Monday, February 28, 2005

The Benefits of Torture

Some time ago I decided that the house where I work needed at least one toy-free zone. I chose the office because it was the one place most overwhelmed by toys that were soon forgotten. It took a LOT of pestering to get those toys put away, and I was sick of it. Also, the office is where the computer resides, and I was a wee bit tired of tripping over the musical Sit and Spin on my way to check my e-mail or get directions to someplace we wouldn't end up going because the toys never got picked up (and we don't go places until the toys get picked up). The kids, in their usual habit of following me wherever I go, thought I was trying to torture them by making them leave the toys outside the office. Jack even got into the habit of playing with toys just barely outside the office to try to circumvent the rule and be able to do what he really wanted to do, which is to play and also be very, very close to me at the same time. (This didn't work out, by the way, as I then declared any walkways toy-free zones as well because, funny thing, I also didn't like tripping over the musical Sit and Spin in the hallway.) I made one concession to keep them occupied while they were trying their best to invade every inch of my personal space and play at the same time: I would allow puzzles and books in the office, so long as they were put away before we exited the room. When I announced this fabulous compromise, the children sighed and whined and gave me dirty looks. Surely I was trying to torture them. Books and puzzles? Who was I kidding?

Five minutes later, two children marched upstairs into the office with puzzles in hand. Every day since, when I come into the office, in they come, with a puzzle or a book in their hands. They're getting so good at the puzzles that we've had to upgrade to harder puzzles. They will often sit for a full ten minutes in a chair, looking at a book. They're actually learning things and even having fun doing it.

And all because of a little bit of torture.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

New! Photos! Yay!

So I was looking at my flickr photostream and I realized that, holy cow, it's nearly the end of February and I've only used 6% of my upload capacity. So I uploaded a bunch of my favorites, and you are hereby officially invited to go see them. Click on the scary turtle below to get on in there.

scary turtle

More to come in March...

The MLiz Birthday (Photo) Extravaganza

Most of these aren't even close to among my best, but they're pretty fun anyhow. Click on over for some MLiz birthday love.

Happy Birthday, Mary Liz! I love you very very very very very very very very very very much!

(And feel free to leave a birthday message for Mary Liz in the comments. She'd love that, especially if you give us a link so she can see a picture of you.)

Friday, February 25, 2005

If You Distract A Child With A Sparkly Unicorn...

...when it comes time for her to pick what to do for her Official Birthday Celebration Outing, she'll forget all about Chuck E. Cheese. (Thank heaven for 7-11--or maybe for Osco, which is where I got the sparkly bit of fluff.)

Tomorrow Mary Liz turns four, but I won't be here to celebrate with her, so we three musketeers hit the town in search of birthday love today. Her choices were the same as Jack's for his birthday, which leads me to believe that I have trained them quite well. We were at Starbucks, we played games at the Apple store, we read books at Barnes & Noble, and we had lunch at Tomfooleries. A good time was had by all. Check back later for an ofoto link to images of our Birthday Extravaganza; I'll be uploading the goods as soon as I'm home today. Until then, have a gorgeous Friday.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Happy Self-Portrait Day!

self-portrait day
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
Today is the official launch of Self-Portrait Day, and you should definitely go check it out. Every Thursday Michele Howley (thanks, Michele!) will be posting up to 21 self-portraits and a little info about each person. The site looks great--please go take a look. Perhaps you'll even want to participate yourself...

Self-Portrait Day

Sunday, February 20, 2005

marymuses Recommends: Ray LaMontagne

Originally uploaded by marymuses.
If you know where this man was playing this weekend, then you may also be able to deduce that, in order to get this shot myself, I spent most of the weekend in the car and much of Saturday evening on my feet in order to keep my good spot at a standing room only show. I am too fried now, after such a haul and too little sleep, to write you a real entry. But here is what I will say:

The trip was well worth it. I've seen a lot of shows in my day, and this was, by far, the best of them. Ray LaMontagne, I'll drive countless hours through Kansas anytime to see you play. Any. Time.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Moving To Canada: Not As Easy As You May Have Thought

