Monday, August 31, 2009

There's nothing like a mother's love...

Of course, how you want to take that expression all depends on the mom, doesn't it?

I've got a mom who will tell you to be careful and it's like getting the kiss of death. As soon as she tells you to be careful or have a good time you know you are doomed. My brothers have gotten in car accidents after Mom has bid them to be careful. If she says have a nice day at school or work, you should expect something to go horribly wrong. Maybe you'll fail that test you were bound to ace or maybe you'll have the meanest customers ever.

So today I get a call from my mom. This is nothing new since my mom usually calls multiple times a day during the weekdays. Frequently my mom likes to call and talk at me and not let me get a word in edgewise. If I do get to talk, it usually isn't more than 20 or 30 words (very frustrating for someone like me who likes to talk a lot). So today she called and talked at me for 2o minutes and tried to get off the phone once she got all that she had to tell me out of her system. So I pointed this out and let her know that I wasn't feeling well, but thanks for asking.

Last night after spending the afternoon with my neighbors I started to feel rather poorly. I was achey all over. I was running a fever and my entire body hurt. So when I tell my mom this she cheerfully expresses that maybe I have Swine Flu. (Oh goody, can I?) She then goes on to tell me that lots of young people like me are dying from it. That's reassuring. Can I tell you how much better that made me feel?

Just a little heads up to those of you who read my blog. If suddenly I'm no longer posting up here, assume that my mom has done me in with her kind words and I have passed from the Swine Flu. (And here I've been under the assumption that I would die from Cancer or heat exhaustion.) I made sure Bryan understood that I'm not to be placed in a casket that has cheesy seagulls and the phrase "I'm going home...." inside. You'd better believe that I've had at least two relatives buried in caskets like this. No, thanks. I'd like a nice tasteful casket. I have nothing picked out to wear for my burial. Maybe the dress I wore for Madeline's First Communion and this past Easter. That looked nice on me. I also told Bryan that if I seem like I'm about to kick it, that he needs to make sure he calls a priest for last rites.

Here's hoping I don't have anything deadly. Hope all of you out there in Blogland are feeling well.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Exhale with me

I got to see the class list for Madeline's class today. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to know who is in the class.

Class room assignments came in the mail yesterday. Today the school posted which teachers went with the room numbers. Yesterday I cheated a little and pulled out the map of the school that we were given two years ago when Madeline was new to the school so I could figure out who she had ahead of time. (I'm an impatient person.) Then I emailed Madeline's teacher from last year to see if her sister, the third grade teacher, was still in that class room. (I'm very nosy, too.) She is. So yesterday I was starting to do the happy dance. But there were still questions about who would be in the class with her. That's always the tough part since class lists aren't posted on the school door.

Today I took Madeline over to the school to confirm the teacher and to check out the location of the new room. Every year I like to take Madeline to the school before the school year starts so I can make sure that she knows where she's going on the first day. I do this more for me, I think. I would probably worry a hole in my stomach if I wasn't certain that she knew where she was going. This year we were lucky and got to peek into the class room. Since we got to spend a few minutes in the class, I also got to see the list of students in the class. This means I no longer have to call around to see who is in her class. (YAY!) And, I no longer have to field questions from Madeline about who I think might be in her class. One of her best friends and a few of her other girl friends are in her class. She recognized the name of one boy. Best of all, a little girl who I don't like Madeline playing with (she's a pushy kid who isn't particularly nice) is once again not in her class. (Yippee!).

I sent an email to her teacher and introduced myself as Madeline's mother and asked if there was anything I could send in supply-wise to help out. I did this last year and I'm convinced that offering to help out and making my presence known before the school year makes a big difference. (1st grade was a nightmare if I haven't expressed that enough.) Having a sane teacher helps a lot, too. (Yes, I'm talking about you 1st grade teacher who has scarred me for life.) I also let the teacher know that I'm ready, and willing to be a room mom (and I'm experienced). Bryan says I'm a kiss-up. If it helps ensure a good school year with good parent-teacher communication, I'm willing to be called that. Don't cause me endless, needless worry for 75% of the school year and I'll love you for it!

Here's hoping we have another great school year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. At long last my iPhoto is functional. That means I can take pictures and post them up here again. That also means that I can look at all my pictures from the past 6 years. I can't tell you how much I missed not being able to look at them. I really need to get my digital pictures printed out.

2. I finally got the girls to the art museum. Before I had kids, I had delusions that every day I'd take them somewhere enriching like the museum, the zoo, the aquarium and so on. Instead, they got to go places like Target, Acme, Olive Garden and the mall. We got an annual membership, I anticipate going there several times this year. I can't wait. Madeline learned the names of the artists she liked best (Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet--looks like the girl has a penchant for impressionist pieces like her mom) and was able to describe what she liked about the paintings she picked as her favorites for the day. Ellie was most likely to comment about the religious works of art. She's got a thing for pointing out crucifixes. (This has been a recurring theme since she had a substitute for CCD one week and learned at age 3 1/2 about crucifixion.) Ellie didn't like all the walking involved in going to the museum, she she wasn't thrilled about the no touching and no being loud rules.

3. I went to the supermarket this week with Bryan and the girls. I vowed early last July that I would not go grocery shopping until school started. After spending an entire school year grocery shopping alone, it was pure chaos when I had to take both of my girls with me. With both of my Targets under construction to add meats and produce departments, I had to break down and go to Acme to get food. Bryan was off on Monday so he came with us. Shopping with two parents is easier since we can divide and conquer (with the kids that is). In 15 days I can go grocery shopping by myself. Yay!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guess I'm on the right track

Sometimes I have moments when I wonder if I'm raising my kids right. Are they going to drug addicts, or the pregnant teen on the street? Will they be rowdy and disrespectful? Or, will they be those straight edge kids who are always making sure they toe the line? I try not to beat them over the head with the way I want them to turn out simply because I don't want to push them in the opposite direction. Growing up, I had the fear of Mom and God to keep me on the right track, but mostly it was the fear of Mom. Mom was always going on about morals (even though I didn't know what they were until I was about 11 or 12). I wasn't taught about any of the bad things I might encounter in the realm of peer pressure. My moral compass had the looming question of "What would Mom say if I did this?". That was enough to keep me from doing things my mom wouldn't approve of....most of the time. And, those occasions when I did something that Mom wouldn't like always found their way to my mom's attention. It all played into her "God will get you." mantra. (Nice, huh?)

So how do I guide my kids to stay on the straight and narrow path? Well, I just like to point out things that I think are a danger or hazard in random situations and I talk about them. If I see an unsafe driver, I point out that that person could cause an accident. If I see someone smoking I tell my girls how doing that is just a really bad choice that can cause Cancer and kill you. Most of the time I get the impression that what I'm saying soars over my girls' heads and off into space, but then there are moments that assure me that they actually do listen to what I say. Those moments warm my heart.

Madeline has become the anti-smoking queen. She lectures adults she knows that smoke and tells them they need to stop. She threatens to take their cigarettes and break them and throw them away. She tells them that if they won't stop for their own health to stop for her so she won't have to lose them to cancer. She's a woman on a mission. She may not have convinced her Nana to quit, but she's giving it her best shot. She worries when she sees some neighborhood teens smoking. She wants to know why they do it. I explain that they think it makes them look cool (Madeline goes on her rant that this is NOT cool) and they don't consider the harmful health risks.

