My Convertible Life

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Friday's Five: Non-Fancy Books

Going to the library with two kids is always an adventure -- usually starts out fun and ends with me grabbing Pippi's hand and hustling us all out of the building before we get yelled at for breaking the self-scanners at the check-out station.

When both kids were little, I just picked out books that I liked and they didn't know the difference. Now they have opinions and special requests (like Junius asking the librarian for anything about Buzz Lightyear), so I never quite know what we'll bring home. Lately, it's been a lot of superhero books (like Spider Man) for Junius and a LOT of Fancy Nancy for Pippi. Don't get me wrong -- I think Fancy Nancy books are very cute and I know I would have loved them as a little girl, I just get tired of reading "Bonjour, Butterfly" 872 times a day. If we're going to read French, I'd rather read my copy of Olivia that I brought back from Paris.

So, here are five books that I've really enjoyed reading with Pippi lately when I can peel her away from Fancy Nancy:

  1. The Old Woman and the Wave by Shelley Jackson: I love everything about this book -- the illustrations, the story, the imagination, the message, everything. I don't want to give anything away, but it involves an old woman who has lived her whole life in the shadow of a huge wave, while the wave secretly loves the old woman and her dog.
  2. Ish by Peter Reynolds: This adorable little book shows what happens when a child stops trying to draw perfect pictures and just focuses on the "-ish." And it has a character named Marisol, so we like it because we have a friend named Marisol, too.
  3. Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen and Barry Moser: This Jabberwocky-like book is so fun to read aloud. It calls out for a live performance, but my bedside reading will have to suffice for now. Clever language, beautiful illustrations and a great message for an adventurous toddler, this is another one at the top of my list.
  4. Owen by Kevin Henkes: When I first started this book, I wasn't so sure I'd like it. I'm tired enough of strangers telling me that Pippi is "too big for that pacie" as they pull it out of her mouth -- so I wasn't too keen on Owen's pushy neighbor trying to break him of his blanket. Thankfully, his mother saves the day with a much better answer -- and the little blankie (Fuzzy) is so sweet. And we know two Owens, so it's even more fun.
  5. Jazzmatazz! by Stephanie Calmenson and Bruce Degen: This book is just good ol' silly, musical fun. Pippi starts singing it even weeks after we've returned it from the library. Another chance for me to enjoy the happy audience of a two-year-old as we make up songs along with a jazz-playing mouse and his friends.
What about you? What books are using to keep your kids reading things that you like, too?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Student Stands Up, Speaks Up for School Diversity

I didn't attend last week's rally and protest by supporters of Wake County's now-eliminated diversity policy. My reasons for not attending were typical and (let's be honest) a little lame -- I had to work and couldn't take the time off while balancing job, kids and my daily life. Because I wasn't there, I'd decided not to write about it -- it's not like you all don't know where I stand on the issues. 

But someone I know was there -- he's 15 and a student in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). 
After the march, he and his mom submitted a letter to the editor about his experience. I don't know if the paper will run the letter or now, but I wanted to be sure it got printed somewhere. Thank you, Seth, for standing up for what you believe in and for trying so hard to be heard when others (like me) were silent. Here's the letter:

I took my 15 year old son to Hillsborough Street at 8:45 this morning. He took a CAT bus to the Convention Center and participated in the march to the Capitol where he stood alongside over a thousand other people, in 95 degree heat to hear all the speakers at the rally. He walked to Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to pray and prepare for the school board meeting. He left there and went to the school board where he waited outside for forty-five minutes, then spent four hours inside trying to obtain a ticket to attend a public meeting where he signed up to speak. After ten hours of working for an opportunity to express his views, he saw the School Board move into “closed session” instead of continuing with the public hearing. Here is what he wanted to say:

“I have spent 11 years in the WCPSS. I am proud to be in a school system recognized across the country as a model for diversity within education. Sadly, this is about to change because of five close-minded board members. I am a product of a school system that taught me to value diversity. I understand that when I graduate, I will enter a diverse world. I will also graduate with the understanding that I can learn something from every person I meet – black, white; rich, poor; conservative, liberal. It is also my responsibility to share what I know with others. And what I know is that a neighborhood school system will segregate schools based on socio-economic status and create unequal opportunities for learning. It will also prohibit current and future students from benefitting from the diversity that was so important and relevant in my education.

