Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tonight I'm Gonna Party Like It's 1999

So I promised I'd write more today about my upcoming goals. Tis the season, after all what with New Year's Day and its obligatory resolutions staring me in the face. Out with the old, in with the new, and all that.
This may seem anticlimactic, but right now my plan is to pick up where I left off. I sort of dropped the ball on most of my vices over the last few weeks, but now that the holidays are over and I'm back in my home, I'm getting back in the saddle. Workouts, core program, decluttering, cutting back on sweets--here I come. I am happy to report that the moratorium on unnecessary spending never ceased. That was one habit that I stuck with over the holidays and we're all reaping the benefits. Smaller credit card bills, fewer things coming into my home adding to the clutter, less reliance on store-bought goods and activities--these are some of the positive changes I've noticed since beginning to cut back on spending back in October. It's been so long now that it's practically second nature to walk past the clearance bins and not peruse them in search of great deals.
2008 has been productive for me, in many ways because of the motivation I get from the blog. For one thing, I don't think I would be working out consistently, if it weren't for the obligation I feel to report on my progress. So I'm hoping that in 2009 I'll continue to become Mary Poppins step by step. But if I had to choose one overarching goal for 2009, it would have to do with simplicity. I want to simplify all areas of my life. If there's a simpler way to do something, I will do it. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on that in the future.
So with that, I'm off to continue my New Year's Eve partying. Truthfully, Bert and I are known for having abysmal New Year's Eve celebrations. They started the New Year's Eve a few weeks before we got married, when we were vacationing with Bert's family. We got stuck at the home of a family friend with Bert's parents and without a car. Someone in our party rented a movie, but by the time they got to the rental place the only thing left was Crocodile Dundee 2 or 3 or 4 (did they even make a 3 or a 4? I can't recall; that's how memorable this movie was. There's a reason why some shows were picked over and left at the store).
Other highlights include:
The year our friends were going to meet us at a resort so we could celebrate together, but they got sick at the last minute and had to cancel;
The year we stayed up watching Ratatouille (note: if you're like me and detest rats, you won't enjoy a movie about animated rats, even if they do live in Paris and make good food);
The year I was hugely pregnant and felt ill, so instead of going out, I spent the night curled up in a giant ball watching TV (that was the year that I discovered the sitcom Arrested Development, which to this day is one of my greatest loves, so I guess that memory wasn't all bad).
I can't blame our crummy New Year's Eve celebrations on Bert. I was having them long before he was in the picture. On New Year's Eve 1998, I offered to babysit my sister's 7 month-old baby so that she and her husband could go out. That was extremely nice of me, if I do say so myself. I remember sitting in her apartment watching the ball drop and listening to Prince's song about 1999 play over, and over, and over, again. 10 years later, now that I've got kids of my own and someone to kiss at midnight, I'm asking "where's my free babysitter?"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Return From Christmas Hiatus

And we're back. We arrived safe and sound. And exhausted. Tomorrow I'm going to post about my plans for the upcoming weeks. But tonight I'm going to get some sleep. Hopefully of the uninterrupted variety. Good night.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Darling

Bert and I exchanged Christmas gifts with each other.

Now one of us gets to exchange it at the store.

You know what they say about great minds.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you have better luck giving and getting gifts this year than we had.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You Say Cheap, I Say Green

So on Friday morning before leaving our beloved home, we had an early Christmas celebration with our family. Due to space issues, we weren't able to take all of the girls' presents with us, so we decided to exchange presents on a faux Christmas morning on the 19th. If you'll recall, I'm not that particular about dates, so this plan suited me fine.

In following the compact, we've been trying to avoid making a lot of purchases. With that in mind, Una got an IKEA easel we purchased for $9.99 and Duet got a hand-me-down rocking horse our neighbors gave to us for free when they moved. A second-hand toy, for Christmas? Indeed. But isn't that being a little too frugal? Cheap, even?

Here's what I love about the environmental movement (aside from the saving the earth bit. I totally love the saving the earth bit): no one argues with the idea of going green. Any effort one makes in that direction is accepted, no questions asked.

So when asked why I felt it was acceptable to give my child a second-hand toy for Christmas, I could have just explained about the compact, or simply said, "I'm frugal." I opted for this response instead: "We're going green this year by cutting back on unnecessary consumption. When we buy less, we are responsible for consuming fewer of the earth's resources, thereby reducing our carbon footprint." Note: it's very important that you utilize the phrase "carbon footprint." You always sound knowledgeable when using that phrase.

And suddenly, instead of a cheap mother, I'm an earth-saving heroine. Protecting the planet never felt so good.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Travelin' On

For the next 10 days, Mary Poppins is in a different physical location. Thanks to the Internet, my virtual location has remained unchanged. After braving 2 snowstorms yesterday, our flight safely landed last night (3 hours late) and we are enjoying a jolly holiday with relatives. The not so jolly part is that we're dealing with a 2 hour time difference. With 2 kids, that translates into a nightmare. Today I spent over 3 hours actively trying to get Duet to fall asleep for her afternoon nap. Unsuccessfully. If 3 hours of rocking, singing, back rubbing, and snuggling couldn't lull her to sleep, I don't know what legal method could have. Call me when they start making baby unisom. I'll so be on board.

Friday, December 19, 2008

So Long, Deep Throat

It's no secret that I love politics. In fact, I'm so into politics, that it borders on nerdy. At a dinner party last month someone made a comment about a giant, scary rabbit. Bert and I simultaneously said "maybe it was the one that attacked Jimmy Carter." No one appreciated it, but we thought we were hilarious. Later on when someone else mentioned hockey moms, Bert and I both looked at each other and blurted out "lipstick" and laughed hysterically while the whole table looked at us quizzically. Tough crowd. After Palin's "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" joke, the word "lipstick" will forever be linked with both hockey moms and pit bulls in my mind. So, when I looked at the New York Times online this morning and read about Mark Felt's death (aka Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate informant "Deep Throat") it brought back a memory from a couple of years ago.

Back in 2005 when Felt outed himself as Deep Throat, I was fascinated by the story. The revelation was huge. To me it was on par with having the question "who shot JFK?" answered (that is one great political mystery that remains). I'd always loved "All the President's Men" (if you haven't yet seen it, you should) and now that Deep Throat was out in the open I wanted to know more.

Around the same time, I was looking through our library catalog online at some of the most frequently requested DVDs. I stumbled upon the title "Inside deep throat" and requested it right away. Now I could learn even more about Mark Felt and his involvement with the Watergate investigation. When the request was ready for me to pick it up, I was thrilled to obtain it. Imagine my disappointment when I found the DVD and could immediately see from the cover that its content was not what I had originally conjured up in my mind. If I had only read the description online before hastily requesting to check the DVD out of the library: "Explore the secrets behind the sensational adult film. This film examines the politics and the payoffs, the porn stars, and the persecution of the cultural phenomenon that remains just as highly controversial today as when Deep Throat debuted in 1972."

And that is how my innocent political obsession led me to request a documentary about a porno flick (I think the official name for that genre is "pornumentary"). Needless to say, I left the DVD on the shelf and declined to actually check it out of the library. And to this day, I'm a little sad that it wasn't a documentary about Mark Felt, the anonymous informant with the porn-inspired pseudonym.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At Your Service

So I declared that I was going to spend more time focusing on others this holiday season. It's been a worthwhile activity. In fact, I'd venture to say that the emphasis on service has allowed me to feel the true spirit of Christmas more than any other activity I've done: more than listening to Christmas music, more than putting up Christmas decorations, more than making Christmas goodies, more than wrapping gifts, even more than reading A Christmas Carol. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I've done all of those things this season, I just I'll admit that I haven't been able to do something every single day, but I have found some random act of kindness to do most days. Making service a priority has made me aware of opportunities that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. I know that Christmas is only a week away, but I plan to continue my service challenge long after the holidays have ended.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Very Mary Christmas

After 2 days of posting about lice, I don't know about you, but I'm ready to move on to something more pleasant.

For your enjoyment, here's a Mary Poppins Christmas themed photo essay:
This is my artistic shot. I had to tilt the camera at this angle to fit in all of the stockings. My Christmas Eve tradition: handcrafting stockings. Procrastinating to the last minute, I made Una's (red with the green tree) on Christmas Eve when she was 10 mos. old. I had plans to complete matching stockings for Bert and me as well. I didn't get around to them that year. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. Duet's (green with red candy cane) was completed right before her first Christmas. Mrs. Furious came over for a craft night and acted as my official stocking consultant on the remaining two (mine: red with green wreath; and Bert's: green with red star) in January '08. Although we've been married for nearly 7 years, this will be the first Christmas at which our whole family has matching stockings. Somehow Bert doesn't care about this as much as I do. I care enough to implore you to click on the photo to enlarge the image so you can see the details more fully. They're that impressive.

