Friday, April 25, 2008

Selective Hearing

We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises have been experiencing a bit of a tricky spell. Every instruction given to our youngest associate is met with an immediate, "Why?!" Clearly, Elise's powers of concentration have improved dramatically as she no longer really falls for the whole "distract and redirect" routine that has worked so well for us for so long. The trip upstairs for shower time tonight was one for the record books.

Daddy: "Elise please go up the stairs now."
Elise: "Why?!"
Daddy: "Please go up the stairs now."
Elise: "No!"
Daddy: "Elise! Walk up the stairs now!"
Elise: "I can't hear you, Daddy. Please say it louder."
Daddy: "Elise, up the stairs NOW."
Elise: "I can't hear you, I've got a banana in my ear."
Daddy: (can't help smiling)
Elise: (Laughs) "Now we're having fun again!"

This one's for you, Grandpa Karl. Put a smile on your nose.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


It is surprisingly difficult to find a place to be a volunteer, at least if you want to do so with animals. Because of Elise's love of all things feline, I thought it would be great if we could go together to a shelter and volunteer regularly to socialize cats. I'd go on my own to do some actual work.

Kitten season is already in full-swing here, and the local paper even ran an editorial last week about the need for volunteers at the city shelter. The next volunteer orientation isn't until mid-May. If I want to volunteer at the Humane Society, I will need to purchase a ticket for an orientation class, and they're sold out for quite some time. I don't think we're quite ready for fostering litters of kittens (I'll bet our landlord isn't either!), and that's about the only thing anybody seems to want done. We'll keep scoping out local organizations and see if we can find a niche for this season, and then we'll be old hands by the time kittens come around again.

While waiting for a shelter to open so we could scope it out the other day, we stopped in at the Petsmart near our house. They have shelter kitties who need homes, and Elise was desperate to see a cat, any cat. We looked at all of the cats and learned their names and talked to them a bit. And then there was Amelia. She took one look at Elise and bounded toward the glass to rub her head as close to Elise as she could get. She was also fascinated by Teri-bear, which immediately endeared her to Elise. They talked through the glass for quite awhile. We went away and came back after we'd chosen two toys for Flapjack. Amelia looked right at Elise and dashed to see her. When Elise wandered off to talk to another cat, Amelia pointedly turned her back on me and went about her business of looking bored.

Well, we just had to play with her. I contacted the Maine Coon rescue lady, and she hooked us up with the volunteer who cares for their kitties at the store. Elise thought it was very important for her to write a letter asking if Amelia was there and if she could pet her, so we worked on that together. She proudly gave it to the volunteer when we went back to the store that evening. When Amelia was brought into the play room, she immediately cozied up to Elise, much to her delight. I was tolerated and let know that I was okay but clearly a second banana. Elise was over the moon to have a kitty paying exclusive attention to her. She's pretty protective of Teri, but remembering how interested Amelia had been that morning the very first thing she did was put Teri on Amelia's back. To her credit, this cat who had just been taken out of her cage and thrust into a room full of strangers stood there an purred.

So, really we don't need another cat. The fact that it's even a consideration at this point says something about the experience we had with Amelia. Just so I don't look like a deranged cat lady, I have to add that I would not even be thinking about this if not for the fantastic chemistry between Elise and this kitty. Helping at a shelter would be awesome. There are other cats out there who will love Elise when it might be more reasonable to adopt a cat. But the chemistry is here now and my heartstrings are all jangly now. We will work this out as a family and it will all be good, but for now I just want to dream a little about my girl who might just have found her new best friend.


We've nearly done it for another year. Wahoo! Our one minor infraction was to watch the Sharks win game 7 of the quarterfinals on Monday. And we're intending to watch them trounce Dallas on Friday. If they lose the TV will of course have been off for the evening.

To help decrease kid screen time, Elise's school has offered programming every night this week. Monday was a family sing-along featuring all of the songs that they sing on Tuesday mornings during "community time." Elise is enamored of the song book. Of all the changes brought on by school, my favorite may well be Elise's newfound love of music and singing. She sings up a storm! And, can sometimes carry a tune. Maybe I also mentioned once before that she can match pitch when she wants to as well? It was great to finally learn some of the songs that she thinks we should know by virtue of her singing them without us every Tuesday.

