Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

For these, I give thanks:

We have plenty of food, are never without shelter or anything we really need. I have fulfilling work, get to work my schedule around the boys', and have been able to spend their childhoods with them.

We have been so lucky with our health. Even slamming my head into concrete only resulted in a couple days in the hospital. Ben came pretty close to being stillborn, but was resuscitated and is fine. We're so blessed.

I have a fabulous extended family. Wonderful sisters, fantastic nieces and nephews and stunningly beautiful and sweet great-nephews. I really have an amazing family. I actually like them, too.

Prozac. Seriously. My brain is full of destabilizing earthquakes off anti-depressants, and my brain is much closer to fine on them. Thanks, Eli Lily.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Portland

We're here, we survived the train trip, and it's cold but not unbearable. I don't have any pics yet because I haven't been able to hook my laptop up to the internet connection.

The boys are whiny and I figured out the real problem with these family vacations - too much togetherness. Usually I get two days at work as a break, but here's a whole week with uninterrupted kid time. Not just kid time, but kid time in a new place where they have to be supervised all the time. Grandma is a terrific playmate, but after 2 days I have a feeling she may be reaching her limit, too.

Also, we're all sick because we cannot travel for a holiday without getting sick.

More later. Maybe with pictures.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Leavin' On a Big Train....

So tomorrow night we board the Amtrak Coast Starlight (which goes nowhere near the coast on the route we'll be taking) up to Portland, OR. The whole trip is supposed to take 18 hours, and will probably take longer given Amtrak's record.

I was panicking a few days ago because the only reviews and tips I could find for families traveling overnight by train reported having rented a sleeper car, which is about the price of a very, very nice hotel room. We're not renting a sleeper car. We'll be sleeping in our seats. Hopefully we'll be sleeping, I mean.

So we won't be in anything like this:

And this is the Parlour Car, which we won't be seeing either, as it's only for those reserving sleeper cars:

That's a little elitist, don't you think? I plan to press my nose up against the door and breathe on it like the Little Matchstick Girl.

We'll be in something like this:

And we're hoping this won't happen:

Monday, November 17, 2008

A's Latest Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

The other night, G and I were watching the Colbert Report online, when A. came out and announced that he had built a museum in his room. I realize we're supposed to nurture his creative streak, blah blah blah, but seriously, if you lived with this kid you wouldn't be able to maintain the enthusiasm 24/7 either. So we mumbled, "Great. Go to bed," and went back to our TV show. Sometimes these things go away overnight.

It appears he's pretty serious about this museum, though, since he's kept the project up for a few days now. He has a sign on his door ("A's Myoozeeum"), and charges a $1 entrance fee. I talked him into letting his mother and brother in for free, but G. was feeling flush and paid.

He also wanted me to film a short documentary on his museum. He thinks his is the only museum where you (the collective you minus his little brother) can touch fake rubber bugs, which just isn't actually true. I have a photos from the Discovery Museum to prove that, oh ye short one of little memory.

He also exhibits a (fake) sloth in its natural habitat: a small asparagus fern he's growing. He also points out the many maps of the world on his wall. He's missing Africa and Australia, but has a globe if you really feel a need to look at those continents.

He touts himself as the only kid owner of a museum, and announces that you might see him wearing 3-D glasses if you visit.

Honestly, I can't tell if he really thinks the general public is going to visit this museum or not.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Felt Board

The felts boards are coming along nicely, although I'm now cutting felt in my dreams. This is the "Autumn Leaves" set. I also have an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly set, a Make-a-Snowman set, a Decorate-the-Xmas-Tree set and after some laminating tomorrow, will have a Pokemon set.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Wish I Liked This Time of Year More

Every year around this time I start getting anxious. At first, I always think it's because the holidays are around the corner, but really, we have pretty simple holiday traditions and there's not that much pressure.

Then I remember - the anniversary of my mother's death is coming up. She died in December 1986, and the anniversary has always affected me more than her birthday or Mother's Day. She has now been gone for more of my life than she was alive for - the memory of her is getting farther and farther away. In fact, I think I'm losing it. But if I make a conscious effort to sit down, think and write about her, the anxiety releases some of its grip.