Today, I got further reassurance that Madeline will in all likelihood be a nervous Nellie who sticks to the straight and narrow like her mom. Our neighbor (who we don't really talk to much) was outside smoking this afternoon. Madeline was outside riding her bike and happened to pass by him as he exhaled. My poor girl came flying in the house about to burst into tears because she inhaled some of the smoke. She was incredibly upset by this. Now, I've never talked to her about second hand smoke. But today we had a small discussion about it. I reassured her that she's not going to die from this. (She's got my worry wort gene...poor kid.) While I'd hate for my child to be gripped by fear like this, I'm actually happy that she has so clearly grasped the no smoking message.

So far the messages that I have tried to convey to her have taken hold. I'm going to start ramping up my subtle directions and see what happens.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What happened to Summer?

It is dawning on me that Summer is nearly gone. In two weeks Madeline will be sitting in a class room. While I look forward to being able to go grocery shopping alone, I'm wondering what happened to our Summer break. I'm getting that panicked feeling as the impending packed calendar looms closer. I have less than a month until Madeline's birthday (Party not yet planned), the start of school for both girls, Fall soccer and CCD. Life is about to become hectic and it all starts in just two weeks.

I'm stressed because I don't know what the third grade teacher will be like. We had a teacher who didn't like my child (seriously, didn't like her one bit) for first grade. So now I worry before school starts that we'll get another teacher like her. I'm also stressed because I got an email that makes me wonder if my kids are actually registered for Religious Ed. I know several other families that got the same email, so I'm hoping we're OK, but we still don't have a class assignment so until I get that I'll continue to worry. (I'm a worrier, and I do it well.) I'm also stressing about Madeline's soccer team. We've been waiting nearly a month now to find out who her coach is and what her schedule will be. It appears that she's been placed on a team once again that has no coach. Bryan has been emailing her old coach and the director of the division that she plays in, but we still have no answers. After three weeks of this back and forth we're all getting frustrated. All I want is an answer and the game schedule so I can plan my weekends that have 2-3 obligations per day from mid-September until mid-November. I can't wait for the holiday season so life will be calmer.

For now, I'm doing my best to pack as much fun into the remaining days of Summer. My best friend and her four kids came over today to hang out by the pool. We all went to McDonald's afterwards. The kids all get along, so it was a fun morning and afternoon. Pending the weather stays nice, we'll be meeting them again on Thursday to go to the beach in Wildwood.

It's amazing how quickly this Summer has slipped away. It just seems too soon for me to have to start thinking about what the girls will wear for the first day of school. I'm not the least bit motivated to even pick out these outfits. Doing so means that I consent to the whirlwind of obligations that will follow for the school year. September and October and usually my most hectic months, and they're only going to get crazier now that Ellie is starting soccer. I better go by myself a couple of nice warm sweatshirts. This poor indoor girl is going to be sitting outside a lot this Fall.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Freshly Picked

I really love having plants that produce food. Here's what I picked yesterday:

I have many more peppers that are close to being ready to come off the plants. Pretty soon, I'll have a bumper crop of tomatoes. There are so many out there on the five tomato plants and I can't even count them all. The strawberries are growing like crazy, but the bunnies and bugs keep beating me to the delicious berries.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just like Rocky...

Only they're coherent (most of the time) and they're not all gross and sweaty. And no, they didn't run up the steps and start doing jumping jacks (And yes, people actually do that and they even wait in line to get their picture taken with the Rocky statue.). We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art this morning. I don't think I've been there since before Madeline was born, but Bryan tells me we brought her there when she was a baby. I honestly don't remember taking her. So either the trip was really bad and I erased it from my memory, or Bryan is confused. This was Ellie's first trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and either Madeline's first or second.

I realized today just how much I miss going there. Bryan and I used to go there a lot when we were dating. He'd humor me and go in all the galleries that I loved, and I'd hurry him along when we looked all the modern art that he likes. Today, Bryan happily obliged me and we went in my favorite galleries. He got us the annual family membership, so we'll be doing a repeat visit sometime soon. The girls enjoyed themselves. Madeline got into it more than Ellie did. But that's ok, she'll build up an appreciation for art in due time.


I realize that we all have to eat, but can someone tell me why the bugs that viciously attacked me in our neighbors back yard on Thursday night had to go after my joints? My ankle and wrist are now driving me crazy, to the point that I can't stay asleep. These bugs went after every non-fleshy area. It's times like this that I'm a wee bit jealous of those with cankles. If I had cankles, I might not have this huge swollen lump on the inside of my left ankle.

The worst thing about these bites, aside from the fact that they're on me, is that they must be siting on a nerve or something because the pain just radiates out from them. The ankle one shoots up the side of my shin, and the annoying below the ankle on on my other foot makes the side of my foot feel all itchy. I've been trying itch relief products, but nothing is working. I feel violated, and every time I take a step with my left foot, I'm reminded that I was attacked.

These mean bugs went after both of the girls, too. Poor Ellie and Madeline have bites on their wrists and elbows. I think their ankles were spared, but the bites they have are red and swollen, too. They haven't been complaining about the bites like I have, but I'm sure they're just as itchy.

In case you're reading winged human-biting bugs: Game on! I'm coming for you and your friends. The underside of my hand really wants to meet you. Oh and those of you who bit me....I hope my blood was toxic to you and you died. Since you attacked my children, expect me to go all Mama Bear on you if we meet again! You did not choose your victims wisely on Thursday night.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family

I recently had the opportunity to review this book for The Catholic Company's Book Review Program. For nearly nine years I've been reading up on parenting advice here and there, and for the most part, I've always found that following my own instincts is what makes the most sense and works the best for my family. Usually that means I either reject the parenting advice I read or I embrace it since it provides affirmation of my parenting philosophy. I figured since this author was a conservative Christian, that I'd probably agree with much of her advice. For the most part, this was true, however there are parts of her advice that I don't agree with or feel she didn't adequately expound on.

Before I attempt to take issue with the content of the book, let me give you an overview of the layout. The book is broken down into 30 easily digested chapters. It's an incredibly easy read. Most chapters will probably not take more than 5-10 minutes for you to read. Each chapter follows the same format: "The Challenge" is presented, it is followed with a section entitled "From My Home to Yours" which is the authors experience with the proposed challenge for the chapter, following that you will find a section called "In Your Shoes" which are testimonials from others on this issue, this is followed by an "Act Now" box (totally cheesy, is you ask me), and a section on where to go for more help on the topic. I'd say that each challenge is well thought out, and the author's advice is in general pretty good. At times I felt she was a bit preachy. That generally doesn't sit well with me. I felt a lot of the anecdotal "In Your Shoes" sections were contrived. Too much of it seemed like it was written by the author and not other parents. But maybe I'm just a skeptic. The fill in the blank "Act Now" sections were just too lame for my liking. They're a waste of paper and ink if you want my opinion on the matter. It reminds me of something you'd see in a book geared to tweens and teens. I doubt many, if any, self-respecting parents are going to go filling in the blanks. The "More Help" sections have good references where you can get more information on the topic.

I was expecting this book to address children from elementary school age on up. In actuality, this book is more or less directed to the parents of teens. Certainly you can take many of the topics and apply them to younger children, but the bulk of this book pertains to issues you'll likely encounter with your children at the tween and teen stage.

