Friday, August 31, 2007

Why Didn't I Take a Picture?

This morning at about 11am I left Scott upstairs perusing some books in his room and went downstairs. After quite awhile I realized it was quiet, too quiet. I asked Claire if she knew what Scott was up to so she ran upstairs to "check on him." She came back down and whispered something inaudible to me. I asked her what and got very close. I realized she was telling me that there were wipes all over Scott's room. I sprung into action and ran upstairs, calling a reminder to Scott that we're not supposed to play with the baby wipes. When I opened the door to his room, I found about 40 wipes strewn all over the floor, and Scott fast asleep in the corner on the floor. So, I did what any sensible parent would do. I wadded and shoved all the wipes back into the container (hey, wipes do cost money and a little carpet doesn't hurt considering their end use) and then shut the door behind me and let Scott sleep. Claire and I had a very relaxing lunch but now I'm paying the price because Scott just woke up. I'm realizing that was probably Scott's one nap for the day, so I have a very long afternoon stretching out before me...

San Antonio III

Day 3: We spent the day walking around and enjoying the San Antonio Riverwalk. We could walk down some steps just outside our hotel, and then never resurface if we felt like it!

This is a view of part of the Riverwalk that goes into the mall. We shopped there and watched The Bourne Ultimatum. We really enjoyed it, but we feel like it didn't live up to it's potential. Nonetheless, great movie. (I'm not sure why my evaluation of the movie is a caption for this photo, but I guess we'll blame it on the mallness of it all.)

This is a railing from along the Riverwalk. I just thought it was cool.

We also went over the Hemisfair Park where they held the 1968 World's Fair. There were some really cool fountains:

There was a little cottage garden there too that we walked through. Lots of butterflies.

Obviously interspersed with all this was much gluttonous eating. Would it be vacation if we hadn't eaten lots of good food? I even took the liberty of doing ridiculous things like getting dessert even though I was already full and ordering entire meals even though I knew I would only eat 1/2 and I had no way to take the rest home in a doggy bag!

The crowning glory of it all was the last night when we went on a dinner river cruise. They served us appetizers (exquisite guacamole) and beverages while they took our orders (we technically only had 2 entree choices, very wedding-esque, but it was okay because the food was delicious). Then they took us on a short cruise while we ate our salads. Then we returned to "dock" at the restaurant for our entrees. Then while we ate we went on a long cruise which included commentary by a tour guide who drove the boat. They even took us past a dance performance where the river is between the stage and the audience. We finished off with dessert while we were docked, which was doubly good. No really, doubly good because I got mine and most of M's since he doesn't eat sugary foods. We got to sit on the end of the boat, so it felt sorta secluded, which made up for the fact that I'm totally hard of hearing and couldn't understand most of what the tour guide said. I didn't care. It was so romantic and so fun and so tasty. Here you can see the boat all ready for departure:

Then we went home on Saturday. In short (too late), the whole trip was great. And the San Antonio Riverwalk may be the most romantic place I've ever been (granted I've never been to Europe...) M and I enjoyed our trip so much. Yay for blowing money on a cool trip because we've been married for five years and we were too poor and too in love to bother back on our honeymoon. I think it was a great plan. Back then, we didn't have kids we needed to escape just to be able to speak three words to each other uninterrupted...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

San Antonio II

Day 2: We went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas - lots o' roller coasters and no one tagging along who is too short to ride them! Fanta-bulous!!!
But I have two tips for y'all:

Tip #1: Don't assume that a massive 200 acre amusement park with roller coasters 16 stories (168 ft) tall will be easy to find. You may know which exit you're supposed to get off the freeway, like we did, but if you expect signage to take over from there, think again. No sign from the freeway, no sign from the freeway exit, just one little tiny almost invisible sign about 5 ft from the intersection telling you where to turn. If you're coming from the other side of the freeway (like we were at first), good luck! We had the pleasure of missing the turn because we were in total disbelief that it wasn't more obvious and therefore felt insecure making the turn. We kept going hoping to see a sign and when it never presented itself, we stopped in for beverages at a grocery store where I casually asked for directions as though I was merely curious about how close Six Flags was (you'd think I was a man or something I was so embarrassed to ask directions, but it was pretty humiliating to not be able to find something that big). My in-laws would be proud, they always say no date is complete without a trip to the grocery store and we managed TWO over the course of our trip!!! But anyway, the delay was okay because it was pouring rain until we got out of the grocery store.

