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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The other day one of Bert's meetings was canceled at the last minute so he offered to take the girls for the afternoon so that I could enjoy some time to myself. At this point in my life time to myself is just about my favorite thing ever. For some reason though, I couldn't for the life of me come up with anything worthwhile to do. I wasn't interested in any of the movies currently showing and although I always enjoy leisurely browsing through the stacks at the bookstore (not possible with Una and Duet shadowing me), I didn't particularly feel like searching for new books to read when I'm in the middle of a fantastic book already (I mentioned it earlier, Steinbeck's East of Eden. Read it and and I promise you will not be disappointed. I have fewer than 100 pages to go). As you know, shopping is something I'm trying to avoid so I didn't think it would be such a smart move to go hang out at the mall. Plus I'm not 15 years old anymore, and I don't think I've really hung out at the mall since I was that age.
Bert and the girls left and I was planning on following shortly behind. I even made it out the door but by the time I got to my car I realized that what I really wanted to do didn't involve leaving the house at all. If I was honest with myself, I wanted to use the time I had in my empty house to de-clutter my bedroom. I should mention that I'm not one of those people who naturally enjoys organizing and de-cluttering (I know those people exist. My mom is one of them), so I was struck by how odd it was to actually have a desire to do that over other activities. But my motto is, "if the mood strikes, go for it." My adherence to that motto could explain the purchase of the still unopened workout DVDs that I bought after viewing the infomercial during a midnight feeding with Duet when she was a month old. At the time Yoga Booty Ballet (I kid you not, that's the title) seemed like a fun and effective way to lose the baby weight. I however, chose the lazy route and ended up going on the Slim Fast diet instead. It totally worked by the way.
Where were we? Oh yes, my afternoon off. So I marched back into my house and started clearing out excess junk from my bedroom. It took me over an hour and a half to get things straightened out and organized (that's how bad it was), but I was so pleased with the results. I can't explain it other than to say that it just feels better when I walk in there. I feel better. It's calmer and I like it. Hopefully I can get to the point where my whole house feels that way. I'm not there yet, but it's nice to walk into my room and have a reminder that it's possible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Art Class, Take Two

I'm tired. Today I put in an 8 hour workday. I'm usually only a part-time employee so this was a particularly long day. Keep in mind that I always take my kids to work with me. It was a long day for everyone. It wasn't in my plans to do so much today but while I was on the elliptical this afternoon at 2:15, I got a frantic call from my boss who needed a last-minute substitute for an art class that started at 3:45pm. I was reluctant to say yes because you may recall that last time I subbed for art class Duet nearly a. bludgeoned herself to death and b. choked do death. That's right, both of those. It was a busy, stressful, life-threatening 45 minutes. With my boss on the phone awaiting my response, I weighed my options carefully. I could agree to sub and in the process a. make my boss very pleased with me, b. earn some extra much-needed cash and c. potentially endanger the life of my child, or I could decline and a. disappoint my boss, b. forgo the increased paycheck, and c. keep Duet safe from dangerous art supplies. I guess I was in a gambling sort of mood because before I knew it, amid the panting (I was on the elliptical, you know) I managed to say yes.
As you know, I'm not an art teacher and at this point in the day I didn't have the faintest idea what I would be creating with the elementary school students in less than 2 hours. I only knew that if I wanted my child to survive the afternoon I needed to come up with a project that avoided the use of the art supplies that nearly led to her demise last time: scissors and small beads. For the remainder of my workout I toyed with some ideas, but it wasn't easy to come up with a craft that didn't require the use of scissors. In the end we made mobiles out of plastic tubes, yarn, cardboard tubes of various sizes, pompoms, and pipe cleaners. It was nothing Alexander Calder would be proud to call his own, but then again I'm sure Alexander Calder had the option of using scissors whenever he felt like it. In the end no one died or was even mildly injured, so I consider the class a huge success.

