Friday, July 29, 2005

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

I know, I know... I'm supposed to be reading adult fiction... but I can't help myself. The Young Adult collection is so great! Some of the best-written fantasy out there is in the YA section... but you probably already knew that.

Cornelia Funke (pronounced foon-keh) is German. Her books have been translated into English. This one is set in Venice, one of my least favorite cities. (I know this is supposed to be a review -- not a story about me -- but it's my blog and I'll talk about me if I want to.) I've been there twice. The first time it wasn't bad, but it was August, and I do remember the smell. The second time, I got there 24 hours before I boarded my first cruise ship, and they lost my luggage somewhere in Chicago. So for 24 hours, I puttered around the narrow, confusing alleys trying to find anything cheap that fit. In Venice, this is an impossible task for me (not for my travelling companion, a svelte dance teacher, who could wear anything... but I digress). So my memories of the city are not pleasant, and as Simon Jones (the talented narrator of this particular audio book) led me into the smelly city, I resisted.

But, oh... now I want to visit again. Runaway orphaned boys trying to escape their evil aunt (who only wants to adopt the younger, cute one), a mysterious older boy who calls himself "The Thief Lord," a detective with two pet turtles, and a magical merry-go-round... you just can't go wrong. Although there is clearly some Dickensian influences, it is not nearly as depressing or trudging as the old master can be. The story is long enough to be satisfying and short enough that you aren't investing more time to it that to, say, a trashy romance novel. And the descriptions of the alleys and canals and bridges and people... *sigh* BRAVA, Cornelia!

Since I listened to the audio, I should comment on the narration. BRILLIANT! *clink* Simon Jones is an accomplished actor, and his voices are really perfect. The unabridged book was 7 CDs and the pace of the storytelling was fantastic. No complaints.

Okay, okay... I know I need to return to adult fiction. The next review you see will probably be for Harry, then The Traveller (yay adult, boo book). I'm also trudging through Disney War, which is fascinating, but loooooooooooooooooong and very, well... well, it was written by a reporter, and it does, indeed, read like one long newspaper article. A 1,000 page newspaper article. Bleh.

In the hopper, I have way too many books... have no idea which one I'll pick up next... although I am looking at my new copy of Dearly Devoted Dexter, and it is calling to me... (see my Coming Soon post from mid June if you don't remember this title.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I Am SO Underpaid

Okay, first... this is not about my job at the library. Library job = great. Good pay, good benefits, and pretty decent hours, considering it includes nights and weekends. I am NOT complaining about that job.

Next, there is some mention of disgusting body functions in this particular post. I am just giving you fair warning in case that sort of thing offends you or grosses you out. Once you have squeezed a baby out of your nethers, you really become quite hard to gross out.

However, it IS possible...

Chris is playing hockey tonight. He has an 8pm game in Garner, which is really early for him. Normally, an early game is 9:15. So we pounded through dinner (loaded, large baked potatoes), and he quickly did the dishes (bless him) then darted out the door to drive across town. This left Athena and me alone together. And I was pretty darned excited about that.

Chris gets Athena all to himself one night a week - usually Thursdays - because I work. He feeds her, bathes her, diapers her, and dresses her, and then entertains her until she drops off to bed - around 8pm.

So tonight, it's my turn. I've done this a few times before, but it's so rare and I really do enjoy it. It's hard work wrangling her and keeping her on task, but it's so rewarding, and fun too! However, tonight, apparently, the powers that be thought tonight was a good night for some practical jokes.

First, I should start off by saying that I am not feeling well lately. I'm having all sorts of stomach issues, and I generally don't want to move much as it makes me feel sick. That said, when Chris left, it was bath time. I plunked Athena into the tepid water (hey, it's 804 degrees here, tepid felt pretty good...) and we were having a great time hiding behind the washcloth and dumping water out of the tub onto my feet. Normal bath activities. And then, for the fourth time in her life (third with me, mind you), she pooped in the tub. And I'm not talking a little dainty lady-like poop. This would have completely filled even the sturdiest of diapers.

So, I snatch her out of the tepid, filthy water and hastily dry her off. I rush her to the changing table to get a diaper on her as fast as possible in case there was more to come (there wasn't) and I plopped her on the floor of her nursery to play with her books while I cleaned out the tub.

Now, I have changed many a diaper, and that's no pleasant task. But I would gladly take 40 dirty diapers over one pooped-in tub. I have cleaned up dog poop for 13 years, and that cannot compare to cleaning poop out of a tub. It is really, truly, gross. It's watery and it breaks up into little pieces that get everywhere, and you really don't want to hear this, do you?

