Monday, March 30, 2009

What now?

Today I submitted the final copies of my dissertation. NTB. I finished the "thinking work" a few months ago and the margin and font and page number and "thank God my hubby had a second major in computer applications" formatting work back in February. In March, I filled out the necessary surveys for the school and government. I visited campus to drop off and another day to pick up the forms I needed signed. I visited the post office to send those same forms for additional signatures and breathed a sigh of relief when they arrived back in my mailbox. I ordered bound copies of my project. I wrote a check to apply for a copyright. I asked my husband to print out two more copies of the darn thing. I drove downtown after lunch today, and he passed the last of these through the car window so I could drive to campus and drop the whole thing off to a friendly, sweet, young blond woman who confirmed that I had everything I needed.

When I checked my email a couple of hours later, I had received official word that my final copy submission was accepted. NTB.

Then, I sent an email asking a question about the commencement ceremony. I found a ribbon and a ruler and measured my head. I placed an order to rent the fancy outfit for the ceremony.

And then, I thought, "What now?"

And then I remembered that I bought a book, recommended by my friend E... when she guest posted here on NTB, called What now? by Ann Patchett.* So I read it. And loved it.

I'm not exactly sure what my answer is to "What now?" The plan for now is to try to teach a class or two in the Fall and go from there. I know I like to read, write, and learn about people's lives and stories.

Patchett's book reminded me to enjoy and appreciate this time, to remain open to possibility, and to just, well, pay attention. I am hoping that the answer to "What now?" will delight and surprise me.

Here's a passage from What now? that I will be reflecting on in the weeks and months to come:

"The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way. What now is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open . . . There's a time in our lives when we all crave the answers. It seems terrifying not to know what's coming next. But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices . . . It's up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding."

What now? Good question. I'm going to try to enjoy figuring out the answer.

*Ann Patchett rocks. Bel Canto is one of the most beautiful novels I've read. I also recently listened to the audio version of Run. Patchett also wrote an kick-ass essay in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago about the triumph of reading these days.

Friday, March 27, 2009

But what do you really think?

Bub, after a lunch outing with friends in which his behavior could have been better (though, it could have been way worse too) when I asked how he thought he acted: "I act a little bit crazy."

Bub, looking into my parents' garage: "There's too much stuff in here."*

Bub, after picking his nose and wiping it in my hair: "I gave it to you. It was a good one."

Bub, responding to question of what he liked best at his lunch with the Easter Bunny: "When we read a book." My heart warmed, but then Bub revised his answer about ten seconds later, "My favorite part was the candy. I love candy."

Bub, poking me in the belly: "Your belly is squishy."

What are the kids in your life saying these days?

*want to stress that the junk is not my parents so much as their lazy, move-a-lot children's

Thursday, March 19, 2009

See you on the dark side, Babar

The great response to the children's book post from the other day was encouraging. I was thrilled to hear that many of you shared my favorites plus had new ones to recommend.

It's easy to have fun reading favorites, but what about when your child comes to you with one of the titles you dread? You know, the book you meant to hide in the closet (thanks for the tip, E . . . ), the one you try to subtly push under the bed with your toe so that your child does not notice it at bedtime, the one that makes you feel bone weary just imagining reading it one more time, the one that takes SO DARN LONG to get through, or the one that requires more "condensing" or "censoring" than you feel right or good about . . .

For me, that book is Babar. I'm pretty sure scholars have already had a field day with the large elephant, but I will just give you an overview of my problems with the book . . .

1. It is long. Not terribly, terribly long, but longer than I prefer for before bedtime when you know that it is only one of six or seven books to be read.

2. It features death. I'll concede that when the king of the elephants dies of eating a "bad mushroom," one could almost be amused, but one's child is just confused. Worse than that, however, is the fact that Babar's mother is SHOT BY HUNTERS on the SECOND page of the book. Though I consider myself anti-censorship to the core, I just can't help glazing over this scene for the Bub by mentioning that the hunters "hurt" Babar's mom.

3. Babar is not that likable. He is greedy and materialistic. His greatest pleasures are shopping for and admiring himself in his new clothes and driving the rich old lady's red convertible.* I suspect he is using the rich old lady for the loot and the nice bathtub, though it is nice of him to do exercises with her in the morning.

4. The rich old lady might also be using Babar. After all, she dresses him up, has him tutored, and then shows off her smarty-pants elephant at dinner parties like he's a trick pony.

5. Babar doesn't keep it real. When he sees his cousins, Arthur and Celeste, in the city, he immediately gets them all dolled up in new clothes (and takes them to get cakes to eat), as if he would be ashamed to be seen with them without the clothes. When Babar returns to the forest and is offered the opportunity (based on, it seems, his new clothes, human learning, and fancy red car) to replace the king (who died of the bad mushroom), he accepts on the condition that he first be allowed to travel to the city to BUY WEDDING CLOTHES. Never mind your people are mourning their king and in need of a leader--first things first, get another green suit.

