Friday, October 30, 2009

The Power of a Good Story

I spent the morning in the Little Ballerina's Kindergarten class helping out with the Fall Frolic which is secret code for Halloween party minus the costumes. Halloween is strictly taboo these days in the public school sector lest we all be branded heathens and witches.

The party celebration consisted of fun learning centers all with a Halloween theme. Taking full advantage of the fact that I've "been there done that" with my Big Ballerina, I scoped out the centers and raced for the one that most interested me....the picture books.

I recognized a few of the books, one being a great read aloud, but decided to try the ones I didn't know. I tried out 3 different titles on 3 separate groups, but they just couldn't compete with the other centers. The stories were sweet, but they were lacking that extra something, that "IT" factor, that makes them stand out from the rest. Even with my Little Ballerina's endorsement when her group arrived (That's my mom. She's a REALLY great reader!), these books weren't cutting it. After the first few pages I found myself reading to the backs of heads looking longingly over at the next center where they would drop ghosts and sort spiders.

Refusing to give up my belief that a good story is just as captivating as floating or sinking pumpkins, I picked up the tried and true picture book, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, and began to read. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I had my young charges clomping, clapping and wiggling along with me. We were having a ball and now the other groups were peering over at our table to see what fun they were missing. 

The timer rang signaling it was time to move on to the next center. My group looked over at their teacher with sad faces. "Can't we stayyyyy?" they begged. Mrs. Rose turned to me and said, "They're mesmerized!"

YES! Sweet victory! 

My chest puffed out a bit and visions of being crowned the next StoryQueen danced in my head. When I came back down to earth, I knew it wasn't ME that had captured their attention. It was the power of a good story. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Does Going on a Quest Require Leaving the House?

You know how in all the storybooks the hero goes out on a big quest to find something only to discover in the end that it was right there under his nose all along? I'm wondering if that is what is going to happen to me. I'm going out on this journey to find my "purpose", but perhaps I need to start looking right here at home. Maybe the huge stack of books on my nightstand holds the answer. I think I'll start there.

Let's's a smattering of what's currently teetering next to my head as I sleep...

Hop! Plop! - This adorable picture book by Corey Schwartz is my new go to birthday present for the 5 and under crowd. My little ballerina giggles throughout this story at Mouse and Elephant's struggles and gives the book a "group hug" at the end. It's a sweet story that we both love to read over and over. Corey also has a fun blog about writing picture books that I follow called Thing 1 and Thing 2. Hmm....

Fresh Home Magazine - I found this great magazine at Lowe's the other day. It's a brand new magazine with lots of cool projects. I could spend hours reading these kinds of magazines. Right now, I'm working on getting BSD to let me paint our kitchen countertops based on an article in this issue. So far, all I've gotten out of the pitch is a new dish soap dispenser. I'll try the ballerina's tactic and keep bugging him until I've beaten him down and he agrees.

My Sister's Keeper - I saw the movie before reading the book. Big mistake. Now the book gets cast aside each night for something newer. OK, Anne, tell me how the book ends. I still don't see how it could be worse than the movie's ending. I was bawling hard enough into my popcorn and mochi when we saw it 3 months ago!

 Trinny and Susannah Take on America - I have this one out of the library because I wanted to find a picture of Trinny's hair to take to my hair stylist. Unfortunately, there weren't any recent pictures of her in the book, but I have yet to return it. What happened to their show anyway? I loved watching these two strip down to their undies right along with their makeover candidates. They crack me up.

Making the Cut - Jillian Michaels' latest book promising to take you from fit to fantastic in 30 days. Unfortunately, I haven't even cracked it open. My fitness routine has been suffering. The only thing I've managed to do lately is run in preparation for the Wicked 10k Race on Halloween. I haven't haunted my gym in quite some time. At this rate, it's going to take me a lot longer than 30 days to make the cut.

Time of My Life - This is one of those "What if?" books. What if the main character made a different choice and didn't get married and have kids? What if she kept on her career path? Where would she be today? Then one morning she wakes up 7 years in the past and gets to relive it. Reminds me of that movie with Nicolas Cage and Tea Leone. Not sure what she learns about herself yet or if I'll learn anything either. We'll see.


Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation- I stumbled on this book while researching another book and it intrigued me. Mike Robbins was a professional baseball player whose career ended after an arm injury. This book is supposed to help you stop focusing on all the bad things and practice finding the good in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life. As a glass half empty girl, I figured I could use a little of this. But, if you get all preachy on me, Mike, after 3 strikes you're out.

I think these books have good potential for some thoughtful insight. Now, if I could just read for more than 5 minutes before falling asleep maybe I'd learn something from them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If You Give a Girl a Table Saw...

If you give a girl a table saw, she will make a play kitchen out of an old entertainment center (see Sutton Grace Play Kitchen) which will lead another girl to start her own play kitchen business and auction one off for charity (see Charlotte Play Kitchens). Then, a mom with kids who are too old for a play kitchen will be inspired to turn an old potting bench into an artist's studio...

