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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Writing my novel

I've decided that this is the year in which I will write my novel. It is my first novel and might very well be my last novel and almost certainly will be a crappy novel, but it will be mine, all mine!

I will not be writing my novel in three days.

I will be writing my novel in thirty days.

More to come on how I'm prepping myself--mentally, physically, and otherwise--for this event.

P.S. I feel out of sorts and helpless about the situation in New Orleans and Mississippi. To have no water, no electricity, no food, no sanitation... To have my home destroyed and my city taken away from me. Wow. Excuse me, I need to go bury my head in a sweet-smelling head of baby hair and thank god for blue skies and trite problems.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

A day in the life of a mutha

This morning I was all set to squirrel myself away in my office and work on query letters and other important writing-for-money type things when I got the dreaded phone call from our nanny; she couldn't come today. Sigh. Her kids started school yesterday and she needed to meet with teachers and do other important stuff that I know nothing about because I'm gleefully ignorant of what my life will be like when my kids are in school. I know there's an acronym called the PTA that I will either love or hate, and that's about it. Ignorance is bliss, I know.

After I hung up the phone, the real truth of today's situation hit me hard. It was 9:00 AM; the grocery shopping was done, the house was clean, the kids were dressed, and we had no plans. A day without a plan is great if you're single and a special someone calls you to see what you are doing and since you have no plans, you say, "I have no plans..." And then he hurries over on his motorcycle, and the two of you share a bottle of wine, make love all afternoon, and live happily ever after.

But once you have kids, a day without a plan is like a horror movie run in slow motion; it's scary stuff and it goes on and on and on. It does not involve motorcycles or making love, and 9:00 AM is a long way off from even this mommy's approved cocktail hour. Telling myself to take deep breaths, I wondered what the heck we were going to do today. I could feel my stress levels rising.

I checked the entertainment guide in our local daily paper--nothing. I scanned the calendar provided by our local parenting magazine--nothing. I racked my brain to see if there was something in there, anything at all--nothing. Then I check my calendar--score! Pottery Barn Kids in Stanford Shopping Center was having a kids' storytime at 10 AM.

I crunched the numbers; it was 9:15 and we had to leave by 9:30 in order to make it there by 10:00. Could I pull it off? On the minus side I hadn't showered, my hair was pulled up in a pony tail, and my teeth felt fuzzy. On the plus side I had eaten breakfast and had my coffee. And not just any coffee but a Grande Nonfat Latte. This could happen!

I quickly washed my face; traded in my t-shirt for a tank top and my running shoes for sandals; and decided that since my sweats were Gap from a season in the past decade, I was OK wearing them to Stanford Shopping Center, which around here is the creme de la creme of shopping malls. Not that I care what other people think, but you never know who you'll run into at Pottery Barn Kids. Some mom you’re trying to impress, I guess.

The gods must have been smiling upon me because I managed to get myself, the kids, and the diaper bag ready, and the whole lot of us out of the house by 9:35. I even had a small assortment of snacks, a sippy cup for Emily, and a bottle of water for Thomas. Actually, the sippy cup and bottle were still half full from yesterday's excursion to the park but I figured water doesn't go bad. Not in one day, at least. Right?

We made it to the mall in record time. PBK wasn't very crowded so we were able to get seats in front. Emily could have cared less about pretty ladies reading books, but Thomas seemed interested. Good boy. On the way out I got Emily a new book A Potty for Me! by Karen Katz. [Yes, we are about to GO THERE with her. Soon. Sometime this year. And I'm really looking forward to it. Not.]

After the PBK adventure it was still only 10:50. I decided that we would go on a Parisian-inspired adventure, Palo Alto style. We stocked up on French bread items from La Baguette Boulangerie Patisserie (one of those ham and cheese and butter sandwiches for me, brioches for the kiddies) and headed out of the safety of the shopping mall. What lay beyond these concrete walkways? This fearless trio would soon find out.

We ambled down Arboretum Drive and hung a right on Palm. I knew we were headed toward the Stanford campus and I figured there had to be something there that was either interesting or entertaining, or that would help to pass some time. About half a mile down the road we came upon it, the Rodin Sculpture Garden! How French! We sat in the shade of a large tree and enjoyed our fattening lunchables. After lunch we checked out the sculptures and took pictures of ourselves. It actually was a pretty swell place for the kids. I'm glad we ventured out of the pop culture zone of the mall and ambled upon some real culture. I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Good job, mom!

Back at the mall, err, shopping center, we enjoyed a post-lunch fruit and water snack before getting into our mammoth SUV and heading home. By the time we got home, Thomas was ready for a nap and Emily was ready to have her head filled with educational TV, giving me some time to write this blog entry and fiddle with the day's pics. Ahhh, a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Hey, I just realized it's after 4! Time for this happy mutha to break out the Two-Buck Chuck. Cheers!

