Friday, February 27, 2009

Sharing My Kindle With You (But Not Really, So Don't Get Any Ideas)

My husband recently bought me a Kindle 2.0, The Best Gift Ever. Even knowing that it is my Valentine's Day/Mother's Day/Arbor Day gift does not dampen my affection for this little slice of technological heaven. It is quite possibly the perfect gift for me.

I confess that when Daddy Shortbread received his first iPod and went into raptures about how awesome and life-changing it was, I may have discreetly rolled my eyes a few times and/or mocked him to my friends. A bit. (Sorry). I mean, I have a iPod, too, and it's cool for the gym and all...but, dude. Get a grip.

Then I got my Kindle and realized that God had made an ultimate gadget for me, too. Because Daddy Shortbread : Music, as Jenn : Books.

I will read just about anything, unless it sucks or I get bored. Life is way too short to ready crappy writing or lame plots, and I sometimes have a mild panic attack when I think about all the well-crafted, beautifully written books that I will never have the chance to read. Really, this keeps me awake at night. I am that dorky. Knowing that there is an unlimited supply of awesome books out there makes me completely ruthless when I encounter a crappy one. I'll give it a couple of chapters, check the ending to see if things improve, and then ditch it if they do not. No mercy. Next!

The Kindle revolutionizes reading for me. How? I'm so glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway.

1. It's sexy. I look cute holding it.

2. It holds 1500 books.

3. You can buy new books FROM YOUR KINDLE using the same basic technology as a cell phone. Don't ask me for details. I haven't got a clue how this works. Let's just pretend a magical fairy named "Whispernet" lives inside the Kindle and flies off to Amazon to get me new books when I order them, K? And Whispernet is a fast little sucker because the new books show up in less than a minute.

4. You can buy these books with one click of a button. This is also kind of dangerous, if you tend to be a somewhat "spontaneous" shopper like myself. (But it's in the name of KNOWLEDGE).

5. It talks to me. Seriously. If my delicate lil' peepers are fatigued from reading, I push a button and it reads out loud to me. I can even decide if I want the robotic female or robotic male voice to read. Bug is enchanted by this feature.

6. I can change the size of the type. This is huge for me, since I can see about as well as a platypus, which Daddy Shortbread assured me has terible eyesight when I just now ordered him to name an animal that doesn't see well.

7. It's environmentally friendly. E-books mean no paper, no exhaust pollution from shipping, and no chemicals from ink. See all the cool ways I can rationalize buying books now?

8. The screen is not back-lit like a computer, so it's easy on the eyes and you can read it in bright sunlight. I didn't believe this either, but it's true.

9. There's a bunch of other cool things about it, but I'm getting hungry and there are cranky short people kvetching about wanting dinner, so you'll have to go to if you want to know more. (And, nope, they're not paying me to review their product, but I'd happily accept some e-books as thanks, if they're reading. Hello? Amazon?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shooting Buddies

Two storms ago, we had one of those story-book snowfalls where the whole world is powder-sugar perfect. Since then, we've gotten another foot and a half of snow, and I'm over it. Over. It. Cue April.

But two storms ago, I was inspired to go on a photography spree around town to shoot the beautiful fresh snow. Which I now hate.

We started in our own backyard. I love the pop of color from the girls' playhouse against the snowy woods.
We drove down to an old mill by the river. The sky was a rare thing for February in Maine: blue. It was so wonderful to be looking at something other than the typical monochromatic palette of leafless trees /gray sky /white snow, that we hung out and took quite a few shots despite the cold that left my fingers numb. I told Bug to hop in the van, so we could warm up while we drove to the next vista.
"Hang on!" she called urgently over one shoulder, "I need to get this shot."

Confession: I've maybe been a tad obsessed with photography this past year. She's probably heard those exact words from my mouth around 85,000 times. Karma sucks.
Bug lined up her shot very carefully, pressed the shutter and then checked the LCD screen to be sure it came out. She took one more shot before she was satisfied, then joined me in the van.
We headed down to the river to get some wintry shots of the Kennebec. By then the sun had gone behind the clouds, leaving behind a leaden gray sky. As I set up to shoot, I recalled that the thing about rivers in winter is that they're...gray...and about as interesting as a puddle of spit. We took a few shots, grimaced at the boring images on our LCD screens, and went shopping instead. 'Cause that's how we hard-core photographers roll.

See? Boring. Gray. (Also: dirty snow in bottom right-hand corner). Pfffft.The obligatory self-portrait. You will please to ignore my grown-out roots and faded hair color and focus instead on the sweet face of my daughter. I've had to postpone my hair appointment twice, but it's set for Friday. Pinky swear. And it's going to take Satan himself to make me postpone it again.

