Sunday, December 30, 2007

I made

My last post about the mother who got her daughter to write a phony essay about a dead dad to win Hannah Montana tickets made the blog roll on I've already had 27 people link to the post this morning from the article. One of them left me a nasty, and poorly written, flame. Whee! I've hit the big-time baby.

Wrong on so many levels

Have you seen this story? It left me spluttering with indignation. A six-year-old girl from Garland, Texas (of course she's from Texas. It was either here or Louisiana.) submitted an essay to a contest where the prize was four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert in Albany, New York. The girl won the contest. Why? Because the opening line of her essay was that her daddy died in Iraq this year. The little girl got a make-over at a tween clothing store plus concert tickets and airfare to Albany. The only problem? The essay was completely fake.

The name the girl gave isn't that of her father, and the Department of Defense has no records of a serviceman by that name dying in Iraq. The mother finally fessed up that the essay was a lie.

This is just appalling on so many different levels. The mother's excuse was that they wanted the tickets so much that they'd do anything to win. Which begs the question of who really wanted the tickets, the mother or the daughter? I sincerely doubt that any six-year-old would kill off an imaginary father to win concert tickets. And what kind of lesson does this mother think she's teaching her daughter? That it's ok to lie, cheat and steal if you really, really, really want something?

And then there's the whole issue of making up a dead dad to win. This is a slap in the face to all of the military families, more than 3,000 of them, who have lost loved ones in Iraq. These families have lost mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters in this war, and I doubt any of them would trade on the death of their loved one to win concert tickets. To use the death of a soldier, even a fictional one, to win a contest is insulting.

Our paper is reporting that the contest organizers have taken away the girl's prize, which is the right thing for them to do. Unfortunately, it punishes a little kid for her mother's greed, but perhaps she'll learn a lesson her mother obviously isn't fit to teach her.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"I'm OK!"

That's what Lily always says when she falls down, whether it's off her bike or while walking down the street. We'll see her go down and then hear, "I'm OK!" It cracks us up.

Here's Lily after deliberately falling off her bike into the grass. It's what Lily does instead of using her brakes. Campbell was making sure she was ok.

And here she is cruising down the street, with the biggest smile. She's so proud that she learned to ride her bike.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lily "Crash" Gardner

My father, while he was here for Christmas, took the girls up to the neighborhood park on their bikes, following behind on my bike. During the ride, he noticed that Lily wasn't really using her training wheels to balance and that she was riding a good deal of the time on two wheels. So on Christmas Day, he put her on the bike Ella had outgrown and started teaching her to ride. I thought for sure that dad was being overly optimistic in his efforts, but I was wrong. By the end of Christmas Day, Lily was riding small stretches on her own. The day after Christmas, dad worked with her again, and when B and I returned from his doctor's appointment, we turned onto the street to see Lily cruising along without a problem, even turning in big circles. I was absolutely flabberghasted.

Teaching Ella to ride without training wheels was a multi-year project with lots of starts and stops. We'd take her training wheels off, give it a try for a week or two until she'd get frustrated and demand that we put the training wheels back on. After a six-month break, we'd try again, and then take another six-month break. She'd go for weeks without riding her bike. B finally got her going this summer by taking her up to her school and letting her ride around the empty parking lot for an hour. As soon as she figured it out, Ella took off like a shot, which is what we knew would happen.

But she's a lot like me in temperament. If I can't do something well after my first few attempts, I'm liable to throw my hands up in disgust and walk away. I absolutely do not like not being able to something the right way. It's why my mom's insistence that I take tennis lessons was so frustrating to me. When I was ten and eleven, my lack of skill didn't bother me much, but by the time I was 16 and leaving swim practice early to go to tennis I had had it. I would get beyond frustrated when I would hit 19 perfect forehands and then send the 20th sailing over the side fence. I just don't have the patience for things like that, which is why I've never attempted golf. I'd end up pitching my clubs into the lake by the fourth hole.

Lily, on the other hand, has a surprising amount of stick-to-it-ness. She fell countless times while riding with my dad, but each time she'd pop right up again, calling out, "I'm OK!" Then she'd hop back on the bike and give it another go. She spent hours doing this. My poor dad must have run five miles back and forth with her, but she got it. Ella would have given up after the first couple of falls.

While Lily has now mastered riding her bike, she's still not so good at the stopping part. Instead of using her brakes or putting her feet down, she tends to aim for grass and tip over, always announcing that she's ok. She also needs to work on her steering. She's still in the phase where she runs smack into the things she wants to avoid. I'm trying to teach her to not look at trees and bushes and curbs, but it's slow going. So now we've started calling Lily "Crash," which she and Ella think is tremendously funny.

My goal is to get her stopping, starting and steering skills to the point where I can take both her and Ella down to the Trail and let them ride while I tow Campbell in my new trailer. I can't think of a better way to spend time outdoors with them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas, a day late

I hope this finds everyone reading it recovered from yesterday's festivities. Our Christmas was fun, if a bit exhausting. Since B's parents' divorce, our house has become holiday central. We invite everyone who is willing to be have like a grown-up and act nice. The first year, B's mom decided not to attend any of the functions. But we're all past that now. Because we're the hosts, we've started our own tradition of having Christmas brunch instead of a big dinner late in the day when everyone is worn out. B and his friend Jim cook up eggs Benedict, and I make waffles from scratch, and everyone drinks champagne and orange juice. Well, everyone except the kids and B's mom, who has never had alcohol on her life.

