Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Naked Superheroes

Awhile back M. and I were talking about Superheroes. Stuff like who would beat who if they weren't both good guys, who has the cooler powers, whose powers we'd like to have, etc. At some point in the conversation, I mentioned Clark Kent using a phone booth to change into his Superman clothes. "What's a phone booth?" my little one asked, perplexed. What do you mean, what's a phone booth? Those little places that have public phones. "What's a public phone?" Thanks to technology my children have never seen a phone booth and, even more scary, they have no concept of one.

To say this freaked me out just a tad is an understatement. What else from my personal history is totally gone from their world? What will their children be giving them blank looks about someday? I took it upon myself to search for a phone booth so M. could see one. And you know what? There aren't any. They just disappeared when we weren't looking. You'd think there would have been some notice in the papers or a few signs posted. Sure, there are little kiosk-type things at Thruway exits and at a few gas stations, but all true, Superman-approved phone booths have been wiped off the face of the earth. The closest I could come was to show him a photo online of a red telephone box in London with the caveat that ours weren't as pretty as that. Even after all that, he still doesn't get it.

So, the official story is that the Justice League is up there orbiting earth in the Watchtower to keep a better eye on things and protect us as a team. But the real reason is that they just had no place to change clothes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Autumn Has Arrived

How do you gauge the arrival of autumn? Back-to-school? Football? Halloween and Thanksgiving advertisements? Do you wait for the calendar's proclamation of "first day of"? Perhaps you check the trees for color changes or the temperatures for sweater weather.
Those are all good, but in our house (ok, it's really just me) this is how I know autumn has finally arrived. I did a little dance right there in Wegman's this morning. Happy happy happy. Since it's a seasonal item, I have this undeniable urge to stock up. What if they stop making it and I'm ciderless all winter? I did manage to stop myself at 3 boxes this week. D. even laughed when he helped me bring in the bags, "oh, it must be fall! You've got your fix again!" Sometimes it's those little things that make all the difference.

But I can't talk to you anymore because the microwave is beeping...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Obsession, you are my Obsession...

I just got the way fun issue of Scrapbook Play. One of the prompts is to do a page about one of your obsessions. Great idea! But which one? Over the years, there have been the celebrity obsessions (Shaun Cassidy, Adrian Paul), the food obsessions (Oregon Chai Cider, Nutella, Cadbury Dairy Milk -- why haven't I got an exercise obsession to go with this?), the tv show obsessions (Highlander, Dark Knight, Days of our Lives), the book/author obsessions (Margaret George, Maeve Binchy, Diana Gabaldon), the hobby obsession (cross stitch, crazy quilting, scrapbooking), the shoe obsession, and so on and so forth. But I think I have to go with the big one, the one that started it all:

When I was 11 or 12 I had a huge crush on the Bay City Rollers. They were five guys from Scotland doing remakes of "Bye Bye Baby" and "Saturday Night" (though I didn't know they were remakes at the time). I loved to hear them talk even though I only understood about one word in ten. I subscribed to Tiger Beat magazine to read all about them. I bought all their albums, including the special order European releases. I hung posters (from Tiger Beat) on every square inch of my half of the bedroom even though my sister said that she couldn’t get dressed in there because of all the eyes looking down at her (love ya, D!). I knew all the words to the “B” side songs. My friends and I would stay up 'til 1:00 a.m. to see them on the music show that came on after Saturday Night Live (what was the name of that show?) And most embarrassing of all, I convinced Mom to sew me an outfit like theirs. It consisted of white denim capris (before capris existed, when they were called "highwaters" or "flood pants") hemmed in red plaid with a jacket to match. Completing this lovely ensemble were striped socks, high-top sneakers and a scarf in a contrasting green plaid. I actually walked around town like that. I’m surprised I didn’t cause car accidents.

Alan Longmuir was my favorite Roller. He was the oldest in the band, 26. Besides being very cute, he had that older man allure and as I said, there was the accent thing. I remember thinking that when we were older no one would even mention the 14 years age difference. As if. This crush/obsession lasted much longer for me than it did for my classmates. I think I finally realized they were uncool in ninth grade. By then I was into Shaun Cassidy and fighting my brother for the tv on Sunday nights to watch Hardy Boys. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?) I remember overhearing my grandmother ask Mom when I was going to grow out of all this and thinking “Grow out of it? I will feel this way FOREVER.” Well, thank god that particular forever was short-lived.

