October 28, 2009

OCD Babies Wear Garanimals

This past summer, I purchased an adorable little book of sudoko puzzles.  I picked it up and fell in love - it was small, concise.  I loved the format and the fonts - it was easy to do a puzzle, mark it as done, then put it away.  I saw that it was 2nd in the series, so I went back to Barnes and Noble to pick up the first one.  They did not have the 1st in the series, but they did have the 3rd in the series.  Later, further inspection with information desk revealed there was 4th in the series, as well.

Oh, crap.

I knew immediately where this was going, although I did my best to resist.  I dutifully picked up the 3rd one and tried to quell the squirm of worms in my stomach. While I am not clinical, I do have obsessive tendencies (like many other folks?  I hope? Hello? Is there anybody out there?)   One of these obsessions is with "completing sets".  Fortunately, I am not a full-on collector of anything in particular but this compulsion does manifest itself in books - be it a series or a particular author.  Renewing my love affair with my local library a few years back has gone a long, long ways in helping me.  In fact, I was able to break apart a few sets that I had religiously compiled by simply keeping my favorites from each series.   My local library has also helped me with my Life Goal of reading everything fiction that John Irving and Margaret Atwood have written.  Knowing that I can access any of their works so easily, helps calm my stomach and keeps me from rabidly hunting for these particular authors.

And that is the best way to explain a compulsion - when it comes on, my stomach literally begins to twist and I simply cannot let it go.  The churning is why I carefully comb through antique malls and garage sales for books from the Sweet Pickles and Gus the Ghost series .   It is why I stalked Trixie Belden and Katie John on eBay for years.  And it is why I gave in and ordered the rest of the sudoku set from Amazon the other night.

My stomach twists over loads of silly things - well, silly to the rest of world, but not so very silly to me

My entire life, I have been described as "picky".  
If that is another word for it, then yes, I AM picky.

I still have not decided whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that I married someone completely and utterly the opposite to me.  We have our fair share of communication problems because he does not realize how serious it is to me when he does Certain Things.  On the other hand, if he were like me and I was constantly doing Certain Things that contradicted his compulsions?  I suspect it might be even worse.  I think someone like me probably needs to be married to an Absent Minded Professor type. At least, in my case, Manoj clearly and perfectly understands why I am the way I am.  When he met my father for the first time, he wryly observed "At least now, I know where it comes from."

One last thing about this persnickety side of me - I often find myself really having a true sympathy for my toddlers.  I understand that deep-seated desire for something to be a precise way - be it cereal in a certain way with a certain spoon or the desire for toys to be played with in a very specific manner.  Where I often butt heads with my toddler is when their obsession conflicts with mine.  Sad, yet true.  I also often find myself sympathizing with my autistic nephew.  Seriously. Nolan buddy, I get it.    And my heart breaks for him because I know how hard it is to move past an obsession.  I am able to do it whereas, he is simply incapable.

Now, if I can only get the stupid Gap to get the particular jeans I want back in stock already and then I can get my life back.  Jeans that fit me perfectly and even have the correct inseam for my short stumps.  Jeans that seem to be out of frocking stock everywhere.

If only.......

October 27, 2009

Not Here.

Today, I am posting over at Brit's place, who is celebrating her 5th blogging anniversary this week.

Brit is simply one of my favorite Imaginary Friends (in a close tie with the venerable Monkey, they can duke it out if they so desire.)  Imaginary Friends, you say?  You know the type,  the fake, imposters that we meet in this phony world of blogging.  Yeah, those friends.

Go give Brit some love, will you?  She is truly an inspiration - with her passion for creativity and for being a good world citizen, she always has something nice to say. If that is not enough for you, then just go find out why my pants are falling down

October 22, 2009

A Preservationist Has Been Converted.

I recently read The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen.  It was a little dull of a read, frankly.  Seriously, reading about reading?  Yeah, right.  However, I did feel inspired about how I am conducting my own little Well-Read Life and was pleased to see that I already do many of the things he recommended.  I do keep a shelf of "candidates" in my home in a designated areas around our house and I keep a list of books on my Treo as I come across them while I am out and about.  I keep a list of the books I have read by using Goodreads.com - a site I highly recommend for all book aficionados. I belong to a spectacular book club - seriously one of the best I have to which I have ever belonged - this club has really expanded my reading horizons and I come away from each meeting inspired.  And finally, the author recommends not rushing to put a book back on the shelf immediately after reading it, he recommends savoring it for awhile, maybe revisiting a few pages.  He recommends just sitting for awhile and thinking about the book.  This something I often do after having read a good book - I just sit back and relish my favorite parts.

