Thursday, December 29, 2005

Three wishes

Me: If you had three wishes, what would they be?
G: A cat, an older sister who's nine, and a horse I could ride to school.

Hmm. I'd say the only one of those she has any chance of getting is the cat, and even that is pretty unlikely, since we aren't allowed to have pets and P is a cat-hater.

Right now, if I had three wishes, they would be for money, money and money. I know money isn't everything, but when you haven't got any, it sure seems that way!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Books, books, books

I've finally found a series of chapter books for G that I don't hate: the Jigsaw Jones mysteries. Jigsaw and his partner Mila are great characters, as are the other kids who populate their world. I'd say the books are around early third-grade level, so G can do her share of the reading, but they're written with real humor and flair, unlike 90 percent of the series books available for this age. It's a long series, too, so we should be occupied for a while.

Just for reference, here are a few of the other series we've tried:

The Secrets of Droon -- This series sounded promising -- three kids find a door to another world in the basement of one kid's house -- but they turned out to be extremely dull and formulaic, even for children's fantasy. (A lot of authors and publishers seem to operate on the premise that kids at this level of ability haven't read much, so won't recognize clichés when they see them.) We got through one and a half before giving up. There are more than 30 in the series, though, so someone must like them.

Jewel Kingdom -- The Jewel Kingdom has four princesses -- the Diamond Princess, the Ruby Princess, the Emerald Princess and the Diamond Princess -- whose royal parents have sent them to rule over different regions of the kingdom. G thought the two books we read together were okay, but I found them both boring and overly precious in a Disney Princess/Barbie sort of way (the princesses had little bird and butterfly friends with names like "Flitter," bleah), and was very glad she didn't beg for more.

Pixie Tricks -- In these books, a girl meets a sprite who has been sent to her world to capture a bunch of escaped evil fairies. She and her annoying boy cousin end up helping out. The actual writing wasn't anything to get excited about, but the stories themselves weren't bad, and G really enjoyed them. She also liked the associated sticker game that let her play along as an official Pixie Tricker.

More later as we try out additional authors.

Monday, December 26, 2005

We had a nice Christmas -- G went to church with her grandmother in the morning, my dad came over for a while, and then we made the rounds of various people's houses. G had a lovely time and got more gifts than any one kid should have, including:

Three Jigsaw Jones chapter books
The Usborne Book of Animal Jokes
D'Aulaire's Norse Mythology
Bling It On (rhinestone stickers for decorating stuff)
Washable ink pads and stampers
Crayola Color Explosion notebook and marker set
Crayola erasable markers
Sharkboy and Lavagirl on DVD
Heelys shoes in white and pink
Fake suede coat with fake fur lining and trim
Fake fur neck scarf
Tube of Ancient Egypt-themed toys (this was one of her favorite gifts)
Two packs of fancy pencils for school/homework
Set of dog-shaped Christmas ornaments
Littlest Pet Shop Playground playset
Jungle Jigsaw and Safari Jigsaw puzzle books (books with alternating pages of animal facts and 24-piece jungle/safari scene puzzles)
Hello Kitty puzzle
Disney Princess school set with folder, notebook, ruler, pencil case and some other stuff
Personal DVD player with 7-inch LCD screen
Nordstrom gift card
Shrek II DVD
Borders gift card
Two fairy-tale picture books
Disney Cinderella book
Pink long-sleeve shirt with crystal appliqués
Purple Converse hightops with purple flowers on the toes
Giant Play-Doh set
Toy doctor kit
Money
Jeans with sash belt
Denim jacket
Brown corduroy purse
Picture book about New York City

Only the first half of the list (up to the Hello Kitty puzzle) came from Santa/us, BTW. The rest was from family and friends. We spoil her, but not that much!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Well, the big day is tomorrow, and I can proudly say that we are very nearly sort of close to being ready. Almost. Heh.

Yesterday was a day of ups and downs, or perhaps I should say downs and ups. It began on a sour note with some bad news (not terrible death-and-diaster news, but definitely news I didn't want to hear), and then got a lot better. Weirdly, things started improving after I bought a gift card for a mentally ill homeless lady I saw hanging out at Starbucks, so maybe what they say about karma is true. Merry Christmas, lady, wherever you are. I hope the coffee kept you warm last night.

I had the day off, so in the afternoon I went to help Pete with his regular work in G's classroom, and also to pass out the gifts I'd put together for the kids (miniature stockings stuffed with candy canes, chocolate and glittery gold and silver pencils). When we got home, I slept on the couch for a couple of hours -- I'd lain awake from two a.m. till five a.m. that morning -- and then took G out to pick up some food. After an early dinner, she and P went over to his mother's house, and she played with another kid there while I wrapped every single one of the gifts we've bought so far -- about twenty of them in two hours. I put on Fellowship of the Ring for entertainment toward the end of the wrapping marathon, so when P and G came back (right at the point where Frodo gets stabbed with the poison dagger), we all finished watching it together, with popcorn and chocolate and apple slices for snacks.

This morning, I made royal icing so G and I could repair our wrecked gingerbread house. The icing that came with the kit we bought didn't do a very good job of gluing the roof on, and both slabs ended up sliding off. The poor house looked as if it had been hit by a tornado, with the inside exposed and the gingerbread people standing there in the yard with their arms thrown up in shock and alarm. Unfortunately, the icing I made came out pale yellow because I had to use Egg Beaters instead of real egg whites, so now the roof is on, and there's a front path, but it looks like a dog peed in the snow. Well, better luck next year.

After the gingerbread debacle, we went to Old Navy to pick up a couple of last-minute presents, and then had a very traditional Christmas Eve lunch of chow mein and tofu from Pick Up Stix. Next on our agenda: exchange gifts with G's friend A. next door, go to her hair appointment at 4:00, and then head over to the relatives' house for some festivity. G wants to watch the next Lord of the Rings movie in the series when we get home, which is fine with me. Somehow those movies have become Christmas movies in my head, thanks to the time of year they were originally released. Nothing says Christmas like sweaty, stubbly men with swords, eh?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sloth

There are at least two dozen things I should be doing with this vacation day. P is at an appointment in LA, and G doesn't get out of school for three more hours. It's a perfect time for me to clean house, do laundry, finish the Christmas shopping, find the wrapping paper, work on the story I'm writing, change the water in the fish tank, etc., etc. Instead, after dropping G off this morning, I bought Starbucks, came home and planted my lazy ass on the bed with the laptop, and here I still am.

Must ... find ... will to ... get up ...

Right. Maybe in a few minutes.

Friday, December 02, 2005

And joined the choir invisible

Just before P and I went to bed last night, we noticed that Dorothy the goldfish was swimming at a crooked angle near the top of the tank. Anyone who has ever had fish will know that this is a certain sign of d00m, and sure enough, when we woke up this morning, Dorothy had shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to the big aquarium in the sky. That leaves us with just one goldfish: Angus, who is now rocketing around the tank like a maniac. I can't decide whether he's looking for Dorothy -- after all, they were tank-mates for two and a half years -- or just reveling in having all the swimming space to himself. Well, Muncher the pleco is still in there, but he mostly keeps to himself behind the castle or under the filter.

