Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Giveaway: "Testimony" -- Hurry!

Eeeek! I don't know how I missed this one before, when I posted about the other book giveaway! But this drawing has an entry deadline of tomorrow!

Jenners over at "Find Your Next Book Here" is giving away 5 copies of Anita Shreve's newest book "Testimony." If you like to read and want a chance to win this book, go here to enter the drawing. Go there today, so you won't forget tomorrow! Winners will be announced On Saturday, May 2.

And while you're there, check out her review of Wally Lamb's latest novel, and click around the site. You'll enjoy Jenners' reviews, and you just might find the next book you "have to" read.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Giveaway - "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming"

Like to read? Go check out Jenners' blog "Find Your Next Book Here." She always has good book recommendations.

Also, on May 20 she will be giving away 5 copies of "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming." All you have to do to enter the giveaway drawing is go here and leave her a comment. If you want more than one entry.... well, just go there and read about the book, read the rules, and enter if you're interested! Entry deadline is May 19; Winners to be announced on May 20.

Monday, April 27, 2009

100th post: 100 random things about me

It seems to be a bloggy tradition to do a post with "100 things" about the blogger for the 100th post.

There are other traditions, too, involving pole dancing and/or excessive drinking, but for today, I'm sticking with the relatively tame list of 100 things. So freshen your coffee and grab a snack. This is a long one!

Note: If you have read my blog for a while, you will know some of these, and I'm sorry if you're bored by the repeats. For my new readers, I have included links to where I wrote about some of them in greater detail. (Because this post is long enough as it is.... )

Here they are:

1. I've been told I look like Sandra Bullock. (This is a blatant repeat. But since I want everyone to know I might possibly look like a movie star, I'm including it again.)

2. I played on the school basketball team in 7th and 8th grades, but by 9th grade I was too short.

3. I had an awesome "hook shot," sort of like the famous Dr. J, but obviously not as fantastic as his, since I did not end up becoming a WNBA star.

4. I played on the school soccer team in 8th and 9th grades.

5. When I was in 9th grade, our school soccer team took a trip to Tennessee to visit Sewanee ("The University of the South") and Vanderbilt and play exhibition games against their women's soccer teams. I can't remember which one, but we actually won one of them.

6. We also snuck out of our dorm and went drinking at a college bar near the campus (this was back when the drinking age was 18 and if you looked a day over 13 and produced any kind of ID card with a birthdate saying you were over 18 - even if it was for "Sam Malone" and you were a girl - you could get served in almost any bar). We then suffered hangovers the next day, and lost the second exhibition game.

7. I support legalizing gay marriage.

8. One of my ex-boyfriends recently announced he is gay and is divorcing his wife. I'm glad I'm not the wife. That would be a tough announcement to handle.

9. I love snow, as long as I am just visiting it. I would hate to have to shovel it regularly in the winter.

10. I love horses, as long as I am just visiting them. I don't like shoveling horse poop any more than I like shoveling snow.

11. I spent a summer in Colorado when I was 12. It was beautiful. I thought I wanted to live there, but my then-boyfriend, now-just-friend (the one who is now gay), talked me into moving to Arizona instead. He moved to San Francisco when we broke up. (But he waited until he moved back to Virginia to decide he was gay..... all I can do is shake my head and say, "huh?")

12. The first concert I ever went to was the Bee Gees in 1977. Don't laugh - they put on a good show!

13. The second was Peter Frampton in Colorado.

14. I also saw Pat Benatar, AC/DC, and Van Halen around the same time.

15. Sammy Hagar is a good musician, but I never liked him as much as David Lee Roth.

16. I love The Grateful Dead and I saw them every time they passed through Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, or North Carolina between 1984 and 1988. I went as far as South Carolina one time. Then I moved to Arizona, and they didn't play in my neck of the woods as frequently. But I saw them in Las Vegas, several times in Phoenix, and several times in Oakland, California.

17. I also love Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and the Talking Heads and Nirvana.... and more.

18. I like a lot of new music that I hear on the radio, too, but I just don't have time to keep up with who's who and what's what. When the kids are a little older, or maybe when I retire, I will have a good time catching up on all the music I am missing now.

19. I also love jazz and soul music.

20. I took piano lessons for about 5 years.

21. I quit taking piano lessons after 8th grade because my piano teacher's son went to my school and was an annoying prick and I was tired of having to be nice to him just because he was my piano teacher's son. After I quit taking piano lessons, I completely ignored him.

