The Anxiety of the First Day of School

September 10, 2008

My kids started school this week.  Okay, so it was just preschool and they only go for ½ a day two days a week, but for me it was still this big milestone in their lives.

The twins didn’t seem to give the idea of going to school to school a second thought.  But then they have been going to some type of class (gym, art or music) by themselves for more than a year.  And they even went to camp for three hours once a week this summer.

But even so, I got to thinking about the idea of the first day of school.  I remember it being a big point of anxiety for me, but maybe that’s because I grew up a military brat who changed schools quite a bit.  For me, the first day of school each year often meant a new school with new people.  And as a child I was extraordinarily shy.

While I never remember separation anxiety – could be why my kids showed no signs of it – I do remember having butterflies in my stomach and dreading the thought of entering a school where everyone already had their friends established.

But I made it through it.  And apparently my kids did too.  They are lucky in that they got to share this experience with each other.

I remember my first day of school.  I didn’t go to preschool.  My first day was for kindergarten and I had to ride the bus – a really big deal when you are smaller (and younger) than all the other “more experienced” school kids.

I remember standing at the bus stop with my mom waiting for the bus to arrive.  She was telling me how to remember my bus stop so that I could get off in the afternoon.  My bus stop was at the corner of a baseball field.  I was to look for the backstop to know when to get off the bus.

I don’t remember much about that day at school, but I remember the bus ride home.  I sat diligently at the window looking for that backstop.  The idea of missing my bus stop scared me silly.

Then I saw it – the backstop.  I didn’t expect it so soon.  But I got up and got off the bus.  The bus pulled away just as I realized my mom wasn’t there.  Now what do I do.

I’m five.  I’m not allowed to cross a street by myself and here I am at the wrong bus stop.  Who do I go to for help?

While I’m internalizing all this information, the bus has gone on to my correct bus stop a block away.  My mom realized I wasn’t on the bus and realized (I don’t know if another parent or some kids told her) that the previous bus stop also had a baseball field.  And before I know it my mom was there to meet me.

The next day, the parents tied some kind of ribbon to the backstop at my bus stop and I never got off at the wrong bus stop again.

It amazes me that after all these years (really, it hasn’t been that many), that that bus stop tidbit is what I remember about my first day at school.

It wasn’t what outfit I wore or who I met or – God forbid – what I learned that day that stood out.  It was the bus ride.

I wonder what my kids will remember about their first day.  They didn’t ride a bus so that can’t be it.  But I’d love to know what they remember 20 or 30 years from now.

What do you remember from your first day of school?


Richmond Carniball Offers A Safari Adventure

February 6, 2008

On Saturday night, we took the twins out for an adventure — a safari adventure.

The Children’s Museum of Richmond was holding its annual fundraiser — the Carniball. This year’s theme was African Safari.

I might never be able to take my children on an African Safari, but I think they had a great experience at the Carniball. In fact, we had such a good time I wanted to share the fun with you. And what better way to share than with pictures.

Carniball goers were greeted with this living statue of the witch doctor.


Local vendors donated a large spread of food, including a buffet of Ethiopian fare. This cake by Cakes by Graham was a hit with my kids.

Safari Cake

The children were amazed by the stilt walking safari adventurer.


Looks like the witch doctor caught up with this very tall safari hunter

The museum was filled with wild animals like this lion, tiger and zebra . . . oh my


The tiki hut was an oasis of beverages for weary parents.

Tiki hut

The arts room offered several safari crafts including beads, binoculars and masks.


There was also plenty of authentic entertainment.


These drummers kept a steady beat throughout the night.


A local African dance troupe provided entertainment.

Dancers 1

The children were so enthralled with the dancers that many were up on their feet imitating them.

Dancer 2

My children sat still for two minutes before they were up dancing themselves.

Dancer 3

To help raise money there was also a silent auction and a raffle. I didn’t win anything. 😦

All of the museum’s regular exhibits were open for the children to play at. At the end of the night, the kids each got a box with fliers from the sponsors, a souvenir cup and a animal hat.

It was definitely money well spent.

Three Very Unusual, But Memorable Thanksgivings

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving is usually one of those holidays that pass in a blur of turkey and football, but three – all during particularly different points in my life – stand out for me.

TurkeyI’ll start with the most recent first. 

Thanksgiving and Milk of Magnesia
We hadn’t been in our current house but a couple of years.  My sister was still married to a sailor and was halfway across the country with her family.  We hadn’t had children yet so it was just my mom, husband and I.  We decided to invite another couple whose extended family was all out of town.  We had only recently met this couple, but thought hey that’s what Thanksgiving is for – bringing people together.

So my mom arrives with this stray beagle that she had recently found.  The poor little thing was skin and bones and was recovering from a broken hip where it had obviously been hit by a car.  But Snoopy fit it with my mom’s other dog and my dogs with no trouble.

