Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I had my annual physical recently and my doctor asked me if I do any regular exercise. I assumed that by the word “regular” she meant some kind of formal class or official workout. Since I haven’t darkened the door of a gym since…well, EVER, I admitted that I do not. She opened her mouth to scold me, but then I reminded her, “But you’ve met my kids.” She just laughed and dropped the subject.

My kids are pretty much a gym, a personal trainer, a cheerleading squad, and a set of free weights, all rolled into one.

Let’s look at the parts of a “regular” exercise routine and see how my personal “mom-ercise” routine stacks up against it.

Warm-up: Lego Retrieval
Most exercise regimens begin with some kind of gentle stretching, bending, and reaching. I owe my warm-up exercises to an architectural anomaly in my house. One of the walls in the playroom has a section that juts out a few inches from the rest of the wall. I assume the practical reason is that there’s some kind of structural support beam there, but the practical result is that there’s a 2-inch gap between the couch and the wall the couch rests against. This gap is a black hole that sucks in small objects such as Lego blocks, empty juice boxes, and the TV remote. My arms are just long enough that with sufficient stretching, contorting, and flailing, I can grab the lost items with my fingertips before being sucked into the vortex myself.

Abs: Belly Bounce
My 1-1/2 year-old daughter serves as my workout partner for this crucial exercise. I lay on the floor on my back with my knees slightly bent; she straddles my midsection and, without warning, drops her entire body weight onto my abdomen, resulting in a satisfying “OOOOF” from me. This initial drop inspires me to maintain my tensed abdominal muscles for as long as she enjoys repeating the drop. The tighter my muscles are, the less loud my “oof,” and the less exciting the game. She wins when I make funny noises; I win when my abs are strong enough that I can remain silent and she gets bored and leaves me alone.

Quads: Baby Squats
My daughter serves a slightly more passive role during my baby squats routine. She entices me to pick her up for whatever reason (she knows my hatred of this portion of the workout so often lures me in by offering me a hug or a kiss and then latching her arms around my neck in a position that my husband and I have termed the “koala baby”). She then either drops the item she was holding (a sippy cup, a stuffed animal, my car keys) or points insistently at an item on the floor she wants me to retrieve (an ant, a cookie crumb, an invisible speck of lint). She’s heavy enough that I can’t bend over at the waist while holding her without falling over, so I do a deep pliĆ© while carefully keeping my back straight, grab the desired item, and straighten up. She repeats the item drop until one of us gets bored and ends this portion of the workout.

Glutes: Airplane Rides
My 3-1/2-year-old son is the more effective workout partner for this part of my routine. I lie on my back and pull my knees tightly to my chest. My son then leans with his belly resting against my feet, and we grab each other’s hands tightly. I then slowly unbend my legs so my lower legs are perpendicular to the ground and my son is lifted into the air like an airplane. In the high-impact version of the workout, I then tip my legs back and forth and side to side and make airplane noises for an added cardio benefit.

Cardiac Workout: Chase and Reverse
My full cardiac segment is also done with my son’s assistance. Our basement playroom is a large room with a staircase in the middle, effectively creating an oval track. He yells, “Chase me, chase me!” and tears off around the track with me in hot pursuit. When I start gaining on him, he comes to a dead stop, shouts, “Now I chase you!” and we both reverse direction and set off at full tilt again. The endpoint of this exercise is directly related to the level of pain in my knees.

Aerobic Endurance: Dance Challenge
Both kids get in on this one. I have to admit, this is by far the most enjoyable workout segment for me. We put on some music with a good beat (Laurie Berkner and They Might Be Giants are particular favorites) and boogie down until we drop from exhaustion.

Strength Training: Piggyback Rides
My son weighs 50 pounds. He loves piggyback rides. Once allowed to climb on my neck, he hangs on like a barnacle. Those three factors combine to mean that anything I want to do for the next 15 minutes or so, I do with a 50-pound albatross around my neck. This routine is particularly effective when I’m making dinner, as I alternate between reaching down to retrieve pans from the lower cabinets and stretching up to retrieve ingredients from the upper cabinets.