Our bookshelf is teeming with books, leaving no room for our seasonal book collection. Enter the red wagon. Now our Christmas books are part of a stylish display. As a bonus, it doubles as a book mobile. I grant you permission to steal this idea. It's a good one. No need to enlarge this photo. What you see here is what you get.

No, that's not me in the Santa costume, nor is this our official Christmas family photo. I got to play the role of the photographer. Apparently we did a sub-par job of prepping Duet for her first Santa visit. She's trying so hard to be brave but is clearly losing that battle. Click on the image to fully witness the fear in her face. Even Santa's magic keys didn't help console her.

And finally, what could be sweeter than darling girls donning their Christmas dresses? Do NOT enlarge this one. Una has some creepy red eyes that totally detract from the overall theme. It suddenly goes from sweet to scary.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nit-pick, You Nitwit

In the comments to yesterday's post, Shobe suggested that I should have called the nit-infested child's guardian so that she could have been picked up. In retrospect, I wish I had thought of that. But since I was the afterschool dance teacher, you'd think the regular teacher would have addressed the issue earlier in the day, wouldn't you? Since this was my first encounter with such an issue and it could unfortunately come up again in the future, I was curious to know what the protocol is for our public schools.

I've been doing a bit of research and I'm stunned. First the obvious: Kids with lice cannot attend school and are welcomed back to the classroom after the lice are gone. Good to hear. I read in one place, however, that the Department of Education is very interested in minimizing the amount of instructional time missed by students with lice, so they recommend that a child diagnosed with lice during the school day be allowed to remain in class with other students until their parent can come and get them. By all means, let's keep the lice-infested kid around longer giving him/her a better chance to infect more students who will then have to miss school until they're lice-free. That's some pretty sound logic there, Department of Education. Isn't that what the nurse's office is for? A glorified waiting room where you can rest away from the other children until your mom or dad can come and get you? Honestly, does anyone even use the nurse's office for anything other than that?

Until recently, most schools had a no-nit policy which means that children with nits aren't allowed at school either. Makes sense, doesn't it? If you're trying to contain the infestation of lice, you'd want to keep both the lice and their eggs out of the schools because (now this is some advanced biology here, so read carefully) lice eggs develop into lice. Well schools are no longer advocating a no-nit policy stating that "there is no scientific basis to confirm the effectiveness of such programs." Our schools don't have a no-nit policy so sadly I don't think I could have sent my student home.

However unscientific a no-nit policy may be, it makes sense to me. I might have to start some no-nit crusade once Una starts kindergarten. I don't want lice and/or nits around because a. they're gross, and b. I'm lazy. Recommendations I found online for getting rid of lice include these: "Comb through hair using a fine-tooth lice comb and/or two fingers sliding the nits off of the hair shaft ("nit-picking"), until all or most lice and nits are gone. This can take 1-8 hours according to one shampoo manufacturer! Complete nit removal is time-consuming but is critical for successful treatment. Sometimes a haircut can help speed up the process."

Have you seen this gorgeous hair?
Do you think de-lousing those tresses would be on the 1 hour end of the scale or the 8 hour end of the scale? I'm guessing 8. And for the record, I'm not eager to cut it off just because some kid was allowed to come to school sporting lice eggs as a hair accessory. His/her nitwit of a parent should have nit-picked his/her hair before sending their kid back to school, nits intact.

Oh, and as of now, I'm no longer going to use the phrase "nit-picking," "nit-pick," or "nit-picky" in everyday vernacular. I didn't realize its origins and now that I know, I'm more than a little grossed out.

Workout update: I did workout this morning. It was not pleasant. 35 minutes into it I had a sneezing fit, but I persevered. Because of my congestion I could feel and hear the fluid in my ear canal thumping each time my feet did a revolution on the elliptical. Unless there are some serious changes in my health status tomorrow, I'm not going to subject myself to that again. I'll take the advice of Amydear who wrote in Sunday's comments that I should let my body feel better. First Shobe, then Amydear. As you can see, I take comments seriously.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Have a Lice Day

I got another call this afternoon from my boss asking for (you guessed it) a last minute sub. This time it was for an after school dance class that I've taught before so it required no prep time whatsoever. I just needed to be at the school when classes ended for the day and dance with the kids for 45 minutes. Since I'm the world's best employee I said yes. I really need to learn how to say no.

Things were going well until about 5 minutes into class when I was doing a brief introduction exercise with the elementary school age girls. When asked what she did over the weekend, one of the girls (I'll call her Lacey) said "well we were going to go to our cousin's house but we found some nits in my hair (as in head lice eggs) and so then we couldn't go." Grateful to be sitting across the room from her, I asked the obvious "if you found some nits, then why are you at school?" I then thought (but did not repeat out loud), "If your relatives, who ostensibly love you, don't want you around them when you're nit infested, you can bet this stranger is not happy to be in the same room with you for the afternoon." Lacey then said something about how the nits hadn't seemed to change over the course of 4 hours, so it was OK to be there. Her attempt at reassurance didn't soothe me at all. I was grateful Una, with her golden locks that I'm sure any louse would be pleased to call home, was not with us. I managed to keep my person and Duet away from Lacey for the remainder of the class. Now I'm focusing my energies on asking Santa to keep us lice-free this holiday season. Does Santa answer requests like that?

They do not pay me enough to put up with this crap.

P.S. I'm so congested today I can barely breathe through my nose. I put the workout on hold for today but I'm hoping I can breathe well enough to do it tomorrow. I did manage to deliver some Christmas treats to my boss and co-workers. Some might call that ass kissing. I call that service.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Suck. Now Wish Me Luck.

Well, if you've been checking out my stats in the sidebar (see "How Well is Mary Poppins Progressing?") this week, you may notice that for the first time since I started this blog I have failed to meet my workout goal. I'm disappointed, but I'm not going to beat myself up over it. It's been a hectic week with Bert gone, Duet sick, Duet getting me and Una sick, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, I could make excuses all day, but that doesn't change the fact that I didn't do it.

When I make it a priority, it happens. I've certainly found that to be the case for everything in life. Overnight I went from someone who never exercised to someone who exercised for 40 minutes at least 4 times a week. Nothing changed except for my priorities. Once I decided that it was important to work out, I made it fit into my schedule. Suddenly I was willing to work out in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening depending on my schedule. I was flexible and I made it happen, Cap'n. This last week I let other things get in the way.

I am going to try harder this week to complete my workout goal. I'm also sticking with the service, because it's been fun to spread Christmas love. In the same week can I be both a jolly service-rendering bringer of Christmas cheer and a hard-core cardio workout enthusiast? We shall see. No, I'm going to be more optimistic than that. I'll embrace the slogan we didn't get to hear enough of this year; yes we can. Or more accurately; yes I can. Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tradition! (to be sung in the dramatic "Fiddler on the Roof" fashion)

My parents like to pretend that we're a Swedish family. In all fairness, they have lived in Stockholm for several years and back in the day I had some ancestors who emigrated from the land that brought you ABBA, Ace of Base, the Cardigans (did you know that music is one of Sweden's top exports?), H&M, IKEA, meatballs, Volvo, SAAB, and the Swedish Chef (OK, so technically the Swedish Chef does not hail from Sweden). If I add it all up and am generous with the math, I think I might be 1/16th Swedish. But what an important 1/16th it is!

In Sweden December 13th is Santa Lucia Day. If you're a real Swede, the oldest daughter takes sweet rolls to the family in the early morning while wearing a white dress with a red sash and a wreath on her head containing burning candles. If you're a fake Swede like me, you ignore some of the more dangerous elements of the tradition and celebrate by waking up early to have a nice breakfast, which usually consists of homemade cinnamon rolls, fruit, and hot chocolate. That may not sound like an impressive spread to many of you, but when you're used to cereal and milk every day the Santa Lucia breakfast is a big deal.

