Saturday, May 31, 2008

Slacker Saturday, Episode Dos

How many dogs does it take change a light bulb? (Cat lovers, don't be snobby and blow this off!)

1. Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

2. Border Collie: Just one. And then I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

3. Dachshund: You know I can't reach that stupid lamp!

4. Rottweiler: Make me.

5. Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.

6. Lab & Flat-coated Retriever: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!

7. German Shepherd: I'll change it as soon as I've led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven't missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.

8. Jack Russell Terrier: I'll just pop it in while I'm bouncing off the walls and furniture.

9. Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I'm sorry, but I don't see a light bulb!

10. Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

11. Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb. Or "We don't need no stinking light bulb."

12. Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?

13. Australian Shepherd: First, I'll put all the light bulbs in a little circle...

14. Poodle: I'll just blow in the Border Collie's ear and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

How many cats does it take to change a light bulb?

Cats do not change light bulbs. People change light bulbs.
So, the real question is:
"How long will it be before I can expect some light, some dinner, and a massage?"


Friday, May 30, 2008

NOT a Helicopter Parent

You've heard of those "helicopter" parents, right? The ones that "hover" protectively around their kids? On the playground, at after-school playdates, in the college corridors?

That's not me. I'm not an Encourager, or an Enabler. I'm an Ignorer and a Mocker. Mother of the Year, here I come!

For instance. Ben likes to pull and whine at me incessantly. The other day he was in rare form. He was hungry, this I knew. He hadn't eaten his whole breakfast, so even after a snack, by 11am he was going nuts-o. He kept pulling at me and whining, but didn't want to go outside or sit on my lap. Aaron finally told me (exasperatingly) to deal with him, and I realized that I had been blocking him out for about 10 minutes! Without saying "no" or otherwise giving any directions. Oops.

There is a parenting book called The Happiest Toddler on the Block, and the author Dr. Karp says that toddlers are basically little cavemen. They don't have the language to communicate their emotions, so they do it through shrieks and temper tantrums. And one of the recommendations on how to deal with this is to imitate their language back to them so they know you understand them.

Later yesterday, Ben was saying something like, "Eaeah! Eaeah! Maaa! Ayyy!" ...It's hard to translate. I repeated it back to him, except in a much snottier tone.
Aaron: "Is that really helping?"
Me: "Yes, it makes me feel better."
I also like to mock Leah when she says things like, "I'm huungry!" "What can I do that's fuuun?" "I don't waaant to do that!" How can you not? Complaints like that just BEG to be mocked.
And, I was practicing the newest parenting strategies, right? Maybe I WILL get that Mom of the Year statue, after all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who's a Honey?

We were at a backyard playdate today, and the kids were running wild. With about 10 other kids. They were happily distracted, and I was having a good time visiting with the moms and keeping one eye occasionally on them.

I started hearing the sounds of dissent ion, so I headed over to the swing-set. Two other moms were there and commented on how well the kids were playing, so I didn't interfere. Yet. I just watched as Leah proceeded to do her mad-stomping-pouting routine around the area. Clearly, this was a woman on a mission.

In just a bit, she came over crying. "L. (a boy) called me honey! I don't LIKE it when he calls me honey! I want to be a mommy too!"

I clarified to L. that there could be more than one mommy, and that Leah didn't like being called honey. Although I really had no idea what that was all about.

On the way home, I asked Leah (who ended up having so much fun she didn't want to leave!) what they played.
Leah: Well, we played house.
Me: So, were you and H. and A. all mommies?
Leah: No, just H. and I were mommies.
Me: Oh! What was A.?
Leah: She was a honey.

O-o-h. So a honey is....a daughter? I get it now!

I also have to include this funny little conversation I had with another mom friend, Erika.
Me: I have to stop at Lowe's to get some carrot seed for my mom.
Erika: Oh, does that help things grow better?
Me: Well, um, yeah...carrots. It's carrot seeds.
Erika laughs at herself!

I thought it was very cute, and totally something I would have said myself. Erika has the most adorable little 20 month old daughter, who was trying to hit a ball of a T-ball stand. She wanted another ball that was out of her reach, so she pointed to it and basically did a Ben-style grunt. Erika said, "You can get it!" and her little angel pouted and yelled, "MOMMY DO!"

I pretty much died laughing. Erika said, "At least Ben can't boss you around yet!"
Oh yes, he does. And it so much more embarrassing because he manages to do it without words.

Pressed for Art?

