Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recovery, Recipe, and Really Cute

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Adam is feeling a bit better today after being very sick the past few days.

  2. I made these mock garlic mashed potatoes tonight (thanks Principled Parent!)  It's really mashed cauliflower.  I substituted heavy cream for the butter just because I had some in my fridge which I needed to use up.  I loved it but Adam and Sam were not impressed.

  3. I put this picture in the new frame I got for Christmas:

[caption id="attachment_365" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="She has him wrapped around one of those fingers."]She has him wrapped around one of those fingers.[/caption]

A Good, Light Read

I highly recommend my latest read: The Difference Between You and Me, by Kathleen De Marco.  It's set in Hollywood and revolves around two women trying to get into the movie business.  They are indeed, very different women, and their parallel stories combine to create a theme that I can say is almost something along the lines of: the morality and practicality of the Benevolent Universe Premise.  Both women learn that people can be trusted and that achievement is possible - achievement in this world that is practical and spiritually fulfilling at the same time.  Cynicism and second-handedness both explicitly fail. 

The book does not dive deeply into philosophical issues - it stays at the surface level of psychology, but it does it well.  The plot is fun and riveting, and basically lighthearted, which fits the theme perfectly.  

This is the best novel I've read in a long time.  I truly loved it.

A Little Thing

Samantha and I sat down at the computer to type.  I opened up Word for her and she started saying, BIG FART BIG FART.  I was confused until I realized she was trying to say, "big font."   Her vocabulary is growing faster than Moore's Law right now!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tweets, Tweaks, and a Musical Treat

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Harry Binswanger is on Twitter

  2. I added a couple of new features to The Little Things.  I'm too tired to explain them now, but maybe you can have some fun searching for them.

  3. I think I mentioned that we bought Samantha a harmonica after her experience with a friend's iPhone.  She can actually make some nice noise with it, which is about all I can do myself.  Adam is determined to learn how to play "Dixie" on it.  This guy, though, is amazing.  Skip to 2:30 for the best part - the William Tell Overture on harmonica! (Thanks for the tip, Chris!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Errands, Eating, and the Economy

There are some days that I have real trouble finding three noteworthy good things, but today there were so many good things that I have trouble picking just three.  These are not necessarily the best things about today, but:

  1. I took Samantha on some errands.  It is such a joy to do everyday things with her.  She played peek-a-boo with a McDonald's worker and made the teenage girls who were ditching school look over from from their cynical conversation and act sweet for a moment.  At the library she ran straight for the board books, plucked one off the shelf, and sat down right there to "read" it.  At CVS she helped me find the diapers and remembered that they give away lollipops.  We crunched around on the ice that still covers the ground after Monday's storm that kept the Obama girls out of school.  Every time we approached the ice, Sam told me to be CAYFOAL [careful].  We didn't rush and just enjoyed each others' company.

  2. I made lamp chops and asparagus for dinner.  Delicious!  Thanks, Jon, for suggesting deglazing with cream.  I suppose it's not a "proper" way to make a sauce, but that's the kind of simple cooking I like!

  3. I went to a lecture on The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures, given by John Allison and hosted by the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.  I'll write a bit more about it this weekend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Satisfaction, Subscriptions, and Snooze

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Man, it felt so good to write a long post about a serious subject.

  2. I figured out Feedburner, I think.

  3. I had a short but effective nap.

Positive Discipline

I just finished reading Positive Discipline: The First Three Years: From Infant to Toddler--Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child (Positive Discipline Library) by Jane Ed.D. Nelsen, thanks to discussions at Principled Parent and Rational Jenn.  Overall, I didn't think this book was very helpful.  It didn't have enough examples, for one thing.  Or maybe I just didn't think the examples were very good.  I also didn't like the foundation that was laid for positive discipline - that one of the top needs of human beings is "to feel like we belong" or to "feel a sense of connection."  However, I agree with what the authors call the building blocks of Positive Discipline:

  • Mutual Respect.  This is a big one in our home.  Sam is not our pet, but a separate human being who deserves to be treated as such.

  • Understanding the belief behind the behavior.  This is where I lost touch with what I was doing, as I'll explain below.

  • Understanding child development and age-appropriateness.  This sounds easy, but it's one of the biggest challenges for me. 

  • Effective communication.  Obviously a good thing, but I would have liked much more in the book about how to achieve it.

  • Discipline that teaches.  What is the point of discipline if it doesn't teach?  Again, this is an area where I lost my way.

  • Focusing on solutions instead of punishment.  Punishment, almost by definition, is arbitrary.  The authors don't seem to believe in natural consequences, though.

  • Encouragement.  The authors believe in "celebrating" effort and improvement, as versus praising success.  I partially agree with this.

  • Children do better when they feel better.  I would call this motivation by love instead of by fear, which I stole from Ayn Rand.  The authors really just touch the surface of this whole issue with warm-fuzzy talk.

I much preferred the books of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, which I reviewed here.  The ideas are very similar, and I'm sure that their views on discipline are considered part of the Positive Discipline school.  I thought, though, that the foundation they laid for the ideas was much more solid, the books were written in a less "dumbed-down" manner, and that they included a greater wealth of concrete examples.

Still, the experience of hashing this out on the blogosphere and reading the Nelsen book was exactly what I needed right now.

To remind you of my context, I've been struggling with some new discipline issues with Samantha for the past couple of months.  She went through one of her spurts of development, which is great, but it always brings new challenges.  This time it was the typical two-year-old move towards independence.  I understood that this was a good development, and continued to use encouragement, redirection, choices and challenges for most of the issues.  I really tried to let her defy me and test me and push the limits.  She was experimenting!  But she started hitting again, and I was having a hard time with the basics tasks of the day: diaper changes, getting her coat on, getting her in her car seat, etc.

I went through a phase in December where I had decided that Sam needed to "obey."  I had never needed to think in those terms before, but I didn't know how else we were supposed to get out of the house.  We initiated time-outs as a consequence for not following instructions in a reasonable time, whereas we had only done time-outs for hitting before.  We were able to get her to listen, but it never felt right and it was painful and very time-consuming.  And it wasn't like she had learned anything - she just "disobeyed" less often. 

Rational Jenn mentioned a common PD phrase that I had never heard before and it brought me back to my senses:  Assume Positive Intent.  As she says, "this means that the parent should err on the side of thinking that the child is trying to fulfill some positive need or desire of his own, rather than intentionally trying to do something undesirable..."  This is the way I looked at almost all of Sam's behavior.  But not hitting.  For some reason, when she went through her first hitting phase, I decided (and Adam agreed) that hitting was "heinous" behavior - off the charts, out of bounds, not to be tolerated, etc.  We decided to give her an immediate time out every time she hit or struck us.  This worked (mostly) and we thought we had this discipline thing down.  But when Sam started getting "defiant," I started thinking that maybe this was just like the hitting.  After all, she needs to listen and obey me when I tell her not to run into the street, right?  She needs to "obey" sometimes, right? 