I think my biggest issue with this book was the looming overtone that we should essentially shield our children from all issues of sexuality with the exception of teaching modesty and abstinence. I'm not a fan of having children lead a totally sheltered life. (Which is how I was brought up.) I'm all for preserving the innocence of our children, but I think it's necessary to explain both sides of the issue and teach your children why issues such as objectifying the opposite sex, sex before marriage, abortion and contraception are wrong. If you shelter them and treat these issues like they don't exist then you, as a parent, are just as much at fault as our society is for endorsing these behaviors.

Another thing you may want to take into consideration about this book is that it is not coming from a Catholic perspective. It is coming from a Christian perspective, but as a convert to Catholicism, I can tell you that just because something is Christian, that doesn't mean it is Catholic. The author offers many sites you can visit for more help or information on various topics. None of the faith based sources are Catholic. I also took issue with a part in this book that dealt with an anecdotal story about a teacher and student arguing over the age of the earth and evolution. Some Christian denominations take a very literal "Creationist" stance and see themselves at odds with Science. The Catholic Church is not opposed to science. So I would simply like to reiterate that this is not a Catholic parenting book. If it were, I'm sure many of the chapters could have been presented in a better way that were backed up with Church teachings.

I do feel that much of the book is common sense information, but I guess that all depends on the parents and their world view. The book has sound advice, but I feel some of it needed to be expanded upon.

For more information on 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, please visit The Catholic Company.

As a member of The Catholic Company's book reviewer program, I received a free copy of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family in exchange for my honest review of the book.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What a day!

I think I stuffed at least two days into this lovely August day. It's funny how some days seem so underproductive and others are bursting at the seams with things to do.

I took the girls swimming before 9am. Ellie practiced her "Super Girl pushes" and a few other swimming things. Then I raced Madeline and taunted her in the process. She knows it's all in good fun, and it will make her immune to mean kids.

Once we finished swimming, I got the girls and myself ready to head out to run errands. I needed to drop some paperwork off at the parish office and then I needed to go pick up some household necessities that we needed. Can't go without toilet paper now, can we? I realized when I pulled up to BJs that I should stop at the craft store and see if I can get more crafts for the CCD class I'm going to be teaching exactly one month from now. I managed to get crafts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day (I'm a planer.) and just generic Sunday school themed crafts. After that we swung by Chick-Fil-A to get lunch. (Love their lemonade!)

Once we got home we watched Ella Enchanted. I liked that I didn't have to argue with Madeline about why Bryan and I don't feel that her shows aren't appropriate (Hannah Montana, iCarly and the like). The girls and I really enjoyed the movie. I think I just need to start putting movies on for the girls. If I do that we can avoid commercials and I can control the content better.

Today was also the day that the new Amazon Vine newsletter came out. As a Vine member, I am given the opportunity to select products that I'd like to review from a list. I managed to log on to the new newsletter as soon as it went live this afternoon. I am over the moon that I am getting a Britax booster seat for Ellie. I also picked a picture book to review that I think Ellie will like. I woke up this morning hoping to get a couple of new books. I never imagined that I'd get the opportunity to review a car seat. I have a thing for car seats and strollers so this is right up my alley.

I took the girls swimming at our neighbor's house later in the afternoon. We wound up staying there for 6 hours. I absolutely love hanging out with my neighbor from out back and my neighbor from around the corner and across the street (these neighbors live across the street from one another). While over there, I learned something new: My favorite pizza place actually delivers to our neighborhood! I'm amazed. This place is a 10-15 minute drive from our house and they actually are insane enough to drive all the way out here. They've offered delivery for about three months, but Bryan and I always assumed that we lived too far away for them to deliver. I guess we shouldn't have assumed.

In all, we had a great day. I wish every day during the Summer could be this good.

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I took the girls to the beach on Friday. I only wanted to stay there for an hour, but they were having so much fun with my father-in-law and his girlfriend that we were there for nearly three hours. The amazing thing is Ellie and I didn't burn (the reason I don't stay on the beach very long). While there, the girls got to build a sand castle (actually their Pop, built it, but they helped). Madeline learned how to boogie board, and had a blast doing it. Ellie decided to be a grump, but the grumpiness faded away when she started jumping through the waves. I learned how to play with the settings on my camera (a digital SLR) and was able to take some great pictures in the totally manual mode. Those photography books are really helping me.

2. I joined the rest of the modern people and got a new cell phone. I've learned how to text from a phone in the past week (I've been texting Bryan from my computer for a couple years now). I love having the ability to take videos and pictures with my phone. How neat is that?

3. In an effort to squeeze every drop out of Summer, I have started taking the kids out to our pool twice a day. We are having a lot of fun swimming right after breakfast. I'm even starting to teach Ellie how to swim thanks to a scare we had on Sunday. I'm happy to report that my very stubborn child is happily listening to me and trying to learn.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


How did I forget to tell you all the great news? Last Friday when Bryan and I took the kids to Target I was elated, delighted and overjoyed to see my favorite nighttime snack back on the previously empty shelf of the refrigerated case that I've been walking past and longingly peering into for what has felt like an eternity. Nestle Toll House break and bake cookies are the light at the end of the tunnel on any long day. No matter how bad my day has been, I know that once the kids are in bed, I can sit down and enjoy four delicious cookies. They are my comfort food.

I spent two long months feeling lost without my favorite snack. I lost a few pounds (not cool when you weigh 125lbs) while I awaited the return of my cookies. I seriously felt like I was living in a Nestle imposed Lent. I tried the Pillsbury cookies, but after eating two of those horrid cookies I knew there was no substitute. Even homemade Toll-House cookies don't taste the same. I got my chocolate fix (maybe I do like chocolate a little) by baking brownies, but still, it wasn't the same.

I realized I hadn't blogged about my beloved snack when I came across this mean-spirited article while I was checking my email on AOL. The author suggests ditching these delicious cookies (Why don't I abandon air while I'm at it?) in exchange for some low-fat home made oatmeal cookies. Thanks, but no thanks. Some of us want our pants to stay up.

Am I a political snob?

I know I've mentioned on here a few times that I have a degree in Political Science. I think it goes without saying that I obviously have an understanding of how many different forms of governments operate. Understanding economics is another thing you gain when you study this fascinating branch of social science. For this reason, it totally blows my mind when I read a story like this one. Someone tell me please, how do you rise to the highest office in the land and not understand the basics of your nations economic system?

Apparently, this charismatic leader (When he has a teleprompter, that is.) hasn't been schooled on the subject of capitalism, nor does he seem to understand how government agencies are funded. Sheesh! And my liberal friends go on about what an idiot former President George W. Bush is/was. Mind you, I was not a fan of Bush (I still feel strongly that McCain should have gotten the GOP nod in 2000.), but I don't think the man was bumbling idiot that many feel he was. Inarticulate? Yes. Idiot? No. I think down the line, history will treat G.W. with the respect he should have been afforded while he was in office.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scared into action

Complacency is clearly not my friend. Last year we put Ellie in swim lessons knowing that we'd be putting a pool in later that year. The first lesson went great, but after that things fell apart. Ellie decided that it was far more fun to run around the pool (a slippery tiled deck) and peek into the skimmers. When she was in the water with the instructor she wanted to be held so she could stick her hands into the skimmers. So essentially, I paid $100 for my daughter to have one decent private half hour swim lesson. This was hardly enough to teach her how to swim.

