Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Place That I'd Rather Be

Around 6:15 a.m. today, Boo picked up his guitar and greeted the day (which had already been underway for about an hour) by performing a cover of Billy Joel's "Piano Man." He shuffled the words around a bit, making it into an autobiographical tune of sorts called "Guitar-o Man," but there was absolutely no mistaking the melody.

"Piano Man" always brings me back to one of my favorite nights ever: an early summer's evening in June 1995 when The Dean and I occupied a corner table at Tony's Steak and Seafood Restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, listening to my uncle play the piano for hours on borrowed time. (He would pass away 10 months later.)

Fast forward 13 years later to this morning with Boo switching up his lyrics with Billy's. And that was completely fine with me, given that I wasn't in the mood to explain the concept of "making love to his tonic and gin" before my first sip of coffee. Nonetheless, Boo and I started singing at the top of our lungs.

"Well, John at the bar is a friend of mine," I sang, leading Boo along. "He gets me my drinks for freeeeeee. And he's quick with a smoke and to light up your joke and there's no place that I'd rather beeeeeeeeeeeeee ..."

Overhearing this from upstairs, The Dean started to laugh. "Did you say 'quick with a smoke and to light up your joke'?" Our laughter became louder than our singing.

Hey, what can I say? Listening to my little guy playing the guitar, singing his heart out in the living room, and all of us laughing together ... at 6:15 a.m., there was no place that I'd rather be.

Today's Post is Brought to You by the Letter "E"

This is a blog post in which the humor will only be understood by those who were acquainted with The Dean and his friends in their formative years (or who were the friends in those formative years.) This won't make any sense to the rest of you.

OK, for those of you still with me, Boo brought a worksheet home today. Apparently they were practicing words beginning with a capital letter E, and which also had a variation of lower case letters. The sample words that they had to practice writing?

Elsa and Elvis.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First Grade Financial Bailout

Nobody prepared me for this non-stop assault on our finances.

Oh, I'm not talking about Fannie, Freddie, or our 401k (although like everyone else's that's probably shot to hell). I'm talking about first grade.

During the first month of school, each kid has brought home the following:

  • a Market Day fundraising packet (I actually think this is a decent fundraiser, although a pricey one)
  • another separate, non-Market Day fundraising packet
  • a sign up form encouraging parents to join the PTA (the class with the most sign-ups by a certain date gets an ice cream party! During the school day!)
  • a brochure about the new system for paying for lunches (OK, that's important ... unless I'm sending in the Market Day food that I've yet to purchase). But instead of writing a check or doling out cash like last year, some genius thought up some online system - which I wouldn't have a problem with, except they charge a freakin' fee every single time I want to add money into my kids' accounts.
  • a Scholastic Books order form

We're only good for one or two fundraisers per season, if that. As irksome as these seemingly daily requests are, they don't bother me too much. What I have an issue with is when they guilt the parents into supporting these events by using the kids. Take this note that came home tonight as an example:

Dear Parents and Families,

Today your child visited the Scholastic Book Fair. [Oh, crap, that's a biiiiigggg problem. My kids love books. The Book Fair is sheer, unadulterated nirvana for my kids.] On the reverse side of this form are the books they would like to purchase. If you would like to purchase any or all of these books, please return this form with the appropriate amount of money (either cash or check). Please also take a moment to indicate the following:

- My child may purchase only the books circled on their wish list. [Depends on how many that is. I mean, I have 1,937 books on my Shelfari.com Wish List that I'd like to read too.]

- My child may purchase books in addition to the ones circled on their wish list. [Oh, absolutely, what the hell. How about this: "Instead of buying groceries this month, Betty and Boo can feed their minds with the books they want."]

- In the event a book from their list needs to be ordered, my child may decide to purchase a different book [Uh, no. Back in my day, that was known as "Oh, well, guess you're shit out of luck.")

- We would like to purchase one of the books from my teacher's wish list. [Yeah, I would like to do this ... and we probably could ... but on Open House night, I could have sworn I saw a pretty nice elementary school library that my taxes pay for and which looked sufficiently stocked.]

And on the back of their respective forms, both kids listed their Wish List books. With the prices. Betty's books come to $18. Boo's come to $32. These ten books are equivalent to a tank of gas.

Don't misunderstand: I love books, and I love that my kids love books. I bought them books before they were born. We hit the library at least once, sometimes twice, a week. For the first time in my life, I have a room in my house that is legitimately called "the library" and it is my most favorite place to be. It's chock full of books - mine and the kids' - and I wouldn't have it any other way. So, I'm definitely not against buying books ... in fact, it's a bit of a weakness of mine.

But, given that the Dow had just dropped 700 points today in the midst of this economic hell we're in, it's probably prudent not to give the kids carte blanche in thinking we can buy everything they want. Since I realized that in the kids' minds, these books were already bought, I proposed a financial bailout. Daddy and I would buy the books, I said, but with this understanding: they would have to earn half the money themselves. We'll pay half. I informed Betty that her portion would be nine dollars. Once she earned that, the books would be hers.

She looked aghast. "Nine dollars???"

"Yes, nine dollars."

"How can I earn nine dollars?"

Good, we're getting somewhere, I thought. "You can clear off the table," I replied. "Then set it." She complied and then quickly scurried off. I realized she was "earning" her money by searching the entire house for loose change (very enterprising, that Betty).