Dinner preparations were uneventful.  When the other couple arrived, we put the dogs in the garage.  I can’t remember why we just didn’t put them outside – it must’ve been too cold.

My husband keeps a pretty neat garage.  But remember we didn’t have kids and our dogs spend almost no time in the garage so it wasn’t an example of the world’s safest garage.

Needless to say, we sit down to a delightful meal.  But somewhere between dinner and dessert, I go to the garage for something and discover a can of gas treatment with teeth marks on it leaking in the dog bed Snoopy was in.

Alarmed, we immediately call an animal hospital that tells us that for $65 we can bring the dog in and they’ll tell us if he’s ingested any of it.  Then for even more money they will pump his stomach for us or give him  milk of magnesia.

Now it’s Thanksgiving, that’s an awful lot of money and we aren’t even sure that Snoopy has indeed drank this stuff.

So next we have this comical scene where we pry open each of four dogs’ mouths to see if we can smell gas treatment on their breath. 

We – yes, my husband, my mother and I each took a turn smelling the dog’s breath – decide that we can only faintly smell it on Snoopy’s breath, probably just where he got on his teeth from chewing on the container.

Still, we want to make sure that this dog my mom has been nursing back to health, stays healthy.  So we decided to give the dog some milk of magnesia ourselves.

So we take the dog outside on the deck.  One of us holds the dog, the other pries his mouth open and the third pours in the milk of magnesia which then makes the dog look like he’s foaming at the mouth.

Let me assure you that describing the process is a lot easier than actually doing it.  When I look up from our task, I see our house guests — this other couple — pressed against the window of our back door laughing their asses off.

The dog survived and that friendship has flourished.  Today, the couple’s little boy is now getting into trouble with our twins and I have a feeling we’ll have more interesting Thanksgiving stories to tell on their part.

Thanksgiving and the Fire Alarm
In my senior year of college, before my husband and I became a couple we ran around with a group of six including ourselves.  For Thanksgiving, of course, we all went home to our families. 

But four members of the group worked for a home improvement store (think the Work Bench from Reaper) that gave its employees a turkey for Thanksgiving.  So when we all returned from the holiday, they all had these turkeys in their freezers.  Very unusual for college apartments, I know.

So we decided to make the best of it by having our own Thanksgiving feasts.  In turn, each person that had a turkey hosted the dinner and the rest of brought the trimmings.

I should mention that this group of six included four men and two women.  The three men who had turkeys went first and the single female who had a turkey went last.

Knowing my lack of talent in the kitchen, I was assigned to bring dessert – pumpkin pie.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well these meals turned out.  They resulted in delicious food, great conversation, lots of drinking (we were in college after all) and a good time by all.

By the time we got to the fourth turkey, these meals fell into place like clockwork.  That is, until the female’s turn to cook the turkey.  She had forgotten to take out the innards and she’d left the legs tied.  Then the fire alarm went off.

And this wasn’t any ordinary fire alarm.  It was like the ones you see in sitcoms that no matter what you do, they continue to go off. 

Needless to say we never did get to eat turkey that night.  And none of the guys let that poor girl forget it.  It was never completely cooked, but we enjoyed the trimmings nevertheless.

And to this day, my husband and I laugh about those four post-Thanksgiving Turkey meals.

My First Attempt at Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner
It’s no secret that I am domestically challenged.  Many people have tried to teach me to cook and all have left running from the kitchen.  In junior high school, I was kicked out of home ec class and transferred to a keyboarding class because “it was a better fit.”  I have set the kitchen on fire more times than I can count and have even burned boiling water.  It’s true; I’m hopeless when it comes to cooking

However, there is one year that I attempted – and I proudly proclaim succeeded – in cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner on my own.

When I was in high school my mom was a single mom that worked very hard to provide for her family.  One year her brother and his family were coming up for Thanksgiving, but they couldn’t get there until Friday.  My mother had to work on that Friday.  My sister was still in middle school.  So the task of cooking Thanksgiving dinner fell on my shoulders.

I remember my mom going over the instructions with me the night before.  I remember calling her at work with questions.  But alas, I managed to cook the turkey and all the trimmings with no pending disaster.

When my uncle and his family arrive, the house was still standing.  Just before my mom arrived home, I proudly set the food out on the table.

Little did I know that while at work she had contracted a terrible bout of flu.  When she arrived home, she took one look at the beautiful table of food I had slaved on all day and ran to the bathroom to vomit!

We put her to bed and the rest of us enjoyed the meal.  But I’ll never forget that the first true meal that I succeed at cooking without burning anything down, my mom threw up at the sight of it.

To this day, I use this as an excuse for not cooking Thanksgiving.

I guess the moral of these stories is that no Thanksgiving is perfect.  Instead of striving for perfect, sit back and enjoy the food, friendship and fun!

