31 December 2007

Top 5

Frank suggested I do a top 5 list of my favorite books I read this year. I expanded that into 5 fiction and 5 non-fiction, in no particular order.

Top 5 fiction of 2007:

1. Lamb by Christopher Moore (quite possibly my favorite book of all time)
2. The Girls by Lori Lansens (I forgot the characters weren't real)
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Wow!)
4. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue (Excellent debut novel)
5. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling (The end of an era of lovingly crafted, smart fiction for young and old alike)

Top 5 non-fiction of '07:

1. American Shaolin by Matthew Polly (about the author's trip to the Shaolin temple and his training in martial arts in early 1990's China)
2. Mommies Who Drink by Brett Paesel (like having coffee with a friend)
3. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet (amazing memoir that gives insight into the mind of a person with Asperger's)
4. Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (loved her use of language - very poetic)
5. She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan (Thoughtful, witty memoir of the author's journey from James to Jennifer)

These lists could've easily morphed into top 10, 15 or 20 but I had to restrict myself. Overall, there were very few duds read this year. Some were just ok and others knocked my socks off.

Here's to a 2008 full of excellent books!

30 December 2007

90 In 52

Last December, my husband asked me, "How many books do you think you read in a year?" I had no answer. So, this year I started keeping a log of the books I read. This is the list:

1. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
2. Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith
3. No Touch Monkey by Ayun Halliday
4. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent
5. Water for Elephants by Sue Gruen
6. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
7. Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
8. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
9. You Suck by Christopher Moore
10. The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of The Apocalypse by Robert Rankin
11. Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost
12. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
14. Foop! by Chris Genoa
15. City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate
16. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
17. Lamb by Christopher Moore
18. Under and Alone by William Queen
19. Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman
20. A Changed Man by Francine Prose
21. Model by Michael Gross
22. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
23. Swimming To Antarctica by Lynne Cox
24. Grayson by Lynne Cox
25. Duncan Delany and The Cadillac of Doom by A.L. Haskett
26. A Monsterous Regiment of Women by Laurie King
27. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
28. Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill
29. Confessions of a Slacker Wife by Muffy Meade-Ferro
30. The Girls by Lori Lansens
31. Ant Farm by Simon Rich
32. Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson
33. Dark at the Roots by Sarah Thyre
34. Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
35. The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
36. What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman
37. Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall
38. They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky by B. Deng, et. al.
39. The Priest's Madonna by Amy Hassinger
40. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
41. How To Be Pope by Piers Marchand
42. Candy Freak by Steve Almond
43. My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond
44. Devil In The Details by Jennifer Traig
45. She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
46. The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer
47. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
48. Little People by Tom Holt
49. Falling Sideways by Tom Holt
50. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
51. Knick Knack Paddy Whack by Ardal O'Hanlon
52. Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
53. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
54. Thursday Next First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
55. Confessions of a Slacker Mom by Muffy Meade-Ferro
56. American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
57. The Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown
58. The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
59. Heat by Bill Buford
60. The Devil's Picnic by Taras Grescoe
61. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
62. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
63. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia Alvarez
64. Five Quarters of The Orange by Joanne Harris
65. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
66. The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein
67. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
68. Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
69. Truckers by Terry Pratchett
70. Diggers by Terry Pratchett
71. Wings by Terry Pratchett
72. Shazam! And The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
73. Mommies Who Drink by Brett Paesel
74. The Scheme For Full Employment by Magnus Mills
75. The Alienist by Caleb Carr
76. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
77. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
78. How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
79. Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff
80. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet
81. Straight Man by Richard Russo
82. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
83. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
84. The Short Bus by Jonathan Mooney
85. Fantasyland by Sam Walker
86. The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll
87. The Chisellers by Brendan O'Carroll
88. The Granny by Brendan O'Carroll
89. Cod by Mark Kurlansky
9o. Walking In Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe

This does not take into account the trillions of children's books I read with my kids over the course of the year, although I did count Charlotte's Web since it's one of my all-time favorites.

Frank said the record is set, now all I have to do is break it.

Enough Already

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas. But 5 days of it is a little wearing. The Fat Man comes early to our home because he knows we travel on Christmas Day. This year he came on the 23rd. Frank took the kids out during the afternoon of the 22nd so I could wrap all their presents. And there was a boat load of gifts for them both. Sunday morning we rose, went to 8 a.m. Mass and then out for breakfast. The kids were almost beside themselves by the time we got home. "Now can we open presents?", they pleaded. Then the carnage began. Frank and I spent the rest of the day opening various and sundry packages. I also made a great red lentil soup for lunch/dinner. The recipe's in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times.

The 24th dawned with me at the gym getting in a last workout before heading out of town for the rest of the week. Around 10:30 my mom showed up to cook Christmas dinner and we set up the infamous Wii. Evan and Nana, my mom, played a rousing game of bowling. The rest of the fam came around 2:30. We dined on roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, the works. As we were cleaning up, the doorbell rang. My nieces ran to see who it was.
"Santa" delivered presents to each of the 6 kids (my 2, my sister daughters and my step-brother's 2 girls) and each of the adults got a gift as well. My youngest niece, who is 2, decided Santa needed a present so she gave him a purse. A good time was had by all and my kids were in their beds asleep by 9:30, a sign of the late nights to come.

Christmas morning we piled in the car, laden with gifts and suitcases, and headed to the north suburbs of Chicago. We lunched at Frank's cousin's house then drove 5 minutes to my MIL's home for cake and coffee (and presents, that kind of goes with out saying). My SIL is quite possibly the world's best baker and her cookies are to die for, especially her linzer and black & white cookies. I think I consumed a good 43 dozen over the course of the week. She also made a great cheesecake and a molded jell-o dessert.