The day started early with Ella's hitting our bedroom door with a thump. Once she managed to get the door open, she started yelling that Santa had come and he had brought her a new bike. And it had a bow because it was too big to wrap. And it had a kickstand just like she asked for. And it was blue just like her old bike.

We let the girls open their stocking present while we waited for my parents to arrive from the hotel. My sister spent the night at our neighbors' house because they're out of town and offered their place as guest quarters (we have the best neighbors ever), and she staggered over pretty early. The best line came from Ella when she opened the new toothbrush that was in her stocking. She said, "I got a new toothbrush, and it hasn't even been in the potty. I wonder how Santa knew?" A week ago I had caught Campbell splashing in the potty with one of the girls' spinny toothbrushes. They made do with regular old toothbrushes until Santa coughed up with new ones. The girls also got modeling clay and tape in their stockings. The tape has become an annual tradition in our house.

Campbell got overwhelmed in all the commotion of present unwrapping, and I had to take him out of the room a few times to settle down. Finally, I popped him in his high chair in the kitchen to eat breakfast. He was much happier after that.

My big gift from B was a trailer for my bike so that I can tow Campbell and Lily along when Ella and I go on longer bike rides down at the Trail. My parents gave me a new rack for my car so that I can carry all the bikes down to the Trail. It was a theme Christmas. I gave B a huge griddle for the stove so that he can cook a pound of bacon at the same time. I also got him a big bacon press, but it hasn't arrived yet.

The girls got lots of things from their lists to Santa. Lily got a new copy of "Arielthelittlemermaid" to replace the one that's gone missing. She also got a bathrobe and a new winter coat. Santa brought her a new bike helmet, per her request, but it doesn't fit. So we'll have to go buy a replacement. She also got a tea set from my mom, and they've been having lots of tea parties ever since.

Ella's bike was her big present, and it was a big hit. It's bigger than her old one, and more of a mountain bike, so it took some getting used to. But by the end of the day, she was riding through the grass and hopping off curbs. I'm sure she'll be begging to go out and ride as soon as she finishes breakfast. I think I'll turn her loose with Grandpa. He can ride my bike.

Campbell got a little trike of his own - I told you it was a theme Christmas - and he's had a great time riding it all over the house. Unfortunately, he's into creative bike riding, and he's fallen off about a dozen times. He has a few new lumps on his forehead as a result of some of the tumbles. The girls love to sit on it too, but every time he sees one of them on it, he screeches and pushes her off. It's pretty funny. They've taken to getting on the trike just to see his reaction.

So today we'll be picking up the mess and finding room for the new bathrobes and slippers and sweaters, and we'll be riding bikes and having tea parties and watching some new movies. It should be a very good day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Today, just some random pictures. First, photographic proof that I exist. It's not the best picture of me, but I so rarely have my picture taken that I'll take what I can get.

Each Christmas I dream of a decorator-style Christmas tree with a theme and perfectly spaced ornaments and lights. But then I remember that if I had a tree like that, I wouldn't have ornaments like these. Lily made the one on the left at preschool two years ago. The angel's wings are her tracings of her hands. Ella made the one on the right at home so she'd have an angel to match. They must always be together on the tree because they're friends.

This was my very first Christmas ornament, given to me by my great aunt and uncle, Rose Marie and Donald. She's the Littlest Angel. I know there's some story about the littlest angel, but I can remember it. Looking at the picture, I realized what bad shape the ornament is in. I think I may have to store her someplace other than the big Christmas box in the garage this year. B and I made this star out of cardboard and tin foil our first Christmas together. We were poor, and our ornament collection was slim. We still use it every year, but B's dad pointed out that it might be time for a new coating of tin foil. This one has burn marks from the lights.

And finally, here's Ella in her Christmas dress from my mother-in-law. I know, it's not really as bad looking as I make it sound in my complaint post. But it just isn't my style, and I'm still irked my m-i-l felt she could buy the girls their dresses. Ella was thrilled that I let her wear it to school for her class Christmas party, until she had worn it for about 30 minutes. Then she started complaining that the netting in the crinoline was catching on her tights and that she stepped on the hem every time she bent down to pick something up. I told her fashion isn't always pretty and pushed her out the door.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Attack of the Stupid People

I'm borrowing my good friend O'Pine's blog title today, because last night I was caught in such a crush of mass stupidity that I almost couldn't function.

My dad really wanted to go see the Trail of Lights, which is a long-time Austin Christmas tradition. I haven't been to the Trail of Lights since Ella was a baby, when she and I ran the 5K that is held every year before opening night. I've cringed since then at the thought of taking kids down into the melee.

Last night, though, I pulled myself together and headed out the door with mom, dad, Ella and Lily. B, who looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him if he wanted to go, stayed home with Campbell.

The first part of the adventure went smoothly. Parking was a breeze, and the lines for tickets and buses moved right along. We were on the shuttle to the Trail within 20 minutes. Lily was amazed by the bus ride - it's the first time she's been on a bus, which is rather appalling.

When we got to the trail, however, things took a decided turn for the worse. We got off the bus and headed for the entrance to the Trail, which was a solid mass of people being stupid. Entire families - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. - were lined up in the entrance to take pictures. But this blocked traffic for the thousands of people trying to get in behind them.

The first third of the Trail, which is a mile long total, was packed, and everyone was forced to do a slow shuffle. Again, families were blocking the path so that they could line their cold, crying kids up for photo ops. My dad had to put Lily on his shoulders so she could see the displays, and I had to lift Ella up a few times. The crowds were so thick, and so stupid, that when an ambulance cart, complete with flashing lights, was working its way through the crowd, against the flow of traffic, with an injured little boy strapped to the back, people refused to move. Other idiots were taking pictures of the cart and the little boy. I wanted to trip people, but that would have slowed us down further.

