My Convertible Life

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What would happen if I just put my hand here?

Last weekend we took Junius to see the N.C. Symphony's Summerfest concert with Cirque de la Symphonie. It was a big night out for the three of us -- we left Pippi at home with a friend from the babysitting co-op because we knew she'd a) never sit still for the concert and b) need to go to bed about the time the show was starting.

The amphitheater was packed when we arrived and got more crowded as the night went on. But despite the lack of space and lack of a clear view (more on that in another post), we had a nice time eating our picnic and watching the show.

If you're not familiar with Cirque de la Symphonie, it's kind of like Cirque de Soleil in front of a symphony -- acrobats, dancers, jugglers, and the like. The performers are mind-bogglingly (did I just invent an adverb?) strong and graceful, dangling from the ceiling on ribbons and hoops or balancing on tiny stools and each other.

So here are my questions: After you've done all the strength training and gymnastics training and so on, how do you make the leap to saying to your friend...

"Just hold still --
I'm going to do an upside-down one-armed push-up on your head."

Or "I think I can spin three *more* hoops..."

Or "I'm sure I could wrap these sheets
around my wrists and fly..."

For more photos and a video to get the full effect, go here. In the meantime, I'll be training with Junius and Pippi for the next tour. I'm pretty sure I can juggle both of them at the same time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Saying thank you with ice cream

The following essay was my entry for the Edy's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute. I'm so excited to be a grand prize winner, which means I'm one of 1,500 people across the country who get to throw an ice cream party for their neighbors courtesy of Edy's. The party will be later in July, but I thought I'd post the essay now because it fits with yesterday's post about moving in. It may also remind you of my 50-word autobiography from earlier in the spring.

In August 2003, my husband and I bought our first house, located in the Lakemont neighborhood of Raleigh, N.C. Over the next few years, we had our first child and became good friends with our neighbors. Our neighborhood group quickly became our community support network – the people who brought dinner when you'd had a family illness, watched your kids in a pinch, offered hand-me-downs and holiday treats, donated to your causes, cheered your talents, celebrated your successes and mourned your losses.

In July 2007, we sold our house in Lakemont to move to Greensboro for a great job opportunity. We didn't want to leave Raleigh, but felt like it was the right decision for our family. Long story short, over the next 11 months, the job opportunity fell apart, we had our second child, my husband found a new job in Raleigh, we sold our house in Greensboro, moved in with my parents for two months, bought a house back in Lakemont (a few streets over from our first home) and moved back to Raleigh in June 2008. Phew.

When our friends from the neighborhood showed up in the front yard of our new house at the same time that the moving truck pulled up to the curb, we knew we'd made the right decision to return. It was an exhausting year – both emotionally and physically – but we felt that coming back to Lakemont was coming home for us, returning to our "family."

Our neighborhood isn't fancy, the houses aren't glamorous, the residents aren't making millions. But we have a wealth of community that I think is rare in a time when people are so transient and keeping up with the Joneses is more about the car you drive than about what sort of help the Joneses might need.

We’d love to host an Edy’s party to say thank you to all our friends and neighbors, new and old, and to celebrate how wonderful they are – they’re what makes Lakemont home for us.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What a difference a year makes

"This is a disaster," I remember thinking to myself. "What have we done?"

Boxes were crammed into the kitchen making it impossible to get to the sink or any of the countertops. Mattresses and bed parts leaned against the bedroom walls, leaving nowhere to sleep. The couch was piled high with bags of toys, pillows and blankets. The maze of stuff throughout the house rendered even the floor impossible to reach.

Exhausted, I took Junius (then almost 3) and Pippi (then 4 months) across the street and knocked on our neighbors' door. We had just met that afternoon, but I was desperate for a soft place to sit -- and there was no such location in the new house.

"Would it be okay if we came in so I could nurse?" I asked her, when she opened the door. She graciously invited us in, as I realized she was also nursing her 5-month-old son.

