Tuesday, December 30, 2008

For the Love of Despereaux

I know, I'm a bit hung up on this mouse. Not merely because the book was so enjoyable, but because Zane has developed such a fascination with this little rodent.

It's funny that my children have yet to associate Despereaux with the two mice we took out just last week. Like the Cook in the book, I do not want mice in my kitchen. And unlike her, I will not be sharing my delicious and very legal Italian Wedding soup with any little creature with whiskers and the ability to bend its body like a young Cirque du Soleil performer with the intent of invading my house through the tiniest crack. Sorry fella's. Enter, George, to do the dirty work. Spit spot. Mice gone.

Zane went to bed talking about Despereaux and woke up this morning talking about Despereaux. Having seen the movie preview, he has now taken it upon himself to act out lines from the film.

I have been instructed, directed, even, to say, "Are you a rat or a mouse?" To which Zane replies, quite dramatically, "I am a gentleman", complete with a little bow of sorts.

I could freakin' faint on the spot.

After some review reading tonight, I'm afraid that the film won't live up to his expectations, but seeing as I've never really followed reviews, unless of course they referred to me as being "charming" in a show, (to which I quickly abandon my former belief and agree that the critic is right on the mark . . .), I'm sure we'll enjoy it well enough. Maybe, it will serve as a reminder for Harper and Zane as to why their Mom is always pushing books on them prior to seeing the film.

We finished Book 4 of Despereaux tonight. An hour of reading. Hot chocolate in hand (mine with a little added, ahem, "kick" of something special) and some cupcakes we made today. Having spent the entire day inside waiting for the furnace guy to come for the clean and check, we needed some entertainment. It's amazing how calm this winter break has been. Reading, baking, writing thank you notes (Harper helped), Wii (Lego Star Wars is Harper's fav after Wii Sports), and, yes, a little bit of homework for Harper everyday - I'm so mean.

It's been fantastic.

I really enjoy my kids and while my not working a true part-time job has definitely taken a financial strain on us, I think there is a reason for my being home while they are home.

Because I love them. Just like Despereaux loves the Pea.

Because I love them.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Come on. Admit it. You know you like having stuff.

You have stuff everywhere.

In the front hallway, the kitchen counter, on the reading chair or sofa, in the closet, the junk drawer, the attic, the crawl space, the dresser drawer, the sideboard, the shed, under the bed, on the wall, on bookshelves, in file drawers, all piling up in an endless accumulation of items which will ultimately turn out to have very little impact on the quality of our lives.

A wise friend of mine once replied to her child who had just stated, "Oh, I just love that such in such!", with "We do not love things. We like things. We love people."

Well said. I've taken that statement to heart.

My friends may find me a bit extreme on the subject, but secretly, they want me to come over to clean and organize their offices for them (shout out to Trish). And while they secretly want me to come and clear out the unnecessary clutter, they would certainly have a conniption over every tossed item.

Fess up. You know it's true. Purging, if you are not accustomed to it, is very difficult.

Our house has a rule.

If we haven't touched or used or spoken about a material item within the year, we give it away (shout out to Jason and daughter Linnea who are loving their "new" rocking chair), consign it (shout out to Monica at Hand Me Downs), or donate it (shout out to Junior League Thrift House).

And lest you think that my children would rebel against this type of thinking, take in these words by Zane, as he did a possession review (shout out to Angie) on Christmas Eve of all days.

"Mom, I can give this box of blocks to a new kid. I have so many other blocks."

See, we've been doing this since they were babies. It started with a mountain of stuffed animals that had taken over Harper's bedroom as a toddler. We would hold up a stuffed and furry item (as long as it wasn't Snowman (shout out to Raymond Briggs), or another for which she had developed a true affinity) and ask, "Keep? Or go?" Harper would then decide the fate of the said stuffed creature.

Frankly, my kids do not have a lot of toys. Of course they have their favorite toys - those stay put. But the stragglers? The one's they've outgrown both in age and interest? Buh-bye. And they have even less from our clean-out the day before Christmas. For standing in the hallway is a large box filled with toys that they, THEY (not Mom), have decided to donate. Yes, I oversaw the process with my traditional, "Keep? Or go?" questions as I held up items. And yet, I respected their answer by either returning the item to its place or dumping it in the donation box.

It can be done.

We started early.

A yearly possession review is, and I shudder to think that I am about to quote Martha Stewart, "a good thing."

But wait. I'm not trying to get all high and mighty or uppity on you. My kids rooms are a mess. Harper's desk is a frenetic, scattered mess of stickers and papers and little chotskies, leaving no room for it to be used as an actual desk. I wouldn't dare touch those special items. Zane's room is a dangerous terrain of blocks, matchbox cars, and action figures with sharp weapons that seem to camouflage themselves until a parent's shoeless foot comes into view.

