Sunday, December 30, 2007

More Than Too Much

Remember Kim?

Yes, well I do.
I did/could not go back for Kim's funeral because I could not afford it; I was afraid to leave my kids for too long; I was working too much.
Not three weeks later, I developed a toothache. The kind of toothache that has one realizing that their lack of dental insurance would be better spent on a plane ticket back east to visit Dentist Brother. But you know what? I suck. Because I could not fly back to deal with toothache when I could not cough up the money for a funeral. (so the tooth, it festers)

Umm...So...back to the right now....my aunt, Kim's mother, just died. Just now.
Completely unexpectedly.
Previously asymptomatic sudden onset (aka sudden Dx) Lung Disease. Never smoked.

Didn't want to go to the hospital to investigate her shortness of breath. Because, you know. Her daughter just died.

So, she finally relented. She went into the hospital. It was not a great Dx, but not a horrible one, you know, as far as these things go. And then? Tonight....my aunt just died. JUST DIED.

So now I will be flying back for a funeral and a root canal. Most likely with a two year old in tow.
Do you believe?

Pray for me if you do.
Actually, screw me.
Pray for my uncle. And my cousin.

And hey, IF THERE IS A god?

::FUCK YOU!::

sincerely,
gwendomama

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happiness to you.



Mele Kalikimaka

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kid-made gifts (REALLY kid-made)


We have been busy elves. Finally, this year I decided to provide Supergirl with gift projects that she could actually make almost by herself. As opposed to years past, wherein she lost interest after decorating just two cookies, or was asked to come and stir this in, and then I would end up doing every remaining step of her project idea.
Ha. Not this time. I was one step ahead of her this year. I thought ahead early enough to order cute little jars. I bought graham crackers and candy canes. I researched royal icing success and failure stories.
Above is a picture of her gifts to her friends: Homemade bath paints, an inexpensive holiday towel, and a rubber ducky, all tossed into a bath bucket from the dollar store.

The paint is very easy to make:

Home Made Bath Finger Paints
for each 1/2 cup of MILD LIQUID BABY SOAP,
add: 1 tsp cornstarch, and as much Biocolor as you would like.
Mix well, pour into plastic jars with airtight lids.

And we made these cute little sleighs for all of her teachers:


I did not invent the idea - we got it here.

And then we made an extremely simple peppermint bark (I melted semisweet chips, she spread it out on parchment and sprinkled with a small amount of Andes holiday peppermint bits and some crushed candy canes, then we cooled and broke it) to fill the sleighs (with a foil Santa to drive):


I love staying home for the holidays! Instead of packing and swearing, I get to make crafts and bake! And we haven't even started the cookies! The cookie baking begins tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Existential Crises with 5 and 6 year olds...

Supergirl and her friend got into an argument while we (the mothers) were sipping wine in the sunset (the last one seen before the current flooding I might add).
Lolly came running up to her mama and, with much drama, said that she was:
So so sad. Because Supergirl said that she did not believe in god. (or God - either one) And this made her very very sad. (small sob)
And her mama, being a spiritual woman who also is a dear friend, said that: It was okay. Supergirl didn't have to believe the same things as Lolly, and it was totally and completely fine. We love all of our friends, and if they believe something different from what we believe, it doesn't make either one right or wrong, and it doesn't make anything different about the fact that we love each other. (well said, don't you think?)
After that, Supergirl, obviously grappling with the power of the situation, the mystery of the object, and the sincere desire to make her friend feel better, offered this:
Lolly, I don't believe in god, but I like him! I really like him! It's weird, and I don't know how to explain how I don't believe in him, but I really do like him! And Jesus? I don't believe in him either but I like him. I mean I sort of believe in Jesus because he was a little baby and that was nice, and I like babies. But I don't really believe in him. Okay?

Wow.

Okay.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Musings on Religion and Not, and being all PC about it.

We have some suspicions that Supergirl thinks Santa is God. Because we just don't talk too much about God around here, and occasionally when she hears his name spoken around town, it is in reference to something attractively omnipotent.
Apparently Supergirl isn't the only one having trouble getting the Santa thing straight. Just tonight, The Boss (of Seattle)'s son asked her this question: "Mom? Can Santa make a witch into a present box and send it up to heaven?"
Now, this puzzled The Boss for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that they are Jewish.

I myself, completely overuse the phrase, "Oh my god!" Of course it has worn off on Supergirl, who also drops it casually at home. But we have had many discussions about how and why she should never ever say those words around her grandmother, because it would be offensive. Also, in mixed company sometimes; maybe not so much in school, or in public too loudly. Because, as I pointed out to her, there are many things I may feel like saying or exclaiming, but I need to see who is around me and consider the situation, and when appropriate, try not to offend anyone. (Which is only partially true, as I seem to offend people frequently, but as a parent...don't we all want better for our children?)
This balance, as any parent knows, is a very difficult concept to teach your child. Belief in themselves, the courage to speak up, but HEY! Don't offend anyone unnecessarily in public! It's not nice!
Yesterday, after picking up Supergirl and her friend for some holiday craft shopping and then TJoe's necessity shopping, they were merrily giggling along in their silly contagious way, and they started some banter in which they responded back and forth to each other with 'duh' in it's various forms (duh, duh? du-uh?, d-uh!, etc) -Are you familiar with the game?
Supergirl looked at me cautiously and said, as we were walking through TJoe's parking lot, "We're allowed to say 'duh', right, Mama?"
"Well, you two are being silly and it is being used in a funny way right now, so it is okay. But in other situations the same word could be considered offensive...perhaps if someone was having a hard time with something and they asked for help, if someone said 'duh', then it would be an word that is offensive."
And right as we walked into the busy TJoe's downtown store, Supergirl loudly responded,
"Oh yeah! Like GOD! That is a word that is offensive!"

:::ahem::::


::::gulp::::


Parenting is an ongoing project.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another donation to the therapy jar...

I am having a stellar parenting day.
Bubbles is sick with a cold. Whenever he gets extra mucousy, he pukes. I take him off his beloved dairy and put him on every liquid substitution I can find, and it helps a bit. But still? He pukes. It's just his thing. So the laundry is piling up. And after a few hours of clawing and pawing at me, I get a little edgy; that regression bit occurs when he is off and he just wants to nurse all day long. But he is two now, and I don't want to nurse him all day long, even if he is sick. (Yes, I know, the fabulous and loving parenting) So I just said: NO MORE MILK DUDE! NO MORE! GO AWAY!

But wait! There's more!
I remembered at the last minute that I was to teach music this morning at the local preschool, so I hustled over there (2 minutes away), dragging my box of bells/shakers/drums/etc. across the campus and ran right into my daughter's class, following their class aide on the way to their music class. Of course Supergirl wanted to stop and give me a hug, which I hurriedly did, and then instantly began chastising her for not wearing her coat. (Did we cover this subject 38 times already this month? Yes, we did. Is it 42 degrees today? Yes it is.) She was the only one in her class making the trek from upper to lower campus without a coat. And one of my kids is already sick.
As she was pouting at me for embarrasing her (hehehe this is nothing, I thought), another student from her class - a very exuberant Ella who really hardly ever watches where she is going and if you are around her it is all about the 'defensive driving' on your part - ran smack into Supergirl, knocking them both down on the pavement. Ella bounced up, delivered a quick apology, and sped off to music class. Supergirl, having just been emotionally injured by me, (and, I think I have to mention, perhaps feeling a little sensitive from the cold!) was not so resilient. She wept; she was hurt, Ella was mean, I was mean, I was unfair, I was mean mean mean! And she ran away from me, around the corner of the building, and away from the direction of her class. And I was late to teach. And I had to leave her there; and go get the aide to please collect her.
I know it would have just dragged on longer if I had tried to make it alright with her, but still?
I wish I could have made it all right with her.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When four seems like old age

Tonight, Supergirl asked me how old Elijah would be right now.
You know.... If he was still alive.

Four and a half years old, I answered.

And then I gulped.

Some tears were shed.



I am really missing him right now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's really a sickness

I woke up around 2 am and thought "shit, I didn't post before midnight!"

