Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Card Reveal

I've received feedback from several of my card recipients, so I know the Post Office did their job OK this year. Thanks Postal Workers! So for the curious, here is the results of a day of photo searching, a day of playing with elves, a day of Photoshoppery and ordering, and a day of label making/sticking/envelope licking:



My Christmas Elves
Add in the fancy border, mom and pop elves (cartoony) and the wishes for a Happy Holiday on the side and voila...here it is! Thanks to Walmart for doing such a nice job on the finished card. I just wish they sent nicer envelopes, but I do get the whole "keep costs low" and "use recycled materials" thing. Maybe next year the boys will cooperate with my whole "Let's get dressed up and pose for a Christmas Photo like loving brothers!" thing. *snort*

On another topic... My annual pre-Christmas anxiety has set in with a vengeance. Every year I stress. Am I really done with my shopping? Did I forget any one? Did I buy enough to cover Santa's butt? I fear it looking cheap and skimpy under the tree. I know. I really AM grateful that we have a home and a tree and the ability to put something under it. We are blessed. Telling myself these things helps a bit, but I am still waking up multiple times at night in a sweat. That's why my FaceBook pals are seeing me on at such odd hours. Heh heh.

Oh crud, I am watching a commercial for Sobakawa pillows. The boys both asked for one this year. Darn these dumb "As Seen on TV" products. A couple years ago it was those stupid Snuggies. Both boys got one, wore them once, and I've never seen them again. Idiotic backwards robes. "Wearable Blankets" my butt. *grumbles* But shoot! I didn't get the cheezy pillows. I have a feeling they will be super uncomfortable and a total waste of money. Let's hope the interest in this magic pillow has faded. I'm not adding them to my shopping list. Not gonna do it.

No! Not gonna call your 800 number. Not going to your website. No no no!

Shoot...why do these commercials have to be so compelling?!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Santa

Tyler caught me by surprise the other day. We were driving in the Mom Mobile on our way to Wendy's for Tyler's favorite after-school snack. We were talking about Max's visit with Santa the weekend before and Tyler kept mentioning how all the "mall santas" were fake. Then he suddenly blurts out "Plus I think it's Mom and Dad doing all the work. I don't think Santa really comes to our house..."  Ouch.

If Max hadn't been in the car I probably would have had a frank discussion on that topic, but because Max WAS in the car I had to do some fast shuckin' and jivin'. I decided to take that opportunity to drive home one very important point. Santa isn't FREE anymore. I told the boys that 100s of years ago, the elves made all the toys by hand and Santa gave away all those neat wooden boats and wagons for free to all the good little boys and girls who believed in him.

Then the modern age arrived with machine made toys created in factories. Over time, the little boys and girls wanted the slick new toys they saw in the store windows and not the home crafted things Santa made in his workshop. So Santa had to make some changes. He was happy to bring those shiny machine made toys and put them under the tree, but he would need some help. Those toys cost money, so parent started including cash along with the plates of cookies and glasses of milk to help Santa offset his overhead.

The world's population grew and demand for modern toys at Christmas grew right along with it. Santa needed more time and money to get ready for his Christmas deliveries. So Santa modernized. He got himself a computer, email, a website...everything he needed to take orders all year long, process credit cards, upgrade his sleigh, and so on.  So Santa was happy to stay in business, the kids were happy with their video games, skateboards and bikes, and Mom's and Dad's...well...they tried to keep the bills from getting too crazy.

Tyler nodded his head in understanding. Then said..."Can we set up a hidden camera on Christmas Eve? I want to SEE Santa come down the chimney."

Yeah. I am working on that one now.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Christmas Card 2011

I've been toying with ideas for this year's Christmas card. I wanted to do something clever this year. Turning all of us into elves with that JibJab tool I posted yesterday on FaceBook may give a clue to what I was looking for, but it wasn't perfect. I couldn't do a clean screen capture and they want $80 to make all the cards I need for my list. Yeah. $80 is INSANE!

So I dusted off Photoshop and set out to turn us into elves myself. After various iterations, I determined that I make a really hideous elf. The boys look adorable (including John) but I can't send a card with just them and leave me out. People might wonder where the Mommy elf went. So I decided to just elf the kids. No one really wants to see us old farts anyway, right?

So I slept on it and looked at my work again today. I still like it, so I'm running with it. I'm debating whether to post my efforts here or just make you all wait until you receive your cards...

...

Yeah. I'm making you wait. *insert evil grin*

Watch us all dance as elves!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Growing Pains and Growing Older

26 degrees out. If I could feel my face I'd be blushing. Never been late bringing Tyler to school before.  This is just a couple days after getting a warning letter from his school (addressed to all parents) about chronic tardiness. I gave him a 20 minute warning. Then 10. Then 5. When I said "Time to go!" he said "But I'm not dressed yet!" *sigh*

We need to make some serious changes to the morning routine again. I used to have a "no video games or computer" rule but let that slide because he was waking up at DAWN and had nothing to do but pester us for hours before it was really time to wake up. LOL!  Allow computer time to buy me 30 or more minutes of sleep? You bet your sweet bippy! Maybe the new rule should be no computer or video games until he is fully dressed? Hmm. That might work. I'll have to get him to lay out his clothes on his desk chair the night before. He's not going to like new rules. But it will save our sanity just a little on these cold, dark mornings.

