Monday, December 10, 2007

Photo Ketchup

Pittsburgh's Light Up Night (yes it was very cold!)

Harry Potter Wanna Be

Let's get all of the snow shoveling out of him that we can. Before he figures out it's NO FUN!

Monday, December 03, 2007

We're homeless!

One month later, and here's the news: we're officially homeless. We dealt with probably the MOST difficult buyers ever, but fortunately the house has closed. Off to find a new place.

Extremely cold and windy here in P'burgh, but I suspect that I haven't seen nearly the worst of it yet!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In case you were wondering...

We're still here! Clay's been enrolled in a preschool; I've got a downtown parking lease; the kids went trick or treating. And we have an offer on the house. And a closing date. I guess that means there's no turning back now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This made me smile. Thanks for sending it honey! I miss you guys!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ack! I'm Behind!

You can always tell when life gets a little crazy around here: my blog entries decrease dramatically. Sorry kids.

We're quickly trying to get the house on the market (isn't it funny how you never do any of those little home improvement projects until you're ready to sell? Then you practically break your back getting it all done for SOMEONE ELSE!) I have two days left at work because for some reason I can't fully explain now, I didn't think I'd need a whole week between jobs. Note to self: next time allow more than 72 hours to prepare for interstate relocation. Sadly, I find myself killing time at work, knowing that time is killing me at home.

But other than the "deer in the headlights" feeling I can't seem to shake, I'm very excited about the upcoming changes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Steel City, Here We Come

Ack! We're moving! 10 days ago I accepted an offer for a job in Pittsburgh, and then we flew to Vegas (no, not because of the job. College pal Meg was getting married, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her get hitched. Plus it was a Rat Pack theme, and I knew it would be a good party. It was.) Hence, I have been out of touch for two whole weeks. Apologies, but what can you do? There were slots to play and shows to see, then realtors to interview and boxes to collect, etc, etc.

Now for what I believe is going to be the least favorite part of this adventure: packing, moving, and selling the house. Oh for the market of two years ago. Oh to turn back the clock two years and not to have renovated this house. But that's hindsight, and whatnot.

Speaking of hindsight: if any of you are thinking about doing a budget Vegas trip, please do a little better planning than we did. We opted not to rent a car, figuring that parking would be astronomical and everything walkable. Turns out parking is free, and the Strip is loooooong. The blisters on my feet say this is true.

Here's a picture of Meg and John right after the I dos. Of course, all of the women in the bridal party were wearing custom dresses, crafted by the talented bride and her friends.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Year Ago

Your father and I took Clay to preschool, and then we ran home to gather a few things. "Do we have time to stop at the bank?" he asked. I laughed and said "Sure, and while we're at it, let's pick up some milk and bread." In the end, we decided to forgo all errands except for the most important one.

We arrived a little early, and had to wait for about a half hour. It was a lovely bright day, and the lobby had big windows that were understandably, but most unfortunately, bordering a covered driveway. Up the elevator to another waiting area, where we answered tedious questions. No, nothing to eat at all. Yes, I need to use the restroom. Yes to saving cord blood. Breast if possible.

And here's the doctor! She had just arrived from mass, which she attends before every surgery. I find this comforting, and refreshing to find a surgeon so humble. She squeezes my arm and goes off to change. I've already changed, and am laying in a most uncomfortable position listening to the swish swish of your heartbeat.

In comes the anesthesiologist with his questions. In goes the IV, which I do not look forward to but realize is not the worst part of this procedure.

And before we know it, it's time to go! They take your dad to change, and I'm wheeled into a cold room full of metal. Between the bright lights and the clinking noises, I'm told to step onto the table. My back is swabbed, and although they won't let your dad in for this, fortunately in comes the surgeon. She embraces me in a tight bear hug and whispers comforting words into my ear while I wait for the needle. A cold wash of iodine. A burning prick. Nothing. The anesthesiologist can't find a good spot. Swell. He withdraws and moves lower. Another burning prick, and I really REALLY hope this is it. It is, and now for the most amusing part. I'm instructed to lie down as quickly as possible, to allow the anesthesia to travel down my spine. Right. I'm 4 feet off the floor on a narrow table in a gown tucked under me and I'm supposed to move in one fell swoop, or else all of this has been useless. I manage it somehow, and my legs begin to feel the warm fingers of the spinal move to my toes.

In comes your dad! While my arms are pulled out to each side and all of the machines are hooked up, he is seated right by my head. Up goes my gown, and it serves as a little drape so we can't see the business end of this transaction. A nurse notices I'm cold, and gives me a toasty warm blanket for the half of me that can still feel. The room is really moving now. There must be 8 people here, none of whom we recognize. There's a man with a thick Russian accent, and I later learn that he was a surgeon in Russia, but immigrated here and now works as a surgical assistant. He certainly knew his way around the room.

Strangely, a white rope is tossed over my head and a technician grabs it and ties it off by my head. "What was that?" I whisper? Your dad stands a little and says "um, it's just an extra pair of hands." I wonder with eight people, how many hands do they need? Later the pictures show that the rope was tied to a clamp, which was attached to one side of my incision and held me open. Our doctor warns me that I'm going to feel a lot of tugging, and I remind her that she should hold you up! (The doctor who delivered your brother didn't do that!)

And next thing we knew, you were here! Red hair and hollering, with a patch of white on the side of your head ("How cool!" said one of the nurses). I cried and your dad jumped up to follow you to the bassinet.

Happy Birthday Drew. We love you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Er, isn't that what I said?

I was a spelling bee champ in elementary school. In 5th grade, I even made it to the final round in the all county spelling bee. I remember stepping up to the microphone, being given a really complicated word (triskaidekaphobia!), and looking at my mom in the audience as she closed her eyes and held her breath. "Don't blow it", my fifth grade self would say. "But don't take too long or Mom will pass out". Mom was usually the one to go through my spelling drills with me. I'll never forget "assassinate" because I would always screw it up with her. That is until she, full of exasperation that I finally understand (now having two kids of my own) yelled "Think Nancy, THINK! ASS ASS IN ATE!!!"

Although, I may be mixing this up with another incident close to that time when I put off memorizing a passage from Luke for the Christmas pageant. I had weeks and weeks to do it, and of course put it off. When I finally confessed to mom that I had one day to get it down, she pulled me into my bedroom, where I sat on the blue shag rug behind the door. Mom leaned against my dresser, and repeating after her phrase by phrase I finally memorized:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

It took us HOURS. The next night at the pageant, I recited those lines, watching her face in the audience. Again, she closed her eyes and held her breath. She has amazing lung capacity.

But I digress.

Today I have a dangerous vocabulary. I know a lot of words, and I know OF a lot more words. This just means that I sort of understand their meaning, but usually screw up the context. Just this morning, for example, I learned from's word of the day that 'having moral turpitude' is not a positive trait. Oops.

I'm not sure on what I blame my lazy vocabulary. After elementary school, I never really enjoyed spelling any more. I still read quite a bit, but words were never again all consuming. Maybe it was the new found freedom I found in a daily school bus ride. Or, from other interests. I started violin lessons in 6th grade (wisely NOT telling my mother when I was soloing until we were driving to the concert. Fortunately, I had to focus on the music and could no longer watch her eyes close.) I really wanted to be a cheerleader (never happened). In high school, I was fully ensconced in the theater offerings, as well as marching band. And those dreaded PSAT vocabulary lists were probably the final nail in the coffin.

Postscript: Last night we were driving home from dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. I rarely eat ribs b/c they're just so darn messy. However, I had the 'rib tips' because... I dunno... they SOUNDED less messy. They weren't. They were less appetizing in front of me, though. I was trying to explain why I thought they would be good, so I said to Mike "You know the Applebee's riblets? They were much less messy. You could enjoy the ribs, and would be left with a clean little scapular piece of bone."

"THAT's a descriptive way to describe it. Scapular." Mike explains what a scapular is. Hazards of growing up Southern Baptist, I am unfamiliar with most of the mechanical devices of religious discomfort used in Catholicism. We just had good, old fashioned guilt.

So now, I wonder if scapular is the right word. Isn't it a bone? Did I somehow confuse the word I meant with scapular? Did I mean clavicle? No... that's the collar bone. I mean something that looks like a teeny weeny shoulder blade. I look it up, and there it is: Scapula. The shoulder blade. I was right!

