Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ta Na . . .

I'm back . . . almost. I still have several dissertation and graduation deadlines in my future, but I met the most important one last week. As always seems to be the case with me, the exhilaration of finishing does not quite match the anxiety of preparing. I tend to focus on the next task instead of feeling relieved about the most recently completed one. Still, I am proud and pleased and looking forward to really having something to celebrate soon!

In the meantime, I thought I would share a few funny things my Bub is doing and saying.*

"That for me?" "You buy that for me?" "You make that for me?" -- Whether it is a box of kleenex, a new bottle of ketchup, a tube of Desitin, or a pan of brownies, the Bub seems endlessly delighted with the prospect that these items came into our home just for him.

"After nap, Barney coming over to play." "Pick up Caillou at Burger Ting [sic]." -- The Bub has imaginary friends now, many inspired by television characters. Considering my own past with Dandy and Shusha, I am thrilled by this development and play along as best I can.

"I want dog mine own." -- Bub told me this after he got to pet the dog of one of his classmates. I never in my whole life thought I would be a dog owner. I just didn't. But, my Bub loves dogs. Over the weekend, we visited Navy Pier and happened upon a pet-adoption event. Bub chose the ugliest, scrawniest, most pathetic looking dog in the place (seriously, the dog weighed like seven pounds and had huge clumps of lusterless gray hair missing) and gave him lots of love and attention. Though we are not ready to welcome a dog (and, I'll be honest, especially not the dog from the adoption fair) into our home, what with all the other poop we have to clean up, I now know it will happen one day. Bub's 7th Birthday, his Daddy hopes. I'll keep you posted.

"Peeze" and "Tank you." -- He's been saying these things for a while now, but they never fail to warm my heart.

"I made a lot of poop. I need a lot a lot of lemonems. Daddy lemonems." Though my attitude about the whole thing has relaxed significantly since it became apparent that he does not need to be totally potty-trained for his pre-preschool program, the Bub has caught steam lately. Just this evening, he pooped on the potty right before his bath. Loyal NTB readers know what a big deal it is for me to be able to discuss poop and bathtime together in a positive fashion. I purchased some M & M Premiums as a little birthday treat for the hubby (33 last Monday), and the Bub seems especially motivated by them as potty prizes (I haven't sampled them myself because they are mint, and I don't enjoy mint-flavored stuff -- these M & M's are beautiful though, little works of art and I'm not kidding).

"Ta na . . . " -- Said often with a huge smiles in situations where one might normally say "Ta da."

"I love my treasure chest." -- Bub found the "treasure chest" in the basement yesterday. I was mighty skeptical when my husband carried it upstairs for him, but after establishing a "treasure stays on the table"-rule, it has been great. He happily stacked, organized, and knocked over his "treasures" for a good part of today. The fact that the chest can be slammed shut and that it comes with a key for locking and unlocking (or pretending to do so) is an added bonus.

Here is the "treasure chest" . . .

Ta na!!!

Even as I write this, I regret the million cute things he has said and done over the past few months, NTB, that I have been too busy to record for posterity. Stay tuned.

What's the cutest/funniest thing a toddler in your life has said recently? Please share in a comment.

*A post devoted to my Little Bit is coming soon. I want there to be photos with it, and I am behind on my uploading. Let me just say that he is so happy and sweet that I almost forget that I still wake to feed him at least twice a night!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RSVP: Enya or Salt N' Pepa? Classic Dilemma.

I am thrilled to present another fabulous guest post, courtesy of my dear friend Actchy. Back in 1994, a young woman from Jersey headed to the Midwest for college and ended up living down the hall from me. My friends and I (sophomores) and hers (freshmen) hit it off and have been "letting the dawgs out" ever since. Actchy and I have shared many laughs in many locations--from our dorm's study lounge (a funnier place than you'd think) to the arcade at the Santa Monica Pier where we showed the assembled crowd what was what on the Dance, Dance Revolution Machine. She authors her own blog, where you can read an account of a dentist visit that will have you crying with laughter or a story of singing that will make you smile and fill you with joy. Actchy is a writer, a foodie, an environmentalist, a musical theater geek, and an awesome friend. Enjoy her post . . .