For over a year now my good friend, who is married to and has a baby with a Canadian citizen, has been trying to obtain permission to live legally in Canada. She went through all the red tape and the paperwork, but still received a letter recently that said, in effect, "Sorry, but you have to leave our country. Get out." And she's married. To a Canadian. And has a baby. Who is Canadian. And still? She was considered unworthy of legal residence in Canada. She had just finished telling me the whole story, including her in-laws demands that she leave her baby there if she had to leave (she said her mama bear instinct kicked in right then and she found herself looking at the butcher block of knives in a whole new light) and the decision that she would stay illegally while she reapplied for permission to stay, when her other line cut in. "Hang on a second," she said, and clicked over. More than a second passed, but when she was back, it was worth the wait.

I got to be the first to hear that immigration had called and, thanks to a decision reached by Parliament just twenty minutes earlier, deportation orders on spouses had been repealed so that families could stay together.

Those darn Canadians; thank goodness they figured out how to do the right thing.

(With thanks to Shiz for the crazy Canada link.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005


1. Does anyone know how to get cheap calling rates to the UK? Of importance is the fact that I'm calling to a cell phone, and the rates are much higher if one is calling to a cell. (And nice of them to put that in the fine print, isn't it?)

2. Climbing the marymuses iTunes charts is Bright Eyes' First Day of My Life. I recommend ordering the album it's on (I'm Wide Awake It's Morning) from saddle creek because you might get a note. I got a note, and I can't read the signature, but that's not so important. I got a NOTE. A handwritten NOTE. In the MAIL. This is exciting to me.

3. Next Thursday (yes, one week from today) is the launch of Self-Portrait Day and I am one of the lucky participants. Check it out next Thursday anytime after 9am EST. You can click on the button on my sidebar to get there. And don't worry, I'll remind you about it then.

4. Thanks to my fall through the ice puddle last week, I am injured, but I am still running. This means that running is more uncomfortable and takes a lot more effort and thus is completely exhausting.

5. Due to Mary Liz's illness, I worked a whole extra day this week. Because I am a planner and changes in plans throw me off, I am now exhausted.

6. Thanks to #4 and #5, it was necessary for me to take two naps today. Yes, TWO. And they were glorious, thank you very much.

7. I had the best Valentine's Day ever. You should ask me about it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It's Not Even 9:30am, and Already I've Made Children Cry

I must be ahead of the game today. But how, you may be asking, did I make my young charges cry so early in the day?

It's our Starbucks/Apple store/Barnes & Noble day, and I told them that they have been entirely too naughty this morning to be allowed to order drinks when we go to Starbucks.

I'd probably cry, too, if I were them. Better luck next Wednesday...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For

I have been wanting to spend more time one on one with Mary Liz for quite some time, and today I got just what I wanted...because she has pink eye and a double ear infection. I'd post a photo of her with her crusty eyes, but it might gross out you more sensitive readers. The good news is that she says she feels fine and she's in a great mood. This very moment she's spreading conjuctivitis cooties all over my apartment and making the cats feel...uh...loved.

Eyedrops and amoxil, anyone?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lenten Madness Strikes marymuses - Send Help Before It's Too Late!

Every Saturday I do a long run which takes me through the Plaza four to six times. And every Saturday I see the cars of the street corner evangelists parked near my street, and I know they're down there, yelling at people and trying to hand out tracts. The bumper stickers on their cars read things like, "REPENT NOW VILE HEATHENS" and "JESUS DIED BECAUSE YOU ARE A WORTHLESS SINNER" and other such things that one could buy at a store I imagine is called Repent or Perish Supply Co. I'm a Christian, and I'm all about spreading the Good News, but the news they're spreading? Doesn't seem so good. They trouble me. I'm always thinking of snarky things to say to them about pride and judging and, of course, judging them myself because that's what we Christians can be really good at if we're not careful. So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get my heart in the right place, and every Saturday as I ran by, I started to pray and ask God if and what I might say to them. Every Saturday the same phrase came to mind, "Feed my sheep." And I thought, "Nice, God, but don't you think that's a wee bit cryptic and if I go up to them and say, 'Um, yeah, Jesus says "Feed my sheep,"' they might not get the picture?" But still, every single time, all I could think of was, "Feed my sheep." So I thought, "Okay, well, um, I'll think about that. You know, for a few months. Wouldn't want to be all hasty or anythng."