The 26th we drove over to my SIL's house out in the NW suburbs for dinner and, yes, more Christmas. My kids were thrilled that they got to open more presents and play with their cousins who had to leave yesterday's festivities early due to a get together with their dad's side of the family.

The day after the day after Christmas we went downtown to the Adler Planetarium then walked over to the Shedd Aquarium to see the new baby Beluga whale (that's all Flynn could talk about when she knew we were going downtown) and the penguins. It was a whirlwind visit through the Shedd just to see the favorites. It's a good thing we have a membership. Then we traveled out to Brookfield to the zoo. We met my SIL and her family there to see the zoo lights, which were pretty neat.

Friday was our last day in Chicago and we spent it puttering around not doing much of anything other than watch 6 inches of snow fall. The week full of late nights/early risings was taking its toll on the kids. Both were rather emotionally fragile and kept saying they were tired, but neither wanted to lie down for a nap. That night we met up with some dear friends and their 16-month-old daughter. They surprised us with the fantastic news that they had moved back to the area after living in Dallas, TX for the past 5 years.

Yesterday after lunch we piled in the car and headed due south to home, that favorite of all things. After unpacking and sorting laundry, we settled in for a dinner of cold cuts, gave the kids a bath and promptly went to bed early. The kids slept until 8:30 this a.m.

We do this every year, but this year felt much more harried and tiring. I wonder why that is.

Frank's talking about us heading to Florida after Christmas next year.

I love him.

21 December 2007

Ego Boost for Daddy

Flynn, while holding an empty wrapping paper tube and standing next to her daddy, "Look, Mommy! Daddy has a long penis!"

Merry Christmas, Daddy.

20 December 2007

Crises Averted

Today I had planned on getting certain things done. The fact that this is the first day of winter break for my kids conspired against me. Flynn slept in until almost 8:30 (which is good because she was awake at 4 a.m.). Evan played Lego Star Wars on the X-Box 360 for a while, which delayed his getting dressed. This also torpedoed my plans to go to the gym this a.m. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

At 11:00 I'd dillied and dallied enough (doing laundry, adding and subtracting music to my MP3 player, checking e-mail, reading blogs, etc.) , so I herded the kinder into the car and off we went. Really, there were 3 things I needed to accomplish: 1. go to the post office and mail out a few books and a Christmas gift.; 2. go purchase some pint-sized jars & some almonds and 3. buy just a couple of things at the grocery.

Errand #1 went ok. The P.O. was unusually uncrowded so our wait in line was negligible. So on to errand #2. While at a local store, the kids decided they wanted to pick out a present for their Daddy, which turned into a mess. They just started grabbing stuff off the shelves and stuffing it into the cart. While I was emptying the cart, they started fighting over who was going to give what. Just before I started tearing my hair out they compromised. Crisis #1 averted. In the check out lane both of them were getting super squirrelly. It was close to lunch time, so I figured we'd make a detour for food before heading to the supermarket.

In the parking lot Flynn started throwing a huge hissy fit because she did not want to go to Sonic, my proposal, for lunch. She wanted to have a hot dog at Sam's Club. I told her I understood she was hungry but that's no reason to act like a total crab.

Then Evan pipes up, "Or like a pussy."

I waited a beat then asked, "What did you mean by that?"

"Like a cat."

Then Flynn started meowing.

Crisis #2 averted.

They were absolute angels at the grocery. And, yes, that's "angels" not "a-holes."

19 December 2007

A Perfect Prayer


If you can't read his handwriting the above says:
Dear Jesus,
I pray for my Flynn and my dad and my mom. Thank you for Christmas, and for the animals.
Love, Evan

My heart swelled with pride for my beautiful, sweet boy when I read this today.

18 December 2007

Our Cutie Cat

I took this while Bootsie, our cat, was lying under the Christmas tree. I think she thought it was a safe place from Flynn's exuberant loving.

17 December 2007

But I'm Not An Addict Or Anything


This summer my sister turned me on to Starbucks Italian Roast light iced coffee. It comes in a can. I know, I know, canned coffee? But it is delicious and only has 35 calories per serving. And I can buy it at Wal-Mart AND Target (where, surprisingly, it's a dollar cheaper than Wal-Mart).

I figured I'd try it. You know, what the hell? I'm fairly adventurous when it comes to food and drink so I thought coffee's safe so why not?

I'm blaming my dear, beloved sister for my addiction.

I'm not mainlining or anything. I can keep my love of this sweet elixir in check. I drink one can every other day, which coincides with my exercise schedule of running one day and weight training the next. I have a can on the way to school and by the time I hit the gym I can feel the caffeine humming through my body. The buzz doesn't last long, but it's enough to give me a little energy boost. However, if Starbucks made a caffeine-free version I'd be pouring it down my gullet like water.

By the middle of last week I was down to my last can so I scoured all 3 Wal-Marts in the area and Target only to find empty shelves. I was starting to get desperate and I think my palms were actually sweating by the time I made it to my last stop to discover bare spots where the cans should've been. There were plenty of the regular orange can kind, but none of my beloved blue can.

Saturday morning I drank my last can and I thought, "What if I can't find this stuff anymore? What if Starbucks killed it like Max Factor killed my favorite lipstick color?" I wanted to scream.

Hallelujah! Praise the coffee gods and their infinite mercy because today while I was at Target I spied the little silver & blue cans on the top shelf of the drinks asile. There were 3 four-packs and I bought them all. I had to scale the shelves to do it, but you better damn well believe nobody else was going to walk out of there with my coffee.