My SIL Kate was here last weekend for the Fargo Marathon, and although I haven't specifically talked about it here, we did watch her and my brother Dave (not the brother she's married to - that's brother Aaron, and he ran the half marathon) run by, Dave much faster than anticipated, and Kate rather slower, due to unforeseen circumstances. We were all glad she was able to finish healthy and happily, regardless.

Kate (finally!) updated her blog with her recap of the race, which you should go read.

Also, as we were chatting about our blogs (after which David so nicely said, "If I hear the word blog again, I'm going to hang myself!) she mentioned that her traffic had gone up drastically lately. After googling herself, she figured out why: her art was featured on one of Martha Stewart's blogs! Yee HAW! Here's the link - it's really quite the mention. Hopefully this leads to lots & lots of orders. I'm hoping to make a couple myself after we find the house of our dreams. Assuming it exists somewhere other than in those dreams.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So here's the deal.

Here's the breakdown of the last week or so.

Sunday: Church, pizza lunch, EJ & JJ arrive, and he and I go to get the Uhaul. It took wa-a-y longer than I expected, and while we were there, I missed saying goodbye to my sibs and their spouses. Boo.

The three of us prepped furniture for moving, while we stressed out about not having enough other people to help. And then the troops arrived! Yay, Salem! And my folks! We had plenty of help, the truck was filled and emptied at our 2nd storage unit before 5pm. Oh, and Joy packed & cleaned most of my kitchen. And then LOTS of Chinese food. We got the kids settled at Caroline's, and I was just thinking that maybe I could catch part of Cranford, but then we realized the although we had brought the TV with us, we had left the antennae at the other house. So over I went again, and grabbed a couple other things, too. I got back at 10:30pm. Snooze.

Here's the story on the house: Caroline and her husband Dan bought this house when she started grad school here in town because they live in a little town 2 hours away. Now CC has graduated and the house is on the market. But, they have very generously offered for us to rent it while they are trying to get it sold. It's pretty fun to live in someone else's house, especially when that someone has such good taste as Caroline. I've admired that taste since we were freshmen suitemates at Cottey.

Monday: I headed back to the house to finish packing and loaded up the van. And again in the afternoon. Joy came over again! Can you believe it? I couldn't.

We were doing so well, I gave my folks the night off. So that I could go have dinner with some gal pals.

Tuesday: Headed back on over to the "old" house, where friend Grace and I finished packing everything else up. Mostly the basement stuff. That evening Mom & Dad - and Dad's cousin Laura, with a pickup- cleared out everything. It equaled 3 pickup loads and 2 van loads. And, we finished at 10:30pm.

Wednesday: Cleaning day. I was apparently a bit late - for cleaning my own house - because friends Rose, Joy & Anne were already there! Can you believe THAT? Anyway, it was all done in an hour and a half. THAT was excellent.

Thursday: Closing day. We met the buyers outside the title office, where we said they could go ahead and keep the sandbox and the microwave. Also the root beers I had forgotten in the fridge the day before. And they said that the house had looked great at the walk through the night before. Whew. We left every single nail and screw in the wall. And we had quite a few, folks.


Part II: Find us a house. To be continued.

You are officially NO HELP.

Last night, we were all at that grand, wonderful place called Target. I think this may make me materialistic, but sometimes (always) I feel better just being in that store. Everything is just so pretty.

As we were at the checkout, the Target Dude was bagging our purchases. Over comes a cute gal, who asked: "Are my keys here? I think I dropped them..." And Dude says, while looking almost enthusiastically down the back of the bag stand, "Oh...yeah...I think I heard them...I put them in some guy's bag..."

I'm all, WHA-A-A? Why would you do that?

Poor Girl: looking as though she might actually be grasping at straws..."Do you know what he looks like?"

Dude: "It's hard to explain..."

Poor Girl: "Could we find him in the parking lot..." She's really down to the last straw...

At this point, we are ready to head out, and as much as I'd like to help, I think the Dude has BEING USELESS completely covered, all on his own.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Study of Opposites

-Leah cries about sooo many things. No water left? Cry. Ben is playing with "her" yellow block? Cry. Or wail at a super-sonic pitch.

We actually expect Ben to cry more often than he actually does. Bang his head on some furniture? NO crying. Leah grabs his toy? No big deal. He just gets another one.

- Ben's crying? So what? That's not Leah's business. And most importantly, she didn't do it.
But if Leah's crying? Or anyone else (like Mommy during an emotional breakdown a few weeks ago) Ben must go give her a hug.