But yesterday as I ran by, it struck me that I'd waited too long to say something to these people, that if I were going to say something, I'd better go ahead and say it already or I never would. And I really felt that I should; my heart was heavy that way. So I took a deep breath, and, on my break between laps, I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud, "Feed my sheep. Jesus says, 'Feed my sheep.'" After which I thought, "I'm a complete lunatic. I've fallen over the edge." Because folks? Not only was I dressed in my very attractive running attire, I had also just run ten miles in the rain and looked, for all practical purposes, like a homeless drowned rat. There was water dripping everywhere, my clothes were clinging to me in strange places, and I was about to walk up to some corner evangelist in a nice jacket and his personal umbrella-holder and say, "Hey guys! Jesus says, 'Feed my sheep!'" Hellooooo, crackpot!


So I head out on the last lap, thinking that if they're not there, I won't have to say anything. I head down the hill and I see one of their cars, and further down, with someone actually in it, another of their cars. (It was out of its usual spot, but I recognized it by the "FOOLS MOCK SIN" bumper sticker taped neatly inside the passenger side back window.) I was close enough to the corner to tell that they'd gone in, but I knew that there one of them was, just yards away, in his warm, dry minivan, a prime target for my newfound lunacy.

I turned around and stared at the van. I took a deep breath, and I walked up the hill, looking the other way, so if I decided to turn around, the guy wouldn't know I'd been staring at him the whole time and chickened out. I walked up to his window, passenger side, so there was a whole minivan seat between us, and he looked at me. I waved. He rolled his window down a little bit, and the rest went like this:

Evangelist In Nice Warm Minivan: Yes?
Drowned Rat Lunatic Runner Girl: Hi. Were you down on the corner before?
Evangelist In Nice Warm Minivan: Yes. I was.
Drowned Rat Lunatic Runner Girl: Right. Well, I run here every Saturday and I see you all the time and I have something I think you're supposed to hear.
Evangelist In Nice Warm Minivan: Okay...
Drowned Rat Lunatic Runner Girl: Um, Jesus says, "Feed my sheep." Every time I see you, that's what comes to mind and I think you're supposed to hear that.
Evangelist In Nice Warm Minivan: Well, thank you for stopping.
Drowned Rat Lunatic Runner Girl: No. No. You need to hear this. Sin is forgiven. Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." You know? "Feed my sheep." (At this point I'm extending my arms a little to the side--LOONEY--elbows, bent a little bit.) "Feed my sheep." Okay?
Evangelist In Nice Warm Minivan (who is probably thinking "Didn't I say this part before?"): Well, thank you for stopping.
Drowned Rat Lunatic Runner Girl: Okay, well. Right. Have a good day.

At this point I run off down the street, pretending to be all casual-like, as if I accost street corner evangelists in their minivans every day of my life, but my heart is pounding and I'm thinking, "Paging Hazel Motes...Flannery O'Connor, do you need a new character for a novel you're writing post-mortem?"

Until that moment, I wasn't sure what I was giving up for Lent. Now I know what it is: My sanity.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Two Months of Peace

Today is the two month mark of my experiment. I've made some changes and adjustments along the way, and it's been good so far. Here are the basics as they now stand:

  • I will not purchase new clothes, shoes, or accesories (this includes bags and purses), with two exceptions, which are listed below .
  • I may buy running shoes.
  • I may buy one commemorative t-shirt when I run the Pikes Peak Marathon.
  • I will eat what I have before buying more (mint M&M stash excluded).
  • I will eat at home instead of eating out, but I may buy beverages.
  • I will consume Starbucks beverages only once per week unless there's some sort of emergency (laugh if you must, but I'm serious) or someone else is buying.