Did I declutter? The answer is yes. Despite my hectic work schedule today I did manage to spend 10 minutes going through some of our many toys and weeded a few out for immediate disposal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Test

The day I've been putting off for quite some time finally arrived. Today I finally made my first post-compact trip to Target. We needed some toiletries, paper products, footwear, and winter gear. Where else am I going to find all of that in one place? Try as I might, I couldn't put off my inevitable trip to Target any longer. I compiled a list and my goal was to stick to it.

Since some of the items on my list are technically not consumable and I've declared that I won't buy any non-consumable items for the rest of 2008, allow me to explain. Recently as the weather has been getting colder I've noticed that we do need some winter clothing items. Some of them I can make (e.g. Una's scarf), others must be purchased. There's no getting around it. So I will be purchasing some essential winter gear in the coming weeks. Let me be clear though. I'm not getting a second pair of mittens simply because I think they're cuter than the ones I already own. I will only be buying a pair of mittens because my current pair has a giant hole in the thumb, thus rendering them ineffective in shielding me from the elements. So when it comes to clothing I'm not getting more of what we already have, I'm only getting the minimum of whatever item it is that we need. And even then I'm only buying it if I can't make it myself. With that introduction, I will explain the presence of the following items on the shopping list.
Mittens for Duet: We currently don't own any in her size. I contemplated trying to make some with the left-over pink fleece from the blanket I cut up yesterday, but I can't figure out how to do it since they need to be so tiny. I may still make an attempt at that. Even if that's successful, she'll need some water-proof mittens so she can play out in the snow.
Black tights and white tights for Una: Now that it's cold, she needs tights to cover her legs when she wears dresses and skirts. She outgrew all of the tights she's been wearing for the last 2 winters.
Black socks: Right now Bert is doing a lot of interviews and doesn't have enough black socks to go with his suit. He definitely needs black socks. I won't have him interviewing wearing brown socks with a black suit. Unacceptable. Black socks make the cut.
Shoes for Duet: She's in need of some nice shoes she can wear with dresses and skirts since her current shoes are getting too small. I've decided that I'm going to use the money my parents sent to spend on Christmas presents for the girls to buy some shoes for Duet. She loves shoes and spends a good part of the day taking them on and off. Duet will be happy to have some new shoes to play with, and I'll be happy to be getting something useful with the Christmas present money.

My list looked like this:
mittens for Duet
black tights and white tights for Una
black socks for Bert
shoes for Duet
2 travel mouth wash
1 travel shaving cream
1 travel toothpaste

Miracle of miracles, my receipt looks like this:
ski mitten
girls tights (black with silver sparkles--Una wanted them and since they'll go with her dresses, I said yes)
girls tights (white with pink and silver stripes--I got these in lieu of plain white because they were cheaper and they'll go with most of her skirts)
shaving cream
paper towels

Now I realize the paper towels and bread weren't on the original list. My neighbor broke her foot yesterday and while I was at Target I called her to see if she needed me to pick up anything for her. Those were her items. Did you notice that the lists are exactly the same? I'm ashamed to admit this, but I don't think I've ever left Target with only the items I intended to buy. I always manage to get one or two (or ten) extra items before I checkout. I was quite proud of myself. Were there tough moments? Absolutely. I almost got tripped up at the dollar spot, but I stayed the course and left empty handed. There's something about Target's smooth floor, the over-sized shopping carts, and the giant red signs overhead that make me want to buy more than I need. But I overcame all of that today and left a there a happy woman. One with considerably more money left in her wallet upon exiting the store.

My 10+ minutes de-cluttering today were spent in the basement. I shall not bore you with the details.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crafting Genius Strikes Again

