Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Love, Una (who identified herself alternately as the "unicorn with wings" or the "pegasus-unicorn") pictured with her beloved painted pumpkin
and Duet (the dinosaur or dragon, depending on who you ask). Yes, that's me in the background wearing turquoise pants. And no, they weren't part of a costume. I had just come from teaching a dance class and that was my ensemble today.
Witness the pumpkin bags hard at work (huge success and might I add again the perfect size for little ones. When I'm trying to control my sugar consumption, the last thing I need to bring into my house is a gigantic bag full of candy. No, make that 2 gigantic bags full of candy). Too bad it was 60 degrees today and my kids were dressed for trick-or-treating at the north pole. They didn't seem to mind.

No money was spent today in the production of this Halloween merriment. The pumpkin and candy to distribute to trick-or-treaters were purchased earlier this week for a total of less than $10 (I'm going to go ahead and call those needs, you may argue with that decision, but that's my stance). Una's unicorn with wings/pegasus-unicorn costume was a hand-me-down from a dear friend (thanks again K, Una adored it and we got tons of compliments) and Duet wore the same dinosaur/dragon costume that Una sported when she was that age. For the record, Duet also got compliments, including "that's the cutest dinosaur I've ever seen." I decided not to be offended by the use of the word "that" in lieu of the pronoun "she" since it's admittedly not the most girly costume out there and with the hood up it's impossible to see her little ponytail.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it's now 8:30pm and I haven't eaten a single piece of their candy yet. Since I had a piece of apple pie for lunch (yes, lunch) I'm holding off on eating the candy. At least until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Lazy Parent's Guide to Halloween Decorating

Most people are more clever than I am. Especially when it comes to holiday decorating. I don't have a knack for it, and I've made my peace with that fact. Currently all of the Halloween decorations adorning our walls are pumpkin-related. They were also all made by Una. At preschool. I love abdicating most of my kid crafting responsibilities to preschool. I just don't have the energy for initiating craft time most days.
Today, however, the clock was ticking and something had to be done about the absence of a pumpkin on our porch. I decided a couple of years ago that I didn't want to go the pumpkin carving route with our kids. I don't particularly enjoy the process (time consuming, messy, smelly) and I didn't see how it could be much fun for my kids when they are relegated to observing the entire process due to their lack of knife handling skills. So for the past couple of years we've done a lazy version of pumpkin decorating and have let Una paint her pumpkin instead. It's the easiest activity and I highly recommend it to all. Put down some newspaper and get out some paint and brushes. The bib is optional (we don't have any smocks so I thought this would be a good substitute. I was wrong. The bottom half of her shirt is now splattered with purple paint), but the 80's-style sweatband with the NBA logo is a must. Obviously. When I asked her why she was wearing it, she remarked "I just like the picture. What's it a picture of, mom? Someone holding something. I guess a ball or a bubble." That would be a man dribbling a basketball, but holding a bubble is a good guess.
This year she was so into the pumpkin painting. I can't emphasize enough how much she loved it. Here are some direct quotes gathered during the 75 minutes she spent painting her pumpkin (I kid you not, she was occupied for over an hour with this activity).

What an artist! (I must have heard this line at least a dozen times)
I just love artists.
I'm a beautiful artist.
I'm such an artist. Uh-huh. I am.
I just love this pumpkin so much.
Won't it be beautiful?
It will be beautiful with colors all around it.
I want everyone in the world to see it.

She then started a discussion about Santa Claus that continued for several minutes. I don't know about you, but pumpkin painting on the eve of Halloween always gets me thinking about Santa.

I spoke to a good friend of mine on the phone last night and told her about my blog. In doing so, I specifically said it wasn't entirely about my kids. However, I've been writing an awful lot about them lately. I think it's because Halloween is coming up and that's such a kid-centric holiday. For those of you who are more interested in reading about me (honestly, who could blame you?), I will be returning to more Mary Poppins-centric posts after Halloween.

Spending Status: yesterday I went to the grocery store and only spent money on groceries. I then went to the gas station and filled up my car with gas. I should disclose that I bought a sandwich for dinner (I was out by myself for the afternoon--thank you Bert--and I had to grab something to eat before going to teach a night class), but I used a gift card that I have had for a while so I kept my spending to a minimum. So far in my attempt to keep the compact I've been avoiding shopping trips. That strategy has been working well, but I fear the day I have to make a run to Target for some essentials. I'm hoping that day doesn't arrive soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hold Your Tongue, Mary

I'm sure none of you struggle with this problem, but occasionally I say something without thinking it through first. Such was the case last night. Una was watching me as I finished sewing the spectacular pumpkin trick-or-treating bags featured in yesterday's post. "Careful, mom. You don't want to hurt your fingers," she cautioned me (Una is and always has been the cautious one. Now if I could only get some of that caution to rub off on Duet) as my hands guided the fabric toward the the needle that was moving up and down. I thanked her for her reminder and explained that I was going to be fine since I kept my fingers away from the needle. Minutes later she asked me how old she would need to be when she could learn how to sew. Then Una followed up that inquiry with this: "Does Dad know how to sew?" I continued to focus on my sewing, and with the needle bobbing and the machine whirring in front of me I answered: "Sort of. He sews people." (Now would be a good time to mention to you readers that Bert is training to become a surgeon. Of course Una knows this, she just doesn't know what being a surgeon actually entails). Why I decided to describe his profession in this manner, I cannot say. Clearly I wasn't thinking. She wore a horrified look on her face and for once in her life she was speechless. Bert, unsatisfied with my comments (and rightfully so), stepped in and offered Una a better, less frightening, description. Not my finest parenting moment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plastic Pumpkin Problem

