Monday, July 23, 2007

London Calling

25 years ago my aunt married a Brit, and went to live across the pond. I have been to visit them there twice, but it has been so long that my English memories can go out for a drink. Here in the states.

Tomorrow The May Queen, Big Guy and I are boarding an airplane to go visit them! To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary my aunt and uncle have, in a fit of generosity that has rather floored me, paid for all the family members of my generation AND our spouses and children, to join them in England for 5 days at a resort in Sherwood Forest. They told us that we could then schedule any extra time in the UK that we would like... just to book our tickets and come.

Can you believe it? Pinch me, neither can I! Perhaps that is why I have not yet packed (or perhaps it was because of the out of town visitor. Or the new Harry Potter book.)

We are truly excited. That whole side of my family will be there: aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews. A new baby I have yet to meet. It will be quite the family reunion, half way across the globe.

When we arrive in London my parents are taking MQ and her cousins for several days so that we can explore London without whining children. Groovy, baby!

Our time in England will include the usual London sites (Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, some museums, Hyde Park, etc), seeing Love's Labour's Lost at the Globe Theatre (recreated to be just like the theatre Shakespeare's plays were originally performed in!), club hoping, punting the Cam, playing Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest (MQ is convinced that Robin Hood was not a person, but a fox. Thanks Disney), visiting Lincoln Cathedral, the remains of Coventry Cathedral, a trip to York, standing on the battlefield where Richard the Third yelled (according to Shakespeare) "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse", a visit to my family's namesake in Wales, marveling at Stonehenge, and more adventures, I'm sure. Perhaps, if we are lucky, we will even get to dance around a May Pole. Not that it's May, but maybe they leave these things up for the tourists?

We are very excited. But this means I will be away from blogging for over 2 weeks. I may have the opportunity to get online a few times, but even if I do, I will likely not blog. I will save up my stories for when I return. And I am sure I will have lots. I hope that you will come back and see me when I return. I am humbled by the fact that any of you come by and see me here at all, and there is of course that bloggy insecurity that in the time I am gone you will have forgotten all about me. But I will put those fears aside and enjoy this fabulous vacation! Because how could I not?

I'll be back in a little over 2 weeks, and as I battle jetlag and piles of laundry I'll slowly start checking back in with ya'll to see what you've been doing while I was gone, how BlogHer went, what your views on the latest Harry Potter books are, and what other adventures you have undertaken. And I'll hopefully have some fantastic travel tales to tell.

So... until then...

Cheerio, my friends!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ode to Joyful and Loving Families

Today in church we sang my husband's favorite hymn: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (aka Ode to Joy).

Joyful, Joyful we adore Thee
God of Glory, Lord of Love

It just so happens that this week we also have visiting us a dear friend who is the artistic director of a theatre I worked with in Los Angeles. We worked on a show together for elementary school students teaching tolerance, and we happened to sing a song to the same tune, called Ode to Parents (by the fabulous Mr. Billy Aronson). It used to be I couldn't sing the old hymn without thinking of this newer version because I was performing it on a regular basis in cafetoriums around southern California. But it has actually been quite a while since I've even thought of it. Until today, of course, when I began grinning wildly in the midst of singing the hymn.

One or two, a mom and dad, or mom and mom , or three or two,
All that matters in a parent is they love and care for you.
Man, woman, father or mother, long as they're glad to be around,
Who cares if they make their pee-pee standing up or sitting down?

(insert a room full of giggling students here)

And it struck me, in the way that things strike you many years after you've stopped even thinking about them, that the tie between this old hymn and this silly song about parents is more than just an old Beethoven tune. It's love. The thing that has always, always, always, impressed me about God is that God Is Love (1 John 4:8) And the most I have ever understood that unconditional, all consuming love is when I look at my daughter, my child.

There are lots of different ways to be a parent, to make a family, and that's what Ode to Parents is all about. A family does not have to be a mom, a dad, 2.5 children and a pet. A family is made when any adult loves and cares for a child under their protection. A family is born of Love.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Move it, Buddy

When I am driving in the car and another driver does something I don't like I don't honk (unless it's really dangerous) or swear or do rude hand gestures. No, I call the person "Buddy," as in "Buddy, are you planning to turn or not?" or "The accelerator is the one on the right, Buddy." (If I can clearly tell the driver is a woman I will say "Lady" instead, but "Buddy" is the go to term)

I didn't realize how much I did this until yesterday, when I was in a parking lot and the car in front of me stopped inexplicably and just sat there. "What are you doing?" I wondered out loud. From the backseat I heard MQ say "I think he's a Buddy."


Friday, July 20, 2007

Deeply scarred

As I've mentioned, I'm cramming in a reread of all the Harry Potter books before the new one arrives on Saturday (in an odd twist of fate, a friend I haven't seen for years also arrives on Saturday, so I probably won't be able to read it right away. Or, most likely, I will read it in the wee hours of the morning after we have stayed up way too late already talking and drinking, and then live off of Mountain Dew the next day, only to repeat the same thing the next night... sigh....)