A couple of weeks ago Una mentioned that she wanted a scarf. Since we do live at a latitude that is nearly halfway between the equator and the north pole I find that a reasonable request. In fact, now that she's reached the age of maturity when a scarf is no longer a strangulation hazard, I would go so far as to say that she needs a scarf. Since it's a legitimate need, I wasn't feeling too bad about the possibility of purchasing one, especially if I could find one at a second-hand store. But the compact-follower in me wanted to see if I could first cobble together of scarf of sorts with items I already have. If I'm really honest with myself and my readers, I'll let you know that making a scarf was my second choice. My first choice was taking a scarf that I've had my eye on for a few weeks from the lost and found box. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for the scarf's owner), the scarf was claimed late last week (you should know that I would only take something from the lost and found if it had been sitting there for months). So with option number 1 out of the picture, I set out to determine how to make a scarf with items on hand. This would have been quite easy if I followed in the footsteps of Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Swank, or countless other celebrities and hipsters who have popularized knitting in recent years. I, however, am neither famous enough or hip enough to knit and therefore creating a scarf from yarn is not an option for me. Plus I don't have any yarn in my house.
Luckily I remembered that I can sew. I also remembered that a few years back my friend L and I oversaw a community service project where we made scarves out of fleece fabric. I just read through that last sentence and the phrase "community service" makes it sound like we were court-ordered to participate as retribution for some misdeed. That was not the case. Contrary to what you may think of me after the lost and found revelation, I can assure you that both L and I are reputable citizens who were making scarves out of the goodness of our hearts for the cold and needy children in the area. Off I went to the basement where my bin of fabric resides. Unfortunately we were all out of fleece. But I did see some funky tie-dye print jersey knit. I'm not sure why I had it, or what I was planning on doing with it, but I rejoiced in its existence just the same. I held the tie-dye scraps up to Una to see how long this scarf would need to be and she told me in a very matter of fact tone "this is not warm enough, mom." She of course was right. Some fleece (or at the very least, flannel) needed to be found quickly. And that's when I stumbled upon this:
When Una was born her then 8 year-old cousin from Bert's side of the family was learning how to sew and made this pink blanket for her. I thought it was the sweetest gift and have been unable to part with it. I used it with both Una and Duet, but they've now outgrown it and it doesn't get much use. It is, however warm and made of fleece. I rationalized that I could now turn the blanket into a scarf so Una would have a daily memory of her cousin and the thoughtful gesture. If you think I'm calloused for turning a child's gift into something useful because I'm too cheap to buy that item at the store and you're not buying that argument that it was really done in an effort to memorialize the 8 year-old's thoughtfulness, then you should know that we haven't seen or heard from this cousin's family in at lest 3 years so I hardly think anyone will be offended.
With the fleece and colorful jersey knit (2 items that were just sitting around cluttering up my space) in hand I cut them up into the right sizes, and sewed the pieces together with hot pink thread that I found in my basement (again, I have no idea where it came from), and ended up with this:It is a bit garish and over-the-top, but imagine for a moment that you are a 4 and 1/2 year old girl. Wouldn't you be thrilled to have a rainbow colored scarf with warm pink fleece? I thought so. The best part is that I copied a brilliant idea that I noticed last winter when my friend A brought her daughter over. Her scarf had built in pockets that doubled as hand-warmers. No mittens necessary for quick trips to and from the car. I loved it and incorporated it into my masterpiece.

Masterpiece is a stronger word than I should use to describe this scarf. Truthfully, it's not my best handiwork. I almost ran out of thread at the very end and had to hand sew the last bit. I hate hand sewing and I'm not that great at it. Bert volunteered to do that part since, as you may recall, he sews people. But in the end I finished it myself and I am happy to report that Una loves it. Of equal importance is the fact that I love that following the compact has unleashed a new wave of creativity in me. I'm becoming more reliant upon myself and my skill set and less reliant upon the readily made items at the store that evidently I don't really need to be buying after all. I've got those same post-pumpkin bag feelings. And let me tell you, in the words of James Brown, "I feel good."

In addition to putting 2 pieces of clutter to good use today, I also managed to de-clutter in Una's room for 10 minutes.