Tuesday evening was science night. In honor of Earth Day, they had all kinds of cool recycled stuff with which to make collages. We're still waiting for the glue to dry to bring it home-I guess I'd better remember to get it next week. ;) We also made "rainbow stew." Cornstarch, water and I think a bit of sugar mixed with food coloring. The kids spooned red, yellow and blue goo into a ziploc. I'm used to seeing Elise be shy around adults that she doesn't know well, and kind of shrink back when something causes cognitive dissonance for her. I was therefore completely shocked to watch her look the unknown teacher in the eye and tell her that the rainbow stew was missing some colors. The teacher suggested that she smoosh the stuff in the bag and see if that helped. Elise started squeezing and then looked absolutely stunned to see more colors appearing in the bag. I congratulated her on her discovery, and she was clearly thrilled to have figured out the stew. Seeing the smile on the teacher's face as she watched Elise's face light up was just fantastic. It's a real privilege to watch my daughter in that kind of glowing, happy interaction, and I hope I will get to do so many more times.

Wednesday night was by far the best attended. I had no clue what it was about as there was not really any detail on the sign up sheet. The fact that there were soooo many names on said sign up sheet when it was first put up should have been a clue. What is this Happy Birds thing, anyway? Performing parrots! It's a family business that brings birds to events and attempts a bit of education. They clearly devote their lives to their birds-I don't think I saw a single feather out of place all night, and the birds clearly loved their "work." We saw a sun conure fly through hoops. We saw a harlequin macaw who could ride a bike and a skateboard. A cockatoo who would faint from a person's bad breath if breathed on. Another macaw who likes to stand on one foot and show off his wings. An amazon who does a fantastic car alarm impression, and another who sings. Elise's favorite of the evening was the hyacinth macaw. He's only 6, and is learning some tricks of his own. He rode a scooter and a swing, and knocked over bowling pins. He also cracked a macadamia nut with his beak.

We signed up for everything this week, but simply could not make it to the BBQ tonight. Something to do with the adults being zombies and the kiddo being overstimulated/sleep deprived. I hope you've enjoyed your Turn Off the TV Week as much as we have! And, I'll leave you with a picture taken by one of the moms who thought ahead and brought a camera...


We didn't get particularly excited about our library selections this week. Silly us-we used turn off the TV week to get out and do stuff rather than read our books. Not sure I get how we read more when we also watch some TV, but maybe it just takes practice to get new routines right.

We've been delving deep into our library's collection of cat related books. Hang in there through all of the cats and we'll get to books at the end.

Telling Time with Big Mama Cat
by Dan Harper, Illustrated by Barry & Cara Moser
Elise has been paying close attention to the clocks at school to figure out what's happening next in her day, so I thought it was time to bring on a little encouragement. I like this book because, unlike other books with clock faces and hands, it's well constructed. Little fingers can actually manipulate the hands. The cat keeps her schedule and mostly does so on an hourly basis, but throws in some opportunities for minute hand usage. Elise likes that the cat has a schedule and jobs to do around the house. We're using her newfound clock knowledge/interest to help with fear of the dark. She now has a super quiet clock with a lighted dial right next to her bed so she has some idea of how long it is until morning.

by Ruth Brown
In spite of a kind of sparse story and an abrupt complication that is only sort of resolved, this book was a big hit. Each of the pages has a half page between, and when you flip the half page the scene changes and the kitties do other things. Pretty ingenious, really. And the illustrations are just beautiful.

Nobody Asked Me!
by Steve Henry
When you're an older cat and the people bring home a kitten, it's tough. The little buggers are so energetic that it can be annoying. Luckily for Tiger, Bo settles into his big brother role pretty well. I think this one would be good in a couple of different situations. For a kid who identifies with critters better than people it's a great way to talk about a new baby in the house. For a kid who's cat crazed, it's a good reminder that cats have feelings, and I've watched Elise pretend to be both cats in this story to explore the feelings involved. A winner!

by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Elise picked this one randomly from the shelf, largely based on the illustrations on the cover. We both really liked the shiny, high gloss pictures inside. The concept of a game of telephone being played by bunnies was a little beyond Elise, but it was sweetly done and I don't think she's permanently distressed by the fact that bunnies can't be trusted to pay attention to instructions over the telephone.

D.W.'s Guide to Preschool
by Marc Brown
We checked this one out awhile back as part of our Prepare for Preschool Pogrom. Elise was completely disinterested back then. Now that she's an old pro at going to school, she totally digs D.W.'s take on the whole preschool experience. She clearly identifies with the character, and likes that the two of them are such experts.

Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette
by Frank Asch
Per earlier recommendation, we gave this one a try. Elise was fascinated by all of the stuff one guy could do with a loaf of bread. We never use ours to save babies from roving alligators. Or to direct marching bands. It is like so many of Asch's stories-gentle and fun. I have to say, though, that I can see why this dude lives alone and has to go shopping for bread by himself. The very fact that he'd eat that baguette after everywhere it's been would preclude him living in polite company.

