Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not quite in full-scale panic mode

I have my sewing machine back, and it's humming along beautifully, and since the girls' dress-up capes are done and all the Christmas gifts for our neighbors are put together, I spent this evening cutting out pieces for the first Totoro. There's gray fluff everywhere — the dining room table, the floor, ground into the living room rug, on my clothes.

Oh — and my back is killing me, even after taking prophylactic ibuprofen before spreading the fuzzy fabric out on the table.

I have four more days to make this happen, and I'm not really panicking quite yet, but I'm scared enough to start working my tail off.

On the plus side, I think I figured out how to make the ears stand up: pipe cleaners.

Wish me luck. How are your Christmas preparations going?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eating my words...

After weeks of openly and roundly mocking Scott for playing "My Heroes Ability" on Facebook (at random hours of the day and night)...I'm going to have to eat my words. I admit it. I'm hooked on "Nobility."


I am such a nerd. Let the mocking begin.

Monday, December 15, 2008


So I called the town health department today, out of curiosity:

"I have a strange question — I've been looking on the town website and I see licensing requirements for dogs and cats, but nothing for other animals. Specifically, I'm wondering about getting a miniature pig."

"Um...not in Belmont."

"I see. What can you have in Belmont?"

"Just chickens."

"Huh. Well, thank you."

Well. There goes that idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cautionary Tale, or: Never move to a new city to be with a guy

I have this cautionary tale that I tell occasionally, usually when I'm talking to someone who's besottedly in love and making hasty decisions. (I used it several times when Scott and I were assigned to the singles ward in Pittsburgh.) It goes like this:

Once upon a time, about nine and a half years ago now, I was dating a guy who lived in Los Angeles. I'd known him since high school, when he was geeky-cool and funny, and we'd kept in touch as he took more and more interesting artistic jobs (ending up as a storyboard artist for Disney) and I'd floundered through my twenties trying to figure out what I wanted out of life. Somehow we ended up dating at the same point that I found myself between jobs and between roommates, and it was my mom who suggested that I move to L.A. to see if we could make things work romantically.

So I lined up a job (I thought) and an apartment, and moved myself down to Southern California, and then the job fell through and the boyfriend's endearing quirks started to really grate on my stressed-out self, and within a month I found myself jobless and boyfriendless.

The lessons are these:
  1. Never move anywhere for a guy. (And the corollaries: Never make drastic life changes based on body chemistry alone; Major life changes will usually result in too much stress on the relationship.)

  2. Your mother always wants to see you happy, and she's not going to be above pushing you into a romance if she thinks it's going to put a smile on your face or pictures of grandchildren in her brag book.

  3. Sometimes you end up doing something right for all the wrong reasons.

Here's what the guy in question is doing now. And I'm taking the kiddos to see the movie this afternoon. (If you're in the area, I'd love some company.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mean streak

My baby sister just called me with her newest Grand Scheme: in her bid to become Favorite Aunt, she's going to buy our other sister's daughter a miniature horse.

And, since we're the city-dwellin' folk that we are, she's buying my daughters a teacup pig.

Not this Christmas, mind you. She has some saving to do.

I think she has a mean streak.

Two girls and an easel

Okay, these were just too cute not to share:

Beth and Sarah decided they both wanted to paint today. Beth had brushes; Sarah had her first giddy foray into finger painting. It works particularly well when there's an easel between them, and plenty of newspaper on the floor.

Instead of putting these paintings on the wall, we'll use them as wrapping paper for the grandparentals, who will no doubt appreciate them way more than we do here. (Too much of a good thing at the moment.)

Oh, and Beth decided she wanted to be "a lady with a baby in my tummy." That's her hat tied around her middle. I had to stop laughing before I could take the picture.

And the award for best technologically-integrated customer service goes to...

Anyone called customer service lately?

Or, rather: Anyone been called by customer service lately?

Scott bought a number of our Christmas gifts on Amazon, which is typical, and the order got split up, which is also typical. One of the shipments, unfortunately, got sent to our old default address in Pittsburgh. We called some friends who still live in our old apartment complex to see if they could head it off at the pass, but apparently the U.S. Postal Service is savvier than UPS: they know we've moved. The package was marked "undeliverable" and sent back.

All of this I can see by clicking on "Track your package" on Amazon. But we still don't have the package. So I go through the Amazon web page to contact customer service. Up pops a page that says "Talk to us! We'll call you. Right now. Really."

I enter my phone number. The phone rings immediately. I also get a popup screen that's managing the telephony somehow — if I want to hang up the call, I click a button. I'm also connected (again, immediately) to Nitu, a very nice customer service agent in India, who confirms that the package is in Amazon receiving limbo somewhere and sets me up with a replacement order.

Let me just say, since I've done my time (two years!) in the purgatory that is phone-based customer service, that this is Very Impressive. Now, granted, they're estimating that the new shipment won't arrive until the 18th (bummer). But I'm still impressed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

At what point do I issue a DNR for my sewing machine?

Let me point out that I love my sewing machine. It's an old Singer Stylist model, purchased secondhand out of the Pittsburgh Pennysaver for the grand total of $25: machine, cabinet, and all the extra parts, random thread colors, measuring tapes and other odds and ends that had accumulated in the storage compartment of the cabinet. I understand this machine. Like me, it's wound a little tight, tends to be tense, and stubbornly insists on doing things its own way. (You should see the threading diagram.) We're both products of the early '70s.

And, like me, it's higher-maintenance than it appears. (I hate to admit this about myself, but trust me.) First it was $40 to get it cleaned and oiled and tuned. It sorely needed the attention, and I was happy to pay for it. Then it was a few dollars here and there for new needles and the right kind of bobbins and some oil (the oil seems to have disappeared when we moved, darn it — it's not like it's expensive, but I like having the right kind of long-nosed bottle).

About two years ago it stopped working altogether. It's of the nylon-geared generation of sewing machines, and the gears finally wore out. Getting them replaced cost about $100.

Saturday night, as I was in the middle of appliquéing a princess crown on a cape for Sarah, the zigzag stitch got narrower and narrower and less and less predictable until it finally stopped zigging and zagging completely. It's a timing issue — the needle goes back and forth, but not quite when it hits the fabric.

The guy I took it to this morning gave me an estimate of $129 to replace the bearings, and there are a few other small things I'm going to have him replace while he's at it. Right now I figure it's worth it, since I don't have the money to replace it with a good quilting machine at the moment. But I'm starting to wonder how many other parts might disintegrate, and where to draw the line.


Thanks, Danika, for lending me your old Kenmore machine. We're going through a getting-to-know-you phase, and having a few scuffles over territory, but we're going to get along just fine. Can it stay and play for another week and a half?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Listen to your body!

10:00 last night, Beth still doing her in-and-out-of-bed, up-and-down-the-stairs routine: "I can't sleep."

"Sweetie pie, can you go back upstairs and put your head down on your pillow?"

Mournful face, tears welling up in the eyes. "But I'm saaaaaad." This is a common refrain around our house when Beth is exhausted, and I have a consistent way to deal with it.

"Bethie, you aren't sad. You're tired. When you feel this way it's your body's way of telling you that you're really tired."

"But I can't hear it!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bethisms #9 and #9.5

Yesterday in the car:

Me: "We're going to the bookstore! Does that sound like fun?"

Beth: "Uh-huh."

Me: "I think it sounds terrific!"

Beth: "You said it, Mommy."


This morning, as she was rummaging through her top drawer looking for clothes to wear to her friend Josh's Lego-themed birthday party, Beth said in a disappointed voice, "I thought I had a Lego costume, but I didn't."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

For this, I got a $25 Visa card and a free liter of bottled water

Here's what the graduate marketing students should have learned from our market research interview this evening:

1. Even if everything you're asking is an open-ended, free-association-type question, you may not want to hear everything your interview subject is willing to talk about. Every once in a while you'll interview someone who likes to talk, thrives on free association, and has never ever ever learned to shut up, even if it's in her best interest to do so*. Move things along at an appropriate pace or your professor will come in to remind you that your class is about to resume.

