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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Is there enough time to go around?

This might strike you as odd, but I worry that I'm not spending enough time with the kids.

I don't mean as a group, which is how we do things around here. Every. Single. Day.

I mean one-on-one time. Just Mama and Child A. Or B. Or C. That kind of dedicated time with each child on their own just doesn't happen right now.

It's the same thing for Fairly Odd Father who has it even harder than me: he's gone from dawn until dinnertime during the week. On the weekends, the kids crawl all over him like ants on a cookie when he isn't trying to do school work or the home improvement projects I've left for him.

Alone time with each child? How? When? Is it possible?

Well, we're going to try.

Once a week, I'm going to take one of the kids out to dinner by themselves (think "BK", not "5 star"). It'll give us time to sit together and talk, uninterrupted, about whatever is on their 4-,6- or 8-year-old minds.

And, each weekend, Fairly Odd Father is going to do something special with one child, like take them for a bike ride or go play mini-golf. And, knowing him, make a stop for ice cream afterward (he already knows that a trip to Home Depot does not equal "special quality time").

I've heard that other families do this and it always sounded so quaint, but I didn't see how we could fit this into our schedules.

But, we're going to try. I'll let you know how it goes.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Shredhead Update: If I squint, it looks like it's working

Just started Level 3 of the 30-Day Shred. I've been consistent except for a few days I've taken off here and there.

So, how's it going?

Well, I'm not going to weigh myself anymore because my weight is really going nowhere. And, while I know my weight is "just fine", seeing that little needle hover in exactly the same place day after day does nothing for my psyche.

Also a week ago, I was visiting my wonderful Physical Therapist who helps me with my neck-and-shoulder issues, and I was complaining that I still have that "tire" around my midsection. She suggested that I need to up my cardio by a wee bit to try to burn off that extra fat. So, after Shredding for 20 minutes, this past week I have added 10 minutes of cardio on our recumbent bike.

Is this working?

Here is where I was when I posted my first post on March 7:


And here is me on Day 20 of my Shred:


(honestly, I can't tell if my pants are hiked up more or if the bulge is reduced)

Here's another angle; taken at the start of March:


And now:


Heck I don't see much, do you? But, I do see something here, which wasn't before:


Oh yeah, a little bitty muscle trying to come forth.

I'll be back in ten days with another round of humiliating photos, so stay tuned!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stereotypes are alive and well in your toy store

Girls can do anything

Girls are powerful.

Girls can get dirty, play sports, wrestle and tumble and burp and make noise.


Let's pretend you are from another planet and came upon Target's Spring 2009 "Kids" catalog. Look at the cover and you'd see a little girl actively bouncing on a pogo stick:


Cute, eh?

But, then, inside, you come to the section titled "Twirly Girls". Now, as a total stranger to Earth, how would you describe these creatures known as "girls"?


frilly, dainty, princess-like?


obsessed with branding, fashion, pink?


forever daydreaming about becoming a princess or a bikini bimbo?


nurturing, motherly, sweet?


happy homemakers-to-be?

And, what about the boys? Here is what you'll see in the circular under "Wonder Boys". How you describe these strange creatures, oh Visitor From Another World?


active, fast, noisy?


competitive, sports-loving?


gadget and action-loving?

As Ilina wrote on Deep South Moms, "if you wander the toy section (of Target) you will see a clear gender delineation. The kitchen stuff is all pink and ruffly. Even presumably unisex things such as instruments and hand held games scream with cotton candy pink and rugged camouflage. The toys geared toward boys are so jacked up with testosterone that I find myself puffing out my chest in a show of manliness."

And here I thought we'd come a long way, baby. I thought boys could be nurturing, dream-filled chefs. Wasn't there a song on Free to Be You and Me about William and his doll? And, what happened to girls playing sports, being strong and wanting to grow up to be more than Barbie?

Whose fault is this? Is it us for buying into these gender stereotypes?

I'd like to say no but I clearly recall a mom I know quaking in fear that her young son had asked for a toy kitchen. A kitchen! She was worried because this was a "girl toy".

And, I recall a neighbor seeing my son with red painted toenails last summer. I had painted them when I painted the girls' toes figuring, "heck, it's just paint and he's three"---not exactly a prime peer-pressure age. This neighbor (a man) said to my son, "you'd better not let your daddy see those toes!".

Give me a break.