Digby Takes Charge
by Caroline Jayne Church
It was a revelation to Elise that dogs sometimes have jobs. Digby is an earnest young sheepdog trying to make a name for himself around the farm. The sheep aren't going for it, though. He goes all out to get them to their pen, only to fail. I think it's sweet that the cows and pigs take him aside to offer advice. I could tell that this one had Elise engaged, because she knew what the advice was before I read it aloud, and she looked so very pleased to have figured it out. Given that we've been working hard on manners around here, this struck just the right note this week.

As for me, I checked out two more books by Sarah Vowell and didn't even touch them in favor of parenting books. Yeah. Look out. Fiction deprived mother on the loose. It's okay-I still have 2 more weeks! (And a certain number of renewals.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Movie Madness

Apparently, there are a few silly, comical, juvenile movies out this weekend. The one we chose for our date night tonight was Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It was just the laugh we needed after an intense week. I have to say, I like this new brand of romantic comedy in which a basically nice guy ends up happy. Absolutely loved the silliness of this one. For those of you with sensitive eyes, I should mention that there is some random, gratuitous male nudity in the first and last minutes. And now I totally want to go see a rock opera about Dracula as performed by puppets.

The other juvenile choice out there which we did not choose to see is called Expelled. I've been doing my very very best to ignore it altogether in spite of its near omnipresence in the atheist blogosphere. Ben Stein got together with some unskilled, unscrupulous "film maker" to prove once and for all that "big science" is out to kill God. The poor, meek, "intelligent design" proponents are distressed that science-based science gets so much attention in school curricula while wholesome faith-based "science" is ignored in all but our nation's most enlightened cultural backwaters.

From what I understand, Expelled features extensive unlicensed use of copyrighted material. They're promoting it all over the place, so if you feel so moved feel free to click on every google ad you see for it. I love that they're shelling out to advertise on NPR as well-clearly an intelligently designed marketing strategy.

The thing that baffles me most about this movie is that nearly all of the opposition I've seen to it comes from scientists and outraged atheists. Where the heck are the theists? This film rather artlessly claims to speak for anyone with a religion. In doing that, it makes a lot of religious people look very stupid. If they were flying planes into buildings to accomplish this instead of making low-quality movies, all of the perfectly reasonable theists who can't bring themselves to accept nonsense like Jesus on a dinosaur would speak up.

The very fact that the bozos behind Expelled can't even seem to make a coherent movie would seem to indicate that they couldn't blow up a building if they wanted to and/or tried. But what other effects might a creationist extremist group have on our society? The one that is most obvious to me is a devaluation of science as a field of study. It's either not worthwhile because evolution is flat wrong, or the whole thing is just too controversial for normal people to want to bother with. Any guesses what happens to a technologically dependent society that falls behind in its scientific pursuits? Anyone? Anyone? Ben Stein? Ben Stein? We're already seeing what happens to the rest of the planet when the US wobbles financially. Anybody want to share responsibility for a collective brain wobble?

So, I'm going to go ahead and change up the words of Martin Niemöller in order to drive my point home a bit.

First they told lies about evolution, but I wasn't a biologist so I didn't speak out.

Then, they made up stories about flood geology, but I wasn't a geologist so I didn't speak out.

Then, they baited atheists so that they could get some attention, but I was too smart for that so I didn't speak out.

Then, they came after theists who didn't believe that Goddidit, and I didn't speak out because they were fellow Christians and we at least have that common bond so I made peace while privately thinking they were wacky.

Then, they came for me. But by then everyone else was so exhausted from speaking out without me that they didn't have the ability to speak out for me.

So, after all of that rambling, what I mean to say is that Expelled is perhaps the biggest affront to the people who are saying the least about it. Does being a good citizen of the world actually matter if one allows one's credibility to be co-opted by hangers-on for their own purposes? In the case of Expelled, I would expect respectable theists everywhere to bellow louder than the scientists and atheists about the attachment of zany intelligent design stories to religion.

In honor of the late, great, Edward Lorenz I encourage butterflies everywhere to get fluttering. If you're feeling like a real heavyweight champion, I'd encourage you to also sting like a bee.

The Short List

In spite of the fact that we checked out about a bazillion library books last week, only one held any interest.

Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maude Montgomery, as retold by Kathleen Olmstead
Part of the Classic Starts series

We watched the movie (the one that PBS stations always put on at pledge time) and Elise was enraptured. Having requested this version for younger kids from the library, I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't counted on Elise being quite so excited. I received a notice from the library on Monday, and we had to go pick it up. With much lamenting that they don't open until 2pm on Mondays. And, the whole works was read by Thursday afternoon. (This with me out of commission for a day and a half.)

Aside from a few nonsensical changes (Why does Bonnie have to be a tulip instead of a geranium? I mean really.) I thought this version did a good job of introducing the best of Anne to younger kids. I also thought that the acrobatics necessary to believably leave out Diana getting drunk were pretty funny.