The author also talks about Footprint Leavers and Preservationists.  Footprint Leavers dog-ear pages and write in the margins of pages.  Preservationists leave no marks on books.  I am a Preservationist - except for textbooks in college, I rarely write in books.  Sometimes, I will dog-ear pages so that I can refer to them later, but in general, I try to use Post-It notes.


I am currently reading The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It by Robyn O'Brien.  I checked this book out from the library, but I realized within 20 pages I would simply need to own this book for myself.  I also realized that I was going to need to reform my Preservationist ways.  So, I purchased one of those fancy Post-It Notes highlighters with the built-in Notes dispenser. I am still uncomfortable marking up this book, but there is such important information contained in it, I want to be sure I do not forget it.  Also,  I want to write a proper review of it here when I have finished it.  This book is life-changing for me and I want to help pass the message that our food supply is corrupted.  In short, this book is holding proofs regarding some things I have been concerned about for years  -- trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and most recently, artificial food colorings, which affect Arun in serious, negative ways.  He becomes an entirely different little boy when he consumes artificial food colorings.

Folks, I will be marking the hell out of this book.

October 21, 2009

Socrates and Plato

I use the term Team Chaos in a loosely sarcastic, wry sort of tone.  I am not sure that is conveyed here or not.  Because truthfully, in many ways, I am still astounded at how easy these two ruffians have gotten to be.  The whole disappearing act they pull throughout the day as they play together in the backyard or in various places around the house.  The fact that they love going to places with me and meeting new people.  I purposely do not do things like the grocery store, Post Office and Target runs while they are in school because I try to save those activities for when they can come with me.  Or how about this?  I went to the car wash with them awhile back.  While there, I cleared the car of all items, completely dismantled the carseats and thoroughly gave the car a good washing and vacuuming.  Team Chaos played nearby the car the entire time, happy as clams.  For nearly two hours.  How lucky am I?  This means I can save my Kid Free Time for fun activities - like hanging towel rods and regrouting showers and sorting through mountains of paper and catching up on my backlog of Salacious, Kid-Unfriendly TV lingering on the DVR.

Everything these days is "family time" with Anjali.  If she is playing with any sort of animals, there must be a "mama and baby" (big and small).  If there are extra parts, even better, because then she will act out the "daddy and brother" parts.  This applies to cars, trains, animals, Strawberry Shortcake, Kai-lan and Spiderman.  Yes, we have Baby Spiderman and Mama Spiderman in our house, don't you??  It is cute, to a point.  Not so cute, when she throws a fit because she has the "mama" OR the "baby" but not BOTH.  And that little tink of a girl can scream like a banshee.

Mama Kai-lan and Baby Kai-lan, let no man tear them asunder, trust me.  OH DEAR SWEET BABY JESUS, TRUST ME.

Anjali has adopted a mannerism that can best be described as the I Am Sorry handmove.  As in, "Sorry, Mama.  We have no milk. SORRY" or "Sorry, Mama.  I spilled leaves all over the floor.  SORRY." or "Sorry, Mama.  I can't find Baby Elephant. SORRY."  And believe, me - no one is as sorry as I am when the missing half of a Beloved Mama/Baby Pair cannot be located.

Last week, we went to the Toy Store in Lawrence to get Arun yet another lizard and another allosaurus dinosaur.  Because you see, when you are 4 years old, you can never, ever have enough lizards or dinosaurs.  Trust me.  While we driving to the store, Arun pondered what we should get Anjali, who was sleeping in her carseat, unaware of our destination.  Arun was very concerned that she would sleep through the visit and leave empty-handed..  "We will get her a tortoise, she likes tortoises.  That would make her happy." he decided.   She woke up before we arrived and ended up with elephants, instead, but no matter.  Arun had her back, just in case.  After the toy store visit, we went to have a snack at the Mad Greek.  While I enjoyed some hot feta cheese dip and saganaki (the flaming cheese), Arun and Anjali happily created games to play with their new animal purchases.

As all parents are aware, you cannot force your children to be nice to each other.  Oh sure, you can force them to play the part and go through the motions., but you cannot actually make them like each other.

One of my favorites bits of being a parent is simply watching my children hang out together.

Arun and Anjali playing with his favorite birthday! present! ever! mama! - the desert monitor.
It's early morning, Anjali and I have just woken up.  We are snuggling in bed, talking about what we will do that day.  It's on of my favorite parts of the day.  The snuggling.  The whispering.

Anju: Are you happy, Mama?
Me: Yes.
Anju: I want you to be HAPPY, Mama.
Me: I am happy, Anju.
Anju: Mama?
Me: Yes, Anju.