2. Be very, very careful about the assumptions you make when you recruit people for market research interviews. Don't assume, for example, when you're doing research for a shoe company and you say you're looking for people who enjoy being around the water, that the people who show up will all be preppy northeastern sailing types. You might just end up with a displaced Southern California girl who thinks that the only appropriate footwear around water is flip-flops, Tevas or aqua socks. (And roller blades, but that's too Southern California to explain to someone who doesn't pronounce his Rs.) I've been on a sailboat maybe three times in my life, but the poor guy interviewing me jumped all over that: "Tell me about sailing. What would you wear on your feet?" Um...sunscreen?

Turns out their market research was for Sperry Topsiders. Sorry, guys. If I'm going to be around water, I want to be IN the water, not standing on a yacht sipping upscale microbrews and chatting about the Harvard-Yale game.

I can just picture what happened when these two unfortunate souls walked back into their class: "So, tell me about the person you talked to." "Well, she's a crazy mom who likes to swim with sea turtles and wear red patent-leather heels — not at the same time — and she forces her kids to go to the beach even though they sunburn easily and are terrified of waves. Oh, and she used to be a Mormon missionary. We got nothin'."

Unless, of course, they're trying to re-brand which case I expect to see a pair of candy-apple red high-heeled aqua socks at Nordstrom next spring. Or at least Sperry ads featuring models taking off their preppy shoes and actually getting in the water**.

* I did have some composure. I never once mentioned the skinny-dipping incident. That should count for something, right?

** Actually, my real prediction is this: If anyone ever does look at their research, there will be a major Sperry ad next year featuring a pair of gorgeous bare feet with a sandal-line suntan, bright red toenails, and sand between the toes. No shoes — the shoes will be implied.

Parenting lessons

Since Brittany just posted about learning some parenting lessons the hard's mine for the week:

Do not leave the bathroom alarm clock within arm's reach of your three-year-old. Said three-year-old will inevitably push buttons and flip switches, and the alarm will inevitably be set for 6:00 a.m.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It's almost 5:30. Sarah just barely woke up from her nap, and tried to use the potty, and is now hanging out with me and drinking water out of her beloved sippy cup. When I put her down for her nap more than three hours ago, she actually thanked me.

Beth, who insisted on wearing her pajamas to take a nap this afternoon, is still asleep. I tried to wake her up at 4:00 for a playdate, but she only rolled over and closed her eyes again.

Something is definitely amiss. Not that I'm complaining, but this is not normal.


This is what a rough draft looks like in muslin and (mostly improvised) stuffing. I'm going to have to use some sort of wire to keep the ears up (that's why the pencil is there now), and there are safety pins and pen marks all over the place where I need to make some alterations. The neck should be positioned lower on the body, the arm/body seams should be more rounded, tail (not shown) should be about twice the size I planned on and placed higher. If I can figure out how to do some friendly-looking claws, they'll be in there too.

Oh, and I had no idea how hard it would be to find good gray fabric. Yowza. Fortunately, one of the sites I'd looked at previously got something in stock last week that I hope will work.

He's chilling upstairs in the attic right now, awaiting dismemberment and minimal redesign, which will have to happen on the sly after bedtime. Strangely, I miss him. Even in muslin, he's awfully cuddly.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sarah and the budding sense of humor

A few days ago, after Sarah and I had spent a chunk of the morning next door, I asked her, "Did you like playing with Sam?"

"Gup!" (That's "yup," for those of you who aren't fluent in Sarah.) "Ooo-ooo-ah-ah-ah!"

"Do you think Sam is a monkey?"

"Gup!" And then her great belly laugh: "Hahahahahahahaha!"

A joke! She made an actual joke. This is going to be one entertaining ride.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Convergence, and life imitating art

Sarah closed the girls' bedroom door tonight during Beth's pre-bedtime potty run, and we've been reading David Wiesner's The Three Pigs pretty obsessively, and the combination resulted in this:

Beth (from the hallway, behind the closed door): "Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

Scott: "Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!"

Beth (opening door, giving her father an exasperated look): "Daddy, you don't have any hair on your chin."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cabin fever solution #1 (assuming — and desperately hoping — that I can come up with more of these)

Played Hullabaloo with the kiddos this afternoon when the chaos got to be a bit much. It's great. Foam rubber spots on the floor and an electronic M.C. The hardest part was putting in the &%(@#*! batteries.

Beth, true to form, carefully (even studiously!) followed the directions, ended up on the right kind of spot, and frequently won a round. Sarah joined in and tried to copy Beth. If she got tired of the game she sat down and picked up the game spots with just as much enthusiasm as she'd shown while actually playing. Beth's buddy Avery had only the slightest interest in ending up on the right spot, but took the "skip...hop...twirl" directions to a whole new level. When they won a round, all three girls demonstrated amazing victory dances.

Me? I'm just a bit taken aback at what a good workout it was. Ooof.

And I like my victory dance. It rivals Joey's domino champion dance, with a more appreciative audience.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Newsprint, newsprint everywhere

In the last few weeks, I've had not one but TWO people accuse me of being craftsy. (Note the "s." I know I'm crafty. But that's another post.) I shudder at the thought of this: I don't scrapbook. I cringe at the thought of vinyl lettering anywhere in my house. There are no stuffed bunnies in calico dresses hanging from my doorknobs.

But, they both said, sewing is crafting! You sew!

Grr. Yeah, I sew. It's in my blood. Both of my grandmothers sewed — one taught textiles at the college level, the other just made fantastic clothes for her kids after looking at what was in style in shop windows. My mom sews occasionally (I learned a healthy number of my good swear words from her when she was making me a velvet and paper taffeta dress for a high school dance). I learned to sew clothes for my Mandy doll when I was, what, six? When I was in high school my dad made me a deal that he'd buy me the fabric for any clothes I'd make myself. He ended up regretting that deal after a certain box-pleated Black Watch plaid wool skirt, which I only wish I still had.

Now...I make baby blankets, and piece the occasional baby quilt to give away (and boy do I mean occasional), and hem Scott's pajamas. And...okay. Some doll clothes. And a doll blanket. And pillowcases out of a torn sheet I couldn't bear to throw away. I made a quiet book with some friends a few years ago. But that's it. Mostly my sewing machine is used for mending torn clothes, and the cabinet doubles as my computer desk, and I spend way more time on the computer than I do on the sewing machine.

So why does it bug me to be told that I'm a crafts person? I suppose that somewhere in my head I link crafts with all things frivolous. I do have this taste for projects. Making things. Useful things. Fun things. Not add-more-kitsch-to-my-country-style-kitchen things. I just sent a batch of mix CDs to a CD exchange group I joined a few years ago (I'm really, really late) and they look and sound awesome, if I do say so myself. When I'm working, I love doing websites and graphic design. And then there's the matter of the mid-century dining room set that I've been halfheartedly working on refinishing/reupholstering for several years now....

...anyway, here I am, working on making a BIG stuffed Totoro for my kids for Christmas. There's no such thing as a pattern out there, so I've made a prototype out of newspaper, which I'll then dismantle so I can use the paper as pattern pieces. Cutting the pieces freehand worked surprisingly well, and I only had to do a few little tweaks on the body. But I have newsprint everywhere. And I can't get the head to look quite right — something about the nose, which I think needs to be lower and perkier. And I'm wondering whether, given the cost of good fuzzy fabric and the likelihood of finding the right stuff for whiskers, it isn't a really bad idea. But somehow I can't seem to give up on it.

I think I need a life.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How weird is my three-year-old?

Beth requested sushi for her snack yesterday morning.

Bentley's cafeteria has a sushi bar, and she got her wish for lunch. Lucky kid. California roll...but still, I think we're raising her right.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election day: pigtails, tears, awe

I took my kids to vote today. I've heard stories about people standing in line for hours, but at the senior citizens' center down the street there were no lines, no Black Panthers, no lawyers I could identify as such. Just elderly civic-minded ladies manning the polls, and a few of us civic-minded citizens. The girls had red, white and blue ribbons on their pigtails (we dug out the Fourth of July stuff), and the poll workers couldn't stop telling them how adorable they were.