So now on the far far far end of that obsession, I wonder how it must have felt for them? Was it hard to walk around in those bizarre clothes, belting out songs to screaming 12 year olds? As men in their mid-20's I have to think (hope!) it was just a little too creepifying. Or were they just riding the gravy train as long as possible so they had enough money to do what they *really* wanted to do? My beloved Alan would be about 58 now and I was right: no one would comment on the age difference at all. I wonder if he still has all his hair?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is it just me?

Please tell me that this phenomena happens to you too:

  • I can hear much better with my glasses on. D. or the kids start talking first thing in the morning and it's sounds like the grownups on Peanuts: blah blah blah until I put my glasses on.
  • I experience hearing loss in the evenings. I just turned on the tv and it's incredibly LOUD! I'm talking LOUD like my hair is blowing back like that guy in the speaker advertisement. Did the tv gremlins come in while we were sleeping and adjust all the settings? Because no way could I not have noticed that last night.
  • I continue to make menus and grocery shop according to that list but when it comes time to actually cook? Nah, I don't feel like making any of those much less eating any of it or telling the boys how good it is so they'll eat it.
  • I wouldn't say I'm a hypochondriac at all, but once I read about the symptoms of something or other, they magically appear, causing several sleepless nights.
  • Despite many prayers to St. Anthony I never find lost stuff until after I've thrown out the things that went with it. I think he's messing with me on purpose.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Advancing Dragon Armies

defeated by the arrival of the school bus.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Other Ways to Use a Clean Train Table

Now if only it would stay this way

When we moved into this house we came from a small apartment and didn't have much furniture. So instead of a formal living room, we have a big play area. We recently added a computer area and I'm moving my supplies for scrapbooking in here too. We watch tv in the adjacent "dining room." The family room off the kitchen is a toy-free, tv-free reading zone or a place to just visit with friends and family. Some people are surprised when they come to visit, but hey, this is what works for us.

I spent the last two days reorganizing and tidying up most of the play area. Over the summer we got some new stuff from cousin G., some new things during dollar store expeditions and last week I stole, uh, I mean repurposed some of the bookcases to organize my scrapbooking supplies. This is what it used to look like.

So after a trip to buy more shelving (can you tell I love these foldup bookcases?), lots of piles, lots of sorting, and putting some things into temporary retirement in the basement, this is what it looks like now. Ta da!

M&P are actually playing with the toys instead of stepping on them. They've realized they have new stuff and they've rediscovered some old favorites like the puppets. They can actually color or do art projects at the table instead of on the floor. (Though that is still M.'s preferred spot to create.) And who knows, we might even start using that train table for trains.
I need to put picture labels on the bins so they can tidy up for themselves and put everything back in its proper place. Actually, this is as much for D. as the boys. His idea of tidying up is putting it anywhere that is not the floor.

I also want to move the dressup area (which I am not picturing because it's stressful enough to show you one actual mess!) to another part of the room so I can move the computer there. I need to get some smaller bins for all that and break it down into categories. I also need some kind of unbreakable mirror so the boys can see themselves. Right now they climb up on the bathroom sink and give me heart palpitations.
Of course now that I have done all this, we will decide to paint the rooms...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lunchbox Etiquette

How long does it take before we all get the hang of this lunchbox thing?

I have a big note taped to my cupboard door with all the ingredients for a lunch that I run through twice every morning, while the 2 diners in question feel free to add their own comments (M: I don't want that! Can I have this? I had that yesterday! P: No! No! Yeessssss!). main course? check. fruit? check. snack? check. drink? check. utensils? check. decorative napkin? check. note from Mom? check. Ice pack? check. I load them into the backpacks. Oh wait, M. needs a 2nd snack for the afternoon, separate from lunch and labeled with his name. That goes into the front pocket of the backpack. Whew. Now I can relax about nutrition for a little while until they arrive home and I see how much they did or didn't eat.