I am expecting a baby. This baby, gender unknown, is due to arrive on Christmas Day. As I don’t have any other children, I’m not entirely sure what to expect in the delivery room. I’m not exactly scared, per se, but I have been thinking of ways to approach labor, of coping mechanisms, if you will.

You might suggest that the best way to cope would be to plan on a nice healthy dose of pain medication. You might be right. But I’m up in the air as to whether to have an epidural, or whether to go it alone. I’ve heard good and bad sides of both approaches. My sister, who is so woozy with respect to all things medical that she won’t let her husband watch “E.R.”, despised the after-effects of the epidural she had with her first child. She went natural for her second two. Other friends, including, I believe, NTB’s own MEP, found the epidural to be the best comfort-providing invention since they came up with the brassiere.

So I figure that I’ll play “wait and see.” Which probably means that I will, in fact, have an epidural.*

Irrespective of this, one thing I have decided will be helpful during labor is an Ipod stocked with appropriate childbirth music.

Now, as I have mentioned once or twice over at Beyond Pickles I don’t have particularly terrific taste in music However, I freaking love music. I will listen to and allow my mood to be shaped by just about anything: from classical music to classical rock, I’m all over the map. You can ask my husband. He is eternally bemoaning how annoying it is that we share an Itunes library:

“Seriously? You downloaded the live version of Sonny and Cher singing ‘I got you, Babe’… purposely?”

For the most part, I try to limit my listening to Barbara Streisand’s “The Broadway Album” to times when my husband is not at home. It’s only fair. Especially since there are some artists we like equally (read: Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Coldplay.) However, if there is one time when I get carte blanche to listen to whatever the hell I deem appropriate, it’s while I’m in labor.


Of course right.

And that’s where I’d like to appeal to the general readership of Not To Brag… Did you listen to music while you or your partner was in labor? What did you find helpful? Even if you have never given birth, are there certain songs you find inspirational? Ones that egg you on for another mile when you go running?

I really would love to know.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for, so really, all suggestions are welcome. I know that in college, when a roommate would leave for an exam, we’d often play “The River” by Garth Brooks.** Inspirational, yes. But to me, this seems a little too slow for purposes of childbirth.

Who knows? My sister ended up listening to Enya, and that’s nothing if not slow. Actually, for the record, she continually asked her husband to turn the volume up on the Enya, for she “couldn’t hear it.” My poor brother-in-law, who is actually legitimately hard of hearing, ended up with ringing in his ears for two days, and had to apologize to the entire floor for the super-loud New Age dance party going down in Room 213. (Again, no pain meds…methinks the contractions took over her senses.)

When I jog on the treadmill, something I haven’t done for, oh, half a year now, I must admit that I am inspired by “Gonna Fly Now,” i.e., Rocky’s theme. (What do you want from me; I grew up just outside Philly.) However, I think if that were playing while I was in the throws of a contraction, it might be a little too…appropriate. Especially during the parts when there are actual words to the song: “Trying hard now…it’s so hard now…” I do sort of want to avoid the maudlin, if at all possible.

I’ve also always loved “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” by Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics. It’s very powerful, and this sort of up-with-women message seems appropriate for the task at hand. Kind of Red Tent-ish, even. However, I don’t necessarily want my husband to feel…unnecessary. Or excluded. I mean, clearly I didn’t get myself into this condition by myself.

At this point, the only songs I know for sure I’m going to include on the playlist are the Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. Both are just so thrilling, but seem to allow me to concentrate when I’m listening to them.

Right. So, I won’t go through every song on earth; you catch my drift.

I hope you will help.

And really: no suggestions for “Push It.” We are above that kind of pun, no?

*Indeed, when I awoke in the middle of the night last week by a vicious charley horse, my first thought was, “Well, clearly I can’t handle natural child birth, for this leg cramp is about my threshold for pain tolerance.” Um, okay. Actually my first thought was, “WHAT THE @#*% IS WRONG WITH MY CALF? Followed by the aforementioned.