- The other day, we were in a waiting room that had a water cooler. I got each of the kids a cup about a third full. Ben put his on his chair's seat and proceeded to climb into his chair without spilling the water. TWICE. I still don't know how he did it.

But his big sister? Even if we've taken every precaution against spilling, she'll find a way to manage it. Like the other morning. The kids were eating breakfast in the kitchen, and Aaron and I were in the living room. We heard a bad sound, followed by Leah's wailing. I went in and saw rice krispies and milk all over the cloth tablecloth, chair seat and floor. As I started cleaning it up, Leah wailed, "And I want new PJ's!" I asked why, because I couldn't see anything on her. Then she turned around, and the poor kid had cereal all the way down her back.

She must have been sliding off her seat with her elbow on the tablecloth, which followed her down. Oops.

- Leah likes her food separate. No sauce, even. Hotdish/casserole is her nemesis. Grilled pork chop, peas, and mashed potatoes would be her ideal meal.
Ben pretty much refuses to eat meat plain. Although we've learned a trick. If we let him go ahead and fill up on carbs (rice is an especial favorite) first, eventually he'll eat his meat, too. If we melt the meat into cheese in any form, he'll probably chow it down.
- Ben is a pro dipper. He loves ketchup, hummus, ranch dressing, and even tartar sauce. Also, very oddly, he likes to dip his food into his beverage.
Leah passes on ketchup, eating chicken nuggets and even hot dogs plain instead. She does like ranch, though...hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't, of course!

- Leah is like her mommy, and mostly enjoys the pleasures of being inside: TV, watching video games, reading or listening to books, etc.
Ben is addicted to the outdoors. He was all set to go out in his pj's this morning.

- Ben naps really happily in the afternoon for an hour and a half. Unless we are in the van just before nap time, however, he won't sleep. On road trips, he actually sleeps LESS than usual.
If we are driving anywhere, for any amount of time, after 4pm, Leah WILL fall asleep. Sometimes surprisingly quickly and virtually mid-sentence. On road trips, she sleeps more than usual. Of course, this is because she is the one who can self-entertain. Murphy's Law.

- Ben moves non-stop. Running or galloping, usually. Leah starts to complain about being tired if we walk more than half a block.

But for all of their differences, they are both good sleepers, both affectionate, and both becoming good helpers. And they both have lucky parents.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Slacker Saturday, Episode 1

I'm going to be a slacker on the weekends, and if I post on Saturday at all, I'm going to pass on some of small selection of email forwards that I've kept. Just in case you haven't gotten it. Or just want to chuckle again.

If you have something truly clever in your own inbox, feel free to pass it on to me!

So here we go. Slacker Saturday, the First.

Know Your Hymns

Dentist's Hymn.................Crown Him with Many Crowns
Weatherman's Hymn......There Shall Be Showers of Blessings
Contractor's Hymn...........The Church's One Foundation
The Tailor's Hymn...........Holy, Holy, Holy
The Golfer's Hymn...........There's a Green Hill Far Away
The Politician's Hymn.......Standing on the Promises
Optometrist's Hymn.........Open My Eyes That I Might See
The IRS Agent's Hymn.....I Surrender All
The Gossip's Hymn............Pass It On
The Electrician's Hymn......Send The Light
The Shopper's Hymn..........Sweet Bye and Bye
The Realtor's Hymn.....I've Got a Mansion, Just Over the Hilltop
The Massage Therapists Hymn.....He Touched Me
The Doctor's Hymn.............The Great Physician

And for those who speed on the highway - a few hymns:
45 mph....................God Will Take Care of You
65 mph....................Nearer My God To Thee
85 mph....................This World Is Not My Home
95 mph.....................Lord, I'm Coming Home
100 mph..................Precious Memories

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sense & Sensibility-ness

Folks, we are well overdue for some Jane Austen, and I am fired up at 11pm, so hold onto your hats.

Aaron and I watched the 1995 version of Sense & Sensibility tonight. I don't know if I like it more or less than the Masterpiece version, but I definitely enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, particularly after a couple installations of Cranford and the other Jane Austen adaptations on Masterpiece. So here we go. My own personal opinions of the casting:

Mrs. Dashwood - Gemma Jones. Actress extraordinaire, apparently. I'm now a fan. Although she may be becoming typecast as a hysterical mother, judging from this and her later role as Bridget Jones' mom (a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, you know...)