I have nothing against girls wanting to play with Barbies, but realize that my son plays with them too, albeit differently than his sisters (he likes to drive them around in a Barbie-mobile). They all play with Legos, toy cars, dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, arts and crafts, even the "girlie" play kitchen. They all use their newly obtained magic wands as weapons.

But, more than 35 years after Free to Be You and Me, we are still being told that girls are "sugar and spice" and boys are "snips and snails and puppy dog tails".

And we're buying it.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Love is a Battlefield, Complete With Shock Treatments

Have any of you guys watched the first two episodes of the new VH1 reality show,
Tough Love?

In a nutshell, a group of women who have not yet found "true love" are all put in a house together while male Matchmaker Steve tries to figuratively slap some sense into them so that they will not keep scaring possible mates away.

In this week's episode half of the girls go on a "date" while being watched by Mr. Matchmaker. In order to control what they say to their dates, he attaches a "zapper" to their leg.

Yes, a zapper! Like an electric fence collar that a dog would wear to keep him in his yard.

I know it sounds sadistic, but after hearing some of these women whine about the fact that they aren't married yet at 25, seeing them zapped is pretty freaking funny.

Almost as funny as the first episode which has the divisive diva of the crew cluelessly leaning over a bidet while turning it on and taking the stream right in the face.

Who says there isn't anything good on TV?

Getting a Colonoscopy, or How to Survive a Booty Call

Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about our butt:
Is it too big? Too flat? Too wide? Does my ass look too big in these jeans? (don't answer that too quickly, mister).

I daresay, though, that most of us do not spend much time thinking about ye olde colon.

This is a shame since colorectal cancer strikes an equal amount of women as it does men. The kicker? This cancer is one of the most easily prevented cancers.

In September '07, I thought a heck of a lot about my colon because I had a colonoscopy. Although the general recommendation is that people start getting colonoscopies at the age of 50, I was told to start ten years earlier due to a family history of this disease. Some people should start getting screened as young as 30 depending on their risk factors.

The idea of getting a colonoscopy scares a lot of people. I've talked to many whose reaction is, "There is no way anyone is sticking a tube up my butt!" So, when I had to get one myself, I decided to write about it so that some people could learn what a real procedure was like.

And, in honor of March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (
NCRCAM for 'short'), I will republish my thoughts from that September for those of you who are still thinking, "There is no way. . .".

Day One: The Prep

I've had a few disgusting things happen to me in my life but nothing could quite prepare me for tonight.

I'm preparing for my first-ever colonoscopy, and thought that the worst part of it would be the procedure in the morning.

But, after fasting all day long and then drinking 80 ounces of somewhat thick, salty-sweet liquid, I've changed my mind.

I am dreaming of food and, inexplicably, unable to watch anything on TV but Top Chef and The Food Network. I almost licked the television screen when they made a muffaletta, despite the fact that I rarely eat any meat.

I'm dreaming of food even during the "cleansing", which is pretty remarkable.

Oh, the cleansing. If you've ever been told you are full of shit, well, you are. You are full of more shit than you think is possible.

I am astounded by this, and hungry. And probably 10 pounds lighter. Wait, let me go check that one. . .

Nope, dammit, exactly the same weight. How is that possible???

The good news is that despite all the rumbling in my belly and the running to the bathroom, there is no pain, no stomach cramps. This isn't like have a stomach bug that keeps you tied to the toilet, sweating and praying for relief. It's relatively easy, but a little messy. Next time I'm wearing ear plugs so I don't have to listen.

OK, all appears to be quiet in the belly region. I'm off to bed to dream about muffaletta and bagels and goat cheese and french fries and ice cream.

Day Two: The Procedure

After complaining about last night, I feel kind of silly posting tonight.

I think I get it now. . .prepping for a colonoscopy: kind of yucky; having the actual colonoscopy: as easy as taking a nap.

Seriously, once the sedatives were put into my body, I disappeared into la-la land, waking only to think, "Oh, this must be the beginning", but hearing the doctor say, "All done!"

I had planned to chat throughout the entire procedure, a la Katie Couric. Instead, I probably snored.

Once I had regained consciousness, I was relieved to hear that all looked good---one polyp was removed and will be biopsied, but this is apparently pretty common. I was on my feet and scarfing down an egg-and-cheese bagel sandwich before Fairly Odd Father's car drove us out of the parking lot.

One benefit of the fasting? It allowed me to see what a flat stomach looks like. Either that, or I hallucinated due to lack of food.

I am a bit worried that the first half of the post may have convinced some people never to have a colonoscopy, so I will attempt to convince those of you who feel this way.

