Monday, June 30, 2008

About Dinner

I love family dinners. We eat together every night, with only occasional exceptions. It might not be gourmet, but it's real. It's one of the memories of home I want my kids to take with them when they go. Knowing my kids, they'll probably remember the conversations about cannibalism more than anything else, but it's something.

We always have a tablecloth on the table. Sounds luxurious, but I think it's just another one of my endless collections. I love tablecloths. We usually have cloth napkins that may or may not match the tablecloth depending on who set the table. Think of the wonderful possibilities this holds for self expression! The napkins! The goofy/funky/pretty/handmade napkin rings. Maybe you need to be a bleary-eyed mother of three toddlers traipsing through a mall to really understand the glory of napkin rings. You buy them in a part of the store where nothing can break. It's like heaven.

I've taught my kids to crumb the table after meals using a crumb sweeper. Not that they actually do it, but I've taught them. Wasabi girl likes to do it. It's a very satisfying way to clean up a crumby mess. No clue what I'm talking about? Here's one, the Crumb Pod Tablecloth Sweeper by Casabella. It even says in the description it's ideal for families with young children. Hmmm, mine are 10 and 11 and still messy. I asked my sister one time how she managed to keep her dining area so clean and she pointed to her fat little dog. Ah!

Nobody can start eating until we're all seated and someone says grace. We have a variety of prayer styles, and the kids know that they may be called on any time to extemporize. We have a fallback that we use on nights when we're unimaginative - "For health and strength and daily bread we praise thy name oh Lord." Only we sing it as a round, often loudly, so when the windows are open I'm sure the neighbors hear "FOR HEALTH AND STRENGHTFOR HEALTH AND STRENGTHFOR HEALTH. . ." x5 as we all get our voice in there. After Easter we sing the Orthodox Resurrection Hymn in Greek, also pretty loudly. Poor neighbors.

Drama Girl likes to focus her eating on the bread group, while the twins put away mass quantities of everything. Wasabi Girl is the tiniest person in the family but she eats like a football player. Obviously didn't get that metabolism from me.

We carry on a tradition from my family of serving milk from a white pottery milk jug. It just tastes better that way. We drink a lot of milk. Neighbors come to us when they want to change their oil because we always have lots of empty plastic jugs ready for recycling.

When we're all stuffed there is one more tradition I've taught the kids. In order to leave the table, they have to ask to be excused. Another habit from my own parents I guess. It's just polite. They come up with their own phrasing and often rush the words out so they can get going. Jungle Boy says "thankyouforthiswonderfulmealI'malldonemayIpleasebeexcused?" in about one syllable.

It isn't fancy, they don't have perfect manners, milk spills and feet kick under the table, but it's dinner, and I'll miss it when they're gone.

I'm also posting today over at How Do You Do It?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What Drama Girl Has to Say

Time it took me to figure out about an hour.
Time it took Drama Girl: about 5 minutes.

She really did make the first strip. I made her change my first name to threeundertwo, otherwise the whole thing is hers.

Another Voyage to the Inner Sanctum of EA

Jungle Boy got to test another wii game over at Electronic Arts this morning. I love going there and seeing the nerd beehive. Sounds like it would be such a fun job, creating games, but I'm certain there's a fair amount of tediousness involved.

The campus itself is pretty cool. There is a grassy labyrinth that the kids love running through, and a lawn that looks like a full-sized soccer field. Each of the public buildings that I've been in has game stations set up in the lobby to while away the time while waiting for appointments. We moms sat back while our sons played this morning. Then when the boys were called into the secret room for the top secret testing, the moms played on Boom Blox.

He loved the game he tested, which I can't talk about, and when it was finished, he got to pick a free game to pay him for his time. He says we've got almost every single game they offer for free now. I guess we'll start collecting PC games from them next. What a deal. And I love a deal, especially when it helps me justify my own game habit.

The cartoon is just a bit of silliness. I discovered a new way to suck hours out of my day over at Go check them out, if you have nothing better to do for the next few hours. They're great. In fact, one of the creators of the Sims just commented on this little cartoon I made over there. Too funny.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I kick [word that I don't use on my blog]

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

I made it onto Alltop! If you select the category "moms" and scroll allllll the way down to the bottom you'll find me.

You can say you knew me before I was a star.