So far we've pretended that blankets are long dresses, had fancy tea parties at which we use affected voices and talk of lofty things, and given Elise "Anne braids." It helps that Elise's new friend Rista has lovely raven black hair that we can admire and envy.

My introduction of Anne (which even I admit has been too early for such a little girl) was all a part of a not-so-subtle ploy to coerce Andy into heading for PEI while we're off in Maine at the end of June. (It's so close, after all!) We may or may not make it there, but Elise and I have found something that we have really bonded over. I'm glad this younger-audience version of the book exists.

Best. Haircut. Ever.

On the heels of the previous alarming downer post, I'd like to mention the fantastic haircut I got yesterday. My beloved stylist recently returned from a seminar in London (and dodged the grand opening of Heathrow's new Terminal 5-smart woman!) where she picked up some new techniques. I have no idea what it is that she did differently, but I looooooooove my new haircut. It feels and looks fantastic!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ER < Fun

Before anyone gets worried, everybody here at Steingruebl World Enterprises is just fine. What follows here is a bit of a rant, probably colored a bit by the colors of the bruises on my arms and sleep deprivation.

As loyal readers are aware, I've had some abdominal issues in my time. When I started feeling funky this weekend, I pretty well ignored it until things started feeling alarmingly like my previous hernia experiences. The plan was to mail my doctor first thing Tuesday morning, and see what she recommended. Then, I came down with the flu. Not even a bad version, but enough to send me looking for blankets and a hot water bottle. Mailed the doctor when I finally roused myself to pick Elise up from preschool that afternoon.

Anybody spot the mistake yet? Crawl out from under those blankets and stifle that nausea long enough to write early in the day, not later!

Because, as veteran hernia sufferers know, fever and nausea can be the flu or they can be an incarcerated hernia that could kill you pretty quickly. I was pretty convinced I had the flu, so I didn't give it a second thought until I read the mail back from my doctor that requested I be seen immediately if I had any sort of a fever or nausea. The main problem here is that I read this at around 6:30pm, and was therefore beyond hope of getting in to the after-hours clinic.

After being chastised by the advice nurse for not seeking medical care over the weekend, we called a friend to come stay with Elise and Andy took me to the ER. I was advised to not eat or drink before going, which is pretty crummy for someone with the flu if you think about it. We got there at a little after 9pm.

Several hours into our little visit, I met the doc who promptly demanded several vials of blood and a CT scan, just to make sure that there would be no liability issues if I were to walk out of the door. Because clearly I was more dehydrated and exhausted than anything else at this point.

I have little veins. Itty bitty ones that go deep underground when I've been feverish and without water for 5 hours. One nurse tried twice. The next nurse tried twice and threatened to send in a doctor to run a central line if I didn't stop crying and produce a decent vein. The next nurse tried another two times, and happily by the second time she struck pay-dirt. The nice thing about the painful punctures on my hands is that they don't seem to have bruised. I'm going to be wearing long sleeves for the next few weeks to avoid scaring people, though.

By now, it was 2:30am and Andy was exhausted. He headed for home to relieve our friend and to get a few hours of sleep before Elise woke. (She got up early this morning, the little darling.) I got to drink some foul stuff to help with the impending CT scan, and was in danger of having to drink more of it because there was some sort of lunch-break related delay. The tech was a fantastically nice (and funny!) guy, though I wasn't very good at keeping up my end of the conversation by 6:30am. I was told that I should hear from the doctor in about an hour.

At about 7:30am, the new shift was in evidence and my new nurse introduced herself by offering me all of the food, water and painkillers that I was told all night long I couldn't have. When I explained that I'd been told I wasn't allowed until test results were back, her response was, "Oh, probably not then. Okay-call me if you need anything."

At about a quarter to 8, the new doctor assigned to me came in to tell me that everything looked completely normal, and they'd ruled out any life-threatening reasons for the pain, swelling etc. I'd been experiencing. That was good to hear. Of course, they didn't have any answers as to what was going on but apparently that sort of diagnosis is beyond the scope of the ER's duties so I can't complain too much. The thing that made me so mad that all I could do was let the tears stream down my face was that this guy then proceeded to speculate that a fluid-filled cyst they found on an ovary might be my problem. He then went on to describe how ovaries work, because clearly there was no way I'd have any idea about that. Especially after I'd just told him that I get these regularly, they go away, and they've never ever caused even remotely similar symptoms previously. It felt to this tired, bruised, hungry woman like the biggest cop-out in the world. "No idea, ma'am. Probably related to your girly-parts though. If you weren't so dumb, you wouldn't have had to spend the night here. Try to get it right next time."