“In January, I was honored to be asked to read a litany at a joint service with Pullen Memorial and Martin Street Baptist Churches. I was humbled to read words spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, I made a promise to myself that I would take the words that he once spoke and make them resonate in my life, and throughout the world. That is why I will never stop fighting for a diverse, public school system in Wake County.”

Dr. Jill Hinton and Seth Keel

Photo from The News & Observer.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saturday Strategery: When Your Toddler Makes Carpet Parmesan

I'm not exactly sure how this happened yesterday, but at some point Pippi (shown here, imprisoned in her crib for time-out) smuggled a brand new container of Parmesan cheese (shown here, in foreground) upstairs to her room. One minute she was playing downstairs in her little kitchen, the next she's upstairs with a measuring cup pouring the entire container on the carpet. Did I mention this is the new carpet we just installed last year?

In case this toddler scenario plays out at your house, here are some steps to help you through after the disaster strikes.

  1. Dump toddler into time-out crib. Remove pacies and blanket so that she's sufficiently miserable.
  2. Rant. Clench fists. Grit teeth.
  3. Blame your husband (not recommended, but sometimes it's hard not to -- just know that he won't take the blame).
  4. Take photos for blog to make yourself feel better about the situation.
  5. Rant some more. Stomp downstairs and back up again.
  6. Scoop up Parmesan with hands, as much as possible and dump into measuring cup. Send slightly more responsible older brother downstairs with the cup.
  7. Vacuum. Then clean out the vacuum cleaner and hope to goodness that it doesn't get Parmesan mold trapped inside.
  8. Be thankful it was parmesan and not ketchup. Be grateful for the Dyson.
  9. Let husband take kids to pool.
For more Saturday Strategeries, check out these posts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday's Five: Loose Ends

Today's Friday's Five is a little random -- but there are a lot of loose ends I need to tie up this week and I don't have time for a post for each one. Consider this the grab bag of Friday posts -- you just don't know what you might get.

So, in no particular order and with no real unifying theme, here are five completely unrelated things I learned online this week:
  1. Y'all love some minivans: I got one "like" and 13 comments on my post about considering a new, larger vehicle, plus another 10 comments on Facebook when I linked to the post. Nearly everyone said the minivan is the way to go. The problem for me is not so much the cool factor (or lack thereof), it's that I still feel like the Accord is kind of a big car after driving the Celica -- just not sure I can navigate a vehicle that large. Will keep you posted.
  2. Ten words for things you didn't know have names: I've already confessed that I'm a super geek (particularly about things language and journalism related), so you won't be surprised to know that I love learning funky new words. This list from Merriam-Webster online includes philtrum (see photo), tittle, glabella and a couple of words I'd actually heard before. Because yes, I really am that much of a geek. And if you need more proof about my geekiness, check out my love note to the em dash in the comments on this post about punctuation.
  3. People are speaking up about their experiences with Wake County's diversity policy: These two posts, from a former WCPSS student (who works in NY) and a former WCPSS teacher, were prompted by Tuesday's protest march in Raleigh regarding the Wake Board of Education's elimination of the former diversity policy. I hope you'll take a moment to click the links and read what they have to say -- both posts reminded me of the sentiments I tried to share about my experiences in Charlotte.
  4. Religion is never easy: After my post about struggling with my church, I got some encouraging comments and nice emails. One friend (who is a Presbyterian minister, so she has extra credibility on these matters) called religious practice "comfort food for the soul" and suggested that many people (understandably) overlook concerns about their Church in order to enjoy the services at their church. I was just starting to feel better about my Catholic church, when I see this article about a new document from the Vatican suggesting that ordaining women as priests is as grave an offense as pedophilia. Really? Seriously? Oy vey.
  5. Readers like being asked for advice: See item #1 above. In fact, I think the only thing you people like more than your minivans is sharing your opinions about them. So here's another opportunity -- now I need advice on a firm-but-still-comfortable-not-outrageously-pricey mattress set. Discuss amongst yourselves, then share in the comments. Please. I'm tired (literally) of sleeping on a mushy bed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can You Get a Convertible with a Third Row?