Alltop is a great place to find the best of the best in news, opinion, technology, sports, blogs etc. One-stop shopping for information and entertainment. And we busy moms are all about one-stop-shopping.


I got tagged for this from Catholic Teacher Musings.

is for age: 46, although My Wii Fit tells me I'm anywhere between 28 and 52, depending on how clumsy I am on any given day.
B is for burger of choice: Bacon avocado, quite pink inside. And a side of defibrillators.
C is for what kind of car you drive: A '98 Toyota Sienna minivan that is about as tired of driving around as I am.
D is for your dog's name: Mr. Invisible, since I don't have one.
E is for essential item you use everyday: Chocolate. And deodorant I guess. And the computer and my car. And a whip for the kids. Is anybody still reading this far?
F is for favorite TV show at the moment: Trick question, right? We don't watch TV. Husband and I are watching reruns of the Horatio Hornblower mini-series on dvd though. That Ioan Gruffudd is cute beyond words. I think my husband and I are actually seeing two different shows when we watch it together. Don't tell him.
G is for favorite game: "The Quiet Game" ha ha ha ha as if that ever works. . .
H is for Home State: California
I is for instruments you play: Harp, but mine isn't as pretty as the one in my profile. Piano. Tympani in the school orchestra when they didn't have harp parts. I like playing large instruments that are difficult to move and tune.
J is for favorite juice: Passion Orange Guava. They dispense it at the blood donation center. Some people just go there for the juice. This is why I had to start blogging. I never have a short answer for anything. Everything is a story story story. I'm only on J. How long is this post going to be? Is anybody still reading this? I'm going to go check my stats page the day this runs and see "average time spent on site: 2 seconds" because really, who *cares* what kind of juice I like? Going to send me some?
K is for whose butt you'd like to kick: That little yippy dog next door that barks all the way through Horatio Hornblower every single night. I'd like to fire *him* out of a cannon.
L is for last restaurant at which you ate? Su Hong's in Menlo Park
M is for your favorite Muppet: Grover
N is for Number of Piercing: Three. All in my ears. I'm just wild that way.
O is for overnight hospital stays: Several nights when I had the twins.
P is for people you were with today: Besides my family, some of the kids on the cast of my daughter's play that I'm altering costumes for. My cats.
Q is for what you do with your quiet time: Blog and read, needlepoint and sleep. I'm big on naps. Love them.
R is for biggest regret: I wish I'd taken more art history classes. Seriously.
S is for status: Happily married, 16 years.
T is for time you woke up today: Around 6 or so.
U is for what you consider unique about yourself: My social security number.
V is for vegetable you love: carats, the diamond kind.
W is for worst habit: Spending too much time on the computer. But what am I to do when somebody sends something like this to me?
X is for x-rays you've had: Dental , hip - I have a huge bone spur and osteoarthritis from a skiing accident when I was 12. I'm in pain most of the time from that. I need to get the whole hip replaced but I don't know when I'll have the time to be out of commission for 6 months.
Y is for yummy food you ate today: Almond Roca. My little guilty pleasure. I only have one every few days and I savor it.
Z is for zodiac: Gemini. Both of me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursday: I'm a Little Teapot

Doesn't this make you want to sing that song? I love this teapot. The fact that he has a matching mug is just icing on the cake. He reminds me of those old dish towels with anthropomorphic dancing dishes and cutlery. I'm pretty sure these guys sprout legs and play with the fiestaware when I'm not looking.

If anyone knows his history, let me know. He's a beautiful fire-king green, but no marks on the bottom.

The quilted table topper isn't vintage, I made it from reproduction fabrics.

Vintage Thingies Thursday is hosted by the Apron Queen, who gave me an apron and totally rocks!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How to Make Chex Mix

  • Take twins grocery shopping. When they suddenly ask if they can make Chex Mix, remember that you thought it would be a great idea to teach them some more cooking skills this summer. Send them to go get Chex -- "the one with the recipe on the box" and tell them to meet you back in your aisle as you continue shopping.
  • Tell them not to run as they take off in gleeful independence. Watch them run as they round the corner out of sight.
  • When Twin 1 returns and asks "Wheat or Corn Chex?" Repeat the instructions "The one with the recipe on the box" and send him off again.
  • Finish three more aisles of shopping and start wondering where they are.
  • When Twin 2 returns, listen patiently while they explain "They don't have THE recipe mom, just these weird recipes." Tell them "The recipe is always on the box. Get the Rice Chex and get back here."
  • Wait a long time again. When they return trying to convince you one last time that the recipe isn't on the box, don't believe them until you actually look at the boxes and see the weird variations on the recipe:

  • Once home, tell twins to Google Chex Mix recipe.
  • Wait forever while they get distracted and play Webkinz on the computer.
  • Review their finds: "Original Chex Party Mix" vs. "Real Original Chex Party Mix."