Now...how do I get a stubborn 10 year old to wear a winter coat, hat and gloves?! 26 degrees out and he grabs a sheep fleece lined hoodie. That's it. He flat out refused to put on anything else. Good gravy, I hope they don't send the kids outside today.

Speaking of 10 year olds - technically he doesn't turn 10 until tomorrow, but here is a slightly early birthday montage to remind us of how far he has come:

SlideShow

Happy Birthday son! I love you heaps and bunches!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Overheard in the other room...

Some nights you hear something that just makes this whole parenting experience really worth while. I was puttering in the kitchen when I heard Max and Tyler talking in the next room. Max had asked for help with a computer game that turned out to have a lot of text prompts. His reading level is still pretty basic and he was struggling to understand what he needed to do in the game. Tyler very patiently started helping Max sound out the bigger words and identify letter combinations. Tyler even explained what a contraction was (in the case of you're meaning you are.)

I quietly listened to their conversation and was completely impressed with how well Tyler was doing in explaining things to Max. Toward the end of the interaction, Tyler was having Max attempt to read the prompts on his own by sounding them out. Ty would correct his errors and have him repeat back the phrases again to reinforce the words Max learned. I'm so proud of my boys!

This memory will help save my sanity the next time they are fighting like cats and dogs. Ha!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Costume Dilemma

So...when I thought both boys were going to dress up as Angry Birds for Halloween, I laughed and was pleased. Then Max changed his mind to a train from Chuggington. Ok.  Not as cool, but if it makes him happy. Now he tells me he wants to be Strawberry Shortcake. Um. Ok. Now I am flashing back to last Halloween and the mom who blogged about her 5 year old son dressing in a "girl" costume (Daphne from Scooby Doo) and all the flack she got from other moms at his school. I want Max to express himself in any way he likes. I have no problem with him dressing as Strawberry Shortcake. He loves the cartoon. Every girl in his class is a "him" in casual conversation - he hasn't made a full distinction between the sexes yet.

If he thinks his choice to dress as Strawberry Shortcake is just as valid as a bird, a train, or a video game character named Mario...who am I to disagree?  I don't have a problem with long pink hair. He will look totally adorable. I just worry a tiny bit about what his preschool classmates will say. I worry a bit more about what his teachers might say. I worry a LOT about what random neighborhood kids out trick-or-treating will say. I worry most about what parents who answer the door Halloween night will say. If they call Max a little girl, he will correct them. He knows that fact well enough. Will they have the tact and good grace to just say sorry! and give him some candy? Or will they take the opportunity to lecture my poor husband about gender identity or yell at him for making his son "gay" or some crap?

I can hope that my town will rise to the occasion and just keep their opinions to themselves. I can just hear about the rumors at the next HSA meeting (kinda like a PTA, for those who wonder.)  I can trust that they won't ruin Halloween for an impressionable 5 year old who sees nothing wrong with dressing as his favorite cartoon character. I can hope.

He might change his mind again by the time we hit the store this weekend. We shall see.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Max Turns 5

Just a few months ago I was reflecting on Max being 4. Where does the time go? Today he turned 5 years old. Next year he will start Kindergarten. Having both boys attending the same school will be so odd! In a weird way, it will seem like Max is catching up to Tyler (he is always trying to do that.)

Max will tell you he's had a great day today. Fall theme cupcakes at school (he still has orange frosting around his mouth) and a pile of gifts to open when he got home. Nana and Grampy watched the gift opening via Skype.  He had a mini party with his Grandma Lois yesterday and a family party with Red Lobster tonight (and cake!). He loves the Cars 2 race track he got from mommy and daddy (with Mater and Prof. Z from Tyler), new clothes from Nana and Grampy plus yet another race car (that works with the new track...my mom has ESP), added to the presents he received from Grandma Lois yesterday - coloring book, puzzle, Thomas pillow, talking Gordon train, and a hand made Angry Birds hat (she is a crochet genius!) he is in hog heaven right now.

The hat is a total scream!  I was shopping for party ideas on Etsy a couple weeks ago (Max wants an Angry Birds theme) and he spotted a crocheted bird hat and went bonkers. I sent the link to Grandma Lois and she was able to whip out a close approximation in no time flat! Max dances with glee every time he puts the hat on. It's a riot! See for yourself:

He is over the moon. And I haven't even finished planning his friend party yet! I wanted to give him time to get to know his new classmates. It's hard having a birthday so close to the start of the school year. I think we are doing a costume party Halloween weekend. Save the date peeps!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dream Man

I don't remember much about the incident, but I do recall the well built man in the mall security uniform. He was observing me closely, and when it was all over he grinned at me and said, "I admire your perspicacity. That merchant was clearly duplicitous in a most surreptitious way." The way he spoke made me fairly swoon! I felt that spike of emotion like being kissed by your high school crush for the first time. Wow! What a man!

