Friday, November 30, 2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks

The mommy is a super big fan and can't wait until mid December for the new movie!!

..and now they've got beat!!!!

Ethan and McKenna love this song!

Kid Quote

Mommy: Ethan you have got to take this medicine!

Ethan: But you said it was going to taste like cherries. Well it doesn't. It tastes like December!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Mommy

I know...lately this blog has been one big commercial for something or the other and I intend to give it a break for awhile. But not before I share my latest, online shopping discovery. describes itself as "hip tops for trendy tots". I gotta say, McKenna got more than a few chuckles while we were out and about today.

click for larger image

Available for your budding burnout in a range of baby/toddler/kid sizes.

One small footnote: When they say the shirts run small, take the advice to heart. McKenna is 2 and she is wearing a size 6. My recommendation: go two sizes larger than usual--at least for this particular shirt.

The Mommy Pans: 08 Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan

First, thanks to Matchstick for the opportunity to drive Dodge's 08 Grand Caravan for a week. It was a unique and fun experience.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have a true love for cars in general. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. And I've had more than my fair share of them. Just for fun, here's the list: '90 Honda CRX, '92 Ford Probe, '96 VW Jetta, '98 VW Cabrio, '99 Dodge Durango, '98 Volvo X70,'00 VW New Beetle, '99 BMW 528i, '00 BMW X5, '00 Lincoln Navigator, '01 BMW 525i wagon, '04 Nissan Quest (currently driving), '03 Mercedes E500 (Jim currently driving).

Unfortunately, the all new Dodge Grand Caravan was disappointing at best. In fact, it made me appreciate my '04 Nissan Quest all the more. While the Caravan has every technological bell and whistle, the vehicle itself really misses the mark. Both Jim and I found the interior cramped compared to what we're used to. The seats are substantially smaller than those found in the Quest. When Jim was driving, McKenna's feet touched the back of the driver's seat--and she's only two years old in a car seat! Interior styling hearkens back to the oh-so-regrettable "K-Car" days of the 1970's. Plastic-y with lots of hard lines and angles. For lack of a better term, it just seemed "cheapy".

While the minivan touts a 4.0 V-6 engine, it felt lacking in power. When accelerating , one could noticeably detect the gears shifting. The word "clunky" comes to mind. To use car lover lingo, it just had no "guts". Honestly, I felt like I was driving an economy, sub-compact. Think Geo, Colt, Escort and the like.

As mentioned, the minivan has all the current technology but the accessibility associated with it is very, very confusing. Some important commands are so deeply embedded within the navigation screen's menuing system that it is nearly impossible to find them. How is it that Dodge doesn't understand that moms do not have time for this stuff? When the kids are screaming and you're running late to one of the 12 places you need to go to that day, you shouldn't have to pull out a manual in order to determine how to make satellite TV appear on one screen and a DVD appear on the other. I have a more-than-decent comfort level with technology and I WAS UTTERLY BAFFLED by the Grand Cravan's audio/video/navigation controls. A bit of advice to the '08 Grand Caravan engineers...start over. Think user friendly this time.'s not all bad...Props for the rear view camera, auto stow-and-go 3rd row seat, and the best feature of all--sliding door windows that actually open. I could really use these features on my Quest!

Bottom line: The fully loaded model approaches $40K. For that price point, one expects a far more comfortable, better designed vehicle. Folks I know will spend another $10K and get into the entry level Lexus, BMW world. And when you place the '08 Grand Caravan alongside that class of vehicle, the comparison becomes absurd. The Grand Caravan cannot even begin to compete.

This mommy never wants to be mean. Just honest.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happiness...Then and Now

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our
dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

-Martha Washington

...and the modern day interpretation of this wisdom:

If you make an effort to be happy, generally you are. If you need a pill for this, by all means, take it.


Great Dennis Millier-ism

If you were buying crack on ebay, would it be easier to give up ebay or give up crack?

Tough call.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pee Wee...He'll Be Baaaaack!!!!!

I am thrilled. Word on the street is that he is working on a new, feature length film!