  • Wonder why 1,849 people actually bothered to take the time to rate Chex Mix on a website.
  • Go and get the mail. Find a package with a rockin' free vintage apron from Rick Rack Attack.

  • Put the apron on of course!
  • Divide and conquer. Tell one twin he gets to make cookies later. His sister is put in charge of Chex Mix.
  • Show daughter how to measure butter into pan. Watch as she coats arms, pan, and stove with butter. Nod and smile and remain encouraging.
  • Commence measuring spices. Watch Worcestershire splash everywhere. Note with dismay after she's poured half the spices out that you'll have to review the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons. Throw out the whole spice mixture and start again.
  • Try to keep smiling as you try to help her chip off some onion powder that has decided to turn into cement.
  • Alter the recipe because who likes bagel chips anyway? Chex Mix really needs Cheez-Its.
  • Stand back while she measures dry ingredients. Watch them cascade beautifully everywhere. Listen to the floor crunch underfoot.

  • Carefully mix the whole thing on a cookie sheet, watching it spill all over the place.
  • Put it in the oven.
  • Open the oven door and smell that bit of heaven that is processed cereals, butter, and salt

  • Enjoy a little snack and write a post about the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How I Met My Husband (at the Insane Asylum)

I met my husband at a mental hospital. A branch of the VA that is a large teaching hospital affiliated with a University. We both worked in the psychiatry department which was a great job, once you got past the fact that some of the psychiatrists seemed a lot nuttier than the patients.

I was working as a psych tech, coordinating research protocols for an Alzheimer's Research Center. It was fascinating and I learned a lot about love and undying devotion from the caregivers who brought in their loved ones for testing. Alzheimer's research is still a cause very close to my heart.

My husband-to-be worked in another building on the hospital campus crunching statistics for studies on schizophrenics and agoraphobics.

The building he worked in had a number of audiology booths: rooms about 6 foot square with special deep padding on the walls. If you went in and shut the door you could hear your blood pulse. Those booths gave me claustrophobia. I'm not sure what they were really intended for. My husband used one to practice the trumpet. Close the door and voila! Nice silent practice room.

But what with the trumpeting and the enclosed space and the lack of air conditioning it would get pretty hot in there, so after practicing he'd go lie down on the lawn for some fresh air. I can only imagine what he looked like when one day an inpatient saw him stretched out flat on his back and asked him which ward he lived on. *snort*

I'd seen him around and thought he was cute, and we finally met at a party thrown by a mutual friend. I hadn't even wanted to go to the party and as I recall, I had just thrown on a sweatshirt and skipped the makeup to go kill an hour or two. There he was, that cute guy, standing by the chips. And I was hungry. Who can tell how the course of history would have been different if I hadn't craved salty greasy potato products that night?

We chatted for a while, and I left before he did. He walked me to my car. Cupid's work was done. I began my vigil by the phone.

He never called. Afer two weeks I shrugged off my crush and tried to forget him.

The psyciatry department personnel were all networked on Macs equipped with a primitive IM system that would pop a message on your screen in the middle of your work. We're talking 1989 here, so really, I mean primitive. Two weeks after that intriguing buffet table conversation a message popped up on my screen.

"Would you like to go to lunch on Thursday?"

Rats! Here I was, the girl with no social life, but I had already made arrangements to go out with some girlfriends on that day. I politely declined in a message back. Two seconds later, my screen lit up again.

"How about dinner on Friday?"

Double Rats!! I had a harp gig at a restaurant. I started to panic. This guy was going to think I didn't want to go out with him. I sent my excuse message back. This time the phone rang.

"How about a trip to the beach on Saturday?"