So, no, I'm not announcing perfection here.

But let's help our children make choices and decisions about their possessions while they are young. For maybe, just maybe, their generation will make wiser choices with their spending then ours has.

Despereaux and the Pea

I'm on my second reading of the The Tale of Despereaux, the first taking place just a few days ago between Christmas Day and the day after Christmas. The second happening over the past 3 nights, with the exciting conclusion, which is being talked about with great anticipation by Harper and Zane, planned for tomorrow evening.

For my kids know their Mom's rule: No movie until we've read the book.


The Tale of Despereaux is broken down into 4 "books", of which I've been reading aloud one a night. And while I got lost in the story while reading it to myself, reading it aloud has proven to be even more exciting. Even I am excited to see the film on New Year's Eve.

Zane, who has sat through many a novel, is thoroughly enjoying this one. Particularly any part of the book that has to do with Despereaux, Princess Pea, and love. He always surprises me. I think he's not comprehending what I'm reading, or paying attention, when 'lo and behold, I am proven wrong. Terribly wrong.

"Mommy, I am Despereaux. You are Princess Pea."

"Ok, Zane. You are Despereaux and I am the Princess Pea."

"Yes. Because I love you. And Despereaux is in love with the Princess."

I kiss him.

"No! You can't do that! People don't kiss mice! Because they have icky skin!"

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"You can kiss me again when I am Zane."

We then gathered around the computer to watch the preview of the movie. Zane decided that we should all be characters. Me, the Princess, Zane, the brave mouse, Daddy, King Philip (as Philip is his middle name - although Zane misunderstood this thinking that "King Philip" was George's middle name), and Harper, well, we just couldn't imagine her as the Queen (deceased), or Miggery Sow (she was just appalled, and rightfully so, at Miggery's plight beginning with the death of her mother, to her being sold into slavery by her father, to the "clouts" at the hands of her "Uncle"), so we all agreed that she would be the Princess Pea's beautiful white horse.

Before bed, Zane just couldn't stop talking about the story. And as I exited his bedroom and closed the door, I could still hear him muttering aloud to himself, "A mouse who loves a Princess. How can that be?"

We're planning a reading of The Indian in the Cupboard next . . . and of course George is still reading them The Hobbit. We are really looking forward to finishing that one so that we can once again see the animated movie that we remember from childhood.

I am thoroughly loving this winter break.

We may have no food in the house, but we happily gorging ourselves on books!

No Extra Credit for Aldi


I can hear you warning me.

"Be careful about what you blog! As the most current company with whom you have taken issue may find the post and call you out on it, and ask you to remove it, and then you'll have to grapple with your convictions about forgiveness and reconciliation and relationships, and, well, you know, all that stuff that you struggled with the last time this happened."

But, reader, this time, my gripe is not with a local business concerned about retaining their reputation so that they can actually remain in business in this awful economy, but rather a large international company, that doesn't offer one the ability to even call a customer service number to share comments and complaints. Seriously, I've combed their website. I can write in, as in U.S. Postal Service write in, but email, phone call, fax? Nada. Nope.

Aldi's prices are cheap because they sell "off" brands of many goods, (although one can also pick up Tyson chicken as well - antibiotic free even), do not offer free bags (I bring my own), or free carts (one needs a quarter to borrow a cart), nor do they take credit cards or personal checks. Cash? Yes. Debit cards? Yes . . . er, well . . .




Yes, unless their machine can not read the customer's card.

And so there I stood, after shopping for 45 minutes with two kids, staring down a really long line of customers, (isn't that always the case when there is trouble at the register), and a full cart of groceries waiting to be bagged, only to find that the machine wouldn't read my debit card. My debit card which I had just used in another store. My debit card. The only way I could pay for my groceries at Aldi.

To his credit the cashier did attempt the old "wrap the card in a plastic bag and swipe" method.


"Can you just enter it manually?"

"No. It's illegal for me to enter it manually."


As in, against the law?

Ok, I'm no law enforcement officer, or lawyer, and perhaps in this day and age of identity theft, there could be a small sliver of truth to this statement, but isn't that why a cashier would then call a manager? To get "Manager Approval" or "Override" or whatever the term is that allows at least one employee to enter a number into the system so that a purchase can be made?

Apparently not. He turned and started ringing up the next customer.

So we turned to leave.

But not before Harper got her quarter back from the shopping cart rental. She wasn't leaving without it.

I guess Aldi did stand up their promise of saving me money, as the $90 allotted for groceries is still sitting in my checkbook.

But I'm pretty hungry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gifts Fit for a King

The wise men brought him spices and perfumes.