Elinor Dashwood - Emma Thompson. Can't beat her, of course. The mistress of the great literary adaptation, she's truly amazing, and manages to make a very sympathetic big sis out of this understated role. A common criticism is that she looks too old for the part. Elinor is supposed to be 19, and Emma looks about 10 years older than that. But who cares. It's Emma Thompson for pete's sake!

Marianne Dashwood - pre-Titanic Kate Winslet. And she's just great. And very funny. That Marianne, what are we going to do with her? She just says what she feels, and oh, we must learn to repress that, musn't we? Lucky for those of us gals who talk before thinking, there are some gentlemen out there who find that trait charming.

Edward Ferrars - Hugh Grant, pre 90's Hollywood breakthrough. Or maybe just at the start of it. After Four Weddings and a Funeral, but before Notting Hill and the big Elizabeth Hurley breakup. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of good ole' Hugh being the good, genuine guy, destined for the ministry, no less! Despite some posture issues that made Aaron think his costume was fitted poorly, he did very well. Jolly good, old chap!

And speaking of old chaps:

Mr. Palmer - the sarcastic, critical, barely-tolerating-his wife gentleman was played by none other Hugh Laurie, now better known as the sarcastic, critical, barely-tolerating-everyone-around-him Dr. House. Me thinks the casting director saw this film, because I guess Mr. Laurie is better known as a comic actor. If you can imagine.

Imelda Stauton played his silly gossip of a wife, Mrs. Palmer. If that name sounds familiar, it's because she was also a silly gossip, Mrs. Pole, in Cranford. This lady is fighting stereotypes, though, since she also played Vera Drake as well as another vicious character that I'll mention later.

Now. This next character's casting I had a very hard time with, and if you have been paying attention to some of my occasional references and my favorite links list, you'll know exactly why.
Colonal Brandon, possibly the most respected and well-trusted man in the novel, and a true Austen hero, was played by Alan Rickman. Whom I know only as the Harry Potter-hating Professor Snape. Oh, and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Some romantic hero!

Hogwarts has recruited heavily from British films such as S & S. Here's the tally, just in this film:

Emma Thompson - Proff. Trelawney
Alan Rickman - Snape, of course. I mean, Professor Snape.
Imelda Stauton - Headmistress Delores Umbridge, the teacher from hell.
Gemma Jones - Madame Pomfrey, head of the school's infirmary.

Guess those casting agents know what they're doing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Personally, I'd like a money tree. Or even a Hot Tamale tree.

At lunch today, Leah points to the plant on the chip bag and asks, "Is that a Cheeto tree?"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Emotional & Verbal Development

Real quickly - Ben said "baby" today. Pretty sure. Also, he said "cracker" the other day, and is saying "car" rather frequently as well. Progress!

Leah's best frenemy M was over yesterday. I would call the afternoon a mild failure. Of the two hours M and little brother P were here, the girls played nicely for about an hour and half, and the rest of the time was spent arguing. In fact, at one point Leah was crying, M was playing by herself, and Ben was bouncing (very soft) balls off of P's head. Did I mention that P is all of 11 months old? Not exactly capable of defending himself.

Of course, after dad Chris arrived to pick up the kids, both girls dissolved into tears and refused to be parted. As I was consoling Leah, who was busy muttering, "But now I won't have anyone fun to play with..." I was visiting with Chris, and I said, "They are two stubborn little girls."

This was apparently not the right thing to say. Leah immediately switched from being upset about M leaving to being very upset that I had called her stubborn. Then we had this discussion:

Me: Do you know what 'stubborn' means?
Leah: Noooo....
Me: It means you don't change your mind easily. That's not always bad.
Leah: But I don't LIKE being called stubborn.....
Me: Well, you come by it naturally. Your mommy is stubborn, and so is your daddy. Your grandma is also pretty stubborn. So you don't really have a choice.

Today on the drive to physical therapy, Aaron was mocking every song that came on the radio, which happened (as always) to be on Leah's favorite station.
Me: If Leah wasn't here, I'd turn it off just so I wouldn't have to listen to you.
- Aaron laughs....
Leah: (after a pause)...but if I WAS here, she'd just leave it on.

Of course we laughed, which once again was the wrong thing to do. I'm pretty sure she's PMSing or something.

Leah: I don't like it when you laugh at me!
Me: But Leah, when you say something funny, it's good if people laugh! I like it when people laugh at things I say!
Aaron: You do not.
Me: Yes I do!
Aaron: Not if you didn't mean to be funny.
Me: (reverting attention away from my own insecurities) Leah, we laughed because you were also being cute.