Cool Down: Various
My list of cool down exercise options is pretty extensive: airplane swings (holding a child by the armpits and spinning in a circle), tick-tock clock (holding a child by the armpits and swinging him or her back and forth like a pendulum), tickle fights (I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory), diaper wrestling (both children prefer to be pants- and diaper-free as often as possible), horseback rides (similar to piggybacks, but with a much lower impact since I’m on all fours), and the ever-popular spinning in a circle until you get so dizzy you fall down.

Other advantages of Mom-ercize are that there’s no membership fee, instead of a wheat grass smoothie at the end of your workout you get milk and cookies, and your trainer gives you slobbery kisses whether or not you worked up a sweat. Everybody wins!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Kids Make Me a Better Housekeeper

Confession time: I am a slob. An unrepentant (mostly), inveterate, habitual slob. I'm not dirty, but I am messy. I like having my clothes in piles instead of in drawers or on hangers. I need my shoes out where I can see them, not tucked into cubbies or dangling from a shoe tree. I see no reason to keep my toothbrush anywhere other than right on the sink where I can grab it with soap in my eyes and my glasses off. And towels dry just as quickly when thrown haphazardly over the curtain rod as they do when folded neatly on a towel rack. I'm a slob, and I don't care who knows it.

When I got married to a neat and tidy husband, I learned to curb my messy tendencies. Somewhat. OK, a little bit. Okay, okay, a TEEENY TINY bit. I have a shoe tree that most of my shoes are on. Some of my clothes land in the closet even though others still live on the couch. I hang the towels neatly on the towel rod in my husband's bathroom all the time and even in my own bathroom when we have company.

But what really made me rein in my inner slob was having kids. Most parents get a little germaphobic when their first child is born, but I'm not talking cleanliness, just messiness. When you have a baby, the amount of stuff in your house expands exponentially. The crib, the car seats, the swing, the diaper pail, the high chair, the piles of diapers and wipes and medicines, the socks and the onesies and the cute little hats, the blankets and the stuffed animals and the rattles and the light-up toys, the binkies and the bottles...it just never ends. You learn to be neat so your house doesn't implode from its own weight. But let's be honest: you also learn to be neat so you're never hunting for a binkie at 3am with an infant screeching in your ear. You learn to be neat so you know if you're about to dirty the last clean bottle and you need to run the dishwasher NOW before you're faced with a hungry child and a stack of unwashed bottles. You learn to be neat so an unexpected poopsplosion doesn't suddenly reveal that you're out of diapers/baby wipes/onesies.

And once your children become mobile, the need for neatness is even greater. Any item left on the floor will promptly be popped into a curious mouth, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a petrified raisin, a dead bug, a penny, or a small Lego piece. And speaking of small Lego pieces, the mobile child is not the only one whose tender toes are in imminent danger of being impaled by small toys left on the floor. What parent among us has not endured the agony of stepping on a Lego or a Barbie shoe or an abandoned Monopoly figurine with a bare foot in the middle of the night?

Being neat is a survival tactic.

Yes, motherhood has curbed some of my worst messy tendencies. But it more than makes up for it by allowing me to enjoy other types of messy fun: hands covered in sidewalk chalk dust, gluey pieces of macaroni sliding slimily across a piece of construction paper, licking the frosting off a chocolate cupcake, fingers squelching though mud in search of earthworms, cutting tissue paper into confetti, jumping in puddles. Motherhood is a wonderful balance between neat and messy!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mrs. Fix-It

One of the things that I love most about being a mom is this magic power I seem to have spontaneously acquired which allows me to fix just about anything, from a skinned knee to a broken toy to a stained shirt. My children bring the damaged items to me with absolute faith that I will be able to restore them to their original conditions. Occasionally, particularly in the case of my son (a.k.a. DestructoBoy), the toy is broken beyond repair, and we have a little discussion about taking care of our things and then decide whether we can still play with the broken toy or whether it’s time to send it to the Great Toy Box in the Sky. But most of the time, a little creativity combined with a kiss, some Elmer’s Glue, or a needle and thread, will put everything back to rights.

I’m not sure exactly how my children’s belief in my magical restorative powers began. I suppose it could have been the first time they pulled apart two Legos and sadly held them up for my inspection, and I stuck them back together. Or, knowing my son, perhaps it was a toy truck that he had pulled a door off of, and I popped it back into place.