Wrong.  She cannot keep herself from running into the street right now.  She cannot stop herself from hitting every time.  She does not have the impulse control to do it.  And, although I never made the mistake of thinking she was doing these things to be "bad" or to make me crazy, I treated her as if she was doing something bad.  Why is hitting different than anything else I'm trying to teach her, like not throwing her food, touching the animals gently, or using crayons only on paper, not walls?  We have no issues with those things.  We teach.  Over and over, we teach, and she learns.  I can trust her with crayons and a coloring book at her table unsupervised because she knows that if she draws on the furniture, she'll have to stop coloring and help me clean up.  She still might forget and mess up sometimes, but then I'll just show her again.  And right now, it's my job to physically stop her from running into the street.

So, thanks to my mommy-blogger colleagues and many intelligent comments on their blogs, two weeks ago I decided to eliminate time outs, and to treat hitting and all other undesirable behavior in a consistent manner.   The biggest thing I've noticed is that now that I regard hitting just like everything else, I realize that there are all different kinds of hitting and ways of reacting.  Sometimes I ask her why she did it.  Sometimes I say "ouch, that hurt, please don't do it again."  Sometimes I tell her I need to walk away from her because I don't want to keep getting hit.   I've even told her that it hurts my feelings when she hits me, because, guess what - that's true.  I read the situation in a flash, and I usually have a sense of what to do.  It's only been two weeks, but it's going very well.  There are no battles of will in our house anymore.  And there are very few battles at all.  Discipline has almost been a non-issue. 

Also, my fear of having to use force to get her to do something has diminished.  Here is a great example.  I have to put drops in her eyes for conjunctivitis.  I tried "bribing" her with a fruit candy if she cooperated, but no fruit candy can compete with the fear of the eye drops.  Yet, she must have the eye drops.  Finally, I told her that I had to hold her down, and I did so while she thrashed and screamed.  It wasn't fun, but I don't feel guilty about it like I used to.  I think the reason is that I have let go of any idea that she must obey me, which means that she must go against her own mind.  I know she doesn't want those eye drops, but I'm not going to trick her into cooperating, which is what time-outs and rewards do.  The natural consequences of not having the eye drops are just too far removed and too serious to let her experience them, and in these rare cases (and they really are rare), I know what I need to do.  There is no conflict.

Well, that's where we are at the moment.  I am so happy that I'm writing this blog and reading others by thinking parents.  When talking about mommy-bloggers, most people talk about the need to "vent" or "share" or to know that others are experiencing the same things they are.  Sometimes I need that too.  But I need ideas even more.

A Little Thing

Samantha likes to pick up things with her toes.  I think she gets that from me.  Well, and her primate ancestors, of course.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feedburner Test

Feedburner is burning me!  I'm hoping this post makes it to your reader.  Anyone who subscribes has probably missed a couple of posts, so you might want to click over.


Why does my dog sniff around more outside when it snows?  Aren't smells muted when it is colder?  Is he just desparate to find his usual scents in the yard?  Does everything just smell different?

Or maybe it's all that yummy smelling bacteria and sulfate.

Three Classics

All Three Good Things for the day today are classic kid stuff:

  1. It finally snowed enough to go sledding.  I took Sam out to the little hill next to our house and she gave it a go, but she really preferred to just walk around, crunching and kicking and jumping and running in this new STUFF.

  2. We had Campbell's Alphabet Soup for lunch.

  3. We had hot chocolate after coming in out of the snow.


One thing that has been driving me crazy about my blog is that I had to go through a long process every time I wanted to upload an image.  I had to use Internet Explorer to put the image in my "library," and then I had to use Firefox to insert the image from the library to a post.  Each browser would give me errors when trying to do the other part.  Each image took about 3 minutes to create.  I was hoping this upgrade would solve the problem, and it did!  I plan to add many more photos to the site now.  Here is one, just for fun.  Samantha is putting caps from her paint pens on to her fingers.  She puts any object with the right size hole onto her fingers.  Caps are particularly fun because she can click them together like the long fingernails of an evil Disney witch.  

[caption id="attachment_318" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Fingercaps"]Fingercaps[/caption]

I'm Nervous

I'm about to upgrade my blog software and my theme.  I have to do it during nap time or it will never get done.  I have no idea if I've backed up properly, or what this will do to my blog.  I've been reading and trying to prepare for this for about 3 weeks and, really, I just can't figure out how to do it, so I'm just going to try it.  In the middle of the day, no less.  Sometimes you just have to say, WTF.

Update:  Just a half hour later, I think I'm done.  Let me know if you find any buggies.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Little Thing

Lately, Samantha wants to show her daddy everything.  Every day when he gets home from work, she runs up to him, points to her shirt, and describes it.




DADDY - TOOTLENECK! (turtleneck)

A Little Thing

Samantha pronounced her name correctly for the first time today.  Her own name is something she's just never been interested in, which is strange from what people tell me.  Anyway, today she said, SAMMY.  I wonder if that's the version we'll end up using.

Infatuation, Inside the Lines, and Infection

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha and I played fetch with the cat this morning.  (He's better at fetch than the dog is.)  Sam is madly in love with that cat and her squeals of delight made my whole day.

  2. Samantha made her first apparent attempt to color IN something.  Instead of just scribbling over the pictures in the coloring book, I could see her trying to stay in the lines.  I'm really enjoying coloring, myself.  I had forgotten how satisfying it is to fill in all that empty space.

  3. Good Thing:  I've lost 2 more pounds.  Bad Thing: I found out the same way I did last time - by stepping on the scale at Sam's doctor's office, where we found out she has double pink eye and a double ear infection.

A Little Thing

Sam's tiny little footprints in the snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Short Desk

Short DeskI'm 5'4" tall.  I'm short, but not tiny.  Still, a standard 30" desk is way too high for me.  Raising the chair just leaves my feet dangling, and I've never found a footstool that works without sliding around and getting in the way.  Chairs are always too deep for my short thighs but it's hard to sit forward in a chair without the counterweight of the floor for your feet to push on.

I needed a new desk anyway, suitable for our living room/library, so I decided to design something that would really work for me.  I'm very proud of the results.

First, we had this perfect corner in the room with a 4 foot long wall - just the right size for a workspace.  For the desk, I got a tabletop with adjustable legs from Ikea.  The desktop is 25.75" high and my chair is at the lowest setting.  The arms of the chair just barely slide under the desk.  When I sit and type, my forearms and thighs are parallel to the floor and my feet are flat on the floor.  I pull my chair forward and sit up straight just because it feels natural and comfortable - something I've never experienced before.  I've put my monitor on a wall mounted shelf, also from Ikea, so that it is right at eye level.  There is just 2" of space between the desk and the bottom of the shelf, but it's enough to slide my keyboard under the shelf so I have a nice, big area to write with pen and paper when I need to.