22. I love Brahms, Beethoven, and most especially Mozart. I learned to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," but I never learned to play anything by Mozart. As Valdieri said in the movie "Amadeus": "Too many notes!"

23. I have a scar on my right leg. For the story behind it, read the first item in this list. If you want to know five *more* things about fascinating me, read the rest of the items in the list.

24. I love to drive. I especially love to drive fast. This is why I love that I have been compared to Sandra Bullock, the star of the movie "Speed."

25. I have received several speeding tickets in my lifetime.

26. On my 17th birthday, I got a ticket for "driving too slowly." It was really a ticket for flipping off a police officer. Read the full story, here.

27. My favorite job ever was driving buses when I was a student at the University. This is another reason why I love that I have been compared to Sandra Bullock, the star of the movie "Speed."

28. I never drove too fast in the bus, partly because the buses would not go all that fast, even if you tried.

29. My belly button is an "outie." I hated that as a kid. The other kids made fun of it. Now I don't mind it so much.

30. I have sexy toes.

31. I hate to wear high heels, but I love low (2 inch) heels.

32. I love boots. Cute boots that you wear with skirts. Snow boots. Clunky boots with jeans. Short boots. Tall boots. Leather boots.... let's just stop before I get carried away.

33. I teach a class for students who are taking the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). I like teaching. Perhaps I should have been a teacher instead of a lawyer.

34. I do not want to be a law professor because I don't want to have to write law journal articles that no one will ever read, just to impress my colleagues so I can get tenure. If I could be a law professor and just teach classes, I would love it.

35. I never liked dogs much. They generally don't smell very nice, and I hate when they try to lick me. But I love my dog. He is very sweet, and so patient with my kids. He is a Bassett Hound, and although he loves to lick the kids, he never tries to lick me. It's as if he just knows I don't like it. He is pretty stinky sometimes, but then we give him a bath and then it's all ok again for a while.

36. Somehow I have hit a mental block right here, about 1/3 of the way through. I think it is because I want to remain semi-anonymous, and so I am second-guessing everything I write, wondering if I am revealing too much information or, alternatively and just as bad or worse, writing only boring things that could be about anyone.

37. I got kicked out of a bar once because my friends and I were playing quarters and being too rowdy.

38. At one of my prior jobs, there was a "survey" circulating that gave a score based on how many "wild and crazy" things you had done in your life. There were questions about a range of activities, ranging from things I would have thought most everyone would have tried in high school or college ("Have you ever been to a rock concert?" and "Have you ever played a drinking game?") to some that are perhaps less commonly experienced but certainly well within the range of activities that adults in our society may have done at least once in their lives without making them necessarily "wild and crazy" people (questions like, "Have you ever been kicked out of a bar?" "Have you ever tried bondage?" "Have you ever tried oral sex?" and "Have you ever smoked pot?"), all the way up to a number of things that I thought were "out there" and/or way beyond anything I've ever done or would think to do (questions like, "Have you ever stolen a car to go joy riding?" "Have you ever manufactured drugs?" and "Have you ever dated a married person?"). I got the highest score out of all my co-workers who took the quiz. Until then, I had always thought I was pretty socially conservative. Certainly I am very tame compared to some of my friends. But I guess lawyers are a really prudish bunch because by comparison, I was a party animal. I just hope they didn't think, based on my score, that I was making drugs in the evenings with my married paramour and then going joy-riding with him in my neighbor's stolen car after getting kicked out of a bar for smoking pot. Because that never happened!

39. [TMI Warning: If you don't want to hear about labor pains, skip to number 40.] With my first child, I wanted to try "natural" childbirth... until the labor pains actually started. Either I am a wimp, or my pain really was worse than most. All I know is it felt as if someone took a red-hot fireplace poker straight out of the blacksmith's fire and stuck it up my v--- and was swirling and poking it all around inside my abdomen. It was a sharp, searing pain throughout. If that is TMI, well I tell you what, it was way TMP ("too much pain")!! All those breathing exercises, massages, counting, focusing, etc? Yeah, uh-huh, right.... so completely NOT helpful. So I demanded pain relief, and fast. The IV "pain relief" drugs didn't even touch the pain. No effect at all. The epidural, though, worked like a charm, and everything proceeded quickly and painlessly after that. The second time around, I went into it knowing I would get that epidural.

40. I hate roaches. Especially the giant ones that live in Florida.

41. I am good at spelling.

42. I went to Mardi Gras for the first time when I was 41. It was awesome.

43. I am only two weeks younger than my husband. But he somehow has absorbed at least 15 years' worth of "worldly" knowledge that I somehow missed.