Monday, February 23, 2009


We celebrated Bear's twelfth birthday this week. Back in December, she mentioned that what she really wanted for her birthday this year was to redecorate her room. It was the first she'd mentioned it, and I was surprised. She explained that she'd like something "more grown-up" and "stylish." The more we discussed it, the more clear it became that she'd been thinking about this for quite some time. She began to tick off the elements she was hoping for:

-blue and brown color scheme

-NO flowers or floral designs

-geometric patterns

-neater and less messy (which I was quick to point out was, um, kind of HER deal. The whole Webkinz Warehouse After a Typoon effect was all her doing.)

I agreed. Nana signed on as Chief Painter. Most of her gifts this year revolved around her new bedroom decor: comforter, curtains, mirror, nightstand, desk set, etc.

We ordered and returned eight comforters before finding The Ultimate Comforter. Bear pored over paint samples, taping them to the wall for consideration. She winnowed them down to two: teal for the walls and chocolate brown for the trim. She wondered whether we could do polka-dots on the walls. I thought not. We compromised on a stripe and one wall painted in contrast colors (brown wall, aqua trim). Bear's Bedroom, Version 3.0 was a go.
Bear had her last room re-do in April 2005. She chose a soft shade of blue for the walls with pale butter yellow trim and white ruffled curtains. It was a dreamy, girly haven with butterflies hanging from the ceiling and a throw-rug shaped like a daisy. Gradually, posters of pop stars began to find their ways onto the walls, and she started griping when I put the Disney princess pillowcases on her bed.
Just to be perfectly clear, here is a photo of Bear from that month. She was eight-years-old and cute as a button.
And, now, not quite four years later in her newly redone bedroom:
HOLY GOD. Who is this teenager, and where did she hide my little girl?
This is one of Bear's favorite parts of her new room. Posters were a must in her book, but I hate the cluttered look when they're taped haphzardly all over the walls. As a compromise, I helped her mount her bazillion posters, carefully torn from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine, in a massive collage on her closet door. Eventually, we'll cover the other door, too, but we're waiting for the next batch of magazines. I have to admit, I think it looks pretty cool. You know, if you're into underage boys. KIDDING.
Here's a wide-angle shot from the doorway. It still takes me aback to walk into this not-a-little-girl's-room-anymore and see a lanky preteen sprawled on the bed talking on the phone. I mean, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was twelve (and if you're doing math in your heads, you can just knock it the hell off).
My twelve-year-old Bear: dreamer, dancer, writer, hugger, laugher, runner, singer, musician, videographer, joker, reader, and preteen sweetheart.
I can only use "preteen" to describe her for one more year. And that is killing me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wii Smack Talk

Scene: Bug is doing yoga with Wii Fit in our living room. She is standing on one foot on the Balance Board, while holding the other foot up high behind in one hand with the other hand stretched far in front.

Wii Trainer Voice (melodic and gentle): You're swaying a little bit. Lean farther forward while keeping your back straight and your abdominals tight.

Bug: Yeah, that's not going to happen lady.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter Walk

When I suggested to the girls that we take a walk, I had in my mind an image of a quiet, companionable stroll through the woods behind our house. I would take my camera and capture shots of them looking properly pink-cheeked and happy walking in the crystalline, winter woods. Maybe some melting snow would slip from a branch and hit one of us on the head, creating one of those spontaneous laugh-out-loud-moments. It would all be very Little House on the Prairie/Walton-esque.

Yeah, I'm delusional. Whatever.

Despite the fact that it was an unseasonably warm weekend, and we'd lost quite a bit of our snowpack, we didn't get far (um, about two feet) before we realized that there was more snow left than we'd realized. Sinking in to knee-depth or beyond, we discovered that our boots functioned much like soup ladles, scooping the wet snow neatly down into the boot whenever we lifted our foot to take another step. After three steps, our socks and our tucked-in pant legs were soaking wet.

No one was laughing out loud.

There was actually quite a bit of grumbling and and stopping to tip snow out of boots.
We trudged doggedly across the yard. "It won't be as deep in the woods!" I told the girls cheerfully, "The trees keep the snow from getting as deep back there." Seemed like solid logic to me, unless you fail to consider that the trees have no LEAVES this time of year.

We had just picked our way down the back slope when Bear turned to me and said, "Mom? This kind of sucks. "

I had to admit that, yeah, it kind of did.

Bug, wet to the thigh, moaned, "Why won't you let us walk on the street?"

I conceded failure. We turned back and re-slogged across the yard. Side note: This is my rhododendron, which we passed en route to the street. You're going to have to take my word for it that it's a lot more impressive when it's not buried in snow. Because looking at it right now, the word that springs to mind is "pathetic." Or maybe "stubby." (Also I had my white balance set all wrong when I took this picture, so really this photo irritates me on a multitude of levels).

Moving on.Now THIS is much more our speed. And while it was a lot less picturesque than I had envisioned, we wound up having a terrific walk. We chatted and laughed. The breeze felt warm on our faces, after weeks of days in the teens. The sky was a clear light blue.

It did not suck.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Class Party

Valentine's Day is one of those school days where elementary school teachers deserve hazardous duty pay. Today was the last day of school before Winter Break and this, combined with the giddy atmosphere of a class party day and wildly spiraling sugar highs made for some seriously delirious short people.