I'm very glad to be doing the reread, because although I can remember the major plot points, there were several things that had slipped from my memory. They come flooding back as I read, like memories of old friends.

I am also rediscovering some of the fabulous truths that are told in these novels, like in all wonderful books. For instance, this quote from p. 847 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix:

According to Madam Pumfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else...

And, of course, I am not the first person to have this revelation, but it is still so, so true; the things that we think can hurt us... the blame that we place, the forgiveness we withhold, the doubt that we feel. These things take so much longer to heal than any wound I have incurred or bone I have broken. I guess it just hit me where I am right now, in a struggle to give up some lingering thoughts that I wish would just heal already.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

She's Crafty

Always good to start a post about your child with a little Beastie Boys, eh? That song always makes me think about Friday nights in 7th grade...zooming around the roller rink... anyways...

We have been a little crafty around the maypole this week. We have a "Summer Fun" box from which the May Queen pulls a new activity each day after lunch - and it's just a little something for us to do. It may be a new game, or a fun activity (treasure hunt in the sandbox!) or her favorite, "Pick a present" (garage sale finds to keep the wee ones busy!), but this week we've had some fun crafts. And because I have finally figured out how to do pictures, I will share this one with you.

We painted empty 2 litre bottles (and as I am addicted to Cherry Coke Zero, I had several of them!). I had forgotten how much fun painting is for the May Queen. I think she could have done this all day. We couldn't use washable paints, so we had to be sure she wore her "Messy Art T-Shirt".

After the paint had dried, I cut them into spirals, punched a hole in one end, and we took them and hung them (using fishing line) from our Magnolia tree.
They are now "Wind Spinners."

I think they look rather magical hanging from the tree, and we were both very pleased with how they turned out. Today she is ready to make more. Guess I better get drinking.

FYI, she informed me that the name of the doll in that picture is "Beautiful Music." It sounds to me a lot like the kind of name you would give to an expensive dog you planned to breed, but I didn't tell her that. I think it is a step up from her previous name, which was "Pink Baby."

I found this craft in Family Fun magazine, which is where I find most of my crafts. I get no money for telling you this (alas), but thought I'd share with you that they are my go-to magazine for fun things to do with small children.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Think but this... that you have but slumbered here

Well. I am honored to say that Heather over at In Te Domine has bestowed upon me a Thinking Blogger Award. I am blushing deeply, and very touched. Still blushing, I will put here what she said about me, because it made my day:

Painted Maypole whose candid and honest writing about her life and motherhood not only make me think and at time reframe my thoughts, but also makes me laugh. (Oh and if you like Harry Potter you'll probably get along with her fine).

(And about that Harry Potter thing... I think he is making me into a bad mother. I must confess I have allowed the May Queen a wee bit more television than usual these past few days as I try to reread the last three books in a mere 8 days. Madness)


Thank you, Heather. It's an honor. AND that you would put me in any list that includes Bono is beyond me (this would not perhaps be the best time to admit to you that I had for YEARS been singing along with She Moves In Mysterious Ways before one day, driving in my car, I nearly slapped myself on the forehead and exclaimed "He's singing about the Holy Spirit!" Are you ready to take away my thinking blogger award yet? You can't have it! I've already added the bling to my site!) Also, it's my first ever blogging award, and I couldn't be prouder that you think that I think and that I make you think when you think to stop by and see what I'm thinking...

Whew. But now I have to think some more because according to the guidelines I have to nominate 5 more bloggers for this award. As I have seen this little piece of bling on nearly every blog I read, I thought this might be difficult. But I actually had to make some choices here, although I wonder if these bloggers have won the award and are just too shy and retiring to display it (not me! I think! See! See my award!)

OK, enough about me, and on to the nominees:

Her Bad Mother who makes me laugh and cry and think a whole bunch, and I cannot think of a single reason why she doesn't have 80 of these on her sidebar already

The Mad Hatter, over at Under the Mad Hat, who I think must also be hiding all of her awards in the attic or something, but here's another one for you to dust off, and let me just say that I love reading about theatre and books and just causes and anything else that comes into your brain to write about

Veronica Mitchell who's Toddled Dredge probably already has you thinking about the title of her blog, and let me tell you, it only gets better as you start reading her posts

Joy, Of Course! at Joy in Chaos who writes with such honesty and makes me think about how I can pause to find the Joy in the Chaos. And she will just have to find a place for this award on her newly designed blog under the other award she just won (an embarrassment of well deserved riches. So there)

Niobe at Dead Baby Jokes who not only thinks to look up all sorts of interesting things online and then share them with us, but who also helps me to see with a whole new set of eyes the experiences of someone else. She shares such heartache that all you can do is wish for her joy.