It might even have been a beloved shirt covered in mud (no doubt resulting in a sad, “uh-oh!”) that miraculously re-appeared in their dresser sans stain. I know that I’ve been kissing their boo-boos away since before they could talk. And somehow, over the course of time, the legend of mom’s ability to fix anything was born, and grew.
Unfortunately, when my son was around two years old, my fix-it ability resulted in his developing a very cavalier attitude towards breaking toys and tearing books. The words, “We can fix it with glue and tape!” became an all-too familiar refrain (his words, not mine). I had to rein in my ability in order to discourage him from destroying everything in the house. Occasionally, I would even inform him sadly that a book was beyond repair, but then secretly fix it and hide it for a while before returning it to the bookshelf. Eventually he learned to be somewhat more careful with books, but despite my “failures” to fix some books, he still came to me with complete faith in my ability to fix anything.
My daughter, at 20 months old and with somewhat limited verbal skills, has already begun her trip down this trusting path. Just yesterday, when I went to get her after her nap, she held up a teddy bear with a gaping three-inch hole in a back seam, and handed her to me with a sad, “Uh-oh! Oh, no!” and an expectant look. She watched me intently as I pulled out a needle and thread and carefully stitched the hole closed. When I handed the bear back to her and told her, “All better!”, she broke into a huge grin and gave the bear a tight hug and me a cheery, “Tank oo!!”
I’m sure that at some point in the future, my children will realize that I can’t magically fix everything. A broken arm that can’t be kissed away, a favorite toy smashed beyond the help of “glue and tape”, a broken friendship that can’t somehow be wrestled back into place, a broken heart that is beyond the help of even the coolest band-aid. The realization that Mom is, after all, only human, is a big milestone in a child’s life. That knowledge is one of the things that will start them on the path to adulthood.
But fortunately, if they continue along that path to adulthood, I have no doubt that someday they too will acquire magic fix-it skills in the eyes of a child, whether it be their own child or someone else’s. It’s a legacy that I can’t wait to pass along.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What I Will Tell My Children about the 2013 Boston Marathon

At the ages of 1-1/2 and 3-1/2, my children don’t really understand what happened at the Boston Marathon two days ago. To them, the most unusual thing that happened that day was that Daddy came home from work early and Mommy had the radio on a lot. But I’m sure that a few years from now, they will hear someone mention it in conversation, or they’ll talk about it in school. And when they ask me what happened in Boston on April 15, 2013, this is what I will tell them.

On that day, someone – or several someones – tried to break the spirits of the people of Boston. On that day, there were a few people who tried to hurt some others. On that day, there were perhaps a handful of people who tried to strike terror into our hearts.

They failed.

Because for every nail, for every ball bearing, for every piece of shrapnel they planted in those bombs, there was an EMT, a firefighter, a cop who raced to the aid of those who were hurt. For every bystander who was hurt, there was another bystander who offered a stranger his cell phone, his coat, his shoulder, his apartment.

For every Boston family who waited in fear to hear whether a loved one was okay, there was a family in Boston, a family in Chicago, a family in London, a family in Afghanistan who was praying for the safety of all those loved ones.

The images that are burned in my brain most strongly are not the images of the smoke from the bombs and the blood on the streets, but of the bravery of those trained to respond to disasters and those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time who reached out to help others.

The quote that came to my mind most often the day of the bombings is one that was quoted by many others that day, a quote from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' ”
And both on that day and in the days since, everywhere I look I see people helping. Volunteers asking where they can give blood. Employers offering counseling to their employees. Athletes setting aside long-held rivalries to offer support. People from all over the world standing in solidarity.

The legacy of this day will not be a sense of fear and intimidation, but a sense of brotherhood and solidarity. Whoever set those bombs intended to create chaos and disorder, but instead they created a sense of unity more powerful than they could have imagined. They intended to destroy peace, but instead they created an even stronger drive for peace. A drive for peace which will overcome their hate, and hate throughout the world.

