Friday, August 27, 2010

Sew Dots on Your Clothes

That's an order.

Because I've been sewing jersey dots of varying sizes on my remade t-shirts, and I think they look spiffy:

But I worry a little that I'm like Bandana-Dan, a boy I went to elementary and junior high with, who decided somewhere in 7th grade or so that it would be cool to tie bandanas to nearly every part of his body (hence the nickname).  It wasn't cool, but he really thought it was.

Maybe my dots are like that.


Screw it.  Rock the dots!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Case In Point

I know I went a little overboard with that last technology post.  But come on.

Like, today:  I get to work, I'm getting ready to go to Nuclear Power and Public Policy, feeling a little nervous but excited, and I look at my new computer.  Total freak out, because there is not little pluggy thingy for me to hook my computer up to the classroom projector.  Luckily, I realized this two hours before class and the bookstore was still open and they hooked me up with this little doohickey:

FOR THIRTY FREAKING DOLLARS.  So now I can go teach class.

That's me making a judgmental face at the doohickey, in case you can't see it.

I still love the mac.  I took that picture with it, for God's sakes.  I mean, how cool is that?  But thirty dollars for that little pluggy thing?  Ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For Posterity

Addie, on her first day of first grade at her new school.

More details as they become available.

Treat Your Kids Like Dogs

Well, not really.  If you are a psychopath, don't read that heading literally.

For all of you relatively healthy breeders out there, though, this is kind of true, isn't it?  If you've been to my house, you know I'm a big fan of sticker charts and signs and suggestions for my kids (and for me, especially seeing as Nolie can't read yet).  Sometimes these schemes work, and sometimes they don't.  We started a sticker chart for Nolie to try to get her to try new foods:  no dice.  The make-it-yourself-nights work much better (last night:  make-your-own-Japanese noodles).  She's actually eating some vegetables now.

But sometimes the charts do work.  I don't want to jinx anything, but I don't think it's too premature to say that we may have solved our sleeping problem with Nolie.  Remember how she was getting up at night, several times a night?  And how we were having trouble getting her to fall asleep?  Well, we are now up to about an 80% success rate on both items, and I will stop badgering all of you for advice.  Here's how we did it:

1)  We got the fine folks at Nolie's preschool to stop letting her nap at school.  The girl won't nap for anything when she's home, usually, but apparently at school, come naptime, she collapses like a sack of bricks and can't be roused.  We've asked them to wake her after a half-hour, and this seems to help with the night-time going to bed.

2)  Uh, I may have been reading the girls Harry Potter aloud before bed for a while there.  What was I thinking?  Nolie is four, for God's sake.  Addie loved it, but it was just too scary for Nolie.  So we're still reading a chapter book together before bed, but then Addie goes off to her room to read Harry Potter and Nolie and I listen to a few songs.

3)  Most of all, though, most of all, is this:

That's right.  It's one of those over-priced dry-erase calendars you can buy from Office Depot (and yes, it would have been pretty easy to make one at home, but sometimes a gal only has so many hours in the day, and anyway, it ended up being the best $20 we've spent in a long time).

See the N/A markings on there?  No, it doesn't mean "not applicable."  They are initials for Addie and Nolie.  Whenever one or the other sleeps through the night without coming out of her room, she gets an initial on the calendar the following morning.  Once she has built up five initials, she gets this:

A ticket to watch a tv show (or, on the reverse, to play on the computer).  Just a half-hour, and they can watch it when they wish, other than in the morning before school or right before bed.  We put this up last week, and each has already earned a ticket, plus has two initials going.  That was an immediate, noticeable, and sustained change, people.  And it means we are much happier because we also our sleeping through the night.  Except for when our pea-sized bladders wake us.  But that's for another post.

I should also note that neither kid has spent her ticket yet, which amazes me.  I thought they'd blow them right away.  But, nope.  They're used to not watching tv after school now, and so I imagine they will spend them this weekend.  

This may not work with your kid--their motivations are so different depending on their personalities.  But I'm so relieved and happy this worked for us.  

Ima go take a nap.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Half-Ton Everything

I was picking Nolie up at school today, and all the kids were crowding the street-side fence enjoying a spectacle something like this:

Minus the big guy without the shirt, anyway.

Basically, someone across the street from Nolie's school parked their truck too far off the street and high-centered their ginormous Ford F-250 in the ditch.  It was a nice truck, maybe even new.  Luckily for dude with truck, another dude with truck had his towing cable with him, and was able to pull the first dude with truck out of the ditch.  There were some very strong male pheromones emanating from this scene, with first dude with truck looking rather sheepish while second dude with truck looked like he had just descended from Mount Olympus.