Tip #2: Apparently when you go to at least this Six Flags on a Thursday in late August, NO ONE is there. Maybe it was the Thursday part, or maybe the fact that school had almost started up again, or maybe it was the fact that it rained that morning at their opening time, but it was GREAT! We got there an hour after they opened and the weather had changed to sunny but not quite the usual "surface of the sun" hot I expect from Texas in August. We went on all the roller coasters, the bumper cars, and the log and white water raft rides and ate a leisurely lunch in 4 hours!!! We even neglected to "game plan" properly at the beginning, so we back tracked several times, and still only 4 hours! I think the only times we had to wait were when we wanted to wait an extra round or two to get on the front seats, and then maybe 20 minutes for their newest coaster that just opened this year. Actually, we may have waited something like 10 minutes to get on the white water raft ride because we decided to go on it at the hottest part of the day. So, we played free Wii inside for a little while (we were Wii virgins) then went on our 2 favorite roller coasters a 2nd time and rounded out the day to 5 1/2 hours total.

Now before I praise these two coasters we deemed worthy of a repeat, remember that I am only comparing them to other rides at this particular park. I must begin any discussion of thrill rides with the statement that for me will probably always (or at least until there is a significant advancement in roller coaster technology) precede any discussion of this type. These 2 coasters can really only be honorable mentions at best because the greatest roller coaster EVER is X at Six Flags Magic Mountain in southern California. Nothing will ever compare to that. M and I waited in line 4.5 hours to ride it the first season it opened back when we were dating and it was worth every second!!! I wish I had DVR for my brain on that one :) And after that, there are a myriad of awesomer (that's a word, right?) rides also at that and other theme parks. But for the purposes of this discussion on M & G's Fiesta Texas experience, Superman Krypton Coaster and Tony Hawk's Big Spin win the prize. I don't know what the prize is, but they win it.

Superman for sheer can't-keep-my-eyes-open-because-the-wind-
blows-my-eyelashes-shut speed and sweeping expanses of track. Big Spin for laugh-out-loud fun. Somehow this one actually did capture the sensation of boarding (at least based on my snowboarding days -- I never was much of a skater back in high school because my dad didn't approve *cough*HYPOCRITE* cough*cough* and I was way too obsessed with school work to ever make any real progress breaking my bones and getting asphalt face). After extensive examination of other riders, we determined that the little 4 person cars spun around a whole lot more if they were unbalanced (with say three people or say a fat lady and three small kids) but both times we ended up riding with 2 teenage boys to round out our party of four. Oh well, even if our relatively comparable weights reduced our spinning, we still had lots of fun.

So anyway, that was our day. But sorry, no pics for you...

To be continued...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Our Trip to San Antonio

Day 1: We left in the late morning and stopped for BBQ at The Salt Lick. Such a quaint old place that was the epitome of a relaxed atmosphere. Great way to set the tone for the trip and some really good BBQ. In fact, best mustard-based BBQ I've ever had. Here are a couple photos of the restaurant and it's environs.

We sat out on the screened in porch. The tables were fabulous. They made me feel like you could read in their worn surface about all the good meals they'd served.

Out back where we parked there was old ranch equipment with this flowering vine growing on it.

We drove the rest of the way to San Antonio and stopped at the McNay art museum. Modern art museum that focuses primarily on 19th and 20th century European and American art. That's what I'm talkin' about! Really, a fairly impressive collection considering.

This is a fountain on the grounds of the museum.

We checked into our hotel in downtown. Swanky. Only adjective that seems to do it justice. Not in the gilded chandeliers way, but more in the "sleeping in a night club" sort of way. Our room was on the 11th floor.

This was the fountain in the hotel lobby. It was so dark in there I couldn't get a very decent photo.

View out our hotel window.

View down to the street out our hotel window.

On the building across from our hotel window was this door. The building was an old theater at the bottom. I zoomed in on the door because I thought it was SO awesome. I guess I'm kinda weird.

To be continued...

