Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brief Hiatus

Just a quick note to say I'm taking a brief hiatus from posting for about a week. We have some friends coming to visit and stay with us for almost a week (same folks we visited a year ago in Virginia, for those of you with long memories...). Not many of my "real life" friends know about my blog, and I sort of want to keep it that way. Thus, I won't be able to spend any time here. I already miss it!

On another note, I've been up to my armpits in school-related stuff this week. I attended my first PSO meeting (parent/student organization - no longer the PTA) and got quite an education about what this group funds for the school, etc. I also attended a meeting for new volunteers and then had my first opportunity to be a parent volunteer in Nicholas's kindergarten classroom this morning. Which, as I sort of suspected/expected, is completely grunt work. Very unglamorous and unsexy. Not that I thought it would be different, but still... we spent some time operating the snazzy, old-school apple peeler/corer/slicer thingamajig and supervising the kids chopping said apple slices into bits, followed by standing over a boiling pot of said apples making applesauce for everyone to eat. At least I got to know another mom a little bit better and like her muchly. She, too, has a younger daughter about Lauren's age and the two girls were able to play together some while we did the volunteer helper thing. Her daughter, too, has speech issues (but much, much worse than Lauren), so it was good to chat with her. We're already planning an after-school playdate very soon. Very cool. I believe that this is how I will get to know more friends in my area: by getting to know the fellow parents in the classroom. I'm down with it. But it was cool spending time in the classroom and seeing all that goes on. Nicholas was awarded the "Behavior Bee" today, which made his day. It's literally a stuffed bee that kids who did well that day get to take home with them for the night. Big stuff for kindergarteners. He's giving Behavior Bee a running commentary:

"Bee, this is the front of our house. This is our garage, where we go into the house. See? These are the stairs I take to go to my room. This is my room. This is my bed, where I sleep. You'll get to sleep here, too."

He's very protective of Behavior Bee and is having to fend off Lauren, who naturally wants a piece of the action. He also requested peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch, since Behavior Bee is a bee and therefore likes honey. Duh. And now they're watching The Incredibles, because Nicholas is certain that Behavior Bee would like to watch his favorite movie with him. I'm loving Behavior Bee - Nicholas is on his best behavior with him around. Do you think I could adopt him? Must speak with his teacher about that....

So I need to go and start cleaning for our guests. In just 6 short months the kids have done a number on the new carpet near the garage (where we do most of our coming and going) and I need to do a steam clean. And make a run to Costco. And do some laundry. And And And - there's always something, right?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Chick Book Club: The Pact

I heart Jodi Picoult. I've said it before, but I love reading her novels. I was despondent for about a week when I thought I had lost my copy of "The Pact", of which I was only about halfway through, but then danced a jig when I found it again, wedged awkwardly between the wall and my night table and the corner of my bed. Damn kids, always moving stuff. Makes me think I should make my bed more often, but I digress...

So "The Pact" - I finished it this weekend and it's still filtering through my brain. Like all Jodi Picoult novels, it sucked me in and then stuck with me, making me think about the scenario presented in the book and how I would handle it if it were happening to me. And again, there is no clear right answer. She sort of leaves you hanging, which normally I don't like (I like things neatly wrapped up, usually) but is also why her stories stay with me.

This one is about teen suicide. And now I'm even more skittish about my kids as adolescents.

In the novel, two families end up living next to each other in suburban utopia (like where I live now) as they are both starting their families. They each have a child within a few months of each other - a boy for one, a girl for the other. The mothers become fast best friends and spend large chunks of time together as the kids grow up. The families are intertwined and the kids are bonded as if they are family. The parents all want/hope that their kids will end up together, because that would be perfect. Right?

Well, as young teens and best friends they do start a romantic relationship. The parents couldn't be more happy about it. Only at some point, it starts to feel strange for the girl, Emily. Like Chris is both her best friend, lover, and brother. She's conflicted. It turns out that as a girl of about 9 or 10 yrs old she was briefly molested by a stranger. A one-time ordeal in a mens restroom (on a dare by Chris) that she told no one about. It had long-reaching effects on her. So when she and Chris became intimate, she struggled.

Then she became pregnant. At 17 yrs old. She, not surprisingly, is shocked and scared and doesn't know what to do. She feels trapped. If she tells Chris then he'll marry her. She loves him, but feels trapped by this scenario because he's sort of her brother. It's too close. She tries to terminate the pregnancy, but flips out and can't go through with it. She can't tell her parents because she fears what they'll think of her, and they'll probably want her to marry Chris, and she simply cannot do that. So where does that leave her?

No one saw it coming. No one suspected anything. She seemed like the same, happy, well-adjusted girl she'd always been. But she was hiding a secret. She told Chris she wanted to kill herself. He blew her off. She told him again. He didn't want to listen. She told him again, and that's when he started paying attention. He can't imagine his life without Emily. He doesn't want her to do it, of course, but they're so bonded, so close, that he feels her dispair even if he doesn't know it's source. He thinks he can get her to change her mind. She convinces him she just wants the pain to stop but she needs his help. They make plans for The Night she wants to do it. He brings the gun and two bullets. They drive to a special place, but she can't do it. She wants him to do it for her. He can't imagine living without Emily.

Emily is dead and Chris is arrested. He says it was a botched double-suicide. He's sent to jail to await his trial. No one knows what happened, not even Chris himself. The parents, the best of friends for 18 years, are struggling. It's impacting the marriages and their friendships. Did the son of one kill the daughter of another? It's unthinkable. But the alternative is that both kids were suicidal and none of the parents saw it coming. Are they to blame for this?