Then I woke up. After wiping the sweat from my brow, I started to giggle. What the heck what THAT all about??? Just the moment I document above is all I can recall, but it has stayed with me all day today. Just keep this in mind, boys...never underestimate the power of a great vocabulary. And uniforms.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Power of Pharmacology

Pharmacology[fahr-muh-kol-uh-jee] noun
the science dealing with the preparation, uses, and especially the effects of drugs.

I've been pretty heavily medicated for the past couple days. I had a massive infection in my throat that affected the lymph nodes in my neck on the left side. The swelling was unreal and seriously painful.  Luckily, my wonderful husband pushed me to see a doctor. I was ready to cancel the appointment because I didn't feel safe driving and he came to my rescue. He drop all his work stuff and rearrange his schedule just to get me where I needed to go. Shh...don't tell him, but I love him more than he could ever know.

The doctor put me on an antibiotic instantly. Then, as almost an afterthought, he decided to give me a script for Prednisone too (for the swelling.)  I could feel my anxiety kick in immediately.  I've know a few people who have taken steroids for various illnesses and I have some memories of the side-effects. To be perfectly honest, I have a paranoia about serious pharmaceuticals. At various times in the past, doctors have given me assorted scripts to sample and see if they helped with health problems. I would fill them, take the little sacks full of pill bottles home, read the warnings and potential side effects and be too scared to take the meds.

Yep. They may have helped, but I was so freaked out by what might go wrong, I couldn't take the risk.

What did I do this time? I didn't look at the sheets that came with my prescriptions at all. OK, that sounds even worse. But I knew if I read the sheet for Prednisone, I wouldn't take it. I am sure of that. I just did what the doctor told me. Take with food, 3 doses a day for 2 days, 2 a day for 2 days and then 1 a day for 2 days.

Day 3 and I am feeling pretty darn good! Better that I have felt in a really long time. I am starting to realize that the steroid is having more far reaching effects than just the swelling in my neck. I have swelling in a LOT of other places on a daily basis. It's all gone. My hands, wrists, knees, back, hips...I've been in so much pain for so long, it feels odd to be able to stand up without having to supress a cry of agony.  I also have a new pain in a weird spot on my lower back. Not sure what that's about. Probably internal swelling from my ongoing female issues going away and my internal organs rearranging themselves again. Things shifting and falling into new positions. I hope when all the swelling comes back in a few days, that this new arrangement works out ok for me. Could get interesting.

So now I am thinking about reading the sheet with the side effects just to see if I would have freaked out. I'm curious, ok?  I'm also sad that these benefits will only last for a couple more days. I know long term steroid use just isn't feasible. They go from being good to being bad for you. Liver damage and stuff, if I remember correctly. Remember, I haven't read the warnings yet. I'm just babbling from memory.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy feeling better. If the hurricane (Irene) didn't have us stranded at home, I might actually feel up to going somewhere and doing something fun.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fasionista?

No one would ever mistake me for anyone with any kind of "style" or fashion sense.  Seriously.  If it's made of cotton and will survive my washer and dryer intact, I'll wear it.  Tyler is the same way. If it has the word "sweat" in the name, he is a fan.  Max, on the other hand, cares about what he wears.  He isn't rolling his eyes at me yet when I lay out his clothes, but I can see it coming. He will smile at me, shake his head, sometimes say "Oh Mommy..." with that tone that says "You are hopeless but I still love you..." and will dig through his basket of clean clothes for something entirely different.

So yesterday morning my Mother gave me a call. She'd been shopping for back-to-school clothes for Max. (She may have bought some for Tyler too, but she wasn't as excited to tell me all about this latest sweat suit I guess.)  She spent at least 30 minutes telling me all about the adorable outfits from Baby Gap but she was particularly excited about this puffy vest. I think I can picture what she was talking about, but let's see if the website has it:

OK. Based on her gushing, I think this must be it. Cute, right? I'm sure the shirt and pants she got to go with it really make the outfit. Will it get the Max seal of approval? Gosh, I hope so. My mom will be crushed if he doesn't like her taste. heh heh. Max is lucky he has his Nana. They can go shopping together!

Now we come to the part where I talk about what is REALLY on my mind.  If you are a long time reader of my blog (back to the AOL days) you know I had a lot of trouble with bullies in my youth. One thing they used to love to pick on me about was my fashion sense. Back then, I didn't buy my own clothes, my mother did. Because I was growing so fast, she couldn't see spending top dollar on trendy things. My back-to-school shopping was done at TJ Maxx, Sears, Marshalls...yadda yadda. I was the "Kmart Blue Light Special" girl from way way back.

