Monday, April 30, 2007

Quick brag on my husband

As I mentioned months ago, my husband was diagnosed in October with Metabolic Syndrome. Ever since that diagnosis, he's been much more mindful of what he eats (and in what quantities), and he's been exercising with amazing regularity.

The results, thus far, are amazing. He's lost about 45 pounds and not one, not two, but THREE pants sizes.

We hadn't bought any new clothes for him during this time, just because we didn't want to spend bunches of money on transitional sizes. I knew he was serious about getting in shape, and I wanted to see how far he'd go.

But since it was no-sales-tax weekend, we went ahead and bought him some shorts and a shirt. He tried the size we thought was appropriate, and he returned from the dressing room with an unfamiliar expression for the situation: he was smiling. The shorts didn't fit. The usual next step would be to get the next size higher, saying something about how that store's sizes are strange. No. This time we needed to find the size lower. Which were still a little big, but only big enough to be okay after they were washed.

And the shirt? Was a "normal" size rather than an "extended" size. (Which means it was $2 less than the shirt we would have bought before.)

I'm so very proud of him. He's one pants size away from being the size he was in college. And I expect we'll see him in that size in another couple of months.

The downside? He's pestering me to start exercising with him. Yikes!

It's official

The kids aren't little.

Yeah, I already knew that. I mean, Susie is almost my height and she sometimes borrows my clothes and we wear each other's flip flops. And Alex is catching up, fast. I get it. They're bigger. And they read books and can surf the 'net and play video games and even get their own cereal. Yeah. They're big.

But it sometimes takes a smack upside the head for me to comprehend it.

Which takes us to Saturday. After my rehearsal, we piled into the family car and drove to Oxford, Mississippi, a charming college town about 90 minutes away. Because we've gone to Oxford almost every April for their arts festival. Because it's fun, and there are great activities for kids.

You see where this is going, right?

Petting zoo? No thanks.
Moon bounce? No thanks.
Face painting? No thanks.
Free moon pies? (SERIOUSLY!!) No thanks.

But, on the other hand, they're definitely not adults.

Look at the neat art in this booth? No thanks.
In this one? No thanks.
What about pottery? No thanks.
Metal yard art? No thanks.
Photographs? No thanks.
Listen to the band playing? No thanks.

But the bookstores? Sure! And then when we wouldn't buy $50 worth of books for them, we got sulking with a heaping helping of whining on the side.

All I can say is this: Thank God for Mexican food. The little place we found, in a strip mall, filled the bill nicely. And saved the day from being a complete disaster.

The driving, however, was lovely each way. The trip from Memphis to Oxford, if you avoid the big interstate, is pretty. You drive southeast to Holly Springs, then change roads to a two-lane road to Oxford. The roads are in relatively good shape and lined by trees, punctuated by a small house or two. And with a book of Mad Libs, we all stayed entertained and in good spirits both directions.

I think we'll skip the festival next year and just take a trip to Oxford some other weekend, with money budgeted for book buying and Mexican food. Because that works.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Public service announcement

If you live in Tennessee and read this before Sunday, April 29, you can thank me later.

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 27, we're having a sales tax holiday. Click here for more information. Great time to buy clothes, new computers, or school supplies.

Which means my favorite place on earth, Target, will be mobbed all weekend. Daunted? No way. My kids have grown so flipping much this year that I'd probably even join in a catfight if there was a supply issue with size 12 boys' pants. Because we keep telling him that capris aren't cute on guys.

Sharpening elbows.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I want to do

This weekend is the first weekend this month that doesn't have tons of ink on each calendar page. Actually, in all fairness, this entire week has been a lot less busy for me than most weeks.

When I was in my twenties, I felt a need to be busy. I wanted to fill my free time. I would volunteer my weekends at the Humane Society or spend hours and hours at the coffee shop with my next door neighbor. I got a weekend job; I went to graduate school. Why? Because I'm naturally an extrovert, and my husband's job had him working most weekends. And I was no good at all at being home by myself. Even after Susie was born, I spent a lot of time getting us out of the house: walking the neighborhood, walking the mall, spending too much time (and money) at Target.

And that? Is so not a problem for me anymore. Maybe it's because I'm almost never alone at the house (or anywhere else, really). There are those two sweet, short people who live there. Oh, and that tall guy who doesn't work weekends anymore. My three favorite people, conveniently located under one roof. Plus, the roof is new and the house is the house I dreamed of and why would I want to leave if I didn't have to?

So, aside from a few commitments that were already made (and are enjoyable), the rest of the weekend is wide open. Maybe we'll go to the Oxford, Mississippi art festival. Or maybe we'll hang out in the house. Maybe I'll plant some flowers and tomatoes. Or maybe we'll finally fix my bike tire and take a family bike ride.