The novel flips from THEN to NOW chapters, bouncing back and forth in time. You go deep into their history growing up - memories, key events, etc. You explore each of the parents and what makes them tick. You get inside the heads of the kids at different times. You feel what they feel. You want to reach out and hug Emily, who hurts so deeply but doesn't show it. You want to hug her parents, who love her more than anything but lost her. It scares me to think that teens can live such a double life that their families know nothing about. You can do all the right things as a parent, but still have no idea of what's really going on with your child. That's what this novel did for me: scare me about the teenaged years to come with my kids.

It is a very gripping story. I couldn't put it down (except for that week or so when I couldn't find the book. Gah!) It ends with Chris's trial. Everything seems to come out at the trial and you finally learn what happened that night. But it still leaves you hanging with questions that will always remain unanswered.

Read this book. Read every Jodi Picoult novel you can. They are so richly written with details that paint a very real picture and provide you with such insight into the characters. I can't wait to sink my teeth into yet another one. I'm never disappointed and I'm sure you won't be, either.

For The Love Of Spiderman

Overheard in our house every 5-10 minutes:

"Mama, I have a Spiderman birthday?"

From Lauren, who is crushing hardcore on Spiderman these days, and apparently needs constant reassurance that she will indeed be having a Spiderman-themed birthday. Which isn't until Nov. 8th. So I can pretty much look forward to saying, in the least-exasperated tone I can muster, "yes, Lauren, you can have a Spiderman birthday" approximately 158,498 more times.

I can hardly wait.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


What a difference a week makes! True to form, Nicholas experienced his "first day of (fill in the blank) freak out" last week at his first soccer game, and then this week was like seeing a different kid. Amazing. Not only was he excited to play, he was asking to be put in the game as often as possible, kept impressive focus while playing, hustled after the ball and engaged, and even SCORED HIS FIRST GOAL EVER! (not that they keep score, but still - it counted as far as we were concerned). It was very thrilling indeed.

And funny. Because to watch that goal happen, it shouldn't have. It was the slowest-motion goal I've ever witnessed. He kicked the ball and it rolled to just in front of the goal line. And then sat there because no one thought, initially, to follow it up and actually kick it in the goal. So the parents are all yelling "kick it in! Kick it IN!", and finally spurred the kids into action and it was Nicholas who followed-up his kick and finished it off, kicking it over the goal line. Whew! He was so proud - the look on his face was priceless.

But not as proud as me. It was so wonderful to see him playing and having fun and showing some gumption, some competitiveness in a game situation that requires a little focus and patience. He's usually the kid that ends up crying and sucking his thumb. But not on Game Day. He was ON, and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Atta Boy, Nicholas. Your first goal EVER. You did it. You made your "plan" ("Mama, I have a plan. I'm not going to cry and I'm not going to quit. I'm going to try, try again.") and stuck to it, and it paid off. Continue to stick to the plan, Buddy, in everything you do and you'll be OK. I promise.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bus Stop Ladies Group

This has been the first full week that Nicholas has ridden the bus to school every morning. The bus stop is at the end of our block on the corner, about 3 houses away. Pretty convenient. Until this morning, it was just me and another mom waiting at the stop with our kids. But today? Today I got a taste of my mornings to come.

The bus stop was chock full of other kids today. These kids are older (4th and 5th graders!) and have been riding their bikes to school in a big gaggle every morning. But today their mothers wanted to have the kids ride the bus and let the bus driver know that it would be a big stop once the weather turns. I think there were about 8 or 9 kids at the stop, plus a few younger sibs hanging out as well.

All these moms have been hanging at the bus stop together for years, it seems. They all know each other, know each other's kids, and seem to know what's happening everywhere in the neighborhood. I'm the new mom on the block. The curiosity. It seems that the majority of these people have been inside my house before (which is a strange sensation so know that they person you're talking to has been inside your home, but not with you.), and one of the moms on the corner was the listing agent when we bought the place. She knows the house almost as well as I do. (I have her to thank for the new carpets that were installed when it went on the market. Otherwise I'd be living with hideous blue carpeting and mis-matched other colors in the bedrooms. So thanks, Joelle!) Most of them tend to take a mug of coffee with them to the bus stop, and they claim to sometimes stand on the corner, mug in hand, while still wearing flannel pajama bottoms. And then they linger, chatting for a few minutes after the kids have gotten on the bus, before heading back to their own houses.

I'll be seeing these moms every morning for the next 9 months. I'm sure I'll become casual friends with most of them. I'm friendly like that. A familiar face each morning at the very least. It's like I'm being initiated into a whole new realm of neighborhood sorority - the Bus Stop Ladies Group. Goodbye, playgroups. Welcome morning bus stop moms group.

Rockstar Supernova

Last night was the finale. The fuck?? I feel so let down and clearly out of touch. I was even considering going to the concert when they rolled through town in February, but now? Nah. Not interested.

I think they blew it with their choice. Have fun fading into obscurity, Supernova, and your first single? Sucks. "Here's your hey hey hey, here's your ho ho ho..." Here's your ass being handed to you.

Low End Of Normal

Today was Lauren's speech evaluation through the county ESD. I was told to expect a 3 hour evaluation because for kids under 3 yrs old they must do a "whole child" assessment. Meaning, they would be looking at her gross motor and fine motor skills, her problem-solving, her hearing, her communication, etc. I had my mom watch Nicholas so he wouldn't be a factor during the evaluation.