Fortunately, the $300 I spent for Madeline to learn to swim (15 weeks of 1/2 hour private lessons) was well worth it. By the end of the first five lessons she could swim. The following two sessions were to make her a more confident swimmer. Because I was able to sit and watch Madeline be taught how to swim, I not only got to see my girl go from scared and unsure to confident and proud, but I also got to pick up on how two very good instructors taught children to swim. During most of the lessons another family had their two boys taking private lessons with another instructor. Since we got there early every week, I got to watch both boys progress week by week. The tips I picked up from both instructors have helped me to coach Madeline to be a better swimmer over the past two summers.

I've tried to teach Ellie the basics since our pool was completed early last August, but I haven't had much success. You see, Ellie is a tough nut. She only wants to do what she wants to do and that's all that she wants to do. Got it? Dealing with a child with such a strong personality can be quite a challenge. If I push her to do something she doesn't want to do, it takes forever for me to convince her that doing it is her idea and not mine. She's a kid who doesn't want to give you the satisfaction of thinking that she did what you wanted her to do. Talk about frustrating! My attempts to teach her how to swim have mostly been in vain. I want her to know how to swim so she can get to the side of the pool in case she ever finds herself in trouble. My biggest fear is finding one of my children dead in our pool. Bryan keeps telling me she's just not ready, but I've had trouble accepting that. I see how she moves in the water with her swimmies. She shows more natural ability in the water than her sister ever did. She's also fearless around the water. That fearlessness is what strikes fear into my heart.

Ellie's lack of caution around the water is the reason why we have a pool alarm on our sliding glass door and a locked child safety fence around our pool. Without them, I'm sure my Ellie would have wound up in the water unattended at least once. And let's be honest, it only takes one time to result in disaster.

This Sunday I had the water scare with Ellie that I have been dreading. Strangely, the gravity of the event didn't hit me until last night when I was trying to fall asleep. On Sunday, our neighbors came over to swim with their three girls. At some point Ellie decided that she was done swimming in the pool (she does this frequently). When she got out of the pool she removed her swimmies (something she does occasionally). She was probably out of the water for a good 30 minutes just playing with her friends. At some point she decided that she wanted to get on my new alligator float that I brought earlier that day. Engulfed in a conversation with the little girls I was watching in the pool, I totally missed the fact that Ellie was not wearing swimmies. So when she told me she was going to get on the alligator, I thought nothing of it. I remember seeing her lean over into the pool to get on Alfonse (the Alligator float). Probably half a minute passed before I noticed that she wasn't on the float. I still thought nothing of it. "She'll climb up on it eventually." I told myself. Seconds later I looked over my shoulder and saw a hot pink swimmie sitting next to a pile of towels. It took a second or two for me to register that Ellie's swimmie sitting on the deck + empty alligator=my baby in the water. I'm so incredibly thankful that when I tossed the float out of the way that my Ellie was treading water and her cute little mouth and nose were out of the water. I'm not sure if Ellie has ever held on so tight to me as she did when I scooped her up.

I think I'm most surprised that Ellie didn't drink any water in the process. Clearly teaching her to hold her breath when she jumps into the pool (and under the water in the process) must have helped her out. Since she was in the shallow end, she had the ability to touch the bottom of the pool and push herself up for air. I doubt that we would have been so fortunate if she had fallen into the deep end. What scares me the most is the entire thing was quiet. No noise was made during any of her struggle, and that alligator float blocked her from my line of sight. If Ellie hadn't announced that she was getting on the alligator I'm not sure what the outcome would have been. While I'm proud of her for doing a good job keeping her head above the water, it's an event that has shaken me to the core.* I can no longer afford to be complacent.

I started to teach Ellie how to swim this morning. We're working on doing all the things Madeline did last year in her swim lessons. She's already doing a good job, and she seems very motivated to learn how to swim now. Perhaps she's been scared into wanting to learn just as I have been scared into needing to teach her.

I commented to Bryan last Summer that I suspect Ellie to be our child who is most likely to drown. Sure it sounds awful, but it's true. Madeline can swim, but she also has a good healthy fear of the water. Ellie doesn't fear the water and that scares me.

*I grew up in a house with a pool. I can vividly remember the handful of times that I found myself under the water and unable to swim at ages 3 and 4. I was tall enough to stand in the water but I apparently didn't understand that I could stand up and help myself. So given my past experiences, I am very proud of Ellie and her survival instincts. If she had been like me she would have been breathing in water or worse.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I hit another time warp!

Sometimes I think the days move a little too fast for me. Or, perhaps I just have so much going on that time slips by without me noticing. Either way, I've had a busy past few days. Some of them seemed a little long and others went by in a blink. Funny how that happens sometimes, don't you think?

Friday I took the girls down to the beach. I always tell people that we are going to stay for 1-1 1/2 hours and no more. I'm not too fond of sitting on the beach surrounded by Shoobies. Even if I'm no longer an island resident, I still consider myself a local. How can I not be when I was born and raised down there? I actually feel like I'm living with the Shoobies year round since I see bumper stickers plastered on their minivans with the names of my home town and surrounding beach towns all the time. If you are a local, you wouldn't be caught dead with that stuff on your car (unless you're a senior citizen). Those decals and stickers drive me insane. I simply don't see the appeal in vacationing down there. I used to run the front desk of a "nice" beach front hotel, and I can tell you that you couldn't pay me to stay there. I'll go to Disney World, thanks.

Anyway, the girls and I had a really good time on the beach. My father-in-law and his girl friend (the girls' Nana) went to the beach with us. I got some great pictures. (I'll upload them eventually, I've been having iPhoto issues ever since I imported 24,000 photos a while back.) My father-in-law taught Madeline how to boogie board. She had a blast. Ellie was a bit of a grump at first, but she came around when she got to jump through the waves. She gave her Nana a run for her money. First they tried to unsuccessfully build a sand castle and then they played in the water. I mostly just followed the kids around and took pictures. That's pretty much what I do when we go to the beach. We wound up staying at the beach for nearly three hours. I'm not sure if I've ever spent that much time on the beach before.

Fearing a massive guilt-trip from my mom, who called while we were on the beach, I decided that I better stop and visit her on our way home. The girls decompressed from their beach trip at my mom and dad's house, and I showed my mom the pictures I took on the beach. By the time we were ready to leave there, I was totally beat.

Before we could make it home, the girls were asking me when we were going back to the beach. I remember when they hated the beach. Now they want to frequent it. Why oh why when you have a beautiful pool in the back yard would you want to sit in the car and take a long drive to a crowded beach where the parking meter only gives you 12 minutes for a quarter? (Which, by the way I did not pay. I'm too cheap so I parked two blocks from the beach where it was free and made the kids walk.) It's possible that I may take the girls to the beach one or two more times. In actuality I had a good time down there with them. I'm willing to bet I could have more fun if I don't bring the camera.

Saturday was one of those days that zipped by really fast. It was significant only because it marks the day that I entered the current age, and got a cell phone that can text, take photos, videos and go online. My old phone was older than Ellie and all I could do was talk on it. No voice mail, texting or photos. Just a plain old outdated phone. I'm now the proud owner of an iPhone. Who knows, maybe I'll get into Twitter sometime down the line.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day. Since I took the girls to Mass on Saturday night, we had a leisurely morning. We spent a good portion of the morning playing in the pool. Then I hit a time warp (surprise, surprise) and lost the middle of the day. Our neighbors came over for a swim in the late afternoon and they ended up staying for dinner. I've been saying since May that we need to have a cookout, but it hasn't happened. So last night we finally got to have that cookout. Too bad it wasn't planned. We could have made it better if we were prepared. We were tired at the end of the day, but once again, I was very happy to have such great neighbors. I don't have a single neighbor that I don't like.