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

Like mother, like daughter, like concerts

Last weekend marked a special occasion in my life as a mother. Last weekend I dropped off my two-year-old daughter at her very first concert, Dora the Explorer Pirate Adventure Live!

I have always loved going to concerts. The first concert I went to was Andy Gibb. I was in fifth grade, the year was 1978, and Gibb’s album Shadow Dancing had just been released. I wore out my aunt’s turntable and my grandmother’s nerves playing the album over and over again. I’ll be forever grateful to my aunt Mary for taking me to see him live in concert at Chicago’s Navy Pier. I don’t remember much of the show, but I remember how excited I felt and I remember the energy of the crowd. It was the biggest rush I had ever experienced in my life; I was hooked.

I’ve been attending concerts ever since that fateful day. I don’t know the exact number I’ve attended; I’ve never kept count. For a time in high school I saved ticket stubs, and if I still have the tattered envelope that contained them, in it I would find my Metallica ticket stubs, my Van Halen ticket stubs, my AC/DC ticket stubs including my AC/DC backstage pass, and many other ticket stubs from my days as a high school student who was mainly into heavy metal, sometimes into classic rock and punk, and always into a live show, no matter what the band.

So there I was last Saturday—25 years since my first concert—picking out the outfit my daughter would wear to her first concert. It was a momentous event, and the outfit had to be perfect. I chose her white Dora the Princess t-shirt with the matching lime green skort. Lime green socks and white mary janes completed the ensemble. As I dressed her I tried to remember what I wore to my first concert but I couldn’t.

What I do remember is what I wore the next day: my Andy Gibb concert t-shirt.

When I was growing up, it was standard procedure for any elementary, junior high, or high school student who attended a concert to wear a concert t-shirt from the event the next day at school. Doing so either confirmed what everybody already knew—that you were cool—or, if you normally were a less-than-popular kid, it gave you a day during which you were granted temporary cool status by the rest of the student body.

From being at the show and seeing my idols up on stage to wearing my concert t-shirts in a desperate attempt at coolness, everything about concerts has always been exciting to me. And whether the concert was Andy Gibb, the Dead Milkmen, or Nick Cave, I’ve enjoyed them all; the thrill has always been there. Every concert was an experience I wouldn’t trade. I want my daughter to have the same appreciation I do for music and for concert-going as an event. I want her to experience the thrill, too.

I took a picture of my daughter and husband when I dropped them off at the show. He is holding her, a bewildered-looking but happy little girl clutching a sippy cup. As I watched my firstborn child making her way through the throng of preschool-age concert goers and their parents, I could barely hold back my tears of pride and joy. And when my husband ran back to the car and asked, “Do you have any cash?” I knew I had come full circle in my life as an enthusiastic concert goer. The hand that so many times was on the receiving end of my mom’s crumpled twenties now handed over my last $40. Like mother, like daughter, I realized.

Smiling through my tears I shouted to my husband, “Don’t forget to get her a t-shirt!”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

 

The accidental lovey

[This is the story that I wrote for my mothers club's newsletter. It was printed in the September 2005 issue.]

The accidental lovey

As a new mom I learned about lovies from a friend. From the early days of her son's life, this mom made sure to keep a small square of soft cloth with her baby at all times, especially if they were going somewhere outside their home. She told me the cloth was a lovey and that if she kept it with her child he eventually would form a comforting bond with it. When he found himself in unfamiliar situations as he went from the world of babyhood into the world of toddlerhood and beyond, his lovey would be there to keep him company and make him feel safe.

I'm pretty sure I nodded understandingly to my friend and smirked inside. That's silly! I thought. I decided then and there that I wouldn't fall for this lovey thing, which I suspected was a gimmick devised by toy companies to get us gullible new moms to buy yet another must-have product.

My friend is the one laughing now.

How I wish I could go back in time to the days when I may have had control over what object my child chose to love. Because instead of a small, easily manageable and easily cleanable square of cloth, my child grew attached to a bear, a great big furry stuffed bear.

It all started when a well-meaning relative gave six-month-old Emily a bear. I thought it was cute; Emily ignored it. I liked how the bear looked sitting on the nightstand next to her crib so that's where I put him. Fast forward to Emily's first birthday. At this point she was standing and bouncing in her crib and had figured out that if she leaned over far enough, she could grab that big bear by the arm and haul him into bed with her.

That's when they started sleeping together.