Blissful Suburbia

I'm in such a great mood! (It's amazing what a little vacation can do.) I feel like I've had a great start to the week. I love that clean slate feeling of Monday. M is uber busy at work, so while he'll spend the next couple weeks working a lot, I'm viewing it as an "opportunity." I'm going to finally start waking up when I ought to be. While M gets ready to get into work earlier, I'll work out. I'll get tons done - I just know it!

So far so good. This morning was perfection. Well, I suppose there's room for improvement, but it was pretty good. I didn't get up quite as early as I wanted to, but I did go for a run. I can't even remember the last time I ran not on a treadmill. I headed out on the hike and bike trail in my neighborhood. I've lived here for a whole month and this was the first time I went on it, crazy eh? It's beautiful. I jogged along and for a change, I actually ENJOYED my run. Is that legal?!?!? As a rule, I hate jogging. It always seems like such a contrived way to exercise. But it was okay today. Today I got to watch the sunrise as I crunched along the path. Today is the first day of school in our area so I got to watch moms and dads walk with their little kids bedecked in disproportionately large backpacks and overly-white tennis shoes. Somehow, it all worked together. I enjoyed the sun, instead of cursing it, as I usually do when it reaches its zenith, as the source of all my sweaty misery. My smile broadened with each picturesque family walking to school. And then I had the kids ready for their day BEFORE 10am!!! We leisurely loaded into our minivan and took a quick jaunt over to the store to buy milk. How sickeningly suburbia is all that!?!?!? I couldn't help but feel like my life is darn near perfect.

Soon I'll bore you all to death with all the details of our anniversary trip...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Keeping an Eye on Scott

I was going to post this last night but M monopolized the computer all evening doing, of all things, actual wage-earning work! The nerve!!! I suppose the answer is for us to have two computers, but M and I have enough problems being sociable that we don't need to compound that with the possibility of both of us being able to get lost in our own little digital world simultaneously. With only one computer, there's always one of us to throw a lifeline to the other and say, "Hey, it's one o'clock in the morning, maybe we should get to bed. I bet [ OR your blog OR that email OR those maps of FEMA flood zones OR Reuter's oddly enough OR the Stampin' Up catalog OR slashdot, etc etc] can wait until morning." But now that it is morning:

Claire loves to help. Sometimes I give her the assignment of watching Scott for me for just a second to keep him from getting into something. Mostly this is while I run in the other room or upstairs or something and her only responsibility is to call me if he tries to knock over/ingest/climb on whatever it is I don't want him to.

Yesterday Claire looks at me with this contorted look on her face that I interpreted at first as a scowl. Upon further inspection, I realize her face is merely disfigured by the effort of keeping one of her eyes shut. Then she tells me, pointing at her one open eye, "Mom, I'm going to keep an eye on Scott -- this one."

(I'll be gone for a few days for our big anniversary trip. I know it will be hard without me, but y'all will pull through.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Our 5 Year Anniversary

Update 8/26/07: I had to edit this post to appease the love of my life. What are ya gonna do?

Today is my 5 year wedding anniversary. We're waiting to celebrate until our big trip sans kiddos next week, but I thought I'd do a little tribute today. (Janssen inspired me with her gorgeous photos.) So as pitiful as it is to only post two photos, I wanted to satisfy M that I haven't posted photos showing us to the whole wwworld. Here are the two vague shots I had. I don't have any of our black and white photos in digital form, but here are a couple of the color ones we painstakingly scanned before giving up:

Thank you M for everything!!!
(Especially listening for the laugh track with me...)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two Good Things

I couldn't decide which of these I wanted to write about, so I ambived. (Don't you think it should be a verb?)


Today I went to IKEA with Ralphie. I can never go there again without thinking of her post about it. (You should definitely read it if you haven't already. Here it is. Forget the rest of my boring post and go there NOW!) (By the way, the woks are actually only $8 at IKEA - she and I did a little reconnaissance today.)

I was most devastated that they did not have the "angel singing" chocolate cake when we went to have lunch before shopping. Oh well, maybe next time. Claire and Scott did, however, take an entire HOUR to eat, respectively, one small IKEA bowl of macaroni and cheese with a carton of chocolate milk and one Smucker's Uncrustables PB&J. They couldn't even stop to chew they were so mesmerized by the TV they could glimpse (but not hear mind you) over in the play area. UGH!!! Poor Ralphie witnessed me transform into my secret identity: Evil Mom. That's me as the screaming, threatening, mean mother I really am. But we were just sitting there for AN HOUR while Ralphie's kids were long done eating and waiting for us. Meanwhile, my kids just sat there and did fabulous things like spill food and refuse to drink out of a cup even though they know perfectly well how to. Hopefully Ralphie will still let me watch her kids sometimes even though she knows the horrible truth now.