P.S. I promise not to mention this too many more times, but if you haven't already voted for me yet ( it only takes less than 1 minute to do so and even my technology-challenged 70 year-old mother managed to do it, so you know it must be easy) here's the skinny (as previously mentioned in Saturday's post One Tangent After Another): Somebody (I have my suspicions) nominated me for an award for best new blog. Please, if you like my blog (or even if you don't, but feel generous and would like to make someone, i.e. me, happy) follow this link and vote for me by scrolling down...way down...and clicking on the plus sign under "becomingmarypoppins." On second thought, don't scroll. Use that sweet tech tip I wrote about in October, and use the space bar to jump down to the bottom of the page where you can find my name. I just tested it out and you only need to hit the space bar 21 times. Who doesn't have time for that?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christmas in November

This afternoon Bert took Una out of the house and I found myself with 3 hours of peaceful bliss while Duet slept. I guess she's making up for her lack of nighttime sleep (I am happy to report though that for the last 2 days she's slept in until 6:15am. What a sad commentary on my life as of late that 6:15am is considered sleeping in). Anyway, after Duet fell asleep I really just wanted to curl up with John Steinbeck (I don't think it's possible for me to love East of Eden any more than I do. So far it's one of the best books I've ever read. But I haven't finished it yet, so if you know what happens at the end don't spoil anything for me. And can I just say that I was thrilled to discover that both Steinbeck and I chose the name Una for one of our characters? If he, the Nobel Laureate for literature chose Una and I too chose Una, then by the transitive property I'm practically a Nobel Laureate. I'm feeling like a better writer already). I looked at my book and the couch and the warm inviting blanket and then I remembered my new challenge.

With a heavy heart I trudged upstairs to Una's room where I could clear some things out uninterrupted. She had quite a few items I needed to part with without her there to protest their dismissal from the house. Chief among them were some broken preschool craft projects, torn books, and a puzzle with missing pieces (or more accurately contaminated pieces that were thrown out a few weeks ago due to this incident). I ended up working in there for over an hour (talk about exceeding my 10 minute de-cluttering goal) and came away discovering that:

1. The top of Una's dresser is a lovely shade of brown. It's amazing what projects, clothes, papers, kleenex, and post-it notes can hide.
2. We will not need to buy any Christmas presents for Una or Duet this year because like every good mammal, I have been squirrelling away goods over the last few months. All of those bargains that I just had to get have been sitting unused (and unseen by either child) on the top shelf of Una's closet waiting for the day when I would bestow them upon my girls. Of course since there's so much stuff in my house I'd completely forgotten what exactly was up there, but I uncovered some gems today and effectively did my Christmas shopping in the closet.
3. Una is in need of another dress and (now that the cold weather is upon us) some tights to go with that dress (this is truly a need. She only has two that fit her at the moment and one of those is a sleeveless summer dress). The good news is I spoke with my mom today and she's going to be sending money so that I can buy the girls some Christmas gifts from them (this is not laziness on her part. She has 21 grandchildren and 4--soon to be 5--great-grandchildren. She doesn't know what each child wants and so she lets the parents do the shopping for her. It's a system that works great for us). I've decided to use Una's money to get a Christmas dress and tights from her grandparents, Cougar and Bear (yes, that's what she calls them. It was her idea, I can assure you, not my parents'. Although they're totally into it. Especially my dad, Cougar). Una loves to wear dresses so she will be thrilled with this gift. And I am thrilled to be using the money for something she needs (as well as likes) instead of something that will just add to the clutter in my home. Win-win. Or, if you're a fan of The Office, I think you'll agree when I say that this is one of those rare scenarios that can be called "win-win-win."

This exercise today has left me wondering what other treasures I will unearth as I devote my 10 minutes per day to de-cluttering my home.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One Tangent After Another

I'm not kidding, folks. Read on and you shall see what I mean.

The compact was conceived a couple of weeks ago and in that time span I've done exceptionally well limiting my purchases solely to consumable items.

What's the compact, you ask?

Well, if you haven't heard mention of the compact, you must be new to Becoming Mary Poppins. Welcome and might I add, congratulations! You will thoroughly enjoy your time here. I may not actually be able to fly with the aid of an umbrella, but I can entertain you for a few moments each day. That's almost as good of a skill to possess. You, new reader/friend can catch up with the rest of us by perusing this and this.

I digress...

Back to the issue at hand. After two weeks of working on vice 4, I'm ready to step it up and tackle other parts of the compact. Here's what I outlined earlier:

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? After yesterday's post, I'm adding the following question in an attempt to avoid buying 6 boxes of dishwasher detergent (or another insane amount of any consumable item): "Do I already have enough of this or a similar item?"
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 for the rest of 2008 (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.