Now that the tub is disinfected and I have somewhat recovered (still feeling a bit vomity, but I made it through), I go get Athena, who hands me a book to read. We sit on the couch and I start to read. She then realizes that she has handed me a book that she doesn't really like very much (Five Little Monkeys) and she wants to get down. So she leans against my upper arm to let herself down (something we do almost all the time), and I guess she put a little too much pressure on her full little belly. Soon, we were both covered head to toe in baked potato, cheese, and bacon. And it looked surprisingly similar to what it had looked like on her plate only an hour ago.

So I change my shirt and wipe her down, and we play for a while longer and it's time for bed and I am so happy to be able to sit upright and motionless. But I have to go to the bathroom. So I do... and I discover just a little too late that, just to top off my evening, my darling husband used the last of the toilet paper at some point and did not think to replace it. So I am forced to crab-walk over to the cabinet to retrieve a roll. Lovely.

Well, I didn't become a mother for the glamour. That's for sure.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Coincidence or Destiny?

Tonight, we had a lovely date night with our good friends Kristen and Jack. I had to work today, so things were a little rushed when I got home, and we pretty much had to skip dinner (or really, postpone it) so we could catch the 7:10 showing of War of the Worlds. The daughter of a friend/coworker of mine is our regular sitter, and she was very prompt, as always. But lately it is especially hard for us to leave Athena.

For instance, tonight, when our sitter rang the bell, Athena hurried to the door with daddy to see who it was. She recognized Ms. Sitter immediately and clung to daddy's leg, willing him not to leave. Fortunately, I am confident that our sitter is a good person, and this clinging is not for protection, but rather just a little separation anxiety. We were able to distract her with a puzzle long enough for Chris and I to make our getaway.

So before the movie, there were trailers, as always. And I have discovered my destiny...

Let's talk about Orlando Bloom for a moment... (moment of silence to get that picture in your head and say mmmmmmmmmmm, dreamy). Orlando has a new movie coming out, and we saw the trailer for it tonight.

Now, let me back up a little. Mr. Bloom really became famous for portraying Legolas in that little movie... something about jewelry... oh, drat... well, you know the one I mean. THEN, he starred in Pirates of the Caribbean. And that is when my destiny started becoming clear. Throughout the movie, he repeated his love interest's name like a bajillion times... "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth." Yes, I enjoyed the movie, but I REALLY enjoyed hearing Orlando repeat my name over and over and over with such love and tenderness in his voice.

And now, good friends... guess what his new movie is called?! Elizabethtown!!! Oh, yes. The man is clearly obsessed with me... poor thing. He must be heartbroken that I am so happily married. I feel for him, I really do.

So what do you think? Coincidence, or destiny? I do hope Chris doesn't get too jealous...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Where's Bam-Bam?

Hello. My name is Elizabeth. And I am a hypocrite. But before you judge me... just be sure your house is not made of glass. Hear me out.

From the age of 16 or so, most girls utter this sentence from time to time:

"Oh my GOD. Do you see what that child is wearing?! I would never subject MY child to THAT!"


"What is that woman thinking? I cannot believe she {fill in the blank with something related to how she is handling/dressing/changing/disciplining her child}. I would NEVER do that."

For instance, I remember saying once, "How can people bring BABIES to RESTAURANTS?! What is the point of THAT?! What are they THINKING?!" Now that I actually understand how much energy is consumed by simply getting dinner on and off the table, I take my kid to all kinds of places to eat. Fortunately, most of the time, they are places that serve food. I have even been known to take her into bars. Well... bars that serve food, of course, but bars are bars are bars.

And once, I said "I will NEVER put my baby girl in pink!" Well, gosh darn it... she looks pretty damn good in pink.

And once I said, "I will NEVER take a child under the age of five to DisneyWorld. I mean, what is the POINT?! They don't remember it anyway. I went when I was six and only have the vaguest memory of it." Guess where I am taking my baby (who will then be 18 months) in November? Oh... and get this.... I'm taking her there primarily so she can get her hair cut. Which leads me to my next "never."

"I will never put my child's hair up in a little ponytail on top of her head like Pebbles from the Flintstones." Well, folks... therein lies a conundrum. See, if I continue to refuse to cut her hair until we go to Orlando (when you get your first haircut there, they give you special Mickey Ears and sprinkle pixie dust in your hair), then I have to do something with it to keep it out of her eyes. She is starting to look like a blond McCartney circa 1964. Much longer, and she will look like a blond Slash.

I tried barrettes, but her hair is so thin, they slide right out, and once one is out, she will attempt to dine on the little plastic thing. And then it happened. One day, the ladies at the daycare couldn't take it anymore... and when Chris picked her up that afternoon... there it was... the Pebbles Do. He immediately called me and said, "Wait until you see what they have done with her hair!"