See, and there is 5, and yet I could go on and nominate more, but I have to leave some people out there in the blogosphere without awards so that you have some people to nominate (but if you want some ideas, I'd be happy to share mine with you!)

SO... all of you nominees, well, you're winners. Get you some bling and put in on your blog. It looks like this

and you can pick it up here.

And where you keep your bling is up to you. I know of one Tony Award winner who keeps his on the back of his toilet. I think I'll just leave mine on the sidebar.

(Bonus points for anyone who thinks to count how many times I used think/thinking/thought in this post. What do you win for those bonus points? Ummmm... hmmm...I don't know how to come up with any bling for that. Sorry)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hey, Big Guy

The May Queen began referring to my husband as the Big Guy when she would do things like give him an extra serving at dinner, saying things like "You get more mashed potatoes because you're a big guy!" And she's right. At 6'5" my husband IS a big guy. He's also broad shouldered, and as we get older, broad in other places as well. He is a big guy. But then she started using it as a nickname, still usually around food issues or other size related topics, such as "Big guy, you get to sit in that chair because it's the biggest." But now it has expanded even further, and she'll just refer to him as Big Guy on occasion. This cracks me up. He does not seem to think it is as funny. Particularly when I add my sultry voice and a few raises of the eyebrow... Hey, Big Guy...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

E-mails and Lies

I received an e-mail today maligning the ACLU. As I always do when receiving such e-mails, I checked it out at This time I discovered the allegations to be completely false. In fact, the people they quote don't exist.

These e-mails frustrate me to no end. First of all, there are my friends and relatives who forward them to me without checking to find out if they are true. Whenever I see an e-mail like that, I question it's veracity. Are my friends and family, who I consider to be fairly intelligent people, so easily duped that they not only believe whatever they read but they become morally outraged by it, and then forward it on, without finding out if it's true? Or can they just not be bothered?

But what really ticks me off are the people who write this crap in the first place. Look, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and they are entitled to express that opinion. I'm all for freedom of speech. But WHY, WHY, WHY do people think it is OK to write complete falsehoods and spread them around via the Internet in hopes of gaining support for their opinion? It's called slander, is it not? and I would like to see these morons taken to task for it. Unfortunately, it appears to work. People read this dreck, and forward it on. I would think that the fact that people make up lies about these things would WEAKEN their cases. But apparently the public is so easily hoodwinked, that it doesn't. Why aren't people out there asking "why do they have to make up lies to make the ACLU look bad? Maybe I should look into what the organization REALLY does?" (I'm using the ACLU as my example because of this e-mail, but obviously there are forwards about politicians, and religious leaders, and other organizations, etc) They might find they agree, or that they disagree. But they don't bother to look into it at all. They just forward the e-mail!!!


I love the Internet. Obviously. But it frustrates me that so much false information can be spread in such a short amount of time.

So please, I beg of you, fact check things before you pass them on. Speak up when you discover that false information is being spread (I always send the link with the facts to not only the person who sent the false e-mail, but any other address I can see that the false info was also sent to).

There are enough true things that we need to be up in arms about in this world. Let us not muddy the waters by believing everything we read. Please think and RESEARCH before you forward that e-mail or link to that post - whether you agree with its point of view or not.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Uncanny Resemblance

Yesterday I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I think is my favorite HP movie to date - I really thought it was well done) but at one point in the movie I had to clap my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Perhaps it is just me, but the giant Grawp looked an awful lot like our esteemed president (clueless look and large ears included). I tried to find a good picture to link you to, so you could check it out for yourselves, but Grawp appears to not have made it into any publicity stills, and the few sketches and such I found did not do the resemblance justice. Wondered if anyone else had thought the same?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fighting for Kindergarten

One month from today, The May Queen will begin Kindergarten.

This will be a big day for us, and not just because it's Kindergarten (yes, with a capital K, doesn't it feel like it deserves that?) but because we fought long and hard to get her into Kindergarten.

MQ's birthday falls three days after the cutoff here in Louisiana. In California, where she was born, the cutoff date is much later, and so we always assumed she'd be starting Kindergarten this fall, 2007. After we moved here and discovered the cutoff date, I spent many an hour fretting over this because I believed she would be ready this fall.

I tried not to push it too soon. Oh, I worried about it, but I didn't start making phone calls, didn't start talking to teachers, until about December of last year. I had very purposely not talked to her preschool teacher about it because I wanted to get her unbiased opinion. Then, one day, I appoached her teacher. I told her I wanted to talk about MQ and our options for next year. The teacher stopped what she was doing, looked me straight in the eye and said "She needs to be in Kindergarten." She then went on to tell me she would do whatever she could to help, because MQ was ready for Kindergarten, and she would be bored out of her mind if she didn't go.