We got there and the waiting room was full of enticing toys for the under-3 set. Lauren immediately got to work on a maze cube thingy, chatting me up as she went. Quite a few other kids and their parents filtered in while we waited. When it was time for our appointment 2 lovely older ladies came to get us and introduced themselves to me as the assessors for Lauren. We were shown into a large room with kid-sized tables and shelves of toys, which Lauren beelined for, but this time with a button-lip. The ladies explained everything to me and showed me where Lauren fell on the development scale based on the assessement I filled out and sent back several weeks ago. She's topping the charts development-wise. Far, far, far from even touching the shaded area where one begins to get concerned. So that was good. They told me that based on that alone, she would be disqualified from even getting an evaluation, except they were made aware of my concerns regarding articulation and felt it worthwhile that a trained speech pathologist put an ear on her and evaluate Lauren for that area primarily. Um, ok. Whatever you think.

Except Lauren hardly said a word. The whole time. And isn't that just so typical?? The kid never shuts up at home, but put in a room and told to talk it up, she's dumbstruck.

The nice older lady tried engaging her with toys, and Lauren willingly played, but
kept her trap mostly shut. She gave one word, mumbled answers to stuff. Great. Just great. So then they said that based on their quick observation of her it was clear that my assessment was spot-on: she's chart-topping in all aspects except articulation. So they told me they were going to re-evaluate the evaluation and go in another direction. They let the one lady go since she wasn't needed anymore. The remaining lady, the speech pathologist, said that they weren't going to do the full evaluation on Lauren but that it meant we'd have to likely wait for services. Excuse me? Wait? But we're here NOW. I was told that there are a different set of criteria when a child is under 3 yrs old and by law they would need to do a full assessment of all areas of development if a child is under 3, and clearly that would be a waste of everyone's time. But once a child turns 3, then you can focus on just the area clearly in need of evaluation. In our case, her articulation of speech. So what they wanted to do instead was build up some data on her articulation now and then re-visit it, if necessary, once she turns 3.

Which is just 8 weeks away. 8 lousy weeks.

So they did a quickie evaluation of her ariculation, which consisted of the speech pathologist asking Lauren to repeat about 30 different words and then noting which one's she got correct. Only they weren't even listening for whether she could correctly say each word in it's entirety, just whether she was able to say a certain sound within the word. For example, she was asked to say 'rabbit', and it sounded like 'rabb-eh' when Lauren repeated the word back. She tends to leave off the final sounds of many words. But she passed that word because all they wanted to know is whether she could say the 'r' sound at the beginning of the word or not. She could, so it counted.

Lauren got 11 words counted as correct. The baseline for her age says that the low range for typical kids is 10. She got 11. Borderline acceptable. The good news is she's functioning within the pathetically tolerant range of normal for her age, but the bad news is that she officially doesn't qualify for services. Yet.

You see, if she was just 8 weeks older (8 weeks!) then she'd fall under the bare minimum and definitely qualify for services. The bar goes noticibly up once you turn 3. They expect a 3 year old to be 80% clear/intelligible. I would put Lauren at under 40% clear/intelligible today (of course, I can understand nearly everything she says because I've developed a built-in translator filter and know contextually what she's trying to say. But you? You would have a very hard time understanding her.)

So where does that leave us? The lady told me that they're booking up pretty far out for evaluations and services (I know this - we had to wait nearly 2 months for this wasted evaluation). And, apparently you can't make an appointment until the child is within 45 days of their birthday. We're practically there now, but still, I must wait. I must jump through their endless hoops. The lady was nice, though, and is adding us to her tickler file and says she'll call me at the end of Oct. to check in and see if we're noticing big improvements in Lauren of if we want to re-refer and be looked at with the 3 yr old criterion vs. early-intervention (under 3 yrs). She did tell me that she hears my concerns in Lauren. Sure, Lauren just barely passed the single articulation screen, but again, that's just listening for certain sounds, not entire words. When you just listen to her, you hear how garbled she is. And the speech pathologist acknowledged this. She said she agrees that Lauren is delayed some in speech and will most likely qualify for help in 8 weeks time under different criteria. I'm not sure if this makes me happy or not. Happy that she's within normal range now, but bad enough for help come November. It sort of justifies my concerns, I guess. I'm NOT crazy or over-zealous in my belief that she's behind in speaking clearly. She IS behind. The speech pathologist said so. Just not enough behind to do anything about it today.

And to top the whole experience off, Lauren had a rare accident during the evaluation and peed her pants. Nice! And wouldn't you know it? We just cleaned out the car and I unpacked all the extra supplies I had carried around for months, just in case. She never needed them before so I mistakenly thought I wouldn't need them now (shakes head in disbelief of my own cockiness, tempting fate this way) So she had to ride back to Grandma's in wet pants. In which she then pooped. After making her try to use the bathroom before even getting in the car.

What a day. Low end of normal indeed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Stinky Chick

So I'll risk coming across as absolutely disgusting, but I have a question for every parent with a toddler/preschooler girl in their household: Do girls stink more than boys once they're potty trained? Specifically in the former diaper region? Because mine sure seems to and I'm not sure why.

It's gross! Lauren wants to change underwear several times a day - just for the fun of it - and whenever she drops trou she reeks. Not of poop necessarily (I keep checking thinking that might be the source) but of something more vague. Simple stank. Is it because she has more folds and such to trap odors? Urine? *I* don't reek like this, but I'm probably more into hygiene than she is. She's still learning how to wipe properly and all that, and since she'll use the bathroom all stealth-like, I'm not always aware of her visits to keep up on the hygiene thing. Is every girl this way, or just mine? My stinky, gross, stanky daughter. How lovely.

She already believes - fiercely - that she's a boy so maybe this is her way of proving it? By being stinky? Great - just my luck. Gotta love my tomboy. Even the day after a bath she's odiferous. Little girl underpants don't come with some pleasant, mild scent of mountain rain or spring meadow or something, but maybe they ought to.