The last two weeks I've focused on the third section and have enjoyed a modicum of success conquering this vice. True, I have bought some items in larger quantities than I need, but I have managed to keep my purchases limited to consumable items. In all honesty, I've found it quite freeing to use my time doing things other than shopping and bargain hunting. When it comes down to it, I don't need to be in the stores much and when I do, I'm much happier when I get what I need and then exit. Pushing, pulling, towing, carrying 2 kids around a store searching for bargains you may or may not use is just ridiculous. I'm happy to spend my time doing other things. Like playing with my favorite birthday present this year: Candy Land. I'm good at Candy Land. You may think it's all based on luck, but you'd be surprised at how much strategy you can actually employ. I totally beat Una yesterday (and that's even after she drew Princess Frostine--who I swear used to be called "Queen Frostine" when I was a kid. Or am I wrong about that?).

The other day I needed to go to the mall to pay a bill and drop off my wedding ring to be resized. After 6 years of marriage and 2 kids I've actually lost 10 lbs since my wedding day. Don't hate me. That lost weight was totally earned and well-deserved. After losing all of my baby weight with each pregnancy I mysteriously end up 5 lbs lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight for some reason. I think it's a reward for having extremely miserable, horrible, _______(fill in the blank with any negative adjective of your choice--I promise, they all work) pregnancies. At this rate, I should have two more kids and then maybe I can be the super flyweght boxer I've always dreamed of becoming. As I was saying, I went into the mall to run those 2 quick errands and I'll have you know that I exited within 15 minutes. It was a personal record for the fastest mall quickie. And I have to be honest with you. I haven't really missed the shopping. I hope to have many more mall quickies in the future.

Now I'm moving on to section 2. Without further ado, I introduce you to vice 5: clinging to copious amounts of clutter. I will overcome this vice by spending 10 minutes each day systematically going through the items in my house and removing any clutter from my home. There you have it. As usual, I will be reporting on this so that you can track my progress and celebrate my successes. Notice I didn't say "mourn my failures." I'm thinking positive here.

On a final note: Somebody (I have my suspicions) nominated me for an award for best new blog. Please, if you like my blog (or even if you don't, but feel generous and would like to make someone, i.e. me, happy) follow this link and vote for me by scrolling down...way down...and clicking on the plus sign under "becomingmarypoppins." On second thought, don't scroll. Use that sweet tech tip I wrote about in October, and use the space bar to jump down to the bottom of the page where you can find my name. I just tested it out and you only need to hit the space bar 21 times. Who doesn't have time for that?

And to the nominator (I like that word because it reminds me of denominator and I just mentioned a plus sign and the title of this post contains the word tangent, so now I'm thinking about math): whoever you are, thank you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Know When to Say When

So it's been a couple of weeks since I first decided to curb my spending dramatically. And I've had no major mishaps. I've managed to stick with my goal to purchase only consumable items. However, I'm finding the urge to buy more than I need (even of consumable items) is still persistent. I'm no longer buying bargain toys or t-shirts or temporary tattoos, but I'm still struggling with the concept of buying "enough." The other day (in a moment of weakness) I actually bought 6 boxes of dishwasher detergent. Yes dishwasher detergent is consumable. But I'm not sure why I thought I needed 6 boxes. No one needs to purchase 6 boxes at the same time. They don't even sell cases of dishwasher detergent that big at Costco. At the time it seemed like a good idea. An hour later it didn't. To rectify the situation I decided to make a return. How many boxes did I return? 3 or 4 may have been a reasonable guess, but no, I only returned one. I'm still not sure what I was thinking. I guess subconsciously I'm expecting to clean a lot of dishes.