Pee Wee's Playhouse was this mommy's BOM diggety. He just "gets" the way kids think. And he entertains without talking down to them. Pee Wee's show really changed the course of children's television. Before Pee Wee, much of children's programming was good but often patronizing and fairly literal in it's presentation. Pee Wee, on the other hand, credited children with the ability to enjoy off-beat, subtle humor and to appreciate diverse and truly eccentric characters. Most importantly, he spoke to children the way they actually speak to one another.

And no I don't care about his run-in-with-the-law several years ago. His transgression, while not admirable and decidedly not advisable, was adult in nature and in no way involved harm to a child. Or harm to anyone else really. And he's made his apologies. So let Paul Rubens do what he does best.

Come on back Pee Wee. We could all use a little of that unbridled optimism right about now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

McKenna's Stuttering

McKenna has been in speech-language therapy (SLT) for well over a year now and has made great progress. She has been talking up a storm. And she no longer is in weekly physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT). Early Intervention in DuPage County is just phenomenal and all of the therapists have really done a great job helping McKenna overcome delays associated with low muscle tone (benign congenital hypotonia). And McKenna is a little smartie. So lately I have taken some well deserved time-off from worrying. Worrying about McKenna that is.

But it's always something where children are concerned... McKenna has started to noticeably stutter. She doesn't stutter on sounds but on words--especially when she is asking a question. She will begin a sentence with the word "you" but proceed to repeat it 5,6,7,8 times. Sometimes she just gives up and says, "I love you Mom" or some other darling non sequitur. I notice it is worse with she is upset, tired, or rushed. In the wee hours of the morning she woke up and couldn't produce a single sentence without a stutter. While I tried not to show it, the incident rattled me.

McKenna's speech therapist says this often occurs with many children between the ages of 3 and 5--even with those who have no speech delays. She has urged me not to be overly concerned--just mindful. Most importantly, whether this is a true stutter or just a "phase of disfluency", it is important not to correct McKenna or to make a big deal out of it. Correcting or mimicking her can result in making her feel self-conscious about her speech, which can, in turn, result in further stuttering. So we just have to let McKenna's words catch up with her thoughts and hope she grows out of this.

It just hits a raw nerve for me. I sooo want McKenna and Ethan to experience ease in social situations and to not struggle with mommy's challenges. I'm not sure if folks know how much effort it takes in order for me to feel relaxed in a social setting. It's actually work for me. I guess I just hope that all of the "social stuff" comes a little more naturally for them. And a stutter is just another thing to overcome in that regard.

I know--I'm making a huge issue out of what could be a passing phase. I'm just putting words to thoughts this morning.

And the worrying continues.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Letter From Derebe!

Call it coincidence, fate, Divine's up to you. Shortly after I posted the video blog (previous post) about a fellow Compassion sponsor and promoter, we received a letter from Derebe--our Ethiopian daughter! (I'm calling Derebe at HER request and because I too feel comfortable with that endearment.)

I was so excited when I saw the return address on the envelope I actually started to shake as I opened it. Not only did we receive a wonderful, detailed letter but photos as well! We have had one photo of her since we began her sponsorship and didn't think we would have any more until my visit in March.

In Derebe's letter she mentions that she is now in Kindergarten. THIS IS HUGE! SHE'S IN SCHOOL. (Many kids in her town/village are not due to their families' inability to pay for uniforms and supplies).

She also told us (via a translator of course) that they were able to use our gift money for a number of important household items (as a sponsor you can choose to assist the family with extra funds in addition to the money that is used to support the individual child). Essentials purchased: sorghum (grain), sugar, flour, candles, oranges, bananas, fabric, shoes, socks. She admits to purchasing some candy for herself and her siblings and even sounds a little apologetic about it! Bless her little heart! Additionally, the family bought a cloth box (presumably a storage unit for linens or fabric?), a table, a chair, and more shoes. They used the balance of the money for transportation costs.