Pippi had her dinner, then we went back to our house so the rest of us could eat. The same neighbor had thoughtfully brought over not only food that required no cooking, but also paper plates, plastic utensils and napkins.

I'm not sure whether it was the kindness of a stranger (soon to be friend) or the chaotic mess around me or the thought that we'd left behind a perfectly nice, clean, unpacked, already-decorated house, but all I wanted to do was cry myself to sleep. Except that I couldn't find any tissues. Or my bed.

That was one year ago this weekend.

Seems like a lifetime ago. Seems like only yesterday.

Although the house is still a chaotic mess (mostly due to two small children and some remodeling projects), we're much more settled in than we were that day. We've done lots of work upstairs (and by "we," I mostly mean my husband and other skilled people) to make it our own. And with "old" and "new" friends surrounding us -- including that kind neighbor across the street -- this is where we are setting down roots for our family. No longer the "new house"...

This is home.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Best Medicine

Pippi's laugh is beautiful.

I love hearing it bounce around and ring through the house. She laughs a lot when her brother is being silly or when her dad is tickling her. Sometimes she even cracks herself up, which is so fun to watch.

But she also has this separate little chuckle that's different from her tiny-round-belly laugh.

It sounds like a cross between Woody Woodpecker and Jon Stewart doing his impression of George Bush.

And that laugh... makes me laugh.

Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Five: Avocado

After yesterday's news, I feel like I'm supposed to write something in tribute to Farrah Fawcett or Michael Jackson. But I don't really have enough to say about either one, although I do have vivid memories of watching "The Making of Thriller" during sleep-overs at my friend Kirsten's house because she had a VCR and we didn't and I was always really scared and had to hide in my sleeping bag because I was just that sensitive. But I digress...

Instead, I'm going to stick with my original topic, about which (perhaps strangely) I have plenty to say: the beautiful, yummy avocado. Some may be afraid of avocados because of their high fat content, but it's monounsatured fat and low in cholesterol. They're also rich in potassium, B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K and lutein, in addition to having the highest fiber content of any fruit. And they make a perfect baby/toddler food that's great for brain development -- just serve it like you would banana, either mashed into baby cereal or cut up as a finger food.

Here are five of my favorite ways to work avocado into your diet:
  1. Grilled cheese: I first discovered this tasty lunch/dinner at The Raleigh Times, but it's easy enough to make at home. Use good sourdough bread with slices of cheddar, tomato and avocado. Grill on your panini maker (also known as the George Foreman Cooker at our house).

  2. Triscuit and muenster sandwich: My favorite snack is to make little stacks of avocado and muenster cheese on top of a Triscuit. When I was pregnant, I would eat an entire avocado at one sitting. Now I try to limit it to half the fruit at a time. It's the perfect combination of crunchy, creamy, sweet and salty.

  3. Mexican casserole: An easy, tasty, healthy dinner option is the sweet potato/black bean casserole. Layer mashed sweet potatoes, black beans, mexicali corn, quartered grape tomatoes, avocado slices and shredded cheddar. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until hot all the way through.
  4. Chopped salad: We found this filling and delicious salad at Moonlight Pizza Company. Or you can make your own with romaine, grilled chicken, crispy bacon, avocado slices and crumbled bleu cheese.
  5. Guacamole: No list of avocado recipes would be complete without this perfect dip. Again, I can probably eat the whole bowl myself with a bag of chips -- but I always try to share.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Timber! Or... Why I'm Apologizing Again

I owe my mom an apology.

Actually, I owe her many -- seems motherhood hands me something to apologize for nearly every day. It's amazing how my understanding and sympathies change as my children show me what I couldn't see in my own mom as I was growing up.

But this one is not parenting related. Today I want to apologize for thinking my mom was over-reacting when she and my dad had several trees taken down around their house last year. She called me or sent me text-messages with photos probably six times that day. At the time I thought, "Why is she being so dramatic? These trees should have been taken down years ago. She's lucky they haven't already crashed into the roof. And it's not like they don't have dozens more still towering in the yard."

