Thursday, February 26, 2009

Evidently, I have a thing for F words

When a friend of mine told me about flickr four years ago, I knew I was going to be hooked the first time I visited the Web site. I can say - without hesitation - that since my first upload, flickr has altered my perspective just as surely as marriage and motherhood has changed my life.

Having a place to file images for easier recall, for me, is one of the best things about the photographers' network. Finding it a real source in meeting like-minded photographers and parents has been, perhaps, one of the most unexpected but extremely rewarding benefits.

As in most fairytales, there comes a point in the story where some troll or another enters the serenity to cause havok and upset ... and for me the troll that reared its ugly head in my fanasty land was video.

You see, where "still" pictures create some kind of enchanted kingdom for me, I've never really gotten the hang of moving pictures. I can't control the images ... I can't follow the movement ... I don't really know how to edit and the downloading just seems like drudgery.

When videos of my flickr friends' kids started seeping into to my "contacts" steams I started tuning out.

Part of it, I thought, was my desire to just see still images. On flickr, I reasoned, children should be seen and not heard. But then I realized it was because each and every little arrow denoting a collection of moving pictures, just reminded me that I only had a handful of videos to remind me of Annabel's baby self or her tiny voice and none ... of Silas' early laugh.

It pains me that I don't have more moving pictures of my children, especially since my father has my first steps on 8 mm film. FILM.

I am the product of a gadget generation and yet I couldn't get the hang of a camcorder with tape. Go figure.

So in the New Year when another friend pressed a Flip into my hand at a party and insisted I check it out, I knew I was going to be hooked the instant I held the sleek, phone-sized gadget and saw only one button ... .

What is this ... a Flip?

It took a nearly two months, but that F word kept haunting me.

Her voice was changing.

He was getting more words.

She was singing her own songs.

He was getting faster and faster on the PlasmaCar.

I broke down and bought one. In the three days since I've had it, I've been holding it as Annabel ate cereal with chopsticks, sang songs and told stories ... while silas raced down the hall, fiddled with lollipops and reprogramed my computer.

They're not the best images ever; but they're perfect for me. They are easy to take, easy to download, easy to upload ... and even the kids - BOTH of them - have learned how to view and record.

I know I'll probably regret letting them run around with my new toy, and I'll probably have a few standard expletives if it returns with chips or dents. The phrases will be worse, I expect, if I find it floating in the commode. But my kids don't seem phased ... they know I have a thing for F words.

Random Question Thursday

I know, I know, I know ... Economy. Economy. Economy. Recession. Depression. Confession.

Aside from all that, what's been bugging you?

This has been bugging me.

I know ... it's all in good fun ... I get it IgetitIgetit ...

But in the end, it's still copyright infringement.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's been what? twenty-nine thousand months since you've seen the "itsy bitsy PIEder" ...

I may be biased, but I think she's still got it.

I, on the otherhand, am going to need some practice with the video thing-a-ma-jig.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Genes are almost as peculiar as how we accessorize them

My mother saw my handbag sitting on the table.

"That looks like my mother's purse," she said.

"I was thinking the same thing the other day," I replied.

"You remember that?"

"I remember. It looked like she carried her life with her."

"It looks like you carry your work with you."


I am an old woman, named after my mother
My old man is another child that’s grown old

If dreams were thunder; lightning was desire
This old house would’ve burned down
A long time ago

Make me an angel
That flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo

Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go ...

- Bonnie Raitt

Monday, February 23, 2009

Facebook can go friend itself

This is how you catch snowflakes

So ... I am cutting and pasting the following list of questions to ask your kids from a meme I pilfered from Facebook and adding my own little notes:

Mom through Annabel's eyes

Annabel at five years old:

1. What is something mom always says to you? - 'Stand right there!'
(I want to take your photograph.)

2. What makes mom happy? – If you clean up your room.
(But only because I had been asking her to do so all day.)

3. What makes mom sad? – If I got a boo-boo or I fell off a cliff.
(Evidently, she thought better of saying 'When I don't clean my room'.)

4. How does your mom make you laugh? – When the popcorn goes spilling all over the place.
(She was laughing ... I was chasing hot kernels escaping from a tiny hole in the paper bag.)

5. What was your mom like as a child? - You were good.
(Obviously I have snowed this child.)

6. How old is your mom? – That can we just skip? Because I don't want to tell you.
(She wouldn't even attempt a guess ... she sense my sensitivity.)