Last week Duet broke Una's plastic pumpkin bucket. You know the kind: the receptacle favored by children everywhere for collecting and storing their Halloween treats. I think we purchased ours for 99 cents a few years ago and I wasn't heartbroken when the handle broke. I threw it away, intending to buy 2 this year (one for Una, one for Duet). That of course was my pre-compact thought process.
This morning Una inquired about the broken pumpkin bucket. I told her I threw it out since it was broken and I stopped myself just before uttering "we'll go buy you a new one." Now I'm no expert on the difference between needs and wants, but at that moment I was certain that a plastic pumpkin bucket did not constitute a necessity. Remembering my compact I instead said "we'll make a special bag that you can take trick-or-treating." What exactly would making this "special bag" entail? I didn't really have any ideas. Una offered that it should be sturdy and hence, made out of wood. On second thought I had at least one idea: something made of cloth, not wood.
Together we went to the basement where I foraged through scraps of fabric to see if anything fit the bill.
Found: orange, green, and black fabric;
Found: orange thread;
Found: white ribbon from our stockpile of gift wrapping supplies;
Borrowed: green thread from my neighbor (thank you Jill).
Together Una and I picked out the fabric and cut the pieces. I then designed the layout and sewed them together using only my sheer ingenuity, my friends. Tilt your head to the left and witness the plastic pumpkin replacement:
Blogger annoyingly wouldn't let me rotate the image. But you get the idea.
I've never claimed to be Martha Stewart, but I'm pretty pleased with the final product (the photo doesn't capture all of the details. Imagine how great they look when they're facing the right way). Maybe I'm a little bit crafty after all. Who knew I had that latent talent? Although this took a lot longer than it would have to simply go and buy the plastic pumpkins at the store, I'm thrilled for several reasons:
1. I didn't spend any money and so I kept to the compact;
2. I made good use of fabric that had been sitting around for years;
3. I had fun coming up with a creative solution to the plastic pumpkin problem;
4. These cloth bags will take up way less storage space than those plastic pumpkins;
5. I feel like a Halloween crafting genius;
6. Una and I had a great experience making these that we would have missed out on if we'd just bought buckets at the store.

I'll just say it: I'm proud of myself today.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Gotta love David Bowie. And Flight of the Conchords for their fabulous Bowie-inspired episode that includes the song "Bowie" (Bowie's in space).
Enough of that tangential talk.
As you can see, we at bMP have been very busy incorporating some new changes. Bert designed my new header and I love it. Even more than the aforementioned Flight of the Conchords episode and song combined. That's a fierce kind of love, baby. If you look to your right you'll see that I've added some helpful information to my sidebar. It's almost everything you ever wanted to know about Mary Poppins. Almost.
For those of you wondering if I've continued in my quest to overcome the vices I've blogged about in the past, check out "How Well is Mary Poppins Progressing?" for daily updates on my workouts and the sugar situation (sadly, I couldn't figure out a way to realistically update you about the status of the dishes/dishwasher. Suffice it to say, it's so much better than it was a month ago).

And now, my spending status for yesterday: we didn't visit any stores yesterday, so this was a non-issue. Driving home from our vacation we did stop at Taco Bell to grab lunch. But that came to under 7 bucks for the whole family (paid for with cash). And we consumed it. It was more of a need than a want. Who doesn't need to run south of the border for a chalupa when they're on a road trip? OK, so I didn't really order the chalupa. I got a boring bean burrito--hold the onions. But I enjoy typing and saying the word "chalupa." Silly, isn't it (the word is silly, not the fact that I enjoy typing and saying it)?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Compact Part II

I'm back. Did you miss me? We had a stellar vacation. The kind that's actually relaxing. Well, as relaxing as possible with a 4 year-old and a 19 month-old in tow.
Things were off to a great start. Duet got car sick and threw up on herself and the car seat 10 minutes from our destination. After cleaning her off at the gas station (as if one can really clean anything at the gas station, but with limited options, this seemed like the lesser of the two evils), we arrived at the house ready to bathe the girls (particularly poor Duet). We soon discovered that I'd I foolishly left all of the toiletries which had been so thoroughly packed by yours truly at home. Of course. It only makes sense that the one time I forgot the toiletries would be the one time we were in desperate need of them upon our arrival.
This unfortunate circumstance led me to my my first compact test. I went to the store to pick up the basics (toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, etc.--only consumable items, mind you) and placed some barrettes for Duet in the cart (because they were smaller than the ones at home which don't fit her that well) and a comb for Una (since we usually comb through her long hair when we condition it during bath time). I walked toward the checkout and realized that I didn't actually need the barrettes or the comb. Yes, they would have been nice to have, but I reasoned that we could find a way to get along fine without them. They didn't qualify as necessities in the same way that say toothbrushes and toothpaste do. So, I flipped a u-turn with my cart and placed them back on the shelf. It felt surprisingly good to stick with my plan. And you know what? Duet's hair was just fine in a pony-tail holder and after combing through Una's hair with my fingers, her hair was properly conditioned that night during her bath. Problems solved.

And now I'm ready to outline my plan of attack for the compact.
1. In reassessing my needs and wants I will ask serious questions before making purchases and when deciding what to keep/toss: Do I need it? Do I have another item that fulfills the same function? Do I have room for it?
2. In getting rid of things we do not need I will spend at least 10 minutes each day systematically going through the items in my house asking the aforementioned questions and removing the unnecessary items (i.e. clutter) from my home.
3. In limiting my purchases to consumable items only (read: no more clearance items from Target just because they're a good deal), I will simply not buy anything that we won't be using up. I've also recently started using cash for all purchases and have put my credit cards aside for the time being. I've read that people spend less money by using cash instead of credit cards.


Now to make it even simpler: I've decided that this week I'm tackling #3. By focusing on only one thing at a time I think I'll have a better chance of succeeding. This week each time I go to the store (or get the urge to shop online) I'll remember that I'm only purchasing consumable items. If it's not consumable, I'm putting it back. End of story.