Many days, I don't think about her. I'm used to her not being around. We had what you might call a complicated relationship, filled with bitterness, anger, obligation and unyielding bonds. When she died, I had a hard time grieving because I didn't feel I had a right to grieve someone I so thoroughly resented. Then I'd feel guilty because I'd gotten what I wanted: freedom.

Every winter, I think about her. We visit her grave in December, and say a prayer. She loved Christmas and was uncommonly generous - it was definitely her time to shine. I don't feel like she's there at the cemetery, but I don't know where else to go.

Although my memories are more and more faded, I still glimpse her fleetingly in my son, who inherited her lack of height and Irish-bright red hair. I also see my mouth and dimples becoming hers with tiny lines and deep creases.

I'm sorry I never got to know her without all her baggage. I gave up on her by grade school, and built an internal armour against her. She never really got to know me, either. I like to think we would have gotten along, and maybe even enjoyed each other, if we could have put down our shields.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Felt Board

I have decided that the key to my sanity during the upcoming 18-hour train ride is to make a felt board. Perhaps you've seen these.

Felt Board

Yes, this is it. This will save me, I'm sure of it. Like Colorforms, but made of felt and work better than Colorforms, which are crappy these days, frankly. The Colorforms I had as a kid were probably made with lead but stuck WAY better and lasted longer.

Once I got the idea, there was no stopping me. I busted the doors of our craft store and bought up all their felt. So far I've covered two damaged chalkboards from a local outlet with light blue felt and have made an autumn tree kit and a build-your-own snowman kit. I still have to do penguins (Ben's latest obsession) and figures for the Gingerbread Boy story. Maybe a farm scene - they seem to be very popular with the felt board people these days.

The boys better play with these for hours, that's all I have to say.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Well, registering to donate bone marrow is still a good idea, but it's not free. But there is a place on the website where you can enter your zip code and find a place near you to register in person. There's one near me this Saturday, in fact. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Not Save a Life, Pt. I

So I read over on Lizard Eater's blog that during the month of November, it's FREE to join the Bone Marrow Registry. All you have to do is complete the form and then they send you a cheek-swabbing kit. Usually it costs $52 to cover the processing.

That seems like a good idea, doesn't it? Saving a life, in general, seems like a good idea. I know if my kids needed bone marrow, and they found a match through the registry, I'd certainly be grateful that person registered.

So I'm halfway through the registration - it's not that long, but I had dial-up for most of the day and on dial-up everything is excruciatingly slow. So far I haven't seen anything about FREE but I plan to finish the process tomorrow and then I'll tell y'all about it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Saw the Sign and It Opened Up My Eyes

Benjamin saw this sign today and exclaimed, "Hey Mama! I see the sign for people on the potty!"

As good as A. noticing the "No pencils!" sign at about the same age.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Always Sensitive

I'm a little embarrassed by how funny I find the problem the state of Nebraska is having with kids of all ages being dropped off under the "Safe Haven" laws (BTW - you only have until Friday, hurry!).

When I used to work as a mental health clinician with the police, I encountered lots of parents trying to give their kids to CPS or the police because they were "unmanageable." This isn't a new problem. We'd tell parents, "You're not allowed to abandon your children," and oddly, that phrase never seemed to solve the problem.

This just in: People who have no business having kids have them anyway.


Our Sunday paper was missing yesterday. I called and got another delivered.

This morning, we were given another copy of yesterday's Sunday paper and, as a bonus, a Chinese language paper that we're guessing is also the Chronicle...except in Chinese.

Either we got a new carrier, or I didn't tip enough last time.


Hey, you wanted me to post daily.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Sarah: "Which reminds me, you've got some overdue NaBloPoMo assignments, no?"

Sarah, did you used to be a nun? Because that's exactly what the nuns said in high school, if you take out NaBloPoMo and put in chemistry.

Last night I was so tired I climbed into bed at 8pm. Around 9:30 I woke up and realized that if I didn't get up right then and publish a blog post, I would fail at NaBloPoMo. That realization was not enough to get me out of my nice warm bed, sorry.