In other news, G got busted this morning for reading when she was supposed to be getting ready for school. I can see I'm going to have to start supervising her more closely in the mornings. Right now, I wake her up, then set milk and cereal out on the table for her (with the milk in a separate cup so she can pour it into the bowl herself) and get in the shower. While I'm in there, she's supposed to get dressed in the clothes I laid out for her the night before, then go to the table, fix her cereal and eat. After I'm out and dressed, I make her lunch, do her hair, then do my own hair and makeup while she brushes her teeth.

This would all work fine if the child were not as slow as a geriatric snail and as distractible as a magpie. She stops getting dressed to sit on the floor in her underwear and read. She stops with her shoe half-tied to watch TV. She drains every last drop of milk from her cereal bowl by sipping it one spoonful at a time. She starts art projects three minutes before we need to walk out the door. There is no sense of urgency in her at all. Probably what I should be doing is waking up an hour before her, getting completely ready myself, and then standing over her every step of the way as she goes through her routine. Alternatively, I should be getting her up an hour earlier so she can be as pokey as she wants. I don't think that'll work with our schedule, though.

I took the day off today to get stuff done, but somehow got roped into working from home, so I suppose I'd better get back to my article. I've got to finish it by 1 p.m. so I can go help out in G's class before my hair appointment at 4. I can't wait to kiss these witchy grey roots goodbye for another couple of months.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On the banks of the Nile

Urgh. I am not feeling well at all today. Since I'm mostly immobile, G and I have been doing the activities in her Usborne Egyptian kit -- we strung a scarab necklace and built a 1/2,000 scale model of the Great Pyramid at Giza, and then she made herself a construction-paper copy of a headdress in the Usborne Beginners Egyptians book and pretended to be Ma'at, goddess of truth. (That last one wasn't part of the kit, but you can be sure that when G does anything, there will always be dress-up involved.) Now she's watching an Egyptian-themed episode of The Backyardigans and I'm contemplating getting up and helping Pete with the chores. What a way to end a long weekend.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday that holds a lot of appeal for me in general, since I don't eat turkey and would rather be strung up by my thumbs than watch football, but this year it was pretty nice. We spent Black Friday shopping with my mother, who wanted to get us Christmas presents now because she won't see us again until January, and the next day I was at the stores again, first with G and then with P and his brother. You might think I would have managed to take care of some of my own Christmas shopping during all that, but you'd be wrong: I've only bought one gift (a book for G's cousin), and that was before Thanksgiving. I am going to be a ballistic stress missile in a couple of weeks if I don't get on the ball.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fashion forward

The older I get, the more complicated clothes shopping becomes. Ten years ago, my main question when shopping was Have they got it in a size 2? Now it's more like Will I look like a total tool in it? I'm certainly not ready for high-waisted jeans and appliquéd vests yet, but I don't think I can pull off velvet blazers and tartan schoolgirl miniskirts, either, never mind pants with a two-inch rise. I really, really don't want to end up like a former boss of mine, who was in her mid-fifties and wore nothing but inappropriately youthful low-cut tops and tiny skirts. She had skin like beef jerky from four decades of tanning, and every time she stood by my desk, with her weathered cleavage right there in my face, I vowed that when my time came to stop dressing like an 18-year-old, I would know it and give in gracefully.

On top of the style problem, there's the delicate issue of bulge control. I wear a size 6 and am in decent shape, but post-baby, I was left with an abdominal bulge that's still with me almost seven years later. (Sounds like a biblical punishment: And for seven years shalt thou suffer the pains of the abdominal bulge; yea, and the next generation shall point at it and snicker and say, "Mom, your tummy is jiggly!") It's not even really a solid bulge -- it's more like a pouch, probably from having my stomach muscles sliced and stapled back together. The right clothes hold it in; the wrong clothes let it glob around or spill over my waistband in an alarming manner. Unfortunately, there are a lot of the wrong clothes out there.

Despite all these challenges, I am managing to find clothes to buy with my birthday money and gift cards. I've bought a pair of (non-mom) jeans, a corduroy skirt, two sweaters and a jacket so far, and I've still got about $125 left to spend. Yay! I was practically in rags before, and now I think I may actually get through the winter in some sort of style. Always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

School and not-school

I went to the first parent/teacher conference of the year today. G is reading at a mid/late second-grade level, which I had already ascertained from reading with her, and writing very well, although her actual penmanship could use some work. She's doing well in all her other subjects too. Her teacher thinks she has a "broad mind," is "very imaginative" and has "an amazing variety of interests," and that it's clear we've put a lot of effort into enriching her environment and giving her a good foundation for learning. On the social front, he says she's very gregarious and makes a deliberate effort to include the kids who tend to stay on the fringes of a group, often calling "Come on, [name], we're all going to do this! You come too!" Of course, the downside of being gregarious is talking too much, and he did comment on that, too: he said she tends to talk to her friends when they're supposed to be working, and she likes to go off on random tangents during class discussions. (No one's ever going to change that about G; random is just the way her mind works, and I kind of like it that way.) All in all, I thought it was a good report.

Later in the evening, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Disneyland. It was fairly crowded for a Tuesday night, but no one seemed to be going on rides, because they all had five- to ten-minute wait times. We went on the Haunted Mansion to see the holiday décor (G kept complaining that she was scared during the ride, but changed her tune and said it was cool as soon as we got out), went in a couple of shops to find a sweatshirt for P, then took the train to Tomorrowland. We saw one end of the Parade of Dreams on our way out, but we've seen the entire parade before, so we weren't missing anything. We got home around 7, and G and I took turns reading from a Magic Treehouse book before lights-out. She doesn't have school tomorrow, but I won't get to spend the day with her because I have to go to work. Stupid work. It spoils all my fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Glam

G and her friend had makeovers at Club Libby Lu this morning. The place is a bit hard on adult eyes -- just imagine what would happen if someone detonated a pink paint bomb in a small space and then tossed a metric ton of glitter in for good measure -- but I can totally see why little girls go crazy for it. G got the Glam Rock style and her friend got the Tween Idol, and they both looked absolutely adorable afterward. They were so impressed with their own beauty that they kept asking "How do I look?" during lunch just to hear each other say "You look awesome!" Hee. Anyway, they had a great time, and I'm very glad my friend suggested going.

In other news, my birthday was last week, and I am now 34. It's alarming to think that when my mother was the age I am now, I was 13. I don't feel old enough to have a teenager -- I hardly feel old enough to have an almost-seven-year-old. On the other hand, my almost-seven-year-old wants glam rock makeovers and has a crush on a boy in her class, so I suppose it's not all that different from having a teenager, except without the scary hormones. She's looking forward to being a teenager much more than I ever did. I thought being a child was an immense indignity and hated every minute of it, but I wanted to skip the whole teen thing and go straight to being 35. Of course, now I wonder what the hell I was thinking!

Speaking of birthdays, it's nearly time to start planning G's again. We've kicked around a few ideas over the course of the year, but now the moment of truth is approaching and we need to make a decision. So far she's suggested an Ancient Greek theme (might be hard to pull off, since I doubt this age group is big on baklava and dolmas) and a magic theme (would be great if we had space to have a magician do a show, but I don't think we do). I'm trying to sell her on something we can do at an outside venue, like bowling or ice skating. The only place I won't go is Chuck E. Cheese.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Your backyard friends

G's been obsessed with The Backyardigans lately, which is a bit weird because she stopped watching the rest of the Nick Jr. preschool shows about a year ago. I think she likes it because it's about exploring and having adventures -- two things she aspires to do herself. Anyway, we were watching an episode earlier this evening, and she noticed that Pablo the penguin is the only one of the anthropomorphic animal kids who doesn't have fingers. (Although he does have a convenient opposable thumb built into each flipper.) We decided that snack time would be difficult if one of your friends was a penguin. You'd have to toss goldfish crackers into his mouth the way the trainers at Sea World throw smelt.