I sympathized with first dude with truck.  You spend a lot of money on your new truck, thinking that bad boy can do just about anything--haul shit-tons of manure; plow streets; move furniture; pick up lumber from Home Depot; off-road.  And then you high-center the darned thing right in front of your kid's school, with about a thousand preschoolers gawking, tongues out.  You find that you need yet another truck to help your truck go about being a truck.  It must have been quite disorienting.

I'm feeling the same feelings, not about my truck, but about all my new gadgets.  Until this spring, all I had was a wimpy little Dell the size of a matchbook and a disabled Blackberry that only functioned (gasp) as a phone.

Now, through some weird turn of history, I have this phat new macbook pro; a Droid; an iPod; and a Kindle.  I enjoy and use them all, believe me.  The mac has totally changed how I work, for the better.  My droid keeps things easy and convenient because it syncs to my Mac so I can be more deliberate about what I commit too and when, and even though it doesn't work very well as a phone, it has brought me into the world of facebook and texting, which allows me to connect much better with friends.  The iPod has helped me hang in there with the running, which makes me feel better about myself and life in general.  And the Kindle is, well, just awesome.  I've been doing much more reading than I did before because that thing goes everywhere with me and I can try new books with one click.

Don't get me wrong:  I'm clear that absolutely none of this stuff is necessary.  I'm clear that it's really bougie and potentially unethical to have all this stuff.  Bad for the environment.  Bad for the Chinese people who may eventually recycle these electronics and be poisoned by their innards.  Potentially bad for me and my soul, who fights hard against consumerism and loses so much of the time, and who fights hard to be present and loses so much of the time.  I'm familiar with the library (go every week), with the concept of making-do, with the perils of lifestyle inflation.  But I still have the gadgets.

The worst part, and what makes me feel like dude with truck, is that, for every gadget or new thingy I obtain, I must in turn obtain an entire infrastructure to maintain said thingy.  Getting the droid necessitated getting media stations and extra chargers and special covers and an expensive data plan.  Getting the mac meant buying new software to sync the Droid, a warranty, a new external hard drive, mouse, and keyboard, and a new laptop protector.

Even getting new bikes last summer (which we needed, really, because our old bikes were built for people the size of leprechauns and were falling apart) has necessitated new infrastructure:  new bike lock, tuning, water bottle holder, degreaser.  And we can't use our bike trailer because of the disc brakes, so we haven't ridden them as much as we might because the kids can't come.  Either we wait for the kids to get older or we get a new bike trailer.

It's something, isn't it?  We do our best to get around some of this by buying things used off of Craig's List, or fashioning old items to fit the new.  But with electronic gadgetry in particular, this is tough.

I'm thinking about a colleague who does development work in Honduras, and who says this is a particularly Northern malaise.  In Honduras, if your TV breaks, you call the TV guys, they show up with their tools and bench, fix your component, and you go back to watching your TV.  Here, you throw away or donate your old TV and just buy a new one.  We don't know how to fix our TVs, even if we want to.

I'm thinking about a recent discussion at Get Rich Slowly, too, where they talk about shifting from spending your money on things to spending your money on experiences, because things always lose their shine, require more spending, break, or suck the life energy out of you just maintaining and storing them, whereas experiences stick with you because they literally change who you are.  If you're going to spend, spend on a class or trip and not a TV.

I'm thinking about No Impact Man and Dandelion Bones and going on consumption diets and wondering if it's time for one of those, and if I can really shift my behaviors on this again.  How can I move away from being dude with truck?  How can I avoid getting high-centered on consumption?

What do you think?  I sound more agitated about this than I am.  Compared to twenty-year-old me, I'm a virtual ascetic.  But I still could be better.  I could focus a lot less on stuff.  How about you?  What tricks do you use to focus not on things but on people and experiences?

Oh, yeah. Parenting.

Right.  This is supposed to be a blog about parenting, and not just every little thought that crosses my mind.  I'll try to behave.

So, school starts for Ms. A. on Monday, and for me, and it feels a little like I'm a bull rider, lodged in the gate, waiting for the insane riotousness to begin.  I'm trying to stay calm, but that bull is a-buckin' underneath me, and not in a good way, either.  I'm reminded of the final scene of my favorite Steve Martin movie, Parenthood, where Martin's character is looking around at his kid's school play, which has gone terribly wrong, and he feels like he's on a parenting roller coaster, where nothing goes as planned, and it's making him sick.  Eventually he learns to enjoy the ride, but it takes him a while.