I have post traumatic NaBloPoMo disorder.

wow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It was an early arrival; give them some time.

Baby Update:

"Yes, I do know what you can do to help. Tell people to stop asking what his name is. Because we just have not decided yet."

~~Daddy; today.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Skoolastic Book Edjukashon Faire

I have a six year old daughter.
We do not have cable TV, but we do let her watch selected shows or movies via DVD or download (have I mentioned my Kipper attraction?).
Supergirl has friends that are allowed to watch that 'Hannah....ummm....Indiana' thing and then some, and that is fine. For their kids. For ours?
Supergirl is six. She goes to a school that does not tolerate bullying in any way. That show? Introduces bullying and nastiness created by preteens; the sort that I would say HELL NOWAY to my kiddo watching.
She does go to a public school. This public school is well loved by many families, ours included. This school shines above many other neighboring schools in our county. However, our public school is no different from any other in its promotion of: The Skoolastic Book Un-Fair.
You know of what I speak?

This morning at school, my daughter was greeted by a sixth grader dressed up as big, fuzzy, friendly, red, klifford-the-dog.
This afternoon, she came home with her 'wish list'.
What, you ask, is a 'wish list'?
Well, it is basically a shameless slip of marketing paper, direct from Skoolastic; handed to your child as they walk in to their gymnasium (which has been transformed into a glossy, poster, character, toy, and yes book - filled room); and the little ones are accompanied by an aide, who can help them write down their 'favorite' books.

What is on my daughter's wish list?
  1. Littlest pet shoppy thingie BOOK!
  2. Hannah-freaking-Indiana BOOK! (b/c if mama won't allow the video, reading it must be OK, right???)
  3. High Skool Moosical?????? BOOK! (really? something she never ever heard of before? now that is some successful marketing!)
  4. Another Little pet bobble head thingie BOOK.
  5. Proper Puppy Care (the first and only non-commercial book listed)

So, when they asked me to work at the 'Faire', I had to say are you fucking kidding me? that I was very busy with work this week. Which, thank goodness, I am!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

I tried something new yesterday with chocolate.

Triple.
Chocolate.
Cupcakes.
That got your attention, didn't it?







Devils food cupcakes, ganache dipped, then topped with a ganache-buttercream swirl.

I just typed 'buttcream swirl'.

Thank goodness I caught that.



Here is the recipe:
First, get out your trusty Kitchenaid.


Devils Food Cupcakes:
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour (this is key)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk (I never seem to have buttermilk on hand, so I pour 2 -3 tsps cider vinegar in my measuring cup, pour in whole milk to reach 2 1/4 cups and let it sour for a few minutes before using - works great)

  • Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time
  • Add vanilla
  • Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl
  • Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the mixing bowl, mixing well and scraping down sides after each addition.
  • Pour into cupcake liners or paper sample cups; I made about 50 2-ounce cucpakes, but could have made more from this batch, as I filled the cups too full and they spilled out onto the cookie sheet. FILL ONLY HALFWAY FULL!!! The cake flour makes these rise well.
  • Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of cupcakes you make.

After they have cooled, dip the tops of the cupcakes into warm ganache (this is where the paper pleated cups come in handy!), and put in a cool place to set the chocolate.

Ganache Topping:

  • Approximately 3 cups good semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or 3/4 cup half-and-half in a pinch!)

For this batch, I used about one and one half 12 oz bags of really good semisweet chocolate chips.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (at my house this is a small saucepan nested into a larger saucepan with about 1/2 inch of water in it). Take care not to let any water splash into the chocolate!
Traditionally, ganache is made with heavy cream, but all I had in the house was half-and-half, so that's what I used. And it worked; I just used a bit less; about 3/4 cup.
Heat the 1 cup of cream (or 3/4 cup of half-and-half) just to boiling; remove the melted chocolate from the heat, and whisk the warmed cream into it until it is smooth and shiny. I keep it over the warm water but off of the heat and it usually stays smooth enough to dip the tops of the cupcakes into it.

Transfer the rest of the ganache to the mixing bowl, and after it cools, whip it until it becomes lighter in color. At this point, add:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, whip very well
  • Add 3 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mix well until whipped.

Fill your frosting decorator (or cream squeezer) with this frosting and decorate the cupcakes as you wish. I like to leave some of that rich ganache shining through.

This firms up quickly, so use and decorate as soon as possible!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Baby Arrival!

I just received this update:
A baby boy was born this morning at 5:30 this morning. 3lbs 2oz., 15 in. He is doing very well. No breathing assistance was needed. Nicole even got to hold him briefly before he was taken to the NICU.
This is amazing news.

Hold him in your thoughts.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Baby Update

So many people have commented and emailed me regarding Nicole and baby....Here is today's update:
Nicole is still pregnant! She is now 29 weeks (which is so much greater than 28!) and holding on. The baby has received the steroids to develop his or her lungs, and this will definitely help. IF the baby has not come by Monday, the doctors will re-assess what needs to be done; induce if infection risk is high.
Let's hope for the best. Give us another week, baby!!

Thank you for your thoughts. KEEP THEM UP!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teach Your Children Well

My brother recently took a trip to Guatemala as a volunteer dentist, working for a clinic which serves a large number of children. He has been doing this for a few years now, leaving his four children at home in Pennsyltucky with The Mama (my SIL). But this year he decided to take his oldest son (thirteen) with him. Who could argue with that cultural experience? Surely, not even my own schoolboard.

So, my nephew and brother were eating dinner after the second night of the nephew working in 'the clothing room' while his father did his dental duties, and nephew asks;
"So Dad...picante? It means small, right?"
"Well, no, actually small is 'pequeño'. Why?"

"Oh. Well, because all day long, I have been offering '¿Los zapatos, los pantalones, grande o picante?'..and you know what? Almost every kid always chooses 'picante'!"


Best part? On the long flight home, my brother asked his son if the experience influenced his career path in any way.
He responded: I think I have a promising career in Spanish retail.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When love is all there is to give, I will come asking you for some.



HolyShit again.
I need your (yes, you. YOU! YOUR!) positive thoughts.
For my friend, Nicole, who is still, at this moment, 28 weeks pregnant.
And currently in the hospital, because her amniotic fluid started leaking yesterday.
I wish I had more details; I can't even remember what I was going to post about before I received this information this evening.
This is happening to a woman who is also an amazing photographer.
She came to visit me at the NICU (the very same one in which her baby will likely reside for some time) when I was practically living there with Elijah. (She would eat lunch with me in the hospital cafeteria so I didn't have to really 'leave'. That is a good friend.)

She took some amazing photos of Elijah while he was a NICU resident. Though the idea was intially resisted by dh, I felt the need to record each phase of his life.

no regrets.





Please use your magical powers to make it all fine for Nicole and her family.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

You meet the nicest people on vacation...

My friend's friends were lucky enough to go on a family vacation to Fiji. Her parents apparently thought it would be a good idea to take all of the extended family on the trip of a lifetime, and booked an exclusive island resort. One of the intimate variety; they shared the island with only six or seven other families. So one might say that the guests got to know each other quite well during their one or two week stay.
The friends (I'll call them Ann and her family) were quite shocked to find that they (including their young sons) were sharing the resort with a very well-endowed porn star (is that redundant?) and her family. I promised not to use any real full names here, so I shall have to come up with a suitable and synonymous pseudonym...err...Lori Delight.
It seems that Lori Delight's sad plight was overheard in lunch conversation: The poor woman has to go out of the US just for a simple breast augmentation, simply because US plastic surgeons will not 'augment' any breast (or pair of breasts) larger than a doubleG. (this blog is full of valuable information, eh?) (because I am guessing you did not know that before...)
According to a very reliable source, it also seems that if one's six year old son sees Lori Delight romping down the beach in an ineffectual bikini, he will ask his mother what is wrong with that woman? And she will scarcely be able to hide the look of alarm on her own face as she stammers out an answer.
I take it to believe that, in spite of the daily close relations with strangers, there was only one remarkable but unfortunate coincidence involving: a scuba boat, a very naked Lori Delight, and Ann's very germophobic sister. Everything else went smoothly, and a fun time was had by all. (I am pretty sure I could make some of my own fun in Fiji, but I'm just sayin'...)
And they all went home to California and everything was as it was before.