And then yesterday I found myself huddled on my neighbor's front porch with my children at 8:30 a.m., my heart racing, tears in my eyes, and a sick feeling in my stomach. The angry sounds of an enormous crane, multiple chain saws and a wood chipper rang in my ears. By 10:30 a.m., five 90-foot pine trees had disappeared from my front yard -- and that was just the beginning.

My reaction caught me off guard. My husband and I had planned to take the trees down from the minute we moved here -- it was exactly what we wanted to do in order to let more light in the house, have a better view, and not live in fear that we'd wake up with a pine tree in our bed during the next hurricane.

But standing there watching, it suddenly seemed more like the execution of an unsuspecting giant than a land management decision. As I choked back tears like it was double-header night at the chick flick festival, I thought of my mom. I felt suddenly selfish, sad and guilty about the trees (a sentiment only exacerbated by the fact that my husband had walked through the yard the night before, touching each tree to say good-bye and teaching Junius to say thank you to each one). And I felt like an idiot for underestimating the power that such tall creatures could have on a mom who had lived under them for more than two decades or even just 12 months.

Today I've settled down again. I'm enjoying all the new sunlight in my yard. I'm imagining new landscaping in the front and more space to play in the back. And I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn yet another lesson from my mom, who is a great teacher and who always loves me in spite of myself.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In memory of a profound life

My dear friend's mom died this weekend after a valiant struggle with cancer. I want to do something for her -- make her a casserole or give her a big hug or tell her a story of my latest parenting foibles in a feeble attempt to make her smile. But she is in Alabama with her family, so I can do none of those things right now.

Instead, I will share with you my favorite story about her Mama (as she is known). As you read it, imagine my friend putting on her best Mobile drawl as she tells the story. I may get some of the details a little off, but the punchline is still fabulous.

When S. graduated from her master's program in education, her mom -- also a lifelong educator -- pulled her aside to tell her something very important before she began her teaching career.

Mama took S. by the shoulders, looked deep into her eyes and declared, "Dahlin', some days... you will be profound." [For full effect, say "profound" loud and in three syllables.]

"And some days," she paused dramatically, before continuing in a low voice, "you will show a movie."

S. - We love you. We love your Mama for the person she helped you become. And when you get back home, I'll be bringing casseroles and giving you big hugs because I won't know what else to do.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Day for a Dad

Although I'm guessing this wasn't his ideal Father's Day, my husband was a great dad today.

I've had a fever and a miserable cold since Friday night and Pippi woke up with the same mess on Saturday, so we haven't been a whole lot of fun. Junius made a nice card (on his sister's behalf) and we let Daddy go for a run this morning. But otherwise, he's been on Dad Duty pretty much all weekend.

When I woke up from a long morning nap (I'd put myself in bed right after I put Pippi down), the house was empty. Turns out that my sweet husband had retrieved Pip after her nap (I never even heard her wake up), dressed both kids (with bloomers on Pippi, no less) and gone to Biscuitville. We sat out on our front porch and ate biscuits together while the kids begged sips of sweet tea from their Daddy.

It wasn't anything fancy, but for me it was a perfect picture of why he's my husband. I always knew he would be a wonderful dad -- not just a father, but a real kiss-the-boo-boos-change-the-diapers-get-down-and-silly-hands-on dad.

My own father was and is a great dad -- and now a great PopPop, too. So I know that my husband might just be the greatest gift I can give my children -- a dad who loves them, a dad that I love, a dad who loves me.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's Five: Awesome Sesame

Some other time, I'll write about our efforts to keep our kids from watching TV -- with some success for Junius and limited success for Pippi. But today I'm skipping over that debate to bring you a belated Friday's Five.