So I walk in from work, and she comes running up to me... ponytail standing at attention directly on top of her head. I was horrified! And then I stepped back and thought... hmmmmm... it's kind of cute. And on the next trip to Target, I found myself in the hair care aisle (somewhere I don't usually visit too often as most of you know) looking for "No Tears" rubber bands.

Now... if they just sold little plastic bones, the look would be complete.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mommy's Little Helper

Warning: Anyone who is darn sick of hearing how cute and wonderful Athena is... stop reading now. You have been warned.

Athena has entered the "helper" stage. She is so fascinated by what we are doing that she wants to do it too. And here is the cool part... some of it is the stuff we don't even like to do! But she loves it and makes it actually fun! For instance:

The Laundry: Oh, yay. We get to fold the laundry! This ritual occurs pretty much every Sunday night without fail. During the day, Chris does the laundry and piles it on the bed. Then we tackle folding it all after dinner Sunday night. Hey, what can I say? Some people go to church... we fold underwear.

Anyway, Athena LOVES sheets. When Chris and I pull out a sheet to fold, she squeals and runs to help us. Of course, in this case, her help comes in the form of running under the sheet as we fold it, then grabbing it and drooling on it. But let's face it... how long has it been since YOU were delighted by laundry? That's what I thought...

The Dishes: Now, although we affectionately refer to Athena as our "little Amazon princess," she is not actually tall enough to DO the dishes. However, if you need to empty the dishwasher (bottom rack only, of course) she is your girl!

As soon as I open the washer, she comes running to assist me. She hands me each plate and each bowl one by one very carefully. Then I put it in the cabinet. And this activity makes her SO PROUD. I must say that even putting away dishes has become kind of fun.

Of course, I've read all those child development books, and I know that this is just a phase. It's kind of like when you first learn to write your name and you want to do it ALL THE TIME... but then one day you learn that writing your name just seems to get you further and further into debt and it ain't so cool anymore. Just like that, Athena will one day realize that dishes and laundry are, in fact, no fun at all, and she will cross her arms and shake her head and refuse to be any help whatsoever. But until that day, I am going to enjoy having a little help around the house.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry's Here!

One of the benefits of working in the library (and there are many, I assure you) is that I got my hands on the new Harry Potter book on Thursday morning. Now, I wasn't permitted to take it out of the building, but I snuck in some reading. I got through about half of the first chapter and decided I had to put it down before I COULDN'T put it down. (Incidentally, I'm glad I did, because Chapter Two is even BETTER than Chapter One.) Then I did something I NEVER do. I flipped to the back of the book.

I didn't want to know how it ended, per se, but I did need to know who died. I NEVER do this. I HATE doing this. It often spoils a perfectly good book. But I did it. And I know who dies. And I've known since Thursday. And it's still a great book.

I've read about six chapters. The baby and I were on our own most of the day, so it left me little time for reading. However, I snuck some pages in while she was napping and many pages after she went to bed.

If you finish it before I do (and most of you will), PLEASE don't talk about it in response posts for a while. We wouldn't want to spoil anything for our slowest readers (like me). I still don't know who the half-blood prince is... Can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Big Fall

Athena fell today. Not just that cute drop to the ground that she does when she's walking. No... she fell down the stairs today. And worse, it was under my watchful (or not) eye. (Let me say right now that she is just fine and is slumbering peacefully in her crib. As I read over the description of her fall, I realized how scary it sounds, and I want you to know up front that there wasn't even any blood... she's fine).

We cannot seem to buy a baby gate for the top of our stairs. The railing goes right to the very top of the stairs, and therefore, unless we can find a rather short gate, we cannot install anything there. The railing gets in the way.

So we have been improvising with the top of my dad's old poker table and my old step stool. Basically, the top of the table is big enough to block the stairway, and the stool holds it upright. When we want to go down the stairs, we have to roll the table top out of the way (it's octagonal) and then move the stool aside.

Tonight, Chris was downstairs with his friends, and Athena and I were upstairs. Now, for those of you who don't live close by, you may not know this, but Athena is Daddy's Girl. Ever since I stopped providing milk, I have been known to her as "the other one." Given the choice between Mommy and Daddy, she will take Daddy any day. Yes, it hurts, but I figure once a second one comes along, she'll suddenly wonder why I never play with her anymore and I only love "the baby."