Fortunately, after I finally tricked the kids into eating their food, Claire and Erin went into Smaland and I got to shop, which made the preceding misery fade rather quickly :) So that's two trips to IKEA in less than a week for me. Pretty sad, huh? But it made me happy...


My friend emailed me earlier. There is a good story behind her. She went to high school with M and totally knows his family. We even had a wedding reception in his hometown at her parents' house. If I am to believe her little brother who likes to try to fluster me, she and M even dated a little in high school. (As if that would fluster me, I'm just not like that...) Anyway, awhile ago she emailed me to say that her and her husband were moving to our area. Then awhile later, they returned from a house-hunting trip here and happily announced they had bought a house. What a coincidence! We had just gotten an offer accepted on our house that same weekend. So I asked for details. Of all the places we both considered buying houses, we ended up with houses 5 minutes apart. They're in our ward (LDS congregation). I didn't really know her well before, mostly I just knew of her. But now she is one of my favorite people!

Anyway, they just moved in about a week ago and don't have a washer and dryer yet. She emailed to ask if she could come use ours tomorrow. I LOVE that she felt comfortable asking that. It just thrills me! I think only the coolest people in the world have the genuine awesomeness necessary to ask to come use your appliances. (I suppose that may not be true in "blanket statement" sort of way, because there might be a lot of weirdos out there who would like to use my appliances. Whatever, don't burst my bubble.)

Sometimes I worry that I'm best in small doses, but they came to dinner on Sunday, she and I and the kids went swimming Tuesday night and had dinner, she's coming to do laundry tomorrow, and we're planning to go clothes shopping (no sales tax this weekend, yay!) on Saturday. This is a really big deal for me. I have mommy friends, but most of my life I've been notoriously bad at having girl friends. But they don't have kids, so she can't be putting up with me for the sake of her kids. Maybe I'm not as obnoxious as I thought!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Getting Settled (A Photo Essay)

Here you can see how Scott has been enjoying the fact that my shoes are strewn about haphazardly throughout the house because we haven't hung my shoe rack yet.
I'm impressed that he can walk in these, I barely can. But then again, his foot's not really big enough to actually reach the heel part.

Look! We have a front doormat now. This simple addition has taken our house from "uninhabited wasteland" to "welcome to our home" in $15 (Yay Costco!).
The only thing that seemed tackier than no front mat was the small jungle of weeds we had growing out of the cracks in our driveway until last Saturday. Fortunately we removed them before the EPA declared them a protected wetland or anything.

I was so inspired by my friend Ralphie's post about the photos her daughter takes, that I thought I should give Claire a chance behind the lens. She wanted so desperately to look through the viewfinder instead of just using the LCD screen on the digital camera, that she had no hope of actually lining up a shot. Here you can see the results.
Perhaps she knew what she was doing more than I give her credit for. She has judiciously chosen to cut out my head since we went swimming earlier so I have no makeup on and my hair is a disaster. You still have to suffer through the sight of my grubby working-on-the-house clothes. (On the up side, you do get to see this t-shirt which showcases when and where I graduated college, as if you cared...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Warning: This post is shameless propaganda for Netflix. I'm not getting paid for it, I'm just this lame of my own free will.

Who doesn't love to see that red envelope in their mailbox? Seeing it just cements what you want to do as soon as you can scrape together some leisure time. It even motivates me to get my chores done in a way that a Blockbuster card never could. (This may not be obvious to anyone but me as it only upgrades my house from "3rd world country" to "federal disaster area.") I used to think I wouldn't like Netflix. I thought I would feel so restricted by having to pick my movies ahead of time and not being able to choose based on a passing whim. But then M's grandparents gave us a gift subscription for a couple months. Now we're hooked. We are suckered in at the 2 movies a month level for about $5/month. Our current queue has enough movies on it to last us for the next 14 months, and yet we keep adding to it! Here are my favorite things about Netflix:

1) Speaking of our long queue, I love the Netflix queue. I love that it's called a queue. I love that it gives us a way to remember the movies we want to see and we don't have to keep a text file on M's desktop anymore called, "Movies we want to see"

2) I love that ever since we got Netflix, the quality of movies we see has multiplied probably fourfold. We used to be lazy and pick from whatever was in "new releases" at the video store. Now our selections span time and genre without a second thought. We feel so cultured and edified now by our movie viewing.