When my husband and I were first married, we had a Honda Accord and a Toyota Celica between the two of us -- both were paid for and working fine. After Junius was born, we needed more room for a car seat, so we traded in my convertible Celica -- for a convertible Solara (I am the Convertible Girl after all). Driving smaller cars -- and eschewing the bump up to a minivan or big honkin' SUV -- has been a source of quiet pride for both of us. It always seemed more financially and environmentally responsible -- plus it gave my husband a chance to show off his skill at packing a family of four for a week's vacation into one regular-sized vehicle.

But after a few years of watching friends help us out by picking up our kids from preschool or taking them to the park and not being able to return the favor -- because no amount of squeezing will fit three (much less four) car seats and/or boosters in the back of an Accord -- we're considering a big move. We don't need anything large enough to hold the whole swim team, pack luggage for 20 and tow a boat at the same time -- just something with a third row so that we could take our two kids and a couple of friends in the car together.

So here's where I need your help... taking into consideration that I want to seat at least six people without spending a fortune or buying more vehicle than necessary, what would you recommend?

Photo from A 2 Z Limosine Fleet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dating Women Sucks

Three years ago this month, my husband and I sold our house in Raleigh, packed up our stuff (and two-year-old Junius) and moved in with my parents in Greensboro so that we could be closer to a job opportunity. Two months later, we bought a house there and attempted to settle in before Pippi arrived -- which is to say I was on a desperate hunt for friends before the newborn craziness started.

I loitered at parks near my neighborhood, hovered around the baby pool, practically stalked women by the entrance at Junius's preschool. Some women ignored me, but most were nice and many stopped to chat -- still, nothing clicked. It felt like I was 21 again, trying to meet guys at a bar ("Hey, didn't you go to Carolina?"), but worse -- no loud music or alcohol to mask the awkwardness, and with a crazy toddler at my side.

When I spied a similarly pregnant mom with a young son at the Children's Museum one day that fall, I nearly threw myself at her feet -- as our boys miraculously started playing nicely beside each other at the train table, we had enough time to talk and discover that our baby girls were due within a month of each other. Before she left, she asked for my phone number. That night, I'm pretty sure my husband thought I'd gotten digits from Brad Pitt -- I was that excited. "SHE asked me for MY number!" I kept saying, like somehow that made me seem more desirable.

This scene flashed through my mind last week when Brenna at Suburban Snapshots wrote about the difficulties she's had making good friends as a full-time working mom in her 30s. "Is there a cut-off to making lasting friendships?" she asked. The post clearly resonated with lots of people -- within days, she had 50 comments and 46 shares on Facebook, mostly from women who were facing the same loneliness, whether they were SAHM, WAHM or full-time in an office with no children.

The truth is that dating women sucks. I realize I don't shower every day and sometimes I'm kind of opinionated, but I like to think I'm generally a socially acceptable, easy-going, relatively interesting person -- and finding good friends was really hard. Maybe it's just that we're all so busy -- with jobs, kids, husbands, houses and more. Maybe, as some of Brenna's commenters noted, making friends in motherhood is more complicated -- it's harder to put on a pretty face when you've got baby spit-up down your back and your 3-year-old is screaming because another kid just whacked him on the nose.

As it turned out, our stay in Greensboro lasted less than a year before we moved back to the same neighborhood we'd just left in Raleigh. (It's a long story and requires adult beverages, so feel free to invite me over if you really want to hear it.) And so I was blessed (and I mean that literally) to come back to a group of friends who were still here and still loved me. But I've never forgotten those lonely days, wandering the stacks of the children's section at the Greensboro library, hoping some cool mom and I might reach for the same Curious George book at the same time and realize we were destined to be friends.

So when you see that mom who looks like she's eavesdropping on your conversation at the park, invite her in next time. It will do you little harm and do someone else immeasurable good. Dating is hard enough without having to come up with a pick-up line at the swings.

Friendship necklace photo from HandCraftedCollectibles. I never had my own.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ode to the Expired Passport

Last week my husband and I pulled out our passports -- I'm embarrassed to report that both had expired in 2003. It's one of those things we kept meaning to do -- then new job, new house, new baby, another job, another house, another baby, more jobs, yet another house, and here we are seven years later without having needed a passport.