It's a start. We'll see how this works. I'm not expecting immediate change. But for tonight, it gives me small comfort that this particular bailout passed in our House.

Bumper Sticker

Great bumper sticker that I saw on this morning's commute:
The Bush Legacy: Leave No Child a Dime.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How to Spend Only $9.50 a Week at the Grocery Store

Yes, you too can spend $9.50 at the grocery store for a week's worth of groceries for a family of four. I did so this very morning.

I'll give you a step-by-step chronology of how I accomplished this - without coupons, even.

1. Have your day meticulously planned out. Your husband is working all day making a presentation to his Board, so it's quality time for mommy and the cherubs for a good 8 hours and then some.

2. Drive Boo to Acting Class, realizing en route that you don't have the slightest clue how to get there. Rely on son's autistic memory to tell you. When son is correct, look at this as a positive benefit to said autism.

3. Realize that you have forgotten to bring cash for son to get a snack during Acting Class. Scrounge around in crevices of minivan for change. Come up with $1.25 in dimes and one quarter and hope that his breakfast provided sufficient nutritional benefits to get him through the rigors of "A Year With Frog and Toad."

4. Wait while Betty "I-Can-Do-It-Myyyyyyyyysellllllf!!!!!" buckles herself into her booster seat.

5. Drive to grocery store, feeling so freakin' proud of your mommy self for finding a very efficient way to spend the 3 hours until Boo needs to be picked up. Grocery shopping with Betty is something you do every week with Betty in tow, and without incident, so this will work out just fine. (You moms know where this is going, right? Riiiiiight.) You can go grocery shopping and bring the groceries home and return to pick up Boo all in the nick of time.

6. Park at grocery store. Pick a cart. Tell cute Cub Scouts that no, you don't want to buy any Fudgelicious WhatevertheHell they're selling, but that you'll give them a donation when you come out of the store.

7. Proceed through Fresh Produce, Prepared Foods, and Deli with Betty. Upon turning down Aisle 2, Betty announces that she can push the cart All. By. Herself. You allow her to do this, your hand casually on the end of the cart. Have the following exchange with Betty.

"Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!" wails Betty. "I can do it myselllllllllllf!"

"I know you can sweetie," you say, fake saccharine dripping from your voice. "But just let Mommy help, OK? I know you don't want to knock into anything or anybody."

"I !! Will !!! Not !!! Bumpintoanyyyyybodddddyyyy!!!!!"

"Betty, please calm down," you say, with slightly less saccharine and with hopes that the caffeine from your morning coffee has kicked it by now. (Note: at 11:05 a.m., it still hasn't. You see a Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte in your near future.)


"I'm giving you one more chance to get your act together, or else we're going home."

"But I want to push!!!! the!!!! cart!!!!"

"I know you do," you reason. "But here are your choices: you push the cart and I help, or we go home."


Your sentiments exactly. "Let's go," you say.

"I want to stay! I want to push the cart! I don't want to go! I don't! Mommy, no!"

"We're leaving," you say. Crocodile tears ensue. Feet stomp. Arms crossed. The tantrum extraordinaire is underway.

You look at the contents of your cart. One Family Size package of refrigerated tortellini. Two cans of Progresso Savory Vegetable Barley Soup. Three bananas. Scan the checkout lines for the cashier least likely to call Child Protective Services on you.

"No! No! Nononononononononono and NO!" Betty screams.

You hand the sympathetic cashier your keyring with your Bonus Card.

"That's nine dollars and fifty cents," the cashier says. She wisely does not ask you if you need help out to your car.

Betty begins kicking you from behind, passing the Cub Scouts offering a taste of Fudgelicious WhatevertheF they're selling. "No, thank you," you reply, as Betty forms her hands into fists and starts pummelling you in the back while continuing to kick your legs. (She's this generation's karate kid, let me tell you.)

Betty continues screaming "NO!" at the top of her lungs in the parking lot. You're convinced that someone is going to arrest you for attempted child abduction. You think of someone you know, just a few towns away from where you're standing, who actually did get such a visit from a State Trooper following a very similar incident at McDonalds with his precious offspring. Last you heard, he was still dealing with being under investigation by Child Protective Services.

(This is a true story. Some passerby called the authorities on this acquaintance of mine - who shared this story himself with me and others - so there's some freakin' busybody in our vicinity who apparently gets a perverse pleasure out of ruining innocent people's lives.)

And that, my friends, is my True Confession account of how you too can spend only $9.50 at the grocery store.

Anyone wishing to borrow Betty and try this out for yourself is more than welcome to do so.

Betty and Sarah

I had to do a double-take when picking up our local newspaper today, because there on the front page, is Sarah Palin with my grandmother Betty chatting it up last night at the Irish Pub.

I'll remind you that my grandmother left this earth - or so I thought - more than four years ago.

But there she was - a much older version and less meticulously-put together than the Real Betty - but there at the Irish Pub nonetheless.

I swear, it really looks like her. Actually, The Dean says the woman in the picture looks more like the Real Betty's sister, Aunt D. I've been searching the web for the photo this morning - it's an AP shot - but the best I can do is a pic of Palin with the Real Betty's twin somewhat cut off.

But I promise, I'll try to find some examples and I'll bring 'em to ya.

