Thursday, November 27, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

A Thanksgiving scene from my living room. The Macy's parade is just starting, and this is the first float:

My boys observed the following:

Clay: "A car float! Sweet!"

Drew: "Happy Lego Star Wars Day!"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Sentimental Moment

Yesterday during one of our breaks between violin lessons, Clay and I found ourselves at the campus Starbucks. We've got 3 classes with a 45 minute break in between each (clearly I don't know the correct people to bribe) so thank goodness for modern campus conveniences. Duquesne just renovated it's student union, which Mike will grumpily complain if asked that it was a dump when he went, but do keep in mind that he can be prone to hyperbole. Now, it's a centrally located building with many comfy sofas and chairs, a bank, a bookstore and a Starbucks.

We arrived in the middle of a very gray, blustery day. Pittsburgh is getting ready for winter, and the leaves where a' swirlin'. Juggling a violin case, my purse, and a tote bag, along with my five year old, I scurry to the counter and order a 'not so hot chocolate' for Clay and a venti Eggnot latte for me. Since I love the eggnog latte, I refrain from my usual comment of 'what does Venti mean, anyway?' I suspect the collegiate baristas are not in the mood. Clay skips to a corner sofa, I grab our drinks and after testing his for the appropriate level of 'not so hotness', I sip my latte and rejoice. I plop into a green velour chair next to him and check my watch... 25 minutes until we need to leave for class. Outside the glass windows a big gust of wind is pushing leaves along on their merry route, and I'm able to survey the scene.

Interestingly, for a Saturday afternoon the place is practically empty. There's a student in a hoodie sweatshirt across the room, iPod buds in ears, hairband in place, a couple of binders and books on the table. Another couple by the window, and us. "Kids today", I mutter. When I was in college, a place like this would probably have been teeming with activity. Then I look down at my $4 drink and realize that I'm wrong. My friends and I wouldn't have had the money needed to hang out in a Starbucks.

Clay's grabbed my iPhone and is playing a puzzle game, so I have nothing to occupy my brain except my thoughts. And the coffee shop music, which was very, very good. Etta James* followed by James Taylor, and then as if God was trying to yank me back 20 years, Debussy's Clair de Lune. Not that this song is significant to my college years, although that was when I first read Terrence McNally's fabulous play. No, the song itself is better than a time machine. No matter where I am, if it's playing I'm always reminded of something. It's such a beautiful piece of music. When I was pregnant with Clay I mentioned to my buddy Ed that I wanted to play that song over and over again to my belly because I had read that you should pick a calming piece of music to play to the baby in utero, and then after it's born you could play it whenever the baby was freaking out, and he would calm down. I loved this idea, and was sure that I had discovered the secret to parenthood. What foe is cholic against beautiful music? Right. The next day, thoughtful Ed gave me a cd he burned with several different versions of Clair de Lune. I spent a few nights with headphones on my belly until one of the many baby books I was reading slapped me back to reality.

The song has ended and I look up and notice that hoodie sweatshirt girl now has her head on her table. And in those few quiet moments of reflections I realized something. I am so glad I am not her. All night studying and all night socializing are long gone for me. Those problems have been replaced with far greater worries (a mortgage, a paycheck, a family). I should yearn for the days where the next paper or exam or boy occupied my thoughts. But now I have more interesting and more important considerations, as well as a consistent eight hours of sleep.

At Last!*

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It's over. Amen. We have a president-elect and took a huge step forward as a country.

This is for Clay and Drew. Years from now you will be old enough to vote, and there are a few things you must do.

First, VOTE. Don't cop out and say it doesn't matter and your opinion doesn't count. It counts. Vote. Do it.

Second, have an educated opinion. Read up on the candidates and the issues, and seek out many different sources for this information. Read the New York Times AND the Washington Times. Watch CNN and Fox News. Even if it makes you want to roll your eyes. Then when you make a decision, put it aside and take a few days to embrace the other side's views. After that, if your original decision still rings true to you, it's a good one.

And hopefully you will learn this in either a high school civics class or a college ethics course, but just in case... we need only two things in our leaders. And they are intelligence and integrity. And just like them, you also must be smart and you must be kind. If you have the brains but not the compassion so what? You have no empathy, and no soul. If you don't work hard to learn all that you can but are exceptionally nice, then people will walk all over you.

Participate. You really can do whatever you set your mind to.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Halloween

A couple of years ago we were at Disney World's Magic Kingdom a few weeks before Halloween and we got to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. That was loads of fun, and Clay really had a good time. He was a little older than 2, and I made an informal promise to myself that every year we'd do something special just before Halloween.

I say 'informal', because we haven't really done anything special ever since. When Clay was three (pumpkin costume year), we had just started our massive home renovation and the yard was completely torn up and we were beginning to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. We just went trick or treating and called it a Halloween.

When Clay was four (last year... Batman), we had just left Fairfax for Pittsburgh. In fact, Mike and Clay were travelling to Pittsburgh that afternoon. We decided to let Clay enjoy his last day at his lovely little preschool. We couldn't bear to pull him out before the big party. Thank goodness they arrived on Halloween because trick or treating in a new neighborhood gave us something else to focus on. I think we were all a little sad that day.