I'm fairly clautrophobic in crowds and prone to panic attacks, so this whole situation was just about my worst nightmare. I kept edging over to the far side of the Trail, away from the displays, just so that I could breathe. But poor Ella, who was holding my hand, kept pulling me back so she could see.

I felt better once the crowds thinned a bit, further along the Trail. But stupidity was still rampant. There were folks who had lost their friends and/or family, so they planted themselves in the middle of the flow of traffic, facing the wrong way, to wait, forcing everyone walking towards them to trip over each other in an attempt to go around.

The final blast of stupidity happened in the lines for shuttles. We were waiting patiently in line, along with hundreds of other people. But on the other side of us, were hundreds of people just marching along, pretending they didn't see all of us waiting our turn patiently. Fortunately, there was a shuttle employee at the entrance to the bus loading area sending people who innocently asked if that was where they got in line all the way back to the end. "See that long line of people all the way back there?" he'd ask. "That's where the line starts." One woman said that her husband couldn't possibly walk all the way to the back and then stand in line. So the shuttle guy told her that her husband could wait right there while she went all the way to the back of the line, and then when she got to the front, her husband could join her. All of us who had been waiting did a little cheer at that.

Despite the rampant examples of the worst of mass human behavior, I'm glad we went. The girls loved the lights; Lily was silent and wide-eyed the whole time. Ella was fixated on this one display of trees that turned on and off to the music playing. She also sang every time she heard Christmas carols, usually at the top of her lungs. Both girls came home exhausted and happy - Lily fell asleep in the car, leaning on my dad. Ella passed out within minutes of climbing into bed, which is rare for her.

I think we'll wait a few years before going back. And we'll make sure to go on a week night, even if it means too late of a bedtime. I can't handle the crowds, or the stupidity, again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's official

Yesterday afternoon and this morning confirmed my worst fears - Campbell has inherited my lack of coordination.

We visited my friend EWM yesterday afternoon in her new house, which has stairs. The big kids played out in the yard, while E and I stayed inside with Campbell. He, like Ella, is obsessed with stairs. I sat on a stool a few feet from the staircase and watched him practice on the bottom three steps. He was doing a very good job crawling up the three steps and then holding on to the banister rails to go back down. Unfortunately, I let my guard down.

Campbell crawled up five stairs and turned around to walk back down. I stood up to help, and as I did, he lost his balance while reaching for the railing. With sickening thuds, he rolled down the stairs. I was sure, based on the way he fell, that he had broken his arm. I scooped him up at the bottom, holding him while he shrieked, as E came running in from the kitchen. I checked his limbs, which all seemed to be working, and examined his head and mouth for blood. The final result - two more lumps on his forehead. He calmed down pretty quickly, but I was shaky for the whole rest of the day. I kept seeing his little life flashing before my eyes and I replayed his slow-motion roll down the stairs.

He did learn from his fall, though. As soon as I put him down when he had finished crying, Campbell headed right back to the stairs with me two feet behind him. I expected him to start climbing again, but instead he stopped, shook his head no, and made this funny little "ooohhhh" sound. He did it several more times during our visit.

This morning I fell while running, again. I used to say that I fell once a year, but this was my third tumble in 2007, so I may have to adjust my figures. I tripped over a big rock on the trail and went flying. Fortunately, my shirt and gloves took most of the damage. I have a bit of road rash on my hand, hip, and shoulder. But if I hadn't been wearing gloves and shirt, I would have been in a lot of pain.

The first thing I said after I fell was, "But I'm wearing my glasses!" Usually I only fall right after I've taken my glasses off and I haven't adjusted to the change in my depth perception. The second thing I said was, "Oh, poor Campbell." E was with me when I fell, and she laughed in sympathy. Unfortunately, I think Campbell has a long history of falls, bangs, and bruises ahead of him.

In the meantime, I'm wearing SpongeBob bandaids on my hand and nursing my bruised shoulder. Campbell, on the other hand, seems no worse for his tumble yesterday. If only I could recover that quickly.

LIly's excellent adventure

Lily had just the best day on Wednesday. Ella's class was giving performances of skits they've been rehearsing for the past several weeks. I couldn't go, but our neighbor, whose son is in Ella's class, was taking her daughter, so she offered to take Lily with her. Lily was so excited she could barely stand still as I got her dressed. Lunch was right after the performances, so our neighbor stayed for lunch with the girls. Lily got to eat in the cafeteria with Ella and felt very big. Ella felt very big because she got to show Lily where to line up and how to pick out her food, and she got to pay for Lily's lunch on her school charge account.

Ella's class party was after lunch, so I headed up there to join in the fun. The party was in the library, and it was so funny to see Lily file in with all the first graders. She fit right in, even if she was a bit shorter than they.

During the party, Lily and Ella worked together to make Christmas cards and ornaments, and they sat next to each other for snack time. I was really regretting having forgotten my camera.

The highlight, though, was the snow fight. Some of the parents brought in this stuff that is essentially the inside of diapers, which, when you add water, turns into this fluffy stuff that can be molded into snowballs. Ella's teacher lined all the kids up in the story area, told them about the surprise, and led them in a silent celebration, which was hysterical to watch. Lily had huge eyes through all of it.

After the fun of the snowball fight outside, Ella's class lined up to head off to music. Lily jumped in line, holding on to Ella's hand. When I retrieved Lily from the line and explained that it was time to go home, Lily threw herself flat on the ground and sobbed that she wanted to stay and go to music with Ella. I explained that the school rules didn't allow her to spend all day at school with her sister, that it was just a special occasion that she was able to be there for the skits and the party, but she didn't want to listen to me. It wasn't until I bribed her with the promise of cartoon time at home, that she pulled herself together and walked to the car with me.