They are mine, all mine.

That is, until I run out again.

I don't even want to think about it.

16 December 2007

The Christmas A-hole

Today was the big day the kids had been waiting for. We put up the Christmas tree. They had a ball decorating and only occasionally disagreed on which ornament would go on next. Crowning our tree is our angel. She's a tree topper we've had for a while and I could do with a different one, Flynn thinks she's beautiful.

Let me backtrack a little and tell you my daughter's speech isn't always clear. She does a lot of what's known as fronting. Vowels that are supposed to be made in the back of the throat are pronounced at the front of the mouth (i.e., a hard "k" sound becomes a "t"). She also has a tendency to drop ending sounds.

After we were finished, we gathered in the living room with a snack to admire our handiwork. As we ate our grapes and wheat thins, Flynn and Evan pointed out all the different ornaments.

"There's Darth Vader."

"There's Pooh Bear! I put that one on."

"There's Superman and Batman and Robin."

"There's the a-hole."

"There's the what?" asked Frank.

"There's the a-hole! On top of the tree. She's beautiful."

Of course, she meant "angel." Frank and I tried in vain to not laugh. We were giggling like idiots.

Behold, I give you the Christmas A-hole, I mean, Angel!

14 December 2007

Shout Out to My Book Club Peeps

Saturday mornings have become sacrosanct to me. After my early workout I shower and head towards campus and a quaint local coffee shop. I get my little pot of tea and head upstairs to this cozy loft area. If I'm early, and I usually am, I read and wait for the other members of my book club to trickle in around 9-ish.

I had initially resisted the idea of joining a book club mainly due to preconceived notions that (a) we wouldn't talk about the books and (b) the books would be horrible. I joined this particular book club nearly 2 years ago at the invitation of two of my friends from my son's preschool class. I don't know if I've ever properly thanked Tracy & Amy so "thank you, ladies."

Our group is composed of a wide variety of women ranging in age from 30's to 50's and occupations from stay-at-home moms to special ed. teachers to ministers. The vast majority attend the same church, but they are very welcoming. This includes an occasional visit from "D" the transvestite, which is always interesting.

My fellow clubbers consistently tell entertaining and often hilarious stories. We do a lot of laughing. The bulk of our time together is spent catching up and we may get around to talking about the book we've been reading or we may wait a week so everyone gets a chance to finish the book and voice her opinion. We read a wide variety of literature: sci-fi, fantasy, graphic novels, classics, popular fiction, non-fiction, memoir, historical fiction - whatever seems to strike our fancy at the time.

These weekend kaffee klatch sessions are sanity savers for me. It's cheap therapy.

If you're interested in joining my book club, let me know and I'll hook you up with the info. We're always open to new members.

Come for the book, stay for the conversation.

13 December 2007

Thought For The Day

This morning after dropping my daughter off at school, I headed over to a local hospital. I had an appointment and a couple other things to do there like pick up my new contacts and have some blood drawn so my doc can check to see if my new level of thyroid medication is doing its job.

I entered the building and headed for the stairs since I really dislike waiting for elevators. I descended to the lower level and exited the door. I looked to my left and saw the cancer center where, 23 years earlier, my mother had had her chemotherapy treatments. Though I knew it would be there, the sight of this place jarred me. I turned to the right and headed for the breast imaging clinic where I would be manhandled by a machine. Yep, it's mammo time. I wasn't particularly concerned as this is a yearly deal, yet, there was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. What if they find something? But everything was negatory, good buddy. Which is good.

I left the building in an odd mood. Why was the sight of the cancer treatment center such a shock to me? I'd spent some time there with my mom when she was being treated for breast cancer. I remember one visit where I actually went into the treatment room with her. Usually, I just stayed in the waiting room. She sat in one of the many chairs and waited for the nurse to hook her up to her particular intravenous cocktail of cell-killers. I sat on the floor next to her and did homework. Other patients were partitioned off with curtains and I remember trying not to hear a lady vomit.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 42 and it wasn't until recently that she confided she was stage III when she received her diagnosis. That's more than half-way to terminal. In hindsight, that scares the bejezus out of me. But at 15, it never occurred to me that she could die. It just wasn't a possibility. So she went through surgery, chemo and radiation, plus rounds of steroids, anti-nausea meds and 5 years of tamoxifen. She's a tough bird, my mom.

Maybe that residual fear of losing my mom is what bothered me. Or now that I'm 38, a mother myself, and well acquainted with the fact that I'm not immortal, I'm afraid of being diagnosed.

I paid my $1 parking fee and headed to the gym. Today was a running day and I had time enough to run a 5k before picking up Flynn at school. It took me a while to find my stride but once I hit it, I ran faster and faster and faster clocking 3.1 miles in 29 and a half minutes. I was running like I was either chasing something or being chased.

Was I running to good health or away from the spectre of disease?

12 December 2007

My Beautiful Dangerous Boy

Evan's karate pictures arrived today.

11 December 2007

'Zine Whore

I read a lot of magazines. And for some reason, I find that particularly shameful. Maybe it's because I feel I may be single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the rain forests due to the amount of paper that comes into my home on a monthly basis. Or maybe it's because these magazines aren't exactly 'highbrow' or enriching my intellect in any way.