Besides, last year I posted faithfully every single day and didn't win ONE prize. So clearly it's fixed anyway. I'll try to keep it up for the rest of the month, just so I can say I did. But keep in mind...I'm going to be on an 18-hour train ride to Portland twice this month, so who knows what's going to happen.

BTW, does anyone know if Amtrak has AC outlets on board? 18 hours is a hell of a long time to expect DVD player batteries to hold up.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

He Must be Photosynthesizing*

My tweet from this morning: "A. asked if he could 'finally have a balanced lunch' this a.m. Told me it had to include protein, vitamins, calcium and carbon dioxide."

Turns out all the kids eat lunch on a placemat that features the four main food groups. In true Montessori fashion, they are to sort the various components of their lunch by placing them on the food group that matches best. I usually give him a PB&J (with organic pb and organic fruit spread on whole wheat bread, of course) which is hard to sort on the placemat as it encompasses 3 of the 4 groups.

I finally figured out that the "carbon dioxide" group is actually carbohydrates, and sent him with sliced turkey, yogurt, apple slices and whole wheat goldfish. And milk in his thermos, which he begged for and didn't drink. Four separate food groups in four separate containers. Hope he's finally happy.

*Thanks to Noel for the most rational explanation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Swear This is the Last Time I'm Bringing This Up...*

Believe it or not, politically, I'm actually kind of a moderate type. The far left makes me crazy with their inability to cope with reality and their unwillingness to let people fail, when, sometimes, people need to fail. I usually believe the answer to almost everything is somewhere in the middle, and wish we had more than two parties to choose from because I don't believe either extreme is going to lead us very well. I would be Libertarian except that I don't trust people to act honestly and with compassion. One of the reasons I went for Obama is that I believed he'd be better about uniting the two sides than McCain.

I also have the unfortunate luck to tend to see all sides of an issue, which isn't necessarily bad for a therapist, but can be difficult in the voting booth. I avoid getting directly involved in political debates because you have to get all extreme to make your point and I usually see everyone's point which, because I also avoid conflict like the plague, just makes me anxious and increases my trips to the bathroom.

I'm also a Catholic by birth, Christian by choice and Unitarian Universalist by practice. I love my country for many reasons, but one of the biggies is that I have religious freedom, and don't have to worry about anyone (except maybe my in-laws) coming down on me for switching to a faith that my heart tells me is the truth.

Unitarian Universalists believe that gay marriage is as sacred a union as heterosexual marriage. Sorry if that offends you, but that's what we believe. And for the first time, I have a cause I firmly, with no reservations, believe in.

I also believe that yesterday, California voters dealt a serious blow to the freedom of religion that we value so much in this country by including the religious beliefs of the majority into the state Constitution. That terrifies me. I think some people really want our government to be Christian excluding all others, and I think the rest didn't fully think through what they were voting for.

What if we decided to write into the Constitution that everyone should celebrate Christmas, or that the only REAL religious text is the New Testament? Ridiculous, right?

This is a bigger issue than gay marriage. Yes, I'm furious that Brittany Spears (no offense, Britt, I'm talking about your younger days, of course) can walk into a chapel high as a kite and legally marry some random old classmate and then realize the next day, "Oops. That was stupid," and get it annulled and everyone just rolls their eyes; but two elderly librarians who have been in a committed relationship for many years are told that Britt's 24-hour impulse is more valid, by definition and by law, than their relationship. Heck, it's so much more valid, simply because Britt is female and Jason Alexander is male, that we have to write it into our constitution.

I've always believed in equality and gay rights and have been against discrimination of all kinds. But we're talking about taking away more than the right to marry. This makes it a bigger issue for me now.

I've heard that some think that gay marriage could lead to people marrying dogs, or some such ridiculousness. Well, I think it's a lot more probable that including non-universal beliefs, based on taking the Bible literally, into our constitution will lead to restriction of religious freedom. And, even as a Christian, I've got a problem with that.

*...unless I think of something new to say.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Playing Dodgeball With Voters

Took the boys to the polls early this morning. Since I'd already filled out my absentee ballot, I just needed to turn it in, which made it quick and easy. I've been in the same voting district for 8 years now, and I've never seen it as crowded. The boys got stickers, which Ben promptly put on his nose. I cursed myself for not having my camera.