My million dollar idea: pre-scented girl underpants guaranteed to keep the stink away. You heard it here first.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cracks In My Armour

This is so weird. I ran an errand this morning to Home Depot (I'm re-wiring a hanging light all by myself!) and I had to do a double-take when I glanced in the backseat and didn't see Nicholas. I'm not used to him being gone in the mornings yet. The usual chatter he provides from the backseat was missing. And I realized I sort of missed it. I missed him. We do some of our best talking in the car.

I've not been very emotional - other than happy - about his starting school this year. I've said before that this is something I've wanted for him. I'm not usually very nostalgic about my kids growing up and don't save every scribble they make for me. That's not my style. I've always enjoyed them getting older and beyond the infant/baby stage. But today? Today I felt twinges of my heartstrings being pulled.

Nicholas rode the bus to school this morning. All by himself. He was so brave and chipper about it. Excited is how I would describe him at the notion of riding the school bus. It's what the Big Kids do, after all. Last week we successfully navigated coming home on the bus (yes, I oversaw him being put on the right bus and drove behind the bus, ensuring his safety from my Volvo not-so-discreetly following close behind the Big Yellow Behemouth) and was there waiting for him at the bus-stop when he came skipping off the bus, all 4 of his fellow Kindergarteners waving at him from the windows. But today was the first day riding the bus to school. And like before, I followed the bus. I'm a geek like that.

You see, coming home on the bus mid-morning is just for kindergarteners (he's home by 11am). There is a very specific protocol of checking the kids off as the get on the bus so the driver and teacher know exactly which kid is on the bus that day. They get dropped off in front of each of their houses. But going to school? That's a crazy, chaotic scene when the busses arrive. I wanted to be sure he'd be ok getting off the bus with all the Big Kids milling around and know where to go without getting lost.

Mission Accomplished.

I parked in a mad flurry after following the bus into the school lot so I could catch him as he got off the bus. I was a minute too late. I saw him happily skipping along towards the front door of the school with 3 of his new buddies with him, cheerful and un-worried as could be. They looked so small in the sea of Big Kids. I told him to pretend that I wasn't there so I could see if he knew where to go and what to do, and I was there "just in case." He did. Plus more.

My son is a Casanova in the making, it seems. He was walking ahead of me towards his classroom with a girl from his bus, Isobel, and he's already told me he thinks she's pretty. Today, he made his move: he asked her if she wanted to hold hands with him. Right in front of me. She did (hussy!) (of course, last week he and his friend Trevor were holding hands on the bus, so he's equal-opportunity that way.) And THAT'S when it hit me: he's not a baby anymore and these school years are going to fly by. He's doing exactly what I wanted him to do: exhibiting independence and showing responsibility. And that makes me glad. It does. But it's also highlighting that he's growing up and won't always need me to drive the car behind the bus to make sure he's ok. My heart lurched in my chest just a little at the realization. And then to notice his absence from the car so keenly just reinforced the feelings of happiness mixed with a dash of bittersweet.

This is definitely a time of transition. For both of us.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Television Learning For Toddlers?

As is my usual routine in the mornings, I was absentmindedly flipping through the newspaper while sipping my coffee the other day when an article caught my attention. No, nothing to do with the war in Iraq (although I should be more current on the happenings there than I am), but an article in the Science section. Not my normal morning fare, certainly. But the headline was not something I could pass up:


As the mother of a 2-yr old, this definitely caught my attention.
The sub-headline was engaging as well:

Research| Videos that offer toddlers a 'social partner' seem to engage them the most.

And when the household fave Blue's Clue's was mentioned in the first paragraph, well, I was hooked. I sat down and read the entire thing. Because I often wonder if perhaps I rely a bit too much on the Boob Tube to maintain some law and order around here. I mean, don't most parents ask themselves if their kids are watching too much tv at some point? I do. I'm sure I'm not alone.

At our house, kid tv time is in the mornings. The kids would wake up and immediately head to the family room and turn on the television. PBS is the only kid-approved channel and they know just how to use the remote to get there. They wake up slowly to Clifford and Dragon Tales. It's usually on for about an hour in the mornings while they eat breakfast and I have my morning cup or two of coffee. Then later in the afternoon, as I'm trying to pull something together for dinner, I let the kids watch Cyberchase and maybe Zoom. These, too, are on PBS (starting at 5pm, usually) and tend to be science-oriented shows. Nicholas loves them, and therefore Lauren, by default, watches them too. Although she's more interested in making mischief of some sort in the room while the tv just happens to be on than actually sitting riveted like her brother. Occasionally on weekends, or in the place of the 5 o'clock shows, I'll put in a video for the kids. Nemo or Bambi or The Incredibles - animated kid stuff. Both kids clamour for videos so we dole them out carefully (sadly - or impressively - Nicholas knows exactly how to switch the television modes and operate the DVD player so he's able to pop in a movie anytime he wants. Regardless of the system. He's helped his friends put in movies at their houses, deftly navigating complicated theater systems with multiple remotes, to teach his young friend just how to do it on their own. He's the Master of all things electronic. I'm just waiting for him to re-program our computer in his spare time. Seriously. So we must be vigilant or he'll end up watching a movie without our knowledge or permission.) So yeah, I'm concerned that I'm letting the kids have too much tv. Especially Nicholas, who will also do anything short of eating broken glass to get some computer time in addition to morning cartoons.

We don't have cable tv, so we don't get the daily dose of Blue's Clue's or Dora or the rest. Those are special, reserved for when we're visiting Grandma with her satellite tv, or renting a video, or on Saturday mornings when we will allow "Nick Jr. on CBS".