She actually asked to go to bed right after the show ended, partly because of the time change, and partly because she's been under the weather for a few days. She started coming down with a cold on Thursday, and while it's never gotten really severe, it's definitely been enough to slow her down. She was doing better this morning and asked to go to Target with me, but I don't think it was good for her, because the congestion and coughing came back full force after we got home. I'm pretty sure we're not going to take her out tomorrow night because of it. She's already been trick or treating at Disneyland and Boo at the Zoo, so she's okay with just staying home and handing out candy instead. God knows we've got to get some of this candy out of the house before I inhale it all!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

All about friends

I read an interesting article about children and friendships last night. Apparently, between ages 6 and about 12, kids pass through a series of stages in which their concepts of friendship, and their expectations of a friend, slowly change and grow more complex. The stages are:

Stage 1: "Play partner": In the earliest stage of friendship, the relationship is based on "play-partnership". A friend is seen as someone who engages the child in play and permits the child to use or borrow her playthings.

Stage 2: "People to chat to": The sharing of interests becomes an important element in friendship choice. Conversations between "friends" are no longer related simply to the game or activity in which the children are directly engaged.

Stage 3: "Help and encouragement": At this stage the friend is seen as someone who will offer help, support or encouragement. However, the advantages of friendship flow in one direction; the child does not yet see himself as having the obligation to provide help or support in return.

Stage 4: "Intimacy/empathy": The child now realises that in friendship the need and obligation to give comfort and support flows both ways and, indeed, the giving of affection, as well as receiving it, becomes an important element in the relationship. This stage sees a deepening of intimacy; an emotional sharing and bonding.

Stage 5: At this stage friendship is perceived as a deep and lasting relationship of trust, fidelity and unconditional acceptance.


After reading this, I was curious about what stage G was in, so this evening I asked her some questions about friends and friendship. Here's what she said.

Q. What makes someone your friend?
A. If you're nice to each other and say nice words and make each other happy when you're sad.

Q. What do you want a friend to do with you?
A. Play together and have sleepovers.

Q. How would you make friends with someone?
A. Well, I could introduce myself if they're new in my class. And then they would introduce themselves to me. And then blah, blah, blah and all that other stuff. [I assume she meant that she and the other kid would talk at this point.]

Q. Do you have a best friend?
A. Yes.

Q. Who is it?
A. Tabitha.

Q. Why is Tabitha your best friend?
A. Because we've been friends ever since we were toddlers.


It sounds as if she's combining elements from several of the stages: she thinks that friends play together (stage 1), but also talk about things that interest them (stage 2) and support each other emotionally (stages 3 and 4). Based on the way I've seen her actually interact with her friends, I'd say she's around stage 2 with some stage 3 mixed in. She loves to chat, and it can be funny to listen to at times. For instance, a few weeks ago, she and her friend from next door were out riding bikes, and when they stopped to sit down and rest, they had a conversation that was basically the kid version of adult dinner-table talk:

He: How was your day at school?
She: It was good; how was yours?
He: It was good too.

[pause]

She: So, what are you going to be for Halloween?
He: I'm going to be a Power Ranger.
She: Oh! I'm going to be Juliet, you know, like in Romeo and Juliet.
He: That's nice.


And so forth. They might as well have been married. :-)

One thing that's really neat about G is her willingness to play anything with anyone. She loves to dress up and put on fashion shows and play dolls with other girls, but she plays with boys just as easily; two of her good friends are boys, and she talks about playing superheroes and spies with the boys in her class at recess. I think being with her father so much has helped her learn how to relate to boys: she knows how to play the sorts of games they like because that's what her dad plays with her. She can switch from being a squealing girly girl to pretending that her bike is a police car in two seconds flat. All that may change in a year or two, when she reaches the inevitable "boys are gross" stage, but for now it's wonderful to see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dear Santa

G made out her Christmas list the other night. It's remarkably light on toys this year: she wants a handheld DVD player, a pair of Heelys and an interactive Serafina, which she asked for last year and didn't get because the stores were sold out. I'm not keen on buying Serafina this year either -- it got horrible user reviews, and I know G will play with it for a day or two and then abandon it at the bottom of the stuffed-animal basket -- but since she asked for so few things, Santa will probably bring it anyway. I'll get her some arts and crafts supplies too; she she never seems to have enough of those.

In the meantime, we're still waiting for Halloween. We all went to the pumpkin patch over the weekend, where G picked a pumpkin, rode a pony, and got her face painted, sort of. I say sort of because instead of a professional face painter, they had a table with regular paintbrushes and cups of poster paint so the kids could paint themselves. The girl ahead of us seemed determined to paint every inch of exposed skin on her face and arms -- her mother kept saying "Come on, give someone else a turn" and "You don't have anyplace left to paint," and she kept protesting that she wanted to do more, more, more. By the time Mom finally dragged her away, she was painted like a Pict, only not as blue. G agreed to let me paint a small pumpkin on her cheek and leave it at that. Sensible girl. :-) She had a great time at the patch, and we timed it just right: when we got there, it was warm and sunny, and by the time we got home, it was cold and windy and threatening rain. Gotta love that crazy October weather.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Things that annoy me, part 938274950

Every morning when I go downstairs to get coffee at work, someone is there ahead of me, coffee cup in one hand, milk jug in the other, pouring and stirring and tasting as if s/he is going for first prize in the World Coffee Mixing Championships. (Brought to you by Starbucks!) Three drops of milk; whirl with the little wooden stick; sip; wrinkle nose and repeat ad infinitum, all while blocking the entire coffee area and preventing me from getting my cup of black decaf. Every time, I want to shriek It's coffee, not a chemistry experiment! Dump in the milk and step to the left! I don't care if you spend your morning concocting the perfect blend when you're at home, but in a public venue, your job is to do your business and clear out as quickly as possible. The same goes for restrooms -- no hogging the sinks for half an hour while you brush your teeth, apply makeup, highlight your hair and wax your upper lip -- and any sort of line at a cash register.

Ah! That was cathartic. I feel better now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Brownies

G came home on Monday with a flier inviting girls to join her school's Brownie troop. They sent the same flier around last year, and she wasn't interested then, but this time she was wildly excited and begged to join. All I heard for days was "We're signing up for Brownies on Thursday!" and "Don't forget to take me to the Brownie meeting!" So, tonight we went down to the school to fill out the paperwork. Well, I filled out the paperwork; she ate a snack and did crafts with the other girls. (Paperwork: reason 2,049,871 why it sucks to be a grownup.)

I must say, things have changed since I was a Brownie in 1978. The only thing I remember doing that year is making a cushion out of crumpled newspaper and stapled-together squares of wallpaper. Her troop has two regular meetings and two night/weekend events, plus a fundraiser, in the next month alone. I can see we're going to be very busy. However, the troop leaders and the other mothers seem very nice, and G had a great time -- so great that she cried when it was time to go home -- so I'm sure it will be worth it. The only major drawback I can see is that the meetings are the same day as her dance class. She'll have an hour between school and dance, then an hour between dance and Brownies, and then she'll have to eat dinner and go straight to bed. That's a long day for a little girl. Oh well, at least it'll only be twice a month.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cannibal family

Conversation with G:

She: Hey, Mommy, want to play Pollies?
Me: I would love to, but I have to cook the pasta. Because if I don't, we'll starve! We'll hold our stomachs like this, and we'll fall on the floor, and we'll moan, "I'M SO HUNGR--"
She (interrupting): No, I'll just eat you.