Two minutes later, the discharge nurse came in to take out my IV and instruct me to call my GYN in the next few days. I wobbled outside at a little after 8am to wait on a bench in the sun for Andy and Elise to pick me up.

So, I'm a little grouchy about this whole experience. I've learned a few things, though, so maybe it wasn't a complete loss.

4. Medical professionals are trained to respond to key words when they assess you for ER admittance. Once you're there, they kinda treat everyone like a two-bit hypochondriac so don't take it personally. The way the place has to be run from an administration (and liability) standpoint just makes that part of the experience.

3. For people with small veins, being a good doobie and following the standard instructions about not drinking water is dangerous. Chances are that unless you're in acute distress and passed out, you're not going into surgery for several hours. Make the blood-draw and IV insertion less traumatic for everyone by staying hydrated.

2. Bring a book, blanket, pillow. You will wait. Heck, the heart patient with a BP that indicated he should be dead already, who was puking and looked about to lose consciousness was in the waiting room for at least 3 hours that I saw.

1. The ER is absolutely the last place anyone should ever go looking for medical care. It's triage only, "care" is not part of the equation. When you realize that millions of Americans use emergency rooms as their only available medical treatment, it becomes glaringly obvious that our nation's current "health care system" is a human rights problem. We have got to quit punishing people for some imagined failure of character that prevents them from having affordable basic care. And, it's not just "poor people" either-private insurance premiums just keep getting higher. I ended up at the ER by choice and with good insurance, and that was bad enough.

Monday, April 14, 2008


After all of the fun Elise has been having at school, it seems about time that we share some photos of the place. The majority of these pictures were taken on the day of a class field trip with Flat Stanley. He had his picture taken with the kids around downtown San Jose, and he's going to take his pictures in an envelope with him to another Bright Horizons school someplace else. (Alaska was what I last heard.)

Here they are, at the big park downtown that hosts lots of the city's big events. Hard to believe that we were in this very spot for Christmas in the Park a mere 2 1/2 months before this picture was taken.

Here are Elise and her friend Katie, holding Stanley's hands outside of the Tech Museum.

I worked pretty hard to get this shot. Where else can you see a redwood (foreground), oak (behind statue) and a Quetzalcoatl all in one place? Especially with all of those cute kids, too!

One of the problems with Stanley is that he can't really stand up by himself. How's he standing right up next to that statue? As people were regretting having forgotten tape, I suggested bandaids. They worked pretty well.

And look! We have art and palm trees here in San Jose. This is near where they set up the ice skating rink every "winter" so that people can skate under the palms. We've missed this two winters in a row, but I think this will be the year. Somebody please remind me along about Thanksgiving, would you?

When we got back to school, I noticed that Rose (one of the teachers) was taping paper over the door to dim the room for rest time. That seemed silly to me so I volunteered to make a curtain. It turned out pretty well, and people seem to like it. One side has alphabet letters, the other has stars and crescent moons.

Here is the whole class with Rose. It was a fun field trip, and I hope we get to do more of them in the future!

Really? Some pictures?!

I've been promising Mom some pictures of the lovely Miss Steingruebl, and I finally managed to find the card reader so I could display a few.

Awhile back, Elise had a homework assignment that involved observing her neighborhood and making a list of what she saw. Here she is (with Dora clipboard) in action:

Of course, we've also missed out on posting pictures of her with her bicycle. As you might guess, the park is a favorite destination, and we can't go there without chalk. Since these were taken, she's become an expert. (at both riding and drawing with chalk) Look forward to many more such pictures as the summer goes on...

One morning, Andy was feeling like he hadn't been seeing enough of his daughter. Here she is, dressed in her favorite new outfit from Grandma Char.

And here is the fantastic robot they built as a team. It's still hanging out in the living room, a good month or so later. They're pretty talented, right?

Back at Christmas, Aunt Amy sent Elise a whole bunch of cool bug collecting/studying gear. It's been chilly enough that we haven't had that many bugs around. However, it seems like every time we open the front door we get a new fly. Elise has been keeping her bug sucker machine handy for those occasions on which she is in the mood for a futile endeavor.

Never fear, though. While it doesn't catch flies, this little device is great for craneflies.

As a delightful surprise to me, my girl has been consenting to having her hair braided lately. Not ponytails, though, because she's noticed that it's mostly babies and little girls who have those.
Here she is, hair back in two lovely braids, putting on a sweater to stay warm one chilly morning.

We've been busy! Now I just have to find a way to include a camera in some of that activity more often.