Next to my desk is another Ikea piece:

Ikea Stockholm

It's supposed to be an entertainment stand, but I use it to hold my printer, stationary, and all that miscellaneous stuff you need by your desk like paper clips and stamps.  The hole in the bottom that is supposed to be for your TV cables is perfect for the printer connection.  But it also serves another purpose - we needed a long, low storage unit to block off the drop into the sunken foyer (the banister had been removed prior to our moving in).  Since you see the back of it when you walk in the front door, it also had to have a finished back, which is rare with inexpensive furniture.  We searched long and hard for this one.  It is modern, sleek and stylish and serves all of these functions perfectly.  It gives me such pleasure just to see it every day.

I also have a bookcase (from Ikea, of course) mounted above my desk for my papers and other storage.  I need to get a couple of baskets to slide onto the shelves to hold mail and stuff to be filed, but then the setup will be complete.

I've been using this arrangement for a couple of weeks now and it was well worth the effort of designing it, finding the pieces that would work, and setting it up.  It's been so long since I've been able to do things like this - to make my living space work for me, and to look good too.  When you rent and move around a lot, you just make do.  A functional and comfortable workspace is the kind of Little Thing that I love to surround myself with.

Mail, Markers, and Melanin

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I reduced my e-mail inbox from 68 to 15 messages.

  2. I colored with Samantha.  She told me to color Ernie's ears yellow, his hands black, and his shirt pink.

  3. It was sunny again today.  I love Virginia weather.

Ninja Cat

I nominate this for Best Cat Video ever!


A Little Thing

We do a lot of wrestling and tickling in this house.  One time Samantha ended up with her little bottom right in my face, so as any right-thinking person would do, I said, "butt face!"  Of course, she repeated it, it made me laugh, and she kept saying it.  She now purposefully puts herself in that position just so she can say BUTT FACE and crack me up.

Thriller Girl

Samantha and I found this cute video while trolling YouTube for "funny babies."  This 3 year old girl is awesome!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Replacement, Recipe, and Reading

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Got my car battery replaced.  Good thing because the car was dead and I thought it might have to wait until Monday.  Also a good thing because Adam took care of it for me.  That man is spoiling me lately!

  2. Created, cooked and ate a dish of carrots and celery with a cream sauce.  Those are 2 of my least favorite vegetables, but I liked them this way.  The sauce was just a roux with heavy cream and chicken broth, plus nutmeg, salt and pepper.  I wonder if there is a way to make a low-carb roux substitute.

  3. Joined a book club.  Thanks, LB!

A Little Thing

Samantha has this wonderful, natural gratitude.  When I do something that is very pleasing and important to her, she gives me a kiss as thanks.  We didn't teach her this - she just started doing it about 3-4 months ago.  Usually it happens when I figure out which kind of food she wants to eat.  When I get the food for her, she makes kissing noises until I give her my hand so she can kiss it.  Today, I guessed right with a cookie, and kissing my hand was not enough.  After she kissed my hand, she said, ELBOW, so I let her kiss my elbow.  Then she said, 'NOTHER ELBOW, and she kissed the other one too.

Date night, Daredevil, and Development

My blog was down last night so I'm late with my Three Good Things.  I missed them!

  1. I saw Gran Torino.  It was a very well done movie and I loved some aspects of it, but Clint Eastwood is one dark dude.  I recommend it, but I wouldn't watch it again. 

  2. We hit the playground in our development and Sam played very independently.  She played catch with the bigger boys and ran off far enough where I almost lost track of her, and she really had a blast on the slide.  This is all great stuff from our cautious child.

  3. Sam climbed into the bathtub all by herself.  Again, a big deal for her.  Her legs are barely long enough to get over the edge.  She was so proud.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Other Member of the Family

JinxTalking with my friend, Chris, last night, I realized that I had never properly introduced Jinx to the Internet.  Here he is, Sam's favorite, the crazy monster who chews his own tail, Ji-Ji Baby.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Freak-out Free, Fashion, and Friend

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I had a party at my house tonight and I didn't freak out once.

  2. My husband can hang out with a bunch of girls talking about jewelry, homeschooling, and adoption, and not only hold his own, but give out fashion advice with authority.

  3. My great friend Chris is here visiting. 

A Little Thing

Samantha just said INTERNET for the first time.

Two Kinds of Bankruptcy

I heard rumors about California possibly delaying issuing tax refunds a couple of months ago.  It looks like it might happen because the government is on the verge of bankruptcy.  People in California might receive an IOU instead of a check!  This is one of the many reasons that you should aim to owe the government money in income taxes at the end of the year, or at least, break even.  Getting a tax refund just means you let the government take too much of your money all year.  Of course, it is almost impossible to figure out what you'll owe, so this is a difficult task.

Another news item causing me concern is what some are calling National Bankruptcy Day.  On February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will go into effect.  Kim has an excellent summary and tons of links here and here.  This law creates an onerous, bureaucratic certification process for children's products to (supposedly) ensure that they contain virtually no lead, and no phthalates (whatever they are).  The process is so expensive that one-of-a-kind items are expected to cease to exist and small businesses creating children's products are expected to go under quickly.  Even products manufactured before the law goes into effect are covered, and secondhand stores (think all consignment stores, yard sales, and eBay) are liable for any products they sell that don't meet the new requirements.  I wish I had some extra cash to stock up on some things now.  I suspect a black market will develop.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scissors, Scared, and Spendthrift Sipping

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha spent about 20 minutes using her scissors we gave her for Christmas.  She cut/pinched herself a few times but kept working at it and really improved her skill.  I love to see that!

  2. Sam had a nightmare last night, I think.  She was very upset and I decided to allow the rare treat of letting her sleep on my chest for an hour or so.  She's almost too heavy for that now, so I'm savoring it when it happens.

  3. I went to Wegman's again today and discovered that they have a whole lower level dedicated to wine.  It's not the largest selection I've seen in one place, but it's much nicer than any other grocery store I've ever seen, with many bottles in the $50-$70 range.  Not that I can afford that, but it's nice to browse.  Anyway, I bought a box of wine.  Have you tried the new boxed wines?  They are generally pretty decent, and you get 4 bottles in one box, which lasts about a month and costs about $20.  You can pour yourself a glass here and there and never worry about half the bottle going bad.  We're in saving money mode right now, so if we drink wine at all, this is the way we drink it.  Don't be a wine snob - try it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Children, Chuckles, and Checks and Balances

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha had her first neighborhood play date.  One of the very first ever, in fact.  I love to observe her in new situations.  I wasn't surprised to see her gravitate towards the dolls and the toy guitars.  She was her usual cautious self and needed mommy to hold her hand in the beginning, but by the end she was fairly comfortable.  We had a nice time. 

  2. Scrubs is back, and it's still funny!

  3. Today I watched the remarkable achievement which is the 43rd peaceful transfer of power in our government.  Thank you, Founding Fathers.

A Little Thing

Samantha was dancing.

Adam: Hey, she's doing the robot!

Amy:  Cool!  Hey, Sam, can you do Vogue too?  Strike a pose.  Srike a pose.