Now that it's written down, I see that we could, quite feasibly, do all those things. And honey, if you're reading this, please note that I'm proposing activities that would not include the wearing of pajamas.

Even though that sounds good, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Time marches on

Years ago, when my kids were still in diapers, I spent a lot of time with other mothers: in La Leche League meetings, in Attachment Parenting International meetings, just at the park. The bonds formed by our commonalities were crucial for getting through those first years of adjusting to parenthood.

Some of the moms were more experienced, with older children, and some were less experienced. Some had birthed in the hospital while others had opted for home births. We were mostly breastfeeding moms, and several of us chose to use cloth diapers. Some of our choices put us a bit outside the mainstream, especially in conservative Memphis. And being a bit "fringe" brought us together.

I had discovered this wacky thing called "onelist" (which has since become "egroups" and then "yahoogroups") that made email communication a bit easier. And so the Memphis Mamas group was born. The original ladies who populated this email group were fixtures at LLL meetings or API meetings. They were the women who welcomed me to motherhood.

As the years passed, we've met other women at the park, at the coffee shop, at church, at the grocery store. And the list has grown.

So imagine my reaction when this email came through the list this week:

Subject line: "New generation" of Memphis Mamas

Hey MemphisMamas- your group inspired the one below; we wanted to create something similar for the "next generation". If you know other mamas of babies or young children who could benefit, please pass on the info--Thanks, K
Just wanted to let everyone know about a new yahoo group set up for mamas in Memphis (particularly those with babies, toddlers and young children) to connect with each other online and in person. Although geared to "alternative" parenting choices, there is no litmus test to define that, and anyone is welcome to join.. The idea is that it will facilitate community building among like-minded mamas: online sharing, discussion, and support, a way to let others know of community events, as well as opportunity to set up real life outings and get togethers, etc.

It's part "Awwwwwww" and part "OMG that means I'm old" and part "Huh? I thought that's what our list was for?".

But the original moms in the group are showing that they're still awesome and relevant and even though we don't see each other as regularly, there's still a bond. Because....

S: OMG!!! I cannot believe we inspired a "spin-off". way to go ladies!!! still lurking around online in _____ with e soon to be 11 and m 8. now officially single for almost 1.5 years, and really diggin' it!!! my love to all of you,

S: does anyone else feel old and outdated??

T: I feel old and outdated and "alternative," so I plan on slipping seamlessly between both.

M: i am still hanging around and reading these posts. i don't feel old, just tired....But S, you shouldn't feel old and outdated.. you should feel PROUD!

S: Hey, I'm still here:) Update on my bunch......M is 26 married with 2 kids and one on the way, yep, I'm a Memphis Grandmama!! Z is 23, J almost 13 and A is 11.5!! Yipes!!Glad to hear from everyone.....maybe we should have an in person reunion.....

S: i'll come to any darn party you throw.

Of course I suggested we get together and make doilies and drink sherry. Because old ladies totally do that. But then we'll tie-dye the doilies, since we're alternative. And we'll eat homemade granola.

I miss that fellowship, that sisterhood of young mothers. Our babies in arms, on the floor, playing and nursing and growing together. I miss the nearly-immediate closeness you experience when another woman helps you learn to breastfeed or to fold a cloth diaper, and you're both a little delirious from sleep deprivation. When our babies were born, we made food for each other. We swapped off babysitting. We were just there.

There aren't meetings for us anymore. We don't need the immediate and frequent support that new moms need. We're only sleep-deprived if we stay up too late. We're busy with homework or homeschooling, with jobs and families and home-based businesses, with husbands and boyfriends and girlfriends and partners, with volunteer work or church or recovery.

But it's still nice to run into each other at the store, or the coffee shop. And it reminds us that we really ought to make time to get together again, if only to marvel at how the kids have grown. And make doilies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sick days and field trips

Susie ran fever all weekend. By Sunday night, I had accepted the fact that she was going to be staying home on Monday. At bedtime she was still running fever over 101. So I made arrangements to go to work early for a few hours, then to come home to stay with her since Craig doesn't get to take days off from teaching.

I did check her temperature before I left, and she was better. But I decided to keep her home anyway. She's got a big, busy week in front of her, and a day of rest wouldn't hurt her any.

Plus, I had a busy weekend and didn't mind the prospect of a quiet day off with my favorite girl.

And it was a good day. I could tell she wasn't quite recovered that morning because she had no appetite, and normally that girl can eat. She didn't want anything until around 1 p.m. We watched television and played on the computer, and I went outside and did some work in the yard while she played on the computer some more.