First, fasting isn't THAT bad. You can eat popsicles, jello and drink soda! You can feel virtuous, like "my body is my temple and I will not eat for a whole day!" Plus, after I got through the night, I was no longer hungry in the morning (that is, until the bagel sandwich appeared in front of me).

Second, here is a tip for drinking down glass after glass of HalfLytely (the stuff that will 'cleanse' your system): pretend you are in college, at a bar. Grab your glass like a shot and drink it all---yes, all 8 ounces at once (you know you could do this at one time). As soon as the glass is empty, grab a piece of lime and suck it. The lime wipes away all the nasty taste from your mouth, plus you can almost pretend you just drank a tequila shot. If the fasting is going well, you'll be a bit dizzy anyway, so the illusion of drinking is there. If you repeat this every ten minutes, you will be finished with the solution in less than an hour and a half.

Third, make sure you have NO responsibilities after 6pm. Lock yourself in your bedroom and keep the path to the bathroom open. Watch tv, read, play on the computer, whatever. Light lots of candles in the bathroom for odor control. When you feel the rumbling, run for the bathroom. Repeat this until the rumbling quiets down. I was still able to get a decent night's sleep, with minimal interruption.

Finally, schedule your appointment for first-thing in the morning. My appointment was at 8am, and I was out of the hospital by 9:30. Just get it over with before you have too much time to wake up and worry about it.

All joking aside, do me one favor: ask your parents when they had their last colonoscopy, and if you are 50 or older (or 40 with family history), ask yourself. The procedure is so easy, mostly painless and quick. Colorectal cancer, on the other hand is a horrible, terribly painful disease, and yet preventable with regular screenings.

I lost my dad to colorectal cancer when he was only 62 years old and that was partly because he let too much time pass between his appointments. Don't let too much time pass for you.


Much of this post was published in September 2007 and then republished on New England Mamas in March 2008. For those of you who read the original posts and should've gotten a colonoscopy that year, this is your reminder.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Homeschooling is Good. . .

. . .it is so very, very good.

I feel like I second-guess, gripe, and bitch about our decision to homeschool a bit much, so I thought I'd post a glimpse of how life goes when things are "working" (even though, like bragging about a baby who is sleeping well, I am sure to incite the wrath of the gods who will screw with my upcoming days).

The main thing that is happening is that we are getting things done. My cardinal rule for getting things done is STAY HOME IN THE MORNING. Nothing screws with our routine more than having to rush out of the house at 9, 10 or even 11. And, even though I tell myself we'll "do school" in the afternoon, it never happens (or if it does, it's ugly---there is a reason some cultures take a siesta).

Also, we have, hallelujah, made some progress in Math with my oldest. Ironically, we are back to the first curriculum we ever purchased, although I would like to kiss our interim program on its big fat mouth for getting us past the days of tears and fighting (for now). I am even (fingers crossed) going to buy the next level up in our math program which probably means we're about to crash and burn again, but I like to live on the edge.

The biggest challenge has been fitting in time for my younger two, but even that is going okay. Jilly is reading (about halfway through this), and started doing grammar and handwriting, although I'd like to get more consistent about doing math with her.

And, the biggest surprise to me is D who is learning to read! He is such an eager beaver about this, it is adorable. So far, his stories have consisted of "see me eat", "see me read" and "mad at me" (hey, I didn't write this stuff), but you would think he is reading Dickens for all the high-fives flying around at reading time.

Finally, the days are getting a bit warmer and brighter, which means the kids are playing outside for hours each day and are well aware that their school friends are not able to do this.

I may be feeling better about myself, too, because I'm exercising again and even have started to read a book. A book! (I've got a couple others you've mentioned waiting in the wings and may even do a few reviews if I can muster up the smarts that are necessary to write book reviews).

So, yeah, things are good.

Now, please excuse me while I wait to see if they sky will fall.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Better than trying to catch a leprechaun because, if I ever caught a leprechaun, I'd probably squish it

You guys have to check out what the brilliant fellow-homeschooling mama Subspace Beacon did to continue the "Valentine's Plant" tradition into St. Patty's Day. Awesome!

Now, I expect someone to plant "jellybean plants" for Easter, "American flags" for 4th of July, "pencils" for Back to School. . .every day is a holiday, right?


Monday, March 16, 2009

One down, part deux

Again this morning, Fairly Odd Father kissed me goodbye and left for several days. He'll be home late this week.