Today was one of those days that just a strange mix. It flew by, but I feel like I got a lot accomplished. The girls and I had a lazy morning again and then we hit the pool. I thought I'd be nice and let Mr. Furkins come out with us so he could romp through the yard. We banned him from the pool last month since all he does is drink the water and then pee all over in the house when we let him in the pool. I thought everything was going well until I didn't see Oscar for a few minutes. When I called him I wasn't expecting to see a muddy dog come trotting up to the pool fence. Apparently, my furry friend found a muddy puddle and decided to roll around in it. He just had a bath (two of them to be exact) 8 days ago. So our pool fun was cut short so I could bathe the dog. Oscar is rather fluffy looking right now. I think it goes without saying that Mr. Furkins will not be romping in the yard on his own while we swim anymore. That dog just keeps burning bridges. I caught up with a friend and my (favorite) brother today, as well. It was a full day, but it went by a little too fast.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh the joys of being left-handed!

Here's a fun fact for you today.  It's International Left-Handers Day!  I'm a proud lefty.  Over the years I've had to struggle to do normal tasks in a cold cruel right-handed world.  But, I've managed to adapt for the most part.  I cut right-handed since the lefty scissors were always crappy at school and very uncomfortable.  In school, that's where the south-paw finds out that he or she is an afterthought.  The right handed kids have the nice handwriting because they're not dragging their hand across their work.  In most cases, they even have the benefit of a right handed teacher helping them learn how to write.  Every teacher I had got frustrated trying to teach me to write.  And let me tell you, it's no picnic trying to teach two right-handed kids to write.

-Many world leaders are/were left-handed.  In fact, our current President is one of us (aside from being human, probably the only thing we have in common), and many of his predecessors have been as well.  
-Lefties tend to be more artistically inclined. (It's because we use the more creative side of our brain.  It's good to be right-brained!)

I'm off to the beach now.  I'd love to write more about being a lefty, but I have places to go, people to see.

SAHMinIL, thanks for calling this day to my attention!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ellie truly makes me laugh

I just finished getting dressed after my shower and I heard Ellie outside my bedroom door.  The kid does her own theme music and sound effects.*  So I opened the door to see what was going on. (For those of  you wanting to know, it was the "I'm up to something" theme music.)  Ellie told me in a very matter of fact manner that "Madeline hurt herself, again.".  So I asked my little informant how it happened.  "She had an accident......she hurt herself on me." was the response.  So I had to pry a bit more to find out the nature of the accident.  "Madeline kept telling me to stop [trying to help with the puzzle] and it was bothering me, so I hit her." Oh my gosh, I could barely contain my laughter.  "She has a boo boo kitty now, she's fine." 

I had to tell Ellie to go apologize to her sister and do the standard "It's not nice to hit your sister, we don't hit people" spiel again.  In Ellie's defense, it is rather maddening to watch Madeline put a puzzle together.  Ellie is really good at puzzles, and to be honest, Madeline isn't.  I'm fairly certain that you could give them identical 100 piece puzzles and Ellie would finish hers first.  So I can understand why Ellie got frustrated that Madeline wouldn't let her help out.

*Like Kronk from the Emperor's New Groove. 

Why you should ALWAYS read the fine print!

I had a very liberal professor in college who told us constantly to "question everything".  It was her mantra.  "If you go to the Dr. and he says you need an antibiotic, question him.  Find out why." my seemingly out there professor would say.   At times I thought she was over the top, and truth be told, I didn't like this woman at all the first semester I had her.  But then, I came to like her.  Sure our political ideals didn't match and I can tell you lots of conservatives in her class would pretend they weren't.  I on the other hand, made sure I stuck to my gun and argued my conservative points with conviction.  I know lots of times I got graded down because I was a conservative, but when I earned an A from this woman, I knew it was because she couldn't in good conscience grade me down just because my political stance was the anthesis of hers. So because of good old Dr. Pope, I give you this clip to watch.  Read the fine print and question everything.  I believe our government is a very scary thing right now.  

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I have finally opened the books I was given for Christmas 19 months ago and am learning how to use my camera (Canon Rebel XTi).  I've been shooting in a semi-manual mode for the past two years, but I'm  happy to say that I can go totally manual now.  Yay!

2. I broke down the huge boxes from the new shower that went in a month ago and got the cardboard out of my garage and off to recycle land.  I even got all of the paper that has been accumulating in my garage since June into the recycle.

3. I found lots of clothes for the girls in my hand me down closet that were intended for this Summer.  How did I forget I had all this stuff?  I'm happy that I caught it late last week and not two months from now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Childhood distortions

I've said ever since Madeline was an infant that our children were going to grow up to be warped individuals.  Why?  Well I never talked to my kids like they were babies, instead I spoke to them the way I would to any other adult.  The result is my kids use words (in proper context) that some adults don't even know (Sorry, Bryan).  It's great to hear small people using words in everyday life that you know are going to show up on the SATs.    Instead of shortening the names of things, we lengthened them--pacification device became our name for what most families will call a pacifier or binky.  We also took the off-beat path when it came to songs and rhyming.  I've got great collections of Mother Goose books (my favorite as a child), but sadly, the history buff in me couldn't leave well enough alone.  No, I had to explain to my toddler aged child the meaning behind Ring Around the Rosy and other nursery rhymes.  In short, the nursery rhymes that did make it into our home had the fun sucked out of them.  But we came up with our own.  A personal favorite of mine is: Madeline smells like pine, never ever turpentine, she's the color of an orange rind. Ah yes, the lovely little ditty that we came up with about our little newborn who was jaundiced. But all of this is a total digression (I do that a lot) from the reason I sat down to do this latest post.

Today I decided that I would acquiesce to the request of my miniature humans and get them McDonald's for lunch.  If you ask Ellie what that place with the golden arches is called she'll tell you it's "Old McDonald's", you know, the guy with the farm.  I hear he grows potatoes and has lots of cows and chickens. So when I asked E if she wanted a cheeseburger from McDonald's I was promptly corrected by her that it was "Old McDonald's".  I need to remember that.  The McDonald's that was torn down and rebuilt two years ago is old.  

On the way to McDonald's I got to listen to the girls fight and then sing songs from vacation bible school.  Just when I thought the kids were done singing those songs which unmercifully keep getting stuck in my head, they start back up (I feel like I'm in the VBS version of the God Father).  Once we got home the God-praising song birds switched gears.  Ellie pointed out "Donald" on the back of her cheeseburger wrapper.  I failed in my attempts to convince her that his name is Ronald.  Then Madeline came out with the zinger that he's that "clownish looking guy".  Are you kidding me?  How is this kid nearly 8 and unaware that Ronald McDonald is a clown?  That was a nice segue for Ellie to announce that she doesn't like clowns.  Honestly, I don't know anyone who actually likes clowns.  

