Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Funny, I think I just lost my appetite

Warning: talk of vomit ahead. Avoid if you have a weak stomach.

So tonight G's school had their annual fundraiser at McDonald's. This is an extremely popular event at which the teachers and other staff get behind the counter and cook, bag and ring up your order, and in return, 20 percent of what you spend goes to the school. It's crowded and chaotic, and it's at McDonald's, which is waaaaaay down there on my list of places to eat, but G loves seeing her friends and has been looking forward to it all week, so we went.

Anyway, we were standing inside McDonald's with our next-door neighbor and her son (G's friend A) in a long, serpentine line full of switchbacks. It was so hot and stuffy that I felt a little lightheaded, and I was trying to follow the conversation while keeping an eye on G, who kept disappearing behind me. Suddenly she pulled on my arm and said "Oh, gross -- Mommy, look!" I turned around, and a kid less than 15 feet from us had just finished puking on the floor.

"Did that boy just throw up?" I asked G.

"Yes!" she said. "Ewww!"

Ewww, indeed. The kid's mother was right there with paper napkins, frantically cleaning it up, and a few minutes later a McDonald's employee turned up with a mop to finish the job, but I was beyond grossed out. OMG, outbreak! I kept thinking. He's a vector for disease. In a week there'll be a story on the news, and the anchor will be saying "Experts have traced the super-virulent barf germs to a McDonald's in Southern California." (It didn't help that I'd recently had a conversation with someone who used to work in a daycare center, and she'd told me that any time a child threw up, 50 percent of the kids who'd been near him when it happened would get sick within a few days. No wonder I never sent G to daycare.) Maybe we're in luck and he just ate too fast or got overheated instead of actually having a virus. I did feel bad for the poor kid -- no one likes to be sick -- but still, ewww.

Toad the wet sprocket

One of G's weekly assignments is writing each of the words on that week's spelling list in a sentence. (I was skeptical about the efficacy of spelling lists, but her spelling has improved by light years since she started getting them. Color me impressed.) This week, every single sentence she wrote had something to do with toads. Toads on the moon, toads at the zoo, toads who need coats -- what is this toad obsession? Should I start checking her for warts? LOL "Toad" was actually one of the words of the week, but she just took it to a whole new level.

Of course, my all-time favorite spelling sentence so far is "Mom doesn't cook chicken." Nope, not in this house she doesn't!

Monday, March 27, 2006

It's Monday, all right

Whenever I'm tense or upset, I pick and bite at my cuticles and the skin around them until my hands look positively leprous. I've been doing it since I was in high school, sometimes more often, sometimes less, depending on what's happening in my life. Work has been stressful lately, so I've been at it a lot. I was fine while I was at home on Saturday and Sunday, and the picked-at places had almost healed over, but on the way to work this morning, I caught myself nibbling again. Now my left thumb and right index finger are all raw and sore. Dammit.

To top that off, while I was driving home, something seized up in my right shoulder/upper back. Half my mind was on a looming deadline at work; the other half on getting home before six and what I was going to cook for dinner when I got there; and a tiny corner reminding me to stop at the post office and mail the late payment for P's parking ticket. I felt a knot starting to form as I turned into the post-office parking lot, and by the time I found a parking space and got out of the car, it was in full-blown white-hot spasm. It's been getting better over the course of the evening, but I don't think sitting here at the computer is doing it any good. P just came up behind me and gave me a mini-massage, and I'm about to go lie down with a heating pad and a book.

How many more days till the weekend?

On the lighter side, G drew a fantastic set of pictures of the Scooby-Doo characters this evening. She already had Daphne and Fred finished when I got home, and did Velma, Scooby and Shaggy while I was making dinner. She does the most amazing drawings sometimes. It's not so much that they're exceptionally well-drawn as that she picks unusual things to depict: she'll draw a scene from the perspective of someone standing behind the action, or put in a unique detail you'd never think of including. (She once did a picture of her bear sitting on a table, and next to him in the picture was a copy of the same picture, and I assume it continued to infinity.) Her buildings have every window lovingly drawn in; her people have eyelashes and fingernails and shoelaces. She takes after P -- he loved to draw as a kid and young teenager, and his whole family thought he was going to be an artist until he turned 15 and discovered the guitar. After that his career goal was "rock star." :-)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Scooby Day

Today I was determined to stay home so G could rest, and except for one quick trip to Henry's, that's exactly what we did. It worked, too -- she only coughed a few times all day, and went to bed without needing any medicine.