I was thrilled that someone other than her proud parents felt the same way, and so I began calling the school district. And then the school board. And then the principal of the elementary school she would attend. Nobody seemed to really know the answer to whether or not she could be admitted early, whether or not she could be tested. I got transfered here and transfered there. I talked to friends who talked to friends. I think I called everyone but the janitor. And finally, the answer I got was "we just don't do that." Never mind what is right for the child, we go strictly by the calendar. Sigh.

So we approached a private school we had spoken to before. They said if MQ passed an assessment test by a child psychologist they would accept her, with the understanding that if it didn't work out, we would decide together to pull her. OK. The meeting with the psychologist went very well, and he gave the nod, and so MQ was in!! Whew! Years of worry over.

Right? Right?

Oh... but now I start to doubt it. Not really, because I know, I KNOW that she is ready. I know that she will be bored if she has to go through Pre-K again. I know that socially she will be fine. I know that she will still be taller than nearly every kid in the class, even though she will be the youngest. And yet... I worry.

I look at her and think "How can she possibly be old enough to go to Kindergarten?" I worry that I have made the wrong decision. I look at her sweet innocence and worry about impending schoolyard alliances, ever shifting and ever fickle. I wonder if I am robbing her of a year of childhood.

It didn't help that when we went in to order the school uniforms, which I tried to present to her in a fun and exciting way (even though I balk at the ugly colors and the huge price tag) she become sullen, shy and uncooperative because they did not come in pink, purple or blue (even though I warned her beforehand that her choices would be maroon or white). She hid behind me, refused to smile at the secretary, wouldn't try things on. And I worried that she was being judged. That I was being judged. Not Ready. But that's not who she usually is. Yes, she can be stubborn, but she loves to learn. She loves school. She's generally pleasant and friendly.

I know in my head that we are doing the right thing. But my heart is having a hard time letting go of my baby. It's harder, I think, because it was a choice. We could have chosen to keep her back, to accept the cutoff date as the final authority. But instead we chose to fight for her. We fought for her to jump into learning before she gets bored. We fought so that she would not be so big that she would feel awkward and withdraw, or conversely use her size and bossiness (yes, I said it, she's bossy) to become a bully. We fought so that now, when she is ready and eager to learn she will be given the opportunity to grow.

We fought so that our baby, our May Queen, could take another step away from us. Another step towards growing up. Another step towards becoming the best person she can be.

Now if I can just keep myself from grabbing her and running the other way, we'll be all set.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Sometimes the May Queen wakes up crying. She has growing pains in her legs, just like I did, and my mother before me. I remember my mom coming into my bedroom and rubbing my legs until I fell back asleep, and now I do the same thing for The May Queen. I never resent this time with her, because I know that, unlike when she gets up 5 minutes after I've laid her down and she's saying she needs some cough medicine or something else, that she really needs me. I like that I can bring her comfort. Her crying is hard and frustrated. She heaves in great gulps of air between her wails. She pulls her long legs up to her chest. So I rub and I shush and I sing. I sing her the lullaby that I sang to her every night when she was a baby. The lullaby that I went online to learn all the words to so I didn't have to hum through half the verses. The lullaby that she doesn't want me to sing to her any other time. The lullaby that once, when she was about a year and half old and we were on an airplane and she was so tired and crabby and fighting sleep as she looked out the window, she finally looked at me with heavy eyelids, wrapped her arms around my neck and asked as she snuggled into my cheek "lullaby?" I held her and rocked and sang:

Lullaby and good night, with roses bedight
with lilies bedecked is baby's wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may they slumber be blessed
Lay thee down now and rest, may they slumber be blessed

Lullaby, and good night, thy mother's delight
Bright angels around thy cradle shall stand
They shall guard thee from harm, thou shalt wake in my arms
They shall guard thee from harm, thou shalt wake in my arms

When she finally falls asleep I watch her face, now relaxed but still streaked with tears. I watch her belly rise and fall with her breath, now controlled. I pull the covers back over her legs, now still. I kiss her cheek, still wet, and sneak out of the room with one last longing glance at her form under the blanket, once so tiny, and now so big.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Warning: Children can be hazardous to your health

Yesterday I wrote about the health benefits of living each day with a child. There are also, however, things that effect your health negatively. Here is a partial list:

Legos on the floor. And Barbies. And blocks. And balls. And teeny, tiny Polly Pocket shoes (who invented them? I want to egg their house) In addition to minor foot injuries, these can also cause you to trip, fall and incur injuries to other points of your body.

Bony child elbows in your stomach. Or, as my husband deals with on a nearly daily basis as we "cuddle" in bed in the morning, to the crotch (we think this is The May Queen's way of ensuring she remains an only child).

Eating the leftover macaroni and cheese off of your child's plate. And the mashed potatoes. And the pork chops. And the half eaten taco. The mystery of the pounds I can't lose suddenly reveals itself.