As a result of all this, Lily is now chomping at the bit to start kindergarten in the fall. She asks me at least once a day how much longer it is until she can go to school with Ella. I think she'll be disappointed when she finds out she won't actually be there WITH Ella, but I think it will be a short-lived let down. She is just going to love kindergarten, especially if we can get her in with the teacher we want to have.

In the meantime, I have to reconcile myself to the fact that my baby girl will be going off to school in a few short months.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A waste of an hour

Last week I got a call from an editor at the textbook company I freelance for asking me about my work availability after the new year. I told her that I'd be available in February when the 14-month project I've been working on is finished up. So she scheduled a meeting this morning for all the freelancers who might be working on the project. I couldn't attend the meeting because two of my three kids were at home this morning, so I conferenced in by phone.

And it turned out to be a waste of an hour. The freelancers who were at the meeting had a whole sheaf of papers with examples of the work we'd be doing, but the other person conferencing in and I didn't have those papers, so we couldn't see what they were talking about. The freelancers who were there, asked four million questions about all the examples, which meant nothing to me because I couldn't see what they were talking about.

So while the the questions and answers were going on, I read the news online - Britney Spears's 16-year-old sister is pregnant, hee, hee - and giggled at MadMad's post. Unfortunately, while I was giggling the phone wasn't on mute. Whoops. I blamed it on my kids.

The bottom line was that at the end of the hour of listening, I still had really no idea of what the work will entail or when we'll be doing it. What a waste of precious work time.

Meetings are pointless; meetings by conference call are even more so.

My poor arthritic husband

B spent much of his childhood, teenage years, and collegiate life as a diver - springboard and platform, not SCUBA. He dove for the University of Texas and was on some US National teams. I met him toward the end of his diving career and had no idea of how good he was until the time the UT coach handed me a bunch of awards that belonged to B that had been lying around the coach's office. When I asked the coach if B was any good, he looked at me in disbelief and said, "Um, yeah. He was really good." I wish I had known him at the peak of his career. I love watching him dive, even now that he's older and not in shape for it. He installed a one-meter board up at our lake place so that he can dive when we're up there.

But all of his messing around on the board for fun may have come to an end. For the past couple of months B has been complaining about pain in his neck. He's been going to the chiropractor, which I disagree with, and getting regular massages, which I'm jealous of. The pain, however, kept getting worse. He's now wearing a neck brace. Last week B went for an MRI and a CT scan, which showed damage between his C2 and C3 vertebrae. The MRI seemed to show fractures in his vertebrae, but the CT scan, which is better for looking at bones, didn't show any fractures. Phew.

This morning we went to see an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in necks and spines. The diagnosis - arthritis in his neck. The doctor's immediate recommendation is an injection of anesthesia and steroids into B's neck. That should relieve the pain and get B to the point where he can do rehab, which would otherwise be incredibly painful for him right now. B has an appointment tomorrow with an anesthesiologist to talk about the procedure. The next step would be a procedure to cauterize some of the nerves in his neck. After that, the last step would be to fuse his two vertebrae together, which would eliminate a lot of the range of motion in his neck. This is not an appealing option, especially not at his young age.

The doctor this morning wasn't particularly helpful. He basically said, "You've got arthritis; you're screwed. Here are some pain pills."

The other night B ran through a list of his diving friends who have back and/or neck problems, and it was a frighteningly long list. He's also been doing research, and there aren't many studies on platform divers and the effect the sport has on their bodies. There's just not a huge population of people to study.

I'm just relieved that B has chosen to take action on this. He has the tendency to just ignore things in the hopes that they will go away. Let's hope that the injection and rehab will make a difference for the better.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The lucky wallet

Several years ago my mother gave me a "magic" wallet for my birthday. It was this little tiny thing what held the money in the middle with elastic. There were a few slots for credit cards and a driver's license, but that was it. It was the perfect size to tuck in my pocket, which was great because I never carry a purse. Unfortunately, while the wallet was "magic" (J. Crew's term, not mine), it was unlucky. I went through two of them - I melted one, and someone stole the other. After the second was stolen, I decided it was time to give up on the magic wallet and try something else.

I bought a really cool wallet in Chicago at store on Michigan Ave. It's by a company called Vy and Elle, and it's made of recycled vinyl from billboards. It's hip and cool, and huge, which causes its own problems. But this morning confirmed that it is the luckiest wallet ever.

Because the wallet is so big, I can't cram it in my pockets. As a result, I tend to leave it places. This summer, I put it on the hood of my car while at a gas station in far south Austin. I got all the way home before I realized that the wallet wasn't in the car. So I drove ALL the way back. Fortunately, the wallet was sitting on the ground in the parking lot of the gas station where it had landed when it flew off the hood.

Several weeks ago I went shopping at a fabric store with Campbell, and I tossed the wallet in the basket of the shopping cart. I ended up not buying anything, so I returned the cart to the corral at the front of the store and took Campbell out to the car. I had him completely buckled in his seat when I realized that I had left my wallet in the cart. So I unbuckled Campbell and ran back in the store. I searched for the cart for a few minutes before going up to the customer service counter, where my wallet was waiting for me.

