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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Telephone Game

I talk to my sister almost daily on the phone. Not surprisingly, our conversations involve quite a few interruptions from the kids.

Me, phone at ear but yelling at daughter Jilly:
"Don't put your Crocs on the table!"

Jilly: "But, they are wet!"

Me: "I don't care if they are wet. No Crocs on the table! Ewwww, they're dirty too!"

Silence from sister on other end of line, and then I hear her say: "Ahh. . .Crocs!"

"What?" I ask her.

She: "I thought you said crotch."

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Know Why the Tanked Fish Drowns

I have met my match.

I've successfully owned cats and birds, taken care of ladybugs and butterflies, and volunteered as a dog walker at an animal shelter.

But, our fish are making me question my pet-owning abilities.

In college, my roommates and I had a Beta fish. Three girls were never more likely to kill a fish, with our irresponsibility and penchant for cheap wine. And, yet, Scoopy lived on, unfazed that we had no idea what we were doing.

And, so, when I got the big idea that owning fish would be good for the kids, I thought back to those days of wine and laughter and figured, "eh, how hard can it be?" Someone should have warned me. I now feel like I should have taken a course in Chemistry 101, bought stock in a pet store and hired a part-time fish-ologist to take care of our three Molly fish (named Molly (natch), Speedy and Orange-y).

After a dizzying few weeks of water changes and testing, I finally got the tank 'in balance' with the perfect blend of bacteria. Then, even though all three fish were supposed to be girls, babies were born. We got excited until the next morning when the babies were gone, probably now in the bellies of the fish.

The first to die (after the babies) were Molly and Orange-y. I scooped them out of the tank and buried them under the bird feeder.

Speedy is still hanging in there although she doesn't look good. I continue to retest the water, making changes and cleaning when needed, but my heart is no longer into it. "Speedy", I think, "just give up so I can put this whole failed experiment behind me".

Who knew that it would be fish (fish!) that would be my most difficult pet.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let's Just Call a Spade a Spade

Here is what happens when a (quasi) vegetarian raises meat-eating children:

We ordered take-out Chinese food last night. Belly ordered boneless spareribs ("the red-colored meat", as she calls it).

Jilly sat at the table, grabbed a rib and started to gnaw away at it.

After she swallowed, she looked at me surprised, "I didn't think I'd like this, but it's good!"

Then a moment later:

"Is this pig?"

Fire, fire! Here is what we did on Saturday night.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day

I had barely glanced at the cover since bringing the book home from the library. The title, Grandfather's Wrinkles, had been chosen to coincide with our week-long study of human skin. I saw "wrinkles" and thought it'd be a good choice for this week's topic.

And then I sat down to read the book to the girls. We settled on the couch, and I put the book in my lap. After staring at the cover for a moment, I quickly leafed through the pages and asked Belly, in a wavering voice, "who does this remind you of?" as I pointed to the illustrated grandfather.

"Opa!" she said.

And, I burst into tears. Great sobbing tears that I couldn't hold back even though my girls were looking at me with big eyes.

Three-and-a-half years since my dad's death, I no longer cry daily or even weekly. I may tear up when I hear Fleetwood Mac on the car stereo, or think of him when a Republican says something stupid ("Ha, Daddy!", I think). But I don't cry often. Mostly, I just feel an ache of longing for his presence, a wish he could see what we were all doing and could be a part of our daily lives.

But, this book slapped me in the face. Here he was: gray hair and mustache, glasses, kind eyes and smile; blue denim shirt with white t-shirt underneath, red suspenders and tan shoes. And next to him is a little girl with honey-colored hair who could have been my own Belly.

The story itself isn't exact to his life---he didn't have a big church wedding or a dog. But, he is there. I can feel it as I flip through the pages of the book and dry my tears.

I plan to buy the book for myself, my sister and my mom. I won't be able to watch them go through it though. I think they'll understand.

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Wednesday, I did something I wasn't sure I could do. I stayed off the computer for a day (almost). Other than a quick first-thing-in-the-morning check of my mail, there was (almost) no:

reading my Yahoo! email,
checking for Inbox mail (which handles my blog mail),
reading blogs,
searching for the reason why my mountain laurels look like crap,
looking up a word on (I used a real printed dictionary from our bookcase),
shopping for my sister's birthday gift or Father's Day gift,
grabbing a recipe
finding out the weather (had to turn on the radio).

Given that we were home until about 4pm, this is quite a feat for me. I don't spend all day with my nose in a laptop, but I have a hard time walking by one of our two computers (upstairs and downstairs) without checking my mail or looking up something (which inevitably turns into 'looking up something else').