This science article says that certain shows, like Blue's Clue's, encourage active engagement with the kids. It claims that academic research has shown that viewers ages 3 - 5 score better on tests of problem solving than those who haven't watched the show. (hooray! TV is GOOD!) But goes on to ask, "what happens when children under 3 watch? Should babies and toddlers be exposed to television at all?" (good question). To answers this, experiments were conducted to try to apply some science to the debate.

Vanderbilt University conducted the experiments, described in the May/June issue of Child Development. They showed that "2-yr olds are more apt to use informaiton relayed by video if the consider the person on the screen to be someone they can talk to. Without that, the children seemed unable to act on what they had seen and heard." The experiment compared two video experiences: one was based on a videotape, similar to Blue's Clue's where the actor onscreen paused to simulate a conversation but actual back-and-forth conversation was not possible. A different group of kids experienced a two-way live webcam situation. The test hinged on a hiding game.

The children who watched the video had more trouble finding the hidden object than those who participated in the webcam version. The video kids found the hidden object 35% of the time as compared to 69% by the face-to-face interaction kids.

So what does this mean? Researchers say that they found evidence that if the kids treated the video as a social partner (aka highly involved and responsive to the video), they will use the information they learned. These are the kids who found the hidden toy, by and large. The researchers pointed specifically to Blue's Clue's and they the show appeared to be "on the right track".

"Developmental psychologists point to a phenomenon called the "video deficit". It says that toddlers who have no trouble understanding a task demonstrated in real life often stumble when the same task is shown onscreen. They need repeated viewings to figure it out. Child-development experts say the deficit confirms the age-old wisdom that real-life interactions are best for babies. Parents can be assured that their presence trumps the tube."

So what? Are my kids watching too much tv or not? Well, perhaps it's not so clear and a lot depends on what they're watching. If they're watching stuff like Blue's Clue's and most things Nick Jr., then perhaps it's not as bad as I feared. Those shows aren't putting my kids' brain waves into a flatline and are instead engaging and even instructive. The antithesis of the Idiot Box. But on the other hand, non-engaging shows, like a movie for example, may not be the best choice for children. At least on a frequent basis.

And so I read this article with relief. And guilt. I think I DO allow my kids to watch probably more tv than is truly good for them. I'm a tv junkie and enjoy too many shows for my own good, so it follows that my kids probably do, too. I don't let them watch tv during the day and don't have it on to my shows either. But I'm sure I need to be even more vigilant about dialing back the amount of time they do spend in front of the tube. However, I'm feeling like that's changing already with Nicholas going to kindergarten this year. We no longer have time for cartoons in the morning, so that hour or so is eliminated right off the bat. And, his fave show Cyberchase seems to have changed it's time slot and is no longer viewable in our area at 5pm. So that seems to be out of the equation, too. In essence, my kids won't really be watching much, if any, television during the week. Perhaps a video here and there in the afternoon if we've visited the library, but by and large the television won't be part of our days anymore. That HAS to be good.

So now I'm curious - how much television do you allow your kids to watch? How much is appropriate and how much is too much? Do you feel, as this study indicates, that the type of show they watch counterbalances any negative effects of watching tv? Were your kids Baby Einstein kids? And if anyone can offer their take on computer games as well I'd love to hear your views. Nicholas seems addicted to it. He LOVES to play games (age appropriate, of course). He goes on, and, and recently discovered the Lego site. Bionicles have been introduced to him by an older kid, so that's a big draw for him now. He has a full list of sites we've checked out and approved on his Favorites list. If allowed (which he isn't) he'd sit and play on the computer, bouncing from site to site and game to game, for HOURS. All day, probably, although I've never tried it. It's my leverage with him. Misbehaving? Take computer time away. Works every time, like magic. When he's on the computer I hear him up here laughing and grunting and reading and listening to music and having a grand time. It's anything but passive, like television. But I worry that it's too much stimulation (high speed connection) and struggle with trying to find the "sweet spot" where that's concerned. So thoughts on the computer as well as television would be appreciated.

I'm sure these are subjects that all parents of young children wrestle with. This article sort of confirmed what I had been thinking all along. What do you think?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tastes Great, Less Filling

I must taste good, because Lauren keeps licking me. Yes, licking. She'll come up to me randomly and lick my arm, or my cheek, or some other bit of skin. She doesn't do this with anyone else - just me. Why me?? Do I have some peculiar taste that is unique and not shared by other members of the family? Is this her way of telling me she wants a popsicle (since she can't clearly say popsicle...) I can't figure it out. But I already have a dog to lick me, I don't need my kid doing it, too.


The Start Of Great Things

Like most other "mommybloggers" out there with school-age kids, this entry is about Nicholas's First Day Of School. Can I get a "hell ya"?! I LOVE that he's in school and have been waiting, oh, about 6 months for this, if not longer (like, since birth?). Couldn't get here fast enough - for many reasons.

Yesterday afternoon was our "trial run". It was the Kindergarten Open House, and we'd been slotted to be there from 1:30 - 2pm. As we all know by now, Nicholas gets very excited about stuff, but then crumbles under the pressure on the first day (think: soccer practice, day camp, swimming lessons, etc.). And as expected, he freaked out on the way to the school yesterday.

It was a lovely, hot-ish day and we decided to walk to school. Shortly after we left the house he started getting twitchy, asking random questions to which I didn't know the specific answers and said we'd figure it out together once we got to the school. Apparently, that was the worst possible thing I could have said, because it set him off on a big crying, fit-having jag. Lovely. I just love when that happens. But, I'm proud to say I kept my cool and just reminded myself that it's better he get this out of his system today instead of tomorrow, the actual First Day. He eventually pulled himself together just as we got to the school (and just as we introduced ourselves to the nice crossing guard ladies). We toured his classroom, met his teacher, figured out where the boys bathroom was, and he painted a picture. Very successful and confidence-building.

