Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meet a real winner: Colorado Lady!

It's been a jaw-dropping week for me. I decided at the last minute to whip up some tote bags with some totally silly fabric I had, and I put my name on the list for the massive Bloggy Giveaway Carnival.

I thought it would be thrilling if I got a lot of responses. By "a lot," I was thinking 40. That would be a lot.

I was, in a word, unprepared for the response I got.

But what I really was unprepared for was this; the random number generator picked a blogger I not only know, she's a blogger I visited today. I nearly fell out of my chair when it picked the winner.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Colorado Lady! I will be shipping off her tote bags but first let me tell you why you should go visit her fabulous site:

  1. She has the cutest dachshunds. Seriously. And I'm not a dog person.
  2. She has an idyllic cabin that looks like the setting of a good bodice-ripper novel (not that I would ever read any of that stuff much).
  3. If you watch her slideshow, you'll see some really cute guy in a cowboy hat. He might also make you think of a bodice-ripper novel, but I have the suspicion he belongs to said Colorado lady. Doesn't hurt to look though.
  4. She loves vintage things. The Christmas items she posted Thursday will make your head explode with memories.
  5. She's got a great recipe for Margarita punch. Because life's better when you have about a gallon of the stuff at a party.
So please go visit Colorado Lady today and enjoy her blog. Maybe she'll let you borrow a tote bag.

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Cast Iron Chair

This little pink chair doesn't get moved around much. Although it looks delicate and sweet, you can throw your back out trying to lift it. It lives on my porch sometimes, but I'm more cautious these days about not letting it rust, so most of the time it stays safe and dry indoors.

I picked it up years ago from an antiques dealer who, I think, underpriced it. Maybe she was the one who painted it pink and she was embarrassed. There are many aluminum reproductions available, but these real cast iron models that were popular in Victorian gardens went out of production many years ago.

I've searched around the internet a little and I think it may have been made by Atlanta Stove Works. If anybody has any additional information, I'd love to know.

It's petite, and pink, and I'm grateful my husband is tolerant of this kind of cuteness. Because it makes me smile. And it's a beautiful backdrop for my needlepoint pillows.

To see all the great vintage show-and-tell today, visit Confessions of an Apron Queen

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Haiku Wednesday VI

Bloggy Giveaway
You've got two days to enter
Scroll down to see post

So much excitement!
Why does everyone love trolls?
Who could imagine?

I'll do this again
With heavy artillery
Stay tuned; Next time? SMURFS!


Day three, no coffee
My husband's job to make it
Trying to kill me?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another cute cute cute award

Isn't this adorable? Eileen over at Eileen's Attic gave me this one. I hunted down the site where it originated and discovered a little boy drew this portrait of his mother.

I think it's customary to pass these on to others, but I'm having a hard time picking today. Because yesterday I got a record number of hits on this site and I learned an important lesson about bloggers.

They seem to like trolls. Either that, or they'll sign up for anything if it's free. But really, all the comments about people owning trolls in their past, or confessions that they still had a troll collection, made me smile all day.

So I hereby give this award to any of you who came to enter the contest yesterday and came back to enter again today. You rock. And I want to meet you, because I think we would probably find things to laugh about. So leave another comment on the troll post, and come grab this award. You deserve it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway: Official Lit and Laundry Tote Bags

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

Celebrate your love for craziness and vintage toys with a pair of these handmade Troll totebags. I will be giving away a pair of these beauties on Friday, August 1. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post by Midnight Thursday. I'll draw the winner Friday morning and mail them off. If you do not have a blog, please give me an email to reach you.

Think of all the fabulous uses for these tote bags!
  • Use them instead of plastic grocery bags. They're more sanitary than store-issue "green" bags because you can toss them in the wash. They're also stronger -- wont rip no matter how big a bag of kitty litter you need.
  • Use them to pick up toys around the house to put in "clutter jail!"
  • Take them to the pool or the beach
  • Give them to your kids
  • Stash your knitting
  • Use one for lit and (wait for it). . .one for laundry!
These handy totes fold into themselves so you can tuck them in your purse and use one anytime. I used a Target bag as a pattern, so they're a great roomy size.