44. For example, I did not know what a "camel toe" was until my husband told me last year.

45. I love the beach. I especially love sitting in the warm sand, watching the waves roll in. Boogie boarding is also fun.

46. I have never tried surfing.

47. I went snow skiing once, during my senior year of high school. I'll share that story some other time.

48. I went to a Catholic high school for two years in Alabama. It was there that I met many of my alcohol- and drug-abusing teen friends. Their parents had all sent them to the Catholic school to "straighten them out." It didn't work.

49. I missed 63 days of school my junior year of high school, while still pulling A's and B's in all my classes. It was the school record for absences because the very next year they made a rule that if you missed more than 20 days, you had to repeat the year. No one else ever missed that many days again.

50. They have since torn down that high school. I was sad when I drove by and saw that it was gone, even though I hated it when I was there. Does a school record still count if the school no longer exists?

51. I graduated from a public high school in Virginia that I attended for only one year. I have never been to a high school reunion. I keep in touch with two people from my graduating class that I care about and have lost track of the only other one I cared about - but I don't think he ever goes to the reunions, either.

52. I was on the "five year plan" in college and graduated a year later than most of my friends. I have never been to a college reunion because I never get invited to the one I'd be interested in attending -- the one all my friends would be attending, for the year before I actually graduated.

53. In college, I double-majored in psychology and religious studies. Fascinating stuff, and great for learning about what makes people "click" and for gaining insight into one's own actions and motivations.

54. Apparently, the only really useful thing I learned in college was how to drive buses. After I moved to Arizona, the highest paying job I was offered - with my college degree from a very good University with those majors - was driving the tram at Arizona State University. I soon decided law school was the ticket to a better salary.

55. I love to win arguments. And I'm good at it. This is a useful skill in the courtroom. Not so great for marital harmony.

56. I love wine, almost as much as Vodka Mom loves martinis... [Note: Just after I wrote this but before I published it, while I was working on numbers 80-100 below, Vodka Mom decided to take a hiatus from blogging, and dismantled her site. How's that for bad luck? She promises to return sometime, though, so I'm leaving the link, just in case.]

57. I love to plan birthday parties at home for my kids. I think it is much better for them to have a party at home and actually interact with their friends than to go to one of those "Chuck E Cheese" or "Amazing Jake's" type places. Those places are fun, but the kids get so caught up in the games and rides that they don't even play with each other. Inevitably, the birthday kid winds up hanging out with one or two kids, and the rest get shoved aside and ignored. Someone ends up all alone and sad, while others ignore all the other kids and just go crazy with the video games. What's the point?

58. It's not a kid birthday party without a pinata.

59. I saw "Star Wars" the first weekend it opened, when it was first released in 1977. My uncle quite literally dragged me to it. I thought it sounded like a war movie and would be awful. He promised I would love it and made me go see it. He was right (thanks, J!), and I dragged several friends to see it after that. They loved it, too.

60. Thirty-two years later, I still think Star Wars is one of the most fun and coolest movies ever made. My husband and kids love it, too. We own all of the Star Wars movies on DVD, and my husband just bought an R2D2 fish tank. Yes, you read that right. It was on sale and it was a good deal and we needed a new fish tank. It makes noises like R2D2 in the movie, and lights up. Very cool. Here is a photo:

That is a kid's meal toy (McDonald's or BK, can't remember which one) in there -- Luke Skywalker's giant head in his fighter plane / spaceship. Dumb toy; great fishtank decor, don't you think?

61. I like to make "to do" lists. Sometimes I write things on the list that I already did that day, just so I can cross them off and see all the things I accomplish in a day.

62. I used to be a waitress. As a result, I am a very good tipper if I receive good service (25 - 40%), a good tipper if my food eventually arrives and the waiter / waitress was reasonably friendly (20%), and I don't hesitate to stiff a waiter / waitress who has been snotty or rude to me. There is no excuse for being rude to me, as I am never rude to the waiter / waitress.

63. I traveled to England, Ireland, and Scotland in the early 1990's. I met some friends over there, but traveled to Ireland and Scotland by myself while they visited some relatives in the South of England. There is such a sense of history there. I visited castles that existed before Columbus allegedly "discovered" America. There are bars and restaurants there that are older than the U.S.A.... it is really an interesting perspective. The people were friendly and helpful, the castles were awesome, the scenery gorgeous.... and the Edinburgh zoo with the penguin parade was lots of fun, too. I would love to go back, and spend more time there.