**Yes, I like country music. I can’t help it. I have to admit, when I arrived at my undergraduate university, fresh from New Jersey, I was astounded to find out that there were people my age who actually listened to country music. Back home, the country station was all the way the hell down at the far end of the dial at 92.5, clearly reserved for Pineys But in South Bend, there were, like, multiple country radio stations – and I went to parties where everybody sang along to country songs. Anyway, by the time I graduated, I was a fan. What can you do?

Thanks, Actchy! You never have to apologize for listening to country music at NTB! So, how about it, readers? Any suggestions for Actchy and her husband as they prepare to enter the delivery room and the world of parenthood?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

RSVP: Nonsense? That's Nonsense!

As the dissertation deadline draws closer, I am honored that so many NTB readers have answered my call for guest posters. Today's author even wrote his own introduction: "Well, MEP, I bet you didn’t expect this! This is DRPHIL38 who used to be the original DRPHIL but was preempted by a certain TV personality who now has a copyright on this name and therefore prohibits me from using it. For NTB readers, I am MEP’s father-in-law and proud of it. (NTB) Why wouldn’t I be, since she has produced the two most perfect grandsons I could ever want. (NTB) Here are a few ramblings that you might want to consider, forget, or just plain ignore." I am thrilled that DRPHIL38 was willing to post and want to add that that other Dr. Phil has nothing on him. DRPHIL38 is an excellent crossword puzzler, fisherman (won a fishing tournament this past weekend and $68 too, NTB), Mr. Fix It (who willingly takes on projects for me that his son either lacks time for or interest in), and father/father-in-law/grandpa. NTB. He titled this post "Here is some nonsense," but I disagreed! See above.

An amazing invention was the thermos bottle. Consider the fact that you put in something hot and it comes out hot; you put in something cold and it comes out cold. The question is: How does it know?

Is 12:00 at night really the beginning of the day or is it the end of the day. Since each hour has 60 minutes and each minute has 60 seconds it would seem that 11:59 still leaves a minute to go and that minute ends with 12:00 being the end of the day. Now if that is true, when does the next day begin? Since each minute requires 60 seconds, if we start after 12:00 the first minute will be short by a nano second at least. Can it be possible that the beginning and the end are the same?

Math can be confusing and not always tell the truth. Consider this: Three men checked into a hotel and the room was $30. So each one paid $10 and went to the room. After they had left the clerk discovered he had put them in the $25 room. So, he called the bellhop and gave him five one dollar bills and told him to go give it back to the men and to divide it evenly among them. The bellhop tried but could not make 5 divide by 3 and come out even, so to make it easy, he put two dollars in his pocket and gave each man back a dollar. Now here is the confusing part of this story. The room cost each man $9 and 3 times $9 is $27; the bellhop has $2 in his pocket. $27 plus $2 = $29. Where is the missing $1?

Directions, North, South, East and West: It is pretty easy to determine where North and South begin. At the North Pole and South Pole, right? In fact at the true North Pole and South Pole there is only one direction. At the North Pole it is South, and at the South Pole it is North. Think about it, since the earth is round it has to be that way, doesn’t it? So where do East and West begin? If I stand and look North, east is always on my right; West on my left. This is true if I am in China or in Europe. I really don’t know where East or West begins. I bet it’s like the beginning or ending of the day discussed above, elusive.

Well, MEP, if you publish this it may seriously damage your readership, so I leave it up to you.


I'm confident that DRPHIL38 has not seriously damaged my readership and thankful for his post! Currently, my brain is a bit too worn out to offer any answers to his elusive questions. Plus, math has lied to me quite a bit over the years. If you have any answers or insights, leave them in a comment. Or, share your own brainteaser!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life with a craft machine or two

LAP is back. I apologize for not picking up more of Dr. MEP’s slack as she forges ahead with the last few revisions on her dissertation. I haven’t been inspired to write about anything in particular, but, as MEP reminded me in the guest post invitation, these topics don’t have to be mind blowing. On that note, let me share with you how I spent my afternoon…(this was actually my Tuesday afternoon, just waiting my turn in the guest post lineup)