Head butts. This is particularly common with small babies. As you hold them near to your face, drinking in that fabulous baby head smell, they rear back, and throw their head at you as hard as they can. If you are still standing, your concussion is probably minor. If you have fallen over, you may want to see a doctor.

Every germ that your child brings home from school or daycare becomes a family germ, passed repeatedly around the family until some new germ comes to take its place.

Oddly shaped sunburns. Trusting a 4 year old to apply sunscreen to your back is a hit or miss situation, but you really can't sidle up to the cute guy at the beach and ask HIM to do it, either. That is, if you remember to put it on at all after slathering it all over your child's precious skin.

Shoulder pain from repeatedly handing cups, toys and snacks to your child in the back seat of the car. This can become much worse if you take your eyes off of the road to hand them something, so just deal with the twisting shoulder.

Hearing loss. The reasons for this are many, but they include screaming children and unreasonably loud toys.

Back pain. You've carried a child, even if you don't have one yourself. I should not have to explain this to you.

Lack of sleep. We all know we should be getting about 8 hours of sleep for maximum health. Clearly the only parents experiencing maximum health are those who never clean, engage in a hobby, have an adult conversation or read a book. Or blog.

Heartache. This comes from wearing your heart outside your body, and it aches every time that tiny person now carrying it falls, cries, or experiences disappointment. It also aches every time that small person reaches a milestone, meaning they need you just a tiny bit less. And sometimes it aches just because that tiny person is sleeping so beautifully, so sweetly and so innocently.

Fortunately, all the health benefits in the previous list outweigh these negatives. But maybe not if I keep eating all that mac n cheese.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Better than Vitamins

I'm not very good at taking my vitamins. I have a bottle of them, which usually sits out on my kitchen counter, but I forget. A lot.

However, there are other things that I make sure I get my daily dose of, and these do wonderful things for my health. Here are a few of them:

Skin on skin contact. I never hesitate to reach out and caress The May Queens beautiful skin. That soft skin on her legs, her arms, her back. It fills me with such peace. Touch therapy. I dread the day she will bat my hand away when I do this.

Hand holding. A small, soft hand tucked neatly inside of mine, even just for a quick jaunt across the parking lot. I try to never let the moment go unsavored.

Exercising the imagination. Making up song lyrics, dressing up, and finding a new way to entertain a bored child keeps the mind sharp.

Kisses. A sweet little mouth kissing mine. Fantastic.

Laughter. Do people without children laugh as much? I don't think so. Constant entertainment. They say laughing is better than exercising (perhaps this is why my elliptical machine is so dusty... I'm too busy laughing!)

Tickles. Giving and receiving. Ties in to laughter, but it's a different health boost. Extra health bonus if done with a mischeivious grin.

Picture books. Everything I need to know about self esteem and how to treat others, presented by cute animals, star bellied Sneetches, and elephants who sit in trees.

Hugs. Full body hugs. Knock you over hugs. Squeeze until someone can't breath hugs. And kiss on the cheek while holding tight hugs. They say hugs help you feel relaxed. Well, maybe, but they definately make you feel loved. Until someone gets poked in the eye.

Art therapy, complete with markers, glue, glitter, chalk, paint, feathers and pom poms.

How have you boosted your health today?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Insurance: A SiCKO system

OK, so I mentioned that I went to see SiCKO on Friday. And I did really enjoy it. If you've seen any other Michael Moore movies, you know that he clearly takes sides on issues. A lot of people see him as a bit of a liberal nut. But he has always said how grateful he is that he lives in a place where he can voice his opinion when he disagrees with the powers that be. I think his willingness to stand up and speak out is very American, and very patriotic. He is using his freedom of speech more than most people.

That being said, I think SiCKO is probably one of his least political pieces. Whether you are Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Independent or something else, I bet you have a horror story that has to do with health care, and more specifically, with an insurance company. This movie brings those horrors to light, and hopefully will motivate people to do something. To stop feeling so beaten by the system that we accept it, but rather rise up and demand change. To stop letting the money behind this system buy our government. To put more value on all human life than on a system that allows the rich to get richer while less rich people die from lack of care. (Jen mentions this in her post one plus two: sicko. I look forward to her writing more about it)

One thing that I don't think the movie addresses, and I would like to know more about, is medical research. Most advances in medicine, whether it be drugs or machines or new procedures, happens here in America. How can we keep funding the research but not the large CEO bank accounts?

But the thing that really got me thinking was INSURANCE. We have insurance so that we will be "covered" when we need it. Not just health insurance, which this movie focuses on, but home owners insurance and car insurance. Life insurance. We pay money into this insurance every year. If we are lucky, we rarely use it. But then something big comes along. An injury. A car accident. Cancer. A hurricane.