Except that I was talking about ribs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Angels we have heard on high

A little over 6 years ago, I interviewed a woman for one of two jobs that were available in my department. The positions were in member services, and she was a flight attendant who volunteered as a docent at a local art museum. I figured anyone who worked regularly with a couple of hundred people crammed into a tight space was worth interviewing. Plus, as a docent she must have an interest in the arts. Ultimately, I didn't hire her. There were two other candidates who were better fits, and they accepted the jobs. But, I was struck by two things. First, she had the most incredible voice. It was almost angelic, kind of high in pitch and very whispery. Second, I could tell she wanted out of her current situation. I didn't inquire why... it was none of my business... but I could imagine that the glamour and excitement of a job in travel would wear thin pretty quickly.

Five weeks later was 9/11, when life changed considerably. Mike and I were lucky. Although he used to work at the Pentagon, he had relocated to the next building over six months earlier. Still, his new building was right in the plane's flight path, and a 30 foot antenna on the roof was a casualty that morning. We both made it home safely, and did the mental tallying of friends and family and were relieved that we knew no one who worked close to the World Trade Center. Since Mike's colleagues had made the move with him, he didn't really know anyone at the Pentagon anymore.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Washington Post published a roster of the people who died at the Pentagon. I was scanning the list, just to make sure that there wasn't anyone I knew, when I came across her name. It was the flight attendant who wanted the job I had to offer. The one I didn't hire, and who went to work that morning, got on her flight, and died.

To this day, I am haunted by her voice.


Just two short years ago, Clay started preschool as a tiny two year old, dwarfed by the four year old big kids. Today he arrived a "big kid" himself, comfortable and sure, with his trusty sidekick Josh. Here they are playing '911 Center'.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How we spent $2200...

If you've been following Magnus Patris, you know about our recent tree woes. Here's a link for you to catch up: Tree House

The arborist who arrived last Friday confirmed our fear. The tree had to come down. It was at least 100 feet tall, had been crowned poorly years ago, there was a nest of Japanese Hornets about 40 feet up, and it was probably hollow in the center. One good storm, and that puppy would crack in half, and the half following the law of gravity would land either on our house or our neighbors. He'd get rid of it for $2500, but first we had to get rid of the hornets.

Our pest service is always very responsive, and this time was no exception. They were johnny-on-the-spot, and dropped by an hour after the call. Yep, we had a hornets nest. A pretty big one (why we never noticed it before, I have no idea... except that it was 40 feet up the tree). He didn't have a tall enough ladder, but could get one the next day and dispatch the hornets for us. For $455.

That night, we kept hearing 'plink, plinks' against our french doors. We flicked on the deck lights and underneath the soffit were a handful of HUGE hornets (2 inches long, I think. I swear, they were THIS BIG). They must have known their number was almost up.

A few days later, our contractor came by to look at the deck steps. We still have some leftover Trex material, and we were hoping that he could fix them for little $$. Brian's a great guy, and not only did he recommend we call his tree guy (who saved us $700), but he's going to fix the steps gratis. Mike's going to build him a web page in exchange. Whew! (Or at least, as much of a 'whew' as I can muster for being $2200 lighter in the pocket).

Here are some photos:

About 6 feet above the nest:

At the nest:

20 feet below the nest:

I shudder when I think about what could have happened had we left that tree much longer. Last weekend was spent anxiously looking to the skies, praying for good weather. This weekend, we had massive thunderstorms last night, but without that tree I actually enjoyed them. Before the rain, Clay and Drew went out on the deck with Mike, counting the time between lightning and thunder. It was a beautiful storm.

p.s. We've gotten a lot of helpful suggestions about less expensive ways of removal. Insurance? Well, they only pay for damage to the house. And we had a $5,000 deductible. Plus, in our experience, calling homeowner's insurance for small repairs can flag you as a problem client, and we didn't want to get cancelled. Which is why our deductible was so high. We've since asked for the a lower one.

Wait until the first frost and the hornets would be leave: we're not that lucky. Sure, the hornets would be gone, but there's still 2 months before the first frost. The tree had already dropped a massive branch. We weren't willing to gamble that it would stay intact (and our property undamaged) for the next few months. In my opinion, that branch was God's way of sending us a big ole' message. We listened.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Candyland Diaries, or How I Learned to Tolerate Game Night

For Christmas 2005 Clay received, at my request, both Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. We wanted to establish a “Family Game Night”, and couldn’t wait until Clay was old enough to make it so (if it were just the two of us, it would be “Couples Game Night”, which has an entirely different connotation, in my opinion).

Clay delighted in his new games, and drawing cards and flipping the little spinning arrow were the coolest things to him. For me, Family Game Night turned into The MOST Boring Night of the Week because we were playing the MOST boring games on the planet. It's amazing how a 30 year time span will really color your perspective about an experience's entertainment value. I quickly hid the offending items, and Family Game Night was no more.

For his birthday this year, I was determined to find something age appropriate for him, but still interesting to me. If it was interesting to Mike, then that was a bonus as well. Not a requirement, mind you. I was more than happy to throw Mike into the black hole of Candyland with Clay, as long as I was safely out of its reach.

So I did some research. I like research, especially if it involves the internet. Fortunately for sites such as Amazon and Epinions, there was some good information out there. Scrabble Jr., Boggle Jr., and a particularly simple and fun game called ‘Zingo’ that was recommended by Clay’s preschool teacher, were all dispatched via Visa. And so far, they’re not uninteresting at all. Boggle Jr. is a little dull, but fortunately Clay likes to play it by himself. Scrabble Jr., I must say, is a lot of fun. I was never a big Scrabble player, so I was a little confused about how a 4 year old was going to do with it, but it’s been great! The board is already covered in simple words, and you draw tiles and take turns covering the letters on the words. The trick is, you have to cover the letters in word order. So for example, “FRUIT” has to have the “F” and “R” tiles covered before you can put the “U” down. Once he gets older, we can flip the board over and play the traditional way. It’s a veritable hat trick, a trifecta of fun, education and versatility. I approve.

Clay’s latest favorite is a Finding Nemo Go Fish card set, that for me is starting to border on the boring again. However, I am finding entertainment value in beating the pants off both Clay and his dad. Poor boys. Clay doesn’t quite get the strategy of Go Fish, and Mike desperately tries to give him a helping hand. “Don’t show us your cards, Clay!”, and he’ll quickly pick them up while saying, “Two Nemos, 1 Gill, and 3 Peaches.” Mike rolls his eyes, and I just know he’s got the fourth Peach in his hand, and is going to save it for Clay. At Mike’s round, he’ll ask me if I have any Peaches, hoping that Clay will pick up on the clue. At Clay’s turn, he’ll ask me if I have any Nemos instead. I’ll tell him to go fish, and he’ll draw a card exclaiming, “Just what I wanted! A Dory!” Ay yi yi. The next round I take his Dory. At the end of the game, I’ll have 9 sets, Mike will have 1 and Clay will have 2. I’m ruthless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Farewell Friend

Tonight I found out that a neighbor of Pop's back at the Virginian has died. A favorite of ours, Mrs. Goodman just loved Clay. And I suspect the feeling was mutual, and not just for the treats she always had for him. Mrs. G had a thick German accent, and fabulous, and horrifying stories to go with it. See, she was an Auschwitz survivor, and was the only one of her family to make it out alive. She and the rest of her camp mates were taken on a death march, and she said that at the end she collapsed, sure she was about to die, when an American soldier came up to her and asked, "Are you a boy or a girl? Are you 15 or 50?" She was 18 at the time.

She married an American, and moved to this country as a young woman. She never thought she could have children, because of her time in the concentration camps. But, she did eventually have a daughter. Mrs. G always had a smile and a laugh, but she was also quite savvy. Behind her eyes, you could tell that she had seen things that still gave her nightmares.

Although our lives could not be more different, we found out that the world was still small. On one of in-laws' visits with Pop, Mike's dad struck up a conversation with Mrs. G. They discovered that not only had they both lived in Stuttgart at the same time post WWII, but they rode the same streetcar. They probably shared more than one ride, but didn't meet officially until 60 years later in Fairfax, Virginia.