Betty and Barack

At 8:56 p.m. last night, I'm all settled onto the couch, bowl of ice cream in hand, laptop fired up to CNN, Politico, MSNBC and the Political Junkies section of our local cyber-coffeehouse site for moms in our state. This is my Super Bowl.

"Mom-meee?" says Betty. "I can't sleep."

Usually this means that she a) wants to read; b) wants me to read to her or c) wants me to lay down with her in her twin bed till she falls asleep. Options A and B were sufficiently tried earlier in the evening; Option C was not an option last night.

"Betty," I said firmly. "I am watching something on TV in three minutes. It's not Hannah Montana, it's not Barbie Island Princess, it's not Dora. It's the stupid presidents." (That's Betty's terminology, not mine, and yes, we've been trying to convey that they are candidates only, and they certainly aren't stupid. That only applies to ... well, you know who.)

"You have a choice," I continued to Betty, in my hopefully-authoritarian sounding parental-tone reserved for bedtime procrastinations. "You can go back to your bed or come down and lay here on the couch and watch the people who want to be president." As much as I'd like to instill some political knowledge and passion in my kids, that desire was overruled by my hope that the debates put her to sleep.

She came downstairs and settled next to me on the couch. Barack Obama started talking, and her eyes lit up. She was grinning. We're doomed, I thought. That charisma and star-power is going to keep her up until midnight, I thought.

"Oh, Mommy! I never heard him talk before!"

And with that, a political junkie was born.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In What Respect, Charlie?

Folks, y'all know how I feel about Sarah Palin so I'll understand if you read no further into this post. (I see that gail elle has just left the building ... :) just kidding, gail! :)

As you may know, they've been keeping Sarah at arm's length (to put it mildly) from the media, so I was surprised to see that she sat down for an interview today with Katie Couric. Here's the transcript, as found on Politico.com.


Oh my goodness gracious. Talk about a Great Depression, indeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lederhosen Optional, But Appreciated

With a subject line like that, I know you're dying to read this blog post.

I thought I had today's blog post all set until about 15 minutes ago, when I got today's mail and was greeted by one postcard. That's it - one postcard with a scenic picture of fall foliage.

An Oktoberfest Party for Martie

Who the hell is Martie? I wondered.

Come Celebrate Martha's Birthday and Candidacy for District Representative With Beef, Beer and Music

Lederhosen Optional
But Appreciated

Did I mention that this invitation is addressed to The Dean? It follows with the event details - it's an evening affair from 7:30 - 11p.m. at (I kid you not) The Barn. It gives the address of The Barn; it's not all that far from here, and truth be told, there are only a couple barns on that particular road so there's a good chance we could find it - should we be so inclined to don our lederhosen and dole out $50 for the two of us to dine on bratwurst and schnitzel (something tells me me our vegetarian options will be in short supply).

The best part of the invitation (yeah, there's more) is the RSVP. Guests are instructed to RSVP to IWearLederhosen AT emailaddress.com

My first reaction was something along the lines of "you gotta be kidding." On one hand, it's kind of funny. God knows I appreciate a political candidate with a sense of humor. On the other hand, we're still fairly new to this rather rural (to put it mildly) area - as are a lot of our neighbors. A bunch of us are transplants here for a variety of reasons. The neighbors I've met thus far are like us - they come from big cities, so you wonder how this is going to play with a new electorate.

But I gotta hand it to Martie - in some ways, this is pretty smart.

Perhaps most importantly, Martie's accomplished stickiness, the topic of the book I'm reading, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. There's a very good chance that I will be checking out Martie's website later tonight. And I can't speak for The Dean, but come November 4, there's a good chance I'm likely to remember the Lederhosen Lady's name when I'm at the polls.

However, something tells me you won't be seeing me or The Dean in lederhosen anytime soon.

Somehow, I think Martie might appreciate our votes more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Liner Notes

So I'm driving home from work one day last week and "Barracuda" comes on.

(May I just interject that satellite radio is the best thing invented since ... well, the radio itself? Sirius has saved me many a day on my commute from hell.)

Anyway, so I'm singin' and rockin' with Ann and Nancy, drumming on the steering wheel, looking oh-so-cool in my almost 8-year old mommy-van with the two carseats, dented bumper, and Autism Awareness magnet.

"And if the real thing don’t do the trick ..." I sang. "You better make up something quick! You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn it to the wick! Oooooooh, barracuuuuuuuuuda!"

So I'm singing, and I'm thinking of Ann and Nancy's polite request to the McCain campaign to kindly cease and desist using "Barracuda" as a rallying cry, and it occurs to me ... maybe they might kind of want to listen to the sisters because maybe these aren't exactly the lyrics that the McCain folks really want. Did they even read the lyrics? How many of the staffers were, like, even conceived when Heart released their album "Little Queen" in 1977 - the album that contains "Barracuda." (Wow, "Little Queen." Now there's some irony for you. )

And then I thought, there's gotta be a blog post here somewhere.

(May I interject again? True confession time: I get most of my inspiration for this blog - if you can call it inspired - during my commutes, usually the afternoon.) But I couldn't think of where to take it, so I didn't do anything with that idea.

This was last week.

Today, I'm driving to work again (I do that a lot these days) and listening to my favorite talk-radio morning guy , and he mentions this article from Politico.com. "Do they even read the lyrics?"

Well, hot damn - that's where I was going with the blog post idea. Politico.com just got to it first.