That's some metaphor-mixing for you:  bulls and roller coasters.  But that's pretty much parenting, as I see it.

Anyway, I did want to share one little revelation, for those of you who have kids and are struggling at all with picky eating.  You might remember that this was a serious issue for us not too long ago (now surpassed by our issues with Nolie waking up a gajillion times a night).  Nolie wouldn't eat anything, and we were making multiple meals every night.  Suck-o-rama.

Then, thanks to I-remember-not-which of the many blogs I try to keep up with, we stumbled upon the "Make-Your-Own-Whatever-Night" thing.  It started on Tuesdays ("Kids' night" at our house) where the kids chose pasta as the dinner theme, but all of us wanted different pastas.  Addie wanted red sauce, I wanted pesto, Nolie likes plain.

Eric is at work and doesn't get to choose.

Enter "Make-Your-Own-Pasta-Night."  I put out all the sauces, sautee up some veggies, put out some cheeses (soooo glad I'm not vegan anymore, though that's for a different post), put out olives, prepare a bowl of steaming-hot pasta, and WALLA! as Nolie would say.  Everyone's happy.  Not only that, but getting to choose which foods they want means the kids are more likely to try new things.  Nolie may say she only likes plain pasta, but now she's getting a little bit of olive oil, and putting tomatoes and olives on top.  It's a start.

We also do Make-Your-Own-Burrito night, and will soon add in Make-Your-Own-Soup/Salad/Sandwich-Night and Make-Your-Own-Pizza-Night.  It's a lot more dishes, but everyone gets to eat what they like, I feel less stressed, and the kids are trying new things.

There.  I have solved your picky-eating problems, and I'm exhausted.  Don't expect another parenting post for a long, long time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm Taking a Break

Not from blogging.  You would never be so lucky!

Nope, I'm taking a break from reJuJu.

See, I haven't been interested in sewing for weeks now.  Knitting either.  Which is pretty weird for me, yeah?

And I've been thinking, maybe it's because it became something else I had to do.  Another item in a long to-do list.  The stores needed stuff to sell, and I had to make that stuff.  Needed, had to.  Not my favorite words, always.

I've also been thinking that it's because I started thinking more about what I thought would sell than what I felt like making.  I know it shouldn't have affected me, but it just sort of quashed my creativity.  I don't totally understand this, but it happened.

For example, this crazy ruffled tee is probably too out there to sell in either store:

It's a little rugby-meets-beauty pageant.  But I really liked making it.  It felt silly and creative and exciting.  I haven't felt that feeling in a while.

The new semester is starting, too, with lots of new projects on the horizon.  I feel reinvigorated by work and don't need to grasp at other career ideas so much (not that reJuJu was a career.  More of a career-fantasy, maybe).  The kids are playing soccer and having playdates and starting school.  I like snuggling with Eric and watching Tosh.0 at night.  I want sewing to be something I get to do and not something I have to do.

I'll miss that little bit of spending money I earned, but in the end, if I'm choosing between how I spend my time and how I spend my money, I guess I'm more interested in time.

I sound a little defensive.  I guess I'm afraid of quitting, and part of me feels like I'm quitting.  But mostly I know I'm not.  I know I'm just taking a break, giving myself a break, and that's just the right medicine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's worse than I thought!

Ack!  Ack!  There is broccoli in our Door to Door Organics menu for next week.  Yes, there are still mangoes and pluots and green leaf lettuce, but also BROCCOLI!  That means fall is coming!  Which means the fall semester is almost here and I'll have to wear tights and go to meetings again!

And the root vegetables.  This means they're on their way.  Oh my god.  It's too awful to contemplate.  Root vegetables.



A comment on summer reading, before the semester begins and "reading" becomes nothing more than a dream.

I didn't do a lot of reading this summer, outside of work stuff and my daily addiction to reading my favorite blogs in Google Reader, and a whole lot of People magazine, which I know is completely vile and worthless stuff but good brain chiller.  I don't buy it, so relax.  But it is ubiquitous, particularly in my allergist's office, and when one is getting allergy shots twice a week, one likes to indulge in brain chillers.

There are lots of crap novels to be had in the summer, too, right?  I mean, who am I to call them crap?  I've never written a novel.  But you know what I mean.  Paperbacks.  A step up from Danielle Steele romances, maybe, but not a big step.  With those watercolor covers and grayish paper.  Fat and lurid, but current somehow, too.