3) I love the rating and recommendation system. M and I sit around rating movies, always getting sidetracked into an in depth discussion about the merits of some movie. We get to reminisce about the movies we both saw growing up. We get to recommend movies one of us saw before our movie viewing became "one." As far as I'm concerned, sitting around rating movies is the next best thing to actually having time to sit down and watch one. And then we check the updated recommendations based on our ratings. They're really quite effective! And if by some chance that fails, we can always check out what's on his parents' queue or my sister's. These activities always swell our queue backlog by at least another month or two, and yet we persist!

4) I love the way Netflix filters out the garbage for me. Our account is set up to not even show us anything rated over PG-13. It's so nice not to have to stop and check what something is rated before you let your interest be peaked. And I don't even have to visually gloss over the anime, it's just not shown to me. It's also really nice not to have to even worry about averting my eyes from the morbid cover of the latest horror flick or for M to have to worry about the same thing with the mostly naked women. Carefree movie browsing!

5) And last but not least, I love that choosing a movie together no longer involves the kids. It doesn't involve strapping two children into car seats. It doesn't involve chasing them down aisle after aisle of videos as they try to escape. It doesn't involve desperately trying to pry DVD cases out of their hands and then frantically try to find where this bizarre movie goes before they knock down/run off with three more "only on home video" gems. It doesn't involve trying to explain why, no, we are NOT getting the Barney video they just found. And possibly most importantly, it doesn't involve trying to explain to them why they don't have to worry about a movie case they just saw that would give me nightmares or explain why the lady on that other movie case isn't wearing enough clothes.

I love Netflix.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Must Be Doing Something Right

Don't you just love those moments when you actually DON'T feel like a failure as a parent? (Or for those of you who don't have kids, insert any other challenging endeavor...) Scott won't say Mama or Dada reliably to mean either of his parents. He doesn't have a word for milk or his beloved blanket. He doesn't even say the dreaded "no!" But I can now officially say (after extensive verification at church today) that when shown any of various pictures, he does say, "Jesus." (OK, so it's more of a "Jhes," but we'll take it...)

Friday, August 10, 2007

The BEST Milestone

My posts lately have been absurdly long. I'm so sorry. I offer up this short post to appease the "rambling blog post" gods.

Crawling, walking, talking... they all get too much publicity. Everyone is missing the best milestone of all in a child's life. The day they actually start BLOWING their nose when you hold a kleenex up to it. It's saves extra hours any day a kid has a cold because it buys so much more time between nose-wipings and they end up ingesting so much less mucus. (Sorry, I gotta tell it like it is...)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

How I Got Over the Food Blues By Serving the Kraft Blues

I did it. Just like everyone else. Before I had kids, there were things I SWORE I would never do, things my kids would never do, ways we would never be. It seemed so simple then. I mean, most of my pre-kids vows matched up pretty closely with how I was raised. If my parents managed it, I could too, right? I wasn't over the top, there were only a few. If you kept the number small, then you could manage to actually do them, right? Alas, perhaps somehow I am lacking as a parent, but it was not to be...

I love, love, love food. (A little too much in fact, but that's a different issue for a different post...) Not only do I love food, but I love foreign food, exotic food, spicy food, over-the-top food. (I suppose there's a little overlap there, but you get my gist.) I like food to be out-of-the-ordinary. At least my hu'band tells me that it's out-of-the-ordinary for a white girl from the suburbs. As far as I'm concerned, I grew up with a lot of it and it's "ordinary." My favorite food in the whole world is a toss up between two Thai salads: yum nua and laab. It pains me that I have yet to discover a Thai restaurant here in the Austin area that serves them. (Let me know if you find one...) It's quite possibly my biggest complaint about living here - a distinct lack of Asian food except for maybe Vietnamese.