I thought the clown talk was going to be the extent of the weirdness at the kitchen table, but not today!  No, my lovely daughter decides to make her thoughts and musings known.  Madeline decided that lunch was the perfect time declare that she wonders what the inside of a person looks like.  Disturbing, huh?  I told her bloody hoping to change the subject.  Instead, I get the response "I'd like to see that.".  Is this really the same kid that was just singing about Jesus 10 minutes ago?  I finished eating and left the table.  The conversation took too many weird turns.


It's not even 8am and already I've had an exciting morning.  Want to hear about it? It's a doozie.

I staggered into my bathroom a few minutes before 7am with the intent of going back to sleep for another hour or so.  Apparently that wasn't meant to be.  I heard the distinct loud filter sound coming from the pool that we only hear when I forget to reattach the automatic pool vac. (Love that little thing, it cleans my pool for me every morning.)  That got my attention.  I know for a fact that I reconnected the hose yesterday afternoon after the neighbors went home and I got the kids inside.  So I'm looking into the pool from the bathroom window pondering why the vacuum isn't moving.  I can see the hose connected to it's personal jet.  Then, I notice the returns on the steps are bubbling.  Very odd, that only happens if those are the only returns on or if the pool water is below or almost below the skimmer level.  That's when I noticed copious amounts of water shooting from the filter and into my neighbor's backyard. 

Bryan was sound asleep, but he quickly dashed out of bed when I started yelling to him that our pool was draining.  All of that wonderfully warm 86 degree water was flooding our retainer wall, the side of our yard and the poor neighbor's yard.  All I could think about was their little teeny tiny Chihuahuas wading through mucky water logged grass later this morning.  Then I got to see Bryan battle the filter in his penguin boxers. (You need details, right? It was quite the site.)

So now you are probably wondering what happened to create all this wonderful Wednesday morning excitement, right? Well, last night we back washed the pool and we also needed to drain a few inches from the pool.  We got a lot of rain this past week and the water level was up and above the skimmer.  When that happens all the dead bugs just float on the pool.  I'm not a fan of that so I always insist that Bryan drain the water to a normal level.  Sadly, Bryan left the filter setting on waste last night and didn't put it back to whatever the normal filtering setting was.  I wasn't thinking about that last night as the bugs feasted on my legs, so I didn't think to remind him to make sure everything was as it should be.  

As a result of this snafu, I think we probably lost 6-8 inches of water.  It's going to take several hours to get the water level back to where it needs to be.  I feel really bad for the neighbors.  Not only did a good portion of their yard flood this morning, but their sprinkler system went on in the back yard a few minutes after we stopped our pool from hemorrhaging. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Extreme heat and me

Heat and I do not get along.  During the winter I prefer to keep my house around 67 degrees.  To be kind to the other humans in the house I will usually jack the heat up to 70 or 72 if it's really cold out.  For the most part I radiate heat, a fact that Bryan comments on frequently. (That's probably the closest I'll ever come to a compliment like "You're radiant, dear." from Bryan--the man generally doesn't do compliments.)

Yesterday, I came to fully appreciate (once more) the value of air conditioning and the lifestyle of climate control which I have fully become accustomed to over the past nine summers.  Bryan took a day off from work to spend with his family.  We originally had planned to go to the beach in Wildwood.  I try to take the girls to the beach once or twice a year during the Summer and then once or twice when it's Fall or Winter (my preferred time to visit since there are no tourists--I love the feeling of frigid sand between my toes).  Unfortunately for us, yesterday was one of those days that like to remind us of why exactly we don't want to wind up in Hell.  It was a 97 degree day with a heat advisory warning in place.  The night before the local news station indicated that with the heat index it would likely feel like 100-105 out.  When you are talking about those temperatures in an area where the humidity is very high we are talking about some serious heat.  Since Bryan HATES the beach with a passion I capitulated and agreed that we'd go to the beach another day.  If we hadn't already told my sister-in-law and my father-in-law's significant other that we were coming down, we would have bailed on the Wildwood trip altogether and hung out in our pool all day.  Not wanting to get the ire of the in-law's up, I lobbied hard to get Bryan to take the kids down to visit them.  I realized once we got down to the Summer house that I should have listened to Bryan.

It was hot down there, and not just hot, but disgusting feel like your flesh is going to start melting off your bones hot.  We managed to suffer through the horrid heat for probably three or four hours.  The little window A/C unit they had going did little to fight the overwhelming heat.  How on earth did I survive the first 23 years of my life living this way?  How I managed to survive all those horribly hot and humid summrs will remain a mystery to me.  

Our naive plans to take the kids miniature golfing were quickly dashed once we spent a few minutes outside with my father-in-law in the yard.  We settled for ordering sandwiches from A&LP, the hoagie shop where I worked one summer as a teen, and then headed over to Duffer's to get ice cream sundaes.  We also took the kids to the Hertford Inlet light house to take pictures in the gardens and on the seawall (that's where we went for pictures after our wedding).  True to form Madeline decided to squint and make funny faces in every picture, and Ellie who doesn't like being in extreme heat pouted and looked annoyed.  Ahh, family fun!  Gotta love it!

The girls did have a good time playing with the dogs and giving their Aunt April a makeover with real makeup.  My sister-in-law is one brave soul!  I would never let my girls near me wielding mascara and eyeliner.  The girls put enough make up on April to last a month.  What a fun auntie to have!  I can assure you that I will never be that cool  of an aunt to allow two little girls to come at me with cosmetics. 

Once we got in the car to go home we blasted the A/C and started to cool off.  I cannot tell you how incredibly thankful I was to walk into our chilly house.  You don't realize how wonderful A/C is until you are without it in extreme heat.  The last time I felt this way about not taking A/C for granite was the week before I gave birth to Ellie.  Our A/C unit died during a heat wave that did not break until I had given birth.  It took the entire week for our repair guy to get us a new unit (after getting the replacement part failed miserably).  By the time the new unit was up and running I was on my way to the hospital in labor.  Fortunately for me, I had great neighbors in the old neighborhood and they lent us a room air conditioner so I didn't have to roll over and die.

If one thing is certain it is this: Heat and I are not friends.  I don't like to be hot.  This fact alone should be motivation enough for me to make sure I don't wind up in Hell.  

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fair warning about Mother's Day and midnight

The girls have been coming up with some off the wall stuff lately.  Today on our way to the Olive Garden, Ellie was singing (while it was sunny out) "Rain, rain, go away come again on Mother's Day!".  If it rains on Mother's Day next year, we'll all know why.  Now she's not totally off her rocker.  We had a pretty good storm this morning.  It was coming down so hard that Oscar wouldn't go outside to do his business without Bryan putting up the golf umbrella and going out with him so he wouldn't get wet.  What a spoiled dog!  I would have pushed him outside, but lucky for Oscar, Bryan is a bit more compassionate to four legged creatures than I am.  Good for Oscar that Bryan is the one who takes him out first thing in the morning.

Last night Madeline was trying to see how much talking it would take to push Bryan and I to the breaking point of our sanity.  Out of all the incessant talking came one lovely gem that will live on for a little while in our house.  Apparently, Madeline thinks that midnight is the only time of day when the "bad people" come out.  So now that that has been established we can all rest assured that we are safe from all the miscreants of society as long as it is not midnight.  I don't think she believed me when I told her that people who do bad things don't wait until midnight to come out.  It didn't help that Bryan was reinforcing her misconception since he thought it was rather funny.