By the time her brother returned from school, she was feeling like herself, and they scampered off upstairs to play on the computer (more!), and then played outside after dinner.

But here's why I let her rest. This afternoon, her school's choir (she's in the choir) is singing the National Anthem at the local minor league baseball team's game. And tomorrow her CLUE class is going on a field trip to some caves in Arkansas. They'll leave at 6 a.m. and return close to 8 p.m. It's a big, exciting week, and I didn't want her to miss any of it.

So everyone keep your fingers crossed that the game doesn't get rained out, okay? Because the weather is making me nervous.

::Edited to add, the rain stayed away and all was fine. Apparently a couple of kids in the choir hogged the microphones and screamed into them, so there wasn't much to hear. Oh well. She had a good time anyway. Raining today, but the cave is underground, right? So that should be fun no matter what.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Award nominee? Me?

UUMomma has nominated me for a "Thinking Blog" award. My mission, now, is to nominate five other blogs for this same award.

Given that I frequently post about such topics as what I ate for dinner, what movie I'm going to watch on a date night, or the various culinary adventures I have with my children, you can imagine that I'm a bit, um, stunned to be up for such an award. But I guess I've had a few moments of deep thinking that have made an impression. So thank you, and I'll try to nominate some good blogs to join us on the podium.

The first choice is easy. Pam at Musings of a Working Mom is much better-informed and well-spoken about current events that I could ever dream to be. She has a lot of passion about the world and our nation's role in world events.

Joy, at GingaJoy, is another blogger whose words demonstrate that her brain cells are doing just great, despite her Tuesday night activities.

I also feel a little smarter after I read Izzymom. She writes a great deal about current events, especially those that involve mothers and children. Her feminism and passion for parenting shine through most of her posts. Plus, she's thinking about moving and I'm hoping she'll move to Memphis if I suck up enough.

Another blogger who writes thoughfully is Alice. I love her regular blog over at Finslippy, but her column at Alphamom, Wonderland, is never a disappointment. And the commenting community rises to the occasion, making for a lively and interesting discussion.

And finally, no list of mine would be complete without something food-related. Chef Chris DeBarr, a rising star in New Orleans, writes quite well about food, cooking, and life in post-Katrina New Orleans. I suppose it doesn't hurt that he is married to my favorite author, Poppy Z. Brite (whose blog also deserves to be here...I suppose they'd probably be happy to share the award).

And the rules, as far as I understand, work a lot like a meme or a chain letter: each blogger I nominate now nominates five blogs for the same award. So happy nominating!

Friday, April 20, 2007

This is what happens when you let the kids use the computer

Welcome to the sickness that is my world.
I dare you to get that sound out of your head.

Shun the unbeliever. Shun. Shuuuuuuuuhhhhhnnnuh!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BlogHer - I think I'm going (yikes!)

BlogHer '07 I'm Going

So the more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to BlogHer. The timing and location couldn't work better for me. I'm not 100% sure, but I'm starting to get excited anyway.

My parents, bless them, have taken the kids away from us for a few weeks every summer since Alex finished kindergarten. The first year they took them for two weeks (which was planned and executed very rapidly, as we had sold our house and were borrowing a one-bedroom apartment for three weeks until our new house was ready....Mom knew that three weeks+four people+one bedroom=disaster and totally saved the day) (and they took the kids to an amusement park and a family reunion). Last year, the kids spent two weeks away again, with a few days spent at my parents' church's sleepaway camp.

This year, I received an email from Mom, letting me know that since the kids would attend camp for a FULL WEEK this year, she and Dad would require a longer visit. As I pulled the calendar together, I realized that they'll be gone for three weeks this year. We'll drive east for a cousin's wedding, make the switch there, and then the kids will head north. Meeting in Chicago the weekend of BlogHer is the optimal time to get the kids back. And while Chicago is not halfway, it is where my brother and his fabulous girlfriend live, and we ought to visit them more often than, say, never. Which is how many times we've visited them.

And when I asked my brother if it was convenient for me to come, he said, "Absolutely!" and when I emailed Mom to let her know what I was thinking, she replied that it was "Perfect."

So....who else is going? And am I going to miss all the fun if I stay with my brother and not at the hotel? And what if I miss Friday? Will I feel like I'm playing catch-up all day Saturday, or is it worth going just for one day? I need feedback!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What makes me so pretty?

Synchronicity. This evening is that girl scout meeting I'm still feeling so conflicted about, and today is the CHBM carnival topic: Favorite Beauty Secret/Product.

So what's my secret? My favorite product?