Tonight it was nice to come home. I was even greeted by a long lost friend when I walked in the door: our bag of toiletries.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Compact Part I

Over the last year or so I've been reading a lot about simplifying. I truly crave a more simplified life. What exactly do I mean by that? I want to get by with fewer things. I want my home to have a place for everything and have everything in its place. I want to spend more moments enjoying my family and less time searching for the paper that should have been signed and turned into preschool last week. I totally subscribe to the notion that I should "live simply, so that others may simply live." I've been meaning to do it, too. It's just eluded me on many levels. But no longer. After tackling 3 challenges in almost 6 weeks of blogging, I think I can safely say that I'm capable of making positive changes in my life (still working out 4x a week, still staying on top of the dishes/dishwasher situation for the most part, and sticking to the 1 treat rule on weekdays). Being accountable to you readers most definitely helps me stay on track. Again, thank you for keeping me honest.

Tuesday night Bert and I were talking about how we were sick of financial stress as well as stress that comes from living in a cluttered space. Yes we do live in a small space and that makes it a bit tricky to keep things under control. But other people manage it. And so will I. You may recall that a few weeks ago I worked on keeping my dishes and the top of the dishwasher in check. It was tough, and it's still a bit of a struggle, but it's so much better than it used to be. As I type this my sink is empty, my dishwasher is running, and the top is clutter-free. Things are much better on that front than they were a month ago. In that small way, I improved and I will continue to improve in other areas as well. Here's the problem with the clutter on the dishwasher scenario. Although it's a step in the right direction, it's not getting at the root of the problem.

Yesterday while checking out Mrs. Furious's blog, she linked to this and this and everything started coming together for me. I realized that I have way too much stuff in my home already and then compounding the problem is the fact that I'm bringing in too many items. Of course I've read about this (in the last year or so I've read all of the following books on this subject: Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping; Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less; Affluenza; The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need), but I haven't done anything concrete about it. Mrs. F. and I spoke for a long time yesterday afternoon about ways in which we can commit to living more simply and consuming less. Last night I filled Bert in on what Mrs. F and I had been discussing and how it pertained to the conversation Bert and I were having about clutter and finance-related stress. Today I'm tackling the clutter problem at its root. Although I'm not following verbatim this compact, I will seriously be:
1. reassessing my needs and wants;
2. getting rid of things we do not need (in the process I hope to declutter the house);
3. limiting my purchases for the rest of 2008 (and possibly beyond) solely to consumable items (consumable items include diapers, toilet paper, food, etc. Consumable items do not include "good deals" or impulse buys at Target for me; new toys for the children; or new CDs for Bert).

You may ask, "But Mary Poppins, what are you going to do about the holidays?" I've already purchased most of our Christmas presents for our families (I will need to get 2 more and I will do that because I'm not going to give one sibling something spectacular while the other sibling gets a used book that I'm trying to clear out of my home. I am, however, going to stick with the budget that I've set for those presents.). Everyone else is getting non-consumable or homemade items from us. I know that at this moment you're all wishing that you were on my Christmas gift list.

The Poppins crew is going out of town for the weekend so I'll be posting again on Sunday evening upon our return. At that time I'll post The Compact Part II where I'll outline the specific ways in which I plan to accomplish the aforementioned goals. And I will tackle them one at a time, Mary Poppins-style. You can hardly wait.

sugar situation: yesterday I ate some one smores bar. Think Rice Krispy treats made out of Golden Grahams and then add some chocolate chips. Sickeningly sweet=delicious in my book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mystery Solved

A couple of days ago Una had just completed a puzzle in her room and some of the pieces were wet. Upon investigation I couldn't determine the source of the liquid. When I asked her about it she pled not guilty and she genuinely seemed as perplexed as I.

Today Duet escaped upstairs. When I ran after her a few moments later I solved the mystery of the wet puzzle pieces.

She was dunking them in the toilet like they were oreos in a giant glass of milk.

I wonder what else has been dunked lately...

sugar situation: yesterday I ate (I'll be really honest about this) 2 tiny cinnamon-sugar doughnuts. They were really small though. Way smaller than your average doughnut. So I decided that 2 really counted as one average doughnut. If you do not agree, I do not care.

P.S. I had a L-O-N-G conversation with Mrs. Furious today about my next challenge. This is going to be big and I'm posting about it tomorrow afternoon before I leave for vacation. You do not want to miss out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Enormous Bowl Made Me Eat Too Much Ice Cream!

Like most Americans, I love having someone or something to blame for my problems. I happily stumbled across Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink and read it over the weekend. In doing so, I learned that I am not entirely to blame for my uncontrolled sweet snacking. Is there better news than this? I think not. While it wasn't the best book I've ever read, it is backed by some serious academic research and I found some points to be quite enlightening. Although some of these ideas may seem basic, his research proved time and again that we're all fooled by our eating environment. I was intrigued by how consistent the results were with each of his experiments. I don't want to spoil the whole thing for you, but here are some fun facts and how I applied them to my life:

1. The average person makes 200 food choices daily.
So of course some of those decisions are going to be wrong. No one is perfect 100% of the time. Especially when they're at it 200 times a day. I can't be blamed entirely for making some poor food choices. With those numbers, it's bound to happen.

2. People always eat more snacks that are kept within reach/sight. So having a plate of sugar cookies sitting on my counter isn't such a great idea after all? I can't help eating them if they're right there. It's the cookie's fault for being there, not my fault for eating it.

3. Humans are conditioned to like sweet foods. My sweet tooth is totally genetic.

4. People eat more or less based on bowl/plate size. The larger the bowl/plate, the more you'll eat. I'm not to blame for my increased ice cream consumption. My over-sized bowls are.