Until Ann's father told Ann's mother that the 40 year marriage was just not working out anymore. And he was sorry, but he was leaving her. And thus, Ann's parents were divorcing.

And, before he set out on His Life Alone And Without Her, he was going to visit...Lori Delight and her husband for a week or so.

Because, he said,
"They are such nice people."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Is we white trash? I so confused.


Almost every year, we have flown our entire family back east for the holidays (the expense of that flight alone? monetarily and emotionally? another post entirely). I am one of five children, and our family get-togethers with our own little offspring added to the mix is one damn good time. Seriously.
But the flying at Christmas? With small, impatient children and as much extra luggage as you can possibly fudge in there while trying to avoid extra baggage fees, since you just spent so much freaking money shipping what wouldn't fit in your airline baggage allowance. Not to mention what the expense was to order whatever gifts you possibly could online and have it all shipped there instead of here....which then should have been easy enough, right? Except that 'there' could have been his mom's house in PA, or my brother's house in PA - each house 2.5 hrs apart -so then there was the keeping track of and making sure that the correct side of the families' gifts were sent to the correct towns.
And then, after Christmas? OMG. I thought that the: bringing gifts there would=the bringing gifts home (each year I am deluded by this notion). No. So again with the shipping. I am talking multiple hundreds here. In shipping. Toys. Back and forth. One might hope that Santa would take care of this, but I am here to tell you that: NO. HE WILL NOT.
This year we are staying in California for all of the holidays. ALL OF. HERE, at the funky mountain hideaway we call home. So, burglars beware! You shall not steal our extra large warehouse-sized bag of cat food, our ten year old pure-bred siamese and whiny cat, our giant stash of crayons, OR the vodka in the freezer. Not this year. Because this year? We will be here to protect our valuables.
So I am getting just a little bit excited about being able to get our own tree! Here at our house! Not 3,000 miles away! IMAGINE!
And the decorating of that tree! With the ornaments we have collected, and those given to me by my own mom - one each year of my childhood - and so on for my own babes...
And we were talking about this decorating and tree choosing and card making and present buying...and Supergirl said to daddy:
"We don't have to put up our christmas lights...because we have them up all year."



...and i wondered...if that was a little bit too white trash more 'carnival' than i really intended for her....are we overdoing it and selling our kids out to the circus too early?...shouldn't we wait a just a few more years?...


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Luna Lemon Drop

In honor of the full moon weekend, here is my recipe for 'a few' lemon drops; and a bit of full moon lemon drop art as an added bonus:
  • Make simple syrup: 1c sugar+1c water cooked to boiling point; cooled.
  • Crush about 1/2 bag of lemon drop hard candies (I use the food processor) and pick out the large bits; pour the finer lemon candy sugar into a dish.
  • Squeeze as many lemons* as you can, and strain the juice. Measure the amount.
  • Mix in an equal amount of chilled vodka,
  • And an equal amount of simple syrup.
  • Shake this in a cocktail shaker with ice,
  • BUT, before you pour it into the glass...
  • Run a lemon slice around a martini glass and
  • Dip the rim into the lemon candy,
  • Then fill with delicious lemon drop.
*you may use any type of lemon, however I find that the best type are the ones that you are given when you are all pissy and are expected to make lemonade or something.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Beer+Cheese=Bread

Which sounded like a fine idea to me, when I first heard about it. It seemed to be all the bakingblogging rage. A few weeks ago, of course. Which now makes it...well....either already out of style, or really fucking delicious. You decide.
Personally, I have had to make the bread a few times to decide. If it was worthy.
Because the first time I made it, it disappeared so fast I could not really taste enough to give an objective opinion.
And then the next time I made it; again with the disappearing so fast.
Is it that this bread really is ambrosia, or is it that all of my friends are so fond of beer and cheese that I just never get to try enough of it?
Dude, this shit is amazing.
I messed up the recipe slightly the second time and it was BETTER, so I am recording it here:


5 cups bread flour (I love the king arthur)
2 packets yeast

12 oz. beer
12 oz. processed cheese slices; any flavor (usually this works out to 12-16 slices)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (use less salt if you have only salted butter)
8 - 12 oz. Natural (block) Swiss cheese, cubed into tiny (1/8-1/4 inch) pieces (though you could really use any type of cheese)

  • prepare two loaf pans
  • In a heavy and/or nonstick saucepan, heat the beer, American cheese, sugar, salt, and butter just until melted and blended.
  • Remove from heat, and allow the liquid to cool until it's warm. As Belinda says: "Too hot, and it will kill the yeast, too cool and the yeast won't activate."
  • Keep this wise advice in mind when making bread or yeast sponges of any kind!
  • Combine 2 cups of the bread flour with the 2 packets of yeast into your kitchenaid mixing bowl (or equivalent) and set aside. (This is also the point in which you will realize that you need a kitchenaid dough hook for christmas.)
  • Once the liquid mixture has cooled, add it to the flour and yeast mixture; mix well. Gradually add the remaining 3 cups of flour, blending by hand or mixer until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, working the Swiss cheese cubes into the dough as you knead the dough for several minutes.
  • Roll into a nice big ball and turn into a buttered bowl, coating all sides, and then let rise for an hour.
  • Turn the dough out (again) onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two portions, and then form into loaves or stretch out into a rectangle slightly bigger than the loaf pan, cut into 3 strips (leaving the top inch or so in-tact) and braid. Place these into sprayed or buttered loaf pans and let them rise again for another hour.
  • After they have risen sufficiently, *bake the loaves at 350 degrees for approximately 35-40 minutes. Cover the tops with foil for the last 15 minutes so they don't brown too much.
  • *I like to cover the top in an egg wash and sprinkle kosher salt on the top....extra yum.



Friday, November 23, 2007

Cheesiest Post Yet


My friends were driving through town today, and their five year old daughter got excited as she noticed - perhaps for the first time - that there is one very large and catholic steeple that stands out among the others in town.
Mommy! Mommy! Why is that cross so big?
Because it's a church, honey.
NO! Mommy! Why is it SO BIG?
Well, it's a big church, I guess.
No, Mommy! But WHY? Is it because it's the Jeeesiust Church?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful











Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Morbid Humor Spoiler Alert: PART II

Dh is rarely allowed to comment (not virtually; literally) on my blog. Not to say he doesn't try. He just isn't very much allowed. Because. The end.
Usually. But he wasn't satisfied with yesterday's post. Partly, because we grieve quite differently and it's hard for him to remember those things, let alone understand why on earth I would feel compelled to write about it. (as if he somehow thinks I can just self-lobotomize and not remember things? like I said; we grieve differently.)
But in yesterday's post, it was not just that.
I didn't tell the end of the story. The real end.
"But that part's not funny at all," I said.
He answered, "But it is ironic."

That, it is.

So, for those of you that skim, the joke was true. Not the actual event. No flour scoop.
The truth of the ashes is that we never actually could go to the funeral home and get them.
I was seeing a therapist friend of mine for grief counseling at the time, after trying to get by without one for the first four months following Elijah's death, clearly wasn't really working. I was in a I don't want to deal with anyfuckingbody right now 'fear-of-strangers' phase then, so the fact that she insisted I see her was not only a kind gesture, but also one that probably saved my life. This is a woman that I had already known for ten years; and during this time she had lost her husband when their son was three. My three year old daughter was experiencing grief and loss along with us, and Laura knew more about this than most people, let alone most therapists.
Laura knew that I was not going to go pick up those ashes. She knew also that dh said he would, wanted to, intended to...but really couldn't. She said it was too much to bear. She would deal with it. She was friends with the director of the funeral home. She begged him to release Elijah's ashes to her, where she would keep them safely for us until we were ready to bring them home or scatter them. He was reluctant (something to do with the law?), but with our signatures and his own compassion, he finally relented.
At my next appointment, she told me very gently that she had picked up Elijah's ashes, and would I like to hear about it?
Umm...yes? I think so?
She told me that she had been rather surprised to receive just a plain plastic box, so she had placed him (she said 'him') in her home office on a shelf next to her old baby shoes and draped a small handkerchief over the box, and had allowed her ten year old son (I had been his teacher, and he was completely informed) to put some dried lavender and a few special crystals on the top ('because he knew Teacher Gwendomama would really like that').
I did. I did like that.
The next week, I brought Laura a light blue playsilk; one that matched Elijah's eyes, the best I could remember. I asked her to put this around the box too. And thanked her for taking care of...him. She hugged me.
It was only about two months after this, that on a sunny Friday morning, Laura wasn't feeling well. She had abdominal pain, and then she died. She was 45 years old, and suddenly, she was dead from an AAA.
Which totally sucked for a lot of people, most of all her son.
It was her office-mate, another therapist, who had called us with the horrifying news.
And it was this person who I called when I suddenly realized, a few days later, that...the ASHES! Were at...Laura's house! And Laura? Was dead. And I imagined her family needed to find a box mysterious box of ashes in her house almost as much as they needed a flaming meteor in their lives. So, the office-mate therapist had to arrange with Laura's neighbor to go in and...well...retrieve the cremains.
See? Not funny at all.