Samantha:  BOOGER NOSE!

A Little Thing

All stickers go immediately on Samamtha's cheeks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Classics: Pachelbel's Cannon and Journey

I was a bit dismayed to find out from LB at 3 Ring Binder that the melody from Eric Carmen's pop song, "All By Myself" was taken straight from my beloved Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.  I really don't care if he stole it or it was subconscious or it was a coincedence - I just hope I don't associate the two forever.

It did get Adam and me talking about copyright infringement in music and Adam found these two hilarious videos, showing how common some chord progressions really are.



I've Missed That, She Missed Me, and Don't Miss This

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I had groceries delivered to my door.  I have to admit, that is one nice thing about living in a big city again.

  2. Adam picked up Samantha from day care today, and the moment she walked in the door she said MOMMY in the most precious, excited voice.  That's a rare treat for me.

  3. Funniest and scariest link of the day (ok, so she posted it yesterday) goes to Rational Jenn.  Reading the reviews of the Playmobil Security Checkpoint toy gave me hope for the future of this country.  If that many people can recognize authoritarianism in the TSA, AND be that funny about it, we'll be ok.  Well, maybe not.

Subscribe to Comments

I just added a nice feature to The Little Things.  When you comment on a post, you'll now see a check box marked, "

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Little Thing

Because of her persistent pronoun problem and her typical love of nudity, one of Sam's cutest expressions is now,


Finished, First, and Floor

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Adam was kind enough to install the final piece of my awesome workspace: the wall-mounted bookcase.  I now have a functional and comfortable place to waste time on Facebook.  I'll be bragging more about this later this week.

  2. For the first time ever, Samantha answered a stranger who asked her name.  Sure, she pronounced it SEBIE, but she answered!

  3. I didn't have to clean the kitchen floor today.


I've been letting Samantha type on my keyboard lately.  She is able to find quite a few letters, naming them and typing them.  ("Y" is so passé - "W" is now the hot letter.)  She loves it when I hold her finger and help her type her name, and the names of the rest of the family, as we do with pen and paper sometimes also.  She's found some of the punctuation, too, and today she named the period, BABY CIRCLE.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Doggie Despair, Little Liberation, and Homeward-bound Husband

Three Good Things for the day: 

  1. I got in a miserable funk because the dog tracked dirt onto my white ceramic tile kitchen floor - AGAIN.  This led to another pass at organizing Samantha's closet, unpacking all of her music boxes and stuffed animals, hanging her alphabet finger puppets, hanging her height mirror (I'll have to post a picture of that), vacuuming and Fabreezing the area rugs, rearranging the furniture in the basement, oh, and yes, cleaning the kitchen floor - AGAIN.  The good part was not so much that I got all of that stuff done, but that I forced myself to stop moping about how much cleaning and unpacking still needs to be done, and just started taking action.  I know, I know, you're supposed to learn that when you're about 14, but I'm slow. 

  2. Part of the reason I was able to get so much done today, besides the motivation through despair, was that I finally decided that Samantha knows how to handle the stairs.  I was partway there when I decided to let the dog out without bringing her with me, but I would normally still go up and down with her, just below her on the stairs in case she fell.  I've been doing that ever since she started climbing up and down stairs on her own, and I think I've only had to catch her twice, and not for a while.  Today I told her she could come up and down with me as she pleased, and she did.  Sometimes she would stay upstairs and follow me after a few minutes, or she might not follow at all.  As with every milestone, it feels like another huge weight lifted from my shoulders.  The freedom was intoxicating, I tell you!

  3. Adam comes home in just a few hours.

Having Kids Really Makes You Grow and Learn

One of the new skills you learn as a parent is interpreting an alien language:


This means:

The decorative metal frog that we kept outside on the balcony is now downstairs on the deck, and it reminds me of that one frog, well it was a lizard, but it looked like a frog, that we saw at grandma and grandpa's house, and it was dead, but back to the metal frog, I was not allowed to touch it when it was raining outside that one time, but then I saw it downstairs when daddy was cutting down the tree.  Yes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lazy, Lazy, and Lazy

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Adam is out of town on business so Sam and I had pizza for dinner.

  2. Sam was able to hold the handle for the vacuum cleaner and push it forward and back the whole length of our bedroom.  I'll have maid service soon!

  3. It was 10 degrees for most of the day and I didn't go outside once.

A Little Thing

Sam, looking at the dog's bared teeth:  WHITE TEETH.

Me:  Yes, Toby's teeth are white.

Me, opening the cat's mouth:  What color are Jinx's teeth?

Sam:  WHITE.

Me, opening my mouth:  What color are my teeth?



Why do I need to lower my thermostat when it is colder outside?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pull-Ups, Photos, and Pageviews

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I got a handy tip from one of Samantha's teachers at day care today: you can rip the sides of the pull-up diaper to take it off like a regular diaper.  Do all moms but me already know about this trick?

  2. I finally got around to ordering prints of the best of our photos from the past 6 months or so.  Now if only I can find the photo albums...

  3. Today I got the highest number of hits ever on this blog. 

Earning Money to Adopt


I've been hinting at this party I'm throwing for a while now, and it's about time I explain.  Actually, I'll let my friend Chris explain because this e-mail she sent was so touching:
Many of you know that Jon and I have talked on and off for a long time about adopting a child.  It is an enormous decision and about six months ago we found ourselves on the same page.  I was still in school so we decided to wait until the fall to make any big moves.  Well, it's the Fall...and we recently decided that we are committed to moving ahead and have chosen our agency.  This is so very, very exciting to us I can't begin to tell you!  We are looking to adopt an "older" child from Ethiopia and could not be more excited.  By "older" we mean a child some where between 3 and 5ish.  Jackson has been asking for a brother or sister for as long as I can remember and he is thrilled at the idea.

So that's the awesome news...

And here's our's damned expensive!  You may or may not know that adoption, especially international adoption, is frighteningly expensive. The likely cost is between $20,000 and $30,000.  Given that we don't have that laying around (does anyone?) I have been wracking my brain about how to continue working as a nurse AND raise money on the side toward the a way that doesn't have me away from my family too much more than I already am.  The answer came to me a month or two ago and I am now getting ready to begin!

I've decided to sell a line of jewelry independently to raise money for the adoption.  Some of you may be familiar with the line...Silpada.  For those of you who are not, what I can tell you is that I love it enough to sell it.  I really didn't think I'd be interested in spending time on this sort of thing at this point in my life, particularly with my new nursing job. But I have to tell you...I love the darned jewelry!  For those of you who know [K], she's bought enough of it from another rep that she's had to buy a piece of furniture to store it all!  I love that girl!   My hope is that this will allow me to do something independently to raise money for the adoption while not having to take time away from Jackson or Jon to do it...very important.