Living in Southeast Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina I have heard more horror stories of insurance than I could begin to count. A neighbor whose home was literally split in half by one large pine tree had a sign in from of his home that said "ALLSTATE: Am I in Good Hands???" I couldn't help but think of these stories when watching SiCKO, because it's obvious that the same principals applied. Most insurance companies did not want to help all these people that they had been taking money from for years. They quibbled over whether or not damage was done from winds or from floods (it was a HURRICANE! Wind and water come together. You can not separate the two. Unless of course the flood comes from the breaking down of levees, which were damaged by the hurricane, and so then even there you see that it's all interralated. And don't even get me started on that...) It would take months for an adjuster to come and look at a damaged home. And then the amount that they assessed the damage for would not even come close to covering the cost of repairs (even PreK, but as you can imagine, costs went through the roof - no pun intended - after the storm) Insurance companies waited and waited and waited to write checks as they fought with our government over whether or not homeowners could rebuild in that area or not. Meanwhile, people still had to pay their mortgage, as well as pay for wherever they were living instead of their home. Insurance companies would offer homeowners a buyout - insulting things like $20,000 for your home, but taking the money meant you could never come back and ask for more. People took this in desperation.

It became so obvious that the insurance companies were not interested in helping people through this tragedy. They were concerned about losing money. About not having such an incredibly large profit that year. They began refusing to write new policies in the area, and people wanting to move couldn't sell their homes because of it. They raised prices in order to keep their profits.

I do have to put in a disclaimer here: my insurance company, AAA, treated us very well after the storm We had very minor damage, but it was quickly and fairly assessed, a check was written in a timely fashion, and we were called with an offer of money to cover our evacuation expenses. Most people practically fall over when I tell them how well we were treated.

It seems to me that the idea behind insurance is that we all put our money in a pot, to be used in case of emergencies. We hope that we never have to use it. But when we do, the money from that pot should be taken out to help a person in need. And maybe they will get a lot more than they ever put in. Maybe they will get the money that I put in but never needed. I am fine with this idea. I like the idea of helping someone when they need it, and trusting that the help will be there when I need it.

But our insurance companies clearly do not work this way. The system is broken. And it needs to be fixed.

You can click on the SiCKO button in the sidebar to learn more about what you can do about the broken health care system in America.

Friday, July 6, 2007

How I Spent My 11th Wedding Anniversary

This morning I woke up, like any other day. Showered, got dressed. Friday is my husband's day off, so I dropped off the May Queen at the neighbors' house so that my husband and I could go see a movie: SiCKO (excellent, will post more on that later, but let me here say go, go, go and see this movie!). Very romantic to be sure. We came home. I picked up The May Queen from the neighbors (my 15 year old babysitter looked very confused when she asked "How was the, uh, documentary? And what was it about again? ... Oh.") On the way back home, grabbed the mail from the mailbox. Noticed 2 greeting cards addressed to my husband and me.

Had the dawning realization that TODAY IS MY ANNIVERSARY, AND I FORGOT ALL ABOUT IT.

Well, not all about it. I thought about it a few days ago. Even thought about the card I needed to get ready for the big day. But today? Completely slipped my mind. I walked into the house. My husband was on the couch, reading the paper.

"Today is our 11th anniversary," I said. "Happy Anniversary. We've made it 11 years!" (I have always felt that each year I deserve some sort of award for putting up with my husband for another year. And likewise, he deserves one for putting up with me).

Later in the day we dealt with The May Queen's stubborn rudeness in refusing to even say hello to her Grandparents when they called. We had a stunning dinner of frozen chicken patties, Pringles, left over veggies and blueberries. I told my husband that we used to eat those chicken patties all the time when we were first married, and so really, this was a meal of rememberance. He knew I was making it up. If I had thought this through that yummy new pesto chicken I made yesterday? I would have made it today. Or the steak we had a few days ago. But no, I pulled out the frozen, breaded, chicken patties. Classic. I did, however, manage to pull our unity candle (the one we lit at our wedding, 11 years ago) out of the closet and light it for this romantic dinner.

Then, I went outside to mow the lawn, racing with the black cloud that grew closer every moment. For the last 5 minutes of the mowing it was pouring rain, but I wasn't about to leave that last bit unmowed!

As I was reading the May Queen her bedtime story, I was thinking about this wonderful child that is the product of our 11 years together. I glanced over at her, to see her with her big toe completely in her mouth. When I asked her why she told me that she likes to do that. And in case you were wondering, she reports that it doesn't necessarily taste good, but it tastes like skin. It took me a while to recompose myself so I could finish reading Chester. I kept giggling.

So. That was my romantic day. Last year, we planned a cruise. This year: SiCKO, child slamming doors, frozen chicken patties, mowing in the rain, child sucking on her toe.

Happy Anniversary to Us.

