Thursday, April 27, 2006

Most Expensive ZIP Codes are in California

Well, I could have told them that. Sheesh.

And I beg to differ with the author's assertion that homes in expensive ZIP codes are "vintage estates ... shingled mansions ... spanking-new McMansions, glitzy loft apartments and ... beach houses." Around here, you'll pay $400,000 for a two-bedroom condo and $600,000 for a three-bedroom stucco box that was built before you were born. Yet another reason why we'll be living in this apartment for the rest of our lives.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Flow it, show it, long as God can grow it

I'm this close to breaking down and getting G's hair cut. I've been letting her grow it for more than a year, and it looks great -- like one of those shampoo ads where the models fling their gorgeous locks at the camera. Unfortunately, it also gets so tangled that brushing is an ordeal. We've tried leave-in conditioner, kids' spray detangler, Infusium Frizz Control, combing while wet, braiding before bed, everything. I've even let her handle the brushing herself, thinking that she might be able to avoid pulling better than I can, but her hair is so thick that she can't brush it thoroughly on her own. It's like the rain forest: there are different levels, and you have to do each section separately or the top will be smooth and the undergrowth will still be tangled.

Anyway, nothing works, and I can't take the bloodcurdling screams anymore. If I don't find a magic solution in the next week or so, she's going to have to visit the hairdresser for a major trim.

In other news, P announced a couple of days ago that he's going to be vegetarian during the month of May. This has made me excited about cooking again for the first time in forever. I actually like to cook, but I usually don't bother with anything more complicated than spaghetti because neither P nor G will eat it, which means I have to consume the whole dish by myself or watch it go to waste. If I make a pot of soup or a pan of lasagna, I'll be eating leftovers for days, and that gets old fast. But P has promised to eat whatever I cook during his vegetarian experiment, so I'm already flipping through the recipe books and planning things to make. And there won't be any spaghetti, that's for sure.

In book news, G and I stayed up late last night to finish How to Eat Fried Worms, a classic I remember reading when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Today, our Story of the World books finally came, and we read the preliminary What is History and What is Archaeology chapters of Volume 1 before bed ("I already knew that," said G, supremely unimpressed), along with the first chapter on nomads. There are more than 40 chapters, so it's going to take a while, even if we skip the chapters on topics that Miss Smartypants "already knows." I'm pondering getting her the activity book that complements Vol. 1, but the reviews on Amazon indicate that the activities are mostly coloring, which she isn't too fond of. She loves to draw her own pictures, but not to fill in other people's. Ah well, we'll see.

Masquerade

P: How much makeup did you wear when we first started dating?
Me: Lipstick and eyeliner.
P: And how much do you wear now?
Me: Foundation, powder, lipstick, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara and sometimes blush.
P: Why the change?
Me: I was 22 then. I'm almost 35 now.
P: So?
Me: I need a little more, um, help. Kind of like the Phantom of the Opera needs his mask.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday

Once again, it's Sunday night, and I could swear I just left work for the weekend. What's up with that?

G had a playdate with her best friend yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She's been having some issues with friends at school because they don't want to play the kinds of elaborate pretend games she likes, so it was great for her to spend time with someone who does. They drew for a bit, dressed up and pretended to be princesses shipwrecked on an island, ate chocolate-dipped strawberries, and played a science board game called "King of the Jungle." I wish they could get together more often -- they've been friends since they were in diapers and never seem to get tired of each other -- but we live so far apart that it's just not practical more than once a month or so.

Today we spent 5 hours shopping, although in our defense it was mainly for necessary items. G got lightweight summer pajamas and nightgowns (a must in our kiln-like, un-air-conditioned home), a tote bag for her dance shoes, a few other pieces of clothing, a Barbie Mini Kingdom doll and a Pink Panther DVD set (she LOVES the Pink Panther). P got a couple of shirts, and I got two pairs of the world's most comfortable pants, which I intend to live in on the weekends like the slovenly sloth I am. We ate at the mall food court, then concluded our orgy of consumerism by going to Henry's for groceries and Target for cleaning supplies. Target and the mall in one day ... dear God, how suburban can we get?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Not Enough Plugs: A Twenty-First Century Tragedy

