Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Headin' For Home

Tomorrow we reluctantly tear ourselves away from the food, fun, and shopping fiesta we've been indulging in and head home to Maine. All good things must end, and my pants don't fit so well anymore, so it's time to get back to reality. And the gym. Especially the gym.

Bear is starting to miss her friends, pine trees, and sleeping in her own bed.

Daddy Shortbread misses the cats.

I miss being able to button my pants.

Bug doesn't miss a thing. She'd be happy to bask in the glow of her grandparents' adoration forever. But I'd like to think that she'd eventually miss us, so we're taking her with us.

I'd like to send up a small prayer to the Gods of Travel that our return trip involve easier driving weather than our trip out. Because THIS is what we drove through on the way here: I'd like to submit a formal request for clear-to-partly-cloudy-skies, a lack of significant precipitation, and a liberal dotting of Starbucks along our route. Thank you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sugar Stupor

Can't blog. Too full. Am basically napping and eating in shifts, 'cause once we're back home The New Eating Regime begins. Daddy Shortbread and the girls are NOT enthused. They've been in favor of the sugar cookies/tiramisu/truffles routine we've been wallowing in while in Ohio.

I'll be back to blogging next week. When I can fit in my pants again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread & Suitcases

Yesterday Daddy Shortbread and I went in to Bug's third-grade class to make gingerbread houses with them. We brought the gingerbread and frosting; the students brought in the candy decorations.

"Your hands are FILTHY," one little boy told me with a disapproving frown, as he came up to the table. Indeed, they were pretty much spackled with frosting from filling decorating bags, rescuing toppling walls, and general gingerbread house construction, but come on little dude, it's FROSTING not manure.

"Baking is a messy business," I told him seriously. The M&M and gumdrop-placing crew around me nodded in happy agreement.

Daddy Shortbread spoke to his group like they were actual contractors, discussing load-bearing walls, and icing/spackle-strength, and things like what kind of candy-load a real roof made of gingerbread could hold. They were delighted to hazard guesses while sneaking chocolate chips into their mouths.

After working on a house construction crew, they each took a cookie, frosting, and some candy to their desks to construct a personal snack. I watched one little boy laboriously place gumdrops, marshmallows, and gumdrops on his cookie, just so. When the teacher gave them permission to eat, he just as carefully removed every piece of candy before eating the cookie. "I don't like candy," he explained to me. Ah. Well then.


Tomorrow we leave for Day One of travel, heading to Rochester, NY en route to Ohio. I'll try to blog from the road and give you a glimpse of what the girls do to fill the long travel hours. Let me just say that what with the DVDs, iPods, Gameboys, and activity books they have loaded their backpacks with, I don't think they'll be bored.

I will just be happy to have the packing done and be on the interstate (preferably with a Three-Pump Nonfat Peppermint Mocha Latte in hand and Christmas music on the stereo). Until then, I will be continuing to pack, stopping occasionally to self-medicate with Lindt truffles. Mmmm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Status

Christmas cards - SENT
Baking - DONE
Out-of-town gifts - WRAPPED & MAILED
Suitcases - PACKED
Children - WIRED

We went to Bear's band concert last night, where she dazzled on the bass clarinet. And by "dazzled" I mean managed to play all the correct notes, in the correct time, while sitting up straight in her chair and looking completely adorable in her white ruffly blouse and black dress pants. Unlike certain trumpet and saxophone sections, about whom the word "discordant" could be considered kind. Her teacher had some lovely things to say about Bear's technique and musicality and told us that she is confident that Bear would excel at any instrument she chose. Made my heart melt, I tell you. Need I mention that I trotted right out and bought said teacher a Starbuck's gift card this morning? (Either the teacher thinks my kid is genuinely talented, or she knows how to rake in the Christmas presents).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Elementary Deduction, Watson

I returned from shopping this morning to find a small Christmas cookie (previously on a plate on the counter) with one small bite out of it in the middle of my kitchen floor. Proceeding into my bedroom, I found Mittens curled up sleeping inside the suitcase lying empty on my bed.