6. Babar is buying wedding clothes because he is marrying his COUSIN Celeste.

I know there are more Babar books, and I read one of them that belonged to my friends' kids. In it, one of Babar and Celeste's three children hits another in the head WITH A SHOVEL. I guess that is keeping it real in another way.

While Babar is the book I always mean to hide, but can never quite bring myself to (again, it's something about not wanting to censor literature for Bub, I guess), there are also others I don't love to read, especially at bedtime when my patience is waning. Some of the seek-and-find books can get tedious, especially the Cars one. I am also not a huge fan of the books with labeled pictures of dinosaurs, household objects, and vehicles. One that we have has a two-page spread of farm vehicles that features like eight different kind of tractors. As my friend E. . . and I discussed, books with multiple flaps per page can also get old.

So, there it is, I do love reading to my kids, but I love reading some books more than I do others.

What about you? Any books you wish to hide or have hidden? Any books you demanded repeatedly as a child that your parents might have wanted to kick under the bed? Entertain us please.

*Babar also enjoys pastry shops, but I'm not going to hold that against him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I feel lucky today.

An Irish Blessing,
Inspired by today's good fortune . . .

May your child's snot improve from runny to crusty.
May fresh air and sunshine make you feel less musty.
May prescriptions and Motrin provide some ear cheer.
May you be lame enough not to long for green beer.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! When did you feel lucky today?

Monday, March 16, 2009

She eats chicken.

She eats chicken.
She has small teeth.*
She wears a bow in her hair.
She is "coming over to our house to play ALL DAY."
She looks like Swiper.**

These are some of the things Bub has told me about his most recent imaginary friend Cammy (not sure how this friend spells her name, but Bub did know it starts with a "C," ntb).

While we were waiting to pick up Bub's prescription*** at CVS today, Bub used the blood pressure machine near the pharmacy to "email Cammy." So, I guess I also know that she prefers to communicate via email.

I am loving the imaginary friend and pet stage. What about you? Any imaginary beings populating your little world?

*but not so small that she can't eat chicken, I guess
**Bub's cousin, not Dora's nemesis
***Both boys have ear infections, ntb.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's a kind of magic . . .

I am thankful to my parents for making me a reader. They didn't do it with flash cards, tutors, or specialty software (was there even software when I was a very little girl?). Rather, I learned to love books because my parents did the following:

1. Read aloud to me.
2. Took me to the library.
3. Bought books for me and let me spend gift money I had on books.
4. Allowed me to stay up late reading books (though I'm not sure they knew how late I stayed up some nights).
5. Took me on vacations, during which I spent many happy hours reading books on the floor of our van as we traveled to our destination (if I tried that now, I would be so nauseous) and on deck chairs of all sorts.
6. Seldom gave me a hard time about preferring to read rather than play outside.
7. Set an example by being readers themselves.
8. Gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to read.
9. Turned on lights for me so that I wouldn't "ruin my eyes."

I just read Mem Fox's Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Though I didn't need to be convinced that reading aloud to children is a great idea, I still felt really inspired by Fox's book. Reading Magic just reinforces how reading aloud brings you closer to your kids and how important early, positive, fun experiences with books and reading are to kids' future learning. Even if you already read to your kids, read this book so you can feel really good about what you're doing. If you're not reading as often as you would like, this book will give you the motivation to make more story time. If you don't get a chance to read Reading Magic, you can check out Mem Fox's "Ten Read-Aloud Commandments."

Hubby and I just brainstormed a list of some of the books we like to read aloud to Bub and Little Bit. This is just a top-of-our-heads list and not a survey of all the great children's books in the world. So, in no particular order, here are some books we like to read aloud . . .

I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss and Mary Blair
Give Me Grace by Cynthia Rylant
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Good Night Sweet Butterflies by Dawn Bentley, Melanie Gerth, and Heather Cahoon*
And Here's To You by David Elliott and Randy Cecil
Incredible You! 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Wayne Dyer
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw**
If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

There are more, and I'm sure if I were writing this while looking at our bookshelves, this list might be completely different and definitely much longer.

You know what's coming, right? Please share. What books do you--parents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, teachers, grandparents, friends, neighbors--like to read aloud to the children in your life?

*on my list but not hubby's
**I enjoy this book, but I cannot read it aloud without crying if I am in a particularly vulnerable, emotional mood

Monday, March 9, 2009

Retail Beat: Thins Are In

I haven't been on the Retail Beat much these days as I have been trying to stick to my 2009 resolutions, one of which was to buy less stuff. That being said, we all need to eat so here goes.