Just leave a comment on this post. You may enter once per day through Thursday at midnight Pacific time. I'll announce the winner Friday August 1.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Striking the Set

Today is Drama Girl's final performance in her play. Attendance at yesterday's matinee was dismal. Everyone on the planet is on vacation right now. My heart breaks for all 54 kids on the cast and their parents and all the hard work that has gone into putting on yet another enormous show.

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, because my child has 23 lines. Some kids have two or three. And for this, they rehearsed for hours every day all summer. We parents each put in 20-30 hours of volunteer time.

Why do we do it? Why not just say no to all these activities? Especially when her commitment means my commitment as well.

Because it's about love. Because when we have kids we get the whole package, whether that means driving them to ballet school 10x/week, or spending hours at the sewing machine making dozens of costumes for a community play, or being a scout leader. It's part of how we demonstrate our love.

Because it's about doing the right thing. When we were kids, school districts could afford P.E. and drama and all the "extras" that aren't available now. So we fill in the gap. Because we know there is a lot more to learn and experience than classrooms can currently teach.

I wont lie. I'm really glad her show is over today. I told her honestly I don't know if she can do the Fall show. Jungle Boy wants to do the Nutcracker, which will mean even more driving to rehearsals. The twins are starting middle school, which will mean a whole new landscape of homework for them.

Wasabi Girl ran to me after gymnastics class this week with a letter in her hands and a smile on her face; "Mommy! I made the team!" I had sudden flashbacks to all the workouts and the all-day competitions Jungle Boy used to have when he competed. I paused to think, and drew a breath. I had visions of the expense, the driving, the time involved. I looked her in the eye.

"That's great honey! I couldn't be happier! Congratulations."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

When mom says to water the lawn

Don't waste time on details like aim.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Queen for a Day

I have a friend who always wears a tiara when she scrubs toilets. The closest thing I have to a tiara around here is a Burger King crown, and I really don't see that it's going to help me achieve cleaning nirvana.

Yesterday, however, I got something shiny and lovely from lidian - the Brillante award. And it is my pleasure to pass it along to some fellow bloggers of note. Wont help them clean toilets, but will hopefully make their days a little brighter.

Here's the Premio Award rules, because I'm all about rules:

The rules for passing on the award:
1) When received, you may post the premio to your blog.
2) Link to the blogger you received it from.
3) Give it to 7 blogs
4)… link to those 7 blogs
5)…and leave those seven bloggers a comment about receiving the brilliant premio.

Well, if you've clicked on my blogroll, you know that I might have a little trouble with this task. I think there are many sparkling, entertaining blogs out there. The whole prospect of picking favorites gives me flashbacks to popularity contests in high school. So, with regret that I have to limit the awards to seven, here is my list of winners that you need to peek at today. Please go read a few posts and congratulate them.

  1. The Glamorous Life
  2. Diary of a mad, mad housewife
  3. Between the Lines
  4. Baby on Bored
  5. Scary Mommy
  6. Twinfatuation
  7. LaLa Girl
And while you're at it, you should just go read everybody else in my blogroll too. I wouldn't put them there if I didn't love them. Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Cast Iron Stove

I got this stove from my grandmother when I was a little girl. You can see by the rust stains in the big pot that I played with it with water. I spent hours with this little toy and my kids still play with it today. The door opens, all the little covers come off, and the shelves can be detached. The chimney is a little dented.

I believe these were made in the 40s and were either used as salesman's samples or marketed as toys. There are a lot of reproductions out on the market now, but this is the real deal, and it is very heavy.

When I opened up the oven door to pull a pan out, I could see that somebody had been cooking:

Yum! Want some?

For more Vintage Thingies Thursdays items, visit Confessions of an Apron Queen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Haiku Wednesday V

Tillamook cheese loaf
Orange brick of sharp goodness
I bought you today.