From this I can only deduce that she is already suffering pre-trip separation anxiety and has been indulging in some emotional eating.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Storm

Our first major winter storm of the year came in the form of an ice storm. Wet snow, followed by sleet, topped off with freezing rain resulted in a slushy icy mess. School was cancelled, delighting the girls, who were then not at all pleased to learn that freezing rain was incompatible with sledding. Hitting them when they were down, I then broke it to them that we'd be venturing out that afternoon ... for flu shots. Aren't snow days great?

But hey! Look! The birch tree looked pretty!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bear: Closet Snow Eater

Bear has a nasty little addiction: snow eating. She loves nothing more than noshing on handful after handful of snow. I don't know if it's the crunch, the cold, the lack of taste...? She really can't seem to help herself. I think that I was probably the first one to show her that she could eat snow back when she was tiny and easily impressed. (Look! It's teeny pieces of ice, and you can eat it!) Or maybe she made the connection after catching snowflakes on her tongue. I really don't know because it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't eating snow like some half-starved lunatic who thinks the lawn is blanketed in marshmallow fluff.

I spent several winters trying to dissuade her from eating it, telling her it's dirty and things PEE in it, for God's sake. She'd nod solemnly, look properly abashed, and go right back to eating snow as soon I went back inside. We finally achieved The Great Snow-Eating Detente of 2002, when her kindergarten teacher melted a jar full of snow in the classroom and showed them the specks of dirt and crud that settled to the bottom. We managed to negotiate a deal wherein she would only eat freshly fallen snow. Once it's a day old, no deal. On that first day, though, she's pretty much dedicated to the task of eating as much damn snow as possible. She savors its bouquet, like a fine wine, before taking that first crunchy mouthful. Every picture of her I took this day is either her eating snow, about to eat snow, or just finishing a mouthful. Like here. Attractive, no? It reminds me of the tell-tale rings of white around the nostrils of cocaine-users. Just in a slightly more wholesome and less illegal way.She even multitasks, munching snow while sledding.Totally, unabashedly full-out eating snow. No shame at all. And, yes, she saw me taking pictures. That's how devoted she is to her craft.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa's Satan's Little Helper

Wrapping presents with cats around is such an endeavor. Cats are all about entitlement. They assume that anything placed on the floors is a cat toy, intended for nothing but their amusement. If I spread out a quilt to baste, it takes about two minutes before I have two furry, purring bodies sprawled across it. Board games incite Mittens to stalk from across the room, then run and skid onto the board. But wrapping paper! Wrapping paper provides a whole wonderland of cat fun.

Shockingly, the offender was not the cat you would expect. She was busy having a pedicure.
This one, on the other hand, was a Class A Nuisance. She padded across the gift shirts, which had been neatly folded, ready for boxes. Back and forth. Short break to sit in the gift box. Back to back and forth.She discovered an empty tube from a roll of wrapping paper.
And proceeded to happily gnaw the crap out of it while battering it with her hind claws. At least she was out of the way.
Until... "What? Did you need something?"

Monday, December 8, 2008


Last week, I suggested to Bug and Bear that they take half of their Christmas checks from Mamaw and use the money to buy presents for a child whose family can't afford Christmas presents. They loved the idea and chose to put their week's allowance into the pot as well. I told them that I would cover any extra expense.

The elementary school always has an Angel Tree in the front office, decorated with paper angels, each filled out with a child's age and gender (names are kept private) and one of the things they would like for Christmas. Each child has four angels on the tree, so one person might be buying clothes for the child, one a coat and boots, and the other two toys.

They took their time examining each of the angels left on the tree. Bug chose a six-year-old boy who wants Legos for Christmas. Bear picked a nine-year-old boy who needs new shirts. We made a quick stop at the bank, where they happily cashed their checks, counting out half for their wallets and handing half to me for our Angel shopping.