Did I want those trendy things? Oh yes. With every fiber of my being. Why? Because a lot of the other girls wore them and I wanted to fit in. Desperately. I sort of wanted to be noticed by boys too, even if the idea scared me to death. Long story short, until I put my foot down and started shopping for myself with my own money, I was stuck.

Having been stuck in the fashion zero hell of my middle school years, I am now highly sensitized on certain issues. Do I think Max is going to get comments about the fleet being in port or that his new vest looks like a life preserver from his fellow pre-schoolers? Probably not. Four year olds don't roll that way, generally. (Anyone get that Back To The Future movie reference there? Anyone?) I do, however, have my worries for when Max is older.

I've seen a LOT of TV commercials lately with various stores advertising their back-to-school clothing lines. Kmart's ads in particular have been standing out for me. Kick me if I'm wrong, but I think the clothes in their ads are super cute!  So here is my question...if you DO buy your kids clothes from Walmart or Kmart, do they feel the need to keep it a secret?  Does this bargain mart shame only strike the girls or do the middle school or high school boys also feel the pain?  Does anyone care anymore where the clothes come from or is it a regional thing?  Maybe in school where you have a broader ratio of rich vs. poor?

I think most folks in our town are in the same general socio-economic class. We shop Walmart without shame and occasionally splurge at the mall after the tax return comes back. But there isn't really anyone around here I would classify as "rich" or "snobby". Not that I have met, so far. Sure I know a couple of the Moms watched Sex in the City and Project Runway so they speak "Prada" with some authority. They have designer purses that cost more than my whole wardrobe. But they aren't snobby about it. Not to my face. And they have nice kids. Kids that don't strike me as being the ones to one day cut Tyler down for wearing his favorite holey sweat pants.

Am I worried over nothing? Maybe. I am certainly starting to worry too soon. I tend to do that a lot. Max is only 4. His Christmas wish list is already 12 pages long on Amazon, so you can tell we haven't instilled in him the realities of our limited income yet (Santa doesn't deliver toys for free anymore kids, not since his toy biz went global.)  The reality is, maybe he can get one outfit from Abercrombie, but the bulk will be from Kmart or Walmart.  I hope my little fashionista can accept that cruel reality and make the best of it.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sexism and the Star Trek Universe (Jim Kirk on the Rag?)

I've been amusing myself the last few weeks re-watching the entire original Star Trek series from start to finish.  To my shock, I actually found a couple episodes I'd never seen before. Maybe, in syndication, the TV powers-that-be decided those were the lowest rated and not worthy of being repeats? Or, more likely, they contained material deemed too controversial to air to young audiences. (I recall watching reruns of Star Trek at some early evening hour...like 5pm, right before dinner.)

I just finished watching the final episode of the series, Turnabout Intruder (Season 3, episode 24).  Wow. I think I now know why I'd never seen THAT episode before. What a buttload of sexist and misogynistic crap.  I have a deep affection for Gene Roddenberry because I love all things Star Trek and his over-all vision for the future, but he really gave this fan girl a slap in the face with his Freaky Friday tale.

Not horrible as a story line, but the execution was just plain awful. Kirk is forced into an alien device that causes him to switch bodies with an old lover who has deep resentment against Star Fleet for their rules against women being in command of star ships (not to mention her hatred of just being female - transgendered? I wonder.)  In defense of Gene, in the 1960s this was a political hotbutton topic...women in the military.  My Dad served in the Air Force so I had a lot of exposure to military life back then. And male-dominated attitudes.

In the early to mid-60s, women weren't allowed to rise above a certain rank and were not allowed to take on many jobs, even if they were technically qualified, because the job was considered too masculine. Women were given "women's work" in the Military. WACs (Women's Army Corps) and WAFs (Women in the Air Force) were not given any combat or weapons training, taught to apply lipstick and nail polish correctly so it would match the red color of the braid on uniform hats, and generally relegated to position with little power or influence.

Thankfully, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 in 1967. This lifted restrictions on military grade/promotions and gave women in military service more rights. But real change didn't arrive until 1976 when women were accepted into the military and treated much the same as the men. WAF/WAC was abolished. Even the US Air Force Academy began accepting females...but before this blog entry becomes a major history lesson, back to the topic at hand.

Mr. Roddenberry would most likely have been aware of the new Public Law (Star Trek originally aired from 1966-1969.) It sure did make a lot of waves! So, why then, did he envision a future where women were still barred from command? Worse yet, Bill Shatner's portrayal of Jim Kirk as a woman in a man's body was rife with sterotypes from the era. Women as hyper-emotional and unable to react well in stressful situations. Like all women were hormonal messes, perpetually suffering from PMS and unable to make command decisions. Hell, why didn't Lady Kirk just direct the Enterprise into a space telephone pole? Women are such bad drivers too, right?  Ack!