I walk at least 30 minutes every day. I wash my face with Arbonne RE9 cleanser twice a day, every day, no matter what. I moisturize, use sunscreen, and mineral powder foundation. That's it. Oh, except the lipstick. I really almost never leave the house without lipstick. And it's mostly reddish-brown.

Oh, and I also use a ceramic straightening iron to straighten my hair and I use glossing serum. Because I like shining.

That being said, however, I think I need to write more. Because I'm much more beautiful than my skin or my hair.

What I'm going to tell the girls this evening, and what I truly, truly believe, is that beauty comes from the inside. There's a magic to girls on the brink of womanhood that is easy to spot, even through the pimples and the awkwardness and the strangely-proportioned adolescent bodies. Girls that age (and I'm referring to late elementary school age, so ten and eleven years old) have not become inhibited by self-consciousness. They're smart enough to carry on interesting conversations, they're clever enough to understand and make good jokes, and they're confident enough to speak up. They're at the top of their game. You see the sparkle in their eyes because they'll look you in the eye. They're comfortable in their bodies and love to run and skip and jump.

But we (and I mean society, the media, etc.) do something to make them stop. We show them images of supermodels whose bodies don't look remotely like their own. Those supermodels don't have pimples or hair under their arms or stringy hair or spaces between their teeth. Those supermodels aren't real. But the little girls don't understand that.

I look around at this group of girls and sometimes I feel sad and scared. Sad and scared because the awesomeness of who and what they are today is so fleeting. In just a year or two, one or two of them might be fighting an eating disorder. Or, less seriously, might just really not like what she sees in the mirror. Their posture will change, and that wonderful, confident eye contact will be gone.

We all do it, right ladies? We look in the mirror and find that thing (or those things) that we hate. Thighs, hips, butt. Or that one scar from chicken pox or picking at a pimple.

So, do you want to know my real beauty secret? The honest-to-goodness one?

I know I'm prettier than those supermodels. Sure, I have my moments of wishing I looked different - taller, thinner, whatever. But I'm not going to model that attitude to my daughter. No. She looks too much like me. If I look in the mirror and say that my _____ is so awful, she's going to start hating hers, too. So I choose to be happy inside my own skin and enjoy the body I've got, imperfections and all. I smile a lot. Even though I didn't wear my retainer long enough and I don't have perfect teeth. I wear the makeup that makes me feel pretty even if it's not the "perfect" color. And I wear clothes that make the most of my good points.

Because life doesn't have an airbrush.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More Titanic Dinner Pictures!

That's Merilynn, Jennifer, Carolyn, and me

Carolyn, Jennifer, and me

The ladies in black.

Birthday party contest

Last year I had a really amazing birthday party. I was turning 35 and I decided that was a pretty important occasion, so we celebrated very well. We went with an Asian theme, and the food was great, the drinks were great, and my house was full of people who were all having a great time.

And it's getting to be that time again.

This year is 36. Three dozen. So my thinking is, let's keep the food all themed in "dozens."

But that's where I get stumped. Eggs come in dozens. So do donuts. But what else?

One of my friends, whose husband is a chef, suggested that I use egg cartons to serve the food, and that way I wouldn't get bogged down in the whole "dozen" quagmire. I think she's onto something. But what shall I make? And what drinks? (Beer comes in dozens, right?)

So....I guess this has to be a contest so you lurkers might actually be encouraged to leave a comment. Leave your perfect "dozens-inspired" party menu in the comments. The winner will get a custom-created party menu, along with tested-by-me recipes, for his or her own birthday celebration. And a really goofy birthday present, too. And cookies.

Monday, April 16, 2007

If I Had Been on the Titanic, I Would've Sunk Like a Rock

Last night, my lovely and delightful and gorgeous and amazing and smart and witty friend Carolyn took me, and two other ladies, to the most fabulous event. A recreation of the final meal served to first-class passengers aboard the Titanic. Yes, my friends, I'm a dress size larger today than when I awoke yesterday.

What the menu (linked above) does not mention is the wine pairings. We opted not to have wine with every course (because, hello!, I had to drive myself home, and cab fare from Germantown to Downtown would have been more than the dinner!), but we definitely had our share. A lovely pinot grigio with the salmon. A very nice Cabernet with the filet. And a fabulous pinot noir with the duckling. Oh, and did I mention the kir royale before we started? No? Yes, very nice.

Instead of boring you with details of our waiter, Nick, and our merciless taunting of him, or the reporter for the Germantown News who was doing her "Molly Brown" impression all night, or the fascinating conversation the four of us enjoyed for four hours, I'll regale you with slightly blurry pictures of plates of food.