I 'read':
Martha Stewart Living
Real Simple
Everyday Food
Cooking Light
Vegetarian Times (I love this magazine. Though I'm not fully veg. I've been a subscriber for well over a decade.)
W (a big-ass fashion magazine that has no pertinence to my life and is pure eye-candy)
Vanity Fair (surprisingly in-depth)
Lucky (I won't be renewing my subscription. I'm not exactly their demographic.)
Parents
Parenting
Family Fun
Family Circle
House Beautiful
Ladies' Home Journal
Natural Health
Good Housekeeping
U.S. News & World Report (I don't know why we get this magazine. I think Frank subscribed to it when a kid came door-to-door. We're both suckers for kids hawking wares.)
Women's Health
Body + Soul
People

See? That's a shit load of magazines, right? My house could be a newsstand, for crying out loud. But they do feed my reading obsession when my attention is easily diverted by my children. I love looking at the thick stack of magazines on my kitchen table. It's comforting being surrounded by all that glossy paper. They are mini mental vacations just waiting for me. I can sit down with a cup of tea and read for a bit while the kids play in the next room. I enjoy that little bit of mental solace a lot, introvert that I am. It's bliss.

Maybe I'd feel better if I subscribed to Mother Jones or some literary journal.

09 December 2007

I Stand Corrected


I was curious as to exactly how many stuffed animals my daughter sleeps with. So, under the pretense of changing the sheets I enlisted Flynn's help in cataloging with whom she shares her bed.

Here's the list. I think you'll agree it's pretty impressive.


A blue tiger named Dragon
Pepperoni, an orange striped cat
Ike the dog
Cupcake, Heart, Flip-Flop Waffle and Angry the dinosaurs
Baby Beluga
Spongebob Squarepants
Rock Star the chihuahua
Skippyjohn Jones, the tiny Siamese cat
A very small Wampa (Star Wars monster) named Tina
Winnie-the-Pooh (2)
Bunnybear

Rabbit Tiger the dog
Mooie, the cow
Marie the cat

Cinderella (2)
Duke, a black poodle

Belle
Tiny Tiger, a dog

3 mermaids (Ariel, Tiger & Tinkerbell)
Baby Raccoon

Rajah, a tiger Helpful the octopus
Ballerina Kitty
Goldie, a dog

Tinkerbell the dog
Nemo the duck

a Sneech named Princess
Totoro

Snowy, a tiny Westie terrier
Chip, the cat

Pikachu
Ratatouille
, the mouse from Paris, France

A polar bear named Pizza
Dottie, a bunny

Bunny ear
Christmas bear

Unicorn, a horse
Robin

A bear named puppy
Green Lantern

Leah bear
Captain Marvel

Ariel the leopard seal
Myra, a mermaid

A cat named Ribbon
My Little Nemo, a bear

Piggy
Gingerbread cat

A bunny named Pikachu
Sandal bear

Razzleberry, a pony
Cookie, a cat

Beach Ball the seal
Bananas, a monkey

Cocoa, a pink poodle
Boobah

Nofeet the snake
Bat

No name the dog
Caboodle, a hedgehog

Flower the bunny
Piglet, a fish

Springy, a bunny
Violet, a unicorn

Tyrone the pygmy marmoset
Ladybug bunny

Oodle and Doodle, pink poodles
Blue pony

Hedgie #1
Lassie, a dog

Flounder, a dog
Sharpay
, a bunny

Little Monster, a unicorn
Bunny duck

Baby zebra
Cali, a cat

Clifford, a monkey
Tinka-tinka-too, a pony

Tigger, a dog

All told, I think there's 90 or so animals. I had estimated 75. Boy, was I wrong!

And all she wants from Santa Claus is a teddy bear.

Where she'll put it, I don't know.

So Brilliant I Wish I'd Thought Of It First

I don't know if any of you read Martha Stewart Living magazine. I do. And normally I don't find many projects that appeal to me (they're either too involved or too fussy). That being said, I came across this little number in the latest issue: the t-shirt shopping bag.

What you'll need:
heavyweight cotton t-shirt
A sewing machine
9-inch diameter bowl
fabric pen (preferably one with disappearing ink)
scissors

1. Turn the t-shirt inside out and sew the bottom closed by stitching over the existing hem. Turn the shirt right side out and lay it on a flat surface, making sure that all the seams are aligned.

2. Place the inverted bowl over the neck of the shirt so that only half of the bowl is covering the shirt. Trace the rim of the bowl onto the shirt with the fabric pen.

3. Cut along the traced line, making sure to cut through both layers of the fabric. This will create a wide opening for the shopping bag.

4. Cut off the sleeves at the seam to make the bag handles.

And voila! A lovely reusable shopping bag that you can throw in the wash if something spills on it.

There's no shortage of t-shirts in my home (they're a major part of my husband's wardrobe) so I'll be making these soon.

07 December 2007

My Wake-Up Call

I hear her little feet pattering down the hallway in my half-sleep.

"Mommy?", she whispers.

"Yes. What? I'm awake." I say, still a little foggy.

"Mommy?", still whispering.

"Yes, Flynn."

"I peed in my bajamas."

"You what?"

"I. Peed. In my bajamas."

"Well, go to the bathroom. Let me get my glasses on and I'll be there in a minute."

"OK. It's morning time. It snowed. Good morning."

"Yeah, good morning."

06 December 2007

Frownie Face

Today I woke up in a bad, bad mood. Dark, prickly and cranky was I, for sure. It was one of those mornings when not even coffee or good music would lift my spirits.

Flynn was in rare form today too, which was just peachy. "NO! I don't want breakfast! I want candy! I wanted tea not cocoa! This tag is itchy!" These exclamations were accompanied with much foot stomping, kicking, screaming and tears. Surprisingly, they weren't mine. I do have to say I'm very thankful for "Super Why" on PBS because once that came on, we could disengage and both of us could calm down.

So I didn't go to the gym today.