Not only did Politico.com read my mind, but apparently, they too are into reading lyrics and
deciphering meanings.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mad for "Mad Men"

Yay! "Mad Men" won the Emmy for Best Drama and Best Writing. Both well-deserved, if I do say so myself.

Have I mentioned how much I love that show? This is the only show I'm watching on TV these days.

(And anyone who can tell me where I can watch Episode 2 and 3 of this season in their entirety and without having to download anything funky, will have my undying appreciation forever ... and at the very least, a shout-out to your blog here and on my blogroll.)

Postscript: Thanks to the technical genius of The Dean, who has scheduled "Mad Men" to be recorded via DVR as well as "protected" said episodes from disappearing before we get to see them, I now have those missing (to me) episodes. What I think happened was that there must have been a "Mad Men Marathon," thanks to the Emmy, and somehow, without us knowing, those episodes got recorded. I'd like to thank the Academy, the wonders of modern technology ... and oh yeah, The Dean who figured out how to work it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"What path did he take?"

This is Boo's line in "A Year with Frog and Toad." He's been cast as Mole Number 3. He also is part of a chorus that sings several songs throughout the production, including the smash hit "Get a Load of Toad."

The director thinks he's a natural.

He loved acting class today, which was 3 hours long. He has a script and a CD of the songs. We have to help him write a bio for the program distributed day of the performance.

Looks like we're on the right path.

9/21/08 ~ A correction to the above: Boo actually has two lines. All last night he kept saying that his line was "It's Christmas Eve." In a read-through of the script with him this morning, turns out he is right. (You thought differently?) He says "What path did he take?" and then later in a song he sings with several other characters called "Merry Almost Christmas", he chimes in with "It's Christmas Eve."

Name My Price

Betty and I spent part of our morning shopping at the Mothers of Multiples Fall Resale. How much do you think I spent altogether for everything? I'll post a picture of the stuff I got for Betty, followed by a list - then the same for Boo.

As you can tell, it's all-pink and purple all the time for Betty. That's all she wears. I've given up fighting that battle.

The items pictured above include:
Disney Princess backpack with handle and wheels (brand new)
Winter boots (The Children's Place, also brand new)
Pink skirt
Purple pants (Healthtex)
Sneakers that light up
Fuscia "Princess" jumper (Disney Kids)
Pink top/floral pants outfit
Fancy purple dress
Stretch pants (3 pairs - 1) fuscia is The Children's Place; 2) the lavender is from KRU (Kids R' Us) and the third one doesn't have a brand name)
Silver dress shoes
PJs (4 separate pairs, 3 of which are Carters)
Striped turtleneck
Floral top
Pink cardigan sweater (Gap)
Plastic belt
Pink plaid jumper and collared shirt (Sonoma Jeans)
Disney Princess book "What Is a Princess?" (gee, I think I have a clue ...)
VHS tape of "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventures" (we've borrowed this many a time from the library)

And for Boo (he has fewer items because he's somewhat picky about his clothing. He will not wear a short-sleeved shirt of any kind. It's either a tank top or a long-sleeved shirt. There's no in-between in his world. This time of year gets particularly challenging. In addition, he will not wear a button-down shirt, shirts with collars, or jeans.)

Maroon and tan shirt (Sonoma Jeans)
Gray/black suit (vest/pants)
Black dress shoes
Robots in space shirt (Carters)
Green and white turtleneck (Gap)
"No sleeve shirt" (Old Navy)
"No sleeve shirt" (The Children's Place)
Book - "Ridiculous Knock-Knock Jokes"
Book - Magic Tree House "Twister on Tuesday"

So how much do you think I spent total?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike's Devastation

Wow ... there are no words for what this couple must be feeling. My heart just breaks for everyone there.

Last House Standing

Martha Stewart, My New BFF

Those of you who know me IRL (that means "in real life", Mom) might find this amusing.

In the name of self-promotion for my writing and this blog, I've entered a contest of sorts on Martha Stewart's blog (yes, that Martha Stewart) to have her review and comment on The Betty and Boo Chronicles.

Some of you have seen my house and know of my organizational and clutter challenges. So, I understand full well the irony of my inviting Martha Stewart into even a smidgeon of my life.

(The Dean is gonna love this. Fortunately, he doesn't read my blog.)

But if you too have a blog and wish for Martha to comment on it, check out the contest at themarthablog.com and she just might stop by your cyber-home too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mamma Mia ...President McCain! My My!

Who would have guessed that John McCain and I actually share the same musical taste? Certainly not I.

But, as it turns out, John McCain apparently has an appreciation for the musical genius of ABBA. Just like yours truly.

Yes, that ABBA. The "you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life" ABBA of "Dancing Queen" fame. Which would just so happen to be John McCain's favorite song.

You think I jest, but according to the fine folks at Blender Magazine, it's true. By polling the two candidates prior to their respective conventions about their top 10 favorite songs, they've done all Americans a true service by giving us quite the insight into the presidential hopefuls. Consider their selections:

1. Ready or Not - Fugees
2. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
3. I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen
4. Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones
5. Sinnerman - Nina Simone
6. Touch the Sky - Kanye West
7. You'd Be So Easy to Love - Frank Sinatra
8. Think - Aretha Franklin
9. City of Blinding Lights - U2
10. Yes We Can - will.i.am

1. Dancing Queen - ABBA
2. Blue Bayou - Roy Orbison
3. Take a Chance On Me - ABBA
4. If We Make It Through December - Merle Haggard
5. As Time Goes By - Dooley Wilson
6. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
7. What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
8. I've Got You Under My Skin - Frank Sinatra
9. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
10. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters

Maybe I need to reconsider my vote. I mean, with the selection of "Take A Chance on Me" in the #3 slot, you kind of can't help but wanna vote for a guy who says

If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me...

