Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who are you, Caillou?

Caillou has done it again. Just when I've made peace with the constant whining, the lazily drawn cartoon cells and the creepy kid dancers, I find myself in the "I hate Caillou" camp once again.

For anybody not familiar with this little PBS mainstay, Caillou is 4 years old. He is bald. He has a mommy, a daddy and a little sister, Rosie. He is Canadian and his name is apparently French.

So here's my problem. Caillou in books and videos looks a certain way, as does the rest of his family and toys. Here's what Caillou and Rosie look like...

I'm at the library a couple of days ago and I catch site of the first Caillou book I've seen there. It's about Caillou going to a fancy restaurant with his parents while Rosie stays with a babysitter.

I know. Who would take a 4-year-old to a fancy restaurant when you have a babysister!!??

Anyway, the characters look completely different.

It looks like daddy might have gotten a new mommy (wink, wink). And it came out last year.

Here's what I think happened. I think there is a French Caillou and an American, or at least Canadian, Caillou. The book was translated, which explains why it doesn't make any sense, and there are plenty of other examples of this other Caillou online. Here's what the bizzaro Caillou and Rosie look like....

This pretend kid is a big part of my life. I'd like to know who I'm dealing with.

Every night before Carolyn goes to bed, I ask her what she wants to do tomorrow. Without fail, this is her answer:

Watch Caillou?

The very least Caillou makers could do is pick an artist. Any artist is fine. And while you're at it, color around the edges of your cartoons. It's just shoddy workmanship.

And if you can't tell the difference between the two sets of siblings, just go ahead and have a kid, wait 18 months and you'll so understand what I'm talking about.

Don't get me started on baby Caillou.

Pay to relax the day away

Today, I went to my first yoga class since the girls were born. All I could think about was the standup routine by Ellen DeGeneres, who said people who took yoga were paying for silence. Busy, busy, busy, she said of we Americans. She said people are searching for places to just stop.

I was in yoga the other day. I was in full lotus position. My chakras were all aligned. My mind is cleared of all clatter and I'm looking out of my third eye and everything that I'm supposed to be doing. It's amazing what comes up, when you sit in that silence. 'Mama keeps whites bright like the sunlight, Mama's got the magic of Clorox 2.’

There you have it. Mommies paying to nap. Although, this yoga class got pretty intense in the middle and my arms, which I thought were pretty strong from carting the girls around, were shaking during the fourth dog pose. They’re still a little shaky and I suspect will be sore tomorrow.

Since our Battle Creek summer home, which is still for sale and only a half mile from a beach, has been weighing heavily on the pocketbook, Steve and I are in major cash-saving mode. I put up a clothes line outside to cut on energy costs, and make our sheets smell sunshine fresh. We agreed -— no skivvies. Carolyn’s making adequate progress on potty training but still fights me to sit on it. I tried explaining how much diapers cost, but she thinks money… well, she really doesn’t think about money. And I made a coffee cake to help satisfy my recently activated sweet tooth, cutting down on trips to the ice cream shop.

We stayed home for the entire Memorial Day weekend and it was really nice. Cheap and nice. We hung out in the backyard, grilled hotdogs and played in Carolyn’s kiddy pool.

Ah summer. Thanks for coming.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sunshine girls

Sunshine girls

Yesterday I got a little care package from my mom. I didn’t leave the state for college, join the military or ever live in Africa, so my mom is making up for lost care package time. She sent three shirts. Three bright yellow shirts. So today, we’re walking around town as the sunshine girls.

It’s funny about matching outfits. Penny is two days shy of six months old and I have never once in her life put her in an outfit that matches Carolyn’s.

I’m not sure why I don’t dress them up more. Maybe I’m just not that girl. Maybe I don’t want to draw attention to us, which doesn’t work because people are always stopping us to gawk at the girls. Maybe I have no sense of fashion.

Yes. It’s that last one. I have no sense of style.

Well, a three-day weekend is almost upon us. I can’t wait. It’s been a long week and I’m ready for a little stay-at-home family time with only the sprinkler, the grill and the backyard to burden us.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

From babies to big girls

It’s strange how I view the development of my two girls.

For Carolyn, I perpetually am waiting for her to get to that next step. For Penny, I’m always hoping she waits just a little longer.

Even though I’m aware of this, I’m eager for Carolyn to start talking in complete sentences. And while her inability to roll over until she was nearly six months old had me freaking out -— I told my mom I’d probably have to go with Carolyn to college to roll her over at night — I was just a little sad yesterday when Penelope both rolled over and sat up for an extended period for the first time.

Well, that’s what happens, I guess. They grow up.

They grow up, start rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, running, talking back, running away and dating good-for-nothing hooligans who smoke dope and skip school. And it’s all over. No more babies for me.

A women told me once: “You can’t wait for them to start walking and talking. When they’re 3, you can’t get them to sit down and shut up.”