At Target, I let the girls take the lead. I helped them to compare prices and check quality, but all of the final selections were theirs. Bug spent quite awhile in the Lego aisle, comparing the different sets and making sure that she chose the one with the "coolest parts." Here are her final selections:
Bear was careful not to buy any "sissy" shirts. She told me how everybody wears a new outfit on the first day back to school after Christmas vacation, and she wanted to make sure this little guy had some cool shirts to choose from. She was able to get him five.
I loved how proud they were of their purchases. They were both so excited to show Daddy Shortbread and explain why they made each selection. They were anxious for his approval, since he represents the Boy Opinion in this household. He reassured them that they had made solid choices and expressed particular interest in wishing he could play with the Indiana Jones Lego set, which made Bug glow with pride. The merits of various wrapping papers were discussed (too girly? too young? too shiny?). They both insisted on wrapping their own gifts, smacking away my hand when I tried to help. I was relegated to ribbon-tying and corralling certain cats, who felt that they should be allowed to help wrap presents, too. And by "wrap presents", I mean run around like furry maniacs in the loose tissue paper.
Christmas morning, while my two are opening their presents from Santa and all their loving relatives, I'll take a moment to think of the two little boys opening these carefully chosen and wrapped gifts, never knowing that their angels are my angels, too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Winter Visitors

Inspired by the gardening magazine my mother-in-law got me a subscription to, and also by the stunning case of writer's block that was rendering sitting staring at my computer screen pretty pointless, I decided to take pictures of the birds visiting my feeder yesterday. The feeders hang right outside the window by my kitchen table, where we enjoy watching the birds while we're eating (or instead of writing, as the case may be).

This one below is a female goldfinch. I know that because I emailed the picture to a friend who's an avid birder and said, "Hey, can you tell me the name of this bird, so I don't look like an idiot on my blog?" The males turn an all-over intense highlighter-yellow color in the summer, which is why some people, who are way less well-educated about things like proper bird names, call them wild canaries. They would be wrong. Don't be one of them.
Chickadee, here. I love these chipper little guys, and I think this one was deliberately taunting my cat, Maisy, who was standing on her hind legs on a kitchen chair talking smack to him the whole time I was taking pictures. Doesn't he look cheeky?
Another female goldfinch. I've decided that an excellent weight loss plan would be to hang by my feet while using only my mouth (no hands), like the birds. I plan to get right on that after the holidays. It seems to work for them.
Lest anyone be erroneously impressed by my skill as an avian photographer, I would like to point out that I got about four decent, in-focus pictures with actual birds in them. I got about eighty of just my bird feeder. The rest looked like this:
I should also mention that if, while you're photographing birds through the window, you decide the window is too dirty and open the window, shove up the screen and hang your shoulder and arm outside to squirt Windex and wipe off the panes, while restraining your cat with your left knee... The birdies? They will not come back for a looooong time. File that away for future information.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I had a terrible dream last night. Daddy Shortbread, the girls, and I were all sitting in the living room listening to a gentle rain slapping the windows, when I happened to look out and spy an enormous funnel cloud just beyond the treeline.

"TORNADO!" I hollered in disbelief, and we all sprang from our seats and ran for the basement. I could hear the trademark locomotive sound of the tornado getting closer as we all pounded down the steps. Downstairs, I watched through the casement windows as the inky black swirling cloud moved with slow precision along our neighbors trees. Each one exploded with a deafening bang, leaving behind a splintered stump. I began to fear for the giant spruce beside our house. When I turned to glance out the window nearest the spruce, I realized that Bug was gone.

I dashed up the stairs, hearing the living room windows explode and rain begin to blow in as I frantically searched for her. I found her in the garage casually selecting a juicebox from our spare refrigerator. She was puzzled as to why I was so panicked. I had just grabbed her arm to pull her back downstairs when I woke up with a pounding heart.

I knew immediately why I had dreamt that. Last night I had one of those scary mothering moments where time seems to stand still and you feel your brain scrambling like a rat in a cage as you take action.

The girls were watching "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" in the living room, while they ate their dinners on a picnic cloth. They were excited to get to watch TV while eating dinner, an almost-never occurrence in our house. But it was the first Christmas special of the season, and they had both worked so hard on homework that afternoon that I felt they deserved a treat.

I was putting away laundry while they ate, and had just happened to glance into the living room, when I noticed a strange look on Bear's face, who had turned to look at her sister instead of the TV.

"Mom, I think she's choking!" Bear said urgently.