And in the car yet again, later this morning, Aaron and I were discussing something from two opposite sides.
Leah: Stop fighting!
Aaron: Sometimes mommies & daddies disagreeing about something, but we still love each other.
Me: Yeah, you and M fight a lot, and you are still best friends, right?
Leah: (all sunshine & rainbows) Yeah, but that's because I LIKE her.
Me: Well, Mommy and Daddy like each other, too.

That is the fastest that issue has ever been resolved. Thank you to M's folks for letting her come over and give my daughter an object lesson in loving but not always agreeing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MIA: Part Deuce

We are all moved out.


All that is left is the final cleaning tomorrow afternoon, with even more help from friends.

In all the hullabaloo, I missed Masterpiece and Part 3 of Cranford Sunday night. Anybody catch it and care to fill me in? I know I could watch it online, but our connection speed is still in the 20th century. Can you believe I have to wait 5 seconds for a page to load? Horrifying.

Missing In Action

Hello there, Internet. I know it's been a couple of days, but I assure you I still think of you as fondly as in previous, more reliably routine days.

We are at our new temporary house, and our "old" house is almost entirely packed up. My parents will lend their incredibly helpful hands in hauling out the remainder tonight. Some final cleaning tomorrow, and we should be all done.

Many friends from church helped us out Sunday afternoon, and with the aid of a large U-Haul truck, all of the large -and small- furniture was cleared out. Also, friend Joy is a packing whirlwind, and she alone put me about a day & a half ahead of schedule! So now I am enjoying the luxury of sitting here updating you on our progress, and NOT freaking out about how much is left to pack.

What I am currently amazed at is how much of what we are moving is disposable: lightbulbs, food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, toilet paper, kleenex... You think you can just use up that stuff before you move, but it didn't seem to work that way for us. Especially since we bought the mega-pack of paper towels at Sam's Club a while back.

In fact, I would ban shopping at Sam's 6 months before moving.

Aaron is still on crutches, and his surgeon just confirmed that he shouldn't go back to work for another 2 1/2 weeks, which means 4 1/2 weeks total of home time. He has been managing to be productive by taking care of all the "paperwork" of moving. You know. Cancelling utilities, changing Ben's speech appointments, and figuring out our internet connection.

We close on the house Thursday morning, and that night Crystal and I are hitting Monte's for martinis. Aw, YEAH!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Talking up a Slight Sprinkling of Precipitation

Here are the words that Ben (age 2 years and 1 month) says fairly regularly:

Mo- (mom)
Da (dad)
dow (down)
dis one?
dat one?
right dere?
ooo - (what a cow says)
pants for a dog

Here are words that have been heard but not repeated:
nana (banana)
go (used to be rather frequent)

His speech therapy sessions bring out the naughty in him - with Mom, Dad AND Leah watching, he feels the pressure to show off and not cooperate. Which is why our move is coming at a good time. Our temporary house will be just down the street from therapist Nancy's office, and we'll start going there instead of her coming to our house as she has been doing. Hopefully without the family distractions he'll be a better student.

He has been doing some sign language, and yesterday he did the sign for "help" all on his own! Aunties & uncles who will soon witness this first hand should be warned that Ben rubbing his belly-area is sign for "please". And touching his pointer fingers together means "more". And you'll be advised to pay attention, because if that attempt at communication doesn't work, Benjamin resorts directly to screeching and repeating "eh-eh-eh" until he breaks down your defenses and you give him whatever he wants. ANYTHING! JUST STOP THE INCESSANT WHINING! For the love of everything good and beautiful!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And a HONK in your general direction, too.

I used my van's horn yesterday. Of course, I had to locate it first.

The whole family was in the van, heading out of a parking lot. We were behind a sedan moving ve--ry slow--ly. I get very ageist when I'm driving, and I assumed that it was an elderly lady. She was driving in about the middle of the road, so I couldn't get around either side even if I'd wanted to. Aaron and I were commenting on how slow we were going, just as the car in front was getting close to the stop sign. That's when we noticed that it was a much younger girl on a cell phone.

She pulled up to the stop sign, and pointed her car to turn right, but had no blinker on.

And ....

we waited....

Aaron says, "Honk!"

and I searched, and said, "beep-beep!" Well, I didn't say it, but you know what I mean. There was no little polite beep from me, it was most certainly indignant.