Anju: WHY are you happy, Mama?

Anjali: I like rain with snowflakes on it.
Arun: You mean SNOW, Anju.
Anjali: NO!!!  I like RAIN with SNOWFLAKES on it, Ah-woon!

Anju: Mama, Lucy scratched me.  LUCY SCRATCHED ME.
Me (looking at Lucy): Lucy, say sorry.
(Several seconds pass as the dog cocks her head and stares at both of us as only a Westie can with such pretty, perky ears )

Anju: MAMA, Lucy can't TALK.  That's silly!

Arun wanted to use a particular bowl for cereal, but I pointed out another bowl would work better.
Me: Trust me, Grasshopper.
Arun: I'm not a GRASSHOPPER!  I'm a CRICKET.

Arun (motioning towards a Stormtrooper action figure): Mama, what is this?
Me: That is a Stormtrooper from the Star Wars movie.  They are bad guys and their boss is Darth Vader.

Minutes have passed. 
Arun: Mama, what is this?
Me: A Stormtrooper

More minutes passing.....
Arun: Mama, what is this, again?
Me: A Stormtrooper

And yes, yet more minutes pass .........
Arun: Mama, what is this?
Anju (exasperated): It's a STORMTROOPER, Ah-woon.  It's a type of BAD GUY.


As reported by Anjali's teacher, apparently Anju got antsy during show n' tell and wished that everyone would pick up the pace a bit so she could get to digging out her bag of mama and baby lizards.  She let everyone in the class know this by impatiently  announcing "Come ON, let's GO!!"  The teacher thought it was hilarious.

Welcome to my world, teacher lady.

Lest you accuse me of being sappy or dear God, a mommyblogger, let me throw out some gratuitous random snappage for your mocking pleasure...... 

Hillbilly Bumpkins

Missing some teeth action there, yo!

Seeing Red!

FULL ON Rainbow Action Over the the Free State Brewery and Liberty Hall in Lawrence KS Last Night
I have to admit, I may play with these photos later  to see if I can get the rainbow to pop a bit.  Still it, was some fun lighting with which to play!

October 19, 2009

Ain't No Free Lunches

Recently, I received 4 DVDs to review (one of which I really enjoyed.  In fact, I am giving away FIVE copies of it, go comment here to enter because it would make a great holiday gift this season.)

Yes, it was fun getting things in the mail.  However, it quickly got awkward when it became obvious several of the videos were stinkers.  Oops.  So, yes, I did not care for two of the videos I watched and I could not even get my own children to finish them with me.  You see, during this entire process, I had been corresponding with a particular PR gal and I had to get it out of my thick melon that giving a bad review was a personal affront to her.  Because, of course, it is not.  Still, I had to decide how to manage the contact with her - this was my first negative review experience.

In the end, I just sent the links to the reviews and said nothing else.

It made me sit back and really ponder what I am setting out to accomplish with doing reviews of products I receive for free. Oh sure, it works out grand if you like the product, it is then worth the work of scheduling the receipt of product, using the product, writing a quality review, conducting correspondence with the PR person. And in the past, for me, it has worked precisely as it should have worked - I reviewed a Build-A-Bear monkey earlier in the year and was so impressed with the quality of the product, that I have taken my kids back several times to purchase products from them.  Before my review, I shrugged off Build-A-Bear as simply overpriced, but as a direct result of my review experience with them, I have become a paying customer (which is why I am even able to mention them here - now that I have actually paid for a product myself, I can mention them and not violate my contract with BlogHer.)

When X and I were discussing the recent FTC act that requires bloggers to disclose freebies received if the product is reviewed, he had trouble understanding why it was such a big deal.  And sadly, I had to explain to him that many folks were simply doing the reviews without revealing they did not actually pay for the item. In theory, it sounds straightforward and simple. But it is not.  And I found out recently why this is so.  Forming a relationship with a PR person is a tricky business and a blogger can easily find herself in a Biting The Hand That Feeds You scenario.   

I firmly believe that not only do I have a responsibility to you, but that I do have a very real responsibility to myself, as a person.  I could not, in good conscience, give a good review of something that I did not appreciate and would not fork over my own cash to purchase.   And that, my friends, is my solemn promise to you.

October 16, 2009


As much as I have enjoyed the ages of 1, 2 and 3, I cannot even imagine how much cool Year 4 will be.  He is so much fun to hang out with and I love hearing his observations as we navigate our world.  To watch my squawking, hairy little bundle of boy grow and take on all of these life roles is amazing.  He's my son, but he is also a thoughtful brother, a curious student, and an affectionate grandson, cousin and friend. 