We returned from preschool and our morning errands (read: meeting my mom and grandmother for lunch then hanging out at my grandma’s nursing home) around 2pm. It was a no nap kind of day around here so I knew I had a full afternoon with both of my girls. As expected, Fancy (age 4) requested that we fill this time with crafts. She stripped to all but her underwear. It had been picture day at school so I requested that she change into play clothes before painting, but she couldn’t be bothered with replacement attire when I had already agreed to a craft session. Swiper (age 2 ½) was on board for some crafting too. She’s not the self-proclaimed “craft machine” that her older sister is, but she more than dabbles. So, for those of you who wonder “What do you do all day when you are at home?” let me try to summarize for you how the hours of 2pm-6pm were spent today:

2pm: Fancy and Swiper paint flower pots
2:30pm: Fancy uses the leftover paint on a mini-pumpkin we had at the house. Meanwhile, Swiper is cutting looseleaf into as many small pieces as possible, looking up on occasion to proclaim “I love crafting.”
2:45: A demand for more crafts. I draw upon a ghost display I’ve just seen at my grandma’s nursing home. I sift through our basket of dum-dum’s* and pick out all the reject flavors. We proceed to make ghosts using dum-dums, tissues, markers, and string. These little guys are currently hanging from the light fixture above my kitchen table. We also make a few for some preschool classmates.
3:30: Swiper sits out a round of crafts to go play computer games while Fancy makes a card to give her preschool teacher. I’d describe the craft as mixed mediums: stamping, stickers, crayons, colored pencils. I get roped into making a card for her teacher as well because, after all, I am the helper tomorrow. We decide to sign it “LAP” instead of “Mom.” I will feel so cool handing it over to the teacher tomorrow, but I know better than to think Fancy will forget.
4:00: Swiper joins back in the crafting fun and starts to make a card for her preschool teacher but gives it to me instead, NTB.
4:15: Fancy fills a plastic cup with water proclaiming she is ready to use her watercolor paints now. She makes four cards to give to different kids in her class and churns out some abstract pieces as well. She also convinces Swiper to let her paint Swiper’s mini-pumpkin. Swiper is back to cutting and has no problem granting this request.
4:40: Swiper is starting to get into Fancy’s projects so I distract her with an offer to help me with dinner. She accepts but the offer is strong enough to pull Fancy away from the craft table (aka the kitchen table). Somehow, we end up making chocolate chip cookies, from scratch. Love of baking is a close second to love of crafts around here.
5:10: Dough in fridge, dinner is served in the patches of table space I have cleared. (FYI – BB is out of town and I am hoping the early dinner will help facilitate my plans for early bedtimes.)
5:35: Dinner is over. Fancy returns to watercolors, this time using stencils. Swiper helps me scoop the cookie dough onto the baking sheets.
6:00: It’s a slow process with Swiper as my helper. She helps scoop two of the three trays with me (“I’m really good at this mom.”), but ultimately abandons her duties to do one more round of cutting with the safety scissors. Unfortunately, she chooses to cut some stickers instead of plain paper this time, which angers and frustrates Fancy. The breakdowns begin. So, four solid hours later, we call it quits with the crafting. I’m able to motivate them to migrate upstairs for a bath, without even having to use the dum dum’s…

(bought in bulk at Sams as they are my go-to item for bribery…”get dressed and you can have a sucker”, “sit still for your diaper change and I will let you pick a sucker”, “no sucker until you eat four more green beans”…that’s not the kind of stuff that gets published in Parents magazine)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

RSVP/Book Beat: Small World, Small (?) Books

Today's guest post comes from E . . . who is one of my dearest friends. E . . . and I taught high school English in the same hallway for four years. A wonderful writer, poet, and reader, E . . . is the person whose taste in books and authors I most trust and with whom I love to discuss the literary world. E . . . is also a mentor of mine in motherhood and is doing a beautiful job raising her children O. and N. In addition to reading, writing, and mothering, E . . . enjoys improvisational cooking, surfing the internet, and watching many of the same television programs I enjoy. Visit her blog It's A Small World After All!