Really good children's television has to be entertaining for viewers of all ages -- if I don't like it, I definitely don't want my kids watching it. The beauty of Sesame Street -- in addition to its efforts to teach preschoolers about math, vocabulary, and other skills -- is that it's hilarious. When I was a kid, I had no idea who the grown-ups were. Now that I'm the mom, I'm cracking up to see everyone from Jack Black to Brian Williams to Andrea Bocelli playing along with the muppets.

In no particular order, here are five of my favorite (recent) Sesame Street segments -- the video quality isn't so great on some, but they're still funny:
  1. Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) as the Fairy Shoe Person: If you're a fan of NPH, you must see this. In full Broadway style, the Shoe Fairy tries to find just the right pair of shoes for Telly Monster. I can't summarize. You just have to watch it.

  2. Tina Fey (not to be confused with Sarah Palin) with the Bookaneers: Tina and her Bookaneers (they're the Pirates of the Care-to-Be-Readin') crash into Elmo and Alan, recruit Elmo to join their crew and follow a treasure map to the library. The clip shown here doesn't give you all the brilliant puns, but it's a start. In case you were wondering, a pirate's favorite letter isn't R -- it's F. Pirates love F-words -- you know, like fish and flugelhorn.

  3. Will Arnett ("Gob" from Arrested Development) as Max the Magician: A Gob-like magician shows off his tricks to Big Bird, Elmo and the crew. Being clever muppets, they realize he's actually doing math. After watching this episode, Junius spent weeks running into rooms and shouting, "Did somebody say.....MMMMMMMAGIC?!" and then hurling things over his shoulder.

  4. Pre-School Musical: It's got sass and choreography and sustained notes. It's block corner vs. dress-up corner at the pre-school (problem solved when they realize they can "just take tu-uh-uh-uh-uh-urns"). In short, it rocks. And if you watch the clip, be prepared to sing the song ALL day.

  5. Texas Telly and the Golden Triangle of Destiny: This clever spoof of Indiana Jones brings in Texas Telly and Minnesota Mel as they search for the golden triangle of destiny. After finding several other golden shapes (and meeting other characters like Virginia Virginia) and avoiding a giant boulder, Telly finally finds his most favorite shape. Sadly, the clip linked here only shows part of the segment, but you get the idea.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tackling the Chicken

I just cut up two raw chicken breasts into pieces and browned them to use in tonight's dinner.

[Pause while the people who know me well pick themselves up off the floor and start breathing normally again.]

Yes, that's right. For the first time (probably ever), I took two raw, icky chicken breasts, cut them into pieces and cooked them on the stove.

As I've written before, for years, I didn't touch raw meat at all. I ate a lot of cereal. After college, I worked up to cooking ground beef or salmon fillets and, in the past couple of years, chicken breasts and pork tenderloin -- but only when I could plunk the whole thing into a dish and bake it.

Want to know how I got through it without breaking down? Imagined I was the Swedish Chef. "De cheekin smooshin. Bork, bork, bork!"

Now I'm going to Clorox my hands for the third time and take a nap.

Photo from

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Loose ends

A few updates on some older posts, for those of you who are keeping track...
  1. We didn't get picked to be on TLC's Home Made Simple. Although the producer supposedly thought we were "hilarious," apparently we just weren't TV material. Thankfully, my husband hasn't noticed that I have yet to learn how to make duck for dinner. Go here to read about one of the local families that will be on the show.

  2. The babysitting co-op rocks. I've had two friends over to sit for my kids, and I've gone to two other houses to sit for their kids. Loving care and proper supervision were involved, and everyone had a more fiscally-responsible night out. That said, we still love our "original" babysitters -- both the one who is getting married and the one who moved away for grad school (you know who you are).

  3. The pile is gone, thanks to a complete clearing out of all loose items upstairs in preparation for the new carpet that was installed last month. Of course, the living and dining rooms (where we relocated everything) are a total disaster area -- but the upstairs looks lovely. Will see how long that can last.

  4. The Super Dylan Team raised more than $10,000 to support research for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. We surpassed our fundraising goal, but it's not too late to give, if you're interested.