My goofy, inquisitive little boy.  All the parenting books prepare you for the Why Questions, they fail to warn you about the How Question........ How do lightbulbs work? How do our bones work? How can a bird fly?

Being this boy's mother is an incredible privilege, an amazing responsibility.  I am humbled thinking of all that lies before me.  But I also am grateful for what I have been dealt.  I wanted a child for so very long and he is simply far more than I could have ever dreamed.

Happy birthday, Arun.

The Many Faces of Arun

October 12, 2009

Understated Hyperboles


It appears I am the only one consulting Dr. Google.  Point taken, Innernets.  I do not need to see a doctor, I am just recovering from a nasty cold.  That is all.  No worries or fears. Except for my lack of writing style. (Psst!!! For those of you who did think that last post was entertaining enough, we need to set up some playdates.  Soon! I need more friends who are as warped am I am.  For the record, I totally blame my dad for my twisted sense of humor.  It's an Oliver Thing..)

This is probably a good point to redirect your attention and as such, I will post about my tarantulas, instead.

Awhile back, I began receiving trollish comments on my Flickr account regarding Sofia's cage. I received a message where the commenter stated that Sofia's cage was too small.  Then, the commenter asked if I was stupid or blind (at least they were politically correct enough to be mutually exclusive about the matter.)  Then, I received the following message "ciao are you italian? I would like some information about your spider because I would like to purchase it"  At that point,  I blocked It (no, trolls do not deserve gender designations.)

While I was willing to concede that Sofia's cage needed to be taller, she was acting perfectly fine and seemed about as happy as a spider could be happy, I suppose.  A sign that a tarantula is distressed is when they pace around their cage - and Sofia rarely does that. 

Anyway, I did recently upgrade both of the tarantula enclosures and am happy with the results.  It was a little stressful, though.  Let me be clear - Sofia and Madison are arboreal tarantulas, which are not an aggressive sort.  I do not question my safety with them and am not afraid of being bitten.  Okay, maybe I am a little afraid of being bitten, but that is really a fear on my part and not grounded in much truth. Overall, the Common Pink Toe (avicularia avicularia) and the Antilles Pink Toe  (avicularia versicolor) have really, really low incidences of bites.  No, it is the opposite - I am concerned with their safety. I do not want them to escape and get lost or fall from a tall height and get hurt. Or worse, become a victim of Lucy or the cats.


Transferring Sofia is a no-brainer - she is so easy-going and laid-back, I have always called her the Pink Toe of the Cheech and Chong set.  Pink Toes have a reputation for being nervous Nellies and she is not. I was able to just tip the old cage into the new cage, then nudge her rump.  She resisted and climbed onto the old cage lid, but did not freak out over the ordeal.  Once she saw that I had transferred all of her pipes, bongs, Zig Zags and velvet pictures of Jim Morrison - she was good to go and happily scampered into her new home. Maybe "happily scampered" is a slight exaggeration on my part, but I think we have already proven my penchant for hyperbole, have we not?

Now, Madison?  A different story. Sigh.  She is a skittery, scattery sort of thing and she is frocking fast.  During transfer, she decided to head for the expresso machine and it was a bit of a dickens catching her.  I mean, I understand the need for coffee, but she was being ridiculous.

I am still amazed at the fact that not only am I a tarantula owner, but that I really, really like them.   I would really like to get another spiderling (specifically, a Green Bottle Blue), but X has reached his limit.

This whole spider thing all began with Nic Bishop's Spiders book - it was a book that Arun spied at Border's and he begged for it.  We took it home and for weeks, read it over and over and over.  Then, we would read it again. The first few readings, I was so queasy to my stomach and totally squicked by the molting spiders snaps.  But really, the photography is simply stunning.  And I felt myself drawn in.

Honestly, it was nice to expand myself into a new hobby, I was just so very bored with myself.

And more importantly, it was one of the first moments as a parent where my child taught me something, rather than the other way around. Thank you, Arun. 

I owe you one.

Tarantulas fit right into the theme of a dusty bookcase dedicated to Mystery Girls.  Nancy, Trixie, Kinsey?  We salute you.

Around these here parts, it is Halloween all damned year .

Making my troll proud.

Gettin' All Fancy-like With the Digital Macro Settings

If you look closely, you can see she still has a piece of her last molt stuck to her AND her carapace did not come off, either (the carapace is the dorsal part of the exoskeleton of the cephalothorax.)  I am a little worried, but am hoping it will all shed in her next molt.  Since she is still a spiderling, it is likely she will molt again in the next few months.  As opposed to Sofia, an adult, who molts only about once a year now. 