64. I found that the German travelers were the nicest. I met several very kind German tourists. They always spoke English well, and the guys always offered to carry my suitcase, which I loved because it was heavy and there are a lot of hills there, particularly on the way to the hostels in which I was staying.

65. I hated the lack of ice in Great Britain. I asked for "iced tea" (an American thing, apparently), and those darn English waiters would dutifully bring me a piping hot pot of delicious English tea and a glass with two tiny ice cubes in it. I would ask for more ice, and would get two more cubes. Here in America, we like to drink our tea with a ton of ice in it, and very cold. It was a real culture shock for me. And I love hot tea, too -- but in the summer when it is hot out, I find iced tea much more refreshing! (You guys across the pond really ought to try it. It's quite nice.)

66. I have also traveled to Mexico. They have lots of ice there, but they advise Americans not to use it. Something about "Montezuma's revenge." I should have taken that advice.... but I really thought the alcohol in the margaritas would kill any germs.

67. I love seafood. Shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, nearly any kind of fish, including shark, squid and octopus, which some folks find odd.... I especially love a good "seafood salad" here in the States -- with shrimp and crab and perhaps a bit of crunchy celery, some mayonnaise and spices.... I ordered a "seafood salad" in Edinburgh, and received a plate full of greens.... approximately 10 different varieties of sea plants -- kelp and such, I guess. It was not what I was expecting, although I had to admit it was a reasonable description of the dish. And after I got over the initial shock, it wasn't bad, really. Just not what I had wanted when I ordered. (And then I had to wonder -- were the waitstaff laughing in the back at another clueless American tourist? Does anyone else ever order this stuff?)

68. I think I am sounding a bit naive and uncultured, and I may be. But overall I enjoyed the food in England, Ireland, and Scotland. The variety and quality of "foreign food" restaurants (especially Indian food) was particularly impressive, and I also enjoyed the "traditional English foods" like shepherd's pie that many folks here disparage.

69. However, you should not - I repeat, NOT, under any circumstances, I don't care how hungry you think you are or how much you are trying to hurry - you must NOT purchase a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor in London. You will be appalled at just how awful these things are. And to top it off I am now worried about whether I will eventually come down with "Mad Cow Disease," since I was there during the time when the tainted meat was a problem in England, and ate beef hot dogs of very dubious quality and unknown origin....

70. I have met former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, at a party hosted by a mutual friend. She is very gracious and friendly.

71. I love sleeping when it is raining.

72. My favorite (and first) car ever was my 1965 Mustang.

73. I do not own a hair dryer. I don't need one here in Arizona - with essentially no humidity, my hair dries before I leave the house - and I'm too lazy to do more than brush it and let it be, anyway.

74. When I was a kid, I loved the high dive at the pool.

75. One time, I did an actual dive from the high dive and my bikini bottom fell off. And yes, everyone noticed.

76. Recently, I was at a public pool with my kids for a party, and they talked me into trying the high dive. I was wearing a one-piece suit, so I agreed to try it. (Warning to those who might think this is a good idea: It is much higher than you remember it being when you were a kid!) I am embarassed to admit that I chickened out, and had to climb back down the very long ladder while a whole gaggle of kids, along with the lifeguard(!), pointed and laughed. It was more embarassing than losing my bikini bottom 30 years ago.

77. I like hiking.

78. I don't like camping for more than one night. I like to have a warm shower and a flush toilet available at least once every 24 hours. I would not have been a good pioneer.

79. My favorite chocolate shop is called "The Chocolate Soldier" and is in Dana Point, California. They have the very best truffles in the world. They are huge and shaped sort of like boobies, which Dr. Zibbs would love, and filled with the most delicious light, creamy, flavorful concoctions -- not like the overly sweet and sticky insides of many chocolate candies. And the chocolate itself is perfectly textured and just the right amount of sweet, unlike typical American chocolate which is often grainy and too sweet.

80. I have a hard time buying the "global warming" hysteria. I am old enough to remember that in the 1970's, many scientists claimed that the carbon dioxide was causing global cooling and we were quickly heading for the next ice age if we didn't change our ways. There are other reasons, too, for my skepticism. I'll post more about it some other time.

81. In spite of my lack of faith in the global warming theory, I do think we should all do what we can to conserve energy and resources, because unpolluted skies and fewer power plants and strip mines make for a prettier world, and the less oil we use the less we enrich nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran, who seem not to have our best interests at heart.