Carolyn, waiter Nick, and Jennifer. Jennifer is Carolyn's friend from Nashville, and she's hilarious, intense, very smart, and hot! Doesn't she look amazing in that dress?

Canapes a l'Admiral - toast with shrimp and caviar. Very nice. My son got all swoony when I mentioned caviar. Because every eight-year-old boy should love caviar, right?

Consomme Olga. I was tempted to pick up my bowl and drink every drop, but I thought that might be a little tacky.

Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce. Ate. Every. Bite.

Chicken Lyonnaise. I didn't love this one and ate only a few bites. Because I knew what was coming next.

Filet Mignon Lili. Can I have another? And another? Because I could eat that for the next ten years, for every meal, and probably still want more. Plate-licking good. (Don't worry, Mom, I didn't really lick the plate. But I wanted to.)

Calvados Glazed Roast Duckling with Apple Sauce. Divine. And all in my stomach. Glad I didn't wear a girdle.

Asparagus Salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette. Loved it. Perfect.

By this point we were a little punchy, so when we ordered our cognac and brandy, we requested four straws. Because we liked hazing sweet Nick so much. And then Jennifer set up a food stylist's dream:

And we made Merilynn get super-festive.

Then dessert was served. Good thing, because we might have eaten that rose.

Waldorf Pudding, which had fruit and nuts and creme fraiche. Very nice. And look, Mom! I'm a member of.....

The Clean Plate Club!!!

I'm sure I'll post more later, but right now I can say that I'm not a bit hungry. And I'm a little tired. Because I'm not really equipped to eat for four hours and then get up six hours later.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I made it myself

Since some other crazy moms are showing off pictures of the cool stuff they made, I guess I'll play along.

Susie is a crafty kid, and the other night she was in the kitchen while I was cooking. Some of her craft supplies live in our pantry, and she found one of the craft kits she had received as a gift.

Now I'm often the one to say "no" to crafts time, especially around dinner time. Because messy! Little pieces! But somehow I was in just the right mood to say, "Sure! I want to do one, too!"

And we did.

Date night!

In a rare synchronicity of kid-events, me being organized and planning ahead, and the kindness of friends from church, Craig and I have managed to farm out both children to different families for the night. With no family in the area, and no promising teenagers in our neighborhood, we rarely get a night out without kids unless we convince some kind soul to take our children for a sleepover. So thanks to those families, if you're reading. Trust me, we owe you and will repay you as soon as possible.

Craig has a master's degree in film, and we used to spend an embarrassing portion of our income on movie tickets before we had children. Seriously, internets, how many people do you know that, in labor, go to see a movie? (Con Air, if you were wondering. Nicholas Cage can totally get my mind off anything bad. Dreamy.) Our first vacation (after our honeymoon, of course) as a married couple was to the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Richard Kern and Chris Gore were featured speakers, and sweet Craig was in heaven.

I enjoyed a few of the films that were screened that weekend, and we even purchased a couple of them on video (VHS, actually....this was 1994).

Keep in mind this was just a couple years after Quentin Tarantino had just hit the scene with Reservoir Dogs. The film world was changing, fast. Independent film was coming to larger audiences and larger audiences were coming to independent film.

(I promise, I'm getting back to date night....really!)

All that to say, movies were a big part of our courtship and early marriage. Going to the movies, well, that was what we did. And even after the kids were born, we often found ourselves at the movies. Afternoon matinees were generally not crowded, and when our first child was a baby, we just took her with us and hoped for sleep. The drive-in was another favorite, since we could bring our own food and kids receive free admission up to age 12.

But as the kids got old enough for us to care what they saw on the screen, we pretty much stopped going to movies. Too difficult to arrange for the kids to be somewhere else. And Netflix and Greencine made it easier to decide to wait for the video. Oscar time, Craig feels the need to see all the films before the awards. This year we were lucky: half of them were already on video. We did go to the theater to see The Queen, but I don't think we've seen a "grown up" movie since then. Until tonight, that is. Because we're going straight back to the mid-1990's and seeing Grindhouse. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Three-and-a-half hours of crazy action, old-skool-style.

I can't wait.

Edited to add:
Apparently the movie TANKED at the box office last weekend, so there was a rep from the studio there talking to folks before and after the movie, and we had questionnaires to complete after. I selected "About what I expected" among the choices of "Was the film....better than you expected, about what you expected, not as good as you expected?" Because I expected awesomeness. And yes, people, it was awesome. Exploding zombies, loss of limbs, fast cars, fast women, and a stunt woman playing herself. My back was tired from the 3.5 hours of awesomeness. And the fake previews? Were awesome too. Craig and I had different opinions about the previews and the films: I preferred the zombie insanity of Robert Rodriguez's "Planet of Terror" while he preferred the muscle car road rage of Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof." And my favorite preview: "Machete." I would see that movie if it really existed. He liked the two slasher previews: "Don't" and "Thanksgiving."