Pretty much the entire day was devoted to Scooby-Doo in one form or another. G has quite a few Scooby DVDs -- everything from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? to The Scooby-Doo and Dynomutt Hour to What's New, Scooby-Doo?, and we let her watch endless hours of them so she'd stay quiet and avoid aggravating her cough. When she wasn't watching Scooby, she was reading Scooby books or playing pretend Scooby games with me. (I didn't think of bringing out our Scooby checker set, but it would have been a nice touch.) I even consented to talk in a Scooby voice while buying groceries at Henry's. G really enjoyed that, although I hate to think what the other shoppers must have thought.

In other news, P and I had a serious talk with G about her ballet class. It's been about three months since she moved up to the older kids' group, and she's been having trouble adapting her behavior to fit the new environment. In her previous class, most of the girls were pretty young, they weren't expected to learn anything too rigorous, and there was a lot of talking and playing around. In this class, the teacher is teaching "real" ballet, and the girls are supposed to stay focused and dance without a lot of fuss. Unfortunately, G loves the sound of her own voice and is a bit of a drama queen, so she's constantly talking, complaining about the exercises being too hard, announcing minor injuries and singing along to the music. She doesn't seem to realize that she's the only one doing this (in her defense, since it's the same teacher, she probably thinks the same rules, or lack thereof, apply), and she gets irritated when I frown at her from the waiting area. The teacher hasn't done much about it yet, but I can feel her patience wearing thin, and I want to get G on a better track myself before someone says something.

So anyway, P set the conversation up brilliantly this morning. First he mentioned the names of a few kids in her class at school who are extremely disruptive, and asked her how she feels about the way they act. She said she doesn't like it because they make too much noise and bother her when she's trying to learn. Then he said, well, if you don't like their behavior, why do you do the same thing at ballet? She immediately started to cry and said she wouldn't talk in class anymore. I told her that it's fine to talk if the teacher asks her a question, or if she doesn't understand how to do a step, or during a break -- but it's not appropriate for her to deliver a running commentary throughout the entire hour, because it's disruptive and prevents the other girls from concentrating on their dancing.

We agreed that from now on I'll give her a signal (a finger over the lips) when she's talking too much, and she'll take the hint and settle down instead of getting angry at me. P told her that if her behavior doesn't improve, she'll be withdrawn from the class and won't be able to perform in the spring recital, and since I know the recital is very important to her, I think she'll hold up her end of the bargain. She's been working hard on getting her steps right because of the recital; we practiced jumps last week, and she was able to do them correctly for the first time at yesterday's class. Anyway, we'll see how it goes.


G and I logged our first dollar at Where's George? last night. Our dollar started out in Michigan and was recorded four times -- twice in Michigan and twice in California -- before it made its way to us. We spent it in a vending machine today, so it'll be interesting to see where it goes from there.

Today was a long, busy day. First I took G to ballet, then from there to the library. The library we use is in another city, which is a thirty-minute round trip, and we usually spend a good hour looking for books and another half-hour in the snack bar, so going there can easily take up half an afternoon -- longer if we happen to be there at one of the story/craft times. When we finally got out of there, we picked up P's prescription at the pharmacy, went home for a while, then went back out with P to return something to a store. I'd heard that the new Magic Treehouse book was out, but the Barnes and Noble in the shopping center we were at didn't have it, so we stopped at Borders and found it there. G and I read the first chapter together before bed, and it looks as if it'll be good -- this time, Jack and Annie are visiting the 1889 World's Fair in Paris.

We got home later than I'd intended, and ate dinner even later than that, and with one thing and another, G didn't get to sleep until well after 10 p.m. I've been trying to put her to bed as early as possible -- she's had a pair of back-to-back colds over the last couple of weeks, and she needs more rest if she's going to shake off the lingering congestion and cough -- so this was not according to my plan. She was actually doing a lot better this morning, but by the end of the day she'd started coughing and sniffling pretty heavily again. I probably shouldn't have kept her out as long as I did today, but she's so chipper and energetic that it's hard to remember she's still not 100 percent. (I did refuse to let her go "exploring" in the park because it was cold and windy outside, and boy, was she displeased at that decision.) I guess we'll stick closer to home tomorrow and see if it helps.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lunch bag queen

Even though I'm total crap at art, one thing I do enjoy doing is decorating G's lunch bags. If I put off making her lunch until morning, I don't have time to do much, but at the very least I always add a few flowers or stars around her name with a marker. When I make her lunch at night and have plenty of time, I use rubber stamps or stickers, or I attempt an actual picture. Tonight I cut a silhouette of a stalking leopard out of animal-print craft paper, glued it to the front of the bag, and then wrote her name and drew a little design around it in matching colors. ("That's just going above and beyond," said P when he caught me wielding the glue.)