We have a busy week, full of playdates and activities and projects, so I know the time will pass quickly. I may even try to do some limited Shredding, although with my knee still out of wack and now my shoulder seized, the only exercise I can probably do safely is the Kegel, which is, interestingly, not part of the Shred regimen. If Jillian spit out three babies in under four years, I bet she'd be telling us to Kegel. Just sayin'.

And I certainly have enough reading material to keep me occupied (seriously, you guys are awesome).

But, at around 9pm, when the kids fall to sleep, I really feel alone. If FOF goes away too much more, you can bet he's going to return home one night to find that I've decided to increase our family by one canine.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Teach Me How to Read (again)

I used to be the kid who went to the library every week and left with a stack of 10, 12, 15 books teetering in my arms. I'd go home, find a corner and read. And read. And read.

When my friend Michele and I were tweens, we'd go to each other's house . . .and read. Yes, just hang out and read.

I pretty much knew I'd be an English Major in college by the time I was 14. Once in college, I took only one (required) Math class and not a single Business class in order to take more literature and philosophy classes.

I still go to the library every week, but now I now leave with a giant bag of books for the kids. If a book makes it in the bag for me, it often goes unopened and unread. And, on the rare occasion that I make it to a book store for some "alone time", I wander the racks aimlessly until I find myself in the children's section picking out books for the kids.

It makes me sad that I no longer know what to read, nor do I make time to do it.

I know that I have replaced my "reading habit" with the internet, the short articles in The New Yorker (ok, the cartoons) and with silly reality television. Just typing this has made another 1% of my brain turn to a cottage cheese-like mush, like on those Hulu commercials.

But, when I venture into the library or bookstore now, I have no idea what to pick out. I want to read for fun, not reference. But, I cannot read those Twilight books and hate anything with the word "Shopaholic", "Lust" or "Alien" in the title. And, I don't want horror, goth or anything with a "quest".

If you ask me who I like to read, I struggle a bit to remember and then recall devouring the short stories of Sandra Cisneros and Pam Houston, reading Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Russo, crying over Carol Shields. I just grabbed three of my favorite novels from my bookshelf and they are Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Bone People and The Shipping News. Published in 1974, 1984 and 1993, respectfully. Not exactly the latest and greatest, you know?

So, Book People, please come forth and lay your favorites on the table for me. This mama needs to unplug and sit up late, curled up on the couch, with nothing but the ticking of the clock and the sound of pages turning to keep her company.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shredding Like an Oldie

For the most part, I do not feel my age.

But on Day 6 of my "30-Day Shred", my right knee decided to feel its age.

My knees have long been my nemesis in exercise. I have incredibly bony knee caps, and judging by the way my father walked as he got older, they will someday cause me to walk in the same stiff way.

And, it didn't help that one drunken night in college, I fell HARD on my knees and woke up unable to get out of bed. Six weeks of crutches and leg supports seemed to help a bit, but they've never really been the same.

So for the past three days, I've been Shredding like someone a few decades older than my (cough) 41 years, at least from the waist down. I'm happy to report that, from the waist up, I'm getting stronger---I can actually feel arm muscles again and the sit ups are a cinch.

Hopefully I'll be back to Shredding full strength soon, though. I think Jillian is starting to give me dirty looks through the television screen.


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Monday, March 09, 2009

Pixie Girl turns 6


Jilly, my little hula-hooping, furniture-jumping, cartwheel-twirling, mussel-loving pixie, has turned six.

I Cannot Believe It.

While I sit and contemplate the swift passage of time, stop on over here to see how I turned my home into Fairy Land for her birthday party yesterday.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

My first Shredhead post, complete with photos: Because nobody reads blogs on Saturday, right?

I've really been stalling on this one.

When Kristen announced her new "get fit fast" plan for the month of March, I was intrigued. I had just started exercising again, but any little thing could derail me from exercising (too tired, too cold, too early, too late, headache, backache, planets out of alignment, etc). Knowing I'd be doing this program with a bunch of other awesome women gave me a little push.

Plus, I had never even heard of the 30-Day Shred workout, but after hearing that twenty minutes a day is all it takes? Srsly? Sign me up!

What stalled me was that many of those participating were posting "before" photos. Uhhhhhhhhh.

It's not that I think I'm overweight. In fact, I'm not exercising to lose (much) weight but to tone all those areas that have been so neglected over the past few years. The odd thing is that I popped right back to my pre-pregnancy weight after having Belly and Jilly, but after D, I haven't been able to get rid of the extra 10 pounds hanging out around my mid-section.