Guy Kawasaki
If he would only try you

Tillamook dot com
Nothing is as exciting
As your live web cam.

And you love me too!
You follow me on Twitter!
Crazy stalker you.

I've confessed my love
Dear Tillamook wont you send
Me some garlic cheese?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chores, Checklists, Children

Learn it from me

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Learn it from me

I'm a dyed in the wool list maker. I have lists of lists on my pda. I love making Excel files and highlighting boxes and sorting. It probably wont come as a surprise that I used to work in data collection.

So I have tried to tackle every challenge around this house with my number one favorite tool -- lists.

Take housework and clutter control for example. I've thrown lists at these people every which way from Sunday but do they clean up after themselves? Can it really be so hard to put a water glass in the dishwasher? Do I have to put that on a list too? They cringe when they see me grinning with my latest printout in my hands. The current master housework list is three pages long. Initial the chores you get done please, and you need to do at least one from column A and three from column B. Isn't this fun?

My most successful list was called "Chores for Food." I am not kidding. In order to get three small kids out the door in the morning I had to make a spreadsheet. Days of the week across the top, chores down the side, separate page for each kid. All three lists taped to the sliding glass door in the dining room, with a pencil on a string taped right next to each. The chores were grouped by time period. They had 6 things to get done before breakfast. Hard things, like "comb your hair." Can you smell my desperation? It was lists or nag. The faster they got them done, the sooner they ate. Ditto lunch, dinner, etc. They got allowance based on how complete their lists were. They worked beautifully.

Then I added schedules to the lists. "Pack library books" and "Pack piano music" only showed up once a week, so the got highlighted, and the rest of the days got x's on that line. The kids figured this system out too, although they'd remember library books and leave their lunch on the counter.

The list kept morphing into a product of my wishful thinking. Towards the bottom, between dinner and bedtime story, they had to check off "clear plate and cup" "clothes into hamper" "brush and floss" "pray" and "in bed on time." Caught the problem here? If they were in bed on time, they weren't going to be in the dining room checking off the checklist. So they'd check it off the next morning. And I trusted them.

It didn't take them long to catch on that mom was trusting them to be honest on their lists. Individual x's turned into lines with arrows going down the page. My son just blacked out big columns of boxes. The system deteriorated. But by that point they were old enough to remember things like brushing their teeth, if not flossing.

Before you accuse me of pure evil or OCD, let me just reveal what I found in each of the kids rooms recently.

They've made their own checklists. David Allen would be proud.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Big Read

There's a meme circulating which starts

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list. How many have you read?

I tracked this meme backwards and couldn't find the original list anywhere. The Big Read initiative covers some of these books, but also lists some different books as "coming soon," so I think the more accurate list of top 100 books is probably this one at the BBC.

The list below contains some multiple listings - like Hamlet and Complete works of Shakespeare. Not all of these are books I would consider great literature. The Five People You Meet in Heaven shouldn't ever be on any list along with Les Miserables. And the Da Vinci Code? Give me a break.

But in the interest of playing along, I will use the list that's circulating and bold the books I have read. While I'm at it, I'll let you peruse one of my bookshelves. I've decided that now that I'm old and in the re-reading stage of my life, I deserve to really enjoy my reading experience. So I buy Everyman's Library editions. Because I'm worth it.

As far as choosing future reads, I'll probably follow the BBC list, because frankly, it has more fun Terry Pratchett books on it.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (Yes, the WHOLE thing. Several times in fact)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (seriously, have people read all of them?)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens (I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read this one, and I'm a huge Dickens fan, and it's on my shelf)
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (in progress, it's about a million pages long)

If I counted correctly, I've read 61, although I think I should get partial credit for 33 and 14 because of 36 and 98.

Does this make me 10 times more literate than the average adult? Go me.