That is what I will tell my children about this day.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Extra! Extra! Read All about It: The "Newsies" Review

This weekend, I was privileged to attend a performance of the musical “Newsies” at the Nederlander Theater in New York City. I first saw the movie “Newsies” many years ago, starring a very young Christian Bale and featuring Bill Pullman and Max Casella (of “Doogie Howser” fame). Disney revised the musical for the stage, adding some songs and changing around a few characters, and the show opened on Broadway in 2012, receiving 8 Tony Award nominations (including best musical, best book of a musical, best director of a musical, and best scenic design) and winning the Tony for both choreography and original score. The plot is based on a real-life newsboys’ strike in New York City in 1899, and tells the story of a group of “newsies,” young boys who buy newspapers at a penny for ten “papes” to sell on the streets. When the owner of “The World” newspaper, magnate Joseph Pulitzer, decides to up the price by half a penny in order to increase the paper’s circulation (and his own profits), the boys band together and strike, recruiting the help of a girl reporter, eventually bringing the entire city of New York – and Pulitzer himself – to its knees.

What makes this musical unique is that the ensemble – and the vast majority of the cast – is comprised of young men between the ages of about 15 and 25. This gives the show a style and energy unlike any other. The most similar show I can think of is “West Side Story,” with its athletic, all-male dance numbers like “When You’re a Jet” and “Cool”. But where WSS intersperses those dance numbers with all-women’s numbers like “America” and mixed-gender dances like “Mambo,” “Newsies” is all boy. (Okay, there’s one number where one girl joins in, but it only serves to highlight the boys.) And let’s be honest: boys do not dance like girls. Nor do they dance like older men. And in fact, “dance” is hardly a complete description of the choreography in this show. There are cartwheels, handsprings, flips, walking on hands, and full tumbling passes running the length of the stage. There’s a tap number and a prop-driven number dancing on torn newspaper pages a la Gene Kelly. Choreographer Christopher Gatelli makes use of the boys’ flexibility, strength, balance, athleticism, and most noticeably their stamina and endurance to create a hugely energetic, vibrant, electric dance ensemble. The energy level maintained throughout each number, and indeed throughout the entire show, is frankly mind-boggling. And his choreography is not only exciting and interesting, but it serves to build on the characters created in the show, giving each newsie his own personality.

The characters of the boys are crucial to the production. If the audience doesn’t care about the newsies, they don’t care about the outcome of the strike, and the dramatic tension is lost. But director Jeff Calhoun gives us plenty to care about by not only giving the main character, Jack Kelly, both the dream of getting out of the city someday and a seemingly unattainable love interest, but by creating many unique and individual characters within the ensemble. A few of the boys have lines that give them a backstory or a personality – cigar-chomping Race, bookish Davey, crippled Crutchie, wise-cracking Sniper, young and innocent Les. But even the nameless boys are not left faceless – there’s the one who finishes every leap and every tumbling pass with a cocky grin, the shy one who wrings his hat in his hands after a particularly impressive leap as if apologizing for grabbing everyone’s attention, the gymnast who walks on his hands and scampers up the set pieces like an agile monkey.

And speaking of the set – oh, what a set it is! I’ve seen some amazing pieces of stagecraft and scenic design in my years of watching professional theater, but this set was one of the most memorable. There are many stage musicals that are later adapted as movies which take a small, limited stage set and expand it into a huge scale. “The Sound of Music” is a perfect example: the stage gave us a grand ballroom, a room or two at the convent, and a gazebo; the movie gave us a birds’ eye view of the Alps and seemingly the entire town of Nonnburg. “Newsies” must somehow do this in reverse, taking the whole city of New York and fitting it onto the stage. Scenic designers Tobin Ost and Sven Ortel do this brilliantly with a trio of three-level modular scaffolding and stair units that move forward and back, spin, and connect and disconnect to create various backdrops. The front of each segment also has a drop-down screen that is used as both a projection screen and a scrim.

These units, along with similar smaller pieces, all painted in drab, dirty-city gray, become everything from the gates of Pulitzer’s offices to the stairway down into a makeshift prison cell to the balconies and fire escapes of tenement buildings to a platform for an announcement by Governor Roosevelt. These multi-use pieces allow for seamless transitions between scenes, using the actors (and possibly a few stagehands costumed as newsies) to move the sets while the action of a scene is still going on, with no need for a blackout or a break in the action of the story. The added advantage of the multi-level set is that it fills the stage with action from top to bottom and not just from side to side, creating a sense of being surrounded by city hustle and bustle, much like a three-ring circus that gives the audience too much to look at all at once.