Gonna do my very best and it aint no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try ...
Take a chance on me ... (that's all I ask of you honey)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bitten by the Acting Frog ... er, I Mean Bug

Boo's been talking about wanting to be "on a stage" for awhile now. He's been to several children's theatre productions and according to my mom, was absolutely transfixed during one such performance. He often performs for us at home, using the sofas as his stage and singing Beatles songs verbatim with guitar in hand. He's got a wicked memory and one of the array of specialists we've seen suggested several years ago that acting might be something he might enjoy and be good at.

So I decided to see if anyplace local offered acting lessons for almost 7-year olds and lo and behold, a local arts center does. Not only do they have an acting workshop for kids ages 4-8, but they are performing "A Year With Frog and Toad" later this fall. (Boo loves this series.) I emailed their executive director to see if there were openings, and there happened to be 4 more places in the cast. I typed in my credit card number and voila! Boo became an actor.

When I picked him up today, I told him I had something to tell him at home.

"Tell me in the car," he said.

Fearing a meltdown, I confessed. I'm not all that good about keeping secrets.

"Do you still want to take acting lessons?" I said, tentatively, half-holding my breath and seeing in my mind the "no refunds" clause on the e-agreement I'd clicked "yes" to only mere hours earlier.


I explained that I found an acting class and that he was going to be in the play "A Year With Frog and Toad."

The look on his face was the epitome of sheer joy. I would have gladly paid twice as much as I did for the workshop to see that.

"Really?" he said. "Oh, Iamsoso ...exciiiiiiiiiiiiiiited!"

His first class is this Saturday. Remember, you knew him when ....


This morning, Boo was telling me about a dream he'd had. Apparently, he and a friend were having lunch in the school cafeteria and they both tried a new food.

"Am I real in my dreams?" he asked.

Caught off guard, I replied something profound like, "Hmm. I dunno. Good question. What do you think?"

My hunch is that Boo was trying to ascertain whether he was real in his dream so that he could get out of trying the new food ("tuna fish with the crunchy things in it" - a.k.a. tuna salad with celery) in real life.

What do you think?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Morning Moon on Monday

This was the sight greeting me this morning at 6:35 a.m. when I left for work. The picture doesn't do this justice, but suffice it to say that this was truly incredible. At first I thought it was the sunrise. I called the kids to come outside to see the bright full moon with the reflection of the sun. (There's probably some astronomical term for this, but I sure don't know what it is.)

By the time I went back inside for my camera and snapped off three photos, the moon had disappeared.

I'm so glad we didn't miss it. What a great way to start the day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Next Obama

Keep an eye on this kid. He's the next Obama, mark my words. He even looks like a young Barack!

Teen fulfills dream, speaking at Obama rally.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance to the Printout

Watch out, folks ... I'm on a mission.

Last night was "Back to School Night" at Betty and Boo's school. I went solo, at the request of a letter sent home reminding parents that this was an event geared to adults and to make every possible effort to please find a babysitter. We don't know any babysitters here yet, hence The Dean stayed home and managed homework and I went to school. These events are also physically difficult for The Dean, as sitting in seats that come up to one's knees is not usually the most pleasant experience for folks like The Dean who have herniated disks.

So off I went to Betty's classroom and sat down in her very seat. Her teacher, who is very nice and delightful, explained the various areas throughout the classroom and the students' daily routine.

"And then we say "The Pledge of Allegiance," she said, pointing to an 8x10 computer printout of an American flag Scotch-taped to the wall.

"If any of the parents have any connections to the American Legion or folks who could donate a flag for our classroom, we would really appreciate having one."

It took a second for this to register with me. They say The Pledge of Allegiance each morning to a flag printed out from the Internet????? This isn't some one-room schoolhouse in the middle of nowhere; this is the fastest-growing school district in our state, with 8,000 students and counting.

But wait - this gets better.

Not only does Betty's class pledge allegiance to the printout, but Boo's class does also. And so does every classroom in the entire school.

I realize school budgets are tight, and I appreciate the powers-that-be keeping my taxes low and not spending my hard-earned cash on frivolous matters such as, oh, instilling a sense of patriotic pride in tomorrow's voters. (Or today's, if Boo had his way.) But something needs to be done about this.

I emailed both teachers this morning and told them I would be willing and all too happy to look into getting two flags donated, if they wished for me to do so. I mean, this cannot be all that difficult. There has got to be a foundation that provides flags to schools, or the VFW, or someone who cares that elementary-school students are pledging allegiance to something more meaningful than a printout of a flag.

So now I'm on a mission to get at least two flags in my kids' classrooms, and preferably enough for the whole school. I don't care what size they are. They just have to be real.

I even thought that perhaps I would find out how much they'd cost and pay for them personally in honor of my grandfather's four years of service in World War II. (It could be his Christmas present. At 90 years old, there isn't much the man needs.)