  5. I got 10 comments posted on my shameless solicitation for feedback -- the most comments of any post so far (thank you!!). Also, my unintentionally-possibly-racist-but-not-and-still-think-it's-funny joke does not appear to have offended anyone enough to make them leave a nasty note.
I think that wraps up most of it for now. Thanks for reading -- I'm really have fun doing the writing, but it's even better when I know you're out there enjoying it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Come to my window

I promise I'm not stalking Mrs. Chicken, but she has another interesting post on her blog this week about the fascination of being a voyeur. I'll let you read her post because it's better than reading my paraphrase of her post, but I saw myself in her story about the "allure of... glimpses of someone else’s ordinary evening." Nothing creepy, but I still find it fascinating to see in the windows, whether literal or virtual. Probably part of why I like the movie Rear Window so much -- I get the fun of inventing a story around that tiny glimpse.

Okay, go ahead. Read it -- I'll wait. Seriously -- you don't really need another link, do you?

So here's my "window" -- the photo of me when I was reading her post yesterday. No make-up, bed-head, still sweaty from the morning's walk pushing 75 pounds of children and stroller around our hilly neighborhood. I'm in what my husband calls "Command Central" -- it's the corner of my kitchen counter where my laptop sits most of the time. While my children are napping, I catch up on email, read blogs, check Facebook and prep for dinner. It's not glamorous, but it's me -- and most days, I'm happy with that.

But if you happened to walk by my house later on last night (and one of my friends was doing just that), this second picture is what you saw... not through our window, but outside at the curb. It's Junius and his Daddy watching for lightning bugs.

This sweet scene started when my husband heard Junius walking around upstairs after he should have been asleep. When he found Juni awake, he suggested a trip to the potty might help. Junius looked out the bathroom window into the almost-darkness and said, "Da -- look at that! What's that little light that keeps blinking? Look -- there it is again!"

And so the boy with the early bedtime got his first trip outside on a summer night to catch fireflies with his wonderful father. His eyes wide with excitement, his voice hushed in the dark, Juni went out and hopped around the yard with us as we tried to show him what a lightning bug looks like up close.

Before we went back inside to bed, he turned and said in his most earnest little voice, "Thank you, Da. Thank you for taking me outside to see the fireflies."

If you like, show me your window now... what would I see as you read this post?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Musiciancarnation: Tift Merritt

In my next life, I want to come back as Tift Merritt.

She's talented and gorgeous -- and she's lived in North Carolina and Paris, which are two of my favorite places.

The first time my husband and I saw her perform, he leaned over to me halfway through the first song and said, "I think she's on my list."*

"Are you kidding? She's on MY list," I responded. The woman is that sexy.

And not just because she has fantastic hair (read: all the thick curls I never had, even with my '80s perm), a beautiful smile (read: straight teeth that I used to have before I gave up on my retainer in 7th grade and my teeth shifted back to being too crowded) and a great figure (read: all the curves I never had, even when I was nursing).

It's something in her voice, how she holds the guitar, the way she moves toward the microphone, how she leans her head back when she sings -- all of it is sexy in a powerful, sensual, musical way.

Check out one of my favorite songs below (it can be a little slow to load) or go here...

*We have this running joke about which three celebrities are on our "list" of people we'd be allowed to fool around with and not get in trouble -- which is totally safe because none of them know we're alive so there's no chance of actually cheating and thus destroying our marriage. I think we took the idea from a TV show or something (can't remember anymore), but it seemed much less weird before I tried writing down an explanation about it.

Photo from

Sunday, June 14, 2009

He says it there and it comes out here

Junius loves to talk. I have no idea where he got that from (*ahem*), but he really does. Even when he's wrestling with the stutter that occasionally comes and goes (apparently a normal developmental thing for 2- to 5-year-olds, especially boys), he still keeps talking. And talking.
And talking.

As he gets older and his vocabulary expands, it's fascinating to listen to what he comes up with and try to decipher where the ideas or words came from. I feel like I'm working some strange puzzle, searching for the links to things we've done or books we've read or shows we've watched until I can make sense of his story.