Trying to explain this all to Clay tonight, I thought he understood. He heard me on the phone with Pop and based on my tone of voice, he asked who died. At bedtime we remembered Mrs. G in our prayers, and Clay wanted to know why she died. I explained that she was sick and her body just wore out. He wanted to know when she was coming back. Was she in the "hospipal?" My explanations of "a better place" and being with her husband and family now just confused him. And, in a few months, he may forget. So, I wanted to type this up because years from now, I want him to know about this lovely lady who showered him with candy, and dreidels, and kisses, even though she had every reason in the world to be angry and sad and distrustful.

Shalom, Mrs. Goodman.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You think I'm FAKING?

Years from now, Clay will read yesterday's post, and then this one, and he'll smugly say 'I TOLD you so.' For today, after Vacation Bible School, he threw up in the back seat of the van.

He was fine immediately thereafter. I'm chalking it up to heat. It was 103 degrees here today, after all. But still, it makes me wonder if yesterday's antics weren't the foolishness I thought they were.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, I read an article tonight about growing pains. Who knew they were real? That may have been why his knees were bothering him.

This incident has done nothing to boost my confidence in my parenting skills. Could someone loan me the manual? I never got mine...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Preschooler Arthritis. Or Preschooler-itis?

We've had quite a... day here in Sheleheda-ville. I am too weary to come up with an adjective. Sorry. It's Vacation Bible School week, which we thought Clay would really enjoy (and for a 5 day morning camp at a mere $30 tuition rate, mom and dad were looking forward to it too!). Yesterday, I dropped Clay off and after an initial apprehensive moment which dissipated after Clay declared that he was 'comfortable now' and I could 'go have fun at work', I left. Mike arrived a little early, and reported that Clay seemed to have fun (I'm sure Mike will update you all on the funny little mix up at pick up time...)

Fast forward to today, and Clay wakes us up with the phrase 'my knee hurts'. But, he's walking on it, and he says he didn't hurt it at VBS. Then, the pained knee mysteriously switched from one leg to the other, and we concluded that he was probably okay.

And so it's time to get dressed! Time for Vacation Bible School! But, still no go. Clay's hungry. His knee still hurts. He's not feeling well. He has no fever, and we suspect that he's just grumpy. We've noticed that ever since he turned four, he's been acting like he's fourteen. We decided to call his bluff, and offered to take him right to the doctor... where a SHOT may be required. (This was not wise... he just got 4 shots at his 4 year physical, and he was still freaked out. Plus, what nimrod parents are we to remind our kid that a doctor gives shots? HELLOOOO????? Do we ever want him to go to the doctor again without freaking out?)

He (of course) said 'NO' ... with wide-eyed panic. We again suggested getting dressed for VBS. He said 'No'. So, we told him to go to his room to 'rest' until he felt better. This caused tears to flow, and left me wondering if we should have taken him to the doctor anyway. Or Vacation Bible School (which he didn't attend today). Or maybe a therapist. Come to think of it, maybe I need some parental counseling because I don't think I handled this morning very well.

Oh well... I was heartened to hear that he later asked Mike if they could go to the pool. When he was told that he wasn't feeling well, so no, Clay perked right up! (Funny how that happened). So, Mike said they should go to VBS.

And suddenly, Clay's knee hurt. Perhaps I should have checked for ticks.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Ran across this while reading my favorite Washington Post weekly online discussion: Chatological Humor, hosted by Gene Weingarten.

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

I thought this was just too apt to be true, but it is verified by Snopes.

Did anyone else get the shivers, or was that just me??

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kid Lit

What with the Potter-palooza (and since I was at my local bookstore at 11:50 Friday night, it's safe to say that I was swept up in the hoopla), Clay has taken an interest in Harry's world. And although I'm not prepared to introduce him to those stories yet, I have been thinking that it would be good idea to start reading chapter books with him.

There's been a Barnes & Noble gift card riding in our car's change drawer since Christmas (and really, where do you keep YOUR holiday gift cards?), so I decided to take Clay in to pick out a book. I was thinking along the lines of Roald Dahl, or E.B. White. Once we got to the children's section, it was clear that Clay was interested in the pretty covers.

"Ooooh! High School Musical!" This, I attribute to his cousin Alyssa's affection for the Disney tween show, and I deftly steer him towards the, ahem, classics.

"Look, here's James and the Giant Peach!" Unimpressed, Clay spots Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle because there's a (wait for it) MOTORCYCLE on the cover. I find this much more acceptable than High School Musical though, but in the interest of getting my way compromise, I suggest we get two books. He runs toward other contemporary drivel. I maneuver to Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. I also throw James and the Giant Peach (oh please please please) into the mix, and tell him to pick one more. He picks Stuart Little.

And that is how we brought home three books.

Slow Month?

I'm behind... sorry! I would say that it's just a slow month, and it has been from the writing perspective. But from the LIFE point-of-view it's been lightning-fast, although sadly I'm not sure with what, exactly.

It began with a pseudo-vacation (no beach week this year, but some time off). I have little scraps of paper from a very funny bathroom conversation I had with Clay. Somehow that hasn't gelled into anything I want to post yet, though. A visit from relatives, the release of Harry Potter Book 7, and YIKES, it's the end of July!

And to my friends and family who are following this blog... thanks for you kind words! I hope to be a little more active in August.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I swear the fish I threw back was THIS BIG!

Today Drew crawled over and gave me a very sweet kiss. I said 'Thank you', and as he put his pacifier back in his mouth he said, and I swear this is true, "You're welcome."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The battle has begun...

Drew's discovered that Clay's cars are WAY cooler than his lame-o infant toys. Especially the nifty Disney Cars Clay got for his birthday. Drew thinks they're just ripe for tasting... and inevitably they can be found in his mouth. This causes Clay much consternation, and his new mantra is "No no, Drew...".

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

My thoughts exactly

"I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." Robert McCloskey

Here's another good one

Oscar Wilde said:

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

Does that mean that my 15 attempts at a blog post indicates tedious, but not bad, writing??

Oh, for this kind of optimism!

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison

More posts are on the way. Promise! We've just returned from vacation, and I'm mulling them over, waiting for inspiration. As Tommy boy has reminded me, the 15 different versions I've composed and discarded aren't failures, just bad writing... or something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Clay!

A few years ago I was at a gathering of preschool moms who were discussing establishing traditions for their children. The speaker suggested writing a letter on your child's birthday, saving all of the letters, and then beginning 18 days before their 18th birthday, mail a letter a day (in order) to the child. I thought it was a great idea. And every year I've meant to do it. But never remember.

This year, I still didn't get it together. But then I remembered... I have a blog! Who needs the US Postal Service?

And so... Happy Birthday Clay! For your birthday, we had all of your preschool friends over on Saturday for an afternoon party. We turned on the sprinkler, hung a pinata, and played 'Pin the Hood on Mater', which was our version of 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey'. Daddy spent an hour coloring a Mater mural for it, and I spent the time cutting out paper hoods. You had a great time, and got tons of Car toys. But I think your favorite is 'Whack A Mole'.

Today you asked for doughnuts for breakfast, and Chuck E Cheese for supper. If you ever doubt my love for you, remember that I went to Chuck E. Cheese. And, it wasn't so bad. The place was relatively clean. (Do you remember your cousin Ryan's birthday party at Safari Sam's last year? You kept calling it 'Farty Sams'. All I remember is that the place boasted a healthy menu, but when we actually looked at it, the only thing I saw was cheese fries and pizza. Well, Chuck E Cheese has a salad bar. And, it was okay. I've seen worse.)

After supper we came home, had a piece of cake, and you opened our presents. We gave you lots and lots of board games and puzzles, and a cool gyroscope that Daddy picked out for you. He loved them as a kid, and couldn't wait to show it to you. We let you stay up late an extra hour, and we played Scrabble, Jr.

All in all, I had fun. I hope you did too.



Friday, June 22, 2007

The estrogen runneth over

In addition to the nuns, and the bitch (female dog, people!), that VERY SAME day, two neighbor girls came over for an extended play date. It was chaotic, but fun. Clay had a blast, but let this be a warning to all parents I know: if you bring me your clean children, I cannot guarantee they will stay that way.

I am happy to hose them off, however.

I wasn't kidding about the nuns

Yesterday, we really did have three nuns at the house. And a priest. Sister Anne, Sister Olga, Sister Monica, and Father Jim stopped in because they needed to have a meeting with Mike, who's been doing some freelance work for them. They were on their way home from a convention, or maybe it was just a meeting. (Fun distraction: what would be involved with a nun convention? Would there be an exhibition hall with aisles of rosary and prayer card vendors? Would the seminars offer styling tips to prevent "habit hair", or advice on rapping your students' knuckles with just the right force to cause excrutiating pain, but not enough to break the skin?)