Of course, hubby got really sea sick on that cruise, so really, maybe this was better.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tiaras and Mommies

A while ago Joy, Of Course! wrote in her one word meme that she was not wearing a tiara. That made me laugh. But I have to tell you that today I type this wearing a tiara. It is hot pink, and it is MINE, not my daughters (although you and I both know it will end up in her dress-up box, but still...) I won this "Perfectly Pink Tiara" at the annual banquet of my local MOMS Club. I won the "Miss Ellen Degeneres" award - aka "most enthusiastic and funny" (thanks, girls!)

So I thought this might be a good time, while wearing my tiara, to tell you about my experience with Mommy groups.

When the May Queen was 3 months old, I finally went to a group designed for mommies and their infants (under 1) held at the hospital where MQ was born. It was run by a wonderfully patient woman who was both trained in parenting and an experienced mom of four. She was nonjudgmental and very caring. The group was a time for everyone to talk about their concerns and their joys, and for others to respond. Our fabulous leader spoke words of wisdom, certainly, but what she mostly did was taught us to trust ourselves as mommies. This group met every other week, but many of us began walking weekly, meeting regularly at the park, scrapbooking in the afternoons, and having holiday parties together. We continued to do this long after we "graduated" out of the class. This group also provided for me a friend who would become closer than I realized as we ate lunch together once a week, and our girls grew up together. Moving away from this fabulous group of women was difficult.

So when I arrived here in Louisiana and a friend at church mentioned The MOMS Club, I immediately joined her for an event, and wasted no time getting involved. The MOMS Club is an international organization (click on the link to find a chapter near you). There is no "qualified leader" of this organization, but rather it is led by a board of dedicated moms just like myself. What it provided for me was a full calendar of activities outside of the home, a chance to meet other moms, and a way to learn about the activities available in our new community. I have enjoyed being a part of this club immensely, and sing it's praises regularly, even though it did not provide the close friendships I found in the other group. A lot of that is just luck, I suppose.

Mommy groups don't work for everyone. But for me, who lives far away from family and friends, who thrives on activity and adult interaction, and who needed someone to talk to who would understand rather than go all glazed-out-eyes on me when I fretted over the May Queens naps (or lack of naps, as the case would be), they were a life saver. A true beacon of hope when my bag of entertaining tricks was empty by 9:30 in the morning.

As the May Queen draws closer to starting Kindergarten (which is all day down here) I know that my time and dedication to this group of Mommies will change. It already has. But I will never cease to recommend it to people.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

and the Rockets Red Glare

Growing up in Michigan, the fireworks I experienced were the big, fancy kind. Most years we headed to Detroit to see the fireworks along the river, listening to the Detroit Symphony play along. It was art. It was beautiful. We'd go early to get a good spot: spreading out a blanket in the park, picnicking and people watching. We would also enjoy fireworks over the lake in our own small town. Nearly every town put on their own display.

Personal fireworks were not legal. Sure, we had sparklers and those little things that snake along the ground, but not fireworks.

The last 2 states I have lived in allow much more in the way of personal fireworks. It's something I'm not used to.

After the May Queen was born, I had lots of reasons to hate the fireworks going off all around me. They were keeping my baby awake! Don't you people know that children are trying to sleep?!

Once I finally got her to sleep, I stepped outside to watch what was going on around me. The fireworks were pretty measly, by my high standards. But instead of enjoying their beauty, I was terrified. All around me were the sounds of explosions. Fire was flying through the air. Smoke. I couldn't help but think of what it would be like to have those same sights, sounds and smells in my neighborhood, and to know it wasn't a celebration. To be in the midst of war. Of an attack. I began crying at the end of my driveway. There was a war going on on the other side of the world. A war that "we" were engaged in. What mothers were huddling in their home, terrified? What children were they trying to calm down enough so they could sleep?

I think it was that same year that in our neighborhood a young father was killed by an errant firework. 3 teenagers took a legal firework and "improved" it. It shot straight into a neighbors chest, while his daughter stood next to him. 3 teenagers who should now be in college are instead in prison, serving sentences for manslaughter. A man who should be raising his children is gone. Now that's some celebrating our freedom, huh?

Today I once again stood at the end of the driveway, watching fireworks. The fireworks in this neighborhood are a little fancier than the ones I watched from my driveway in California. But it still creeps me out. Really creeps me out.

Why is it that we celebrate our freedom by blowing things up? Why is it that we spend so much money on something that is so unsafe, but can't find the money to donate to a homeless shelter, or a cultural institution, or a church?

Fireworks no longer hold beauty for me. They represent fear. Destruction. Loss. Terror.

Tonight, the Glare is blinding.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How I Met Harry

I resisted meeting Harry for years. All my friends told me "you'll love him." Family told me "He's just your type." People tried to set us up on dates. I resisted. He seemed juvenile. I wasn't interested. My life was full. I didn't need Harry.

Then, I was doing a play, and EVERYONE was talking about Harry. Finally, I gave in. I decided to find out what all the fuss was about. But I figured he couldn't possibly live up to the hype.