As you may or may not know (regular readers of mine may already be sick of hearing) we were recently without power for a week. While my television addiction was not cured by this cold turkey interruption, my reading habit got a chance to flourish.

Reading by candlelight sounds a lot more romantic than it really is. By the end of a day "camping" I was already exhausted. The prospect of another dark night interrupted by frightened and discombobulated children, followed by a morning without decent coffee made the eye strain seem not quite worth it.

I did, however, read several short books, and parts of a longer collection. Each has something to recommend it, but collectively, they are good choices if you're feeling bored or tired, or simply need something you can fit in around your tv habit. I'm not proud. Maybe when I don't get awoken at three a.m. more nights than not I can attempt Tolstoy. Until then, here are some short possibilities:

Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen
This one is supremely short. Not only is it under 100 pages, there are also pictures of dogs on every other page. Seems a bit like a publisher's money making pitch, but really, I would probably read Quindlen's grocery list if she published it. This is in the vein of other heart tugging, living-with-a-dog stories. I liked Dog Years by Mark Doty a lot better, but this one conveys the same ideas. Dogs change us, we're better for them, they connect us to our best selves. Good stuff.

What Now? by Ann Patchett
Another sort of "I wrote this thing, do you think it could be a book" book, one destined to be on the little table of gift ideas for graduation at Barnes and Noble. I really liked it anyway, the kind of book I was looking for ten years or so ago when I knew my life needed a change, but had no idea how to go about it. I don't think Patchett knows either, but she does make a case for recognizing the gifts of the stage of life you are currently in, whether it's where you envisioned yourself or not. She also plugs for finding your passion, but ultimately recognizes that it is the people, more than the experiences, that matter.

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
I don't think I can actually recommend this one, as I ended up with a sort of sick feeling from reading this one. But it's the kind you might want to read through if you're interested in being in touch with political history and its reinventions. If you haven't heard of it, it's the story of an unnamed senator and a car accident involving a young admirer who drowns. Sound familiar? I guess it's supposed to. Sound in poor taste? Seemed so to me. But mostly, I just didn't like the circular nature of it, covering the same ground over and over. The character insight into the female protagonist was interesting, but it felt better suited to a short story to me than this novella.

I Was Told There Would Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
If you've read David Sedaris and haven't really found anyone else to meet your humor needs in between his books, I'll propose this one for your consideration. Crosley is very funny, and if you grew up anytime in the 80's or 90's you'll get her references. She's brutal at times in her honesty, as in the essay about being a bridesmaid in the wedding of a friend she has not really seen since junior high. Her observations are spot on and hilarious, such as her description of constructing the bride's rehearsal hat out of ribbons at the bridal shower, and an elderly toothless aunt at the same shower gumming a white chocolate bride on a stick. I also enjoyed essays devoted to her embarassment about her unintentional collection of plastic ponies and to a move across town that required use of same locksmith twice in one day.

The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade
While this does not really qualify as a "small" book, it is one that can be dipped into at your leisure, and I feel an obligation to make a plug for poetry whenever I can. It was originally published under the subtitle "poetry for men" but I'm glad that was dropped, because there is much to recommend here for both sexes. It would be a great introductory volume of poetry, with many of my favorite poems old and new together in one book. I've also made new discoveries along the way as I've sampled the sections. Follow the link to one I particularly enjoyed: Galway Kinnel's "After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps." Or to this old favorite: Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15425
Both have a bit of romance to them, enough to, dare I say, read by candlelight.
By the way, thank you to MEP for giving me this one as a birthday gift. What a treasure to have to mark my thirty-fifth year.

Thanks to E . . . for this post! As always, I ask: What are you reading (even if not by candlelight)?

Monday, October 6, 2008

RSVP: Let's Gossip, Girl!

I am excited to report that quite a few readers have answered my call for guest posters! I have decided to call the guest post feature "RSVP." Cute, huh? Today's guest post comes from A-The-Writer-Not-The-Tennis-Player. A and I were on the tennis team together in high school (a surprisingly competitive and successful team, considering that our get-fired-up song was "Brown-Eyed Girl"?!). A is an awesome tennis player and the sort of positive, fun person who is always enjoyable to be around. A is recently married and lives in Florida. Having noted that many NTB authors and readers seem to love television, she sent me this post on Gossip Girl. It's a helpful overview of the show and characters for those of you, like me, who have not yet developed this particular addiction . . .