Ruining Baseball

There is one horrible side-effect of our newfound love of hockey. It's ruining baseball. Such fast-paced action on the ice. Such a leisurely pace on the field. And to top it off, tonight we had to watch the Sox fall to the As tonight. If I were an area native I'd be completely into the As-I love them as a club. As it is, I still love my Sox. It's just getting increasingly hard to watch them standing around in the grass and not bleeding at all.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

International Sidewalk Astronomy Night

Tonight could potentially be a very exciting night. It's time for some sidewalk astronomy! The idea is that amateur astronomers take their scopes out to places where their neighbors are likely to be, and share the sky. The moon is headed toward full and is always fun to look at. As a special surprise, it appears that there has been a nova in the constellation Cygnus just special for this event. (I'm really impressed by the organizers' planning on this one!)

So, hunt down your friends with telescopes moldering in their closets or just dig out your binoculars and grab a piece of the sky tonight. I know I will!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Yuri's Night

Oh wow-amateur astronomy has its advantages. I wouldn't have heard about this weekend's Yuri's Night celebration just up the road if it were not for the local network of amateurs.

So, if you're in the Bay Area on the 12th, consider spending some time at Moffatt with astronauts, musicians, scientists and various other space cadets. Looks fun!

Mr Mosquito's Real Identity

Alert reader Jon suggested that Mr. Mosquito might not be a mosquito at all, and after reading up at the link he gave I agree. Mr. Mosquito is actually a crane fly. Who knew?!

As a thank you for setting me straight, Jon will receive an autographed copy of the Hump Night Thumpers CD.

Thanks Jon!

Tales from the Crypt

At the risk of offending, I'd like to say a few words about all of the interesting stuff we collect in our heads. I've heard the sinus cavity referred to as a crumple zone-all that room in there to cushion the important stuff-and thought it an apt description. The first time I used a neti pot I was impressed. And of course, before you even get to the sinuses there are ears that can collect truly fantastic amounts of wax. My newest "weird head stuff" discovery is tonsilloliths. Should you not desire to head to wikipedia to read about them, they are stuff that can get stuck in your tonsils (crevices known as crypts) and calcify. Think pearls, except irregular in shape and potentially stinky.

I learned about these things after feeling like I had something scratchy stuck in my throat. On further examination I discovered that my right tonsil was humongous and had white things sticking out of it. Ewwwwwwww. But you know, I'm not as "ewww" prone as I used to be and this was just plain interesting. My doc confirmed that these things aren't harmful and will come and go so I'm not worried about 'em. Gentle and frequent care and cleaning has done wonders and my right tonsil is now only visibly about 4 times bigger than the left. I'm thinking that as some of those crypts have time to shrink back to their regular sizes the rest of the tonsil will get back to normal.

Our heads-containers for more than just braaaaaaiiiiiins.

Torturing Torturers

By now, most of you have seen the ABC news reports that we've got clear evidence of war criminals in the Bush Administration. We all kinda knew that already, but now it looks like there's no "forgetting" or equivocating on the part of the principals.

So, without further ado, it's time to induct the following torturers to the ranks of the crimes against humanity club:

Dick Cheney
Condoleezza Rice
Donald Rumsfeld
Colin Powell
George Tenet
John Ashcroft

I think it's a sign of a criminally insane regime that John Ashcroft comes across as a voice of reason in this. For shame. Unfortunately, among the people thinking about this there are far too many who see nothing wrong with torture to "protect freedom." Everyone else is exclaiming about airplanes and tornadoes today, if they're paying attention at all.

For the record, torture is wrong. And I will be cheering for the war crimes tribunal all the way.

Return of the Library List

Thanks for your patience and understanding while the library list took a brief hiatus these past two Thursdays. For the first missed week, I was busy packing for a trip to Montana, and the second one I just didn't have a chance to look over the books Andy and Elise got while I was gone. But now we're back!

The Boy Who Wouldn't Go to Bed
by Helen Cooper
In this book, a toddler decides he doesn't want to go to bed because it's still light out and he wants to play. He has lots of adventures in his imagination, but none of the characters he meets wants to play because they're all tired. Finally, his mommy searches and searches for him and hugs him goodnight. This one is very timely for us here because Elise has been dreading bedtime and bad dreams and all the rest.

Dora's Favorite Fairy Tales
adapted by Leslie Goldman, illustrated by A&J Studios
Normally, I'm not a huge fan of these TV character adaptations of stories that were told much better for eons before someone wanted to make a merchandising buck. That said, I really really like this one. The stories are told so that they're scary but not terrifying. I particularly like what they've done with Jack and the Beanstalk.

Cat Up a Tree
by John and Ann Hassett
From our reading of Pickles the Firecat we learned that fire departments rescue cats from trees. It's such a shock when Nana Quimby calls about a cat in her tree and the fire department says they don't want to hear about it unless the cat is playing with matches. She gets similar dismissals from all of the other various official entities in town as the cats multiply in the tree. Elise's favorite response: "'Sorry,' said the library, 'we do not catch cats up a tree. Call back if the cats have an overdue book." In the end, we realize that a lot of people would be better off if they'd have done the kind thing and helped the cats when they needed it.