Now when I introduce Emily to new things, Bear (as we fondly call him) comes along. When Emily goes to the YMCA, so does Bear. When we travel by plane to visit grandma, Bear hogs the arm rest. I'm seriously considering getting Bear his own seat next time. Without a doubt, Bear is my third child -- my surprise child. When I'm dragging Bear to the YMCA and I have my two-year-old by the hand, my 8-month-old under one arm, and I'm clutching Bear by my free hand, I can only nod my head in agreement when I hear, "My, you've got your hands full!"

Take my advice, new moms: get one of those tiny and manageable lovies for your baby, and make sure your child is never without that thing. If you don't, your clever offspring will find his own item to love and I can only hope that you don't have family members as generous as mine. If you do have family members as generous as mine, definitely make sure you populate your child's room with only small stuffed animals. You won't regret it when you can keep your third child in your diaper bag rather than in its own car seat.

Despite the inconvenience of lugging around a gargantuan lovey, I understand that I am the one comforted when I look in on Emily sleeping in her big girl bed and see that she has one arm around her large furry protector. I wonder if Bear will one day grace the bed in my daughter's dorm room. Or if he will be left behind, a no-longer needed relic of childhood reminding me of these crazy days when it sometimes feels that instead of two children I have three: Emily, Thomas, and Bear. Maybe that's when I'll start bringing Bear to bed with me. After all, I wouldn't want him to be lonely.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

 

Field trippin, yeah

Mike, the kids, and I just got back from our local downtown business association's Thursday night concert in the park. It was such a fun scene. The weather was warm and windless, and there were blankets on the lawn, kids dancing and jumping around, middle aged folks reminiscing about Dead shows they saw together, expensive red wines sipped from plastic wine glasses, picnic baskets and shopping bags filled with gourmet goodies. We ate chicken shwarma sandwiches from our favorite Middle Eastern deli and enjoyed the music of the Sun Kings, a band with a repertoire of over 100 Beatles songs--"played just the way you remember them."

Yesterday I took the kids into San Francisco for the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. We were entertained by hip-hop dance group New Style Motherlode, spoken word artist Aya de Leon, butoh master Ledoh and the Salt Farm Butoh Dance Company, the Metropolitan Butoh dance company, and assorted break dancers. It was a crazy mix of dancing and butoh and political musings with a touch of human beat box thrown in for good measure. We had a great time and were even joined by one auntie Jennie en route from work to her dentist's appointment.

Life is good.
 

My thoughts about good writers

Has this ever happened to you? You write an almost complete and superbly verbose blog entry in your head at some ungodly time of the night, usually 3 AM or whenever your chubby muffin (and I'm referring to your baby not your, ahem, significant other) woke you up, but you decide not to get up and write it at the computer because it's so good that OF COURSE you won't forget it. It's so good that you can barely fall asleep with thinking about it. But then you do fall asleep and when you wake up you can't even remember your own name let alone the topic of the worlds most profound and enlightening blog entry.

Last night I was contemplating my future as a writer when suddenly something very important starting making sense to me. Like a phoenix wobbling upwards from the jumbled mess in my sleep-deprived brain, I had an epiphany so great that it could grace an inspirational poster.

I wish I could remember it.

But as I sit here pounding away at the keyboard, some of it is coming back to me. The gist of what I was thinking last night is this:
  • A good writer writes for her audience
  • A good writer edits her work (or has an editor)

  • When I was employed as a technical writer, the first thing I thought about when I contemplated a new manual was “Who is my audience?" What was the level of their expertise with the software? What was it safe for me to assume about their knowledge, therefore, what could--or should--I omit from my manual in order to keep word count to a minimum and my reader's interest at a maximum?

    As a technical writer, I did not have much freedom for word play. There are certain styles and guidelines technical writers follow--some industry-specific, some company- or department-specific. Software manuals are reference manuals and as witty a writer as you may be, Joe User does not want to wade through your insidious prose to find out that he needs to click Ctrl-Shift-T to move from the wacky screen to the wicky screen. And that if he does want to move from the wacky screen to the wicky screen, he first should save his work to avoid losing it.

    As a creative writer, I consider myself lucky that there is this wonderful writing medium called blogs free to anybody with a computer and an Internet connection. In my blog I can write and write and write and not give a hoot about word count or rules or audience or pleasing people.

    Except that's not true.

    Because blogs are personal and are sometimes read by people in my family like my mother and my mother-in-law, and it wouldn't be appropriate or nice for me to reveal certain things about the people in my life. I would love to insert an example of what I mean here, but I can't think of anything that wouldn't automatically break the rule I just mentioned. Use your imagination.

    The point is that my blog has an audience and although I may not always know who that audience is, in the paraphrased words of Koan Bremner, I should assume that the worst person to read any given post is the person who will. [Note: She mentioned this in the BlogHer '05 session, "How to Get Naked" a complete recording of which can be found here.]

