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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sticks and Stones

This is me at the beginning of my 17th year, the summer before my senior year in high school:


What do you think when you see this photo? "Nice suit!" "Whoa, perm!" "Looks like someone should wear sunscreen!"

Or, do you blurt out what a guy in my high school said when I showed him the snapshots of my friends and I at the beach: "Wow, I never realized your legs were so fat."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he started backpedaling and tried to make it sound like a joke. I smacked him on the arm and tried to laugh it off.

But, I didn't really laugh.

It's 25 years later and the memory of that moment still makes me wince. It makes me feel shame, as if I did something wrong.

One comment planted a seed that grew and grew, helped along by other moments in college, until I did some drastic things in order to achieve some "ideal" look. I'm fortunate that, years later, I no longer battle the demons of extreme weight control, but that doesn't mean I always love what I see. And as the holidays of excess---Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas---approach, I have to remind myself that I am so much more than the size of my thighs or stomach.

With two girls looking at me for guidance, I want for them to know that their mom is ok with her body now. But, for mercy's sake, please don't let it take them as long as it took me to get to this point.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Television? Oh, my kids never watch. . .(cough)

"Mommy, can I play Lego Batman?", my little wii-obsessed five-year-old son asked me sweetly.

I glanced at the clock and relented, "OK, but only for 20 minutes because we have to leave for your sister's dance class."

"How long is that?"

"Um, twenty minutes?? Well, it. . . is. . .um, it's a little while. . ."

"Is it one SpongeBobs or two SpongeBobs?"

Oh. My. Goodness. He is telling time, not by counting minutes, but by measuring them against the length of an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

I can't decide if this is brilliant or pathetic.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Scream: My Version


I'm over at New England Mamas talking about how I willingly allowed myself to be scared silly last weekend. C'mon over and keep me company!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homeschooling family chooses school! News at Eleven.

Today I walked into the lobby, handed over some filled-out papers to the woman at the desk and signed my baby up for school.
Specifically, preschool. Three days a week, 9am to 1pm.

To most people, this is a milestone worthy of much thought, consideration and even a few tears. For me, it was that and more because I also have to grapple with the nagging feeling that I'm somehow failing as a homeschooler by doing this.

D, my five year old, is doing great at home. He's reading, writing, building with blocks, playing with his Playmobil toys. He plays with other kids at swimming, coop, soccer and our weekly get togethers with other families. He goes to speech therapy once a week and his teacher loves to see him for that hour.

But, I've been feeling like he's left out in the mornings when I sit down to do work with his sisters, who are in 1st and 3rd grade. He spends those hours playing mostly on his own, not interested in joining us at the table or for any read-aloud stories. And I feel stretched so thin that I am admittedly glad he plays so well on his own. But, there are signs that maybe he needs a bit more action.

Then comes the subject of friends, something I wrote about, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, when I titled a post "My Son Has No Friends". Our neighborhood has a few boys his age but nailing them down for a playdate is tough.

So, I let the concept of preschool enter my brain, but as many of the preschools in our area are now 5 days a week or afternoons (which conflicts with too many of our activities), I had all but given up. But, then a great preschool five minutes from our home sent an email saying a child was moving and a spot would be opening in their 3-day, 4/5-year-old class.

It was a sign I couldn't ignore. We went to the school to visit and D fit in immediately. I liked the teachers, and the kids seemed well-behaved and interested in their projects. Their days will include free play, story time, outdoor playground time and some skills building. Oh, and lunch.

So, yeah, D's going to preschool. Starting November 2nd. And just when most parents are getting used to the drop off and walking back to their cars with hardly a glance behind, I'll be the one wiping tears from my eyes as I walk back to my car, my two older girls in tow, hoping I'm making the right decision.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

How do I like these apples?

Come see me over at New England Mamas if you want to find out. . .


Friday, October 09, 2009

Sometimes I just don't know what to think. . .

I saw a piece of paper fluttering down our street after the garbage trucks rumbled by the other morning.


Man, I've got some interesting neighbors.


Three strikes and I'm still in

Three years ago on October 9, 2006, I hit publish and started this blog. Thanks to all of you who have come along for the ride!

Here is the post that started it all:

Pleased to meet you. I'm Practical.

Way back in college (we're talking late 80's. . .a l-o-n-g time ago), I was called 'practical'. I must admit, it hurt. I wanted to be known as fun, flirty, whimsical; someone who let things roll off her back. No baggage here! But no. . . .practical. As in, flat dress shoes, one-pot meals, stain-resistant pants and savings plans.