My friend hooked me up. One night, she handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as well as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (and yes, I'm an American, and so I had to read the Sorcerer's Stone and have Dumbledore talk about Lemon Drops. I can't control the publishers. Don't blame me.)

Three days later I was back at rehearsal, books in hand, asking for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My friend was still reading it. Exasperated, I turned to my public library, also checking out Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I was hooked. I loved the books. When I got within 60 pages or so of the end, I couldn't put the book down. Harry wasn't juvenile, at least not in a bad way. He was great! I loved him, and Hermione and Ron and Neville and Dumbledore and.... I excitedly joined in the conversations at rehearsal. Harry Rocks! Later that year the movie came out, and we all gathered to see it together on opening day. We cheered! I wore my "wizard pants" (covered in stars). We talked excitedly afterwards about the movie. (I have to say, as the sequels came out I have become increasingly frustrated with the things they have left out, among other quibbles) I have purchased each new book on its release date, and gobbled it up. I am currently rereading the series in preparation for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It will be an exciting and terrible day, indeed.

Harry got me reading again. Me and thousands of 10 year olds across the globe. I had gotten a bit burned out in college, too many literature classes that ended with me falling asleep on the couch with Lord Jim stuck to my face, and in the 5 years since I had graduated was only reading for pleasure occasionally. But after meeting Harry, I dove back in. I read the whole Chronicle of Narnia series. I started going to the library all the time. I was hooked. Again. On reading. I have Harry to thank. Why oh why did I resist for so long?

How about you? I know there are lots of Harry fans out there. Surely you have interesting stories about how you met Harry. Or why you have resisited meeting Harry. Or perhaps (GASP!) why you don't like Harry. I'd love to hear them.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cookies part 2: Memories

Lest you worry that I've turned into a domestic goddess and have made cookies 2 days in a row, relax. This is really just a continuation of yesterday's cookies. Leftovers, perhaps.

I find that nearly every time I make cookies, particularly chocolate chip, but other kinds as well, I think back to Sunday afternoons at Sally's house when I was about 12. We would gather in her kitchen on a fairly regular basis to make chocolate chip cookies. We would then use about half the dough to make cookies, and retire to the living rooms with the rest of the dough to eat off of spoons as we watched Top Gun.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up, I wondered if Sally thinks about that when SHE makes cookies. I haven't seen nor heard from her in years, but I think of her often.

And then I began to wonder what random things make people think of me. We all have memories that come back to us frequently, set off by these ordinary things, like baking cookies. Things that for some reason or another are imbedded in our memories, and intrinsically tied to the event. Do other people harken back to the same memories that I do? What things make my long forgotten friends think of me? How many things are hidden in the back of my cobwebbed brain that I never think of, but that other people frequently call to mind? And what makes someone tie a person to a certain memory?

I recently heard from a friend of mine that she thinks of me whenever she and her girls eat bananas. Bananas? She explained that there are stickers on her Chiquita bananas, and one of them says something like "Put this sticker on your forehead" Well, I used to take the stickers off of fruit (usually oranges, but never bananas, as I just recently began to be able to handle the texture of them) and stick them on my forehead. Why? I don't know. But I would do this, and then walk around with them (I know, I was the essence of cool). As choir was after lunch in HS, I would often have one on my head in choir. Thus, the memory. As I think about this, legions of my campers probably think of me for the same thing, as everyday at lunch when I was a counselor I would stick the navel orange sticker on my forehead, and then later stowe it away on the headboard. Kids used to put their own stickers on my head.

But I digress. Memories seem to do that to me.

So, it just got me wondering about the things that make other people call me to mind. Not that I'll ever really get an answer to that. But there are probably lots of people out there who think of me everytime they __________. And that's kind of a nice thought. As long as they think of me fondly.

P.S. As I write this, I am nibbling on a little bit of cookie dough I stashed away yesterday. It's good to be the Mommy. Don't tell the May Queen. I don't want to share.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

baking cookies

The May Queen and I made cut-out cookies this afternoon. It seems as if my learning curve on making these cookies is low. I have learned that frosting them never goes well, and that sprinkles are really were it's at, so we just sprinkle them before they hit the oven. But I always forget to add less butter and more flour if I'm going to roll out the sugary dough and try to cut shapes into it, so for several tries I put the dough on the wax paper, and found I couldn't even begin to roll it out. After adding lots more flour, I could finally get it to roll without sticking to me, the wax paper, and the rolling pin. Then, I always forget that the thicker the dough, the easier it is to get the cookies onto the baking sheet. Finally, by the last batch, I have it down, and I have the perfect thickness for perfectly shaped cookies that transfer beautifully to the tray. So there are a few cookies that actually look like frogs and stars and witches (there are no holiday boundaries when making cut-out cookies at my house) instead of misshapen lumps.

But one thing I never forget, and the May Queen learned very early on:
The dough is the best part. Sneak bites early and often.