The two I went for this summer were by Elin Hildenbrand.  I'm not even going to link to them because you can just find them laying around any old airplane, park bench, or yard sale.  Both were quite enjoyable, and oddly moving in a certain way.  I'm trying to figure out why this is.  Here's what I'm thinking:

1.  They both featured lots of women who were in crossroads with kids, parents, careers, spouses, lovers, or all of these things.  I mean, what woman doesn't feel at a crossroads with one or more of these things pretty much at one moment, or all moments, of her life?  I mean, I am.  Or like to imagine I am.  Because the worst thing of all would be stasis, right?  The romance is in the crossroads.

2.  The women in these novels reflect lots of body types and types of beauty, though none struggle with being fat.  Being skinny in these novels, however, is typically a sign of stress or distress:  a sign of losing one's self.  As they get "healthy," whether by leaving their bothersome husbands or checking out of the rat race or whatever, they actually gain weight and take on "healthy glows."  They let their hair get "streaked with gray," and "fall in soft curls around their shoulders, held back with a simple headband someone had left behind in the summer house."  The ultimo fantasy:  let yourself "go" and you actually become more beautiful.  We need not note that they are all white, usually tall, straight, and struggle with looking too much like supermodels.  Of course.

3.  All are desired by one or more men at any time, and therefore have choices to make.  There is rarely a character who does not have choices.  The lushness and agony are in the choosing.  See #1.

4.  There are sex scenes, but they're not with Fabio.  The characters are always sneaking around, maybe with their kids' babysitter, or their student, and it's the fear of getting caught that makes them hot, not the "romance" of the situation.  Naughty, naughty.

5.  There's always a retreat.  Set in summer, the characters always have a beachfront bungalow/cabin/colonial home to retreat to, where they find themselves, their strength, and eat ice cream everyday but walk it off with long walks on the beach.  Which means they are also wealthy and are not worried about money, leaving their jobs, losing health care, or any of that stuff.  Cause that stuff is booooring.  Awesome.

Clearly some hetero suburban porn here, people, which is perhaps why I liked it.  What else am I missing here?  Why else do these books appeal?  What  other kinds of fantasies are they enabling?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Shinguards Have It

We signed the girls up for soccer through the YMCA.  We like to do one activity at a time.  Swim lessons and camps will be over soon, and the girls really have liked dance and gymnastics, but we want to expose them to team sports, too.  My friend J. makes the argument that soccer is better than baseball at this age, because even though baseball is a team sport, it still depends heavily on individual performance.  That's my recollection of playing t-ball as a kid, for sure.  Though I had a wicked swing, I believe.

Unfortunately, this soccer thing has the girls all wound up.  Addie is very worried about looking foolish and about playing in the games--we are working hard to allay her fears, but every time we bring it up, she gets nervous again.  "Mommy?  I keep forgetting you can't use your hands!"  She's having some serious performance anxiety about the whole thing.  Maybe it was the five minutes she spent watching the World Cup with her Aunt Nanny.  It scarred her for life.

Nolie, for her part, is not a big fan of running.  She prefers to be carried everywhere.  So she's not super-enthralled, therefore, with the idea of running up and down a field and kicking a ball in a game she doesn't care about or understand.  Neither Eric and I have played much soccer, so it's hard for us to explain how much fun all of this is going to be.  Maybe we're not totally convinced ourselves.

There is nothing, though, like spending a wad of cash on an activity for your kids, and buying all the required equipment and jerseys and blah-blah, and having them whine and complain about it.

Until now, that is!  Because, it seems, all we needed to do was buy them some pink shinguards, and all would be well.  It is going to be some trick to get these off of Nolie, who has been running around the house, enraptured, exclaiming, "Mama, everyone has to wear these.  Everyone.  You have to if you want to play soccer.  Just try to kick me!  See?  Doesn't hurt!!!"

I'm not sure how to tell her she's going to have to wear shorts with them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Us at Eight

And, of course, today E. and I turned eight.  As in, our "we" turns eight.

That didn't sound right, but you know what I mean.

I say it every year, but it boggles my mind we've been married that long.  Our wedding seems last week.  Yet, in those eight years, we've moved across the country, bought two houses, sold one house, had two kids, built up two careers, adopted two dogs, given one dog away, fed two very fat cats who are as ever-present as taxes and death, dealt with illnesses, visited out-of-state family, made friends, taken trips, and otherwise just lived an all-around very full life.  And most of it we've done on our own.

