14 May
2015
Posted in: Regular Entries
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In the Crapper

Speaking of losing things, earlier today I stood up at the conclusion of my *ahem* daily constitutional and, while the flush was already in mid-swirl, I caught out of the corner of my eye in the mirror across the hall (pooping with the door open is truly one of the great joys of working from home) the image of a small piece of paper fluttering from my back pocket and into the bowl, where it circled a few times, slunk up into the hole, and then–as I flailed helplessly toward my porcelain adversary–peeked a corner back out, as if it were about to surface, before, alas, it succumbed to the forces of our hearty indoor plumbing, so dearly beloved in every other case but this.

During the paper’s final wave of departure, I leaned in (but not too close; I’ve seen those videos) and tried to make out a word or two but could not. The notes were in my handwriting and probably recorded nothing more critical than a grocery list, and thus I am trying valiantly to not let the not-knowing drive me to madness. Madness, I say!

This concludes the sad tale of the time my best laid plans literally went down the toilet.

The end.

13 May
2015
Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries
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Gone But Not Forgotten

Simon’s car got broken into in front of our house over Thanksgiving weekend (I was not thankful to discover my child’s car seat filled with broken glass), and in addition to taking the subwoofer, S’s nice sunglasses (not one of the thirty pairs of $5 ones, of course), and my child’s sunglasses (really, dude?), this person also robbed us of a bag of miscellany that included things like hand sanitizer, a multitool, pens and markers, spare change, that sort of thing. Last month when I couldn’t find the full SD card I’d taken out of my DSLR camera around that same time, I was sure it had been stolen with the lot. I remember having swapped the full card for an empty card in the car, and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house, so it made perfect sense that it, too, was gone forever.

Our desktop computer, ten years old and overloaded, had starting refusing to deal with all the hi-res images I tried stuffing into it, so I hadn’t downloaded any photos from my camera for an entire year. The camera card I lost was Christmas in Salt Lake, spring flower sniffing, Easter in bow ties, frittering at the beach, my boys’ birthday parties, swimming lessons, boys in pigtails, Wombat’s first day of kindergarten, Simon’s band’s last performance, lost teeth, scraped knees, and a hundred other random since-forgotten moments that I’d captured with my camera specifically so I’d never forget them. The thought of it all being gone made me dizzy with loss. Those pictures are of no use to a thief, but they’re everything to me.

Another thing in the stolen bag was a little black notebook Simon kept in the car in case he needed to jot anything down. Most of the notebook was blank, but the first part was a daily journal of winter 2005, including the Christmas he spent in England with his mom and sister and the time he spent in therapy because he had for the previous few years been dealing with Major Life Upheavals and thought it might be nice to talk to someone with a degree in listening.

As we took stock of what had been stolen from the car, that notebook was the thing he was most upset about. That was the one thing that was truly irreplaceable. As someone who has boxes and boxes of journals, and another box full of old day planners, I was sick for him to have lost something like that. I wasn’t sure how personal of a record it was–he said it was mostly just the highlights of what he did each day, with very few interpretive flourishes–so although there was no cause to worry about sensitive information now being in the hands of someone with an obviously screwy moral compass, it was still a violation, a breach of what should be an inviolable boundary. And as with the photos, how senseless to be robbed of something so intimate, something as proportionately UNimportant and UNvaluable to the person who stole it as it was precious to its owner (and its owner’s sentimental wife). The total monetary cost of stolen goods wasn’t worth even half of what it took to repair the broken window. It’s all just so stupid.

About a month after the break-in, Simon got a call from a woman who said she’d found his little black notebook on the street five miles from our house. Back in 2005, Simon had put his phone number on the inside front cover; he’s had the same phone number as long as I’ve known him. That Saturday, we drove to a cute little house with a yard full of cats, about halfway between our house and where the notebook had been found. There was some water damage, the woman explained, because it had been left out in the rain on the side of the road. I tried not to think about all of our stolen things strewn across the ground, puddles forming around them.

When Simon told me that of all the items that had been taken he was mostly feeling the loss of the black notebook, it was an obvious reminder that the things people would save from that proverbial prepetually burning house (aside from family and pets) are always photo albums and journals. Memories. Evidence that we were here and we did these things and we loved these people and we laughed and we wore silly hats and we went on vacation and we celebrated holidays and accomplishments and each other. These are the things that matter.

I worked hard to come to terms with having lost a year’s worth of photos. (I also repeatedly kicked myself for not having downloaded them or uploaded them or even *gasp* blogged them.) I tried to console myself with the thought that even though the physical reminder of those moments was gone, the fact that they had happened at all was something that couldn’t be stolen. The boys had had wonderful birthday parties with family and friends and games and cake and party hats, and they will always have had them, no matter what. I probably had dozens of photos of Wombat reading in various unusual positions and locations, but that’s so much a part of who he is at this age I can’t imagine ever forgetting it. Fox is my little ham, and if memory serves I likely had several multi-shot series of him making different goofy expressions in each frame, and when I close my eyes I can flip through them now with my brain-camera, no technology needed. I think this is what it means for something to be gone but not forgotten, stolen but not lost.

