Saturday, December 29, 2007

Things to save in case of fire

I have loved CoffeeBeanMan since I was a child. Back then he lived in the dirt of a Norfolk pine houseplant my grandparents had in Minneapolis. When my Opa died in 1990, CoffeeBeanMan was the only thing I really wanted from the estate. Which is good, since Opa's second wife stole everything she could. If she had known my feelings for CoffeeBeanMan, she surely would have stolen him, too. Luckily, I am subversive.

As of today, CoffeeBeanMan lives in our kitchen. I was going to put him on the mantel, in a place of honor, but I posed him in the kitchen and look how happy he is!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Heifer update

The total for the Heifer fundraiser is $23.16! Because of the kind and generous person I am, I will round it to $24 before mailing it in. Maybe even $25. More importantly, I’ve decided that since you all were nice enough to support my little venture in blogville, I’ll just continue with the Amazon ad on this site, and I will donate the proceeds whenever the total reaches $50 or at least once a year, whichever happens more frequently. Thanks for helping raise this money! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

As a thank you, here is a wonderful little nature video for you to enjoy: a bird moonwalking.

Bonus joke:

How many people of a certain ethnicity does it take to change a light bulb?

A certain finite integer. One to hold the bulb and the rest to act in a fashion stereotypical of that ethnicity.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas with kids

Watching our children open presents is so much fun, better than opening my own (although I loved mine, thanks!). Especially how they have zero attention span and flit from object to object, like the immature beings they are, without really appreciating the thought behind the ... oooo, shiny!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Planning next year’s garden

New for next year: Potatoes, peapods, and green beans. I hear potatoes are a breeze. You start the plants and then keep putting more soil on them all season. Since we have tons of compost, should be easy. And we have some extra wire fencing that should work fine.

Nea loves peas, so that’s the motivation there. Boo got a plant that they started from seed at her preschool, and we enjoyed eating the pods straight off the plant all summer. However, one little plant was obviously not enough for a family of 4.

The only reason I want to do green beans is that I tried my aunt’s homegrown marinated green beans last summer, and I am hooked. Such a great lunch – the beans, fresh bread with butter, maybe some fruit. Very German.

Not doing again: Sweet potatoes. I bought slips for around $12 and got maybe $4 of product.

Natural pest control: N spotted a coyote in front of the neighbor’s house last night, so that explains the reduction in bunnies this year. If I could figure out what was eating my butternuts, that would be helpful. We know there are opossums, raccoons, bunnies, mice, chipmunks, and squirrels around. It’s like living in a damn Varmint Nirvana.

I’m not even sure I can grow squash again because once the varmints figured out the seeds in there were tasty, that was the end of that. Or I’ll have to cover each squash with a wire cage or something ridiculous like that.

Space issues: We started with a 12x12 bed. Then this year we added an 8x8 bed. The potatoes won’t be in there (they’ll be behind the garage), and I’ll have all the space available that those spacehog sweet potatoes used last year. So, will that leave enough room for the beans and peas? Probably. I’ll have to research bush beans versus climbing beans. Plus maybe I can sneak a few plants in behind the peach tree, where there’s lots of sun. I have had various plants over there before and they never get watered enough. But next year will be different! Next year I’ll force the kids to help more! That’s why we had them!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What parenting a special needs child feels like

I know, I know. It could be so much worse. She's only apraxic. She'll probably talk some day. Regardless. It could also be easier. Much easier.

"You have a candle, but no matches. You have a key, but no door. While you are negotiating this maze, you run into people who also have candles and keys and are also looking for doors. Some have candles that are lit and help light the way for you. Other times, you turn a corner and your candle is blown out by a breeze. Sometimes you find a door, but have the wrong key -- Be assured that you will always find someone with a candle and you will eventually find the right door."
Holly Olmsted-Hickey

I was just telling someone that one of the apraxia yahoo groups I belong to is composed of, apparently, thousands of parents, all of whom are yelling into the abyss at each other, "Help me! Help me!" So that quote came at a particularly appropriate time in my life. It might so hokey to you, but it's true from where I'm standing.

And just when you feel depressed enough about how all this is going, you find a comic strip that depresses you for what the future could hold. The storyline runs from June 18-28 (skip Sundays).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mad Math Skillz

We often snuggle in bed in the morning, just me and the girls. N is off to work at the buttcrack of down, actually earlier.