Photo by Alan L. (License: Creative Commons Attribution)

What’s Your Favorite Pie for Thanksgiving

November 15, 2007

It’s seven days and counting to Turkey Day.  I can happily count down these days since I won’t be the one slaving over a hot stove preparing a feast for all.  In fact, due to my lack of culinary talents, I don’t even have to worry about preparing a dish or requested for help in the kitchen.  At most, I’m asked to contribute a dessert to the spread of food for the day.  I can, after all, bake.

PieSo while I dream of delicious, mouth-watering turkey on Thanksgiving, the meal always comes down to one course for me — Dessert.  And when I think about Thanksgiving Day dessert, my mind always jumps to pie — more specifically pumpkin pie.

I think my association between Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie is a recent one, mostly because my husband always asks for it this time of year.  But growing up, Thanksgiving meant a whole array of pies.

You see, while I am one of only two children, my extended family is quite large.  My dad is one of seven and Thanksgiving at Grandma’s meant that she would fix everyone’s favorite.  So if my favorite pie is peanut butter and she thought there was a chance I might stop by, then she’d make a peanut butter pie.  And so it was for every family member.  In fact, I’m not even sure that some had favorites or they just asked for a different pie so we could have a variety.  Either way, the end result was a whole array of pies to dine on after Thanksgiving dinner (and for days to come) at Grandma’s.

So in honor of my Grandma, I’m interested in knowing what is your favorite pie?  Or at the very least what is your favorite pie to have at Thanksgiving?Why is it your favorite and do you like it fixed a certain way?

My favorite is a freshly baked Peanut Butter Pie with chocolate and whip cream.  It can’t be a store bought, frozen one.  If it’s not fresh, I’d rather pass all together.
Be forewarned, however, that I am in no way volunteering to make everyone’s favorite.  But if I eat of piece of your favorite pie over the holiday, I’ll be happy to think of you.

Happy Eating!

Photo by James. (License: Creative Commons Attribution)

When Mommy Has a Sick Day

November 14, 2007

I’ve been under the weather for a couple days now.  Yesterday I spent most of the day in bed.  My husband, as always, sweetly took care of me, bringing me everything I needed — soup, water, even my computer to finish a couple deadline projects for work.  But unlike in the past, my husband had help caring for me this time.

My son would take time out his busy play schedule every couple of hours to pop into the bedroom just to tell me hi.  Ever the entertainer, he even serenaded me with his keyboard.  Not the best medicine for a severe headache, but the thought was sweet nonetheless.

My daughter was a little more concerned for my health.  First she brought me some toys, I guess in case I needed some entertainment while I was laid up.  Then she crawled up in the bed beside me.  She sat there and talked away to me for a little while.  Then she brushed the hair away from my forehead and looked at me asking, “Mommy alright?”  When I told her yes, Mommy was alright; she gave me a kiss and went on her way.

Well today I’m back up and on my feet.  Some might say its because of the meds I took and a full day of rest.  But I credit my quick turn around to my family for their tender loving care.  I couldn’t be luckier!

And yesterday was one of the best sick days I’ve every had.

Preview of 2007 Family-Friendly Holiday Season Movies

November 10, 2007

With the Writer’s Guild of America on strike and all our favorite television shows going dark, the place to be this holiday season for a little entertainment is the theater.   The holiday season on the big screen is fairing up pretty nicely as an option for family outings to include not only some holiday-themed movies, but some other fun family films.

Again, like this summer, I am surprised to only find one G-rated movie.  Even the chipmunks got a PG rating this year.  The list of family films this season includes only 1 1/2 animated films.  I counted Disney’s unique offering, Enchanted, as half since it’s half animation and half live action.

Without further delay, here’s a rundown by release date:

Bee Movie
Bee MovieIn this animated feature, Barry Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) decides he can’t be like his best friend Adam Flyman (Matthew Broderick) and settle for a typical life in the hive making honey.  But when he set out to discover the rest of the world, he had no idea what an adventure it would be.  Along the way, Barry makes a few new friends, including Mooseblood (Chris Rock), a mosquito headed to Alaska, and a human named Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger).  But with adventure comes mishap and Barry and Vanessa find themselves racing against time to saved the flowers.  For a full review, click here.

Rated PG for mild suggestion humor and a brief depiction of humor.  View Trailer at  Release Date:  Currently in theaters. 

Fred Claus
Fred ClausEvery family has its black sheep.  In the Claus family, it’s Fred (Vince Vaughn), Nicholas’s (Paul Giamatti) older brother.  When Fred’s shady dealings finally land him in jail, Santa steps in to bail his brother out, offering him a job in his toy workshop.  Can this sheep change the color of is wool?  Or will Fred’s antics jeopardize not only his relationship with Nicholas, but the whole Christmas holiday? Kathy Bates stars as Mother Clause and Rachel Weisz is Wanda.