I didn't plan on celebrating Santa Lucia on the 13th this year since Bert's out of town. I thought we'd do our fake Swede traditional breakfast on Sunday, substituting Trader Joe's chocolate croissants for homemade cinnamon rolls (thank you Trader Joe's for making a product that is both ridiculously easy and incredibly delicious). Duet's inner fake Swede (you know that 1/32nd part of her) must have really been in full force this morning because she woke up at 4:45 am; well before the light of day. Since my toddler-sized wreath of burning candles was packed away I opted not to place it on her head. Una's inner Swede was also hard at work, for, sensing it was Santa Lucia day, she too woke up an hour later, well before her usual wake up time. Since everyone was already awake so early and it was the 13th of December, I decided to celebrate Santa Lucia anyway.
Happy Santa Lucia everyone! The Trader Joe's croissants are conspicuously absent because you have to thaw them out overnight and as I mentioned earlier this was a spontaneous Santa Lucia breakfast. Instead the girls got to drink juice. That's kind of a special occasion drink around here. It reminded me of that scene from "So I Married An Axe Murderer:"
Rose Michaels: What would you say to silver dollar pancakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, bacon, and Kona coffee?
Charlie Mackenzie: Well, that sounds great.
[scene changes to her pouring Charlie a bowl of Fruit Loops]
Rose Michaels: Sorry, I didn't have those other things.
By the way, I unearthed this gem from "The Official Gateway to Sweden:" "Sweden is an egalitarian place these days so any child can be chosen as Lucia for the annual procession at the local daycare centre, not just pretty ones with long blonde hair." Phew. I know that I for one, will rest better tonight knowing that Santa Lucia equality has finally been reached. It melts my heart to know that somewhere in Sweden today an ugly dark-haired preschooler fulfilled her dreams as Santa Lucia. I hope she didn't burn her brown hair off.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Need a Fix

One of the benefits of not being a homeowner is that when something breaks, I am not responsible for fixing it. There's only so much responsibility one person can handle, after all. I'll gladly shoulder the responsibility for my 2 children, mumblemumblemumblethousands of dollars in student loan debt, and our matching Honda Civics (oh, you didn't know that Bert and I have matching cars? It's true. We're that cute), but I'm not eager to jump into bed with the concept of home ownership. Not because I have commitment issues. But because I don't want to be responsible for fixing anything. I can barely muster the strength to fix my hair, Una's hair, and Duet's hair each morning. I don't want the added pressure of fixing toilets, faucets, outlets, and anything else that will go wrong the moment I sign my (to borrow a phrase from "Santa Baby") "x on the line" on those mortgage papers. So for now I'm content to be a renter. I know this means my status as a verifiable grown-up is now debatable. But I can live with that, just as long as I don't have to live with the responsibility for fixing things.
So this morning when I discovered a trifecta of broken items (blinds, toilet, bathroom ceiling fan), I was pleased to pass the buck and call the maintenance department at our apartment complex. When the maintenance worker showed up we were about to venture out to the library (I know, we live the most exciting lives) but since Bert is out of town (yet again) and I'm starved for adult interaction, I figured I'd stick around and chat with her for a bit. She was quite lovely and in the end I gave her a 1/2 dozen Christmas cookies that I made (does that count as service? I'm saying yes). Rest assured, if it had been this guy, no Christmas cookies would have been offered. Period.
Too bad it's going to be awkward on Monday when I have to call them back to send someone out here to fix the fan again. I don't know what she did, but that thing is now turbo charged and shakes so violently that I'm fearful it will come flying right out of my ceiling. I don't like the sound or looks of it. Oh well, at least I'm not the one in charge of fixing it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just When I Thought I'd Failed...

Edited to add this:
Beware--the following post is the lamest one I've ever written. Of course I would happen to post it on the day the announcement was made that my entry was picked to be in the humorous blog book that's being published to benefit Nie Nie. This is the kind of impeccable timing I'm known for. I can assure you that although this post is a total snoozer, my entry was funny.

You want funny?
Go here to read about the inspiration for this year's Christmas card photo and then here to see how amazing my family and I look dressed in tin foil. Yes, you read that right. Tin foil.
Or here to learn how with one 3-word sentence I successfully managed to make my daughter terrified of her father and his professional skills.
Or here to discover why you would never want to take me anywhere in public, particularly to the Special Olympics, or any other place where I might encounter someone who's differently-abled.

That's enough for one day. No need to read below this dotted line. It's really not worth anyone's time.
At around 5:00 this afternoon I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't yet done my service for the day. My house was in shambles (and still is--that's why this post is so short), I hadn't done my workout or the Core Program as I'd hoped to, and I hadn't left the house except to pick Una up from preschool and take Duet for a walk. I was feeling like a bit of a loser until I realized the reason for my lack of accomplishments today. I hadn't done anything on my list because I'd spent the day focusing on Duet.
Poor Duet has been sick and more demanding than usual. However, she hasn't been demanding in an annoying way. My child who typically climbs her way through the day, spent a good part of the afternoon snuggling with me on my lap reading books. It was a treat to be able to actually sit still with her and spend some one-on-one time together while Una was at preschool. After reading, I took her on a long walk in her stroller so she could get some much needed fresh air. It was during said walk that I realized that although I hadn't managed to accomplish my workout goal or the Core Program, I had indeed spent the whole day in service.
I often forget that service doesn't always have to benefit those living outside of my home. There are plenty of service opportunities within my own family. No one needed my help more than Duet today. And I'm glad I was there to give her what she needed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Come

So I'm not exactly talking about plowing over my cornfield on my Iowa farm and erecting a baseball diamond in its stead. But just as Kevin Costner took a leap of faith in "Field of Dreams," so did Mary Poppins in this Christmas service challenge. Did my man Kevin know that throngs of baseball fans would appear if he built the field of dreams? No, but James Earl Jones and others had faith that they would come.
I started this last challenge in a very un-Mary-like way. Instead of having a set plan to accomplish the service each day, I just held on to the hope that opportunities would arise. And they have arisen, my friends. Take yesterday for example, when I spontaneously had the chance to babysit a neighbor child while her parents prepared the house for their move next week. There was also the phone call that I got from a different neighbor who needed help clearing some things out of her basement. Done and done. That's two in one day.
Today I picked up an item for my neigbor with the broken foot while I was out running errands. Tomorrow I was supposed to babysit for another neighbor who had surgery today, but poor Duet came down with a nasty virus so we're quarantined for the day. Normally I might be a bit concerned that I don't have a service plan for tomorrow, but I'm optimistic that something will manifest itself. I'm giddy with anticipation just thinking about the prospect.
Reading over this, I'm realizing that I live in a pretty needy hood. I guess the moral is you should all be grateful you're not my neighbor since there's some pretty crazy stuff going on right now: broken apendages, international relocations, surgeries, etc. Maybe I'm living in an unlucky location. If only I knew more about Feng Shui, maybe I could turn this place around.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

God Jul!

That's Swedish for Merry Christmas!

Behold the ABBA inspired Christmas photo:

As you can see, Duet was not into it. Una, on the other hand, was thrilled to attempt an ABBA photo shoot reenactment.

In the end, we decided this might work out a bit better:

May your days be merry and bright (not unlike our costumes).
The Poppins Household
Duet, Una, Mary, and Bert

Monday, December 8, 2008


As I've mentioned on multiple occasions, I love ABBA. Almost as much as Una does. One of the greatest Christmas presents I ever received was the DVD "ABBA: The Definitive Collection." What makes this collection so definitive? According to the text on the DVD cover, it "features every official ABBA video in one package for the first time, including three Spanish clips that have never been commercially released before." I don't even speak Spanish, but that doesn't stop me from loving the Spanish clips.

Most of these videos were made before bands were making music videos. Consequently, they're not uber-imaginative, but they do feature some spectacular costumes. Dying to see Bjorn wearing silver knee-high platform boots (Bjorn is one of the boys by the way)? Look no further than "Waterloo." Would you like to see all four ABBA members dressed in 18th century formal clothing while singing "Dancing Queen?" Then watch their performance at the Royal Swedish Opera, one of the bonus tracks. I know, it's almost too good to be true. If there is an ABBA fan on your Christmas list, you now know the perfect present to give.

One of the gems I unearthed while watching this video was the song "Bang-a-Boomerang." I wasn't familiar with it prior to watching the music video. The lyrics to the chorus are priceless (I could not make this up, people. This is what makes them the international singing sensation that they are):
Like a bang, a boom-a-boomerang
Dum-be-dum-dum be-dum-be-dum-dum
Oh bang, a boom-a-boomerang
Love is a tune you hum-de-hum-hum
So give it away, I think you'll learn
You'll get love in return
So bang, a boom-a-boomerang is love
A boom-a-boomerang is love

That boomerang concept comes to my mind this evening as I've been thinking about the day. Today I made lunch for a friend of mine whose husband just got laid off. She came over with her daughter and we feasted on pasta. After that, I made frosting and the girls decorated some sugar cookies that Bert made last night. Everyone had a great time and when they left 2 hours later with full bellies and a plate of cookies in hand we all had smiles on our faces. Except Duet. She was sleeping. But when she woke up she was calling for her friend "Fofie" (Sophie) so I can only assume that she enjoyed herself as well.

Back to the boomerang. So I put the Christmas love out there and had a friend in need over for lunch. Well guess what happened not 4 hours later? Another friend of mine said she was running to the grocery store and when I mentioned I was on my way there to pick up some paper plates that I had neglected to get when I was there this morning she offered to pick them up for me and bring them to my home. Bang-a-boomerang. And just like that the Christmas love was returned.