Before I left for work yesterday morning, I found myself crawling around with a screwdriver, removing a childproof cover from an electric socket so I could plug in G's portable DVD player. It's a ridiculous-sounding dilemma, but it's true: we just don't have enough usable outlets for all our devices. At this very moment, the DVD player is recharging on a table near the front door, our cell phones are occupying an outlet in the kitchen, two iPods are plugged into the desktop computer in the office, and my laptop's cord is dangling from yet another office outlet, waiting for me to finish typing this post and plug the juice-sucking beast back in. In other locations around the house, three televisions, a VCR, a PlayStation II, a laserdisc/DVD player, a wireless base station, a cable modem and a cordless phone base are all taking up their share of space. It's a miracle we can find room for things like lamps and alarm clocks. How embarrassing.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A very merry unbirthday

I order from Birthday Express once a year. They send me promotional e-mails twice a week. How many people do they think there are in this family? It's just the three of us, and of those three, only one is likely to want to celebrate her birthday with mermaid- or pony-themed paper goods.

I have to confess I enjoyed the subject line of today's Birthday Express communication, though: "[Our Last Name] Family, Have Fun With Party Favors!" That leaves the possibilities wide open, doesn't it? I doubt we'd sit around and blow paper horns at each other, but imagine what we could do with, say, Dive Masks and Dinosaur Squirters (merciless squirting, no water in the eyes), or Eye Patches and Fairy Wings ("Arrr! I be a fairy pirate here to commandeer yer vessel!"), or Finger Shoes. (I don't know what these are, but they have a delightfully surreal air.)

That settles it. The overly aggressive marketing has worked! I don't care that the next birthday in our house isn't until November -- it's always a good time for cheap trinkets. I'm going to order from Birthday Express right now!

... Only not.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Holiday wrap-up

The rest of the day went well, if quietly. Around 2:00, we headed over to P's parents' house to eat and let G hunt for eggs in the back yard. Her cousin C didn't show up, and the other, R, is so young that he was more interested in pulling up the grass than looking for plastic things, so G got to do pretty much all the hunting herself. After she filled her own basket, she ran around collecting the remaining eggs and making them into a pile for R. :-) We left there at about four and came home so P could do laundry and I could go shopping for food.

I really wanted to get G to bed early -- it's been a hectic weekend with less sleep than usual, and she has to get up for school tomorrow -- so I had her change into pajamas and brush her teeth before it was even dark outside. I read the last chapter of Pippi Longstocking, she read some of a Magic School bus chapter book called Penguin Puzzle, and the lights went out at 8:00. She was asleep within 15 minutes and I haven't heard a peep from her since, so hopefully she'll be nice and rested when I go to roust her out of bed in the morning. No more holidays till Memorial Day!

Speaking of holidays, this year P and I made a special effort to help G understand the religious aspect of Easter. She knew the basic story from a picture book we used to have, but she didn't really get it. So, in addition to explaining as much as possible, we got The Animated Passion and we all watched it together. That was really helpful -- it wasn't the best animation I've ever seen, but the tale was told well and with drama, and I was able to help her connect it with some things she'd heard during the Palm Sunday service. I'm not sure how much she got out of going to church today, since her grandparents aren't as big on explaining things as P and I are, but having seen the movie probably helped. Hopefully she'll understand a little more every year.

Happy Easter!

Last night, I hid G's filled Easter basket and left several clues in plastic eggs for her to find it. At the foot of her bed, where she'd put the empty basket, I left the first clue and the following note:

Dear G____,

I heard through my long ears that you're a good detective, so this year I've left you some clues to find your Easter treats. Look in the eggs to solve the mystery -- but don't start without your mom and dad!

Love, THE BUNNY


At 7:30 this morning, she burst into our room waving the note and hissing "Mommy! Daddy! I have to find my basket!". I wasn't too keen on waking up at that hour, but as she rightly pointed out, the note did say for her to come and get us first. She loved the treasure hunt and the badly rhymed clues, which led from her room, to the broom closet, to her place at the dinner table, to my closet, to the refrigerator, to the top of the bath-towel pile, to the base of P's Batman display case where the basket was hidden. Luckily, the contents of the basket kept her occupied for a good hour and a half, because at that point I had to go back to bed! (I'd been up till 3 a.m. again. Stupid insomnia.)