As for the boys, they are still learning what is ok to save for later and what is not. M. brought home a lunchbox leaking drinkable yogurt and brown apple slices in the front pocket of his backpack. Do you know what drinkable yogurt looks like after 4 hours in a warm classroom and 30 minutes on a hot bus? Gag. Gag. Gag. "But Mom, you said not to save juice boxes, you didn't say anything about yogurt!" Ok, buddy, let's make that anything that's been opened and involves liquid or is remotely slimey.

What's the cost of those lunch tickets again?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Halloween Comes Creeping

That most fun of kid-centered holidays is coming: Halloween. So my kids remind me every. single. day. When can we go look at costumes? When can we pick out candy? When can we have a party? When can we buy more decorations? When? When? When?

Here's what I love about Halloween:

  • Taking M. & P. around the neighborhood trick or treating in a costume of my own. It's the next best thing to being a kid again.
  • Running to the door to oooh & aaah over the fairy princesses, laugh at the clowns and shudder at the skeletons who shout "Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet." Oh no, wait, it's my brother who still says that.
  • Deciding what to hand out. Should you choose something you like or dislike? This is based on whether you want to enjoy the leftovers or shun them entirely, and if it's the latter, how big a bag do you want to carry in to the office the next day? How much of it do you want your own kids to eat beforehand? How healthy a treat is too healthy? After all, you don't want your house to be avoided as word spreads that you're giving out veggies. (We got great reactions to the juice boxes we gave out a few years ago, so that's become our de facto treat. Yay, one more thing crossed off the to-do list!)
  • Doing the candy check when we return home and bargaining over which bits my kids are willing to let me have.
  • Silly games like bobbing for apples and biting the donut on a string.

Here's what I don't love about Halloween:

  • The fact that stuff has been in the stores (and therefore on my kids' minds) since the end of August. We haven't got the budget for back-to-school and Halloween in the same month.
  • I know the grocery stores are counting on the fact that whatever candy we buy now will be eaten and replaced many times over. I'm struggling to get to the gym on a regular basis to work off all the old fat I'm already carrying around. I want to save any new incoming fat for Christmas cookies, thankyouverymuch. I won't even mention the cavity M. just had filled.
  • Why are all the boy costumes in my kids' size range scary, bloody, inappropriately not funny, or all three? Halloween is all about pretend and make-believe. I don't know about you, but I don't recall ever pretending to be an axe murderer, a corpse being eaten by rats or a fart meter. Sure, there are a few superheroes and Harry Potter is still popular, but you have to look really hard to find them. When I do finally consent to go costume shopping there's going to be at least one tantrum, I just know it. Personally, I'm going to push costumes like the ones appearing in Family Fun's latest issue or on their website.
  • Ditto for the decorations. Do I really need window clings that look like bloody hand and footprints or a shuddering skeleton chained in a cage to have a Happy Halloween?

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Here are some of the goofy things that make us unique:

  • M. prefers to sit under the couch cushions rather than on them.
  • P. asks to watch the tape that cleans the vcr heads. There's something about all those little red balls zooming around the screen that he really likes.
  • D. prefers his cereal with heavy cream and chocolate chips.
  • I only bite my nails during the winter months.
  • P. likes ranch dressing on his hot dogs.
  • M. likes to wear all one color: red shirt, red pants, and if we have them, red socks & underwear.
  • D. mixes up 5 different kinds of juice instead of just drinking just one.
  • If I do something that isn't on my "to do" list, I add it just so I can cross it off.

What's quirky about you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blogging for Justice

Please read this story. Spread the word if you choose. I don't know this family personally and I don't know any more details than what I have read here. I do, however, feel very strongly that their story should be told. Why would anyone believe that having a sibling with special needs would be detrimental to a typical child? I thought by now, in the 21st century, attitudes had caught up to legislation. I guess we still have some work to do. No family should be penalized because they choose to adopt a child with special needs. No child should be penalized because they have a sibling with special needs.