Anyway, my point is that I grew up eating like this, so I expected my kids to be "good eaters." I believed that it was a matter of offering a variety from an early age (no problem there) and being a little hard nosed about it (I can do that). Boy was I wrong! Claire was a dream eater until she was about 2 1/2. I have no idea what happened. She used to live off broccoli, green beans, peas, Indian curry, stir fry, etc. It was great, she just ate whatever we ate, or maybe even a little healthier! And then it happened. It wasn't immediate, but slowly her eating evolved to the point where, by my standards of what constitutes "good food," she won't eat ANYTHING! And if there's more than a touch of paprika in something, she complains that it's too "smicy." Ugh, what a weakling!!! I tried everything. I tried bribing her to eat her food, threatening her, re-offering the same food over and over for each successive meal, giving her a set amount of time to eat, and of course the ever-popular making her sit at the table until she ate her food. Nothing worked. All I succeeded in doing was making her stop eating everything, even typical kid foods, because it had become a power struggle. (My kids and I seem to really have problems with power struggles. M blames me because he says I'm a control freak...) I always figured that kids won't starve themselves to death. If Claire wanted to eat, she could eat what we were having. There was a HUGE hole in this logic that I never considered back when I was doing my pre-kid vowing: They may not starve themselves to death, but hungry cranky kids are nearly unbearable. Perhaps my parents never had to deal with the kind of will-power Claire possesses, who knows? My Claire however would refuse to eat pretty much all day, and then when it came time to go to bed, she would stay awake for hours crying that she was hungry... What do you do? If we tried to hold out on her, then the next day she was hungry and tired! And I was losing out on sleep over it too. (She was up asking for bread in bed until about 11pm or so every night.) So the next day we were both even more obstinate and cranky. Vicious cycle.

The horrors of all this reached a crescendo about the time Claire turned three. She had a yearly check up with the pediatrician so I explained what was going on and ask him what to do. I thought for sure he would just write me off as paranoid, but he actually took me seriously. Maybe too seriously. I'm glad he didn't write me off completely, because really, I know kids that age can be sparse eaters, but Claire basically wasn't eating anything. The staying awake hungry was the big worry. But the last thing I expected was for him to prescribe her an appetite stimulant. This was a wake up call for me. Medicate my child just because she wouldn't eat sushi and lentil soup? How could I fill that prescription? Had I really tried everything else? I talked it through with M and rethought my whole approach. Whatever she would eat (within reason, still no chocolate cake for breakfast a la Bill Cosby) was okay. Roll with it. No power struggle. We'd give her food she liked and set a timer for 15 minutes. No big deal, the only "blame" went to the timer. After a few meals, it worked! She certainly wasn't eating gyoza (pot stickers) or anything, but she was at least eating something. And so I've resigned myself to typical kid fare. Before I had kids, I swore my kids wouldn't live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese. But guess what my kids frequently eat now?

I NEVER ate these things before. In fact, I distinctly remember the time I went babysitting as a teenager and as the parents rushed out the door they said, "We thought we'd make it easy on you. We left a box of macaroni and cheese by the stove for dinner." EASY?!?!? I'd never made mac'n'cheese in my life! It turned out okay since I am capable of reading directions on a box, but I never ate it again until I married M, who thinks of the blue and yellow box as something like dessert. (As far as typical American food goes, don't even get me started on casseroles. I'll never forget the horror the first time a roommate in college served me Tater Tot Casserole... Tater tots alone were strange enough without smothering them in fat and calling it a casserole! I only like typical American food when I'm pregnant.) But anyway, now that I've loosened up a little bit on what I serve my kids, Claire will occasionally eat other things. Now that we've gotten her back into the "eating habit," she's even amenable now to our insistence that she take at least one bite of whatever we're having. Then we give in and make her something else. We're such suckers...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

C'mon Stan and Jan - Ever Heard of METER?!?!?

Claire adores Berenstain Bears books. Every time we go to the library, they're the only thing she wants to check out. I suggest many other books and they all get absent-mindedly shot down by Claire. The amazing thing is that we still haven't checked out a repeat. We've been at this for something close to a year and a half now, checking out a new batch about every month. We check out anywhere from 2 to 6 books every time. I keep thinking we'll get to the library and won't fing any new ones since we checked out everything we hadn't seen before the last umpteen times. But no, there's always at least a couple we haven't checked out before. (Knock on wood...) I don't know which impresses me more, the fact that our local library has so many holdings, or the fact that there are SO many Berenstain Bears books in existence!