Truer words were never spoken (or sung, as the case may be): So give it away, I think you'll learn/You'll get love in return.

Thank you friend, thank you universe, and thank you ABBA.

Now I'm off. I've got some leftover tinfoil and Bert and I are going to attempt to recreate this timeless ABBA image. Maybe if we can get the girls to cooperate, it will be our Christmas card picture this year. Wish us luck.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Cheer

Did you hear that? That loud exhale? That's me breathing an audible sigh of relief now that last week is finally over. I ended up working 30 hours last week because we had some extra events going on at work. In addition to that, Bert was out of town for part of the week which always makes things trickier.
So here we are and it's already the 7th of December. The 7th! My tree is up, the presents have been purchased, and you know I've been listening to all kinds of Christmas music, but with all of the running around last week, things still don't seem adequately (for lack of a better, more specific, genuine term) Christmas-y around here.
This week promises to be less busy, giving me more time to get into and enjoy the Christmas spirit. But I think there's another component I need to add as well in order to produce more Christmas cheer. For my next challenge, I'm going to do one act of service each day to both feel and spread the Christmas love. At this point I don't really have a specific plan, but I'm sure that if I keep my eyes open, I'll find little ways to help others over the next couple of weeks. As usual, I'll keep posting about it. My ultimate wish is that by incorporating a little random act of kindness into my day, both my kids and I will experience more of the true Christmas spirit. Instead of making it all about Mary, I'll be making others merry.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Court OKs Diaper Evidence at Ex-Astronaut's Trial

How's that for a headline? It actually appeared in the New York Times today (where else? You know how I love the New York Times).

Do you remember the news surrounding that crazy astronaut love triangle a couple of years ago? Two female astronauts were after the same male astronaut and the one became so obsessed and threatened that she drove from Houston to Orlando to allegedly kidnap her competition. She made the 1,000ish mile journey rather quickly, ostensibly with the aid of adult diapers. You really minimize the time wasted at those rest stops when you are only refueling your vehicle and not utilizing the restroom. Kudos, diapers. Personally, I've never considered that tactic, but I guess if you're really hard-pressed for time (say you just can't waste the 5 minutes it would take to actually use a toilet), diapers just might save the day.

In reality, although it seems so absurd, it's actually a scary story. Imagine some crazed individual driving half way across the country at near record speed in an attempt to kidnap you. I certainly wouldn't wish that scenario on my worst enemy. But somehow with adult diapers as an integral part of both the story and news headline, the whole situation sounds more like something out of a sitcom, and not a quarrel between lady astronauts.

Core completed? Yes. Although I'm tired of waiting to see some drastic results in the flexibility department. Looks like I need this program as an exercise in patience as well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Narrow Escape

Bert's out of town again and will thankfully be coming home tonight. Since Duet is such an active child (I was about to write unpredictable, but that's not true. I can always predict correctly that she will use her seemingly endless energy to climb onto chairs, tables and every other surface that can possibly be scaled), I cannot leave her alone for the few minutes that it takes me to shower. Consequently if I feel the need to shower while Bert is away, I find myself with a bathing buddy. Unfortunately Duet doesn't really like the shower, but if I stop up the drain, let her play with toys at the opposite end of the tub, and keep her directly out of the stream she usually manages.
This morning I found my self showering with Duet playing at my feet. Halfway through my shower I heard her say "pahwy" (Duet-speak for "potty") and at first I dismissed her request. I should be clear that she's only 20 months old and we're not yet potty-training in earnest. She has this obsession with the toilet lately that can only be described as inconvenient. Placing the toddler toilet seat onto the adult toilet and then climbing upon said toilet seat and then promptly climbing down is a spectacular activity according to my child with the propensity to climb (see above). I wasn't in the mood to play this scale the toilet game mid-shower but after persistent requests, I placed her atop her "pahwy." As predicted, she lost interest after a few moments and then started clamboring to get back in the "bah" (Duet-speak for "bath") with me. As I picked her up to bring her back into the bath, I caught a glimpse inside the toilet bowl and let me just say that I was thrilled to have obliged her this particular "pahwy" request. Although I don't love having one bathing buddy, I would have absolutely hated to have 2 bathing buddies today, particularly of this variety.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reflections on Vice 4

So I initially thought I'd only purchase consumable items for the remainder of 2008. And although I don't regret setting that lofty goal, in retrospect it was a bit unrealistic. After 6 weeks of following the compact, I've mostly adhered to the strict no non-consumable purchases policy. And surprisingly enough, it hasn't been that difficult. In the beginning there were twinges of disappointment, like when my favorite toy store sent us a 20% off coupon and I was unable to redeem it. In reality, the girls don't need new toys, but I normally spend those coupons because they're such a good deal. But as time goes by, it gets easier and easier to stick to my purchasing plan.
In the interest of full disclosure, however, in the last 6 weeks there have been some non-consumables purchased for the Poppins household. In addition to the Target run, I already posted about, they are:
1. Water bottle for Bert--you may remember how Bert was gone for a week last month. He was out interviewing at a few locations and took a long road trip to get to those cities. He didn't have a water bottle that fit in the cup holder in his car, so I bought him a water bottle that fit so that he could stay hydrated while on the road).
2. 2009 pocket monthly planner for Mary--surprise, surprise I have not upgraded to an electronic planner of some sort. I love the old-school pen and paper method. With January fast approaching and my social calendar filling up already (yes, I really am that desirable), I needed to purchase a planner in 2008.
3. Easel for Una's big Christmas present--this was the most superfluous purchase of the three. I originally said I'd be shopping for their Christmas presents out of the stash of toys I have in the closet. These are bargain toys I've purchased over the course of the year, but haven't yet given to the girls. I thought that this year I'd just give them those toys and save myself from spending more money. And I will be doing that for all of their presents except one: the easel. We are planning on giving Duet a hand me down rocking horse that a neighbor gave us a while ago. It's a pretty big and impressive item and it didn't cost us a cent. I thought Una might be disappointed if she got a puzzle, a book, and some wooden play food from us when we were giving Duet a puzzle, a book, and a rocking horse. When we saw that IKEA was having a super sale on their easels (originally 24.99, but on sale for 9.99), we thought we could pick one up for Una and even things out a bit.
So there you have it. We've been spending less and saving more and we really don't feel like we've been missing out on anything. Sure there are times when I see something that would look cute on one of my daughters (but honestly, what wouldn't look cute on them) and I think it would be fun to splurge a bit, but I resist the urge and within a week I don't ever remember what it was that was so cute. So in the end, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. In those 6 weeks, I haven't once regretted not buying something.

Core Completed? Wed, yes. Thurs, yes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The 3 R's

Recap: I was sick over the weekend, sleep-deprived on Monday, had a whirl-wind of activities on Tues, and Wed when I awoke I realized I had been slacking in the workout department. I rectified that today though by getting in a good 45 minute workout during Duet's afternoon nap and then following that up with the Core Program. I'm happy to say that now that I'm more familiar with the Core Program, it only takes 15 minutes to complete.

Restrictions: I'm rethinking the restrictions I've placed on my sugar consumption. Don't get me wrong, I've definitely benefited from curbing my desire to consume any sweet in sight. Limiting my intake to 1 treat per weekday has forced me to make decisions about my food and really plan ahead. If I know I'm going out for dessert that night, for example, I'll skip that afternoon dip into the candy jar. I've become more aware of what I'm putting into my body and I've been (more or less) in control of my cravings. I don't want to go back to the old way (stuffing sweets into my mouth at an alarming rate). But here's the deal: with the holiday season upon us, I've got parties to attend and I don't want to limit myself so strictly during those times. So, at parties and holiday gatherings, I'm going to allow myself to eat multiple treats at the party, as long as I maintain control. An example of maintaining control would be trying a small piece of cake, nibbling on a cookie, and drinking a small mug of hot chocolate. An example of losing control would be standing at the dessert table for the duration of the party cookie in one hand, fudge in the other (I cannot resist fudge), cake in my mouth (and likely, around my mouth--as in, smeared on my face), concentrating on the choices spread out before me, instead of engaging in conversation with actual people. This rule lasts until the new year and then we're back to 1 treat per weekday. Until then, I'll be taking the sugar situation side bar down and replacing it with something else (TBD).

Randomness: I know I just wrote a whole post about Christmas music, but I heard Wham's timeless "Last Christmas" on the radio today and was reminded of how much I loved Wham back in the day. Even as an elementary school kid, I had great taste in music.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Great Christmas Music Debate

Last week while decorating the house for Christmas and listening to Bing Crosby, Bert declared "This is the whitest Christmas album we own." Having grown up listening to Bing's mellow voice croon out the Christmas tunes, to me it's not inherently white, just classic. Bert disagrees.