But of course, choreography and sets can do nothing without a talented cast to bring them to life. And there is certainly no lack of talent in this cast. Corey Cott as strike leader Jack and Kara Lindsay as young reporter Katherine are both charming in their roles, with impressively powerful vocals and brilliant comic timing, each throwing off witty asides with aplomb and making wry facial expressions that stop just short of actual mugging. The characters are well-matched in terms of their tough exteriors, hidden insecurities, and sharp wit and intelligence, and both actors hit just the right balance of cockiness and vulnerability to make the audience both admire and sympathize with them.

The character of Katherine is an excellent example of how a show can sometimes be improved by character changes. One of the major changes from the movie to the stage show is that the reporter was originally a man (Bill Pullman), and the love interest was the sister of two of the newsies. Combining these two characters by making the reporter a young woman who falls for Jack makes the youth vs. adult battle lines all the clearer, with the youngsters acting completely without adult support, relying on their own wits and determination alone, making their eventual victory all the sweeter. And the increased social inequality between Jack and Katherine is an even greater deterrent to their romance than in the original, which naturally makes them – and the audience – all the more determined to overcome it.

But if every character were totally sympathetic, the show could easily become saccharine-sweet. Fortunately, the sweetness is cut nicely by a villain that the audience loves to hate, John Dossett’s nasty Joseph Pulitzer, who is money-grubbing, self-centered, egotistical, and vengeful, taking delight in tricking Jack and sending him to prison, and showing absolutely no concern over the plight of the boys who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The audience can’t help but cheer when he finally gets his comeuppance, courtesy of the cleverness and persistence of the youngsters he had looked down on as insignificant and unimportant.

Over the past few years, I have been somewhat disappointed in the quality of many of the Broadway shows that have been created. But “Newsies,” even though not being entirely new, is proof positive that there is a new generation ready to begin “carrying the banner” for Broadway. Based on this production, I’d say it’s going to be in excellent hands.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Today is my 5th wedding anniversary. It seems like just yesterday I was waking up on the camp mattress on the floor of my mom’s living room and realizing that it was my wedding day. And yet, it other ways it seems like I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for as long as I can remember.

As I was thinking about an appropriate gift for my husband for our 5th anniversary, I had to look up the traditional 5th anniversary gift. I know that the 25th is silver and the 50th is gold, and I recalled that the 1st is paper, but all the other years I haven’t the faintest idea. So naturally, I googled it. And the list of traditional and contemporary anniversary gifts is...unexpected.

The first five years aren’t too strange: the “traditional” list is paper, cotton, leather, linen or silk, and wood; the “modern” list is clock, china, crystal or glass, electrical appliances (seriously? yes, seriously), and silverware. Among the gifts my husband and I have exchanged have been a photo book for our paper anniversary, a hammock for our cotton anniversary, and a handblown glass vase for our glass anniversary. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t the faintest idea what we gave each other last year, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an electrical appliance or anything made of linen or silk.) What I ended up giving my husband for this anniversary was a wine carrier that is made of heavy cardboard covered in leather so I suppose it could technically be considered wood, and it came with a corkscrew which could conceivably be considered silverware.

Years 6 through 10 get a bit odd, however. The traditional list is iron, wool or copper, bronze, pottery, and tin or aluminum. What would you get as a gift for your spouse from those categories? A new railing for your front steps? A nice knitted sweater? An ashtray? For your 10th anniversary, can you really imagine getting your wife a nice tin…anything? The modern list is a great improvement: “wood objects” (I guess that means "art"), desk sets or pen and pencil sets, linens or lace, leather goods, and (this is the winner) diamond jewelry. You could end up with some carved artwork, a nice fountain pen, Belgian lace curtains, a leather jacket, and a tennis bracelet. Which you must admit is a much nicer collection than anything involving, say, aluminum.