7. How tall is your mom? – One and a six and a zero.
(She was reading the answer another child gave ... I decided to erase the answers after that.)

8. What is her favorite thing to do? – Going places with her kids. ... like bowling. She also loves taking pictures.
(Wishful thinking ... and buttering up.)

9. What does your mom do when you're not around? – Works in the city. She makes newspapers.
(She especially likes that when she comes with me she can get glimpses of the RCA dog and ships atop buildings.)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? – A circus.
(Apparently she'd like me to join one.)

11. What is your mom really good at? - Photography. She has a lot of pictures. Like 287.
(Just about.)

12. What is your mom not very good at? – Not very good at cooking.
(I tried to remind her 'I Bake' ... she nodded in appeasement.)

13. What does your mom do for her job? – That would be the newspaper thing again.
(She's been there ... done that.)

14. What is your mom's favorite food? - Coffee.
(She's not wrong.)

15. What makes you proud of your mom? – When she takes me places and is with me.
(We do ALL the cool things.)

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be? - A circus lady who swallowed a sword.
(She has me confused with this guy. ... Or, she's trying to tell me something.)

17. What do you and your mom do together? - Color.
(We make a good team.)

18. How are you and your mom the same? – We both have each other's heart.
(Awwww ... she's so cute. But really her's is more sweet ... mine is more, well, grapefruit.)

19. How are you and your mom different? – Mom has black hair and I have brown hair.
(Again ... she's being kind ... she could have said gray.)

20. How do you know your mom loves you? - Because she borned me and she loves me.
(She's in TOTAL awe that I have a scar that looks like this ... and that she came out of it.)

21. What does your mom like most about your dad? - That he's strong and handsome and funny and tries to tickle her.
(I do NOT like the tickling ... but she should know THIS has something to do with it, too.)

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go? - Bowling alleys.
(What can I say? The kid doesn't lie.)

*It's a meme: Copy, paste, lather, rinse, repeat

Friday, February 20, 2009


truck , originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Push a petal,
Pull a lever,
Ease back slowly
Keeping an eye on where you're going
But your mind always drifts to where you've been.

I can't remember the last time I just enjoyed the ride.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random Question Thursday

tree, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

What's the longest you've left your (live) Christmas tree up?

So far? February 20th (tomorrow) ... and counting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moving at the speed of frozen molasses

spin, originally uploaded by daughter of toyfoto.

Cold. Air.

Ittybit has pulled the covers off my bedraggled head and now she’s screaming into the sheets.

“Mom. Get. Up.”

“No. No. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! … I don’t want to get up. I want to lay right here. Like this. Until you go to college.”

She doesn’t believe me.

I squeeze my eyes shut and drag the quilt up to my shoulders. I shove the rest of me under the pillow.

I can think of a thousand things I don’t want to do. Why bother getting out of bed to face them?

Her father snorts back a laugh. He’s been awake for hours.

Together the pair has been milling about the house breaking eggs and fixing coffee, waiting impatiently for the pair of lazy bones to get a move on. They’ve emptied the dishwasher, started a load of laundry. They’ve learned what happened in the world overnight and they’re beginning a list of what the day has in store.

Meanwhile, the boy and I have been ignoring the clattering of empty pots for at least 45 minutes now. Every so often he lifts his head — his face screwed into a puzzled look as if to say ‘Morning? Already? No. Can’t be!’ — only to plant his face back into the pillow and resume a pleasant snore.

“Mooooooooooooooom!” she chides, undeterred by my lack of forward motion. “… You are missing out on everything.”

With the exuberance of youth and boundless energy, she tells me of all that the day could hold:

We could go sledding. … Or I could take a ski lesson. … We could go to lunch … or on a play date … or to the movies … or to the park.

“I know. We could go to Disney World.

My silence is not a deterrent.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Disney World.”

It occurs to me that if Disney World were a warm, dark place filled with fluffy pillows and warm down comforters … If Mickey never so much as opened his mouth … not even for a muffled chortle … it would be a very happy place for people like me.

People who need to sit in the dark like mushrooms for as long as they are allowed to live anti-social oblivion.

People who sit there on the edge of that one last straw that threatens to fracture the dromedary’s back.