If we're going to go by the world according to Madeline and Ellie here's what you need to remember from today's lesson: Make sure you have your umbrella with you next Mother's Day, and always stay at home around midnight if you want to avoid the "bad people". 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Review: Meat and Potatoes Catholicism

Mmm...the title of this book kind of makes you hungry, doesn't it? Burgers and Fries, filet mignon and a delicious baked potato, meatloaf and mashed potatoes...and the list goes on. Who, besides vegetarians, doesn't like a nice dish of meat and potatoes? Gosh, I'm making myself hungry now (probably because it's lunch time). Since I've probably never mentioned it here, I LOVE potatoes. I think it's the Irish in me. Anyway, I've scarcely gotten into this review and already I digress.

Let's stop thinking about food for a few minutes now that I've probably made you hungry. Fr. Joseph Classen's Meat and Potatoes Catholicism is aptly named. In this book he addresses the all too common issue of the Catholic who doesn't know his or her faith and is essentially spiritually starved or "malnourished" as a result. His book is a good healthy serving of solid Catholic catechesis. In the introduction of this book, Father Classen gives us some background information on himself and how he struggled early on in his Theological education as he tried to wade through writing that is often difficult to understand. He goes on to address the epidemic of poor catechesis (I can personally attest to this for both myself as someone who went through RCIA and my husband who went to both Catholic school and CCD.). This segues us into the first chapter of the book that address the litany of reasons why many Catholics "quit" the church and why they should stay. (Sorry, but I couldn't help but think about the episode of Friends where Chandler wants to quit the gym. I can't be the only one with a mind that wanders all over the place finding pop culture references.) This is then followed by chapters that discuss signs from God, and each of the seven sacraments.

So now you're probably wondering if this is a dreadfully boring book that is written in such a way that you need a course in theology, Latin and pre-law to wade through, right? (Catechism of the Catholic Church, anyone?*) Fortunately, Fr. Classen has been there and knows how often books on this subject can make your head spin and so he has written this book in a way that anyone can easily understand. I think what I liked best about this book was how well he blended humor and anecdotal stories with solid Catholic teachings. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions as I read this book. I think what is great about this book is you can read it and walk away having a very good understanding about each and every concept presented. Fr. Classen writes to the average lay person. I think his overall approach is great. It should be required reading for every Catholic who hasn't got a clue what the basics of our faith entail. If nothing else, you'll walk away with a more properly formed conscience after reading this book. I'm already looking forward to the extra helpings of Meat and Potatoes Catholicism that are on the way.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Meat and Potatoes Catholicism.

As a member of The Catholic Company's book reviewer program I was given a copy of Meat and Potatoes Catholicism in exchange for my honest review of this book.

*For clarity's sake, I'm not saying that the Catechism is dreadfully boring (it's not), but it isn't an easy read and it does require a certain amount of concentration to fully (or partially) absorb the message. It's a book that I prefer to attack in bits and pieces.

Ethical values for preschoolers

Most mornings in our household are filled with television.  Madeline likes to get up and watch TV first thing in the morning.  Bryan and I are pretty adamant about having a say in what shows are allowed on in our house.  Lots of things are banned like 700 Club (Ellie can watch EWTN instead, thanks), Yo Gabba Gabba (annoying and a character looks like an adult toy), Lazy Town (creepy predator looking men anyone?), Barnyard and a litany of others.  Sure, most of these shows are probably to some degree harmless, but they're not things I want my children viewing.  It usually only takes one or two questionable things for me to decide the show is no longer being aired in Mommyland.

I have a list of shows that I feel are not harming the world view of my kids.  Some of them are shows that I know other families won't allow their kids to watch because they find them slow or annoying (Max and Ruby and Spongebob, to be specific).  In general the shows I approve of are ones that don't negatively influence my kids or alienate them from their peers.  In many ways Madeline bears the brunt of my TV programming decisions.  She wants to watch Hannah Montanna, iCarly, and a bunch of other shows that Bryan and I don't approve.  My underlying problem with all of these shows is they influence my child to have an attitude that is not age appropriate and it introduces concepts to her that I don't think she should be worried about right now (like getting dumped by a boyfriend, that she doesn't even have yet).  She's getting ideas about how the world works that aren't correct.  I find that bothersome.    I have systematically replaced these shows with programs that I feel are more innocent, like Full House and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Both are shows that I watched (used to stay home on Friday nights in college or have my mom tape Sabrina).  

So where does my title come in?  The whole ethical values thing.  Well, Noggin is a channel that I let Ellie watch. It's a division of Nickelodeon and for the most part, the shows are commercial free.  I like commercial free programming.  This morning when Sabrina was over Madeline dutifully  grabbed the remote and began searching for an Ellie appropriate show.  She decided that Little Bill on Noggin was a good choice.  I like Little Bill.  It's not my favorite preschool show (I have three, actually), but I've never had to turn it off because of the content.   If you aren't familiar with Noggin, before each show they usually tell you what values or attributes the shoe has, such as problem solving skills, empathy, etc.  I was actually a bit surprised when I noticed that Little Bill is labeled as "ethical values".  I can totally see how it wound up with that label, but I can't help but wonder are there parents out there who use shows like this to teach their kids ethics instead of modeling these behaviors for them themselves?  

I have no problem with letting my kids watch TV.  I believe that a child can actually learn a lot from watching TV (good and bad).  But, I don't think that we should be relying on shows to teach us ethics, morals, empathy and manners.  Sure, these shows can reinforce these values that should be learned at home, but they're not a substitute for teaching these things to your child.  Something tells me that there are probably a lot of parents who plop their kids in front of the set and let the cartoons teach the important life lessons that they [the parents] should be instilling in their children.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coming soon, a book review on Carlton Banks!

Sometimes Madeline says things to me that are so off the mark that I can't stop laughing or thinking about the comment.  I got my latest book to review from The Catholic Company today.  As I sat down to read it, she asked me why Carlton Banks (from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) was on the cover.  He wasn't, it's a white priest.  Good thing the kid already wears glasses, because if she didn't, we'd be heading to the nearest eye doctor.  Oh, and the fact that she was surprised when I pointed out that it was a priest on the cover was too much for me. 
So now I'm off to read Meat & Potatoes Catholicism by Fr. Joseph Classen, the white guy who looks nothing like the guy who plays Carlton Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Something tells me I'll be laughing about this one for a while.  Where oh where does she come up with this stuff?

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I got a decent amount of my back to school shopping done for Madeline this past weekend.  Thanks to the awesome 30% off coupon I had for Old Navy and the 25% off coupon I had for Children's Place, I was able to get a lot of cute stuff for Madeline at great prices.  I'm still pretty psyched about the jeans I got for Madeline  at Old Navy for $9.80.  How cool is that?  Thanks to the Overstock section of the Lands End website, I was able to order each of my girls a second winter jacket for the upcoming season.  A neighbor told me we're supposed to have an unseasonably cold winter (according to another neighbor who read the Farmers Almanac).

2. I cleaned out Ellie's dresser and closet and removed all of the clothing that I am sure will not fit this fall.  I get such a great feeling when I'm able to purge the dressers and closets.  I think it's because I know that I'll be able to pull more clothing from my packed hand me down closet in my bedroom.  I am trying so hard to get the amount of stuff in that closet reduced.  Parts of it still overflow into Bryan's closet.  Poor guy has rubber maid totes of little girl clothes lining the bottom of his closet.