Move over Momma, there's a new bitch in town...

... of the female dog variety (get your minds out of the gutter, people).

I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoy being the only female in the house. Sure, there are times when I see a little velvet dress and I think that it might be nice to have a daughter, but then I remember that when it comes to my gender, I'm not a fantastic example of all things feminine, and I'd hate to handicap a little girl that way.

Case in point: I HATE lotions. Hate 'em. They're greasy and yucky and I've spurned them all my life. Back in high school, I recall my mother saying I needed to moisturize my elbows because they were looking dry, and I just laughed at her. Who's going to look at my elbows? They were covered up by my favorite faded black rugby shirt, which I wore every other day because it went so comfortably with my faded blue jeans and worn keds. Mini skirts? No thanks. Make up? You've got to be kidding. (If I won't moisturize my elbows, do you think my knees and face stand a chance?)

So, I think it's fitting that I have two sons. They don't care that I rotate the same three pairs of shoes, or that my wardrobe consists of knit tees and bermuda shorts. Toss 'em a Matchbox car, and they'll love you all day. I'm their "best girl". Sons. They love their mommas.

It may be time to face facts, though. Clearly, I'm not enough woman for the Sheleheda boys. And already, they're turning their attentions to another. Her name's Daisy, and she's got long hair, big brown eyes, and a wigglin' walk that makes the world go round...

Say hello to Daisy, our temporary pet. We're dog sitting for friends, but they might not get her back. She's the sweetest little shih tzu around, and Clay and Drew can't get enough of her. Mike thinks she's pretty special too. I'm hopeful that when she goes back to her parents, things will return to normal around here and I can go back to being the adored, LONE, woman. I'm not sure if that's really what God has in plan, though. Just yesterday He sent three nuns to the house.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I love good quotes. Actually, I collect them. I have a little notebook of my favorite lines from literature, celebrities, sitcoms, which was mostly compiled during college. Occasionally I'll open it and chuckle over the things I found so profound then, or marvel at the items that are still relevant to me today.

But in this electronic age, I'm giving up the notebook. Instead, I'll post them here. This is the first, and as a data person, it's a good one for me to remember:

"Not everything that counts can be counted.
And not everything that can be counted counts."
--Albert Einstein

To One in a Million

Here's to one in a million... my best friend, my soul mate, my handsome, funny fall guy. The one who loves me even though I don't know why, and who takes care of me and our boys with no (okay, minimal) griping.

Here's to the guy who does our laundry, cooks our meals, cleans our dishes, and takes out our garbage. The one who cuts the grass. Who lets me sleep late whenever I want.

Here's to the comedian who always keeps us laughing. Who picks us all up when we're feeling down. Who makes us feel happy, and worthy, and loved.

Happy Father's Day honey!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Remember that writing class I was taking? Well, I'm not taking it after all. On Monday evening I stayed late at work, made my way to Bethesda, paid for parking, and sashayed into The Writers Center, only to be told that my class had been cancelled due to low registration. And they forgot to call me. Sorry.

I'm not sure which is worse... the fact that this is the second class I've tried to take from them, and the second that they've cancelled, or that I had to drive to Maryland to find out! I'm a Virginia girl, after all. I only go to the M state when absolutely necessary...

Clay's First Solo

Clay performed his first solo on Sunday! His repertoire was the illustrious Twinkle rhythm "Stop Pony", Bread movement.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Ack! Has it really been 11 days since my last post? I'm a slacker. Sorry kids!

Here's a few snippets of posts yet to come: Drew's crawling, Clay had his first violin solo, my in-laws are visiting, laundry's backed up, and Clay started summer camp today.

And now, I'm off to enjoy my birthday gift to myself: a writing class!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Check out Mike's Blog!

He's a funny guy... you won't be disappointed!

Magnus Patris

Jay Jay Gets Washed Up

Our bedtime ritual hasn't included reading in a long time, save for the usual evening recital of 'Goodnight Moon'. But, Clay hasn't heard it in a while. Drew gets it every night, though. It's part of our 'here's your routine, now GO TO SLEEP' for the baby.

Tonight, Clay wanted to me to read to him, and then he grabbed a little water book for bed. It's called 'Jay Jay Washes Up', and it's based on the PBS series 'Jay Jay the Jet Plane', which I HATE. Jay Jay and Brenda Blue are so saccharinely sweet it's nauseating. Whenever possible, I try to steer Clay towards something cooler, like 'Jakers' or 'Thomas' or anything else. But tonight, I agreed to read Jay Jay because, primarily, it was short. And I know that sounds bad... I should want to read to my children as much as possible. And truly, I do. Reading is extremely important to me, and I want it to be important to them too. But tonight, I also wanted the kids in bed so I could have a quiet evening. So I sacrificed literature for short twaddle.

The book has Jay Jay getting washed down, his face, under his wings, and then the final page has him taking a flight once around the field, and then back to the hangar for bed. Clay wants it read TWICE. Which is fine with me, because did I mention it's short? After the encore presentation, Clay asks what a hangar is. "It's a house for the plane. People live in a house, but airplanes like Jay Jay live in a hangar." Clay asks if it's a big building, and I tell him usually, but it really depends on the size of the airplane. He asks if helicopters also live in a hangar. And when I say they do, he wants to know if the helicopters and airplanes live in the same hangar. That's when the old standby of 'Sometimes' came into play. Love the 'Somtimes' response. Very handy indeed!

"What spells hangar"?, he asks. "H-A-N-G-A-R." I consider telling him that a clothes hanger is spelled differently, but decide it's too advanced a concept for him. That's when he asks me:

"What spells hanger for clothes?" And after chuckling and spelling the word (emphasizing E), I chide myself for doubting his capabilities. Thanks, Jay Jay!

Oh how he goes!

Drew's been making tremendous strides in locomotion lately. He's quite determined to be in the middle of the action. And to be fair, he might have made this progress sooner if we'd been a bit more vigilant about tummy time. But he's just too darn cute to not hold, ya know?

Right now, he SO wants to crawl. We'll put him on the floor next to a little bin of toys, and he'll pull a few out, playing and gumming them for a bit. But soon, he'll spy an interesting object under the rocking chair (yes, I know this is a hazard, and yes, we're going to move the rocker... and yes the house is cluttered, so there are many objects to be discovered. But, I prefer to think of it as a smaller scaled obstacle course, thank you very much!)

So, back to the newly discovered shiny something under the rocker... Drew's intent to have it. But how to get it? To his credit, he doesn't holler to one of us to bring it to him. He wants it under his own power. So he flops on his belly. Now what?

First, he'd push off with this hands. And yes! He's somewhere he wasn't... but the problem is the somewhere is further away from what he wants. He's spent a few weeks doing this, and he's gotten good at it. I'll look up and find him across the room, under a chair. Strangely, he hasn't discovered that if he just spins around, he can get himself wherever he wants, but just backward.

For the past week, he's been experimenting with sticking his butt in the air. This is better, but now he's like an inverted 'V' with his butt as the peak of a little mountain whose base is formed by chubby baby toes and hands. It's a precarious position, and even my 8 month old knows this. Back to the belly...

Next, he discovered that if he goes on his 'knees'.... ah ha! He can rock back and forth. But rocking will only propel him a few inches closer to his toy, and then he rocks back. What sort of cruel existence is this??

Lately he's discovered that if he sits Indian style (or Native American style, for you politically correct types, or Aboriginal American style if you're my husband since he insists that anyone born in this country, IS a native American), he can 'hop' his way across the room. Case in point: yesterday at dinner-making time. Mike, Clay and I were in the kitchen, and Drew was in the family room. Next thing we know, Drew has hopped his way over to the kitchen-family room threshhold. Bless him, he wants to be with us!

Guess I'd better start cleaning the floors...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer Daze

I remember delightful childhood summers. My family would spend many weekends at my uncle's river cottage where FUN was the main agenda. There was a nice sandy beach, a huge raft, a pier perfect for jumping off of. The water was warm, and never got too deep. It was perfect for playing our favorite game, 'chicken', where each team consisted of two, one on top of the other's shoulders. The object was to knock the other team's top person off the bottom person's shoulders. We'd ride in Uncle Buzzy's speed boat, watching our cousins water ski. My brother and I were always envious of their skill, but too afraid to try it ourselves. Early mornings were spent wading with a minnow net, catching our bait for fishing later in the day. After supper, there'd be homemade ice cream and fireworks, a screened porch with a creaky porch swing.