Please Is a Good Word to Say
by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas
We've liked this book for awhile, and when Elise saw it on the shelf last week she had to have it. The girl in the story talks about what different words mean and how to use them nicely. For example, "please" is a way to "put a smile on your words." It goes into "excuse me" for bodily noises, "I'm sorry" when you do something that makes someone else feel sad, and paying compliments. We haven't read this one in a few months and I think this time Elise has really understood what it's all about.

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary
by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara Mc Clintock
This story is so gentle and sweet. A little girl and a little mouse become friends after discovering one another. A generation later, their daughters renew the friendship. The pictures are lovely and the characters charming. Just a nice book.

And then, I've been reading too. Normally I like to keep this to kid books, but thought I'd throw in what I've read this time too as kind of a make-up for the long absence.

Assassination Vacation
by Sarah Vowell
Every time I hear this gal talk I think I'd like to get to know her. She's very funny, very smart and extremely well-informed on a lot of interesting things. It might sound a little macabre to seek out places associated with presidential assassinations, but this book turns out to be a fascinating history. With a healthy juxtaposition of kitsch and presidential dignity. Her style of writing fits my style of study very well, so I learned a lot more from this patriotic romp than I ever learned in history classes. (with apologies to excellent teachers)

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline
by Becky A. Bailey
I've just started this one, but it's a winner. To my way of thinking, we've been pretty good with most of Elise's developmental stages so far. Age four is not our milieu, though, and I think life around here has been a good deal harder than it needs to be because of that. Once I got past the mystical-self-help style at the beginning, it became much easier to read what the author writes. Luckily, the writing settles down and is clear and informative. I especially like the examples she gives and the activities she gives for practicing the skills she thinks parents and kids need. I'm sure this one will get its own blog entry when I've read it all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mr. Mosquito

We have a new pet. I'm assuming his stay with us will be relatively short, but we'll enjoy him while we can.

Last night, as Flapjack was dashing out the front door to explore, a biiiiiig bug flew in. That got the two of us pretty excited and we spent about 5 minutes chasing it around. Then, I realized that Elise has this cool bug catching equipment that she got from Aunt Amy for Christmas. It took all of about two seconds to slurp the thing up with the sucker thing. Then, it took about 5 minutes to get the thing to crawl out of the sucker and into the habitat enclosure. I should mention, as a point of interest, that I finally succeeded in this task when I realized that the little bugger preferred to hang upside down.

Anyway, thinking it must be a male mosquito (and I was right, btw!) I put a grape and some water covered lettuce in with the little guy and went to bed for the night. Elise has been enjoying looking at him with her magnifying glass. We gave him a piece of strawberry at lunch today, but I think his heart isn't in it. Mr. Mosquito may be on his way out. Sure is interesting to watch, though!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

M&Ms on the Brain

One of the things I like best about our girl is her ability to take an idea and stick to it until she's explored every angle. For example, she found no end of things to do with her wooden trains (most of them not related to riding on tracks-but fantastically complicated social interactions.) From trains it was on to rocks, and then pompoms reigned supreme for a good long while. I am now somewhat chagrinned to announce the dawning of the Era of M&Ms.

It started harmlessly enough. Elise remembered seeing a book about counting M&Ms at the library, so I dutifully looked for it. A pretty spiffy little book, really. I was impressed because within the space of a week she'd used it to learn how to count by 10s and was getting the hang of counting by 5s. From there, she wanted a chance to sort an count real M&Ms so I indulged once. Apparently, she thinks they're tasty.

Today, Elise woke up convinced that she'd be eating M&Ms within minutes. Generally, I've learned to dread days on which I'm greeted with her very firm idea of how things are going to be, since it never goes very well. As Elise gets older, it's been a little easier to figure out what's going on. It's a little terrifying to watch the wheels go round as she tries to bend reality to her will-I am seriously not going to be a match for her as she grows up. There's no distracting, there's no diverting. She's just grouchy and out of sorts and easily frustrated all day long. And single-minded.

This morning, I was assaulted by requests and then demands that I purchase M&Ms. I'm not in the habit of taking orders from four-year-olds, so I said "No." I thought that was the end of it, but as I dropped her at school Elise asked again. Ugh. "No."

This evening when I picked her up, what were the first words out of her mouth? "Mommy! Did you get M&Ms?"

We talked about how I like it when she's happy to see me because she likes being with me, not just for treats I might give her. "Okay, Mommy. But can we still have M&Ms after dinner?" Literally no giving up with this kid.