This morning I stopped at the grocery store at 6:30 on my way home from running to pick up a few things and get cash to finish tipping out teachers. While I was shopping I had the wallet crammed in the pocket of my running vest. But when I got my cash back, I put it in the wallet and dropped the wallet on the seat of the cart. It wasn't until I went out to the car to get the cash for various envelopes that I realized what I had done. I hopped in the car, leaving Ella rather confused on the sofa, and drove back to the store, which is less than a mile away. And there was my wallet, sitting in the seat of the cart, right where I had left it.

I think the moral of these stories is that I need to learn to carry a purse.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"They're sisters?"

That's what the girl at the grocery store check-out asked me yesterday. Followed by, "But they don't look anything alike!" I just smiled and said, "No they don't."
Ella has B's olivey skin and brown eyes. When she was born, she was the spitting image of B, but now I hear that she looks like me. Lily is fair like all the O'Keeffes, with big blue eyes, and she actually looks a lot like my little sister.
I'm really waiting for the day when someone does actually ask if the girls have the same father. I have my answer all ready - "B is definitely Ella's daddy, but I'm not so sure about Lily. There are a couple of candidates." Of course, I could never say this in front of the girls. But boy I'd love to see the look on the face of the person who asked. I figure, if you ask a rude question, you should be prepared for a possible rude answer.

Friday, December 14, 2007

OK, you're forgiven

To say that Campbell has been a handful lately would be an understatement. He is into and on top of everything these days. Yesterday the girls caught him splishing in the toilet with one of their toothbrushes. Ew. I've found his toys inside pots and pans in the cupboard. He makes escape attempts from the house every time someone opens the front door. He's also made a developmental leap in his problem-solving skills, which means he's thinking about how to make a mess or get something I've put out of his reach. By noon most days, I'm ready to pull my hair out in frustration. I can't get anything done when Campbell's awake because I can't take my eyes off him for a second.

Just when I'm really about to lose it, he does something so irresistibly cute that I just melt. This morning Campbell had been noodling around the bathroom while B and I were getting dressed, emptying the contents of our bathroom drawers. I went out into the bedroom to put on my shoes, and I heard Lily start laughing hysterically. I turned around to see Campbell wearing a kleenex box for a shoe and ran for my camera. He waddled all the way across my room and out to the hall before sitting down to take off the box. Lily and I were both laughing so hard we were just about crying.

This one little stunt bought him a day's worth of forgiveness for all the messes he's getting into.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Meme

My friend sent this to me via e-mail, and I forwarded it on to my mom and sister, who had some interesting responses. Then I started thinking more about my answers and what I would have said if I had taken more time. So here is my re-do as a meme. Tag to anyone who wants to answer the questions, too.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper, but no ribbon.
2. Real tree or artificial? Real, of course
3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever we get around to it. We haven't put one up yet because I'm afraid of what Tyranababy will do to it.
4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's Day
5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, but mixed with milk
6. Favorite gift received as a child? The complete Little House on the Prairie book set. As a grownup, my favorite gift was my new wedding band from my husband.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Nope
8. Hardest person to buy for? My father and my husband, but for different reasons.
9. Easiest person to buy for? The kids
10. Worst Christmas? Well, there was the year I ended up in the hospital on Christmas day due to a bike accident. And the year my grandfather was going through electro-shock therapy and kept calling the house but not remembering who he was or who he was calling or that his wife had died. And the year I visited my parents and came down with bronchitis and spent the whole week I was there in bed horribly sick. And the year my husband's aunt attempted suicide. Now that I think about it, we have a bad track record with Christmas.
11. Mail or email Holiday Christmas cards? Mail
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? "Christmas Story"
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? December. But if I see the perfect gift earlier in the year, I'll grab it and stash it in my closet.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, but I at least waited until the next year to give it away at a White Elephant party.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Both, and bubble lights.
17. Favorite Christmas song? Don't have one.
18. Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Stay at home.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Nope
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A star made out of cardboard and aluminum foil that B and I made our first married Christmas.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Well, there's the fact that Christmas now starts in October, but there's also the constant Christmas music.
23. What I love most about Christmas? Time with my family and seeing the girls on Christmas morning when they open the scotch tape in their stockings. It's their favorite present every year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Lily and Ella have both started lying to us. Lily is the more frequent offender, however. They're so funny about it, though. They think they're so clever, telling us these little fibs, like there's no way we'll know. Fortunately, B and I are smarter and wileyer (is that even a word?) than they.

One night I asked Ella if she had finished clearing the table and put everything in the dishwasher. There was a pause before she said yes, so I went to take a look. Plates were all over the counter. I made her load the dishwasher and then sent her straight off to bed. She also lied one night about having brushed her teeth. I made her let me sniff her breath, which smelled of spaghetti, not toothpase, so I sent her back into the bathroom and then off to bed. Those two incidents were enough to convince Ella that we would figure her out if she lied, and she hasn't done it since.

Lily hasn't quite had the same revelation yet. She repeatedly lies about having brushed her teeth - with toothpaste - and about washing her hair and about washing her hands with soap. Again, a quick sniff test by me of B reveals the truth and she gets sent to re-do whatever it was she didn't do correctly and then she's sent to bed without stories. Yet she persists in lying to us. I just don't get it. At what point will she figure out that we catch her every time in these lies? Tonight she brushed her teeth and used toothpaste, but she used her finger rather than her toothbrush because she doesn't like the color of her toothbrush. B and I both suspected something was up, so we kept asking questions until we got to the truth of the matter. Ella's willingness to rat her sister out helped us too. So Lily got sent to bed, again, without a story after she brushed her teeth correctly.