Years 11 through 15 are fairly evenly matched between traditional and modern gifts. Traditional gifts are steel, silk, lace, ivory, and crystal; modern are fashion jewelry or accessories, pearls or colored gems, textiles or furs, gold jewelry, and watches. Steel is a bit questionable, but I’m a sucker for ivory and crystal, and I don’t wear gold jewelry or a watch, so the two lists are pretty much a wash for me.

The traditional list goes to mostly 5-year intervals after the 15th anniversary, with year 20 being china, 25 being silver (although 24 sneaks in with opal, for some unknown reason), 30 is pearl, 35 coral or jade, 40 ruby, 45 sapphire, 50 gold, 55 emerald, and 60 diamond. The modern plows on annually through year 25: silver holloware (I looked it up; apparently year 16 is when you finish breaking all the gravy boats you got for your wedding, as it refers to things such as creamers, soup tureens, teapots, and other tableware that is neither china nor flatware), furniture, porcelain, bronze, platinum (20th), brass or nickel, copper, silver plate (to hold you over for those 2 more years before you hit “real” silver, apparently), musical instruments (so both an autoharp and a tuba are legitimate anniversary presents if you wait till your 24th anniversary - which might also explain why the traditional list has a suggestion for year 24), and silver for the 25th. Continuing from there in 5-year increments, the modern list includes diamond, jade, ruby, sapphire, gold (50th), emerald, and diamond. The 75th for both lists is diamonds or gold. The modern list goes on to add diamond or pearl for the 80th, and ends, interestingly enough, with “wife’s birthstone” for 85th (not that I expect to make it that far, but for the record, my birthstone is yellow topaz). Presumably the man only gets his birthstone if he makes it to his 100th anniversary.

All in all, these lists are mediocre to good ideas for gift categories for each year, but based on my experience and the experiences of my married friends, I’d like to propose a new list of gift suggestions for some of the key anniversary years:

Year 1: The first year of any marriage includes lots of adjustments, compromises, and learning to balance your respective habits and weigh your spouse’s needs against your own. The perfect gift for the first anniversary, therefore, is a scale.
Year 2: By the second year, you’ve got a system down. The second anniversary gift is a daily planner or a wall calendar, to make sure that system stays neatly in place.
Year 5: By the time you’ve been married for five years, you’ve settled into a routine, you’re used to each other, and you may even be taking your marriage a bit for granted. The fifth anniversary gift is a mirror so you can reflect back on the past five years and keep taking a close look at yourself and your relationship.
Year 10: Ten years of marriage is a pretty significant milestone, and deserves a reward in the form of time to rekindle your flame and spend time together, just the two of you. The tenth anniversary gift is a trip, preferably to someplace with a warm climate.
Year 15: By year 15 both you and your spouse have changed significantly since your marriage. You’ve grown, you’ve matured, hopefully you’ve become wiser. The fifteenth anniversary gift is a book, the purest symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and learning.
Year 20: Twenty years is a very long time to spend with someone, so the 20th anniversary gift is something with special value: a photo album reflecting back on those last twenty years.
Year 25: This is one that both the traditional and the modern list got right: silver.
Years 30, 35, 40, and 45: Once you pass the 25-year mark, every anniversary is precious. Each of these years should be celebrated with the precious stone of your choice: amethyst, sapphire, emerald, ruby, amber, opal, jade, pearl, topaz.
Year 50: The traditional and modern lists both got it right again with gold.
With so many couples getting married well into their 20s and 30s and even later, fewer couples – even couples that take “till death do us part” at its literal value – are making it much past year 50. So every anniversary after the 50th should be celebrated. Celebrate each year with candlelight and flowers. Celebrate each year with photographs and memories. Celebrate each year with love and laughter.
 And if you happen to be one of the lucky couples that reaches your 75th anniversary, celebrate it with all of those things – AND a big sparkly diamond. Hey, if you can’t give yourselves a nice diamond for your 75th anniversary, when can you?

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Underpants Project

I was not an exceptionally difficult child, for the most part. But I did have two major traits that made my mother’s life difficult, and they have both come back to haunt me in the form of my own son’s most difficult traits: hating vegetables and refusing to use the potty.