In Massachusetts we vote using oversized Scan-Tron sheets, which makes me feel like I'm back in high school taking a test, and also makes me miss the more balloty-feeling punch cards I had in California. Here's the thing, though: as I was standing in my little semi-private voting carrel, I had a rush of patriotic pride (huh? me? wow) and my eyes welled up with tears as I bent over the paper. I had to blink the tears back to make sure I was really filling in the circle next to "Obama/Biden," and had this overwhelming feeling of being a drop of water in a massive wave of change, which I'm still getting a little choked up over.

And then I went to the library, where The Audacity of Hope finally came in (I've been on quite the waitlist), and I got choked up over that, too.

Stayed up way too late watching election results (I realized as soon as Fox News called Ohio for Obama that I could probably go to bed, but didn't). I watched McCain's concession speech — the best political speech I've ever heard in my life, and the most heartfelt I've heard him in the last year — and cried more. Watched Obama's speech, thought about that wave of change again, cried even more.

Agree with me; disagree with me; I don't care. I voted for someone I believe will infuse hope into our quite-jaded view of all things political, someone I hope will be able to bring about even a smidgen of the change and purpose he advocated in his campaign. I'm deeply moved at the thought that our individual voices or stylus punches or filled-in ovals mean something, and I'd defend your right to vote your conscience whether or not it agrees with mine. I was trying to explain the concept of democracy to the girls in the car (got pretty sticky when I realized my encapsulated American Revolution story was encouraging disobedience among the pint-sized ranks) and it just got to me how cool this all is.

Three best quotes of the evening:
  • On BBC World News, an American commentator who said something along the lines of, "This should silence the people who are still saying America is a racist country," and then turned to one of the other talking heads and added, "Right?" Silence.

  • Karl Rove, on Fox (Scott got to drive the remote last night): "Every American ought to be celebrating tonight." Well said. Unexpected, but well said.

  • Fox's Juan Williams: "This is truly an incredible moment of American history.... I don’t care how you feel about him politically, on some level you have to say this is America at its grandest, the potential, the possibility, and what it says for our children. Black and white, the image of Barack Obama and those little girls in the Rose Garden in these years to come. I think it’s just stunning."

Wow. Wow. I'm so proud of my country right now. So hopeful for the next four years.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Linguistic progress

Sarah has finally learned to say her name, and it comes out "Rah-rah!" Which is pretty much how I feel about her.

I knew that Bethie would start speaking more clearly after some time in preschool, and I know that in the long run it's a good thing...but she's started to say th at the end of her name, and I miss my Beff-Beff.

Monday, October 27, 2008

THIS is how I feel about Twilight...

The Deseret News just published this year's Bad Writing Contest winners. The whole list is worth a gander, as long as you bring a good airsickness bag along with you (I just got a pack of these for Beth to carry in the car). But the best one by far, IMO, is this:
When Bekka — sweet, adorable Bekka, scrapbooker, scripture chase champion, pure, innocent chaste Bekka, who made her own modest swimwear and provided Rice Krispie treats for every missionary homecoming — when Bekka announced her engagement to Ed, everyone in the ward knew it was right, because Ed was, as any fool could see, Bekka's perfect match: good looking, strong and a vampire.
         — Eric Samuelsen
Eric, whoever and wherever you are, you made my day.

Bethism #8

"Mommy, why do books have to have jackets?"

"To keep the book nice."

"Does it keep them warm, too?"

"Yes, it keeps them warm, too."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trick-or-treating beta test

My friend Mindy figured we'd let the kids do a trick-or-treating run-through this week at a local nursing home. The girls were okay for the first few minutes, and then they realized they didn't know anybody there and freaked out. I tried explaining the mechanics of trick-or-treating: if you're nice to people, they'll give you candy. Nope. Nothing doing.

The church Halloween party on Friday was somewhat more successful (our M.C. dubbed the trunk-or-treat part of the evening "the world's largest fleet of haunted minivans"), though Beth wouldn't go near anything too creepy-looking, or loud, or flashy. Both kids brought home inordinate amounts of sugar, though, which we've been weeding through with a critical eye. Lollipops? Halloween Kit-Kat bars with the icky orange-colored white chocolate on the outside? Sure, they can have that. Junior Mints and Crunch bars? Mom and Dad had better confiscate those.

The party was a rousing success; the awesome professional storyteller we hired, Bruce Marcus, said it was "the best controlled chaos I've seen." (I'm still giggling over his "wereman" story, and the kids' enthusiastic, fist-pumping participation.)

Glad it's over, though. I carved two of our three pumpkins to use for table centerpieces: a kitty for Beth and a Totoro pumpkin for Sarah. The resulting pictures were so worth the carving hassle the night before....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Possibly the weirdest conversation I've had all week

We, the TV addicts we are, are up catching up on episodes of "Life," which is either cynical or exhilarating, and I'm still not sure which.

So on the screen, Charlie asks an animal activist why she's wearing leather shoes, and she says they're gym shoes, but it turns out they're really "Jim" shoes — Jim, the founder of the activist group, willed his body for manufacturing purposes to raise people's consciousness.

At this point Scott pauses the DVR and says, "Libby, when I die I want you to turn my skin into shoes and wear me."

"Can I dye them red?"

"Sure. But they won't hold the tan — they'll just crack and peel and be white again, like me."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marie-Therese Gown

Oh my. Wouldn't Beth be adorable in THIS?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The eyeballing game

Okay, THIS isn't addictive or anything.

(My best score's a 2.52. Don't even ask how long it took me to get it.)

Make way for ducklings

We had this totally awesome (and stressful too, but then, what isn't?) week o' visitors: first Grandma and Gigi, then (hard on their heels) Sarah and Rob and Olivia. This is why I insisted on having a guest room. Makes it ever-so-convenient to have friends and family here, without the tiresome blow-up-the-air-mattress-and-have-people-changing-in-the-bathroom problems.

So it was a fun-filled week. We went apple picking,

went to the aquarium (which Beth pronounces "queearium"),

rode the T everywhere,

and also had glorious Italian food in the North End and went shopping in the Back Bay, where Gigi met a cute guy at Borders (wearing MY cute rain boots, thank you very much).

The crowning fun+stress glory: We ended up driving downtown to see the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Public Garden. During rush hour. With carsick kids. Beth threw up once on the way downtown (in a plastic bag my mom held for her), once while we were walking around (in a Starbucks bag) and over and over and over on the way home (in an empty Starbucks cup). And she did it with such composure I wanted to hug her (but didn't since I was driving).

Totally worth all the puking, though, to see Sarah hug and kiss each of the ducklings in turn — some on their bronze-feathered duckling bottoms! (Gigi took photos; go bug her for them.)

Sarah is in love with the ducklings. Beth keeps asking when we're going to go back.

I think Grandma and Gigi both needed a Beth-and-Sarah fix. Beth, for her part, insisted on calling Gigi the next week to say that she missed her:

Rob, Sarah and Olivia arrived late Friday night, much to Beth's chagrin — she couldn't stand it that Liv was getting here after bedtime. On Saturday — possibly the last nice day of the year! — we went over to Bentley for the homecoming/alumni weekend carnival. The kids collected blue-and-gold bead necklaces from the cheerleaders, got their faces painted, saw some rather docile petting-zoo goats, and jumped in (or, in Beth's case, came out crying from) a bouncy house. Food was good. Game of dominoes after the kids tucked in for the evening was even better. Catching up with Rob and Sarah was great.

I have zero — ZERO — pictures of the weekend. Sarah brought her camera, and if you've seen her pictures you know why I didn't take any.


I'm going around the house closing all the storm windows, because it's becoming increasingly apparent that the warm weather is NOT coming back (well, not for months and months, anyway) and the cold is starting to affect my ability to type. And cook. And play with my kids. And do anything other than huddle under a blanket watching the Food Network. (Speaking of...if you haven't seen "The Chef Jeff Project," it's totally worth a gander.)

Sarah WILL NOT wear a hat. Or mittens.

Beth insists on wearing her hat, mittens, and scarf...even while inside. It's a good idea. I'm wearing a rather jaunty (well, in my mind anyway) black beret around the house myself. Goes with the black Halloween tee and the overall grimness outside.

I want the sky to stop being gray. August, August, wherefore art thou, August?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

If I play my cards right...