The demographics in the theater were unsurprising: about 65% male, 90+% white, 70+% 30-40 age range. So yeah, WE were the audience. Cloned. Because when I see movies in the theater? I'm often one of few females. I dunno...slasher films leave me cold, but give me "cartoon" violence, especially if it's wacky (like a machine gun attached to the stump of a woman's leg?!) and over-the-top.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Professional blogger? Sure!

A week ago, the management team in my department got together for a cookout after work.

The talk somehow moved over to the internet, and our company's internal web site, and the administration's desire for departmental blogs. Maybe it was the glass of wine in me, but I offered the information that I'm a blogger, and I volunteered to write it.

And my inaugural entry? Is going to be published tomorrow.

Since I wrote it at work, about work, I guess that means I'm a professional blogger now, right? I'm so adding that to my resume.

Girls are pretty

Next Wednesday I'm the mom in charge of the girl scouts meeting. Meaning that each family is supposed to volunteer to lend their expertise and help the girls fulfill the requirements to earn a badge. Apparently I was channeling Amy when I offered to do this, as I selected the "Looking Your Best" badge. (Oh, and it looks like Amy and I are mind-melding again, as the question about waxing and Amy's answer will definitely resemble this post a bit.)

I looked over the badge requirements with Susie last night, and the activities look pretty good. One activity is to try on different accessories to see how they change the way your outfit looks, another has each girl write down a "hygiene routine", and there's another one in which girls cut out pictures (from magazines) to create a collage. Girls also have an opportunity to ask adults of different ages about their skin care routines. Susie really wants to do the "circle of friends" activity in which each girl gets compliments from the other girls.

But there's a little piece of me that feels a little creeped out, like we're starting too young. (Disclaimers will here's the first: I 100% support the Girl Scouts and think the activities are well-designed and developmentally-appropriate, so we're only dealing with my women's-studies-minor former-non-leg-shaving-non-makeup-wearing feminist hang-ups, and I know that but it's still bugging me. Run-on sentence much? Gah!)

There are girls in this troop who are already well into the world of puberty. A couple of them have had breast development for over a year. And Susie herself is already showing some signs of hormone increases: poor girl, she seems to have inherited her dad's and my genes, so she's breaking out a bit. Why, then, would I have any objection at all to a discussion of hygiene and skin care?

I think it's because there's a door that, once opened, can't really be closed. These girls, or at least MY girl, have an innocence and freedom right now that is going to be destroyed by middle school. They're not terribly worried about how they look right now. Susie's little breakouts don't bother her at all. She spends very little time getting ready for school and doesn't look in the mirror much. In a couple of years, that won't be the case. She'll agonize about each blemish, she'll fuss over her hair, and she'll cry if I don't let her wear makeup.

But then again, maybe she won't. She might, just might, keep her wits about her as she develops. If I encourage a sensible skin care routine now, before the awful awkwardness of adolescence advances, perhaps she won't have the acne issues her father and I had at the same age. If we discuss society's ideas about beauty now, maybe she won't concern herself with trying to emulate supermodels. If we talk about real beauty, about taking care of and honoring her healthy, strong body, about eating sensibly, about drinking enough water, about exercising and sunscreen and things that EVERYONE should do (and yes, by everyone I'm including boys), maybe she'll keep a sense of perspective and pride in her physical self.

But here's the problem, in a nutshell. Would my husband ever be asked to help a group of boys work on this type of badge? (And yes, I'm kind of looking for an answer, having no experience with boy scouts of any type.) There's an assumption that we need to talk to girls about looking their best, while we cast a blind eye at how horrible and sloppy and stinky the boys are. ("Boys will be boys," right?) Maybe we're doing the boys a disservice. Maybe they'd enjoy, and benefit from, such a discussion.

And then, on yet another hand (I'm using other people's hands at this point), I love this stuff. Makeup? Fun! Skin care? Fascinating. Accessories? Hooray! I can waste a day browsing the Sephora website. My side of the bathroom vanity is, well, a shrine to vanity. I like to look pretty and dress up and put on lipstick. And that's why I offered to lead these activities anyway!

This is why I love having a girl. It's complicated and exciting and exhilarating and hard, but I'm so glad I get to do it. Watch out, world. These girls? Are awesome.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm looking forward to spring because....(CHBM Carnival post)

A couple of weeks ago I was certain that winter was gone and spring, maybe even summer, had come to Memphis to stay. The temperatures climbed near 90, the tulips had bloomed, and all was green and lovely. (And my son was sneezing and losing his voice, another sign of spring in my house.)