Silpada Jewelry

So as you can probably guess, I'm hosing a Silpada Jewelry party for Chris next week.  First, I want to help her reach this goal in any way I can.  I admire her so much for her commitment to pursuing her values, and what an exciting goal!  Second, I needed a good kick in the butt to get me started socializing anyway.  I want to meet my new neighbors, and I want to get to know the few people I've already met better, so this was the perfect opportunity.

And even though all I have to do is invite people and put out a bit of food, the whole process is terribly frightening to me.  I went through a couple of days of high anxiety trying to put together the invitation list, but at some point, I let go and realized that the worst thing that could happen was I might have to cancel the party if not enough people wanted to come.  Big deal, right?  But my social anxiety is not rational.  I'd like to make friends and be able to attend social events without dread.  Really, this is quite a big step for me.

If you're interested in the jewelry or helping Chris out, you can browse the catalog here.  You order by e-mailing Chris what you want using the link on her site.  I bought a necklace and earrings and they are some of the nicest pieces that I own.  You might even strategically leave her web site up on the family computer - Valentine's Day is coming up soon, you know!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Somersault, Singers, and Steak

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha did her first unaided somersault.

  2. I watched American Idol.  I'm hooked again.

  3. We used our grill for the first time since moving here to our new house.

Autism and Vaccines

Here is a great article about the vaccine-autism non-connection, revolving around a new book: Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit.

Highlights of the article:
Those backing Dr. Offit say he was forced into the role [of publicizing the pro-vaccine view]. Opponents of vaccines have held rallies, appeared on talk shows like “Oprah” and “Imus in the Morning,” been the heroes of made-for-TV movies and found a celebrity spokeswoman in Jenny McCarthy, the actress and former Playboy model who has an autistic son. Meanwhile, the response from public health officials has been muted and couched in dull scientific jargon.

She [Dr. Nancy J. Minshew, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a leading autism expert] blamed journalists for “creating a conspiracy where there was none.” By acting as if there were two legitimate sides to the autism debate, she said, “the media has fed on this — it’s great for ratings.”

Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

I love Dr. Minshew's point, and the call from doctors for the press to treat these claims with indifference.  This is exactly how one needs to treat arbitrary claims.  The only problem for Dr. Offit is that I won't read his book because I don't need to hear arguments against the arbitrary!

I can say that because I've looked into this autism-vaccine issue myself, and it's pretty easy to understand.  However, I wish I could find the equivalent of these doctors who understand the arbitrary to help me sort through all of science news.  I am really struggling with how to keep up with scientific news because there is so much junk science out there and I haven't found any experts I can trust.  I've retreated into skepticism about anything that I can't understand based on my own limited knowledge.  Does anybody have any suggestions for a good science news source for laymen?

A Little Thing

Samantha loves for me to draw faces.  She can't do much but scribble yet herself, so I'll draw a big circle and ask her which part of the face I should draw next, until we have a complete face.  She always forgets the mouth.  Today she was coloring by herself and I heard her whisper to herself,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Woof, Wood, and Wine

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Sam met a dog named JoJo who reminded her of her grandparents' dog, Honey.

  2. I cleaned my hardwood floors with Murphy's Oil Soap for the first time since we moved in and I've been admiring how beautiful it looks all day. 

  3. I'm about to go pour myself a glass of wine and chuckle about this for the rest of the evening.

It's Like She's a Toddler or Something

Samantha locked me in the basement today. 

There is a door to the basement stairs that locks from the main level side of the door, but Sam had never touched it.  She also had never even played with the push-button locks on any of the doors before.  She's not tall enough yet to actually turn a door handle enough to unlatch it.  (Can you imagine how frustrating that must be for her, at 2.25 years old?)  Well, yesterday she finally found the lock on the bathroom door.  I was pretty happy that she could reach and use it, and she immediately figured out how to turn the handle just enough to pop the lock open.  I have no idea how to unlock the door from the outside, so until I could figure out what to do, we decided to keep the bathroom door closed when it is not in use so she could not lock herself inside.

Now, we have a walk-out basement, which means that the only way into the back yard is through the basement sliding glass door, which means that I have to go down to the basement to let the dog out.  When we first started looking for houses, I vetoed any house which didn't have an exit to the back yard from the main level.  But after finding out that you have to make about $300K a year to live in anyting but a hovel around here (where do all the underpaid federal employees live, I wonder?) I made some compromises.  This house was perfect in so many ways that I figured I could handle running to the basement 5 times a day to let out the dog, until we build a new deck with stairs from the main level to the ground.  It's a huge hassle because 1) I have a knee problem that makes going down stairs very painful, to the point where sometimes I have to walk down backwards, and 2) I have a toddler who can't be trusted on the stairs alone yet.  Luckily, right as we were moving in here, Sam was getting to the point where she understood that stairs need to be treated with respect, and I just decided that I would leave her on the main level while I let out the dog.  There was no way I was going to spend the 5 minutes it takes to get her up and down stairs every single time the dog needed to pee.  She's been careful, and the stairs are carpeted, so I figure it's a risk we have to live with.  The other choice would have been to close the door so she could not get to the stairs at all, but I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to hear her if something went wrong while I was down there, or maybe, just maybe, she'd figure out how to use the lock and lock me down there.

I must have been thrill seeking this evening because when I went to let out the dog, I closed the door.  I have no idea why I did that, especially when I know she just figured out how to use the lock.  And she put her new knowledge to use, of course.  I heard her lock it and unlock it a half dozen times while I was down there and I figured I had a 50/50 chance she'd leave it unlocked.  No such luck.  I asked her to unlock the door and she started screaming.  Oy vey. 

I could get outside, but I couldn't have gotten back in the front door because it was locked.  I wasn't too worried, though.  There was a tiny hole in the doorknob, which I figured I could stick someting in to unlock the door.  But I wanted Sam to unlock it.  For 15 minutes, I asked her to unlock the door.  I waited silently for a while.  I made it a game.  I told her I was watching TV without her.  I tried to be supportive and encouraging.  But she would not unlock that door.  Finally I gave up and stuck a nail in the hole and was able to unlock the door.  But damn if that girl didn't know exactly what she was doing.

Really Cool Architecture

I really like the interesting design of blogger Michelle Mitchell's remodel:

Our Home Remodel Is Finished from Michelle Mitchell at Scribbit on Vimeo.

What a great way to expand the existing rooms and bring in tons of natural light.  At first I didn't like the way the addition looked from the outside, but once I saw the function of it on the inside, I grew to like the view from outside as well.  And aren't those light fixtures the best? 

I'm also impressed with the way this family uses their space.  The house is not very large, and there are four kids living there!  Michelle also blogs, bakes, and does tons of crafts from that house.  I hope to be so organized some day.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have no idea how Google works.  Why am I the tenth hit when you search, "woman pooing her pants?"  Yikes!

Soup, Sam, and Science

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Cooked an excellent barley and vegetable soup tonight, thanks to Six O'Clock Scramble.

  2. Decided to try eliminating time-outs for Sam and work on positive discipline.  I don't think I'll figure it all out unless I give it a try.  Thanks, readers and friends, for sharing your thoughts.  I'll keep you posted.