Sarah's had quite the day today.

1. She fell out of the car on her head. (I know: YIKES, right?) I think she caught her foot in the car seat straps when I told her to turn around and sit down so I could strap her in. She has a lump and a lovely scrape on her forehead, which only enhance her generally tomboyish appearance. This is a rough-and-tumble kid I've got, and as much as she likes her sparkly tennis shoes and ribbons in her hair, she's way more proud of being able to go down the big slide by herself. Forehead scrape? Part of the job, my friend.

2. While Scott was out picking Beth up from preschool, Sarah pointed to her diaper and grunted. We've learned that this usually means she's about to use the diaper, and in a flash of mommy brilliance I said, "Do you want to go potty on the potty?"


So I raced with her to the bathroom, stripped her down, and put her on the potty. Nothing happened. We were sitting there staring at each other when Beth and Scott came home. Beth was very impressed: "Sarah, you're sitting on the potty? You're a big girl." Sarah beamed.

Which leads to...

3. An hour later I was making grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch (the gourmet choice — Kraft singles and all) and talking on the phone. The girls were off doing goodness-knows-what. And then from the hall I heard, "Mama, Sarah goed wee-wee!"

Er...she did? I poked my head around the corner. There was a bare-bottomed Sarah, with her pants down around her ankles, grinning at me. Beth, proud as punch, was behind her holding her diaper. I scanned the floor: no puddle. (Please, please tell me the puddle isn't on the living-room rug.) I looked in the bathroom and saw this:

Toilet paper strewn about the bathroom, and a small yellow puddle IN THE POTTY. Beth had pulled Sarah's pants down, taken her diaper off, and helped her sit down. And then, to keep her company, Beth went on the big potty. I was cooking lunch, and they were having a potty party in the bathroom. Not feeling the love, here.

I laughed my head off for a good few minutes before finding a new diaper for Sarah. Both girls got M&Ms (Sarah says "Em-num-nums" now, which pretty much echoes how I feel about them) — Sarah for going in the potty, and Beth for helping her. By this time, of course, the cheese sandwich was burned beyond recognition.

At bedtime, with the house still smelling faintly of burned cheese, I was once again telling Beth what a good helper she had been. She was glowing. "I'm just like a mommy!"

If I play my cards right, this will be the easiest potty-training on record, because I won't have to do any of it. Beth will do it for me. Gigi says, "You knew you had her first for a reason."

(I do not, unfortunately, have a picture of Sarah bare-bottomed in the hall. At some point, caution trumps hilarity and potential teenage embarrassment.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Customer disservice, part 2

...and here's the reply I got today:

Dear Libby,

Thank you for contacting H&M - we received your e-mail.

We apologize for the situation you encountered regarding our leggings, and H&M is grateful for your honesty. Unfortunately, H&M does not have on line shopping in the US and no transactions are processed outside of our stores. We regret this information was not supplied to you immediately in a customer service friendly manner.

H&M is appreciative of your willingness to pay for the legging, unfortunately H&M does not have the capability to process personal checks and they are not accepted as a method of payment in our stores.

We value your patronage, time and concern Libby, and in no way want you to feel embarrassed. Feel free to return the leggings at your convenience, the next time you visit us, as we understand the error was clearly an innocent mistake.

Additionally Libby, it would be our pleasure to send you a Courtesy Coupon valid until December 31st as a token of our appreciation to you - if you would provide us with your complete mailing address.


H&M Customer Service

So here's the deal: I've already put the check in the mail, as the saying goes. I appreciate that the stores have a policy of not accepting checks for fraud prevention purposes, but I'm going to trust that somewhere in the vast H&M worldwide resources they'll be able to figure out how to cash a personal check for $4.90. 'Cause it's going to show up in their mail tomorrow.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Late-night snack

You know what I like best about chocolate ice cream sodas? The slushy ice crust that the soda puts on the ice cream. Yum.

Customer disservice

Here's the text of the e-mail I sent to H&M today:

My kids and I went to the H&M store in downtown Boston this morning. My three-year-old, who was hanging on to her new clothes, accidentally dropped a pair of leg warmers in the basket underneath our stroller. Of course I didn't discover them until I was nearly home (at the end of the subway line, folding the stroller to stow in the trunk of my car).

So I called the store as soon as I got home: I have a pair of leg warmers, and I'd like to pay for them. The woman who answered the phone was utterly confused, and told me I'd have to come back to the store and show them my receipt.

No, I said, I didn't pay for them. They're not on the receipt. I'm calling because I WANT to pay for them.

She asked me to hold while she got a manager. I was on hold for quite a while -- 10 to 15 minutes -- and finally hung up. When I called back a few minutes later I asked to speak to the manager immediately.

He wasn't much more help. No, he couldn't take a credit card number over the phone. I would have to return to the store to pay for the leg warmers. (I don't go downtown often.) Or, if I didn't want them, he guessed I could send them through the mail. He didn't see any other way he could help.

How about this, I said. I'll send you the tag from the leg warmers, with a check. He agreed, gave me his name (Paul) and the address of the store, and hung up.

Now, I'm embarrassed that I walked out of a store without paying for something. And I really wanted to do the right thing. But at no point did either employee thank me for being honest. Instead, they acted confused -- why would I want to pay for something if I didn't have to? -- and, in addition to being unable to help me, seemed unwilling to go an extra step to find a way in which they could help.

I wonder if your employee training covers how to handle a situation that is out of the ordinary. From the experience I had today, I doubt it. I would have appreciated someone saying that they didn't have an answer for me, but they were certainly sympathetic, they appreciated what I was trying to do, and they would give me a call back within an hour with a solution.

Oh, and Beth had so many questions about why things were a certain way on our train that I suggested she could design subway cars when she grew up. She's pondering it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah and the orange crayon

Sarah drew me a picture today, all by herself. She found the paper, she found the crayons, and she opened the box without help:

Masterpiece, isn't it? I have this vision of someday getting frames for my kids' artwork, and having a place on the wall to show it all off, along with a small card to the right of each piece:

orange crayon and scratch paper
private collection

(This may actually be an indication that I need to find a paying job back in the arts world and let my kids be kids.)

It is a pumpkin, apparently. Sarah showed me the picture and I said, "That's beautiful, Sarah! So much orange! Is it a pumpkin?"


"Or maybe spaghetti. Is it spaghetti?"

"No no no."

A few minutes later she was in the playroom, working hard at something important in the play kitchen, and she showed me the dishes she had put in the oven.

"Is that dinner? What are you making me, Sarah?"

In answer, she pointed out of the room, then led me back to the dining room where her drawing was still out on her little table. She put her finger down on the paper.

"Pumpkin? Are you making me pumpkin?"


Free handbags!'s turning out to be quite the good day. Beth learns the macarena, Sarah draws me a picture, we decide to get Beth night potty-trained for once and for all...and now this: Handbag Planet giving away a handbag an hour as a site launch gimmick (and viral marketing campaign, which I totally respect). On the delight-o-meter, this is like Piperlime without the pesky do-I-wear-an-8 1/2-or-a-9? dilemma.

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books." — Norman Cousins

(Good thing, too. I'd get kicked out.)

Do I have a significant, thought-provoking, fodder-for-good-discussion book I should read for my book group? Well, yeah. It's The Preacher's Daughter by Beverly Lewis, in case you're interested (and I am, I really am). Did I check it out while we were at the library today? Um, no. The hour we were there was all in the kids' section: storytime with a good dose of songs and dances, and some time on the computer so Beth could have a multimedia Tomie de Paola experience, and some looking at and waving to the turtles, Overdue and Renewed.

The following falls under the category of either Tragically Hip Mamahood or Spectacularly Bad Parenting...but I just couldn't help myself. We checked out a stack of kids' CDs, including "Sesame Street Hot! Hot! Hot! Dance Songs." Last song on the CD? The Macarena, Muppet-style. Beth can now do the dance, after a (decade-old) fashion.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sarah's new word, and budding candy addiction

I was standing at the kitchen counter the other day when Sarah came up to me.

"Mama? Mama? Emanem." Expectant look.