Here are two favorite excerpts from the past few days:

In a conversation with a grown-up friend over the weekend...
Junius: The Red Wings and the Penguins played for the Stanley Cup last night, but the Penguins won.
Ms. S: Oh really? Did you want the Penguins to win?
J: No, I wanted the Red Wings to win.
Ms. S: So did that make you sad?
J: No... [and then he paused, looked at her and said very carefully and clearly] I was disappointed.
[Strangely I found myself tearing up at this moment. Not because I was so upset for the Red Wings, but because my baby sounded so grown up. Also, we have no idea why he became a Red Wings fan, but it could be the red uniforms remind him of the 'Canes.]

Talking to his dad at bedtime...
"Alex used to be my big brother, but he's not anymore.
Now my big brother is Walt Henderlite.
And Pippi's big sister is Dot Henderlite."
[This is funnier when you know where the names came from. Alex is his best friend from preschool, who happens to be about nine months older than Junius. Walt is my friend from college who met us for lunch earlier this month -- it was the only time I've seen him in more than a decade, but he's tall and apparently that made quite an impression on Juni. Dot is a character in A Bug's Life, which is the movie we recently let Juni watch -- she's the little sister ant. And Henderlite is the surname of a family in our neighborhood whose house we'd passed that morning on our walk.]

Side note: The photo is Junius playing hockey. I'm noting that for you just in case you can't tell because he has a golf club, a baseball glove, a soccer goal and a footbal helmet. But it's hockey. He's being Cam Ward.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Giveaway at Triangle Mamas

Although I'm not really cool enough to have interesting giveaways on my blog, it turns out that I'm writing for another blog that is totally cool enough.

Head on over to Triangle Mamas, where you can register to win Animal Planet's Emergency Vets, a new game for the Nintendo DS that lets children play as a veterinarian in 15 vet mini-games. They can care for 30 different animal species cleaning teeth, grooming them, and even examining x-rays to diagnose problems. And best of all, you don't actually have to let 30 animals in your house in order for them to practice their vet skills.

And while you're there, you can read a few posts by me and some great local bloggers about non-giveaway topics.

Entries will be accepted until 11:00 p.m. on July 16, 2009.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Five: Restronks for the Fam

Like most people these days, we're trying to save money and eat out less. But every now and then, Junius begs us to go to a "restronk" and we agree. This probably dates back to the year I was pregnant with Pippi when we were in transition (new house, new jobs, new baby -- long story) and we ate out a lot.

Here are five of our favorite kid-friendly restaurants from when we lived in Greensboro (I've excluded Chick-Fil-A from the list, since you already know how I feel about CFA). Some are franchises, some are local, some are both -- but all are places the whole family can enjoy:
  1. Ham's on Friendly: The original Ham's restaurant, this location offers tasty food, great service (nice to parents and kids) and a train that runs back and forth in the rafters. The fried potato chips are super yummy (in a greasy kind of way) and the chicken tenders are surprisingly good. Kids eat for 99 cents on Tuesdays and the kid's meal includes ice cream. Can't speak for the other franchise locations, so I recommend you stick with the original.

  2. Smith Street Diner: Yummy down-home southern diner breakfast food. They serve lunch, too, but breakfast is available until they close at 3 p.m. on the weekends. Juni likes the great big pancake, but I prefer the diner classic of eggs, bacon, grits and a biscuit. If you're going to eat out for breakfast, you might as well do it right.

  3. Jason's Deli: Free self-serve soft-serve ice cream in a cone or a cup. Isn't that reason enough?

  4. Fincastles: A classic downtown burger diner (complete with jukebox and famous singing waiter) in a great, old renovated building. Sit at the counter and enjoy the swively stools while you sip your soda with crushed ice (the best kind) and munch on fries and a cheeseburger. Kids meal also comes with ice cream.