Well! Maybe I should mention that not eating meat includes not eating people. *g*

Monday, October 03, 2005

A little lady

Six must be a magic number. Why? Because as soon as G turned six, she became more mature than I ever imagined she would be. I took her to the pediatrician this afternoon, and she sat tranquilly in the waiting room and read a book with me, walked to the examining room without a fuss, and calmly explained her symptoms and answered the doctor's questions like a grown-up. She's just been so pleasant and reasonable and fun to be with lately. I was sorry I had to drop her off at home and go back to work after the appointment -- I wanted to keep hanging out with her!

She and I did put up our fall decorations over the weekend, despite the blazing heat. It's hard to get in a seasonal frame of mind when you're eating ice cream as a fan blasts at you, but we managed. We have pumpkins and colored leaves on the hearth, a (fake) jack o'lantern on the table next to the door, and orange lights on the wall over the couch. For the inside of the front door, we made our own decorations: a ghost, a Frankenstein monster head, a moon with a bat silhouette, two spiders, two pumpkins, and black letters that spell out "GO BACK" and "EEK" and "BOO." G loves it all and has been begging to sit around at night with all the lights off except for the jack o'lantern and orange light string. I hope the novelty wears off a bit before Halloween. It's hard to navigate through the shadowy gloom. :-)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Burning up

It's the last day of September, so of course we're in the midst of our annual autumn heat wave. I've lived here for nearly 25 years, and it's happened every single autumn, but for some reason I keep hoping each year that this will be the year we get to skip it. Maybe this will be the year, I think, that we have a nice crisp autumn with crackling leaf piles and frosty mornings, the way the rest of the country does. Then the temperature hits 104 degrees, the hot wind screams down the canyons, and people's heads spontaneously combust.

I hope it's cooler tomorrow. I'm planning to get out our autumn decorations, and it just feels wrong to cover the fireplace hearth with fake pumpkins and leaves while electric fans are blasting in every room. What wouldn't I give for central air!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Back in the groove

G's been back in school for two weeks now. She likes her teacher, and so far everything's been good. I must say, though, I'm surprised at how serious and, well, academic first grade is in comparison to kindergarten. Starting next week there will be nightly homework -- not very difficult homework, judging by the samples I've seen, but still a lot more than before. In-class birthday parties are no longer allowed because they take too much time away from instruction. Each kid will receive a behavior report at the end of every week. It seems strict, but G probably needs the extra structure. Like a lot of bright, creative kids, she tends to get distracted and goof around, and I think it'll be good for her to have a teacher who keeps her focused on learning.

Pete and I are both a little bit worried about her being bored, though. Last year she was the only kid in her class who could read at all (not at a high level or anything, but she knew enough words to read "Dick and Jane"-type books). The assignments were easy for her, so she'd sit around and talk to the kid next to her, thereby preventing him from doing his work, and then fill in her own worksheet at lightning speed at the last minute. One of her teachers used to have to set a timer for 30 seconds per page to motivate her. (When I found out about this, I said, "Thirty seconds?" and she said "Trust me, she can do it in twenty." She was right.)

This year it looks like they're going to be working on basic phonics, and that's not what she needs to learn. She knows all the consonant and short and long vowel sounds; all the consonant blends; the common vowel digraphs; word endings like -ed and -ing; the soft -ce sound; etcetera. What she really needs help with is applying everything she knows. She recognizes lots of words by sight, and that makes her a little bit lazy when she comes to a word she doesn't recognize -- instead of trying to work it out with phonics, she just guesses at it (usually incorrectly) so she can move on. If we sound out the first couple of letters together, she'll get it right, but I have to initiate that activity. I think she's realized that sounding out doesn't always work because phonics rules don't apply to all words, so she doesn't bother. I'm hoping her teacher will be able to impress upon her that you always try sounding out first, and maybe give her some strategies to use when sounding out fails. The question is, will he have time to do that when he's busy teaching the other 19 kids in the class how to string together the sounds in "cat" and "hat?" However, he seems very organized and together, so if anyone can do it, he probably can.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Playing catch-up

Yikes. I've been lazy about updating lately. Here's a quick summary of the last month and a half:

July: We went to the local science center, attended a birthday party, went to the county fair twice, saw Wicked: The Musical, and visited friends at their new home. G also went to day camp for two weeks. (It was only supposed to be one week, but she loved it so much we signed her up for the following session too.) I finally finished my dental ordeal, though I have to go back in October for yet another cleaning. Dun dun dunnnn!

August: This month was a little bit calmer. P's brother came to visit from NYC one weekend and bought Gsome nifty school clothes -- what a great uncle! We also went to the zoo with G's 14-month-old cousin, and G herself went to a very fancy christening party with her grandma and aunts.

G starts first grade in a little less than two weeks, and I'm both looking forward to it and wishing the summer could last longer. We've done a lot, but there was so much I wanted to do that we didn't get around to -- the beach, the aquarium, the King Tut exhibit. I know she's had a great vacation, though, and she's learned tons of things. Her printing and spelling have improved. She's learned the addition doubles facts up to 20 and the names of all the Greek gods and their myths (we read Roman and Norse myths too, but the Greek ones were her favorites). She helped me make a mobile of the solar system. And her reading is much better than it was in June, although she's not quite ready for chapter books yet.

Also, thanks to her father, she's become a huge Duran Duran fan, LOL. They rented a DVD of old Duran Duran videos from Netflix, and now she can sing "New Moon on Monday" and thinks Simon LeBon is cute. Most importantly, though, she had plenty of time to play and relax and hang out with me and Pete and the rest of her family. Now she's eager for the new school year to begin.

Monday, July 25, 2005

They say it's your birthday

Just getting on here to wish my grandmother a happy birthday. She's 80 years old and still one of the sharpest, funniest, strongest and kindest people I know. I only hope I turn out half as well. Happy birthday, Grams -- I love you!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hey, Torquemada, what do you say?

Today I had another session of root planing and scaling. For those not in the know, this is like a dental cleaning performed by a ruthless sadist in a black mask and spiked collar, except that in this case the sadist is actually my otherwise pleasant dentist. When I had the right side of my mouth done, I went into the bathroom afterward and nearly fainted at the sight of bloodstains all over my face. This time it wasn't quite so brutal, but my jaw is just as sore. I have to go back again at the end of the month to get a filling and possibly two crowns. I swear, you don't go to the dentist for two or three years and your teeth just run wild in there!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Perhaps I spoke too soon

Not four hours after I complained about the picky birds, I looked out the window again and saw a sparrow sitting on the edge of the feeder, eating seed. I ran to get G, and we stood there watching him till he'd finished and flapped away. That's right, bird. You'd better eat if you know what's good for you. ;-)

G and I had a busy day. In addition to the library trip, we bought a new lawn chair to replace the one I had to throw out, some butterflies on a stick to brighten up the back yard, and a Scooby-Doo checker game. Against my better judgment, we also bought seed packets. We've had limited success with growing seeds in pots, but the earth in our back yard is like the Gobi Desert: anything we plant there is fated either to struggle vainly for a while and then keel over, or never come up at all (or get weed-whacked and pruned to death by the landlord's gardening service). It wasn't like that when we moved in. Believe it or not, at the time the yard, with its deep, lush grass and vegetable beds, was the main thing that convinced me to rent this place. Within six months, the grass had died, the vegetables had succumbed to some sort of mysterious leaf rot, and there was nothing out back but my potted geraniums and one sickly rosebush. Ever since then, I've been trying to restore the yard to its original splendor, or at least to get it to stop being an eyesore. I'm a little bit hopeful about the morning-glory seeds we bought today -- morning-glory vines grow wild in the gravel side yard despite a complete lack of water and the gardeners' dogged efforts to root them out, so you'd think they'd be happy to grow in the nice, recently fertilized bed where the vegetables used to live.