  3. Brian Malow is definitely the find of the day (thanks Kim!)  This guy is a "science comedian" and it's really just good stand-up comedy, but with basic science as a running theme.  This vid starts out a bit slow so hang in there - it's worth it.


What I Found Behind the Dishwasher

Another interesting find in my new home:

Trash Behind Dishwasher

This is the space right next to my dishwasher.  I was cleaning the cabinets near it when I saw this mess.  There is a grape, some wadded up paper, plastic wrapping of some sort, and the glass, which is not a drinking glass, but a lamp shade for the ceiling fan light fixture in our breakfast area.  We can't get the lamp shade out - it doesn't fit!  Adam and I have been debating about how it got there.  It must have arrived there sometime between the time they installed the horrible tile floor and the time they installed the dishwasher.  Adam thinks somebody put it there as some kind of joke.  I think they must have installed the ceiling fan at the same time they installed the dishwasher, and it just rolled there.  But in my theory, the lamp shade would have had to roll all the way around a peninsula.   Unless it was on the kitchen counter and fell off and rolled in there.  I could think about this for days.

A Little Thing

Samantha named her new doll, Girl.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sleep, Salad, and Sick

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Today was my day to sleep in.

  2. I made and ate a Caesar Salad.

  3. Sam is feeling better.

Wow, I had to dig deep for those.  I guess there are bound to be days like this.

Scarier than Double-Digit Unemployment

Here is the most important news story of the day...the week...probably since November 4:

U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site

The only reason I ever supported invading Iraq was that it would lead to the elimination of the Iranian government.  May George W. Bush be damned for the lives he threw away for nothing. 

A nuclear Iran is terrifying, and yet it looks inevitable at this point.  I don't even know what action to call for to try to stop it.

VI Warshawski

I forgot to mention another book I read in the middle of those last 4:  Blacklist by Sara Paretsky.  This is one of a series with female detective VI Warshawski - you might remember the movie with Kathleen Turner.  I had read one other in the series before and disliked it, and should have learned my lesson and not bothered with this one.  I can't put my finger on it, but I feel like I'm in a dark place when reading this author.  The main character is action-oriented and competent, but she is sad for some reason that I don't fully understand.  The stories move along and I keep waiting for something to make her proud or happy, but nothing does.  It's depressing.

Besides the Great Books series, next up is Positive Discipline: The First Three Years: From Infant to Toddler--Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child (Positive Discipline Library) by Jane Ed.D. Nelsen (thanks Principled Parent) and probably some kind of easy fiction I'll pick out at the library.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dinner, Desk, and Delinquency

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Had a nice sushi dinner out with a friend who also recently moved to northern Virginia.  Samantha ate a tiny bit of crab, licked the eel and the salmon, but otherwise stuck to Miso soup and edamame.  She's adventurous in her eating, but come on!

  2. Adam put up a shelf for my monitor which means there is only one step left in building my awesome workspace in the living room.  I'll post pictures and the reasoning behind the design when it is complete. 

  3. Got through about 30 of the 82 emails that were lingering in my inbox.  Found some nice notes from friends that I hadn't really read yet, some pictures of a friend's new baby, and an electronic Christmas card I hadn't had the chance to view yet.  Is it too late to make a New Year's resolution to keep up with my email?


Is anybody else having trouble with gmail lately?  I keep getting a pop up box titled Error which says:

Oops... a server error occurred and your email was not saved. (#103)

[or not sent, or whatever]

But then the email seems to have been saved, or sent, or whatever.  I found a thread on Google Groups:

But it doesn't say much.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bedtime Bliss, Busy, and Bucket O' Beer

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha slept in until almost 9am this morning.

  2. I took Sam to the doctor (she has an ear infection) and, trying to convince her to step up on the scale, I weighed myself.  I've lost 5 pounds just because I've been too busy to remember to eat.

  3. Even though I told myself I'd go to bed early, something inspired me to rearrange the furniture in the living room and it led to all kinds of good reorganization around the house.  The most interesting thing was that I found this leftover from the previous occupants up on a high shelf in the laundry room.  Yes, they are unopened.  Ha!

Bucket \'O Beer

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Sam Update - Twenty Eight Months Old

Since I missed the quarterly pictures, I have two sets for you today. Click the picture, then click "Slideshow" at the top-left to see them all.

Sam 24-28 months

Christmas 2008


As I've been reporting, Samantha is in her terrible two's phase.  I think it could be more properly called the testing two's.  She is testing cause and effect, mostly how she can cause me to effectively lose my mind.  No, seriously, it's a challenging time for us, but I view it as normal and actually quite an exciting development.

Sam is now using three words sentences quite often.  NO COVER UP means that she does not want blankets on her at night.  MORE WATCH DUCK means she wants to watch the TV show, Little Bear, but don't ask me why she calls it "Duck."  PICK UP YOU means that she wants to be picked up - she still can't get that pronoun thing straight.  She loves words, especially big words.  Now is the time when I really need to start recording all the funny things she says.  If you didn't read about her first joke here on my blog a couple of days ago, you really have to read it now.  It made my heart leap with joy!

Sam has started to memorize her books.  I think she might even be able to sight-read a couple of words, but it's hard to tell.

Another interesting development is her verbal recounting of events.  A while back, Adam and I updated our bedtime routine to include a recap of the day.  After reading a book, we turn off the light and talk about what we did that day.  She doesn't participate yet; she just listens.  But it must have influenced her because now Sam tells us stories about things that happen to her.  She tells her stories in a strange stream of consciousness way.  For example, she'll look out the window with a glazed look on her face and say, FALL DOWN. Then she'll make a sad face and say, ABBY.  If I'm quiet, she'll continue with furrowed brow:  FALL DOWN.  FALL DOWN.  NO.  NO PUSHING.  ABBY.  NO PUSHING.  NAUGHTY.  FALL DOWN.  DIRT.  NAUGHTY.  NO.  It turns out that there is a girl in Sam's school named Abby who likes to push.  I think she must have pushed Sam down in the dirt outside, and then was told she was naughty.  Another one from tonight:  FRUIT CUP.  BUY.  EAR.  EAR.  DOCTOR.  ANIMAL (still pronounced AM-EE-YOH).  PAW.  DOCTOR.  ANIMAL.  SHOE.  NAUGHTY.  This means that we went to the store and bought fruit cups, and when we got home we discussed taking her to the doctor for a possible ear infection, (but that we also talked recently about taking Toby to the animal doctor because he has a boo boo on his paw), and when we came home Sam would not put her shoes away and she was naughty (even though we didn't call her that.)  I love interpreting these soliloquies.  When I get it, it's almost the same feeling as when she first started using sign language - it's just a whole new level of communication.

The other thing that is a bit more disconcerting is that her imaginary play usually involves giving her dolls and animals time-outs.  She is either giving Girl, her new doll, a time-out, or she is putting her down for a nap.  I wonder if these are the two things that she feels the most lack of control over. 