People, just like me, who are waiting for the morning to come and finally wash away the dark.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Out of our league

There comes a point in every parent's career -- even if it's only briefly -- when they wonder: "Am I in over my head?"

It's not the "Have I made a mistake?" thought. Of course we've made mistakes. We ALL make mistakes. And we will continue to make mistakes; that's what life is all about -- fixing mistakes.

No, this is the moment when you realize you have absolutely NO IDEA what it is you are supposed to do in any given situation.

Your son walks up to you, say, carrying an orange marker and the tell-tale signs that he's uncapped the felt-tipped vehicle for vandalism are all over the exposed portions of his body.

A part of you KNOWS you'll find orange-colored scribbles all over the walls -- possibly right beside the purple scribbles you chastised him for last week -- but you just don't want to look. Nothing you own seems as precious, anyway. Errant crayons and dog slobber have seen to that.

But still there's the issue of imparting the rules. Getting all creatures great and small to toe the line.

But what worked with one doesn't work with the other.

He's got his own agenda.

You say "NO"

He just laughs.

You say "Time Out"

He laughs and laughs.

Thank goodness the markers are washable.

... Wash, rinse, repete.

Monday, February 16, 2009

He broke my heart ...

wha?, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

... my Achy Breaky Heart ...

all because he was tired of people calling our son "Billy Ray Silas."

Friday, February 13, 2009

My funny Valentine

Dear Babies of Mine,

Somebody (I can't remember who) once said (and I paraphrase) the difference between mothers and other women is that mothers wear their hearts on the outside ...

People not as anxious as I might translate such a saying to mean that women who are mothers are somehow softer than the rest of their double X sisters. They are more in tune with the universe from the biologic act of procreation.

I don't know anyone who speaks that language.

"Don't worry, mom" is an oxymoron.

Most of us who live with pint-sized humans understand it to mean that our hearts are unprotected ... vulnerable to things beyond our control ... things that lie in wait.

And nothing good ever lies in wait.

Not the skinned knee ... nor the broken bone. The first crush and its inevitable breakup. But more than that ...

Truly, much of what we worry about is unspeakable. We won't - we can't - speak of it.

It's hard to imagine a world without her serious dedication

... or his devilish grin

... or her singing sentences

... or his full-on, toddling gait

... or her smiles and hugs

... or even his emphatic use of the word "NO!"

... or her near-constant motion

... or his desire to copy everything she does

... or just the fact that they are now happily playing together.

And especially now that you both say "I love you" in unprompted moments, it's impossible not to wear my heart on the surface.

It makes me think of "Valentine" not as heart-shaped confections or the Saint for which its day was named, but being more similar to the prongs of a pitchfork - piercing.

I know I have to shake these feelings off ... smile and be positive. Nothing good ever comes from worry, either. Because of you, I see that, too.

I just wanted to let you know that you remind me each day that tomorrow will be sweet.



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Random Question Thursday

Did your wedding meet your childhood expectations?

When I was five years old I told my father's mother that I didn't want to get married. Not. Ever. I didn't want kids of my own. Maybe I'd adopt.

She looked at me like I was CRAZY!

I suppose I was. I didn't want to be a bride. I wanted to be me.

So I guess my answer would be 'No.'

And for another 29 years I believed what my five-year-old self had said.

Until the day Jed and I were married in a field, in front of about 135 members of our family and friends. We held a reception at our house including beef tenderloin and trout (heads on). It was more fun than I could have ever imagined.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

He used have a teensy little addiction to Sony PlayStation

But he got away from its grip ...

Now, Webkinz World is drawing him back in.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Today's snack was brought to you by the letter "L"

That's what the teachers at The Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children are demanding, anyway.

Really? Let me see ... A healthy snack that doesn't contain chocolate or refined sugar ... AND something that begins with the letter "L."


The following is a list of brainstormed items coupled with Ittybit's responses in parentheses:

La-la-la Lemons? (Too puckery, but lemonade would be fine).
Lemon-poppyseed muffins? (Naw).
Leeks? (What are they)?
Lobster? (Yech).
Lox? (That's not even food).
Liverwurst? (Uh, NOOOO)!
Lamb? (WHAT? Those cute and cuddly things)?
Lumpfish? (That just sounds not good).
Lutefisk? (I don't even want to know what THAT is).
Lentils? (I suppose. ... it's a soup, right)?
Lasagna? (At least I've heard of that).