Let's talk addiction. I used to smoke way back when. Long story and I can't be sure why I ever made that decision but either way, I was an addict. Alcohol: I am certainly not an addict, but I do thoroughly enjoy a glass of full bodied red wine. Gossip Girl: I know, I know...what a silly addiction but I am not ashamed to admit it. I love Gossip Girl. I love the teen angst. All I have to say is that I thank God that my high school (Go Rams!) was nothing like this. But seriously, are there high schools out there like the one in the Upper East Side? Sex. Drugs. Theft. Hot, well-dressed students. Affairs with married women.

Blair with her "queen" status, constantly looking for any attention she can get from her mother, Serena, her off again-on again friends. Her mother is a clothing designer and her ex is Nate. She is constantly trying to manipulate situations so she seems like the golden one.

Serena is supposedly the protagonist in this drama. She is beautiful and popular and up until the most recent episode, seemed to be morally set. She is evolving as the show progresses. The boy she loves is from "the other side of the tracks." She does have a shady past considering the drugs and alcohol and the sleeping with Nate who was dating her best friend, Blair.

Dan aka "lonely boy" is just trying to find himself and the writer inside him. I can understand that. I'm not going to lie, I have a little cougar like crush on him - in a very harmless, married way. I do relate to his character which is probably why I like him. His has a girl best friend, Vanessa. She is infatuated with Nate.

Chuck is the bad boy. He wants to be known as that but it is just a facade for a boy who had a lonely childhood. He's bored and like to keep himself busy with the things only money can buy. Give me a break though, high school student drinking scotch? I do enjoy his bantering/love triangle with Blair.

Nate is the "pretty boy" who deep down is a good guy. His dad is corrupt and he feels the need to take care of his family. He did have an affair with the married dutchess. My prediction is that he and Jenny will end up together at some point. Don't keep Vanessa out of his web of love interests though.

Jenny is Dan's little sister. Fashion inclined, she wants to belong. She wants to be an upper east-sider but doesn't like all of the games that go with it. Looks like Jenny and Blair who started off as enemies may turn into allies this season. She is the girl with the conscience who continues to defy her father over and over again.

Rufus is the father that keeps on being defied. He doesn't have the mother of their children around so he is just trying to do what's best. He is stuck in the atmosphere of high society but is still considered "poor." He has a very interesting past with Lily.

Lily is Serena's mother. She and Rufus used to date way back when. They feel in love but love couldn't survive their social differences. She just married Chuck's father which makes them step siblings.

Vanessa is Dan's best friend. She is the urban version of Serena. She and Dan are just friends but they seem to understand each other on another level. She cares for Nate but got blackmailed into not pursuing their relationship.

So those are the main characters. Doesn't it seem like they are all related somehow? I just figured out why I enjoy this show. Even though my high school and even college experience come nowhere close to the dramatics of this, I can definitely identify with a lot of the characters. I think a lot of people can. You usually know someone who wants to outshine the rest, especially when you are young. Hopefully most of us have that one true friend who understands us on a different level. I know I do and he happens to be of the opposite sex. Bottom line is that this show may not be so far fetched.

I just hope that if/when I have children and they attend high school, it is nothing like this. As a parent, I don't know how I wouldn't go off the deep end. Guess I won't be moving to the Upper East side anytime soon. I just don't think I'd fit in.

So that is my addiction. I'm so addicted that I write a blog about it. On the good side, it does give me something to look forward to after a long Monday at work. And apparently it gives me something else to write about. Gotta love the CW.

Thanks A-The-Writer-Not-The-Tennis-Player! So, what about you? Do you watch Gossip Girl? Any thoughts on the show and/or its resemblance to your own high school experience? What are you watching this Fall? It's all old favorites for me, though I have decided to give the Chef Jeff Project (Food Network) and The Starter Wife (USA) a try, plus, God forgive me, The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo).
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