    When I was employed as a technical writer, I worked with an editor. Nothing I wrote was ever made public without first being edited. I am no stranger to the red pen. Also, editors have handwriting as crappy as any doctor's. I didn't always like working with an editor but (a)I had no choice, and (b)my work was better because it was reviewed and critiqued by somebody else. That's the simple truth.

    My blog also has an editor--me. Before publishing any blog entry, I edit for grammar, spelling, clarity, and that worse-case-scenario audience member that Bremner warned about. Not everybody does this. Some might argue it flies in the face of blogging freedom, but I have an agenda with my blog. I want my blog to showcase and highlight my writing skills and it won't do that if i writ lk ths.

    When I wrote the post about writing a column for my local mothers' club newsletter, some of you let me know that you like the piece I originally submitted. I like it, too! If I had my own newsletter I might just print it on the front page. And I guess that's what I did when I posted it to my blog. Unfortunately or fortunately, when I agreed to write for the moms' club newsletter, I agreed to take into consideration their audience. I also agreed to take into consideration the mission of the club's newsletter as well as the professional opinion of the newsletter's editor.

    Interestingly enough, I used to be the editor of this newsletter. Therefore, any editorial decisions used to be mine to make. Would I have printed this piece if I was the editor? I don't know, maybe. Perhaps I would have done a two-page spread on the camping trip (which was sponsored by the moms' club) and included my story as well as pictures and quotes from other parents and kids who went. In other words, I would have balanced out the funny negative--my article--with some equally humorous positives.

    It might be obvious to you at this point why I no longer am the editor of the newspaper; I used to spend an insane number of hours producing a professional-quality rag for a circulation of 250. I had no time to write pieces like the one I wrote about Thomas or the one I'm writing now. Most of my creative free time was spent on the newsletter.

    Now that Rosa comes in to help with the kids, I have more creative free time and I'd rather spend some of it writing for--rather than editing--the newsletter. But the trade-off is that I no longer control the content. Therefore, when the editor thinks something isn't right for the newsletter--for whatever reason--I have to acknowledge her authority. It's in my interest to do this with grace and aplomb. The alternative is to decide that it's not worth it to me to write for the newsletter. But because I enjoy seeing my words in print, I'll write for their audience and I'll understand why some articles are appropriate and some are not.

    In the future I hope to write for other publications with other audiences and different editors. These publications have their own standards, their own guidelines for me to follow. And follow them I will if I'm serious about getting published. Any publication with any audience other than the writer has guidelines. My blog has guidelines--unwritten and flexible--but guidelines nonetheless. And as I wade through the pages and pages of submission guidelines for various online literary journals (none of which pay, by the way), I am realizing that the mothers' club newsletter actually has very few guidelines and also a very nice non-demanding editor as well as a captive audience who wants a chuckle but not necessarily a challenge.

    I am grateful that I have time to write. I am grateful that I have an audience. I am grateful that you care enough about my writing to have an opinion about it--good or bad. Don't stop the comments! And if you'd like to edit my work for any reason, feel free. I wrote it for you.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

     

    Speaking of work

    OK, so it's not exactly a full-time gig. Or even a part-time gig. Or even a paying gig. And the details haven't been completely finalized yet, but... I got a job! So to speak.

    Are those details vague enough for you?

    Basically, a friend of mine talked me into writing a piece for my local Moms Club newsletter. Apparently she thinks I'm funny so I sent her something I wrote to see if it would work for a column.

    And she rejected it.

    Then I had to admit to myself that the piece I had sent her was just a tad dark and maybe a smidgen depressing. All of which is fine, but not exactly what she was looking for. She doesn't want pieces that are depressing, questionably funny, and sound as if I hate my kids. Too bad, because I've got a lot of those kind of pieces. No, she wants stories that are lighthearted, funny, and sound as though I actually love my kids. Imagine that.

    So I wrote something else (I'll post it after it's in print) and it was sweet, humorous, and a tad sentimental, and she thought it was swell. Whew! Good thing I meant every word I wrote because unless I’m done with this particular mommy writing gig, I'm going to have to come up with at least a couple more stories with the same qualities as that one. It's the best kind of work, the kind that's fun!
     

    Tattoo mommy

    My stepdad just sent me an interesting article about getting rid of unwanted tattoos. You can find the article online here.

    If you know me or have ever seen a picture of me wearing a short sleeved shirt, then you know that I have a rather large and quite possibly intimidating tattoo on my right upper arm. I think if I lifted weights that area of my arm would be called a bicep, but I could be wrong.