Hating vegetables I can live with. My mom was convinced that I’d develop scurvy by the age of 6, and she didn’t even know how often I saved my veggies in my cheek or my napkin and flushed them down the toilet. And yet, I grew up to be the tallest person in my family, so I guess my poor nutrition didn’t stunt my growth too much.

But late potty training is definitely my past coming back to haunt me. I stubbornly refused to use the potty until I was nearly 4 years old. My mom went to the pediatrician in tears when I was about 3-1/2, and he assured her that he had never sent an otherwise healthy child to kindergarten in diapers. And when I decided I was ready, I simply began peeing in the potty on my own. So it’s not all that much of a surprise that my son is still in diapers at age nearly 3-1/2. But I have the added issue that he’s the size of a 6-year-old, and then to add insult to injury, he started showing interest in peeing in the potty at around age 18 months, so he’s been taunting me for close to 2 years now.

I’ve read books, websites, and online advice columns looking for ideas. We’ve watched potty videos, read potty books, and talked about using the potty until I’m blue in the face. I’ve tried rewarding him with M&Ms, letting him pee on Cheerios, giving him special stickers, and I’ve even offered to buy him any balloon he wanted. I’ve tried setting a timer and making him try to go every 30 minutes. I’ve tried to get him excited about wearing big boy underpants. I’ve let him run around naked. I’ve reminded him with every round of diaper rash that his bottom won’t get sore if he learns to use the potty every time. He either wasn’t ready, or he wasn’t interested, or both. But I think that, finally, he’s ready in every way.

Some time ago, I bought him a few pairs of “big boy underpants,” intending to offer them as an incentive. For the longest time, he frankly didn’t care. But when I offered them again recently, he got kind of excited. So for the past few evenings, he’s put on big boy underpants from suppertime until bedtime (usually a “poop-free” zone) for practice. But today, he’s wearing big boy underpants all day long for the very first time.

It’s been an adventure.

Part of the incentive was that we could go to the store so he could pick out some new big boy underpants. So this morning, as soon as he got up, he put on his big boy underpants and a pair of elastic-waist pants (snaps and zippers take too long when it’s urgent), and we started Day 1 of The Underpants Project. After breakfast, he peed in the potty right before we went to the store for our first outing sans diapers. Luckily, TJ Maxx is less than 10 minutes from our house, so I was pretty sure he could make it there and back without needing a potty stop. He had informed me that he wanted lightning bolt and superhero underpants, so he very quickly picked out one pack of Superman/Batman/Green Lantern underpants and another with Buzz Lightyear, Lightning McQueen (close enough to lightning bolts, I guess), and Sully from “Monsters, Inc.” We were about to hop back in the car when he remembered that Dunkin Donuts was in the same plaza and begged for a donut. I figured it was a little added reward for both of us, and off to Dunk’s we went. Before we left, I asked if he needed to use the potty and he declined, so into the car we climbed and headed for home.

Not two minutes later, he announced that he had to pee. I asked if he could hold it for 5 minutes until we got home and he confidently announced that he could not. So I pulled over on a quiet, non-residential side street, all the while explaining that although we don’t pee outside or in public unless it’s an emergency, sometimes in an emergency it’s OK to find someplace where other people aren’t around and pee on the ground, especially if you’re a boy. I pulled over, raced around to unfasten his seatbelt, pulled down his pants for him, and waited while he peed. Or, I should say, while he tried to pee. Apparently, it was not as much of an emergency as he thought. Being the dutiful mother, I reassured him that it’s better to try to pee when it turns out you don’t have to go than to try and hold it and find out you can’t, and I thanked him for telling me he had to go.

When we got home, I encouraged him to try peeing again before we went outside to play, but he informed me that he didn’t have to go. So naturally, not five minutes later he informed me that his pants were wet and that he was poopy. Sigh.