This year, I was determined to find a fun party to take the kids to. The Pittsburgh Zoo is supposed to be wonderful, and they have trick or treat events for the two weeks before Halloween. We've been meaning to go to the zoo all year, but haven't made it yet. What with violin and t-ball, I wasn't about to schedule anything else on the weekend. Ditto for pumpkin patches. I hear there are some great ones, but we didn't make it. HOWEVER, we are members of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, which is fantastic and I was delighted to discover that they were having a 'Spooktacular' on October 30th. Not a weekend event! We could go after work and the kids could get in their costumes and we'd all have a grand few hours at a Halloween party at the Children's Museum. Plus it was free because we were members. Great!

Except that there really wasn't a party after all. It was just extended museum hours. And please don't misunderstand... the museum's a blast and there's much to do. But when it's the night before Halloween and you're calling it a 'Spooktacular', don't you think you could have a cookie and some apple cider ready for the kids? After an hour Mike mumbled 'You know, mom & dad said they're trick or treating tonight in Ambridge and they were disappointed they weren't going to get to see the kids.' Hello! Why didn't you say something sooner? We were gone before you could say 'BOO'.

And the search for pre-Halloween fun continues. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, because I am holding everything up to the Disney bar.

Oh, and as for Halloween itself? Mike and the boys (Clay went as Batman Returns, Drew as Bob the Builder) went out with next door neighbor Darth Vader and his dad. Mike said DV's dad handed him a beer and off they went. They caught up with a group of 7 mom's escorting their children, and all the ladies had wine coolers. Then they ran into a large group of kids escorted by their parents. One of the dads had a rolling cooler he was pulling behind him. Clearly Halloween's fun for the whole family in our neighborhood! And here I was worried about the lack of progressive dinners....

I joke, but truly, they all had a lot of fun, and even though we live on a busy residential street, all of the parents worked the road and forced the cars to slow down and kept an eye on everyone's kid. It was really a nice evening, and who needs a 'planned community' to get to know your neighbors? Hooray for our new neighborhood!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Something fishy's going on

Remember Blue Blue? You'd think we would have learned, but we're attempting fish experiment # 2 (Electric Boogaloo!)

Clay wanted a dog, and when we told him no, he shifted focus and again asked for a fish. We agreed, figuring that if we got a proper aquarium, a couple of fish could be peaceful and an interesting science project for the kids. But, we wanted it to be something Clay had to work for, and so we told him that we'd get an aquarium after he learned his next violin song, Lightly Row, well enough to perform in a recital. I figured it would take him until Christmas. Of course, I overestimated. Clay worked on it for one month, and he's performing it in next weekend's recital. So, we've started preparing for a fish house.

All in all, I think we should have okay'ed the dog instead. We went to the pet store on Monday and bought a tank, filter, gravel and conditioner. This cost us $80. I balked at the stand b/c it was only a 15 gallon tank, and I figured we could find a nice flat surface for it. As we left the store, the sales clerk called helpfully: "Don't forget to make sure the tank is perfectly level. One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and a 15 gallon tank that isn't perfectly level will have too much stress on the joints."

Okay, so the quick math meant we had to find a spot for 130 pounds of weight contained in a footprint of 24 inches by 12 inches. We had nothing.

Tuesday, Mike went out to find a stand. He found one for $90, and tried to put it together before I got home. Half of the cam connectors broke, and somehow he got one of the dowels in the wrong hole and couldn't get it out. By the time I got home he was wild eyed and tousled, looking like the wild man of Borneo. I sent him out for more cam connectors and tried to get the dowel out. Clay hopped up and down eager to set up the tank. He helpfully went and put on his play tool belt, and offered us his plastic hammer for dowel dislodging. By 9 p.m., we had the tank set up, and an overtired little boy who didn't understand why we still had no fish.

Wednesday night, we went to a pet store recommended by a colleague. Goldmine! These folks were GREAT. We looked at all their freshwater tropicals, helpfully color coded by temperament and ease of care. We were focusing on the black and yellow labeled fish. "Peaceful" and "Easy" said the legend, and I started humming the Eagles. We grabbed a heater (because it was clear that freshwater tropicals instead of goldfish were the way to go) and some plastic plants. I had originally thought live plants were what I wanted, but the sales woman suggested I stick with plastic until we knew what we were doing. Clay grabbed a sunken ship and two pirate skeleton figurines. The sales woman said we needed a bacteria conditioner. Total with a 10% "new customer" discount: $75.

Have you been doing the math? We're now into this simpler-than-a-dog pet project for nearly $200. And we have yet to buy any fish.

Saturday after violin, Mike and Clay went back to the pet store. We were going to get some fish! Upon everyone's advice, we were only going to get 3 little fish. We would add two or three fish for the next several weeks until we had about 10-12 fish total. An hour after they left, Mike and Clay returned witb 3 neon tetras named Roger, Pete and Keith. We introduced them to the tank per the store's instructions and then we spent the rest of the afternoon just looking at the tank. It was all worth it! Last night we turned off the light and said goodnight to the band.

This morning the boys and I said good morning to the fish and had some toast. A little later we checked on the tank and strangely, the trio was now a duet. Mike took a look but the third, which we figured was Keith going on a bender, was still MIA. We figured he was enjoying the sunken ship, and I went off for a shower so we could get to church. As I was drying my hair, Mike came in the bathroom and said he'd found Keith in the filter. Dead. We put him in a little cup to return to the store, which was closed today. However, Mike went to PetsMart this afternoon to replace him. We didn't want to upset Clay.