Let's be real, too:  we've spent some time arguing and fighting.  It drives me crazy that he always leaves one dirty pan in the sink.  He might snore a little.  He's not always I would like.  And he has his list about me, too.  There are times we make each other pretty mad.

But he is always there for me when I need him, and I hope he feels the same about me.  He is always the first person I turn to when I'm troubled, sad, or want to celebrate.  He listens to my inanities and insecurities and he still loves me at the end of the day.  I can't imagine feeling comfortable with anyone else.

It's hard for me to remember a time when Eric hasn't been in my life.  He's been my loving and steadfast companion for most of my adult life, because I didn't really start growing up until I met him.  He's a loving, involved father, a caring partner, and a very good cook.

I am a lucky woman.

Because our anniversary always falls close to Nolie's birthday and the beginning of the semester (see?  I'll never really grow up!  I'll be in school forever!) we don't usually get to celebrate it.  But there's usually some wine and sushi involved, and the kids get to watch a movie, if you know what I mean.  So here's to a lovely evening of celebration, and to eight more years of love, challenges, and, if we're lucky, victory.

And to eight more after that, and after that...

Nolie at Four

I was in London for Nolie's actual fourth birthday, which was last Friday, so I am late in writing this.  I had promised the kids and E. that I wouldn't miss anymore holidays or birthdays for work travel, and then I screwed up and missed Nolie's birthday.  Shit.  At least her party is this upcoming weekend, and I'll get to see her face then, when she blows out candles at Chuck E. Cheese's.

May this be our last Chuck E. Cheese party.

I have so many feelings about my baby turning four.  Four was a pivotal age for me:  my little brother was born, my mom got sick (the first time), we were moving a lot.  It's when I start to have glimmers of memories.  It's the year when most kids really make the transition from being toddlers to kids.  I'm seeing this with Nolie, for sure.

So, Nolie, at four:

--can go to sleep by herself now, but still manages to crawl in between us every morning, hugging us tight in her sleep and making squeaks and grunts that indicate she is dreaming big dreams.

--says things like, "Yeah, mom, you bet!" and "You know, I will always love this face," while squeezing my cheeks between her hands.

--is obsessed with Uno.  She can't hold all of her cards at once, but keeps them in a little box, and can remember all of them without looking.  She knows when she has a green seven and loves to punish you with a Take Four whenever possible.  She is smart and competitive and something of a sore loser still, but getting better.  She might get that from me.  Maybe a little.

--is growing long legs; can run fast; can jump high; loves to dance like a fairy princess; loves to fart on your leg, screaming, "I tooted on you, I tooted on you!" laughing uproariously.

--has been waiting to be a "big girl" at school for what feels like forever and now, finally, is one.

--still cowers at fireworks and thunder, but then shakes her fist and says, "You stupid thundah!  Go on away from heah!"

--has trouble with her r's.

--just wants someone to play with her.

--has fun at school but always, always wants to stay home with mommy.

--gets incredibly bored staying home with mommy.

--prefers skirts and dresses to shorts and pants.

--can brush her own hair.

--loves to help me make dinner, but still will only eat five kinds of food, most of which are devoid of any flavor or color.

--is my sweet, loving, outrageous beastie, my little bug, my gorgeous child, and always will be.

Happy birthday, my beautiful girl.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Today was

  • snuggling with the girls and E. in bed this morning, and feeling overwhelmed by how much I love these people, these ones with their soft skin and dark hair and limbs all over the place.
  • helping E get the girls off to camp, and promising Nolie that she can stay home with me tomorrow, but not today, because today I am tired, tired, tired.
  • catching up on email, updating the to-do list, and missing the sterility of a hotel room in a foreign country that demands nothing of me.
  • napping.  I don't know why sitting in airports and on planes should be so exhausting, but it just is.  I am wore out.
  • vacuuming, laundering, unpacking.
  • watching reality tv.
  • listening to the quiet.  London in summer has to be the most vibrant place I have ever been.  There was no time when the streets were not completely swamped with people, when pubs were not overflowing onto the sidewalks, when we were not dancing, or shopping at the markets, or working with committed, brilliant people.  Arvada--my home, my favorite place, but also so, so quiet--might as well be on a different planet.  But it's a planet I love coming home to.
  • reflecting on how much I learned about myself on this trip (not expecting that at all) and about my friends, who also happen to be my coworkers, and how amazingly lucky is that?