Photographing Sofia is so much fun because she is so laidback about it.  I can get really close to her with no worries of her running off. 

I love the new cork piece I put in her cage, it really accents her colors.

Toe Pick!

Can you see how her toe is a bit "clawed"?

October 7, 2009

Paging Dr. Google.
Code Black!

What did hypochondriacs do in the good old days, before digital barbarism reared its ugly head clogged with 0s and 1s?   

It sucks when you get sick or have weird symptoms.  It is not as if Dr. Oz will come knocking at your doors with a tidy black bag chockful of instruments designed to inflict a variety of torture.  I am sure that privilege is reserved for America's Official BFF, the girlfriend of all of us.   Lordy no, the rest of us have to consult Dr. Google, that frightening dark overlord of medical mysteries.

Every time I get a cold, my sense of smell goes south.  Currently, it constantly feels as if I am smelling rancid, sour coffee.  Per usual, this will last for a few weeks, then I will be back to smelling the roses again.  Dr. Google informs me I probably suffer from parosmia.  There is no cure or treatment and I probably have a brain tumor, but it is probably benign.

So, yesterday,  I am at Pet World in Lawrence picking out new enclosures for the tarantulas (Sidenote: I have found myself with a Flickr troll from Italy proclaiming animal abuse for putting Sofia in such a small enclosure.  Of course, I am utterly frightened of trolls and always eager to do their bidding.)  After we purchased the  enclosures, we were hanging out at the store waiting for the 4pm tortoise feeding.  I noticed my nose was running - not a marathon, but a full sprint.  Odd, I thought (and disgusting!)  I put my finger on my lip and discovered I was bleeding. And I did not have any tissues.  Well, of course, I did not have any tissues becaue I am That Mother Who Never Has Tissues.  While trying to suppress full-on freak out mode, I strode through the store hissing at my little entourage to follow me.

I am not sure where I am going with any of this, except to say that at least Dr. Google accepts my current health plan.  So, there is that I suppose.  Good thing, because I am now quite certain that my brain tumor is malignant.

Dr. Google assured me it was so.

October 5, 2009

Guilty as charged.

Thank you for not allowing that last post to devolve into a bitter debate as to which lifestyle is better.

Thank you.

It was inspiring to see comments and emails rolling through my inbox that were respectful and thoughtful.  Ideas were expressed that added to the conversation - certainly, my post cannot stand on its own without your comments.  And I would not want it to. Yes, not everyone agreed with me and a few of you were a little disjointed to see me write in great detail how I would not enjoy the life of a "working in an office" mother.  I cannot blame you.

I was left wondering to myself why on earth I would write a post that could be deemed inflammatory and which would surely hurt a few of my friends. Why would I potentially alienate loyal readers and longtime friends?  In the end, I decided that I simply needed to work those words and emotions through that sausage grinder in my head.  I am glad I did publish that post because after writing it, my conviction to fight for my staying home was even stronger.

And my reasons for standing strong were in writing.

However, in reflecting upon that post, I also realized how incredibly guilty I feel about staying home.

Last month, I took the kids to a nearby botanical garden and we had a lovely afternoon.  At one point, we spent well over 30 minutes at the frog pond, watching frogs and turtles.  We moved to the bigger pond and as the kids dug in the dirt and threw rocks in the pond, I watched huge hawks floating by, down low.  Really low.  It was one of those gorgeous late summer afternoons - bright, sunny with a coolness in the air and very slight breeze.  I normally despise sitting in the sun, but that afternoon the sun felt loving and warm on my bare arms. 

Sadly, that sweet afternoon was tainted with a slight sense of embarrassment.  I felt bad enjoying that spectacular afternoon while Manoj was struggling with some work-related things that day.  You see, these outings are not uncommon - nearly every day, I am doing something enjoyable with my kids while my husband deals with all sorts of work-related crap.  We live in an area that has a plethora of parks, nature centers and gardens in addition to a wonderful zoo and children's farm.  They are mostly free or reasonably priced and we take full advantage of them throughout the year.  It still strikes me as pure insanity that I could have so much fun doing something that is supposed to be work.

I have a bachelor's degree AND a master's degree in accounting.  I am a licensed CPA.  And sometimes, I do wonder if it was all a waste.  After all, I hope to never go back to that life, even later when my kids are in school.  And yes, it is difficult to stomach that I am not explicitly contributing to our family's bank account.

My greatest wish would be for all mothers to have that sweet luxury of choice.  It does not seem fair.

And perhaps, on some level, it is not.