Neon tetra #4, "John" was introduced to the tank at 2 pm this afternoon. At 3:30, another tetra bit the dust, for lack of an aquatically appropriate metaphor. Perhaps little Pete, for lack of his namesake's guitar, used a pirate skeleton instead and little John couldn't handle the stress? I dunno, but Clay noticed this time, and much wailing and teeth gnashing ensued.

I was concerned that we were really doing something wrong, but I couldn't figure out what. We had the water tested, and it was fine. We were introducing fish slowly. We chose easy fish. Finally a couple of comments on an aquarist's bulletin board told us the ugly truth: "Tetras: they'll either last forever or will die on you in a couple of days".

Indeed. Statistically speaking, that's about right. We bought 3 + 1 tetras and now have two. Both tetras and rock stars could use an intervention.

True Confessions

Tonight at dinner Clay had to get something off his chest.

"Mommy, do you remember a few weeks ago when I told you that my favorite color was blue and not red? Well... I was wrong. It's really red. Sorry."

Glad we got that straight!

Friday, October 10, 2008

We interrupt this crisis for a momentary diversion

Never mind that the world's economy is on the verge of collapsing...

Or that this presidential election is getting uglier and uglier...

Or that my diet is completely derailed and I'm a little depressed...

I give you a boy and his bubble mower!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Something to Celebrate

Ooh! But here's hope for our future.... Clay's READING! He's recognizing so many words, and I just couldn't be prouder. Every night he goes through his library book and sounds out new words. This week he's reading Red Fox and His Canoe.

And Drew! Drew's doing so well in preschool. Mike says that now when he drops him off, Drew says 'Bye Bye Daddy', and if Mike doesn't leave immediately, Drew comes back and says 'Daddy, kiss. Bye bye!'.

Plus we moved him to a big boy bed tonight. And just like that, I'm out of babies...

My head hurts

I just finished watching the VP debates, and now I need to crack open a great big bottle of Advil. I'm just so sad that I can't get excited about any candidate. And I have to wonder if this is a sign of the times? Are the days gone when the average person (Joe Sixpack as Sarah Palin says ad nauseum... ugh) can't get excited about a candidate? Has the media killed our enthusiasm with constant overexposure? CNN had a 'special' for HD viewers... in the side bars you could watch SIX pie charts with analysts 'scoring' the candidates during the whole shebang. I'm a little cross eyed now... and my head hurts from trying to count the score cards., I had thought, would have an online discussion going. Nope, they've moved into 'tweets', which I just can't take seriously. CBS had a little game where you could pick which state would go to which candidate and watch the electoral votes build. ABC and NBC had live blogs, but they weren't refreshed all that often. I should know. I clicked 'Refresh' so much my index finger is a little sprained.

We are on the verge of something truly historic... for the first time we will NOT have two white guys running this country. So why am I all 'Meh' about these choices? Electing a president should be about voting for competence and intelligence. Instead it's a popularity contest. Our parties have embraced mediocrity, and that's all I see whenever I listen to the radio, watch TV, read the paper, surf the 'net. Disappointing.

Of course, I could be just completely pissed off that my retirement accounts have lost 10% of their value in September. Oy vey. Forget the Advil. Somebody hand me a drink.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Egad!... School's started!

I'm the worst mom blogger in the world... Clay started kindergarten a month ago and I haven't posted one word about it.

You know what's weird about kindergarten? We have yet to talk with his teacher in any meaningful way. By the first day of preschool, I was on a first name basis with his teacher and I had her email address. With kindergarten, I've only managed a 'Hi, I'm Clay's mom' at the ice cream social. I didn't even get to shake her hand since she was on duty and her arm was up to its elbow in an ice cream carton.

I'm looking forward to November just so I can attend a conference and find out how my kid's doing in public school.

Oh! And on top of all that, Drew started preschool. We were quite worried because he's the youngest in the class, and he's a handful. But you know, he's surprised us all. He's doing really well, and he hasn't had any separation issues. His teacher mentioned that he was hitting, but we've pretty much gotten that under control with 'keep your hands to yourself.' The kindergarten could take some cues from the preschool on parental communication.


My brother's requested more posting... I shall comply!

We've been enjoying a nice visit from Gran. She always makes the trek for birthdays, and in September we celebrate both Drew's and Mike's. It's a birthday extravaganza! Drew turned two, and he got a cowboy hat, Playdough, and a trampoline. That last one is more a gift for me than him. I'm tired of kids jumping on our couch! Mike at first was quite enthusiastic about the trampoline. That is, until it arrived and he had to put it together. Three hours, a quart of sweat and four people later, it was done. And we're never taking it apart.

In other news... who's ready for the presidential election to be over? Can I get an AMEN?!?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Do not be fooled by this boy.

He looks like a mild mannered blue eyed angel

But in truth, he is precocious. And his lungs have tremendous capacity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


'Tis the season for yummy tomato sandwiches!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008


While I wait for Google Video to process the Speedy Delivery video, it occurs to me that I don't think I posted this video from Clay's June recital. He's a Twinkle master now!