It's not lost on me that today is September 11. Seven years ago, 3,000 people died and untold numbers more still bear the physical and psychic scars from their encounter with evil. In the 2,557 days since 9/11, countless people have fought and died for our freedom - just as generations before us have done.

There's not a day that goes by without someone giving their life in the name of this country. And their sacrifice might as well be in vain if we don't give the youngest members of our nation and tomorrow's leaders a sense of civic pride every single day.

September 11, 2001

Let us never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Professor James Officer John

This conversation is occurring as I type (and is not exactly untypical of conversations that occur in our household):

"You look like a professor, Mommy," says Boo. (I'm dressed more professionally than usual today, thanks to several meetings at work.)

"What does a professor do?" I asked.

Boo: "A professor shows you statues. Like Professor James Officer John. He's older than both of you. All he eats is ice cream. And he only drinks water bottles."

The Dean: "Is this someone real, or someone in your head - who you've made up?"

Boo: "Someone real."

The Dean: "Where do you see him?"

Boo: "In heaven."

The Dean: "Let's try this again. Do you see him anywhere else?"

Boo: "In Delaware."

The Dean: "Do you see him at school?"

Boo: "Yes. On the jungle gym. At recess. He's a hole in my head."

The Dean: "I need to take a pill."

The Dean says that this sounds like dialogue straight out of "Sgt. Pepper" or "A Hard Day's Night."

Tonight is Back to School Night at the kids' school. I'll report back later on about my meeting with Professor James Officer John.

Monday, September 8, 2008


It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly
- Elton John "Friends"

Now that school has been back in session for two weeks now, I'm finding myself asking the kids quite often about their classmates. Who do they sit with at lunchtime? How about on the bus -is it the same person to and from school, or someone different? Who do they play with at recess? Who are the kids at their tables? Last year, it was very apparent who their friends were - and who wasn't. But this year, there seems to be only a random collection of names mentioned at the dinner table instead of a particular person or two.

I think I'm looking for a best friend.

You see, both The Dean and I are - I think - somewhat unusual in terms of the people who are our closest friends. For the most part, all of our best friends are folks who we met in elementary school, or at the very latest, 5th grade. On his first day of kindergarten in 1975, The Dean struck up a friendship with a guy who, 20 years later, would spill some of his champagne on my wedding dress while toasting us as The Dean's best man. (The Dean returned the favor - minus the champagne spillage - a few years later.)

Likewise, I'm still in touch (albeit sporadically) with my best friend from kindergarten. She's an actress living in L.A.; one of my most favorite nights was in November 2004 when The Dean and I attended the opening night of a musical where she absolutely stole the show. (I think I was more nervous than she was.)

And this month, I realized, is somewhat of a milestone. Three decades ago this week, I was a brand new student walking into Mrs. Rude's 4th grade class (I swear, her name was really Mrs. Rude). I happened to know a few of my classmates from Sunday School, but not many. Thanks to names close together in the alphabet, my assigned seat was either in front of or in back of - I don't remember which - a girl named C.

Aside from the common letters in our names, C. and I were destined to be friends. Our birthdays, we quickly discovered, were within mere days of each other - meaning that our class would get to enjoy an entire week of cupcakes (thanks to another kid's birthday being the day after mine). (Poor Mrs. Rude.) Briefly, C. and I were also bitter rivals for the affections of a particular blond-haired blue eyed lad ... until we learned that he couldn't stand either one of us, and we became united in our fierce Harriet-the-Spy determination to learn the identity of his "girlfriend" at a nearby school.

Today, 30 years to the day that we first sat together as 4th graders, I'm her young daughter's godmother. We send Hallmark cards "to my wonderful sister"; because neither of us have a sister, it made perfect sense as 10 year olds to hand-pick each other as such. It still does.

I wonder how unusual this is. Do most people in their (very) late 30s have best friends who have journeyed with them for nearly their entire lives? Would maintaining these marathon friendships have happened anyway, due to our personalities, or are they a remnant of a time, as Elton sings, "you never can or shall erase," - a time when the world moved a little slower and things were seemingly a bit simpler.

I'm not sure of the answer. All I know is that I'm seeing childhood fly every day ... and I'm wondering who else is along for the ride.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Biden, Palin, and Draper

This is part of a great speech that Joe Biden made over the weekend at a campaign stop in Langhorne, Pa. The guy behind him is a little distracting to me, though, because I think he looks like Tony Soprano. Regardless, this is worth spending 3:37 minutes to watch:

Joe Biden on Fire

Also, if you're an Obama/Biden supporter - and, like me, a fan of the phenomenally well-done show "Mad Men" - you'll probably enjoy this from The Huffington Post:


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weathering Life's Storms

(apologies for the formatting woes ... I can't figure out how to fix this post.)
We're right in the path of Tropical Storm Hanna as it churns up the East Coast, so our usual Saturday activities have us cooped inside today, hopefully safe from the storm (which isn't so bad right now, but is expected to get more intense later this afternoon and today). Still, as you can tell from the photo taken just a few minutes ago from inside our front door (those spots are from the camera, not funnel clouds) it's a gloomy, overcast day.

Which means one thing: homemade soup!