How could I not fall in love with this guy? He brought a backpack to the beach and after a fun afternoon that included finding a perfect abalone shell (I've never found one before or since), he pulled out champagne and strawberries as we watched the sunset. You don't find guys like that every day. At least, I don't.

That't how I met that cute guy who looked suspiciously like an inmate, and last Saturday was our 16th wedding anniversary. I love you honey. And I'm pretty sure the kids get their craziness from your DNA.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Here I am, coffee cup by my side, computer fired up, checking my stats, as I love to do, when I click on my Technorati backlinks (nerd heaven). I am always surprised by what I find, and today especially, since I see that I was tagged for a meme a few days ago by What a Card. I'm late, but here it is in its glory:

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Ballet teacher to the UNLV football team. I think I can still smell that small, poorly-ventilated practice room (shudder). I ought to blog about that sometime.
  2. Activities Director for a convalescent home in Las Vegas. I got to drive the little van to take the old folks out sightseeing and gambling. "And on your left, the Sands hotel. . ." Good times. Except for that time I backed the van into the jaguar. Remind me to tell that story sometime.
  3. AIDS vaccine research. I was a Senior Clinical Research Associate for a major biotech company, until I had a whole bunch of babies all at once and retired.
  4. Assisted with brain autopsies at the VA. The morgue was actually the most fun place to be at the VA. Guess what, I have stories about that too.
Four movies I could watch over and over:
  1. Pride and Prejudice. I always wonder if those two are actually going to get together in the end. Colin Firth, you were born to be Mr. Darcy!
  2. Sense and Sensibility. I'm a bit of a Jane Austen fan.
  3. It's a Wonderful Life. Zuzu's petals! I cry Every. Single. Time.
  4. Cinderella. She scrubs floors, but she cleans up real good, also she has intelligent conversations with small creatures who appreciate her. What's not to love?
Four places I have lived:
  1. Portland, Oregon
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada
  3. Palo Alto, California
  4. Bloomington, Indiana
Four TV shows I like: (This is a bit of a tricky question for me, since we stopped watching television years ago. I'll have to list old shows I liked)
  1. ER
  2. Gilligan's Island
  3. X-Files
  4. Little House on the Prairie
Four Favorite Foods:
  1. Sourdough bread. Lack of sourdough makes travelling East painful.
  2. The really spicy General's Chicken at my favorite Chinese restaurant
  3. Godiva chocolate truffles, like the ones sitting in my refrigerator right now from my dear husband.
  4. Tillamook cheddar cheese. A little bit of heaven from Oregon. My grandfather used to give everyone a brick of it at Christmas time. It's that good -- like gold bullion.
Four Places I Would Rather Be:
  1. That secluded beach at Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda where we hung out and snorkled all day for a week on our honeymoon. The one where they had a guy whose job it was to walk up and down the beach all day waiting for us to shout "another rum punch for room 14!" so he could bring it to us.
  2. At the Lyon and Healy harp factory buying that $170,000 gold harp featured in my profile after I win millions in the lottery.
  3. In a dressing room, trying on gorgeous clothing several sizes smaller than my current clothing, and marveling at my amazingly small size that doesn't look at all like I had three kids in under two years.
  4. In a self-cleaning house, with a self-washing/folding/storing laundry system. (The meme didn't say anything about real places).
Four People I'm Tagging:
I'm hitting up my friends from for this one. You guys are some of my best fans, even if you never comment (hint hint). We do this type of stuff on discussion boards over there all the time so I hereby tag:

  1. Monkey Memories
  2. A Pirate's Life For Me
  3. Although Life May Choose the Music. . .I Choose the Dance
  4. Beth Loves Ice Cream

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beach Day

My husband and I had our first date at the beach. Saturday was our anniversary (16 years!) so we took a trip to the beach with the kids. It's only about 40 minutes away and it was wonderfully cool compared to our house.

We found an ancient carving in a rock. I believe it is a pelican. OK, maybe not too ancient.

Jungle Boy and Drama Girl had an astounding original idea. "Mom! We're going to dig a hole to CHINA!" Some things never change. I fondly remember my own hole-digging days.

DH got out his sketchbook. Wasabi Girl and I played in the water and picked up shells and pretty rocks.

Here's my log. Isn't it perfect? It's saying "this is the place for moms to sit and watch everyone."

Work on the grand hole continued at a steady pace. I don't think I was ever that industrious.