Anyway, she left for church with her grandparents about half an hour ago -- I had planned to go with them, but ended up staying home because I couldn't get both of us ready in time to leave -- and P is still sleeping. I really should take advantage of this quiet time to get dressed instead of wasting it at the computer. But first, to the pantry, where I hid the leftover jelly beans for myself. Hee hee.

The magic $10

Last night, on my way to do another errand, I stopped at Target to buy some batteries for G's book light. Apparently I picked up some sort of super-duper nuclear-powered batteries, because they scanned at $9.99, which seemed a bit rich for four AAAs. I decided to pass on them, and since I didn't want to wait in the 20-minute-long line again, I paid for the other item I was buying and left.

Just before I got to my car, a woman called to me across the parking lot and asked if I could spare any money. She and the other woman with her were trying to collect enough to get a motel room for the night, she said. They had a vaguely downtrodden look and were carrying their stuff in black plastic garbage bags, so it certainly could have been true, and even if it weren't, it wouldn't have made a difference to me. So, I stopped and checked to see what I could give them. I had a ten and a one and I knew it'd take them forever to raise enough for a room if they had to get it a dollar at a time, so I gave the woman the ten and said "Good luck." She said thanks, and I got into the car thinking that it was pretty funny that I'd just handed over the $10 I wouldn't spend on batteries to a stranger in a parking lot.

Anyway, I drove on to my next stop, which was a fast-food place, and ordered food to take home. I was sure I'd have to use my ATM card because I'd given the parking-lot lady all my cash, but when I pulled up to the drive-through window, I thought "Why not look again, just to be sure?" So I opened my wallet, and there, folded and stuffed down inside, was a crisp new $10 bill. I know I hadn't had it earlier in the day, when I took out my last $20 to spend (the $10 I gave the woman had been my change from that twenty).

Sometimes karma is kind.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pressure, pushin' down on me

I'm still sick. Still! After ten eleven days! Someone do something!

I would actually be fine by now if it weren't for two things: my lingering cough, and the pain and pressure in my left sinus area. The cough racks my entire body and makes black spots dance in front of my eyes. The sinus pain is like being hit in the left cheekbone by an angry dwarf with a mallet. Repeatedly. And the cough makes it worse. And so does sitting in my desk chair all day. Wah.

This week cannot end soon enough.

Not exactly Girls Gone Wild fodder

One of G's great ambitions, other than owning a dog, is to have a sleepover. While I was at work today, she wrote out all her plans for her fantasy event:

My Slumber Party

Rules
1. Don't go into the office.
2. Don't go into my parents room.
3. Don't say bad words.
4. Lisen to the speeker.
5. Don't talk with your mouth fule.
6. No burping. (Good call, G.)

Snacks/Drinks
1. Poppcorn
2. Orenges
3. Chips
4. Candy
5. Water
6. Juice
7. Soda exepd Coke (She's not allowed to have Coke. Come to think of it, this might make it hard to follow rule no. 6.)

Have a fun night!

----

Sounds like a very restrained event in comparison to some slumber parties I've attended. Of course, she doesn't yet know about toilet-papering, ding-dong ditching and freezing other people's training bras. *g* Maybe in a few years.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Taking the town by storm

P's arthritis was bothering him again today, so G and I were mostly on our own. We went to Palm Sunday services with my MIL, then visited an outdoor shopping center we haven't been to in a while. While there, we rode the trackless train, browsed in the toy and book stores, had lunch at Red Robin, and admired the various fountains. There's one fountain in particular where the water pops straight up from the ground so you can walk through it if you choose to. It was swarming with kids, as usual, and G wanted to play too. I said "Okay, but don't get too wet," and in two minutes, she was soaked to the skin -- so drenched that I had to take her to Old Navy and buy her a dry set of clothes for the drive home. She had a lot of fun while it lasted, though, shrieking and giggling every time a jet of water shot up and tagged her.

By the time we got home, P was feeling better, so we tackled my least favorite chore: grocery shopping. I like having a full fridge and pantry, but I want the food to appear there magically, with no intervention from me. (What? It could happen.) However, I mind the shopping less if we all go together, so it was nice to have P's company. We got everything put away, had dinner, and watched Andy Rooney rant about schools on 60 Minutes. I'm in a small minority that doesn't think all public schools are torture chambers located in the ninth circle of Hell -- I actually like our local school -- but it's true that they emphasize reading and math to the exclusion of all else, which is why I make sure G gets plenty of science and history at home.