While Gene made some strides in the fight against racial predjudice on the show (I will always love his integrated and ethnically diverse vision of the command deck,) he really struck out on the women's rights issue. It saddens me that this was also the series' finale episode. What a weak way to end such a visionary TV program.

I'll leave you with a quote from the Armed Services Committee of the 1967 US House of Representatives:

"...there cannot be complete equality between men and women in the matter of military careers. The stern demands of combat, sea duty, and other types of assignments directly related to combat are not placed upon women in our society. The Defense Department assured the committee that there would be no attempt to remove restrictions on the kind of military duties women will be expected to perform. ...It is recognized that a male officer in arriving at the point where he may be considered for general and flag rank passes through a crucible to which the woman officer is not subjected—such as combat, long tours at sea, and other dangers and isolations."

Looks like Gene agreed with the military men's club at that time and doomed women in the 23rd century to the lower ranks, mini-skirts, and go-go boots. Yes, I supposed he could have been playing devil's advocate in making his female ship's captain wannabe such an emotional wreck and a bad example for all women everywhere. Then I see the women in uniform and remember what a GUY he was. *wink*

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Max at 4

I've been lost in deep thoughts for the last couple days.  I went back and read some entries in my blog from years ago. Before I discovered FaceBook, I spent all my free time writing in here.  Many of those entries had to do with Tyler and parenting...which I guess made this a sort of Mommy blog.  I never intended it to be that way, but when you write about your life and 85% of it is raising your children, the Mommy influence is inevitable.

One of the more negative side effects to the time sucking vortex that is FaceBook is that I tend to post my thoughts in short wall updates rather than take the time to flesh things out here.  I need to see if I can capture all those status updates in some form and save them for posterity.  One thing I love about my early entries in my blog is I managed to capture a lot of Tyler's early childhood.  I think it will be fun for him to one day go back and read all my thoughts and memories from when he was a baby/toddler.  Sadly, Max won't find the same treasure trove of writing about him.  His life moments have been captured more like a series of Tweets and photos.

Max is 4.  I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on the last few months.  This has been a fun age with Max. It's like he is made of solid joy and energy. It takes a lot to get him down. He loves music and dancing. He can spend hours replaying his favorite songs and making up dances. Luckily he has a wide range of musical tastes. Along with Laurie Berkner, the Freshbeats, Strawberry Shortcake, and other kid fare, he also loves club music (dance remixes), and classic rock. The variety goes a long way toward saving my sanity. I feel sorry for those parents who are forced to listen to Barney 24/7. Ouch.

His regular dance style most closely resembles hip hop, but he surprises me at times. I caught him copying Angelina Ballerina one day. He stopped when he saw me watching. Maybe it was my eyes tearing up at how amazing he was. He was doing basic ballet positions like he was born to it. I have this almost overwhelming urge to enroll him in dance classes, but when I ask him, he looks thoughtful for a moment then tells me no thanks. I won't give up, but I won't push. Having been pushed in my own childhood and how that sucked the joy out of all the things I loved, I just can't go down that path.  I'm still sad I gave up my own dancing and violin playing so early in life.

Max often tells me he wants to play an instrument too. It changes from day to day, but the one most consistently mentioned is drums. He also favors keyboards and wind instruments. So far, he doesn't have much interest in anything with strings, but we did have fun making a rubber band banjo one day. Today he told me he wants to start a band when he'd older. He already has his drummer and guitarist picked out (pre-school classmates). I hope Aris and Brooke are into it. Ha! He tells me he will sing and play keyboard. He really is so much fun. It pains me when he and his brother fight.

Tyler and Max are so different.  Tyler is more deeply emotional, into all things computer, and moody.  Max's chronic sunshine really seems to bother Tyler at times.  It's like vampires and sunlight. Max shines and Tyler cringes like it burns him. As a result, Tyler spends a lot of time trying to break Max down. He tries to rain on his parade, so to speak. Can a party boy and a chronic party pooper co-exist under the same roof? Time will tell. I think I am in for a very bumpy ride.

Then there are the times when they get along swimmingly. They play together - board games, video games, or just a playful wrestle on the floor. For a brief shining moment I have hopes that they will become the best of friends...then someone gets hurt. It's usually accidental, but a poke in the eye is still a poke in the eye. Tyler doesn't forgive easily and once Max is crying, he wants to stay crying.  The drama can be overwhelming. It brings me right back to my own childhood and the rather complex relationship I had with my little brother.

We had our moments. We got along really well at times. Then there were the times we didn't. Like Tyler, I was the deeply thoughtful and moody child and my brother was full of energy and constant mischief. He loved to play jokes and tease. I blame my father for the teasing part. We were also nearly 5 years apart in age. I see a lot of similarities between Tyler and myself and Max and his Uncle Mike. A very complicated sibling dynamic with personality types as different as night and day. So fun.