On gray days like these, I have to make soup. So while grocery shopping this morning, I picked up some typical soup ingredients: potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic. Along with the canned tomatoes and veggie broth in the pantry, we were good to go.
I started browsing through A Year of Crockpotting and http://www.allrecipes.com/. None of the recipes had the exact ingredients that I had on hand. I'm not too good at improvising recipes, but can manage all right if I have most of the ingredients. I opened The Best Slow Cooker Recipe Cookbook and found a recipe that I'd made previously. I know this because I'd written a note next to the recipe. (That's another one of my cooking compulsions. I like to write notes in my cookbooks after I've made a particular dish.)
"Made on 12/30/2000 during a 9" snowstorm," I'd written below the ingredients and instructions for Fresh
Vegetable Soup with Garbanzo Beans.
We were indeed in the middle of a storm then. Only 11 days earlier, I'd answered my phone in my office and learned that, although we'd gotten a positive pregnancy test from our latest in-vitro attempt, our 160 hours of parenthood were over. This was what the specialists called a chemical pregnancy, one that would end before the congratulatory flower arrangements on our dining room table would wilt and die.
Almost 8 years later, The Dean is tracking Hanna online and the kids are watching Hannah Montana on demand.
The Dean has zoomed onto our town and reports that there's a bright spot in the midst of the storm. Indeed, it is a lot brighter now than when that photo above was taken. Later this afternoon and tonight, however, we can expect two months worth of rain and intense winds.
"Maybe we'll see a rainbow tonight or tomorrow," said Betty.
Yes, maybe we will. Maybe we will.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ramblings, part 2

10:04 p.m. - Again with the "Dallas" music.

10:05 p.m. - Cute opening to the McCain video. I like the "some call him names that can't be repeated" and that was a nice touch having the mother chime in with "mama's boy." An unexpected laugh ... it worked in this case.

10:09 p.m. - This is probably the best of the RNC videos ... I like it. Also a nice touch with this ending, with the darkened convention floor and the narrator reading McCain's words about living in a box.

10:22 p.m. - I'm glad to hear McCain express respect and admiration for Obama's achievement. He needed to do that after last night.

10:25 p.m. - The protesters are making me nervous ...

10:31 p.m. - Good speech thus far, but I think that you could put some of McCain's lines up against Obama's in his speech, and they'd be identical.

10:34 p.m. - This is the most effective part of the speech: McCain naming the people, by name, who he fights for.

10:46 p.m. - The Dean is asleep. Has been for the last five minutes. This speech should have ended five minutes ago.

10:47 p.m. - Yes, John, this is an ambitious agenda. I guess I wonder why some of these things weren't done in the last 8 years ...? You would think, from listening to this, that Republicans haven't been in power the last 8 years.

11:02 p.m. - Nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself ... Along with the suggestions of what one can do, that's sounding a lot like what community organizers do, huh?

A better speech than I expected. Enough to win the election? Stay tuned ...

Postscript: I'm watching the commentary and reaction on MSNBC right now, and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is playing. Maybe it's me, but I will always, always, always associate that song with Tony Soprano.

Random Ramblings During the RNC

I cannot stay up until 1:30 a.m. again tonight blogging about the RNC, which I was in doubt whether I would actually watch after last night, so I offer you my play-by-play account of the convention as I watch tonight.

9:13 p.m. - Does anyone else think that that the theme music accompanying the Sarah Palin video sounds like a slower version of the theme from "Dallas"?

9:21 p.m. - And here we go again with the Obamaslams ...

9:22 p.m. - If I never hear the word "maverick" again, it will be way too soon. Am I the only one who might not want a maverick for a president? What exactly is a maverick anyway? Well, according to dictionary.com, it's this:

–noun 1.Southwestern U.S. an unbranded calf, cow, or steer, esp. an unbranded calf that is separated from its mother. 2.a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates. 3.(initial capital letter) an electro-optically guided U.S. air-to-ground tactical missile for destroying tanks and other hardened targets at ranges up to 15 mi. (24 km). [Origin: 1865–70, Americanism; after Samuel A. Maverick (1803–70), Texas pioneer who left his calves unbranded] —Synonyms 2. nonconformist, independent, loner.

9:44 p.m. - The Dean is wondering if this is Cindy McCain's first speech ever.

9:55 p.m. - I just read that Vanity Fair is reporting that the outfit that Cindy McCain wore on Monday evening cost $300,000 when one factors in the accessories and whatnot. I wonder how much tonight's outfit cost.

9:58 p.m. - Gotta love the Dancing Abe Lincoln guy. Is it too late to nominate him?

OK, I'll post this now and continue live-blogging during McCain's speech.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Politics, as Usual

I really didn't intend for this to become a political blog. It won't stay that way, I promise. I don't profess to be an expert in these matters. I'm just a working-outside-the-home suburban mom of two kids who also happens to be a political junkie.

Eventually we'll get back to our regularly scheduled blogged programming, but it won't be tonight. Because if I thought I couldn't sleep before with thoughts of Sarah Palin being next in the line to the Presidency, I sure as hell can't sleep now thanks to that debacle of venom the Republicans just unleashed on us for the past three-plus hours.

I mean, what the hell was that??!!

First you had the Governor of Hawaii dissing the entire state of Delaware, its three electoral votes, and swaggering that 250 Delawares can fit into the state of Alaska. (Thanks, but I'll take the Delaware beaches over a freakin' igloo and a herd of moose any day.)