It happened one night at a bar (you'll see that many of my posts will begin like this). I had just finished my third Woo Woo of the night. I was bouncing merrily off the crowd when a guy friend came to me, draped his drunken arm around my shoulders and purred into me ear, "Someday, after I've found the girl I'm going to marry, I'm going to make sure she meets you. You are so practical, you can teach her to be too". (ok, I'm sure the wording was a bit different, but give my tired brain a break; I'm lucky I can remember much from my 20's).

I looked at him with wide, terrified eyes and backed away until I had bumped off enough people to land in my roommate's lap. I then cried, "PRACTICAL?!?!? I'm doomed! I'll never get married! Guys don't want PRACTICAL! They want cute and sexy and fun!" She probably suggested we get another Woo Woo (God Bless You, Sharon).

Of course, deep down, I knew it was true. I always went to the library before hitting the bars. I wrote my research paper notes on index cards so that everything was organized. Our off-campus apartment was spotless. I was dependable; I was a

Shoot forward many years and, yes, I did find a nice, fun, adorable man who thought, "cute, sexy, fun AND practical!" And then we got married and now have three cute, fun and practical kids (no sexy, never sexy). I kind of like 'practical' now. It sounds so safe and comforting. And, while it still reminds me of flat dress shoes, one-pot meals, stain-resistant pants and savings plans, those things now hold a special place in my loud, frazzled, messy life.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Blowing (off) bubbles

All weekend, I heard the same thing from Jilly: "I'm going to drown".

At her swimming class a few days prior, her teacher had pulled me aside and said that she'd like to take the flotation (aka, the bubble) off of Jilly because she was more than ready to let it go.

Actually, she had been more than ready to let it go this summer, and spent most of her pool days swimming without one, jumping into the deep end without any flotation at all.

But, at swim lessons, with all those laps? She wanted that bubble.

So, I endured nights of everything from "please let me wear my bubble", to "fine! I guess I'll just go and drown!" (followed by a little toss of the head). I wasn't completely unsympathetic; I'd point out the number of lifeguards and the lane markers that would be right next to her while she swam. Heck, her teacher told her she could use a noodle to swim with for the first few classes!

But, on Monday, as we walked toward the pool, she wasn't buying any of it. "Goodbye. I'm going to drown now," she said as she stalked away toward her teacher.

Yeah, whatever. She did great. And, she even managed to look both proud and a little sheepish after class.


Jilly, still wearing her bubble, but definitely not looking sheepish in this summertime photo taken by Mr. Q, my brother-in-law

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A very fairy birthday party

(this post originally ran on Fairly Odd Reviews back in March but as I look to phase out that site, I will be pulling some of my favorite posts over to this site; look for more birthday party ideas soon)

My middle daughter has always been a bit of a pixie, with her short blond hair, small stature and tendency to "flit" (aka, never sit still). So, when her sixth birthday came up on the horizon, we decided on a "fairy party", with the emphasis on the fairies that live outside among the flowers and trees, and not those found in skimpy costumes and found in the world of Disney.

I am by no means a trained party planner, but I love to find neat ideas online and to research things to the nth degree. I try not to spend "too much" although my record-keeping is a bit fuzzy. With that in mind, read on to see how I pulled this party together.


I had confirmed the date and time of the party with all of the parents over a month in advance, which made me a bit lazy in getting printed invitations out on time.

After stalling a bit too long, I realized I had about one day to get invitations out before they'd be seriously late. Instead of going too crazy, I just printed this
Fairy Photo Frame on photo paper and then cut out the picture.


I mounted the picture on white greeting card paper. In the center of the image, I wrote in marker, "You Are Invited. . ." Inside, the girls found the following text:

Wear you fairy best, a tutu will do.
Your wings & accessories await you.

The party is March 8th from 2-4,
please say you'll fly by.

The birthday fairy Jilly
Waits for your reply!


Most of the party took place in the dining room, so I concentrated my decorating to that room.

I covered the table in two light green cloth tablecloths from the Christmas Tree Shop. On top, I scattered some pink flowers we had left over from my oldest's luau party (from three years ago!), and threw some fake pink flowers in some vases (I would've preferred fresh, but I had the pink ones left over from one of the crafts).


Two long strands of Christmas lights hung across the windows; I found the lights at a drugstore in January for 75% off. In one corner was the large mylar balloon bundle that my sister sends the kids every year for their birthday. She always tries to tie them into my party plans, so there was plenty of girlie pink.