Not necessarily the sum of its parts

Today we took the boys back to the Children's Museum for the "Welcome to Kindergarten" event. And what a pile o' loot we came away with! Clay got a 'Class of 2021' tee-shirt, I picked up a bunch of info about PA's 529 plan, Mr. McFeely from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was there signing autographs and he graciously let us take so many pictures and Mike got tons of video of Clay talking to him ("Speedy Delivery!") Loads of scholastic books (free!), and other tchotchkes changed hands. After a quick snack, we headed over to the local health system's "nutrition" table where they gave the boys each a toothbrush, and Clay got to spin the "kid food" quiz wheel. He landed on a PB & J sandwich, and his question was: what's the healthiest part of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich?

"The JELLY!" he said so proudly. The woman shook her head and said it was the OTHER ingredient.

"Oooh! The BREAD!" Um, no... the very amused woman told him it was still the OTHER sandwich ingredient.

Clay thought a moment, and then I could tell he'd figured it out. "Oh right... It's the OTHER piece of bread!"

Friday, August 01, 2008

Previously on Parenting Book Junkie

Well... that was an exhilarating round of posting wasn't it? What? What's that you say? You didn't SEE any posts? Didn't you get the secret code that told you where to find the treasure map that led you to the stash of invisible ink I had prepared especially for my blog? No? Well that IS a shame...

Sunday, July 20, 2008


One of my biggest parenting worries is whether or not I'm a good steward of my kids' psyches. Let me 'splain...

Clay's now five (wow!), and he is and has always been just the most wonderfully sweet, happy, thoughtful kid. A model little boy. Just lovely. Not that he's perfect, no one is, but man, this kid comes close. He's got the mechanics down (please, thank you, hand shaking, "I love you mom" whenever I need it and often when I don't), and the good nature to go along with it. Everyone who meets him is so in love with him. He's only had two tantrums in his short lifetime, and he's a great sleeper. Not that those are the most important descriptors of his little person, but as a mother, I gotta give him props for those. Easy child to raise.*

But now that he's five (wow again), I've started noticing a little attitude. It started as a smidgen of sass "all RIGHT already, I KNOW." I ignored it. Then it moved into experimentation with slang and/or swearing "SHOOT!" (not to be confused with his swearing of a few years ago... that was just repetition without understanding. Now, he knows what he's trying to say.) I told him there were far more interesting words to use, but really, how bad is saying "SHOOT" anyway? It's one little vowel sound away from the big kahuna. But maybe I should worry about that once it's said?

Here's my point (and I do have one): lately, he's turned into the master of manipulation. Of the Eddie Haskell variety.

Anytime he does something that he knows we won't like, like tripping his little brother on purpose, or throwing something, or flopping on the floor, he'll start immediately into a barrage of "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. I'm really, really, REALLY sorry." Except that he isn't. Or at least his tone indicates that he's not. I've tried talking to him about sincerity, and how I don't believe his apologies, especially since they're over the top, but I'm either not conveying the concept well, or it's a concept he's too young to grasp, which I doubt.

Lately, he's pretty good at whining and/or crying fits that border hysteria whenever he's asked to do something he doesn't want (like clean up the toy room). "It's too hard for me. I can't do it" is a common refrain.

And so I'm getting a little frustrated with my sweet boy. I fluctuate between insisting that he bend to my will and cuddling/comforting my baby boy. Mixed messages abound. Which is why I say I worry about his little psyche. I want him to "toughen up", but I also don't want him to lose that wonderful sensitivity he has.

Wow... this is much longer than I anticipated. Let me sum up: I think he's just exercising his independence and learning his boundaries. I've got to figure out what they are so he can grow up into a well adjusted person with a good balance of selflessness/selfishness.

No pressure.

*Don't worry Drew... I've got a post about you coming up later. You're a great kid too.

Quantity, not quality

One of my favorite bloggers is trying to blog once a day for a week, and I thought "I can do that." Or more accurately, I thought "I should do that." Since I'm lucky to post once a month, and she started this a few weeks ago, it remained "just a thought." Until now.

But now I'm ready! Starting today, I'm going to post once a day. Whether I have something to say or not. Don't say you weren't warned...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dog Days

I'd like to say that I have a good reason for not writing.   But, no.  

Hours after my last post I found out that a close relative was killed in a car accident, and then another had a serious health issue.  Later that day a huge problem happened at work, and my phone was off and I missed it.  By the end of Father's day, I sent Mike and the boys off to his mother's for dinner, and I just laid on the couch feeling blue.


It's been a month, and we've had a lovely vacation, and except for all that, it's been a pretty good summer.  I'll try to be more faithful to this.  Until next time, here's a picture of Clay with his summer hair cut.  It's pretty short, and I still catch myself staring.  I'm calling him 'Spike'.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dear Mike

Just last week we had our first child, and you cried.

Day before yesterday we had our second child, and you laughed.

This morning amidst the chaos of toaster waffles, sippy cups, violin cases and lost tennis shoes chased by 'where are my keys?', surrounded by the clutter of Matchbox cars and permission slips and unfolded laundry and junk mail needing filing you were there making sure everyone was headed to where they needed to go with the stuff they needed to have with them.  And you had a smile on your face.

Our boys are really lucky to have you.  So am I.

Happy Father's Day.

Dear Dad

A million and a half years ago, you used to take me to your store on Sunday afternoons. I probably complained a bit, but it was nifty being the only one of the neighborhood kids who got free roam of an empty paint store. Wallpaper rolls make cool swords.