I walked into Bug's class to help set up for their class party. The classroom was abuzz with excitement, as the kids flitted desk-to-desk delivering Valentines. I opened the containers of cookies, cupcakes, sliced fruit, and doughnut holes sent in by their parents. Table by table, the teacher sent them to fill their plates.

Shockingly, some children actually took fruit. (Note: not my kid).

I watched one little boy survey his paper plate of goodies with the seriousness of an Iron Chef competitor. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweatshirt and moved one hot-pink frosted cupcake to the center of the plate. From his stack of Valentine candy, he selected a packet of Fun-Dip, tore open the top, and poured the acid-green sugar powder onto the cupcake. He paused and considered his next step, then delicately flicked four candy hearts into the frosting. Finally, he placed a single doughnut hole atop this confection, using his thumb to mash it in firmly. With equal measures of awe and revulsion, I watched him peel off the wrapper and savor every bite.

He caught my eye and grinned happily. Sticking out his tongue, he called, "Hey, Mrs. M.! What color is my tongue?"

And THAT is why teachers deserve higher pay.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Tonight I went to a spaghetti supper at the elementary school. I sat one table over from a cherubic seven-year-old boy who has been given two to six months to live, due to an inoperable brain tumor. The dinner was in his honor, a benefit to raise money for a last-chance medical procedure not covered by the family's insurance. I watched him tucking in to his plate of spaghetti, as bright-eyed and chipper as any of the kids there, his swollen face the only real giveaway to his medical condition.

His parents sat on either side of him, smiling and clearly grateful for the community support. His mother's eyes looked tired. I can only begin to imagine what she has been through, and where her mind must take her late at night when her little boy is sleeping.
At the end of a day like today, you make sure to give your kids that extra hug, to say "I love you" out loud instead of just thinking it.
I'm going to stop bitching about minutae long enough to give thanks that little insignificant things are really all I have to complain about. Things like the drearily persistent winter weather, my favorite pants not fitting the way I think they should, or the fact that my cat was apparently born with an extra chromosome that enables Continuous Shedding...those are gravy, baby.

I'm pretty damn lucky, and today I'd like to both acknowledge that and say thank you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Birth"day" is something of a misnomer around here. We tend to spin the festivities into at least a full weekend of fun. Here are some shots from Bug's 48-hour Birthday Extravaganza...

Bug wanted a chocolate chip pie for her Real Birthday, and gazed happily into the candles' glow while we clustered around and sang to her. Really, it doesn't get much better than being a kid deciding on your birthday wish in those seconds before you blow out the candles.

Bug's new camera from Daddy S. & I was a big hit. She's showing the makings of being as completely obnoxious as I am about taking photos. Common refrain around here is now Bear crabbing, "Bug keeps taking my picture!" I imagine this is how most paparazzi get their start. As evidence of my continuing genius (you've started a file with these examples I give you, yes?), I submit The Sledding Party. Points to consider:

a. cheap (like, FREE)
b. completely exhausted children by end of party
c. at no point was I required to wear a bathing suit
c. did I mention the free?
Another genius brainchild of mine was to bake a small cake for each kid at the party. They had a ball slathering them with frosting and sprinkles, and because kids tend to be a wee bit proprietary about "their" cakes, there was no cake for me. Which is a very, very good thing considering the fact that I will be putting a bathing suit on in another four months or so.
Bug was very meticulous with her cake-decorating, working away on the details long after her friends had finished their cakes.
My nine-year-old Bug: dancer, reader, piano-player, artist, giggler, screecher, bouncer, budding mathematician, photographer, snuggler, and all-around sweetheart. Happy Birthday! I love you to pieces, baby.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Birthday Hangover

This is what happens 'long about midday Sunday when you've been celebrating your ninth birthday nonstop since daybreak Friday.

She slept for three and a half hours until I woke her up for dinner.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everything I Know About Football

(Those of you who are shocked to find actual words under that title and not just blank space have just earned 10 bonus points).

1. I know very little about football.

2. In junior high, I once made a touchdown while playing flag football in PE class. I can still remember the feeling of exultation, and vague surprise that no one was catching me, as I raced down the field to the sound of my teammates screaming my name. I ran over the goal line, turned, and realized that they'd been screaming because I had just made a goal for the opposing team. This turned me against football for life.

3. I have had "downs" explained to me an easy hundred times over the course of my life and have made peace with the fact that I will never ever understand what they are.

4. My best friend's husband did successfully, and patiently, explain what "offsides" means to me. I basically sit around the whole game and wait for this to happen because it's the only thing I can comment about without sounding like an idiot.

5. I like the shiny, tight uniforms, but I can't tell one player from another with their helmets on. And, yes, I know their names are on their shirts, but I'm too blind to read them.

6. Super Bowl Sunday is an excellent time to go shopping. The stores are virtually empty. Ditto restaurants.

7. I'm a big fan of wings, chips and dip, and other football-type food. I feel this should count in my favor.

8. I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.