    I don't remember my exact age when I got the tattoo but I was in my early twenties, possibly my mid twenties. The tattoo falls under the definition of tribal and would not look out of place on a page of tattoos such as this one. It's a perfectly acceptable tattoo to sport at street fairs, dance clubs, pride parades, and bars on Haight street in San Francisco.

    Except that I live, shop, eat, and raise kids in San Mateo.

    I don't regret getting this particular tattoo, but I do realize that it says something about me, something like this mommy has a past in which she used to stumble around drunk with her single friends wearing black leather and giving people the bird before riding off into the night on her motorcycle. At least I'm hoping that's what it says about me.

    So even though I now dress mostly in off-the-rack designer bargains I hunt down at TJ Maxx and drive a decidedly mommy-esque SUV that I'm pretty sure will one day sport a "My child is an honor student" bumper sticker on it, my tattoo is always there, reminding the suburban world in which I live that there's something just a little different about me.

    And living a life in which I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the day to day minutia of diapers, two-for-one sales at Safeway, and feeble attempts at deciphering Emily's toddler jargon, I'm glad that I have something that lets the world know who I am--or that I had a life before I had kids and moved to the suburbs--because I'm pretty cool and I've done some pretty neat things, things that I might one day want to tell my kids, stories about how I lived in a big Victorian on Haight Street and had lots of funny friends and threw outrageous parties and paid heavenly bills. And lived life in the fast lane. And yelled, "Turn it up!" when a certain Eagles song came on the radio.

    Of course, being the cool mom that I am, I will end every story with the same admonishment, "Kiddo, your mother will ALWAYS KNOW what you've been up to, whether it's smoking or drinking or carousing, because I'm no dummy and I wasn't born yesterday and I've got the faded and worn out tribal tattoo to prove it." And if Emily or Thomas doesn't obey me, I'll threaten to wear a tattoo-revealing tank top the next time I drop him or her off at school. I'm pretty sure my old tattoos will embarrass them more than they embarrass me.

    Lately I've been thinking about getting a new tattoo. Do you think I'll one day regret having "Sorry I'm late" permanently etched on my forehead? I thought that might be one tattoo that would never be out of place in my life.

    Monday, August 22, 2005

     

    Sixteen hours of my life as a mom

    Tomorrow is the first day of a new chapter in my life as a mommy. Tomorrow is the day that a nanny will start taking care of Emily and Thomas on Tuesdays and Thursdays from nine to five. I will have sixteen hours a week to call my own. I can't wait.

    I will be one of those moms. Those moms are the ones who don't work yet who still need the help of a nanny. Those moms are the ones I used to scorn as being slightly inept because they're seemingly unable to handle the job of motherhood. Those moms are the ones who are not like me.

    There's a new me in town. I'm giving in. I'm becoming one of those moms. Without apology.

    I have to admit that I've told only certain mom friends of mine that I've hired a nanny and purposely forgotten to tell others. I have no problem being the new me around the moms I used to call those moms. After hearing my news, they tell me what I want to hear: that I'm smart, that I won't regret the decision, that the nanny will shower my kids with the attention I don't have time to give them, and that I'll be a much better parent after taking time to recharge my batteries. Basically, the same things they tell themselves.

    I also don't have a problem telling the moms I know who work full-time or part-time from home. They all have nannies, too. When they hear I'm getting one they assume it's because I'm going to start working from home. Some have gone so far as to suggest possible careers for me. They want my situation to be like theirs.

    The ones I sometimes tell and sometimes don't are my friends who have kids but who have no nanny. When I do tell these moms of my plan I invariably hear, "But what will you do all day?"

    And the answer is I don't know; I don't have an official plan. The nanny situation isn't in response to a job offer or a desire to go back to school. It's nothing more than an idea proposed by my husband and followed up on by me. What will I do all day? Not sure yet, but I might catch up some badly needed sleep. I haven't slept a full eight hours since last December when Thomas entered this world. Heck, I haven't slept a full six or even a full four hours since then. I could use some sleep. My ordinarily crappy memory has been embarrassingly crappy lately. I used to blame the pot; now I blame Thomas.

    After I wake up from my nap, I'll probably go to the gym and enjoy a full sixty or ninety minute workout. I find it funny that the girl who almost didn't graduate high school because she was flunking PE is now the woman who would pay any amount of money to feel the burn. Either I've matured or my thighs can no longer be denied. I need exercise now for both physical gratification and mental stimulation.

    Maybe after I nap and work out, I'll go shopping. Some friends suggest I'll do nothing but shop all day and I admit the idea is tempting. After years of grocery shopping with a baby, then a toddler, then a toddler and a pregnant belly, and now with a toddler and a baby, grocery shopping with nobody to please, talk to, or tempt with bribes of food, toys, or tit seems almost decadent. Hell, it is decadent.