A million years ago, we would walk home from church on Sunday afternoons, and you taught me to run and click my heels. I never could get as high as you. And I suspect that my ankles made contact more often than my heels.

A half million years ago, you would bug me to make my bed in the mornings. One Sunday I forgot and you had me make it three times after church. You stripped it each time and then told me to go make it again. When I was done, I short sheeted your bed. You never said a thing, and I don't recall you ever saying anything about my bed after that. Suspiciously, the door to my room would be closed more often than not, though. Anyway, thanks for receiving as good as you gave. No hard feelings?

A quarter million years ago you dropped me off at college, and in the awkward goodbye on the dormitory steps, you gave me a hug and handed me some money and told me to be good. I went up to my room eager to embrace my new independence, but worried about being more on my own than ever before. I was too old for wallpaper swords and hadn't the courage for heel clicking on campus. No one cared if I made my bed anymore, or to close my door so they wouldn't have to look at the mess. But then your letters started to arrive, and I knew that no matter how independent I became, I'd always have roots.

Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cheektowaga White!

My how half a score will just fly by! Last Friday was our 10th anniversary, so to celebrate we called in the grandparents and took off for a weekend at Lake Chautauqua (a town that surely was the inspiration for Gary, Indiana a la The Music Man). Good weekend, although it was off to a rocky start (see Magnus Patris for blown tire story). Our goal? Celebrate us, take a golf lesson, and sample some wine, not necessarily in that order. Last summer I did a day trip wine tour with some preschool moms, and had such a good time I wanted to go again but with Mike.

Unlike the wineries in Leesburg, the Lake Erie wine samplings are FREE.... and much tastier than those in Virginia (but I'm a sweet wine drinker, and the Niagara grape seems to be the thing to grow in this region). We came home with 16 (yes 16) bottles, and since I'm a one glass a week wine drinker this should keep us stocked for quite a while. So far my favorite is Penn Shore Vineyard's Lambruscano because it's so fragrant. But our stop at Schloss Doepken takes the cake just for sheer amusement's sake. After following the directions, we pull up not in front of a store, but a farm house. The sign told us to come on in, so we did, calling out b/c it didn't appear anyone was home. "I'm a'comin' said this voice, and around the corner is J. Simon Watso, vintner and proprieter. He's wearing red suspenders, leaning on a cane, and was 85 if he's a day. We spend 15 minutes just listening to him gripe about a double hip replacement, reading a 'recent' article (published in 1993... "read the first page and the first column", said he) about his winery, and patiently waiting to taste one of the 12 bottles he had lined up on the counter. He handed me a bottle and told me to read the label aloud. I got about halfway through, finishing with the winery's history, and moving onto the wine's description when he yanked it out of my hand and said "that's for me!" OKAY! Next, he pulled out a stack of little plastic cups (Mike thinks they were Nyquil cups, but I maintain they were little communion cups), and he said "These are the rules of the house: We don't dump. We don't gargle. We don't spit, or any of those affectations." And we were off. For each wine, he had a precise description which he re-enacted with gusto:

This is an exceptional oak aged Chardonnay. It's perfect for any special occasion such as Thanksgiving, or even just with grilled .....SWORDFISHHHHH.

This is CHEEKtowaga WHITE. CHEEKtowaga is a little town outside of Buffalo, where I used to fly out of, and I figured if we named a wine CHEEKtowaga WHITE, and everyone from CHEEKtowage bought a bottle, we'd be SOLVENT.

This is September Rouge. On a late summer evening if you drive down Route 20 with the windows down, this is what you'll SMELL.

At the end (we were there 30 minutes, when mercifully another couple entered), we felt like we had to buy some of his wine. And actually, Mike really liked his Apple Crisp wine (meant to be served warm). Two bottles of that, a bottle of the house wine, September Rouge (my favorite), and CHEEKtowaga WHITE. Just because there was a pink flamingo on the front. On our way down the gravel path Mike wondered which of us would be blogging about him first. I guess I win!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fare thee well, Mrs. Greenthumbs

Now that we have a new house, and I'm done having babies, and life seems to be settling down, I'm turning my attention to yard work. Knowing that a green thumb is cultivated, not created, I pulled out my one and only gardening book: Cassandra Danz' Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I turned a Boring Yard Into a Glorious Garden and How You Can Too. Perhaps you remember her? Mrs. Greenthumbs had a regular appearance on Regis and Kathie Lee as well as the Today show. Her wacky sense of humor (really OUT there) was just so much fun. Her book is hilarious, and I've had it for years, which is about how long it's been since I've read it. But I wanted to mentally prepare myself for a FUN experience (gardening is not really my idea of fun. Work, yes. Fun, not so much. I'd much rather have the garden without the gardening.) And I ask you: what's a new project without a new purchase? Off to Amazon I went to get another one of her books, where I discovered that they're OUT OF PRINT! Heavens to murgatroid... get me to Google ASAP! And this is what brought me to a very sad revelation... Mrs. Greenthumbs died six years ago of cancer! She was 55 years old. And I'm just so sad about that. Of course I didn't know her personally, but I felt like I did (she wrote in a stream of consciousness style that made you feel like she was talking to you). I guess with the kids and the old house renovation, I missed that news (it was in the New York Times for heavens' sake!) I'm sad that this gifted gardener, hilarious woman and all around happy sounding person is no longer around. Tragic.