Just hours after I'd been inspecting my passport photo (hello, 1993 -- how's that curling iron working for you?), I read this post by fellow Triangle blogger Fadra. And given that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (right?), I decided to write my own version.

So, of course, we must start with the photo page. When I showed a friend this picture, she guessed that 6 out 10 current friends would not have recognized this as me. I'm going to take that as a compliment about how current and hip and trendy I look now. And yes, in fact, I did think I had beautiful Brook Shields eyebrows back then, thankyouverymuch.

Sadly, it turns out that my passport never got stamped in many of the countries I visited -- no markings from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland or one of the trips I made to France. But there are three stamps that hold the greatest significance for me.

First, the stamp shown here at the bottom is the reason I got my passport in 1993 -- summer study abroad in London with a class from UNC.

That trip was probably the boldest decision I made in college -- spending the summer overseas without any friends or family. Thankfully, I made a great friend on that trip who joined me on Eurail after our course was over -- and who is still one of my dearest friends today. Anyone who can survive that kind of travel with me -- and deal with my homesickness -- is a friend forever.

The next stamp, six years later, landed me in the same airport, but with a special pass that allowed me to stay for a full year.

I left Hurricane Floyd behind at the Greensboro airport, but I was my own personal disaster for the next few weeks while I tried to get my feet on the ground. For one year, I studied magazine journalism at Cardiff University -- and traveling around Europe whenever I had the chance -- while I proved to myself that I could not only survive, but even thrive away from the comforts and familiar faces of home.

And finally, for the last stamp in this passport, I wasn't traveling alone -- but the trip turned out to be the most memorable in many ways.

This little stamp from Charles de Gaulle airport marks the day before my husband pulled a sparkling diamond ring from his pocket as he knelt in front of me on the Pont Neuf in Paris. It's the only overseas trip we've taken together -- so far.

Here's hoping that over the next 10 years our new passports will be filled with matching stamps as happy reminders of shared experiences.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's Five: Tough Decisions

Before I had Junius, I remember thinking that I was more prepared for motherhood than most women -- I started babysitting when I was 9 and had regularly kept newborns and other babies, so I figured I knew what I was in for. I will now pause while you laugh at my naiveté.

Turns out that being a mom is almost nothing like babysitter -- other than the obvious presence of the baby. In addition to the sleepless exhaustion of motherhood, the toughest part is that you're suddenly The Decider. Instead of following another mother's list of instructions, I had to make all the decisions myself -- how often to feed, what to feed, when to nap, how long to let him cry, when to give up and close the door and start crying myself. And so on.

Thankfully, some of those decisions got easier to make as I went along. And now that my baby is five, I get to enjoy watching him make some decisions on his own. So now, without further ado, I share with you five big decisions Junius made this week:
  1. Crocs or flip flops?
  2. Grilled cheese or hot dog?
  3. Playground or slip-n-slide?
  4. Toy Story 1 or Monsters Inc?
  5. And my favorite... Pencil or cannonball? (See photo for answer)
It's a good life, if you can get it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Meal Planning -- Mid-Year Report

Amazingly enough, meal planning has become such a regular routine (after a year and a half) that I missed my first quarter report. So here's a summary for the first half of 2010 -- not that you're really interested in what we ate, but I'm still just so damn proud that I'm actually meal planning.

As usual, we ate plenty of frozen pizzas (16) and skillet meals (14). We also ate out 21 times, plus 11 dinners at parties and nine dinners out of town. Our most popular homemade meals included various chicken dishes (16), pork tenderloin (11), sweet potato and black bean casserole (7), tilapia (7) and salsa chicken skillet (7). I'm strangely proud that hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches showed up fewer than five times each.

This summer we're adding new items to the menu in order to use our Produce Box, including the simple and delicious caprese salad and my favorite chickpea salad. Maybe if you're lucky, I'll get permission to share my friend's secret family orzo salad recipe next week -- stay tuned.

Image (along with some really tasty recipes) found at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Parents Are People, Too

One of the fascinating things about becoming a parent has been the new perspective on my own parents. Sometimes it's a different view about the decisions they made about me -- now I totally understand why they wouldn't let me go unchaperoned to the beach in high school despite my pleas at the time about how very responsible I was. Sometimes it's a fresh appreciation for how hard they worked to make my life easy or realizing why they didn't always have the answers. Sometimes it's simply realizing how young they were and that they were people in addition to being my parents.

A similar revelation occurred recently when I emailed my dad about how much I enjoyed reading a book he'd loaned me -- Water for Elephants (which you should definitely read, if you haven't already). My dad is in a book club and I'm a former English teacher, so we have a lot of fun sharing books with each other. Unfortunately for me, my life doesn't allow me to read much these days (other than Fancy Nancy, of course) -- but I'm trying to get better about that and this book was part of that effort.

My dad emailed back about the three books he'd finished that week, followed by this comment: "I know how you enjoy reading and think about you and the time I have to do that."

And suddenly it hit me. Today, my dad has more books than he has shelves and reads multiple books each month -- but I have absolutely no memories of him reading for pleasure when I was a kid. Because (duh), he was busy working, spending time with his spouse and children, and trying to maintain a home for all of us (and squeezing in some tennis time, too). But as a kid, it never occurred to me that my dad was giving up something he enjoyed in order to do all of that.

I love that my dad has that time to read, now that he's retired -- he's earned it. And I REALLY look forward to the day when every day is Saturday for me, too, so that I can start reading a book a week without having to ignore my husband and children.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mere Churchianity

Warning: I'm about to write about religion. I figure I've already written about politics, so I might as well hit the other big, hairy topic, too. If you're not interested in church or easily offended by anything outside of your personal beliefs, please skip on over and wait until I post about funny kid tales or recipes or something. That said, this post really isn't as dangerous as I've made it out to be.

As a Catholic kid in the South in the 1970s, I grew up in mission territory. Literally.

The daughter of a born-and-raised Catholic father and a convert mother, I'm one of a relatively small group of people who grew up Catholic in North Carolina back then and still consider themselves Catholic today. Even now, Catholics make up only about 4 percent of the state's residents, with much of the growth coming from the influx of Northern transplants and an increasing Hispanic population.

When I met my husband, one of the things that was most surprising was that he, too, grew up Catholic in North Carolina -- attending K-12 Catholic schools, no less. We were married in the Church and have baptized both of our children as well. While I haven't always agreed with everything in the capital "C" Church (particularly when it comes to the Pope's politics), I've managed to find some small "c" church congregations that fit my spiritual needs.

But now that Junius is old enough to start faith formation classes (known to Protestants as "Sunday School" and called "CCD" in my day), I'm looking at both my Church and my church in a different way. I find myself wrestling more with the practices and beliefs that I've simply ignored in the past when I couldn't believe in them -- as a mom, how do I answer my children when they ask about those things?

So this summer we accepted an invitation from some friends to attend their church's summertime bible study -- sort of a low-key, low-commitment way to explore Christianity from another perspective. From the first session, I knew I'd stepped out of my religious comfort zone -- I didn't know the songs we sang, all the familiar rituals were gone, and participants were talking openly about the day they were saved. I was surprised to discover how much I missed the patterns and practices of a Catholic service.

What I also realized that evening and during later sessions was that I'm willing to wrestle with this. I don't ascribe to what the minister called "churchianity" -- just going through the motions of attending church without actually thinking about or believing in anything. At the moment, I'm not ready to leave my church. I have more questions than answers -- and I'm afraid that balance might get worse before it gets better. But maybe it's more important for my children to see me searching for answers than it is for me to always have the right thing to say.

Friday, July 9, 2010

J-Fest 2010: Blog Post Retrospective

We've had a very busy day today celebrating Junius's birthday with friends -- not much energy left for writing. In lieu of a new post, here are five of my favorite posts from last year about Junius... plus one to grow on:
  1. Baby Wants to Nurse (April 29, 2009): Junius tries breast-feeding.
  2. He Says It There and It Comes Out Here (June 14, 2009): Junius says funny things.
  3. Come to My Window (June 16, 2009): Junius discovers lightning bugs.
  4. Super Junius Strikes Back (July 17, 2009): Junius gets tough at the pool.
  5. The Days Are Long, But the Years Go By So Quickly (July 8, 2009): Junius turns four and makes Mommy sentimental.
  6. First of Many (Oct. 29, 2009): Junius hits more milestones.
Hope you enjoy the little trip down memory lane. Now get some rest -- being five is going to be busy.