"I CAN'T BREATHE," Bug mouthed to me, struggling to try to cough. In what must have been three seconds, but what felt like twenty minutes, I ran to her and jerked her to her feet. I thumped her back and was just about to turn her around to do the Heimlich Maneuver when she managed to cough up the offending bite - a long, particularly fibrous piece of broccoli.

It scared me to death. All night long I kept dreaming different hair-raising scenarios where I was desperately trying to save her.

Postscript: I asked Bear what she would have done if I hadn't been there. "The Heimlich," she said promptly. Thank God for that, but we'll be reviewing it after school to make sure that they BOTH know how to perform it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


A definite plus to living in a state with four distinct seasons is watching the kids' excitement with each dramatic shift of the seasons. I know I tend relish each season more when I know it's fleeting. Midway through summer, I start thinking wistfuly of fall. Around the end of October, I decide I'm ready to face snow again. By December, we're all jonesing for those first flurries.

With impeccable timing, Mother Nature provided our first snowfall of the season on December first this year. "Snowfall" being a relative term, as it was more slushy than fluffy, and the grass was still poking through.
Good enough for Bear and Bug, though. As soon as they got home from school, they went out to "sled."
I was dubious that there was enough snow to slide on, but they would not be dissuaded, and sure enough, they made it work.
Bear initally agreed only to go out and watch Bug sled and "maybe walk around a bit." I think she feels sledding is somehow beneath her newfound maturity.
Within two minutes they were both rolling around like puppies.
Didn't you realize that sledding is a full-contact sport?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sometimes I Don't Know Where She Came From

Scene: cookie baking

Bug (pointing out a specific cookie to me): After lunch, can I have one with those kind of sprinkles? Because those are the ones I really treasure.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Holiday Dessert Season is Officially OPEN...

The girls and I spent the day before Thanksgiving baking sugar cookies to take for a kid-friendly dessert the next day. (Side note: if, the week before Thanksgiving, you decide to make sugar cookies for dessert on the big day and think it would be cute if those cookies could be shaped like, oh, turkeys, or pumpkins or leaves, and you head out to purchase a Thanksgivingy cookie cutter, YOU WILL BE SORELY DISAPPOINTED. Much like one cannot buy snow boots in February (bikinis and flip-flops, yes, but not anything vaguely winter-related) your choices will be limited to only Christmas cookie cutters in the week preceding Thanksgiving. So, plain ol' circles in sorta fall-ish colors it was.)

My helpers were very industrious. They made the dough, cut out the cookies, and decorated them! Hooray for child labor! AND, they happily accept cookies as payment!
Certain preteens are getting camera-shy and prefer to be photographed unwittingly from behind. Otherwise, I get goofy faces or the paparazzi hand-in-front-of-face shot.
This, according to Bug, is the appropriate amount of sprinkles to put on a cookie:
(I only let her do that to one cookie).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


2008 has not been the best year. In fact, it's been overtly crappy in parts (hello, peanut allergy & damn dental bills), but this is a day to deliberately shift the focus to our blessings. I had to dig a little deeper this year to find the good, but still:

I am thankful for my girls, who illuminate my life with both their sweetness and their shenanigans. I am grateful that they are healthy, smart, and possess the ability to see the funny in life. If they can keep all three, they will be able to get through whatever life throws at them.

I am thankful for my husband, who works hard both at the office and at home to ensure that our lives are comfortable and our faucets drip-free.

I am thankful for our parents, who provided us not only with the foundation for our lives, but who continue to be supportive of us and stellar grandparents to Bear and Bug.

I am thankful for having a brother and sister-in-law, who I love and look forward to spending time with.

I am thankful that we have a home, unlike so many families who have faced foreclosure and joblessness this year.

I am thankful that our country has managed to come full-circle from its slave-owning past to elect an African American president.

I am thankful for Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show", who kept me sane during the presidential election.

I am thankful that my gum surgery and root canals are in the past.

I am thankful that Mittens has not yet figured out how to open doors, so we can stow her mischievous little self in the family room overnight.

Happy Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This Morning

Time: 6:00 am.
Scene: Dark.