Let's see if this becomes a weekly thing, or if I can cut back gradually in general.

In other news, my sister-in-law arrives today from Florida, and we are all terribly excited to see her. Her visit was planned ages ago, when we thought she'd be planning her September wedding, not dealing with this. If anyone needs some inspiration, come by and see how strong the human spirit is in dealing with life-altering events.

Oh, and she is bringing her wii, so I may be out of commission for a few days. Tennis, anyone?

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Reason Our Bookstore Trip was a Bust

Nothing warms the cockles of a mom (who-is-trying-to-teach-her-children) 's heart like having the oldest yell, "but I HATE TO READ" when you gently suggest she purchase some "Easy Readers" from the bookstore.

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I Should've Just Used Amazon

We had a jam-packed weekend, and all in all, the kids were exceptionally well-behaved throughout. However, since all good things must come to an end, we were bound to crash and burn today at the bookstore.

Why do I think going to a bookstore is going to turn out well with three small children? Unlike the library, where they can pretty much pick out anything they want, at a store, where I have to PAY for the items, I am less likely to agree with their decision to select a thrilling SpongeBob SquarePants tale or Barbie Princess anthology.

Somehow I was able to steer D away from the truck books with plots that read as follows: "Truck, Digger, Plow, Tractor". Instead, he picked out two other truck books, but at least these were written by someone I like and not the Tonka company.

After we piled up our books (I use "our" loosely since they lasted all of 30 seconds outside of the children's section, so I did not pick out anything) and took them to the register, I got to endure the fun of waiting in line with children.

When it was our turn, D balked at handing me the books. As he protested, I told him, "OK, just put them on the counter so that we can pay for them." As the unsmiling sales person leaned over to start scanning our other items, he threw his books with a bit too much gusto. They sailed past her ear and over the other side of the counter where they landed on the ground at her feet.

Sorry, other homeschooling families. I am afraid we did not represent well today.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

California Dreamin'

Why is California (almost) as great as Massachusetts? I'll tell you here.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

How I Do It (Literally)

"I don't know how you do it!"

Most of the time, when people say this to me with regards to homeschooling, they mean, "I don't know how you find the time to take care of your kids, your home, yourself and also fit school into the equation." Usually, when this is the actual meaning, I smile and say that it all works out for us.

But, sometimes, they mean this quite literally. "How DO you do it? Do you borrow textbooks from the school? Follow a certain curriculum? Visit Borders every week?"

That is a much more interesting question to answer.

Before I started this journey, I had no idea how much was out there for homeschoolers. And, I don't mean just educational toys or games or books, but entire curriculum written specifically for families who choose to educate their kids themselves. Rainbow Resource Center publishes an enormous catalog with over 1200 pages of educational materials to order, and I've been known to sit down with it as if I am reading a good book.

Had I known how much there is, I may have run the other way. . .all the way to the school bus stop. Or, I could have maxed out my credit cards purchasing everything that sounded good. Or, just decided to go straight to an all-inclusive curriculum.

Instead, I did what many of us do. I read about different programs---be it math, reading, writing, history or science. I talked to other people I knew. I attended a homeschool convention. And then I started buying.

Some things I bought didn't work. We're on our second math curriculum after crashing and burning with the first. I haven't sold the first since one of my other kids may end up preferring it over the one Belly uses now. I have so many reading/writing/spelling options I am embarrassed, although it gives you an idea of how panicked I was that Belly would never learn to read. I have books I've never used, namely a classical music coloring book that came with a CD. Apparently coloring in pictures of famous composers is not all that interesting.

Tonight, I am hosting a Curriculum Night at my house. At about 7pm, women carrying heavy boxes and bags will come through my front door to share what has worked with them. We will eat, drink, talk and pour over each other's materials, asking, "what do you like about this", "why don't you use this anymore" and "how must does this cost"?

And, in a few short weeks, I'll be online, putting in my order for September and crossing my fingers that I chose wisely.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

8:12am, the morning after Mother's Day:

Youngest is in time out.
Middle is eating pizza.
Oldest is still in bed.

I'm pretty certain they are all mad at me for something. How quickly Mother's Day passes!

In fact, it passed so quickly, I didn't get a chance to point you toward Mary Alice's lovely column that was an ode to our moms. I wrote a little ditty about something my own mom used to say to me, over and over again.

After reading the piece from Mary Alice's own mom, I just have one thing to ask my husband: Do you drink pulp in your orange juice?