But you know, there was one more detail that remained.
I had to then, finally, be the one to pick up the ashes. But I figured, how bad could it be? I was sure the therapist would just make it go as smoothly as possible. Since she was, after all, a therapist. Right?
We arranged to meet at the office. I had to have Supergirl with me when I went for the pick-up.
I introduced Supergirl, saying, "This is Supergirl, she is three. And thank you so much for handling this," I said rather cryptically and pointedly at the same time, as I reached for the paper bag in her hand. I made eye contact with the woman and glanced exaggeratedly at Supergirl, the bag, and back.
Apparently I am not as good at those silent pleading eye-messages as I thought I was.
She handed me the bag as she said, not quietly, "Here are Elijah's ashes."
Oh.

Yes, Supergirl heard.
I think I said something like, "HEY! WHO WANTS ICE CREAM?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Morbid Humor Spoiler Alert

Just saw the end? season finale of Weeds...and at the very end...when Nancy comes dashing out of the house (SPOILER ALERT!) and the cops (that she has just persuaded to let her past the barrier)) ask her where her husband's ashes are.
And she answers..."The ashes...oh...I forgot....umm....I forgot that we buried him!" and then cheerfully speeds off on her segway.
heh. heheheheh.

I am sick; because I laughed so hard it reminded me of a story that most of the internets wouldn't even find funny. But guess what? It's non-fiction, and it's (more of) my life, so if you think you won't like it, then go away now. Thank you and good-bye.

After Elijah died, we had to make a decision: burial or cremation?
Believe me, I hoped for another option, but alas! there were no other options.
Grim, eh?
That was pretty much it. We chose cremation.
(yes, it still hurts to say that. but no less than saying I have a grave to visit.)

But then there was the detail of...retrieving those ashes from the very generous funeral parlor who handled all the details. The director had been so very patient and kind with us, but after a few months, we began to get regular calls from the receptionist, who had an unfortunately grating New Jersey accent when she called us to remind us, once again (sigh), to "Puhlease come and retrieve yo-ah cremains."
Ohshit she called again, I would report to dh. And she wants me to retrieve things like a dog!
I'll deal with it, he would grumble back.
(date reminder: less than SIX months after death of child)

We would fuggettaboutit. For about three or four weeks. The she would call us again. Asking us to "Puhlease come and retrieve yo-ah cremains. Of one Elijah Brooklyn. Thankyou so much. BUH-BYE!"
Again, with the same messages. (read above; repeat a few times).

And then the messages got waaayyy more exasperated. Same words, but with attitude, and verrrry impatient.
"Ummmm....Hullos. Is this the parents of Elijah Brooklyn? Cause yous need ta come and pick up his umm...cremains...and yous really need to come and do that ASAP, ahright?? Thankz, and BUH-Bye!"

And we of course, being in a place where we felt completely competent ridiculing others but not so much 'retrieving our sons cremains', screamed in mock fear whenever their number showed up on the caller ID.
She called again. She meant business.
She said, "Hullo! I really need to hear from the parents of Elijah Brooklyn very soon, cuz they need to come and pick up they-ah cremains and they need to do it very very soon. BUH BYE!!"

Oh.
My goodness, I guess our time had run out.
No more storage room at the funeral home for our son's approximately 11 ounces of ashes.
Whoops, on our part!! No,really! My bad!

I don't remember which one of us started it, but suddenly we were in the hot-tub acting out skits (a la SecondCity) in which one of us goes in to finally 'retrieve Elijah's ashes', and New Jersey Lady is there, and she is not happy! Not one bit!
So she says something like, "Oh, yo-ah finally heeyah to pick up the cremains? Oh that's nice fah you! Yah took so lowong comin in that we have yo-ah son's cremains stored right heeyah!"
And then she reaches down to her file drawer of her desk and opens it, revealing a drawer full of ashes. (err, cremains!) She says...about eleven ounces you think?...and then she grabs a flour scoop, a paper bag and a scale and goes to town.
You get what you came for.


heh.


Really? You didn't think that was funny?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Baffling and Useless Toys

I have been searching for safe gifts. Interesting gifts. Different gifts.
In my search I have found this list of The 25 Most Baffling Toys, from Cracked.com.
Holypoop.
The funniest thing I have read while attempting to have a shopping experience. I think I may have peed myself a tiny bit.
I cannot entirely steal their post, but if anything, my commentary on the list should send you bouncing along right over there immediately.
So, I have definitely seen (#19) the poo-flinging plastic toy toilet at Daiso*.
The poo jokes from Japan seem to get a bit stale, so I didn't pick one up when I saw it. But I wish I had seen the 'Benign Girl' cell phone. (#10) That is the one that had me giggling in my sleep. She sounds so friendly and obliging. And non-malignant.
Sadly, Bandai no longer makes #25, the God-Jesus Robot, which is a shame, because that really would have made my holiday shopping a snap (so many he it could have served with his eternal knowledge).
# 23 and 24? They both just really scare me. 'nuf said.
#20 seems to be (read on through the comments section) the item that everyone wants. Including myself. Who wouldn't? If I ever see one, I will get a bushel and a peck.
#6 we have; the folkmanis fairy's expression has always stuck me as a bit dimwitted, but I hadn't really taken it that far...
#3 Please, seriously? I had heard about it but thought it had to be a joke. Errr...it is a joke, isn't it? Nope. I like how the stripper pole comes with two pink garters and fake bills. Slumber party material, that.
#2; A gun that shoots teddy bears. Wow. Goes into the 'wish I had thought of that' category.

And here is my very own contribution to 'most baffling toys':



Right up there with 'The Wild Swan', this was found in the toy section of * Daiso, a Japanese 'dollar' ($1.50+up) store.
This is a set of fake balloon breasts. They may not look like much in the box, but that is because the ladies are restricted by their packaging. IF you (according to the package):
  1. put them under your shirt,
  2. then squeeze them,
  3. then wow! what amazing fake breasts you have! WOW!



There are so many useless toys to give this year, it is really up to you.
A plushy soft 'Poop Hat', one-time giant latex boobies, or...............?




Sunday, November 18, 2007

I guess this one doesn't really need an intro

Dear Principal of Supergirl's School;

I recently received a letter from you concerning Supergirl's attendance at school.
While I thank you for your concern, I not only dispute the accuracy of the statement, '6 days tardy', but also the validity of the classification as 'tardy', rather than 'excusable partial days'. Is there no such existence of an 'excusable partial day'?
On only one occasion, Supergirl was 'tardy' within the definition as shown below. On any other occasion that she arrived at school late (or missing more than 30 minutes of instruction), she came to school with a note from a parent, describing (what I would consider to be) an excusable absence.

