally "wound" part of their vista?). And I decided that my kids could bring grasshoppers home to feed and observe. And I let my son bring in a praying mantis that was about to be eaten by the neighbor's cat. And sometimes we let him bring home a few tadpoles to watch them turn into frogs (and then we release the frogs into their original habitats). I did these things when I was a kid. I can't imagine how many lightening bugs I trapped over the years. So I guess my kids are learning to love nature--the old fashioned way.

So what do you think? Are we criminals? Are we upsetting the balance of the planet?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Drunk Pumpkins

My Dog is Poisoned. Again.

A few weeks ago, the dog ate a Lyra wax crayon and had a scary reaction. He was running around like a mad creature, his face looked weird and scrunchy, he was panting, and he seemed to be having hallucinations. Just as we were about to take him to the emergency clinic, he started to get better. We induced vomiting (as per instructions on the Internet for what to do about crayon ingestion by a dog), and he settled down and seemed fine. Tip: Be sure your dog doesn't eat art crayons or paint ball pellets, which also contain polyethylene, the suspect ingredient. (BTW, did you know that if you call the poison hotline for animals that you have to maneuver through several automatic steps before finally being asked to pay $60 before you can talk to anyone?)

Then, yesterday (or possibly the night before), he snatched a closed bottle of Tylenol Meltaways off of the table. I'm sure he liked the rattle it made when he dropped it and/or shook it. Imagine his glee when, after chewing on it with his big doggie jaws, the top popped off and sweet, little tablets came out. Apparently, acetaminophen is very toxic for dogs (and cats, for that matter). At this point, we're giving him various treatments and hoping he doesn't have liver damage.

He's getting into things, I think, because he's a bit stir crazy since he had a splint on his leg for two-and-a-half weeks because of a pulled tendon, and we couldn't walk him or take him hiking. He has cabin fever.

Really, we are very good to our dog, and we don't have munchausen syndrome by proxy (dog version). We just have a spazzy, gluttonous puppy who twisted his paw during his puppy crazies and who keeps gobbling up whatever he can. And boy are his toots stinky.

In the past three weeks, we've had to pay about $650 for his medical bills (oh yeah, he had to be anesthetized so that some of his baby teeth could be pulled. His permanent incisors came in without the baby ones falling out). And we got him at the humane society, thinking he'd be cheap. I guess there is no such thing. . .

With these kind of bills, why am I even bothering giving up my ice-blended mochas and other coffee shop goodies?

Poor stinky butt.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Something is Wrong with Me

This morning I thought I'd get an early start on my reading and research. I'm a bit under the weather, so I skipped exercise and volunteering at my son's school (which he was very happy about because he doesn't like it when I visit his kindergarten class. He says that I distract him). But I did have to make a quick trip to the P.O. And, after that, did I come straight home and get to work? No, I picked today as the day to purchase a clothesline and drying rack so that I could go green (ish) in the laundry room. So, instead of working and not spending any money, I spend about $19-20 on green gear. And now, instead of reading, I'm blogging, drinking a smoothie*, and waiting for the wash cycle to finish so that I can, for the first time in this house (what took me so long?), put our clothes outside to dry. And it's a BEAUTIFUL day. This is the most excited I've been about laundry in quite a while.

Maybe on Thursday, I'll procrastinate by starting a composting system (because, no, I haven't done that yet either! But better late than never).

*BTW, the smoothie is homemade and quite yummy. It includes the organic strawberry juice leftover from yesterday, an organic apple, ginger root, organic spinach, a banana, some green powder (that is old and, I hope, still safe for consumption), and ice. Cheers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

I'm Off the Wagon Already

No luxuries? Ha!

I did quite well yesterday at a local festival at which The Girl danced in her first recital as a very cute pink cloud. In the midst of all of that Festival Food, all the kids wanted were Blow-pops (.25 each). Nice! Much cheaper than ice cream, etc. (and I had brought lunch for them). As for me, I passed on the Philly Cheesesteak and the bratwurst and the fish and chips and all of the other the things that smelled SO good (instead I ate an apple and some rice chips--no lie!). I did buy one churro that I split with the kiddie-poos. I also spent some money on bouncy house types of activities, which were a bit pricey. BUT the kids didn't ask for any of the chotchkes offered by the many vendors, and I was pleased about that. All and all, I made it out having only spent $16 for three people in four hours in the midst of a festival of consumption.

But at the farmer's market today, I went overboard. I bought organic golden raspberries that the kids love. I bought big cookies for the kids. Lots of figs (for The Boy). An organic cantaloupe (for The Girl). Lots of apples and tomatoes (but that seems okay). Some organic strawberry juice because the girl was crying that she was thirsty (should have taken a juice box with me).

Hmmm. And we're only six days into the month? This isn't going to be easy.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Neccesity or Luxury? You Call It.

Our family is going to start comparing financial expenditures with another family as we try to buy only necessities rather than luxuries (I will call us FID for Family in Debt. I will call them OFID for Other Family in Debt). I think we are defining "necessity" a bit loosely (beer is on the list), but we will cut out many of the expenses that are truly superfluous--all in an effort to reduce our debt and balance our budgets (since no one is going to bail US out). We are modeling ourselves (with much less rigor, I think) on the efforts of Judith Levine and her husband, as chronicled in Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.

As a result of our efforts to improve our budgets and decrease our spending, I will occasionally post some of my expenditures in order to play a little game of "Necessity or Luxury: You Call It!"

Here's our first round:

  1. Three-ring binder and folder for all of the stuff that comes home from kindergarten with my son.
  2. Brand-name toothpaste.
  3. A new box of markers for my kids who draw A LOT.
  4. A new copy of my reading group book (couldn't find it used at my local store).
  5. Birthday gifts for my step-father.
  6. Dance classes for the month of October for my daughter (and myself).
  7. Karate class for October for my son.
  8. Two Tiger's Milk bars for the kids after dance class today.
  9. A loaf of really awesome bread from a local bakery (sliced for sandwiches).
  10. A spirulina smoothie for myself (medicinal expense since I have a cold?).
  11. Monthly subscription to NYT and local paper.
  12. Monthy subscription to Netflix (but we don't have cable . . . )
Other than utility bills, mortgage, and car insurance, these are the only expenditures so far. I know it's only been four days . . .

Oh, and I think my husband purchased lunch every day this week. We need to work on that. I'm not sure what else he has purchased . . .

Whaddya think? Necessity or luxury.