I must reluctantly admit that Stan and Jan Berenstain have cranked out a few TOO many books. They have been writing the books since 1962 and although Stan has passed away, Jan and her son Mike are still going strong. After over 40 years, they've pretty much inundated the market and some of the books do seem a bit like they're stretching for plots. Sometimes I envision watching Berenstain Bears books being created as something akin to looking in the window at the Krispy Kreme store, with conveyor belts of books being cut to size, fried, and drizzled with a cloyingly sweet glaze. However, whatever their shortcomings, I still have a special place in my heart for the book producing machine that is Stan and Jan. I grew up LOVING the books. I think I'm living vicariously through Claire. I always wanted to have read ALL the ones pictured on the back cover of the old classic square ones. It was like "collecting them all." But growing up, my library hardly had any of them. So far I... I mean we are making excellent progress. We only have 5 more to go: Trouble with Money, Too Much Junk Food, The Bad Dream, Forget Their Manners, and Get Stage Fright!

The classic ones are great, but there are also the other ones. Board books about babies, bizarre mysteries, and worst of all, the ones entirely in verse. I keep naively checking out this last type. I get suckered in by the appealing topics usually related to various holidays and in my rush to keep Scott from getting out of my sight, we dump it in the basket without me cracking it open and seeing that it's in verse. You'd think I'd learn. They're usually bigger and more rectangular than the others. Apparently they're bigger so they can fit in all the cut-rate rhyming narrative. Look, I know they're just kids' books, but I could do better, WAY better. And I haven't been writing books for four decades. I suppose technically the verse in these books does rhyme, but that's about all you can say for it. It's like Stan and Jan were absent the day their English teacher explained rhyming schemes. And I think they may have waved the text somewhere near meter, but not much stuck. I'll be reading along out loud to Claire and starting to think maybe I've been too hard on these books. Maybe they're not so bad. Then I hit a line than just falls flat on it's face. The meter feels like it tripped on it's own shoelaces and did a face-plant in the dirt (sometimes knocking out a couple front teeth in the process). Sometimes I wonder if they wrote these rhyming ones in their old age as their memory started to go. Maybe they would forget what the line before it had sounded like and so they had to do the best they could. Yah, that's probably it. I'll tell myself that so that I... I mean we can continue our tireless pursuit of having read the exhaustive works of the Berenstain Bears.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Scott's Holding Out on Us (or Tantrums are Rude Awakenings)

Scott can talk. I'm sure of it. I bet when we're not listening, he gives lengthy discourses to his toy cars on doll stroller trade routes through our living room.

But for now, I'm afraid talking has turned into a power struggle. When M and I encourage him to talk, he gets SO mad. We try to encourage him to ask for what he wants with a word -- any word. But as soon as he realizes that we understand him and we're holding out on him to try and get him to speak, he starts crying, swiping at the air in front of him, and turning his head and refusing to look at us. He's just SO stubborn. I think he's just not talking to spite us!

Scott's tantrums lately have cemented a theory of mine. The "experts" say toddlers start throwing tantrums because they get frustrated that they cannot communicate what they want. I think the "experts" are full of it. My experiences with both Claire and Scott have been that toddlers throw tantrums when they communicate what they want and are forced to confront the fact that sometimes they will not get it. Perhaps when they're little they are under the delusion that they could have anything they want if they could just tell us what it is. But then they get old enough to grunt and gesticulate their wants and they understand enough to know they have communicated their desire successfully. And then we refuse to give it to them! That's when the real screaming starts. We know what they want and we won't give it to them. It must be a very rude awakening. It seems that tantrums abate only when a child becomes old enough that you can reason with them about WHY they cannot have what they want. (I think at about 19?)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hopping on the Blogwagon

I was chatting with a dear friend from college yesterday and she asked me about blogging. Apologies to her ahead of time if she reads this since I'm shamelessly reusing material from that conversation. Her other mommy friend told her about her blog within 2 days of me telling her about mine. "Is it the new craze?" she asks. I dunno. It does kinda seem like a fad. Everyone and their dog is doing it. (Really. Someone out their keeps a blog on behalf of their dog who is also the narrator of a book. For all I know, there could actually be a dog out there who bangs out some stuff on the keyboard and gets it posted. And though some blogs claim to be generated by humans, you'd never know given the quality of content. I think a dog might do a BETTER job. Of course, rest assured I'm not talking about your blog.) So how do I feel about joining the faceless throng of bloggers? And why are there so many mommy blogs in particular?