And, man, would I like to have some muscles.

So, here goes nothing!



I've been shredding at Level 1 for five days now, starting at 140 pounds. I am now 138, and would like to get down to 130, but I cannot, will not diet. I've explained why before, and I trust that my body knows what my weight needs to be to stay healthy.

But, listen, waist? I'd like you to get rid of that flesh coat you've had on for the past few years. Really, it's getting old.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

February's ROFL: Do You Like Scrabble?

Feb09 ROFL

My vote for February's ROFL award goes to Sarah at Ordinary Days for her innocent little post about, ahem, Scrabble. Try not to choke on your coffee when you read it.

Want even more? You can see all the month's nominees at Chicky, Chicky Baby and Oh, The Joys. Click here for more info and come play along in March!


I've also reviewed a cool new nightlight for Sylvania---seriously, their PalPODzzz rocket and ladybug nightlights are too cute and double as flashlights! Which means that maybe your kids will leave your flashlights alone so you can find them during the next power outage.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mean Girls Hurt Moms Too

She purposely hurt my daughter.

The story came out the other day, as we were driving somewhere in the minivan.

"Mommy, why would someone bend someone else's finger back as far as it'll go?"

Thinking she had just seen some kids goofing around, I told her that sometimes kids do dumb things like that to surprise an unsuspecting kid. They grab the finger, twist it back and then laugh at their victim's shock and surprise.

I'm sure it happened to me before, once, because once is all it takes before you learn.

"Why do you ask? Did you see someone doing this?

"No. A girl at camp did it to me. . .And, mommy, it really, really hurt." Her voice broke at the second "really".

Last summer.

Last summer, a girl hurt her, and she didn't say anything about it until more than seven months later.


There had been a few other things that came out about camp---a day camp we paid dearly for, that she seemed to love, that came with impeccable recommendations from friends and neighbors. I heard some things after the fact: a couple of girls that weren't nice, who didn't "let" Belly play with them, who thought they were better than everyone else. It seems a little stereotypical, but they were both blond.

What bothers me most is that she didn't tell me, at least not right away. I'm heartened to hear that she did speak up to her counselors when the girls first started to exclude her, but I know that bringing in the "teachers" often just intensifies the "mean girl" treatment.

I had thought that kids had changed from my youth. Anti-bullying campaigns in school. Cartoons and children's stories about being kind to others. Diversity classes.

And, yet, I keep hearing stories about kids deliberately hurting other kids, physically, verbally, mentally, often under the noses of adults.

I don't want to put Belly in a bubble and keep her from being out in the world. Yes, we homeschool, but I want her to know how to handle these situations, to know that there will be people who meet her and love her, who want to be her friend, but there will also be some who don't.

And, I don't blame the camp for this happening. Mean girls are like cockroaches: they don't ever really go away.

But, when it came time to re-enroll in camp, I let her decide. And, she decided she'd like to try something else this summer.

This is probably a good thing, because this mama wants to grab a couple of blond girls by the hair and shake them out of their shoes.


written in response to Mom-101's heartbreaking post about a mean girl who dared to hurt the feelings of one of the cutest little girls I know.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

My (not very) big, fat Greek Wannabees

I used to want to be Italian.

I was so envious of the big family gatherings with its noisy conversations, the joking, the copious amounts of food, the little children running over the old peoples' feet. The dozens of cousins.

On Sunday, my kids wanted to be Greek.

We were at the baptism for the third child of close friends. Walking into the stunning Greek Orthodox church for the ceremony, I was reminded of when their other two children were baptized and of their wedding. We have been part of several of this family's big events, and I recognized quite a few people.

After the traditional and lovely Greek ceremony, we went to a function hall for dinner. It took a little while, but pretty soon, my kids were off and running through the building with the other kids, acting as if they too had dark hair, dark eyes---in other words, acting just like they too were cousins.

On the dance floor, the girls joined the circle to dance to the Greek music.


I later told them that one of the things I love most about this type of gathering is knowing that the same music and dancing, these customs, have been done by people for thousands of years. Being a part of it is like being a part of the link between the past and the future.

The girls really enjoyed the traditional Greek music and tried to figure out the dance steps the grownups were doing. Jilly almost made me spit my drink out when she excitedly said, "MOMMY! We HAVE to get this CD!"


Even D enjoyed the dancing, albeit for different reasons. Seems he already knows how to pick 'em.


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It's either this, or "Goddess"

Hot Damn, I need to rename my parking space: