Monday, February 27, 2006

Books and birthdays

When G woke up yesterday morning, she immediately picked up the book she'd been reading the night before and got back into it. By the time I managed to struggle up through the murky pond of sleep myself (remember, I'd been up till 4 a.m.), she was on the final chapter.

It was the last of her library books, and I knew we weren't going to make it back to the library for a while, so later in the afternoon, we went to Borders for more reading material. She got another Jigsaw Jones book, a chapter book called Crystal the Snow Fairy, and Stories of Mermaids. The mermaid book was really too easy -- she'd half finished it before we even left the store -- but fun because it had color illustrations, which are rare even in the easiest chapter books. I was going to have her start Crystal the Snow Fairy tonight, but then our box from Amazon came with the earlier books in the Rainbow Magic series, so she read part of Ruby the Red Fairy instead. I think it's going to be a good series for her: she loves anything with fairies, and these books are better written than the Pixie Tricks ones we went through a few months ago.

In other news, today is P's birthday. He doesn't like any fuss over his birthdays, and he certainly doesn't like anyone calling attention to the fact that he's getting older, but I wouldn't be a good wife if I let the occasion pass without saying happy 36th birthday, P!!!. Hee hee.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Insomnia and stuff

One late-evening nap + two glasses of Pepsi = wide-eyed wakefulness at 3:43 in the morning. I will probably regret this all day tomorrow, but right now there's nothing for it but to sit here at the computer and wait for sleep to overtake me.

Today was basically a repeat of last Saturday. G and I went out first thing in the morning to find a birthday gift for her friend, then went to ballet. Last week, G had a lot of trouble focusing and was all over the place, so this time, before we got out of the car at the dance studio, I made her sit with her eyes closed, take some deep breaths, and visualize herself paying attention to the teacher and dancing well. She was mildly irritated at having to do this, but it worked, and she had an excellent class -- so much so that we may make it a regular part of our routine.

After ballet, we went directly to the party with G still in her dance clothes. There were only a few kids -- it was mostly the birthday girl's family -- but G had a great time. We didn't get home till after 4:00, at which point we were both exhausted and collapsed on the couch to watch a Brady Bunch reunion special with P. Afterward, we had dinner, played for a while, and retired to her room to read. I read her an entire Jigsaw Jones book before my voice gave out, and then she read the first five chapters of another one on her own before I convinced her to turn out the light ... and promptly fell asleep myself.

Speaking of G and reading, she has just about attained the magic fourth-grade reading level -- the level at which kids supposedly stop learning to read and start reading to learn. She's pretty much there when it comes to reading nonfiction, and not far behind in fiction (I don't know why the two should be different, but they are), so it won't be much longer. This means we won't have to do any phonics review this summer and can spend more time on fun projects. Yay!

I'm thrilled that she's reached this point, but even more thrilled that she's reached it with a love of books and a desire to read on her own. Books are so important to me that it would have been a crushing blow if she hadn't been interested in them, or if the limitless worlds they offer had been closed to her by a lack of ability. It makes me so happy to know that she'll be able to enjoy all the books I loved as a child, plus all the new ones I haven't read myself. I started re-purchasing my old favorites even before she was born, so she's already got quite a collection waiting for her.

And now, to attempt sleep. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Disney day

Since today is the last day of G's school vacation, I took the day off to go to Disneyland with her and P. I had grand plans of getting there bright and early to beat the crowds (I'll pause here so everyone who knows me in real life can laugh hysterically at the thought of me getting anywhere bright and early), but we ended up not arriving until high noon.

We started out by trying the new Monsters Inc. ride at California Adventure, which we hadn't yet been on. G and I liked it; P thought it was okay, but not worth the 45-minute wait. After we got off the ride and ate lunch, we went into Disneyland, stopping to rent a wheelchair for P, whose arthritis was beginning to bother him. Man, was it crowded in that park. I accidentally ran into the back of a woman's legs with the wheelchair, and earned a dirty look for it, but it was almost impossible not to bump into people with everyone packed together and crawling along at .00000000002 miles per hour. We checked out Pirates of the Caribbean, which I wanted to ride because it's closing for refurbishment in the next couple of weeks, but the line was so long, and the Fastpass time so far away, that we just gave up and left. Hopefully we'll be able to go back before the first spring-break crowds show up in March.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

Tonight G and I went to Target and bought pretty new silverware and drinking glasses to replace our nasty old ones. I can't remember how old the glasses were, but some of the forks and spoons were left over from the set P and I got for our wedding in 1996, and their plastic parts were starting to chip away from their metal parts. But no more -- now we'll be eating in style!

P has been asking me to do this for a long time, but I've been putting off the purchase because it was "too expensive," which of course it really wasn't. Sometimes I don't understand my own attitude toward money at all. I'll limp along for months -- even years -- with things that are broken or don't work properly, all because I'm afraid to spend the money on new ones. (For example, my purse has a broken strap and I own only two pairs of black socks without holes, both of which I hate because they slip and bunch up when I wear them ... and let's not forget the Fridge O'Doom.) But at the same time, I'll happily go into Borders and buy loads of books and DVDs and coffee drinks I don't need. Where are my priorities? I wouldn't let G walk around in socks that make her uncomfortable; why do I do it to myself? It must be some sort of bizarre penance, like a modern version of the hair shirt or the pebble in the shoe.

Chunky McChunk

When even my nice, comfy track pants are getting tight across the bum, it's time to diet. Unfortunately, the only method of dieting that works for me is just not eating. All that magazine advice about sensible portions and low-fat foods? Forget it. If I eat a small, healthy lunch, I'm so hungry by midafternoon that I'm practically ripping up pieces of grey office carpet to nibble on. If I don't eat at all, I'm hungry for a few minutes around my usual lunchtime, and then it goes away and I get on with my day. So, no lunch for me for a couple of weeks. I need to get back on the exercise wagon too -- I was doing wonderfully with it for a year or two, but then had some setbacks and fell out of the habit.

I wish bodies didn't require so much maintenance. Honestly, after 30 years or so they're like historic homes or foreign cars or something. Hmmph.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Walk like an Egyptian

Yesterday morning, G and I bought a birthday gift for her friend, wolfed down our early lunch, and then went to an ill-starred ballet class. G started out by slipping and falling hard on the dance floor before the lesson even began, and it just went downhill from there. I had some reservations about taking her to her friend's birthday party at Pump It Up immediately afterward, just in case she'd sprained something, but she wasn't limping, and she was excited to go, so we went. I'm glad we did -- as soon as we walked in, her eyes went wide at the sight of the towering inflatables, and then she said "Hold my jacket for me!" and took off running toward the nearest slide. I think I might have seen her twice in the next half-hour. I mostly stood around in the "party arena" while kids charged past me, red-faced, sweaty-haired and panting. (All signs of a really fun party, at least if you're under 10.) G had a great time and never complained about her elbow or ankle -- the parts that had taken the brunt of her fall -- so I guess I shouldn't have worried.

Today we got off to a much later start than yesterday. P was out with a friend, so G and I did the grocery shopping and had lunch together at a restaurant he doesn't like. When we got home, G watched Scooby-Doo DVDs while I put all the food away and cleaned the fish tank. (Fish-tank maintenance is way down at the bottom of my list of fun things to do, right under scrubbing the toilet and unclogging the garbage disposal. Yuck.) Later on, a different friend of P's came over and we all went to the mall together. G got a cool book called Egyptology at Borders, and she and I spent the rest of the evening playing with it. I don't know how the publisher makes any money selling it for $19.99 -- with all those pull-outs and gatefolds and pasted-in bits, it must cost a fortune to produce -- but I'm glad it was so affordable. I may go back next time I get paid and buy Dragonology too.

100 Days

You know those people who dress all in white and stand outside the drugstore taking donations for some mysterious, unnamed charity? And how when you walk past them without putting money in their buckets, they always say "Bless you?"

I don't think "bless" is the word they're really thinking.

Just sayin'.

***

G's school had a 100th Day of School celebration on Wednesday. I don't remember this from my own time in elementary school, but it seems to be an established "holiday" now: they celebrated last year too, and I've seen 100th Day pencils and buttons at educational supply stores.

The first-grade teachers had asked for parent volunteers for this event a couple of weeks ago, and P and I were both signed up to help, so off we went. They had set up nine or ten long tables in the school multipurpose room where the kids could do 100-themed activities: stringing 100 pieces of cereal to make a necklace, counting out 100 each of various food items for a snack bag, putting together a puzzle of the 100s chart, and so forth.

P ended up manning the "make a 100 Day hat" table, and I got one where the kids were supposed to lick a lollipop 100 times. Watching the variety of ways they approached this task was like conducting an experiment in social science. Some kids took it very seriously and counted out 100 careful licks, then announced "I'm done, now what?" Some kids just stood there and licked the lollipop down to the stick without bothering to count. Some kids were willing to count, but couldn't make it to 100 without prompting from me. Some kids took a couple of token licks and then spun the lollipop around in their mouths, watching me to see if I was going to challenge them for breaking the rules. (These were generally the same ones who tried to come back for seconds or stuff their pockets with extra lollipops for later.) One dark-haired boy kept hanging around my table long after he'd finished his lollipop; I shooed him away to do other activities several times, but every time I turned around he was there at my elbow again. ("He liked the pretty lady," said P. "ACK," said I.)

The number-one question at my table, after "Do I really have to lick it 100 times?", was "Can I keep it after I get to 100 licks?" To which I replied, eyeing the wet, sticky candy, "Once it has your spit on it, it's yours." It was an hour of total chaos, but everyone had fun, including me. I really enjoy volunteering at the school -- if I didn't have to work, I'd be there every day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

V-Day

This morning at our house:

Me: Time to wake up, G.
G: Uuuugghhhhhhhhhh.
Me: I know it's hard, but you have to get ready for school.
G: Errrrrrrrggghhhhhhhh.
Me: Come on, little princess. Wake up.
G: Nooooo ... I'm too sleepy ...
Me: When you're dressed, you can go and see your Valentine surprises in the other room.
G (eyes flying open): Help me up!

***

I may have mentioned this before, but I am seriously crafts-impaired. It's a wonder I didn't flunk paste and scissors in kindergarten. A few months ago, I painted some wooden letters to spell G's name out on the wall over her bed, and I was so proud of this tiny accomplishment that you would have thought I'd painted the Sistine Chapel. Everyone who has seen the room since has had to listen to me explain that I painted those letters! Me! Painted! I could have bought them at Pottery Barn Kids, but I painted them myself, and they look OK!

Naturally, with this background, I was blessed with a kid who inherited my mother's super-crafty genes and loves to glue, to color ... and to make her own Valentines. Last year I got around this by buying blank note cards and letting her decorate them with stickers, but this year I was planning to get the cheap-and-easy box of preprinted kid Valentines and call it good. When I went to the store last night, though, they were out of everything but designs I knew G would hate, so we improvised. I cut out 19 red construction-paper hearts, G stuck the ubiquitous Valentine stickers all over them and wrote "From G___," and then we taped a pink sucker to each one. She was pleased with the results, although it was a bit disappointing that she used the best stickers in the pack for the boy she likes and then didn't get a return Valentine from him. (How dare an eight-year-old punk break my little girl's heart?!) I should probably buy some half-price stickers tomorrow in preparation for next year.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Funky cold machina

I've been locked in a struggle with myself for months now, battling a wicked and illicit lust that haunts my dreams and lurks around the edges of my waking thoughts. I know I should be content with what I already have at home, but I want something more. Something better. Something new and exciting. Something frost-free and high-capacity, preferably with side-by-side doors and a crushed ice dispenser.

That's right. The object of my depraved desire is not another man, but a new refrigerator. (You can breathe now, P.)

I'm not just being fickle here. Our current fridge is nine years old and has only worked properly for four of those years -- it fell off the appliance dolly the last time we moved, and it's leaked and made strange noises ever since. Our bedroom shares a wall with the kitchen, and at least a couple of times a week, I have to get out of bed, drag myself down the hall, and hit a magic spot on the freezer door so the fridge will shut up and let me sleep. Plus, I regularly realize that a inch-deep pool of water has formed under the crisper drawers and needs to be mopped up. Sometimes I don't realize it soon enough, and then there's a mold colony floating on top of the pool like a sporiferous Atlantis. Ugh.

So anyway, I've been drooling over appliance ads and lurking around the refrigerator section at Best Buy for six months, dreaming of a shiny new fridge. I had almost talked myself out of it -- I have a tax refund coming, but there are lots of other things we could/should spend that money on -- and then last night, as I was soaking up yet another cold lake of leakage with paper towels, I snapped. I'm going to call an appliance repair place this week, and if fixing the old fridge costs more than a couple of hundred dollars, I am buying a new one, dang it. And I'm going to name it Fabio and kiss it every night before bed.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

All around the world

Today G's Brownie troop attended a huge International Fair for all the Girl Scouts in our area. Each troop wore costumes from the country they were representing, created a booth with crafts and food, and performed a song or dance, so there was a lot to see and do. G was beyond thrilled to be representing the Philippines -- she told everyone who would listen that she's half Filipina, and I got a picture of her looking ecstatic while bearing the Philippine flag in the opening parade. (All her tastes are American, though: she didn't want anything to do with the "weird" food at her own troop's booth, but loved the United States booth because they had M&Ms, pretzels and red licorice. Kids!) Her troop did the tinikling dance and a dance with fans, and I thought theirs was the best of all the performances. Of course, I may be slightly prejudiced as the mother of one of the fan dancers. :-)

Speaking of dancing, I finally have proof that G's ballet lessons are working: as I watched her perform today, I could definitely tell that she had had dance training by the way she moved. I would keep her in ballet no matter what, because I think the exercise and discipline are good for her, but it's reassuring to see that she actually is learning something. She's usually so busy jumping around and acting like a goofball that it's hard to think of her as being particularly graceful!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Food of champions

G checked out a kids' book about Vikings while we were at the library on Saturday. In addition to history, it's full of crafts you can do -- making a Viking shield, building a model boat and so forth. The one G really wanted to try was baking a loaf of bread, so when I got home from work tonight, we pretended to be Norse women, and we baked.

First we made the dough. ("Eeeew, it feels like warm, squishy porridge!" said G. "You know, if we really lived in Viking times, you would have to help me do this every day," I said.)



Then we shaped the loaf and sprinkled on the seeds. I don't think the Vikings had sunflower seeds, but our book said they would be a good substitute. (I doubt the Vikings formed their bread into Valentine heart shapes either, but G insisted.)



And after an hour in the oven, we had one rock-hard, heavy loaf of bread. It doesn't have any yeast, which is why it's so flat.



Once it had cooled a little bit, we each tried a piece ... and boy, are we glad we aren't Vikings. Maybe the stuff tasted better after a long day out on the fjords. Or maybe it didn't, and the men all went out a-Viking in hopes of finding something tastier to eat. Either way, we had fun making it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Priciest place on earth

When we got up this morning, I told G that we had a lot of things to do, but if we finished them all early enough, we could either go ice skating or to Disneyland. She thought about it for a minute and chose the second option, so Disneyland it was.

I had envisioned this as being a very easy and inexpensive outing. We'd already eaten lunch, so we wouldn't need to spend a lot of money on food, and it was Super Bowl Sunday, so the park wouldn't be crowded because everyone would be at home watching the game. I found out how wrong I'd been before we were there five minutes. The lady at the security check saw G's Heelys and said we'd have to take her wheels out because skating wasn't allowed in the park. I couldn't get the wheels to budge, and G was very worried that if she kept them on, she'd roll by accident and get thrown out of Disneyland. So, we went to a store in Downtown Disney and found her a pair of regular sneakers to wear instead ($18).

When we finally got inside the park, we had to rent a locker ($6) because there was no way I was carrying a pair of Heelys around for hours. Then G was suddenly starving and wanted a churro, which wouldn't have been that expensive, but the person working the churro cart refused to sell us one because they were taking down the flag on Main Street, and she couldn't sell anything during the ceremony. (I fail to see how buying a churro is disrespectful to the flag. It's capitalism, for heaven's sake! What's more American than that? But I digress.) So we went into the bakery, where I somehow ended up buying a cookie for myself as well as a muffin and a drink for G ($7.75).

At this point, I'd spent more than $30 on our "inexpensive outing," and I was only halfway down Main Street. As I looked around, I also realized that I'd seriously misjudged the number of people in the world who don't care about football: the place was packed, even for a Sunday afternoon. This made walking difficult, but mysteriously did not impact our ability to get on rides -- our longest wait was about 25 minutes. G went on Autopia for the first time and did a pretty good job of driving, although I had to work the gas pedal because she couldn't concentrate on that and steering at the same time. We also went on Winnie-the-Pooh and Dumbo, which she loved, and rode the Disneyland Express, which I think is her favorite ride in the whole park. So the trip ended up to be fun, even if it got off to a rocky start.

You know, I often wish we'd been able to have one more child (although I never even thought of it until G was 4 or 5 years old), but there are benefits to having an only, too, and spur-of-the-moment outings like this remind me of them. It's a lot easier to take one kid places -- there's no big production of loading and unloading the car, schlepping a ton of equipment, and trying to keep track of everyone. Plus, I can spend the entire afternoon and evening with G without worrying that someone else has been left out at home, or actually having that someone else pulling on my sleeve and demanding my attention.

I would really love for G to have the sibling she longs for, and I'd love to have another child for myself because well, I just like kids. When I was her age, I wanted to live in a "real" family with brothers and sisters, but it never quite worked out that way, even though I did end up getting both a brother and a sister later (long story), so I know how she feels. Also, there's a part of me that wonders if people think I'm somehow less of a parent -- or if I am somehow less of a parent -- because I have only one child. But at the same time, I like our three-person family the way it is, and I don't know if I'd change it if I had the power to. Funny, that.