A.'s school is also a polling place, but, unfortunately, not mine. His teacher prepared the children for the larger amount of adults on their school grounds by apparently telling them that, if they had recess outside, they'd have to "dodge voters on the playground." A. is very much looking forward to this.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I'm baffled. I really am. As I've said before, I do understand that people think God has a negative opinion of homosexuality. I disagree, but I tend to disagree when someone tells me they know what God thinks about anything. Anyway, I'm assuming those are the people on the streetcorners as I drove home from work waving the "Yes on 8" signs. I'm assuming, and maybe I'm wrong, that California voters pushing for Prop 8 to pass really believe that there is something fundamentally so wrong with gay marriage that they need a constitutional amendment to make sure it doesn't happen.

But what baffles me is that in the middle of the yellow signs as I sat watching the group, there was one handmade signs that read: "We can disagree and still LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Yes on 8!"

I think it would be great if that were true. So, can someone explain how taking away a civil right from a group with whom you disagree is a loving act? That's a serious question.

I am so ready for this election to be over. I've found this election very anxiety-provoking and frightening. Really, people? This is the direction you think is right? This is the higher ground? This is what Jesus would want? I just hope that tomorrow we see goodness and civility win out.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Halloween Parade of Historical Figures

OK, so although I poked fun at A.'s Montessori school for sucking all the fun out of Halloween by having the kids dress up as historical figures rather than as vampires and princesses, I have to admit that it turned out to be pretty cool.

I arrived at 1pm to help the kids into their costumes. Some of the kids were already dressed and sitting on the floor in front. The kid next to the door, the first kid I saw, Jack, was dressed in a green shirt, burgundy suspenders and khaki corduroy pants. He had a pot on his head, which looked amazingly like the one I'd glue-gunned together the night before. In fact....the whole costume looked exactly like A.'s. At first I thought, "Wow! What are the chances? Hmmm. Pretty small, actually." I mentioned this to the teacher, who smiled and said that A., still in his uniform, had told her the same thing. I stopped and said, "Uh, no, I mean it's EXACTLY like A's. I think those are A.'s clothes."

"Oh. Hey, Jack, did you put your own costume on or did you put A.'s costume on?" Jack shrugged. Apparently he hadn't noticed that he was wearing clothes unlike any he had previously owned. When he headed to the back of the room to get changed, he saw a foil-covered pot in a bag and put on the clothes he found underneath. Not the most attentive to detail, our Jack.

"So, you have two Johnny Appleseeds to dress, I guess," she said to me. "Jack, find the bag you brought to class this morning," she said to Jack. So Jack climbed out of the clothes, handed them to A., and A. put them on. Then we found Jack his own clothes and foil-covered pot. He didn't seem to mind. He and A. just found it entertaining to be in their underwear at the same time.

There were three Johnny Appleseeds in the class; Jack, A., and another kid, all of whom had pots to wear on their head. There was one more Johnny Appleseed from the second grade, who hadn't gotten the memo about the pot and just wore a hat.

The kids lined up according to the century their characters lived, and then paraded around the courtyard.

First up, we had Queen Hapshutset and Cleopatra (Cleo's in A.'s class and is the cutest thing in the world):

Four Johnnys and an Abe:

One of my favorites, Lucille Ball:

Rosa Parks looked great for her age (yes, I know she's dead), and owned that bus:

I forgot who the guy in the suit was supposed to be, but that's one of A's friends as John Lennon right behind him. The first graders only had to say the name of their character into the microphone, but this guy added, "John Lennon...who saved the world with peace." (followed, of course, by Muhammed Ali who saved the world with a right hook).

And we finished with Michelle and Barack Obama. I actually got a lump in my throat that the African-American boy was dressed up as (hopefully) the next President of the United States. How many years ago would that have been unthinkable?

Oddly, no kid signed up to be John McCain.

It was quite touching. And the kids thought it was fun to have two costumes for Halloween instead of just one. Afterwards, we gathered in the first grade classroom for treats and the creation of veggie pumpkin faces:

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