By coincidence, I bet I have 10 times the laundry of the average adult as well. *sigh*

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

We quilters live with one fear: that we'll spend about a thousand hours making a spectacular quilt, give it to someone we love and they will use it for a picnic cloth.

So today's how-to will demonstrate one small step in quilting, basting, or as we quilters call it, making a quilt sandwich. I'm sure you'll appreciate the effort involved.

  • Move the couch back and clear a space on the floor. Vacuum the area. Feel a little guilty about the wii fit sitting there unused. No need to vacuum the rest of the floor. We're quilting here, not doing housework.
  • Lay out the quilt back and go to get the masking tape to tape it down. Remember that you left the tape in the car because you've been driving all over town taping up posters for Drama Girl's play. Note with dismay that after Jungle Boy watered the lawn, he left the hose draped all over the steps in an attempt to kill you. Reminisce about how much fun he used to think it was to wind the hose up.
  • Tape down the back of the quilt with masking tape. Yell at the cat when she sits on it. She's not in the picture because I yelled at her. Quilts in progress are cat magnets.

  • Lay out the batting that you have carefully measured to match the back of the quilt.

  • Notice that you don't seem to have measured as carefully as you thought. Carefully fold up the batting and go out to the garage where you store all your batting to look for a piece the right size. Because you must have a piece the right size.
  • Scream when you unfold a piece and find a spider in it.

  • After going through a dozen bags of batting, unfolding them all and vowing to 1) label them with their dimensions someday and 2) make cute table runners or something with all these nice batting scraps, realize that you do not have a piece the right size after all.
  • Go untape the quilt back because you don't want the cat to sit on it. Take the kids on a road trip.

  • Get distracted in the store looking at Wizard of Oz fabric. Bore kids to point of insanity. Smile inside at your ability to do this.
  • Bring the batting home, tape the quilt back to the floor again, put the batting down. Trim excess to fit. Save that extra batting for the spiders.

  • Lay out the quilt top. Listen with satisfaction as girls both start begging that they get to keep this one. Daydream about family feuds over your deathbed over splitting up the quilts.

  • Get down on your hands and knees with your big peanut butter jar full of open safety pins, and begin pin basting all three layers together, trying to ignore the nagging feeling that you are probably scratching up your hardwood floors.

  • A million pins later

  • Get up off the floor and realize your back and knees hurt. Untape quilt back from floor. Now you're ready to quilt it. The basting was the easy part. Now the real work begins.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Opening Night

This is Drama Girl's hair. I didn't do it, the hair stylists for her play did. It's gorgeous. In fact, she's gorgeous. When did all this happen?

It wasn't so long ago that I was the one doing the talking; "Yeah, sure, try out for the school play." But tonight I did the listening. To her dead-on performance and hilarious Russian accent. I listened to the applause. I listened while the woman behind me, someone I've never seen before in my life, told her friend "I love that girl! She's so great! She's so funny! I love everything she does!"

When did she stop being just mine and start belonging to other people? How can someone who doesn't know me, know her?

I waited while she took her last bow and then ran off stage with the rest of the cast. Not to me. She didn't run to me.

She ran to a boy. Who gave her red roses.

Congratulations on another great opening night Drama Girl. I'll always be here for you. In the wings.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Try, I Believe, I Love

I was tagged for this six word memoir meme by Monkey Memories.

I Try.
My house is not always perfect, my kids don't have crisply-ironed clothes, I make a lot of mistakes as a parent and a wife and a person, but boy do I try to do it right. I care about so many things and while I wouldn't call myself a perfectionist, I would say I'm often pretty unsatisfied that I didn't do better. My sister says I do things the hard way. I think I just really try to do things the way I want them to be. I think the real danger starts when you stop trying.

I Believe.
I believe in God. I did long before my conversion and Big Fat Greek Wedding. I love the Orthodox faith. I believe in many other things as well; that childhood should last as long as possible. That teaching children to love books and music at an early age will stick with them for their whole lives, that standing up for what you believe in is worthwhile. I believe I can help make the world a better place.