When we weren't visiting our relatives, we'd be riding our bikes through the neighborhood. Down to the elementary school where we could whack a tennis ball against the brick wall. Over to the little league fields where, if we were lucky, there'd be a ball game and we could grab a Chick a Stick from the concession stand. Endless trips to the library racking up an enormous cadre of borrowed books. Mom and Dad nagging me to 'get some color', but truthfully, I enjoyed the summer shade more than the summer sun. (Looking back, I'm grateful I held my position on that, considering the cause and effect of sun and skin cancer).

Now that I have kids, I have a better appreciation for how much WORK it takes to achieve a lazy summer day. No doubt those fun river weekends weren't as much for my mom and Aunt Rosa, who were charged with shopping, packing, unpacking, cooking and cleaning. Coaxing suntan lotion on the kids. Policing the water to make sure no one put a toe in the river until 30 minutes after meal time. Yelling at us to go to sleep already, for heavens' sake! Not exactly their idea of a relaxing time on the water.

We don't have the river cottage any longer. It was used less and less as we got older. Summers evolved from catching fireflies and scratching mosquito bites to choosing 'just the right' bathing suit for the beach with your friends. Two decades later, and I have children myself who LOVE the pool. On opening weekend, Clay had his suit and goggles on before I had time to think about where a swim diaper for Drew might be hiding. He spent the next hour asking WHEN we'd actually GO to the pool. We might have already been on the wayl, but I was still trying to locate a damn swim diaper. And, because our pool requires that babies have a swim diaper AND plastic pants, I was keeping an eye out for Clay's old swim suits. I figured no one would strip search my baby to make sure he was wearing a swim diaper and plastic pants. Herein lies the next problem: where did I pack the 12 month summer clothes? It was three years ago, and I can't remember where I last put the Easter baskets, so I knew I was in for a quest. Eventually, I found EVERY piece of summer baby clothing I remember, save a swimsuit. I did manage to locate a 2T swim trunk, and considered safety pinning it around Drew's waist. Fortunately, he's a big kid and pulled it off beautifully without the extra, and sharp, hardware. Here's hoping I haven't set him up for a dreadful adolescent baggy, saggy pants phase...

After getting Drew's dressed, it occured to me that I still needed something to wear. Unlike the past years, I couldn't get away reading a book while Mike and Clay swam. After all, he can't very well handle BOTH kids in the pool. I had to don a swimsuit. Not that it was traumatic, or anything. At this point in my life, I'm immune to how I look in a swimsuit. And I didn't really care what people thought of my unshorn body... I'll find the razor tomorrow.

Now that everyone's dressed, we grabbed a bottle of suntan lotion, and set off. We were a mama, a daddy, a big boy and a baby. A stroller, three towels, $5 for the snack bar, a bag with spare clothes for the boys, and a partridge in a pear tree. We packed for a day at the beach, and were only headed to our neighborhood pool.

And two blocks later, we arrived!

That's when the teenager at the front gate told us... the baby pool was closed. For mechanical issues. She wasn't sure when it would open.

So I said to my husband, "Let's hurry up and get this fun over with." The women of my youth, I'm sure, would understand.

Mike's Day

It started with two unhappy children, and one unhappy daddy...

Then things got a little better....

Then they got CRAZY!

Friday, May 25, 2007

I beg your pardon?

You never know what Clay’s going to come up with these days. He’s getting a good grasp of multisyllabic words, and their appropriate uses, but his pronunciation usually needs some work. For example, he frequently says ‘I’m bezausted.’ Ah, then how about a nap? ‘Actually, no. I’m just bezausted.’ His bezaustion typically coincides with undesirable activities. Picking up toys, say. Or the occasional violin lesson.

Rhyming is his favorite trick right now. And, I heartily encourage that because it helps him learn words and sounds and such. Of course, I’ve mentioned before that some unfortunate phrases come forth. “Juicy Poosy”, for example. Pronounced loudly at the local diner during a preschool fundraiser. It’s hard to decide what to say during moments like that. We opted for “he’ll have milk.”

When he isn’t rhyming, he’s singing. Clay’s a very musical kid, and his repertoire is vast and sophisticated. He’s fond of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Music, the Clash and the Who. He’s doing really well in Suzuki violin, and can name all of his rhythms, the upcoming tunes, and understands the concept of musical dynamics (pianissimo, piano, mezzo piano, forte, mezzo forte, and fortissimo).

So, it didn’t surprise me when Mike reported on Clay’s latest tune. He debuted it at the doctor’s office, and it went something like ‘…friendly pile of s**t... ROCKING on the sea…’!

Translation: it was the Wiggles’ Captain Feathersword song. And the lyric goes: “The friendly pirate ship was rocking on the sea!”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ringbearer Pictures

Sorry, no time to write! Here are some pics from our weekend wedding trip. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Giving Our Eye Teeth

The men in my house have had a few rough days. We spent a fun Saturday at a colleague’s for a crab feast. Mike very carefully prepared items for the diaper bag (Formula – check! Nipples and Rings – check! Bottle liners – check!) We were secure in the knowledge that we had our baby bases covered. You know where this is headed, right? We forgot the actual bottle. Off Mike goes to the local grocery store and returns with one. All set! And then we realize that the carefully packed formula, the one Mike took special care to prepare, was still at home on our kitchen counter. Drew had a supper of water and jarred sweet potatoes.

Nevertheless, Drew fared better than his big brother. Because although Clay wasn’t into the shellfish, he had great fun rough housing with the other boys (and strangely, there were no little girls at this event). And, since boys will be boys, Clay’s front tooth made a very forceful contact with another little boy’s head. How did this happen? We’re still not sure. Something about a slide, and a ‘head butting’ game. Fortunately, his tooth is still in place, although the gum was quite bruised. An emergency call to the dentist was slightly reassuring. He suggested soft foods, Motrin, and an office visit a few days later. And indeed, by the time we rolled Clay into the dentist’s office this morning, the tooth looked much better. The boy even got the excitement of an x-ray! And a plastic police car! (No candy from the dentist, doncha know.) Dr. D pointed to the x-ray and showed me the GINORMOUS adult teeth that are already in place, and offered his prediction that orthodontia is in Clay’s future.

Great news, right? (Except for the expensive braces, but hey, you can’t have everything.) Little did Mike realize that his turn was fast approaching.

After the dentist, he and the boys headed down 95 to Stafford. Traffic conditions were as congested as usual, and he rolled into the parking lot at Pop’s assisted living facility a little after noon. Now, Mike’s quite the multitasker, but dealing with a 95 year old incontinent geriatric in a wheelchair, a precocious almost four-year old, and an 8 month old pushes him to the limits. He’s only had to negotiate situation twice, and both times he says that the only one who listens to him is Drew. Good news for today, though. It was discovered that Clay’s pretty good at pushing Pop’s wheelchair, although his steering leaves much to be desired.

Fast forward to this evening, and Mike’s pretty much ready to call it a day, when I come home with other plans. We must go to my friend T’s house directly after supper! We mustn’t delay! See, T and I work together at a well known performing arts center that just so happens to be at the beginning of a massive theater renovation. And there were pieces of history to be had. Big, heavy, awkward pieces of history in the form of crushed red velvet theater seats. T very kindly brought her pair and my pair home in her minivan, and we needed to retrieve them. Which of course meant that Mike needed to retrieve them. The boys and I came along to “help”. Drew helped by pooping stankily (yes, there is no other word for this) as soon as we arrived. And we had nothing with us, because this was to be a short trip. Fortunately, T is very resourceful and happened to have a diaper, wipes and EVEN a diaper mat, even though her youngest is older than my oldest! I helped by holding the now naked-except-a-diaper Drew while Mike and T unloaded my seats and reloaded them in our van. Then, I helped even more as I continued to hold Drew while Mike and T unloaded her seats and carried them into her basement. Past the really large forsythia bush that was blocking the door. While a forsythia branch lashed out and poked Mike in his only good eye.

I won’t go into any more details (because really, isn’t this post long enough?), but he’s fine now. Thank goodness. It was a pretty scary couple of moments there, because this really is Mike’s ONLY good eye. The other’s practically useless, and frightening thoughts of blindness bubbled a little too close to the surface.