Photo courtesy of Ms. B.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

J-Fest 2010: Announcing the Big Day

When Junius was born, his father (being a true PR man) wrote and distributed a hilarious press release announcing the big event. I've changed the names to reflect those used on this blog (in place of our surnamed "company," MCL stands for My Convertible Life), but I couldn't resist posting it here, five years after it's initial release. Apologies for the repeat to those of you who saw it the first time around. Happy birthday, Junius -- we love you!

MCL Settles Labor Dispute; Expands Operations in Raleigh

July 10, 2005

Raleigh, N.C. – MCL announced today that it has settled an ongoing labor dispute and expanded operations in Raleigh with the addition of Junius T. Bugg. The settlement resolved a birth delivery conflict between management and labor that peaked on July 8, allowing the firm to immediately expand. Junius is expected to provide the firm with greater depth and expertise in children’s issues, including infant diet and nutrition, sanitation and retail marketing.

“Miracles happen to people everyday in so many different ways. With the help and prayers of our family, friends and exceptional medical professionals, we began to live our own,” said Convertible Girl, partner and co-founder. “Our hearts are overflowing.”

Junius is a healthy baby, currently resembling his father. He weighed 8 pounds and 12 ounces and measured 20.5 inches long at birth. His first name is believed to be a distant family name on both sides and means “God has been gracious.” His middle name means “noble” and is also the name of his father. His official start date is July 8, 2005, at 3:57 p.m. He is the first full-time employee of the firm.

Dr. KB, of the Office of OB-GYN, led mediation efforts and performed all surgical procedures. Ms. S, RN, provided labor and delivery assistance throughout the day.

“This is a water-breaking moment for our firm,” added Spin PhD, partner and co-founder. “We’ll now have more feet and hands on the ground as we grow and explore new opportunities. We are tired, but very excited for the future.”

While the expansion will hit the firm’s balance sheet immediately, management is considering a variety of tax strategies to offset expenses associated with the initial investment. Angel investors have already provided in-kind support through furniture, supplies, clothing and friendship. The firm maintains a very positive long-term outlook for a strong return to original and subsequent investors. There are no immediate plans for additional expansion.

MCL was formed in 2001 through the merger of Convertible Girl and Spin PhD, then located on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill. The addition of staff had been anticipated since October 2004, but the gestation and birth processes and jumbo size of the baby prevented the firm from expanding sooner.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

J-Fest 2010: Signs Junius Is Growing Up

When Junius started in the toddler room at our preschool, he was 14 months old. Compared to how little he had been a year before, we thought he was SO big -- but Juni's teacher kept reminding us, "He's still just a baby."

When I look back at those pictures, he really was a baby. And even now, in all his long, skinny boy-ness, I can still see his round-cheeked baby-ness in his face when he's sleeping.

But I know he's crossed over into boyhood -- no more baby or toddler anymore. Here are five recent signs that he's really growing up:
  1. Baby and Blanket: For years, Junius's naptime/bedtime holy trinity has been a cup of milk, Baby and Blanket. "Baby" is a tiny white bear that came attached to a vase of flowers someone sent to me when Juni was born and somehow became his most trusted sidekick. "Blanket" is a soft, pale green blanket with the satin edges and back embroidered with his name and birthdate, a custom gift from a sweet friend. Last week, Baby and Blanket went missing for two days and no one -- not even Junius -- seemed to notice.
  2. Calendar: Junius generally measures time in awake/sleep increments -- as in, "What we are doing after this nap, Mommy? and the next nap?" Recently, we posted a big desk calendar on the wall and wrote his events on it, letting him cross off each day as they pass. He's finally starting to understand time, at least enough to count down to his birthday.
  3. Library: He's starting to show his independence by solving problems for himself. For example, at the library last week, he walked up to the counter in the children's section, politely told the librarian he wanted a book about Buzz Lightyear and followed along with her to pick out the book he wanted -- all without any help from me. It's a small thing in some ways, but it seemed so big to watch him do it.
  4. Mechanical bull: He's also becoming (occasionally) more willing to try new things, like jumping off the diving board or riding the mechanical bull (see photo) at the Hebrew National Better-Than-A-Picnic cookout in Moore Square last month. Junius has never been a risk-taker (another trait he picked up from his mama), but he's starting to venture beyond his comfort zone now and then.
  5. Quiet Time: For his first two years, Junius napped little, if at all. It was painful (although he was remarkably cheery when I wasn't trying to force him to nap), but he's made up for it by finally learning how to nap and continuing to take a nap late than many other kids. Until recently. For the past few weeks, most afternoons have involved a "quiet time" period of exile in his room with no napping while his sister slept. I suppose it's a good thing, given that he starts kindergarten next month, but I'm still sad to see the nap go away.
That wraps up Day Three of Junius Fest 2010, which included a cookie cake at the pool with his best girls to celebrate his birthday eve. If you missed them, you can read about Day One and Day Two (which included a visit from Nanna and PopPop) in preparation for Day Four (also known this year as his Actual Birthday).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