The other day Boo says, “Mama, what’s 24 and 24?”
I say “48”
What’s 24 less, then?
Oh, ok, then what’s 12 less?
Oh, then we haven’t seen Papa in 36 hours.

I was impressed. Of course, I had no idea where she was going with that line of questioning. Later that same day we had her parent-teacher conference. We are chatting about how “delightful and well-rounded” she is when she comes up and says “Mama, what’s 4 and 4 and 4?” And I walk her through 4+4, and then 4 more. The teacher turns to me and says, “I don’t think you should have any concerns about her.” Nice timing, kid! Make a Mama proud.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Books books books books

Book group was lovely last night, as always. N was very surprised that everyone left at midnight. Pretty early for us. Perhaps the pregnant mom and the two nursing mothers were tired from all that creating and nurturing life? And the rest of us just frazzled from pre-holiday mayhem?

Having a fire going certainly made it cozy. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we have another fire blazing now. What a crappy life I lead, blogging all toasty with my tea and fire. Nea is clunking around in my shoes. Boo is spinning around. N is making lunch.

Next month’s selection is The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is there a marine biologist in the house?

I think it would be pretty festive, just with a string or two of lights wrapped around the eel, but they do it differently in Japan. (video starts after short commercial)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chihuly at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Our only definite plan over the holidays is another visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I read in the Trib that another Dale Chihuly piece is on permanent display there now. The first time his work was exhibited there was probably my favorite art experience. See it here.

Or, if you are anti-art but pro-chocolate, check out the conservatory's Chocolate Fest. The next one will near Valentine's Day, as is traditional. The date doesn't seem to be posted on their site yet.

(Photo of Boo in 2005 at the conservatory.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

With the money we'll save on diapers ...

If there’s anything cuter than Nea, turning her back to you, and dramatically patting her butt three times with the flat of her hand to sign the need for a new diaper, I don’t know what it is. Regardless, serious potty training commences Dec. 21st, when her two weeks of vacation kick in. Stay tuned for the hilarity that is sure to ensue.

To date, the Heifer total from this site is $21.90. Not bad, I think. That’s enough for a flock of chicks, ducks, or geese. Enough to change a family's life.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Strange Humor

Everyone has a unique sense of humor, don’t you think? You can have a “dry” sense of humor, or a “dark” sense of humor. Or none. But I’ve never heard of a person having a “standard” sense of humor. Here are some examples of what is funny to me.

Setting: In line at a large salad bar.
Music playing over sound system: If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with … (video)

Bluestem, to husband: Listen, Sweetie, they are playing our song!

And one that truly has an appreciative audience of one.

Friend: What causes apraxia?
Bluestem: Bad parenting.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Knee-deep in Christmasworld

Having trouble getting into the holiday spirit? Try this!

Having trouble finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list? Try this!

We just cut down our own Christmas tree, which we had never done before. I highly recommend Ide Trees in Downers Grove
. I do not necessarily recommend undertaking this festive family fun in the rain, though. And Christmas trees give me an itchy rash. What a scrooge I am.

To-do list for Xmas

  • Decorate tree.
  • Finish forcing the kids to make Christmas cards.
  • Give up and use back-up cards.
  • Order photo for Christmas cards.
  • Mail Christmas cards with photo and letter.
  • Make gingerbread house.
  • Finish shopping.
  • Wrap presents.
  • Mail presents, as applicable.
  • Bake cookies.

Have I forgotten anything?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Time off and goofing off

Imagine my horror this week when my boss announced that we all needed to take extra vacation time in Q2. For me this means I need to take 3 weeks of vacation in the next 3 months. Ain’t that a bitch. Take extra vacation. Time away from my job. Still get paid, mind you. No, they insist! And what’s really awful is that I’ll still have extra vacation time, in case I need it. That’s life at BigCorp.