She got a little startled, and then turned...wait for it...LEFT.

She truly deserved to be honked at.

We decided that even if she had been calling for directions, she had just driven past a huge parking lot, perfect for pulling over into.

And then today, someone actually honked at me! We were headed to see another house (yes, we are still in that phase) and I drove through a yellow light at an intersection. Another van opposite of us, already in the intersection, was trying to turn left. And apparently, I was supposed to let her go before driving through it myself, because she honked at me! And as Aaron says, it gets my dander up. Even HE agreed that the traffic laws were on my side, and Aaron is highly critical of my driving (especially since he's been riding shotgun these days).

The nerve. Some people just don't know when to honk and when NOT to.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Entirely unhealthy, too

I was watching the video in today's post on Dooce, and purely under the influence of the repetition of the word "crayon" (which, by the way, I pronounce "crayen"), when Aaron asked what was for lunch, I told him there were crayon-dogs in the oven.

Leah says, "That's not real, AND it's disgusting."


Monday, May 12, 2008

Maybe she IS ready for that algebra...

This is our sweet Leah, talking to Grandma GiGi on the phone on her 4th birthday. She's an old pro at using the phone, and now she even says goodbye to the person on the line, instead of just handing the phone over in the middle of a sentence. It's kind of awkward to listen to your mother talk 4 year-old to you.

Tonight she was sitting on Grandma Claudia's lap playing Tic-Tac-Toe, and then started drawing a couple of lines. She said, "This is the pulley, but I can't draw the weights."


I said, "Are you doing physics?"

And where did she pick this up? Ruff Ruffman, of course.

Then we taught her Hangman, which lead to a little lesson about vowels. I figured, why not? She's clearly ready.

She was in the middle of the word "DOG" when she heard the distinct theme song of Mario Galaxy. And HOLY COW, you would have thought the ice cream truck was driving by with tiaras and crowns. She yelped, "Dad's playing Wii! I have to go watch!" and bolted.

Oo-kay. The vowels will wait for another day.

What a Tease

Masterpiece's Cranford last night left me feeling lead on. It's bad enough that it was only an hour long, but after Miss Deborah died last week before she and Captain Brown could become "an item", Sophy's brother went and died interrupting her romance with Dr. Harrison, and THEN this week Miss Maddie's fiancee died , I've just been let down. If there isn't some true love in this story, I'm going to be very upset.

Some moments are humorous. For instance, Miss Pole (played by Imelda Staunton - from Vera Drake and Miss Delores Umbridge in Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix!) is sitting with the group of ruling (well, basically) town matrons and they are all complaining about men. Miss Pole says something derogatory, then explains, "My father was a man. I think I know the sex." Ha ha!

However, "humor" does not necessarily mean uplifting. Elizabeth Gaskell's tone is as reminiscent of Dickens' as is her storylines of poor vs. rich. Whereas Austen's stories leave the reader invigorated and excited (well, maybe that's just me!), Dickens' will leave the reader introspective and thoughtful.

Let me be clear, I love Jane Austen's novels, but I am also a fan of Charles Dickens' - my comparison of these novels by Gaskell and Austen is not to say that one is better than another, but only to point out how different authors writing in the same time period and about similar themes can really be. Isn't literature amazing!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

English Teacher Humor

This is from my friend Dawn. She and I met on the Swanson Hall elevator at UND (also where I first met my husband...hmmm...) where we discovered that we were both transfer students, both English majors (she helps with this site), and both living on the fourth floor! A firm and fast friendship ensued. Now she is married with baby L and living in Pennsylvania, but since she's from Minnesota, I still get to see her once in a while. And this is a very good thing., we English teachers like to share the contents of our students' writings. Not all of it, mind you, because not everybody's stomach is that strong. But the truly genuine sparkling witty parts...or the truly idiotic parts. This list has some of both. And I can picture the type of student to wrote each one. Enjoy.

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual
similes and metaphors found in high school essays.These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners:

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E.Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are known to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Knee Up

Aaron is sitting here in the "step-down" recovery from his surgery, and when he stops being nauseous he'll be discharged. However, I believe he is sleeping again right now. Since he's only been able to eat a few bites of toast, they don't want to give him any oral painkillers, and that's also a requirement before going home. I think the nurses are getting antsy to get him out of here.

The surgeon said he had to repair both the miniscues...minsici?....anyway, we were hoping neither of those things would have to be repaired so that crutches could be avoided.