Me (first counting to ten): Bear! Turn off your alarm.


Me: Bear! BEAR!


Daddy Shortbread: BEAR!!

Bear (sleepily): I know.


Me & Daddy Shortbread (staring at each other incredulously): BEAR!!!

Bear (now sleepy AND cranky, but clearly not moving): I. KNOW.


Bug (still in bed, does not need to get up for another half an hour): Bear! FOR GOD'S SAKE would you turn off your stupid alarm?! YOU ARE WAKING ME UP!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bear's New BFF

Meet Kelly, my old cell phone. I did not name her. I do have a life.
Bear is her new owner. She immediately named her "Kelly."

To Bear she is heaven, Disneyworld, and her new best friend all wrapped up in a metallic pink bow garnished with jazzy ringtones. She is completely and obnoxiously enarmored with the damn phone. For all the gushing she does over the sheer amazingness of her phone, the kid should be getting a weekly advertising check from Motorola.

Bear has been petitioning steadily for a cell phone since THIRD GRADE, when the first of her friends received one. "Mom, Christa can call her mom from the school bus to ask if she can go on a playdate!" she told me earnestly. Like I would somehow find this convincing. I was not swayed.

But now, in sixth grade, I had to admit that some situations were cropping up where it would have been useful for her to have a phone, like school activities that ended after dark. I even had to lend her mine on a couple of occasions, which was not so convenient. When Nana and Papa offered to get one for her as an early birthday present, I caved.

It's only to be used to call for rides and to call family at this point. No calling friends. I'm not ready to totally jump into the deep end. She's only eleven, after all. For now, she is content. She's happily texting and calling us, her grandparents, and her aunt and uncle. She changes her ringtones every two and a half minutes. She takes pictures of the cats, her sister, and tinfoil ("it makes a cool texture for a background!").

This is about the maximum distance Bear ever allows between herself and the cell phone:
This photo kinda says it all, yes?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just Tell Me When I Can Nap

Tonight is our fourthVisitor's Day at the dance studio in a week. While we love seeing the girls dance and getting a first peek at their recital costumes, there is also to be considered that we sit on supremely uncomfortable little plastic chairs for an hour and a half at a time in a studio made stuffy and sweltering from all the parents and kids crammed in there. Also? The 20 pairs of tap shoes in a confined space? I find myself consciously trying not to wince at the sound within twelve minutes. I don't know how their dance teacher does this on a daily basis. You know, without drinking heavily.

Still - I was so proud of my girls: Bear, whose grace and carriage really shines through in ballet; and Bug, whose energy and sense of rhythm is best showcased in jazz.

I must say, though, that after the crazy week we've had, when I treated the girls to McDonald's last night and Bear bit into a McNugget only to find it COMPLETELY RAW INSIDE, it felt like fate was deliberately messing with us. Enough so, that even though I was already in my comfy pants and slippers, I threw my coat back on and drove back to Mickey D's to return the Chicken McSalmonella Nuggets.

In summary: TGIF.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pride of Salesmanship

(Overheard yesterday when Bug had a friend over to play):

Bug (proudly, to her friend): And did you notice this new spoon rest of my mom's? She got it from the school fundraiser. It seems to be working out pretty well for her.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Poor Children

My kids were righteously indignant when they discovered that this is a full week of school. The past three weeks of school have been riddled with teacher in-service days, early release days, and national holidays.

"What? Not even a half day this week?" Bear asked.

"Nope. You go all five days this week. But next week is Thanksgiving, and you only have two days of school," I told them.

Bug sighed and layed her head on the kitchen table, "Man, this sucks. I need a break."

Because it's so stressful being eight years old?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bug's Letter to Santa

Yesterday, I casually mentioned to Bug that I had seen on The Today Show that Santa had begun deciding which toys to give to which children. (Hey, we all know that if Matt Lauer says it, it must be true, right?) I wondered aloud if she had finished writing her letter to Santa.

I do this every year, and it never fails to amuse me. I also announce when I've "seen on the news" that Santa is polishing the sleigh, that elves have begun wrapping presents, that x number of gifts have been reassigned because of last-minute naughtiness. Keeps 'em on their toes.