Hope all the moms out there had a lovely day and the residual effects are still with you this morning.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Oh F*&K

"You're the only person I know who says 'flippin'", she said across the crowded restaurant table.

"Wha---?", I said, lost in some story I was telling.

"You just said 'flippin' again. Do you often use that term?", she continued.

"Well. . .as a matter of fact. . . yes. 'Flippin' is my safe replacement for the more offensive f-word--the one that my children would be sharing with their playmates if I didn't keep my trash-mouth in check."

Continuing on, I explained that I didn't start with flippin'. Frankly, I think flippin' is a bit weak. But, when I tried to use friggin', I found out that there are downsides: when Belly was 2, she sat down to dinner with my sister and mom. She picked up a piece of chicken, put it to her lips, threw it to the plate and announced, "That chicken is friggin' hot!"

Yeah, funny, but not so cute on a two-year-old. So, flippin' became my "safe curse" of choice.

After I had finished sharing my explanation, the
conversation turned into a sharing of embarrassing child-cursing stories among the women seated at my table. There were some amusing tales, and I felt like we had all learned some valuable lessons. I drove home bopping along to The Rockafeller Skank on my Fatboy Slim CD and thought about trying to curse less in front of the kids.

This afternoon, I strapped the kids into the minivan, turned on the ignition and started to reverse when I realized I had forgotten something upstairs. I ran up two flights of stairs, grabbed what I had forgotten and then ran back down to the car. I jumped into my seat and started to reverse again when my brain registered what was playing on the car stereo.

This is what I had left for the children to listen to while I ran into the house (not safe for work, or for kids, incidentally).

I'm going to have to start saying Oh Golly Gosh and Goodness Gracious to redeem myself. And lock up my CD collection.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

My Son Has No Friends

This is the story of D, the boy with no friends. It sounds like it'll be a sad story, but it isn't, so bear with me.

D is almost four and has never had a play date set up strictly on his behalf. Sure, he's been dragged from home to home, to dance lessons, gymnastics classes and homeschool coops. But, he has no single boy (or girl) that I can point to and say, "that's D's friend".

Do you feel sorry for him? Please don't.

Yesterday, while waiting for the girls' dance class to end, I watched D running around the dance teacher's back yard with two other girls his age. The three giggled, whispered, shouted and ran like old friends. And, yet, he will probably never play with them again.

In our coop, there are a few kids who he gravitates toward, but as all the kids play together regardless of age or gender, it's hard to say that D has a specific 'friend'. However, like in the teacher's back yard, he enjoys himself thoroughly with these children.

The interesting thing about D is that, while he is never alone, he can play on his own better than his two older siblings. He also is unafraid of older children; I think part of this is because he is in the company of older kids so much.

Socially, he seems just fine.

He also has a cousin, just eight months younger, who we see weekly. And while this is an 'arranged friendship', per se, I think it will be of the utmost importance as he grows older.

With my oldest child, I was very, very, very dedicated to making sure she had friends. We joined a play group when she was four months old. I called up acquaintances and set up play dates. I enrolled her in preschools, enrichment classes, story hours. I dragged her to children's events in town.

I can't even imagine doing this with my third. I'm too lazy and it seems too complicated. I rationalize that he has two older sisters----two 'built in' playmates. I'm not sure I have the patience to meet new moms with little boys, invite them into my home and make small talk about. . .whatever. I'm not doing the preschool circuit.

And while I may worry that I'm shortchanging him, that I should be more aggressive in 'finding' him friends, I doubt he shares any of my concerns. He's too busy trying to build a house of blocks or a road for his cars.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, Part IV

Thank you all so much for the kind comments about my short-blond-hair stage (from Part III. Also, part I is here; part II is here). Meg Ryan? Really??

Your compliments almost make me want to go back to that style, but then I remember that "short" and "blond" requires
upkeep. I can see myself now with dark roots down to here, shaggy bangs, uneven layers. . . it just isn't pretty. Maybe in a few years, I'll have the time to try that style again.

Predictably, after years of short and blond, I got bored and decided to try red. Oh, how I loved the red hair on the boxes of hair color.

Here is day one, in a semi-permanent burgundy color (the year is 1996; I will meet my beloved shortly after making the switch to red):

Here I am in more of a "Carrot Top" shade. . .and, no, that is not my hairy leg in the photo.

Here I am with disastrously short bangs. . .

And now with hair that is in desperate need of a cut. . .

Now before you tell me, "UGH! You should never have done red!", you should know that the person writing this has red hair on her head. So, be kind. I do have a box of blond color in the bathroom, though, in case I need to make a change, pronto.