Mr. Surgeon asked if Aaron had injured his knee previously, because it appears he's been functioning for ten years - since that last injury - with NO ACL. Yikes. I don't care what body part it is, going without it doesn't sound good.

Victorian Feminism

I've been meaning to post about Masterpiece's latest show, Cranford, but there's been so much else going on...

However, here I sit in the family waiting room of the hospital, waiting for Aaron's knee surgery to be completed and him ready to head home. The kids are with my mom, so Yay! I'm on vacation! Basically. I mean, he's not have open-heart surgery or anything likewise life-threatening, and I have the hospital to roam, the Internet, and a good book. AND, I don't feel guilty spending money on indulgences such as a soda or a meal cooked by someone other than me.

While Cranford started and I was getting my tea, I guess hostess Gillian Anderson said something about it being a feminist story. Well, yeah. It has such modern sentiments ("Women are not equal to men. They are far superior in almost every circumstance.") that I was even unsure of when it had been written. Maybe in the last 50 years, but set in Victorian England? No dice. Elizabeth Gaskell was the daughter of a Unitarian minister, as well as the wife on one. Which also surprised me, since there was another line in the show, "I'd rather fight for his life than pray for his soul," that seemed pretty anti-religion - but maybe it was just anti-Catholicism.

This was the first episode of three - and I'm looking forward to learning more about how the modernization of Cranford will progress. Basically, that's the heart of the conflict of the show. There are certain characters who are entrenched in tradition and are horrified at signs of progress. There are other folks eager to bring Cranford up to date, whether it be by new surgical techniques (like operating on an arm with a compound fracture instead of amputating - imagine!) or by bringing the railroad to town.

In this way, Gaskell is reminiscent of Charles Dickens, who was a fan of her writing. Dickens wrote social commentary - almost all of his novels show the distinct separation of the classes, including how miserably the poor lived and how indulgently the rich lived. Gaskell also has several storylines regarding the social distinctions, the most sentimental being that of a young boy trying to provide for his extremely poor and numerous siblings while his father is...gone. Somewhere.

Cranford takes place in England, but the French Revolution has affected the opinions of many of its higher-ranking inhabitants. Lady Lovell is afraid that if the lower classes learn to read and become educated, England will have it's own revolution - a terrifying thought, especially to the class of people who's biggest concern is whether or not their son will return from Italy for their Garden Party.

Here's what really fascinated me. Cranford and, say, Emma, LOOK very similar. Corsets - check. Big hats & bonnets - check. Wagons - check. Dark, closed in kitchens - check.

At their cores, however, they are like night and day. Where Gaskell concerns herself with subtle criticism (and appreciation, it must be said), Austen focuses on the more minute issues of individuals. Morality is more the focus of Austen's writing - personal morality, not societal.

Those two quotes I mentioned earlier? You would never find anything like that in any of Austen's novels. Not unless the character saying it was in direct contradiction of that very statement. Her books were filled with tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of how her world functioned.

It will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

The clergy are role models for society, Austen feels. She points us toward personal responsibility, not outward criticism

Okay, somehow this turned into a thesis paper. Sorry, aunts & uncles out there!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

In Full Armor

Aaron has allergies. Also, after having Lasik eye surgery, he was told to avoid anything dusty for 2 weeks. Mowing (or de-thatching, really) the lawn was therefore out, at least for him. And me, having grown up in a delightfully sexist family, had not mowed a lawn until I was 23 years of age. I think I did it twice.

It was a hard, nay, impossible sell.

Aaron said he could wear a dust mask for the allergies, and then I had the brilliant! idea of swimming goggles to protect his expensive perfect vision. We found a pair at Walmart, and the trooper went to work.

This is true love, folks: Aaron was willing to look like a total doofus just so my lazy rear end wouldn't have to do a chore I really dislike. I hope that one day, I, too, can look like a complete dork to prove my eternal affection.

Also, note the sweatpants. If anyone knows the source of basic sweatpants at a basic price, please let me know. Father's Day and Aaron's birthday are both coming up soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dance Like No One's Watching

It's a trite line, but kids do it all the time...even more so when a video camera IS watching.

One of my favorite bloggers, Maggie Mason, posted this video on her site, and although I could link you right to it on YouTube, I'm going to make you go through Mighty Girl, just so you have to check her out.

This gal dancing with her little girl self is such a fabulous idea...It should almost be mandatory. I think my child-like dancing consisted mostly of running in circles to music The Firebird ballet. Of course, these days I might have a harder time talking brother David into wearing a full slip and dancing with me.