Just last night during our Advent reading, Zane shared, "I would like to give Jesus the gift of my love."

I think this is a perfect gift for the God who has everything.

Harper also had a gift for God. It was a little different.

"I will give God the gift of questions. I've got a few!"

I immediately asked her if she would share what she wanted to ask Him.

"Ok, I'll tell you, but you can't answer. He needs to answer. How is it that he gets up there 'on high'?"

We're thinking of having a "Question Notebook" handy for her to jot these questions down from time to time.

Love and questions.

Wrap 'em up and check God's name off the gift list! He's not getting socks this year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Could Get Ugly

Oh, Sophocles. Thanks for nothing.

For now, each time my adorable little Zane shares, "Mommy, I'm sad. I'm sad because Daddy already married you and now I can't", I am faced with Oedipus Rex. A lovely feel-good family tragedy.

And don't even get me started on Freud.

My kid simply loves me. Ok, so he wants to marry me - he's three, well, pretty much four, and thus I'll allow him to lament that the girl of his dreams has already been taken.

Wallow away little man.

And keep those hugs and kisses coming.

For I don't really care what the oracle said.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Apparently, this approach really does work.

The term layoff is horrific when referring to employment.

But attach it to the subject of potty training, and I say, "Bring on the pink slip!"

My son needs to believe that he is in control of using the potty. He needs to think he is in charge of this. And wouldn't you know that he has been accident free for 2 days now. And that includes EVERYTHING, people. EVERYTHING. I think the boy has actually shocked himself.

I only began this new approach on, what? Tuesday?

No, no, no, I certainly don't believe we are done. We have however, turned a corner. Today we actually traveled down an entirely new street.

I am calmer. Zane is more calm. George is more calm. Everyone has just calmed down. We don't focus on it. And, as a result, potty training has lost its "power".

Quite simply, Zane just took himself to the bathroom each time he needed to go today. He then washed his hands, announced that he had gone, and visited the treasure box. I said a very subdued "good job", told him what a big boy he was, and then dropped the discussion and went about my business.

I shut up.

I shut up and got out of his way.

I laid myself off.

I look good in pink.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Silent Night

Our family, like many, has an Advent tradition of gathering together to read various stories, scriptures, and devotions every night during the month of December. It is true that the kids like to rush through this portion of our tradition to get to the second:

The Advent Box

which holds, behind each tiny door, a chocolate coin, or Santa, or tiny toy (which used to thrill Harper who now comments, "Why are all my toys made in China?"), or a slip of paper with a note that says, "The ban on TV watching on school nights has been lifted for the Charlie Brown Christmas Special!" and "This certificate gives the bearer one Itune download!". I try to be creative.

It was easy to find 24 tiny gifts when Harper was into rock collecting.

Zane? Chocolate. Shoot, I could fill every one of his compartments with 1 chocolate chip. He'd be ecstatic.

Harper, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult now. Someday, I'll fill her box with charms for a bracelet, as I attempted to do so last year, only to find that the interest wasn't there on her part. The Advent Box forces me to be very mindful of their personalities. It makes me stop and think about my children - their likes (Zane=chocolate) and their dislikes (Harper=chocolate). In doing so, it also reminds me of their love language.

Zane's love language is hot chocolate.

Harper's love language is not a charm bracelet. It's time. Quality time.

During our reading time last night, I pulled out a book about how the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night, came to be. The book was long. Well, not long as in chapter-book-long, but rather, long in topic. I just didn't think it would capture or keep her interest. Whether she enjoyed the story or not, I did know that she would remain throughout the entire reading as long as it meant that the two of us got to stuff ourselves, side by side, into the same reading chair in the living room. Time together.

We read through the entire story, and upon reaching the last page, we found the very music to Silent Night.

"Sing it, Mommy."

Ok, this is the kid who tells me that I can only sing with the band at church. Not in the kitchen, not in the bathroom, and certainly not in the car or God forbid in front of her friends. Sing? Did I hear her right?

So, I began. As I started the second verse she asked me where I was in the music. I showed her and continued.

And then it happened.

Suddenly, on the third verse, my solo became a duet WITH MY DAUGHTER! It was one of those moments where I just had to hold it together or lose the moment. While the words of the song were coming out of my mouth, the words in my head were saying, "Don't make a big deal out of this or she will stop singing!"

She has never sung with me. EVER.

Ok, the kids may want to rush to the Advent Box portion of our yearly tradition. But not on this night.

Not on this night.

This night was calm, bright, tender, mild, heavenly, peaceful, and silent, accept for Mother and Child lightly singing the last verse of this beautiful and simple carol.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Rebel Resistance is Strong





No more diapers!


Back to Pull-ups.

More Pull-ups.