Before having children I worked briefly at a non-profit dedicated to publicizing the need for adoptive homes for children with special needs. The children ranged in age from newborns to teens. They had a variety of special needs such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Some of them were considered hard to adopt because they were part of a minority group or had siblings they hoped to stay with. I remember wondering how caring for a newborn with special needs was somehow different from caring for a typical child who was later injured in an accident? What would make a parent ok with one situation but not another? Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not against adoption nor do I think people choosing to give their child up for adoption are doing the wrong thing. On the contrary, I think that is one of the bravest things a parent can do. Without adoption I wouldn't have a wonderful nephew. My husband and I talked a lot about adoption before we got married and we may still decide to add to our family in that way someday. But to me, making that choice only out of fear of the unknown or fear of a disability seems misguided. For a variety of reasons I eventually left that job, but I often wonder if God didn't bring me there to think about things like that knowing that P. was in my future.

When I talk about my kids and mention P.'s Down syndrome I often get what another mom referred to as "The Look." People don't know how to react. You see their interest slide away and they change the subject. Should I not mention something that is just as much a part of him as his hair color or his love of ice pops? If I'm not uncomfortable, why are they? If they stick with the conversation, many people comment that caring for a child with special needs must be difficult. It must be exhausting. Yes, it is those things sometimes. They sometimes say that God only gives special children to special parents. If that were the case, He surely would have chosen someone with more patience and more money. I'm not any more special than you are. In fact, if God had asked for volunteers to raise a child with special needs, I would not have been jumping up and down yelling "pick me! pick me!" What these folks cannot know unless they have lived it themselves, is how (for lack of a better word) special having a child like P. really is.

Before having P. we didn't know that much about Down syndrome. When he was diagnosed at one day old, we were frightened. Frightened of all the unknowns: what kind of medical issues would there be, what would he be able to do and not do, would he be able to live on his own, who would take care of him after we're gone? Some of those things are not issues anymore, some of them never were. And for the stuff that's still unknown, we've learned to wait for the answers and take them as they come.

Here is what we do know without a doubt: P. is a participating member of our family. He is not "less-than" his unaffected twin. He's different from his brother, just as he would be if he was a typical child, with different likes and dislikes and different abilities. He has taught us more about life than we can ever hope to teach him. Our marriage is stronger than it might have been otherwise. His brother is more compassionate and empathetic than he may have been otherwise. We all are. His enthusiasm for life and excitement to see what each day will bring are things I am trying very hard to emulate. He will be a contributing member to society in whatever capacity is right for him. He is loved by a large number of family, friends and caring professionals. He loves us all back. He is entitled to all the rights and privileges any other child enjoys, not the least of which is a loving, safe home.

Do I sometimes wish that P. was not disabled? Sure. Do I wish he was anyone else but exactly who he is and who he will be? No, not ever in a million years.


9/11/01 and all the heroes made that day.

We have not forgotten.

Thank you to all in the armed forces. Be safe and come home soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What Our Grandmothers Knew

Have you ever seen those "day of the week" tea towels? The ones who have Holly Hobby or kittens or dancing fruit doing domestic chores? Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing day, etc. One day I looked around at the disaster area that was my home and remembered these little towels. Could it be that our grandmothers and their predecessors had the right idea? They were forced to do one chore a day because washing clothes involved hauling water, building a fire to heat it, wringing it out by hand and having it dry all day outside. Never mind making their own lye soap. I had the advantage of modern conveniences but somehow my house didn't look it. Would having a schedule actually help me get more done? Was it too anal even for Virgo me? And most importantly, would I actually follow it?

It's not that I was a slob, exactly. There just never seemed to be enough hours in the day. When the boys were infants I was too exhausted to do more than necessary to keep the health department from the door. As they became mobile it was a never ending cycle of picking up one room while they trashed another. At some point the chaos and crap would become so overwhelming that I'd have to deal with it RIGHT NOW or go insane. So I'd stay up late or get up early and go on a cleaning frenzy. And end up more exhausted and crabby as well. But now with the boys in preschool for a full day, it was clear that I needed a plan.