What about "The Carpenters?" I inquired.

"Not as bad."

How about "Frank Sinatra?"

"No. At least he rolled with Sammy Davis Jr."

We don't own any Mannheim Steamroller gems (can't stand their inane overly electronic style) so I wasn't able to counter with that example. If I were a betting woman, I'd wager that any Mannheim Steamroller album would beat out Bing for the title of whitest Christmas album.

I then felt the need to call his attention to the fact that there is some diversity in our Christmas music collection:

Nat King Cole (my favorite Christmas album of all time. If you do not own it, buy it and you will not be disappointed. No one has a voice like Nat. No one.), Lou Rawls (fantastic--can't recommend it enough), and "Sounds of the Season: The NBC R&B Holiday Collection," one that we picked up for $4.99 at Target a few years back. I must say that this has been a great compilation album. It includes Christmas hits by R&B favorites such as R. Kelly, Destiny's Child, John Legend, Babyface, Luther Vandross, Macy Gray, Brian McKnight, and Aretha Franklin among others. Some are renditions of classics such as "The First Noel" and "O Holy Night," others are original works, such as "8 Days of Christmas," co-written by Beyonce and performed by Destiny's Child.

Now I love the talented Beyonce as much as the next person, but "8 Days of Christmas" just doesn't do it for me. It starts out with (spoken in a sultry voice) " You know Christmas was made for children. Destiny's children." After a bit more banter, the singing commences "On the 8th day of Christmas my baby gave to me a pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring." At my age I could possibly pull off the Chloe shades, but after 2 kids, the diamond belly ring is definitely out.

My hands-down favorite song on this R&B collection is the decidedly anti-compact "Santa Baby," sung by Macy Gray. I don't know what it is about that song, but I can't get enough of it. The original Eartha Kitt version is superb and Macy Gray definitely holds her own and does a stellar job as well. Madonna's version is horrible, which leads me to believe that no white person should ever try recording that song.

As a Christmas tradition, we usually buy a new Christmas CD each year to add to our collection. Due to the compact, we'll probably forgo that this year (it's OK, we have plenty of music to get us through the season). Yesterday (obviously forgetting about the compact) Bert asked what Christmas album we were going to get this year. I suggested the new Aretha Franklin Christmas CD. His suggestion? James Taylor.

Well, well, who's all about the white Christmas this year, Bert?

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Good and the Bad

Bad: On Saturday I had a fever.

Good: I went to bed at 8:30 that night and slept through until 10:30 Sunday morning.

Good: Did you catch that? I got 14 hours of sleep in one night!

Good: My fever was gone when I woke up Sunday morning and I continued to improve throughout the day.

Good: I went to bed at 11:00 Sunday night.

Bad: Still awake at midnight, I searched for some Unisom, only to discover that someone (OK, it was me) had taken the last one and hadn't bought any more

Bad: I didn't actually fall asleep until 4:15 Monday morning.

Bad: Duet woke up at 6:15 this morning.

Bad: Did you catch that? I got 2 hours of sleep in one night!

Good: In the past two nights, I got 16 hours of sleep which averages to 8 hours of sleep per night (this is my desperate attempt to think positively and maintain an optimistic attitude).

Bad: Duet took a 30 minute nap this afternoon.

Bad: I reached my breaking point shortly thereafter.

Good: Bert saved the day by responding to my plea for help and immediately returned home where he took over parenting duties for the rest of the day. THANKS.

Good: I purchased more Unisom.

Good: I just swallowed my Unisom.

Good: I'm off to bed.

Good Night.

Core Program completed? Good grief! Are you kidding me? You may also notice that I ate one cookie and had a piece of apple pie. I needed something good to get me through this very bad day. Thank goodness for sugar and Unisom.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Hate "I Heart"

This is nothing but negative, but it needs to be said (and I should add that it is not directed at any particular individual). Besides, I've had a fever for the past 24 hours, so I'm feeling miserable and am therefore entitled to complain a bit.

Since when did it become acceptable for adults to use the phrase "I heart?"

Witness the difference:

I love apple pie, endangered wildlife, and reading current events.

I heart apple pie, I heart panda bears, I heart People Magazine.

All of the above statements may be true, but notice that I sound like a rational adult in the former sentence and a pre-teen girl in the latter.

And it's not even a clever phrase. It wasn't terribly clever when the mediocre movie "I Heart Huckabees" came on the scene a few years back, and it's certainly less clever now. It's one of those things that (like Joan Rivers) does not age well.

Admittedly, those "I (picture of a heart) NY" tourist t-shirts have been around forever. We've become so accustomed to them by now that it doesn't seem like an egregious misuse of the English language and an assault on our intelligence when we sporadically see some post-vacationer sporting their tacky souvenier. But in any other context, I heart is just plain unacceptable.

The last time I wrote I (picture of a heart) anything was back in the 7th grade when I wrote "I (picture of a heart) Randy" on the homemade paper bag bookcover of my pre-algebra textbook. Incidentally, that was in reference to Randy, a boy in my grade, not the Randy of American Idol fame. It's one of those things like pegged pants, neon colored leggings, out-of-control bangs, braces, and a minor Milli Vanilli obsession, that belong in my 7th grade past.

So I implore you, no more I heart! Let's just embrace the fact that we are adults and can and should use other words to convey our adoration of _________________(fill in the blank with whatever it is you love, appreciate, cherish, treasure, prize, value, like, enjoy, delight in, dig, fancy, relish, revel in, covet, crave, die for, wish for, yearn for, etc.). With so many acceptable alternatives, why settle for I heart?

This week's plan is to continue with the Core Program. I know I won't completely overcome my inflexibility in a matter of weeks, but I need to concentrate on this for another week before adding a new goal to my plate. Oh and now that my week of vacation and Thanksgiving are over, I'm back on the 1 treat per weekday plan.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dos and Don'ts

After 1 week of following the Core Program, I've detailed a handy list of Dos and Don'ts for everyone out there who loves to follow in my footsteps.

Do: Laugh hysterically each time you do exercise 2 and question the effectiveness of such a move.

Don't: Laugh hysterically if you haven't first utilized the restroom. Although you've been doing the exercise known as the Three-Part Pelvic Stabilizer for 4 days now, that doesn't make up for the fact that you've already had 2 children and it will likely take you years of pelvic stabilizing exercises before you can comfortably laugh in public (or private) with a full bladder.

Do: Use a yoga mat when performing these exercises.

Don't: Try to get away with using your bed in lieu of a yoga mat. I don't care how much lumbar support your mattress boasts, it's still not supportive enough. You'll end up prostrate with your face buried deep into the blankets as you struggle to lift the weight of your body out of the hammock that your mattress has suddenly become. You will become frustrated and this is not how you want to feel in the bedroom. See this for a gentle reminder of that fact.

Do: Tell your yoga-loving 4 year old that these exercises are really "yoga moves" so she'll be encouraged to participate (and laugh) alongside you.

Don't: Try any of these "yoga moves" when your 20 month old is wandering around the house. It's a less effective way to complete the Core Program.Good luck and happy exercising!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Best Traditional Post-Thanksgiving Activity

Instead of shopping on this Black Friday, I participated in my favorite activity of all time: napping. Yesterday we had a terrific Thanksgiving dinner with the Furious family and ended up staying out past Una and Duet's bedtime. I figured they'd fall asleep in the car. I figured wrong. After going to bed at nearly 9:00pm (normal bedtime 7:00pm), Duet managed to still get up at 5:15am. I was up with her for a couple of hours before handing her off to Bert. I then slept from 7:30am-11:00am. It was heaven. It wasn't a post-Turkey tryptophan-induced nap per se, but it was delightful none the less.
We also managed to decorate our place for Christmas and talk Una out of asking Santa for "a big pink and purple quilt because I'm afraid I'll outgrow the quilt I have now." I knew there wasn't any way that "Santa" would be able to whip that up in less than a month. Thankfully we successfully reassured her that her quilt is still big enough to cover her body and it's not time to move up yet.
Finally, here are some Thanksgiving pictures for your enjoyment. Kid Furious and Una ran around entertaining themselves the entire time we were there. No, it's not an action shot, but look at how cute they are. P.S. Una's wearing pajamas, not because we're ghetto and don't know how to dress for the occasion, but because we took the photo right before we were about to leave and as I mentioned earlier I was hoping she'd sleep in the car.Baby Furious and Duet tried to keep up with the big girls. And this is the best group shot we could muster. So not everyone's looking great, but it's nigh impossible to get this many kids facing in the same direction, let alone smilingBert thankfully did most of the parenting so that I could spend time with Mrs. F. (no picture of that, sorry). Thanks for hosting us, Furious family. We had a spectacular time! I'm so sorry some of you ended up sick (apparently we leave nothing but devastation in our wake).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Two Feet, Revisited

Last night Bert and I had a babysitter and so we went out alone for the first time in over a month. Like most unimaginative couples we went to dinner, dessert, and a movie. Like most poor couples we ate at a cheap restaurant, used a coupon for a free dessert (one cinnamon-sugar pretzel which we shared), and watched a movie at the deeply discounted theater. To most of the world, WALL-E was a summer blockbuster. To us, it's the perfect holiday flick.