I suspect there may be more at play here. There's certainly some reason why I consistently buy more than I need, even when the item isn't necessarily fun to buy. No one wakes up excited to go on a shopping spree for dishwasher detergent. I need to start understanding what constitutes enough. Whether it's a consumable item or not, I think the crux of the problem may be that I just don't know when to say when. So before making another purchase, I'm going to get in the habit of asking myself "do I already have enough of this or a similar item?" Perhaps 50% of the time I'll answer that question by putting the item(s) back on the shelf. I think that once I can discern how much is enough, I'll be more content with what I have. And who doesn't want contentment?

Anyone out there need to borrow some dishwasher detergent? You know where to find me. I'm the idiot hiding behind a cardboard wall comprised solely of dishwasher detergent boxes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Must See TV

Are you watching 30 Rock? My favorite line from tonight's episode (delivered by Tracy Morgan) "I watched Boston Legal 9 times before I realized it wasn't a new Star Trek." Classic. I have a big deadline tomorrow and should be working on that project, but I just had to take a break to watch 30 Rock and then write a short bit about it. You can watch full episodes online. Which is what I usually do, because no matter how hard I try, I can't get the TV antenna to deliver perfect reception. Bert and I watch a fuzzy live version on Thursday night on our adequately-sized TV and then we watch the tiny, yet clear picture on our computer screen on Friday. What can I say? It's an imperfect world. But 30 Rock itself is near perfection.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

As you can imagine, I'm thrilled. This is so much better than the last presidential election. Four years ago I woke up in the morning to find out that sometime in the night Ohio had been declared a red state (it was still contested when I had gone to bed late the night before). Back then I saw the news that morning and then just went back to bed and wept. This morning, despite having been up late, I was jubilant when I was awakened early (yet again) by Duet.

When we were joined by Una I got to break the news to her myself. It went something like this:
MP: Remember how we voted yesterday?
Una: Uh-huh
MP: Guess who won?
Una: Obama?
MP: an affirmative nod
Una: Obama won? (face lights up with genuine enthusiasm) He's going to be our next president! (turning to Duet) Duet, Obama's going to be our next president!
Duet: Omama!

We're all feeling a bit celebratory:Duet is obviously jealous of my shirt. Let the clothes-borrowing begin.

Una is happily eating her O-shaped grilled cheese sandwich (Bert's creation)

I don't have a picture of me celebrating but let me say it went something like this: I ate way too much food last night (including treats, what can I say? I faltered. But really it was like a holiday for me so I don't think it really counts) sprawled out on the couch in front of the TV for hours watching the election results come in. Sorry I didn't immortalize that image for you in a photo.

And now I will end on a sappy note: As I've mentioned before, I'm quite into politics. I studied political science in graduate school and I'm usually well informed each election about major candidates and issues. This is the first year I've been this excited about a candidate. Don't get me wrong, I was a big fan of Kerry, but there's something so hopeful about Obama. Without boring you with the details, I'll just sum things up by saying that I have researched his stance on several issues and I support his policies. Additionally, I truly believe he has the power to unite this country and turn things around. He's so positive and hopeful as well as practical. I've been impressed with the way he's conducted himself and how he's run his campaign. I'm hoping that's an indication of how he will act as our president.

And for those of you out there who are less than thrilled with the outcome (I know how it feels, I've been there), rest assured that Obama-related posts will be few and far between from this point on. I do reserve the right to post on the inauguration day. A day that can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've been feeling pretty popular lately. Yesterday alone I got phone calls from both Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Unfortunately I wasn't home to field Obama's call myself but in a way that's better because now I have his message saved on my voice mail. Of course I saved it. He sounded so real and I loved the way he said "bye, bye." That was my honest impression of the call. You can't make that stuff up, folks.

We took the girls this morning to the polling place and cast our votes. After 45 minutes in line it was our turn (don't you just love how everyone is coming out to vote? Long lines at a polling place. What could be better? I'm totally serious, by the way. No sarcasm today). Bert voted with Una. She helped him fill out the bubbles and when I asked who she voted for she said "Obama and Biden and Pam somebody. I can't remember her last name."