  5. Ghassan's: My disclaimer here is that my college roommate's family owns this restaurant, but I think the many years I spent eating there only makes my recommendation more credible. Truthfully, Juni likes any meal that comes with fries and I love the chicken on a pita platter. And the great fish tank at the Battleground location helps keep the little ones entertained.
So what are your favorite places to dine with the kiddos?

Photo from Fincastles.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Apology and a Question

I'm writing to apologize for the joke I included in my please-leave-me-a-comment-so-I'll-feel-read-and-loved post last week.

I posted the joke, which I found in the comments on another blog, because I thought it was hilarious and unexpected. My husband, who also thought it was funny, emailed it to a few friends. One of them wrote back to ask why he was forwarding racist jokes.


Then I read it again. And suddenly I remembered the controversy earlier this year surrounding a New York Post cartoon about the president's stimulus bill that showed two police officers and a dead chimp. Some critics, including Al Sharpton, were highly offended because they saw the cartoonist comparing Barack Obama with a rabid chimpanzee because the president is African-American.

So for the record, my associations with monkeys are generally of the Curious George variety. I thought the joke was an ugly-baby joke and it made me laugh. If I had thought it was intended to be racist, I never in a million years would have posted it. I sincerely apologize for offending anyone who saw the joke as a racist statement.

And for what it's worth, after my husband shared his story with me, I realized that when I had visualized the joke as I was reading it for the first time (because I'm a visual learner and that's what I do), I saw myself (or someone who looked like me) in the "mom" role in the joke.

What did you see or hear in the joke? Am I offensive or overly sensitive? Comment and let me know (and not just because I love to get comments, although I do, but seriously I want to know what you think on this one)...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's in a name?

Speaking of pseudonyms, lots of people have been asking where I got the names Junius and Pippi. Some have assumed it's an obscure literary reference. Others wondered if they were take-offs from the old family tree. Still others speculated some bizarre movie or TV character.

Actually, they are the kids' real-life nicknames. Because giving them four legal names just wasn't enough. Here's how they happened (the nicknames, that is, not the very long real names -- that's another post)...

"Junius" evolved slowly, starting from my husband calling my growing belly "Junior." As my husband was singing to said belly one day, it turned into a "Juni, Juni, Juni, Juni, Juni, June" riff a la "Hey Jude." This seemed fitting since the baby was due in June (little did we know he wouldn't arrive until July). Over time, "Juni June" turned into "Junebug." After the baby arrived and we discovered he was a he, my husband expanded "Junebug" into the formal "Junius T. Bugg" (the T. stands for "the") -- and so he became Junius.

Pippi seemed so tiny when she was born (a healthy 8 lbs. 5 oz., but still a lot smaller than her suddenly very big brother). But she was also quite noisy, always squeaking, grunting or snorting. So I started calling her "pipsqueak." That turned into "Pip," which evolved into "Pippi" -- who also happened to be one of my favorite childhood book characters (Pippi Longstocking, whose full name was Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking, but it's hardly a nickname when it's longer than your real name).

And there you have it. So does a Junius or a Pippi by any other name still look as cute? Absolutely.

Photographs by Kimberly Naranjo at Evolve Studio Photography.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The name's Marco...

Last week was our monthly-ish trip to the local library. Junius likes to run through picking out the same Curious George, Clifford and Berenstain Bears books every time while I search for something new (this trip's winner so far is The Dumpster Diver) and try to keep Pippi from unloading all the shelves.

After we've made our selections, we do the self check-out because Juni likes to "help" at the computer. It's a little tricky because the scanner is kind of sensitive and you have to hold the book just right for the code to work, so it actually takes longer than just waiting in line for the librarian. But it's free entertainment, so who am I to complain.

As we were scanning our books last week, Juni starts hopping around saying, "Stan Marco! Stan Marco!" While I'm looking around trying to figure out who in the world is Stan Marco, I realize he's actually repeating what he hears in the computerized voice announcing instructions to us as we attempt to check out our pile of books.