    But chances are I won't spend much time sleeping, working out, or shopping. Because what I really want to spend my time doing is writing. And for some reason, it's easier for me to let others assume I'll be getting twice weekly pedicures rather than explain to them that I intend to become a writer with the goal of becoming an author. Maybe that's because once you announce that kind of intention to the world, the world expects you to produce something for them to ooh and aah over. Try telling people you're pregnant and not have them bug you nine months later about having that darn baby already.

    If you're interested in following my new career, check back often. I'll be doing more writing in this blog and this November I'm going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After that, I do not know. I'm keeping my sights set purposely low. After all, sixteen hours a week may seem like a lifetime of alone time to me now, but as those moms tell me, it will go by faster than I think.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

     

    My cup runneth you over

    The other day I met up with a casual acquaintance and we started chit chatting about the usual stuff. How was your vacation? How's the husband? What are your plans for the rest of the summer?

    Etc. Blah blah blah.

    As I gabbed and she responded, I realized that most of her comments corrected my own. For instance, out of my mouth came, "My tech writing skills are so rusty I'm not even sure I could pay an employer to hire me as a technical writer." To which she replied, "Nonsense. You haven't even been out of the workforce for two years. You could spend a weekend fooling around with the software and be ready for an interview on Monday morning."

    I know that.

    On the topic of husbands I joked, "If Mike actually worked with any women, I might be worried when he works late." At this she frowned and responded, "Mary! Why would you worry about something like that? Mike doesn't strike me as a guy who plays around."

    You're right. I know that.

    Eventually I realized what the problem was; why our conversation was stilted and she was clearly uneasy with my self-degredating banter. See, she's one of those people that always sees the glass as half full. Always. She doesn't like talk -- chit chatty or otherwise -- of half empty glasses. Nooooo. That kind of talk is negative and we must be positive. Where's our happy face, people? Calling all happy campers! Happy happy happy!

    Yuck.

    I'm the kind of person who talks as though my glass is half empty even when I know that it's positively brimming. Or that it could be at any moment if I just got off my lazy behind and went over to the coffee pot to fill it up. I guess I just think it's funnier to think (and talk) about life as though it were one of those joke mugs you can buy in magic shops. Is it half full or half empty? I don't know, but somebody just spilled whatever was in it all over your carpet! Ha Ha!

    I think next time I see this woman at Safeway I'll stick to the booze aisle until she leaves. Something tells me she'll never find me there.
     

    The price of tea in Texas

    In our suburb in Northern California, a one-bedroom condo with no yard and one small parking space will cost you $560,000.

    This is what $208,000 can get you in San Antonio, Texas. Please keep in mind that this house has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a pool.



    Amazing.

    Friday, August 19, 2005

     

    Thoughts at the end of two days in Texas

    Last week the kids and I flew to Texas to visit my mother-in-law. This is an entry I wrote (on paper even!) while we were there.

    I finally got the kids down to sleep. It's 10:30 Texas time, 8:30 California time. It's hard to say in which time zone the kids are living. Perhaps they're living on Tutu time, in the Tutu time zone. Tutu is what Emily calls my mother-in-law. It's also what she calls my sister-in-law although with a slight variation--Tutu-ah. The Tutu time zone is the time zone of no rules, of anything goes, Unlike our house, Tutu's house contains markers, pens, small breakable objects at eye level, lots and lots of things for small hands to touch, and a number of sharp stick-like objects with which to poke out an eye. Also lots of snacks. If you are like Thomas, you may like to eat your marker as a snack.

    The trip from California to Texas yesterday went as smoothly as possible. Thomas nursed and slept for most of the flight. Emily had her moments but none I couldn't handle. I'm proud of them and proud of myself, too. We moved through security at the San Jose airport with no problem thanks to the help of a nice security worker. I held T while she collapsed the double stroller. Emily stayed close and didn't run away, and for this I am thankful. When we arrived in Austin a pilot with a Texas accent held T while I put together the stroller. He can fly a plane but set up a stroller he cannot do. This does not surprise me.

    Getting the rental car was no problem at all. I was pleased with Avis' service, but not too happy with the car. The tires need air and a light keeps coming on to remind me to take care of them. Lame. I'll have to figure that out tomorrow. [Note: The car got a flat tire the next day and we spentclose to two hours in the Texas heat before Avis delivered a new car and transferred the car seats from the old one to the new one. It was the only glitch in our trip, and we're lucky it happened when it did instead of on our way back to the airport.]