"EC Section 48260 (a): Any pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without a valid excuse three full days or tardy or absent more than any 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof, is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the school district" [source]

Your letter states that I am, as her parent, responsible for her attendance in school. My daughter is six years old, and it is my first responsibility to see that she is healthy, well cared-for, and prepared in a physical and mental state that is appropriate for an educational setting. There have been many days when I have needed to make a decision as a responsible parent, whether or not my daughter meets this criteria for her attendance at school.
If she has had a mysterious fever on a Saturday, and by Monday morning I am not immediately sure of her recovery status and am concerned also about the spread of germs; but by 10:30am, she is 'acting fine' and clearly ready for school, then should I not send her to school with this information, but instead keep her home? If she has had any cause (common nightmares, screaming toddler-brother) for a notable disruption her sleep, and I am unwilling to reduce her necessary hours of sleep by waking her to send her to school on time but in a tired and compromised state, then should I keep her home and notify the school that she is unwell enough to attend school for the entire school day?

I am aware that, if any student has absences which are not considered 'excused absences' according to California Education Code, the school loses funding for that child.
While this is not something I am treating lightly, my obligation is to my child's well-being and in facilitating an appropriate state of mind for learning to occur.

If there is no appropriate label for an excusable partial-day absence, then it seems to me that the school serves itself first, while doing a disservice to a student that could otherwise be attending school.

I want you to reconsider my child's 'status of tardiness' and revise this in some manner that we will both find acceptable.
I would also appreciate a more concise policy on partial-day absences.

Thank you.

The Gwendomama





(can you say 'homeschooling' faster than 'bullshit'?)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

All I want for Christmas is a toy I can lick without going into a coma!

Before this year, my priorities in toy-buying were more along the lines of: educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and tolerable.
But this year, like most families, and like most mama-bloggers I know, the Without Fail, Number One Priority is: Safety.
As in: We would love to have some toys that the acts of 'playing with' or 'licking' (in some cases) don't cause long or short-term effects, such as:
"IQ deficits, learning disabilities.., behavioral problems, stunted or slowed growth, and impaired hearing. At increasingly high levels of exposure, a child may suffer kidney damage, become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning has been associated with a significantly increased high-school dropout rate, as well as increases in juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior."

HOLY BATSHIT, George and Thomas!
Yer aSendin Mah Babeez to Jooovey!
There are many rants I could take with this one, but other bloggers are doing a far better job researching and posting.

What I recommend EVERYONE do for themselves this holiday season, before you hand those toys over to the children you love, is to order a lead-test kit.
And test anything made in China.
That's the best advice I could possibly give.
This picture? Is of a piece of candy from Supergirl's Halloween stash. Looked cool. Too cool. Bones with lollipops on the ends of them? Made in? China.
So I tested the lollipop. I can't give conclusive results because it could have possibly been the food dye that turned the swab to it's yellowish, lead-readable indicator. But maybe not, right? I tested two lollies. They both turned yellow-brownish, which, according to the instructions, usually indicates the presence of lead.
Would I take a chance and let my kids suck on one of those?

Would you?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sometimes a Meme is better than a poor review.

Well, I went to play tonight that I had hoped to write all happy-like about, but it was so not exciting in comparison to their productions of the past two years, that....well...this is better reading:

Seeing that I was unofficially tagged by Tricia (who I love for her disclaimer among other worshipable qualities such as parenting eight children) for this '4 things' meme, and seeing that it is NaBloPoMo, well....

4 Jobs I’ve Had:
  1. nanny
  2. receptionist for real estate company in Cambridge, MA.
  3. intern in the playroom at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  4. teacher



4 Movies I Loved:

  1. The 40 Year Old Virgin
  2. Little Miss Sunshine
  3. Pan's Labyrinth
  4. Elvira Madigan


4 TV Shows I Watch:
  1. Arrested Development (no longer on)
  2. Sons and Daughters (ditto, boohoo)
  3. Weeds
  4. Big Love

4 Websites I visit Daily:

  1. Huffington Post
  2. Daily Kos
  3. NoAppropriateBehavior (makes me laugh almost every day)
  4. CelebrityBabyBlog (but only to find the always obvious and always-there typos and send them free editing tips) (not deserving of link)


4 Places I’ve Been:
  1. Switzerland
  2. Bermuda
  3. to hell and back
  4. Hawaii


4 Foods I Love:

  1. homemade bread
  2. beer (does that count?)
  3. chocolate
  4. deep-fried artichoke hearts


4 Places I’d Rather Be:
  1. Big Island
  2. Kauai
  3. Moloka'i
  4. Maui


4 Blogs, just cuz:
  1. JoyUnexpected
  2. Cameron'sCorner
  3. MotherhoodUncensored
  4. TheAdventuresOfLeelo (and his potty-mouth mom)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I am one depressing Mofo.

Maybe I get pissy about this at this time of year because November always reminds me of asshat-neurologist month. It's hard to wipe an experience like that from your memory. I was trying to save this for Grudge Tuesday, but this NaBloPoMo has completely messed up my rhythm (of being quite lazy about posting and finding it easy to save grudges for Tuesday) and you know what else? I started Grudge Tuesday, so if I want it to be Grudge Thursday this week, then nyah, nyah, nyah! It's my baby who died, so I think I get to get pissed whenever I want.

So, I only told half of the story last year. It would have been too shocking to post it all at once.
If you're too lazy to follow the link to the actual story, then here is the short version:


  • We had horrible experience with even more horrible Neurologist, Dr. Asshat.

  • We decided to lie about Elijah's age so people would perhaps react to him with less shock and more love.

  • We went to Kauai because we all needed a vacation from the life-sucking very stressful childrens hospital circuit of: Questions/Tests/No Answers/Repeat.
We were having a great time in Kauai - it was just what we all needed. We tested our 'Lie About His Age' policy and had great results, with everyone remarking on what a beautiful little three month old baby he was, "What bright eyes!! So ALERT!!" rather than everyone reacting in shock to his true age. (Can you imagine? Having to lie about a baby's age?)


THIS GORGEOUS BABY?:





On one of our last days there, we were staying on the less-familiar south shore and the surf was too high to do anything beachy with the babies, so we decided to go check out the kabillion-acre pools and lagoons at the nearby legendary resort. As we were strolling the lovely gardens and drooling at the multi-level pools, I thought I recognized a friend-of-friend strolling towards us with her family (her husband and their two very lovely and typically-developing children). We both did a double-take and then exchanged hellos, reminding each other who our friend in common was (Marla!!) and why we recognized each other 3000 miles from home (how crazy is that?!), after we all got over the shock of the moment. We finished our walk around the gardens chatting together, and ended up taking the elevator up to the parking lot together as well. Another woman got in the elevator and asked Elijah's name and age - the usual tiny baby small talk.
And I quickly said, "Three months," as I had been lying for ten days already. Then I glanced over at the friend-of-friend; (ohshit) she was frowning slightly and counting months on her fingers, no doubt trying to remember when it was that Marla had made me that new baby meal and bragged to her neighbors (including, of course, f-o-f) about sniffing his new sweet head after he had finally come home from the NICU. (small town, this little mountain) DAMN!
After the stranger got off the elevator, the doors closed and it was just us again. I looked at f-o-f skeptically, and then for some reason began babbling like a brook;
"Umm...I know you know he is not three months. But we have been through so much...everyone asks....we...err....we all just needed a vacation...ummm....so we..ummm.....aren't telling anyone that he is actually eight months old right now." And I force-smiled, suddenly understanding the expression, 'smiled wanly'. And I kissed the top of my pretty little baby's head, which I kept within convenient reach with his baby carrier for those kissing emergencies.
And we said goodbye and that was that.






Right?


Because really, who needed any more? This was our vacation and these people were nearly strangers!




But wait! There is more.



Marla wanted to talk to me when we got home. Because her neighbor, f-o-f, had gotten home a couple of days before we had. And it seems they had talked.
(It was then, or it should have been and I would like to remember it this way; that I remembered why I myself was not friends with f-o-f- she was a notorious gossip and shit-stirrer on our small mountain.)
F-o-f had called her right away upon her return. She told Marla that she had run into us in Kauai - imagine! She also said that she was terribly concerned for our baby. Why? Well, it seems she did have a reason...it was that f-o-f felt that:
"There is something terribly wrong with their baby, and they don't even seem to be taking it seriously. I am terribly concerned. The parents are just not getting it. Was wondering what you know about them because I was considering calling Child Protective Services."