When will she learn?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A traumatic morning

Poor Lily. She gets the Brave Girl award for the day. Yesterday morning I drove the 1st graders to school and came home to find Lily on the sofa in tears with an ice pack on her left foot. It turns out she had been messing around with B's very heavy industrial-strength back massager and had dropped it on her big toe. Her toe had immediately turned purple under the nail, despite the ice pack.

Lily hobbled around all day yesterday. It was easier for her to walk with shoes on, so she wore her new fancy dress shoes most of the time. I had sent a note to preschool for her teacher about it, just in case Lily's toe started hurting too much at school. She made it through the day, though.

Unfortunately, her toe hurt enough during the night that she woke up in tears. B took care of her, giving her a drink and some Tylenol and letting her watch some recorded cartoons with him before packing her back in bed with ice on her foot.

Despite B's protestations that Lily's toe was fine, I called the doctor this morning and scheduled an appointment. (If you're squeamish, stop reading.) The doctor had to poke a hole in Lily's toenail to relieve the pressure underneath. I was amazed at how gentle he was with the procedure. Lily only whimpered a few times. To poke the hole, the doc took a needle and turned it and turned it until it had bored a hole in the nail. As soon as he broke through the nail, ooze seeped out. Lily was fascinated, but I had to look at the ceiling. The needle didn't make a big enough hole, so the doctor then used the tip of a scalpel to make the hole larger. This was the only time Lily cried.

We have to soak her toe in warm water a few times a day to help flush out the stuff under her toenail. And we have to keep it bandaged, which is a good thing because it's still oozing.

I was going to take Lily back to school after her appointment because I was helping parent this morning, but she and I were both so traumatized - me more than her, I think - that I called the school and told them we wouldn't be back. Instead, we went home, and I let her curl up on the sofa and watch cartoons.

Her toe is already looking lots better, even if it is all oozy. It seems to be hurting her less, too. I'm hoping it will be healed enough by Thursday that she'll be able to go to her last ballet class for the fall. She loves dancing so much that I hate for her to miss a day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This is not our Christmas card picture

Yesterday was picture day. The girls were all gussied up for our trip to see the Nutcracker, so I crammed Campbell into his Christmas jumper and hoped for the best. I took approximately 70 pictures of the kids with LR's good camera with the super fast motor in the hopes of getting ONE good one of all three kids. I knew I could get a shot of the girls, since they understand bribery. Campbell was the wild card in the bunch. He doesn't sit still at all these days, so I knew confining him to a chair with his sisters was not going to make him happy.
I tried three different locations for the pictures, and none worked. First the kids sat in one of the big chairs from the front porch, but Campbell wanted nothing to do with that. Then we moved inside to the sofa and then on to my big bed. Nothing worked.
This is the picture B wanted to use. Can't you just tell Campbell is thinking "What the hell are you doing? I want out of here!"

I let Campbell climb in his little car and asked the girls to get down next to him in the hopes that I could get one shot of him smiling. Instead, the girls did this. They want to use this picture as our card.

And finally, it's not a real Christmas card photo shoot until someone cries. Ella was the only one who didn't burst into tears.

The Nutcracker

As the girls' big Christmas present, I took them to see Ballet Austin's performance of The Nutcracker yesterday. Unlike last year's trip, this year's adventure was a lot of fun.

First off, the show was at the Paramount Theater on Congress Avenue, which is such a neat venue. It's an old building, and the theater itself is very ornate, with murals on the ceiling and lots gold everywhere. The girls were antsy until the curtain went up, then they sat on the edges of their seats for the rest of the show.

Lily asked a few funny questions at the beginning, like why wasn't anyone talking and why did the ladies have the backs of their dresses attached to their arms. I just kept shushing her. Ella asked a few questions about who was who, but mostly she just watched, silent with big eyes.

I think Lily's favorite part of the whole thing, though, was getting to clap. Every time there was applause, she'd sit straight up and clap for all she was worth, with the biggest smile on her face. I loved seeing her face light up like that.

The only thing that marred the event was Ella's meltdown over her Nutcracker ornament. I told the girls they could each pick out a small Nutcracker as a souvenir. Ella grabbed one right away and carried it around, clutched to her chest. Lily took a bit longer to pick her, I think because she was hoping I'd change my mind and let her get a big Clara doll. After they had made their choices and we'd made our way back to the car, Ella started sobbing because she had decided she liked Lily's ornament better than her own. She tried to convince Lily to trade ornaments with her, but that just made Lily start sobbing. Lily calmed down when I assured her that she didn't have to trade if she didn't want to, but Ella kept up the waterworks the whole way home and off and on for about an hour after we were home. She started up again after the girls were in bed, sending Lily notes about trading, which set Lily off again.


Ella has now added a large, red Nutcracker to her Santa list, which grows by the day.

Despite the tears at the end, the girls really did have a good time. When I asked them what their favorite parts of the show were, they both said, "Everything!" They also made B read them their Nutcracker book at bedtime last night. I'm sure this afternoon we'll have a dance recital, complete with the proper music.

Friday, December 07, 2007

First haircut

I've been trying to take Campbell for a haircut for a while now. His little baby mullet had outgrown its cute stage and had just turned embarrassing. B, however, was absolutely opposed to my taking Campbell to get his hair cut. Finally, when one of our friends commented on how Campbell was showing B's redneck southern roots, B relented and said I could take the baby for a trim. But when I said that I'd take him to Miss Pam, who cuts my hair and the girls' hair, B protested again. "He's a boy, so he goes to the barber," B said. I gave in, and this morning I took Campbell to B's barber.