Emanem! I can add a new word to her scant and oddly selective repertoire: elbow, okay, me. This is the child who understands everything we say but doles out her own words like a miser parting with shiny new quarters. But she loooves food, and she knows I keep M&Ms in the cupboard (and, failing that, always a Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips).

I opened a brand-new bag of peanut butter M&Ms and gave her one. I figured I should encourage her in her attempts to verbalize her wants. And, you know, the look on your kid's face when you give her chocolate? Priceless.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blue caboose

Scott got an e-mail this week from a Bentley administrator inviting faculty and staff on a train ride. Specifically, a ride on a restored 1913 (or thereabouts) Boston & Maine wooden caboose. Bring the kids, food on board, etc. It's a two-hour ride up to New Hampshire where the train is, but we figure, hey, this sounds like a lot of fun. And Scott has always wanted to ride in a caboose.

Turns out? The administrator and her husband own the caboose. It had been damaged by a fire during a railroad strike, and they took the time to restore it and get it operational again, and it's absolutely darling. Bright blue, big B&M logo on the side, shipshape inside painted white with blue cushions on the seats. There are seats at the front, a small galley area, then benches along the sides that double as beds. At the very middle there are built-in ladder rungs that go up to the top of the cupola, where there are two facing seats on either side. We ended up sitting in one side of the cupola — just enough space for the four of us — and the girls happily munched on cookies and sandwiches and drained their juice boxes.

Beth was a bit nervous at first about the open windows (oh my, the view!), while I was keeping one arm around Sarah to make sure she didn't dive headfirst out of hers. But Beth got over her fears:

Sarah, sick of me hanging onto her waist while she stuck her head puppylike out the window, decided the cupola was boring and the main level (and resident Cocker Spaniel) would be much more fun:

She also made friends with a six-year-old girl who mother-henned her quite well, tried (unsuccessfully) to get out to the observation deck, and waved out the window at a train we passed along the way. Scott asked the caboose owners' daughter if her dad had always had trains. "Yeah," she said. "They've just gotten bigger."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Help! I'm parenting a teenager!

Okay, not really. But here's Beth slouched down on the couch last Thursday, watching TV:

Here's the outfit she was wearing that day: a vintage-look silkscreened T-shirt and straight-leg jeans (check out the pose):

The absolute last straw was when I was stirring frozen peas into a pot of boxed mac 'n cheese and called her to lunch. She stalked into the kitchen, looked at the bare table and the pot on the stove, said, "I can't eat it. You're still making it," and stalked back out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First day of preschool

Apparently the way your kid reacts to stress at age 3 is the same way they'll react to stress when they're 13 and 30. If that's true, I know exactly what the first day of junior high school will be like, and it's not going to be good.

Bethie was sooooo nervous about her first day of preschool. She couldn't sleep the night before — kept coming out of her room with various excuses and finally an "I can't sleep!" Poor munchkin — she worries about new situations, and despite the fact that she'd already met her teacher (a wonderful home visit) and that we'd been talking about preschool for quite a while, she was just a little bundle of nerves.

It even carried over to the next morning. Here's Beth wearing her jacket, backpack, and nervous smile, ready to go to school:

Scott stayed home with Sarah so we could do the first day unencumbered. Once we got to school she found her cubby with her picture in it, hung up her things, and trooped into the classroom with some other kids. And there were foam beads at one of the tables, and the kids were making necklaces. Less than ten minutes from the time we'd walked in the door, she was happily stringing beads on yarn. I told her I was going to have to leave, and I would pick her up at the end of her class, which was only an hour and fifteen minutes long that first day anyway. She barely looked up to say goodbye.

When I picked her up, her teacher commented that Beth had spent her time playing with the boys: sand table and pirate ship. Well, yeah. That's my kid. Boys aren't icky yet (except for Daddy, and when she says it she giggles) and what could be cooler than a ship that looks like it's from Pirates of the Caribbean?

Now that she's been going for a week (I started this post right after her first day of school, but somehow haven't found time to finish it until now), my anxious girl is gone — replaced by a kid who bounces out of bed at 7:00 on school mornings. She has three other little girls she plays with regularly, and she will happily chatter to anyone who asks about what she did at preschool. (Unless I'm in the room and I've already asked her, in which case she'll sigh and say, "Mommy, I already told you." So perhaps Scott and I are supposed to communicate telepathically?)

Miss Sarah also adores preschool, and is miffed when she has to leave with me. Life is so unfair when you're not yet 2 and your big sister gets to do cool things.


I have the Bethisms, and since we call Sarah "Say-say" sometimes (it's a reference to when Beth couldn't say her name and called her Baby Sayah) I figured I'd call Sarah's version Say-ings. Do stop me if it's too, too...well, okay. It is too-too much. It's my blog, and I'll be nauseatingly cute if I want to.

A month ago she was barely saying anything at all; now she'll tell us animal sounds (particularly "baa!" and "gack-gack-gack" for "quack"), enthusiastically point out Elmo, and point to her elbow and say "e-bow." "Yes" comes out as "guesh" or "gueh!" and she finally picked up "no-no-NO!" which I'm not thrilled about, but there you are.

Beth started preschool yesterday (more on this in another post) and I'm "guesh"ing that Say picks up quite a few more words without her big sister to intercede for her in a "Mommy, Sarah wants..." kind of way. Right now she makes herself understood (and quite well, too) with a combination of points, "uh-uh-UH!" grunts and frustrated yelling.

Oh, and she learned to do a somersault, too. Not communication, just awfully cute.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Somebody's been watching too much Wonder Pets!

Beth, to Grandma, who's reading her a book about dinosaurs: "Those guys eat this guy."

"That's right. If there's enough of them."

"They use teamwork and they take him down."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bethism #7

Beth, playing with a rubber duckie while I'm taking a bath: "I'm putting this duckie under the water because he's gonna get baptized."

Rite of passage, or "Hmmmm...does this fit?"

Between toddlerhood and kindergarten there are the preschool years, also known as the sticking-things-in-various-orifices years. Beth is running headlong into this: tonight she stuck a little round noodle (thanks to Google I can tell you the singular of "acini di pepe" is "acino di pepe," but that probably doesn't help anything) in her nose. Utter panic on Beth's part when she realized it was really stuck! Fortunately I got her to blow out her nose — she usually blows in — and I extracted the noodle.

I know, I know — it's my fault for serving her Italian wedding soup. But it's her favorite!

Just wonder what's next....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Money management (pre-K version)

We pay a 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans here in Massachusetts, and though I'm good about rinsing them out and bagging them, I usually forget to take them back to the grocery store. So a while ago I made a deal with Beth: if she remembers to take the cans to the grocery store and helps me feed them into the recycling machines, she gets the money for them.

Much enthusiasm. It's very cute to see her carrying two unwieldy plastic bags filled with soda cans across the parking lot, and though she can't reach the machines, she's perfectly happy to hand me individual cans and then carry her little redemption tickets through the grocery store.

It's turned into quite the big deal. She is figuring out how many cans give her how much money, and we're cementing the idea that she can earn money by doing some work. We count out her tithing (awfully cute to see her solemnly hand her tithing envelope with all of 13 cents in it to the bishop!), and once she has a dollar (and five cents for tax, which is another good discussion about government and everyone helping everyone else) she can take it to Target and pick something out of the dollar bins. Anything above and beyond the $1.05 ends up in her piggy bank, and we talk about savings.

How did I stumble on this? I have no idea. But I feel like such the good mom for the hands-on cross-curricular learning experience. And Bethie loves her newest acquisition: a pair of plastic Hello Kitty bracelets.

Birthday, and other good things

Yes, we spent a week and a half in sunny Southern California, and yes, it happened to coincide with our seventh(!) anniversary and my birthday. Perfectly glorious weather, old friends who are still good friends, the beach, the Mouse. Heaven.

Oh, and murderous traffic on the 5 (and the 405 and the 110 and the 101 and the 10). We snagged a bright blue Prius from the rental agency to mitigate the gas costs, but there's no mitigating the time on the freeway with two peevish children. I remember L.A. having bad traffic. Really. I think it's just easier to handle without squirming and fussing in the back seat, especially if I can't hear the urban music mix on KCRW over the fussing. And with a sunroof. I definitely miss my sunroof.