Which is why, as I was driving my men home this evening, and I was thinking about the not-so-comic-events of the past few days, I realized that there were few things I’d give my eye teeth for. But Clay’s tooth and Mike’s eye were two of them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Parenting Unpleasantries

A few days ago, we got the following e-mail from the Health and Safety parent at Clay’s preschool:

Tick Season Is Here

It can be a real pain if you have dark haired children, but it's time to check your children daily for ticks if they've been outside at all. We just had our first reported case of a child who was on the playground today getting a tick on them. I don't know if it was a deer tick or not though, I forgot to ask. It doesn't really matter though, because other ticks can transmit other illnesses. But you should know that Lyme Disease has reached our area. And ticks just love 70 degree temperatures! Ticks tend to be in (tall especially) grass, the undersides of leaves of bushes or low trees. When they sense a warm body going by, they just latch on to it and go for a good spot for lunch. Unfortunately, that's often in the crotch or the head; though I've gotten them on my abdomen and arms, etc.

One way to minimize your child's risk of getting them is to dress them in long white pants and shirts and tuck their pants into their white socks and spray the clothes with DEET. Honestly, I think I'd pass out in clothes like that if it was one of those hot days in July. And I hate DEET. I'd rather just check for the ticks. They take 24 hours to infect someone, so if you get them off in say, 12 hours, you don't have to worry (about Lyme Disease anyway).

Having pulled deer ticks off myself and my kids, here's what I know about them:

They can be as small as the head of a pin. They can be black, but not necessarily.

When removing them, DON'T SQUEEZE THEIR MIDDLES!!!! This causes the bacteria to go from their stomachs into the victim. Get a pair of needle nose tweezers (or much better yet go to a pet store and get a pair of tick removers, they work really well!) and go on either side of the tick's neck pulling upward so that the skin 'tents' until the tick lets go. That way you get the head out too. Then apply rubbing alcohol or other disinfectant.

I have TWELVE hours??? Lyme Disease?? Deer Ticks? Don’t squeeze the middles??


This is the part of parenting that I’m not sure I’m up for, and it bugs me (pun intended). If I can’t handle the pressure of checking my kids for ticks, what the heck am I going to do if they bring home (I feel faint just typing this) head lice??

Clay’s a pretty squirmy kid. He goes into hysterics if we come at him with nail clippers, so his manicures are few and far between. He still has leftover cradle cap, and is pretty sensitive to having me work on his scalp. I’ve already tried to surreptitiously look for ticks, but he’s wise to my ways. It’s not going to be a fun summer if I have to hold him down every day.

As if that wasn’t enough, Clay’s been (forgive me son, but it fits the theme), pulling on his pants for a few days. We’ve been asking him the usual questions: “Do you need to go potty?” “Is a tag scratching you?” No to both queries. He has admitted that he’s feeling ‘itchy’, so we inspect the, um, area, for a rash. Of the previously worn diaper kind. Nothing.

Of course, this provided us with the perfect, but really uncomfortable, opportunity to have the ‘good touch/bad touch’ conversation with him. (“This is your private area. No one is allowed to touch your private area except Mommy or Daddy or a doctor who is with Mommy or Daddy.”) Oh, how I dreaded this! But, I knew it was time because Clay’s teacher told us at our conference that she was going to introduce the subject. And, as important as I KNOW it is to arm my child with this safety information, I really HATE admitting to him that there are bad people in this world who want to do unseemly thing to innocents. Nevertheless (and like I said), it was time. When Mike asked Clay what he’d say to a stranger who offered him candy, he good naturedly responded “Thank you very much!”

Clay said he understood. But he’s only three, so the conversation isn’t over. Not by a long shot. And then it will be time to talk to Drew. As their parents, we’re going to have to find the delicate balance between empowering them against evil, and scaring the bejeezes out of them.

And about Clay’s itchy tuckus? Mike asked his teacher if she’d noticed. She had. And she suggested we check for pinworms.

Excuse me, I have to go lie down now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Yay for Amazon!

Here’s what I love about this online site: guilt free shopping. Clay’s birthday is in six weeks, and I can put toy after toy into my shopping cart for him. I buy nothing. A few days later, when I’ve come to my senses, I can go back and delete, delete, delete… suddenly it’s a much more manageable, and reasonable list.

After all, how many building sets can one boy use??

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Quotable Clay

From Sunday's Washington Post:

We have plans to keep our children safe and prepared. We have fire drills. We have tornado and hurricane drills. We even have a protocol with a "to-go bag," in case of any emergency lockdown. Our Annandale preschool is vigilant. The explanations, with age-appropriate information, reassure and calm the children.

After this latest tornado drill, the all-clear sounded. Everyone did a good job listening and following directions. Mission accomplished. Thumbs up and high-fives all around!

Three-year-old Clay asked one important question. "When it comes, how big will the tomato be?"

by Elizabeth Maguder (Clay's preschool teacher)

How cool is that? Mrs. M said she typed it up a few weeks ago and the paper called her back right away. I guess this was a more appropriate quote for the paper than one of Clay's other gems. In this age of providing our kids with the correct names for our body parts, a girl in Clay's class referenced her vagina. Clay's response? "I live in Virginia too!"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why I love my work

This afternoon I was walking up the grand staircase, enjoying the beautiful weather, the sparkling river, and the drifting cherry blossoms. As I approached the stage door, out came an actor costumed in ancient Roman peasant garb. He was smoking a cigarette and talking on a cell phone. From the sublime to the absurd...

These moments don't happen as often as I'd like, but I suppose if they did they wouldn't be as special.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What's Past is Prologue

Clay's favorite toy... remember these?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Can you say smart aleck?

"Is this what you're looking for?" I hold up the spongy baseball that Clay likes.

"Yes! Thank you!" And then a sly smile crosses his face.

"...or should I say 'No thank you!' Because in opposite world, that means 'Thank you!'"

Clay is obsessed with Disney's Cars and all things Lightning McQueen and Mater. Every night at prayer time, right after 'Amen', and with a virtual slap to the forehead he'll say "I forgot Lightning McQueen and Mater!! 'GaBleLiteMckwnMater. AMEN'"

He can sing all of the words to Route 66, and will correct us if we get the towns out of order. In case you were wondering, it goes through St. Louie, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City (which looks 'oh so pretty'), Amarillo, Gallup New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona (don't forget!) Wynona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino...

But I digress. The 'opposite world' sarcasm, as referenced above, is (naturally) what Lightning McQueen says to Doc after he loses his Radiator Springs race.

And I knew this immediately because I, too, have seen this movie TOO MANY TIMES. Sha-boom!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


At dinner, Mike started the conversation with "tell Mama what you learned at school today."

Proudly, Clay yelled "Messatorfamus!"

I looked to Mike for an explanation, and he said "metamorphosis." Of course.

"Yah... it's when you CHANGE! Like a butterfly!" (Clay flaps his arms).

And so it begins...

For all of my life, I've taken good natured ribbing about my vocabulary. As a child our neighbor, Mrs. Linton, would comment about the words I'd come up with, and as a teenager, my mom would joke that I was '14 going on 40'. Later in high school, I distinctly remember being teased mercilessly by my friends when I said something was 'trivial'. Oh the peals of laughter! They all thought it such a very big, 50 cent word, and couldn't believe that I would use it. Embarrassed and a little ashamed, I questioned whether I was using my words to puff up my self importance. My friends certainly made me feel so, and I took the laughter as an attempt to take me down a peg or two. Fortunately, we were out for pizza, so I could take comfort in food. Don't like my words? Screw you, and pass the pepperoni. I traded my 50 cent words for 50 dollar hips.

Although I marvel now at how much that innocent incident affected me (I truly believe my friends meant no harm), I recognize that it did so in a profound way. After that, I remember just wanting to fit in, and so the pendulum swung in the other direction. I avoided lofty language. I may have been on the debate and forensic team, but it was just a cover. I found solace in my prepared notes. And without them, I quickly found myself grasping for the right words. By the time I made it to college, I convinced myself that my words and writing were inferior. Can't win for losing, eh?

So today, I have two little boys, and I refuse to talk down to them, often with comical results. Clay's in the 'Why?' phase (will the questions ever stop?), and I will beat my head against the proverbial wall to give him a sensible answer, long after Mike has given in with a 'just because!'. Case in point, this morning's explanation about the phrase 'Spring has sprung', which I FULLY admit is a path I stumbled down. Clay wanted to know what the phrase meant. Here's what I told him:

"It's a play on words."