I don't know the answer to the first question. But I have some theories about the second. Cheap shots - there's much easier jokes to be had in life as a parent. Kids make such excellent blog fodder. You don't need wit, skill, or anything like that. Just fertility and the ability to type intelligibly (which does put you ahead of most dogs...) The kids generate the material for you whether you want them to or not. I just hope my blog never turns into a place to post the "up to the minute" record of the latest crappy snapshot I took of my kid. (Again, I'm not talking about your blog... Besides, I have to sheepishly admit that's what I use my Shutterfly Collection for!) I hope that the occasional photo I post is either decent to look at or illustrates a point I am making in my writing.

But how do I feel about the Y.A.B. status ("Yet Another Blogger")? Like I said, I'm not sure. My gut reaction is that I shouldn't be blogging then. But M is always pointing out my tendency to think that if "everyone" is doing something, that automatically makes it bad. You should hear my sister and me when we get to talking, dissing things left and right just because it's "typical." It can really get out of hand. I wish I was more like M. He always says, "Maybe everyone is doing it because it's the right answer. Maybe they figured something out that you haven't." This is why we own a minivan. He gave me the preceding lecture and then dragged me off to test drive minivans. He was right. The minivan was better for hauling my "brood." There's just so much ROOM inside and I'm kidding myself if I think I actually would use the extra ground clearance of an SUV. But I'd like to think the minivan superiority was an isolated incident. I mean, if I give in on this philosophy then I worry that next week I'll have Thomas Kinkade paintings on my walls and my kids will be living off fruit snacks (READ: candy). (I'm not sure a "I'm not talking about you" comment will work on this one. Sorry if either of those describe you. I still like you, they're just not for me.) But I guess for now I will plow ahead with blogging because I'm having so much fun with it and try to ignore the little voice in my head saying, "You're turning into a cookie cutter replica of everyone else!" The little voice is probably still cramming its family and all their stuff into a little Honda Pilot anyway, so what does it know?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I Mowed the Lawn!!!

This post has nothing to do with my kids for once. They're usually the reason I listen for a laugh track, but not this time. Today I was thinking about how absurd I sound proudly announcing that I mowed the lawn. I got a huge blister doing it (could I be any more of a pansy?), but I did it. This everyday task that is mundane for others is a milestone for me. I've never mowed a lawn before. Never even used a lawn mower before. I know what you're thinking. I must have grown up with a bunch of brothers that always did it. Nope. One younger sister, that's it. The real reason? My parents didn't HAVE a lawn until I went away to college. Now before you go thinking that my parents were lazy, trashy, or [fill in your favorite derogatory term here], let me tell you a little background.

I'm from Silicon Valley. My parents had to buy the mother of all fixer uppers to be able to afford a house. The front yard had been SO bad with the previous owners that when my parents ripped everything out and kept it as plain dirt for several years, all the neighbors actually thanked them. No really. People passing by would stop and comment on what a great job they were doing. I suppose it was a big improvement not to have a compost heap in the front yard anymore... My parents bought the house when I was in junior high and were kept plenty busy until I went away to college making the inside habitable. Filling in the "root cellar" the previous owners had dug (which was compromising the foundation) with concrete. Scraping linoleum off the hard wood floors. Replacing tubs and sinks that had been painted. Everyone has their priorities and the front yard was pretty low on the list. Though this tidbit doesn't really affect my lack of mowing know-how because I was pretty much out of the house, the saga of my parents' front yard came to an amusing conclusion. My dad didn't want any grass and my mom did. In the end, they worked out a compromise where my dad is okay with grass because my mom mows it. So I guess lawn mowing is destined to be a subject with strange associations for me.

Ah, but now I have experienced the rite of passage. I have mowed a lawn. I think that might even qualify me as a fairly normal human being. I suppose that's still open to debate...