82. I never had braces; my teeth are naturally straight.

83. I need to lose 20 pounds. Apparently, that doesn't stop my students, various waitresses, and wonderful flight attendants on Southwest Airlines from thinking I look like Sandra Bullock.

84. I gained 10 pounds in the last year. At least a couple of those were in my boobs. I know because I had to go buy some larger bras. This is good except that sadly, those two pounds will likely be the first ones I lose....

85. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.

86. I also wanted to change my name to "butterfly." It's a good thing they don't let kids make those kinds of decisions. (Then again, some parents don't do a whole lot better naming their kids....)

87. Holy cow, 100 is a lot. I bet most of you lost interest around #15. I am starting to think I am a very boring person.

88. I love sailing, but I like to stay within sight of the shore. My husband says he would like to get a houseboat and sail around the world. I would be terrified of getting lost at sea or attacked by pirates or drowned in a storm. He will have to go alone or with someone else; I am not going to live that particular fantasy with him!

89. I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon once. I will write about it some other time. Advice: Make sure you are in good physical condition before attempting this trek!

90. I don't have any tattoos.

91. I don't have anything pierced except my ears.

92. I like cats.

93. I have a collection of shot glasses from various places.

94. I think our country needs to invest more money in education for gifted kids.

95. I love M&M's. When I was a kid and my Dad used to travel for business, he would often bring me a pack of M&M's when he came home. I loved that.

96. I worked at the CIA for two summers during college. Then, during the school year, I worked as a waitress at a place that catered to groups of government executives who were on "retreats." One of my former bosses came for dinner (with lots of other government employees, during a "retreat"), but did not recognize me. I guess I was "out of context."

97. I was in Memphis when Elvis died. I was playing Monopoly with my friend, when her mom tearfully told us the news. I have driven past Graceland, but have never been inside.

98. I like to ride my bicycle. (Didn't Queen do a song about that?)

99. My Dad recently told me that when I was a kid in Florida, I was bitten by a brown recluse spider and nearly died. I don't remember that at all, but I do remember smashing my big toe pretty badly when I was about 8, and then a few weeks later my toenail fell off while I was swinging on the backyard swing and it got lost in the grass, and I was traumatized because I had wanted to keep it when it fell off (eeeewww) but I couldn't find it. It is funny what sticks and doesn't stick in your childhood memory....

100. When I was in high school, I thought I was in love with a guy and we hung out with the same group of friends and I spent inordinate amounts of time trying to get him to notice me. But he was obsessed with another gal in the group (who had a boyfriend....), to the point that one time, she trimmed her fingernails at his house and left them in a pile on his coffee table, and after she left, he put them into a small box so he could keep them as a mememto and reminder of her! So I guess we both had that same icky urge to save keratin from various body parts (although I am pretty sure I had outgrown my urges in that direction by the age of 12), but I have to say that was pretty over-the-top and I am glad that particular "love" went unrequited.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday; Happy Earth Day

Dearest Son,

Happy Birthday! You were born 6 years ago today. You were a healthy and happy baby. I was so blessed. You liked to eat a lot, which helped you grow so very quickly. For months, you never went more than two to three hours between feedings, so I didn't sleep much. I was tired a lot. Your sister was amazed at how big you were, and how fast you grew.

I used to gaze at you and wonder, what would your personality be? Who would you become? I still wonder who you will be when you are "all grown up." But at least now I can clearly see the personality of the wonderful child you have become.

You are generally a happy child, enthusiastic and excited about whatever fun things we plan, whether it's a walk around the block with the dog, a bike ride to get ice cream, a trip to the zoo or the children's museum, or a trip across the country to the beach or to grandpa's house. No activity is too big or too small to spark your happy smile.

You are also very bright. Your sister would have you think otherwise. She sometimes tells you that you are stupid, or that you don't know how to do things right, or that you aren't as fast or as smart as she is. This makes me sad, because when she says these things, I can see the self-doubt creeping into your expression. I tell you that of course you're not as fast as she is and you don't know as many things as she does... yet! She is nearly 5 years older than you and has had a lot more time to practice and to learn. I also tell you what you want to hear, that - just wait! - one day you'll beat her in a race. And some day probably sooner than either of you expect, you'll know more than she does about something! I just hope you can keep a realistic sense of how bright and smart and interesting you are until then.

I also tell you that you don't need to compete with her to be your own special, smart, capable self, who I will always love. I can tell that second part doesn't mean much to you now, but I hope that in time you will come to understand that your worth is not measured in comparison to your sister. You are your own wonderful person, with different interests and capabilities than your sister, but certainly no less valued for being a different person. I love you both, with all my heart. And I hope you will accept her for who she is, too (flaws and all), and not hold it against her that she is so wildly competitive at this age.