Item: Arnold Select Sandwich Thins
Site of Purchase: Jewel, Costco
Price: 8 pack at Jewel for $2.00, 16 pack at Costco for $4.29

I love sandwiches, but hate when the bread or bun sets one back 200 or 300 calories. These sandwich thins are delicious and have good stats to boot: 100 calories per roll, plus 5 grams of fiber. Unlike the lower calorie, fiber-filled English Muffins, which taste like baked tan chalk, these rolls are tasty and have a substantial, yet soft texture. Yum.

Item: Del Monte Zingers
Site of Purchase: Jewel
Price: cannot recall, but not prohibitive if you are in the market for pickles

Speaking of sandwiches, these pickles are awesome. The label says "sweet and hot," and that's what they are. They are like bread and butter pickles, but with a little kick (but not too much kick).

Item: Lara Bar
Site of Purchase: Whole Foods, Costco
Price: one bar is $1.39 at Whole Foods, can buy a pack of 18 at Costco for around $16

I started eating Lara Bars in the summer when I was nursing Little Bit, hungry all the time, and needing things I could begin eating with no preparation or effort (short of removing the package). I think I read about them in a magazine. These bars boast "no added sugar, unprocessed, raw, non-gmo, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, kosher," but I eat them because I find them tasty and enjoy their dense texture. My favorite used to be the Peanut Butter cookie flavor, but now I am in love with the Coconut Cream Pie. There are loads of flavors though, like Key Lime, Lemon, Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Cashew Cookie, Pistachio, and some chocolate varieties. The variety pack at Costco includes Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, and Cashew Cookie. I was just there this morning, but did not buy it because I am trying to buy less stuff and because those flavors are not my favorites (though I do like them).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

You know you need to make more of an effort with your clothes . . .

. . . when five days out of seven, you get directly into bed wearing exactly what you've been wearing all day long (or at least since lunchtime when you changed out of your "fancy clothes" and by "fancy clothes" I mean any pants that zip and button).

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Favorite Places to "Shop"

Today's episode of Oprah features families with too much stuff. One woman goes to the grocery store every day and continues filling up her pantry reserves. She had boxes and boxes (can't remember the number, 40?) of granola bars, multiple bags of chips, bags and bags of pudding packs . . . the list could go on and on. The other woman is a widow who admits she has been buying stuff--including a HUGE house and cars she cannot quite afford not mention the shoes and clothes and eating out--to try to prove to herself, her kids, and the world that she is okay after losing her husband. Both women and their families spent a week living with less: no spending money except for a minimal grocery budget, no internet or television, no eating out, very limited driving, etc.

I love this sort of episode because so many people can relate, on some level, to the irrational need to buy or otherwise surround one's self with more stuff than one needs. I know I can. Watching the episode, you can see how just one week of living differently made these moms feel stronger and more in control. I think their honesty could inspire others. It certainly makes me want to keep up with my 2009 Resolutions to buy less stuff and use or lose the stuff I already have.

I'm not going to use this post to try to figure out all the reasons why people shop and seek stuff. I'm no social psychologist. I do know, however, that I tend to buy things that I think will make my life somehow better (see previous post where I define the term "Targeting"). I'm going to list a couple of my new favorite places to "shop."

1. The Library
I know I'm like a broken record about the library lately, but I can't help it. I've always been a library user, but now that the Chicago Public Library allows me to request and hold books online, I find myself visiting the library website before, especially for books that I think I want to read but know I don't need to own. I also love checking the new releases section when I'm in the library. When I find a copy of a book that is on my to-read list, usually based on a review I've read, I feel like I've won the lottery.

2. itunes
One of my friends started a fitness and weight loss blog and on it I read about free yoga workouts, Yogamazing, available on itunes. I wish I could say, I started downloading the workouts and am now unbelievably lean and flexible. I'm not ready to explore yoga yet myself, but I did end up searching for free stuff on itunes while I was looking at Yogamazing and had no idea how much free stuff there is. I downloaded some Grammar Girl podcasts, which I really enjoyed and would be using in the classroom if I were still a high school teacher. I also downloaded some free walking workouts. Again, I haven't used them yet, but all I'm out is an itty, bitty amount of space on my ipod . . . no dough. So anyway, if you have itunes on your computer, see what fun and free stuff you could find there.

It's not the longest list in the world, but free thrills are even better than cheap ones. Plus, shopping at these stores doesn't bring any extra stuff into my house, NTB.

What about you? Do you have any places to "shop" for free (or cheap) thrills? Please share.

I did spend $1.00 at the library last week, but I think the CPL tote was worth it. Look at how compact it is when folded. It could practically double as an evening bag. (Note: do not judge my recent haircut by this photo.)

View of tote unfolded and a great example of a book that I am interested in but don't want to own (and, to be honest, may not be able to stand to read. We'll see.)
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