Ever aware of my flexibility-challenged body, I decided to use some of the time during the movie to stretch out my hamstrings. It was a darkened theater so no one would notice, after all. What could go wrong with that plan? I glanced in front of me to make sure the seat was unoccupied and then placed my two feet (what is it with me and two feet these days?) on top of that seat so that my legs were extended and stretching would occur. My stretching got cut short when a short woman whimpered and made her presence known. Of course I immediately retracted my feet, but the damage had already been done. I apologized profusely for putting my feet on her head and felt stupid for the remainder of the movie. Even the budding robot romance between WALL-E and EVE couldn't tear me away from my humiliation.

So on that note, Happy Thanksgiving! If you don't feel you have much to be thankful for, you can at least be thankful that you weren't sitting in front of me at the movie theater last night.

Core completed? Wednesday, yes. Thursday, yes. That's a total of 3 so far this week. It's taking less time as I become more familiar with the routine. And as an added bonus, I always feel taller when I'm done. I love feeling taller. Maybe after months of this, I'll actually be as tall as the 5'9" I've been claiming for years now (so I'm really 5'8 1/2," most people round up, don't they?).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baby Einstein

This morning the girls were playing in Gross Motor Basement and I was doing laundry in the decidedly un-fun section of the basement. Gross Motor Basement thus far has been a moderate success. We're definitely spending more time down there and Duet (aka the climber, Sir Edmund Hillary, you get the idea) can't get enough of the new indoor climbing opportunities. Una shot a few hoops into our child-sized basketball stand and did remarkably well. She then quickly lost interest and (true to her personality and interests) found some pillows, barricaded herself in the tunnel with some books, started pretending it was her tent and spent the remainder of the day in there reading. Not what I had in mind when I originally conceived of Gross Motor Basement, but she was clearly enjoying it so I will (contrary to my personality and interests) resist the urge to complain.

While doing the laundry in the aforementioned un-fun section of the basement, Duet came running over to me with this letter in hand repeating A, A, A.
Usually when she says A, A, A, she's pointing at the stereo requesting that we play Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk." This time, however, there was no stereo to be seen so I assumed what any mother in my situation would: my baby is a genius.

After complimenting her on her brilliance she ran off and then returned a minute later carrying this letter and saying A, A, A, A.Maybe my genius assumption was a bit premature.

Has the core program been completed? Not yet, but the night is young. I'll report back to you on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


We're keeping a close eye on Duet these days. And Bert.

Una's always been enamored with Bert's profession. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she always responds "a surgeon." A few weeks back a stranger at the grocery store struck up a conversation with Una and when he found out she was 4 he said, "I'll bet you want to be a princess when you grow up." Una immediately corrected him. "No, I'm going to be a surgeon." Personally I don't find the two mutually exclusive. But in her mind there's no room for princess surgeons, I guess. Tonight while Bert was bathing the girls I overheard her saying that she wants to work at the same hospital as her dad. Una just can't get enough of the doctor thing.

Then there's Duet. Bert brought this cute little doctor stress-reliever home from one of his conferences and gave it to Duet. You know, the kind that's made of some pliable material so you can squeeze it and then release it and it will regain its original shape. She played with it for a while. But what was meant to be a stress relieving, gripping device for adults is apparently no match for Duet. After playing with it for a short period of time, we heard her say "uh oh doctor" repeatedly. Then Una chimed in, "she broke the doctor in two pieces."
So, if there are any MDs out there in the Mary Poppins fan base, you may want to watch your back. Duet may be after you. Like I said, we're keeping a close eye on her. And Bert.

I completed the core program today. After spending a couple of hours hunched over a chair mending clothes this evening, it felt nice to stretch out. Even if it did take longer than the promised 15 minutes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PG-13 Post

It's been a delightful day. I slept in, as promised. So did Duet. What? Of course on the day Bert was supposed to get up with her she slept in until 7:00am. Lucky him.

I met some coworkers for brunch (sans kids). It was nice to pretend to be a grown up for a couple of hours.

Mrs Furious, kid, and baby came over for a few hours this afternoon. We had a splendid time catching up amid blanket forts, couch cushions, and wooden play food strewn about the room. Bert even made lunch for us while we visited. In furious fashion, everyone got along famously. The best part is we get to see them again on Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving. With the holiday this week, all of my classes are canceled so I have the entire week off. To celebrate I'm temporarily lifting my ban on multiple treats per weekday. Some of you may find this disappointing. Deal with it.

In preparation for winter, Bert and I spent the better part of the evening reconfiguring the play spaces in our house. Out of necessity we spend too much time indoors here during the frigid winter months, so in anticipation of the long days ahead we grouped toys together in new (hopefully exciting) ways and de-cluttered some toys that we no longer use (we took a big gamble tossing the talking Dora doll that Una loved in the past but hasn't played with for months. For some inexplicable reason, Duet is terrified of the Dora doll. Not Dora in general, just this particular doll).

The big news of the day is we created Gross Motor Basement. It's special enough that I've determined it should indeed be a Proper Noun. All of the random toys that had previously been in the basement (including the--according to Duet--creepy Dora doll) are now gone, making room for gross motor toys, and gross motor toys only. We're hoping this will encourage the girls to use said toys more, particularly during the months where we're cooped up so much. Behold Gross Motor Basement:
And finally, did anyone see this article in the New York Times? As of tonight, it's the number 1 most frequently emailed article on their website. In the words of Tobias Funke (from Arrested Development, of course) "Let the great experiment begin!" Although in that instance he was refering to creating an open marriage, and I'm pretty sure that's the opposite thing this article would have you do. Since my mom and other people I know read this blog, I'm not going to say whether or not Bert and I will be following Reverend Young's advice. But it's an interesting read.

And with that, I'd best be off for I've got some things (ahem) to take care of before the day is done.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sit and Reach Reject

When I was in elementary school, once a year we were required to perform some Seinfeld-esque "feats of strength" in order to acquire a Presidential fitness medal/honor of some sort. The details are a bit hazy because I never actually passed all of the requirements in a satisfactory manner. This should not come as a shock to those of you who have been with me from the start. You may recall that physical fitness has never been a priority for me (please reference vice 1 if you don't believe me). But I'm improving on that front. I would like to remind everyone that since accepting the first challenge to work out, I have accomplished that goal each week. Change is possible.

So to the best of my recollection these so-called "feats of strength" included: running 1 mile (still something I don't enjoy doing), performing pull-ups (something I haven't been able to do since the 6th grade when I maxed out at 4), and participating in the dreaded sit and reach. This is where you sit with your legs stretched out before you, your feet flat against a platform that forms the base of a table-like structure with a ruler on top of it. The idea is you reach with your arms as far forward onto the plateau as you can (like you're going to touch your toes--or beyond) and the ruler is used to measure how far you can essentially sit and reach. Such a clever name for such a heinous practice. I'm sure you can guess from the title of this post that I was never a sit and reach star. In my later years I've learned that my less than stellar performance indicates that I'm not very flexible and more specifically that I have tight hamstrings. Whatever. It's never really bothered me.

But, in the interest of improving myself, and seeing as how I'm not getting any younger, I've decided that I should incorporate some stretching and toning into my successful workout regimen. In an effort to overcome vice no. 6: living with a body that is inflexible (like the will of a tantrum-throwing toddler), I'll be following this book (The Core Program by Peggy Brill), one that has been recommended by a physical therapist friend of mine, and one that I've used sporadically in the past. The program is designed by a physical therapist to strengthen and stretch the muscles necessary for proper alignment and posture. Both my mom (70) and my older sister (45) have had great success with it as well. Since it claims to only take 15 minutes a day, I figure I can manage that. But since I like to aim low so that I'll be pleasantly surprised with my successes, rather than disappointed with my failures, I'll strive for 4 Core stretching/strengthening sessions per week for now.