What a cheap shot. But, we were just getting warmed up for Rudy Giuliani. I won't dignify his remarks by repeating them, but you can read them here on CNN.com. Suffice it to say that Rudy gave one of the most hatriolic speeches I have ever heard. Which is sad, because I really liked Rudy up until about 10 p.m. tonight. Just ugly, pathetic, juvenile and sophomoric. I thought he was better than that.

I'll give Sarah Palin points for her knowledge about the energy issues. However, that doesn't take away from her woeful lack of experience on many, many other critical matters ... not to mention the other baggage and distractions she brought to the convention floor. Moreover, there was no need to patronize Obama and skewer his work as a community organizer. Hello ... last I checked, he was a Senator (hey, just like McCain, imagine that!).

I could go on, but some of us have to get up for work tomorrow morning. I thought McCain looked unsteady on his feet. (Cue up the Talking Heads! "And you may find yourself in a beautiful house [or seven], with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?") McCain looked exactly like the septuagenarian he is.

All in all, tonight was not the Republican party's best night. Far from it. As Americans, I'd like to think we're better than this. I'd like to think and hope (oops, sorry, there's that four letter word again!) that politics as usual could have been transcended, but that doesn't seem to be the case as evidenced by this disgusting display in prime time.

Perhaps tonight's RNC can best be summed up by an apropos Rodney Atkins song played between speeches.

If you're going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Higher Education

A new school year brings the return of one of my favorite mindless reading pleasures: the student newspaper published by collegians at my alma mater.

This week's edition has an article about the Amethyst Initiative, as well as this: (Although the student's name was published in the newspaper, I'm identifying her by her initials as well as omitting the name of the college.)

As many freshmen kiss their parents goodbye, for more than a few, visions of uninterrupted keg parties, unlimited liquor shots and games of beer pong come to mind. "I expected more drinking. I'm not going to lie. I was a little disappointed," M.S., freshman special education major, said about her orientation at Liberal Arts College.

Wow. With tuition at this institution of higher education just shy of $30,000 (with another $11,000 tacked on for room and board), I can only imagine how pleased M.S's parents will be to read how their investment is already paying off.

Let's hope that sometime in the next four years M.S. learns about a nifty little website called Google.com, which will keep her intelligent quote available for all posterity, as well as for any potential school district wishing to hire her to teach their special education students.


I have it on good authority that the economy was on an upswing this Labor Day weekend.

Since I started scrapbooking more than six years ago, I've completed 18 albums. The kids love looking through these and hopefully they'll appreciate them even more as they get older. I've also admittedly gotten a little addicted to this little hobby of mine and have probably spent more than the gross national product of some countries on it.

On Saturday, Betty announced that she would like to make a scrapbook. OK, twist my arm to make a trip to the cute scrapbooking store that recently opened nearby (right next to the grocery store where I shop every week, no less). Upon arriving home, Betty immediately spread out her assortment of papers in every hue of pink. Our dining room table was covered in floral papers, fuschia butterflies, and fancy fairies, along with newly-acquired Dora, Hello Kitty, Ariel and Cinderella stickers.

I got out my own scrapbooking supplies, thinking that I would be lucky enough to have the chance to sort and crop an envelope of photos, much less actually finish a page. We started scrapbooking at 1:30 in the afternoon.

By 8:00 p.m., with a break for dinner, Betty had completed her first album.

Anyone with a young child knows that keeping a child occupied over a long holiday weekend is a daunting task that can try the patience of any parent. But when something holds a kid's attention for nearly 7 hours ....

On Sunday morning, Betty woke me up at 6 a.m.

"Mommy, can we work on our scrapbooks now?"

And the same thing repeated on Monday, which was spent laboring on our scrapbooks the entire day. Betty is almost finished her second album, and I completed 18 pages - more than I did on a weekend-long scrapbooking retreat at a luxurious resort.

Yeah, we probably spent a little more money than we should have this Labor Day weekend at Michaels and the new scrapbooking store. But these hours that Betty and I've spent capturing our family's memories have been priceless.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Things They Say ...

Tonight I helped Betty out of the tub following her bath. As I wrapped her in a towel, I gave her a hug.

"Do you know you're hugging a naked person?" she said.

Across from our house is a large field that eventually will be transformed into pieces of the American Dream. Until those houses are built, we're treated to a great view of the evening sunset.

A few nights ago, the sunset was especially spectacular. Betty and I went out to the front step and spent a few quiet moments watching the sky turn into twilight.

Tonight Betty exclaimed, "Mommy! Look at the sunset!" I went to where she stood and said, yes, it was indeed very beautiful.

She sighed dreamily. "Oh, how romantic..."

Labor Day

In commemoration of Labor Day, I share with you two poems (well, actually the second is a song), both of which have work as a central theme. The first was a meditation during our church service on Sunday and the second was one of the hymns.

The Golf Links (this is a quatrain in the poem called "Through the Needle's Eye")
The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day

The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

~ Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, 1876-1959
Sarah wrote this poem in 1915. In 1943, she moved to Philadelphia where she died on April 4, 1959.

This is a poem (and song by Judy Collins) about the Lawrence, Massachusetts women textile workers strike of 1912.

Bread and Roses
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, "Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses."

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men --
For they are women's children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes --
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew --
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days --
The rising of the women means the rising of the race --
No more the drudge and idler, -- ten that toil where one reposes --
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!

John Oppenheim