    Once we had the car, the kids and I made our way to Jennie's hotel in Lakeway, picked her up, and made good time out of Austin. We arrived in San Antonio around 5:00 Texas time, ending our journey that had begun at 4:00 AM California time. I was so happy and relieved that we had arrived without mishap that I drank too much white wine and had to get up in the middle of the night to guzzle a can of diet Sprite. Oh, the joys of vacation-style drinking.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

     

    Andi Buchanan needs our help

    Andi Buchanan, author of Mother Shock and managing editor of the online literary magazine Literary Mama, needs help with the online publicity tour for her upcoming book It's a Boy.

    If you have a Mommy (or Daddy or Parenting) Blog and you want to do an online interview with Andi, a book review, or something else that's even more creative and inspiring to help spread the word about her book, check out the details on her blog and get in touch with her.

    I myself absolutely loved Mother Shock and can. not. wait for my copy of It's a Boy to arrive in the mail. By the way, if you haven't read Mother Shock, do yourself a favor and get a copy now. It's such a wonderfully honest book; I couldn't put it down. Literary Mama is a great read, too, with lots of well-written and thought-provoking content including essays, poetry, and short stories. Everything I've seen that's been connected with Andi has impressed me as being excellent. Check her out!

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

     

    Of socks and oranges

    A couple of nights ago I attended a Moms Night Out function put together by my local mothers club. It was fabulous. About fifteen of us met at a local watering hole & dinner hot spot and imbibed yummy mixed drinks and consumed delicious frou frou appetizers. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad that I had gone out the day before and bought some sexy new shoes to wear to the event. I had a Patti LaBelle-style new attitude and I was feeling good from my head to my shoes.

    Which brings me to an area midway between my head and my shoes: my boobs.

    If you've ever had the pleasure of encountering a post-breastfeeding set of boobies then you know they are like two balloons. Two balloons with all of the air sucked out of them. Literally. I've lamented before about my post-Emily boobs and Lord only knows what I'll find when I look down after my months of breastfeeding Thomas, the boy who likes to eat. I have to admit that if I were to write up a list of the pros and cons of nursing, As long as I nurse I'll still have boobs would be very high in the pro column, maybe even higher than Breast is best, although maybe not as high as Keeps the kid quiet on airplanes.

    While enjoying those fabulous cocktails the other night, I was involved in an interesting conversation with a group of three other moms. The topic was our boobs or lack thereof. The topic itself wasn't that interesting -- I've discussed sagging mammary glands before with other mom friends, heck with the entire Internet no less. No, the conversation was interesting because these women were seriously contemplating doing something about it. They were saving up for plastic surgery, aka: boob jobs.

    In her book Confessions of a Slacker Wife, Muffy Mead-Ferro writes candidly about her own boob job. She had breast implants prior to having her kids and after breastfeeding she knew something had gone horribly wrong. She went to her doctor to find out about getting the implants taken out.

    "I feel like I've got a pair of oranges in a pair of socks," I declared, having assumed an akward sitting position on the exam table. "And I want them removed."

    Not pulling any punches himself, sitting comfortably in a chair, [her doctor] replied, "So your plan is to leave here with just the pair of socks, then."


    Mead-Ferro rethought her original decision and instead decided to get new oranges to replace the old ones.

    Even though it's still up in the air what permanent damage has been caused by my unselfish devotion to my children, I don't think I have the guts to get a boob job. I did birth two children and lived to tell about episiotomies, second degree tears, and hemorrhoids so large you can't walk right, but I don't relish the thought of more pain, especially elected pain. Most likely in a couple of months after I've weaned Mr. T, I'll be checking out the Wonderbra, which I can only hope was designed with sock storage in mind.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

     

    Run a mile in my shoes

    Lately I’ve been feeling frumpy. I know, I’m a mom with a two-year-old and an eight-month-old; some would say that I’m supposed to feel frumpy, that this is my frumpy time of life. I might be lulled into believing that except that recently I’ve been to two events that were deliciously mom-centric and decidedly non-frumpy: BlogHer ’05, which hosted a bevy of beautiful mommy bloggers; and the MOMS benefit, an event that blew away any beliefs I may have held that environmental activists don’t shave, don’t wear make-up, and smell strongly of patchouli. At both of these events I couldn’t take my eyes off the sexy mamas I was hanging out with. These women are my peers! I also couldn’t help but notice that no amount of tight fitting clothes, mascara, and gym-going can hide my true story; my shoes give me away.