So in tribute to Mrs. Greenthumbs, I did make a purchase tonight. Spring Hill Nursery had a coupon (she would have appreciated the thriftiness), and there's a lilac bush, a butterfly bush, two Shasta daisies, six daylilies, two Sedum and a jumbo perennial grab bag headed my way. I'm pulling out the graph paper and am starting to plan.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Things I Learned Today

1. Sam's Club photos really stink.
2. Wet evening grass in an early Pittsburgh May is REALLY COLD on bare feet.
3. My patio is 12 feet deep by 24 feet wide.
4. I'm a glutton for punishment.

Anyone have any ideas for what I can do to spruce up this yard? Consider that most of our yard is being torn up in a few weeks to rebuild a retaining wall, and that I have two small children who will want to help.

And while you're thinking on that... what colors should we paint the door, front porch and trim? That's going to need repainting soon, and the beigy beige beige-icity that is my house leaves me so drowsy I can barely stay awake. It's a swell house, we're enjoying it but GOSH... can you say VANILLA??? You get points for creativity. And by points I mean I won't hit you up to babysit the boys.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thanks Chuck!

Every couple of years I go on a fruitless quest. I do not seek knowledge or wealth or wisdom, but nostalgia. Which is why I thank God for eBay. What did people do before online auctions? I want to know. Scratch that, I don't really care because my search is over.

Ah Charlie Brown, how I missed thee! I have no idea how many hours I spent going through this book as a kid, but I do know that I should have saved it because it's taken me YEARS to find it again. My Grandma Askew also had these huge Peanuts anthologies that I would read over and over again, and I have no idea where they are. But thanks to eBay, I think I've found one of them. Can't wait to share these with the boys in a few years. Until then, they're all mine!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Skinned noses and soccer balls

Where did March go? Could someone please call lost and found because I seem to have misplaced it. Oh never mind, I won't complain. Especially since it means spring is finally here, a concept that is still mainly theoretical since I drove through a brief flurry on my way to work.

We have spent this week, regardless of today's chilly weather, enjoying our new neighborhood. We knew that a little boy Clay's age lived next door and we finally got to meet him on Sunday. And then, hooray! Our neighbors on the other side have a little boy Drew's age. It's as if this house was meant for us because it's perfectly sandwiched between built in playmates for my boys.

And for some reason, serendipity smiled on us once again because I remembered JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME that Clay wanted to play soccer this spring. I had no idea where he would do this, since there are many jurisdictions here, but I let my fingers do the walking and lo and behold, I found a website for the local soccer club, and online registration was closing in two hours!

It's scary how quickly I can drop $80. And how easily I'm guilted, for of course, they wanted parent volunteers.

It's even scarier how quickly I volunteer my husband for these things.

So I'm not sure why I was surprised when the team roster came out, and there near the top was Mike's name. As assistant coach. Funny, I could swear I signed him up for website duty. My normally good natured husband was less than amused. "I know nothing about this sport... the best I can do is say: 'Don't use your hands..... Don't use your hands.... DON'T USE YOUR HANDS!'" I tried to assure him that a 4 year old soccer team coaching job is probably more akin to herding cats than building skill sets. He wasn't convinced. "Would you please volunteer yourself next time?" Um...sure?

Clay is thrilled, though. We went up to the local soccer store tonight and picked up his jersey, his soccer ball, socks and shin guards. He wanted to carry it all to the car. Even as he dropped his parcels in the parking lot, the most he would acquiesce to letting me carry was the socks. When I told him I really thought he should let me carry something else he handed me the receipt.

So we made soccer registration by the skin of our nose. Drew has not been so fortunate. The other day we went for a walk, and he took off down our driveway. Before I could catch him, he took a nose dive right on the concrete. The poor little boy now has a healing wound on his nose and upper lip in the shape of Florida. Mike commented that if it was only a little higher, he'd at least look like Gorbachev. I wish I saw the humor in it because it's just painful to look at (not that he seems to mind). I can't quite take my eyes off of it, and by the stares and flinches from the neighbors and the other people at the store, neither can they.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Scenes from our winter

We finally downloaded the pictures off the camera, and that, coupled with yesterday's trip to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum (we have a two year membership now... thanks Mom!), lit the proverbial fire that I needed to post some photos!

Here's some of the boys enjoying their new playroom (also known as our furniture-less living room):

May the force be with you!

Sundays is when Baba and Gigi usually visit. We'll have lunch and then Clay and Baba will dance to Ukrainian Radio hosted by Komichak (Gigi's favorite program):

On Mondays and Fridays, Drew enjoys his play gym at the YMCA. His favorite activity is the slide, where he always says "Whee! Happy!" on his way down.

Not that it's all play and dancing around here. There's also a healthy dose of art appreciation.

Gran always has good composition, but I think she could have been bolder with the indigo in her shadows here.

And we have had a bit of snow, which means Clay could finally go sledding!

Of course, the day of the snow a 3 year old in a neighboring county was killed while sledding. His older brother was watching out for cars, but didn't see the car until after his brother had started down the hill. So now I can add that to my list of paranoias.

And last but certainly not least... the children's museum! Pittsburgh was home to Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and the children's museum has an entire exhibit called 'The Neighborhood' with the trolley, tv cameras, a puppet theater like the one from the Neighborhood of Make Believe with replicas of King Friday and Lady Elaine. The actual puppets were also on display (behind glass of course). I actually got a little teary when I saw Henrietta Pussycat.