She also wants to see more pictures of Ethan and McKenna which I will send in the next day or so. What she doesn't yet know is that I am coming to see her! She won't be told until shortly before I arrive to avoid disappointment should I not make it for some unforeseen reason. Anyway, I'm on cloud nine today. And more jazzed than ever about the big trip in March. Blessings abound!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ethiopian Trip Preview

This recent video blog gives a very good idea of what my trip (March 08) will be like.I'm sure the creator of this clip stayed in the same hotel that our group will call home base. Just as I start to worry about being away from the kids and the possible, albeit small risks associated with the trip, testimonials like this inspire me once again.

God is in this place indeed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Mommy Loves Dennis Miller!

I've known about him since his SNL days. Wasn't overly thrilled with his HBO series. Absolutely no opinion about his foray into the world of Monday night football. Oh sorry...MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. But I have to say, he is completely at his best in his relatively new role as talk radio host. If you love talk radio and you are not listening to Dennis Miller, you are really missing out. He's smart, funny, cerebral, and kind. Yes, kind. He actually listens to people and shows respect to those who disagree with him. He's conservative but not reactionary. And his command of spoken English makes the word aficionado swoon with admiration. A welcome departure from the Rush Limbaugh-esque repertoire of conservative radio programming currently available. In Chicago, tune in Monday through Friday from 9 am to Noon on WIND 560AM. For other areas, refer to his website. Hey Oracle--thanks for the tip!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

08 Dodge Grand Caravan - Driving It This Week

It's got every single bell and whistle. Navigation with voice recognition, 2 video screens for DVD and/or satellite TV, satellite radio, leather seat surfaces, 2nd row swivels to face third row, power third row control, power side doors and trunk, remote start, rear reverse camera. There's more I'm sure. Anyway, I've got it until next Tuesday. The kids are in love with it. Mommy and Daddy--not so much. We're loaning it to two different families this weekend. We'll see what they have to say.

It's been fun trying something new when we've' been driving the same minivan for nearly four years. New, however, does not necessarily mean better.

More later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Undocumented Workers? Huh?

I heard a some interesting analogies this morning.

Identifying illegal aliens as undocumented workers is equivalent to:

-Calling bank robbers undocumented borrowers

-Calling drug dealers undocumented pharmacists

I'm sure the list goes on but you've got the idea.

Food for thought.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Junie B. Jones Gives Me The Willies

Ethan is nuts for Junie B. Jones. Every night, he is doubled over with belly laughs as I read three or four chapters from one of the books in the series. She's a feisty Kindergarten girl who spouts lots of wise cracks and often finds herself in some sort of kid-style jam. Apparently, the books are wildly popular and children follow her adventures throughout grammar school, starting in Kindergarten.

But I'm here to confess that I cannot stand Junie B. Jones. For starters, the child constantly uses incorrect, cutesy grammar. Junie B., as she is referred to in the series, is often mildly disrespectful and just plain obnoxious. The author, Barbara Park, definitely knows how to access her readers' funny bones and some of Junie B.'s schemes are kind of amusing even to me. But I don't want Ethan to ever think it's OK to call another child a crybaby or casually address his grandmother by her first name or scream in class to get attention. And the fact that Junie B. can never use an adverb with the suffix "ly" is just maddening to me. I constantly find myself stopping midsentence to remind Ethan that Junie's misuse of the past tense is incorrect or that she has mispronounced one word or another (beautifulest is not a word). Or, most importantly, that she should never call children names when she gets upset. That stuff is not cute and it's certainly not funny.

One more thing...The illustrations are kind of creepy. The artist's rendering of children is just weird--with bizarre features and expressions. Kind of like what you would see in an an old-style, newspaper comic strip. The whole thing just has a dated, 70's look and feel. Kind of like Andy Capp meets Holly Hobby. Scary.

I think Ethan "gets" the finer point here and that is that Junie B. is funny because she's spunky and that a lot of her antics are about getting laughs and not about role modeling. What's more, I think there is value in not over sanitizing every single one of Ethan's experiences. Life, even from a Kindergarten point-of-view, is not perfect and squeaky. So, because Ethan enjoys the books so much, I'll keep reading them to him (with appropriate editing)--at least for now.

In the meantime, I often read Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans to Ethan and McKenna. When I've had my fill of Junie B., Madeline restores my faith in children's literature. Gentle, poetic, lovely, and subtle. Written word that stands the test of time and captures the imagination all the while.