5. People always underestimate the number of calories they consume. We all suck at this. Not just me.

This is all based on science, folks. Guess I won't be feeling too guilty after all. But now that I've learned these facts, I'm going to use them to help me resist the urge to overindulge on sweets. Fighting that battle will be easier if I employ these tactics:

1. Be more conscious of the food decisions I do make. Don't just mindlessly grab a handful of candy and start snacking on it.

2. Keep treats behind cupboards and in opaque containers so that I don't have constant reminders that they are in the house.

3. Allow myself an occasional treat (this is what I'm trying to do), but remember the first few bites are always the best. There's no need to overdo it.

4. Serve myself ice cream in a mug, not an enormous bowl; serve myself cookies, cake, etc. on a small plate, not a large one.

5. Truthfully, I'm not going to worry so much about calories. But I am going to stick to my one treat rule on the weekdays and that will ensure that I don't go overboard on my calorie consumption.

Here's to learning that I'm not entirely to blame. And here's to using that knowledge in a way that will help me steer clear of temptation (hopefully 199 times out of 200).

sugar situation: yesterday I ate an apple dipped in caramel sauce. Such a great fall treat.

Monday, October 20, 2008


You know you're sharing the road with friendly drivers when you glance in the rear view mirror and see that the giant pick up truck behind you has a personalized license plate that reads "RNNOVRU."

At that moment, I didn't feel very secure in my Honda Civic.

You know how they say that a smile from a stranger can make your day? Surprisingly enough, a warning that the menacing monster truck intends to "RNNOVRU" has the opposite effect.

The scariest part of this is, given the spelling of the aforementioned vanity plate, I can only assume there is another like-minded person on the road. One whose license plate reads "RUNOVRU."

sugar situation: yesterday I ate 1/2 of a peanut butter cookie. It's getting easier to keep my treat-intake in check.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Meet Mary Poppins's People

It's time. After a few weeks of blogging, I'm officially tired of writing out the phrases "my oldest daughter," "my 4 year-old," "my youngest daughter," "my 18 month-old," "my angel," "my headache," etc. OK, so I'm pretty sure I never used the last two descriptions, although sometimes both are adorable angels and at other times they are definitely headache-inducing creatures. I'm in need of some consistent pseudonyms for my girls.

In keeping with the Mary Poppins theme the obvious choice is, of course, to go with the names of the Banks children (Jane and Michael). I see two problems with that suggestion, however. 1. I have 2 girls, not one child of each sex. I could overcome that issue by turning Michael into Michelle or Mikel, but that still wouldn't be enough to get me over hurdle number two. 2. Bert's mother's name is Jane. Don't get too excited. This isn't going to be some mother-in-law bashing harangue. I just can't see myself calling either of my girls by their grandma's name. There's a reason I didn't name them after my mother-in-law to begin with. If Jane wasn't right for them then, it's certainly not right for them now. So, I'm breaking tradition and moving on with some non-Mary Poppins themed names for my kids. Allow me to introduce Una (my first daughter) and Duet (my second).

I thought of several other names for her before deciding on the less-clever Una. I could have called her something that suited her personality such as "Little Miss Inquisitive" (she asks questions constantly. Once I tried to keep track of the number of questions she asks in a day. I lost count around 50 and it was well before noon). But Little Miss Inquisitive is too lengthy to write. So she shall simply be known as Una. Some of Una's favorite things include:
singing (she has the entire ABBA Gold CD memorized),
reading (she's especially fond of poems),
designing objects out of household items (such as a high-heeled shoe made out of a block taped onto a piece of paper).
helping out with Duet.

My father calls Duet "Sir Edmund Hillary" after the first known climber (along with his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) to successfully scale Mt. Everest. She is indeed a climber. But I didn't want to promote gender confusion by calling her Sir, and Hillary is fine, but as you know I'm an Obama supporter. Besides, do I always want her to be defined by her climbing tendencies as a toddler? Her interests could change, after all. So as a play on the number 2 I've chosen Duet. I thought about dos or deux, but I don't like how either of those sound. Although Duet technically isn't the number 2, it sounds feminine and I like it. Duet's interests include:
following Una around,
incessantly begging for cake (she takes after me, I guess)
dancing (she can shimmy like nobody's business),
requesting music each time she sees an iPod or a stereo (this usually sounds like "A song" meaning she wants to listen to Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk").

Bert, who you've already met, likes to write, travel, bake, watch 30 Rock and (this is a direct quote from him said in an Isaac Hayes-esque voice) "make sweet love to his lady."

And for a little more about Mary: In addition to my previously declared love for Bert, Una, Duet, sweets, and politics, I love all things from the 1970s--music, fashion, TV shows (it doesn't get better than the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family. Don't even get me started on the original Charlie's Angels. I love them all!).

And with that I will sign off by wishing you a wonderful evening and urging you to "come on, get happy!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weekend Update

After eating a Godiva Hazelnut Truffle this afternoon and then coming home to freshly baked peanut butter cookies homemade by Bert and the kids while I was out, I decided that I am allowed more than one treat on the weekend days. Come on, had you been in my shoes, you know you would have made the same decision too.

Sugar Situation: yesterday I ate one piece of a delicious gourmet caramel apple that my neighbor made. I am on a roll (except, of course, for the weekends).

P.S. Tomorrow I promise to post about something other than my insomnia and sugar intake.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Turns out that if you stop eating 6 giant frosted sugar cookies a day (or the equivalent amount of cake, chocolate, candy, ice cream, you name it, I've consumed it), you lose 1 and 1/2 pounds in less than a week. Go figure. I've got one word for that: serendipitous.