I should note that we all go to the same barbershop/beauty parlor. It's called the Crestview Barbershop, and it is a complete throwback to the '50s. Miss Pam is the owner, and she has several other stylists and barbers working there. It is definitely the hub of our little neighborhood. Folks stop in to gossip and show off pictures of babies and grandchildren. Older, retired men hang out all morning trading stories. This morning they were all discussing where they were 66 years ago today when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The barbershop is one of the many things that makes our little section of Austin so cool.

Back to the haircut. Campbell sat up on Tony the Pony for Jarrod, B's barber, and he was very quiet and good the whole time. The only time he moved was to listen to the men around him talking. Campbell didn't even flinch when Jarrod pulled out the electric razor.

Lots of Campbell's curls are gone, but there are plenty left. And I can see the back of his sweet baby neck again. Still, he looks like a big boy now, not a baby. Sob.

My Elf name

I saw this link over on the Bloghore's site, and I clicked it just out of curiosity, not at all intending to post about it. But when I saw my elf name, I burst out laughing because it is just so appropriate.

My Elf Name Is...

Grumpy Snaggle Tooth

It's been a week from hell, and as my husband and children can attest, I've been pretty damn grumpy all week. And as I've written about, my teeth are falling apart - one is even sticking way out of line on the bottom. Some day, if I ever get my teeth to stop falling apart, I'm going to have braces again. I long for straight teeth.

So based on just my name, the the Elf Name site gave me the most perfect name I could imagine.

I'm back

It's been a rough week around here, and every post I started was a litany of the things that were going wrong. So I decided that if I couldn't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all. I think today I can say something nice, or at least not whiny.

Here I go.

Ella has been the climbiest of my kids. She's been climbing since she knew she had legs. At age two, B taught her how to shinny up door frames, and we haven't been able to keep her feet on the ground since. She still climbs door frames, and trees, and poles, and furniture, and anything else she can get a toehold on. We've started her in rock climbing classes to give her a constructive place to climb.

Now it looks like Campbell will be following in her footsteps. Every time I turn around these days, he's either on top of something or halfway up something. He figured out that if he puts a stepstool next to the coffee table, he can stand on the coffee table. When we took away the stepstool, he rolled his little pushtoy over to the coffee table and used that as a step. Yesterday morning I took something away from him and put it on my bed-side table. An ottoman was next to the table, so Campbell climbed on the ottoman and then onto the table. When he summitted the table, he screeched and clapped, so proud of what he had done. B and I watched Campbell, just to see if he could get on the table. When he did, we both looked at each other and sighed. We know all too well what we're in for.

I just hope that Campbell has Ella's level of coordination, but it's not looking good so far. We had always figured that with Ella's climbing we'd end up in the ER on a regular basis with her. But she seems to have inherited her father's cat-like grace and agility (his words, not mine), and she almost never falls. Campbell, on the other hand, falls every couple of minutes, mostly because he rushes headlong around the house. He's very good at running, not so good at stopping. I have the feeling our Thanksgiving trip to the ER won't be our last.

He's on the coffee table again - gotta go.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Give me a break, please?

So I'm going to whine just a bit. Here's a list of things that have gone wrong today.

1. I called my pulmonologist yesterday at 1:00 and asked a nurse to call me about my continued wheezing. The receptionist called me back today at 7:30 pm to tell me that she had no record of my being one of their patients. Nevermind that I've been going to this doctor for 8 years. Turns out they had my name spelled wrong in their system. The receptionist then offered me an appointment with the doctor on December 26. When I said that I was having trouble breathing NOW, she offered to have the nurse call me in the morning, almost 48 hours after my first phone call. Then to add insult to injury, when I gave her my home number for the nurse to call, she said, "Oh, you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to rush out to go to work every morning." I was so stunned that someone would actually say that that I could only splutter, "I have three kids. My work is here in the house." If I had been feeling better, I would have given her an ear full.

2. I had several hours of dental work yesterday to fix my decalcifying teeth. My dentist warned me that I'd feel like I'd been beaten up, and boy she wasn't joking. My jaw is still swollen in three places, and I still feel like I was punched repeatedly. It hurts to open my mouth very far, so I haven't eaten much in the past 36 hours.

3. The pain from the dental appointment caused a pretty major migraine yesterday afternoon, and the after-effects are still lingering. I have that bad tingling feeling behind my right eye warning me to be careful lest the migraine explode again.

4. I have pink eye. I woke up this morning to goop in one eye, but I figure it was just a strange consequence of my head's being stuffed up or the dental appointment. But the goop, itchyness and redness have gotten worse over the course of the day. I'm going to have to ask the nurse at the pulmonologist's office, if she ever calls, to phone in a prescription for me. The kicker - not one of the kids has it, which leaves me to wonder where I got it. And how long it's going to take for one of them to get it.

5. Campbell has such a bad diaper rash that he doesn't want me to even touch his bottom, which makes diaper changing painful all the way around. I gave him part of a clementine orange the other day, which he gobbled down, and I have a feeling that's what caused his current problems. I let him run around without a diaper for about an hour this afternoon, but after he came close to peeing on his friend's foot during playtime, I decided to clothe him. I'm alternating between Burt's Bees, California Baby, and Aquafor, hoping that one will clear up his poor heiny.

6. The next three weeks are going to be crazy, crazy work-wise. We have five levels of presentations due between now and December 20. I don't have to create the presentations, but I do have to review them as they come through and get them cleaned up for final pass. I wouldn't mind all the work, but it's taking away from my knitting!

There, I think that's it.

She still believes!