My son, I can already see that you will someday be an excellent father or uncle or perhaps a teacher or pet owner. You are compassionate and kind. Always the first child to comfort another who is crying. Always the first to ask, about a stray cat or dog, "where will it live? who will feed it? is it sad because it has no home?" You like to ask me how my day was, and you like it even better when I actually answer you and don't just say, "fine." You like to bring me water when I am sick, and you could sit for hours and pet our poor old doggy, who is probably not going to live a whole lot longer, while telling him what a good dog he is.

You are charming, and you have a great memory for details of things you have done, places you have been, and even things that people have told you. You remember details of our vacations from two years ago, and you remember all your preschool teachers' names.

You love to give gifts, and to watch people smile when they open them. You love to get gifts, too, and you are so unabashedly thrilled with everything you get, that it makes the gift-givers smile at how well they have pleased you. I wish everyone had your ability to make others smile!

I can also see that you will grow up to be brave and strong. You were so scared of heights at age 2 that you refused to even walk on a 1 foot high ledge without a "death grip" on my hand and you would not even go down the "baby slide" at the park. Yet, when you saw your sister taking gymnastics and walking on the balance beam, you said, "mommy, I want to do that." So I signed you up for gymnastics. You were terrified at first, and would not climb up on the trampoline, nor walk on the beam on even the lowest setting. But now, if somone will simply walk next to you, you will creep across that balance beam. I can tell you are still very scared, but you face those fears and do it anyway because you trust your coach to keep you safe and you want to conquer your fear. That is true courage: being afraid but going forward anyway. And now no slide is too high for you, and you love walking along low block walls, curbs, and ledges when we are out walking in the neighborhood.

School is not your favorite activity. You always tell me your favorite part of the day is lunch and recess. For a long time you resisted even learning your ABC's, I think in part because you were scared to compete with your sister and come up short. But, with some encouragement at home, you have learned to read and you are now so proud that you beg me to let you read me stories every night. I love that, and I always let you read one for me, sometimes three or four. I can see the pride in your face as you decipher each new word, and enjoy each new story. We need to work on your counting next.... I bet you will be adding and subtracting before we know it!

You like to tell long, elaborate superhero stories. I have to admit, sometimes I am just not in the mood to hear about who is fighting who and what bad guys they are catching. But I try to listen when I can, and to encourage your imagination. Perhaps one day you can be a writer for a tv show or a comic book... or even write a novel. You really are quite creative and imaginative.

You are a little bit of a picky eater. You don't like cheese (except on pizza), which I find strange since it is one of my top three favorite foods (along with coffee and chocolate). You don't like cake much, but you love hard candy and lollipops. You like ice cream cones. You are obsessed with bananas. You could eat strawberries until you turn red. Apples and carrots and black olives make your list too. And any kind of meat. And frozen peas, literally frozen, straight out of the freezer. But you don't like pasta much, or chicken nuggets, or other similar "kid favorites."

And sometimes, you can be so ... difficult. Obstinate. Ornery. Whiny. Argumentative. Ay yi yi. That is usually at night when you are tired, though, and by morning all is forgotten. Of course, sometimes in the morning when you are tired, it is hard to get you out of bed and you are whiny still. But other days you awaken eager to face the day, and you come bounding into the kitchen and give me a huge hug and a beautiful smile. I love those days.

You use logic well. A little too well, sometimes, when you remember details and know how to weave them into an argument for what you want that is hard for me to resist.

The bottom line, my son, is that I am very proud of you. I am enjoying your childhood and I don't want you to change and at the same time I can hardly wait to see who and what you will be when you are in third grade, sixth grade, ninth grade, a high school senior, a college kid....

Happy birthday, my son, happy birthday!



And Happy Earth Day, too!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Kindergarten Rodeo

I love my son's school. They plan a lot of very fun and also educational activities for the kids. In short, they make learning fun.

A couple of weeks ago, my son's school held its annual "Kindergarten Rodeo." They set up multiple "booths" (areas), each with a different activity, and divided the kids into groups to circulate around to each activity. I was impressed with the variety. Here are just a few of the demonstrations and activities the kids enjoyed:

* A "roping lesson" with a real cowboy, in which the kids were taught how to hold and throw the lasso to "rope" a pint-sized metal bull.

* A demonstration of various tack cowboys use for horses -- things like bridles, halters, saddles, and also things riders wear, such as spurs, chaps, and hats -- along with a kid-friendly explanation of the purpose of all these items.