So far it's been very good. There have been moments of temptation (*ahem*Starbucks pastry case*ahem*) and moments of longing (cheap jeans), but overall I have experienced a lot of peace. I never have to agonize over whether I need something new to wear or whether it's merely frivolous. I am not held prisoner by the racks of candy and cookies at Target or the grocery. I don't spend part of Friday evening trying to justify spending the money to eat out when I've got lots of food at home. It's been freeing.

This morning I cooked up some of the last of the remaining food in my cabinets and inventoried the rest. I should be good for a week at least. Pretty amazing to think that it was possible to be fed for more than two months on food that I already owned, food that may have just sat around getting stale or freezer-burned had I not decided to do this. It's been humbling to begin to understand how much abundance I have in my life and how much I was buying that was completely unnecessary. I think a lot more these days about others who have less, and am more grateful than ever for all that I have. Like I said, so far this has been good. I am looking forward to the next ten months and the changes that are yet to come. My hope is that, at the end of it all, I have learned to be a wiser and better steward of my physical resources, more willing to give and to share, more willing to do with what I have so that others may have more.

Life is a gift; let's share it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

After What Happened While I Was Out On My Feet In This Weather, You May Question Whether It's A Good Idea For Me To Get Behind The Wheel of a Car

I just took a peek out my window, and after hours of traffic crawling by, of commuters trying their best to commute in a snowstorm with other commuters who may or may not be the stupidest drivers you ever met, the street is clear. I stood at my window and counted to ten and didn't see one car. This means one thing: That the proper time has come for the '85 with four wheel drive to take me out to Target for a couple of things I need, one of which is milk, but I know that will have to wait. I have no illusions about actually being able to buy milk, as this is a SNOWSTORM and don't you know that in a snowstorm, people who live in the city must stock up on all staples since they may not be able to get out of their driveways until the plows come by in the middle of the night? Oh, the horror of sleeping with no extra milk in the house!

Earlier in the day, I decided to go for a run. In the snow. With all those commuters, who may or may not be the stupidest drivers you ever met, trying to commute already, creating an early rush hour born of their desire to buy extra milk on the way home in order that they might sleep easy tonight. I crossed streets quite easily; no one was going fast enough to hit me with any force, and I am a smart pedestrian besides. Sort of a smart pedestrian. I made it to the park without incident, but not three steps into it I stepped on what I thought was sidewalk. Which was not actually sidewalk, but a thinly frozen sheet of ice over a freezing puddle of muddy water. I'd had romantic ideas about snowflakes on my shoulders making me happy, and this was NOT what I had in mind. I shuffled home in my half-frozen pants, changed into something warm and dry, and, because I am a crazed lunatic a dedicated runner, I went right back out there. If that's not complete and utter lunacy dedication to my health, I don't know what is.

My First Valentine 2005

Jack shuffled into the kitchen this morning as I was unloading the dishwasher and said, "It's ready now, Mary; you can open your valentine." Sure enough, he was holding a small box wrapped using lots of tape (compliments of Mary Liz) in shiny red paper and a card he had made himself. He and Mary Liz decided last week at the drugstore that I needed Hello Kitty bandages (they were right) and Jack insisted that the gift come with a card. The figure with the giraffe-esque neck is supposed to be me, and he wrote all the words himself. Sweet, no?

my funny valentine

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monday Food for Thought

I got this in my inbox over the weekend; it's definitely worth passing on:

"You rack your brain to solve the mystery of the Savior, but you would do better to examine the puzzle of your own heart. You should be wondering why you are so impenetrable: why your intentions, which are always so noble, are followed by so few good deeds; why, despite your pious impulses, your life is so lacking in genuine devotion; why, when it comes to really getting things done, you turn out to be so feeble, so lame. You are always sighing, it is true, but to what effect?" --C.F. Blumhardt

For more food for thought on a daily basis, subscribe to get your own Daily Dig here.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Girl to Girl

sweet mary liz

Ever since the very first time I met her, my youngest charge, Mary Liz, and I have had a bond. The day of my interview her parents stared at her staring at me, with her chubby little hand on my knee, and told me that she'd never taken to someone so quickly. I couldn't get enough of those big brown eyes and those two funny eyebrows threatening to become one. I had interviewed with several families, but I knew pretty quickly that this one was the one. And those big brown eyes were part of it my knowing.