I Love.
I'm writing this blog because I want to look back on it when I'm 90 and see all the love. We do a lot of silly things around here but love permeates this house and everything we do together. The love in a family is the glue of time. I want my kids to want to spend time with me when they're grown. I want all of us to spread our love through the people we meet. I get strength from the love of others, so I try to give that strength in return.

I'm supposed to tag 5 more people, but I want volunteers. So if you do this meme, leave a comment here, and I'll visit your blog and stumble a post. If you're not familiar with, just trust me, it's a very good thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Viewmasters

I don't know why I'm so fond of viewmasters. Maybe it's the elegant simplicity of the low tech special effects. Maybe it's because I know that it's going to be a corny picture, but I can't help looking anyway. Maybe it's the satisfying "click-swoosh" sound the lever makes when it advances the picture.

My kids have modern versions of the viewers, but I like my old blue ones. You can find these at Target and Toys R Us. Pictured above are some vintage Disneyland reels that a dear friend sent to me out of the blue. The 60's fashions are as fun to see as the attractions that no longer exist. I have a pretty good-sized collection now, so I'm just going to show some examples.

My kids are used to the fact that I'm a complete nut about gift shops. I thought Viewmasters were extinct until a few years ago when we were at Yosemite and I stumbled on them in a gift shop. I squealed. I bought all the different souvenir sets they had, and made such a scene that pretty soon most of the people in the gift shop were talking about Viewmasters. I like to embarrass my kids that way.

There's a vintage set from Crater Lake pictured here. We used to go there when I was a kid and I remember all the chipmunks. Sure enough, one of the pictures is a chipmunk.

I've picked up some oldies that I've found. The blue and white covers have very early Disneyland reels.

Some of them come with story books. Who needs a Nintendo when you have a Viewmaster? click-swoosh, click-swoosh, click-swoosh. . .

For more Vintage fun on Thursdays, visit Confessions of an Apron Queen

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fun Crafts to Annoy Your Kids

Have you ever heard that tell-tale rattle that tells you the vacuum cleaner has slurped up another lego or Barbie shoe? Have you sworn you will never buy another toy with 57 tiny little parts again? Do you harbor the secret suspicion that your kids would never miss some of their toys if they disappeared? Have I got a craft project for you!

First, you need a bunch of tiny annoying toys. I didn't have to look far to find this collection of Littlest Pet you-know-what all over the floor:

Let's take a close up of these nearly microscopic pieces. Why do kids love these so much?

Although these tiny toys were tempting, I scooped up a bunch that were even tinier. That little chick with the weird stretchy clothes. Polly Costalot Pocket.

Along with the toys you will need a plastic jar. I used a sprinkles jar for this one, but you could use a peanut butter jar. Don't have a peanut butter jar? Come to my house. My kids inhale it.

You'll also need some pellets that are used to stuff beanbags. These are easy to find at craft stores. I keep mine in a jar, and I keep a funnel with them.

Next, make a list of all the little stuff you've collected.

You see where this is going, don't you? Stuff those toys in the jar. Even this little jar held a bunch. Imagine how many you could put in a big peanut butter jar.

I recommend a funnel to get the pellets in the jar. Live and learn. You can build up some static electricity here, so be careful.

Isn't it cute? Looks like she's drowning in an avalanche or something.

Most important step: Seal it up with your hot glue gun. Give it to the kids with the list of little things to find and listen to their shrieks of delight. Or just shrieks. In my house, after trying in vain to get the top off (I told you to glue it!), all Wasabi Girl could say was "That was my best one!"

Of course now, she seems to remember to pick them up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Moms Don't Know Anything: Piano Edition

Jungle Boy Says

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Jungle Boy Says

I believe in torturing children mercilessly for no good reason. I believe in doing time at hard pointless labor. I believe in boring children to tears. I believe in piano lessons.