"No, but I'll get right on that," she said, standing up and unceremoniously dumping the snoozing cat off her lap. She fetched a notebook and pencil from her room and plunked herself in the middle of the living room floor to write. Bear, curled up in a recliner with a book, exchanged an knowing & amused look with me over the top of Bug's head.

Here is what Bug wrote:

Dear Santa,
Here is what I want for Christmas.

Wii games like My Sims Creator and My Sims Kingdom!

A Nintendo DS with DS game Tetris or Mario Carts.

The Webkinz eagel, bottle nose dolphine, or Manatee!

Bath and body works gift card.

Vidio camera to film puppet shows with!

Or you can surprise me!

I have been good all year my mom signed this to prove it.

Jennifer Z. Bestmomever

ps. I will be at my nanas and papas for christmas.


Monday, November 10, 2008

You Know You're Sick...

...when your normally snuggly-soft flannel sheets feel like sleeping on a loofah. I seriously spent an hour awake last night trying to figure out how to make a blanket out of the soft misty rain outside my window. For real. It seemed reasonable at the time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Awesome & Fabulous

Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fabulous just came to Maine for a six day visit. We had a great time hanging out with them, eating, playing Wii, eating, shopping, (did I mention eating?), and watching the election returns. Oh, also we ate a lot. I have GOT to get back to the gym on Monday. Bug, in particular, is completely awestruck by Aunt Fabulous. She takes careful note of Aunt Fab's stylish clothes, accessories, and shoes. I notice that she takes a little extra time with choosing her own accessories when Aunt Fab is around, and frequently adds a little dab of glitter roll-on to take her ensemble to that next level.

They took the girls on a shopping spree last weekend, helping them select trendy new clothes for school. Bear begged me to wash them up as quickly as possible, so she could wear a new shirt Monday to school.
Bear loves that Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fab are as into video games as she is. Finally, grown-ups who will tirelessly play Wii without begging off after ten minutes to do laundry or some other boring adult activity. Let's face it, aunts and uncles are way more fun than parents.
"Gee, thanks for spoiling my kids," I joked to Uncle Awesome as they left.

"That's our job," he replied, quite serious.
And they do it so well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Thee To The Polls!

Scene: this morning

Bear: It's Election Day!

Me (mock confusion): Oh yeah ... who am I voting for again?

Bear (sternly): Mom, do I need to write it on your hand?


Everyone at Chez Jenn is voting in this election. The junior high is holding its own election, where students are voting on not only the presidential candidates, but also the senatorial ones and the local ballot propositions. The third grade is holding a Presidential election. Bug is taking it quite seriously.

And does everyone know that Starbucks is giving out FREE COFFEE to everyone who votes today? I'm going to need it to stay awake and watch the election returns.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Here they are: The Dead Medieval Maiden and Cleopatra. Bug was highly irked that many people were not able to guess who she was. Among the guesses: Cinderella (with black hair and a cobra headpiece?!), a "princess", Clea (?), and Isis (we awarded points for at least getting that she was Egyptian). Only a few people correctly labelled her as Cleopatra.Bear was supposed to be a Medieval Lady. We were planning to curl her hair into ringlets and weave a gold ribbon through it. She would wear pearls and dangly earrings. Once she discovered that all her friends were planning to be Goths, or vampires, and various other scary types, she decided that Medieval Lady was lame. She came to me worried and anxious four days before Halloween.
In a stellar parenting moment (that I plan to get much mileage out of), I suggested that since she ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY WAS GOING TO WEAR THE COSTUME THAT GRANDMA LOVINGLY SEWED HER, that perhaps she would like to be a Dead Medieval Lady.
She paused.
She considered.
Her eyes lit up.
She thought I was the coolest mom ever. (That's the part I plan to remind her of frequently).
This is what we came up with:
That's her actual hair with the addition of an entire can of hairspray, followed by a liberal application of baby powder and leaves from the yard. She had to stand in the shower for about ten minutes to rinse it all out before she could even shampoo. We really COMMIT to our Halloween costumes around these parts.
Here's our entire Halloween crew. Bug and Bear have trick-or-treated with their friends C.(gangsta) and M. (Goth) for the past five years. In between houses, they plan what their costumes will be next year. Then they change their minds about thirty-seven times before the next Halloween.
We went back to their house for pizza and tiramisu (What? they're both Italian) . After supper, the kids all dumped their candy in the living room and swapped candy back and forth like little commodities traders ("I gotta Three Musketeers! Who wants it? Whaddya got? Nope, I'm not taking candy corn. Ya gotta Snickers?")
But the highlight of Halloween this year was the arrival of Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fabulous that afternoon. Of course, we dragged them both to Bug's class Halloween party and out trick-or-treating with us. They were very good sports, especially when bribed with tiramisu and peanut butter cups.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happiness Is...