When they got tired of digging, they accessorized with a driftwood towel rack. Drama Girl curled up inside with a book (of course) and the twins ran off exploring together.

Big waves right off shore. As the official worrier, it was my job to keep yelling "Don't go too far! Watch the undertow!" The water was freezing cold anyway. I don't think they would have gone too far, but I was doing my job.

I don't have a caption for this one, except here are my kids and some seagulls and some puffy clouds having fun on a beautiful day at the beach, forgetting everything about everywhere and just living in the moment. Childhood should have millions of days like this.

When we got tired, we went to the same restaurant we'd gone to on that first date 19 years ago. It's Zagat-rated, but still cool enough to have coloring pages for kids. When do we get too old for crayons with meals?

I ordered a mimosa and this is what arrived. I had a blast playing mad scientist mixing the ingredients into the chilled flute. The kids were aghast. Drama Girl said "You're not actually going to drink that are you?"

Oh yes. And it was good.

In the spirit of "Mom, are you going to take pictures of everything today?" Here is the jam. On the left we have rhubarb-strawberry and on the right is olallieberry. This is a specialty of this restaurant. For the uninitiated, an olallieberry is something of a cross between a blackberry and a loganberry (if that helps). It's delicious. Wasabi Girl had olallieberry syrup on her French Toast.

We had a great day, and a perfect anniversary. Someday I'll blog about that first date 19 years ago, but for now, I just want to remember today. Everyone so happy, perfect weather, and olallieberries. Doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Conversations at my house

"Mom, can I go to this party at LaserQuest?"
"Who's throwing it?"
"Wow, he's on the basketball team and the track team - he's going to really be good at Laser Quest"
"Don't worry mom, I know how to play; just team up with a partner then turn on them. Shoot them in the back a lot when they're not looking."
"Whoa. Just like in real life."


"Mom! There's no peanut butter! We're out of FOOD!"


"I'm so hungry I could eat a french fry."
"I'm so hungry I could eat a fried Frenchman, but that would be cannibalism, and we're not supposed to talk about that any more."
"Napoleon was French. He never changed his underwear. He had the dirtiest underwear ever."


"I'm going to have to make that a rule. No playing with your spit. And I mean it."


"Nobody puts fish *on* their mashed potatoes!"
"I do, it's called 'fishatos.'"

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's My Birthday Today! Gifts for me and you.

Today I am 46 years old. The family is going to celebrate by going to see "Kung Fu Panda" and then going to my favorite Chinese restaurant.

In the inevitable fashion of the blogosphere, I'll bet that some of you want to wish me a happy birthday. Thank you very much in advance.

I'd like you to give me a gift (aren't I greedy?). I'm hoping that you'll enjoy giving it to me.

Please, can you gift me with a link to your favorite recipe? I even promise I'll try it and write up a review with a link. Can be from your site or anywhere. Only one rule: No mushrooms please! I really can't eat them. I've had them prepared just for me by a wonderful French chef. I still couldn't choke them down.

I love to cook, but I wouldn't say I'm an expert. I promise to try every recipe you leave for me, even if you post it long after my birthday. Thank you for such a lovely present!


Now on to my gifts to others!

I have to give a huge thanks to Scary Mommy for giving me my first ever blog award. Isn't it pretty? It's the "Arte y Pico" award, which started with this website (I know, it's in Portuguese). From what I can tell, the original intention of this award is
"dedicated to many who nourish and enrich the spirit and creativity. They see dedication, creativity, camaraderie, joy and above all, ART - much art. I wish that this prize is entertaining to all bloggers who share this space and enrich it a little more each day." ~ Arte Y Pico

The rules accompanying this award are simple;

  1. You need to choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, or contribution to the blogging community regardless of language
  2. Each award should have the name of the author and a link to her blog to be visited by everyone
  3. Each winner should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her with the award.
  4. The award winner and the one who has given the award should show the Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award
  5. Show these rules
I can think of many blogs that fit the bill, but I really want to give it to the following outstanding artful bloggers. Please visit them!

