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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stuntman in Training

Last night Sean-Peter once again proved that his reputation as Dr. D (aka Dr. Destructo) is not a misnomer. Only this time the deed was most unfortunately done to his head, resulting in such a copious outpouring of blood that his screams were welcomed proof that he was indeed alive underneath the deluge.

Apparently he thought his beanbag was something akin to a surfboard, as he launched himself onto it in such a way that propelled him some five feet across the floor and smack into the corner of the wall. John very rightly thought we should take him to the emergency room, where they were able to seal it up sans stitches because it was a small enough laceration for some simple, and relatively painless, glue instead.

John and I have often joked that we should get him a t-shirt that says "Stuntman in Training". Indeed. I can't say that there was anything about this stunt that I found the least bit funny, but it did remind me of how miraculous it has been that this was our first trip to the ER with him. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it won't be our last.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Latest On Sean-Peter's Speech Delay

Sean-Peter had his final speech evaluation today with the school district. Let me just start out by saying what a smart little guy he is, if I do say so myself. No problem with his intelligence, no sir-ree bob. Just a wee little problem with spitting those words out and making them intelligible-like.

The first thing the pathologist said when she came back with him was that "it's obvious that he's been in therapy before". And before I could interrupt to correct her she went on to say how well he did with listening to instruction, how wonderfully he comprehends, how good he was about at least trying everything she threw at him, etc.

Besides it being an optimum time of the day -- the first part of the morning, before he gets tired or even hungry for a snack -- I explained to her that a big part of what he has going for him, because it certainly hasn't been professional therapy up to this point, is simply his big sister. Because HOLY COW I learn things from Olivia, about imaginary play and making up lyrics when you don't know the song and seeing shapes in ordinary objects and "what makes this sound, mama?" and other questions that come up about every single daily situation. She is so extremely articulate and inventive and she engages her little brother's mind and body in play -- and strife -- every. single. day.

People would pay good money for Olivia Therapy, I tell you what.

We also naturally incorporate many of the "therapy" techniques in our daily living, I have come to learn. Things like giving choices between the "blue airplane or the yellow", and automatically counting out "one, two for me, one, two for you..." and insisting on and then waiting for him to ariticulate "words" that he can say -- like "yes, mommy" or "more, please". Even when these are simply attempts at articulating and not actual intelligible utterings. Common sense parenting, I call it. But something that so many children apparently do not receive.

In fact, it got to where the more I realized how good his learning environment has been without my realizing it the more apprehensive I started to feel about his speech problem. I mean, where would he be by now if he hadn't had the Olivia Factor all along?

I came home with a couple of new things to work on, in particular the vowels. Everything can be a game or a song with the vowels, which we have already done, to an extent. But what I can do differently is to isolate the vowels: the "ee", for instance, is a sound that he has not made for me that I can recall. But the therapist said that he did it for her, so hats off to the professionals, I must say; that is why we parents need you. She knew how to introduce the sound to sort of draw it out of him without him thinking about it.

For instance, just yesterday we were eating pretzels and Sean-Peter and his sister started biting them to make letters. (See? Who comes up with this stuff? Not me, I'm afraid.) As I'm munching away I realized that Sean-Peter was continually uttering "Buh-buh-buh-buh" and mimicking The Letter Factory because he had bitten out a B from his pretzel. When I praised him and said, "Oh, Sean-Peter! did you make a B-ee? He said, "Uh-huh, mm-mm". He can utter Buh, but not say Bee.

This wasn't at all the first time I realized this, of course. In fact, when people ask about his speech I usually give the example of how he can articulate the sound buh-buh-buh... But when you try to transition to buh-buh-buh-baby he comes out with buh-buh-buh-Mm-mm. (And the response has invariably been, "Oh, how interesting", followed by a pensive little head nod. I am still hopeful for the "Oh, yea, I knew a child who did that!" and then getting to hear the follow-up of how it all came out.)(But I am still waiting.)