Yesterday I took the kids to the mall to buy them "Nutcracker" dresses, which are different than the "Christmas" dresses my mother-in-law bought them. Thankfully, I was able to find each girl an outfit that both she and I liked. Lily selected a little pleated, plaid skirt and a pretty white cardigan. Ella picked out a pretty red dress with an empire waist and a sash - very simple and very pretty. We were all happy, well except for Lily who wanted the skirt AND a dress.

After picking out the dresses and getting a present for my sister and a pair of black dress shoes for Ella, we went to meet Santa Claus. Lily had been pestering me during the whole excursion about meeting Santa, so she was so happy when we finally headed that direction. When we got there, however, Lily hid behind me and peeked out at Santa, not saying a word. Ella, for the first time ever, voluntarily spoke to Santa, telling him her name, her siblings' names, and what she wanted. I was so impressed with her.

As we walked away, Lily asked if that Santa was the real Santa. I paused for a moment to consider my answer, because I didn't want to mess up the Christmas magic. I finally said that I though maybe he was a "helper" Santa, not the real Santa. Lily looked perplexed, so I decided to call in the big guns and asked Ella why she thought Santa had helpers. She thought for a minute and then said, "Well, it's a very busy time of year for Santa, and he can't be at the mall AND at the North Pole making toys. So he has helpers who come talk to the kids while he works." Lily bought it hook line and sinker. Phew.

I was also relieved to hear that Ella still believes in Santa. I know she's at that age where kids start figuring out the truth, whether they come to the realization on their own or they hear it from friends at school. Ella believes in it enough that she can rationalize the "helper" Santa at the mall. I'm glad we'll have complete Christmas magic for one more year.

The girls have both written their lists to Santa, and they're very funny. Lily's suffers from a lack of originality - she has asked for princess everything. She wants a princess bike helmet, a princess puzzle, a princess journal, a princess timer (whatever that is), and marbles. Ella has grander desires. She's asked for a new bike (which she's getting), new mixes for her Easy Bake oven, an iPod (which she is NOT getting), and marbles. They both played marbles with our neighbor, and now they want their own sets. I think those may be stocking presents.

They are both also getting rolls of tape in their stockings. It because a tradition three years ago after Ella opened the tape in her stocking, held it up in the air, and yelled "Santa brought me tape!" It was her favorite present of the year. I'll be so sad the Christmas that the girls don't think tape is a good present.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wandering baby

Yesterday afternoon I left the kids outside with B, who was putting up Christmas lights, while I went inside to start dinner. About 15 minutes later, B opened the front door and dropped Campbell in the house.

It turns out B had turned his back on Campbell, who had taken off down the sidewalk. Gasp. Fortunately, he marched over to our neighbors' house and started banging on their front door. When our neighbor opened the door, perplexed by what was going on, Campbell barged right past her and headed toward the toys in the living room.

Earlier in the day, my mom had asked if I thought Campbell knew that friends lived next door, or if a house was a house was a house. I said that I didn't think he knew who lived where. Given Campbell's adventure, I'm thinking I may be wrong.

Whether he knew what he was doing or not, I am immensely grateful that he went to L's house, not some stranger's. And that he went next door, not across the street or down the block.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I can't breathe!

Nine years ago, I trained pretty seriously through the summer for the first time ever. My goal was to run the Chicago Marathon. I'd found a good group of running chicks; I was training with a coached group; I was feeling strong. All was good. Until the week of my birthday when I got sick. It started as a cold but then went into my lungs and wouldn't leave. Finally my doctor ordered a chest x-ray, but my lungs were clear. So he sent me to a pulmonologist, who ran me through a battery of tests and diagnosed me with adult-onset asthma. To this day, I blame the crummy summer air in Austin.

It took a while to get the medications balanced out, and my running suffered as a result. I didn't make it to Chicago, but I did pull things together enough to run the then Motorola Marathon here in Austin.

Most of the time, my asthma barely bothers me. Ten months of the year, I don't even have to take any asthma medication. But one or two times a year, something happens and my lungs tighten up completely.

Last week I had a bit of a cold - it lasted all of two days. But now I can't breathe because of asthma. I'm back on my medications and having to use my albuterol inhaler, which I hate because it makes me so jittery. If things don't improve soon, I'll have to call my doctor, who will put me on the dreaded prednisone for 10 days. Ninety-eight percent of the people who take prednisone feel better for it; all their aches and pains go away, their skin clears up. B loves being on prednisone because it makes all the aches in his neck from years of diving platform go away.

I, on the other hand, and one of the lucky two percent who have the opposite reaction. The stuff makes every joint in my body throb and ache, down to the knuckles in my toes. I don't sleep for the first five days of the treatment because of the pain in my joints and because the medicine winds me up so much, and I buzz around the house like a hummingbird on caffeine. I also tend to lose a lot of weight because of my buzzing activity.

The last time I was on prednisone, my doctor took pity on me and prescribed Ambien for me so that I could sleep. It turns out that I'm one of those people who does things she doesn't remember while on Ambien. I was in New York City with friends when I took it for the first time, and apparently I made a phone call to another friend back in Austin and had a long conversation with one of my traveling companions. I don't remember doing either thing.

Aside from feeling like I'm breathing through a straw and coughing all night, I'm frustrating by the hit my running has taken as a result of this. I ran Wednesday morning and felt great. But by that afternoon I was feeling the cold come on. I had hoped to run Friday afternoon, but Thursday night I started wheezing. I wanted to run this morning, but last night I was wheezing even worse. I knew better than to even try to run. I'd have ended up on the side of the road, doubled over, sucking on my inhaler.

I know that there's nothing more for me to do right now. I'm taking my medications and running the humidifier at night. Beyond that, I have to wait it out for a few days - and cross my fingers that I don't have to take prednisone.