...listening to my kids laugh out loud at the same Charlie Brown Halloween special that I loved as a kid. I guess some things are timeless.

And by the way, happiness is most certainly NOT making 100 miniature chocolate whoopie pies with orange frosting for tomorrow's class parties. That falls more into the category of "motherhood" or "martyrdom."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preteen Bear

This kid is growing up. Fast.

Last year I fretted over her upcoming transition to junior high, worrying about how she would deal with the responsibility of changing classes, more homework, increased peer pressure. How on earth would she ever remember her locker combination? Let's face it, organization has never been Bear's strong suit, and while some of the girls in her fifth grade class were concerned with fashion, boys, and cellphones, Bear was still perusing the American Girl doll catalog and playing dress-up with Bug. As she should. Regardless of what some parents seem to think, ten is still a little kid.
Over the summer, though, I watched the preteen begin to overshadow the little girl. Along with the obvious physical changes, came a heightened maturity, moodiness, and a sudden and complete aversion to waking up in the morning. There was dramatic sighing. There were requests to go to clothing stores. She shyly asked me to show her how to shave.

And then. THEN! She casually mentioned that she didn't really want any more American Girl doll stuff. Oh, she still planned to play with what she has... but this Christmas she'd rather have things like clothes, accessories, and video games. Bug declared her insane and WEIRD.
I've watched with equal parts amazement and pride as she's handled junior high with grace and maturity. Oh sure, we still have the occasional forgotten homework assignment, the inability to remember to bring home her gym clothes, and the exuberant bursts of silliness that reassure me that the little girl is not completely gone.

This past Friday she went to her first Sixth Grade Activity Night at the junior high. Seventh and eighth graders have dances in the cafeteria, while the sixth graders play games and sing karaoke in the gym. I helped her to choose an outfit, let her wear a tiny dab of lip color, and dropped her off with her friend. When I picked her up two hours later, she was laughing and glowing with happiness.

I miss the little girl, but I love the preteen. Isn't she beautiful?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Next? Fried Pork Rinds?

Daddy Shortbread went to the grocery store and bought SPAM today. I told him he's welcome to it. The girls and I will be dining on homemade teriyaki chicken, sushi rice, and broccoli rabe tonight.

I am equal parts revolted and appalled.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daddy Time

Bug's been pretty focused lately on the negatives of being the youngest in the family. She has an earlier bedtime than her sister. She's not allowed to watch certain TV shows that Bear does. She has to wear her sister's old winter coat instead of choosing a new one from the Land's End catalog. She practically writhed with envy last weekend when I let Bear borrow my cell phone to go ice-skating with friends.

Later that day, it was nice to see her reaping one of the benefits of being the youngest: one-on-one Daddy time when her big sister was off at a sleepover.
And, no, that's not how I normally dress my child. She put on an old t-shirt of Daddy Shortbread's to paint earlier that day and then decided not to take it off. Ditto on the too-short sweatpants. Whatever.
Daddy Shortbread was a very game two-square player, even when his opponent got a little rowdy.
To wit:
I had such a good time watching them enjoy each other. Daddy Shortbread would turn to retrieve the ball, only to have an ebullient Bug tackle him from behind. Two-square isn't normally a full-contact sport, is it?

I hung out at the picnic table sipping Diet Pepsi and shooting pictures to look busy. No way was I playing ball with these two crazies.