After the shopping, G and I watered the front lawn with both hose and sprinklers, which gave her a chance to run around barefoot and get soaked. Hey, that's what summer's all about, isn't it? We all had an early dinner, and then G and I picked up some ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. (I'm in love with their Nutty Coconut flavor. In fact, you should stop reading this right now and go get yourself a scoop or two!) She took a long bath afterward and is still watching TV while she waits for her hair to dry. It's so thick that drying is a two-hour affair, and even the hair dryer takes a good 45 minutes.

For the birds

G and I put a bird feeder in our backyard a couple of weeks ago. So far, we have not seen one bird visit it. Well, I just looked out the kitchen window, and the yard was full of birds sitting on the wall, fluttering back and forth from tree to tree, hopping around on the patch of bare dirt where no grass dares show its face ... and completely ignoring our feeder. Argh! I was ready to open the back door and yell "Eat, you ungrateful little buggers! EAT!" I guess they don't like the seed mix we're offering, and are therefore turning their beaks up at it. What do they think this is, a restaurant?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Rubbish

Today was one of my favorite days of the year. No, not Christmas: it was the annual large-item trash pickup day in our neighborhood. Large-item day is like the reverse of Christmas -- instead of a bunch of new crap coming into the house, a bunch of old crap goes out. Barbecue that we used once before it rusted in last year's rains? Gone. Broken lawn chair that sags alarmingly whenever someone sits in it? Gone. G's old sand table? Gone. It's good for the soul.

Wouldn't it be great if you could get rid of emotional junk that easily? I'd love to be able to drag all my grudges and disappointments and failures out to the curb once a year and have someone come by with a truck and take them away. Ah well, I can dream.

So this is the beginning of the long weekend. Tomorrow, G and I have to find and return her overdue library book before the library police come and haul us off in the paddy wagon. I think they're a little overzealous: the book is a couple of weeks overdue, and they've already sent us a letter threatening to report us to a collection agency. Of course, this is the same library that made me pay a $7 overdue fine for a book I checked out in 1983 when I applied for an adult card in 1995. Busted! I actually think we've returned this book already, so it'll just be a matter of going to the shelf and finding it.

Other than the library, and a trip to the science center on Sunday, we really don't have any plans for the next few days. I'm sure there'll be some sort of family event on Monday for the fourth, and we'll see fireworks -- G and I discovered last year that we can stand out on the sidewalk that runs in front of our lawn and watch a huge display a few miles away for free. Also, "safe and sane" fireworks are still legal in our city, and believe me, the neighbors take full advantage of them. I'm not sure how safe and sane the fireworks are when you're launching them from a nine-foot aluminum ladder in the middle of the street, but they are pretty to look at. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Out of school

Friday was G's last day of kindergarten. I had the day off, so Pete and I headed over to the school at lunchtime and spent a couple of hours with her class, visiting the park next to the school and watching the kids eat ice cream and blow bubbles. There is no joy like the joy of 17 six-year-olds who are blowing bubbles on a warm, sunny day in late June, especially when it's also the last day of school. I felt happy just watching them. :-)

Friday evening was the dance recital, which went about the way you would expect a recital made up mostly of three- and four-year-olds to go. About two kids in each group actually danced; the rest stood transfixed on stage, staring out at the audience like deer caught in the headlights. It was cute, though, and as the dance teacher said in veiled terms, that's what you get when you pay $40 for 9 weeks of instruction. I've already talked to her about putting G in the regular studio classes with girls closer to her own age, so now I just have to find the motivation to call and arrange it. Knowing me, that will take a while. Heh.

On Saturday, we drove down to San Diego to visit the zoo. I had intended to leave around noon, but for one reason and another, we didn't actually get on the road till after 2. We crawled from Oceanside to Carlsbad in some of the most heinous traffic I've seen in a while, and I was expecting G, who is usually an are-we-there-yet sort of car traveler, to complain. Luckily, she was engrossed in a pile of books and hardly looked up from them. By the time we finally arrived, it was so late in the afternoon that we went to the hotel first to check in and drop off our stuff. I'd chosen the hotel specifically because it had bunk beds for kids, so I was glad to see G get excited about them. We plucked her down from the top bunk after a bit and drove over to the zoo for a few hours of eating, riding the tour bus and looking at animals. We had fun, but the weather was unexpectedly cold and windy, so we left at dusk and headed back to the hotel again.

After a complimentary breakfast on Sunday morning, we got home in less than half the time it took us to drive down the previous afternoon. P, who had not been at all pleased with the hotel mattress, promptly fell asleep on the couch and stayed that way for hours while I took G to ride her bike at the park. Later in the afternoon, she and I went to see "Sharkboy and Lavagirl" -- her choice, not mine. (I was sitting there in the theater with my peanut M&Ms, feeling that little thrill of Hey, I'm going to the movies! excitement, and then I remembered I was seeing "Sharkboy and Lavagirl" and it fizzled in an instant!) After the movie let out, we picked up some new books for her at Barnes and Noble, got Chinese food for dinner, and went home to collapse.

This week is going to be all about work. I have so much right now that it feels like my head's going to explode, and you can imagine how much fun that is. However, if I make it to Friday, I get a three-day weekend to recover. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saturday

G got up way before I did this morning. I have no idea what she did while I slept, but she didn't make a mess and she didn't come in and bug me, so I'm fine with it. Go her!

When I woke up, she and I wrote and drew a book called The Adventures of Stickman, which was a continuation of a story I made up while we were waiting for our order at Z Pizza last night. After the drawing, we finished reading about the labors of Hercules in her mythology book, and that made her want to see the Disney Hercules movie, so she watched it while I took a shower. P must have sent her to clean her room at some point, because when I got out, she was cleaning -- well, half-cleaning, half-playing -- and listening to jazz on her clock radio. It gets terrible reception, so she'll listen to whatever station she can find, whether it's jazz or mariachi music or hip-hop.

P and I still haven't eaten breakfast and it's almost lunchtime (I hear some people actually eat regular meals on weekends; can you believe it?) so we've got to do something about that soon. The only other thing on our schedule today is G's dance class -- the regular class is over for this session, but they've got rehearsal for next week's recital this afternoon. I think they'll be rehearsing with the other city classes, all of which are for kids under eight, and most of which seem to be made up of three- and four-year-olds. It's a two-hour rehearsal, which seems like a long time to expect a group of kids that young to stay focused and out of trouble, but that's the dance teachers' problem, not mine.