I will try and keep the peace without turning into a screaming harpy like my poor overtaxed Mother used to.  But enough about that. Back to Max.

I don't know if he will remember being 4 years old. I have a few memories from that age, but I think most people don't really remember back that far. He had a great year in pre-school. His teacher was Miss Mel (Melanie) and she was marvelous. Young, patient, energetic, cute as a button, petite and blond - the perfect blend for teaching kids this age. Max learned so much from her. I know he is going to miss her. You can see Max's musical tribute video to Miss Mel over on my YouTube page. That was 100% his idea. I just filmed him and added titles. OK, the blooper reel at the end was my idea. But the outtakes were just too funny not to share.

So other than mentioning that Max has expressed a desire to stay this age and size forever, I think I covered all my thoughts for now. If only I could keep him my sweet little 4 year old. I won't spoil his plans to stay as he is by telling him everyone has to grow up sometime (Tyler will do that for me at some point.)

I'll just continue to gently encourage him to keep dancing, doing his gymnastics and playing his music. Maybe he will try a class one day soon. He is only 4. No need to rush him into growing up too fast.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blogging My 3am Flash of Hindsight

It's funny the things that come to mind at 3am when you wake all hot, feverish and coughing.  I think I was having one of my frequent "work" nightmares.  Yes, even after being semi-retired for 10 years, I still have dreams about work.

This time, rather than a nightmare about being late for a meeting , parking my car in a rush and realizing I am only wearing my underwear - I had a rather insightful thought.  Roughly 10 years ago to the day, I was tasked with presenting to several high level AT&T executives about Spyware/Malware.  I was a newly promoted B level manager working in a new group doing web development.  I was one of the few "techies" in our group. Most came from other backgrounds, like Marketing.

Naturally, given my background and having personally fought in the war against Spyware, my presentation took the tact that Spy/Malware was BAD. Very bad. Evil, evil, bad, naughty spyware.

It just occurred to me, 10 years later, at 3am, in my feverish delirium, that those executives asked for a presentation on Spyware because they wanted to know if AT&T could USE it to track consumer buying trends and whatnot.  Duh. 

It's funny what years of maturity, a healthy dose of corporate cynicism, and a fevered brain will make you realize. Makes me glad I'm a Mom now and not a corporate tool. Just imagine if they'd tasked me to implement the use of some kind of spyware. At least I can hold my head up high safe in the knowledge that I never compromised my own ideals. Ha!  My over active subconscious mind can put that in its pipe and smoke it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Love of Books

I've had PSAs telling me for many years now that reading to my kids would foster a love of books and reading. Know what? They were right! (Not that I really needed a PSA to tell me to read to my kids. I would do it anyway.) We have more children's books in this house than toys. Easily! And that is saying a lot, because these boys have more toys than a Toys R Us.

While it's really obvious that my boys love books, it's not always apparent to me that they love books because of my efforts. Last night I had a small bit of tangible evidence that made me smile. Tyler and I have been reading the Harry Potter series together for over a year now. We are on book six and I will be really sorry when this Mommy and Ty time comes to an end. Sure, there are many other book series we can read together, but how much longer is he going to WANT me to read him stories? He is going on 10 years old now.

Last night Tyler asked if we could have a Harry Potter slumber party. He wanted me to read to him until he passed out. I wasn't allowed to stop reading until he was fast asleep.  After two chapters, I could see his eyes getting heavy. Suddenly, as I read some dialog that spanned a page, I realized too late that I was using the wrong voice.  I didn't think Tyler would notice. Really, did he even notice that I used a different voice for each character?

"Mom...that was Mr. Weasley talking. You used Mrs. Weasley's voice."  Wow. He not only noticed, but he recognizes the characters simply by voice. It WAS Mrs. Weasley's voice I was using. I smiled and acknowledged the screw up and continued reading.

It may seem like a small thing, but I've worked hard to develop a voice for each character in the Harry Potter universe. Many of them are based on the accents and voices from the movies. In defense of my own creativity, however, I'd like to point out that I've been using these voices in my own head since I read book one...long before the first movie came out.  Am I the only one who reads dialog in character in my own head? To the credit of the actors that portray these beloved characters, they do a nice job of bringing the voices to life. Many of them sound just like I've always imagined they would sound. :)

Yes, a small thing. But I am still smiling about it. You should hear my Lord Voldemort voice. Seriously creepy! (He sounds more like the evil Emperor from Star Wars than the H.P. movie version, but I think it fits.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Consumer Watchdog: Chocolate

Let me start by saying I love chocolate. It's been a passion since I was a child. There are certain treats I remember fondly and even though I don't eat them on a regular basis, every now and then I will indulge.  One by one, these cherished childhood treats have let me down. Well, really, it's the manufacturers.

When did it become OK to replace sugar with high fructose corn syrup and cocoa butter with hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. I know they are cheaper and more shelf stable. But they don't TASTE the same. Not only that, but they are even worse for you, health wise, than the natural ingredients.