Back and forth and back and forth. And up and down and down and up. And yes. Nope. Got it. Don't.

The US Gov't should use potty training a 3 year old boy as a means of torturing our enemies. Forget water boarding. Want to break a terrorist? Order them to potty train Zane. It'll reduce them to tears and make 'em talk.

Toilet Training Resistance. What is it? Really, do I need to go into a formal definition? For the sake of time, let's just state that THIS is the problem with my son. Zane is clearly winning the battle for control and power.

And after combing the Internet and talking to mothers, teachers, myself (scary), and Zane, I've decided to take a completely new approach.

I will shut-up.

I will transfer all the responsibility to Zane. I will not lecture. I will not remind. I will not scold. I will give incentives . . . today we made a "treasure box" full of small items from Constructive Playthings - LOVE THAT PLACE - that he chose. We decorated the box, poured in all the toys, candy, and STAR WARS POSTCARDS, closed it up, placed it on the dining room table, and voila! His choice. He can either have something from the box or not.

I will not lecture. I will not remind. I will not scold. I will, however, help, and reward.

I've got a whole other list of suggestions, from a pediatrician, on how to handle resistance. And mainly, they caution ME about running my mouth too much about it.

I had one last talk with Zane today, as suggested. I told him that he was going to be 4 and that he could make the choice whether to go in his pants or in the potty. I told him I loved him, that I would help him, and that I would enjoy opening the treasure box for him whenever he goes.

A few accidents later, plus a few trips to the treasure box, and everyone is more calm. No fighting, no "Why, Zane?", just "Oops, accident! Let's get you cleaned up" and "Great job! Let's get the treasure box!"

We'll get there.

We'll get there.

We'll get there.

Ok, I'll shut up now.

Feeling Flushed

I finished the 21 day "flush" or "detox" or "purge" or "cleanse", depending on what you prefer to call it, on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving weekend I drank coffee, (not the enormous amounts of which I was used to prior to the program), had cheese and crackers, ate stuffing, pie, etc. The regular Thanksgiving fare.

I didn't feel horrible afterwards, but I certainly didn't feel as great as I had over the prior 21 days. I don't think the occasional indulgence at the holidays is going to be retired altogether, but I will definitely be taking steps to watch the overload of dairy, gluten, and sugar, on a weekly basis. I do not have an allergy, which is good, but I do have a sensitivity, and my body is just happier without those pesky items.

I'm down to one or maybe two cups of coffee a day, and a ton of herbal tea. I love green tea with mango.

My head is clear. Not just the brain - but the sinuses also.

I'm able to multi-task with energy. A must for any mom to be sure, and yet, it's changed from a frantic, whirlwind, tumbleweed on speed pace, during which I forget things, misplace things, and even bump into things, to a calmer, manageable flow that doesn't leave me completely whipped and exhausted at the end of the day. I am accomplishing more and wasting less time.

My children say I am goofier and more fun.


George has experienced other perks.


The laundry still isn't done, but everything else is smooth.

I feel really good. 21 days took 7 pounds off my frame, got me used to eating more fruits and vegetables then I've ever eaten, has me experimenting with making my own salad dressings, introduced me to Larabar, helped me to habitually take a multi-vitamin and omega-3 oils daily, and . . . has my husband asking if he thinks that coming off of dairy would be a good thing for all of us. Even Zane, I fear, has a problem digesting milk. How do I know? Trust me.

Our grocery bill has increased . . . unfortunately buying fresher and more often can do this. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

I recently found out that I can use the walking track at Weber in Skokie without being a member of their workout facility. This, my friends, is the next step. Why I didn't know this before last week drives me crazy. Never would have bought (only to sell) the elliptical had I known I could walk/run indoors for free all along.

This was definitely the kick in the pants that I needed to jump start me to a new way of eating, thinking about eating, shopping, and preparing meals.

And as for any concern I had about seeing a chiropractor? My chronic neck and upper back pain has not reared itself since this entire process began. I didn't buy a fancy new pillow or a new office chair. No new contraptions for the neck. I have been getting adjustments every week - cheaper than a weekly massage - since, well, he's treating me for free. This is the longest I've gone without have some sort of even the tiniest lingering pain.

I'm glad I challenged myself.

Now, I want to learn to cook and bake with more whole foods . . . bought some fresh small artichokes this week. Anyone have a good recipe for them?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Exclaimed loudly, during a silent moment in church last weekend as I attempted to remove my "Little Chewie", Zane's new adopted nickname for himself, from the service:


Well, my petite Chewbakka, refrain from squirming and squawking like the Wookiee you presume yourself to be, and your Dad will draw whatever you like.

It's official.

He's completely hooked.

Next up . . . Zane's magnadoodle depictions of Jabba the Hutt.