Now for one last de-cluttering duties report: I did it. Little by little my house is becoming more organized as I throw out unwanted/unnecessary items. Following the compact this last month has been most helpful and although I'm moving on to a new vice, I'm not moving on from the compact. I will continue to follow it and post about it as the opportunities arise (read when I have witty or insightful experiences to relay to the masses).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Putting My Two Feet In My Mouth

This morning at my parent and child dance class (for children 2-5 years old), a visitor came with one of the children. Since there are already plenty of adults in the class, it's not uncommon for grandparents, out-of-town relatives, members of my fan club, etc. to join in the fun or sit on the sidelines if they prefer. I mean, who doesn't want to see Mary Poppins lead a creative movement class? Visitors are not unusual for this class but there was something a bit unusual about this visitor. I don't think I've ever met anyone who fit into as many historically discriminated-against groups. She was a female African American lesbian amputee. I only fit into one of those groups (in case you were wondering, it's female) and sometimes things can be rough. I can't imagine how many barriers one would face in her situation. Luckily I happened to see her through the windows before she entered the dance room so I was able to pull my inquisitive Una aside and whisper into her ear: "someone is coming in who only has one leg. We're not going to ask any questions about that or talk about that, OK?" She nodded her head in agreement and I hoped that she'd remember. If only I had been able to remember perhaps I wouldn't feel like such an ass right now.

My lesson plans for the class include a mix CD that I make each week and a paper on which I've typed up the order of the songs and the props/directions. I reference this paper throughout the 45 minute-long class because I can't be expected to recall the exact order or even the exact songs I'm using that week (due to my job, my iTunes library is ridiculously extensive when it comes to children's music. This is not a fact I'm proud of. It's just a fact). About half way through the class the next song scheduled was one where you pretend to put different shoes on your feet and move accordingly (marching shoes: march, running shoes: run, tiptoe shoes: tiptoe--you get the idea) and the chorus goes like this: "I've got two feet, and I really like to use them, I've got two feet, that take me anywhere." The kids love it and it's a crowd pleaser. But not when you have someone with only one foot in the crowd. I wish I'd remembered her presence before I started out on a course that was disastrous.

When I noticed that song was next, I turned to the kids and said my usual intro (it goes something like this): "show me your two feet. In this next song we get to use them in many different ways." Then I stopped abruptly when I remembered our visitor. Clearly dancing to the two feet song would have been in extremely poor taste considering her situation. I already felt rude and unfeeling having delivered my little spoken intro. My only course of action at this point was to abort that portion of my lesson plan. I lamely said "oh wait, I don't have that song today. Let's see what's next." We then proceeded with another song that doesn't repeat the refrain about two feet over and over again for nearly 4 minutes.

At the end of class, everyone had cleared the room except for our visitor. I decided to strike up some friendly banter to let her know that I am a nice person after all. I told her we loved having visitors and thanked her for coming. She said she'd be coming frequently in the future (I perked up at that. Perhaps I hadn't scared her off after all) and then I asked if she was family or a friend and she said "I'm her partner. Well, her new partner." My response? "That makes sense." What? What exactly about that statement makes sense? I'm sure she thought I was a total moron. I know I thought that about myself. I totally struck out with the one-legged lesbian today. Maybe I can redeem myself next time. That is, if she shows up next time.

For the record, this is why the partner comment made sense to me: the child who brought the visitor has been in my class for almost a year. Their entire family (the two moms and the cute girl) would come to class together every week without fail. Then a couple of months ago I noticed that the women were taking turns bringing the daughter. At first I thought one of the moms was sick or out of town, but when they continued to show up on alternate weeks without the other one I thought that maybe they'd broken up. Today when the visitor stated that she was the mom's new partner my suspicions were confirmed and it made sense as to why I hadn't seen the two moms together for months. However without that context my comment made no sense whatsoever and I certainly wasn't going to explain my logic and dig myself deeper and deeper into an already gigantic hole. I ended up cheerily wishing her a happy Thanksgiving and held the door open for her on her way out. After all of that, it was the least I could do.

Please note: I'm turning the comments off for this post. I'm sure any and all comments would be along the lines of "you're an idiot, Mary Poppins." Trust me, I already know that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Happy People Don't Do

Take care of their children completely unassisted for 7 days straight while also working 26 hours that week.

OK, in reality this week hasn't been as bad as I'd feared. But I did have to work more than usual since one of my coworkers got sick and I ended up subbing on my only day off. All in all things have gone remarkably smoothly, but I'm highly anticipating Bert's return on Sunday evening. The hardest part for me has been the lack of sleep. With Duet's crazy sleep habits and no one with whom I can share early morning child care duties, I've only averaged 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night. And like the imperfect person that I am, I tend to be less patient and engaging when I haven't been getting the sleep my body requires. You'd better believe that I'm spending Sunday night sleeping in the basement all by myself. Wearing earplugs. And an eye mask. How romantic is that? "Welcome home Bert. Long time no see. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to be alone while I hibernate preferably for the winter, but if that doesn't work out I'll settle for the next 12 hours."

If you're really wondering what it is that happy people don't do, you should read this short article from the New York Times. Fascinating stuff. I've never been a huge fan of TV (you may remember that the Poppins kick it old-school with rabbit ear antennas and consequently only get extremely fuzzy reception for 2 channels) and here's one more reason to turn it off. As if last night's episodes of The Office and 30 Rock weren't good enough reasons already (so disappointing. Very few laugh out loud moments).

One thing I've noticed since the inception of my blog is that my TV viewing has gone down considerably. Again, there wasn't much available to watch beforehand, but I'd find myself turning it on absent-mindedly anyway. Now I've filled my life with better blog-related activities (writing, exercising, de-cluttering, talking myself out of going into the kitchen to partake of a second helping of those delicious brownies), and I no longer have time to watch mindlessly. I now only follow 2 (usually stellar, with the exception of last night) shows. And I don't miss all of the TV. So if you want to be happy like me (c'mon, don't I sound happy? Glad? Exuberant? Effervescent?), turn it off.

De-cluttering duties today included sorting things that tend to collect (and mysteriously multiply) in the basement. Oh how I hate the basement. Except when it is a refuge and sleep haven for me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Everything Must Go!

OK, technically not everything. But I am getting rid of excess stuff. That's a major part of what the de-cluttering portion of the compact is all about. However, deciding what stays and what goes is, like most things in life (losing 5 lbs, completing the New York Times crossword puzzle, correctly pronouncing the word "nuclear"--OK maybe that last one only applies if your last name is Bush or Palin), easier said than done. To guide me through the process I ask myself the following questions: Do I need it? Do I have another item that fulfills the same function? Do I have room for it? "Do I already have enough of this or a similar item?"
Sometimes though you've been hanging onto something for so long that you don't even notice it anymore and you certainly don't look at it objectively. In this circumstance, these questions alone aren't enough to encourage you to part with it. Sometimes you need an extra nudge from an uninvolved third party.

Witness the item:

And here's the back view:

Now for the story:
A friend handed this down to me because she already had 2. That was in 1998. Let me repeat that: this was a hand-me-down back in 1998. Who knows how old it really is. Truthfully, I've never given much thought to the shirt or its age. It's just become a staple in my drawer, one that's held up really well over the years (major props to The Gap) and has had the extraordinary ability to stretch over my gigantic belly during 2 pregnancies and still retain its shape. I never objectively thought about whether I liked it or not. It just existed. My feelings were Swiss-like (neutral). But the shirt was abruptly brought to the forefront of my consciousness one day a few months back when I had an encounter with an uninvolved third party. I ran into a woman I know who asked me "Is that from The Gap?" When I confirmed, she said "I used to have that shirt. In Junior High."
Later that night Bert confessed he wasn't a fan of the shirt either. Even after being confronted with the fact that the shirt was from the era when Beverly Hills 90210 was not a remake and The New Kids On The Block were actually new, I was still neutral about the shirt. So it stayed. Until I de-cluttered today. It's the end of an era.

And as a sugar situation follow-up to yesterday's post, I did make it to both Godiva and Cold Stone today. Duet and I went to Godiva while Una was at preschool. Duet woke up early from her nap. Normally I would have been irritated, but today I was thrilled since it meant I could make it there before free truffle hour was over. The nice lady at Godiva gave us each one and Duet shoved the entire thing in her mouth. One finger sweep later, I was able to retrieve it and save her from chocolate-induced suffucation. When she'd finished hers, she started clamboring for mine. I managed to keep it out of her chocolate covered fingers, however, and it currently is awaiting its consumption on a later date while sitting on the counter next to 2 left-over brownies. After picking Una up from preschool, we headed out to Cold Stone where we each got a plate of ice cream cake and pie samples (chocolate mint ice cream with red velvet cake, caramel gingerbread cookie ice cream with yellow cake, and cookie dough ice cream pie). And since it was dinner time (and I'm a nice mom), I let that count as our dinner tonight. We were 3 happy girls, that's for sure.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Few Fantastic Freebies

Hi all! I got an insider's tip (and by insider's tip, I mean I got an email from each establishment about this) on a couple of sweet (literally) deals going on tomorrow (Thurs. Nov 20th) and since I'm nice like that, I thought I'd pass the information along to you.