I was dismayed to learn that there are 27 kids in his class. 27! Wow - that's a lotta kids. And the teacher won't get an aide if there are fewer than 28 kids. So it's just petite, young Ms. Crabtree managing 27 kindergarteners and hoping for lots and lots of parents to volunteer. The 2nd all-day kinder class isn't full and they're doing a full-court press to try to get a few of the morning kinders to switch over. But what they want in "tuition" (for public school) equates to nearly what I'd pay for private school, so no thanks. It would be a different story if I was working, but I'm not, so we'll pass. (this morning I overheard someone talking and they said that our class is now down to 25 and 2 students got siphoned off to the full-day class. Sweet! The fewer the kids the better.)

I had to make a few changes to his transportation plan while I was at the school yesterday. I seems I misunderstood the form I filled out indicating he did not need transportation. I thought this was referring to some special transportation, not the regular school bus. Silly me. I've never done this before as a parent. So we corrected that so he can ride the bus to and from school. I think that's the part he's most excited about. The bus is supposed to pick him up at 7:55 am, but this morning, because the bus didn't know about us, the bus drove right past us and didn't stop even though we were at the designated bus stop. Nicholas was upset by this, but rallied. I drove him to school and held his hand as we walked into the building and all the way to classroom 11.

He did GREAT! What a trooper. He got all his anxiety out yesterday and was ready to go today. He went to bed early without complaint last night, got up on time and was actually eager to get dressed. He figured out last night what he would want for breakfast this morning, so that was hassle-free. He gathered his stuff up, was chipper, and the new morning routine went very smoothly. He never even noticed that cartoons weren't on. I LIKE this new routine! Mr. Chick had bought him a new Oregon sweatshirt for his first day, and he gave it to him at breakfast. Nicholas wore this to school today, all smiles. He has a great daddy.

He hung up his backpack like he was supposed to, and signed in himself. He found his cubby, pointed out a few things to me, and posed patiently while I geeked out and took a bunch of pictures of him (once they're developed I'm sure I'll post them but we had to go "old school" with the pictures and use our 35mm camera since we STILL don't have a working digital). I reluctantly left the classroom and chatted with a few parents in the hallway, not sure what I was waiting for but feeling the need to wait anyway. After about 10 minutes it was clear things were going well and I wasn't needed at the school. And I was ok with this. I didn't shed a tear or feel emotional. Mostly I felt proud of him - very proud - and happy. I LOVED school and looked forward to going back each fall. I want this very much for him. He's going to do so well that I'm excited to watch this unfold.

I have to go back to pick him up in just under an hour. The time goes so fast when you're only in school 2 hrs and 20 minutes per day. We're hoping to figure out a way for him to ride the bus home with me following behind in the car, but that might not work out. Regardless, after school I'm taking the kids out for a special treat to celebrate Nicholas' First Day of School - EVER. And I'm letting him pick what he have for dinner, too. (I'm guessing we'll be feasting on spaghetti tonight).

I can't wait to hear all about his Big Day. My first born is a school kid now - hooray!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Supernova In Review

Without question, my summer guilty pleasure has been watching Rockstar Supernova each week. For some reason, I'm loving this show. Didn't watch the INXS version last year, but this one? This one has me hooked. Mr. Chick knows that I'm not to be disturbed on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when it's on. It's what I look forward to, television wise, and I'm cranky if I miss a single second of it.

We're down to the Final 5. Things are heating up. This week each rocker had to perform 2 songs: a cover and an original. Oooh, an original! Time to see what kind of music each rocker is really about.

First up, Dilana. She's been taking heat for a few weeks now, following her disasterous turn on "media day" and talking smack about the other rockers. Since then, there hasn't been a lotta love for Dilana. On the show last night she yet again commented about "the situation" (let it DIE already!), and the webisode revealed some confusion coming from her during the song writing clinic. One the one hand she's quipping about how her lyrics are sort of a big "F*ck You" to the internet and people judging her/everyone, yet on the other hand she's saying how much she needs her fans. So which is it? The finger or a hug? Can't really have it both ways, Dilana. The cracks in her armour are showing. She's clearly not accustomed to not being in the top spot. And she's injured. Ok, I understand and it sucks. But the hopping around on stage with her gimpy foot dragging behind her? Made me cringe. You didn't need to do that, Dilana. In fact, you shouldn't have. Made things even MORE uncomfortable where you are concerned. And admitting (throwing a small fit?) about not knowing the cover song you're singing? COME ON! Then you should have fought harder to get a song you DO know. Again, the cracks in her armour are showing, and it's not a pretty sight. Dilana might very well be going home tonight. In the bottom 3 for sure.

Storm. I'm holding onto favor for Storm because she's from my hometown, Portland. Storm has seemed unusually weak in recent weeks, but she came alive last night. I'm still not sure what bothers me, exactly, about the way she moves on stage, but I liked her performances overall. I really liked her original song - cool stuff. Something along the lines of "what the what is ladylike if the lady likes to do what the what" Or something. Definitely original, and following right after Dilana just made Storm seem even stronger. I doubt she's going home tonight. Her cover was "City Suffragette", I think. I must confess to not recognizing the song. But Dave Navarro played guitar on this one and it was cool. He seemed to be flirting with her at one point, and kissed her (she towers over him), which sort of creeped me out, frankly. But she held her own with him on stage. Well done. The thing with Storm, however, is she seems to be trying almost too hard. She never sits down, seems to move her body in a way that screams for notice, and the cameramen keep glimpsing at her. She's a tad over-the-top and if she could just tone it down a smidge we'd be in a much better place.