I tried FlyLady but couldn't keep up with the email. Besides, there's just something odd about someone you've never met sending you an email telling you to shine your sink. If it was your mother emailing that would be different. I have a love-hate relationship with Martha. A cleaning lady wasn't practical -- I'm home all day, it's not in the budget, and it's creepy. If I don't want to clean my own toilet, why would anyone else, no matter how much I was paying her?

Thus, my own version of the Tea Towel Cleaning Schedule:

Daily: laundry, dishes, make beds, toy pickup, vacuum downstairs, kitchen maintenance & bathroom maintenance. (feed the fish used to be here too until he went belly up)

Sunday: plan menus & make grocery list, outdoor chores, check calendar & get ready for coming week

Monday: grocery shop & filing

Tuesday: Clean upstairs bathroom, dust & vacuum upstairs, run errands

Wednesday: Clean kitchen, clean downstairs bathroom, dust downstairs

Thursday: Mending/ironing, put garbage out in evening

Friday: Organizing (pick project each week)

Saturday: Change sheets, wash towels, dust & vacuum upstairs, outdoor chores

I typed it up on a nice neat list and hung it prominently on a kitchen cabinet. Partly to remind myself of the schedule and partly in the hopes that the other people who live here and are able to read might pitch in of their own accord.

After eight months I can say that it does work. For the most part, the house is cleaner and is staying that way longer. I am less stressed because I can think to myself "yes the kitchen floor is a mess, but I will take care of it on Wednesday." The kids have some developmentally appropriate chores that they can handle and enjoy doing (their future wives will thank me someday). When hubby asks what he can do to help I tell him to check the list.

I have also learned a few things: don't post anything on your cabinets that you don't want party guests to read and ask questions about, it doesn't really bother me if the beds are unmade but if there are dishes in the sink the whole house is dirty, clean both bathrooms on the same day, I still forget to dust, and somehow allowing either the ironing or the filing to slide causes the whole system to collapse (these are the two tasks I actually enjoy the most but are the easiest to ignore).

I now have time to work out, pursue hobbies, and those big jobs like organizing closets, painting the kitchen and going through unpacked moving boxes are actually getting done. Slowly, that's true, but progress is being made.

Thanks Grandma.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Here's to Cary & Ingrid

For the past couple of days P. has been bringing me a video to put on: Indiscreet with Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman. I'd explain that it was a grownup movie and then put in Kipper, Barney or something else he likes. Finally after the 50th time, I gave in.

Now, Indiscreet is my favorite movie of all time so I'm perfectly happy to find an excuse to watch it. To me, it's the quintessential romantic comedy. How can you not enjoy looking at two of the most gorgeous people in the universe? Not to mention all those Dior clothes that Ingrid and Phyllis Calvert get to wear. Swoon!

But rock-'em-sock-'em boy movie material it's not. I thought the boys would disappear before the opening credits finished. Amazingly enough, they sat through the entire thing without a peep! P. didn't even snort. M. said he liked the piano music that played throughout.

So whether it was Cary, Ingrid or the clothes they liked, my guys certainly have good taste. It must be hereditary :-D It'll be awhile before they're mature enough for Highlander, but maybe they'll enjoy My Fair Lady or the Sound of Music. Or how about those Beauty & the Beast episodes with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman...

Happy Happy

All is good in the kindergarten world. The boys got off the buses the same way they got on, all smiles. M. actually ate his lunch and spent the evening chattering about his new friends. P. didn't eat much but answered "Yes!" (with arms raised) to all questions of "did you like school?" "did you have fun?" "do you want to go back tomorrow?" The teacher's note says he settled in just fine. It sounds like they had an equally good day today. Whew.

I didn't get much accomplished the past 2 days, it feels too strange to be in a quiet house. I'm sure I'll get used to it though :-D We're going down to NJ tomorrow evening to a family wedding (I can't wait to see everyone!) so tomorrow is dedicated to cleaning out the car, laundry & packing, filling the cooler with snacks and all the other stuff you have to do to prepare to sit in a car for 6 hours with two little kids. Hmmm. Better run to the dollar store for a few new entertainment items.