Sugar situation: yesterday I only had 1/2 of a doughnut at my daughter's preschool function. Ordinarily that would have made me proud, but this morning my friend told me her daughter was in tears last night because they ran out of doughnuts. Now instead of feeling pride in exercising self-control, I just feel like a jerk who steals treats from kids. And makes them cry. I can't win.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Last night I tried going to bed shortly after the debate but couldn't fall asleep until 3:00am. Needless to say, I'm a bit out of sorts today. This will be a quickie because I'm on way way out the door for an event this evening and you can bet I'll be climbing into bed as soon as I get home (the jury's still out on whether or not I'll stop off in the bathroom to brush my teeth before climbing under the covers. I'm that tired.)
I'm sure this wasn't the welcome home that Bert envisioned. I'm a zombie right now due to the total lack of sleep. Even though I'm not as enthusiastic as I'd normally be to see him, I'm still glad he's home. You'd better believe that someone other than me will be getting up with my kids tomorrow morning. I'll be sleeping in till 8:00. Funny. I can't believe I'm at the age where 8:00am feels like sleeping in.
Sugar situation: Yesterday I drank one mug of delicious hot chocolate while I watched the debate. That's it. I considered eating a chocolate pecan turtle too, thinking that the hot chocolate was just a drink and not really a treat. But in the end I resisted the temptation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Look at his smile. That is one happy man. When you notice the strategic placement of his face, I think it's pretty obvious why he's so happy.

I recently got this shirt not to showcase my physique, but instead to showcase my Obama pride. Much to my parents' chagrin I am a registered Democrat. And I can understand their disappointment. I'm inculcating my daughters with Democrat ideals at an early age. And I would be sad if years down the road they turned against that and started voting Republican. (This isn't a rant against Republicans, by the way. I dearly love many Republicans, I just don't happen to agree with their ideology).
From the time she was 3, my oldest would respond "Democrats" when asked "who do we vote for?" We've talked about how women weren't always allowed to vote and so in our day it's especially important that we exercise the right that so many women before us fought so hard to attain. I take her to the polling place every election day and have her stand next to me as I cast my vote. That could have backfired on me the year I accidentally marked the "Republican ticket" box, thereby voting for every Republican on the ballot. Luckily I realized my mistake before my vote was counted. And thankfully she was too little to remember that voting error.
Now that my youngest is 19 months old, I want her to get in on the political action. The first time I wore this Obama shirt I pointed to his picture and repeated "Obama" over and over. She finally started to say "Omama." That was several days ago. You can imagine my pleasure when she saw me in this Obama shirt today, pointed and declared "Omama!" Then while driving in the car and listening to a report about Obama on NPR, I heard her echo "Omama" from her carseat behind me. As far as I'm concerned, you're never too young to recognize a winner. Too bad she is too young to vote.

Sugar situation: yesterday I ate one chocolate pecan turtle. It seemed kind of lonely in my stomach and I desperately wanted to consume another so the pair of turtles wouldn't be lonely down there. But I resisted.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It's a good time for watching Oprah, or thinking about what I should start fixing for dinner, or walking my eldest home from preschool, or straightening up the mayhem around me. It's also supposedly a good time to get high. That's not what I do at 4:20, though. It's not like I'm a character from Weeds or something.

My favorite activity at 4:20 am is sleeping. Sadly though this morning my oldest woke me up at 4:20 because she'd had a bad dream. By the time I got her settled back in her bed and sleeping again, I was wide awake. Of course. The good news is I got my workout in before my kids woke up.

Bert is still out of town so he's not around to take a turn with these early morning wake up calls. I get particularly annoyed when there's no one but me to deal with this day after day. It just doesn't seem fair that I'm the only one whose sleep has to suffer.

Well it turns out I don't have a right to complain about this particular injustice. Not today anyway. Guess who received a phone call at 5:30am from our 18 month-old? Looks like she was playing with my cell and managed to speed dial him. Even from thousands of miles away she succeeded in waking him up earlier than he wanted.

I can't decide if I feel sorry for him (I know I'd be looking forward to waking up at a decent hour if I were staying in a hotel room all by myself) or if secretly I'm a little bit happy that I wasn't the only one whose sleep they managed to sabotage this morning. Does that make me a bad person? Immature, yes. But bad?

And now for the sugar situation: I am proud to say I only ate one chocolate pecan turtle yesterday. It was the biggest one in the box, but still it was only one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Point of Clarification

I was on the phone with Mrs. F. today when she asked me to define "one treat." So here I go breaking it down Mary Poppins-style. One treat, for the purposes of this blog, means one serving. For example, one piece of candy (not one giant bag of candy), OR one piece of pie (not one pie), OR one cookie (not one batch of cookies), OR one bowl of ice cream (not one pint of Ben and Jerry's), etc. And don't think I couldn't eat those examples in parentheses. I can't even count the number of times I've downed an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's. And I'm not talking about the low-fat varieties, either.

So, how'd I do? Well, the day's not over yet. I'll post about it tomorrow so check back then.

Things did not go well today at the Poppins household when I tried to give one piece of candy to my older daughter without the younger one noticing. Moments after my 18 month-old detected that she had been left out of the candy distribution she looked like this:

Moments later when I caved she looked like this:

Hers wasn't the only happy post-sugar face:I spared you from having to look at my picture. It was a hat day today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Just Say No (to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.)