It's so hard to be a parent.  You can never know if you're doing the right thing, and even if there is no one right thing, you still wonder if you could be doing better.  The pace is relentless, the feedback is fuzzy and usually delayed, and when you try to do research and read and learn from others, there is so much information that you can lose sight of your own values and goals.  I've always sneered at parents who claim that what they want most for their children is for them to "be happy."  Well of course, you want them to be happy, but get specific, folks!  Do you believe in education, unconditional love, faith in God, the pursuit of wealth?  Come on!  But I do find that when I feel uncertainty about how I'm raising Samantha, I look at her and ask myself: is she happy?  It's not the best standard to judge by, I know.  She might be happy now, but miserable later.  But it is something.  And I'll tell you, this is one happy kid.

Plutarch, Playdates, and Perceptiveness

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I started the Ten Years of Reading in the Great Books of the Western World series.  I found my notes from 2002, and I had read the first few readings by Plato and Aristotle, so now I'm on Plutarch.  Last night I read about Lycurgus.  The Spartans really were the Soviets of the ancient world, weren't they?

  2. I exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with my next door neighbor, who seems very nice and has two young kids.  I'm going to invite her to my party.  I'm really working on this making friends thing.

  3. When Adam came home from work, he immediately saw what kind of a day I had had, and promptly did the dishes.  What a man!

The Thrill Is Gone

We're now on our third Survival Day and the thrill is gone.  Samantha isn't all that sick, but she does have a fever and we haven't gotten out of the house at all.  Cleaning chores are building up and there's not much food left in the house.  And now we're at the point that I hate, where Sam still isn't feeling well but she's figured out that she can get away with murder because Mommy is giving her special treatment.

This time, I vow to end the spoiling the moment the fever breaks.  Still, we're in for a whining, screaming, annoying little girl for a few days, at least.

This does remind me, however, to report that our crackdown on bad behavior did work.  It took about 10 days, with time-outs slowly diminishing in number and duration, until we started having days without time-outs again.  There have been a few incidents since we returned from Florida but overall things are better and one time-out is usually all that is required when Sam breaks the rules.

Still, I feel like I'm missing something in the discipline department.  One morning, after we went through the crackdown, I went to get Sam out of her crib in the morning and she was soaking wet.  I told her I was going to change her diaper right away.  She flipped out.  I was so tired, I just didn't want to do the time-out.  Adam was still home so I got him to help me hold her so I could change her diaper by force.  I haven't done that in a long time, and it was almost impossible, even with 2 people.  But it seemed to have an impact on her. 

We never, ever hit Samantha.  If she hits a person or an animal, we might grab her hand and tell her no hitting before we put her in time-out, and we certainly have to get very physical with her when she gets up off the stairs when she is supposed to be in time-out, but that just means picking up her squirming little body and placing it on the stair with certainty.  She has fallen off chairs, hit her head on the ground, and hurt herself in other ways during this process, but it has never been because we intentionally inflicted pain on her.

So if I'm willing to use force to put her in time-out, why am I so hesitant to force a diaper change?  I think part of it is that I am afraid I won't be able to win the physical battle.  You don't want to engage a child in a physical battle and lose.  Should I be physically capable of forcing my 2 year old to let me get a diaper on her?  Because I suppose I could do it, if I was willing to use more force.  But how would I know if I'm hurting her or how much?  Is it ok if she hurts a little in that situation? 

But I'm not sure that's the whole issue.  I seem to still have some kind of bad premise working, where I'm confusing abuse with something else, and I think it is making me a weak parent.  I hate to think what kind of answers I might get, but I'll still ask all my readers:  Do you have any advice?  When and how do you force your child to do something?

Busch Gardens

I've been meaning to write about the great time we had at Busch Gardens in Tampa over Christmas break.  It's a combination of an amusement park and a zoo.  I really loved it because you could look at all the animals on your way from one ride to another.  Also, the park was not too big, so I didn't feel overwhelmed, the grounds were attractive, and there weren't a lot of hills or big loops that take you nowhere.   Adam and his stepmom both get motion sick, and Samantha doesn't quite meet the height requirements, so Adam's sister and I went on two coasters: Gwazi, a wooden roller coaster, and SheiKra, which starts with a 200 foot 90 degree drop before twisting you into a pretzel.  It was awesome!

We also saw an ice skating show (outdoors in the 75 degree Florida weather!)  Our tickets to the park and the show were given to us courtesy of the female lead in the show, another wonderful girl named Samantha.  My own Sam loved the show, and when she saw her namesake on the ice, she cried, BARBIE, BARBIE!  It was a fantastic day, and really kicked off our vacation in a good way.

Tonight I was reading Go, Dog. Go! to Sam.  We got to the page where there is a dog roller skating.  She pointed to the skates and said, DOH DOH, which is her way of saying, "what is that called?"  I said, "roller skates."   She said, BARBIE.

Deb, Sam, and Sam

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

First Joke

Samantha made her first joke last night.  We were eating dinner and I said, "excuse me" in a funny way.  It cracked her up so much that I started saying it over and over in all sorts of silly ways.  Of course, Steve Martin was in there, as was Mike Myers.  I pretended to let food fall out of my mouth and said "excuse me."  I "accidentally" ate some food off of Sam's plate and said "excuse me."  I stretched it out long, and then I said it as fast as I could.  I said it with a high pitch, I said it with a low pitch.  I had her laughing so hard she almost fell out of her chair.  Then she put her hand over her mouth and, pretending to sneeze, said, AH-AHHH-AHHH-SCUSEME!

More than Three, More than We Could Carry, and More to Come on that Subject

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I realized that Three Good Things was taking over all of my blogging ideas and finally started writing other stuff again.  I really love this whole blogging thing.

  2. Sam's Christmas presents arrived from Florida.  (There was no way we were taking this awesome scooter back home on the plane.)  Thanks, Dad and Deb! 

  3. I sent out the Evite for my party.  I'm telling you, this is really a big deal for me!

Book Reviews

Here's a recap of the last 4.5 books I've read.  I definitely want to review each book I read here on my blog from now on, mostly to keep a record for myself.  I think it will help me to retain what I've read better.  Please don't judge my overall reading habits by this selection of books.  I go through phases with my reading - I'll be into Russian literature for a few months, then biographies, then US Weekly.

  • Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky.  Great recommendation from Jean Moroney.  I would subtitle this book, "Exercises in Introspection," although I guess that would be confusing to a lot of people.  It really is a beginner's guide to introspection: how to differentiate thoughts from feelings, how to identify feelings that lead to moods, how to connect the situation and your evaluation of it to your emotions, etc.  There are worksheets to help you do exercises to work on these identifications.  Most of the book was old-hat to me, but I did like the section on assumptions and core beliefs, as I'm still trying to figure out where I get my misanthropy and some other issues.  The Three Good Things exercise is related, but not quite the same. 