We still have one more time to meet with the assessors once they've written up his IEP. I'm sure I'll have all kinds of paperwork to sign to make it all official before we get started, but there shouldn't be any real surprises, simply because I have already talked so exhaustively with both assessors and also because the pathologist today assured me we've pretty much already covered everything. About the only question I have now, reflecting on all that's been said, is how, exactly, are they labeling his delay? Or are they?

I'm really just curious, because the bottom line is that he qualifies for their care. But it also would be helpful to know how they are approaching this from an educational and developmental viewpoint. The pathologist explained this morning, for instance, that she doesn't at all believe the speech delay is language-related, which might mean, among other things, that he has difficulty with comprehension, or with communicating in general. But it's a definite no on both accounts.

The unfortunate thing that I learned today is that it doesn't look like he'll actually be at the preschool with the people we have been meeting with thus far; the classes are currently all booked, which I knew, and the new one they are opening is going to be at a different location, and not for at least a couple of weeks.

Which is a bummer, to be sure, but life has often taught me that these changes often bring about surprising blessings. Who knows? Maybe the other setting will be even better. Really, we've just gotten started; it's not like he's gotten into a groove with these people and now it's going to be interrupted.

And something tells me this little guy is going to be just fine, chappy cheeks and all.

Yes, this picture was just taken today... What, you don't still have your Christmas decorations out?

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It's been one of those mornings when I feel like I've just been spinning my wheels and not really getting anything accomplished. I feel like I've been playing pin the tail on the donkey, except everytime I get ready to pin my tail down and open my eyes someone keeps spinning me around again and putting the blindfold back on.

I go to pay a bill online and get distracted by my email. Then by some blogs. Oy. I pick up some mail that still isn't reflecting our new address and while I'm wondering if these people even deserve our money one of the kids walks in with a distraction and I forget that I was finally going to take care of it until I come across the pile an hour later. Again.

I love mornings when I get our dinner in the crockpot and turn it on to cook with no further effort on my part, knowing that come 5:00 I won't have to wonder what we're going to have for dinner. This morning was no exception, except that half the morning went by before I realized the crockpot wasn't plugged in.

The heater guy did come by this morning to install our new defrost control board thingie on our heat pump. Did you know these things cost $224? Well, now you do. That's just for the part, though. I'm beginning to think owning your own home is a bit overrated.

John's Master's program, which he just started, isn't quite as free as we thought it was. Though I'm ashamed even to complain about it because our cost is still so miniscule compared to paying for it sans military tuition assistance. But still.

I am so over learning things the hard way.

There are so many things to write about -- the latest on Sean-Peter's speech evaluation, or John's sleep apnea, or the 85-year-old woman at the Italian class Conner and I went to last night who reminded me of my great-aunt Tiny, or how cute Olivia was this morning when she said her arm fell asleep and how she couldn't wake it up because maybe it was having too good of a dream?

But I think I'll just go watch Barbie's Swan Lake with the little ones and call it a wash. I need a nice little story with fairy tale characters that sing perfect little songs that my daughter likes to imitate. And I need to finish this, and post it to my blog so I have proof that I did accomplish something today, even if it is nothing but meaningless drivel. Sometimes there is worth in that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Conner's Treat

Amazingly enough, Conner has not been oblivious to our latest attempts at not spending money. John used to pick up some Dunkin' Donuts now and again, usually as a might as well while I'm out tagalong while he's out on a milk run. Apparently Conner has been missing this little treat, and last night he asked me if he and dad could go get some donuts for this morning that he would pay for.

After I picked myself up off the floor I readily agreed, and I couldn't help gushing at how wonderful it was for him to spend his own money to treat his whole family like that.

John told me later that when the cashier told them, "That'll be $8.42", they all stood there a few moments listening to the crickets before John finally asked Conner, "You gonna get that?" Then Conner jumped forward and proceeded to walk off with the box.

After being reminded that paying for the donuts meant actually paying for the donuts, the realization seemed to dawn on Conner that he was going to have to actually part with his cold hard cash.