I also remember doing a lot of bouncing off of couches while going crazy to the musical CATS soundtrack. When I actually got to see it live (by myself!) I sat on the edge of my seat for the entire overture, and had tears in my eyes for a good portion of it. It's amazing to see in real life the music to which you've grown up listening.

Okay, so what do you remember dancing to as a wee one? Do you have it on video? Have you choreographed an adult dance to the same music?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Princess for a Day

We made it! Nobody cried, and it appeared that all had fun. Most of the games didn't have winners or losers (Leah's favorite kind of game. Or, as she says, "If there are winners and losers, I like to be the winner.")

Some other favorite quotes before we get to those oh-so-cute photos:

I decided to hand out the princess noise makers (the ones that curl out) when the girls arrived. Princess #2 was coming up to the door when Leah yelled, drill-sergeant style,
"Addie's here! GET A BLOWER!"

The girls were downstairs playing until we got going. Aaron reported that when Leah yelled, "Let's go on a princess adventure!" Only one kid yelled, "YES!"...and it was Ben, with his fist in the air, ready to go.

After Leah opened her gift, Princess L leaned over and said, "And you can share it with me, too. Caring and sharing, don't forget that one!"

And on to the photos!

Mom and I plotted to have her sew a honest-to-goodness princess dress for Leah. Of course, it had to be Sleeping Beauty's.

She was pretty thrilled, and fortunately she doesn't grow very quickly, so she'll probably still be able to wear it in 1st grade.
Game one: Spell at the Ball. Dance, dance, dance to music, and when it stops, you freeze. "Dancing" for this group of princesses involved holding hands in a circle and jumping up and down. By the way, thanks to Stacie for taking photos for me!

Game Two: Jump the Moat. Kind of like limbo, except no second person or pole needed. And you may think this was too easy, but remember, these kids are still learning how to skip. Also, the princess gowns proved to be a slight obstacle.

Craft activity: Decorate your own crown. The girls got foam crowns and stickers, plus stick-on jewels, all courtesy of Michael's craft store. And then they went nuts.
I have to say, this is the most fabulous crown cake I've ever seen. Here's how we did it:

1. Bake 9x13 cake mix, but also make 5 cupcakes out of the same mix.

2. Dump out 9x13 cake, cover well, and freeze.

3. Enlarge your crown picture to the appropriate size. Mine was 250%. If you'd like mine, just contact me and I'll send it to you.

4. Lay template on unwrapped, frozen cake. Use serrated knife to cut around it.

5. Frost all sides, plus cupcakes. Decorate with candy.

6. Gobble.

Chocolate cake with cherry frosting and chocolate ice cream? Yes, please!

A tip from Leah's superb Sunday school teacher: When opening presents, have the birthday kid sit in one chair, and the gift giver in another. Then she knows who gave her the present and can say thank you, and the giver feels special, too. We had "thrones" for our girls.

There it is, folks. An hour and half of complete preschool girliness. And for a couple of months, the novelty of being FOUR may get Leah to eat more dinner, dress herself, walk more often... We can always hope!

Friday, May 2, 2008


Last night, there was another new episode of The Office on television at 8pm.

Leah was in bed at exactly 7:58pm.

As the opening scene starts, my laptop dings with an incoming instant message (IM). Yay! It's SIL EJ!

As the theme music plays, she says (types?): "Insert my dance, HERE!"

Obviously, we are both big fans of this show. Aaron was gone to worship practice at church, so I had no one to laugh with...which severly limits your enjoyment, as far as I'm concerned. So it really was wonderful that EJ kept up a steady stream of IM comments on the of my favs being:

"Every time I see (Pam) in those glasses, I laugh!"

Then every time she was on screen, EJ'd send a little, "he he!"

Truly, it is the little things in life that make it so darn entertaining.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

They Are a Team

This morning, I'm sitting on the couch talking to Mom on the phone, and I see Leah start walking down the hall away from me. Ben starts to follow, and then stops. She looks over her shoulder, grins at Ben, and then gestures for him to follow her. He does, of course.

They go into our bedroom.

A couple seconds later they both come out and pick up a stool from the kitchen and start taking them down the hallway again.

me: What are you guys doing?

Leah: Getting stools...

me: Yes, I can see that, but why?

Leah: (whispering) For your bed.

Mom: They're ganging up on you, Liz.

For the record, my kids are short, but not that short - Leah can get onto our bed without help, but Ben can't.