I like doing lunch bag art because it's a way to let G know that even though I can't be there when she eats lunch, I'm still thinking of her. We've had many conversations about why I have to work, and how much I wish I could be with her instead, but it never seems to stop bothering her. I thought she would just grow up accepting that Mommy works and Daddy stays home, since it's all she's ever known, but it hasn't worked out that way. Maybe kids are genetically programmed to want their mothers, or maybe P is right and I nursed G longer than I should have. (He thinks it made her too attached to me, if that's even possible.) Either way, it's an ongoing issue, and probably will continue to be until she becomes a teenager and starts wanting me to go away.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Stuff and nonsense

There is a place in Target that makes my child go insane. No, it's not the toy department. It's that "Dottie Loves" area in the girls' clothing section where they keep the really skanktastic outfits, the artificial hair falls, the press-on nails, and the rhinestone-festooned cowgirl hats. Apparently there's some sort of personality-altering chemical being pumped through secret vents behind the display, because as soon as G comes within 10 feet of it, she starts flouncing around like a miniature Paris Hilton. She uses a fake, annoying voice and squeals that everything is sooooo cute, and I'm left looking behind the racks for the pod that contains the real G. She doesn't act like that in the paper-towel aisle, I can tell you. And no, she's not allowed to wear press-on nails or artificial hair. Yuck.

In more pleasant news, G and I have been a pair of reading fools lately. G read Beastly Tales: Yeti, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster in the car while we were out doing errands; she also read most of Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist: Attack of the 50-Foot Cupid and finished it later with me. Together, we read the remaining three Franny books: The Invisible Fran, The Fran That Time Forgot and Frantastic Voyage, all of which we loved. (I'm just waiting for my chance to quote one particular line from Frantastic Voyage.) We also read two more of the Daisy Meadows fairy books: Abigail the Breeze Fairy and Pearl the Cloud Fairy. I was expecting Britishisms of the mom/mum, color/colour type, since these editions are from the UK, but some of the terminology left me puzzled -- if anyone knows what a "marquee" (not a sign over a theater, but something to do with a carnival) or a "Tombola booth" is, please relieve my curiosity!

As for my own reading, I got about halfway through The Rice Mother before putting it down to read Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads: Dealing With the Parents, Teachers, Coaches and Counselors Who Can Make or Break Your Child's Future. I read Queen Bees and Wannabes a year or two ago and found this book just as true to life. Though it's geared toward parents with kids in public school, I think everyone encounters these personality types sooner or later, whether it's in a playgroup, a church group, a dance class, or some other location where kids and parents congregate.

Around the time I finished that book, life got stressful, and I retreated to the womb (figuratively) by hiding under the covers and rereading old childhood favorites like Farmer Boy and Over Sea, Under Stone. I'll get back to The Rice Mother soon, and I've got The Poisonwood Bible waiting for me too, but I think I'll finish rereading the whole The Dark is Rising sequence (of which Over Sea, Under Stone is a part) before then. Comfort reading is such a small vice I don't think it even counts as one.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weather or not

We had the strangest weather today. One minute the sky was heavy and sullen with thick, grey clouds; the next minute it was all clear and blue with hardly a wisp of cloud in sight; and then it was back to dark and forbidding again. We kept coming in from bright sunshine and going out under cold drizzle. I don't think it rained for more than 20 minutes altogether, but that 20 minutes came in half a dozen bursts of three or four minutes each. If you saw someone shaking her fist at the heavens this afternoon and shouting "Make up your mind already," that would have been me.

It seemed strange to shop for spring clothes on a day like this, but warm weather is just around the corner, and G has inconveniently outgrown almost everything she wore last year. We found some cute, inexpensive things at Old Navy: a skirt, a couple of T-shirts, a pair of capri jeans, a lightweight sweater, and a marked-down long-sleeved shirt, which I bought in a bigger size so she can wear it next fall/winter too. I saw other things I liked, but I've learned the hard way not to go crazy at the beginning of the season -- every time I do that, she has a growth spurt and ends up with a closet full of barely-worn jeans and shirts that don't fit her.