When I first led them down this road, when they were 5 and 6 years old, I told them "You only have to take lessons until you can play the Bach Inventions. All of them. From memory. They nodded their little heads obediently because after all, I was their mom, and they were small, and they adored me and all the adventures I took them on.

All three kids sat together at the teacher's house and took their turns at the piano. A few months into lessons, when she graduated from playing only the black keys, Drama Girl hesitantly asked her teacher about the Bach Inventions.

The teacher played one for her. My evil plot was revealed. The kids were small, but they knew "impossible" when they heard it. All calculations of when they would be "done" with piano lessons flew out the window. They clearly had a life sentence.

They protested. I stood my ground. I sat with them at the piano bench during practice when they were little. Then they graduated to a kitchen timer, and now they practice thoroughly, and well, if not every day. In our house they know nothing fun happens until practicing is done. Want to play on the wii? Gotta practice first. Want to have a friend over? Want to have dinner? Want to live another day? You must practice.

We recently re-negotiated the Bach Inventions deal. Now they only have to be able to play a Christmas Carol at sight. They're actually pretty close to this goal.

As a parent, I get to see the side of the story they can't. How they accidentally fell in love with the power they have over the piano. The thrill they get in mastering pieces. My house is full of waltzes, Mozart, Bach, High School Musical tunes, ragtime and Blues. I see them play proudly for their friends. Last Thanksgiving they put on an impromptu concert for our guests while I finished cooking. I nearly cried. The relatives were suitably impressed. All Christmas season, I awaken to Christmas Carols. Is there any more pleasant way to wake up?

But what goes around comes around, and along with the musical knowledge has come a thirst for more. So now Drama Girl "entertains" us with "Stairway to Heaven" on the violin (ouch!), and next year Wasabi Girl will play the alto sax and Jungle Boy will play the trumpet in the Middle School Band.

I may live to regret the musical beasts I have awakened.

Previously in this series: Moms Don't Know Anything: Hair Edition

Monday, July 14, 2008

Seven Songs of Summer

I love memes. Such a great way to totally embarrass myself. I've been tagged by Elizabeth to list my seven songs.

The rules of this tag are: List seven songs that you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your Summer of 2008. Post these instructions in your blog, along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what their favorites are this year!

The irony is, I recently made a youtube playlist of seven songs that I've been playing daily. Seven songs, just like the meme. Meant to be. As in, it's meant to be that I show what a total dork I am.

I set this going on my laptop every evening while I do the dishes. Because it's all about housework around here. The full list is as follows:

"Happy Working Song" from Disney's "Enchanted"
"Hi Ho" from Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" -- Cyndi Lauper
"She Works Hard for the Money -- Donna Summer
"Mr Clean Jingle"
"Whistle While You Work" from Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
"We Can Do It!" from Disney's "Cinderella"

I know. Pathetic. But it gets the dishes done.

Who I'm tagging:
  • The fabulous twins at Twinfatuation. I absolutely love their "Tuesday Twinterviews" and I bet they have some favorite songs.
  • Monkey Memories, a great kindergarten teacher who is doing a training program called "Couch to 5k." I believe she is actually at Disneyland this week though.
  • Maddie Lynn at "My Favorite Things." A very young, very talented little blogger. Go check her out!
  • The Bouf kids. Whoever wants to can make their own list. Of course, since they're better at all this stuff than I am, they will probably have incredible multimedia presentations. I can't wait to see what everyone picks.
I'm sure to get at least a few Disney songs out of that crowd! Hopefully they'll make me look less silly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday House Walk-through

I picked up my camera to record a few things around the house today.

First up, this bag that was under the kitchen sink is absolutely full of batteries. Every week or so I suggest we put them out for the recycling pickup. Every week we forget. This bag is going to burst soon from the weight of all these old batteries.

I got Drama Girl a new handbag that she really wanted. Then I saw it on the table and noted that she has already accessorized it with cool bling. I've resigned myself to the new truth; from here on out she will always be way cooler than I am.