But you should have seen how proud he was this morning when he got those donuts down to distribute to everyone. Now he just needs to get the hang of picking out the kind that his mom likes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

One of the most annoying things about moving around regularly is always having to find a new hairdresser. I finally got a very overdue haircut the other day, and it went a bit awry. That is, I ended up getting a whole new hairstyle after the stylist tried to correct her mistake on one side...
...and the "trim" turned into a hack job.

See? Now I know, I don't usually post pictures of myself, so if you don't know me personally you really don't have a comparison. Oh, wait -- let's see if I can find a before photo......Yea, so here I am with Olivia banging around on my nephew's drums. I didn't exactly know what I was doing, which wasn't surprising since I can't recall having ever picked up a set of drumsticks before in my life. Except the kind you eat.

It was surprising, however, that this hair stylist -- the manager of the salon -- didn't seem to know her way around a head of hair. My hair. To her credit, it seemed to surprise her more than it did me, almost to the point of mortification, as the "fix" turned into inch after hacked-off inch.
See? It's even shorter in the back. Although Sean-Peter doesn't seem to mind, gazing up at me so adoringly with those beautiful blue eyes and pouty chapped lips.

But where was I. Oh, yea, so after I got home and freaked out a little bit -- I mean, I told her it was no big deal, it's just hair that will grow again blah-blah-blah...which I did believe at the time, until I got home and saw how Lord almighty it is short! I actually started liking it a bit. And in a couple week's time when I can better tuck it behind my ears again I think I might even love it. But what do you think?

I'm really, truly, not fishing for a compliment. I'm genuinely curious. Because I haven't had my hair this short since ... I'm not sure, like another lifetime ago?

In the meantime, here's Olivia again in her new dress. Yes, it's from the thrift store. Really, truly I have been doing a pretty good job of not spending money nor bringing unnecessary stuff into this house, but Olivia actually needed some clothes, and I made a point to avoid the women's sweater rack.
She does love her dresses. And she looks so, I don't know, all prim and proper-like, or something. Boots notwithstanding. Which were also a thrift store purchase, by the way, since she's outgrown her others.
Oh, wait. Something is missing.

Ah, that's better. You can almost smell the attitude.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When we bought this house it came with this humongous hunk of steel that was stuck off in a corner of the garage. Turns out it was a fireplace insert that looked like it hadn't been moved from that spot since a couple of owners ago. These inserts are supposed to really help you save on your heating bill, but they weigh a ton. Well, almost half a ton anyway. Seriously.

We decided we were either going to use it or sell it, not leave it to rust and rot until the next owners move in. But since the company that the original owner bought this thing from 27 years ago has since gone out of business, it has taken several weeks and many phone calls and one cancellation before we finally got someone out here to help install the thing.
You can see here the big black monstrosity that now covers up the oh-so-cozy fire but now blows out the oh-so-wonderful warmth that used to get sucked up out the chimney and into oblivion instead of into our home and onto our energy bill. At least, that's the idea. We probably won't see the true financial fruits until our new windows are installed in a couple of weeks.

Did I mention we have frost on the inside of our windows? As in, there is ICE, INSIDE the house. Yeah.
Regardless, the timing couldn't have been better for getting the insert installed as the temperatures in Ohio are plummeting as I type, sitting here in my now oh-so-cozy family room, never mind the not-so-quiet blower fan replacing the cackling of the fire and that ugly black facade blocking the hypnotic flames.

It's a far better cry from this time last week, when we awoke to a freezing house because the heater had gone out sometime in the wee hours, forcing John to confront our ever-so-steep learning curve on heat pumps, the likes of which we will never choose to own again. Getting a grip on the problem (malfunctioning defrost circuit board) consumed John's every waking moment for most of this week as he recruited Conner to pray with him to cash in on the 2-or-more clause while the stress positively emanated from his pores, so seriously does he take his role as the provider and protector of his family.

It was kind of cute, actually, my little Southern Boy. I mean, what did people do before central air? Pile on the sweaters and blankets and into one bed, right? Our first winter in Italy when we had a newborn baby and the heating system in our house was so archaic that I used to go around in gloves and my sheep's-wool house shoes and constantly sip on hot tea ... The kids? They honestly seemed unfazed, and no worse for the wear.