Probably everyone else already knows about the superiority of the Google home page ( I just heard about it and flung off my old Yahoo home page like, um, a new bride’s panties. Don’t you hate it when you can’t use a perfectly nice turn of phrase, just because you are the wrong gender? Anyway, I’ve tweaked it and arranged it and now it’s soooo perfect. I added some cool widgets (brain teasers – no, no, I’ll find the time, I’m sure) and removed others (Fox News? No, thanks.). Plus, I set my background to change with the time of day, with moonrise and all. It doesn’t seem to account for it being pitch black at 5 pm, but eh. Maybe it’s set for people who live on the equator. I mean, I typed in my zip code for the auto-weather feature. The least they could do is make it customized for my latitude.

If you haven’t already explored the magic of the Next Blog button, I strongly recommend it. See it there, at the top of this page? Next to the “FLAG BLOG” button? (Ignore that one.) The first time I tried it I landed on a Mary Kate and Ashley fan site in Swedish in 3 clicks! Tell me that’s not magical.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The milestones they don't tell you about

Just now received the call from the doctor's office confirming the diagnosis. Look, it's Baby's First UTI. Went to the doctor with Nea on Tuesday, started her on the meds even though it was only a suspected bladder infection at that point. 53 hours later and the petri dish culture confirms! I'd like to point out that she was a good, good girl and peed there (in what looks exactly like a white plastic hat) so we didn't have to go back with our little cup. As of yesterday, she was still spiking fevers of 105. Today her personal best only reached 103.8.

I don't know why I'm so exhausted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Game more intellectual than Candyland

Just hanging on the tofa (that's what Boo called the couch/sofa when she still had a speech problem with K and hard Gs. So, that's T replacing the K sound of couch on the front of sofa) with Nea, who is sick.

Back when I was a naive parent I used to think "Gosh, Candyland is boring as hell, but for some reason I'll buy it anyway, as it appears important to child development in some way that is unclear." Now that I'm all smart and experienced, I think "Gee, there are so many better games out there. You just need to look around a little more." And, therefore, I just added Alpha Animals to Boo's wishlist. Looks like a game I can play without wishing for the sweet release Death will bring.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The bizarre side of the web

It's amazing, this Internet, full of resources, endless stories of people with similar lives. I spend a lot of time reading about apraxia, and sometimes I read stories about people with kids with "real" problems. Medical nightmares. I think I'm trying to give myself perspective, but often it's just heartbreaking stories of people I'll never meet. Maybe it's not wise.

So, through one of my favorite online special needs resources, I hear about a message board just on speech problems! I'm amazed and excited! I save it for later in the day. Later, with anticipation, I start looking at the different topics under discussion. Augmentative and alternative means of communication. Dealing with insurance. Using essential fatty acid supplementation. Favorite products. Oh, where to start, it's all so wonderful! Then I notice the Last Post date stamps. Fri May 26, 2006. Sun Mar 25, 2007. And how many replies to threads. Hardly any. It's the first extensive online ghost town I've discovered.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cat Names Available

I don’t know why I do this, but I enjoy coming up with names for cats. I’m over-the-top allergic and won’t be able to use them. Unless the price of the hypoallergenic cats comes waaaay down. Last I heard they were $5000 a pop. So, in case you need a spare cat name, I humbly submit:

  • Boutros Boutros Ghali (call him BooBoo)
  • Squid-ink (best for a black cat)
  • Roomkey (has a nice ring, no?)

Anyone else have some to share?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankful for:

  • Family, especially two lovely daughters
  • Friends
  • A beautiful nearly completed house
  • Having a husband who can fix/build almost anything
  • Having seen my cousins this year for the first time in 32 (in one case) / 11 (in most cases) / 8 (in two cases) years
  • The things we don’t have: a lot of debt, rampant consumeristic tendencies, health problems, cable TV
  • Not having to cook for 18 people more than once a year
  • “Only” dealing with apraxia (It could be worse, of course.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I love literacy

If you have trouble returning library books on time, check whether your library uses the Library Elf system. I love it. Now I receive emails that tell me the names of the books that are due in three days. You can set it to email more, too, if you are even more flakey than I am. I really appreciate that I can see all the books checked out on our multiple cards at once. In fact, I haven't paid a library fine since signing up.

If you love dogs or hate sweet potatoes, or both, or neither but you just need a laugh, I recommend this light reading.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Yowza, we are hosting for 18 people (including ourselves).