I dropped Flynn off at school and high-tailed it to Borders to finish off some Christmas shopping. I actually managed not to buy something for myself, which was really hard to do (some of you know of my obsession with books). That was followed by trips to Wal-Mart, Dick's, and Factory Card Outlet.

Spending the morning just futzing around help alleviate some of my nastiness. I was considerably cheered when I picked up Flynn at noon. Her morning had improved her disposition as well. Maybe that's just what we needed: time apart.

Or maybe we just need a good nap.

05 December 2007

We Say "Oui" To Wii

Video games are nothing new at our house. My husband makes his living as an art director for a local video game developer and is an avid gamer. He doesn't get to game as much as he would like, due to the number of hours he puts in a week. As a family we enjoy playing video games, owning the following gaming systems: X-Box, X-Box 360, Play Station, Play Station 2 and an old Sega Dreamcast that hasn't seen the light of day in well over 7 years. We may even have an Atari lurking around the basement.

And now we own a Wii. When we say "we" I really mean my 4-year-old daughter.

The Wii was something we were doing nicely without. The kids weren't clamoring for one and neither was Frank. Some friends have one and it's fun, but we weren't exactly beating down Best Buy's doors to get one.

So, why do we now possess a Wii? Simple, Flynn won it in a raffle at her karate school. For the month of Nov. each class a child attended they received a raffle ticket, first prize being the Wii. It was pretty much the kids' responsibility to fill out the tickets and put it in the requisite bucket. We didn't always stick around for our tickets.

Last Saturday afternoon we received a call from the school's owner, "Flynn won the Wii." Much to the incredulity of many teenage boys who diligently filled out their raffle tickets after every class and did everything in their power to earn more tickets, a 4-year-old girly girl walked away with the prize.

When I told her she won, she was excited but promptly returned to playing whatever make-believe game I had interrupted. Evan, on the other hand, began jumping up and down shouting, "Woo-hoo!!!" Later that day he started dropping casual tidbits of information such as, "'Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga' is a Wii game."

We picked up the Wii after Flynn's class on Monday - it's still sitting on the kitchen counter. It'll probably be Christmas before we get around to hooking it up.

04 December 2007

Super Cool Shopping Site

I was recently perusing my latest issue of either Parenting or Parents magazine (they're pretty much interchangeable) when I came across an article touting interesting gift ideas for the holidays. "I could use some interesting gift ideas," I thought to myself and proceeded to read the article which featured several products from an online shop called Etsy.

Then I went to Etsy's website which promptly blew my mind. I may be the last person on the planet to know about this place, but I just think it's the coolest. Etsy showcases all things handmade: art work, furniture, toys, clothing, bags, you name it I'm pretty sure they've got it. There's even a category called "geekery." I love it!

I found unique gifts for friends (jewelry for one and an art print & journal for another), very, very cute Star Wars barrettes for Flynn, and I have my eye on something for Grandma. If any of the men I knew wore cuff-links, I'd be set because there are zillions of them on this site - and they're, amazingly, very cool (robots or lego blocks anyone?). I also didn't spend an arm and a leg for original artwork. From what I could tell, prices are fair and some sellers offer free shipping.

Often I find myself at a loss for gift ideas because I just want to find that perfect something. I know I'll never be lost with this site. I love quirky, slightly weird, nerdy, artsy, mod stuff and Etsy has that in spades.

Hooray for Etsy!

03 December 2007

Who Says Pigeons Are Stupid?

At this point the eternal flame in Daly Plaza, downtown Chicago, is more pigeon warmer than memorial.

02 December 2007

Looking Smart

The other day I picked up my new glasses from Wal-Mart. I usually wear contacts but decided to wear the new glasses for the rest of the day to get used to the increased prescription.

That night when my husband came home he said, "Did you get new glasses?"


"Yep," I said, thinking, "You had to ask? I've been wearing the same glasses for 13 years and these look totally different." Incidentally, we've been together for almost 14 years and the obvious isn't exactly Frank's forte.

"They make you look smart."

My eyebrow must have arched because Frank hastily added, "Smarter. You look smarter. You look good."

01 December 2007

Planning Ahead

I take great pleasure in overhearing my children's conversations. The best ones, like this one they had on the way home from karate lessons, happen in the car.

Evan: When I get tired of being an astronaut I have an idea for the best job!

Flynn: What is it?


Evan: I'm going to be a zoo keeper!


Flynn: Ooooh, yeah! I want to be a zoo keeper after I get tired of being a princess!

I love how they're planning ahead for their retirement at the ripe old ages of 6 and 4.

29 November 2007

My Dirty Little Secret

I am a stay-at-home-mom, which implies that I am also a housewife (and all of the chores that go along with that moniker). I totally enjoy being home with my kids and wouldn't have it any other way. However, I can safely say I hate housework as much, if not more, than the next person.

Dusting? Bah!
Scrubbing the toilet?
Ugh!
Picking up a million
Legos and Polly Pocket clothes? Arrgh!

I have no qualm doing the laundry or loading or emptying the dishwasher and I love to cook. My answer to the housework conundrum is to not do it. Come closer and I'll tell you my secret.

Psst, I hired a cleaning lady.


Do I feel guilty having another person clean my house when I'm the one who should be doing it (it's part of my job after all)? Yes, I do feel a little guilt. But then I figure my main job is to take care of my children. I'm not a fastidious person by nature (as my neat-nik sister can attest), neither is my husband and I inherited my father's clutter gene so I need all the help I can get when it comes to keeping house.