Lollipops? (But teacher said 'No lollipops').
I'm sure she won't mind if they're made of apples ...

Of course ... on second thought, she's going to be none-too-happy about the skewers ... Maybe we can just saw the pointy parts off.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My bags are packed ... I'm ready to go

I didn't even know she was upset. She was chattering away as I was poking around in the paper bags my husband had brought in from their trip to the store.


Orange juice,


Eggs ...

She walked past me in her usual flair; with a kind of brisk pounding of feet and a dramatic flounce of hair as she trudged down the hall to her room.

"She's packing ... " my husband said to me a few minutes later as I was putting away the groceries. "She says she wants to leave."

Before she stormed out I had heard her voice chirping away, flittering between octaves "... ip ip ip ip ip ..." as I opened and closed the refrigerator door, "ip ip ip ip ip ip" as I folded another emptied bag and stowed it beneath the island with the other recyclables. "Ip ip ip ip ip ip ip. ..." I really hadn't been listening.

I roll my eyes. I don't want to deal with another tantrum.

By the time I finished and found my way to her room, we bumped into each other at the door. I was going in ready for a fight and she was coming out ready for flight. She'd slung my old drawstring backpack over her shoulder, filled to the brim. The bag was bigger than she was.

She was crying.

The fight had gone out of me when I saw her eyes. She was earnest, and it had been a long day.

I asked her to talk to me, to sit in her room and discuss what had happened. I took the pack from her shoulders when she tearfully agreed.

As we sat on her bed, a tiny lifetime of upset streamed out with her tears.
Upset that seemed to go back as far as the hospital ... when she was born.

"I remember another mother. Not you. A mother who was nicer to me. Who listened to me. Who didn't just SAY she was going to do something she DID it.
That's the mother I'm going off to find."

I listened as the story brought her to my pregnancy with Silas, and how she really wanted a girl ... How she wanted to share her room and her toys, and talk about girl things, and sing girl songs ... and how she got a boy.

"But I was happy because everyone else was happy. I wasn't happy though. I wanted a sister and YOU GAVE ME A BROTHER!

"My real mother would have given me a sister."

For a moment I felt sorry for her. Poor unloved little waif who waits (somewhat) patiently for her mother to get up from behind her computer and get her a glass of milk, damnit, only to have to ask thirteen thousand times. ... Or eighteen thousand, depending on who you ask.

She was right. Everyone wants to hug Silas, they all say how cute Silas is, remark on how funny Silas is, how patient Silas is, how loveable Silas is ... She has become invisible.

I look over at the backpack, it's filled with clothes from her dresser, but not a single toy. She's serious about leaving.

"I'm just a rotten egg," she wails.

When I was her age (maybe slightly older), I ran away from home. Twice.

The first time I got only as far as the front stoop. It was raining in sheets and I didn't want to get wet. The second time I got all the way to the mailbox, where a neighbor, noticing me just standing there with my plaid suitcase (that black and red pattern and faint smell of vinyl forever etched in my mind) packed tight with toys and clothes, asked what brought me there.

I told him I was running away from home. He laughed a little, then mentioned I really hadn't gotten that far. I told him it was as far as I could go since I wasn't allowed to cross the street.

It's hard to assert yourself when you’re five.

Annabel doesn't seem to have my problem though, she just has my number.

"You're not a rotten egg. You know that," I tell her ... hoping something brilliant will come to me as I'm feeling around for an answer that will make everything all right.

It doesn't. All I can tell her is I'm sorry she feels the way she does, and I'll try to do better. I remind her of how her brother lights up when he sees her ... not us but her. And I admit that she has every right to feel sad, and to even demand attention. Fair is fair.

"Why don't you come with me to the store. Your father forgot the lemons. You come with me. We'll get a special and some time to ourselves."

"O.K.," she said unsteadily. "I'll go, but what about my bag?"

"We'll just leave it for when we get back. I'll help you unpack."

Friday, February 06, 2009

She doesn't play the blues

pink, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Seriously ... can you despise The Cheetah Girls when your kid strums her ukulele "Kitar" and belts out the following lyrics? ...

I don’t wanna be like Cinderella,
Sitting in a dark, cold, dusty cellar,
Waiting for somebody to come
and set me free (Come and
set me free)
I don’t wanna be like someone waiting
For a handsome prince to come and save me ...