Then last week, it all changed. Freeze warnings were posted. The heat was turned back on. Another cold Easter.

For years I've counted fall as my favorite season. Having moved to Memphis from Michigan, the summers overwhelmed me for several years. It didn't help that our old house didn't have central air, which meant cooking dinner in the summer was hot, taking a shower in the summer was hot, and sleeping was hot in some of the bedrooms. Fall spelled R-E-L-I-E-F. My feelings about summer weren't improved by the constant fight against our yard, which had been neglected for years and daunted me, the inexperienced gardener.

But that changed a couple of years ago. We moved to a new house. With all the amenities, like central heat and air. And a brand-new yard. Virgin flower beds. No significant weeds to beat back. Just potential.

And I became a better gardener. I researched plants that would do well in different exposures and planted them. We built a patio, adding more flower beds. We dedicated the back flower bed for vegetables, and the narrow bed along the back walkway to herbs. And everything I planted? Is doing great (or did great, if it was an annual). I can't wait to get into that vegetable bed and dig and lay out and select the perfect tomato plants and try some new varieties.

Last spring, we downtowners also got a new Saturday morning treat: the Farmer's Market. There's been a farmer's market in the suburbs for ages, but the drive kept me away most of the time. But when we became downtowners, we also became bicycle riders, and the Farmer's Market is an easy bike ride from the house (as long as we bring backpacks to carry our purchases home). Spring marks the return of this weekly adventure. (Note to self: repair flat tire on bike, stat!)

Uptown Memphis shines in the spring and summer. Neighbors, hidden inside their houses during the winter, reemerge to the alley, the porches, the park, the backyards. We'll congregate in each other's yards, enjoying the pretty weather, sipping our beverages, and talking about whatever is going on. I like the camaraderie our neighborhood has fostered.

So hurry up, Spring! It's time to play!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


My parents came to Memphis this weekend to visit. The timing was perfect: they arrived the day after the boy's birthday and they were around to celebrate Easter with our family. (Which may have been a little anticlimactic for them, since they're Presbyterian and we're Unitarian Universalist.)

They arrived Saturday afternoon, and we immediately set to assembling the lovely shelf unit they brought from IKEA! Hooray! We had a few laughs at the non-verbal pictogram directions.

We stopped laughing when we realized that we were apparently illiterate even in non-verbal pictogram, because we had put in the wrong screws and had to start over. Twice. But it finally worked, glass doors and all, and I'm proud to say that no cursing happened. At least not audibly.

See the beckoning cat? It brings wealth. It needs to work harder.

All that construction work (and egg coloring, and Sims playing) made us hungry, so we headed out to Bigfoot Lodge, the boy's favorite restaurant. Well, it used to be his favorite restaurant. But when the manager got him out of his chair, stood him in the middle of the restaurant and had everyone in the place wish him a very loud and sincere "Happy Birthday," the trauma level may have caused him to not like Bigfoot Lodge anymore. Plus, we wouldn't let him order this:

But since we used a Dining Certificate that covered $25 of the meal for $6, Bigfoot Lodge is now my parents' favorite restaurant EVER since we all ate and drank (34 oz. beers!) and the check wound up being $31. NICE.

After the kids went to bed, eggs were hidden and we followed the kids pretty quickly. Because all that construction work and eating made us tired too.

The kids woke up Easter morning and quickly found most of the eggs, emptied them of candy, ate the candy, then washed the candy down with some sweet rolls. Because sugar? Makes for a wonderful breakfast. I got started on dinner, then we headed to church.

Hungry again, I guess from all the singing and listening and watching kids hunt for eggs (again), or maybe because sugar isn't such a filling breakfast, we ate Mexican food then returned to the house to make dinner.

Since my parents intend to move to Memphis in the next few years, I wanted them to meet some nice people. We have gotten to know a family who is in town temporarily from Europe (their son is a patient at St. Jude and the kids go to school together). The dad of this family mostly is still in Europe (pesky job!) but arrived here on Friday for a few weeks. So I invited them all over for Easter dinner, which was extra fun to prepare since I had the able hands of my mom in the kitchen to help. We made deviled eggs, pork tenderloin with orange marmalade, bourbon, and capers, roast chicken (my favorite recipe from this book), potato balls (my dad's favorite food in the whole world), English muffin bread, asparagus, and carrots with ginger. And since birthdays wind up more like Hanukkah than Christmas in our family, we had birthday cake for the boy.