P.S. We saw at least 10 kids on Heelys inside the park. So much for the new shoes. *sigh* Oh well, at least I set a good example by not encouraging her to break the rules. Even if they were dumb rules.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Free wheeling

G finally learned how to use her Heelys today, and you've never seen a happier kid. She tried them a couple of times after Christmas, but mostly spent the time either flailing around and hanging on me with all her weight, or doing her best impression of someone stepping on a banana peel. She finally started making progress when I found an instructional video on the Heelys Web site for her to watch. Today she was doing so well that I let her wear them when we went out to do errands, and by the end of the day, she was able to let go of my hand and glide all by herself. Much squealing and leaping around in celebration followed; she looked like a football player celebrating an especially fine touchdown. She still can't go more than a few feet at a time, but I'm sure she'll be a master after another session or two.

Aside from the Heeling, we had a full and moderately productive day. I took G to ballet, where she practiced the dance her class is learning for their recital in June. It's a Mary Poppins dance with parasols, which promises to be very pretty. Afterward, we met up with P at home and all three of us headed out to exchange a shirt G had gotten for her birthday, but our plans were thwarted when I realized I'd forgotten to bring the shirt along. *facepalm* I had remembered to bring the library books we needed to return, so we had lunch at Islands and then went to the library. ("I love the library," said G happily as we pulled into the parking lot.) With new books secured, we stopped at home to get warmer jackets and then continued our errands. We finally got home for the night around 7:30, and now G is having a late dinner -- a peanut butter sandwich and raisins -- before reading time and bed.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lost and unfound

One of my many flaws is a tendency to lose things. (And we wonder where G gets her absent-mindedness from ...) A short list of items I'm in search of right now:

A package of thank-you notes for G's birthday presents (I know I saw them the day of her party.) G found it three days later on a chair in her bedroom.
• The renewal form for my car registration (It was with the mail on my bedside table, I swear!) Found, after much searching, hidden under a photo album that was underneath the aforementioned bedside table.
P's Social Security benefit statement (No clue where this one is, but I can't do our taxes without it.) Found it, was in my planner where I probably put it for "safekeeping."

I hate being disorganized, but I can't seem to help it. I've tried FlyLady, and it didn't work. I'll bet I could nail important documents to my forehead and still find a way to misplace them. The funny thing is, people often tell me that I really seem to have it all together. Bwa ha ha! If they only knew!

Time for Timer

Most kids dawdle and daydream and get distracted sometimes, but G is like an absent-minded professor -- if you leave her to her own devices, she'll never get anything done. This wasn't a big problem when she was younger because she and P stayed home all day, every day, and she didn't have to be anywhere at a particular time. Now that she has school and activities to get to, it's an ongoing struggle.

To help her stay on track and manage her time a little better, we borrowed an idea from her kindergarten teacher and got her a timer a few months ago. P has been stricter about using it than I have, but even I have to admit that it works. In fact, it works so well that our original timer actually broke from constant use. So, yesterday I went to the Lakeshore Learning store at lunch to get a replacement.

I usually have a hard time restraining myself when I'm at the store and all the shiny charts and cards and tubs and art materials and unsharpened pencils are calling to me in dulcet and seductive tones. (Perhaps this is the point where I should confess my secret thirty-year love affair with school supplies of all kinds. Oh, the dorky shame!) But today I was good and only bought the timer ... well, the timer and a Totally Tut math game. Hey, I said she needed help with math, didn't I? And she likes Egypt, so ...

Anyway, we played a round of the game before she went to bed last night, and it was a lot more fun than you might think. It's definitely more challenging than worksheets because instead of giving you a problem, it gives you an answer and makes you figure out what combination of two, three or four numbers you can add and subtract to get that answer. G has done some of that in school, but never with more than two numbers, so I gave her tons of help this time. I hope she'll catch on and do more of the work herself next time, though. I've heard dominoes are also good for math, so there'll be domino games in our future as well. (I don't know how to play, but P does and says he'll teach us.) Anything's got to be better than Sorry -- or as P dubbed it, Sorry This Game Sucks -- which was the last game we tried.

On the topic of games, P has been talking about having a regular family game night to go along with our wildly successful family movie night. I instituted the movie ritual right after kindergarten started, when I realized that we all needed a reward for making it through a week of school and work. A year and a half later, G still gets up on Friday mornings singing, "Tonight is Friday Family Movie Night!" All we usually do is make popcorn and put on a DVD, and maybe bake some of those refrigerated insta-cookies if we're really feeling ambitious, but she looks forward to it all week long. The only rule is that she has to choose a movie we all can enjoy (i.e., no sappy cartoons about pastel ponies). I wonder what we'll be watching tomorrow.

(P.S. Am I the only person who remembers where the quote in the subject line came from? Please tell me I'm not.)