Wasabi Girl and Jungle Boy in matching shirts, coordinated pants/shorts and bare feet. They like to dress alike sometimes and often ask for matching tee-shirts when we go shopping. They've got their Disney dream books slung over their shoulders. They are completely ready for our Disneyland trip, which is three weeks away.

While they were putting together their tote bags for the car trip, Jungle Boy found his mini etch-a-sketch and made this:

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm an Electronics Genius

"Mo-om! The wiimotes don't work!"

"The what?"

"The remotes for the wii. They stopped working!"

"Put in fresh batteries."

"We did. They still don't work! What should we do? Can you fix them?"

"I don't know. Ask your dad when he gets home. He set the whole thing up. Maybe you have to re-sync them or something. Are you sure you put in fresh batteries?"

"Yes mom, it's not like we don't know how to put in batteries! Sheesh!"

Later that evening.

[husband] "Honey, I've tried everything! I've reset the system, re-synced the remotes, unplugged the tv, the wii, restarted it, reinstalled it, and called customer support where I waited on hold for them to tell me they were not available because of the 4th of July holiday. We'll just have to wait and call customer service another time. I've tried everything."

One week later, I finally got around to looking into the whole remote dilemma.

[husband] "Honey, I'm home. Oh wow! You got the wii working! What did you have to do?"

[me] "You'll never believe. I was on the phone with customer service for an hour and a half. I had to take apart the wii to check something inside, then I had to go to Best Buy and get a new sensor strip to put on top of the tv. Then I had to call customer service again and do some more troubleshooting before I figured out that we needed to switch out one of these cables. I had to go to 2 different Radio Shacks to find the right kind of cable, then I had to splice it in because it didn't have the right kind of connection. . ."

[at this point, my husband had his mouth open and stopped rooting around in the refrigerator to listen to my story. He closed the refrigerator door.] "Whaa?"

[Wasabi girl, who can't stand it any longer and is giggling uncontrollably] "DADDY! Mommy's lying! All she did was put in fresh batteries!"

Yep, that's me. Electronics genius. Apparently the only one in the house who knows how to put batteries in a remote control.

Googly Eyes

I've discovered a whole new form of entertainment in perusing the search terms that bring readers to me. You're a fun bunch, apparently quite addicted to Chex Mix although prone to obsessing about future Disney movies and ready to believe in alien abductions. Let's take a look at how you found me:

  • "Undertwo." Bless you. Why did someone search on the word 'undertwo' anyway? If you do, you'll find The Undertwo kids Recommended Reading List at the very top of the results page. I feel weirdly special about that.
  • "new born country music fan gifts." You found me on page two on Google, and you had to pass by a listing for 'Garth"o"holic webpage.' Sorry to disappoint you with my little newborn who keeps me awake post. Hope you laughed. Then I hope you went back and checked out that Garth"o"holic page, because that sounds kind of fun.
  • "American Girl Dolls." Poor thing, you're as easily distracted as that person searching for girl desk. Note to bloggers; write a post and call it 'photographic evidence of alien abduction' and lots of people will click on it. I can't even find this on the American Girl Dolls Google page so who knows how far you looked before you stumbled on my link.
  • And now for all you ten billion "Cars 2" fans who have landed on Hobnobbing with celebrities: You are cracking me up. There seem to be a lot of you hanging on my every word. And telling your friends.
  • "4x tennis outfit" found my Haiku Wednesday IV page. I'm number 2 on that particular search. If you're 4x and you're playing tennis, you get a big high-five from me. You go girl!
  • The biggest page hits are coming in for "How to Make Chex Mix." These people must hate me because this is probably the least helpful how-to on the planet. But thanks to somebody kind who stumbled it, it's about halfway down the first page of a Google search.
  • And a round of applause for all the other silly searches, including "When I said I do, I didn't mean laundry," "Lessons on Walter the Farting Dog," "floor music gymnast sweeny todd," "cute haiku blog" and "pregnant woman abducted by aliens."
There's one search term that's not so amusing to me. Several people found my blog by Googling "Mistake Quilt." I could cry.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vintage Thingies Thursday: Johnny Gruelle Books

This lovely book was published in 1929. Johnny Gruelle was a talented political cartoonist who created a character based on a rag doll his daughter Marcella found in the attic. He observed how she would talk to her dolls as if they were alive and created a series of books based on these adventures. Sadly, Marcella died in 1929 at age 13 from complications of a vaccination. That same month, the patent office granted final approval for Johnny Gruelle's creation; Raggedy Ann.