I'm sure I've conditioned it into her-this persistence until she gets what she wants. And you will all be as distressed as I am ashamed that I did indeed give Elise M&Ms after she redeemed herself with a tantrum free dinner. I have got to find a better way of dealing with these obsessions that rule her days and thus mine.

To that end, I've checked out a book recommended by one of the mommy bloggers I read regularly. Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A Bailey. Now I just have to get the screaming about M&Ms to stop long enough to read it...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Boingy Boingy Boingy

Yup, folks, I'm bouncing back. Not nearly as quickly as I'd like but it feels good to round the bend that leads back to the more familiar world. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

I'm woefully behind on writing about the "big" events of late, so bear with me as I take awhile to put these things together in my head and get them typed out.

In the mean time, I'd like to mention that I've got a handle on my snail problem. The little buggers were eating my plants outside and grossing me out all at once. Talented, aren't they? Corry's is my method of choice. Unfortunately, it looks like an agonizing way for them to go. So, once the worst of the snail season is past here, I may move to just using the copper tape stuff to slow 'em down rather than kill 'em. We'll see.

Of further disinterest to my readers will be my assertions that, in spite of his recent springtime-induced aggression, Beaker is still a pretty good bird. Imagine if we hadn't taken such care with his upbringing... I have no idea what I'd do without Fark.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Probably too much information...

...but I'm going to write it anyway.

Some of my faithful readers may not know this, but childbearing has been hard on my body. Complications, surgeries, and hernia repairs kept me in fairly constant pain and various levels of incapacity for about four years. In spite of this, I very much wanted another child. I always just assumed we'd have a two child household, and never bothered to imagine things any other way. But, as time passed and the health implications of another pregnancy became very clear and very scary, Andy and I decided together that we simply could not take that risk.

As my dad said when I told him this, everyone makes a decision to stop having kids at some point. This has helped immeasurably as I grieve the child that will never be and my long-cherished vision of my family. Hey, I'm not the only one who's come to the end of her reproductive life! The decision is an emotion-filled one whenever you make it. I have my good days and my bad days with this stuff, but at this moment I can not fathom a time when I will not be entertaining the "what if" of creating another human being.

Now that we've decided this, it's time to move forward and to that end we looked into beefing up our contraception. For awhile, a vasectomy seemed like a good option, but there are some concerns that rule that out at least for the foreseeable future. My preferred option became an IUD. Because I absolutely did not want to go on any sort of hormonal birth control ever again.

And then I went to my GYN. She talked me into going on the pill because it is reliable but not long-term and she thought it was a better option than an IUD for a gal who's had a lot of pelvic pain and doesn't want to risk more. I am so easily intimidated by "experts" who treat me like I don't know my own body and therefore need to be led around by the nose. Rather than sticking to my guns, I caved and started taking the Yasmin birth control pill a few days later.

And then everything went all to hell.

I couldn't figure out why everything was so annoying, why the world had suddenly gone from rosy to unbearable. From where I was sitting, it was all Andy's fault and I was paranoid that he was actually scheming ways to make me feel like a worthless lump. I was tired, grumpy, couldn't eat, couldn't sleep and started having heart palpitations. And that chest pain? Well, it's not blood clots (yay!) probably just panic attacks. A week and a half in, Andy sat down next to his very teary wife and asked if I there was anything I needed to talk about. I started babbling and blubbering and it took us all of about 3 minutes to realize that it had all started when I started on the pill. I wanted to see it out-sometimes these things do get better-and contacted both the GYN and my psychiatrist.

My psychiatrist was helpful-he upped my meds and thanked me for keeping him in the loop, asking me to check back in should I need anything. The GYN was slightly less helpful, saying that we should just switch to condoms with emergency contraception as a backup. I have no idea in what world that constitutes a viable option for a couple angling for sterility. That pretty well pissed me off, to be honest.

As the month wore on, the increased anti-depressants weren't having any effect, so my psychiatrist recommended further adjustment and I gave up on Yasmin. Clearly not the pill for me. My GYN offered up more vague discouragement about an IUD, but I'm going for it anyway-just have to wait until the right time of the month to call and get one fitted. I'll be going for the non-hormone one, thank you very much.

So, here I sit. I'm taking double the anti-depressants that had kept my mood stable for over a year. Two weeks after quitting the pill I'm still not sleeping well, still teary, still unmotivated, and still seeing a glass that's 2/3 empty. I have no idea who is sitting here typing this, but I don't like her very much and desperately want her to go away so I can get back to my life. It feels like very unfair fallout for such a carefully considered decision. I'm sure I'll stop feeling sorry for myself once balance is restored, but in the mean time I'm pretty grouchy and miserable.

Thanks for reading-it felt good to unload that one on the interwebs.