Lovely, fun, lovely, fun. And with European cheek kissing. Ahhhh.

And yesterday we took the kids to school, watched Craig leave for work, and we didn't do much interesting, but it was nice. And barbecue for lunch. Leftovers for dinner. (Because the internets care what I eat, I know you do.)

Mom and Dad left this morning, and I already miss them. It's nice being their kid, and it's nice to have parents around who love you and see you doing things mostly correctly. They're fabulous grandparents and the kids really enjoy being around them.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Eight years ago

My second baby was born.

I've already told his birth story. I blather on and on about what a neat kid he is.

I don't know what else to say, except that my life wouldn't be complete without him. He brings an intensity to my world. He loves me so fiercely and completely that I'm sometimes in awe of it. He does crazy dances and laughs like he's choking and whines and stomps his feet when he's mad and has the weirdest sense of humor and sometimes says the most amazingly perceptive things. Take away any of that and he's not him. And if someone told me they could make him stop whining but he'd also never run all the way across the house to jump on me and give me a hug, I wouldn't take that deal. Because we all need to be knocked to the floor by someone who loves us. (But maybe it would be nice if he only did that when there was something soft for me to land on. Just a thought.)

Happy birthday, Alex. I love you very much.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Why I'm a good mom

CHBM's carnival topic this week is "What are your strengths and/or weaknesses as a mom?" We all know I'm the perfect mom, so there aren't any weaknesses. Right? RIGHT!

I know my parenting methods aren't unique. But they are indicitave of my deepest beliefs, of my absolutes.

And what are those?

In the Unitarian Universalist church, instead of a creed, we have a covenant, and we have the principles. We "affirm and promote," among other things, the inherent worth and dignity of each person, as well as justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

When we became parents, my husband and I found ourselves practicing our variation of attachment parenting. We were far from textbook in our approach to AP, but we captured the spirit of it. And the spirit of AP is very, very close to those UU principles. Love and respect for the unique child in front of you is the basis for AP. Not so different from inherent worth and dignity. Not so different at all.

Which is why I parent each of my children differently from the other. My daughter is not my son. My son is not my daughter. What motivates one of them leaves the other one cold. One child breastfed for 18 months, and the other breastfed for three years. Not because my beliefs about breastfeeding changed, but because that child needed to nurse longer than the other. My daughter and I reconnect by taking walks and talking, by chopping vegetables and singing along with the radio together in the kitchen. My son needs a more hands-on approach: he needs to hug, to snuggle. He needs 100% of my attention when we're together, craving interaction and affection.

I learned, too, as I went along my parenting path, that I am a very physical mother. I held my babies a lot when they were little. We shared our bed when they were little. They've "graduated" from my bed, but we still rely a great deal on touch in our family. My son, a day away from eight, still often sits on his dad's lap when we watch TV together. My daughter, almost ten, still rubs my arm the way she did as an infant. We hug a lot. We hold hands. We sit close together.

So strengths? Deal with each kid as an individual, and lots and lots of affection. Great! Done!

Or not.

Because I'm not as perfect as I look.

My greatest weakness in my parenting is rooted in my strength. With all that love and affection, and dealing with the child as a person, I have a hard time ignoring the irritating stuff they do. Yes, my kids are fantastic, but they are not perfect. And I don't tune them out very well. As a result, I get exasperated more than I should.

I also yell. I don't hit, and I don't call them names, and I don't make empty threats, but I do sometimes get loud. And that doesn't make me proud, but it does make me human. This is something I've been working on reducing, and I'm doing better.

I don't follow through so well. Their rooms? Are messy. Because I haven't made them clean them. Again, I get exasperated about this and occasionally blow up and yell, but I need to help them create a routine that works for them to keep things neat.

Okay, that's probably enough. Fortunately the proof is in the pudding, and my kids definitely make me look like a fabulous mother. Thanks, kids!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


This one's fun, so play along!

From Poppy Z. Brite, plug your answers into Google Image Search and post the first image that comes up.

1. Your age on your next birthday

2. Your favorite color

3. Your middle name

4. Your last meal

5. Your bad habit

6. Your favorite fruit or vegetable

7. Your favorite animal

8. The town where you live

9. The name of your last pet

10. Your significant other or best friend's nickname

11. Your crush's name

12. Your occupation

13. Your birth city

14. Your favorite song

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hallmark is obviously not aware of this

It's our "Ivory" anniversary today. That's what the internet says, anyway.

But we've never been slaves to tradition. Case in point: our kids' hair.

So, instead, I give you our family's take on the fourteenth anniversary.

The Pink Flamingo anniversary. Nice ring to it.