We came home for a while to have lunch and relax, and then went out again in yet another futile attempt to get my laptop fixed. This time I did manage to talk to someone at the Apple Store, but he promptly told us I'd have to go someplace else to have my data backed up. Grrr! I'm starting to think it would be cheaper and easier just to buy an external hard drive and do it myself. He also said it looked like there was liquid damage to my keyboard (which as far as I know there isn't), and that there was a possibility Apple wouldn't repair it because liquid damage voids the warranty. After everything I've gone through to get my coverage activated, I'll be ready to explode if I can't use it ... and if they tell me I need to pay for a new laptop, I don't know what I'll do. P is going to try the place we were referred to this week, and hopefully we'll have things resolved soon. I suspect I'm going to be bringing a lot of work home with me for a while, and I really need a functioning laptop -- I can't work on P's iMac at all.

After Apple, we stopped at Borders, which is in the same mall, and got two more Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books for G. She loves them -- she sat in the café with P and read most of Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid while I browsed. I started The Invisible Fran with her at bedtime, and she'll probably have finished it by the time I get home from work tomorrow. For myself, I got The Rice Mother, which I'm enjoying so far. (Sorry, House of the Spirits, it's back to the library with you.) In fact, I think I'll get off the computer now and go read some more of it before bed.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ice from the sky

G and I were camped out on the living-room floor this evening, eating popcorn and watching our Friday-night movie*, when I heard a strange clattering noise that sounded like someone throwing pebbles down a drainpipe.

That's some loud rain, I thought, then, Wait a minute ... that's not rain, it's HAIL!

I got up and opened the front door, and sure enough, there were little white hailstones melting all over our doormat. Hail in Southern California is exceedingly rare -- not sign-of-the-apocalypse rare, but definitely once-or-twice-a-decade rare. I called to G, and like a couple of crazy people, we went outside in our pajamas and bare feet. I went out farther than she did, but she had a great time anyway, laughing and screaming and ducking back inside every time a fresh volley of hail came down.

"Go get Daddy so he can see it!" I said, and she ran to fetch P, who came to investigate, but decided he'd rather stay warm and dry than get pelted by ice in the dark. Hey, when you don't have real weather very often, you've got to experience the heck out of it while you can.

We're actually supposed to have thunderstorms tomorrow, and that's not likely to be as much fun for G, who has to go out in her dance clothes. I'm going to miss her ballet class this week because I have a hair appointment. (P will take her instead.) I'd rather not, but it was the only appointment I could get this weekend, and I can't wait any longer -- I haven't been since before Christmas, and my roots are in a state of emergency. I had no idea, when I found my first grey hair at age 17, that keeping the stuff covered was going to end up being such a hassle!

Tomorrow is also the day G and I are planning to make soup. She has a book called Mud Soup, which is about a boy named Josh whose friend Rosa keeps offering him the "mud soup" her mother and grandmother make. He's scared to eat it because he thinks it's really made of mud, but at last he tries it, and it turns out to be black bean soup -- delicioso! Anyway, G first read this book about a year ago, and ever since then, she's been asking to make "mud soup" from the recipe at the back. I finally remembered to buy the ingredients at the store, so we'll start soaking the beans in the morning and make the soup for dinner. We both love black beans, so it ought to be good. I hope P will try it too -- he's definitely the Josh in our family. :-)

*It was Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Math, bleah; books, yay!

G has been working on money problems in math for the last couple of weeks, and it's been a real struggle for her. She knows how much all the coins are worth, and she can add up groups of coins pretty accurately, but she's stumped by the reverse problems -- the ones that say "Draw 84 cents in coins," and you're supposed to draw three quarters, a nickel and four pennies, or two quarters, three dimes and four pennies, or whatever. She doesn't do too badly with smaller amounts, like 15 or 20 cents, but even then she wants to show them all in pennies and nickels because those are easier to add.

In the course of all this money-counting, I've also discovered that she doesn't know how to count by tens when the numbers don't end in zero: that is, she knows 20, 30, 40, 50, but if you count 24, 34, 44, she doesn't know that the next number should be 54. I thought that was intuitive, but then a lot of things seem intuitive when you already know them. I guess she and I will have to do some extra practice.