    I’ve always said that you can tell almost everything about a person by his shoes. Try it sometime. The next time you’re with a friend, check out their footwear and see if it jives with what you know about the person. Does your thirty-something male friend still wear Converse All Stars? Is it also possible that he’s a commitment phobic who not-so-secretly harbors dreams of becoming a rock star (Indie rock, of course) while he toils away at the same job he’s held for close to a decade, a job that he claims he hates? Do you have a girlfriend who swears by Italian leather and seems to always be wearing a beautiful pair of shoes, no matter what the season or the weather? For her, the cost of the shoes is no object. If you asked her, she would claim shoes are as necessary to life as food or water, possibly even more necessary than food. Don’t be fooled, shoes are the springboard to the soul. And I’m worried that my soul is a tired frumpy one.

    I suppose it would make sense that if I wanted to change my image from frumpy to something else -- let’s say sexy -- I would start with my feet and work my way up. This is great in theory but reality is the shoe fits the wearer. I can’t wear sexy footwear; shoes that are dainty or cute or sized below a nine-and-a-half hurt my feet. My splayed toes, crappy arches, and budding bunions force me into the frumpy footwear category. But besides comfort, the other reason I wear frumpy shoes is that I walk a lot. Sometimes I run a lot, too. And I don’t mean at the gym, I mean at playgrounds, at malls, and sometimes at grocery stores, restaurants, rec centers, other people’s homes and parking lots, any place where it’s necessary for me to chase down a kid whose own running skills are improving daily and who always wears sensible shoes. If I was wearing sexy shoes, my toddler would have the home court advantage and that would never do.

    Maybe I’m wrong to think that my shoes label me as frumpy. Maybe my shoes label me as a smart no-nonsense mom with a stunningly sensible suburban fashion sense. And now that I think about it, that’s exactly what I want my shoes to say about me. So go ahead. Judge me by my shoes and hit me with your best shot. Call me frumpy, but then be prepared to run.

    Monday, August 01, 2005

     

    Blogher '05: Advanced Tools braindump

    As I sat in on the Advanced Tools session led by Alexandra Samuel, George Oates, and Marnie Webb I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I knew at least a little bit about lots of the things we were discussing. Apparently, Mike’s talk of "blah blah blah computers blah blah Internet blah," had actually made its way into my sleep-deprived brain. Neat!

    General information:
    Check out: http://advancedtools.blogspot.com

    Use a tool like Del.icio.us to explore the wonderful world of social bookmarking and make your life better by organizing/replacing the billions of links currently in your browser's bookmarks folder. Also use a social bookmarking tool to share your links with others. Sharing is fun.
    Check out: http://del.icio.us

    If you want to know to know about the technology that drives social bookmarking (and other sharing applications mentioned here), you should know about tags.
    Check out: http://www.tagsonomy.com

    Applications, e.g., news aggregators, exist that allow you to use RSS feeds to keep track of which blogs you read. The applications also serve to alert you when there is new (unread)content on any of the blogs/sites you read. I use Bloglines and I really like it. It's addicting and it saves me tons of time because I no longer have to go out to the Internet to search individual blogs/sites for new content. Instead, I can tell with a glance which blogs/sites have new content. It's a great timesaver. You also can share your bloglines list of RSS feeds with other folks.
    Check out: http://www.bloglines.com

    Here's a link to a primer on using Bloglines and Del.icio.us.
    Check out: http://www.onenw.org/bin/page.cfm/pageid/530

    Flickr is an online tool you can use to publish photos. Flickr makes it easy for you to use photos on your blog. Also, by giving your photos tags it's easy to share them with other like-minded people. (There's that sharing thing again!) My brother-in-law Nick first introduced me to Flickr. I don't currently use it, but I did enjoy looking through photos on Flickr tagged BlogHer and finding a few of the back of my head.

    BlogHer attendee Amy Gahran spoke up that she has written a tutorial on RSS feeds entitled What are Web Feeds (RSS) and Why Should You Care?, which can be found here.

    Presenter Alexandra Samuel also has a website devoted to RSS.
    Check out: http://www.rsstocracy.com.

    Once you understand what feeds are, you might know how to use a tool like Feed Digest, which can easily help you put more feeds on your blog/site.
    Check out: http://feeddigest.com

    Once you’re an advanced feed master, you’ll probably need FeedShake, a “tool (that) helps you to generate new feeds by merging, sorting and filtering existing online RSS feeds.”
    Check out: http://www.feedshake.com

    Identity issues (e.g., managing identities in the social Web) were briefly brought up, however the discussion was so brief I didn’t catch any of it. I did manage to make note of these two URLS:
    Check out: http://www.IdentityWoman.net
    Check out: http://www.Identity20.com

    Other interesting links mentioned:
    http://www.ourmedia.org/ [The global home for grassroots media.]

    For fun, explore the zany wacky world of Konfabulator Widgets.
    Check out: http://widgets.yahoo.com/
    Check out: http://www.widgetgallery.com/