* A game of horseshoes (with plastic horseshoes, so the kids wouldn't accidentally kill each other)

* A lesson on how to measure horses.

* An introduction to a real live horse (and a real live cowboy, too - this is, after all, Arizona)!

* Of course no Kindergarten event would be complete without snack & story time, the story being about various barnyard animals.

* And - the coup de grace - the stick horse rodeo races, in which the kids raced their stick horses around barrels, much as real rodeo riders race their real horses around barrels.

Of course, that last one required a stick horse for each kid.

And the whole day required each kid to have a cowboy hat.

So a couple of months ago, the teachers sent home instructions on how to have your kid make a cowboy hat from paper bags, and a stick horse from a broomstick and socks and such.

Inquiring minds want to know: When did it become ok for teachers to assign homework to the parents? Because no 5 year old I know would have been able to follow the instructions that were given for either the hat or the stick horse. (I thought, for a minute or two, that perhaps my 5 year old just isn't as smart / coordinated as the average 5 year old? But he hits a baseball quite well, and can ride his bike, and has learned to read, so I am thinking that is not the issue...)

I had him help me as much as he could. He cut the paper where I told him to. He put the glue on one side of the hat brim. I glued the hat together and trimmed the edges so it was a bit more even. He decorated it.

He picked out the sock and the buttons for the eyes and nose. He helped me stuff the sock. He helped me tape the sock to the stick. He watched my husband cut out the shapes for the ears.

Then he went to bed and I stayed up half the night (of course I waited until the night before the rodeo - who wouldn't?) sewing on the horse's eyes, nose, ears, and mane.

Keep in mind, I am not Martha Stewart. My stepmom (a highly talented woman who can sew, knit, and perform other domestic tasks to rival Martha Stewart, all while working at her high-powered, high-paying consulting job making gazillions of dollars a year, and who has the patience of a saint) tried to teach me to sew when I was in high school. It is the only task she has ever tried and failed to accomplish. She gave up in despair. Nevertheless, I thought I did ok with this horse thing.

Here are the results of our combined efforts:

Stick horse:

Paper hat:

And, in a first-ever real-life photo of LegalMist's Kid posted on this site, here he is roping the "steer" at the Kindergarten Rodeo:

All in all, it was worth the effort. He loves his stick horse, loves his hat, and had a great time at the rodeo.


In the background of that last photo, you can see the new school building they are constructing. They will tear down the old building when they are done, and the kids will start next year in the brand new building.

Being sort of a fuddy-duddy, I am actually already nostalgic for the old building, with its outside covered walkways between the separate buildings for K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 grades; with its large windows that actually open in each classroom; and with its small-school, one-story charm -- all rather reminiscent of the schools of my childhood. The new building will be fully enclosed, two stories tall, with slightly larger classrooms, but with smaller, more energy-efficient, closed-all-the-time windows, and probably lots of toxic fumes from all the new wallboard, paint, and carpet. Overall, I'm not impressed.

I also find it annoying that they are busy constructing new buildings while laying off teachers and cutting the budget for the library and sports and music programs. I'd rather have my kid go to school in an older building with lots of great teachers and programs, than in a new building with crowded classrooms and no art or music programs. But that's a rant for a different day....


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One of the certainties of life

It has been said that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes.

I haven't died.

I've just been trying to fill out my tax forms.

I'll be back soon, I promise!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Need More Coffee

(Photo by powerbooktrance on flikr. Used under a creative commons attribution license, terms here. Use of the photo does not imply that the owner endorses this blog or even knows it exists.)

I am having one of those days. I can barely stay awake at my desk. I need more coffee (a quad latte would actually be more like it), but I'm too tired to make coffee, too tired to go buy coffee at the 'bucks up the road ... just too tired.

I'd like to blame my husband for this one. We have a 10 pot coffeemaker. We used to have a 12-cup coffeemaker, but he bought a "new and improved" coffeemaker a few months ago, one that grinds the beans for you, and has a timer so you can set it to brew your coffee at a designated time each morning. But it just happens to have a smaller pot than the old coffeemaker had.

Did he adjust his coffee intake? Heck no, he still uses his jumbo mug and takes the same 6 cups of coffee he always has taken with him in the morning. Only now, that leaves me only 4 cups instead of 6.

Four just isn't enough.

Someone please send me some coffee, ok?

. . .

And wake me when it gets here.....