(Confused look from 3 year old.)

Trying again, I said: "You know how some words have two meanings?"

Gamely, the boy nodded tentatively. I could see he had no idea, so I tried to elaborate.

"Like, spring means the season with all the flowers, but it also means a curly wire that goes 'boing'!"

I'd lost him. I tried again.

"Like Drew's exersaucer? The legs have springs in them so he can bounce up and down?"

I'd better wrap this up. I'm losing him fast.

"So when we say 'spring has sprung', we mean the season SPRING has popped out, like a SPRING popping. Get it?"

He said he did, but I think he was just humoring his old mom. Either that, or he just wanted to get back to his cars. But at least I tried, and to be fair to me (and hey, we HAVE to be fair to me), this is the boy who told his classmate that her throwing her jacket in anger wasn't appropriate. So, it was fairly logical that I thought he could grasp the concept of a double entendre. Right?


Monday, April 23, 2007


Not to be outdown by his little brother, Clay is really starting to put letters and words together. You may have heard of the (sometimes unfortunate) rhymes he'll put together. He's been able to spell, and write, his name for some time now. Lately, he's been asking us to spell everything. "What spell stop?" We'll always oblige. Tonight at bedtime, he wanted to know how to spell 'cool'. 'C-O-O-l'.

"What spell 'sign'?". "That's a hard one. 'S-I-G-N'."

"What spells 'stickers'?" "S-T-I-C-K-E-R-S."

Next, smarty pants asks: "What spells 'small stickers'?"

Mother Tongue

For weeks, Drew's been babbling 'da da da da da', and I knew that it was coming. His first real word would be 'Da Da', or something paternally similar. I took an Introduction to Linguistics class back in college, where I learned that babies first say 'Da da' because the 'duh' sound is much easier to say than the 'muh' sound. Too many lip motions, or something like that. It was definitely true with Clay, and although I was a little sad when it happened, I was expecting it.

At mom's last visit two weeks ago, she noticed that Drew was babbling 'na na na na na', and theorized that it was his way of referring to me. Perhaps, but I dismissed it, smug was I with my knowledge of linguistics.

Last week, Drew started babbling 'ma ma ma ma ma'. Now, THIS was interesting. I was expecting a clear 'Da Da' first. When was that going to happen?

Today, I was at the sink getting some rice cereal ready, when I heard it, but with an unexpected clarity...

"MA MA!"

I turned around, and there was Drew, grinning from ear to ear, pleased as punch that I FINALLY got the message.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Isn't he the CUTEST!?!

Fortunately, I married a man who takes the time to e-mail me little gems such as this much needed 'pick me up'!


After school on Fridays, the Sheleheda boys' custom is to dine at McDonalds for the happy meal and cheap plastic toy of the week. Yesterday, Mike reports that the cheap plastic toy of the week was an iPodish device with the American Idol logo that played a snippet of a jazzy song. Clay was SO excited, and Mike watched him in the rear view mirror as he held the toy to his ear and bopped back and forth.

"It's just like Hannah Montana's!"

Do not ask us how he knows about Hannah Montana. For all I knew, his Playhouse Disney watching was limited to Little Einsteins, the Wiggles and Charlie and Lola. Sometimes Handy Manny. And Mike confesses that on occasion they'll catch Kim Possible. But Hannah Montana, I have no idea...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Little Too Literal

From Gran:

I asked Clay if he was allowed to bring his popcorn into the living room. He said he wasn't, so I told him to take it into the kitchen or else his Daddy'd have his butt for breakfast.

With wide-eyed earnestness, he replied: "My daddy wouldn't eat my butt!"

Monday, April 16, 2007


It's been a bittersweet few days for us. We found out this weekend that Clay's best buddy Josh won't be returning to preschool next year. We knew that when they went to kindergarten they would part ways. Josh lives several miles away, and their friendship probably wouldn't last the distance. But, it was sad news to hear that he won't be returning in the fall. We haven't told Clay yet, and probably won't until school starts next year. Bummer.

Tonight my friend Tom called. He's accepted a big new job in Los Angeles, and he and his partner Jim will be moving in a few week. They're good pals, kindred spirits, valiant souls, mensches, and great guys. I'll miss them terribly, and the pit in my stomach says this is so. Bummer #2.

The older I get, the more I realize that most friendships are fleeting, and family is generally forever. I've experienced few exceptions. I suspect Tom and Jim are exceptions to that rule, but I doubt Clay will be so fortunate this time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We have a tooth!

Drew's been really grumpy for well over a week, and today we found out why. He's cut his first tooth! I guess it's time to start singing the Captain Kangaroo tooth song to him:

Brush your teeth, round and round.
Circles small, gums and all.

A small, soft toothbrush the roundabout way
will keep your gums healthy and stop tooth decay!

So clean very carefully three times a day.
Go round and round. Round and round.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

Christos Voskres!

We celebrated a very cold, slightly snowy Pittsburgh Easter. On Saturday we went to the church for basket blessing, and that was probably the quietest moment we had. (As usual, I managed to inhale a noseful of the incense from Fr. Mike's cadilla

The Easter Bunny brought the boys a basket each. Clay's had ONE chocolate egg, and a floor puzzle and book. Then he searched for eggs. Drew's had prunes (for baby regularity), pacifiers, and a teether.

Voistynu Voskres!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tomato Thoughts

I think we're finally turning the tide of vegetable phobia in our household because tonight, Clay wanted a tomato for dinner. Not a puny cherry tomato, mind you. No, he wanted a 'great big tomato... without the seeds, please.' Yes sir... I started slicing right away and placed eight fat, heaping wedges in front of him.

Now, you may be wondering what kind of weird dinner this was for a 3 year old. I know I certainly was, but I'm not much of a cook, and since Mike's been sick this week we haven't exactly been having his home cooked meals. Mostly, we've been dining on yogurt, leftover mac 'n cheese, and cold cereal. Or whatever I can grab from the fridge or pantry that doesn't require the stove. Tonight, I picked up some sushi for myself and was going to give Clay cottage cheese when he asked for the tomato.

And how he devoured that tomato! I marvelled at his process. First, he'd slurp out the center of the wedge, and then he'd nibble the skin. He kept the pepper shaker handy, and sprinkled some before each and every bite. Happy as a clam, he even munched on some cucumber and olives from my salad. And I thought "I sort of know this kid. Like me he loves tomatoes, but where's the pepper appetite coming from?"

But, I suppose that's what kids are for. They'll have a little of you, a little of him, and a little of themselves. There's my eyes, his hair, and a mystery dimple. Not much of a taste for salt, but pass the pepper, please!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"A" Star is Born

Sunday Clay participated in his first violin concert. He played 'A', and his three classmates each played other notes. Together, they performed a Suzuki Twinkle variation, 'Mississippi Hot Dog.'

You can see the video here:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lunch with Teddy

For the past three and a half years, Mike and Clay, and now Drew, have had lunch with Great Papa about once a week. Recently, their day of choice was Tuesdays. Those days are gone, now that Papa has joined the exodus south, along with the rest of my aunt’s family.

So on this Tuesday, Mike was looking for a diversion. And since it was a beautiful day, he and the boys picked me up at work, and we drove to Roosevelt Island for a quick picnic. Being right on the Potomac, and so close to the airport, we couldn’t completely escape the hustle and bustle, but we still came pretty close.

Once you cross that footbridge and enter the woods, practically all unnatural sounds fade away, and you’re left with a dappled shade-filled serenity that ole’ Teddy would have appreciated.

After a lunch of sandwiches and apples, which even Drew enjoyed, we took a quick spin around the memorial.

Trying our best to ignore the large group of boys who were traipsing through a drained reflecting pool, and causing the park ranger much consternation, we meandered past the inspiring memorial tablets, and I found myself marveling at how appropriate the one titled ‘Youth’ was for me with my little men today.


I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.

Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.

Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character.

At that moment, we spied a woodpecker high in the tree, and as if that weren’t enough of a blessing, another joined her. This was a male, with a vibrant red plume. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. And just as Mike grabbed the camera to snap a picture, the large group of boys came up right behind us. Equally enamored with the sight, I chuckled over the chorus of ‘Cools’ and ‘Wows’. But then, I noticed the male woodpecker sidling up awfully close to the female. I knew what was about to come next. This is nature, after all.