This go-around, though, we were the landlords responsible for taking care of the problem and we were seriously concerned that we were going to have to fork over the cash for a whole new heating system, something we are not financially prepared to do. (Did I mention we're about to get new windows?) We even wondered aloud if we should become a one-car family for a while, something that should be perfectly reasonable to do, no matter the spoiled Americans that we have become.

So it wasn't a good week; heat notwithstanding, we have also been having major computer issues which seemed to symptomatically culminate in my email account: I couldn't reply to emails; I couldn't forward emails; I couldn't delete emails; I couldn't page through my inbox; and I couldn't stay sane. So I mostly stayed away from the computer while John was glued to his laptop, reading and posting questions to blogs about heat pumps.

Never mind central air, what did we do before the internet?

The week was good in that it brought to attention how precarious our financial situation is; I mean, one major system blows and there goes our budget. But it also reminded me of how much worse it could always be; I mean, what if the heat had blown last week while John was TDY? I would have been stuck calling a heater guy and paying their outrageous weekend rates, because She-Man Fix-It Woman I am not.

As it was, we were cold for a while, and I had to wait a bit longer for John to get around to the computer issues, which he finally resolved last night by staying up until 3:00 reformatting the hard drive.

I don't even know what that means.

But I do know that I am sitting here across the room from our fireplace, and I am contemplating taking off my sweater so wonderful is the air in here while yahoo is telling me it feels like -5 degrees outside. Spoiled American or no, I feel like a kid who got away with cheating on a test, so certain we were that our heat pump was a goner, and now here we've got it working again with a fireplace insert to boot. Thank you, God. For my heat, and a hubby who knows how to fix things.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Don't Do Wallpaper Border

Okay, what is the quick and dirty, fool-proof method for removing wall border?? Hot water in a spray bottle? Hot water and fabric softener? Any special tools absolutely necessary? The old fingernail trick ain't cutting it...

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Mommy, can I marry Conner when I grow up? And when he grows up?"

"Nope. You can't marry your brother. That's against the rules."


"After all, your daddy is not my brother..."

Olivia brightens, "So I can marry him!"

"Nope, you can't marry your daddy either. That's against the rules, too."

(More humphing and hunching of shoulders and oh-so-endearing pouting.)

"But I wanna marry someone."

"You will, but not until you're 28."

"You mean 48."

"Even better. After all, you're going to be an astronaut."

"You mean, ballerina astronaut band player."

Yea, that's what I said.

*Note: Olivia has been talking about getting married an awful lot lately, which was kind of freaking me out until I realized it's probably because of a library book we recently came home with, "Barbie Loves Weddings", and she probably thinks getting married is kind of like having a birthday party with presents and pretty dresses and getting to be the center of attention. Sometimes when I look around I wonder if that's what some grown women were thinking, too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Reading Memoirs

I've been thinking lately about my love of reading a good memoir, and how that seems to have transferred into my newfound love of reading a good blog. It got me reflecting on a time in my life when my fascination with reading about other people's lives was at a peak, especially when written in and about other cultures.

I was quite pregnant with Sean-Peter when we moved to Italy, and shortly after arriving John left on a TDY for over two months ... I was lucky: he didn't leave until the day after the movers delivered our stuff, and he got back in time for the delivery of our third child.

Despite my burgeoning belly I pretty much hit the ground running. I ended up forming fast friendships with amazing women that I had met on the rotator (military flight) and at the Lodging Facility on base, friendships that continue to this day despite the various states and continents where we all now live. Such is the military life.

It's so easy to get to know people when you're based overseas: almost everyone has left their established friends and family and routines ... and often the type of Americans who are overseas are there because they requested it, and they're not only open to new people and experiences but are actively seeking them. (There are the "other" types as well, such as the Americans who are miserable every moment of their waking lives they spend on foreign soil, very often for justifiable reasons, very often for not.) (But I digress.)