Not at all like Junie B. Jones.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You Too Can Drive the Grand Caravan For A Week

Lot's of folks are asking. Click below to find out if any of you mommies qualify:

08 Dodge Caravan Test Drive

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mom Trades In Her Minivan

...and gets another one! At least for a week anyway.

I was contacted through this blog by Matchsitck, a marketing agency involved in the launch of the 08 Dodge Caravan minivan. Apparently I am a walking, breathing poster child for their target customer base: I'm a mommy, I take my children here, there, and everywhere. My kids are involved in lots of activities and I talk to lots of other mommies. I'm a frequent blogger. And I'm a short distance from one of their test markets--Chicago. So, they asked me if I want to drive their new mini van for a week. I only have to commit to providing Matchstick with feedback about the experience. You can be sure you'll see my opinion here as well.

Anyone who's affiliated with the mommy knows that this is right up my alley. I love cars. Always have. I'm usually up on the latest and greatest in every class of vehicle. New car technology excites me to no end. Jim views cars in terms of the point A to point B thing. I, on the other hand, relish the the whole car experience. I have had more than my fair share of cars and I don't regret owning a single one. But, when we bought the 04 Quest, I committed to keeping it for five years. The good news for me is that we technically bought the Nissan in 03--so I don't have that much longer to wait.

And yes--I have a roving eye. I don't think I was ever intended for a monogamous car relationship.

Another post on the 08 Dodge Caravan is sure to follow in the near future.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Brand New Niece!

What a blessing!

My sister Jennifer gave birth to her first child this evening. She and her husband Dallas are proud to welcome their perfect little daughter--Bella Marie Stone Claiborne. 7lbs, 8oz--19 inches. She is healthy and all is well. think it wasn't so long ago that Jennifer successfully battled Leukemia.

And now she's Bella's mommy. Amazing.

We have much to be thankful for this lovely, crisp November night. Welcome to the world little girl. Welcome to the world.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bee Movie

It's cute. The kids and I enjoyed it. Much of the humor escapes small children but that's OK. The animation is incredible with some of the richest, most vibrant hues I've ever seen on the screen. That alone captures the shrimps' attention. There are a few nods to environmental issues but nothing too preachy or over-the-top like Happy Feet. More than anything, you really get the impression that Jerry made this movie with children in mind. Yes, he does some Seinfeld- like shtick and there are a few very mild, adult-type references but by and large, it's just a lighthearted little movie. I wasn't dazzled but I also wasn't offended. By all means, take the kids and don't worry about editing for inappropriate content. They could rescript one or two lines of dialog and this movie qualifies as rated "G".

I recommend.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Could Watch It 100 Times

...and I would never tire of American Beauty. Arguably one of the best films in the last twenty years or more. The dialog from the last scene always brings me to tears. Always.


I had always heard your entire life flashes in front
of your eyes the second before you die.
First of all, that one second isn't a
second at all, it stretches on forever,
like an ocean of time...

For me, it was lying on my back at Boy
Scout camp, watching falling stars...

And yellow leaves, from the maple trees,
that lined my street...

Or my grandmother's hands, and the way
her skin seemed like paper...

And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's
brand new Firebird...

(In BLACK & WHITE: A door opens to reveal
dressed for Halloween in a
Princess costume, holding a lit

SPARKLER aloft and smiling shyly at us.)
And Janie...

(A younger Carolyn sits across from us
in one of those SPINNING-TEACUP RIDES,
laughing uncontrollably as she twists
the wheel in front of her, making us
spin even faster.)
And... Carolyn.
I guess I could be pretty pissed off
about what happened to me... but it's
hard to stay mad, when there's so much
beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel
like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's
too much, my heart fills up like a
balloon that's about to burst...

...and then I remember to relax, and stop
trying to hold on to it, and then it
flows through me like rain and I can't
feel anything but gratitude for every
single moment of my stupid little life...
You have no idea what I'm talking about,
I'm sure. But don't worry...

(Fade to black.)

You will someday.

--Taken from American Beauty Script/Screenplay by Alan Ball