3. I have been training Mr. Furkins.  I have hit a point where I can't stand that he barks like a wild thing every time someone comes to the door.  When guests come over he goes nuts and hops all over the place and usually pees the moment they come in the door.  It creates total chaos and it infuriates me beyond belief.  Bryan, who is at work most of the day, doesn't always acknowledge that Oscar is a problem since the dog will happily listen to him most of the time. (This stance gets me very upset with Bryan.)  He decided to look into getting a dog trainer that will come to our house.  After hearing that the trainer wanted $600 for three sessions and that the problems I wanted corrected were "wish list items" and would cost more and couldn't be guaranteed, I  decided that I needed to just try to train him myself.  I am now working on desensitizing the dog to the doorbell and garage door opener.  He's getting better, but I won't know for sure how successful I've been until a perfect stranger comes to the door.  My goal is to have a dog that sits quietly when the door bell rings and stays put.  I don't know how long it's going to take to make this work, but I'm hoping I can have a dog that behaves when people come to our house sometime in the next month or two.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Like portraits of your kiddies and blog contests?

If you do, then head on over to The Meanest Mom (Don't you just love that blog name? I love the header picture she has.) and enter her $260 Sears Portrait Studio giveaway.  I personally haven't tried Sears Portrait studio since early 2002, but I could be tempted to try them again if they're footing the bill.  

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I just saw a meerkat!

As we headed to the the LL Bean over in  Marlton, NJ,  Madeline excitedly exclaimed that she had just spotted a meerkat.  Bryan did a double take and asked her to repeat what she had said.  I knew instantly what she had said and that it was a statement that was destined to wind up here.

Now why would my kid think she saw an animal that lives out in the plains of Africa?  Well, I like to watch Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet and I subjected my kids to watching it for a few years when the new seasons were coming out.  I want to say it has been at least a year or so since I last saw an episode of that show.  Meerkat Manor is about as close to a soap opera style show as you'll ever find me. (I don't watch talk shows or soap operas, so don't ask me about that cool thing that was just on Oprah or the latest dish on GH.)  

As Bryan and I laughed at Madeline, who is now seeing meerkats running free in the suburbs of New Jersey, she blamed me for the spotting.  Apparently, when you have your children watch educational programming, it is your fault when they think they see things they learned about on TV.  

So what did Madeline see?  I suspect she saw a squirrel, or a chipmunk or some other small furry woodland creature that is native to our area.  I can tell you that she's not going to live the meerkat siting down anytime soon.  On our drive home in a rather bad rain storm I saw a totally drenched squirrel cross the road.  I asked Madeline if he looked like the meerkat she saw earlier.  She's wasn't amused, but Bryan and I were.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My child needs a dump button!

You know how on live radio and TV broadcasts they have a delay of a few seconds and a dump button they can press to essentially mute out any comments or language that shouldn't be sent out over the air waves?  Well, I need that for Madeline.  You have no idea just how badly I need it.

About two weeks ago she lent her Diary of  a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw to her friend.  Bryan and I have told Madeline many times in the past that we would prefer it if she didn't lend her books out to her friends.  She has lent a few books out in the past and they always come back in very poor condition.  I learned the same lesson when I was a little girl and had lent a book out to a friend and got it back in a condition that was so awful that I'd never read the book again. It was one of those moments that has stuck with me for 22 years.  

The book in question got lent out because Madeline put me on the spot in front of the little girl and her mother.  I allowed her to lend the book, but I explained to her again after the book drove away with her friend why we don't lend books.  Madeline has spent the past two weeks worrying about her book. (I knew she would, she always worries when she lends things.)  

So today her friend called to see how she was feeling (she called a few days ago wanting to play when Madeline was sick).  She also wanted to let Madeline know that she finished the book.  I suspected a few days back that Madeline left the room when her friend called to ask about her book.  Whatever she said must have left an impression on her friend that she felt the need to tell me she finished the book when she talked to me on the phone.

I handed the phone to Madeline and then it happened.  Not wanting to tell her friend that she doesn't want to lend her books out because she doesn't trust her friends and worries about her stuff too much, she tells her "My mom doesn't want me to lend my books to you anymore.".  Aaaah!  Where's the dump button?  I really like the little girl she's talking to, and I like her family.  Her mom and dad are nice and they even have a little boy who is Ellie's age.  The last thing I want to do is offend them, and there Madeline is plodding ahead with totally unfiltered speech.  

We had to tell her that she can and has to lend her friend the other books from the series now.  I told her two weeks ago to assess the condition of the book she had just lent out when it comes back before committing to lending another.  It's as simple as that.  If you lend something out and it comes back beat up, then you just tell the person that you don't want to lend them anymore books because they didn't take very good care of what you had just lent them.  If they return it and it is no worse for wear then you have nothing to worry about going forward and can lend books out with no worries.   

In general, I prefer her not to lend the books because we will use the for Ellie in a few more years and I'd like them to be in excellent condition for her.  Since Ellie is living in a world where most of her things are hand me downs, I like to make sure that what gets handed down to her is in decent shape.  I'm trying to instill in Madeline a sense of responsibility.  Yes, the books and toys are hers, but she needs to be mindful that many of those things will ultimately be passed on to her sister as she outgrows them.

Raising prices and calling it a sale does not make it so.

Yesterday I took my girls out shopping for school clothes.  Mostly, I took Madeline out shopping for clothes.  I have enough hand me downs from Madeline for Ellie's current size to clothe the quadruplet version of Ellie. (God help us all if such a thing existed.)  Ellie clearly picked up on the lopsided shopping and did her best to use her Sniffy-hopper charms on me to get me to buy her a few shirts.  She was incredibly grateful for the few items she got in sharp contrast to her big sister Madeline who got lots of things but still wanted more.  That girl can never be satisfied.  I could give her the world and it still wouldn't be enough.

So my total annoyance came about when we went to Kohls.  I took Madeline there on Tuesday and brought her some shirts and a pair of shoes for school.  They had a pretty good sale going on and most of what I brought was 45-50% off.  Generally, I won't buy clothes at Kohls for my kids unless they're 40% or more off.  I don't think the clothes are worth anything near the original retail prices Kohls has set.  I can get nicer stuff at the Gap (full priced) for less than Kohls prices.  So all day on Thursday I kept seeing ads about this big sale Kohls was going to have this Friday and Saturday.  I had also received a 15% off coupon in the mail and a few emails with the same offer.   I figured I'd take the girls back over there and see get Madeline sneakers for gym and see if there was anything else Madeline wanted.  After wandering around the store I became incredibly annoyed as I noticed that all the things that were on sale on Tuesday were now being offered at much lower percentages off.  So much so, that even with the extra 15% off coupon the things would still cost more.  It goes without saying that Kohls didn't get any of my money yesterday.

I'm sorry, but I despise when stores play these games.  Why waste all those advertising dollars promoting a lousy sale?  This is why I frequently have to play what Bryan has dubbed "The Game" where I rebuy (at a lower price) and return.  Now, Kohls does have a decent price adjustment policy (in case you were unaware) where you can get the difference if an item goes on a better sale within 14 days.  A lot of stores have changed their policies on price adjustments in the past year or so (most likely due to the economy).  I know Old Navy and Gap will only do price adjustments within 7 days and other stores have eliminated the practice altogether.
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