And, that is how it began....just like it did for Mouse and that infamous cookie.

BSD wanted to give this old potting bench away. It was just sitting on the side of the house rotting away. I had to think fast. The ballerinas were taking over his beloved tool bench with all of their "arts and projects" (as the big ballerina has called arts and crafts since she was 3) so I suggested we repurpose it into an artist studio for them a la Sutton Grace.

Knowing he would get his space back, BSD agreed. Since he has some time off from work this month, we were able to knock this project out in a few days. Here is what we did...
  1. Cleared out a tiny space in the garage next to his tool bench so they can all work on projects together. (Most of that hanging stuff will be sold in a garage sale as we don't need it anymore.
  2. Painted the wall behind it to freshen up the space.
  3. Cut the bench legs down a bit to make it a   more kid friendly size.
  4. Removed the upper slats and replaced them  with a piece of plywood covered with plexiglass for a smooth table top.
  5. Painted the bench.
  6. Hung shelves above the bench for supplies.
  7. Made an "Arts & Projects" sign.
  8. Added a hook in the corner for their smocks.
  9. Added a child size bar stool.
And, now for the "After" picture....

You can't see the smock hanging in the left hand corner. We also haven't labeled the jars or tins yet. I almost bought a cool label maker, but the fonts weren't any fun so I am looking for cute label stickers that I can just write on. Plus, if I bought the label maker I would have to actually use it which would mean being organized, and that is something I am not.

I also think we should paint the bar stool, but BSD thinks that's too "Martha Stewart". What do you think? Paint it or not?

Martha may not let me work in her test kitchen, but maybe she has an opening in her craft department? I can't take the credit for DOING most of the work here as BSD thinks I'm too messy to paint (which is true), but I do a good job of coming up with ideas and supervising. Martha, do you have any openings for messy cheerleaders?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Dream Help Wanted Ad...

I'm falling behind and I don't like. Nope, not one little bit. It's been a whole week since I've posted here. That's unacceptable.

How can I ask you all to follow me, and then leave you hanging for days on end? I can't start a job and then just stop going, can I? If so, that's what I should be when I grow up. If any of you run across a Help Wanted ad that reads....

HELP WANTED: Not so young, healthy (physically...mentally, optional), well educated mom to show up whenever she wants to not cook, clean, referee children, or drive carpools. Strong surfing skills (computers, not big waves) and extensive knowledge of curse words a must.

please send them my resume. Thanks! Back to my homework now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When I Grow Up: The Theme Song

On Sunday afternoons, the big ballerina has a swim clinic. While she works on her strokes, I wander around Trader Joe's alone checking out the interesting food packages, gorging on their gourmet samples, and tasting this wine and that one and that one. It is me time at its finest.

When her class is over, we pop over to Joann's Fabrics pointing out all the fabrics that catch our eye until we finally choose the one she will use to make a new creation for her American Girl doll. From there, we make our way to Skinny Dip where we fill our bowls with low fat frozen yogurt turned high fat by the heaping mounds of candy we ladle on top. We sit together, sharing our treats and conversation. Just the two of us. It is mother daughter time at its finest.

On the drive home, giddy from our sugar highs, we crank the radio and sing along to the songs we know. This Sunday we tuned in to HOT 100 (or WIFC - Wholly Inappropriate for Children) so we could really get down. I previewed the song, heard the words, "When I Grow Up" and thought, No Way! I have a theme song? How COOL! 

From the backseat the big ballerina squealed, "Yes, Mama! I love this song. Turn it up!" I turned up the volume and found myself head bobbing to the beat. A theme song AND a great beat! This is so much fun! I wonder what it's going to recommend I be when I grow up. I love this song! 

Big ballerina is grooving in the back seat too. She's singing along to the chorus. I ask, "How do you know the words?"

"Julia has it on her iPod." she replies quickly and goes back to singing. I hear her from the back seat....

When I grow up
_wanna be famous
_wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
_ _____ ____ ___ world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have ______

When I grow up
Be on TV
____ ____ me
___ __ magazines

We shoulder roll in our seats through some random lyrics until the chorus comes along again. I listen to her more closely this time. 

When I grow up
I wanna be famous
I wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have boobies

WHAT?!?! Did you just say boobies!?!?!

This time I listen to the radio more closely. Sure enough I hear them say, "I wanna have boobies". I look at the digital display to see who the artist is. Of course, they said boobies. The song is by The Pussycat Dolls. I hate this song.

Guess I need to rethink this theme song idea...and this portion of our Sunday mother daughter bonding experience.

Sidenote: When I Googled the lyrics to post them here, I discovered that last line is actually... I wanna have groupies. Listen to the song yourself, and tell me they're not saying boobies! When I Grow Up  (Sorry it's a video. I don't know how to just post the music portion.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009'll have to wait...