Magni. I like Magni's look the best overall. He's got the best look to fit in with Supernova. But his performances last night seemed sort of dull. They didn't move me. His veins in his head/temple continue to pop out (cuz he's screaming? trying too hard to sing?), and that makes him look bad-ass in a way. But I'm not sure if he'll survive to be the top dog of the competition.

Lukas. Why are you still here? Lukas still seems to be too punk rock and not enough hard rock for Supernova. Freaky. He moves like he's drunk on stage, staggering around. And it was weird to listen to his original song after he announced that it was about or for his mother and the hard life she/they've had. Uncomfortable. The Supernova guys seem to like Lukas, for some reason, and dug seeing his "emotional" side. But his cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer"? all stripped down? I was shaking my head. Bizarre and not good. Not fun. Not rockin'. Different, yes, but that's about all I can say about it. For me, Lukas and Dilana are the bottom 2.

Toby. You are the eye-candy of the men the way Storm is the eye-candy of the women. The guys like you, the women love you. I, too, think you're cute. But you sort of seem to be a one-trick pony. After the good reception you received for running all over the theater and touching everyone, that's what you do all the time now. Could you just stay on center stage for once? But your voice sounds good and I'm not bored during your performances. Your original was really catchy in a pop-perfect kind of way, so you have that going for you. You are not going home tonight and I think Supernova has a crush on you. Did Tommy pinch your ass? Because it looked like he pinched your ass to me. Eww! Clearly it surprised you as well. I thought you and Storm were the strongest tonight. Well done.

I'm looking forward to the elimination show tonight. Must get the kids in bed early so I can watch uninterrupted. Is anyone else watching this??

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Respect The Power

As a (former) marketing exec., one who worked with direct marketing (both snail-mail and email), lead generation, branding and to some effect, advertising, I find this whole recent debacle with Starbucks and their coupon offer to be very uncool. I'm sure many of you have seen or heard about this as it's had far-reaching effects.

Starbucks created a coupon for a free Iced Grande beverage (cool, right?!) if you redeemed the coupon at your local Starbucks between noon and 9pm. At least, tha
t's what the coupon sent to ME said. A friend had e-mailed it to me a couple of days ago. Sweet deal! Who wouldn't want a free Iced Coffee, and a Grande one to boot?? I sent it one to some friends and suggested that those of us who lived near one another plan to get together and redeem this bad boy together and enjoy a coffee date. Plans were made.

And then the Bad News followed, as it inevitably does.

It seems that Starbucks only intended this coupon to be used in the Atlanta area and was a special promotion for friends and family. Or something. But the coupon got sent to people far beyond their intended market(s) and were being redeemed all across the country. Oops. You see, nowhere on the coupon does a specific limitation appear. There is some mice type about it being good only at participating locations, but doesn't say which ones. Like only in the Atlanta area, for example, and only for certain people. So these lucrative coupons were showing up all over the place and Starbucks was initially honoring them. But THEN they changed their minds and issued this statement on their website:

An email offering a free Starbucks iced coffee was distributed to a limited group of Starbucks partners (employees) in the Southeast United States on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 with instructions to forward to their group of friends and family. Unfortunately, it has been redistributed beyond the original intent and modified beyond Starbucks control. Effective immediately, this offer will no longer be valid at any Starbucks locations.

We apologize for any confusion and inconvenience as a result of this offer.

Contact Information:

Starbucks Customer Relations (800) 23-LATTE

It even made my local paper:

And that is total bullshit right there. They f*cked up with the coupon and now won't honor it. They made the mistake of not being specific enough, and of not respecting the power of the internet, and now they're caught with their pants down. Most companies would cream their pants to have such a successful viral internet campaign. Too bad, Starbucks. Some employee in your marketing department dropped the ball, clearly, but this coupon is something you should make good on. Fire the employee, but don't piss off the public. Because now? Now you come across as greedy. What will happen is now people will try to redeem the coupon, be denied, and leave without anything. When if you had just honored the coupon they would have likely ALSO purchased something to go with it. I know I was planning on meeting my friends and getting the free drink, but I also would have been buying a kiddie drink for my kids and likely a muffin or something else to snack on. And the mark-up alone on those items would have more than covered your cost for my free drink. But now? Now I'm annoyed and will NOT being going to Starbucks and will instead plan my outing to a different coffee shop with my friends. A coffee shop who keep it's promises, even if they are unintended.

Yes, the employee in charge of creating this promotion did a bad job. They completely botched it. While I've not personally messed up a project like this, this is EXACTLY the type of project I've been responsible for in my working past and know there are a million and one details that must be addressed before sending something like this out. When you flirt with the internet offers, you must assume they will be sent to places you never even considered. You must consult your legal team BEFORE such an action is taken. You must assume that someone, somewhere you never thought would be included, will be, and will make things complicated. It's your JOB to think 3 steps ahead and plan for such contingencies. But it still had your name on it, Starbucks, and you should honor it just the same. Yes, it sucks for you. But not "doing the right thing" will hurt you more in the long run than just giving the world a free cup of coffee. The goodwill you could have created in now completely in the crapper. While I'm confident this has been a nightmare for you, you should have stepped up and turned lemons into lemonade. You're thinking too short-term, Starbucks. If you're goal is to generate more business in the smaller markets with such an offer, think of the business you could have generated everywhere else, too, with this coupon. I don't waste money on lattes very often. Too expensive and too many calories. Can't afford either. But with a coupon such as this, I would have come to your store. I would have made a special trip, and I would have spent money. Money I don't normally spend. You would have seen a profit from me that day, Starbucks, and now you won't. Was it really worth it to rescind your offer?? Really? Because I don't think it was. Even though there are whackjob out there who would do everything they could to take advantage of such an offer, the vast majority of people would have just used it once for a single cup of free coffee. I think turning these people away put a small black mark on your name instead of making you look like a cool hero.