The museum is housed in the old Buhl Planetarium, and the actual planetarium is where the car garage exhibit is. The kids had fun climbing though the doorless mini Cooper. Because the ceiling is the former planetarium, it was extra tall so the kids can climb up and throw down toy parachutes. Then, they slid down a chrome slide.

But it was in the fabulous water play area, which is where I suddenly remembered that I HAD A CAMERA!, and then sadly realized that the camera's battery HAD VERY LITTLE JUICE LEFT, which is why we really only have pictures of the waterplay area. They were soaked, and had so much fun that Drew pitched a fit when it was time to leave.

Happy March! May Spring not be far away...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Speaking of my musical kid

Clay likes to sing, which he'll do a lot, usually to some tune that we've just heard on the radio. I'm happy to report that usually it's something worthwhile. Something from the Suzuki lesson, perhaps. Or Tom Chapin, or even the Who (with the appropriate word substitution, a la "Who's that duck with you?")

Tonight, he couldn't stop singing "Free credit report DOT COM!"

I think it's time to cut back on his TV time.

A violin update

One thing that I haven't mentioned recently which I've been meaning to, is how much we're enjoying Clay's new violin school. It's just amazing what one year and an organized program makes! He goes to City Music Center at Duquesne University, and he takes three classes each Saturday: group violin, a Dalcroze Eurhythmics class, and then a private lesson. We have about an hour between two of the classes, which is just enough time for us to have a bag lunch, and then hit the computer lab. He's really enjoying the Music Ace software, he knows what an octave is, and the kid can recognize A, B and C# on the treble staff. I don't know why that impresses me, but it does. Plus, he's learned his first scale (A Major), and in a few weeks he'll perform his first solo piece in a recital -- a complete Twinkle rhythm. Last year, he could only play small parts of the rhythm, and only with a lot of coaching. Now, he's just a big kid with a beautiful violin posture, going through the notes of his very first song.

I love you, Monopoly Jr.

Remember my post about Family Game Night? Well, now it's a blast thanks to our recent acquisition of Monopoly Jr. (Thank you Tricia and Marty!) It's too advanced for Drew, but it's just right for Clay, and it's perfect for the adults who enjoy the game, but don't want a huge time commitment. Highly recommended!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mucho Magnus

If you haven't been to Magnus Patris lately, please head on over. Mike's started a top 10 of Pittsburgh that I'm enjoying. Even if he did out my Oram's habit

It's not all about the weather

An update: 3 degrees this morning. THREE DEGREES! The high is going to a balmy 17. And all of the area schools were on a two hour delay because of the temperatures. That’s right, PITTSBURGH has delayed school due to extreme COLD.

All of this would be fine, except that we have two boys under the age of five, and we were really, really, REALLY looking forward to taking Clay to preschool, and getting Drew some YMCA KidsGym time. But since school was delayed, preschool was closed, and the program was off at the Y. And we (or rather, Mike) had another cold day at home cooped up with the boys. I, however, sprinted to work. Because yesterday was nothing but a cacophony of “Stop that!” “Get off!” “Well, what did you think would happen?” “I’m counting to 3, and then it’s time out!” And truly, I hate it when we get impatient with the kids. They are boys after all, and they can’t help the testosterone surges (Clay’s preschool teacher once told me that 4 year old boys have up to 100 testosterone surges every 15 minutes). We really need to get them to an indoor play area whenever we can’t get them outside.

Sorry kids.

It's not all chaos, though. Clay and I have recently gotten into a very sweet Sudoku habit. It started when I found a glass Sudoku kit at Tuesday Morning. (Which, it turns out, is completely silly. What do you need the glass for? Just put the tiles directly on the grid!) Anyhoo, Clay pestered me for a few days to play it, and I would try to not roll my eyes at the thought of a 4 year old playing Sudoku with me. (Have I mentioned what a wonderfully relaxing, SOLITARY, game Sudoku is? Well it is. I even have a game for my phone so that I can play it in those rare moments when I am not at work and sans children.) But Clay's persistent, and he no longer forgets about things even if I conveniently 'misplace' them. He didn't want to do the kids' Sudoku that we found on a children's placemat. "I don't want the baby Sudoku. I want yours." So I relented. And truly, it's been a very nice way to end the day. We put Drew to bed at about 7:30, and then we'll pull out the Sudoku set. He sorts the tiles. I tell him where to place them. He'll say things like "Mommy, I'm afraid I'm out of sixes." So, I'll hand him some more sixes. I try to point out the logic in the game, and to remind him that he shouldn't guess, but those concepts are still a little too advanced. He's my little Sudoku helper. And I've found that it can be a relaxing game for two too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

We interrupt this previously scheduled season to bring you...

Sixty degree temperatures! Because of course, when you move to Pittsburgh and you purchase an entire preschool/toddler wardrobe of snow hats, boots, mittens, ski bibs, a couple of sleds and oh, what the hell... throw in some long underwear for Mom, it would naturally follow that Mother Nature has a freakish sense of humor. At least in my life, it does. So I'm really not sure why I was so surprised. Oh winter, where are you??