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Welcome to the world, little one

I got a call from my step-mom yesterday. My step-brother and his wife had a baby girl Monday night. The little one is 5 pounds, 11 oz -- tiny! She is healthy, and mom and baby are expected home from the hospital today, I believe.

Her older brother (age 2 1/2) doesn't yet "get" what it means to have a baby sister. He doesn't know that his world is about to be turned upside down, that he will no longer be the center of mom and dad's universe... or that he will be the center of his baby sister's universe someday soon, and that he may or may not like that on any particular day.

* * *

It brought back memories.

First, the memories of my own daughter's birth. She was 5 pounds, 2 ounces at birth. Very tiny. And she has stayed tiny. When she first started walking, her eyes barely peeked above the coffee table, and she could walk right under the dining room table. Then one day, she was sitting under the dining room table playing, and she stood up and hit her head on the underside of the table. It shocked us both! She was "tall" all of a sudden! ("Tall" being a relative term, of course. Now that she is in 5th grade, she is finally taller than most of the kids in 2nd grade....).

I'll never forget holding her for the first time. Her eyes were so bright and she was so alert -- just taking it all in. It must be a strange experience, after months living in darkness, to emerge into the light and to experience a new sensation: sight!! And she seemed to be genuinely enjoying this new sensation. When my husband or I spoke, she would turn her head toward us and just stare, as if she were trying to memorize the faces that went with the voices she already recognized.

Then, the memories of my son's birth. He, too, was alert and happy and amazed at all he could see in this new world.

My daughter had begged me to have a baby for about two years. She said she wanted a baby brother *and* a baby sister. I wanted another child, too, and finally we decided to have one. It turned out to be my daughter's first big life lesson: "be careful what you wish for, you might get it!"

At first, she was enamored of the little guy. He was quite a bit bigger at birth than she had been -- a rather average 7 1/2 pounds. And he grew quickly. She was amazed and excited at how big he was. But she quickly became annoyed because no matter how fast he grew, he still couldn't play with her. Turns out she had wanted a brother and sister just so she'd have someone to play with at the playground. But it would be at least a year before he could even walk, and even longer until he could run and play with her. She was annoyed at his "slow" progress.

And then when he did get big enough to play a bit, he didn't play "right." First, he was too young and uncoordinated to swing on the big-kid swings and climb the monkey bars with her. Then, he turned out to have "boy interests" like playing Superhero fantasy games. She was just *not* impressed.

I had expected a certain amount of jealousy and rivalry from my daughter. I knew she might feel displaced or sad about the fact that I would have less time available for her. And she did have some of those feelings, but mostly she just accepted the fact that her brother had arrived in the world. She may not like him all the time, and she sometimes gets annoyed with him when he takes her toys or won't leave her alone, but she isn't as jealous of my time and attention as I thought she might be.

What I didn't expect, though, was the jealousy from my son. After all, he was born into a world in which his big sister already existed. One would think it would register in his brain as a fact of life, much like Dad exists and Mom exists and the dog exists, and that he would experience my dealings with her as "normal." But in fact, he was more jealous of her than she has ever been of him. If he was playing happily with some toys and I sat down to read her a story, he would crawl over and wedge himself between us. If I was playing with him and she came into the room to ask me a question, he would make loud noises or cry, and pull at me, as if trying to make sure there would be no way for me to pay any attention to her at all. If he awoke from a nap and heard me talking or playing with her, he would immediately start crying loudly. To this day, if he thinks she is getting attention from me that he is not going to get, he whines and pouts and fusses about it ... at least until I tell him to stop.

I'm making it sound awful. It really isn't, though. Because between the bouts of jealousy and whining and fussing (from both of the kids), there are whole hours and days and even weeks when they truly love each other. When she takes pride in reading him a story or helping him learn a new skill. When they each take turns patiently playing some "stupid game" the other one wants to play, just so they can enjoy some time playing together. When we all ride our bikes someplace together as a family, and you can see his pride in his sister's ability to ride so fast and bounce up and down the curbs on the sidewalk. When they hit softballs together in the back yard and she cheers his ability to smack the ball over the fence.

* * *

So, little baby girl, welcome to the world. I hope you and your older brother will have many happy times together, in between the inevitable personality clashes and bouts of jealousy. I know you will be well-loved by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I wish you a lifetime of happiness! And whether you grow much taller, or stay tiny as my daughter has done, I hope you will feel, as my daughter does, that your size is "just right," and that you will go forward in the world with a "can-do" attitude and a love of adventure.

Welcome to the world, little baby girl, welcome to the world.