Beth and Sarah have new buddies, thanks to my oh-so-considerate friends who have kids just their age. We got to see Allison & Chris's fabulous house (especially fabulous because Chris did all the work himself, and they lived with his parents for 18 months while he was doing it). Awfully cute to see Beth and Annelise walk to their Moonbeam class holding hands. Lisa and I took all of our kids to the beach and to Downtown Disney and they got along beautifully while the two of us talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. Beth and Benjamin really hit it off:

We spent time with some friends from ages and ages ago — dinner with Ashley up by her work in Burbank, and with her parents and sister and brother-in-law on the beach in San Diego. All of which was lovely, and easy (once we got through the traffic), and felt very familiar. Beth had no interest in the waves and was perfectly content to sit and chat with Gary and Nicole and Mike, who were just as content to sit and chat with her.

On our anniversary Lisa had planned to host a dinner party, and to that end she invited a bunch of friends from our L.A. 1st days, and at the last minute she had puking kids (not conducive to a good dining experience) and the lovely and talented Dora-chan stepped in and took over. And then she blogged about it, and I'm surprised and touched by her Xenocide reference, because it's a part of the book that really speaks to me, and something I've had in the back of my mind as I try to put together this little family of ours.

My birthday involved me packing the girls into the Prius, driving up the 5, and spending the morning in the L.A. fashion district — reminder of the times when I lived close enough to walk there (and no, it's not as bad as you think). All three of us now have Ugg knockoffs to keep our toes warm this winter, and I have a faux Coach bag, and the girls have frou-frou fancy dresses for next Easter. Beth kept asking, "Mommy, why are you talking Spanish?" and I didn't have an extremely good answer for her. (Um, it's easier?) And then I happened to meet an Orthodox Jew from Buenos Aires who was sightseeing and wanted to see the "real" L.A. Delightful man, fun chat; he wanted to see something a little more historic, so I pointed him toward Olvera Street. I hope he enjoyed his visit.

We drove west, had lunch and saw a movie (the American Girl one, which was cute) and then Beth threw up her Jamba Juice in the car on our way home. So there I was in south-central L.A. with a half-naked kid on the sidewalk and a bag of baby wipes, cleaning off the car seat, and if there's a Mom Olympics there has GOT to be a good start value for that event. I was still in a pretty good mood, though, and Beth is none the worse for wear.

If I can't live there, this is the kind of vacation I want: somewhere with palm trees and sun and old friends and interesting people and lots of kidlets running around and enjoying some good chaos.

Jen, this one's for you

(Note, please, the correct conical princess hat AND the pink-and-purple gown. Seriously. It's the Mouse version of my Lady Macbeth costume. There are deep, deep childhood memories to be mined here, and they all involve the word "mousemeat.")

Friday, August 08, 2008

Terrified by the Mouse

We're in Southern California, which is fun. Right now Beth is curled up on her so! cool! fold-out sofa bed watching Dragon Tales while trying to ignore Sarah, who's climbing all over her. But Tuesday and yesterday we went to Disneyland [insert flashing lights, over-orchestrated music and dancing cast members here].

I tried to prepare Beth for the whole experience, but no amount of looking at the resort website and watching YouTube videos of spinning teacups and little girls meeting princesses can really prepare an easily-overwhelmed three-year-old for the madness of Disney. We made it through a few kiddie rides and the Muppetvision 3D show at California Adventure without a total meltdown, but seeing Cinderella live and in person was just too much for her: she clung to the stroller, refused to get down, screamed, cried. Sarah took her cues from Beth and hid behind the stroller too. We saw Mickey Mouse (decked out as a tourist, cool Hawaiian shirt and all) across the plaza; I asked, "Do you want to go say hi to Mickey?" and Beth said, "NO."*

Fast-forward two days (including lots of talking about what we're likely to see, looking at brochures and spending some more time on YouTube) and you get this:

The girls got to meet THREE princesses: Mulan, who was a total mystery to both of them (Beth referred to her later as "Sulan"), Princess Minnie Mouse, and (drum roll, please) Ariel! Beth's favorite princess ever. Beth walked over, gave Ariel a hug, and just didn't let go. And still didn't let go. Lots of good photo op time for Daddy. Mommy just got all teary. So, so sweet. Aw, shucks. We were doing a pretty good job at avoiding general Disneyfication, and now this!

* Day 1 turned out okay by the end, but it took two somewhat-familiar carousel rides, a chocolate-covered Mickey Mouse cookie, and a nap to get Beth in the right frame of mind. We went back after dinner and enjoyed ourselves immensely!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Spectacularly Bad Parenting

Scott, my weird-news-junkie husband (er, that means he's hooked on weird news, not that he's weird) just alerted me to this: NZ judge orders 'odd' name change

Short version:
Some phenomenally wacked-out people named their child Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. The girl, apparently a lot brighter than her parents, was horribly embarrassed by the name. (Her friends knew her as "K.") She was put in protective custody so her name could be changed, presumably to something more (cough) mainstream.

I ask: How stupid do you have to be to name your child Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii? 'Cause if you're going to name your child after husky-voiced 1930s film star Tallulah Bankhead, SPELL IT RIGHT! (That's probably what the kid was embarrassed about...not the "Hula" or "Hawaii" part....)

I really should be writing a talk for church tomorrow. Just overcome by the appalling lack of parenting skills out there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This has been causing endless hilarity around our house this week

...mostly because Scott and I keep repeating it at odd times. Tonight we couldn't even get through the whole thing without cracking up.

From the Shouts & Murmurs column, "Animal Tales," in the June 30 issue of The New Yorker:


“Hey, look, the truck’s stopping.”

“Did they take us to the park this time?”

“No—it’s a fire. Another horrible fire.”

“What the hell is wrong with these people?”

Yeah, we're odd. Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not exactly a visit to the Louvre. But then, when you have kids, who wants to see the Louvre? the bathroom at the children's museum, there's a shadowbox of animal poop. Little mounds in varying shades of brown. Labeled: fox, toad, moose, squirrel. (Go ahead — say "moose and squirrel." It'll make you feel better.) Ever so appropriate a display for these little scatalogically-minded people who are in there to go potty.

The museum trip was my adventure buddy Rose's idea late last night, just spontaneous enough that I could tell the girls this morning that we were going on an adventure, and wouldn't that be fun, and they were waaay excited but able to take it in stride. We played on some Blue Man Group-esque wind instruments made out of PVC pipe, and played with the weaving exhibit (which has opened up a whole new world of classification for Beth, who was delighted to find that her sandals were woven, and so was the basket, and so is the plaid pattern on Daddy's shirt), and saw a play (Beth called it a movie, which tells me I definitely haven't been doing my job as a promoter of the arts). Sarah was fascinated with the wind display — she'd reach up as high as she could to put a hollow ball in a plastic tube, then push a button to trigger a blast of air that shot the ball out. Over and over again.

There's also a recycle shop at the museum, where local businesses donate things they're getting rid of in bulk. Amid bins of plastic wheel-shaped dohickeys and sheets of surplus plastic paperclips and unused folders for conference packets, there was a find: the magnetic sheets left over from making stick-to-the-fridge paper dolls. And then Rose found a bunch of wallpaper samples, and we concocted a paper-doll-making scheme: we'll use the sheets as templates to make cardboard paper dolls and clothes that attach with Velcro.*

So, yeah: great day at the museum. And, for your enjoyment, two Joshisms:

First, a classic from any apartment-dwelling kid: "Beth, can you come over and play in my backyard? When I have a backyard?"

And: on the way home, out of the blue, Josh piped up, "I love you, Beth."

"I love you too, Josh." And then companionable silence.

*Brooke, one of these sheets will be rolled up in my luggage when I come out to visit. This has Ellabelle written all over it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Beth and the snappy comeback

Yesterday Beth clocked herself falling off the couch, and despite Scott's best efforts at getting ice on the owie immediately, she ended up with quite a shiner. So we coached her to say "You should see the other guy!" if anyone comments on it.

She thinks this is hilarious, and in true three-year-old fashion has been repeating the joke over and over and over, giggling like a loon every time she says it.