How true that turned out to be. And even so, I encourage Carolyn’s counting. I think about preschool and how mandatory it’s become to raising children today and wonder how in the world we’ll be able to afford it. I find myself debating between getting a family membership at the pool and getting Carolyn swimming lessons.

And finally, I dream of a day when I’ll be able to trust a babysitter.

How blue this makes me. And even I push my CareBear out of her nest, I cringe a little when I think about how she’s taken to calling me mom, as in “Hey mom.”

That’s right. Toddler to teenager. Thank God Penny still is only rolling over in one direction.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Travel log 463

I’ve learned a thing or two about traveling with two young children this weekend.

Really, I just learned one thing --- if you have to drive five hours with two small children on one day, you shouldn’t make them drive five hours the very next day.

Steve, Carolyn, Penelope and I drove to Michigan this weekend to attend the shower of Eric and Julie. They are expected their first child, a boy, in July.

It was super fun. Our friends fed us, entertained us and even arranged for childcare. They thought of everything.

But it was just a quick trip. Steve’s mom was waiting for us back in Normal. His folks are in town from Tulsa until next weekend.

And everything was running smoothly. A well-oiled Gardner-family machine. But shortly before Chicago, a stone jammed our gears and the whole operation came crumbling apart.

Carolyn was naughty. Penny was screaming. Steve and I were mumbling under our breath.

It’s those awful car seats. Yes I know. They save lives. They protect our precious little bundles of joy. But I wouldn’t want to be strapped down for five hours, two days in a row. They can’t move. They’re hot and uncomfortable. Poor Penny faces the backseat so she can’t even look at us.

Solution. Grit your teeth and take it. I also managed to squeeze in the middle seat, sideways, for the last two hours so I could talk to the girls.

At least that way, only one girl was crying at a time.

After all this traveling, I hope to stay homebound for at least the next month. Our small family needs time to regroup.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

From the "Horrible mother" file

“Am I making it hard for my girls to compete when they’re older?”

I wonder this today as I’m sitting on a bench in downtown Normal, eating ice cream with Carolyn and waiting for the Amtrak train to arrive, just so we can look at it for a minute. This is my life.

Since leaving work, I’ve really slowed it down quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always busy cooking or cleaning or looking for freelance work. But I make it a point to get out twice each day, mostly just to wander around the neighborhood.

As Carolyn, Penny and I sat there eating ice cream, other housewife moms were scurrying in or out of the brand-new, multi-million dollar children’s museum. And all over town I hear moms saying, “Just a few minutes. We have to go here and there and then back over here.” They seem so much busier than I am.

Just today, Carolyn and I spent no less than five minutes watching a caterpillar cross the sidewalk. And I wonder, is all this dilly-dallying hurting my children’s social skills? Will they be able to multi-task? Will they be social misfits?

What's crazy is that I think I'm the one doing things right. But I wonder.

I wouldn’t be so worried, but I live a lonely existence. While all these other very busy moms rush in and out of organized playgroups, I find myself walking alone. A lot.

Side note. Today is Steve and my fifth anniversary. On this week’s “Scrubs,” one of the characters made a reference to those “relationship-killing baby years.” Oh yes. I know the ones.

Well, raise your glass everyone, here’s to those, and the ones that follow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lazy (wo)man's blog

Here's Penny making funny faces. Enjoy.


That's me. The last time I posted was Saturday. How do I expect to build my fan base from 3 to 5 with with that kind of frequency?

Here's why the slacking. Penny has started waking up at 3:30 a.m. each and every morning. Not just waking up — but trying to stay up. I say "trying" because we're currently in negotiations.

Anywho, I'm really tired all the time.

And for anyone who cares, a street sweeper cleaned our street at 5 a.m. and birds start chirping shortly after 4. Isn't that early!!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm the luckiest mom around

Tonight, for my pre-Mother's Day meal, Carolyn and I had pan-fried lake perch, jasmine rice and steamed asparagus. Yum. Steve's working, so he missed out.

You hear that Steve, missed out (Steve doesn't think not getting a serving of fish is missing out).

Carolyn was so awesome. Penelope was crying a little while I was making dinner. Then I hear her laugh. Carolyn is playing with her... ahhh.

Then I put Penny in the highchair while I get the food ready to serve. I look over and see Carolyn feeding Penny her mushy green beans.... double ahhh.

Because she was such a girl and because it's Mother's Day eve, we went to Dairy Queen for dessert.

Here's a totally awesome video of the girls. It's the only Mom's Day present I need, but diamonds are always nice.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

When SAHMs attack

I know staying home with children can be trying at times. Fewer Washingtons in the pocket. No office rumor mill. No happy hour. Crappier day clothes.

But come on. The recent study by that says a SAHM, or housewife, would earn $130,000 a year if she earned a salary is utter and total nonsense.

What's up with this job description:

housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist.