The books are charming, even today. I used to love these books, and I bought many in the series which were reprinted in the early 70's. The Raggedy dolls inhabit a whimsical world of elves and fairies and gnomes as fascinating to me then as Harry Potter books are to my children today. Thanks to ebay and book hunts during my travels I've expanded my collection to over 20 in the series. Many of these books have been reprinted again and are available to a new generation.

The illustrations in all of the books are exquisite. I used to sit and trace them when I was a kid. Apparently I'm not the only one who did this as a child -- Mary Engelbreit copied his warm colorful style as well.

Here is the full text of the book Raggedy Ann Stories, including illustrations.
Here is the delicious little book Friendly Fairies. Enjoy!
These are available to view or download in several formats, along with many other books at Project Gutenberg.

Find more vintage thingies at Confessions of an Apron Queen every Thursday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sibling Rivalry? Where?

Revenge is Sweet

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Revenge is Sweet

Jungle boy offered to write an essay about his big sister Drama Girl for today's post. I think the first line says it all. I only edited the name of his twin to "Wasabi Girl."

My Sister
by Jungle Boy

When I think about my sister, I think of one word, evil. First of all, if you ever see me, you will notice my unusually large ears and will think I was born with them, but really, they are the result of Drama girl for years tugging at them. Also physically, my parents made the mistake of not buying her a punching bag so I serve as one to her. She also chokes me a lot, but everyone seems to do that so I wont go into it.

This evening I carefully handed Drama girl an interview sheet and in the end came up with this:

Me: What is your goal in life?

Drama girl: To annoy mom, dad, Wasabi Girl and you the greatest extent of my annoyingness.

Me: what do you think of Jungle Boy?

Drama girl: me? What?!?! I'm not supposed to think! That's moms job! Your confusing me!

Me: what are your thoughts about Jungle Boy?

Drama girl: please stop all this thinking stuff! It's driving me crazy!


Me again. Let me just say that this poor child is not choked all the time. In fact he and his sister play nicely together! Here's an old picture of the two of them enjoying some time at the piano:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ever support a lemonade stand?

It's the time of year when industrious entrepreneurs all over America are setting up little tables by the street to entice passers-by to buy some lemonade. If you have one of these at your house, you've probably invested a little money for cups and other supplies. It's all worth it, because after all, isn't it important to teach our kids the value of working to earn money?

What if I told you that you could spend just $25 to support a lemonade stand, and get your entire investment back, and in the process change someone's life and make the world a better place?

My husband and I recently learned about Kiva, an organization that facilitates micro-loans to entrepreneurs all over the world. From their website, here is a summary of how Kiva works:

1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide.

2) Kiva's microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur's chances of success.

3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Here's the profile of the woman in Tanzania who is currently repaying my loan:

Bertha is 30 years old and is a married woman with 1 child, age 5 years old. Bertha is a soft drinks seller and she started her business in 2004. Everyday she works from 6am to 6pm at her business and can earn a monthly profit of about $90 from her sales. She now hopes for a loan to buy more items for her business. She will share this loan with her subgroup members, who have businesses dealings in chicken sales and soft drinks sales.

I'll never meet Bertha, but I'm happy I could help her. I can't imagine what it's like working 12 hour days every day.

I'm going to get my kids involved in selecting who will get our next loan. I think it's a powerful lesson on the impact one person can have.

Ready to invest a little to help someone help themselves?

Kiva - loans that change lives

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