I cleaned him up, changed his clothes, and exacted a promise that he would not pee or poop in his underpants again, and helped him put on his new Buzz Lightyear underpants. So far, he has run in to use the potty of his own volition several times, and his new underpants have stayed dry. So we’ll keep trying. Like my childhood pediatrician said, I’m sure he’ll catch on sometime before he starts kindergarten…

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The 2013 ACM Awards, or, You Won't See THIS at the Oscars

Country music has a fashion sense all its own. Boots, Stetsons, alligator skin, shorts, big hair, denim. It’s all part of the phenomenon that is country. Of course, there are always plenty of celebrities who wear more traditional “red carpet couture” to the ACMs, but where’s the fun in that? You can tune in to the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and even the Emmys to see that. But only at the Academy of Country Music Awards will you see gems like these:

Leopard print, tiered ruffles, a bustier, rhinestones, spiked platinum hair, and red platform stilettos. The only thing Tobi Lee seems to be missing is an obnoxious hat. Well, and good posture. Didn’t your mama teach you to stand up straight, honey?

The flesh-colored tutu/corset combined with snakeskin cowboy boots makes RaeLynn look like a six-year-old playing dress-up in Mommy’s and Daddy’s closets. The bright red flower and matching lips are a terrific pop of color, though. And her Mama (and possibly her ballet teacher) did teach her good posture.

Shania Twain goes slightly more conservative but very distinctly country in an all-black ensemble including thigh-high boots and a flared thigh-length strapless minidress with a trailing sash. On most women, this outfit would look like a shapeless sack but Twain pulls it off beautifully.

Somewhat less successful in the all-black category was Tori Kelly. Any one of these elements – belted leather shorts, tailored tux jacket, demure black-and-white buttoned-up shirt, and fabulous ankle-tied pointy pumps – could have worked. But the combination looks disproportionate and confused. And the frizzy, dark-rooted, non-hairstyle isn’t helping her cause any.
A few stars went for a more traditional look but gave it a nice country twist.

Carrie Underwood, a perpetual fashion favorite of mine, hit it out of the park with this traditionally-cut gown covered in giant pink and red peonies, accented with a wide black sash and matching clutch, and topped with a loose, messy updo.

Sheryl Crow opted for a traditional corset-style top but paired it with flowing harem pants. I’m not sure I love it in this still photo, but having seen similar styles in motion, I imagine the outfit had a lovely sweeping line as she moved, and the slight informality of pants is perfectly appropriate for the ACMs, and for Crow’s personality. She could have used a bit more color in her necklace than the gold that vanishes against her bronze skin, however.
Others tried a bit too hard to be avant-garde and unconventional.
Kaley Cuoco looked out of place in this admittedly fantastic dress that could have worked if she’d topped it with something other than this odd, faux/1980s tall bangs hairstyle and nude lips/Sharpie eyeliner combo. Based on her expression, I think she realized it was a misstep but by then it was too late.
I really like the trend of shorter, simpler, cocktail-style dresses that I saw at the ACMs.
Although I miss Kelly Clarkson’s darker locks, this gorgeous electric turquoise looks stunning with her blonde hair, and the pointy gold shoes are perfect.

Lauren Akins went even simpler in this plain peach dress with a slightly full skirt, a V-neck filled in with a big silver necklace, and strappy black sandals – and, of course, a perfect, and perfectly-coordinated, pedicure. Top it off with long, tousled, sun-kissed wavy locks and a cute guy on her arm, and she already looks like a winner.

A few other notable looks worth mentioning:
Beth Chapman cannot have an easy figure to dress, but she looks absolutely stunning in this pale-pink Grecian-inspired gown with impressive support (if also impressive cleavage), just a hint of silver detailing, and perfect pink piggies peeking out from under her hem.

Taylor Swift and Jana Kramer wore very similar metallic gowns with rhinestone-encrusted scoop necks and Art Deco patterns. Perhaps a bit dressy for the ACMs, but lovely and flattering without being too over the top. And both were wise enough to choose simple hairstyles and understated makeup and jewelry to avoid overpowering the intricacy of the gowns.
On the whole, the fashions at the ACMs were fun and flattering. There were beautiful bright colored gowns in yellow, deep rose, rich peach, and royal blue. There were peplums and keyholes and asymmetrical hems. There were black gowns with splashes of color in bags, shoes, and mani-pedis. There were short dresses, long gowns, pants, and shorts. There was hair up, hair down, hair curly, and hair straight. But the thing that I liked best is that with very few exceptions, there were big smiles. And if you’re having fun, who cares what anyone thinks about what you’re wearing? Even if you’re wearing a leopard print bustier and red platform stilettos.

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