I just spent the last hour working on a post only to realize that it's the perfect subject for one of the two essays I need to write for my writing class. So...the entry has been saved to my Blogger Dashboard and will be posted at the end of the next 6 weeks. Unless, of course, some brilliant editor realizes how witty it is and decides to publish it in her fabulous magazine. Then you'll have to pay to read my pearls of wisdom....or at least pick up your free copy at a McDonald's play center nearest you.

It's good to dream, right?

Oh, and how's this for another "sign". My homework assignment this week was to study some of the winning essays in the ERMA BOMBECK writing contest! I didn't even know there was such a contest.

Snakes and Erma Bombeck. Who knew?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mean Ass Woman: The Head Shot

My online class starts tomorrow. I've already picked out my clothes and made my lunch. I'm ready.

Wait? What's this email in my inbox? There's already homework due and it's not even the first day?!?! What have I gotten myself into?

My first assignment is to write a short bio and send in a head shot. What? I thought this was a writing class, not a modeling class. Who's teaching this? Tyra Banks?

I don't have any head shots. I'm just a mom. I don't have any published works that would require a formal portrait. Heck, I don't even have any pictures of myself because, again, I'm a mom. I'm the one who lugs around the 50 lb camera bag on all family adventures. I shoot all the fun; I don't have any of it.

What is this teacher thinking? I thought this class was for moms. I better go back and reread the course description. I think I signed up for the wrong class. hmm...I'm going to email the teacher about this obvious mix-up.

OK...the teacher emailed me back and assured me that ...
  1. I signed up for the right class
  2. This is a writing class
  3. It is for moms
  4. She is not Tyra Banks
PHEW! She also said she understands about being a mom and not having any photos. She recommends I use my web cam to take a current picture of myself.

OK. Let me go put on some makeup and fix my hair first. Let's see...1, 2, 3...."CHEESE!"

I know some of you didn't believe that I truly am a Mean Ass Woman, but here is the proof. Cold hard undeniable evidence. I am not proud of this, but since the purpose of this blog is to thoroughly examine myself I need to accept the truth. The good, the bad and, yes, the ugly truth.  

So there you have it. This portrait of a Mean Ass Woman was drawn by my biggest ballerina when she was about 4 years old. When she shared this drawing with me back then she said, and I quote,  "This is a picture of MAWMAW (pronounced momma) when she's mad".

I knew I should have been concerned that her favorite picture book for so long was When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry... It was obviously therapy for her.

So...who wants to sit next to MAWMAW for the next 6 weeks?

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Heart Erma Bombeck...

The deadline to vote in my online class poll has passed. Sorry if you missed your chance. The early bird gets the worm, and all that, you know. After many hours spent counting all the votes, the final tally was 3-3.

A BIG FAT TIE! (although my IRL friends seem to think their votes count more than my shiny, new cyber friends'....ummmm, no)

Yep, all that blood, sweat and tears and it's a TIE! Big help you all turned out to be. So, that puts the decision back on my shoulders. And, after pondering long and hard, the winner is........

  • That
  • B
  • Jersey
I know, I know. Half of you are disappointed, but let me explain why before you rip my jersey dress to shreds in Cinderella's Evil Stepsister fashion. 

You see...I heart Erma Bombeck.

Erma Bombeck, for those of you too young to remember, was a newspaper columnist and author who wrote funny stories about being a suburban wife and mother. I guess you could call her the precursor to today's "Mommy Bloggers". She didn't write as an expert on any subjects. She wrote about her regular, ordinary life.

I had long since forgotten about my love for Mrs. Bombeck. It wasn't until I started this blog that I remembered my junior high fascination with all things Erma. While my friends and I were secretly reading and underlining the racy passages in this...

I was also secretly nose deep in this, guffawing my way through along with the rest of the 35 year old suburban housewives who were her target audience.

Don't ask me why. I don't know HOW I discovered Erma. My mom didn't read her books; neither did my sister nor my grandmother. Yet somehow I found myself waiting impatiently for each of her new books.

Maybe her column was printed on the same newspaper page as the Daily Jumble; another one of my younger days' fascinations. Wow! I never realized what a nerd I was back then. Good thing nobody knows these deep dark secrets. Maybe it was the only book available that I could understand at the airport newsstand on one of our family vacations. Maybe it was Erma herself trying to guide me in my journey of what I should be when I grow up.

I just don't know.

I do know that I haven't thought about her in years yet she came to me in the shower this morning. I was shampooing my hair and I remembered her books. And my love for them. Just like that. Her name and her books came back to me. I smiled and rinsed my hair.  I understood. Erma had cast her vote. And it was for jersey.

Side Note: For those of you who are going to try to figure out how old I am by researching the publication dates of these books, I'll save you the trouble. On Halloween this year, I'll be 29, and not a day older!