  1. First and foremost, my new favorite blog as of today, The Bouf Kids Have Something To Say. . . This is a multimedia cornucopia of creativity created as a homeschooling project by the wonderful family of BoufMom9, who is an incredible mom of 8. Go visit these kids, see their great artwork, and leave them a kind comment and sign their guestbook with a picture.
  2. Leanne Wildermuth: Artist By Nature. I absolutely love her nature pictures and drawings of animals. Beautiful blog to browse through. Take time to look at her whole website. She even has a studio cam.
  3. Vintage Transfer Finds is my island of sanity and dose of nostalgic bliss. Even if you're not into embroidering dishtowels (what? why not?!?) The pictures she finds and posts are cheerful any day. You'll think fondly of grandma's house when you visit her site.
  4. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes even cooking can be art. Noble Pig, step up to the podium here and get your statuette. Your beautiful illustrated recipes make me drool.
  5. Carissa over at Good and Crazy People is the seamstress with the mostest. I love her blog, although I'm nervous that she sucked me onto twitter. She makes marvelous tote bags. I want the scraps from her sewing room floor, her fabrics are so gorgeous.
There you go -- enjoy these great blogs today and don't forget to come back and leave me a recipe.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wasabi Girl Throws A Tea Party

She decides to put on her pioneer costume from her 4th grade living history project [I made it]. She decides this will be a Raggedy Ann tea party so she gets her Raggedy Ann [I made Raggedy Ann too]. She remembers that pioneers didn't smile in pictures, so she pulls a straight face for my camera. Maybe this is all influenced by the Laura Ingalls Wilder books we're reading.

She spreads out her tea things on her Raggedy Ann Quilt [I made it] and gets out all the Raggedy Anns and Andys in the house [yeah, I make a lot of them].

She begins to drink invisible tea oh-so-demurely with me as Drama Girl pauses in her reading to watch from the couch. The sewing boxes are out because the girls were making new napkins to go with the tea sets.

Jungle Boy shows up and asks if his Build-A-Bear can have tea. He holds out the bear's hat to pour tea into. Drama Girl begins to show her displeasure at sharing the couch. Wasabi Girl begins to chug tea in a rather unladylike manner.

Jungle boy begins to beat Drama Girl with his bear.

Drama Girl grabs his bear, Jungle Boy grabs her book, Wasabi Girl starts chugging invisible tea right out of the teapot.

Complete melee. Mom puts down the camera and sends them all outside. Is it September yet?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Haiku Wednesday IV

Needed a racket
Husband bought the whole outfit
Overkill, daddy.

It's called risotto
That delicious creamy rice
Not "bunch of maggots."

Can't stand wii "Boogie"
Daughter always sings same song;
"I'm Fergalicious!"

Ballet recital
"Hurry up mom! Have to change!"
Only got one shot.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When I said you could sleep outside, I didn't mean

. . .in a tree.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Move Over Baryshnikov!

If it is possible to actually burst with pride, I think I'm at that bursting point. Last night my son performed in his first ballet recital. He only began taking lessons about five months ago.

The whole event was a land mine of potential disasters. He had three complete costume changes. *Complete* costume changes -- pants, socks, shirt, jacket, shoes, hat. This is my son, who is about as indifferent to the purpose and proper wearing of clothing as any 10 year old boy on the planet. I made him pack and repack his bag of costumes and then I double-checked his packing twice. I had him make a list of every dance and every article of clothing needed for each.

Then there was the mechanics of these complex costume changes. There are only two boys in the entire ballet school, so they got their own dressing room at the auditorium -- a broom closet. A pretty dirty one at that. A broom closet that looked like it was just waiting for a little boy to drop a sock so it could be lost forever in a dusty corner.

All the other dressing rooms were full of scantily clad girls and women. "Keep your eyes down," I told him, "they're not used to having boys around so they just change in the halls." I'm sure if he were older the prospect would be intriguing, at least, but to a 10 year old, the whole thing was just terrifyingly embarrassing.

To add to his nervous state, he had to wear makeup. I'll just say one word: stoic. The loveliest ballerina in the school put it on him. Stoic, just stoic. I think he should have had a big round of applause then and there. Are you sympathizing with this poor boy yet?

After all these challenges, he almost shrugged off the fact that the whole thing was being filmed for a DVD. Whatever he did on stage would be seen forever by all the families that buy it.

The curtain went up, the little tiny ballerinas came out and did their thing, and the audience settled in for a typical ballet recital experience. Then he came on stage, serious and obviously concentrating. He looked so small, and he stood out in his boy costume among all the tutus.