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down. But there's no need to consume it by the cupful (or, if we're being really honest, bowlful). I do have a massive sweet tooth and I should be better about controling it. Historically, this is not a great time of year for me when it comes to self-control on the sweets front. You may recall that Bert and I have birthdays at the end of September, Halloween and all of its trick-or-treating (in my experience all treats, no tricks) follows suit, then we're on to Thanksgiving with those apple pies (I'm such a sucker for apple pie), and finally Christmas which is one huge dessert-fest. I love it all. Too much. That is the crux of my problem.
So without further ado, I'm revealing vice no. 3: consuming a spoonful of sugar x10. Here's what's going to happen from now on. I'm not denying myself sweets, per se. I'm just limiting my intake to one treat per day. "That's easy," you might think. "Not even a sacrifice at all." And you might be right if you were talking to anyone but me. To put this in perspective you should know that I ate a half-dozen sugar cookies yesterday. Not the little ones. With frosting. True story. So, yeah, I need the motivating power of this blog to help me have more self-control with this issue.
For me this challenge is about self-control and being healthier, not weight management. I don't think I can really continue to justify eating 6 giant sugar cookies in one day simply because I wear a size 4/6. That's not a healthy habit at any size and I need to set a better example for my daughters. I've got 2 girls with very different body types and I need to be more careful about how I frame the eating and exercising discussions that go on in our household. I'm trying to eliminate words like "calories" and instead talk about eating foods that are good for our bodies. Similarly, my workouts shouldn't be done simply to burn calories, but to instead to make my heart stronger. I'm a concerned mom and I limit the number of sweets my girls get. It's about time I start doing the same for myself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Taste Test

I made some killer homemade macaroni and cheese on Thursday and served the left-overs for dinner tonight. Witness my 4 year-old enjoying her macaroni and cheese:
For the record, in the Poppins household, homemade doesn't mean heating up a Kraft product. Here's the backstory. Homemade macaroni and cheese is usually a crowd pleaser and I wasn't in the mood for any arguments or whining. I had to take the girls in to get their flu shots earlier today and so neither one was feeling their best. When my older daughter complained that she didn't "like the taste of the cheese," I normally would have said "tough," or some other equally compassionate motherly words of wisdom. Instead I caved and rustled up some Easy Mac (which I have never made before and although it was easy, I can't believe I fed it to my child. Partly because right on the directions it says: "Note: you will see loose white powder in Pasta. This is necessary for proper cooking." I don't know what appalls me more: the fact that they capitalized "Pasta" for no apparent reason, or the fact that it contains an ambiguous white powder that acts as a cooking catalyst. What exactly could that substance be and who exactly is editing their directions?).

When talking to Bert on the phone tonight, our 4 year old said she liked the new macaroni and cheese better because it's "thinner, shorter, and straighter." Can't argue with that. The homemade macaroni and cheese that she passed up is indeed thicker, longer, and curvier:
It also tastes better. Both my 18 month-old and I cleaned our plates. Although maybe that's not saying a whole lot since my 18 month-old is content to eat dry macaroni straight from the box.

The Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report (brought to you by Kraft. When you consume their Easy Mac you don't dirty many dishes):
2:00pm. To quote my daughter, "It's working out better as we're moving along." True.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

The proverbial you-know-what hit the fan at the Poppins household today. Sadly, the dishwasher was not spared. Check out today's Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report (brought to you by the hope that tomorrow will be a better day):
1:55pm. I didn't even bother trying to clean it up for 5 minutes before taking the picture. This casualty was way beyond the point where a 5 minute pick-me-up would actually help. The day was a bit out of control on many fronts. I'll spare you all the details but will give you a few of the highlights (or rather, low points as it were):
1. Bert left this morning for a week-long trip (not for fun mind you, although being anywhere for a week by myself sounds like more fun than dealing with what I've got going on right now). It feels like there's no relief in sight.
2. My 18 month-old fell asleep in the car on the way home from work this morning. I let my 4 year-old out of the car and told her to be quiet since the baby was sleeping. Upon reaching our door with my sleeping child in arms, my older daughter let out a loud yell for no apparent reason, and thereby awakened her sister from her 5 minute-long nap.
3. While grocery shopping this afternoon, my fussy 18 month-old (I can't imagine why she'd be fussy at this point) insisted on holding onto the box of pasta. Looking to minimize tantrums, I relented. Besides, I reasoned the box wasn't breakable. Well a few minutes into our shopping excursion I noticed she'd managed to open the box of pasta. Not wanting to be the cause of an aisle cleanup, I took it from her and placed it in the basket at which point she screamed in protest. Lo and behold when she opened her mouth I found about a dozen pieces of dried macaroni shoved into her mouth. One finger sweep and one gag reflex later and her mouth was choking hazard-free. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson from the bead experience.
The girls are now in bed, the dishwasher is running, and I am going to sit and watch The Great Debaters. It's supposed to be a feel-good movie where the underdogs overcome great obstacles and get a chance to shine. Sounds exactly like the kind of inspiration this underdog needs today (it also doesn't hurt that it features Denzel Washington. A little Denzel never fails to make everything seem a bit better).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's All About the Benjamins