It's saying, "Scan barcode."

When he picks the name "Stan Marco" as his alias one day, at least we'll know why.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Musiciancarnation: China Forbes

Note: New Music Monday will be on hiatus for a few weeks while the kids are home -- no preschool or summer camp, so we're on the move to keep us all entertained. Instead, I'm introducing a new occasional feature called "Musiciancarnation," that is, if I could be reincarnated as a particular singer, this is who it would be.

In my next life, I want to come back as China Forbes.

She gets to wear sparkly, sexy dresses while singing fabulous songs in at least nine different languages, her gorgeous voice dancing along with ten amazing musicians. When she came out on stage Saturday night for the Pink Martini show at the Museum of Art, my husband's comment was, "She is saucy." Rrrrrrrrrrarrrrr.

And she sings her true-story song, "Hey, Eugene," about a guy she met at a party who asked for her number and then never called her. Doesn't he feel like a dumbass now.

And as if that weren't enough, she's a new mom, too.

Take a listen to one of my favorites here (plus a couple other good ones)...

Photo of Ms. Forbes from

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday's Five: Covers

I missed New Music Monday this week since we were at the beach, so it seems appropriate to have a musical Friday's Five instead.

Recently on Back Porch Music, I was surprised to hear a cover of a Nick Drake song -- took me a bit to realize what it was because it sounded so different, yet so familiar. I think that's what makes a good cover song -- one that takes its own path while still honoring the original.

Here are five songs, listed with their primary artist first and the cover artist second. In each case, I can honestly say I like both versions. I think #1 is the best twist and #5 is the most surprising. Take a listen and see if you have a favorite...
  1. "Kiss" by Prince and Tony De Sare
  2. "If I Had a Boat" by Lyle Lovett and Eddie From Ohio
  3. "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper and Eva Cassidy
  4. "Northern Sky" by Nick Drake and Bill Evans and Megan Lynch
  5. "Hey Ya" by Outkast and Ted from Scrubs

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hello? Anyone out there?

My neighbor got me reading a blog called Chicken & Cheese (among others) because she knew I had WAY too much free time on my hands and needed more good things to read. So in yesterday's post, Mrs. Chicken asked people to leave comments on her post with jokes, rants, whatever, just to see how many comments she could get.

Until I started writing this blog, I never understood how much bloggers liked comments. Turns out, it's really cool to have people comment (in writing) about what I wrote and makes the whole process much more interesting. (Many thanks to those of you who faithfully comment -- am trying to do the same for you.)

So here's the deal. I'm going to share with you the MOST hilarious joke I read in the comments (thanks to Karen Sugarpants) on Chicken & Cheese. Then you write back with a comment of your own -- can be a joke, funny story, soapbox issue, pet peeve, whatever. Then I will know you're out there and will feel loved and appreciated.

Here's the joke:

A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!”

The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!”

The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

Hah! You're welcome. Now it's your turn!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Becoming Grandparents

One of the many interesting things about becoming a parent has been watching my parents become grandparents. The transition appears to have been a fun one for them, but it's a joy for me, too.

Last weekend was our first beach trip with Nanna and PopPop since Pippi was born, which made it all the more wonderful to be there with them. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to be at the beach with a sand-eating, shell-tasting, seaweed-sampling toddler who likes to wake up before sunrise (literally).

Even though it was supposed to be my parents' vacation, they happily took my two little crazies on bike rides around the island and walks on the beach, built sand-roads and sand-hockey arenas (no castles for Junius this year), shared watermelon and cooked meals. They snuggled and wrestled and raced and practiced yoga together. It must have been the most exhausting three days of vacation my parents ever had.

But no matter how much we must have worn them out, they were really enjoying their role as grandparents and beach playmates. When we left on Tuesday so that they could have the last part of the week to themselves, I actually believed my parents when they said they'd miss us.

Still, I think they'll somehow find a way -- between watching peacefully from their deck as the sun rises and sets over the sound -- to get by without us.