  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.  This was a choice from the library of my step-mother-in-law. (What a horrible title; she sounds like a witch.  Just the opposite - Deb is vivacious, sweet, and smart.)  This book is based on the author's experience as the child of two horrible human beings.  They were early hippies, rebelling against "the system," and so refused to hold down steady jobs, moved around constantly evading the law, and treated their children like animals.  The father was a drunk and the mother hid under a blanket eating chocolate while her children were starving; they were actually taking food out of garbage cans at school to survive.  I can't say I liked the book, but many of the horrifying stories will stay with me for a long time.  It clarified what immorality looks like in "regular" people.  What I find interesting, though, is that this memoir is really just a reality read - no different than reality TV - and yet books like this are heralded as "fine art," "intelligent," and "spectacular," while reality TV shows are seen as low-brow and disgusting.

  • The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.  Another selection from Deb's library.  I disliked this best-seller.  I found it to be shallow and pretentious.  The author asserted all of these "deep" emotions in her characters, but I didn't find that the situation and personalities actually gave rise to those feelings.  It was corny.

  • You've Got Male by Elizabeth Bevarly.  Yes, I tried a romance novel.  I hadn't read one since my 20's, or maybe ever.  I'm not sure.  When Sam and I were at the library we walked past the romance section and Sam pointed at one of the girly girls on a cover and said, BARBIE.  It cracked me up and I picked up this book just for fun.  But I couldn't get past 40 pages.

  • Hold Tight by Harlan Coben.  This is my usual fare: your basic mystery/thriller.  This one was average. 

A Little Thing

Today Sam was in the mood to name everything she came across.  She sat at the table and said:


and then she pulled up my sleeve, looked at my watch and said:


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


We just finished watching Troy.  It took us two nights, but even so, I was surprised to find it was a good movie.  I enjoyed it much more than reading The Iliad because the creators of the movie accomplished a rare feat: proper modernization of a classic.  The story is mostly the same, and what was changed just makes the conclusion more satisfying.  The gods do not participate, but belief in them plays a role in mortals' motivation.  The battle scenes are not gratuitous and serve to advance the plot, while being quite thrilling to watch.  There is no cynicism or self-mockery in the movie at all - it takes itself seriously.  Each character is unique and you can understand the motivation for all of their actions.  The central conflict is between two good men, not good versus evil, which is an important element to me, as I've written before.  And somehow, the creators of this movie essentialized the story so well that I actually found the plot compelling.  Homer left me cold in comparison.

I wish Achilles had been played by somebody other than Brad Pitt.  As Adam said as the movie began, it's getting harder and harder to watch a movie with him in it because of what we know about him as a celebrity.  Ditto Tom Cruise.  Maybe we need to stop watching The Soup so we can enjoy our movies more.

Survival Day

Three Good Things is an interesting assignment today, it being a Survival Day and all.  The Survival Day concept started when Sam was an infant and there were those nights of just a few hours sleep and I didn't know how I could possibly make it through the next day.  I would tell myself, "just survive the day," and that would help me take it easy and not feel guilty for getting nothing done.  Now I declare a Survival Day when I'm very sick and I just don't know how I'm going to manage.  Today I woke up with a terrible headache and just not feeling right.  Sam ended up getting sick later in the day, so I guess it's a bug.

The funny thing is that Survival Days can end up being the best days of all.  It's impossible not to do anything productive when you have to care for a child, but the pressure to work on my to do list is off.  I always end up spending some really good time with Sam on these sick days.  Today, I had more physical contact with my daughter than since she was nursing.  We watched TV, played tickle monster, read a lot of books, and just cuddled on the couch.  After her bath, Sam sat still on my lap for about 5 minutes while we did nothing but rock in the glider.  We had a nice day, and here are Three Good Things:

  1. Sam decided that the funny phrase of the day today is, "Oh, drat!"  I was telling her a story, made up on the spot, and one of the characters said it and I had to drop the whole story and just keep saying, "Oh, drat!" for the next 5 minutes so that I could revel in that incredible giggle.

  2. I taught Sam to say, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."  Two syllables at a time, only, so far.

  3. An unexpected bit of money came our way, at a time when we really need it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grooming, Groceries, and Good Morning

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I got my hair cut.

  2. I shopped at Wegman's for the first time.  What a beautiful supermarket.  I think I could live there.

  3. I set my alarm and woke up before Samantha, so that I was able to shower and dress without begging a favor from my husband or sticking Sam in front of the TV.  I need to do that more often.

Brita Now Comes in Green

I just got a new Brita water pitcher.  The flip-up pour spout cover on our old one had broken off long ago, and when we moved here to our new house we felt like it was time to start fresh and get a new one.

I love my Brita water.  I wanted to write a whole post about how drinking Brita water is superior to drinking bottled water, but then I found out that the Cult of Green is taking on the bottled water industry, and I hate to be on the same side as those wackos.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Recycling, Roots, and Revelry

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Gave away most of our moving boxes to a friend. 

  2. Finished up with the bleach and took another pass at reorganizing the kitchen.  I can't tell you how fulfulling this is, knowing that I'll be using this kitchen for years to come.  Roots are growing.

  3. Speaking of roots, I started planning a party last night.  This is a big deal for anti-social me and I'll be writing more about it in the coming days.  Maybe I'll have a chance to make some friends who actually live near me!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Why isn't there a cleaning service that will do things like clean all the walls in the house?  Or wipe the sticky, linty film off the shelves in the laundry room?  Or bleach all the grout in the whole house?

Buddies, Bleach, and Bananas

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I had a nice chat on the phone with my high school friend, Andrea.  She lives in California, but we try to catch up at New Year's if we've been bad about keeping in touch.  I'm happy that my two best friends from high school are still two of my very best friends, even when we don't speak very often. 

  2. I bleached the grout on my tiled kitchen counters.  This might not sound like a Good Thing, but I've been dying to do it since we moved in and, wow, it looks so much better!

  3. I'll never throw away a brown banana again after making this banana pudding, which really did take only 5 minutes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Little Thing

We've resumed the practice of making the bed every day.  It's a Little Thing that's never been high on my priority list so it fell off completely during the insanity that has been the past year and a half.  It's nice to have it back again.  It feels....civilized.

Movie, Music, and Map

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. I went to a movie in the middle of the day!  What a luxury.  This whole Christmas season has reminded me what it means to relax and enjoy.  (We saw Yes Man and it was pretty funny.  Classic Jim Carrey.)

  2. We bought Samantha a harmonica after seeing her play on Kyle's iPhone.  And I thought the phone-as-harmonica was a joke.

  3. I was introduced to Tom Tom.  Wicked cool.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Friend, Funny, and Food

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Our friend Kyle is visiting from Orange County.  He's a teacher at the best school in the country, as far as I'm concerned.

  2. Watched Dr. Horrible.  Joss Whedon is a genius.

  3. Cooked and ate an excellent dinner, if I do say so myself.  Top sirloin with garlic and thyme, baked potatoes, and a basic salad.  You just can't go wrong with The Joy of Cooking.