For the first year and a half of our life together as nanny and youngest charge, Mary Liz shared the spotlight every day with her big brother Jack, who tends to demand most of it on a regular basis. There's not a moment that he's not trying to tell a story or show off a toy or demonstrate how fast he can run from one end of the house to the other. We've worked long and hard to get him to be quiet for one minute so Mary Liz can get a word in edgewise, and to stop her from biting when he won't let her have her turn. It's been a long road. What saved us, at one and one half years together, was Jack's entrance into preschool. For two days a week, suddenly the spotlight was all Mary Liz's, all the time. We made a happy pair. At home she liked to sing to herself and make up stories using her toy animals; I was content to sit nearby and listen, knitting or reading. If she needed something, she'd come and ask for it. When we were out, she took to all the activities I introduced like a duck to water. Starbucks, storytime, clearance shopping at The Gap--she asked for all of them by name. She loved lunch out with our storytime friends and holding my hand when we'd walk from fountain to fountain, tossing in pennies and making our wishes. She was as much my little girl as any little girl I've nannied has ever been. In her I see little bits of me--her stubbornness, her craving for sweet things, her contentment with books and quiet play, her silly sense of humor, the way she thrives when things go in an order she knows and is comfortable with. I treasured my time alone with her, girl to girl, no shouting boy to get in her way. She blossomed.

This year, when she entered preschool on the same days as Jack, our girl to girl days came to an end. She has done well with the adjustment, save one thing: She misses me terribly. Every day at the end of the day she tells me she's going to miss me; every day I remind her that I'll be back in the morning and that I love her very much. Some nights she gets so sad that she wants to call me, so her mom dials my number. Last night was one of those nights, but instead of saying "I miss you" when I answered the phone, she completely lost her composure and sat on the other end of the line, crying. I could hear the halted breaths and the sniffles. I told her I love her, I reminded her that I'd be there in the morning to help her get ready for school and to give her a pop tart in the car, and then I told her that I love her once more. "You know that I love you very, very much, right?" I queried. All the poor thing could pull it together to say was, "Yeah." It just about broke my heart, and I gave serious thought to pulling her out of school today so we could hang out together. In the end, I decided it was better to keep her to her routine and to try to figure some other way of having some time to ourselves. I want to surprise her, because there's nothing she likes better than a surprise.

I know I told you that she misses me, but I think I left out a big piece of the puzzle: I totally miss her, too. Here's looking forward to some special time for the two of us, girl to girl.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

My Other Middle Names Are "Bargain" and "Shopper"

The hardest thing about giving up buying clothes and shoes for a year is that I am a habitual bargain shopper and I love a good bargain and how on earth do I live without indulging in sticking it to the big, powerful corporations by purchasing their stuff for probably less than they paid for it? HOW, I ask you, HOW?

I don't. I simply have to shop on someone else's behalf to get my fix. Thank goodness the family I nanny for encourages me to do the shopping for their children, because without that? I would not have purchased three sweaters and a pair of corduroy pants this noon for just $30.15. That's including tax, people, and we're not talking Wal-Mart fashions, either. I got the good stuff. Could I feel more fulfilled as a bargain hunter? Perhaps not...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I Fought the Law

And I won! Remember this? I went to court today for it. The prosecutor looked at my photos of the scene of the alleged parking crime, wondered aloud why the officer gave me the ticket in the first place, and then checked to see if I was a habitual parking violator. And folks? If there's one thing I'm not? It's a habitual parking violator. Case dismissed.

Now if I could only get my 45 minutes and $2.75 parking fee back...