Then there is the underhanded way these manufacturers are trying to put one over on the public. How? They shrink the size of the product, wrap it in the same size packaging and charge us the same price. Snickers, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, etc. They have all shrunk over the years. The ingredients have changed. Now, finally, it's reached the point where I no longer like the taste. The ratios are wrong and they taste artificial and waxy.

So I switched brand loyalty a number of years ago. I started eating certain imported and specialty brands of chocolate. Until THEY sold out. One sold their brand name to a US based chocolate maker so that company could make and sell their products. What did Hershey do to my decadent Cadbury chocolate? They started making it with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.  Did the taste change? Hell yes, it did! Not to mention the downsizing of my beloved creme eggs. Boo Hershey!

My focus hovered around Godiva, Lindt and Ghirardelli chocolates. Good stuff! I was super pleased when Lindt bought Ghirardelli in 1998. Better than being run by Quaker. I'm not super fond of giant food conglomerates buying up my favorite snack food start-ups and then changing the recipes to suit their high-volume, cheap focused policies (remember SmartFoods?! The formerly yummy cheesy popcorn treat is forever ruined for me.)

When my local supermarket started carrying Lindt and Ghirardelli products on their shelves, I was thrilled. At first. Easy access to something that used to only be found in upscale department stores or by mail order? Yes! But wait... Why does this Ghirardelli square taste odd? It doesn't send me into chocolate bliss. Not like my first taste in San Francisco back in the late 90s. Oh no!  High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils?!

Even my beloved Godiva - Belgian, expensive, pretentious... they now use partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil. Ick.

So now I am on a search for a new chocolate company. One that CARES about what goes into their products. I don't mind if I have to pay $5 a bar or more. You hear me chocolate manufacturers??? Spoil me! Make a decadent treat with all natural ingredients that costs me an arm and a leg to buy. I don't care! It's worth it!  I want to let that little square melt on my tongue and taste the jungles of central America. Not artificial flavors and fake fats. Even better? Made with guaranteed Fair Trade ingredients. No child or slave labor! Ever! You hear me Africa?

Yes we American's love our chocolate. But I bet a lot of us would give it up if we knew who was picking the beans and how much of the natural rain forest was cut down to make room for cacao plantations using unhealthy growing practices. It's pretty ugly.

Now I should rant about tuna. Well...I guess I'll save that for my next episode.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sweet!

Life handed me a sack full of lemons...so we made lemonade! Really, it was the husband with the lemons (at the insistence of my youngest.) He learned fast how hard it is to squeeze lemons by hand.

Mistake #1 was storing the lemons in the fridge overnight. Brr! Not good for the arthritis or sensitive little hands. #2 was misplacing the hand juicer (and the food processor.) Found the little hand juicer when there were 3 lemons left to squeeze. Max didn't want to try the new twist and squeeze method and just watched me like a hawk.  #3 was thinking sugar packets would be a good way to control the amount of empty calories we dumped into our mixture. Watching your 4 year old rip open and dump packet after packet can raise the blood pressure to unsafe levels. Not to mention making the walk through the kitchen feel rather gritty. I promise I fished all the paper scraps out of the jug.

The sugar packets, really, were a mixed blessing. Some of us like our lemonade on the sour side (Max), some like it medium sweet (Tyler), and some just a tad sweeter still (John and I).  So the jug in the fridge is super sour. Ready for ice and more sugar.

Want some lemonade? Nothing like fresh squeezed. Enjoy it now. This little experiment in kitchen science won't happen again any time soon. Heh heh.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dysgraphia

It's a scary word, but the more research I do the more I realize that it FITS. Motor dysgraphia. That's what the child development folks at Ty's school suspect. We've know for a while now that something was going on with him. He has been growing increasingly frustrated with school and the stress has been eating at him. This year the problems have really started to manifest. Add in some trouble with bullies and poor Tyler has been a total wreck.

It's been hard. Every parent wants (or should want) what is best for their child. For them to be healthy, happy, educated and well adjusted. Sometimes reaching those goals is a challenge. Lord knows I have some friends who found out early on that their parenting path was going to be bumpy. Parenting is hard enough without having extra problems heaped on. But they have faced their challenges with grace and have become strong advocates for their kids' well being.  I hope we can follow their example.

We have a long way to go yet. Doctors, testing, referrals, therapy and so on. I am just praying for strength and guidance. The universe has a way of doing me a solid when I need it. I've been lucky that way. Now I just have to get past the guilt. Making poor Tyler write things over and over...trying to get him to be neater. I just cry when I think about how difficult it's been for him and how he couldn't TELL us. He didn't know how to explain. He didn't know why tying shoes and doing buttons was so hard. Why he was so clumsy and always falling down and ripping his pants. *sigh*

Back to doing my homework. Knowledge is power, I always say.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Darn phones!