Like I said, I was quite pregnant and my husband soon abandoned me. Oh, woe me! After I picked myself up off the floor everything seemed to fall into place and I quickly found myself getting involved with the Parent Co-op on base where I could take one-year-old Olivia while I went to my OB appointments and otherwise drove around getting lost, a necessary experience in a country that purposefully arranges road signs to create optimum confusion.

I also used this time to take an Italian class on base, figuring it'd be good to get that out of the way before the baby was born and I hunkered down. Because I hunker down when I have a baby. None of this pushing the baby out then training for a marathon a week later. I took this basic Italian course with an instructor who, poor thing, thought she could teach a bunch of stay-at-home moms who hadn't seen the inside of a classroom in a coon's age beginning conversational Italian through immersion. Heh-heh. We soon showed her.

What I took away from that class was basic Italian pronunciation so I could at least read the road signs that never take you where they say they will; and basic sentence structure (think "Run, Spot, Run") along with a few key vocabulary words so I could respond to Italians' questions about my children. Because Italians love children. Nothing improves the surly Italian countenance like a couple of tots. A newborn baby? You are in.

Si, si, ho tre bambini. Mia figlia ha uno anno e mio bambino ha tre messi. Si, si, e ho un altro bambino e ha nove anni. E studia in scuola italiana! Si, si, molto bene!

Yea. That's about it. Needless to say, I relied heavily on hand gestures. And what's even more pathetic is I just had to call Conner over here to see if I had even written that down right.

I figured that so long as I wasn't going to get out to see the Italy I was living in, I would at least sit at home and read about it. I read every memoir set in Italy that I could get my hands on. Oh! the joys of a tasty memoir! They are my favorite type of reading, when an author looks back on his/her life and writes with a selective memory, only dishing out the juiciest, funniest, most interesting, most poignant parts.

Phil Doran's "The Reluctant Tuscan",> Marlena de Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Venice", Joan Marbles "Notes from an Italian Garden", Lisa St. Aubin de Teran's "A Valley in Italy" .... And, yes, Francis Mayes "Under the Tuscan Sun", which is a bit over-hyped in my humble opinion. Especially since by then I had already read so many other books written by people who actually lived in Italy.

By the way, when I went to look up some of these titles again I came across this site that lists a plethora of novels set in Italy, if you're interested in more of this kind of thing:

I got to thinking about what started my love for memoirs when another blogger encouraged everyone to take a day off from blogging! and read again already. Then share what you read that day on your own blog and we can all, you know, get some great book ideas. Not that I spent yesterday actually reading any of the above titles ... (Oh, and I guess I broke the "rule" of not blogging, too, heh-heh) but I did recently read another great memoir, Amy Tan's "The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings" which has gotten me on a kick of reading the rest of her books, which I picked up from the library a couple of days ago.

Currently I am reading Amy Tan's "The Hundred Secret Senses", which I realized immediately after starting that I actually have already read it, several years ago. But in her "Musings" Amy Tan divulged her driving incentives in creating many of her characters, which often are an amalgam of fiction as well as people in her own life about whom she shares in her memoir, which is making me read "Senses" in a whole new light. I didn't actually care too much for "The Joy Luck Club", though I loved the film version. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy "The Kitchen God's Wife", and now that I know it is essentially the "real" story of her mother's life I am enthralled by its telling even more.

What these books do for me, these memoirs, is allow me to experience pieces of someone's life through their own eyes. It broadens my horizons, yes, but it also prepares me for my own experiences and broadens them in a way that couldn't fully be appreciated without the knowledge that I came away with after reading theirs first. Their telling of their lives enhances the experiences of my own.

I did eventually get beyond the "hunker down" mode, of course -- though do not underestimate the exhaustion you will experience when traveling in Europe with wee ones, oh ye of mighty ambition. Take heed, and adjust your goals accordingly. Ahem and Amen.

I noticed things during my time in Italy that I probably would not have noticed had I not spent my hunker-down time with a nursing baby in one arm and a memoir in another. It almost felt like cheating. "Did you know that three-wheeled contraption these old Italians like to drive around and slow everyone down is called an Ape?" I would say to my son and an American friend, both of whom attended Italian school. "Because their motor sounds like a bee, which of course is English for Ape." They would look at me in amazement, like I really knew what I was talking about, this mom they knew spoke only pidgen Italian.