This is what I was thinking at the beginning of this week. Although it was warm, it sadly wasn't a "nyah nyah groundhog pbthbhthb!" sunny oasis kind of day. It was dreary and wet. So gray, in fact, that I resurrected my light box from last year's bought of pregnancy depression, and basked in the blue LED goodness at my desk. And then this morning... BAM! Winter returned. With 60 mph winds, and a high temp of 20 degrees. A few snow flurries, but still nothing we're able to bring out the sleds for.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Sweet FiOS

It took the Verizon guy SIX and a HALF hours, but we have FiOS! Can you smell it? That's the sweet scent of high definition cable channels. We just finished watching American Gladiators in high def (yes, I LOVE AG... that Wolf is crazy!), and now we can do cool things like look up the gladiators' real names because... wait for it... we also have an internet connection! Oh internet, how I missed thee...

Now I'm off to watch something that I couldn't see previously with our rabbit ears.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Clayton Millard Frank, 1911 - 2008

Tough weekend. We officially moved into our house last Friday, and then my grandfather died on Sunday. He had been in and out of the hospital for about 10 days, and he was in some pain. For some reason, I was convinced that he wasn’t going to die now. I thought he was too ornery. But after receiving a three day pain patch, he went peacefully that morning. Although I am tremendously sad to have lost him, and that I didn’t get to see him once more, I am relieved that he is no longer in pain and that he can be the kid at the family table again. Several years ago, before his sister died, he commented that he was running out of relatives. I’m now grandparent-less and I understand. Here’s what I said at his funeral:

Someone once told me that the reason there is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren is because they are each closer to another life. It’s a reincarnationist’s theory, for sure. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I follow that particular philosophy, but I do believe that the people who are special to us, those that really matter and have a tremendous impact on who we become, couldn’t be in our lives via random happenstance. Somewhere in the grand plan, the people who belong together find each other. This is why I believe that this man, Clayton Frank, was the perfect grandfather for me because he had the qualities that I needed to learn in order to become the person I am today.

Papa liked to work with his hands. He had a very nice workshop that he liked toodling around in. Many didn’t know that he owned a patent, on a clamp he developed while working at the Defense General Supply. Even though the clamp never went into production, I don’t think he cared. He just liked being inventive. He built a desk for me for school, and a wheelbarrow for my son Clay. Some projects turned out better than others. He seemed to always be working on a lawn mower. In college I rented a house with some friends, and he gave us a lawnmower to use. Unfortunately, to get it to start you’d have to do something crazy, like stand on one foot, stick out your tongue, lean WAYYYY over, and then pull the cord. It would cut half the lawn, die, and then we’d call him and he’d drive an hour to bring up another. He was always generous, with his time as well as his things. If you needed anything, you’d only have to ask. He taught me that being loyal and generous were better than anything else, and I’m grateful to him for many things, but for that especially.

Definitely not the most eloquent eulogy, and it certainly doesn't do justice to the man that he was, but I found myself speaking unexpectedly. The day before I had drafted something for the minister to read (also not the best thing I’d ever written, but hey, I was not in the best place emotionally), but it became clear at the gravesite that he couldn’t read what I wrote. He was also having a bad day, and the service he had just led was evidence to it. I didn’t want his bad day to turn my grandfather’s final day into crap. So Mike (bless him) asked the minister right then and there if he’d mind if I read what I wrote. He didn't. And I did.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I knew they served some purpose

Well, of course.

h/t Mopsy


I’m pleasantly surprised that a few of you have missed me! How sweet! It’s very gratifying to hear from friends who enjoy these pedestrian musings of mine… thank you!!

Life is chugging along here in Pittsburgh. We’ve purchased a house, a 10 year old colonial in a good, but HUGE school district that is only 20 minutes from my work. We couldn’t be happier with a house even if we’d built it ourselves. Closing on the place was, of course, full of awkwardness. But so what else is new? Home sales and purchases for us always seem full of drama. No exceptions this time. Our seller’s husband died 5 years ago and for some reason even though the house was paid off, she took out a line of credit on it 2 years ago to build a smaller place in the neighborhood. Then, she put our house on the market, where it SAT for two years and four realtors. We’re not sure if she never got the price she expected for it, or what, but I guess when our offer came through in November, she took it. And from what we hear, it was much lower than the original asking price from two years ago. Fast forward a few weeks to closing, and I guess the sentimentality, regret, whatever all kicked in, and that coupled with the realization that she was getting hit with lots of fees for closing out her credit line, and she was one angry, sad woman. Tears were shed at the table, and she commented that she wanted her old life back. Awkward, awkward stuff. I was pretty depressed for her the rest of the evening (because I’m sure I’d be one ticked off, angry woman if something happened to Mike). I hope she’s doing better, and maybe selling this house will help her close a chapter in her life.

On to the schools… North Allegheny has really good schools, but it’s a monstrously huge district. So big, in fact, that they’ve split the high school in half. Ninth and Tenth graders go to an intermediate high school, and eleventh and twelfth graders attend a senior high school. We must have seen 50 houses between this district and the next one over that is much smaller, but ultimately the house materialized in North Allegheny. So, we’re going to have the most well adjusted average kids, and that’s just fine with us. Mike pondered the shock kids who are “big fish swimming in small ponds” must have when they go off to college, and I agree. Plus, in big schools there are always smaller groups in which Clay and Drew will find their niche.

We’ve spent the last two weeks having carpets replaced and rooms painted, and our officially move in is fast approaching. We’re all very excited!