Friday, June 10, 2005

From the pits of Hades

Ugh, what a week. I had call-in jury service all week long, which meant I never knew from one day to the next whether I'd be going in or not. I finally had to report yesterday, which coincidentally was the same day I was scheduled to get a super-deep dental cleaning.

Okay, I thought, I'll be spending all day at the courthouse, but at least I can put the dentist off for a while! Things could be worse!

Ha ha! said Fate, and promptly made me sick.

I'm sure everyone in the courtroom was glad when I didn't end up on the jury. No one wants to sit next to someone who's sneezing and clutching a damp tissue in each hand. It's still going strong today -- I woke up feeling like I'd been kicked the head, and ended up leaving work halfway through the morning. I don't know whether it's a cold or a really bad allergy attack, but it doesn't make much difference in the amount of misery I feel. It had better be gone by tomorrow, though, because we've got birthday parties both days this weekend.

In other news, I'm reading an interesting book called The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. I like the authors' systematic approach to learning and the idea that it can be used as either a supplement or a replacement for public/private school. I don't want to overwhelm G with a lot of extra work at home, but I think we're going to add some of the recommended books to our regular reading. You're supposed to focus on the ancients (Greeks, Egyptians, etc.) during the first four "grammar" years, and she's interested in that sort of thing anyway, so she should enjoy it. At the very least, she'll already be familiar with some of the myths when they come up in the higher grades.

That's it for now. I have to go blow my nose and whimper for a while.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Let's all put on our bragging hats

This is where I reveal myself as one of those mothers who gets overly excited about her child's every small accomplishment. Deal with it. :-)

The kindergarten play was this week, and dang was it cute. (Really, all you have to do is put fifty or sixty kindergarteners on stage together, and you're guaranteed cuteness whether they perform well or not.) It was a farm play, and G's class played the pigs. She had six lines, which made me a little nervous -- she could say them perfectly at home, not to mention execute all the songs and dances like a pro, but you never know what's going to happen when the spotlight's on. She did wonderfully well, though, and we were very proud.

Because she was one of the Student of the Month winners for May, we were invited to watch her accept her award at an assembly the day after the play. She got to shake the principal's hand and stand up on the stage with her certificate and the "Super Student" bumper sticker that comes with it. P isn't a bumper-sticker kind of guy, so the sticker went on my car. I told her that I would take her out to dinner anywhere she wanted to celebrate, but instead of a restaurant, she chose a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place she loves. So, we went to an early showing of Madagascar, and then she had her slice of cheese pizza and was happy.

Today was the usual Saturday-morning tap class. They're having a recital on June 24, so the entire class is devoted to rehearsal for that right now. Most of the other girls in her class are much younger -- it's for 4- to 6-year-olds, and I think she's the only one at the top end of that range -- and they're all over the place, talking to each other and giggling and falling on the floor. G, on the other hand, is dead serious about it all. She stands there in the middle of the line, towering over everyone else, watching the teacher with a look of intense concentration and copying her every move. She may not be the world's best tap dancer, but it's not for lack of trying. I have the feeling I ought to switch her into a class for older kids when this session ends, because the teacher has to spend so much time getting the 4-year-olds to stay in line and do what they're supposed to do that there isn't much left for actual instruction.

G, for her part, says she wants to quit tap and take flamenco during the summer session. There is a flamenco class for 6- to 12-year-olds, but I really don't want to sign her up for it. For one thing, I don't think she actually knows what flamenco is -- she just likes the sound of it -- and for another, I don't want to buy yet another pair of special shoes for a class that only lasts 9 weeks. I think I'll check out what's available through the rec departments in a few neighboring cities and see if there's something that appeals to her more.

After tap, I took her out to breakfast at Denny's, where she's been asking to go for a while. She enjoyed her French toast sticks and had fun playing with the Madagascar mask and finger puppet they were giving out. We had to ask specially for her to have one, and I'm pretty sure it's because the hostess thought she was older and wouldn't want it. This is something that happens all the time -- she's very tall for her age and always has been, and so people assume she's older than she is, even though she talks and acts like a 6-year-old. In fact, it happened again later in the day while we were at the Lakeshore Learning store. An older girl came up to us in the musical instruments aisle and started talking to G, obviously assuming G was her age. When she got around to asking G how old she was, G said "Six," and the girl said "Oh! I'm eight ... I thought you were eight too." (I hope this looking-older thing doesn't translate into looking 16 when she's 12. Eeek.)

Lakeshore Learning was great, by the way. They have free crafts for kids every Saturday, so G made a hand puppet, and we bought some fun stuff -- a kit for making bead necklaces and bracelets, a floor puzzle, a bucket of word tiles (there are prefixes like bl- and br- and endings like -ack and -ight, and you put them together to make words), and a laminated map of the world. She played with these goodies all afternoon, first with me, and then by herself while P and I watched the season finale of "Lost." I got a Teacher's Club card on this visit, so I'll definitely be going back for more shopping. I've always gotten educational supplies at Staples, but they don't have anywhere near the selection this place does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Talk to me

G's pretty articulate for a six-year-old -- she has a good vocabulary, and her speech is clear and easy to understand, even for adults who don't know her. However, a couple of "baby" pronunciations have lingered. Until this year, she always said "do's" for "does," as in "He do's that." Now she always gets "does" right, but she still says "taste-es" for "tastes," as in "This spaghetti sauce taste-es weird." (I heard that one at the dinner table this evening.) I probably should not find this cute, but I do. I'm going to be sad when "taste-es" goes the way of "do's."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

You know your weekend was busy ...

... when you don't get around to writing about it till Wednesday.

On Friday night, we went as a family to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." I probably enjoyed it the most, since I've been a fan of the books since I was a teenager, but P and G liked it too.

On Saturday, G had tap class as usual. Then, after lunch, we went with some friends to see an exhibit of Egyptian mummies at a local museum. G's been interested in mummies ever since we read a Magic Treehouse book about them, so she was pretty excited to see some in person. I was too -- I did see some Egyptian things when P and I visited the Metropolitan Museum several years ago, but we were in a hurry at the time and I didn't get to look at them for as long as I would have liked. In addition to mummies, this exhibit had lots of sarcophagi, canopic jars, wooden coffins, figurines, and scarabs and other jewelry. G pronounced all the jewelry "gorgeous," LOL. I'm fascinated by personal effects like those because they make me think about the people they belonged to: a necklace may be an artifact in a glass case now, but once it was someone's prized possession, kept safe in a box and taken out on special occasions. Somehow I doubt any of my own jewelry will be in a museum 3,000 years from now, but hey, you never know.

On Sunday morning, G had a playdate with one of her best friends. The two girls hadn't seen each other in a few months, and it was hard for them to say goodbye even after three hours of nonstop playing! We finished out the day with a trip to Toys R' Us and an early dinner, and then it was time to regroup for another crazy week of work and school. That's one thing I don't like about Sunday nights: the feeling that my reprieve is over and I'm about to jump back on the hamster wheel again. Blah.