Duet would like to remind you to exercise your right to vote today for the candidate you prefer. So those weren't her exact words, but she did say "Omama" and point at his picture on the flier we found hanging on our door. Now, go vote. Especially if you live in a swing state and are voting for Obama.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Curse Thee, Daylight Savings Time Change

My kids are not adjusting to the new time, therefore neither am I. Despite going to bed at the usual bedtime, Una woke up this morning at 6:15. Lucky me! In truth, I'd already been up with Duet for an hour so Una's emergence from her bedroom was not my initial wake up call. My mom says that the fall daylight savings time change is her favorite day of the year because she gets an extra hour of sleep. She must have started saying that after we kids were old enough to get up on our own and fix ourselves breakfast without waking her first. After these past 2 mornings, I'm starting to wonder how old Una needs to be before I can put her in charge of the breakfast duties for her and Duet while I snooze away.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hook Envy

So Mrs Furious has been raving about the 3M Command hooks as of late. As you know, I've been trying to keep this compact (reference it here and here) and part of that means only buying necessities (and trying to only buy consumable items for the rest of 2008) and getting the clutter out of my home (in an attempt to finally have a place for everything and everything in its place). Mrs F has come up with some great uses for the Command hooks and I was thinking that they could ultimately help me in my quest to be more organized. But before I went out to purchase some (I figured I could possibly justify them as a need) I wanted to explore my options at home and see if I had something similar already on hand. My searching uncovered these babies:I apologize for the sideways image. I don't know why Blogger won't let me rotate the image. I've tried multiple times. I was thrilled to know Bert had already purchased them a year or so ago. I thought I'd use them to hang up Una's and Duet's backpacks, but unfortunately the weight limit on these micro hooks is only 1/2 lb. Not acceptable. I'm certain I will find a good use for these micro hooks sometime soon. Back to the drawing board with the backpack hook. After rummaging around some more in Una's closet I found this:

It was one of those purchases we made while I was pregnant with Una. At the time it seemed useful, but we've never had a great practical application for it, until now. It's like it was meant to solve this backpack hanging problem of mine. That's not all folks. Leaning against the wall in our basement was this darling number:My artistic good friend/former neighbor K painted it and had these hooks hanging in her home. She passed it on to us when she moved 2 1/2 years ago. That's right. I'm embarrassed to say it's just been sitting in my basement for 2 1/2 years. Sorry K, we've always liked it but we were just too lazy to install it. Bert did so this weekend just in time for the cold weather. Now things look much tidier since Una can now put away her coat and Duet's without parental assistance.

Again and again this compact thing keeps working out in my favor. Anytime I want something I first look for a way to solve the problem with things I already have. First the pumpkin bags and now the hooks. I was able to find the supplies to make the pumpkin bags and this weekend I was able to find 14 unused hooks that were perfectly suited to my needs. It's quite satisfying to discover a solution that relies on my own ingenuity instead of some lazy trip to the store to purchase something that I already own somewhere in my house. I'm realistic and I know that one of these days I won't be able to find the solution in my basement. But at that point I'll head to the store knowing that the money I'm about to spend won't be wasted.

If you couldn't tell by now, I'm loving this compact challenge.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

At Least It's Not Vodka I'm After

Duet has not slept in past 5:00am in over a week. Translation: I have not slept in past 5:00am in over a week. I've had enough. The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was eat a giant frosted sugar cookie. It's the Mary Poppins version of starting my day off with a good, stiff drink.
I'm not a drinker, but on mornings like these I can understand the need. I probably inherited that sympathy from my grandpa, Edgar. And no, that's not a fictional name. That's the real deal, folks. One morning when my cousin was 10, our grandpa asked him to bring him a screwdriver. My innocent 10 year-old cousin (did I mention that he was 10?) produced a phillips-head screwdriver. Apparently Edgar was less than thrilled to have a household tool in his hand instead of the desired glass of orange juice and vodka.
Many sleep-deprived years later I can sympathize with him a bit. I'm not sure that I would have been able to make it through the day had I not been able to perk myself up with a pre-breakfast sugar cookie. Thankfully with my vice there's no possibility for object confusion. If I ask 4 year-old Una to fetch me a sugar cookie, you can bet I'll be getting a sugar cookie, and not something else.