We are serving:
Mashed sweet potatoes
Mashed potato casserole
Corn pudding

Other family members are bringing:
Cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktails, other appetizers
Red cabbage
Homemade pickles

Green salad
Pumpkin pie, other assorted desserts

The two recipes I’ve never made before are the corn pudding and the mashed potato casserole. Did I test them this weekend? No. I believe in Life on the Edge, baby.

The first one will be a breeze, since Tish not only gave me the recipe, but will actually coaching me through the apparently not-so-difficult process in my own kitchen next Wednesday. The mashed potato casserole I also have a high vote of confidence in, as we have never had a flop out of the Cook's Country magazine (which I highly recommend, if you have a cook on your Christmas list). The point of the recipe is being able to make the dish the day before. So as of right now, it looks like Wednesday is going to be Hell Day, with Thursday being a relaxed day of wearing heels and pearls and laughing merrily at the standard family anecdotes. (Let’s practice now. “Ha ha ha.”)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shop Amazon for Charity

So mostly out of curiosity, I applied and was accepted as an associate, which means that if you follow a link out of this blog and buy things on Amazon, I get a small percentage of the purchase price. Obviously you don’t pay more for your items. In the spirit of the holiday season, I will be donating any proceeds from now until Christmas to Heifer International. This charity gives animals to people to improve their quality of life. If you are vegan, you can even give the gift of trees. I also love the idea of the gift of honeybees.

So, just to get started, here are a few books I’ve enjoyed this year. Some of them are ones my book group discussed this year.

Just have time for a quick post. This site has a photo contest with photos of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area that make me want to go again next year.

And a funny comic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I love walking. Especially on a beautiful fall day like today. Sent Nea off on the bus, walked Boo to school, and continued on the bike path. When I reached the top of the bridge crossing the highway, I waved at the cars going by. No one waved back. Why is everyone so cranky?

I waved at four UPS trucks. People being paid while driving down the highway. They didn't wave back, either. What could they be so cranky about? Is it the brown?

I gave up and walked some more. Still plenty of color on the trees to enjoy.


I have set comments to "open to all." Please don't bother telling me about typos or grammatical mistakes. I don't care. I write professionally for 24 hours a week, but I don't get paid here. Feel free to comment on content, though!

Speaking of typos, I learned recently that some of my friends spellcheck their email only when writing to me. I guess it's a bit of the English teacher disease one hears about. "Oh, I'll have to watch my grammar, then!" Please don't. I'm not going to think less of you if you misspell something. I probably won't even notice.

As a gesture of goodwill, I have left the trailing underlined space after the first "brown bear" link in my very first post. It's been bothering me ever since, and is exactly the sort of thing that I hate at work, but ha! It's my blog, and I'll be sloppy if I want.

Monday, November 12, 2007


This weekend my daughter Boo (age 5) looked up from a toy catalog and asked me seriously, "Mama, does Santa visit people who celebrate harmonica?"

Other topics

Oh, yeah. And thrift and environmental issues. Here's a free site I'm using to control which catalogs I receive: Catalog Choice

I hear it's a blogiverse

So, like many new bloggers, I feel the need to explain why I've taken this radical departure from the norm. As a long-time literate person, I spend a lot of time reading and writing. I found myself writing for fun more and more. On message boards. Wasting perfectly good thoughts on the unwashed masses. Why, just lately I argued against school prayer ("Just this once, for my kid!" the mother exclaimed.) and why supporting smoking in bars is not, in fact, communist and against our Constitution.

So, topics I will probably occasionally discuss include, but are in no way limited to:

  • Gardening
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Parenting
  • Cooking
  • Cute things my kids do
  • Annoying things other people's kids do (kidding! probably!)
  • Fun and/or educational links I have found
  • Stupid or worthwhile products*

* Here is today's offering. Saw it in a store while with the kids. Why? Why does this exist?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow. Here I am.

I think everyone should start their blog with a Big Event. We had an event today. We went to the Brookfield Zoo, and it was the first time we saw the new viewing window next to the brown bear exhibit. So, the girls went over there and looked at the big brown bear. Who then charged at the window and scared the everloving crap out of them.

What was so lovely was I got to see the whole thing. My children, charged by a huge brown bear. And I don't care what the zoo says about building a strong, safe viewing window. For one split second, my kids were about to die.

But hey! Everything is fine now.