Van driver? Well, maybe these women should be walking more and driving their giant automobiles less. But that's a whole different set of rants.

When women work, they have to be all of these things plus a productive employee in the workplace. And then, there's the added pressure of working as much and as hard as the singles filling the newsroom's cubicles.

I'm not bitter. Honestly, I'm not. And you want to know why?

It's because I'm grateful I get to stay at home with my children every day. Grateful. How many women in the workplace would change places with us for just a week and can't because they just can't?

Wow. I sure am preachy today. Perhaps I should have stuck with writing about something I saw at the playground yesterday.

A woman was sitting in her minivan singing Shania Twain while her two daughters played at the park. Maybe, I thought, she just loves this song and felt lucky to catch it on the radio. We've all done that — let the car run just a little longer as the tune plays on.

But no. The next song comes on and who is it crooning a pop tune? Shania Twain.

This woman was listening to a CD.

Isn't that weird that she would sing that loud with me sitting 10 feet from her? It's not like she had awesome pipes or anything.

I love playground observations. Maybe I could spin it into a career that paid me $1 a word.

Seriously magazine editors of the world, I could write about 130,000 words. Easy.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Weekend warriors, old school

Today, Carolyn took a big poop on her bathroom stool. Looking a little shocked, she came and got me to let me know what had happened.

Thing is, I was just happy she was in the bathroom. That’s a pretty good step.

My life, reduced to not being angry about a big pile of poop.

That’s why this weekend held an unexpected surprise. While the family and I were in Battle Creek to tend to the house, which if you’re interested is still for sale, we stayed with friends Todd and Karen, parents to 1-year-old Kayla. They not only made dinner, they invited some other adults. This informal party was just the sort of entertainment Steve and I crave -– there are kids around but they’re not the focus of the evening. There were drinks. There was adult conversation. There was the occasional hilarious kid moment.

We just expected to lay our heads down for the night at a friend’s house. We didn’t expect to have a super great time.

Unexpected moments. Life as a parent, in a nutshell.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mother's Day offered at low, low prices

A farming supply store ad came in the paper today promoting of all things — Mother's Day, which, if you're counting, is more than a week away.

In addition to a full page of kitchen appliances that would warm the heart of any housewife, and by heart I mean kitchen, this store was running sales on patio furniture, garden statues and grills to create "Mom's perfect backyard getaway."

Nothing mom wants more than a gas grill with 5,000 btu's. Mmmmm. I can smell the hot dogs cookin' already.

Fact is, Mother's Day is a horrible idea, right up there with Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. I include Christmas on my list, but I'll leave the religious holidays alone for now.

The very best Mother's Day ever, and I mean the whole nine yard of good food, expensive presents and an endless adoration, could have been achieved any day of the year. And bonus — without a day dedicated to these three feats, add surprise to the list.

But for all the other moms waiting patiently for breakfast in bed while dear old husband snoozes away to the sound of screaming babies, the day is an utter letdown and marks you as the bad wife and mother you really are. If you were, in fact, a good wife and mother, you wouldn’t be brewing your own coffee while your 2-year-old screams for a cartoon that isn't on television Sunday mornings.

It's worse than if Mother's Day had never existed at all. Single people, Valentine's Day's got nothing on Mother's Day. If you're single on Feb. 14, you can pretend it's because you're too good for what's out there. There's no hiding from the fear of bad parenting.

But I'm sure all these tired, unloved mothers letting tears run freely into the cereal bowl just have to wait a while. That grill's sure to be waiting in the backyard with a big red bow, 10 pounds of red meat and a case of Bud.

Did I mention....

My grandpa (or as Carolyn says, great papa) is 90 years old.

Damn he looks good.

Short and sweet

The Gardner family just added about a dozen cords, gadgets and gizmos to its wireless lifestyle.

We’re running out of outlets.

My aunt Sandy and Grandpa stayed with us last night as their last stop driving cross country from Vegas to Michigan. Sandy, who found gainful employment at the Apple store during her half-year residence in Sin City, believes, at the very core of her being, that Apple products are the modern equivalent of the wheel. She came bearing gifts, bless her sleekly modern and functional heart.

We have our first iPod. It’s just lovely. She apologized for only providing us 1 gig of power. Steve kind of summed it up with, “That’s 1 gig more than we had yesterday.”

She also got us creature speakers, which are so well-shaped some might consider them art-like. Definitely better than the boom box I won at a Christmas party in 1999 that has been satisfactorily, if not attractively, meeting our musical needs.

Who am I kidding. NPR and Rush Limbaugh are the only things coming out of those aging speakers.

Apple does make and sell elegant products.

The visit was nice, if for the mere fact that adults have more to say than 2 year olds. Or probably, they’re just able to say more.

Either way. And we had fun showing off the girls to some family.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Testing, one two

I'm trying out Youtube to see if it works. And I get to make fun of the Pope. Bonus.