So anyway, she heard Daddy's voice downstairs and clearly wanted to go down. So I took her hand in my left hand, and I rolled the table top away with my right. Unfortunately, she didn't want to wait. She CAN go down the stairs when you are holding her hand. She often will hold on to the railing with her other hand, even though it's a bit too high for her to really use it. But she didn't have a good footing and I didn't have a good grip. There was a split second of shock on her face as everything went to slow motion.

I quickly grabbed for her, but I was too late. She was leaning too far back for me to catch a hold of her, so I started SCREAMING for Chris to get to the bottom of the stairs, hoping that he could catch her before she hit the hardwood. She fell backwards and rolled once... butt, to head, to stomach. As she hit her tummy on the stairs, her body went fairly rigid, thank goodness. By now, she was midway down the stairs and Chris just caught sight of her. As he moved into position at the bottom, she bounced down about six stairs on her belly, feet first... *BOUNCE* *BOUNCE* *BOUNCE* and she came to a stop about six steps up. Then she started wailing.

Chris scooped her up and held her and soothed her as best he could. We checked for injuries and found nothing but a small scrape on her chin. After quite a bit of comforting and a dose of Tylenol just in case, she was willing to come back to me for some quiet time, and then I put her to bed.

I, in the meantime, am still completely terrified and shocked by what I saw. She was like a doll falling down the stairs. I've never seen anything like it. And I hope I never do again. I hope I can actually go down the stairs MYSELF again. *shiver*

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Terrible Twos

There are many common myths about parenting and parenthood. Today, I wish to talk about the widespread myth known as “The Terrible Twos.” This myth is quite unusual in that it is mostly true. But the NAME of it is the myth part. The Terrible Twos have very little to do with the Twos. They actually start around 18 months (or in some highly developed youngsters… 14 months). This is the time when toddlers begin to gain more independence, and the result is a series of temper tantrums and battles of will that we refer to as Terrible.

And they are.

We have been seeing more and more independence from our little pumpkin. She has been running around the house opening and closing things (including her diaper pail), sorting and rearranging things (including the contents of her diaper pail), and screaming uncontrollably when she doesn’t get what she wants (like getting to play in her diaper pail).

Today, however, we knew we had officially entered the Terrible Twos. Starting in the early afternoon, we began to see a rash of tantrums, complete with ear piercing screams and head thrashing. It has been exhausting and, when the tantrums occur in public, embarrassing. However, I never cease to be amazed at the patience of my husband and the kindness of strangers. My better half held her and soothed her and made her giggle. And the strangers in the grocery store didn’t seem bothered at all as the baby tossed a peach at the floor with the arm of Roger Clemons.

In fact, I should take this moment to comment on exactly how unfazed the strangers in the grocery store were. I went to the new Harris Teeter that was built just across the street from my old favorite – Lowe’s Foods. I decided today that I would try the new store, as they provide special parking for mothers with young children and I wanted to feel special. (Heaven help you if you are a father with young children. Guess you just have to hoof it.)

However, I felt anything but special once inside. Athena was in the middle of a rollicking temper tantrum when I hit the register. So I had to hold her, to prevent her from gnawing off her own arm in frustration. As the clerk started ringing up my $200 worth of groceries, no one came to bag the stuff, so I headed to the bottom of the counter and started cramming stuff into bags as best I could with one hand. I was thinking that surely once the clerk finished, or hopefully, as soon as someone like a manager noticed that I was struggling, a pimply-faced high school kid would show up with a kind smile and rescue me from my awkward situation. But it didn’t happen. FINALLY, as I paid for my haul, someone DID show up and offer to help me to the car. At which point, Athena was calm, collected, and angel-faced. I accepted the help anyway. Better late than never.

So if you call or come by in the next… oh… year or so… just prepared for a mommy who only knows how to say “NO! Sweetie! NO! Do NOT open the diaper pail!”

Thursday, July 07, 2005


The world can be a horrible place. I was reminded of this once again this morning when I heard the news from London. I have learned that all of my former coworkers are safe, but I do not know about their friends and family or any of my other friends. I am empty as I mourn the loss of so many random and meaningful lives.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bald Head Island

This weekend, we spent a lovely three days (including drive time) with two of the loveliest people on earth at the very lovely Bald Head Island. And before you ask, I have no idea why it is called Bald Head. I could look it up, but I'm too lazy. Here is the website... knock yourself out. (Oh, and there is sound at the site, so don't open it at work. Oops... should have told you that before the link, eh? Sorry.)

Anyway, our friends Brian and Sophie invited us to the island last year, but we were unable to go at that time thanks to one of the kajillion hurricanes that blew through the South. So we got a rain check (literally) that we were finally able to cash in on this past weekend.