Oh, and her emphasis makes it even funnier: instead of "You should see the other guy," it comes out "You should see the other guy!" I love my kid.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From the photo archives

I've been meaning to post some of our better pictures....

Getting on the T at Alewife...not the train, just the T

Beth and some friends playing on the turtle at the park in Concord

This was the view all the way home from my seat on the train

Beth the giraffe girl on our trip to the zoo

Sarah's first water balloon. She isn't quite sure what to do with it.

Beth got to ride a pony! Such excitement...and such horror when I discovered a flea after we got home. Totally worth it, though.

Beth being an "alligator" at her swimming lessons

Sarah reading to Pink Teddy

The girls in their sundresses

Sarah feeding Baby Margie (with some help from her daddy)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Beach day

I can differentiate the days this week by what we did in the water: Monday and Tuesday were in the saltwater pool at our friends' vacation house; Wednesday was all of the ward kids running through the sprinklers while the moms sat in the shade; Thursday was eating goldfish crackers in the splash pool; today was the beach.

We are all sandy and a little sunburned and that bone-happy tired that a day of sun and sea and sand do to you. This was Sarah's first time playing in the ocean. She alternately loved it and clung to me (more out of missing her nap than fear). Beth dug in the sand and bossed her friends around, all while holding an uneaten PB&J in one sandy hand. (The picture is of Beth and Josh digging and talking.)

What did they get out of it? At the top of Beth's report to her daddy was "I goed wee-wee in the ocean!" Give me whatever stern looks you want, but I love that my three-year-old lives close enough to the ocean to learn this great trick early in life. And Sarah? Her picnic lunch was sandy PB&J, sandy fruit snacks, sandy grape halves, sandy apple slices, sandy sippy cup. Er...excellent source of roughage.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

43 new e-mails

I've been gone for TWO DAYS and I have 43 new e-mails. Hello? I mean, I know a good chunk of it is spam...but really.

My visiting teaching companion invited us all out to her summer house in the Berkshires for a few days. Scott read the e-mail especially carefully and realized that it would be, like, ALL female (except for a five-year-old boy who showed up today) and bowed out, but the girls and I did the two-and-a-half-hour trek out there and had a great time. Glorious, glorious. The girls loved the pool and the fact that there were other little kids! to play with. Have to say the best part for me was getting a tour of Tanglewood — my friend used to work at the BSO and spent five summers out there running the sizable volunteer program, so I learned some fun things I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise. (Am positively drooling over the fabulous perks they have to offer big donors.) I even got a quick look at Seranak, the former summer home of Sergei and Natalie Koussevitsky.

(That said, we didn't actually go to a concert. I have to go back, and I'm going to drag Scott with me.)

Time to read those e-mails. I have a sinking feeling that a chunk of them have to do with tomorrow night's book group, which I'm leading, and though I'm enjoying Angle of Repose I didn't get through quite as much of it in the last few days as I had hoped to.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Getting along swimmingly

We spent yesterday afternoon at the pool. Hurrah! Our town boasts the country's first public swimming pool — and while I'll complain all summer that the words "historic" and "pool" shouldn't be used together (there's this issue about the bottom of the pool crumbling and flaking off every year, and let's not talk about the old drains), it is awfully nice to have a swimming pool a mile away.

Beth's been taking swimming lessons. The first day — last Monday — she was pretty weepy and panicky and I had to hold onto her every moment we were in the pool. By the third day she could make it through the class without tears (and thus earned herself an afternoon trip back to the pool); by the end of last week she didn't need me in the pool at all. Today Sarah and I sat in the shade (though it's so humid shade doesn't help much right now) and hung out with our friends the Russes while Beth and Lila and about eight other kids had their lesson. It's so, so cute: they sing songs and splash themselves with water and then pretend to be pancakes in the water (they sit on the one-foot-deep bottom of the pool and kick their feet, then flip over and do the same thing), and eventually the teachers lead them out in a big long train of two- and three-year-olds in blue floaty rings. And they jump off the lifeguard's diving board into the teachers' arms, and hang onto the fence in the middle of the pool and practice their kicks. Beth's favorite thing to do is be an alligator: float on her tummy with her head out of the water, walking along the bottom of the pool on her hands.

So yesterday afternoon the pool was packed, thanks probably to the fact that summer vacation has just barely begun and the weather is so swelteringly unbearable that it's a choice between being sopping wet at home in your clothes or sopping wet in the pool in a bathing suit. Kiersten and Sam got there shortly after we did; Sam, who's not quite one, loved the water and turned blue with cold quickly. Sarah wanted me to help her float the whole time, preferably in circles with her head leaning back in the water. The kid's a fish. Beth showed off her alligator skills and practiced climbing in and out of the pool while Kiersten and I watched some Spectacularly Bad Parenting in action. (If you want your kids out of the pool? Get them yourself. Don't send some complete stranger after them when you're wearing your swimsuit and could very easily get into the pool. And don't make idle threats, 'cause kids see through those. Follow through on what you say once in a while and they'll start falling in line. I so, so want a month with those kids and a chance to slap that woman upside the head. But I'm not going to get it, so I'll just be snarky about it in the pool. And on my blog.)

(Good Bethism: after we got out of the pool and I was changing Sarah's diaper and Kiersten was changing Sam's because both kids were soaked and FREEZING, Beth pointed to Sam and said, "Oh! He has blue boy parts." We had a good laugh over that one.)

Here's the thing: I love hanging out in the pool. I love being out in the sun and the water and giving Beth piggyback rides in the "deep part" while trying to keep Sarah from throwing herself in for an attempted backstroke. The shallow end of the pool, the only side the kids are allowed in, is all of three feet deep in the very center. It's not like I'm practicing my butterfly stroke. But by the time I got home my calves were aching and I was really, really tired. I guess toting two kids around in the water for an hour is a pretty good workout. We're going to spend a lot of time there this summer, and Sarah will get to stomp around the pool and refuse offers of help until she desperately wants to be swung around by the hands, and Beth will play alligator, and at some point Beth's almost-seven-year-old friend (and object of hero worship) Audrey will take her in the pool, and we'll go through untold cans of spray-on sunscreen. Sound good? Come join us someday.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bethisms #6

As we're driving home from church yesterday:

"What did you learn about in nursery today, Beth?"


"What's America?"

"It's a place where you have flags up."

Well, it certainly will be on Friday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

School's out! Which means...

...tomorrow afternoon is the Primary Water Party, and my only real responsibility is to bring 50 filled water balloons.

The fact that I'm not really fazed by this speaks volumes. A few months ago I would have been horrified by 1) the fact that I was in any way involved in Primary, 2) the very idea of over a hundred just-out-of-school kids with access to highly volatile water-filled bombs, and 3) the foolhardy notion that I could transport a quantity of said volatile explosives from my house up to the church on what are some very bumpy roads (pardon me while I invoke curses upon the heads of the lame voters in this town who wouldn't come up with the money to get the roads fixed) without turning the trunk of my car into an environment suitable for breeding mosquitoes.

My friend Rose suggested trash-bag-lined laundry baskets for storage and transport (and offered to come help fill the balloons). The Primary president, keenly practical, suggested filling the balloons with a sports-capped water bottle. (She also has a refreshingly sardonic view of what is actually going to transpire tomorrow, thanks.)

I needn't have worried about any of this, though, because the minute I brought the package of balloons home Scott jumped on them with all the wicked enthusiasm of an eight-year-old boy. There have only been two, um, incidents (though he faked chagrin when I wouldn't let him "test" the first balloon on me). Should have known my husband is much better equipped to deal with children — and their games! — than I am.

Cross your fingers that the air pressure doesn't change considerably overnight. And that it's warm tomorrow. And that no slap-happy preschool-aged boy tries to impress Beth by hitting her in the face with one of those babies, 'cause they hurt, and she'll burst into tears and then the fun will be over.

Friday, June 13, 2008

And they're off...

Brooke is, as I write this, on her way to Salt Lake City. Sarah is back in Jersey. Margaret is in Buffalo (and I hear there was shuffling involved). Jen is in New Mexico. Cynthia is way out in the western wilds of Oregon. The women I was closest to in Pittsburgh, the women who laughed with me and cried with me and had babies the same time I did and made it through grad school (our own and our husbands') with me are all scattered.