First, you can get a free truffle from 1:00pm-3:00pm at a Godiva boutique near you. That's usually during Duet's nap time, but I'm optimistic I can work something out.

Second, you can get free samples of ice cream cake and pie from 4:00pm-8:00pm at a Cold Stone near you.

Now, I should mention that you may want to check with your local establishments before schlepping off to claim your treats. To quote my dad "I may not always be right, but I am never wrong." That said, I would hate for someone to find out the hard way that this deal was only valid in Mary Poppins's hood. So if you live near me (and you know who you are), this is for real and maybe I'll see you there.

By the way, how am I getting around the one treat per day rule on this day of double treats? Easy. Assuming I can work in the Godiva thing around Duet's nap schedule, I'll save that truffle for Friday. Past experience has taught me that ice cream doesn't last quite as long, so that will be consumed on the spot.

And lastly, I did de-clutter yesterday and I might add that things are coming together nicely on that front. I felt like my day has gone a whole lot better today because I've had fewer items to sift through.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bye Bye Bertie

Don't worry. Bertie isn't the pet name I call my husband. I don't even call him Bert, except for on the blog. But the title reminded me of the musical I was in during my high school days. After the phenomenon that is High School Musical, it's finally cool to admit you've performed in musicals. Well, I'm not sure it will ever be cool to make such an admission, but I'm throwing it out there anyway. When I was 16 I played the role of Ursula, the overly enthusiastic teenage BFF to the main character Kim, in Bye Bye Birdie. I got to lead many renditions of "We love you Conrad, oh yes we do, We love you Conrad, and we'll be true..." and deliver my favorite line of all time: "Let's have an orgy!" I believe the stage directions directly preceding that line said "pronounced with a hard g sound," presumably to convey Ursula's innocence. The director did have me leap spread eagle into the arms of Conrad Birdie and wrap my legs around his waist while declaring Ursula's desire to have an orgy, so I'm not sure how innocent Ursula really was.

Back to my Bertie. Bert is out of town this week and we miss him terribly. He left yesterday morning and we won't see him until Sunday night. My kids really miss out when he's not around. And their personal hygiene starts to suffer. Bert's the one who bathes the girls every evening. I don't enjoy giving baths so when he's not around, I can assure you it doesn't happen nightly. We shoot for every other night (you know me, I always say "aim high"). I justify this by telling myself that too much cleansing will actually dry out their skin. Whether this is actually true or not, I'm not sure. But it makes me feel a bit better about my laziness.

It's not all bad when he's away though. I'm finding that with one fewer person in the house, it's easier to keep things de-cluttered and in order. Not that Bert's messy. It's just that now that he's away, there's only 3 of us bringing things into the house instead of 4. After one week of de-cluttering and 3 weeks of being very careful about limiting the number of items brought into my home, I'm happy to report that most of the horizontal surfaces in my home are free of excess junk. And (although this is a revelation to me, it's probably a no-brainer for most) it's easier to keep things tidy when the clutter is gone. Throughout the day yesterday as I would travel up and down the stairs I found little items out of place and would take them with me to the correct part of the house. It's easy to do this if the misplaced item is obviously out of place. Not so easy when the misplaced item is camouflaged by other misplaced items.

Although it feels good to be making progress of this nature, it's certainly not as much fun as singing with my BFF and propositioning a teen idol. Don't you just miss high school?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Really Shameless Begging

"Shameless begging" is probably an oxymoron. Is there any way to beg without shame? I think not. I'm attempting it anyway. I'm keeping this post on the shorter side today so that you can use the time you usually spend reading to to do something on my behalf instead. You'd do a little favor for Mary Poppins, wouldn't you? Especially if I promised that it would only take you 3 seconds? Please?

So the 2008 Weblog Awards are upon us and I've been nominated for Best New Blog. If you've already voted, thank you. If you tried to earlier, but were frustrated, read on. This time you can easily vote for me here. It's a simple 2-click process. And since all of my readers are brilliant, I know you can handle this. All you have to do is click on this and then click on the green plus sign under "becomingmarypoppins". Easy as pie. As you know, I'm not tech savvy. But I did manage to find out how to link to exact the spot where my blog is mentioned (I know, I know, someone with my lack of tech skills deserves an award just for that. See? There's one more reason to vote for me). So none of that scrolling/searching for my name business is necessary. Just give the page a second or two to load properly and it will go right to spot where you can vote for my blog. Also, you can only vote once. If that saddens you because you love voting for me as much as I do, you can technically vote once from each computer. In the time it took you to read that you could have voted for me. It's that easy. Gracias. Merci. Anks-thay.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


You may be thinking that this post's title refers to that 80s TV show with the little adopted kid who lived in a house full of secret passageways. You'd be wrong. Although that show was an example of fine television, today I'm talking about definitions.
At lunch I casually mentioned to Bert that I'd been with a friend this morning who was complaining that she was exhausted. Una (come to think of it, "Ears" would be a good nickname for her) chimed in, "I know what exhausted means. It means unhappy, angry, upset, and sad." For a moment I was puzzled and then the proverbial light bulb went on and I got it. The only time Una hears that word is when I'm speaking harshly, as in "Una, I'm exhausted! Please stop chanting 'I'm playing my guitar' over and over again." Or "Una, I'm exhausted! Please put your coat on now because I don't want to ask you a fourth time." Or "Una, I'm exhausted! Please don't ask me for another treat. I already said no." If I were 4 and a half years old and were trying to decipher the meaning of the word exhausted from those context clues, I'd probably come up with her definition as well. I guess the next time I'm exhausted I'll need to explain that I'm sleep deprived and hence short on patience. And now I'm off to bed because (you guessed it) I'm exhausted.
This week my goal is to continue with vice 5. I'll be de-cluttering for 10 minutes each day. It's been a week into the challenge and I'm already noticing a difference. It's encouraging.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

They're Back

Last night I got a sweet tip from my sister who lives in California. The seasonal Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's are back in stock.
As far as TJ's goods are concerned, these babies are definitely in my top 3, possibly even the top 2 (nothing, I repeat, nothing can take that #1 spot away from the frozen chocolate croissants that you bake to perfection yourself and then devour fresh out of the oven). About the Candy Cane Joe-Joe's, these are not simply peppermint flavored oreos, no ma'am. These are oreos with crushed up bits of actual candy cane mixed into the creamy white middle layer. They're perfect. They're only available at Christmas time. And they sell out fast. Last year I bought a case of them. A case, I tell you (I can't remember exactly how many boxes are in a case, but I think it's something like 16). And you'd better believe that we either ate or gifted every single one of those boxes of cookies. This year since I'm following the compact and trying to discern the difference between wants and needs I only bought 8 boxes when I went to the store this morning. Good thing I've been de-cluttering lately, so I've got room to store said boxes.

De-cluttering duties today included leafing through more paperwork, clearing out the bookshelf on our main level, and organizing toys during the two hours I had to myself while Bert took the girls to a birthday party. On her way to the party I asked Una, "Are you ready to party?" Her response: "I'm going to rock the party!" Well said, sister. Well said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If You Like Pina Coladas...

I've had that song in my mind all day. You know, the one about getting caught in the rain, not being into health food, having 1/2 a brain, and making love at midnight. It's quite the random laundry list of attributes. Anyway, since it's been in my mind all day I thought I'd share the love and get you all hooked on it too. I have nothing more to say about that.
If you like caramel apples though, may I suggest this item available in your grocer's produce section:I adore caramel apples but am not down with the $7.00 price tag affixed to them at the gourmet candy shops. I once attempted to melt down caramel myself, but when I poured it over the apples the caramel just slid right off. Huge disappointment. This is why I rejoice in these caramel apple wraps. They're tiny--so pair them with small apples. They're also fool-proof and take less than 10 minutes to create. Una and I have made them together on many occasions. Make them even more impressive by melting white and dark chocolate chips in the microwave and then coating the caramel apples with chocolate.
Admittedly no one would pay $7.00 for this bad boy, but it's not about the appearance. I'm judging solely on taste. Just writing about this makes me my mouth water. If I hadn't already had a helping of homemade strawberry shortcake (the really good kind with the biscuit-y type of shortcake) for lunch today, I'd go make a caramel apple for myself right now. Maybe tomorrow. After all, tomorrow's only a few short hours away.

De-cluttering duties today included going through paperwork. B-O-R-I-N-G, but necessary. Come tax season I'll be prepared. Other fun tidbits: I now know that I have not one, but two social security cards and I found some coupons I'd been holding on to since 2007. Not so useful as we approach 2009.