Then he smiled. He actually started to smile. I started breathing, realizing I had stopped. He got into it. The audience could tell he was enjoying it. Over and over he had little solo leaps and turns in front of the girls. He kept flashing that smile and I think I was probably smiling a lot at that point too. It was wonderful. He beamed when I handed him flowers later after the show.

He loves ballet right now, but if he decides tomorrow he is done, I'll support that decision too. As the mom, it's my job to worry. I hope the world treats him the way he deserves and doesn't label him. I hope he never gives up something he loves because he feels 'different' or 'wrong' to do it. I'd be lying if I didn't say I hope he gets a scholarship someday. But most of all, I hope he keeps smiling.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to Get Free Wii Games

We have six new free wii games in our house today.

Before last Christmas, the only game system this family had was an Atari Flashback 2.0 that I got my husband for a joke.

Then Santa brought us a wii and our lives haven't been the same.

We live near Electronic Arts, in fact my husband used to do some contract work there. A few months ago I found an ad on Craigslist asking for game testers. I finally signed us up and yesterday we went to play.

We had to sign lengthy non-disclosure agreements so I'm not going to tell you about the game we tested. I will say it was fun to noodle around with a work in progress and find bugs for them. After an hour of play we completed questionaires and discussed what we liked and didn't like. Once they got kids talking about games it was impossible to shut them up. Some kids (and adults too) thought up all kinds of wild and funny enhancements. Drama Girl went on and on.

Then we were paid for our efforts -- in our choice of wii games! We each got to take one. The kids are ecstatic. Drama Girl got Boogie (Microphone Included) Jungle Boy got Boom Blox Wasabi Girl picked Playground I grabbed Smarty Pants: Trivia for Everyone and my husband took The Simpsons Game. That should hold us for a while!

The sad thing is, I'd saved up our member coupons from Best Buy to get my husband a Father's Day gift: We Ski. I've had it hidden away for a few weeks. I think we might have actually reached the point where we have too many games.

Anybody want to come over and play?

(If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to participate, watch Craigslist. EA runs these testing sessions all the time.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Reading for Overachievers

Summer's here, and my book-buying disease has flared up to meet it. I'm a bargain-hunter, and lucky to live in a neighborhood where my neighbors read good books and instantly drop them off at the local thrift store. Their $26 investment is my $1 steal. The stack in the picture doesn't look too bad, unless I tell you that it's only the overflow from a long shelf of unread books. I intend to read all of them, but maybe not this summer.

My kids have inherited the good half of my book-consumption gene. They actually read every book that interests them. Jungle Boy and Drama Girl in particular, read to the point of obsession. We're talking multiple books in a day. Sounds like a good problem until it's yours. I've had to take books away because they got in the way of participating with the family or eating a meal. I've had to make rules like "Don't read while you're walking" and when the Harry Potter craze got out of control, I had to lay down the law "No reading Harry Potter in the house." It made them put on their shoes and get some fresh air as they took their books outside. Mine are the kids who read under the covers with a flashlight.

I rarely read aloud to the kids these days, unless it's to entice Drama Girl to read Dickens. I wanted to figure out a way to continue our shared reading experience though, so I asked the kids to make a list of books they thought I should read. For those, like me who haven't read children's literature lately, I can tell you that there seem to be a lot more great books for young people than when I was young and haunting the library. My kids came up with a list of about 30 books that they can't believe I haven't read yet.

The first book I've started is from Wasabi Girl's list and I have actually read it before. "Little House in the Big Woods." It's better than I remember. It's like an old friend. I'll probably finish it today and start on Matilda, from Drama Girl's list.

Pass the Almond Roca, it's summer reading time.

The Undertwo kids Recommended Reading List

They keep telling me more, so check back. I've included a link on the sidebar under my own reading list.

Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians

The Anybodies

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain) Series

The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) Series

Eragon (Inheritance) Series

Fablehaven Series

The Fairy Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, Book 1) Series

The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1) Series


The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) Series

Here Lies the Librarian

Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) Series

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) Series. Read this one first, or join the ongoing raging debate at our house about what order to read these books.

Little House in the Big Woods (Little House) Series


The Looking Glass Wars Series


Pictures of Hollis Woods

The Twits

The Westing Game (Puffin Modern Classics)

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