Brian used to be Chris’ office-mate at The International House of Business Machines. Despite that, we all have become friends. Then they moved from Cary to Charlotte. They say it had nothing to do with Chris or me, but I still have my doubts…

Sophie’s parents own a vacation home at Bald Head and it is where Brian and Sophie got married. Their wedding was the first and only time we had been to Bald Head. Well, it was their unofficial ceremony, actually. They officially got married quickly at the Justice of the Peace several months earlier before Sophie, who is one of them foreigner types, was sent back to Belgium with a “thank you for playing in America, but we wouldn’t want you to live here” handshake from the well-meaning but highly misguided INS. Brian, my hero, fell in love with her and consequently rescued her from that oppressive land of lace and chocolate where she can live here and hang out with me. Yay!

I love Sophie. She is an extraordinary human being. She has “helped” me at the last two annual Caran holiday parties. When I say that, what I mean is, she came to my house both days in the early afternoon and cooked her patootie off with me for 8 hours straight. One year, she even came the night before to help. AND, she cooked for a day with her mom and brought up all this yummy stuff from Charlotte. She has also provided free babysitting for us on several occasions. FREE! Now you see why I was heartbroken when they moved away.

Sophie also speaks French, which is very cool because I keep wondering why I took the damn language for five years when everyone in the world seems to speak Spanish instead. When I hear her chatting on the phone with her relatives, it reassures me that those years weren’t completely wasted. Of course, I don’t actually speak French with her, because all that would do is remind me that I wasted five years pretending to learn French.

So Sophie (who is a regular reader of this blog and who is now probably REALLY sorry she gave me permission to use her name) always tells me that she doesn’t really cook. So I prepare myself for some casual meals with standard stock ingredients. But let me tell you… Sophie CAN cook. When we arrived (two hours late thanks to my excellent navigational skills and the world’s slowest Hardee’s), she had prepared shrimp with homemade tomato sauce (prepared by her mom, but I have a hunch she could have done it) and feta cheese. It was absolutely delicious.

Upon arrival on the island, I purchased Eggos at the grocery store thinking that I would make our lives easier, only to realize later that she (and I, actually) would really have preferred to make them from scratch. It’s not like we had to be anywhere. I was horrified to realize that as I have been rushing through life these last two or three years, I have completely lost touch with my inner gourmet who had a goal to cook as much from scratch as possible and refused to eat almost anything that was prepackaged or considered “convenience food.” I almost cried at this little moment of self-discovery. Sophie, in the meantime, was very polite, let me buy the waffles, and then didn’t eat any. Smart girl.

How was our daughter on this trip? Despite the mouth sores, she did really well. She was quite happy and within hours of our arrival, she was dancing on the table. By Sunday, her blisters were only a minor annoyance, and by Monday, they were more like red patches that hurt only when she chewed on them, which she did more often than you would think.

She did not care for the beach too much. The water was warm and quite calm, but when she reached the water’s edge, she cried pitifully and clung to her father. He sat in the surf with her for a while, holding her and trying to get her to relax, but she hung from his neck like a piece of jewelry with her knees tucked into her chest so they wouldn’t touch the evil water. We did finally get her to play in the sand… but she was only mildly amused, even with all her cool new sand toys. We will try to get her more and more accustomed to the beach and beach-like places since that is the bulk of what we will do on our cruise this year. Just like the water park at her daycare (which she now seems to enjoy), we will force her to like the beach!

Bald Head does not allow cars on the island, with the exception of emergency vehicles. So you have to go everywhere by bike or by foot or by golf cart. The baby totally dug the golf cart. It was better than putting her in the car to get her to go to sleep. We’d just hum along at less than 18 MPH with the wind blowing through our hair and she would either get very drowsy and calm, or she would zonk out completely into a deep sleep. Honestly, I think we could have spent the entire weekend zipping around the island in the cart, and she would have considered it the vacation of a lifetime. Fortunately, she is not old enough to say, “Daddy, I want a golf cart!”

She also made a friend with a Golden Retriever as we were leaving the island. She was sitting with her daddy looking out at the marina, when the dog and her people came up and sat beside them. She immediately pointed to the dog and made her approach. She is not really good at being gentle with animals yet because she loves them so much she just wants to leap at them. However, she was very careful when she approached this one, and she petted him (or her) very gently. Soon, the dog licked her nose and Athena returned the affection by laying her head down on the dog’s big fuzzy thigh. This was remarkably cute… to the point that the folks sitting nearby all issued a collective “awwwwwwwwwwww.” The Cutest Baby in the Whole Wide World ™ strikes again! Fortunately, she is not old enough to say “Daddy, I want a Golden Retriever!”