Here's a fun Mary Poppins fact for you: I work part-time as a teacher. OK, so that fact isn't as "fun" as say the fact that I can do the best disco back-step you've ever seen (several witnesses attest to this fact by the way. It's indisputable). I mostly teach dance classes for preschool-aged children (one look at my back-stepping ability and I was hired). It's a pretty sweet gig since I can take my kids with me and we all enjoy dancing around together.
Yesterday afternoon I received a call from my desperate boss who was looking for a last minute sub for an art class that started in one hour. Did I mention that I teach dance? Well, I was her last resort and let's face it, in this economic climate who couldn't use the extra cash? I said yes and schlepped my kids off to the art studio for what I assumed would be a fun artistic adventure. Adventure? Yes. Artistic? Mostly. Fun? Try dangerous.
I surprised myself by coming up with a pretty clever art project that involved ribbons, plastic tubing, and beads. Sounds pedestrian I know, but it was quite the hit with the 7 and 8 year-old girls. Here's what I didn't realize. When teaching a last-minute art class with your kids in tow, coming up with an art project is only half of the battle. The other half is figuring out what to do with your toddler in an art studio. I'm used to teaching in a dance studio which is basically a large empty room with a mirrored wall. Dangerous objects usually don't find their way into the dance room. The art studio is a different matter entirely. It's a paradise for toddlers with a penchant for mischief.
Twice while helping a student I was interrupted by another, more observant, student giving me updates about my 18 month-old. "Your baby's got the scissors" was the first alarm that sounded only 10 minutes into the class. I jerked my head up, not to see her sitting calmly near a pair of scissors as I had hoped, but instead to see my child running, scissors in hand, maniacal grin plastered on her face. A game of chase ensued involving several of the students, my 4 year-old and myself in hot pursuit of the scissor-toting offender. Fortunately the scissors were retrieved before any major harm befell anyone.
Feeling like a pretty terrific mom at this point, I gathered up all of the scissors and placed them out of her reach. And things went really smoothly from then on. Until another 10 minutes had passed. I was careful to keep closer tabs on my 18 month-old. She was sitting at my feet when one of the other students announced "Your baby's eating the beads." Really? The child who stopped mouthing objects months ago? Indeed she was. Not just one or two. But a fistful, apparently. Her cheeks were enlarged and lumpy and I could hear the beads rattling around in her mouth. Two finger sweeps and several gag reflexes later, she was bead-free. I, however, was a bit unnerved at this point and am still unsure how I was able to finish the class with my sanity and my child's health and well-being intact.
With the Dow plunging to 8,5something today leaving me (and most Americans) in need of some more Benjamins, I have to take these subbing opportunities as they come. Next time my boss calls, desperate for an art sub, I'll answer "sure" and then announce at the beginning of class: "Welcome to art, kids. Today we'll be trying something new. Now if you'll just follow me down the hall into the dance room I'll teach you how to back-step like a pro."

Today's Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report (brought to you by attentive mothers everywhere--please tell me I'm not the only one):2:36pm. What's up with the sewing machine? You mean you don't have a sewing machine on your dishwasher? Well, get with the times, folks. It's what everyone's doing these days. Seriously, I have no space in my house. Usually the sewing machine is in storage but I had to mend a parachute yesterday (again, for work), and I have a couple more items to mend today so I needed to keep the sewing machine handy in the interim. And what place is more handy than the top of a dishwasher? It just screams: "Put your Singer on me, baby!"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's All About the Sink

Witness the Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report (brought to you by sugar cookies. Bert made them with the kids this evening. Now I have something to go with that frosting).
Time: 2:09pm

Admittedly, it looks suspiciously similar to yesterday's report. BUT, if you'll scroll down to yesterday's post--no don't scroll, use that sweet tip I taught you by pressing on the Space bar, that's the one--I swear to you that you'll notice this is indeed a different picture. If you look closely, you'll see there are dirty lunch dishes stacked in the sink above (yesterday the sink was empty). Before passing judgment, know that the dishwasher pictured above was in the midst of the drying cycle and the dishes in the sink were dirtied during lunch while the dishwasher was running. And really, where else can you place dirty dishes when your dishwasher is in the middle of a cleaning cycle? And now that a picture has been posted and an explanation has been given, those sugar cookies are calling my name. I'm off to consume one or two.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

OK Computer

Hi. My name is Mary, and I'm a technophobe.

Hi Mary.

It's been 3 weeks since I last resisted the urge to try some new technology. I've been blogging for a few weeks now and I've learned a smattering of new, useful, tech savvy skills:
a. I created a blog by myself.
b. I discovered how to turn off the flash and I mastered the self-timer on my digital camera.
c. I uploaded photos from my digital camera onto my computer multiple times.
d. I found the location of those photos on my computer and then posted them on my blog.
e. I even managed to post on my blog a video clip from another website.
As you can see, I've been acquiring a whole new skill set. Maybe Google or Microsoft of Apple will want to hire me. With cutting-edge skills like these, who wouldn't want me?

The way I approach technology, you'd think I was raised in the 70's when the Atari was a big deal. The truth is I grew up playing Frogger on one of the original 1983 Macintosh home computers. You know, the ones that look like an upright shoebox with a screen on the top half and a slot for the disk on the lower half.
They're pretty much the same as the MacBook Air, only cooler, sleeker, and a bit more portable.

I've always been surrounded by home computers, I've just never really taken to them, despite having to use them to type countless papers throughout high school, college, and graduate school. Make no mistake about it, I can type like nobody's business--just don't ask me to create a power point presentation.

In the spirit of improvement, I read an article in the New York Times today and decided to expand my knowledge even further. Who knew that double clicking on a word highlights it? True. Try it. Now. Neat, huh? You can also hit the Space bar and the Web page will scroll down. Did you do it and find yourself reading one of my posts from earlier this week? Did you hold down the Shift key while hitting the Space bar again to scroll back up? Well, you can. It works! With tips like these, I might actually get excited about computers and refuse to be a technophobe any longer. Technophobes, read on!

Do you see that? I just created a permalink to the article on my blog. A week ago, I didn't even know what a permalink was!

And for further evidence of my mastery of technology, behold the photo (taken with my digital camera) of the Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report (brought to you by homemade frosting. It's on my mind lately since I ate a rather large helping of it earlier today when I found a container of it in the back of the fridge. What can I say? I'm a sucker for homemade frosting.):