J-Fest 2010: Things I've Saved

When Junius was a new baby, I was afraid that he and I might not survive those early, sleepless months together -- in my exhaustion, time seemed to move so slowly. Now that he's about to turn five, I look at his itty-bitty baby clothes and wonder if he was ever really that small -- and every year seems to go by faster than the one before.

Since then, I've handed on lots of his baby clothes, toys and gear -- but there are those little treasures that I've tucked away for safe keeping. Now that I've (more or less) recovered from the insanity of his newborn-ness, I can't let go of those reminders of how small and round and sweet he was as a baby.

For Junius Fest 2010 Day Two, here are five things I've saved from Junius's baby days:
  1. Crocs: For his first year and a half, Junius was either barefoot or wearing Robeez. But ever since, his favorite shoes have been his Crocs. I think he loves that they're comfortable, colorful and easy to put on. I love that they're antimicrobial, so they don't get stinky from his shockingly smelly feet. He's picked a new color each year -- a little rainbow that charts his growth.
  2. Coming home outfit: The first baby gift I received was a tiny little yellow onesie with a so-soft teddy bear on one side and snaps down the front. Since we didn't know he would be a boy (although in my heart, I knew he was), I took it to the hospital for the coming home outfit. I was startled when this tiny onesie swallowed up my 8 lb. 12 oz. baby -- who knew even the big babies were still so small?
  3. First photo outfit: For his first professional photo in the studio at the 3 months old, Junius wore a little tan and white seersucker outfit that had once belonged to his Daddy. My MIL saved it and gave it to us when Juni was born -- we consider it his first (and definitely not his last) seersucker suit. He is a Southern boy, after all.
  4. Christmas outfit: I love Christmas as much as my own birthday (and they're conveniently in the same month), so celebrating Junius's first Christmas was a big deal. He wore this one-piece footed pajama-like outfit (because, really, aren't all baby clothes just fancier pajamas?) that came with a matching velour hat with little reindeer antlers on top. He was so cute, it was almost dangerous. 
  5. Swimsuit: It wasn't actually his first swimsuit (which was a hand-me-down for that very first summer), but it's the first swimsuit he wore when he was old enough to cruise around on the sand at the beach. His beautiful round toddler belly stuck out over the blue gingham trunks in the most adorable way.
There's more, of course, but those are the highlights. And in case you missed it, you can read about things Junius loves to do (that I hope he never stops doing) on Day One of Junius Fest 2010. The party continues tomorrow...

Monday, July 5, 2010

J-Fest 2010: Things Junius Loves to Do

Junius Fest 2010 has begun!

For those of you who remember Junius Fest 2009, you'll recall that Juni does not limit his birthday celebrations to just one day. His father blames me for that -- I think it's a combination of good planning and some strong genetic code. Either way, the party has already started, courtesy of a weekend visit from Nonna and Grandpa, complete with complicated Buzz Lightyear and Zurg Lego gifts (see photo of assembly in process).