Bad choice. Bad business.

Shame on you, Starbucks.

Making An Entrance, Hollywood-Style

Our long weekend was fab, thanks for asking. Other than Mr. Chick walking around gingerly-like with gauze shoved around his man-parts for protection and him getting all freaked out by the unsightly bruising that followed The Procedure, and me getting the date/day mixed up for the wedding we attended (seriously, aren't most weddings on SATURDAYS, not Sundays? They are, aren't they? Most churches don't have weddings on Sundays, do they? Well, apparently this one did because the wedding was on Sunday but I could have sworn it was on Saturday, which is what we planned for. Oops. Only made one crazy-sounding remark to a relative of the bride who had no idea I was this nuts before I clued in and figured out the wedding was the next day. My bad.), which meant we had to spend an extra day at the lake house as a result, and do about 3-4 loads of laundry to make up for only packing for ONE night, not two, which is more laundry than I usually do at home for chrissakes. So other than all of THAT, we had a nice time.

The weekend started off with a pre-wedding bbq at the la
ke next to my parents lake. How convenient! It was lovely, but dry. And not in a weather-sense, but in a no-alcohol sense. Bummer. Mr. Chick didn't so much care, however, because he was on Vicodan, so life was pleasantly numb for him. Lucky bastard. The next day was spent just hanging around the lake, doing nothing in particular. Then we gussied up and left the kids with my parents and went to the wedding. Fun times. We got to see some friends from law school we hadn't seen since graduation, so that was nice.

Labor Day, yesterday, was the day of some friends annual bbq. We've not been able to attend very many (like, just one) because we lived in another town for nearly 4 of the 5 years they've been hosting, but this year we could come. And we made QUITE the entrance, I must say. You see, on Friday my father-in-law came to vis
it. And he usually brings treats for the kids. This time, he brought a treat for Mr. Chick (and by extension, me). Since Mr. Chick is an only-child there is no one else for his dad to spoil and give stuff to. Other than our kids now, of course. So when FIL decided that he had too many cars (yes, apparently one can HAVE too many cars, which floors me) he gave one to Mr. Chick. Just gave it to him, just like that. It's a cute 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible, dark blue with tan interior. The only "string attached" is that Mr. Chick can't turn around and use it as a trade-in on another car. If it turns out that he wants to get another car he's supposed to give this car back to fil because fil likes this car but just doesn't need it now/anymore. BUT, if we're still driving it after 4 years, THEN it's ours to use as a trade-in if we want. Ok, I can live with that deal. Because the car Mr. Chick used to drive? SUCKED! It was way, way, WAY past it's expiration date. To quote Mr. Chick, "the Saab's last leg fell off a few weeks ago." It was a 1990 Saab 9000 Turbo that he'd been driving for 10 years. It had over 200k miles and just about every system was in failure. No airbags (faulty sensor), no suspension, no turbo (0 to 50 in 35 minutes - yeah!), no a/c, ripped leather seats, etc. It was in bad shape. And Mr. Chick's commute to work is 30-45 minutes each way, so he was hating it. But we're opposed to having a car payment and had been keeping the Saab barely functioning through law school and beyond until we could afford to buy something else. The day after he got the Sebring from his dad we took the Saab to our mechanic and just signed the title over to him. He kept that damn car running far longer than anyone else would, and never charged us for his time. He earned the right to that car and to sell it for scrap or just part it out. So the Saab is GONE (yay!) and we welcome the perky Sebring to our driveway.

Which brings me, at last, to my hollywood entrance. We decided to take the family to the Labor Day bbq in the convertible. We loaded the kids in their carseats in the back and headed out. I dressed the part, complete with a scarf over my head to protect my 'do, and sunglasses to shade my eyes. VERY old Hollywood, from the neck up, that is. Even Lauren got in on the act. We looked at her as we hit the freeway and realized that she was having to hang her head very low to avoid her hair whipping her in the face. Oops. I wasn't having that trouble, not with my scarf action and all, but forgot that Lauren might need some hair-help in the convertible. So we improvised and found a little hand towel that Mr. Chick had used to shine up the dashboard (he detailed the entire car, sore nuts be damned) and put that over her head and told her to hold tight to the corners under her chin. Which she did (I was very impressed). So we roll up to the bbq, honking the horn and waving at our friends, who I don't think recognized any of us. New car, me with a scarf and shades on and Lauren with a towel over her head. QUITE the entrance. It was fun. I took a girlfriend out for a spin in the neighborhood (she'd never been in a convertible, if you can believe it) and enjoyed myself immensely.

I mean, if you can't make a grand entrance, stay home!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


The deed is done. Mr. Chick had his wings clipped yesterday. He took one for the team. Because our team? Is as big as we want it to be. 2 kids are enough for us. A family of 4 fits us just right.

So Mr. Chick went under the proverbial knife (don't worry, in vasectomies today there is no scalpel, only a single tiny puncture, and no stitches) and got sterilized. He walked around yesterday on vicodan with his unit packed in gauze. He's a little tender today, but nothing traumatic. Nothing like birth. Nothing a little Band-Aid can't fix.

I mean, how bad can it be when the doctor TELLS you the remedy is to have as many orgasms as you can in the coming weeks/months??

regardless of how easy it's seemed to be so far, I don't think he'll be shaking his moneymaker on the dance floor tonight at the wedding we're going to. That might be pushing it too far too soon. Which is fine by me - I'm going to be wearing my tall strappy heels and can't really pull off much dancing in them anyway beyond the White Girl shuffle, so we're a perfect fit: him with the swollen package and me in killer, useless shoes. Oh what a pair.

I love him for it.

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