Sadly, I believe the answer is "no."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Random Question Thursday to bring you the following SAD SONG

singing her song

We've all heard it before: "Newspapers are dying."

I've often said that we're killing them, but that's probably just quibbling over terms.

After all, we can each point fingers at a cause: Nobody reads anymore, no one wants to deal with the mess, the internet is faster and free, Craigslist is siphoning off the most lucrative (if not least sexy) stream of revenue, corporations have sucked the marrow dry.

Well ... one of ours, The Independent, is closing. Whether it has died or been killed, I suppose, doesn't really matter. The 36-year-old community newspaper, which had been owned by Journal Register Co. for the last eight of them, will stop publishing forever as of Friday.

Something will probably take its place eventually. ... A free rag, put together by people in part-time jobs without benefits, will eventually find its way into mailboxes throughout the counties this bi-weekly once serviced. The new newspaper, if you can really call it that, will offer glowing reports on new businesses and tasty recipes from syndicated (but free) content providers. There will probably be more ads and more announcements of school lunch menus and honor rolls than humanly thought possible.

But, come Friday, an authentic voice of the community, at least in print, will be gone.

I think a moment of silence is in order.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

We have a visitor

mosaic, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Little Flat Annabel has returned and brought with her Little Flat Jaylene for a visit. For those of you who may not remember, last October we sent off Annabel's two-dimensional emissary to spend some time with her pen pal in Taiwan.

While she was with her hosts in Taiwan, Little Flat Annabel visited scenic places, participated in some crafty goodness and even went to school. She celebrated both Jaylene's and Annabel's birthdays, Christmas and both the American and Chinese New Years.

Jaylene carefully recorded their exploits in the holidays celebrated in this drawing.

The Chinese characters in red say: "Ping Ping An An, which means "a peaceful year to you."

Now it's our turn.

Of course Annabel couldn't stop commenting on how many gifts the real Jaylene (and her mom) packed into their travel containers. Toys and books, handmade goodies, chocolates and teas, even lanterns to celebrate the upcoming holiday.

I tell you, we've been learning a thing or ten from this girl. (Although the Chinese language may not be among these things, seeing as how Annabel insists the words in the books are Spanish and "she already knows Spanish.")

Hopefully we'll be able to send Little Flat Jaylene home after her visit with some surprises of our own.

The first stop of her travels ... besides vising our new house and seeing the room that is to be Annabel's ... was to preschool, where Annabel introduced Little Flat Jaylene to her teachers, Pat and Marcia, and learned the introduction was fortuitous as the class was celebrating the letter "T."

A timely theme for talking about a tyke from Taiwan.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


his soon-to-be new room, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Sometimes it's so hard to see potential.

I walk through this house we now own, a place we will soon live, and all I see is floors that don't meet walls by a long shot or wires that snake out of control. I see curvy floors, realizing a marble dropped in the kitchen will likely roll to side door if it's tragectory isn't impeded by a raised nail or some other bit of detritus.

I close my eyes and hope for the best.

"Everything always works out," I tell myself ... "even when it doesn't work out the way you'd like."

I wrote recently of my beginnings in journalism. I wrote of what it felt like to work for a community newspaper; what it felt like to be a part of something that was bigger than just the signature on my check. How humbled I was looking back.

I was jubulient in the memories of the work and the people and the time.

Well, today, a very nice woman phoned and asked me to talk about the time I spent at THAT particular newspaper. She was writing a story about the paper and ITS history; she wanted stories about what it was like. I imagined she wanted glowing memories of its near-fabled past owners.

I had none of that nostalgia for her.

My memories of the company were personal ... and not terribly pleasant.

They had laid me off. After I'd worked 12 to 14 hours a day for seven years. After I'd spend the early years of my 20-somethings writing about garbage tipping fees and school lunches. After I'd spent those years living on pasta to make the $1,000 a month (gross) stretch as far as it could.

I have no love for that paper anymore.

And I couldn't stop myself from telling her.

All I can do know, as I wait to see how my words are translated by her ear, is to close my eyes and hope for the best.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Madison doesn't give a rat's *ss if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow

contempt , originally uploaded by toyfoto.

He's just pretty ticked off I have to audacity to move my car out from under him.