I often miss the trees for the forest, in my own living and traveling and bumbling around. Many, many times I would read something someone else had written and would realize, "Oh, yea, I saw that, too!" I've often thought how I could be such a better writer if I could give careful notice to and mentally catalogue the details of everything I see, the better to vividly record them later for posterity.

And I am getting better with that, with age, and experience, and with this blog. And I think reading memoirs -- some in the form of a blog themselves -- have helped me to pay attention to what is real, and what is important. And sometimes, to what is real important. Besides just being a whole lot of fun to read.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why It's Taken Me This Long to Start Painting Olivia's Room

Or, "How Olivia's All-Thatness Gets in the Way of her Helpfulness":

Sean-Peter and Olivia are watching a video.

"Sean-Peter, you stay here and I'll be back ... But no following, okay?"

Sean-Peter continues to sit on the couch.

"Sean-Peter? Do you hear me? Sean-Peter? ... Right, you stay here! You can't follow me where I'm going. You can't watch what I'm going to watch. Because it's dangerous. "

Now Sean-Peter is off the couch.

"Sean-Peter? Aren't you listening? You can't watch what I'm going to watch! So no following."

I am sealing up the paint can now.

"Sean-Peter! I said no following! No, Sean-Peter, no! Go back."

Another title option, "Why It's Going to Take Me Six Forevers* To Paint Olivia's Room".

(*"Six forevers" was Conner's catch-all for A Really Long Time when he was Olivia's age, one of those phrases that lives on long past the little guy who coined it.**)

(At least, this is what I am reminding myself of when I feel like This is My Life forever and ever and I will never be able to paint or do anything else in peace, ever again.)

(That is, not for at least six more forevers.)

(**Oops. John just told me that he was the one who coined it. Who knew?)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Olivia: Budding Chef

Olivia's interest in the workings of the kitchen has not waned, and grandma got her a kid's cookbook for Christmas: Batter Up Kids: delicious desserts !

The best part is the chef's hat.
The worst part is the "help" we get from her brother.
His hands are positively twitching. It's all I can do not to nail them to the counter.

The other worst part about this cookbook is that it's all about sugar. Thanks, mom!

Olivia pages through the recipes like they're stories, exclaiming over the necessary ingredients like they're characters in a plot. Yesterday evening I willingly helped her choose some potential candidates and made a shopping list of what we don't have on hand. But I drew the line at reading the book to her like it was a bedtime story.

Being the daddy's girl that she is, she made a big talk about saving some for him, but since he's currently TDY until Friday, I suspect that won't be happening. Especially considering we basically had cookies for our lunch today. Methinks I'll be making another trip to the store very soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


There's something about going on a road trip with small children that just sucks the very life out of you. Especially when you return and do your post-travel grocery run with a new resolve to watch every penny which causes you to spontaneously decide to not purchase the $15+ diapers even though your child is not yet potty trained because going cold turkey with no backup is such a grand way to introduce the process.

Sean-Peter loves to participate in our new chant:

"Where do we go pee!"
"In the potty!"
"Where do we go poop!"
"In the potty!"

Of course, Sean-Peter's version of "In the potty!" is more like an emphatic, "Mm-BAH!"

He is peeing in his potty. He's also peeing in his panties. In short, he pretty much pees all day long, in whatever happens to be there to catch it.

And a couple of days ago he was playing in the living room, where I could hear him happily moving his cars around on the coffee table. After a few minutes I noted a tone of distress in his voice with accents of what sounded a bit like "Maahm!" I went in and found a pile of poop. On the carpet. On the white carpet. (Though poop is admittedly not the first four-letter word that came to mind.) And he was gesturing at it accusatorily, "Mm-BAH!"

Apparently matchbox cars were not the only thing busy moving around. And I think some finer nuances of how poop actually GETS into the potty are being missed.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another Glimpse into the Life of Olivia's Mind

"I know! I can invite all my friends to come to this Ohio and we can put on a special band show! Because I'm going to be a astronaut-ballerina-band player ... but I need their help to make it *special*."