Next up. . .my hair at marriage and after the birth of each of my three children. Trust me, I should never, ever go "natural" with my hair.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Plus One

Three infamous blogging mamas are having babies s-o-o-n. With their new babe, the number of children in their homes will double.

I remember going from one to two all too well. My oldest, Belly, was just over the age of 2 when I went into the hospital to have my next child. After having a successful VBAC, Fairly Odd Father and I took turns holding Jilly in our arms as we watched snow fall outside our window that March morning. It fell and fell until the roads became impassable, and we were marooned in the hospital with our new baby.

It was luxurious to be able to relax with a newborn without having visitor after visitor arrive, but this also meant that my firstborn, who had never spent a night away from me, was now separated from us for even longer. She knew we had a new baby, her baby sister. I wonder if she thought we were going to go and live with this new baby and leave her behind?

The following day, when the roads were cleared, Belly came bouncing into my hospital room. My first thought was, "Oh my. She is SO big! How did my (first) baby become so big?!?!" It was a huge moment, one that I can still feel in my chest when I recall it.

That was more than five years ago. Since then, I have added yet another to our brood, but he came so close to Jilly (they are 18 months apart) that there was little time for reflection. I do remember holding the pregnancy stick in one hand, a nine-month old baby in another and saying, "How can I be pregnant?!? Jilly is still a baby!!!!!" And then I giggled hysterically, because, really, what else can you do?

One reason for writing this post is that we blogging mamas (and dads) are to give these pregnant moms some advice about having two kids. I'm going to stray from my comfort zone, which would be to give them some very practical advice, and write about something I've observed about myself in these past few years.

One thing I've had to be careful about is this: labeling my kids. Knowing each of my children is a unique person, it is too easy to assign them with a role in our family. I see this done a lot in other families too. One child is the friendly one, the other shy. One child eats everything, the other nothing. One child is 'musical', the other 'sporty'.

Jilly is our spaz who says hilarious and inappropriate things; Belly is social, talkative and loves to sing; D is the quiet, reflective one.

Except when they aren't.

Things in my brain rearrange a bit when Belly hangs back in a new setting and clings to my leg; when Jilly stands up and sings loudly and seriously in the front row of a children's choir; when D starts talking up a storm. They are alike and they are different, but it isn't so much stark black and white as it is a swirling pattern.

As siblings, my hope is that they will stand on their own but will always have another that is so familiar to them that they are never truly alone.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

But, Really, You've Never Looked Better!

At the Fairly Odd dinner table tonight, as we celebrate Oma's (my mom's) 65th birthday:

Oma (talking to her grandchildren), "Look; there is a six and a five on my cake!"

Jilly (5-year-old grandchild), "Wow. I thought you'd be dead by now!"

Please pass the wine.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why I Married My Car


That was my salary my first year out of college. Ahhh. . .the glamorous world of advertising.

With this paycheck, I had to afford rent, food, gasoline (for my mom's beat-up Chevette) and, of course, alcohol. . .while living in a top 50 metro. I remember that I budgeted $10 a week for food, and $10 a week for drinks out with my friends. Good thing I had my priorities straight.

At some point, the Chevette died and I had to get a new car. I got an Escort for about $8,000. I don't remember what my car payments were, but I was drowning in them. While talking to my dad, somehow it came up that the cost of my car would be about the same as the cost they'd have to pay for a wedding should I get married at some point (hillbillies don't need real fancy weddin's). Because I didn't really foresee a wedding in my near future, I asked them if they'd consider paying off my car loan with the promise that they'd never have to cough up money for some future nuptials.

The deal was made, they paid off the loan. In essence, I married my car. I married an Escort. Not surprisingly, that marriage did not last too long, and I traded the Escort in for a Jeep a few years later.

Less than 10 years after my "wedding for a car" deal, I married a real live man. But, I stayed true to my word and did not ask my parents for any money to pay for the wedding or honeymoon.

I never regretted this deal, because it helped me avoid the one thing my father had begged me to avoid at all costs: credit card debt. I don't recall him ever warning me about drugs, men or sex, but I do remember his commandment:

Thou shalt not charge more on your card than you can pay off in a month.

So when I heard this on the radio today. . .

"The (average)* 18 year old owns an (average)* of four credit cards. . .",

*am not sure where the 'average' goes and can't find the original source.

. . .I think my dad must be rolling, er. . .shaking, in his grave (he is cremated).

Four credit cards at 18. I bet none of those kids are driving around in a lame Escort with a "Just Married" sign in the back window.

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