Speaking of history, I ordered Story of the World vols. 1 and 2 from Amazon this evening. G and I covered Greece, Rome and Egypt in depth last summer and through the course of this school year, but I want to make sure we at least touch on the "other" ancient civilizations before we get into the Middle Ages. That's my own favorite historical period, so I'm looking forward immensely to reading about it with G. Just a few more months to go!

This, that and the other

After eight weeks of rehearsals, G's school finally put on their spring play last night. I volunteered to help out with hair and costumes and backstage tasks, so I didn't actually see much of the performance, but the pictures look good. P, who was out front, said that G did a great job with her handful of lines, but it was hard to hear her in the audience. Of course, I could hear her perfectly because I was two feet away from her in the wings while she was talking, LOL. That girl is as cool as a cucumber when it comes to performing. A lot of the kids were fluttering bundles of nerves before they went on, but G never blinked, and when I asked her afterward if she'd been nervous, she said "Nah!"

In other news, here's the latest reading roundup from our house.

What G has been reading:

Science Verse, by John Scieszka and Lane Smith, the team that brought the world The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. She checked this one out of the library, but she enjoyed it so much that I bought her a copy to own. It contains such gems as:

Once in first grade I was napping
When I heard a scary yapping
Frightful word -- worse than a slapping
Worse than twenty T.rex roars.

Said our teacher, heartless creature,
"My class, you know, always explores
Ten full weeks of ... DINOSAURS


and:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jump over the combustion reaction of 02 + heat + fuel to form C02 + light + heat + exhaust


This book isn't for everyone -- there are poems about evolution and the Big Bang theory -- but G loved it. She noticed that the dinosaur poem was a parody of "The Raven," which we read a couple of months ago, and tonight she got one of the questions on her BrainQuest cards because she'd learned the terms "consumer" and "producer" from the poem about the food chain. The only drawback is that she's been walking around singing "Precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation ..." for an entire week. Ah well.

Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Double Trouble Detectives, by James Preller. I don't actually know much about this one because she's read most of it herself, but it looks like one of Jigsaw's friends has opened up a competing business and has a bunch of high-tech spy equipment -- just the sort of thing G loves.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Marcia Williams. She just brought this home from school yesterday (she checked it out of the library), and it looks great. The traditional story runs along the bottom of the panels, but the characters within the panels make funny comments, like Morgan LeFay telling people "You'll die and I'll be queen!"

What I've been reading:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Country, an overview of some of the people and places from the Little House books. I've traveled through prairie country before, and the photos in this book don't truly convey the atmosphere you experience there -- the constant whisper of the wind, the moving oceans of grass, the vast sweep of the sky overhead -- or the sense of total isolation and insignificance you feel. But they do come close, and I enjoyed the book, though I would have liked a bit more content .

The Rice Mother, by Rani Manicka. I finished this one two days ago, and I still can't decide whether I liked it or not. It did have some wonderful aspects, like its lavish language and its main character, Lakshmi, who started out as a young girl duped into a less-than-ideal marriage and ended up as an iron-willed matriarch. At the same time, there were too many points of view (Lakshmi, her husband, two or three of her children, a grandchild, a daughter-in-law and a great-grandchild all come to mind), which made the story feel jumpy, and I wasn't thrilled with the pacing -- the book covered sixty years in 400 pages, so one event would be described in great detail, and then you'd turn the page and a whole new generation would have been born and grown up. I think it's worth a try, though.

What G and I have been reading together:

The Rainbow Magic fairy saga continues; we've just finished the Weather Fairies series of books, and I'm contemplating whether I want to order the Jewel Fairies series from Amazon UK. G wants me to, but I'm getting a little tired of the adventures of Rachel and Kirsty. Either I'll have to take a break first, or she'll have to read them on her own.

The next book I'm planning to read with her is Pippi Longstocking -- P and I were telling her about it the other night, and she thought Pippi sounded funny. We went to Borders in search of a copy this evening, but they didn't have one. I'm hoping we can get it at Barnes and Noble tomorrow.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Meme time

One word only!