This last part she emphasizes with a conspiratorial whisper and leans into her spirit fingers for effect. Where this "other" Ohio is is anyone's guess. Maybe in outer space. Or in Italy where she thinks all of her friends still are, whom she desperately misses.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sweat the Small Stuff

I've been asked now and again what blogs I read, and I have mentioned a few of them, who happen to be military spouses themselves (such as this one and that one, and this one over here); but I have never gotten around to doing a blogroll, which is just a list of other blogs on the side of your own blog that you can, uh, roll.

(Since it seems that most of my friends and many of my family had never heard of a blog before I told them I started one, and a good number of them feel it is a major undertaking to successfully maneuver the commenting technique, yes, I feel compelled to explain these things. Just in case.)(Not dissing anyone here, honest. Just trying to help you along, give you a little boost, like.)

If I didn't spend some of my time reading blogs (and more time simply writing one) perhaps I would devote a little more time to actually maintaining this blog here. But no matter. For now, at least, I wanted to share another blog that, fittingly, was the first one that I ever really went to. My mom, of all people, introduced me to it because she thought it was so funny. The blogger is funny, but so is the idea of how my mother came across her? Because she's not exactly a blog-reading type, whatever that means. (Except for my blog, of course. But that's understandable considering the photos of her grandkids that I regularly post.)

So I was introduced to Notes from the Trenches before I started a blog of my own, and long before I realized there was this Big Blog World that had erupted out there during our time overseas -- this was about nine months ago or so when we were still living in Italy and the internet service at our house, at least, was veeerrrryyyy sssslooooowww and I didn't have the time between changing diapers and washing dishes by hand (oh, the horrors) to wait 20 minutes for a web site to load. Though Lord knows I tried.

The writer of this blog is a mother of seven who practices common sense parenting skills while also homeschooling said children and still managing to be witty on any number of freelance writing projects that no doubt help keep them in heating oil in their old New England home that she has slowly renovated to resemble something out of Pottery Barn. If that weren't enough to keep me coming back for more, the ages of my children are similar to hers. Well, to three of hers, anyway. And she takes great pictures of them (and of her Pottery Barn home) for all the world to see. (She has just a few more readers than I do. Ahem.)

She recently posted about her family's New Year's Resolution to cut out impulse buying, and all purchases that are not really really necessary: specifically, she sites shopping at Target. This is something that has become dearer and dearer to my heart -- eradicating unnecessary holes in the pocket, that is, not necessarily avoiding Target. (Which is a money-draining pit, to be sure, and is best avoided unless walking in only with cash for the specific item you originally walked in for. Period and Amen.)(Maybe I should try that sometime.)

It really is the comments that make a blog so enjoyable to go back to almost as much as the blog itself, and on this blog in particular the commenters are pretty good about asking questions and even handing out ideas that contribute to the topic. This post was no exception, and I found myself reading the comments and nodding my head, "Yea, don't even go into the store! No more stores except the grocery store! Yea! Kids use their allowance even for drinks after the soccer game! Yea! That's the ticket!"

Because just before I'd gotten on to peruse her site to see what I'd missed the last few weeks, John and I had sat down and assessed our accounts to see what the final damage was from Christmas. (This was just before John went back to base to take his "sleep test" hee-hee.) And it would appear that already, on this Second Day of Our January, we have allocated the whole of our money for the entire month. Woo-hoo! We are talented, people!

I already do a pretty good job of staying out of stores -- more to avoid the torture of shopping with preschoolers than anything else, truth be told. (Ix-nay on the family eating out for the same reason.) But on the rare occasion that we do go shopping, "just for a few things", it does feel like such an uncommon occurrence that I inevitably give in and get "just a little something" for the little ones. Little somethings that get added to the extra somethings that were on the clearance aisle and on sale and were "such a good deal!" that I can't even remember what they were now.