We finished reading Crystal the Snow Fairy tonight, and now we're all out of fairy books. There are scads more -- six in the Weather Fairies series, plus three more series of seven books each -- but they're only available in the UK at the moment. I haven't decided yet whether I want to order them from Amazon UK or wait for them to be published here. In the meantime, we started on Jigsaw Jones and the Case of the Marshmallow Monster. G is loving it so far. It's all about a camping trip, so she went and got her Scooby-Doo sleeping bag and zipped herself up in it to read (and in fact is sleeping in it right now, only on top of her bed).

As for my own reading, I'm trying to get into The House of the Spirits, but it's not working out very well. I had a hard time with Like Water for Chocolate too, although I did end up liking it, so perhaps magical realism just isn't the genre for me. I get paid tomorrow; maybe I'll go to the bookstore and look for something new.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Too much of a good thing

G: I'm starving.
Me: Okay, I'll get you a snack.
G: Not Girl Scout cookies ... please!

LOL! I'm pretty tired of them too, and we've only eaten four out of our eight boxes. I'll be glad when this season is over.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The stupormarket

I don't know how I managed to stand outside a grocery store for more than an hour on Saturday, actually enter a grocery store yesterday, and still not buy enough food so I wouldn't have to get takeout tonight. But I did. I had to spend half an hour of my precious post-work time driving to three different fast-food places to feed us all. Plus, I now have to go grocery shopping tomorrow, which I hate doing. If I go right after work, I don't have enough time at home with G; if I pick her up and take her with me, we're rushed and cranky and end up eating too late. I can wait until she's asleep and go then, but by that time it's dark and cold, and the last thing I want to do is wrangle a bunch of bags. I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment, either. Everyone in a grocery store after 10 p.m. looks so pale and weary and miserable, from the single men buying a box of cereal and 20 frozen meals to the parents dragging around little kids in pajamas. Which really frosts me -- a two-year-old has no business at Albertson's in the middle of the night -- but that's a rant for another day.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Link of the day

A Quick and Easy Way to Identify Common North American Trees

Last summer, G collected some pine needles and cones at the park and wanted to know what kind of trees they'd come from. By answering the questions on this site, we were able to determine that they were Ponderosa pines. I lost the link afterward, but now I've found it again, so here it is for all your tree-identification needs (which I'm sure are many and pressing, LOL).

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Whoo boy, busy day. We didn't get out the door until nearly 1:00, but then in rapid succession we paid our rent, exchanged a too-small piece of clothing G got for her birthday, stopped at the Lakeshore store to replenish our supply of drawing and construction paper, ate pizza, picked up a book P wanted, and went to Target for the boring necessities of life. (Toilet paper is not exciting, but who wants to be without it? Not me.) When we got home, I played King of the Jungle and Crazy Eights with G, then fell asleep on her bed while she played with her fairy princess paper dolls and castle. Whoops.

On a slightly different topic, I've been meaning to get G a dictionary for a while, and I looked for one while we were at the bookstore for P's book, but there weren't any I liked. The dictionaries for young children have appealing design features, but the vocabulary they include is so basic that I don't think they'd be much use to her. Most of them haven't got pronunciation guides either, which defeats half the purpose of having a dictionary in the first place. On the other hand, I know she's not ready for the "student" dictionaries that look more like adult ones -- all that itty-bitty black-and-white type would turn her off in a second. If anyone out there knows of a good in-between sort of dictionary, I'd love to get the title! (I'm in the market for an encyclopedia and a thesaurus too, so bring those recommendations on if you've got 'em.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

C is for cookie. And also corpulent.

What sort of crack was I smoking when I decided to start a diet just before Girl Scout cookie season? Especially during a year when I'm actually selling the fiendish confections myself? Gah ...

Today was the first day of cookie booth sales, and G and I took our turn this afternoon as scheduled. We were only there for a little less than half the allotted time (it overlapped with ballet class), but it was the longest hour and twenty minutes of my life. I'm not a naturally outgoing person at all, and saying "Hi! Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies .. No? Okay, thanks anyway!" over and over was sheer torture. I found that the people most likely to stop were mothers with kids and men shopping by themselves; the ones least likely to stop were senior citizens and couples shopping together. One cranky old man not only didn't stop, but groused at me and one of the other Girl Scout moms for "blocking the driveway" with our table. Hmmph. No cookies for you, Granddad.

The troop is selling cookies at various locations for the rest of the month, and I'm sure we'll help out at least a couple more times, but not tomorrow. I don't know what we will do tomorrow, but I can guarantee that it will not involve flagging down strangers and extorting money from them $4 at a time. One day per weekend is more than enough of that!