In honor of the fact that Junius is turning five (gasp!) on Thursday, I'll be posting Friday Fives about him all week. Today, five things he loves to do that I hope he never stops doing:
  1. Dancing to any music: Today at the pool, he was rockin' out to the 80s lunch program on the radio while he waited for rest period to end. Ever since he was old enough to stand, he's been incapable of hearing music without a little bounce and boogie. I hope he'll always feel music that way and be free enough to show it.
  2. Playing happily with his grandparents and his daddy: Junius loves some one-on-one time. He'll play just about anything -- cars, Legos, baseball, basketball, hockey, cards -- in order to get his grandparents or parents to spend time playing with him. I hope he'll always want to spend quality time with us -- and that we always remember to make that time.
  3. Creating imaginary worlds: Whether he's playing by himself or with a friend, Junius can dream up elaborate events and locations and set them in motion. I hope his mind always finds creative solutions and lets him see what could be instead only seeing what is.
  4. Loving books: He's not reading yet, but he's got all the signs of someone who could become a voracious reader. Since he was a baby, he's always been happy to sit still for someone to read to him. I hope he'll always find comfort, excitement, ideas and challenges in books.
  5. Watching out for his sister: They fight like any other siblings (particularly when she whacks him on the head with one of his toys and then runs off with it), but Junius loves Pippi. From the first day he met her, he's been the one who could make her laugh the most and he loves being the big brother. I hope they always have a special bond and remember to watch out for each other.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Produce Box Magic

About a month ago, we signed up for a service called The Produce Box -- locally grown, farm-fresh veggies and fruits delivered weekly right to my front door. It's a great deal and the kids act like it's Christmas morning every Wednesday when our box arrives.

We've loved going to the State Farmer's Market, but it just isn't always convenient for weekly shopping. This way we're guaranteed to eat more fruits and vegetables, to try out foods we wouldn't have otherwise purchased and to stockpile a few things in the freezer for later in the year. The photo here is what arrived in our box last week -- corn, tomatoes, peaches, green pepper, watermelon and sprite melon.

This week they're running a "What I Did With My Box This Week" contest -- I'm sure I won't win for fanciest reply, but I might get the Easiest to Accomplish Award. Here's what we did:

  1. Cut up the watermelon and sprite melon (like a cross between a pear and a honeydew) for a delicious anytime snack. The kids ate it like candy, so it disappeared within two days.
  2. Cut up the peaches and served with vanilla yogurt and granola for breakfast, snack or a late night dessert.
  3. Sliced the tomatoes to make caprese salad for dinner (twice) -- just layered with mozarella slices and basil, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Served with pita bread (warmed on a skillet with a little olive oil) on the side.
  4. Blanched the corn and cut it off the cobb. Used some of the corn, along with the green pepper, to make salsa chicken skillet. Put the rest of the corn in bags to freeze for the fall.

What's your favorite easy way to use summer fruits and veggies?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday's 5: You're Going Where?

During my year of grad school in the UK, I got lots of funny questions about life in North Carolina -- but one of my favorites was the time someone said to me (in her beautiful Welsh accent), "Oh, we have some relatives who moved to North Carolina... have you been to La Fayette Ville?"

Ummm... "You mean," I replied with an exaggerated twang, "Fayettville?"

Okay, so it's funnier when you can actually hear it. But I cracked up in that moment, realizing suddenly that I had never made the connection between Fayetteville, NC, (or Fayette-nam, as it's sometimes called) and the Marquis de La Fayette.

Anywho, I thought about this story recently as we were driving across the state and laughing about all the ways people mispronounce the names of cities and towns in North Carolina (and don't even get me started on Virginia, given that my relatives are all from the Norfolk/Newport News/Hampton area -- that's "Nah-fahk"). So here, to help out the natives and transplants alike, are five names that might alert the locals that you're not from 'round here.

  1. Mebane: That's Meh' bin. Not Mee bain. Trust me on this one.
  2. Topsail Beach: "Topsail" is one word, not two. Don't say Top Sail -- smush it together to be Top' suhl, with emphasis on the first syllable.
  3. Beaufort: This one is actually a trick name. There are two correct pronunciations, but one is in NC (Bo' fert, with a long o) and one is in SC (Byoo' fert).
  4. Rowan: Another tricky one, this county name is also a street in my neighborhood. Unlike Brook Shields' daughter by the same name, the county is pronounced Row (as in row, row your boat) Ann' (emphasis on the second syllable).
  5. Wendell: This town in Wake County is a total switcheroo. Although it actually was named as a nod to the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, it's pronounced Wen dell' (or almost Win' dail, if you've got enough twang) instead of Wen' duhl.
Congratulations -- you're now one step closer to sounding like you belong here. What's your favorite mixed up location name, here or wherever you're traveling this summer?

Postcard image from APS Online.