My angel swoops in twice a month and I do the picking up between visits. She does everything: cleans the kitchen (including the floors), dusts, vacuums, makes the beds (even though I tell her she really doesn't have to do that), cleans the bathrooms and generally makes my house look fabulous. Smells good, too, since she spritzes a little lavender-vanilla room spray around.

She'll be here in a couple of hours to work her magic.

And I couldn't be happier.

28 November 2007

A-Z Me

I cribbed this idea from my friend, Mrs. Chicken. You should read her blog.

Anyhoo, the idea is to use each letter of the alphabet to describe a positive aspect of your character. It's kinda fun and more challenging than it sounds.


Here goes me:


Attentive

Bloody-minded (on occasion)

Cynical

Diligent

Energetic

Fidgety

Generous

Happy

Inquisitive

Jocular

Keen

Likable

Malleable

Nurturing

Optimistic

Protective

Quiet

Resourceful

Sarcastic, or as my mom calls it, Smart-Assed

True

Unflappable

Venturesome

Watchful

Xenophillic (-phillic NOT -phallic)

Youthful

Zippy

Let me know what you come up with. Enjoy!

29:59

The above is how long it took me to run 3.1 miles today (that's a 5k). Twenty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds! That beats my previous personal best, set last Wednesday, by 1 second.

Not that it was easy.

Nope.

It was very, very hard. And my hamstrings are yelling at me right now.

But I did it.

I'd do a happy dance if I didn't fear repercussions from my legs.

Maybe tomorrow...

27 November 2007

Cultural Hero

Each month my son's first grade class elevates a particular children's author's status from mere writer of books to that approaching cultural hero. This month's author is Marc Brown, the guy who created Arthur.

Evan's on an Arthur kick as of late - loves the show on PBS and likes reading the books.

As he put it on the way home from school yesterday, "Marc Brown is the MAS-TUH!"

26 November 2007

I Need Your Help!

Over the holiday weekend I asked my sister-in-law for some gift ideas for my nieces, ages 8 and 1/2 and 10. She mentioned that the girls could use a new CD or two to listen to before they go to sleep. I love making mix discs, but I'm at kind of a loss since I don't really know what songs to put on the discs for these 2 beautiful, lovely girls. They are pretty typical tweens - totally into Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

So, I'm asking for suggestions. What songs should I put on these discs?

'Tis The Season (Already)

This is the Christkindle Market, downtown Chicago. Lots of good German food to be had here (and at my Mother-in-Law's house).
By the time I took this picture, Evan had had enough of the Christkindle Market and was ready to either go back to Oma's or the Lego store on Michigan Ave.
Flynn admiring the windows outside the former Marshall Field's, now Macy's. The windows are decorated telling the story of "The Nutcracker" and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the store's HUGE Christmas tree. If you haven't seen it, you should. What's more impressive is the giant stuffed animal dragon on the 5th floor.

21 November 2007

The Education of Miss Flynn

I was unloading the dishwasher when I overheard the following conversation:

Evan: I'm a penguin and you're a leopard seal, Flynn.

Flynn: OK, Evan.

Evan: You are my enemy and you chase me and kill me, then you eat my flesh.

Flynn: Ewww, gross. I don't want to be your enemy. I want to be the mommy penguin!

Evan: It's not gross, Flynn, it's the way life is.

Giving Thanks

I'll be away from my computer for a few days taking a break with family. And since it is Thanksgiving here's what I am very thankful for:

1. My family and that we're all pretty much within driving distance.
2. My friends
3. That I am able to stay home with my children.
4. Books
5. The internet
6. Starbuck's light iced coffee
7. My Bodum electric kettle
8. tea
9. chocolate
10. More books

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Frank and I will be hitting the sales Black Friday (not that we like to shop that day but we take advantage of Oma's Babysitting Service and get to spend the day together sans children).

20 November 2007

Boneheads in Action or The Great Oz at Work

I fully intended to write about something entirely different and had, in fact, started to draft a post which I had to leave unfinished to take my daughter to school.

So.

I'm on the elliptical machine at the gym grooving to some fine tunes and watching the TV which is tuned to CNN for "breaking news." The news is a press conference being held at the White House in which President ceremonially pardons two turkeys. Apparently, this is a Thanksgiving tradition harking back to the 1950's. I don't really have a problem with this. It's cute, warm fuzzy "news." Awwww, look, these turkeys don't have to die. I believe the President's quote was, "You can't take the heat and you'll stay out of the kitchen." Nice.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I can hear Dubya now: "We'll have a nice little happy press conference to deflect the public's short attention span away from what's going on in the rest of the world. I mean, it's almost Thanksgiving! We need fluff." Can you hear me rolling my eyes?


What I do have a great big huge problem with is that May and Flower, the turkeys, will now be whisked away and flown FIRST CLASS to Florida where they will be the grand marshals of the Thanksgiving parade at Walt Disney World.

I think my first reaction to this bit of information was to quote my 2-year-old niece Emmy, "That's bullshit."

There are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to start. I mean about the turkeys, I've gotten used to the fact that my darling little niece swears.

And I have a couple of questions for the Bonehead in Command:

1) Why not spend the money it would take to fly two birds first class (that just blows my mind) to Florida on food for people who need it? I'm sure that in the metro D.C. area alone there are plenty of people who are hungry and the price of an airline ticket would fill their empty stomachs.
2) Why waste jet fuel on effing turkeys? Well, I guess we taxpayers do that whenever Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney get on a plane.
3) Why contribute to global warming by putting these birds on an airplane? Why not just let them go home to Indiana?
4) Do you think the turkeys really give a damn that they're going to Disney World?

Oh, I'm so happy Mr. Bush is on his way out. There was an opportunity to actually do something worthwhile and he blew it (again).

I'm going to go have a cup of tea and calm down. Happy Thanksgiving, America, from the Great Oz. Sheesh.

19 November 2007

What's on your iPod?

I don't have an iPod - just a cute little MP3 player my mom gave me for Christmas last year and I use it just about every day while I'm running or otherwise working out. If I could wear it all day, I probably would.

There are over 250 songs crammed on to 1 gigabyte.

A sampling of artists:
The Beatles (lots)
Rolling Stones (not as much, but still some good stuff and I now know the lyrics to "Sympathy for the Devil" other than the "woo, woo" bits)
The Who
Blur
Gorillaz
Guadalcanal Diary (yes, Scott, "Always Saturday")
The Jam
The Smiths
Moby
The Killers
Franz Ferdinand
The Futureheads
Junior Senior
The Kaiser Chiefs
The Caesers
Snow Patrol
The Dandy Warhols
Oingo Boingo
Ministry
and a bunch of other bands/musical artists

What are you listening to these days?

18 November 2007

Pretty Pretties




A couple weeks ago I went to the Kris Kringle arts & crafts fair (or as Flynn called it, "the crap fair") with my sister and aunt (Flynnie, too) with the intention of not buying anything. I'm really not one for country crafts as my tastes tend toward the less cutesy.

I knew I "needed" a nice piece of jewelry to go with the fairly understated dress I wore last night to the C-U Junior League's Festival of Trees Gala. I looked and looked, scrutinizing necklaces, bracelets and earrings peppering Katy and Aunt Cindy with, "What do you think?" or "What about this?".

There were some gorgeous handmade pieces but I was especially taken with the beautiful set pictured above.

The necklace and earrings were made by Pimonpan Nelson, a jewelry maker originally from Thailand who now lives in Crown Point, IN. Each one of her pieces is handmade with amazing attention to detail. My necklace is made with glass Japanese beads that catch the light just so - it's a little sparkle, not too much - with added faceted cat's eye stones at the "knot" of the bow and at the ends. I love the whimsical design which can be dressed up or down and the adjustable chain length. The price wasn't too bad either with the necklace and brown Swarovski crystal earrings costing me grand total of $26.

Check out Pimonpan's website: www.moncreations.com where she exhibits a lot of her stock. You may order from her site and she offers customer design services.

17 November 2007

Did you think I was kidding about the 75 stuffed animals in Flynn's bed?

I swear somewhere in there is a 4-year-old little girl.

16 November 2007

My kids could probably kick your ass. Not they'd want to; they're actually very kind and loving.

Two years ago a new taekwon do studio opened near our home. One summer day as we drove by it, my then 4-year-old son Evan said, "I want a karate uniform, please!"

After Frank and I talked it over, I scheduled a meeting with the school's owner and then signed Evan up for karate lessons.

Last night Evan earned his blue belt and is now half way to becoming a black belt. Just before he fell asleep he said, "I'm earning my black belt and then I'm quitting."

Absurd as it is to say it, my 6-year-old has had weapons training. He knows how to use nunchukus and a single stick (it looks like a policeman's baton, but foam-padded). He knows how to punch and kick and disarm an attacker, but more importantly, he knows when not to use those skills.

After watching her big brother's twice-weekly classes, Flynn declared last December that she wanted to be a "karate girl." She would walk around the house copying the moves Evan was learning. Occasionally, I'd hear her cute little girl voice yelling from somewhere in the house, "Front kick! Side kick! Power punch!"

We made her wait until her 4th birthday to join the Tiny Tigers class (for kids ages 4-6) and she is now half-way to earning her yellow belt. Not too shabby for a girl who wants to be a princess when she grows up.

I'm so proud of my karate kids.

15 November 2007

"Put on your pants/'Cause you just might want to dance"

Every once in a while I get a CD that I can't get enough of. An album (does anybody make albums anymore?) gets its hooks in me and I play it over and over and over. Gwen, remember the semester of C+C Music Factory?

Over the years my musical obsessions have ranged from Adam Ant, to the soundtrack to the movie Amadeus, to Vivaldi's
Four Seasons, to U2, to the Smiths, to the B-52's, to said music factory to Beck's Odelay which, no kidding, was in the stereo for something like 5 years. I'll also add ABBA, the Carpenters, the Osmond Family (specifically Donny and Marie), and much later Death Cab for Cutie. The Beatles are a constant, just part of my life, and therefore I've never obsessed about their music. My affairs with certain artists or bands can be short-lived (like C+C Music Factory) or extend into decades (like Beck and Mozart).

My latest earworm comes courtesy of Denmark - a group called Junior Senior. Their second disk, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, is tons of fun - complete and total candy; sweet and has no nutritional value at all. I call it "roller skating music" because the songs really take me back to the late-70's/early-80's when I lived in my skates (duh). When you hear these songs, colored lights flash will flash in your mind and you will want to get up and shake your boo-tay.

The lyrics are completely shallow (the title for this post is one of their lyrics). Junior and Senior are no Lennon and McCartney and certainly no George Harrison but they don't want to be. To paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, they just want to have fun. Their infectious old school white-boy rap disco and dance beats make your feet itch to dance. And if it couldn't get any better, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52's guest on one of the tracks. Yipee!

Check out Junior Senior's my space page: http://www.myspace.com/juniorsenior. They showcase a couple of their videos - one which actually has people roller skating in it!

Enjoy!

14 November 2007

Back to Normal

I come from a family a relatively small people. I think the tallest person in my entire family is my great-uncle Ray and he's not exactly a towering specimen (he's also 85 so I'll cut him a little slack). That being said, we also tend to get a little round except for my paternal grandmother who seemed to exist solely on coffee and cigarettes until she was diagnosed with emphysema.

I had always been what's called "petite" - I'm 5'1" (yes, that 1 inch is important) and when I graduated high school twenty years ago I weighed 113 pounds. Instead of gaining the "freshman 15" in college, I dropped 10 pounds the first semester. I didn't actually set out to loose weight, but a combination of disordered eating (like making a small pizza from Domino's last a week, fear of eating in front of people due to a hyper-critical, abusive step-father), not eating in the dining hall because of acute shyness and the fact that the food was pretty gross, and lots of exercise (walking everywhere including up and down 7 flights of stairs to and from my dorm room several times a day, a dance class, and participating in an extra-curricular modern dance troupe) took its toll. I honestly didn't see the weight loss until Thanksgiving break when my then-boyfriend put his hands around my waist like a hula hoop. After that my weight went back up to what would be "normal" for me and stayed that way for about 5 years.

After college I was out on my own, enjoying my single life when I met the man who would later become my husband. I didn't have to eat by myself anymore and, more importantly, I didn't have to fear Frank would ridicule my eating; he accepted me and loved me as I was. I could relax with him and enjoy food. And enjoy I did. I started to gain weight (we both did) and became rather sedentary. We were fat and happy.

Fast forward 13 years, 2 kids and 30+ pounds later.

At a routine physical last summer, my family doctor palpitated my thyroid and felt what he thought was a nodule. After a sonogram and an appointment with an endocrinologist to rule out cancer, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, a fairly common autoimmune disorder (the immune system goes haywire and attacks the thyroid). My choices were to a) start taking thyroid hormones now to stave off the inevitable (my thyroid going kaput) or b) wait until my thyroid goes kaput and then go on the hormones. My choice was easy; I decided to be proactive. So, now I'm on medication that I'll take for the rest of my life.

This put things in perspective for me - get it in gear or you'll never, ever loose the weight.

Jan. '07 saw me at the gym for the first time ever as I began implementing what I came to call my "getting back to normal" plan. I started walking on a treadmill for a minute then I would run for a minute. I did this for 30 minutes. I kept this up - gradually decreasing my walking time while increasing my running time until as of today I can run a 5k in just under 31 minutes. On the days I don't run, I try to get in some strength training (although I loathe lifting weights). I also adjusted my eating habits (eating meals off a salad plate, choosing nutrient dense food, upping my water intake, still making room for chocolate). Those extra pounds are now gone, I lost my "ass shelf" and, more importantly, I feel great.

Now if I can just stay there. Especially with Thanksgiving next week (mmm... turkey, my sister-in-law's pumpkin torte and her sweet potato & leek casserole, my mother-in-law's everything).

Well, at least my mother-in-law has a treadmill and I intend to use it.

13 November 2007

Windy City



*sigh* I love Chicago.

12 November 2007

Big Butt Teeth

While shopping at the grocery store this afternoon, my son saw a classmate of his and her mom. We exchanged pleasantries and went our separate ways.

Upon exiting the store, I remarked to Evan that it was a nice surprise seeing his friend. He said, "Yeah. Her mom has big butt teeth."

"What?", I replied.

"You know, big butt teeth. The kind that stick out in front."

"Oh, I think you mean 'big BUCK teeth.'" I said, biting my lip trying not to laugh while I tried to explain that the 'big butt teeth' comment wasn't exactly polite.

God, how I love that little boy.

Small Miracle

Occasionally, we play a game at our house called "musical beds". This involves one or both children crawling in bed with me and my husband, which we don't mind. Our children are so incredibly fidgety when they sleep that, despite the fact we sleep in a king size bed, I usually move to a bed recently vacated by said child(ren) to get a decent night's sleep.

Anyway, the other night my daughter comes padding in at around 3 a.m. She crawls in between me and her brother, daddy on the other side of the bed snoring away. She spends about 30 minutes trying to get comfortable then whispers, "Mama? Can you take me back to my bed, please?" Internally, I scream, "Yes! Yes! Go back to your own bed!" "Sure," I reply, grabbing my glasses and pillow because I'm unsure how long it will take her to fall back to sleep. We walk down the hallway to her room, get her settled under and among the 4 blankets and 75 stuffed animals on her bed and then I settle in at the other end. We both drift off.

That's not the miracle of which I write.

Approximately 4 hours later, my son enters the room and crawls under the blankets trying not to wake me, but I'm a light sleeper. He picks up a book and begins reading, whispering quietly to himself. He reads each word perfectly.

That's the miracle.

You see, last week during a parent/teacher conference, my husband and I were told that our boy was not reading up to first grade level.

But he reads just fine cuddled up under a hot pink down comforter on an early Sunday morning.

Amen.

11 November 2007

Help! My daughter's joined a cult!


"Mommy! Mommy! Did you see her? She's soooooo pretty! I love her!" Thus began my 4-year-old's induction into the cult of Hannah Montana. For those of you who don't know, Hannah Montana is a character on the self-titled Disney Channel show. She's a singer who lives a double life - by day she's regular 14-year-old Mylie, by night she's teen pop sensation Hannah Montana. Mylie is played by Mylie Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus (he plays her dad on the show, too). The show is typical Disney Channel tweeny drivel, but does have its charm. Yes, Mylie's cute and has a great voice and she's not out boozing it up with Britney, as far as I know. But, my gosh, my little girl's 4 YEARS OLD, for crying out loud. I thought I had a few more years before she'd be obsessed with some pop star or other. Can anyone commiserate?