1. Yourself: Loyal
2. Your Spouse: Witty
3. Your Hair: Dyed
4. Your Mother: Absent
5. Your Father: Unpredictable
6. Your Favorite Item: iBook
7. Your Dream Last Night: Forgotten
8. Your Favorite Drink: Coffee
9. Your Dream Home: Castle
10. The Room You Are In: Office
11. Your Pet: Aquatic
12. Who You Are Now: Mom
13. Who You Want to be in Ten Years: Mom
14. What You Want to be in Ten Years: Happy
15. What You're Not: Secure
16. Your Best Friend: Husband
17. One of Your Wishlist Items: Lawn
18. Your Gender: Female
19. The Last Thing You Did: Talked
20. What You Are Wearing: Sweats
21. Your Favorite Weather: Rainy
22. Your Favorite Book: Wicked
23. The Last Thing You Ate: Skittles
24. Your Life: Challenging
25. Your Mood: Sleepy

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Unclean! Unclean!

A summary of the last 40 hours:

Wake up, realize am sick, get dressed anyway, take G to school, go to work, sniffle, cough, sit through conference call, give up on work. Go home, take Tylenol, eat soup, sleep, wake up, pick G up from school, get ice cream, come home, lie on couch, drag self off couch to play Polly Pockets with G. Sleep again, wake up again, get in shower to decongest, eat orange slices and saltines for dinner, develop raging fever, take more Tylenol, apply ice pack to neck, oversee G's shower and bedtime routine while wearing ice pack, read for a while, fall asleep. Wake up, lie awake in sweaty, nauseated, head-pounding misery from 1:30 a.m. to FIVE FREAKIN' A.M., watch a show about babies being born, become maudlin and teary-eyed over the babies, accidentally wake P who gets up and digs a jar of Vicks VapoRub out of the hall closet. Apply hefty dose of Vicks to chest, doze off again in swirling miasma of fumes while clutching crumpled tissues in one hand. Drift in and out of consciousness while P gets G ready for school, wake up to rain and, thank God, no more fever. Take more Tylenol, alternately read and sleep for majority of day, play with G a bit, put her in the shower, read to her, tuck her into bed. Collapse.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Girls' day out

G behaved so much better in ballet today. Before we went in, I reminded her of our conversation last week and said I'd give her our signal if she got out of hand. Just knowing that I was watching seemed to have a salutary effect on her, because she was as good as gold throughout the barre exercises. During the stretching break, she talked a little and practiced her splits with the other girls, which is fine -- I don't want ballet to be a grim, joyless experience for her; I just want her to learn how to judge when it's appropriate to talk and have fun, and when she needs to focus and pay attention. There are plenty of adults in the world who have never acquired that skill, and I'd rather she didn't end up as one of them.

We'd been planning to see Ice Age II this afternoon, but P had had a migraine all morning, so after ballet, G and I went home to see how it was coming along. He was better, but not well enough for the movies, so he told me to go ahead and take her by myself. When we got there, though, the show we wanted to see was sold out, and we had to buy tickets for the one after it instead. That left us with two hours to kill, so we spent some time at Barnes and Noble, then had lunch at an Italian restaurant downstairs from the theater before heading back up to get in line. We had less than ideal seats -- the absolute-front-row, break-your-neck-looking-up-at-the-screen kind -- but the movie was so much fun we didn't care. (As a side note, I definitely prefer computer-animated animals to computer-animated people. No matter how good the animation is, people just come out looking creepy -- that Barbie Swan Lake DVD G loves is enough to give me nightmares.)

We got home after 6:00, by which time P had improved enough to take a shower, go to the comic shop and start doing laundry. G and I spent a while making drawings from a cute little book I'd bought her at B&N: Hand Art, which claims you can make "a jillion pictures from just one hand." (When I asked G what a jillion was, she said "it's a number that's more than a gazillion." Fair enough.) She had some veggie nuggets and peas for dinner -- I was still too full from the Italian lunch and movie snacks to eat anything -- and now she's playing right next to me while I sit here at the computer. Speaking of which, it's time for me to finish this post so I can go start her bedtime routine.