I have a love/hate relationship with the telephone. OK, really it's more of a hate/hate relationship. I'd rather just send an email, thanks. But seriously...the phone woke me up again this morning. I gazed bleary eyed at the caller ID and saw the word "school" so I immediately answered.  We've been exchanging emails with Tyler's teacher a lot, lately. His grades have slipped since his regular teacher returned from maternity leave. I'd heard from other Mom's that she was pretty tough and didn't tolerate nonsense in her classroom. Since Tyler is about 80% nonsense, we figured we were in for a bumpy ride.

Ty responds better to a gentle touch and easy-going spirit. He gets super defensive when anyone in authority gets confrontational with him. He is all about truth and fair play. Don't blame him for something he doesn't think is his fault or he will totally shut down on you. Especially if you yell. He will do what you ask, as long as you are specific about HOW and how long he has to finish. He needs a bit of flexibility and clear directions. Stern and strict really rubs him the wrong way. Yeah. I don't see a military career any time in his future. :)

But I digress...again. I assumed the call was about Tyler. Nope! This time is was Max's school calling. His teacher wants to meet with us tomorrow about some "concerns" she has. Oh boy.  John and I brainstormed back and forth this afternoon about what THIS is about. Maybe Max has been showing off his wide array of potty mouth phrases he learned from his big brother. Not swears! Things like "Well, you are a big poop head!  Oh yeah? Well, I just threw pee and poop in your face!" and so on. *cringe* I know. Typical of just about any just turned 9 boy.  Not so much the sweet little just turned 4 year olds.

Or maybe it's Max's abundance of energy. I don't think he's bouncing off the walls at school...but who knows.  His lack of snow clothes?  His teacher sent home a notice a couple weeks ago asking us to send in snow pants, boots, gloves, hat, mittens, etc. so the kids could play in the snow at recess. Cool! But...Max only has one pair of snow pants with matching thermal mittens. And only one pair of snow boots. I can't leave his gear at school. He wants to play in the snow at home too. And I can't send them to school if they are wet. We can't afford another set of gear just for 20 minutes of fun at pre-K a couple times a week.

Maybe it's not that. He's got the same speech thing Tyler had at his age. Can't say his "th" and "sh" sounds. And when he says "funky" it sounds like...well...never mind. But it seems a little soon for speech therapy. Most kids have that lispy thing at this age. So, maybe not. Is it his alphabet? He can sing his letters, no prob. But he can't read them all just yet. Tyler was into Alphabet books at this age and had his letters down cold. Max prefers books about hugs and kisses from cuddly animals or books about kids who stall their bedtime.

I know we should just stop speculating and wait until tomorrow, but this kind of thing totally freaks me out. We already have a meeting with Tyler's teacher set for next week. Now Max's teacher too?! I wasn't prepared for that. Max is such a sweetie. Cooperative, helpful, up beat, affectionate...what could it be?! *sigh*

I could use some prayers/lucky vibes that it's nothing serious. Positive thoughts. Positive thoughts.

Now, if I could just figure out what the HECK that dream was about. I was having it when the phone rang this morning.  I was visiting with a former boss. He was boxing up his office. He was being forced to retire and wasn't happy about it. I was sympathetic and had some brilliant insights. Something about having an office with a door instead of a cubicle and the impermanence of a cube. How his grand kids could see where Grandpa used to work... but here's the thing. This boss was Kelsey Grammer. Yeah, the actor. No, I never worked for him in reality.

His office building entrance opened into a broad atrium that then connected to a swanky mall. I walked across into the mall, around a large water feature, and into a VERY long line for ice cream. In the line with me was my Great Aunt Evie and Grandma Madelyn. They've been dead for many years but I still think about them often. Super great ladies. They were babysitting a little girl around 3 years old. My little girl. At one point, she took a toy truck and drove it into the water feature. Then walked in after it. The water was over her head, so I reached in and grabbed her by the head to lift her out of the water. She smiled at me...no crying or coughing. It was obvious she was completely unaffected by the water. I remember thinking in the dream "but I don't have a little girl. I have 2 boys."

People were cutting the line and making me angry. When it was our turn for ice cream, my little girl wanted vanilla with this crazy hodge-podge of mix-ins. I was a little worried about her age and the dangers of frozen gummi-bears. Then I asked for the same mix-ins with chocolate ice cream. The girl gave me this tiny tiny little cup thing - is was like a plastic ball, slightly squashed with a circular opening. It was called a "licker" cup. I was really annoyed by how little ice cream was in it and how expensive it was. Plus frozen gummi-bears really ARE gross.

Oh yes, and my great aunt was wearing this sailor style suit with a hat just like the Stay Puff'd marshmallow man. Navy blue and white. Someone in line made a snide comment like "ahoy sailor" and saluted her. I shot him a dirty look.

So you can see how confused and muddled I was when I answered the phone. What on earth did THAT mean. LOL