I think about how few photos we took when film came in rolls of 24 or 36 shots, and I wonder if my need to have a record of every single thing that happens is nothing more than tech-enabled greed. And that would be a good moral to end on, but it’s not a realistic one for a sentimental fool like your dear author. Sure, I can brightside away about how many of the things we had stolen were “necessary” (none), but that does nothing to erase the pain of having them taken away. Necessary or not, the photos were a major loss.

Now flash forward to a few weeks ago, when I remembered that I’d switched out that full camera card on the way to Wombat’s early-December holiday concert, which means if I’d left it in the car, I’d done so after Thanksgiving, after the robbery. Hope lives! Another few weeks went by before I remembered I’d bought a new purse around the same time (maybe my memory isn’t to be trusted after all?), and whaddya know, when I looked in the old purse two days ago, I found, zipped safely inside an inner pocket, the photos I’d thought were lost, the memories I feared had been stolen.

There are lessons here, as there are everywhere (backup your photos, blog more, pay attention to your life, don’t leave anything in your car), but if I had to choose right now between learning those lessons or having my 2014 photos safe and sound and in my possession, I’d definitely choose the photos. Fortunately, I got them both.

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22 Apr
2015

Peas and Harmony (review + giveaway!)

I was compensated for this post with a free review copy of the book, but YOU have a chance to win much more by entering the contest below!

A potty-trained child is the gift of freedom. No more diapers, no more diaper bags, no more surprise wet spots on the furniture or the car seat or the lap dressed in dry-clean-only fabrics. A potty-trained child is everything, but as with many stages of parenting, it’s not an accomplishment easily won, and there will be tears (probably yours). To get to the Promised Land of Sunshine and Roses and Adorable Tiny Underpants at the far end of the Valley of TwoThreeFour, you must brave the Forest of Frustration, the Swamp of Despair, and the Bog of Eternal Stench (and you thought that last one was fictional…), and although the destination is worth it–I promise!–the reality is that there’s almost nothing to love about potty training itself. Almost.

As is true of most things in life, books make it better, and I have a really, really cute one for you. It’s not a book that vows to train your toddler in two days or work miracles with stubborn preschoolers, but it will bring some lightness and fun into what can be an otherwise joyless process. It’s called Go, Pea, Go! and the pun is not only intentional but integral to what has made the book an instant favorite in our house.

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We have a lot (alotalotalot) of children’s books here, and while I’ll admit to having a soft spot for pretty much anything printed and bound and wrapped in a cover, it would be absurd to pretend that all books are created equal, to deny that some books are better than others. (My tastes are broad, but I still have standards, for goodness sake.) This book? Is GREAT. (I told the publisher I wouldn’t review it unless I loved it.) It’s a give-as-a-gift-to-your-friends book, a put-on-top-of-the-stack-so-your-kid-requests-it-more-often book, a buy-an-extra-copy-so-you-can-cut-out-and-frame-the-artwork book. It’s by a pair of animation artists (Joe Moshier and Chris Sonnenburg) who have tapped into that sweet spot between vintage and modern that makes the pleasure center of my brain light up like a pinball machine, and I tried to pick one page or spread as my favorite and ended up with several. (Apologies for the hoopty photos; I’m having camera issues.)

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GoPeaGo

GoPeaGo

(And also cat issues.)

The bear driving the train is just…GAH, I love him. And the pool party! And the Gene Kelly penguin! And “tako” means “octopus” in Japanese!

We got the book back in February, and I swear to you Fox read it every single day (usually multiple times in a row) for at least a week. Two months later and it’s become one of those books any member of the family can pick out and no other member of the family will grumble and groan about it. Wombat, who’s well outside the marketing demographic, likes the book because it’s full of silly potty puns (without entering the territory of “toilet talk” most parents discourage), and we’re all still discovering clever details in the illustrations that give us a genuine chuckle.

The book comes with a potty chart and stickers, a page of music for a special song, and who knows, it might even improve a picky child’s relationship to peas. Sticklers of poetry meter will twitch a bit where the rhythm is a bit wonky, but if I can get over it, so can you. (Even Shakespeare has his moments, so iamb not one to judge.)

It’s really just a special little book obviously designed with care (I love the size and binding and rounded corners), and it has certainly made our potty-training journey more peas-ful and hap-pea. (I’m sorry, but I HAD to. Punsters are my peaple.)

Other peaple who are my peaple = my sweet peas in a pod:
GoPeaGo

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Here’s your chance to win a copy of the book plus related merchandise from author Joe Moshier’s website conducthappiness.com. Yip-pea!

To enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s what you want to win:

1. ONE person will receive a prize pack that includes a pea plush, pea beach ball, pea tote bag, pea hair clips, stickers, and a copy of the book. (I WANT THIS!)

2. THREE people will receive prize packs that include a pea beach ball, pea postcards, stickers, and a copy of the book.

3. FIVE runners-up will receive a copy of the book and stickers.

The contest runs from 4/22 to 5/4 at midnight EST. Winners will be contacted by email and must notify us within forty-eight hours of the notification email with their address and acceptance. Please note that winners can be from the US only.

To learn more about the book (and for more chances to win!), here are the rest of the blog tour stops:
4/23: Stacking Books
4/24: Geo Librarian
4/25: Art, Books, Coffee
4/27: Coffee for the Brain
4/28: Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms
4/29: Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books
4/30: Booktalking #kidlit
5/1: Unleashing Readers

Good luck, everyone, and hap-pea pea-ing! (Okay, I’m done now.)

(Peas out!)