Her post just really got me to thinking about stuff and how we Americans are so good at accumulating it, and how much we take it for granted and how much my kids take it for granted. And how I'll even catch myself feeling like we don't have that much stuff, but then I'm reminded that I'm looking at it from a cultural point of view that thinks if your kids are sharing a bed then you must be poor. Never mind that the bed is in a house between solid floors and a solid roof and probably central air throughout. Not to mention that there's a bed to begin with.

I did show John the post -- he's heard me regale him with her funny stories over the months -- but we didn't really have time to discuss it to my satisfaction. After all, he's the one who runs out to "just get some milk" and comes back $20 later with a couple bags worth of stuff ... Ha! it's my blog and I'll pick on him if I want to, but truth be told I do that, too -- you know, the "while I'm here I'm might as well" syndrome. He's just the one usually sent on the "stop by" errands nowadays, what with small children and all this fluffy white stuff covering the snowtire-less Fam Van.

But it really hit home and got me to thinking, and to evaluating -- what is important? Just because it's a good deal, does that mean I need it? (Yes, this goes for the Thrift Store, too *gasp*.) And where can we stop spending money? Because John and I -- years ago -- actually kept a running tally of every single penny for an entire month to try to identify our "Latte Factor", and we came up with ... nothin'.

Now, it really is true that the more you make the more you spend. Otherwise we would have, like, a million dollars stored away somewhere because way back in the day we had no money and that, simply put, meant that we spent no money. But about all we have to show for it now is an excellent credit rating, because we sure seemed to get used to spending the money John has since earned over the years. (I earned some, too, once upon a time. But really, that was eons ago by now.)

The best we could come up with on the spur of the moment (before John had to go take a test on sleeping -- did I mention that?) is that we like to enjoy a beer of an evening. And because we are self-attested beer snobs who will only drink imported beer in a bottle (a good German weizen is best) that can add up a bit differently than, say, your usual colored water in a can. So as much as it hurts (though Grandma would be glad to hear) we are going to try not buying beer for awhile -- in addition to disciplining our "stop by" errands.

And we'll need every dollar we can save to put toward, among other things, our many ambitious home improvement projects. We were reminded today, just for instance, that new windows are a must priority when John discovered frost on the inside of the pane. Hmm.

So don't mind me as I go savor my last beer and ponder other areas of sacrifice, and feel free to throw out any other consumerism-saving ideas you might have off the top of your head, whether they have worked for you or not.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Paige and Olivia

We had an all-too short visit with my friend Kim on our way home from Kansas, and it wasn't just our girls who got along like they lived next door and saw each other every day. But they were the ones always ready to pose for a photo.
Kim mentioned that Olivia reminded her a lot of Paige at that age, and that couldn't have pleased me more. John especially was very impressed with this lovely young girl, who carries herself with such mature poise and graciousness that belies her young age. Although he inexplicably thought she reminded him of Meg Ryan. Aside from her apparent love for and talent on stage, I can't say I really saw a direct resemblance...

We arrived home safely and just on time. We mostly kept ahead of some precipitation and spent New Year's Day home, comfy and dry, with more snow flurries coating the Fam Van that sat untouched in our driveway after accumulating almost 2000 miles in 10 days.
We are tired and cranky and most of us have colds. School starts tomorrow and John goes back to work ... and then has a sleep test to look forward to tomorrow night! But that'll have to save for another post. Needless to say, it's a long time coming. In the meantime, we'll get started on our New Year and those pesky Resolutions we always feel compelled to make, to include, in no particular order, painting several rooms in the house and potty training Sean-Peter (mine), getting in shape and tiling several rooms in the house (John's)...

Just kidding on the tiling of several rooms. I think. While we were in Kansas John helped my uncle do some tile work on a rental house that he's renovating -- to learn the trade, so to speak, and see if it's something he thought he could do in areas of our own house. He came back and confidently declared, "No problem". Of course, I'll keep you posted...

*Update: John just read this and said that it wasn't Paige's looks that reminded him of Meg Ryan, but rather her speech and mannerisms and "facial expressions and whatnot". I stand corrected. Who knows, maybe someday you all will say You Saw Her Here. (!)