‘Look! They’re mating!’ screamed one of the boys behind us. A slightly embarrassed chaperone smiled apologetically at me.

‘What’s mating?’ asked Clay.

Trying to quickly come up with an honest, but age appropriate answer, I grasped for words. Finally, I decided that this was a teachable moment I just couldn’t rise to.

‘Um, it’s… hey! Did you see that?’ I vaguely wave in the direction of a tree, while steering him further along the path.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rhymes with Lasagne

Now that Clay's in Sunday School, we attend church more regularly than before. Clay enjoys not having to sit and be quiet with us, and we enjoy not 'shushing' him constantly. It's a win-win! So in addition to that, and what with yesterday being Palm Sunday (and ironically, April Fool's Day, but that's another story), we made our way to church. After the service, I held onto my palm (party favor!), because I knew Clay would want it. I needn't have troubled, because as soon as we went to his classroom, he was standing at the doorway yelling "Mommy! Look at my 'Hosanya'!" (see blog post title). I look down, and he's holding a tongue depresser with a crayon colored paper palm leaf glued to it.

Hosanya indeed!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Santa Bunny, or Easter Claus

"Gran's visiting this weekend." It's bedtime, and I'm in the middle of our nightly negotiation. Clay wants me to stay as long as possible, and I'm looking forward to a couple of alone hours with Mike and a crossword puzzle. So, I'm changing the subject...

"She'll probably bring your Easter basket too." Bingo! He's no longer worried about my leaving, but is now thinking of future treats.

"Does that mean the Easter bunny's coming?" he asks.

"Not this weekend, but next."

"Oh. And then he'll come down the chimney saying 'Ho, Ho, Ho!'"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This I Know

There’s been a lot of press lately about the childhood obesity "epidemic", and it’s about to make me throw up. Kids may be getting fatter, or this may be a ‘let’s scare everyone about TV and Twinkies and get a ratings boost to boot.’

I don’t know what the press’ true motivation is, but I do know this: criticizing someone about their weight does absolutely NOTHING for their self-esteem, except break it down. If that’s your motivation, then criticize away, and you will succeed in making a fat person feel smaller (and not in a good way). When it comes to children, a primal, visceral, guttural rage starts to build in me whenever someone tells a child to watch what s/he eats. And I think “People who make comments about a person’s weight should be slapped. People who make comments about a child’s weight should be strung up by their toes.”

As long as you limit a child’s television viewing time, provide lots of opportunity for outside play, and offer a wide range of healthy food choices, let them eat up the refrigerator if they want and you can afford it! For heavens’ sake, their bodies are still GROWING.

That being said, let me confess to the hypocrisy that is my life. I am a fat woman who needs to lose at least 100 pounds. I worry about my kids' weight every day because I don’t want them to follow the same path I did. (And for the record, I was not a fat kid. My weight problem started in college, and was based primarily on other demons. But my views of food, as comfort and refuge, began in childhood.) I have recently found myself telling Clay he can’t have an extra yogurt (for example) because he just had lunch (for example). Never mind that he’s a thin, active kid. I am not a thin, active adult, and I don’t want that for him.

So why? Why? Why? Why? Why am I doing this to him? I don’t know, but I know better, and I resolve to do better by him. If anyone hears me telling him to watch what he eats, string me up by my toes. Okay?

For a reality check, read this:

We Protect Our Kids from Everything But Fear

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cooking Lessons

Tonight was pancake supper, and Clay got to help crack the eggs. While fishing the eggshells out of the bowl Mike told him he was quite the chef. Beaming, Clay ran all over the living room, saying "I'm a chef! I'm a chef!"

Fast forward to bedtime, and I'm helping Clay into his pjs. And although I'm trying to hold his underwear so he won't have to do too much of a balancing act, he grabs them out of my hand and says "I do it myself. I'm a CHEF!"

I guess he'll be ready to dress a turkey next...

REALLY Clueless Boys

This morning at preschool drop off, Clay hops out of the van and his classmate Emma greets him with a cheery "Hi Clay!".

You can probably guess what happened next:

"Hi Mia!!"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blissful Sleep

Anyone who has young kids knows that sleep is a precious commodity. Babies? Fuhgeddaboutit. What's a parent to do?

Why, pawn the kiddies off on Grandma (and aunt & uncle)!

Last night was Clay & Drew's first sleepover. And it was Mike and Nancy's first opportunity in nearly 4 years to actually sleep past 7:30!

Thanks Mom, Karen & Pete. We'll be down in a few hours. Um... promise!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Here’s how I know today is the first day of Spring. It isn’t because I checked the calendar, or because of the fine weather (actually, it was 50 degrees and a little dreary). I heard no chirping birds, and although I spied daffodils and crocuses this past week, none caught my attention this morning.

So how did I know? Every spring, the radio stations play John Fogerty’s Centerfield a LOT. And sure enough, it was on as soon I got in the car this morning. You might think I’d get tired of this song, but nothing could be further from the truth. I love it. Every time I hear the ‘Clap Clap/ Clap Clap Clap/ Clap Clap/ CLAP CLAP’, a great big smile crosses my face.

Now, I am no baseball fan. The game’s okay, but mostly I enjoy watching a game at the stadium because of the crowds. I’ll never watch a game on TV. Nevertheless, there is something so happy and so hopeful about Centerfield, I literally bounce in my seat. That very first verse, I confess I imagine Clay (and now Drew) in a little baseball cap and cleats.

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.

And by the time the song gets to this verse, I’m a little teary (it’s true!). I wonder if my dad, growing up in rural North Carolina on a little dirt farm, actually played baseball. If he did, I’ll bet he would have said this:

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.

So put me in Coach! I’m ready to play today!

Clap Clap/ Clap Clap Clap/ Clap Clap/ CLAP CLAP!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Clueless Boys

Today was Mike's day to parent aide at Clay's preschool. This happens about once a month, and it means that Clay gets to be the 'leader'. It's not quite as exciting as Christmas or birthdays, but 'Daddy's at school, I get to be the leader' day still ranks pretty high with the boy.

And on top of all the excitement, it was 'Green Party' day (aka the St. Patrick's Day Party). So, Mike and Clay went off dressed in green clothes, and bearing green snacks (lime sherbert, green apples and kiwis). Mike got to wear the big green hat, and would play the title role in the promised 'Find the Leprechaun' game.

Meanwhile, Drew and I spent some quality time at home. And by 'quality time', I of course mean helplessly trying to quiet his red-faced screaming fit due to aching gums. And by 'fit', I mean an hour long performance. This kid has stamina.

So, it was with some relief that I met Mike and Clay at school, and off we went to McDonald's for lunch. (Clay is practically beside himself at this point: 'I was the leader!', 'Daddy was at school all morning with me!' 'I get chicken nuggets AND chocolate milk!!').

At Mickey D's, as if Clay's day wasn't SUH-WEET enough already, we ran into his classmate Mia. (Tina and Mia, if you've heard the stories, are semi-groupies of Clay. He's very popular with the ladies.) Clay wants to sit next to Mia and her grandfather, which we did. And this worked well. In addition to her chicken nuggets, Mia was sampling some of her grandfather's salad. Clay was in full "copy cat" mode, so he wanted to try some of my salad. And since he normally has an aversion to anything from the vegetable food group (barring French fries), I was happy to share. Clay and Mia played with their happy meal toys together. Clay and Mia looked out the window and waved to the passing cars leaving the drive through. Clay was having a blast. And then, he made a tactical error:

'Hey Emma! Do you...'

'My name's MIA!'

Oblivious, Clay proceeds with his question. Mia looks past the oversight and sips her apple juice. A few minutes later, my boy makes the VERY SAME MISTAKE!


Exasperated, Mia reminds him (again) that her name is NOT Emma.

And I'm watching this scene, and I cringe every time he calls this little girl by the wrong name. I remember past conversations with boys I fancied, and my cheeks turn a little red because I remember experiencing the very same frustrations whenever one would commit some little innocent (albeit thoughtless or cavalier) transgression. And I wonder, 'what's wrong with him?' He knows Mia (mostly he knows her as 'Tina and Mia' b/c she's they're always together), but for some reason he has Emma on the brain. I chalk it up to the testosterone.

Mia, if it's any consolation, he sometimes calls me 'Daddy.'