I should feel happy for all of us, because we're off doing what we wanted to be doing. We finally have income to pay off those student loans, hooray, and the in-limbo feeling of being somewhere we knew would be temporary is over (well, except for Brooke, but that's another story). Instead it makes me sad. We had something really special, something priceless, and it's gone. Okay, not gone gone, but we've replaced library dates and morning walks and campy moviefests with phone calls and e-mail and the occasional visit.

It's been a rough first year here in Boston. (In all fairness, I have to admit I made it worse for myself by holding on to some hope that Brooke's husband would do his residency at Brigham and Women's instead of the U of U, and figuring that if I just made it through the first year I'd have my library-and-lunch buddy to go on grand new adventures with.) But it's a tough audience up here. That famed New England reticence? Alive and kicking, ever so politely. The ingrained formality of this area is such that I don't feel I can or should speak my mind — when I spoke my mind to someone this week I got a curt e-mail telling me the friendship was over. (It's no great loss, but still.) There are playgroups we aren't invited to join, a discussion group that took me off the e-mail list, couples' movie nights I hear about after the fact. No one is trying to be unfeeling; they're very kind when we're around; we just don't belong yet. And despite what you're thinking, it isn't my big mouth that's gotten me sidelined — I've heard the same thing from other newish people here: "It's a tough ward to break into." "No one talked to me for the first year." "There's a huge division between the owners and the renters."

On the other hand, there are people who have been marvelously kind: Danika, and then Mindy, who each took my kids for three days when we had to go out of town, and made them much more fun-filled days than I would have; Jen T., who stepped in and ran a book group discussion for me on zero notice when I couldn't do it (and by all accounts did her usual brilliant job); Marci, who recognized me in line at Costco the first week we were here; Emily, for whom I really should make a mix of gingerbread house party tunes; Lisa, who is possibly more vehemently opposed to the school district's kindergarten plan than I am, and who may even have a bigger mouth than I do; Kiersten and Ana, my terrific neighbors. I like these people. There just isn't enough history yet. We have kids, and the people around us have kids, and that means that we're all a bit wrapped up in our own lives, and it's easy not to think about adding new people to the mix.

So this is my tribute to my glorious Pittsburgh friends. To Brooke, who opens her arms to everyone and will make vats of homemade ice cream to share after a huge backyard circus. To Sarah, who shares hilarious (and potentially embarrassing) stories about herself with anyone who will listen. To Margaret, who won't let you be new in her ward without finding out what you like to do and introducing you to someone else who likes to do it (and inviting you to join book group while she's at it). To Jen, who is Beth's godmother in all but name. To Cynthia, who won my heart when she stepped out of standard-visiting-teaching mode and said, "Can I take Beth for a walk and let you sleep?" I love you all, and I miss you, and I would transplant you all to my corner of the world in a heartbeat, but instead I wish you deep roots in the new places you're planted.

(I know this post was sappy, so I'm apologizing now, and don't leave me comments about how sappy it is! And I know I've been off the blogosphere for a while. The last month has been a roller coaster ride, and I have a lot to write about, and I promise to get to it, but first things first.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

This totally weirded out my innate sense of market segmentation

Could someone please explain what a bright-red Ferrari was doing in the parking lot of Jo-Ann Fabrics this afternoon?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bethisms #5 (yep, they're coming fast and furious)

Yesterday the girls rediscovered their collection of finger puppets and played with them very enthusiastically in the kitchen for a while until I banished them (the puppets, not the girls) to the living room. This morning the girls very enthusiastically pulled all of Sarah's diapers out of their box and spread them around the living room.

When I went to put away the diapers this afternoon, I discovered one little finger puppet inside each diaper.


This afternoon the girls were eating snacks in the kitchen while I was trying (mostly in vain) to get a handle on the chaos that erupts in this house. When I went back into the kitchen, Sarah (with Beth's help, I'll bet) had flung all of her Cheerios on the floor.

"We're planting a Cheerio plant!" Beth announced. "It's going to grow Cheerios!"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


That's Sarah's new word. She uses it as often as she can, and often manufactures incidents in which it would be appropriate (including but not limited to dropping her sippy cup at a restaurant and announcing "Uh-oh!" in a loud singsong). Her eyes get very big and her mouth rounds down to a little pinprick of an "o" at the end. Really, it's the cutest thing. It's annoying, but it's cute.

Beth has been using it, too, and her incidents aren't manufactured — they're the result of poor parental attention span. About a week ago Scott put the girls in their pajamas early (we were having dessert or something before they went to bed), and figured he'd change Beth into a diaper when it was actually time for her to go to sleep. And he forgot. Beth woke up at 12:30, crying, "No, no, no, no, no!" and when I went in to check on her she was standing up in bed, soaked, in tears.

Scott gave her a bath; I changed the bedding (really, if you have a kid this age, having two mattress pads for the bed is a terrific idea, 'cause one of them will probably be wet a good portion of the time).

During the bath, Scott said, "Bethie, did you wet the bed?"

Sad voice: "Yes. I had a accident."

"Yeah. Whose fault was it?"

Sadder voice: "Mine."

"No, not this time. Whose fault was it this time?"

A gleam in her eye, a small grin, a triumphant note to her voice: "Yours!"

Now, lest you think that Scott is the only dunderhead in this marriage, I did exactly the same thing a few days ago when she took her afternoon nap, with identical results. Uh-oh, indeed.

Grandpa Wes

My dad came to visit for two weeks, which was awesome, and actually gave us enough time to do a few of the things we'd planned, in between everyone's naps. (He flew out here on his 74th birthday, and I teased him that he and Sarah were on the same nap schedule.)

So we dragged him to Beth's last gymnastics class, where he took a bunch of pictures, and he helped Scott and our downstairs neighbor with the weekend yard work (I hid inside the house, which has never been cleaner), and we saw the baby giraffe at the zoo, and at some point he discovered Linda's Donuts, so we feasted on fried sugary goodness for pretty much the whole time he was here.

We also got up reeeeeeeeally early on Patriots Day (sans kids and Scott) to see the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. Dad loved it, and especially loved the fact that the historical society rep who was keeping our corner of the crowd entertained before the battle started had a lot of information about clothing and the different dyes used by the British officers and rank-and-file for their red coats.

We spent a lot of time downtown: a trip to the aquarium (way cool, but which I will never, ever again attempt during school vacation week), a day walking most of the Freedom Trail and taking the ferry up to Charlestown to tour the U.S.S. Constitution, and one great evening when the girls woke up quite late from their naps and instead of running to Star Market to find something to cook for dinner, we parked at Alewife and took the T to the North End for Italian food. (To be fair, here, the day we walked the Freedom Trail we ended up meeting Scott for Japanese food in Porter Square, which was equally yummy.) The girls love the subway — Sarah is big enough now that she insists on climbing out of the stroller and pressing her nose to the window next to her big sister. I'll never understand this, since there's nothing to see. Keeps them happy, though.

Oh, food. We took Dad to Legal Sea Foods, which of course was good, but the hit of the stay had to be the stuffed clams we picked up at Frankie's Catch of the Day, five minutes away. It was like a clam cake stuffed back into the clam shell, and we all sat there making happy noises about how good it was.

Somewhere in the two weeks Dad was here I finally pulled together a cover for the 43-year-old cradle my mom made (yes, made) for my oldest cousin — said cousin's sister is having a baby this month and the cradle, now with a fleece-lined denim cover that was the cause of much bad language and some very sore knees (from kneeling on the floor to cut out the huge pieces of fabric), is on its way back to her in Salt Lake via UPS. I felt an odd sense of relief the day I shipped it off: I won't be the next person to stay up all night with a crying baby. Felt good to get the cover done, though.

Anyway, the day before Dad left the weather finally turned ugly (we'd had clear days in the 70s and 80s for two weeks) and we got drenched walking around Bentley. Beth got to use her new umbrella, which made her week, and I think Dad enjoyed himself. Miss him already. It's hard to be this far away from my family, especially with little girls who need to know their grandpa.