Anyway, next weekend is promising to be just as busy. G has a birthday party to attend on Saturday afternoon and is looking forward to it immensely -- she's been talking about it nonstop ever since she got the invitation two weeks ago. On Sunday, we'll make a quick stop to give P's mom her Mother's Day gifts, and then we're off to Disneyland to renew our annual passes. G doesn't know we're going to Disneyland yet. She also doesn't know we're spending the night at the Disneyland Hotel and going again the next day, so there should be major excitement when we tell her. I'm looking forward to it. :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Under the sea

Since pretty much everything in G's bathroom was ruined when the ceiling fell in, she got to choose all-new decor for it last night. P vetoed her first choice (multicolored stripes), so she went for Target's Glitter Fish design instead. I bought the toothbrush holder and soap dispenser (both shaped like fish), the trash can (tropical blue with fish) the rug (also tropical blue with fish) and the towels (white with embroidered fish), as well as a picture of a cartoon octopus for the wall. The rug is awfully small, and it still looks pretty bare in there, so I may try to find some additional rugs in a complementary color, and maybe a wallpaper border. I like decorating, but it's so hard to fill up a whole room, even one as tiny as a bathroom! I wish we could paint -- it's a much cheaper way to liven a place up -- but that's one of the drawbacks of renting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It's alive!

Oops. I seem not to have updated in a while.

It's been a long two months, filled with birthdays (not mine), hospitalization (also not mine), inhuman amounts of work (mine, alas) and a collapsing bathroom ceiling (the whole family's, but I was the poor slob who happened to be in there when it collapsed). After all that, I'm hoping for a very boring and uneventful summer.

G started her tap class this past weekend and is enjoying it so far. Hey, what kid wouldn't love the opportunity to wear noisy shoes and stomp on a wooden floor? It ends just about the time she gets out of school, so I should probably start looking around for some other activities to keep her busy through vacation. She'll be going to art day camp at a local museum for a week in August, but that's all I've lined up for her so far. Now that she's used to getting out of the house every day, I think she'll be restless once the novelty of staying home wears off. I hope P is well enough to take her out occasionally. I know he wants to; it's just hard when he's feeling ill.

In other news, she and I have been reading tons of books lately. We've been through a new Magic Treehouse, several of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, a book called Chocolate Fever that I remember from my grade-school days, a Clue Jr. Mysteries book, and about half of James and the Giant Peach. I love Roald Dahl, but his books are hard to read aloud because every other line of dialogue is "cried" or "shouted" or "screamed" or "shrieked." He was a great fan of exclamation points, was Roald. We read picture books tonight instead, which was a nice rest for my poor, tired voice, but tomorrow it'll be back to the shrieking and hollering. I do need to work some easy books into our nightly reading so G can read to me, too. When we read chapter books, I just let her lie back and listen -- it wouldn't be any fun for her if I made her struggle through a page of James and the Giant Peach. (Plus, we'd be up till sunrise because she'd have to stop and sound out every fourth or fifth word.) She does need to practice, though.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The truth shall set you free. Or something.

It's taken ten years, but my husband has finally admitted his age. He's been claiming he's twenty-five ever since he was ... well, twenty-five. When he turned thirty, I told him, "You can keep that up for another year and a half, but when I turn thirty, you'd better turn thirty with me." But my thirtieth birthday came and went, and if you asked him his age, he'd still say "Twenty-five" with a sly grin.

Well, the other day, he was complaining about his arthritis, and he said "It's just not fair! I shouldn't have arthritis yet. I'm only turning thirty-fi -- oh, crap! I admitted it! Oh, no! There's no going back now!"

So his birthday's tomorrow, and in honor of the occasion, and his great (if accidental) admission, I got him a special card. On the outside, it has a shot of two dinosaurs from one of those cheesy fifties sci-fi movies, with a little speech balloon that says "Remember us?" On the inside, it says "We used to sit behind you in homeroom."

Heh heh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Art for art's sake

G and I had some fun with art on Sunday afternoon. She was banging markers randomly down on a paper towel and letting the ink dots spread, and something about that reminded me of those splattery Jackson Pollock action paintings. I got my laptop and showed her what they looked like, and then, for comparison, showed her Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte to illustrate how you could also use dots of color to make a more traditional "picture." Some of the images of Impressionist paintings in the sidebar on that page caught her eye, and she asked to look at them, so we clicked through a few. Afterward, she decided to name her own picture "The Rainbow Colors" (I had told her that artists usually give a title to each piece of work). She wrote that at the top of the paper towel, with a little spelling help from me, and then signed it at the bottom the way an artist would.

Anyway, this was an interesting way to spend half an hour. She really loves all sorts of painting and drawing, and she's been asking to go to a "picture museum" for a long time, but I've never taken her because I thought she wasn't old enough to appreciate it. We've been to plenty of natural history and science and children's museums, but never an art one. Maybe it's time.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Brought to you by Hallmark and Hershey

Yes, it's that day of the year, also known as The Day Before All The Chocolate Goes On Sale.

Last night I bought heart-shaped balloons for G and sneaked them into her room so she'd see them first thing in the morning. She was thrilled -- I woke up with her standing by my side of the bed and whispering "Mommy, I got some balloons! Did you do that?" They had a Valentine party in her class this morning, and she handed out the Valentines she and I made and got a huge bag of cards and candy in return. When I got home from work, she was sitting on the couch, still in her ballet clothes (she has ballet class on Monday afternoons), devouring a cherry sucker like there was no tomorrow. It's good to be six. :-)

On the adult side of things, P got me Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I've been wanting to read, and I got him a bar of Godiva dark chocolate and a Hellblazer graphic novel, which I'll have to exchange because it turned out to be one he already had. (Repeat after me: It's the thought that counts.) Overall, I'd say it was a successful holiday.

In other news, our fish tank has developed a slow leak. We've had it for almost two years, so I suppose it was inevitable, but it's still annoying, not least because it means I have to buy, haul home and set up a new tank. I'm not looking forward to catching the fish and transferring them into their new home, either. The goldfish aren't too bad, but the catfish is strong and stubborn and doesn't like to be moved. P suggested that I just flush them -- "It's like Krypton," he said, "their environment is dying, so you might as well get it over with quickly" -- but I can't bring myself to do that. Guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow night ...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A quiz

What's the most enjoyable way to spend a Sunday?

A. Cleaning out a garage inhabited by hungry, aggressive spiders that make Shelob look like Charlotte
B. Sticking metal objects into outlets to see which one gives you the biggest shock
C. Sitting at the urgent-care clinic with a feverish, miserable child for five hours

After today, I'd choose A and B over C.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Thursday Night Fever

After days and days of cough syrup and tissues and eyedrops, we finally thought G would be well enough to go to school tomorrow. Then her fever returned and shot up to 102.7, and we were right back where we started. Drat! I don't believe in suppressing every single fever with medication, but 102 degrees is the point at which I think the discomfort starts to outweigh the benefits. So she had some Tylenol, and yet another dose of cough syrup, and I read the first four chapters of the next Magic Treehouse book to her before bed. This one's got a character called the Ice Wizard (apparently based on Odin from Norse mythology) who wants Jack and Annie to bring back his stolen eye. That idea prompted a lot of "Ewww!" noises and giggling from G, especially when I got her teddy bear and made it say "Give me my EYE!" and "Excuse me, little girl, have you seen my EYE anywhere?" I'm tempted to sneak into her room and put a little black eyepatch on the bear, just to see what she'll say when she wakes up in the morning.