The food on this table was decidedly sweet: chocolate pretzel "wands", chocolate-covered strawberries and cookies.



When the guests arrived, they were invited to the Family/TV room to choose a head piece. I was originally going to do these as a craft, but decided it was a bit too advanced for a few of the little girls and did them myself over a couple of nights. They were made of some dollar-store head bands, floral picks found in the wedding section of the craft store, green floral tape, some ribbon and a sparkly butterfly clip for each head piece. They were not hard to make, but just took a little time.


I had two boys at the party, and rather than make them wear flowers on their heads, I took some green felt, a stapler and a large feather and made them this elf hat. The ribbons were needed to keep the hat on their heads.


After getting their hats, the kids went into the kitchen to get a fairy tattoo. I had grabbed a couple of sheets that morning at Target for about $2 each. There were some snacks out on this table: fruit skewers, Tings and cheese stars (cut with a small cookie cutter that morning) and crackers (aka, the "healthy table").


Craft Time

Once the guests had arrived, they went into the dining room to make their craft: Fairy Houses. I had fallen in love with this idea after seeing it on the Simple Lovely blog. I cut little holes into Peat Pots for doors, and put out some tiny colored shells, feathers, strips of ribbon and moss (all from craft store), as well as some tiny pinecones and pine needles collected from our yard. Glue was poured into an egg carton that had been separated into individual holders, and they used a popsicle stick to apply. They did their craft on pink paper plates to make it easy to bring home and to also protect the table a bit from over-enthusiastic glue application.


Scavenger Hunt

After the craft, I assembled all the kids into the Living Room to explain the scavenger hunt which is a variation on the idea I saw at Great Fun 4 Kids (see attached Word document at bottom). I took a small gift that I had bought for Jilly and wrapped it about 11 times (enough so each guest could unwrap one layer). At each layer was a new clue that told them where to go to find another gift to take home. Holding their empty favor bags, the kids ran around the house to find the things that would become their favors: little bottles of bubbles, candy, plastic butterflies, gel pens, etc. They also got found their wings and wands (found here) which made them "official fairies".


As a goof, I looked up their "Fairy Names" printed them on stickers and read them outloud at the end of the hunt---the boys received ridiculous "Elf Names". The stickers went onto the favor bags so no one could lose their bag.

Cake Time

My oldest has a milk allergy, so I always make my own cakes and usually rely on cupcakes from my favorite cupcake book ever: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I purchased sugar flowers from Fancy Flours and, instead of Tinkerbell, grabbed one tiny fairy found at Target and stuck her to the top of the Cupcake Tower.


The cupcakes and Dibs ice cream (brilliant discovery because they are SO much easier to serve than scoops of ice cream, and less trash than individually packaged cups) were served in the gorgeous and compostable Earthen Palm Leaf Bowls from Green Planet Parties.

Gift Opening

One thing I try hard to do (not always easy in the flurry of gift opening) is to take a photo of the gift-giver and the birthday child sitting together on the chair. It takes a minute to do, but I usually get a great photo of the two of them together, and I make copies of the picture to include with the thank you card. I've tried group photos, but it's hard to get all the kids to look "good" at the same time, whereas it is easier with just two kids at a time.


This marks the eighteenth party I've now thrown at home for my kids and their friends. Eighteenth, and my oldest is only eight! I'm getting better at reusing what I have on hand versus buying everything from scratch. I try to have a couple of "what if" activities in my back pocket but also try to have time for free play.

And, I'm not sure if I really save any money throwing my own parties, but I know the kids have great memories of their birthday parties and keep asking for them to be at home, so I guess that says something.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Juvenile Myositis Diseases: One Family's Story

"I wish I could take away your pain", I thought tonight as I hugged my little guy after he wacked his head against the door to his bedroom. Whenever the kids are hurt, or sick, or sad, I wish I could take away their pain and make things better.

I can only imagine how it feels to be a parent of a child whose "hurt, sick, or sad" doesn't go away with a few kisses and a little TLC. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to go from doctor to doctor, looking for answers, all while your child is not getting better.

Someone who can imagine this is Kevin, the super-cool blogger at Always Home and Uncool, who asked if I'd help spread the news and raise awareness about a disease that has hit too close to home. His daughter has juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease that she was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago.

The day also happens to be his wife's birthday. Please read his family's story.


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation.

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, please go to Megan, Rhonda and Kevin's Cure JM page or to the Cure JM donation page.