~~:blink:~~





~~:gulp:~~





Again, I love a quick review:

  • Terribly Concerned
  • For our baby.
  • That she had never met before this whole...incident...that seemed to have shaken her so badly.
  • Parents (that's me!) 'not getting it'.
  • Perhaps this warranted a call to CPS....(for what? They took their poor little retarded baby to Hawaii, lied about his age, and should be investigated for...neglect???)

Yes, this is what I lived for real. FOR REAL, PEOPLE.

What did I do? Well, I ranted and raved a whole hellofalot about it. Which was: Very Useful, as anyone could imagine. And I wanted so badly to invite this bitch woman along on our next trip to Useless Children's Hospital or one of our many many therapy appointments, so that she could see for herself, the actual amount of hours that we put into neglecting our baby Elijah. But I was too busy, so I didn't.
These days, I actually have to deal with this woman almost daily. She is still a notorious shit-stirrer. I have kept my distance over the years, but it has been hard. Very hard to not go with my impulse to want to 'fuck her up' (verbally, of course! I am non-violent in my revenge fantasies!), especially considering that this is the very same person who was overheard by a friend of mine stirring up some shit at a party just a few months after Elijah died (I will give her six, but I think it was less). Someone mentioned my name...and shit-stirrer drunkenly blurted out:
"She's so depressing! That chick can bring you the fuck down! Stay away from her!"

small fucking mountain.

Yeah, I know it was four years ago, but what do you think I am, some sort of benevolent saint? No, man:

I will bring you the fuck down.

(New tagline?)




Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Supergirl Rocks it Again ('it', being, my world)

Today I had a parent-teacher conference with Supergirl's first grade teacher. It is that time of year, isn't it?
I have to admit, I had many a few reservations about this teacher. She was not very nice (last year) to a dear friend's dear child, she has been known to give some more-negative-than-positive reports in general, she was reported by my daughter last year (adjoining classrooms) as being 'yelly'. (verbatim)
I have been volunteering in the classroom weekly, helping with reading, writing, and...cooking! I have witnessed this teacher have a good sense of humor and be very warm this year, so that helped ease any fears I had from last year.
So, Supergirl's report card? Would you like to know?
Last year at this time, dh and I came home from the 1st kindergarten conference, elated that the teacher was 'very pleased' with our daughter, but soon dh got 'very pissed' at the report card as he realized that not one 'E' (for excellence) had been issued.
I assured him that Mrs. K just 'did not give out E's' in the first semester.
I wish he had been there this afternoon when I was told that Supergirl is, essentially, fabulous and perfect in every way.
Okay, was I paraphrasing there? Hardly at all, I promise you.
Check it:
Listens attentively? 3+ (out of 4, dude)
Reading, writing, math? 3 or 3+, and some E's (for EXCELLENT)
Social studies, science? 3's and E's
Visual an dperforming arts, PE? 3+ and E's
Work habits, study skills, homework, social development? S (Satisfactory; on schedule) and E's.

Things to work on? She tends to work v e r y... s l o w l y (or feel free to use the word methodically) on her tasks and projects. She loves to do the drawing part of her writing pages (they do a lot of books in their class) and will often lose herself in the allotted time on her detailed pictures, and only have time to write one sentence, when she was asked to write three.
So does she really listen? I had to ask the teacher.
Oh yes, she does. Does she really clean up that well at school? REALLY? REALLLLLLLLY????? (do you see my eyeballs uncomfortably projected from their sockets? she did too!)
Yes! She does! She also gets along with everybody and helps them too! - Said her teacher, who apparently adores her.
She did notice me trying to hide the tears, and she said, "Wouldn't you rather find out that your child is well behaved in public than find out that you thought she was well behaved but was actually not?"
Well, okay. I suppose it's true. That must somehow make up for all the BULLSHIT testing she puts me through at home, after she's been the perfect child at school all day.
So, I am so impressed with the reading progress that she has made since September (the silent e making the long vowel sound? ohyeah, that was me) (the awesome 'reading voice: a voice that wants to be listened to? that? was her teacher!) and the math leaps and bounds (oh did I mention that I got a wee bit chastised for not telling the teacher that, at the beginning of the year, Supergirl hated math! - my coping technique was to 'downplay it'...she did not like!) ....I couldn't really think of too many questions.
But when I realized that everything with my sassy little six year old was super-perfect, and I only had another ten minute in my time slot, I knew I had to use it wisely.
"HOW", I asked, "Do I get her to work neatly and yet more efficiently, as we both know that she is very slow and methodical in her work? Do I sacrifice quality for more quantity?"
And do you know what her teacher said?
She said:
"Supergirl is not daydreaming. She takes her time because she has an idea that she has come up with, and she needs to focus on that. When she goes to task, she looks around her, gathers her thoughts, takes a deep breath, and then looks down, working hard (if slowly) until she is done. She is not daydreaming. She is processing. She watches groups of children play at recess before she decides to join a group (and then is accepted, apparently). How can I take that away from her? She will learn how to compensate. But I am not going to take that process away from her."

I nearly wept. In the good way.

My daughter? She rocks.






Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I love that girl

A friend asked Supergirl a question about a baby picture she saw in her room: "Is that Elijah or Bubbles?"
Supergirl answered, "That is Elijah."
Her friend responded sensitively, "Oh, I'm sorry. It is probably too sad to talk about it. Is it too sad to talk about it? I'm sorry."
Supergirl said, "Well, of course it makes us sad. Because he died and that is sad. But talking about him makes us happy because we like to remember him too."



(If you had asked me? What would I want her to be able to say in that situation? She broke the mold of perfection on that one.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bubbles' ThankYou Note (It's important to start early with the manners)

This is the actual note I am sending out to those who attended Bubbles' Big Two - I think I have represented him accurately:


Hi Seeeeteeeeee!
('Hi, Sweetie!')

WAOWWW!
('Wow! Is that for me?'...I said when I saw that you came!)

DGRAARRRRRRROOOOOOAR. Flubbit.
('Rooaarr!!!!! Thanks for the gift! I Love It!')

TO-Kay! Nuzzhjhah dsay.
('Okay! I think it's awesome that you could come and celebrate my birthday with me this year, hope you liked the cake, and it was rare jamming with you! Let's do it again next year!') (yes, I am pretty damn sure that's what he said, and if you don't believe me then ask him yourself)

y, Tay Oh!
('and'-yes, somehow he speaks spanish sí, de algún modo él habla español-'Thank You!')

Bahbahy Seeeeteeeee!
('Bye-bye, sweetie!)

Zuzzuuvah.
('Love, Bubbles')

Sunday, November 11, 2007

GOOD GIFTS! Not Bad, GOOD!


A looooong time ago, I received an email from a woman named Candace; she wanted to offer me a free CD from her company, Name Your Tune, which offers customized CDs with your child's name sung up to eighty times throughout the CD. I guess word got out that I am not only a music teacher, but one who also is a blogger. I mentioned that I had two children, and she offered to put both of their names on one CD, alternating names per song.
When I told her my childrens' names, she said that they had my son's name (which is unusual but not unheard of), but not my daughter's name (which is highly unusual and we have yet to run into another child with the same name). Of course, because I am a bit hot-tempered at times and apparently this was one of them, I shot back a smarmy email about being a 'customized CD offer' and all marketing lies...
...And then felt really stupid when Candace emailed me back again and said that they added new names to their song roster every three months, and she would contact me after they had added Supergirl's name, which would be in about three months (as they had just completed a recording).

I promptly forgot about it.

And then, just days before our trip to Hawaii in September, a package arrived in the mail. It was a CD - a customized CD claiming to have both of my childrens' names sung repeatedly! Their names were even printed right on the CD! And I was trying to pack and Bubbles was pining away for his sister who was at a playdate, and I needed a distraction!

I put the CD on, and as soon as "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands!! If you're Bubbles and you know it clap your hands!!" came on, he stopped his insta-music-matic body groove and pointed to the CD player! "DAT!", he shouted, frozen in the pose of a toddler in awe.
Again and again he heard his name and actually 'got it'.

Supergirl didn't hear the CD until we were in our rental car leaving the airport, and she got an ear to ear grin when she heard her name sung.
If your child is named Emma or Dylan, then you can find stuff with their name on it everywhere. Not to minimize the effect of hearing your name sung if it is Emma or Dylan, but if it is Supergirl or Bubbles? Besides hating your mother for naming you that You never ever find stuff with your name on it! So to hear her name sung in a recorded song, even at age six, was a sweet thrill for Supergirl.
If your child does not have one of the three thousand names already recorded, you can send your child's very special name and/or pronunciation to them and they will make it for you. Really.

I expected to hear a distinct seam between the dubbed in name and the rest of the song, but unless you listen to it 50 times AND have a well- trained ear, you won't hear it, because when the singer records your child's name, he or she sings the entire phrase, and that is what is inserted into the recording - not just the name.

Admittedly, since I teach music, I hear a lot of it, and there are about three songs on this CD that make my ears hurt and make me ask the question again, 'Why the simpering? WHY?', But the majority of the songs are not only appealing to my children, but also tolerable for me.

And to watch them grin when they hear their name sung?

Worth it.
Not to mention, they have a bunch of other handmade and lead-free gifts! My niece is waiting for one of these.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Don't Buy Tremendous Toys From Crappy Companies

Since this is the season that we are all looking for LEAD FREE TOYS (and free shipping), I must share with you a little online toy-buying story.
Back in July, Supergirl decided that she was done with Polly forever and moving on to Playmobil. Which was largely inspired by the dawn of Playmobil Fantasy - ::UNICORNS!!!:: So I ordered her a set for her birthday. From Kazoo Toys. And someone from that company called my phone number and left a message that they were out of stock of that particular toy. I assumed that was that. But that is because I did not pay close attention to my credit card bill. When I did, I noticed that I was still charged for the toy (that they didn't actually have in stock to send me). I called and was assured that I would be credited. In October, a full three months after I had placed this order, imagine my surprise when I received a Playmobil Unicorn Fantasy Land in the mail!
And the credit? Had never been issued.
I emailed the customer service, and received no response.
I called Kazoo Toys again, and told them the story. The woman with whom I spoke (Kiff was her name, if you care) told me that they would send me a label to send it back, but until they received the item, they would not issue me a refund (for a toy that I had ordered THREE MONTHS AGO and OF WHICH THEY WERE OUT OF STOCK).
After they had received the package, then I would need to call them back and give them my credit card number again so that they could credit me.

What? Fuckwit? What was that? Let's review:

  • You didn't have what I ordered
  • Even though your website did not mention that little 'out of stock' fact
  • But you charged me for it anyway
  • You sent it 3 months later
  • You now want me to go to UPS and mail it
  • And then call you back AGAIN!
  • And give you my credit card number again? After you were so careful with it the first time??
  • Ummm, NO!

And then, after WEEKS of waiting for your stupid shipping label that you never actually sent, and after sending emails back and forth that defy the actual PHRASE, 'Customer Service', you told me to, AND I QUOTE, "Take it up with your credit card company."

You, my dear lead-laden (OH! not anymore!) toy swindling company, can lick my linty navel.

And YOU, my dear readers, should take this as a good 'DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU' warning when you are shopping for toys this season. Go somewhere else.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Shiny Loud Tractor With a Squishy Softy Inside

My little boy is a textbook two year old boy. Textbook, almost cliche', even, except for (or especially because of, according to the 67 knowledgable people who 'wouldn't worry') his speech delay. He is full of energy: he is rambunctious... He is curious: he is 'into' everything...He is easily frustrated: has been known to throw things and occasionally hit....He is physically coordinated and quick: he will dart into the street if not prevented....He is newly aware of himself in the world: he likes to say NO....He is very mama-centric and affectionate and still nurses occasionally: he is a 'mama's boy'....I have three brothers, and I have had two sons, I have one husband, and I have just realized that I? Don't know much about The Boys. I thought I did, but it turns out, No. Terribly wrong and much to learn.
Bubbles is my second son, but Elijah never made it to two, and if he had, I seriously doubt there would have been much that was terrible about his behavior!
When Supergirl was this age, she was, well...incredibly well behaved?? The kind of thing you just don't brag about, really. It doesn't help make mommy-friends, but it will get you a table in a restaurant. When she acted naughty or extra-curious in an inappropriate setting, she was almost always responsive to the first course of discipline - remove from situation. And in the case of my brother's wedding, when she kept whining for 'juuuuice, juuuuuuuice, juuuuuuuuuice!' at the most quiet moments during their very long ceremony, I have to say....pretty much the juice solved it. She was 23MONTHS old, people; not even two. And I had her three month old baby brother draped over my shoulder and sopping breastpads. Oh, the memories. Was I going somewhere with this?
Bubs. He is two. Very two. He has been practicing for his role 'in' Two for a few months, so he is really more than ready to take it on, but there are some things I just don't get. They are special little things that make him himself, and I am afraid I am not riding the same train as that boy.

I mentioned that, a few weeks ago, he pushed a little girl in music class (I am the teacher; this is not ideal), and I held him firmly and said in a sing-song voice (am teaching music class, right?) "Hands are not for hurting, you can't push Lilac!", and went back to leading the class. Bubbles stood there crying so hard; I mean really like those cartoon tears you see spraying out of the corners of eyes. And I was slightly annoyed (at his logic? hello?) and slightly interrupted, but the parents handled it with gracious tolerance, but I could tell that his crying was coming from a place I had not heard in this situation before....he sounded wounded, somehow. But I was ticked off at him for hitting Lilac and then being so disruptive, so I ignored it. (****Another Great Mothering Moment****)

Noticing that I had been shaking my head in disbelief and giving the whole 'I don't get him' look, one particularly astute mom asked me if I had read this book. I have not, and perhaps I should have ordered it right away.
Today I had the pleasure of taking a detour from my commute home from teaching, swinging by the spanking new BlogHer office to pick up my dearie Jenijen for a lunch date. Luckily there weren't too many people in there yet because afore-mentioned two year old son of mine tore around on their conveniently laid-out toddler running track (ooh - not the intention of the office planners?...my bad...sorry) before we could whisk her away without fanfare. With Bubbles? Always the fanfare. He literally ran smack into Elisa, who, on top of being NICE!, tolerated his overt gestures kindly and took her niceness to the next level when she commented that I looked...well...so much thinner than when we had met!!! Of course instead of just thanking her for the compliment (is that? a compliment?), I blurted out something about being all lactating then and hardly that much at all now, it not being anything special I was doing, etc....justshutupalready,self!
Then, we whisked Jen away on a fun-filled Redwood City adventure; one in which neither of us knew exactly where we were going, and I swear we drove around in a spiral before we came to our lunch destination, the diner. Which was perfect for cheeseburgers and that's what I was after. We even swooped right into a free parking spot right across the street!

So, back to Bubbles, and I was going to come full circle with this in case you wondered, he was post-naptime and sleepy, and today it seemed to be working in our favor with his mellowness. He was flirting with Jen, charming the waitress, playing with his basket of toys, happy to take a turn in the highchair, and very happy to have some of Mama's lemon water - with a straw! We were actually getting some quality chatting in. See?? My typical two year old can occasionally be mellow and hang out too! See!!
Jen asked if she could take some pics of him for her photography class, and he was being all hammy with a side of bacon. Everything was fine and agreeable. See??




And then he took a sip of water and knocked the very large glass off of the table. The staff was completely nice about it - no fuss, just smiling as I apologized; Jen and I laughed a little bit about it...and the glass didn't even break.
But my little boy was crushed. He climbed out of the high chair and into my arms faster than I could even catch him (he was airborne for a second) and then buried his head into my shoulder. And there he remained, while he sobbed heavily, deeply embarrassed or something. I know some children are sensitive about these things from the start, but mine? Not. This was new. I looked helplessly at Jen, we shrugged in our unanimous disbelief. After awhile, the deep and painful sobs stopped and he was able to enjoy some cheeseburger and fries. But I have been puzzled all day by that new display of conscience. Anyone?

On another note, that free parking space in downtown Redwood City? Not free at all. Turns out, due to strategically placed signs behind vehicles, the city makes a great deal of revenue by making it appear as though the parking is free, but ohno! It is NOT! It will cost you about $25 in a parking ticket. Which, if you are lucky, your dearie friend will swipe from your dashboard when you are not looking and insist upon paying. Lucky?
Dude, lucky doesn't even cover it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Actual Conversation I Had Just Today

'Nuzdeh. Aya. Nuujjo. Dat.'

What? You want what? I don't think so, no chocolate right now.

'Nahnahnahnah! NUUjo!'

No, Sweetie. No chocolate.

'HI SEEEDDEEEEE!'

Hi, Sweetie you. No. Chocolate. Now.

'Wahda. Nujjuh.'

What? That? No. No vitamins either.

'NNUUUJJJHH!'

Get off the cat right now, and take that straw out of your ear!

'Nahnanananana.'

Don't you tell me NOnononono! Bubbles - get back here! take the straw OUT OF YOUR EAR BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR EYE OUT WITH THAT THING!!!!


yes, I just said that.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I've named my belly rolls after my children

I heard a story recently that I just can not stop thinking about. When I heard it, I howled with laughter. Then I thought about it a little bit and it made me sad. And then it made me incredibly angry. And then it made me just a teensy weensy bit judgmental. And then it made me laugh again. And it starts all over.
A friend was out of town at a gathering, talking with some other moms, the subject of mothers' groups came up, and of course it seems everyone has something to add to that topic (for instance, my mothers' group when Supergirl was an infant, had 10 girls and one little boy -see?).
Some mothers' groups are professionally organized and are fond of things like guest speakers. Others are more low-key, calling themselves 'baby group', meeting for shared muffins, coffee and toys at rotating houses. Mine was one of the latter type.

So, one of the mothers at this gathering mentioned that she had arranged for a plastic surgeon to come and speak at her mothers' group.
(gulp)
It was at this point in the story that I became incredulous and demanded to know if my friend was making this up. She was not. So then I just laughed. And felt uncomfortable. You know the rest of the cycle.
Ummm....why? I had to ask.
"Well, there was a lot of talk of tummy tucks...boob jobs...the usual, I guess."
The usual?
(gulp)

Okay, I live in an affluent area, I am surrounded by mothers who are able to live far more extravagant lives than my family, but I know I am not alone within the women of this area, of my mothers/babies group, in finding that a little bit....well...shocking? insulting? degrading? unbelievable? inappropriate? demeaning? and yes, laughable.
I can not think of one mom in my group that would ever have
A) invited a plastic surgeon to our group, or
B) tolerated the invitation of one by another mother in the group.

Actually, I know that the area of California in which I live is a bit of a liberal bubble, and where these moms live is...well...different...but seriously? That would have been a sure fire way to get your ass (tightened and lifted ass, of course) kicked right out of baby group. Right after we angrily shook our fists at our babies for cursing us with such saggy breasts and muffin tops!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Slightly Homophonic

Last week in my weekly music class of pre-keyboarders (ages 5-7), a few children were getting a little out of hand with their drums. I wondered what on earth I was doing teaching 8 children at once I took that opportunity to remind them that they really wanted to play keyboards, but in this group class, if we could not master being respectful and following instructions with drums and dances, then what would it be like if we had children going nuts on four keyboards at once?
One bright child answered, "Chaos!"
I agreed, thanked him for sharing that very useful vocabulary word, and then I taught them all a word for 'noise chaos': Caucauphony.
By the end of class, I asked them, "What do we want?"
"KEYBOARDS!", they shouted (as they are apparently incapable of using lower decibels in this after-school class).
"What do we NOT want?"
"A CAUCAUPHONY!!!!", they shouted, even more loudly (noted irony).

In two weeks, I will let them loose on the keyboards. If they can stop banging their damn really expensive drums with their damn very active feet. Scratch that; reverse the strikes.

So today, after a particularly fabulous drumming session, after which I praised them highly for their great attentiveness and rhythm skills, I asked them;
"What do we want?"
"KEYBOARDS!", they, of course, shouted.
"What do we NOT want?"
"...mmaaa...aaa...mmm..ccrsssssssss....ummm....crss..umm....", I heard......
"A SARCOPHAGUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!" shouted Jason.

"Ummm...well...we certainly DON'T want a SARCOPHAGUS, so I guess that's right....but umm...well...anyone?"

I'm alone in a big world of smart kids out there, dudes.
I am scared.
And not just of the caucauphony. Or the damn sarcophagus.
Okay, maybe a little bit of each.

Monday, November 05, 2007

How to get your children to eat vegetables without buying a book.

The Boss of Seattle took one of her three sons to the ER last night, for what she was certain was acute appendicitits. They were at the zoo, viewing the snakes, when her ten year old doubled over in gut pain. Snakes make my tummy hurt too, but this appeared to be way more serious. He couldn't throw up, burp, poop or fart, and The Boss became more concerned. They went home, he took a long nap and then woke up literally crooked with pain, clutching his right side. Still, no emissions.
After a few hours in the ER, including tests and x-rays that showed nothing to be apparently wrong with him, they were sent back home. But not before a long, heartwarming talk with the attending physician, who filled The Boss in on a variety of fatal illness that her son could have had (but didn't!), and named a number of horribly painful ways he could have died (but didnt!), and then basically finally got to her point, which was that she was extremely glad that The Boss had brought her son in to the ER, as his mysterious symptoms could have pointed to something serious. But luckily and thank goodness, they didn't and it wasn't.
Before they went home, The Boss offered to the doctor, her own diagnosis:
"I think it's a severe case of candyitis."
The doctor thoughtfully agreed. (it wasn't that hard; there was a lot of it going around last week).
Tonight, The Boss's son wants nothing to do with the rest of his halloween candy. He did, however, eat some chard with his dinner.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Partying with two year olds

Bubbles had the most fabulous party for himself yesterday! That two year old knows how to party. When the mommies in class on Friday asked where he was, I explained that the day before had been his birthday, and since I had to run errands after class for his party on Saturday, he decided to stay home with the daddy and play with their his 'brand new' (ebay) collection of matchbox cars. When they asked what 'kind' of party we were having for him, I answered, "The kind at which tri-tip and lemon drops are served! And cake! Of course, I make a cake!"
The reactions were hilarious. Some were surprised. Some were wishing they had been invited, and some were taking notes for their toddler's next shindig.
I continued, "We mountain people don't understand you city folk with your renting of bounce houses and barney appearances! I've got a lot of crayons, two swingsets, a zip line and some juice boxes - come on over and party!"
This got a few laughs, but truthfully? The 'cultural differences' between these communities (where I often work and where I live) only 60 miles apart are astonishing, if not always funny. I could go on and on about how many families I see that have an air about them (if not mantra with which they are raising their children) that oozes entitlement; seriously believing that money can and will buy them (their child) anything. But I'll stop there with my gross generalizations and keep this nice.
There is a part of me that believes (and also shared with these mommies) that, until a child is old enough to actually make requests about his party, then it is pretty much a celebration of survival for the parents, and should be arranged as such.
This does not mean that I did not want to celebrate my son's birthday for him. Of course we did! And we had all of his favorite things there - he doesn't give a crap about having a birthday party with pony rides or hired entertainment. The cake was chocolate, with chocolate frosting. He generally loves (though did not eat one bite last night of) steak. Daddy set up a pumpkin patch with haybales and giant pumpkins in the yard (one truck + party after halloween + abandoned pumpkin patch = party decorations!), dumped new sand in the sand pile (bad kitty!) for the new construction vehicles, and we invited our friends (with whom we like to spend time) with Bubbles' favorite toddlers in tow. We were fortunate enough to have two talented guitar players present, and they played the most engaging repertoire of folksongs, velvet underground and grateful dead while the kids jammed along with drums and other percussion instruments that my career enables me to have on hand in great amounts!
Bubbles loves a good jam session. He would actually stop in between songs and look up at the guitar player and wait for his cue, then he would join in, carefully seeking out the rhythm, and would almost always find it right away! He has definitely benefited from the 'over-exposure' to music classes as mama's tagalong. I suppose I may have to start preparing for life as the mama of a 'moody musician'...

Do we know how to throw a party? I would say it was the perfect commingling of adult fun and childrens' fun.