Then in the coming weeks there will be some serious home decor projects, organization and cleanup going on! I'm excited just thinking about it...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A New Chapter Begins

My little boys, the ones who were born yesterday, started kindergarten today. How is it possible that they are 5 already when I've only just done the pregnancy test and don't even know they are twins yet? I guess that old saying about time flying really *is* true...

P. was at first puzzled why we weren't getting in the car to go to school. When he realized we were going to wait in the driveway (the bus stop is in front of our house, yay for us!) with the big kids, well! His bus was a bit late but when it appeared he started jumping up and down in excitement. He climbed on without hesitation, wearing his now-trademark top hat and his new Batman backpack. He is attending a self-contained (13:1:1) classroom and just by chance knows a lot of the kids in his class already. Two of them were already on the bus this morning. We said hi to them, met the driver and the aide and then I had to convince hubby D. to get off the bus as cars were lining up. Let them get to school already!

M. was totally thrilled to be getting on the bus with his buddy from next door. He's been watching the bus pull up for 2 years now, waiting for his turn. Our neighbor volunteered to be M.'s "bus buddy" and walk him to his classroom, such a sweetheart. M. decided to wear his favorite blue soccer shirt and proudly showed off his camoflauge backpack (with matching lunchbox). I tried to get a few photos but no one really wanted to stand still for very long. He can be a motor mouth and a bossy boots as well, so I hope his teacher can help him tame those habits but not crush his imagination and leadership skills. When his bus arrived, he actually elbowed his way to the front of the line and strode to an empty seat like a pro. He never looked back, never waved, never even acknowledged us, the little stinker.

I admit to being a bit teary, more from the wonder of it all than any real concern about putting them on a bus. I know they'll both be fine and will have a wonderful time at school. I trust their teachers and their own instinct for learning. I'm more stressed about what to pack them for lunch!

Off you go, My Angel Boys. Spread your wings and fly. Have many adventures. Make new friends. Just remember to come home for dinner.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Calling All Inventors

Have you ever thought of a great idea for a product, a million dollar idea, and then in the next week or so you see exactly what you were wishing for in the store? It's like you put your request out into the universe and your wish is granted. Or more likely, the universe is granting the wishes of people who thought of the same thing 2 years ago, or however long it takes to put stuff into production. So in the spirit of disposable toilet brushes and cleaning wipes (thank you SO much whoever wished first!) here are some things that I think would come in handy and would pay big $$ for:

Magnetic socks and shoes. They hold together with super-strong magnets so that your kids can't kick their shoes off anywhere and everywhere. Eventually you graduate to lesser strength and then none so they get their shoes on and off independently, but not before they've outgrown the "let's take off our shoe in the grocery store and make Mommy go look for it while the ice cream melts" stage.

Toy vacuum. This vacuum will not only suck up all the toys on your playroom floor, it will sort them into categories. That way when you open the vacuum to empty the chamber, you can just dump all the knights in their bin, the blocks in theirs, the cars in theirs, etc.

Nightlight that flashes colors and sounds an alarm when your child is in imminent danger of wetting the bed. Particularly if it's *your* bed.

Box that somehow expands to hold a huge quantity of stuff but doesn't take up any more room on your shelf. This would come in handy for hand-me-downs that are waiting to be grown into and all the art projects that come home from school. I could also stuff all my crafts supplies in there and my husband wouldn't be any the wiser. Come to think of it, he'll probably want one too.

Self-cleaning toilet. And if you could somehow include the floor and walls in the immediate vicinity (I have little boys remember) that would be ever so helpful. Well if I'm already wishing...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Happy New Year

Don't you think the new year should begin in September rather than January? I've always thought so.

September is the start of a new season, my very favorite: autumn. January is already the middle of cold winter, just when we're starting to long for it to be over. September is looking ahead to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. January is tired out from all of those festivities. September is days still warm enough to spend outside and evenings full of sunlight; time to feel like celebrating. January is dark, cold, snowy and a longing to hibernate for awhile.

Maybe it's because my birthday is in September and the month is the start of a personal new year. Maybe it's because of back-to-school and starting a new grade, eager to learn new things. The possibility of all those unused notebooks and the promise in the big box of still-pointy and unbroken crayons. And let's not forget new shoes!

If Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII can change the calendar, why can't I?