Photo taken at approximately 3:00pm (later than usual) because I was working out on the elliptical at 2:00pm when the photo should have been taken. This is an authentic picture, folks. No photoshopping. Please, like I could figure out how to use Photoshop.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Introducing the Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, you may recall that I totally kicked butt with overcoming vice no. 1. I know, I know, it sounds very arrogant. But the fact of the matter is I totally suck at trying to overcome vice no. 2. So, I am tooting my own horn here for a moment, rejoicing in past accomplishments, before I have to face the present and talk about how I failed my current challenge.
TOOT! TOOT! (That's the sound of me tooting my own horn.)
Enough of that. I had a much better feeling at the end of week 1 when I was focusing on working out. I set a clear goal for working out and accomplished it. I feel like I set a clear goal this time too, but as I stated last week, being in control of the dirty dishes requires constant attention. I don't just do it once for the day and then check it off of my "to do" list. It's hard to stay on top of. Furthermore, it's been hard for me to chart my progress with this issue on the blog. I can't simply write "yes" or "no," like I've done with working out.
I think we can all agree that I work well when I have to be accountable to someone for something. This is where you come in. You are my someone. When I know that you're checking in, I want to deliver as opposed to disappoint. So, I'm instigating something new here at bMP. Meet the Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report.
Collective Blog Readers: "What are you all about, Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report?"
Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report: "Every day at 2:00(ish)pm, MP will take a picture of the dishwasher/sink area as is. NO CHEATING! Then she will post said picture on the blog that day so that you can see the progress (or lack thereof) that she's making."
Collective Blog Readers: "How could MP cheat?"
Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report: "You've got to keep your eye on her. She can be a tricky one. She could, for example, position the camera at an angle that hides any and all flaws. She could take the photo at an earlier or later time of the day when things are more pristine. She could use the same photo day after day so that she projects the image of keeping order when in reality you can hardly see her dishwasher through all of the clutter. She could even move all of the clutter to the kitchen table, beyond the view of the camera lens. She's never done that before, but she could."
Collective Blog Readers: "Let's assume she'll be honest. Why 2:00pm?"
Afternoon (Dish) Traffic Report: "Because MP's little one needs to sleep every afternoon and she's usually home at that time for her nap."
Collective Blog Readers: "But Mary Poppins, we don't really care to see your dishwasher/sink area every day."

What can I say? Neither do I, but there it is, staring me in the face, day after day. Note: I won't be posting solely about the dishwasher every day, but the pic will appear regardless of the post topic. If I'm going to make any progress at all I need some motivation. In this situation, I think it will be quite motivating to know that I have to visually display the dish traffic every day. It will force me to stay on top of things. So, if you're really averse to seeing this daily then here's a spoiler alert: dishwasher picture immediately to follow (you may want to avert your eyes).

Behold, my dishwasher today at 2:03pm. I can sense that you're a bit perplexed. The dishwasher is not in its usual location. I may have mentioned that here at the Poppins household we're a bit old-school. That, my friends, is an old-school dishwasher. One that hooks up to your sink when it's running. Your grandma probably had one. I know that my grandma who was born in 1905 had one. And in 2008, I'm proud to say that I have one. So for those of you who still don't understand, allow me to translate. At 2:03pm, the dishes were all in the dishwasher in the process of being cleaned. I did it. TOOT! TOOT!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm Famous!

No wonder I'm so tired. I'll post more tomorrow.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Smart-ass Redemption

I shamelessly stole the title for this post from the movie I'm sure you've all seen by now. If not then I guess you haven't channel-surfed to TBS at any point in the last decade or so.
Anyway, the dish situation is under control today thanks largely to Bert (who made a bit of a smart-ass comment yesterday as you may recall). As an added bonus, he did 3 loads of laundry. Bert has indeed redeemed himself. Or maybe he just proved his point entirely. Maybe he is the only one who knows how to clean around here. Looks like I'm in need of a new title for this post.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

My girls love shoes. So do I (although not in an extreme Imelda Marcos kind of way). "Shoe," pronounced "hoo," was one of my younger daughter's first words. Maybe there's some shoe-loving gene that always manifests itself with XX. Since they are so drawn to footwear, my girls play with the shoes constantly. Not just their shoes. All shoes in the household. At any given hour of any given day you can find shoes strewn across my floor like old-fashioned bear traps, waiting to trip up and ensnare a less than cautious passer-by.
5:00pm today found all of the shoes on a heap in front of my 4 year-old's toy kitchen. Was she cooking up some sort of shoe delicacy? Opening up a pretend Japanese restaurant and requiring all patrons to leave their shoes at the door? Accepting footwear as a valid form or currency for her services? No idea. Upon discovering said heap, I told her she must put them away because it was time for dinner. Yes. You read that right. We eat dinner at 5:00pm. Like old people in a retirement community. Moving on...
As we sat down to dinner I noticed the shoe pile had vanished. I had wrongfully assumed they were put back on the shelf in our front entryway. Instead, I found this:
Notice the empty shelf right next to the shoe pile.
(Brief interjection: Bert is wonderful, incredibly supportive, and at times a bit of a smart-ass). Here's a transcript of the lecture Bert gave our 4 year-old following the discovery of the second shoe pile.
Bert: You can't just move the pile from one place to another and call that cleaning up.
(Bert pauses, then delivers a pointed glance in my direction.)
Bert: I'm telling you this because you might not learn it somewhere else.

Mary Poppins: Like from her mother?

Thanks for the not so subtle hint, Bert. I got it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sometimes Mary Poppins isn't the best woman for the job

At 1:33pm today this was the state of my problem area:

As you can see, the clean dishes are of course in the dishwasher (and have been sitting there all morning long) and not in the cupboards, where they belong. There's also a glass (and by glass, I mean plastic cup) on top of the dishwasher. Tsk, tsk, tsk. At least it's not a pile of junk mail, right? Does it count as an improvement if the dirty dishes are neatly stacked outside of the sink? I thought not.
This is trickier than I envisioned. To quote an ABBA classic, I don't think I'm "finally facing my Waterloo" with this challenge. I will overcome vice no. 2, it's just not as simple as I thought it would be. With working out, I do it once for the day and then it's over and I can feel wonderful that I accomplished something. I like that kind of gratification. I'm noticing that this whole dish business requires me to be consistently vigilant. Apparently I'm not so great at giving something my constant attention. This is why I wouldn't make a good gardener, or ER doc, or babysitter. Seriously folks. Next time you might want to think about calling Nanny McPhee before you call Mary Poppins.