Other than reading aloud, I haven't done anything to work on her reading for a couple of weeks. I did find some good ideas for phonics games and activities in the library book I brought home last weekend, so once she's feeling better, I'll try introducing some of those. Books have helped me a lot with phonics -- I had no trouble explaining the alphabet and the basic letter sounds to her when we started working on reading last year, but I ran into trouble when it came to the phonics rules because I'd never learned them myself. According to my mother, she taught me the letters, and then I somehow started reading on my own with no further instruction. (My first-grade teacher complained that I had "no phonics skills at all," to which my mother said something like "So what? She can read!") G learns differently, though, and I think phonics are the best thing for her. I want to find some sort of assessment test so I can figure out exactly what she needs to work on -- sometimes she asks me to tell her words she ought to know, and other times she easily reads words I wouldn't expect her to know in a million years. Sneaky girl. :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Typhoid G

Poor G's on her second full day of being sick. All she's done this weekend is lie on the couch and watch TV. She saw Balto and The Neverending Story and about 47395 episodes of Zoboomafoo and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends that her dad had stored on the DV-R. She perked up for a little while this afternoon and drew a picture of herself exploring the jungle, but then she crawled back under her quilt and spent some more quality time with the tube. We also finished reading Magic Treehouse #31 -- only two more to go before we're all caught up with the series. These last few are longer, and IMO, better written than the previous installments, although I'm probably prejudiced because they're also more focused on magic, fantasy and folklore, which is what I like to read about. I'm eagerly waiting for her to be ready for some of my old fantasy favorites, like the Narnia books and The Dark is Rising series.

Since she's been sick, I've had more time than usual to do my own reading. I finished reading Wicked for the second time while I was sick last week, so I went to the library for some new material yesterday. I got Peyton Place, A Wizard of Earthsea (one of those old favorites), a book on helping your child with reading, and a very interesting book called Never Done, which is a history of housework in America. After reading the chapter on laundry, I developed a new appreciation for my washing machine. I'd go insane if I had to stand over a woodstove boiling my dirty clothes all day long.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Short and bittersweet

I forgot to mention in my last post that my grandmother came to stay with us for a few days this week. She got here on Tuesday afternoon and left early this morning. I haven't seen her in two and a half years, and the last time wasn't under the best circumstances, so it was wonderful having her, even for a short time. It's never easy to say goodbye, though. When I went into G's room this morning, she looked up at me with big, tear-filled eyes and said, "I'm going to miss Grams." Me too. :*(

In other news, G's come down with a nasty cold and is coughing and sneezing everywhere. Unpleasant as this is, it's actually good timing. I've been living in dread that she'd get sick and miss out on some of the activities we had planned, but now that all the partying and visiting is over, a cold is no big deal. Plus, since it's Friday, she has the whole weekend to rest and recover. I really hope I don't get what she's got, though. I was just sick last week -- I'd like to be healthy for a while at least.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Party All The Time

It seems as if all we've done for ages is go to kids' birthday parties. Last week, G's friend Jack had his fifth birthday at Chuck E. Cheese, with all the games and flashing lights and guys in giant mouse suits that involves. Two days after that, we had G's party at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Her friends Tabitha, Jack, Sofia and Adam came, along with Sofia's little brother Benjamin, and all six of them had a wonderful time choosing, stuffing and dressing their animals. G dressed her bunny in a fairy princess costume and named it Glinda -- not after Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, but after Glinda in Wicked, which is her latest obsession. After the bears, we went to Red Robin, and G opened her presents at the table. I'm sure the staff at Red Robin was horrified to see a party of twelve with six kids under six arriving, but everyone behaved very nicely (even we parents, ha ha), and enjoyed their ice cream sundaes/cookies/apple crisp/etc.

The following day, it was off to G's friend Tabitha's house for Tabitha's sixth birthday party. G divided her time between bouncing in the bounce house and hanging out in Tabitha's playhouse with some of the other girls. They had collected a bunch of pebbles from the landscaping and were pretending to cook them in the playhouse kitchen. Good times, good times.

Yesterday was G's actual birthday, and you guessed it, we had another party -- this one a short celebration at her school, with cupcakes and goodie bags for all the kids in her class. She'd asked for a Kim Possible theme, so I got Kim Possible plates and stuffed the bags with Kim Possible stickers and 3-D glasses. Later, we took her to Rainforest Café, which is not a place I'd ever choose to eat at myself, but hey, it wasn't my birthday. She really enjoyed everything and was thrilled when the waiters brought her an ice cream sundae and sang the Rainforest Café birthday song. It's hard to believe that she's the same kid who, as a toddler, would scream in sheer terror when waiters at a restaurant sang to anyone, even if they were ten tables away.

Rainforest Café is inside the mall, so after we ate, I took her to the toy store to spend some of her birthday money. She picked out a Clikits kit with two photo frames and a little box to decorate. She loves to make any sort of craft, and is very good at it -- a talent she certainly didn't inherit from me, I can tell you. In addition to the money and the Clikits, she got a bracelet, a necklace, a Borders gift card, two new Polly Pocket sets, the last three Magic Treehouse books (we've got the whole 33-book series now ), a DVD of the first Princess Diaries movie, and the Disney edition of Trivial Pursuit. I've really been trying to get her fewer big toys because there's just no space for them in her room -- and it isn't a small room, either. We had a massive toy decluttering session a few months ago, and I'm thinking it may be time for another one. All kids should have such problems.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bucket o' sap

G is turning six in two weeks, and I'm having serious issues with it. I went through something similar when she started kindergarten back in September, but this is on a grander scale. I guess I'm just not ready for her to be this old. *sniff* When she was a toddler, I could hardly wait for her to grow up. I wanted to have real conversations with her and read classic children's literature to her and do all the things we couldn't do yet. (I'll admit that I was also pretty excited about the idea of not changing diapers or dealing with tantrums anymore.) Now that we're there, I wish I could turn back time and have a little toddler again. I get emotional about it at the oddest moments, too. For example, just before Christmas, I replaced the small bookshelf I bought when she was two with a pair of larger units that take up an entire wall. The result made her room look like a big kid's room instead of a little kid's room, and before you could say "hysterical mother," I was all watery-eyed and quivery-lipped. Oddly, I didn't have this problem when we bought her bed, which is supposed to be the Really Big Furniture-Related Rite of Passage. For one thing, she almost never slept in her crib -- it was more of a giant stuffed-animal container han anything else -- and for another, she was still so small that she could hardly climb onto the bed unassisted. It's harder to pretend your child is still a baby when she's over four feet tall and is dancing around with an iPod and singing along to Hilary Duff, you know?

The funny thing is, last year, she angsted for six months before her birthday because she didn't want to turn five. Every night at bedtime, she'd lie there in the dark and moan, "I wish I could stay four forever! I don't like the number five!" and I would console her and tell her how cool it would be to be five and how much fun she was going to have. Now she's eagerly anticipating her birthday, and I'm a soppy ball of angst.

Anyway, one way or the other, she is going to be six soon. She spent most of November and December poring over the Birthday Express catalog like a high-school senior with a bunch of college brochures, trying to make up her mind about what sort of party she wanted. At last, we decided that she wasn't going to have a Birthday Express party at all. Instead, she's taking five of her friends to Build-A-Bear Workshop to make teddies, and then going upstairs to Red Robin for dessert. (Which reminds me that I should probably call Red Robin to arrange this. And mail the invitations. Yeah. That'd be good.) On her actual birthday, she's going to bring cupcakes and juice for everyone at school. This is a compromise -- her first choice was having a party at home for all her school and non-school friends, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to cram 24 kids into my living room. Scratch that: I knew it would be certain disaster. So we decided to go the two-celebration route, and she took it very well. Hmmm, maybe there'll be some benefits to having an older kid after all.