Rated PG for mild language and some rude humor.  View Trailer at  Release Date:  Currently in theaters.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Mr. Magorium’s Wonderful EmporiumWhat throws a worse tantrum than a toddler who has lost his favorite toy?  A toy store that has lost its favorite owner.  Mr. Magoriums’ Wonderl Emporium is a delightfully magic place or at least it was until its 245-year-old owner Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) leaves the store to his timid manager Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman).  Together with the help of the doubtful accountant Henry (Jason Bateman) and a nine-year-old (Zach Mills), Molly must find the magic to keep the store alive.  For a full review, click here.

Rated G.  View the trailer at  Release Date:  November 16

August Rush
August RushThis drama follows the young and musically talented August Rush (Freddie Highmore) on his search to find his parents — Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a Irish singer and guitarist, and Loyla Novacek (Keri Russell), a privileged cellist with an overprotective father (William Sadler).  Drawn together by their love of music, Louis and Loyla had shared one magical night together in New York 12 years ago, but due to an unfortunate turn of event the two were separated from each other and August.  Living on the street and under the protection of the Wizard (Robin Williams), August is determined to find his parents through his music.  Terrence Howard stars as social worker Richard Jeffries. 

Rated PG for thematic elements, mild violence and language.  View the trailer at  Release Date:  November 21.

Christmas in WonderlandChristmas in Wonderland
Patrick Swayze stars in the comedy as Wayne Saunders, a father who moves his three kids from to LA to Edmonton, where the kids think they’ll die of boredom.  But they are in for the adventure of a lifetime when they head to West Edmonton Mall for some Christmas shopping, but find a bag of counterfeit money instead.

Rated PG for rude humor.  View the trailer at  Release date:  November 21

EnchantedWhat happens when a fairytale comes true — or in Enchanted‘s case, comes alive?  We find out when the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) pushes an animated Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) down a well and she winds up in modern day New York in living color.  Will the gritty streets of New York change Giselle’s romantic look on life?  Will Giselle trade her storybook prince, Edward (James Marsden), for a real life romance with Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a handsome lawyer?

Rated PG for scary images and mild innuendo.  View the trailer at  Release date:  November 21

The Golden Compass
The Golden CompassBased on Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, this fantasy follows Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), a rebellious orphan, on her quest through a parallel word full of shape-shifting creatures and witches to find her best friend, Roger (Ben Walker), who has been kidnapped by the government for experiments.  But with the coming war, Lyra might be destined to save more than her friend — her world and all the parallel worlds connected to it.  Daniel Craig stars as her explorer uncle, Lord Asriel, and Nicole Kidman is his colleague, Mrs. Coulter.

Not Yet Rated.  View the trailer a  Release date:  December 7

The Perfect Holiday
The Perfect HolidayNarrated by Queen Latifah, this sweet little tale is about Emily (Khail Bryant), the youngest of three children, whose only Christmas wish is for her single mom, Nancy (Gabrielle Union), to be happy.  So she asks Santa for the one thing she overhears her mom wish for — a nice normal man.  Benjamin (Morris Chestnut), an aspiring songwriter working as the mall Santa, is more than happy to fulfill this Christmas wish.

Rated PG for brief language and some suggestive humor.  View the trailer at  Release date:  December 12

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin & the ChipmunksA live action/CGI version of the 1980s cartoon about how songwriter David Seville (Jason Lee) turns three chipmunks — Alvin, Simon and Theodore — into pop stars while the trio turns David’s house and life upside down.  Fun fact: the Chipmunks were named after Liberty Records executives — Alvin Bennett, Simon Waronker, and Theodore Keep.

Rated PG for rude humor.  View the trailer at  Release date:  December 14

National Treasure:  Book of Secrets
National TreasureA highly anticipated sequel to the 2004 hit, Book of Secrets promises even more intrigue and action as Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) sets out to defend his family name when a missing page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary reappears and implicates Ben’s great-great-great grandfather in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Look for more mysteries and puzzles as Ben and his crew travel to Paris and London before returning to the states.  Jon Voight reprises his role as Ben’s father, Patrick.  Also returning is Diane Kruger as Abigail Chase, Ben’s love interest from the first movie.

Rated PG for some violence and action.  View the trailer at  Release date:  December 21

The Water Horse:  Legend of the Deep
Water HorseDiscover the magical beginning of one of Scotland’s most famous legends when a young boy discovers a very unique egg, one that takes him on an enchanted journey when it hatches into a water horse.  Walden Media, the company that brought you the Chronicles of Narnia, promises another fantastical tale.

Rated PG for action/peril, mild language and brief smoking.  View the trailer at  Release date:  December 25

Well I think I can find several good options to fill the lulls in my holiday shopping schedule.  Hope you find one or two you enjoy too.  See you in the concession lines!